With the release of Iron Man 3, protagonist Tony Stark once again has to deal with the matters of the heart, or a potentially fatal physical condition that can kill him instantly.
And while it is sadly ironic that a genius playboy billionaire philanthropist would prove so powerless against some bits of shrapnel in his chest, Stark is by no means the only superhero to have such a weakness.
So here are the ten most awesome superhero weaknesses of all time.
1. Iron Man — Heart
For all his billions in war profiteering, Iron Man has a heart of gold — if gold was always on the verge of being torn to pieces by shrapnel, that is. Were it not for a little magnet that keeps the dangerous materials in place, Stark would die instantly. It has a sense of mortality that keeps our hero grounded and, unfortunately, ages him much faster than someone with all the luxuries in the world.
2. Superman — Kryptonite
A weakness so classic it became a cultural icon. As the truest symbol of might and heroism ever created, Superman is quite literally powerless against a little green rock. Different shades of kryptonite have different effects but the most legendary is the green because it does what almost no villain can: it brings the Boy in Blue to his knees.
3. Storm — Claustrophobia
As the mutant powerful enough to eradicate continents, Storm is helpless against small spaces. Whenever her opponents have wanted to cancel out her mighty rule over the elements, they just find a way to get her into a tight hallway and she gets paralyzed with fear. The term “anticlimactic” comes to mind.
4. Batman — Parents
Innumerable superheroes have been inspired by the deaths of parental figures but perhaps no one has taken it to heart quite like Batman. Trapped in a quagmire of perennial depression and guilt, the otherwise fearless Bruce Wayne cannot handle any mention of his parents without regressing into the fear he felt when his parents were gunned down in front of him, a flaw his enemies have exploited more than once.
5. Daredevil — Blindness
While it’s difficult to call Matt Murdock’s blindness a weakness, mostly because he never seems to miss his sight, it must be said that a lack of eyesight still represents a distinct disadvantage for the Man Without Fear. Abnormally heightened sensory perception, tremendous physical fitness and an intrinsic echolocation radar still cannot change the fact that Murdock must approach a fight with a lot more caution, a necessity that has often lead to him being just a little too late to the party.
6. Cyclops — No Control
With his visor or special sunglasses, Scott Summers is a dangerous fighter and a responsible leader that can shoot lasers from his eyes; take these control technologies away and he is an uncontrollable wrecking ball that can’t discriminate between foe and friend. When a childhood accident only took away some control, Cyclops may have even felt momentarily blessed; that he would become a curse for his own loved ones was not something he could have predicted.
7. Oracle — Paraplegia
Like Daredevil, it’s a little difficult to call Oracle’s paraplegia a weakness. After all, the loss of legs pushed this former Batgirl into a computer room and forced her to use her eidetic memory and genius level intellect to solve crimes. She became far more integral to Gotham’s safety in IT than she ever would have donning a cape, but had she kept her physical abilities, she may have one day even overtaken Batman as the city’s premier crime fighter.
8. Venom — Fire and Sonic Rays
The Venom symbiote can make anyone strong and malicious. Of course, expose it to some fire or sonic rays and this alien life form abandons its host and is reduced to nothing more than some extraterrestrial goo. Suddenly, Spider-Man’s rival becomes a lot less intimidating.
9. Deadpool — Cancer/Insanity
Thanks to superhuman regenerative powers inherited from Wolverine, Wade Wilson survives cancer. However, the resulting tumors only grow further, affecting everything from his bodily appearance to his brain function. Couple that with constant pain, and Deadpool is a ticking time bomb anyone can exploit. Like Iron Man, this antihero’s grim humor is a coping mechanism.
10. Deathstroke — Damaged Eye/Temporary Insanity
Because his regenerative abilities are simply “super-accelerated” as opposed to “superhuman,” Deathstroke can’t quite heal his eye. However, the real issue is that even though his body heals itself very quickly, the regeneration also drives Slade Wilson temporarily insane. As a tactician who prides himself in his on-field intelligence, it is depressing that this villain’s demise can essentially be attributed to tantrum attacks.
11. Honorable Mention: Hulk—Human Conscience
This is simply an honorable mention because the Hulk has no real weakness other than puny Bruce Banner’s stupid human conscience. As the man who resides within the Hulk at all times, Banner’s morality ultimately acts as a chain, stopping the Hulk from, well, smashing things. Whenever someone removes Banner’s essence from the Hulk, such as the psychic Jean Grey or the Asgardian Enchantress, the green giant is well and truly unleashed.
12. Bonus: Doomsday-Nothing
Yes, this intergalactic being — who has also served as Superman’s killer — has absolutely no weaknesses. Immortal, indefatigable, unbeatable; the only reason Doomsday is even on this list is to remind all these other losers just how pathetic they are in comparison.
13. Bonus II: Captain Planet-Everything
Pretty much the exact opposite of Doomsday, Captain Planet has all the best qualities our earth has to offer. The only problem is that he can literally be downed by sludge water, garbage, or even really hateful words. If all you need to defeat our planet’s symbolic savior is a rotten egg and some slurs, that is indeed a sad commentary on the state of environmentalism.
Of course, the fatal flaw is a tradition going back to the Greek tragedies and there are many other superheroes with really cool weaknesses so be sure to share your favorites in the comments below.