A Comic-Book Fanboy’s Take on the Periodic Table

Earlier this week, a colleague sent me this comic-book take on the periodic table. My initial reaction was to roll my eyes and yawn a little bit. After all, we here at C&EN have seen every manner of periodic table categorizing vegetables, fruits, beer, wine, and even text messages.

Credit: Chris Sims

However, this table doesn’t just put a superhero in each element slot; it seems a little different and worth noting for its sheer entertainment value. “The Elements of A Super-Hero,” as it is called, represents comic-book characters by categorizing their origins (for example, they are a scientist or mutant), physical powers (they can control the weather, have X-ray vision, or my favorite, their arms fall off), and mental abilities (they can perform telepathy). Each of these items has its own element slot. Thus, “Scientist” is Sc—element 8—and “X-ray Vision” is Vx—element 19. So, as the table’s creator points out, Wolverine of the X-men can be represented as XWxHSn (X for mutant, Wx for claws, H for healing, and Sn for super-senses). I thought this was worth pointing out because A) I, too, love superheroes, wanting desperately to be Wonder Woman when I was little, and B) the “Comments” that this table has received are both amazing and amusing. One commenter says that his “inner science nerd” is telling him he’d have liked the table to be a bit more organized like a real periodic table, with similar abilities stacked in vertical rows. For instance, he says, “Vx—X-Ray Vision—and Vh—Heat Vision—should be stacked and not sitting next to one another.” Duh. Currently, the only divisions that appear are that physical powers reside in the spots where metals normally go, mental powers sit in the metalloid area, and origin stories are found in the nonmetal region of the table. Another commenter says that he’s waiting patiently for an addendum with the actinides and lanthanides. “Maybe personality elements (dark & gritty, goofball, robotic, etc.),” he says, could be one series, and “alternate realities (evil version, gender-switched version, animal version)” could be the other. Still other fanboys (and girls) are begging the creator for a poster-sized version that they can display on their walls with pride. Some are trying to puzzle out what certain element symbols are derived from (for example, Rr—element 49, which stands for “stretching”—MUST come from the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards). Finally, some commenters are expressing their disappointment that certain abilities are missing. For example, one reader misses the “ability to control density (Anissa Pierce)” and the “ability to do weirdo shit with people’s souls (Secret, Raven),” and so on. So, take a look and see what you think is missing and what string of elements makes up the compound that represents your favorite superhero.

Author: Lauren Wolf

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  1. Thanks for the yo-yo table, Philip. It’s definitely one that I’ve never seen before. What will they think of next?