5
$\begingroup$

In the marvel universe mutants are much more fortunate than in our world; they often have extremely useful powers; ranging from telekinetic abilities to wings.

As interesting and plain fun as this idea may be, it is hardly explained without using large amounts of handwaving. Using as little handwaving as possible, how can I explain the mutations in the Marvel universe?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Are we limiting this to just the X-Men style, or... any mutation, such as Spiderman's radically different mutation? $\endgroup$ – Ranger Aug 10 '16 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ @NexTerren General Marvel Universe mutation, unless that winds up proving too broad $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b Aug 10 '16 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ Well, there was in-universe explanation, not that bad I guess. $\endgroup$ – Mithoron Aug 10 '16 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Mithoron If you think the official explanation is less hand-wavey than the current proposed answers, feel free to contribute it. $\endgroup$ – Ranger Aug 10 '16 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ @NexTerren Nah, it was supposed to be ancient alien manipulation, more or less what is already mentioned, Power source was also mentioned, but also rather hand-wavey. $\endgroup$ – Mithoron Aug 10 '16 at 19:29
3
$\begingroup$

I haven't been current on Marvel canon for many, many years, so none of what follows is based on anything but imagination.

  1. The universe is significantly more complex than we think it is. Throw any law that starts with the word "Conservation" out of the picture. These not-laws were just a side effect of the scientist who came up with them not being a mutant.

  2. The universe is responsive to human thought in a way that would make any quantum scientist drool with envy. Within the human brain matter (or slight variations on that design) there are circuits which can access the universe's under-structure; the building blocks with which the physical laws were written. These circuits can temporarily change the rules and then later, change them back.

  3. Mutants can have varying levels of conscious control over those circuits. Mutants whose powers are interactive (like magneto) have more control. Mutants whose powers are constant (like cyclops), not so much.

From there, each of the branches of power would require a thesis level dissertation to explore all of the ramifications. Professor X's telepathy requires that the nature of human thought be much more than the electrical impulses within our skulls. Nightcrawler's teleportation validates the existence of multiple dimensions. Gambit's control of probability Dr. Strange's powers...

...

...

I give up! Gambit Dr. Strange breaks the universe. It just doesn't work while he is real.

...

...

...

Which leads us back to our old WB standby...

It is all a Virtual Reality and in this case, the programmer is a fan of marvel comic books.

...

...

I tried... I really tried...

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

There's two routes that I would choose from

  1. There are thousands/millions of either bad mutations or pretty much no difference mutations but they aren't covered in the stories. Which gives the whole anti-mutant movement a different spin and the xmen/Magneto crew only selecting positive mutants a pretty awful taste in the mouth
  2. Divine/Government/Alien intervention - it's all part of a plan and there's a limited number of mutations that have been preassigned to the human race through whoever's plan we're all following
$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

A little grim on this one...but the simplest way of explaining this is only around 1% of the mutants actually gain something beneficial. The other 99% gain something horribly inhibiting and die in the womb or shortly after. You are simply seeing the ones lucky enough to survive their mutation

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't it be drastically, drastically less than 1%? To the point where probabilistically none of them would actually survive? $\endgroup$ – Ranger Aug 10 '16 at 18:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Most likely yes... 0.001% survival rate maybe? If you have a given community of 500 mutants, you'd likely have some 500,000 deaths from infeasible mutations. My brothers super power was ice control but he was born with a frozen heart. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Aug 10 '16 at 18:49
  • $\begingroup$ 0.000000000000000000000000000...% Most of the powers shown are downright impossible and the few that aren't would require a large amount of carefully designed DNA. Mutations cause mangled messes. extra fingers or hands would not require much new DNA as the blueprint isn't there. Fish don't grow legs (as a single mutation as opposed to evolution) $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson Aug 10 '16 at 21:08
2
$\begingroup$

Access to more dimensions

The mutations simply allow them a limited amount of direct access to more dimensions and what we perceive as supernatural abilities is simply the spillover in our dimensions of movement in others.

Imagine if you stuck your finger into Flatland. The Flatlanders would see a "you" in a place with a form.

  • If you moved your finger up and down they'd see metamorphosis.
  • If you took your finger out and put it in again somewhere else they'd see teleportation.
  • If you used your other hand to move or destroy something in the world they'd see remote kinetic effects.
  • If you put in several fingers they'd see duplication.
  • If they harm the bit they see, you merely present a different part and they see healing.
$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

A huge problem with Marvel Mutants is not just that the mutations are useful - but that they are incredibly useful! This isn't a mutation that gives you a probability to have a slightly longer leg or a 0.01% more efficient oxygen metabolism...no, its light bending camouflage, instant healing of massive damage, fully functional telepathy. So, it seems that the theory of evolution through incremental improvement and selection is right out the window. Is there even anything in the Canon to suggest mutations breed true?

So lets imagine the mutation we are dealing with IS NOT the direct cause of the effects we are seeing. RATHER, the mutants are all carriers of the same mutation. This mutation is one that enables something we will call a chimeric adaptation in humans. All the mutants are chimeras. The mutation they carry enables inclusion of whole segments of other species DNA into their human DNA. Mutants with the ability to camouflage have included cuttlefish or octopus dna sequences into their own genome. Mutants with regenerative powers have lizard DNA in thier genome. In this way, we create a device to leap over the gradual evolution and use this adaption to include new genetic features that appear to be instantly evolved fully formed in humans, but are actually the result of millions of generations of evolution in another species and have been taken, nearly whole, directly into humans.

FOUL BALL! I hear you shout. There's no way that octopus genes that have adapted to work well in the presence of many other octopus genes are going to continue to function when they find themselves suddenly spliced in with a bunch of human genes. Even though we can believe there are loci in the human DNA where insertion of octopi DNA would have a beneficial effect, the odds of randomly splicing an octopus gene into that location instead of into a location where it has no effect or a detrimental effect work out to be, essentially, just as astronomical as the chance of evolving these useful adaptations in a single generation using the standard mutation model. So we need a solution that improves the odds of landing the useful octopus gene sequences into locations that will yield a beneficial human adaptation.

The mechanism I propose for our chimeric adaptation is that the foreign gene sequences are actually inserted in many locations on every chromosome. It is the nature of the chimeric adaptation to provide a structure for inserting the foreign gene, for marking the start and stop of the gene, and for providing an epigenetic signaling apparatus that allows every gene insertion that proves to be deleterious to be "turned off" so that it is not read by cell protein building apparatus. Now we have greatly improved the odds of the octopus gene splicing into a useful location, because we have spliced it into millions and millions of locations. We got lucky once in a million-million tries. Many or most of or missed tries would normally be fatal mutations, but our chimeric adaptation machinery allows the effects of such bad splices to be turned off, leaving us with only our good or no effect splices still actively operating in cells.

Next question - how the heck did the mutants even have the genetic material available to make these splices? Did the mothers of all mutants with a camo mutation need to be eating sushi while pregnant? I think I can propose several possible mechanisms.
1) In this world, GMO foods and other GMO products are far more widespread and much more...advanced(??). In this world, there are cosmetics that include octopus genes, and foods that include lizard genes. All for perfectly logical reasons, but the result is that humans in this world are routinely exposed to genetic material from a multitude of species. And (IMPORTANT) these are genetic sequences that have already been selected by human scientists because they do something useful. The chimeric adaptation has been present and evolving in humans for millions of years and has a useful effect in dealing with retro-viruses. It is only when this adaptation encounters the new man made environment where trans-species genes are being dumped routinely into the blood stream that this adaptation enables the new and remarkable effects we see as Marvel Comic style mutations. 2) In this world, a mimivirus exists that, as part of its life cycle, takes up and replicates gene sequences from many different species. As part of this cycle, at random times, during copying sometimes the gene previously taken up will be spliced out and another gene, from the current host, taken up. In this way, the mimivirus may act as a vehicle to copy a gene from one species, replicate many billions of times, and cary that gene sequence to many other species and individuals. And, at random times, deliver its payload of foriegn genes into a new host individual. In most cases, this foriegn genetic materials is destroyed by the host. However, in the case of a host with the human chimeric adaptation, this foriegn material is copied into the genome (per above mechanism) and becomes the possible source of useful Marvel adaptations. Obviously, since the genes copied by the mimivirus are probably random in nature, this mechanism lacks the human selection factor from example 1 and probably does not have the power to create world where we see many many useful mutants per capita.

If you've read this far, wow, thanks! I hope this provides a framework that gives you a satisfying scientific answer to how we might explain Marvel Mutants.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

I've often wondered if the X-gene doesn't just "read" the other genes and try to make sense of them and interpret them in its own way. Like an English speaker picking up a book written in a foreign language (say, German) and attempting to read the book in English, except that rat in German doesn't mean a rodent. (Rat in German means advice, counsel, or council.)

For example, say you've got some junk DNA in there that the X-gene reads as "start power" and some more further down the line that the X-gene reads as "cognitive predictive ability 1000%" and a little further down the line the X-gene reads "end power." In a person without the X-gene, that's just junk DNA and it doesn't mean diddly. With an X-gene, that person can predict the future. There would also be people with X-genes who did not have any combinations where the X-gene made sense of it (inactive X-gene) as in the case of Mystique and Sabertooth's son has NO powers, although ostensibly he has to have an X-gene, who joined Friends Against Humanity. It would mean at least one of the "non-mutant" parents of mutants have the X-gene but no viable combinations of DNA.

Genetic Recombination during Meiosis: "Genetic recombination is the production of offspring with combinations of traits that differ from those found in either parent. In eukaryotes, genetic recombination during meiosis can lead to a novel set of genetic information that can be passed on from the parents to the offspring."

It would explain why mutants may always be a minority. It would explain why similar or the same powers are more inclined to run in families yet entirely unrelated powers can still belong to close kin. Ideally, as we saw more mutants getting married and having children (rather than saving the world) we would also see more non-mutant or non-powered offspring of mutants. (Won't that fuck Magneto up? Teehee.)

Anyone have any thoughts on this?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ PS: Also explains Magneto's ray of death by mutation in the movie where he kidnaps Rogue. Inactive X-gene? Let's force it to do something. Cue totally spastic mutation that kills you. $\endgroup$ – Samantha Colón Oct 27 '16 at 1:03
0
$\begingroup$

Ironically, (for the question's exceptions), I recall a conversation where it was mentioned the most likely explanation was an in-universe source of what we call "handwavium" - that is, an actual something, some kind of substance, which happens to affects probability. It would cause both good and bad luck, taken to extremes, and increasing the odds for strange rather than logical consequence.

The worlds of the comics would then be the natural results of systems and species evolving in an environment with such a resource, with occasional exposure as a natural hazard (since "both good and bad" is taken quite literally). More chances for "beneficial" changes, by those more directly exposed, less for successful reproduction because they're playing heroes and villains instead (occasional insanity, visible alteration which is not socially accepted, much more dangerous lives, yanno, all that). It probably means strictly selecting for genes which have almost beneficial mutations - since the actual "successes" might not reproduce, but their families have a much better chance. I imagine it would be a little like evolving to live in a high radiation environment, species might have a lot more unstable mutations visible, since anything that can shift around, does - but the resultant species would also be tougher, becoming more likely to survive mutation since any genes which could easily mutate to something irrecoverably bad were selected out of the population. Or something like that.

Or alternatively, other answers mention there should be corresponding numbers of neutral or negative mutations. A very little handwaving might start this off a little higher mutation rate, a little higher fertility rate, and a little higher rate on the non-viability spellchecker that aborts the worst mutations, and the birth rate would look mostly the same. If the overall number of mutations was lower than the other answers suggest, but had been going on the whole time instead of just "when mutants appeared", evolution would eventually kinda select against those genes that would tend to mutate into non-survivable, and for sturdy redundant genetics, and the bias towards neutral and beneficial mutation would build in the population over time. The rise in "useful" mutations might have to do with that timeline, when the kinda-beneficial starts outstripping the neutrally mutating genes (The universe has such beings "occasionally" popping up in history, then becoming common in the era it is set, I think).

There should be a pretty pronounced trend towards variation, visible variation, if so - but given trends we see in our own history, with religious witch hunts, and the rise of scientific skepticism, I could see a concerted and prolonged effort to, um, "select against" visible mutations (aka witch hunt, for minimum few hundred years), followed by a social shift, once it has worked for a while, where society kinda forgot it was really real and not just "superstition" and stories after another few hundred years of nothing too visible, and where occasional oddities hide - which means the appearance of beneficial mutations, is really reappearance of survivable variation once it is no longer being, um, quite so actively selected against. Increasing global migration lets populations of genes mix, and all the recessives pop up, or something - with time enough for useful to get really useful over generations, but a mostly forgotten artificial historical bias against "visible" to explain why most of the people of that universe didn't know/remember/believe all about it until relatively recent in the universe's history.

Which would mean mutants aren't the "next evolved species" so much as a complex and forgotten piece of the whole human race, but then there's nothing quite so human as the tendency to stand on a soapbox and assume they're better, more advanced, and eventually going to triumph and replace those they deem "inferior".

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

The simplest scientific reason is that it's not our universe. There needs to exist something, a form of mysterious and by our standards an inexplicable form of energy, that powers psi abilities, skills, and powers. However, this works it must linked to the biology of persons, animals or plants that can express these psi-powers.

If the basis of psi-powers is inherently biological, then this will influenced by the genetic nature of the persons. There might be genes that are directly responsible for specific psi-powers or it may require complex combinations of genes to enable psi-power(s) to be expressed.

If it's the latter, then the fact that mutants seem to have suddenly arisen is due to a critical mass of persons developing in the general population, with sufficient combinations of genes to have psi-powers. An explanation of this sort is given in John Ridley's superhero novel Those Who Walk in Darkness (2003) to explain the recent appearance of numerous so-called supernormals. As explanations go, it's not too bad.

As for the nature of the psi-energy responsible for mutant powers that's a whole different area of quasi-scientific fabulation.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.