The following contains spoilers for recent issues of Clobberin’ Time, on sale now from Marvel Comics.

While superpowers can range from the subtle to the spectacular, the least expected abilities often have the most significant impact. A sharp tongue can be more useful than a sharp sword and can pierce the mightiest armor. The Fantastic Four’s Thing once learned this and demonstrated how paper can beat rock when he used Mister Fantastic’s greatest invention to help save the entire universe. This time it wasn’t Ben Grimm’s great strength that saved the day. It was his gift of the gab.

Despite the Earth-shattering power of heroes like Superman or the parasitic terror of the fear entity Parallax, some of comics’ greatest victories have come down to nothing more than a few choice words. The power of communication has, on multiple occasions, been the difference between life and death for trillions, as was the case when The Thing, used his friend Reed Richard’s invention, the Gift O Gab, to distract the villainous Ogdu Fraize in Clobberin’ Time #5 (by Steve Skroce, Joe Sabino and Bryan Valenza), long enough for him to get close to the villain and save the day. The magnificent Gift O Gab first appears a few issues earlier in Clobberin’ Time #2 (by Steve Skroce, Joe Sabino and Bryan Valenza), surreptitiously supplying the Thing with the perfect words for any situation, allowing him to defuse tense encounters, tear down an opponent’s emotional walls, or keep them busy enough for him to strike the final blow.

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Ideas Are Indestructible

More than swords, guns, or even laser vision, words are the most versatile weapons in the universe. They are able to heal or harm, to convince, control or conceal, and hold a place of pride as one of humankind’s most important inventions. Comics have proven this true many times, resulting in the defeat of many seemingly undefeatable foes.

Even when a supervillain is protected by impenetrable armor or hiding behind screens on the far side of the world, the power of words can still reach them. Every thinking entity exists as a complex balance of psychological traits, and it is this core that makes them vulnerable to words. If their audience is listening, a skilled orator can manipulate just about anyone, and playing to a villain’s sense of pride and vanity is a tried and tested method of getting the upper hand over them. Like the Thing’s experience with Ogdu Frazie, the 2004 film, The Incredibles gave audiences a textbook example of the hero using the villain’s words against them, as Mr. Incredible almost saved the day early after encouraging his foe, Syndrome, to lose himself in a classic villainous monologue.

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Every Word Is A Weapon

While words can distract a foe or lure them into a position of weakness, they can also crush an enemy more directly as well. Though most metahumans have physical defenses of some kind, many of them have psychological defenses too, and are more resistant to verbal attacks as a result. Zealots and villains often think of themselves as heroes and shield themselves from seeing reason with the weight of their beliefs. In this case, the orator needs to use their words with skill, carefully dissecting their opponent’s belief structure, undermining their worldview.

While the Man of Steel is almost always a hero, Superman’s authoritarian appearance inSuperman: Red Son #3 (by Mark Millar, Dave Johson, Killian Plunkett, Walden Wong, Paul Mounts) proved that when a villain is nigh-invulnerable the ultimate Kryptonite bullet is in fact a silver tongue. Having defeated virtually all of his opponents and conquered the majority of the globe, this Superman variant seemed unstoppable on every level. His imperviousness to harm protects him from direct attacks and his unshakable belief in his cause protected his ego. In the end, Lex Luthor put it best when he prepares to take the final step to fell the Soviet Superman. “…they say the pen is mightier than the sword, Lois, so I’m distilling everything Superman hates and fears about himself into a single sentence.” Though Superman remains physically unharmed, Lex Luthor’s words “Why don’t you just put the whole WORLD in a BOTTLE, Superman?” pierced his steel heart, proving that in stories, no matter how powerful the ideology or the body in question is, the right words can undo it all in a heartbeat.

Another example of the power of words is their potential to trump abilities that are otherwise insurmountable. There are countless instances of heroes falling under the thrall of villains, whether by mental domination or outright possession. Kyle Rayner, the Green Lantern who followed Hal Jordan. After Parallax, the fear entity, possessed Kyle Rayner in Green Lantern Sinestro Corps Special (by Geoff Johns, Ethan Van Sciver, Moose Baumann and Rob Leigh), it isn’t power rings or telepathy that free him from the creature’s control. It is the words of his friend Hal Jordan helping banish his fears. Even in the face of cosmic entities like Parallax, words have the ability to cut through everything and reach the very core of a person, stirring their own inner strength when all else has failed.

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Inspiration Is Often The Key To Victory

Morale can make or break an army, and comic books, Shakespeare, and history are replete with examples of inspirational speeches turning the tide of doomed battles. Men who are fighting for something they believe in can fight longer and harder and through worse, than people fighting for money or vain glory. A true leader can use a well-timed speech to return fire to their men’s bellies and spur them on to victory.

Words can also create heroes. While sometimes it takes gamma bombs or super soldier serums to turn ordinary people into superheroes, the truth is that even in comics, powers don’t create heroes. What makes them super comes from words. As depicted across multiple comics and films, Spider-Man’s origin as a superhero didn’t come until after his brush with the radioactive spider. The true birth of Spider-Man comes down to the famous words of Uncle Ben. “With great power comes great responsibility.” The message behind these words is what ultimately inspired Peter Parker to use his abilities to do good in the world.

Though they have stiff competition in a world of magic hammers and giant robots, words have proven time and time again that they can move mountains. They can create Spider-Men, turn the Hulk back into Bruce Banner, and even turn villains into heroes. So when kids in the future dream of becoming superheroes it would be well worth it for them to remember that the pen truly is mightier than the sword.

 One of Reed Richard’s most ingenious inventions proved that the power of the spoken word can stand up to the worst villains in Marvel Comics.  Read More