In the Marvel 616 continuity, there are several heroes - namely Reed Richards and Tony Stark - who could single-handedly improve the quality of life for millions of people... yet never do. Those men create fantastically futuristic devices not only on a whim, but also in their spare time simply because they're bored or had an idea.

When several members of the X-Men received the powers of the Phoenix Force, they immediately began terraforming the barren areas of the world, seeking to end world hunger or strife. None of this was impossible before, it simply required time & effort, with the powers of the Phoenix becoming a convenient shortcut to results.

Given their awesome abilities and the ease with which they could do it, why don't the heroes of the Marvel-616 reality improve everyday life for humanity, instead of saving people one threat at a time?

  • 18
    Because Reed Richards is Useless (TVTropes link)
    – Joe L.
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 22:37
  • 8
    Tony Stark and his father pump billions into developing clean energy
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 22:46
  • 3
    @Valorum and donating scholarships to MIT students. If the questioner is really curious though, I'm curious if that is what he really wants to read about. And enough with the useless TV Tropes links already.
    – J Doe
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 23:29
  • 4
    @JDoe - It wasn't me that posted the Tropes link...
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 23:32
  • 3
    The clean energy and scholarships examples are from the MCU, and it's debatable that the world has seen any improvements from either, at least not on film so far. The question, however, is restricted to the 616 comics.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 6:16

2 Answers 2


There is a lot involved in bringing new technologies to market.

So let's imagine that Reed Richards sets out to cure cancer. That's a noble goal. What kind of cancer, though? There's over 200 different kinds, and while they all share similarities, they're all different from each other and require different treatments. So, let's say he picks one variety and develops a wonder drug that cures it. That'll be AWESOME for the world...in about 10 years. If he can devote enough money towards all the tasks that need to be completed for FDA approval (I'm not an expert, but it takes many, many trials on animals before any human trials, and human trials are long and expensive).

Taking that into account, how often do you think Reed gets distracted for a day (or week, or month) by needing to go save the city/world/universe/random child? What happens when this pops up and interferes with important deadlines and/or meetings needed to bring his cancer cure to market? You can be certain that intelligent foes (such as Doom) who wanted to oppose him would appropriately time their plots.

Or he could develop the cure(s) for cancer(s) and then give the completed cures to established drug companies, right? Well (tinfoil hat time) that might not go over so well with the drug companies - they'll make a lot less money in the future if they can't sell cancer treatments because there are cures. So those drugs might be found to have 'problems' that require more research before they can be submitted to the FDA. In the real world this isn't very likely (since drug companies would realize that they'd make bank off of the cure, as well as getting lots of good publicity), but in 616 Marvel, where there are conspiracies everywhere and supervillainy is a viable career choice it seems a lot more likely.

So miracle drugs aren't really feasible. But that's fine, let's look at the other stuff we can fix!

I know, how about we create a new technology for powering cars, so they don't rely on fossil fuels?

This is much simpler than getting a new drug to market, since there's no regulatory body that will require huge amounts of testing and research. In fact, if you can produce a car that meets federal safety standards (which are fairly lax, and Tony or Reed could easily do) but doesn't need fuel, you can just start selling it.

This, of course, will meet with resistance from the existing energy industry. Again, in Marvel 616, this will likely take the form of supervillainous attacks and/or conspiracies. There's also likely to be push-back from other economic forces: existing manufacturers will greatly resent these no-doubt-popular vehicles torpedoing the sales of their expensive new models. These manufacturers have inroads into legislative bodies, which can pass laws and/or regulations that will 'incidentally' make your new cars illegal.

A similar argument can be made for any other wide-reaching technology, from agriculturally enhancing areas (you mean, destroying fragile desert ecosystems and deflating food prices? Why are you sending millions of American farmers to the poorhouse, Tony?) to providing cheap, renewable energy to the US and other, developing nations (you mean putting coal miners out of work and giving FUSION technology to TERRORIST COUNTRIES?).

For any development that can significantly help large numbers of people, you can be sure there's already one or more groups economically or politically vested in keeping the status quo. In the Marvel universe, this resistance will almost certainly take the form of a maniac in spandex taking pot shots at you.

Also, there's a personality angle to consider: every super-intelligent person in Marvel tends to have dozens or hundreds of ideas for new technologies. They have an irresistable urge to be constantly working on newer, better things. But spreading a technology to the masses takes time and consistent, constant effort. It's like the difference between sprinting and marathon running. Tony and Reed (and others, like Pym) are sprinters - they work explosively and make great strides in a relatively short time. But they'd make terrible marathon runners.


"With great power comes great responsibility". Just because one person uses something benevolently, that does not mean it is a benevolent item. Nuclear energy, for example: while it could be argued the atomic bomb saved lives in the long run by forcing the Japanese to surrender, the bombs still wiped out a lot of non-military targets in a very short space of time.

Once something is released to the public, someone will find a way to do something horrible with it or the underlying scientific principles of it.

You mentioned the Phoenix Force terraforming the barren areas of the world. Just because those areas are barren, does not mean a nation does not have claim over them. Wars could break out because people are people, not to mention unforeseen ecological effects that could occur.

  • So the more facility you have the less you should do?
    – Misha R
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 23:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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