First, let me say, I know people are going to say "It's just a comic/movie franchise, you have to suspend disbelief". Please bear with me.

X-Men is a little different than other franchises.

We have the concepts of Homo superior/ homo mutandis / mutantur / homo sapiens supreme and the X-Gene / mutant gene / X-Factor chromosome / X-Factor / etc. And these are very central to the plotlines.

In other words, there is the attempt to explain the multitude of powers arising through a biological explanation. Maybe it's just me, but that is qualitatively different than a lot of other origin stories, like 'he's an alien' or 'he can do magic'. (Yes, I realize people will give examples of other superheroes/villains where a biological explanation is attempted, but this question is about X-Men, and it's probably different because in X-Men it is literally in the DNA.)

But here we have all kinds of powers (turning to diamond, telekenesis, opening portals to other dimensions, teleportation, controlling weather, etc.) that clearly can't have a biological basis (at least in our universe).

So, what I'm probably not explaining very well, is that the idea of the impossible arising from an impossible explanation isn't the same as the impossible arising from a supposed plausible explanation (genes). So it's only a partial explanation. Is there then a part of the explanation that tries to close the gap?

Is there an explanation offered in-universe for how the X-Gene allows homo superior to access physics that is impossible in our universe ?


2 Answers 2


I don't believe there has ever been an explicit in-universe explanation. There have been a few stories that have hinted that humans have an extranormal evolutionary capability (Rick Jones' powers during the Kree-Skrull War (and AVENGERS FOREVER); X-MEN ANNUAL 11 (which basically just said humans didn't veer down a dead-end path like others)).

There are other stories that one can turn that same direction. I have long had a theory as to how Richard Ryder regained his Nova abilities after having lost them (prior to the original NEW WARRIORS series), involving the blast of energy that shot out of his eyes (in NOVA vol 1 #1, circa 1976); namely, that the energy required to give most races the Nova powers was more than was needed for humans; and that, after losing the powers, he absorbed the "extra" energy he had originally shed, to regain them. However, that's my theory, nothing explicitly (or even implicitly, to be honest) stated.

Of course, it's not entirely fair to pick on the X-Men franchise here. Given the number of characters receiving their powers from an overexposure of some sort to radiation (Fantastic Four, Hulk, Spider-Man), as opposed to gain the power to get very sick, lose their hair, and die. In fact, to bring it back to the X-Men, it's strongly implied that Hank McCoy's mutation was due to his parents' work in a nuclear plant (or something of the sort).

I'll also note WHAT IF (vol 1) #6, where we have a Fantastic Four given a different set of abilities (Reed becomes a floating brain, Johnny an android-like being, Sue get stretching abilities, and Ben sprouts insect/dragon wings). Here, the Watcher explains how the character's powers matched their personalities in some way (both for the original team, and for this variant). This, of course, leans in the direction of the WILD CARDS style explanation another respondent posted. This may be the closest to an in-universe explanation I can think of.


It's a different 'verse (George R. R. Martin's Wildcards 'verse) but here's an excerpt from an appendix in the first book that give some kind of explanation.

Book 1, Wild Cards, Appendix II, "Excerpts from the Minutes of the American Metabiological Society Conference on Metahuman Abilities":

    We now have a better idea of just what wild card did to its victims. In so-called ace cases, the virus appears to have acted first by enhancing innate psychic ability, which gave direction to the overall progress of the gene-code rewrite. This explains the high degrees of correspondence between the personalities and proclivities of known aces and their metahuman abilities—why, for example, devoted pilots such as Black Eagle acquired powers including that of flight, why the obsessed “avenger of the night” Black Shadow has such control over darkness, why the reclusive Aquarius presents a half-human, half-delfin appearance and can in fact transform himself into a sort of super-Tursiops. A microscale telekinesis appears to be one of the mechanisms by which wild card effects its changes, enabling the subject subconsciously to choose, or at least influence, the nature of the transformation she or he undergoes.

    Of course, even by 1946 clues were available in the theoretical reaches of quantum physics. In fact, then-modern technology, up to and including nuclear weapons and the fusion devices in the process of development, was largely based upon quantum mechanics, much of the work being done on the basis of “we know it works, but we don’t know how.” Given the impetus of the reality of wild card, psi powers were quickly given a quantum mechanical rationale; “action over distance” without apparent recourse to the strong, electroweak, or gravitic forces being a feature, for example, of the curious interconnectedness of particles that have interacted, postulated by Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen in their famous “paradox,” and established with some finality by the Aspect experiment in France in 1982.…
    … A fairly obvious instance of TK-based power is shape changing. The subject—in almost all cases subconsciously—rearranges her or his component atoms to produce a gross structure that differs considerably from the original: for example, Elephant Girl’s rather unsettling transformation into a flying Elephas maximus in apparent violation of the mass-energy conservation principle. At least in the case of Elephant Girl, this is explained by subconscious TK on the subatomic level; Ms. O’Reilly can apparently summon into being a cloud of virtual particles and maintain them in existence immensely longer than they would normally exist. (A discussion of virtual particles is, of course, likewise beyond the scope of this presentation. I refer the interested to articles concerning, for example, the particles that “carry” the strong interaction, and that for an infinitesimal instant violate the conservation principle.) As part of restoring herself to her original appearance, Ms. O’Reilly permits the virtual particles that made up the “phantom” mass to lapse into nonexistence.
    It was Elephant Girl’s ability to fly in defiance of all known aeronautical principles that sparked the line of inquiry leading to the conclusions expressed in this paper. Simply put, Elephant Girl’s, Peregrine’s, and all known aces’ flight or levitation is simply a variation on TK. In this sense, the Great and Powerful Turtle is the archetypal flying ace, in that he acknowledgedly flies by means of his telekinetic ability. But no trick of physics would permit Elephant Girl’s ears or even Peregrine’s magnificent wings to uphold even a small human in flight, to say nothing of a full-grown Asiatic elephant. They, like the Turtle, fly through use of mind power alone.…
    … Energy projections provide another thorny problem simply explained by—again—TK. Jumpin’ Jack Flash appears to project blasts of flame from the palms of his hands, and moreover can manipulate the fire he produces in remarkable ways. But this individual does not actually project the flame, in the sense that it is not emitted from his own body; in point of fact, it isn’t strictly speaking flame. His TK enables him to regulate the Brownian motion of the circumambient air. He creates a “hot spot” of highly excited particles approximately one micron from the flesh of his palm, and then uses TK to direct the resultant stream of incandescent gas.

  • This is an interesting read, but I don't think it answers the question. Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 0:40

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