A Survey of Psychic Powers Found in Fiction and History


Type of Psychic Table Resized

INTRODUCTION

Psychics have various mental powers including telepathy and clairvoyance.  Psychics are one of the few categories of characters of fiction that also seemingly appear in real life.  For example, people who fly would only appear on a list of fictional characters.  Whether or not historical psychics really had psychic powers is not within the scope of this article.  The focus on this investigation is to compare and contrast the sort of psychic powers one encounters dealing with psychics in history versus fiction.  Almost any power imaginable can be duplicated and given a psionic explanation.  This tendency to call just about any super powered hero a psychic because the term is “cool” is especially overdone in Japanese fiction. There needs to be some sort of system for determining what powers constitute psychic powers.  This article will focus on the five powers traditionally associated with psychics including mediumship, precognition, retrocognitiontelekinesis. and telepathy

ANIME

 

One of the most famous “comic book” psychics does come from Japan and is the anime titled Akira that in turn was based on a Manga series from Katsuhiro Otomo.  Akira is a powerful telekinetic who in turn evolves into a reality warper.  Elfen Lied is another anime telekinetic.  The following anime series deal with psychics with various powers: Psychic Academy, Telepathy Shōjo Ran, and Darker than Black: Kuro no Keiyakusha. The following anime characters have various powers: Almayce, Eva-Beatrice, Genocyber, Hiroto Sakurai, Mai Kuju, and Rion SteinerPokemon has several psychic creatures including: Cresselia, Deoxys, Misty’s Psyduck, Misty’s TogeticPorygonMai Taniyama has the power of retrocognition.  The following anime deal with mediumship: Ghost Hound, Ghost Hunt, Mokke, Natsume’s Book of Friends, and XxxHOLIC for a total of five.  Overall, there seem to be more psychics with the power of mediumship than in American comic books.  Arael is one of the few anime psychics that is only a telepath.  Probably the most famous computer game with psychics and an anime style is Psychic Force.  There is a tendency to label various superpowers such as magic and control of electricity as “psychic” in anime and these examples are not listed since I think this is a misuse of the term psychic.

AMERICAN COMIC BOOKS

There is a general perception that there are more psychic characters in comic books than in any other medium.  This investigation focused on comic book heroes in titles published by DC Comics and Marvel Comics.  This study did not look at Japanese comic books in depth which are generally referred to as Manga.  I am an avid reader of both American and Japanese comic books and do suspect psychics are more prominent in Japanese than American comic books and perhaps this would be a good subject of a future study.

However, the Manga industry is fragmented into dozens of large and small publishing companies unlike American comic books that are dominated by DC Comics and Marvel Comics.  Some Manga publishers can only be described as cottage industries in which the writer, artist and publisher are one person working out of an office.  Listing all the psychics in Manga would be a task only the most dedicated otaku would attempt.

The following 22 comic book characters in DC and Marvel comics have telepathy: Aqualad (DC), Aquaman (DC), Black Bolt (Marvel), Blindfold (Marvel), Cable (Marvel), Chamber (Marvel), Charles Xavier/Professor X (Marvel), Emma Frost/White Queen (Marvel), Jean Grey/Phoenix (Marvel), M.O.D.O.K. (Marvel), Martian Manhunter/J’onn J’onzz (DC), Miss Martian/M’gann M’orzz (DC), Nate Gray/X-Man (Marvel), Psimon (DC), Psylocke (Marvel), Rachel Summers/Marvel Girl/Phoenix (Marvel), Sage (Marvel), Saturn Girl (DC), Stepford Cuckoos (Marvel), Tempest (DC), The Goblin Queen (Marvel), Tomorrow Woman (DC).  The two most important telepaths in the DC universe are the Martian Manhunter and Saturn Girl.  The two most important telepaths in the Marvel universe are Professor X and Jean Grey.

The following five comic book characters in DC and Marvel comics have precognition: Ben Reilly (Marvel), Blindfold (Marvel), Clock King II (DC), Destiny (Marvel), Dream Girl (DC) and Midnighter (DC).  The most important character with precognition in the DC universe is Dream Girl.  The most important character with precognition in the Marvel universe is Destiny.

The following three DC and Marvel characters with the power of mediumship include Deadpool (Marvel), John Constantine (DC) and Wicked (Marvel).  John Constantine is by far the most important character in comic books with this power.  Mediumship may be more widespread as a super power in Japanese comic books that in general have a greater preoccupation with ghosts.

The following 13 comic book characters in DC and Marvel comics with the power of telekinesis include Cable (Marvel), Debrii (Marvel), Franklin Richards (Marvel), Hellion (Marvel), Jean Grey (Marvel), Justice (Marvel), Maxima (DC Comics), Nate Grey (Marvel), Psylocke (Marvel), Rachel Summers (Marvel), Raven (DC), Superboy, Kon-El version (DC), and Tomorrow Woman (DC).

Superboy is the most important telekinetic in the DC universe.  Jean Grey is the most important telekinetic in the Marvel universe.  The Kon-El version of Superboy is a good example how even the varied powers of Superman can be duplicated via a psionic mechanism and over the time the border between psionic, none psionic and magically based powers becomes meaningless and comic book fiction suffers as believability suffers.  In the opinion of the author, superpowers and their own internal logic is one of the foundations of creating a suspension of belief in the medium of comic books.

I think this is a good a juncture as any to mention my one giant peeve about telekinesis as a superpower.  The following formula describes how kinetic energy works:

kinetic energy formula

In the above formula, “m” equals mass and “v” equals velocity.  The above formula means that a small object traveling a very high speed can do a lot more damage than a large object traveling at a low speed because velocity is squared.  This is one of the principles behind martial arts which I have studied (see Fox Martial Arts Taxonomy).  If you can learn the increase the speed of your kick or punch then you can increase the force of your kick or punch exponentially.  Also if you can put a lot of energy into a small area of your fist, two or three knuckles rather than all your knuckles, then the pounds per inch increase dramatically and you break bone in a small area rather than hitting a large area with insufficient force to break/penetrate bone and tissue.  The basic principles of kinetic energy and martial arts have a special relevance to telekinetic combat!

Invariably comic book characters are shown using great effort to move a single large object while able to throw small objects at great speed without effort.  This suggests that telekinesis, unlike muscle energy, allow the user to take advantage of the loop holes of the laws of kinetic energy more efficiently.  You cannot easily double the speed of your muscle action, this takes years of practice, but in a telekinetic world this is entirely possible with little practice.  Therefore, instead of throwing boulders at your opponent, a telekinetic would be better of throwing small rocks or better yet, super sharp barbed needles made out of adamantium towards vital organs. Needles are hard to block and at sufficient speeds can penetrate deeply into hard to kill super heroes that are partially invulnerable. Barbed needles with poisons on them, Green Kryptonite for Superman for example, would make even more sense.  I am waiting for a supervillain that uses his or her telekinesis in an intelligent manner. I guess the superhero can coat his/her needles with a tranquilizer and aim for none vital organs.

Also, any comic book character with any brains with telekinesis would sign up to study the use of trick arrows with Hawkeye (Marvel) or Green Arrow (DC) immediately since you could make your trick arrows go faster and more accurately with telekinesis and would be a superhero archer on steroids with telekinesis.  Hawkeye has been known to go up against Iron Man.  Green Arrow has been known to go up against Superman albeit with arrows that released Green Kryptonite in the Dark Knight series.

The following nine comic book characters in DC and Marvel comics with the power of retrocognition include Blindfold (Marvel), Captain Comet (DC), Dream Girl (DC), Magik (Marvel), Saturn Girl (DC), Silver Surfer (Marvel), Talisman (Marvel), Tarot (Marvel) and Terror Inc. (Marvel).  Dream Girl and Saturn Girl are important psychics in the DC universe but rarely use retrocognition.  Terror Inc. in the Marvel universe absorbs the memories and skills of other via the grafting of body parts and retrocognition is a central power this character uses in an interesting manner.

The following three American comic book characters that are clearly psychics have various psychic powers: Professor X, Jean Grey and Saturn Girl.  There is a history of psychics in Marvel comic books progressing towards reality warping.  Psychics can at first throw boulders around and then as they evolve can control the very nature of reality.  The following characters, not all clearly psychics, Jean Grey, Onslaught, Proteus and Franklin Richards over at Marvel Comics have all gone through this evolution.  The big exception to the psychic path to reality warping at Marvel would be the Beyonder.  Beings with the power cosmic can also warp reality but generally not to the same extent as a psychic that has evolved to the level of reality warping.  Why does Marvel turn psychics into reality warpers?  Perhaps wavy lines showing telepathy or telekinesis are not very impressive visually.  A five spread page of character warping the very nature of reality is interesting visually and easily done in a comic book.  Psychic powers do not lend themselves to an over the top visual display that is the forte of the comic book as a medium.  Ironically, the best reality warping visual display was done at DC not at Marvel.  The Joker becomes Emperor Joker by stealing the powers of Mr. Mxyzptlk and the miniseries based on this premise is a visual delight if not a logical delight.  DC Comics is more likely to use magic and/or mystic origins rather than psychic powers to explain the reality warping superpower (Bat-Mite, Mr. Mxyzptlk, and the Spectre).

HISTORICAL

Allison DuBois

Allison DuBois Historical

Psychic Power: Mediumship

Cassandra of Troy

Cassandra of Troy

Psychic Power: Precognition

Edgar Cayce

Edgar Cayce

Psychic Power: Retrocognition

Grigori Rasputin

Grigori Rasputin

Psychic Power: Precogntion

Jeane Dixon

Jeane Dixon

Psychic Power: Precognition

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Psychic Power: Precognition

Miss Cleo

Miss Cleo

Psychic Power: Precognition

Nostradamus

Nostradamus

Psychic Power: Precognition

Paul the Octopus

Paul the Octopus

Psychic Power: Precognition

Pythia (The Oracle of Delphi)

The Oracle at Delphi

Psychic Power: Precognition

Uri Geller

Uri Geller

Psychic Power: Telekinesis

MOVIES

Carl Jenkins in Starship Troopers

Carl Jenkins in Starship Troopers

Psychic Power: Telepathy

Carrie White in Carrie

Carrie White in Carrie

Psychic Power: Telekinesis

Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense

Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense

Psychic Power: Mediumship

Cris Johnson in Next

Cris Johnson in Next

Psychic Power: Precognition

Darryl Revok in Scanners

Darryl Revok in Scanners

Psychic Power: Telekinesis

Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class

Emma Frost in X-Men

Psychic Power: Telepathy, Mind Control

Fiver in Watership Down

Fiver in Watership Down

Psychic Power: Precognition

Inspector Frederick Abberline in From Hell

Inspector Frederick Abberline in From Hell

Psychic Power: Precognition

Jean Grey in X-Men Film Series

Jean Grey in X-Men

Psychic Power: Telepathy, Telekinesis

Jeremy “Powder” Reed in Powder

Jeremy Powder Reed in Powder

Psychic Power: Telepathy

Joan of Arc in Several Movies

There have been almost 40 movies about Joan of Arc!  For the purposes of this survey, Joan of Arc has only been counted once.

Psychic Power: Precognition

Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone

Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone

Psychic Power: Precognition, Retrocognition, Telepathy

Lyn Cassady in Men Who Stare at Goats

Lyn Cassady in Men Who Stare at Goats

Psychic Power: Telekinesis, Remote Sensing

Nick Marshall in What Women Want

Nick Marshall in What Women Want

Psychic Power: Telepathy (women only)

Oda Mae Brown in Ghost

Oda Mae Brown in Ghost

Psychic Power: Mediumship

Professor X in X-Men

Professor X in X-Men

Psychic Power: Telepathy, Mind Control

River Tam in Serenity

River Tam in Serenity

Psychic Power:

Tangina Barrons in Poltergeist

Tangina Barrons in Poltergeist

Psychic Power: Mediumship

The Oracle in The Matrix

The Oracle in The Matrix

Psychic Power: Precognition

Tia Dalma in Pirates of the Caribbean

Tia Dalma in Pirates of the Carribean

Psychic Power: Precognition

Zoltar in Big

Zoltar in Big

Psychic Power: Precognition, Reality Warping

TV

Allison DuBois in Medium

Allison DuBois in Medium

Psychic Power: Mediumship, Retrocogntion, Precognition

Carl Jenkins in Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles

Psychic Power: Telepathy

The Champions

The Champions

Psychic Power: Telepathy, Precognition

Rose Red

Psychic Power: Telepathy, Telekinesis, Retrocognition, Remote Viewing, Psychometry, Automatic Writing

Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone

Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone

Psychic Power: Precognition, Retrocognition, Telepathy

Matt Parkman in Heroes

Matt Parkman in Heroes

Psychic Power: Telepathy

Melinda Gordon in Ghost Whisperer

Melinda Gordon in Ghost Whisperer

Psychic Power: Mediumship

Professor X in X-Men

Psychic Power: Telepathy, Mind Control

River Tam in Firefly

Psychic Power: Telepathy, Precognition

Time Prophet in Lexx

Time Prophet Lexx

Psychic Power: The Time Prophet believes time is cyclical so by seeing the last Big Bang cycle, she can see the “future”.  This means her power is retrocognition but manifests itself as precognition.

CONCLUSION

Fictional psychics are much more likely to display psychometry, telepathy and telekinesis than historical psychics. Historically, most psychics have visions of a clairvoyant nature.  A skeptic might argue that this is true because clairvoyance is an easier power to fake than other psychic powers.  There is something called the Jeane Dixon effect.  People tend to remember a few correct predictions and forget many wrong predictions.

Movies (21 psychics) appear to use psychics as a plot device lot more than TV (9 psychics).  The movies Carrie and Scanner, and X-Men: The Last Stand used telekinesis to create huge extended visual spectacles. Presumably the more limited budgets of TV shows means such spectacles are less likely.

The total number of psychics in American comic books (52) dwarfs the number in the other categories.  One explanation is that the sheer volume of material in comic books is so much larger than movies and TV that more psychics would follow.  The X-Men were a comic book that introduced psychic superheroes in an important ongoing series.  Professor X and Jean Grey were both psychics in the X-Men series and soon psychic superheroes began to become a regular part of the American comic book landscape.  American comic books generally copy Hollywood movies and American TV but this might be one case in which movies and TV took their cues from comic books and the X-Men comic book in particular.  Comic books and anime regularly make use of telekinetic/reality altering fight scenes that would be very costly on film but are relatively easy and cheap to do in the comic book media.  Akira is a Japanese anime adapted from a comic book that is probably the best example of over the top telekinetic scenes that would be too expensive to do using live action film.

Hugh Fox III - Black Hole

My other website at:

Fox Superpower List

2 responses to “A Survey of Psychic Powers Found in Fiction and History

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