A New Superhero

During my travels in the US I actually watched TV a couple of times, and one show I saw was about cephalopods. You’ve got your octopuses (if you want to get all snooty, don’t uses ‘octopi’, that would be a Latin plural on a Greek word. ‘Octopi’ is false erudition. The formal plural would be octopodes, with the accent on the top. But I digress.), your squids, and your cuttlefish.

In this television show they had some mind-boggling footage of cuttlefish, which have developed some amazing system that gives them muscular control over the color of their skins. They flashed colors and patterns across their bodies, sometimes one pattern on the side with the female (everything’s cool, baby), and an entirely different pattern on the side with the rival male (back off, chump).

Give fine enough motor control, a cuttlefish could play a movie on his skin.

It wasn’t until the second beer tonight that I considered what it would be like to have cuttlefish skin. Some people are worried about genetic manipulation, that it would lead to frivolous modifications of the human form. I’ve got my shopping list right here, and it starts with wings. Cuttlefish skin is right up there, though, probably even edging out gills and wheels.

Cuttlefish-man the superhero would rock. A master of disguise and ingenious at camouflage, he works out by displaying “tattoos”, then animating them running around on his skin.

I picture a superhero job interview that goes something like: “Cuttlefish-man? What the hell kind of name is that?” The interviewer looks up from the resume he is scannning to discover the chair in front of his desk is empty — until a pair of square-slitted eyes blink somewhere in the air over the back of the chair. Cuttlefish-man reappears (he would have to be bald, I suppose). “That’s what kind” he would say without a hint of smugness.

Science note: while invisibility is impossible (and even if it were possible the invisible man would be blind… Holy crap! what a great moment! The lab accident makes him invisible, but the point is completely meaningless to him because his eyes don’t work anymore! The light passes right through his retinas. It would go something like: *Lab Explodes* “Oh, shit I can’t see!” “Where are you?” “I’m right here but I’m blind, I’m blind!” “But I can’t see you!” “Dude, that’s seriously not funny. Help me!” He would imagine himself the way any adult who lost their sight imagined themselves. As far as his senses are concerned, he is completely ordinary. A blind invisible man would be the best superhero ever — uh, except Cuttlefish-Man, of course, who we’re talking about here…), it is possible to project an image that from a certain point of view is indistinguishable from invisibility.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games for the newest entry in the super-pantheon. Cuttlefish-man has inherited the shy, retiring nature of his namesake, which makes it awkward when he has to work naked. Bruce Wayne is bugging him all the time for skin samples, so he can develop his own “cuttle-suit”. He is awkward around women, worried that he’s going to light up like a billboard when she leans toward him over the table. That doesn’t actually happen — or, at least not very often — but his ears turn awfully red.

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