NERD PROCESSOR

How Supervillains Could Help Save the Planet

Doomsday devices might prove surprisingly useful in the event of the end of the world

Credit: starwars.com

Although some of us try to ignore it, the Earth is in seriously rough shape nowadays, and it’s only going to get rougher. There are plenty of plans and treaties and scientific research being done in hopes of keeping humanity from wrecking the planet completely, but we may need to think outside the box if we want to fix things. We need to think… evilly. Which means we need to take inspiration from the worst of the worst.

Here are just some of the ways various supervillains and mad scientists of comics, cartoons, and movies could really help the Earth — if they would just stop trying to take it over.

Cobra’s M.A.S.S. Device (G.I.Joe)

The snake-themed terrorist organization Cobra spent almost the entirety of the G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero cartoon trying to get their hands on some kind of doomsday device to hold the world hostage, starting with the M.A.S.S. Device in the series’ premiere. Short for the Molecular Assembler Scrambler Sender, the M.A.S.S. Device’s primary use was as a giant teleporter, which Cobra Commander used to send his armies into and out of locations in an instant, as well as steal landmarks like the Eiffel Tower (and a Russian army, for kicks).

However, its assembling/scrambling/sending technology could also be used to disintegrate things as well, such as New York City, which was on Cobra Commander’s to-do list before the Joes stopped him. While teleportation technology would be an enormous help in lessening dependence on fossil fuels, let’s not discount the Device’s disintegration powers, either. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch — the largest of five (!) giant hunks of floating trash that have coalesced into islands in the world’s oceans — is currently 600,000 square miles, or nearly twice the size of Texas. Disintegrate it, teleport it into the sun, whatever, the M.A.S.S. Device would be real handy in helping us clean the place up.

Solex Agitator (The Man With the Golden Gun)

In this not-particularly good James Bond flick, the assassin Scaramanga (played by the always-particularly good Christopher Lee) plans to create the world’s greatest solar power plant and sell it to the highest bidder, which is a very strange side hustle for a professional killer to have. Regardless, Scaramanga steals the Solex Agitator, a doohickey which can harness the sun to such an extent that it’s said to be able to flat-out solve the Energy Crisis of the ‘70s!

The problem is that also can be used to make a pretty powerful megalaser, so Bond is sent to retrieve it. Given how our use of fossil fuels pumped out an estimated 37.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2018 — far more than the planet can process — a large source of clean energy would be particularly handy nowadays, laser be damned.

Cobra’s Weather Dominator (G.I. Joe)

Built by the arms dealer Destro, the Weather Dominator lived up to its name. Admittedly, Cobra Commander primarily wanted to use it to annihilate G.I. Joe and Washington D.C., but it could have many more useful applications: providing rain for drought-afflicted areas, or using its ability to manifest lightning and tornadoes as other sources of clean, renewable electricity and wind energy. I highly suspect its capacity to turn a desert into a giant skating rink in half a second (as in the video above) would cause far more climate problems than it would fix, but there’s still clearly plenty of good actual weather control could do the planet.

Plantman’s Vege-Ray Technology (Marvel Comics)

This lesser-known villain controls — you guessed it — plants which he used during his nefarious, criminal schemes. Not only can he enlarge existing plants, but he can create and control them, to the point that he can form them into semisentient henchmen. That might not sound like a weapon of mass destruction, but don’t worry — Plantman amplified the magnitude of his weapon to the level that he was able to form a giant leviathan that attacked London, Godzilla-style, despite the fact it was made entirely out of seaweed. Later, he also created an army of plant-based soldiers along with 100-foot-tall giants, like an eco-friendly Game of Thrones, both of which qualify handily as WMDs in my book.

The real-world applications of being able to grow and enlarge plant life should be obvious: it could replenish the world’s dwindling supply of carbon-dioxide-processing trees, especially in the rainforests. It could also be used to effectively end world hunger, by generating a limitless supply of nutrient-dense, protein-packed soy, along with regular veggies. Here’s the thing, though — Plantman knows he could use his tech for the good of the world, and actively doesn’t want to. When asked about his refusal to help solve this worldwide tragedy, he (reportedly) told Spider-Man, “I’ve always had my heart on world domination.” What an asshole.

We’d probably get bonus puns from Mr. Freeze! “It’s ice to be helping!” “Looks like the Arctic is catching a cold!” “Saving the planet is quite the chill ride!”

Mr. Freeze’s Ice Cannon (Batman and Robin)

The cannon/laser/whatever would be an enormous help in stabilizing the ice of the Arctic and Antarctic, or perhaps even enlarge them, which would help keep the world map from getting redrawn as ocean levels rise. Plus, we’d probably get bonus puns from Mr. Freeze! “It’s ice to be helping!” “Looks like the Arctic is catching a cold!” “Saving the planet is quite the chill ride!”

Dr. Blight’s Smog Monster (Captain Planet)

Like all the villains in Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Dr. Blight was dead-set on actively destroying the environment for… reasons? I’m quoting her here from the 1990 episode “The Littlest Planeteer,” in which this monster appears: “I hate clean air. It makes people so healthy.” So she created a monster that absorbed air pollution to grow bigger. Since there’s plenty to eat in our atmosphere, the monster quickly became giant and started breaking stuff and being extremely dangerous, since smog is an unbelievable detriment to health.

However, a monster that effectively gathers all that smog into one convenient location like one giant air filter would be supremely useful. Yes, the monster would be deadly if you came too close, but still, it would be a great deal easier to combat smog if it could be contained in a 100-yard radius instead of being dispersed throughout hundreds of miles. All we’d need to do is defeat it with actual real-life, giant air purifiers — or we could use the mad doctor’s tech to absorb smog without the accompanying monster. There are options!

The Death Star (Star Wars)

Okay, hear me out. No, we don’t need the ability to destroy planets, obviously. (As this list shows, we’re doing that just fine on our own, thanks.) In 2029, the asteroid known as 99942 Apophis will buzz by Earth at a mere 20,000 miles away — which might seem like plenty of distance until you hear the moon is nearly 240,000 miles away. In terms of spatial distance, this will be an extremely close shave. And less than a month ago, another asteroid buzzed by Earth less than 45,000 miles away — and what’s more terrifying is that scientists only discovered its existence the day of its arrival.

Now, that one wasn’t big enough to destroy the planet or even level a city, but there are plenty of asteroids out there that are. Even if we see them coming, right now all of NASA’s plans to protect Earth are very much in the preliminary stages. So I don’t think most of us would mind if we had in place tomorrow a fully armed and operational space station with enough power to blow up very, very large rocks. Admittedly, the name Death Star does have a branding issue, but calling it Asteroid-B-Gone and giving it a nice coat of paint should help immensely.

Khan’s Genesis Device (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)

Let’s be honest: Even if we had all these inventions and technology, chances are we’ve already screwed up Earth so badly that it’s too late to fix things. At the very least, we need an extremely good back-up plan, which is where Khan Noonien Singh of Star Trek fame comes in.

Captain Kirk’s archnemesis and genetically engineered super-soldier in the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s — we all remember those — Khan learned of the device, which was essentially a torpedo that could terraform even the most hostile alien planet into someplace habitable for humanity… at the cost of annihilating everything and everyone that had been there before. However, instead of firing it at a specific planet, Khan detonated it in the Mutara Nebula in an attempt to destroy the nearby Enterprise, which had the surprising effect of turning the entire nebula into a new planet. Either way, humanity would get a new place to set up shop, which would be fabulous.

Unfortunately, in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the Genesis Device turned out to have a few bugs in the system, and that new planet ripped itself apart. However, I think once Earth is a wasteland the scientific community will be motivated enough to get it working properly. If not… oh well.

The former editor of io9.com, Rob Bricken has been a professional nerd since 2001. He also often cries at children's cartoons.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store