If I had to think of the superhero most likely to totally
transform the entire world, it’d be the Golden Age Starman. He invented a cosmic
control rod that allows for antigravity, forcefields, and moving objects at a
distance, all of which are powered by an endless, totally renewable power source
(starlight). Basically, he invented the Mass Effect in 1942, combined with free
energy! Ted Knight made a discovery that could change the world in a way that
would make the Industrial Revolution look quaint.
“But superheroes often have advanced technology, and they
don’t change the world!” Actually, there are usually lots of good reasons for
why superhero tech doesn’t change the world…none of which apply to
Starman. Tony Stark’s Iron Man suits are hundreds of millions of dollars each
and with their price tag, they couldn’t be mass produced even if Tony Stark
didn’t guard the technology so jealously. Starman was wealthy enough to dedicate himself to science, but there is no talk of the Control Rod having a high per-unit cost.
And while Superman has access to Kryptonian superscience a thousand
years or more ahead of earth, he’s an alien and he has vowed not to interfere with
human development. Starman, by contrast, is as earthly and human as they come,
and he has no access to advanced technology. He didn’t find the Rod in a crashed UFO
next to a dead alien, it isn’t a one-of-a-kind….he made it himself and can make many more.
And what’s more, the cosmic control rod has almost
entirely peaceful applications: in the form it currently exists, its heat beams are far more
effective than handguns or even artillery, but it can’t kill millions like an
The best explanation I can possibly think of for why
Starman’s rod doesn’t change the world is that Ted Knight’s invention is so
incredibly ahead of its time that people don’t even understand what he did,
even if it was explained to them. There’s some support for this idea; when Ted
Knight was transported to the 30th Century, Star Boy tells Starman
that though he was not understood in his own time, by the 30th
Century, he’s considered on a par with Newton and Einstein.
There is, however, a chilling possibility. If Ted Knight
could discover the principles of the Control Rod…someone else could, too.