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Are superheroes only found in fiction? Blogger Kelly Harker wants to know if super abilities exist in the real world

With Kick-Ass on its way to cinemas and the new Comic Heroes magazine on her mind, blogger Kelly Harker ponders the nature of incredible human beings:

I bet there’s a lot of us wishing we had a superpower, and a cool pseudonym to go with it. Real-life superheroes are really just regular people who like to put on a mask and some spandex, and pretend to have abilities like the heroes (or villains, if you have a lot of extra karma you want to burn off) found in the comic books. But are there actually people out there who should be considered an “Incredible”? And what makes an ability, a super ability?

The Guinness World Records contains a great collection of examples of humans with extraordinary abilities such as tests of strength (like balancing a car on your head); there’s also impressive medical marvels like having really stretchy skin; there’s the ability of having lung power that could rival even Superman, and many more really interesting things that have all been documented by Guinness. Certainly these are special abilities, but does that make the individual with them, superhuman? Are they really that incredible? Perhaps if those record-breakers formed a special League dedicated to helping the helpless, then maybe I would be a little more impressed. But as neat as the abilities in Guinness World Record may be, to me they’re talents that seem to belong in a circus, rather than in a comic book.

True there are people who have really cool abilities, but there is also a small group of people in the world whose super abilities will make you compare them to those in the comic books. The Real Superhumans And The Quest For The Future Fantastic is a Discovery Channel special that aired in 2007, documenting the extraordinary abilities of individuals around the world. The most impressive thing about these incredible people in this documentary is that their abilities are strange and unique.

In Switzerland, there's a woman who has the ability to see and taste music. In Turkey, a man who has been blind since birth, is a brilliant artist. The Discovery Channel special also profiles a human calculator, a scientist who has created a chimera, and a man who can withstand the most extreme cold temperatures.

Are these people superhuman, or should their abilities only be recorded in Guinness? The entire Discovery Channel special can be found cheekily dotted around YouTube, so you can watch and then decide for yourself if Sylar should be interested in any of these powers.

The abilities documented in The Real Superhumans And The Quest For The Future Fantastic have not been genetically engineered, but we may one day become advanced enough to direct our own evolutionary course. So what do you think - will we one day be able to buy ourselves our very own superpower? Is it possible that scientists will soon be able to genetically manipulate a paying customer’s genetic make-up and fit us with any super ability we desire, like telekinesis or regeneration?! Because I’m not getting any younger, I don’t think I want to wait for evolution to mutate me - I’d rather just max out my credit card for a superpower instead. Although I’d probably only be able to afford a lame ability like being able to eat through any substance... which I’m sure would come in handy at times, but it wouldn’t be my first choice in superpowers. I’ve always wanted the ability of invisibility. But I will make an oath right now to only use my superpower for good, I solemnly swear...

This is a personal article by Kelly Harker, one of our site contributors . What superpower would you most want to have? Your thoughts are welcome as always, in the comment thread below. And don't forget that SFX spin-off Comic Heroes magazine goes on sale 16 March, with stories about Iron Man and Kick-Ass (which hits cinemas 26 March).