X-Ray Vision (also referred to as penetration vision and transparent vision) is a common superpower among superheroes. It is the ability to see through opaque matter as if it were transparent.
It should be noted that the power is not always literally x-ray vision, but a shorthand for the power to see through solid matter. In many cases, this is because x-rays (or x-radiation) can be harmful to humans if one is over-exposed. Any superhero with actual x-ray eyes might be seen as less heroic if he were casually exposing people to x-rays and risking their health. In most cases, the power of what can be seen through is selective, making it seem to the user that some matter has become transparent and the images the user sees have a level of clarity and detail that would be unavailable to actual x-rays, including color and space.
History in Superhero Fiction
Though Superman is the most iconic superhero with this power, the first major comic hero with x-ray vision was Olga Mesmer in the pulp magazine comic strip Spicy Mysteries. Olga, a half alien living on Earth, uses her x-ray eyes to fight crime. Superman used his x-ray powers for the first time in 1939 in Action Comics #11. Later, this power would become the reason that Superman did not join World War II, as Superman tried to enlist in the military as Clark Kent, only to accidentally use his x-ray vision during the eye test and read the eye chart in the room over.
Later, in the film Superman, the title character reveals that his power allowed him to know the color of her underwear.
- Sometimes, there are objects that cannot be seen through. In the case of Superman, his x-ray vision cannot see through lead. However, this can also be used to an advantage; in one instance, the Joker plotted to use coffins lined with lead to hide bombs from Superman, but Superman was able to identify which coffins contained bombs by checking which he couldn't see though.
- In some cases. the x-ray vision is quite a literal name, meaning that in using it there is a risk of spreading an unhealthy amount of radiation.
Notable Superheroes with X-Ray Vision
- Superman - Superman is the most famous superhero to possess x-ray vision.
- Olga Mesmer - Olga Mesmer is the first superhero to have this power.
- Ultra Boy - Ultra Boy was a superhero who had powers similar to Superboy, including a version of x-ray vision called Penetra-Vision.