I wanted to do a week on characters who are ‘Invulnerable’. As you can guess, I ran into an interesting stumbling block. It started with a google image search where the above showed up fairly quickly. This made me realize something:
People use ‘Invincible’ and ‘Invulnerable’ interchangeably.
Well, I can’t really dive into the topic if people are getting these similar, but different terms mixed up. To be fair, I’ve used them incorrectly when not paying attention. I remember comics not always making them different things, which confused me for a while. Might be the reason for a lot of people making this mistake. The best example is Superman, who would be considered invulnerable without being invincible. How is that possible?
- Invulnerable is when a person cannot be harmed. They are not vulnerable to being injured. Even then, certain situations can be created to undo this. Special weapons or events can eliminate this ability. Going back to Superman, you have magic, kryptonite, and red sun energy that negates his powers.
- Invincibility is when a person cannot be beaten. They can still be hurt, but they cannot be defeated. Many will possess invulnerability, but this is not a required. It’s harder to find characters like this because this disappears as soon as they are beaten. This means, a character who is meant to maintain this needs to win every fight. Best example here would be Saitama from ‘One Punch Man’.
Many authors will avoid both of these for their heroes, but there’s a bigger effort to dodge invulnerability. A character who can’t be hurt won’t garner any concern from the readers and lead to invincibility. That’s boring. It also ignores that there are ways to work around it, which I’ll get into later in the week. Really want to deep dive on this one at the end of the week and not with the concept of invincibility hovering about.
Now, the funny thing is that invulnerability is avoided while invincibility isn’t. Sometimes it turns up without us realizing it. A character who never loses is very appealing even if you’re having them getting injured in every fight. We think that them getting hurt is enough to make the audience care, but they’ll pick up on the track record eventually. This will make the injures feel like tricks that insult the intelligence of the audience. I compare it to WWE wrestling back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Quick story time:
Back in college, my friends and I got into watching wrestling. This was the over-the-top, action and silliness we needed to socialize and unwind. As we got older, we started to notice a few trends. One was that ‘The Rock’ had a habit of getting beaten up for most of his matches and then win with the same combo. We joked that it was around the time there were 2 minutes left of the show. So, we called it the ‘two minute rule’ and wouldn’t pay attention until we heard the announcers shout that the People’s Elbow as about to happen. We knew the drill and felt no tension during these matches because his invincibility outside of PPV shows had been established.
I seem to have gone on more about invincibility and invulnerability, but that’s because the latter can lead to the former. Not always in a good way too. Usually in a bad way that hurts the story. So, we have to use both with caution. It’s easier to do that with invulnerability by having it not turning into invincibility.
So, what are your thoughts on these two terms? Did you think they were the same thing?