A mutant is a human being who is born with genetic mutations that allow for abilities not possessed by regular humans. Although mutant powers vary greatly, telepathy, personal flight, the ability to project energy and enhanced strength, agility or senses are common mutant powers. Most typically, mutant powers manifest during puberty and, for some mutants, several years of self-discipline are needed before they can control their powers. Many believe that mutants are the next stage in human evolution and are often called "homo mutatis" (Homo sapiens mutatis) as opposed to "homo sapiens" (Homo sapiens sapiens). However, this is highly doubted by most scientists since the evolutionary theory states that evolution is composed of random adaptations to fill an ecological niche. The issue has become a part of the debate over intelligent design.
History [ ]
On August 21, 1987 at a suburban hospital in Sacramento, California, Leslie Finch gave birth to her first child--a small boy. It is a given that the doctor followed procedure, though he may have been surprised at the baby's initial appearance. After the routine smack on the buttocks, the doctor ceased to exist. So did the baby's mother, the nurses, and most of the east wing. In a fiery explosion the small baby evinced the first publicly recorded release of mutant abilities. Several hundred patients and staff were killed or injured in the blast, but rescue crews discovered a small, blue-skinned baby, seemingly unharmed but deteriorating rapidly, amidst tons of charred rubble. The baby survived for three more hours, his skin nearly unbreakable by normal means and thus preventing the necessary medical attention.
There was an uproar in the public. The baby was an alien, some said, or the Devil incarnate. Even Christ reborn. Scientists labored relentlessly to find an answer, and eventually Dr. Charles Xavier, an American geneticist, discovered the X-factor gene. At first the public was skeptical. Public opinion was soon swayed, however, as more and more individuals stepped forward and revealed superhuman powers of greater or lesser magnitude, or were discovered under the new scrutiny of a nation. Emily Thorinson of Dayton, Ohio could change the color of any plant she touched. She had been winning awards for her yellow and blue roses for years. Charles Keating could lift his Harley Davidson motorcycle over his head with one hand. Xian Chow of Beijing sneezed in a restaurant and shattered windows for nearly a mile in all directions. Suddenly the world had to deal with a brand new situation - the mutant phenomenon.
U.S. government records indicate that some evidence of the x-factor existed prior to The Finch Baby in 1987, and later research indicated that the x-factor may have existed as early as the 19th century, but nothing had ever been proven and the exact cause of it's activation is unknown to this day, though speculation leads modern science to ambient radiation caused by the detonation of nuclear weapons. The origin of the x-factor itself remains a mystery, though several projects exist specifically researching the topic. The Human Genome Project, by far the best funded and staffed of the projects, has determined that it is as often as not psionic in nature, meaning that a person's power or powers are either directly tied in with the mind, or seem to have some basis in their psyche. Even physical mutations have been related to an individuals mental state of mind, or even their current thoughts at the time of the change. Subconscious stimuli and psychological states at times of x-factor activation are being considered as both catalyst and x-factor programmer. The circumstances causing the activation may also have a bearing on what alterations in an individual take place. With the notable lack of hard data, however, further research is warranted, and everything from prehistoric genetic tampering to cosmic radiation is being investigated as a source for the x-factor's recent activity. In all cases, however, the x-factor is fundamentally uniform in structure. Also, no individual without the gene has ever demonstrated powers. If one does not possess the gene at all, one will not gain superpowers ever.
Many of the early mutants were gathered up for tests, persuaded one way or another to contribute to scientific research. Many of these individuals, though later released, spoke of mistreatment, physical and psychological abuse, and in some cases, death at the hands of their "doctors". Nothing was proved, but it wasn't too far fetched, all things considered, and people began to embrace the metahuman population as a "needy cause". Some of the names heard in the news, however, were never heard from again.
By 1993 several more incidents of mutant births were recorded, but scientists had discovered a screening process to ensure the child's safe arrival into the world. The advent of Project: Lifeline was instrumental in finally bringing the reality home to the average citizen. Founded by Dr. Robert Mayer, Project: Lifeline was set up to be the foremost medical facility in dealing with mutants. Powers rarely manifested at birth, but the Project enables doctors to determine if the x-factor is present in unborn fetuses, and takes steps to ensure a safe birth as well as pre- and post-natal care of the infant. By the end of the decade mutants were being discovered or born on an almost daily basis. Virtually all demographic denominations were affected, though notably affluent countries experienced a higher presence of mutants than, for example, Third World countries.
The nineties were a time of great social upheaval and tension for mutants. The world was having a difficult time adjusting to the rise of mutants in it's midst. Organizations were formed for the advocacy of mutant rights, such as Project: Lifeline, and even MetaFriends--a national support group for mutants and their friends and family--as well as SANE (Superhumans And Normals as Equals). Other groups rose up to condemn mutants as being "freaks of nature", and a potential danger to humanity in general. SLAM (Stronger Limits Against Metacriminals) was one of the first and is possibly the best organized and reasonable of these groups. The Friends of Humanity (FoH) are one of the most vocal and notable of these organizations, and exist in one form or another even today. The FoH is known for their aggressive stance against mutants, going so far as to picket the houses of known mutants. Thus far, violence and hate crimes that can be tied to them have been held at a minimum though suspicions run high when such a crime is committed. A splinter group, however, used private sector funding to move underground, becoming a paramilitary organization with vast resources, eventually emerging in early 2000 as Genocide. Their views are public and violent, and they hold that only through genetic cleansing can the human race save itself. They have extensive international political and economic support, though rarely is there open support for the group.
Nations across the globe reacted in a variety of ways. Some adopted an open-arms policy, believing the mutants to be the blessed of God. Others believed them to be some sort of planted threat, either by neighboring countries, aliens, or an as yet undetermined foe. A few countries instigated a "collection" of known and suspected mutants, utilizing them in research, national protection, or slave labor with little regard for human rights. Many mutants were captured, or enslaved, or killed outright. In recent years there has been a certain amount of restructuring in regards to their stance on mutants, but Third World mutants still face oppressive governments. Amnesty International began working to free some of these mutants in the mid-nineties, thus giving the mutant population a certain amount of credibility.
The new millenium has seen the beginnings of a new era for humanity, as human and mutant learn to live in relative harmony. The number of mutants born remained miniscule, and alpha to gamma level mutants even fewer. Currently is estimated that from one in 25,000 to one in 10,000 persons are mutants (numbers depend on the area, mutants tend to congregate in cities). An estimated 20,000 mutants live in the United States, and 250,000 to 500,000 worldwide (and some studies place the number at twice that). It is a small minority, but a dangerous and vocal one.
Those born with the dormant x-Factor are steadily increasing. It can be estimated that one in every 20,000 humans born in the 1980s may carry the x-Factor. As numbers increase contact between those with the x-factor gene becomes closer. It appears that out of the numbers of those born with the x-Factor during the 1980s, around half of those actually manifest some sort of superhuman ability at puberty. This 'new generation' of Homo sapiens mutatis tends to be much more powerful than their predecessors. Many of them have access to powers and abilities that would have previously been regarded as 'alpha' level. The ability to fly, generate high levels of energy, invulnerability--this is what makes an alpha, and these are the individuals who become superheroes and supervillains.
Mutants in Modern Society [ ]
Public Attitudes Towards Mutants [ ]
The x-factor's effects usually appear during puberty, but sometimes manifests spontaneously in situations of great personal danger. No one understands where it comes from or what activates it. The Human Genome Project proved that there is no common DNA sequence that codes for the x-factor; however, most of the few mutant marriages have in fact produced mutant offspring. It should also be noted that the x-factor itself remains constant in structure regardless of the subject's DNA. Mutant detectors work by cell sampling (98% effective) or by detecting certain EEG patterns typical of affected nerve cells (about 80% effective).
The origins of super powers and nuclear power are inextricably linked. The advent of the atom bomb and nuclear power plants added the final change to human DNA necessary for super-powers to arise. Like nuclear energy, superhuman abilities can be a great force for good, or an extremely destructive one. Therefore, it is understandable that peoples' attitudes towards super-powers are very similar to their feelings about nuclear power.
The vast majority find mutants to be a distasteful necessity. They don't mind having them around, and in fact they can be quite useful, but they'd rather not have them next door. A sizeable minority on one side is enthusiastic in its support of super-powers, while a similar minority considers them dangerous. And, as with any emotionally-charged issue, there are fanatics on both fringes, advocating or engaging in violence to advance their viewpoints.
The exception to these generalities is mental powers, which are generally met with a greater degree of fear, mistrust, and revulsion. This attitude stems in part from the depredations of several notorious criminal mentalists.
Here are the results of a Gallup/USA Today/CNN poll, conducted in 2004, in which 4200 randomly-selected adults were asked their positions on super-powers and mutants. The poll has a 1.5 percent margin of error. Percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding.
Which of the following do you favor? (Respondents could choose more than one.)
Increased penalties for use of powers in the commission of a crime 81%
Restrictions or limits on the use of super-powers 38%
Government registration of mutants 31%
Complete ban on the use of super-powers 19%
Mandatory prenatal x-factor gene testing 14%
No restrictions 8%
Exile, death or other severe penalties for mutants 4%
Other/No Opinion 6%
What would happen if you found out your friend/spouse/relative had super powers?
Our relationship would become closer and more supportive 9%
Nothing, our relationship would remain the same 22%
Our relationship would become more difficult but continue 11%
I would end my relationship with that person 16%
I Don't Know/Other/No Opinion 42%
Do super-powers have a beneficial or detrimental effect on society?
Very beneficial 11%
Somewhat beneficial 17%
On balance, equally beneficial and detrimental 32%
Somewhat detrimental 19%
Very detrimental 14%
Would you like to have super-powers? Yes 61%
It Depends/No Opinion 18%
Superpowers And U.S. Law [ ]
Despite the proportionately small number of active metagene carriers in the United States, and the fact that they have no lobbies or PACs, the government has been reluctant to place restrictions on super-powers or the people who wield them. This may have something to do with the fact that these people wield great physical, if not policital, power. All such laws now in existence deal exclusively with super-powered lawbreakers.
In most states, use of super-powers in the commission of a misdemeanor elevates the crime to a felony. The exeptions are Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Simple display of potentially destructive super-powers is a misdemeanor in many cities, treated the same as discharging a firearm. In areas where no such law is on the books, using dangerous super-powers in public is still likely to bring prosecution under public endangerment statutes. Prosecutors often look the other way, though, in cases of so-called "superheroes" acting in the public interest.
U.S. Government Policies Towards 'X-factor gene Positives' [ ]
While it is the current administration's policy to discourage discrimination on the basis of genetic content, getting such an equal rights declaration into law is politically impossible, at least for now. Attitudes in Congress are considerably more restrictive than the President's. The best President Bush has been able to do is to sign an executive order banning hiring and firing discrimination for federal employees, excluding the military. In 2004, John Kerry ran for office with a very neutral mutant stance, supportive of the existing laws but taking very little initiative on new mutant legislation.
The military, officially, does not accept recruits with super-powers. These potent abilities make it impossible to maintain discipline and order within the ranks, they argue. The discipline necessary to forge a group of individuals into a cohesive fighting unit requires subduing the will of the individual to the unit. But nobody who can melt tanks with his hands would take abuse from a drill instructor for long, the logic goes. Rumors persist, though, in conspiracy-theorist circles, that The Pentagon covertly tests its soldiers for the x-factor and recruits a select few into a clandestine team of "super soldiers." The military denies this of course, and defies anyone to name any of these team members, show where they are based or point out any incidents in which this team has participated. Theorists respond by saying that is precisely this complete lack of evidence that supports their claim, and the the so-called "Meta Brigade" are merely latent, waiting to be activated when the proper authorities decide it's time.
The U.S. government does have a team, though, equipped and trained to deal with super-powered threats to national security. Force Prime is America's elite "anti-super-terrorist" team. With 10-man strike teams stationed at a dozen military bases around the country, F-P can scramble in a matter of minutes to respond to a supervillain threat. The members of F-P are chosen from the cream of the five uniformed services, and get the most intensive training and the best high-tech battle armor available. Recent military budget cuts have not touched F-P, a political "sacred cow" to a Congress obsessed with looking tough on super-crime.
Individuals encountering difficulty with their super-powers have little recourse. Currently, Social Security does not recognize super-powers, however inconvenient, as a legitimate form of worker disability. X-factor gene-positive persons must demonstrate that their powers have inflicted some other form of qualifying handicap -- such as blindness or loss of use of a limb -- to qualify for benefits. It has been argued by mutant rights activists that such a policy is a second blow against those who suffer discrimination in employment due to a mutated appearance, and pushes some into supervillainry.
There are no government programs in place to help x-factor gene-positive people adapt to their powers. Several private programs do exist, though, the largest being Project: Lifeline and it's affiliated clinics. However, the program can only help 20 mutants at a time, and the waiting list for specific treatment is tw years long. Seven other private centers across the continent -- based in Yakima, Washington; St. Louis, Missouri; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Clearwater, Florida.; Rome, New York; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Portland, Maine -- have similar "mutant rehab" programs, though on a smaller scale than Dr. Mayer's. One drawback of these centers is their cost, which for the most expensive can reach six figures annually. Some major universities have programs for those who cannot afford one of these residential programs, but their facilities and treatments are not as advanced, their focus is research rather than assistance, and they can serve even fewer clients -- no more than two or three each at any given time.
Corporate Attitudes Towards Mutants [ ]
To the business world, mutants represent a threat to the status quo. When they aren't breaking into their research plants to steal their latest technological development, or holding super-battles that spill over into company facilities, they're using their superhuman capabilities to found companies of their own and supplant them in the marketplace. And there aren't enough of them to make them an attractive market bloc. As such, most firms' attitudes towards mutants can be encapsulated as official indifference and unofficial distaste. The only major industry to profit from the mutant phenomenon has been the insurance industry, which lost a lot of money in damage and theft claims until they discovered the money to be made in selling their clients Parahuman Acts Riders, or PARs, to cover such damages separately.
Even so, there are some jobs that just can't be done by normal corporate employees. In those cases, corporations will sometimes turn to euphemistically-named "independent operatives," or industrial agents. These individuals usually specialize in specific kinds of operations, such as espionage, arson, demolitions, computerized crimes or assassinations. These agents' capabilities are often technologically-based -- some companies have been known to reward successful missions with equipment rather than money -- but a few x-factor gene-active agents are in operation today. Though it is certainly within most large corporations' capabilities to create or recruit their own teams of super-powered operatives, the nature of their missions makes it more prudent to maintain legal deniability by paying the extra amount needed to hire individuals with no direct connection to the firm.
Organizations Concerned With X-factor gene-Positive Persons [ ]
Many organizations and groups have changed or broadened their missions to adapt to the advent of super-powered people and their impact upon society.
The Salvation Army has made helping mutants with problems one of its key missions, just like runaways and the homeless. This help constitutes little more than a friendly ear, a hot meal and a warm bed, but such assistance is enough for many. Mutants are welcome to volunteer at Salvation Army centers, and many who have received help there in the past do so. Such help goes a long way.
The American Red Cross is often called upon to assist individuals and communities in the aftermath of supervillain-caused disasters. It has no (known) mutants on its staff, but it maintains a list of civic-minded superheroes it can call upon if necessary. Such calls for super assistance went forth was during 1998 to combat the effects of El Niño; in 1999 in the aftermath of the earthquake in Izmit, Turkey; and again during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
There are a few organizations founded in direct response to the mutant phenomenon. With one exception, these are anti-mutant groups.
A political group that lobbies at the local, state and national level for tougher sentences for supervillains, SLAM (Stronger Limits Against Metacriminals) is probably the most reasonable of these groups. Limiting themselves to issues concerning super-powered lawbreakers, SLAM has found support from members of Congress and even some superheroes. SLAM suffered a setback recently when a Florida court declared that their Proposition 99, requiring a life term for assault with a super-power, was improperly worded on the ballot and thus void. The group operates from donations and membership fees, has a paid staff of 30 based in Washington, D.C., and an estimated 16,200 members across the nation.
Friends of Humanity (FoH) is a group with a more radical agenda. The very existence of mutants is a danger to normal humanity, they feel. This group argues that the United States Constitution applies to its human citizens only, and uses radical mutants' assertion that they are a new and different species to justify suspending the Bill of Rights for them. They advocate mandatory x-factor testing at birth, with those testing positive being surgically sterilized, genetically catalogued in a central computer registry and tracked throughout their lives. They also support the death penalty for committing a felony with a super-power. Mutants who wish to live among normal humans would submit to regular drug treatment to inhibit the functioning of the x-factor gene, in effect stripping them of their powers. More extreme members of this group have been suspected of updating an old Ku Klux Klan tradition, burning a wooden structure representing the DNA double-helix in front of mutants' homes, in order to intimidate them and expose them to their neighbors. This is the second-largest group, claiming more than 5,000 members. Their meetings are held in secret.
Genocide is the most radical anti-mutant group. Thought by some law enforcement agencies to be a clandestine arm of the FoH, this group has engaged in vandalism, terrorism and violence against metas. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and thinks this group operates in "cells" of up to 50 people each in a dozen cities, operating mostly independently but taking direction for some missions from an unknown "cabal" of leaders. Genocide members are frequent participants in Internet chat and news groups, and coded Usenet postings may be how the cells coordinate their activities and receive orders from the leadership.
The sole group acting to calm passions against superhumans is SANE (Superhumans And Normals as Equals). Members of this group believe that when mutants are accepted as the inevitable result of human evolution and regular members of society, the number of "supers" who choose to become villains will drop. This donation-funded group lobbies for federal anti-genetic-discrimination laws and against laws like SLAM's Proposition 99. The federally-registered nonprofit group filed disclosure forms for 1997 listing its annual budget as $263,219, spent mostly on salaries, postage and office supplies.
One other group, the Parahuman Rights League, was disbanded in 2001, only two years after its emergence, when it was discovered to be a front for Aries, a member of the mutant criminal agency ZODIAC. The purpose of the group was to gather a database of information on mutants.
Mutants And The Media [ ]
Books [ ]
Exposes based on real supervillain crimes (and the intrepid heroes who stopped them) are extremely popular. These are written in a gritty, police-report style, with plenty of grainy photos of victims and villains and crime scenes. Lurid covers and titles like Debt of Blood, Deadly Consequences and Countdown to Genocide keep these paperbacks hopping off the shelves.
More scholarly works have also been written on the subject, though they are a bit harder to find in your local Barnes and Nobles. Pandora's Birthright: The Evolution of Superhuman Abilities, by genetic researcher and former costumed adventurer Adrian Simpson, is widely considered by academics to be the definitive text on the subject, and is used as a textbook in several university advanced genetics courses. An alternative theory of x-factor-gene origins, Gift of the Gods by Erich von Daniken, has sold more than eight times as many copies, though.
Modern reference books also contain entries dealing with the mutant world. Webster's New World Dictionary College Edition contains definitions for x-factor, meta, mutant, parahuman, superhero, superhuman and supervillain.
The Internet [ ]
Fans of the superhero culture tend to be better educated than the average, and as such, mutants have found a warm welcome on the Internet. All the major online services have discussion rooms and newsgroups devoted to metahumans and their doings. Some of the larger newsgroups on the Internet proper are alt.fan.superheroes; alt.fan.superheroes.nyc; alt.fan.supervillains; soc.metas; soc.metas.nyc; and sci.biology.genetics.metagene. Heroes and villains alike have been known to lurk and even openly participate in several IRC chat groups, the most popular of which are supers, superchat and meta_cafe.
Newspapers [ ]
Major crimes and battles involving mutants always rate coverage in the papers; the amount of coverage, and its placement, depends on the scale of the event. Apprehension of a bank-robbing superhuman by the local hero would rate Page 1 in a small-town newspaper, but will likely be relegated to an inside page of the local news section of a metro daily. Otherwise, newspapers don't devote too much space to the everyday trials and tribulations of the local hero team. The largest metro dailies - the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times - have reporters and photographers devoted full-time to the "meta-beat".
Magazines [ ]
Being less tradition-bound and more targeted to specific readerships than newspapers are, magazines have adapted to the superhuman phenomenon more readily. Few magazines have not dealt with the impact of superhumans on their area of interest at one time or another. Some examples:
Fortune: "Protecting Your Firm From Super-Disasters"
Vogue: "Simply Smashing Super Swimsuits"
Model Railroader: "Add An Animated Super-Battle To Your Layout"
Many periodicals, notably People, Psychology Today, Omni, Rolling Stone, Details and the supermarket tabloids, have added regular departments covering the mutant world.
There are even magazines devoted completely to the super scene. SuperStar is a weekly supermarket tabloid, exploring in detail the intimate lives, battles, rivalries and romances of those folks in the flashy tights. Since it's practically impossible to file a lawsuit anonymously, SuperStar has shown no compunctions about playing fast and loose with the facts of heroes' lives. They have been a bit more circumspect about what they say about the villains, though, since their office building was razed by a group of mutant villains in 1999.
Meta Magazine is a more serious monthly publication. Ostensibly geared toward the super-powered reader, it nonetheless carries plenty of content of interest to the genetically unenhanced reader.
There are many more underground publications (zines, in the vernacular) published by individuals using home computers. Most are one or two sheets, published irregularly, and show no particular regard for quality of writing, editing or spelling.
Movies [ ]
The first costumed adventurer, Gangbuster, was as much a media personality as a crimefighter. "The Masked Gangbuster" serials were produced from 1992 until 1996 (the final year's episodes being produced with a lookalike actor following the real hero's death in 1995). The series' success spawned a slew of imitators, though none was as successful as the original. When serials -- and costumed heroes -- became less popular in the late 1990s, romances, musicals and other more escapist fare took their places in the movie houses. "Hero flicks" -- full length this time -- have enjoyed a comeback in the 2000s, thanks to the exploits of the government-sponsored Force Prime.
Television and Radio [ ]
Superheroes and their effect on society are today a constant topic of discussion on the nation's television and radio talk shows. Televison shows like Oprah occasionally focus on the effect some recent battle or villain plot has had on ordinary people's lives, and often take a negative tone towards mutants, as they are understandably reluctant to appear in the studio to defend themselves. Peregrine's Perch offers a pro-mutant forum that has become increasingly popular in the last few years. Peregrine, herself a mutant, has become the media darling of the day. On radio, though, mutants usually get a fairer shake. Not only are a majority of talk show hosts friendly to mutants - they get more irate callers that way - but heroes (and even villains) have been known to call in personally to set the record straight.
TV covers super battles and crimes in much the same way as newspapers. All three major network news operations and Fox News, CNN and MSNBC all have correspondents that cover the mutant scene; CNN's Mariana Villanueva also hosts the network's weekly half-hour "Meta Journal." On the show, Villanueva recaps the world's super news of import in the first half of the show, then interviews a newsmaker or authority on the big super story of the week.
"Meta Journal" is not the only TV show concerned with metahumans Tabloid TV shows like "Inside Edition" cover supers whenever there's dirt to be found. Court TV carries gavel-to-gavel coverage of supervillains' trials, when allowed. And "MetaFile" is a syndicated half-hour superhero news/chat show, as if "Meta Journal" was produced by the E! network. It airs in 46 markets.
A few fictional superhero-based TV series have appeared over the years, but none has been as successful as Paramount's syndicated "Suicide Squad," an hour long drama featuring five ex-government super-agents who travel the country helping people in trouble while dodging agents of their former employers and the super-powered pawns of fictional criminal agency "The Dominion." Other fictional mutant-oriented TV shows currently on the schedule include ABC's "Justice," an adaptation of the 1990 film; CBS's "Moonstone," about an L.A.-based flying martial artist, and "Shatter," about a cyborg corporate agent turned good; and Fox's "Chance," about a gadget-wielding super-genius who solves mysteries in a fictional East Coast city (it's filmed in Toronto). For the most part special effects are used - they tend to be less damaging to property and personnel. Mutants have been known to work in the business, however, though none have yet achieved "stardom" in the classic sense.
Mutation theory [ ]
In simple terms a mutant is an individual with traits in their DNA that differ from their genetic progenitors. Mutation occurs in all living organisms and is the normal mechanism of evolution. A small percentage of mutations in nature are beneficial, giving the mutant a significant advantage over the rest of the members of the species. Often this advantage means the mutant will prosper and pass their genes to their offspring, eventually improving the entire species' chances of survival and development. Evolution is an accumulation of these mutant traits, usually along thousands or tens of thousands of years, changing a species to another.
Sometime, most likely during the last millennium, a human mutant was born with an alteration in his or her DNA that had the potential to give them a significant advantage over the rest of humankind. This X-factor, the dominant genetic trait, was passed down to their offspring, from them to their children and slowly the X-factor became widespread. Yet for many centuries the full advantages this genetic quirk gave remained dormant.
It is somewhat of a misconception to call super-humans 'mutants' since this X-factor is inherited from their parents - yet it has become the popular term. The scientific term, however, is 'Homo sapiens mutatis', and they are not mutated humans since in almost all cases the X-factor is inherited from their parents. 95% of the children of a pair of Homo sapiens mutatis are also Homo sapiens mutatis, nearly 75% of the children of a Homo sapiens sapiens and a Homo sapiens mutatis are also Homo sapiens mutatis. The X-factor seems to defy the laws of genetics.
Although mutants are usually very similar to humans in appearance and psychology, recent studies seem to hint there are also some important differences. Currently technology allows for an electroencephalogram to detect enough of those differences to identify a mutant without the need to perform a lengthy (and incredibly expensive) genetic testing in an 80% cases. Many psychologists support the idea that there are also some important sociological and psychological differences between humans and mutants, although these theories are currently strongly disputed.
However, although mutants are slightly superior to humans along the board, the reason there seems to be such a large gap between both species of humankind is that the majority of mutants manifest extraordinary abilities that seem almost magical to normal humans: the mutant 'Gifts', or superpowers.
Even now, after countless billions of dollars spent on research, it is still a mystery why mutants have 'superpowers' and why they manifest such a huge variety of abilities. Some theories have been proposed, and the most accepted one is that all mutant powers are just manifestations of the same power, just expressed differently, yet solid evidence to support any theory is scarce.
Classification [ ]
Early in 1997 several experts in mutation from all over the world gathered in London to exchange notes and discoveries. From the London meetings several important theories currently accepted by most experts were born, as well as the famous electroencephalogram test that serves to recognize most mutants from their brainwaves (currently positive identification in an 80% of cases, no false positives reported).
One of the most famous and controversial issues during the meetings was the Greek letter classification system for mutants, which attempted to classify all known Homo sapiens mutatis in a complex scale of positive and negative traits. The complete classification system is rather complex, but the general categories have been popularized by the public, particularly the mutant public.
ALPHA: Alpha mutants have powerful, advantageous mutant traits and no disadvantageous flaws. Perhaps the most feared of mutants, alphas look completely human yet have some of the most powerful abilities recorded. Common belief is that Homo sapiens mutatis will eventually be formed by all alphas, and therefore alphas are the epitome of mutantkind. Currently it is estimated less than 10% of all mutants are alphas, although given they look human the percentage might be somewhat greater.
BETA: Betas are not weaker than alphas in what power regards, but they are not perfect. Along their advantageous mutations they have minor flaws, sometimes merely cosmetic, but that hinders them in some significant way. It is believed about 10% of all mutants are betas.
GAMMA: Gammas are also powerful mutants, having some impressive gifts, but along with those powers they also have major flaws that make their lives hard, often miserable, and many times, shortened. Roughly 10% of all mutants are gammas, and they are usually easy to recognize, as they are often saddled with important physical defects.
DELTA: Delta mutants lack the impressive powers of alphas, but share their lack of flaws. Deltas are mutants with small abilities of little use under most circumstances. The number of deltas in the world is unknown, but it is assumed they are at least 50% of all mutants, and the number could be far greater because a good number of deltas don't even know they are mutants.
EPSILON: Epsilons are the unfortunate ones among Homo sapiens mutatis. Epsilons often have minor superhuman traits, but those are overshadowed by crippling major flaws that makes a normal life for them almost completely impossible. It is believed about 20% of all mutants are epsilons, but often is very difficult to distinguish them from gammas.
ZETA: Zetas are not Homo sapiens mutatis. Zetas are mutants without the X-xactor, and therefore they have no superhuman traits, although some of them (very, very few) have some minor advantages over normal humans. The bulk of the Zetas, however, are victims of their own mutations and in other times would have been relegated to the status of circus freaks. Nowadays, however, zetas are pretty much in the same boat epsilons are, and sometimes form communities with them.
OMEGA: Omega mutants are those with the ultimate power, the baddest of the bad, the supermen of urban myth. 'Omega' is not a scientific classification for Homo sapiens mutatis, but a popular label that is usually applied to powerful alphas. 'She is an Omega' and 'I have the Omega power!' are mutant slang terms to talk about how 'cool' someone or his or her powers are. Omega, flatscan (derogative for human, does not 'spike' in the electroencephalogram to detect mutants), gene-joke (derogative for mutant), etc, are new terms one can hear in the streets of New York City when mutants are talked about.