Ans: In the Marvel Universe, how do civilians know the difference between a mutant and any other superhuman? @Quora
Answer by Thaddeus Howze:
By who's chasing them. Seriously.
Giant robots screaming "mutants detected" and "terminate mutant with prejudice" don't lend credence to the idea that mutants are good. If they destroy your neighborhood or car or livelihood while they are trying to terminate said mutants, you are even less likely to hold them in high esteem.
On the other hand if you see this:
You may be inclined to believe people being celebrated are good and different from those nasty mutants (see above), even though the amount of destruction caused by the two groups is comparable. Once group is celebrated, the other reviled.
How does Joe Six-Pack tell the difference? He doesn't.
Unless you are using advanced technologies or enhanced senses (sometimes it takes both – See:, below), it is almost impossible to distinguish between the two. In some cases it requires very advanced technology to tell the difference between a mutant who wants to look and pass for human.
As in our universe, most people are unconcerned with things they cannot change and the Marvel Universe resembles ours in that their media is a powerful force in determining what the common man thinks of metahumans in general for good or evil.
- The common man does not distinguish between mutates and mutants. To him,are bad, and the term is not used in the common parlance of normal people. (Neither is the term but the recently popular Agents of SHIELD may change that.)
- Popular metahumans who get good press become superheroes. The origin of their powers is less important than what they do, have done, or have fought for or against in the public's perception.
- The Fantastic Four are mutates, but no one really cares about that. They care, the Fantastic Four protect New York against threats such as the Mole Man or Galactus. Good press goes a long way. Cooperation with the government is also a powerful tool toward maintaining good will. This is how the Avengers got over for decades. They maintained good relationships with the government, so much so, they had their own government liaison.
- Superheroes who become embroiled in events where the word mutant is associated (i.e. giant Sentinels invade a section of town shouting about mutants and randomly capturing them) or have major collateral damage because of those battles become mutants to the general public, and because of bad media coverage or general government disinformation, the word becomes a pejorative.
- Mutants who cannot hide their mutations (which are often disfiguring) gain the scorn of the common man who can barely deal with racial differences let alone genetic aberrations like those seen among the.
- If a mutant is well-known, pushes a mutant agenda, or are particularly destructive, such as the early rampages of Magneto did, this often paints mutants in a highly negative light even if they are seen performing good deeds. The public, and rightfully so, avoids anything to do with metahumans as a whole due to the potential for accidental death during their conflicts.