Created By: FallenLegend on June 5, 2011 Last Edited By: Paradisesnake on April 24, 2015

Useless Without Powers

Remove his/her powers and he/she is useless.

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Page Type:
Trope
While some charcters become become a Badass Normal when Brought Down to Normal, that doesn't happen to these characters.

This kind of characters may be very competent and powerful with their superpowers, the drawback of being so powerful is that they become completely dependant on them. So much in fact that they are unable to face any situation without them, becoming useless against any kind of opponent, even the random low-level mooks; or worse they become a Distressed Dude / Distressed Damsel.

When taken to extremes this kind of characters will be unable to do even basic tasks like taking a shower or even walking due to their power loss.

This trope is often used in order to showcase the value of Badass Normals who actually have to train in order to be skilled and risk their lives much more than their powered counterparts. Also, it can often be part of a Magic Feather-type plot: Hero loses superpowers and is initially useless, but eventually realizes that his brain (or his heart) is his real superpower.

Relates to You're Nothing Without Your Phlebotinum and Disability Superpower. Can be defied through Boxing Lessons for Superman.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • In the end of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, Hayate becomes the most powerful human mage in the multiverse. However, outside of Unison with Reinforce, she is just a crippled nine-year-old girl. It is especially evident in the last scene, where she is unable to even reach Reinforce in attempt to prevent her Suicide by Cop. She gets better during Time Skip, however.

Comic Books
  • In an issue of Daredevil crossing over with Secret Wars II the Beyonder gives Matt Murdock his sight back. Murdock assumes that this will make him an even better crimefighter, but he can't adjust (including losing his Hyper Awareness) and gets the Beyonder to take back the "gift."
  • This happens to Storm from the X-Men when she loses her powers.
  • JLA: Act of God depicts all superheroes with powers as being like this.

Film
  • Superman II. While at his Fortress of Solitude, Superman gives up his superpowers so he can be with Lois Lane. When they return to civilization, he runs into a bully who beats him up badly. Watch it here.
    Clark Kent: [To Lois] Maybe you ought to hire a bodyguard.
    Lois: I don't want one. I want the man I fell in love with.
    Clark: I know, Lois. I wish he were here.

Live Action TV
  • Heroes: With her powers, Daphne can run at Super Speed. Without her powers, she is unable to walk unaided due to her cerebral palsy.
  • There's an episode in the first season of Angel where Angel becomes human. He has to push the Reset Button in the end because he believes he's become The Load.

Video Games
  • Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords: Much of the plot revolves around this happening to the Jedi as the potential death of the Force itself looms.
    Kreia: Yes, and what are they without the Force? Take the greatest Jedi Knight, strip away the Force, and what remains? They rely on it, depend on it, more than they know. Watch as one tries to hold a blaster, as they try to hold a lightsaber, and you will see nothing more than a woman or a man. A child.

Western Animation
  • In The Batman: Superman, Martian Manhunter, Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman had their powers stolen by some androids. After this they became completely useless against the villains and dependant on the local Badass Normals in order to regain their powers.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: This describes Katara in a nutshell. As long as she's able to bend water, she's a force to be reckoned with. Take that away from her, and she's helpless. This is because, unlike Aang and the others, she lacks secondary skills such as martial arts or weapons training. So she's fully reliant on her waterbending.
    • In the Omashu episode, Ty Lee blocked Katara's chi, which robbed her of the ability to bend, leaving her defenseless against Mai. Good thing Sokka was there to cover for her.
    • Toph suffered from a mild case of this where metal was concerned until she learned how to bend that too. Like all earthbenders, she must remain in contact with solid ground or have an ample supply of earth to work with. No doubt, this was the reason the Fire Nation housed them in metal prisons over open water.
  • Avatar: The Legend of Korra: Similar to the The Last Airbender example above, but taken Up to Eleven. Amon's ability to take away a bender's powers leaves everyone he de-bends completely and totally helpless from the very moment they're depowered. This, despite that bending is based on real martial arts.
Community Feedback Replies: 66
  • June 5, 2011
    Zeta
    I know there must be a lot of older examples, but it's been far more common to subvert this in recent years, especially in the Comic Book industry, starting with the 40 or so issues of X Men where Storm had her powers removed.
  • June 5, 2011
    FallenLegend
    yeah it's a bit hard to think about straight examples
  • June 5, 2011
    Dcoetzee
    • Heroes: With her powers, Daphne can run at Super Speed. Without her powers, she is unable to walk unaided due to her cerebral palsy.

  • June 5, 2011
    FallenLegend
    Thanks!
  • June 6, 2011
    BraveHoratio
    There's an episode in the first season of Angel where Angel becomes human. He has to push the Reset Button in the end because he believes he's become The Load.
  • June 6, 2011
    Cidolfas
    I imagine most characters with a Disability Superpower would fall under this category unless it were being played with.
  • June 6, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In an issue of Daredevil crossing over with Secret Wars II the Beyonder gives Matt Murdock his sight back. Murdock assumes that this will make him an even better crimefighter, but he can't adjust (including losing his Hyper Awareness) and gets the Beyonder to take back the "gift."
  • June 6, 2011
    jaytee
    It seems like this can often be part of a Magic Feather-type plot. Hero loses superpowers and is initially useless, but eventually realizes that his brain (or his heart) is his real superpower.

    As for examples...

    I think it's Superman II where he loses his powers, right? Then he gets his ass kicked (as Clark) by some random dude?
  • June 6, 2011
    TBTabby
    JLA: Act of God depicts all superheroes with powers as being like this.
  • June 6, 2011
    GiantSpaceChinchilla
  • June 7, 2011
    FallenLegend
    thx will add
  • August 12, 2011
    MiinU

    Western animation

    • Avatar: The Last Airbender This describes Katara in a nutshell. As long as she's able to bend water, she's a force to be reckoned with. Take that away from her, and she's helpless. This is because, unlike Aang and the others, she lacks secondary skills such as martial arts or weapons training. So she's fully reliant on her waterbending.
      • In the Omashu episode, Ty Lee blocked Katara's chi, which robbed her of the ability to bend, leaving her defenseless against Mai. Good thing Sokka was there to cover for her.
      • Toph suffered from a mild case of this where metal was concerned until she learned how to bend that too. Like all earthbenders, she must remain in contact with solid ground or have an ample supply of earth to work with. No doubt, this was the reason the Fire Nation housed them in metal prisons over open water.
  • August 12, 2011
    Trotzky
    Star Trek Next Gen: Troii loses her psychopathic powers and whinges that she is useless.
  • August 12, 2011
    Arivne
    To expand on jaytee's comment above:

    Film
    • Superman II. While at his Fortress of Solitude, Superman gives up his superpowers so he can be with Lois Lane. When they return to civilization, he runs into a bully who beats him up badly. Watch it here.
    Clark Kent: [To Lois] Maybe you ought to hire a bodyguard.
    Lois: I don't want one. I want the man I fell in love with.
    Clark: I know, Lois. I wish he were here.
  • August 12, 2011
    Koveras
    Can be defied through Boxing Lessons For Superman.

    • In the end of Nanoha As, Hayate becomes the most powerful human mage in the multiverse. However, outside of Unison with Reinforce, she is just a crippled nine-year-old girl. It is especially evident in the last scene, where she is unable to even reach Reinforce in attempt to prevent her Suicide By Cop. She gets better during Time Skip, however.
  • August 12, 2011
    FallenLegend
    thanks will add

  • August 12, 2011
    Monessi
    Superman is usually this, but it's definitely Depending On The Writer. Sometimes he outright becomes The Load, but other times he's able to make a halfway-decent Badass Normal. That said, the overwhelming majority of the times he loses his powers, it's this.

    Deconstructed often in superhero comics. Kyle Rayner had a particularly good subversion of this when Hal Jordan took his ring, then beat up the Justice League... so Kyle hit him in the head with a pipe. Double Subversion in that the pipe-shot itself itself didn't do any real damage, and it looked like ringless-Kyle was useless after all. Then Triple Subverted when the sheer bravery/stubborness of Kyle's defense impressed Hal enough to give him back his ring and leave Earth alone.
  • August 13, 2011
    Stratadrake
    I gave the draft a bit of spelling/grammar polish.
  • August 13, 2011
    Octagon8
    Mages in Video Games are usually screwed if silenced.
  • August 13, 2011
    Alagaesian
    Mages have problems if they're silenced in Dungeons And Dragons, too.
  • August 15, 2011
    FallenLegend
    Will mention thanks!
  • August 15, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    I'd suggest the following for a page quote:
    Without the Genie, boy, you're nothing.
    - Jafar from Aladdin
  • August 15, 2011
    Speedball
    Parodied in The Tick. The Carpeted Man (whose power is creating static electricity by shuffling his carpeted feet) is dying from the heat wave. One of his teammates tells him to just take off the suit. "But I'm the Carpeted Man! Without the suit... I'm NOTHING!"
  • August 15, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    Damian in El Goonish Shive is unbeatalble through his whole life, using pirokinesis to fry his enemies while relying on his regeneration to keep him safe. Once he meets a fire resistant enemy with poisoned claws, he turns out to be a pushover - he was always Unskilled But Strong and he has no skills to save him.
  • August 15, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In the Buffy verse a Slayer is given a Secret Test Of Character at age 16 - trapped with a vampire and without her powers, she must defeat the vampire or be killed by it. (The "secret" being that she doesn't know going in that it's a test, nor that she is powerless.)
  • August 16, 2011
    Stratadrake
    ^ That's not a Secret Test Of Character, but a Secret Test.

    Disney's Aladdin won't work as a page quote, illustrates the wrong trope. Phlebotinum is (usually) external to the character using it, whereas superpowers are (usually) inborn.
  • August 16, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    Subverted in One Piece. It should work this way but each time Blackbeard tries to invoke the trope, his opponents turns out to be an utter badass.
  • August 16, 2011
    randomsurfer
    ^^Ah, wasn't aware of that page.
  • August 19, 2011
    Draxen
    He-man without his Sword of Power is just Prince Adam
  • August 19, 2011
    DaibhidC
  • February 20, 2012
    MiinU
    bump.
  • February 20, 2012
    pawsplay
    Storm from X-Men is a complete aversion, to the point it should not be mentioned. She worries about being a load for a while, gradually adjusts to her new status, Took A Level In Baddass, and became a very competent team leader.
  • February 20, 2012
    nman
    Your first line: "While some charcters become become a Badass Normal when Brought Down To Normal, that doesn't happen to these characters." You might want to rewrite it to include Brought Down To Badass.
  • February 21, 2012
    FallenLegend
    Up For Grabs I won't be launching this anytime soon :P
  • May 30, 2012
    Astaroth
    Vaarsuvius in Order Of The Stick, when placed inside an anti-magic field, ceases to be an immensely powerful wizard with a penchant for destruction, and instead becomes what a dragon describes as a 'fragile pointy-eared monkey.'
  • May 30, 2012
    animeg3282
    In Sailor Moon, when the titular character's transformation brooch is broken, she can do nothing against the enemy.
  • May 30, 2012
    AP
    "Storm from X-Men is a complete aversion, to the point it should not be mentioned. She worries about being a load for a while, gradually adjusts to her new status, Took A Level In Baddass, and became a very competent team leader."

    Seconded. During this time, she beat Callisto in a knife duel and proved she was capable of fighting Cyclops with just her martial arts prowess.
  • May 30, 2012
    AP
    An X-Men example that does work, however.

    • In the pages of X-Men and X Factor, the villain Juggernaut became a hero, he lost most of his Super Strength and Nigh Invulnerability. Because of that, he lost many of his fights and it was remarked upon that he was nowhere near the powerhouse he once was.
  • May 31, 2012
    Alvin
    I don't have much, but I remember seeing or hearing about a Fantastic Four comic book in which Reed Richards has no superpowers and mopes until Agatha Harkness gives him a pep talk and reminds him he's kinda bright.
  • May 31, 2012
    DracMonster
    This is kind of the inverse of Fights Like A Normal.
  • January 3, 2013
    TrueShadow1
    Sharon in Pandora Hearts gets a minor Heroic BSOD when she realizes she can't really do anything without her Chain
  • October 13, 2013
    DAN004
    Contrast Brought Down To Badass.

    • In King Of Fighters Tales of Ash saga, Ash managed to take away Chizuru's powers (from the Yata Mirror) and rendered her unable to fight. In contrast, he also managed to take Iori's (from Yasakani Jewel) but he invented a new fighting style to compensate.
  • October 13, 2013
    Niria
    Minor correction of Randomsurfer's post: Slayers get the test at 18, not 16.

    The trope is subverted in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, as when Buffy is given the test it originally looks as if she'll be helpless and (to the extent to which one suspends disbelief and ignores Buffy's Plot Armor) it looks like she'll be killed...but she ends up killing the vampire by (IIRC) tricking him into drinking holy water.
  • October 13, 2013
    zarpaulus
    • In All Superheroes Must Die the only one of the heroes who can cope with being kidnapped and depowered in an abandoned town full of psychos and civilians tied to death traps is Charge, who didn't lose his powers or more accurately, never had any.
  • October 14, 2013
    TrueShadow1
    • King from Nanatsu No Taizai is an incredibly powerful fighter, easily taking out a Holy Knight other characters were struggling against. Take his magical spear away, however, and he's weak enough to lose to a housecat.
  • October 14, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Comic Books
    • During Marvel Comics first Secret Wars series, Reed Richards cannibalizes equipment from Hawkeye among others to supercharge Iron Man's repulsor beams. Moments before, the Molecule Man dropped an entire mountain range on them, and only an enraged Hulk kept the heroes from being buried alive. Once free of the tomb, Hawkman laments: "Without my arrows, I'm just a guy in a funny suit."
  • October 14, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Only one of the examples in the draft was namespaced... that just has to be some kind of a record. Three of the titles linked to disambiguation pages because of that.
  • October 14, 2013
    DracMonster
    ...Ignore this, mispost.
  • October 14, 2013
    Niria
    Just to add to the Buffy example, I was thinking how it's a superb example of this trope subverted, in that without powers Buffy was not even a Badass Normal. In a fair fight, Giles could have beaten her at the time.

    She then passed the test by being able to to be a Guile Hero despite being physically overmatched.
  • October 15, 2013
    DAN004
    Update with examples plz.
  • October 15, 2013
    StarSword
    Literature:
    • The Star Wars Expanded Universe has ysalamiri, a creature that creates the equivalent of an Anti Magic field in the Force, and the Yuuzhan Vong, a species that is largely immune to Force powers. The result depends on the Jedi.
      • Many of the New Jedi Order rely too much on the Force and do not do well without its advantages. Kreia of Knights Of The Old Republic II also believes this of the pre-Imperial Jedi Order (see Video Games, below).
      • Luke, who's been using the Force since he was 18, has trouble dealing with ysalamiri initially in Heir to the Empire but isn't completely helpless once he gets used to it. He still compares it to being deaf.
      • Corran Horn is fine when he uses a ysalamir while interrogating another Force user in I, Jedi, since he'd previously spent thirty-odd years not even knowing he was Force-sensitive and had only been actively using it for a few months.
  • April 3, 2015
    DAN004
    This may be justified with Amulet Of Dependency.

    BTW how would this work on Henshin Heroes? Depending on the case, when they aren't transformed they usually can't do much.

    Grabbing this, btw.
  • April 3, 2015
    LobsterMagnusNovus
    Film
    • In The Avengers; Captain America tries to use this as an argument in a The Reason You Suck Speech against Iron Man.
      Captain America: Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?
      Iron Man: Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.
  • April 3, 2015
    Chabal2
    • Marvel Comics: There was a What If where Skrulls gave the entire population of Earth pills that gave them superpowers (except for Ben Grimm, who was just fine the way he was and declined to take them). Then it turned out the pills were poisoned, and set off at the same so the Skrulls could invade, leaving Ben as the only person around to fight back. Since he hadn't been relying on any powers for years, he wins.
    • I think this one was from the Superman cartoon, a soldier piloting an experimental Power Armor becomes addicted to it, because without it he's, well, just a soldier.
  • April 3, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ Dat example with Ben Grimm is an inversion/subversion, right?
  • April 4, 2015
    Chabal2
    Probably.

    Also from Legend Of Korra, the third season's villains are kept trapped in Tailor Built Prisons that ensure they can't use their bending: Gazan (a lavabender) is kept on a floating prison at sea in a wooden cage, P'li (combustionbender) is kept in a fissure at one of the poles where it's too cold to concentrate on firebending, and Ming Hua (an armless waterbender who turns water into giant Combat Tentacles) over a volcano with the bare minimum of water to drink. They get busted out by their leader Zaheer, who no one expected to be able to airbend his way out of a prison (once caught, he's transferred to a undergound prison with massive metal walls).

  • April 4, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ That makes me thinking: aversions of Elemental Baggage (like the Avatar examples) can fall here too, right?
  • April 4, 2015
    DracMonster
    Goes hand in hand with Powers Do The Fighting.

    Also defied by Fights Like A Normal.
  • April 4, 2015
    Rjinswand
    Comic Books:
    • During Secret Wars, Ben Grimm gets suddenly depowered several times. It happens at the most unfortunate times, e.g. while fighting a strong enemy. Despite hating his Thing form, Grimm realizes he isn't much of use without it, and desperately wishes for it to come back.
  • April 4, 2015
    DAN004
    • Blaz Blue Chronophantasma: The hero Ragna the Bloodedge relies on the power that comes from his enchanted right arm, the Azure Grimoire. Unfortunately, he's forced by circumstances to accompany Celica A. Mercury, a woman who can nullify his powers by close presence. It makes him less proficient in fighting and costs him some losses to other characters. This is also a plot of Power Loss Make You Strong, however - he slowly develops his own skills and has come to not rely on his right arm roo much, and once he gets his powers back he becomes a much more competent fighter, defeating enemies that he coulsn't fight before, even when back when he still have powers.
  • April 4, 2015
    MiinU
    Video Games
    • Advanced V.G. II enforces this as a gameplay stipulation, during Tamao's story mode battle with Manami. She tries to stack the odds in her favor by making Tamao agree to fight her without using any of her special arts. So she's only allowed to use her regular kicks and punches, while Manami is free to use all of her special arts. Tamao still wins the match.
  • April 4, 2015
    zarpaulus
    • The whole point of All Superheroes Must Die is a bunch of superheroes are kidnapped, depowered, and forced into a series of death traps. More than half of them die.
  • April 23, 2015
    ZuTheSkunk
    So is this ready to be launched?
  • April 23, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ nope, not until the examples are added.
  • April 23, 2015
    randomsurfer
    Star Trek The Next Generation: Ship Counselor Troi uses her empathic powers to perform her job. In "The Loss" she temporarily loses her powers, and discovers that she's actually pretty bad at counselling without them. It gets pointed out to her that most counselors don't have mental powers and get along just fine.
    Troi: It's time I accept the truth, Captain, and resign as ship's counsellor.
    Picard: Resign?
    Troi: I can no longer fulfill my obligations. What other option is there?
    Picard: Deanna, I've been fortunate to have access to your Betazoid abilities. Most starship captains have to be content with a human counsellor. Empathic awareness is not a requirement of your position.
    Troi: It is for me.
    Picard: I'm sure that after a while you'll be able to adjust.
  • April 24, 2015
    Ominae
    In the TV adaptation of Powers, this becomes a subplot when a machine is made that can depower super powered criminals/terrorists so that they can be detained and locked up more easily.
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