Adaptational Superpower Change

Sometimes a superhero has a cool superpower that looks fantastic in the panels of a comic book, but when adapted to a different medium like a live action film or television show, there are budgetary restrictions that don't allow that superhero's powers to be showcased. So the writers severely water down the superpower to fit the medium, or in some cases, they just completely change the character's skill set.

There are a variety of reasons to change a superpowered character's abilities, but money is usually the main reason. Special effects are expensive, and having to show every week a flying superhero punching airplanes from the sky and firing balls of energy at bad guys can put a serious strain on the production budget. Also, the excessive use of CGI or bad special effects can fail.

Sometimes it is a matter of story: A character is given new powers to help smooth out the plot. Perhaps the powers they were given come from a different character altogether in the original work. That way the story can move along without introducing Loads and Loads of Characters that only serve one purpose in the original work. Maybe the character in the original work is a functional god and the adaptation has to dial down their skillset to something a little more believable, and not interfere with the viewer's Suspension of Disbelief.

Occasionally the change in superpowers can occur simply because a superpower that seems really cool in a comic could seem extremely silly when translated into Live-Action.

Note that this can occur in the opposite direction too. With a TV show being adapted into a comic book or movie, now the budgetary strain is not so prevalent, so characters are given new powers, or their old ones are expanded to be more showy.

If the change in power improves the character's fighting prowess, expect them to be an Adaptational Badass. If the superpower change results in them having less power and less effective in fighting, then consider them an Adaptational Wimp.


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    Anime And Manga 
  • The first Fullmetal Alchemist anime ran into this largely thanks to being made while the manga still had a ways to go. Aside from the characters that were effectively original, King Bradley (called Pride, instead of Wrath) can regenerate like the other homunculi, unlike his manga counterpart.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games, Onox can transform himself into a tornado and can fire gusts of wind in battle. In the manga adaptation, he simply uses a tornado for transportation. Otherwise, he's a Walking Wasteland who can also paralyze his enemies at will and reanimate his mooks.

  • When Charmed moved from television to comics the sisters' different witch powers evolved and became much more showy in the comics. Notably, Paige gained the power to make orb forcefields and Piper gained the power to melt and set fire to objects.
    • Lacking the visual effects of the TV series, Piper's hands sometime glow whenever she uses her powers to clue in the reader that she is using her powers. And sometimes her power to blow stuff up looks more akin to energy beams. Same thing applies to Paige as well. Her power to 'orb' objects from place to place in the comics show her hands wreathed with magic, while in the show you just saw the effect happen on the item being moved.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic books, Buffy temporarily gains a host of new powers, including the ability to fly, which would've been a costly effect to shoot for a television show, but not so much for a comic books artist to draw.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • In Ultimate X-Men Emma Frost doesn't have her psychic abilities, instead using her diamond form.
    • Ultimate Spider-Man:
      • While the Green Goblin always derived superpowers from a formula, the Ultimate version physically transforms into a green-skinned, horned creature instead of wearing a goblin costume. He can also manifest and throw fireballs where the original had to build his own bombs to throw.
      • The Rhino is a Humongous Mecha, instead of a man with Super Strength.
      • Jessica Drew is also changed. In 616, she has her own powers, like flight and the ability to fire venom blasts. Here, she is an Opposite-Sex Clone of Peter Parker, and has his powers, as well as ones he doesn't possess, such as the ability to generate organic webbing.
      • Kraven the Hunter had no powers initially, allowing Spidey to cream him in their first fight. Later he alters his DNA and becomes a horrific werewolf-like creature, and is arrested by the Ultimates who remove said alterations.
      • Doctor Octopus was originally presented the same as the original version was, having mechanical arms fused to his spine. Then comes the twist that his power is actually metal manipulation. He still tends to make octo-arms with this power, but now he can control his arms when he's separated from them or even make replacements on the spot from nearby scrap.
    • Ultimate Fantastic Four:
      • Ben Grimm eventually gains the ability to change between forms, unlike his 616 counterpart, who is stuck in the Rock form.
      • Doctor Doom gains ghastly scars on his face in the original continuity from an experiment backfiring on him, to hide these scars he wears a heavy armor. Here, Doom's entire body turns to metal and he gains cloved feet like a demon, corrosive acid breath and the ability to fire off metallic skin-shards in the same accident that gave the Four their powers.
  • Batman's Harley Quinn had no super powers in the original animated series, but with her immigration to the comics, she got some powers from her new friend Poison Ivy. Biggest one, which is set up in the animated series, is immunity to poison.

    Fan Works 
  • MCU Rewrites: In this rewrite of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Wanda Maximoff's telekinesis and telepathy are changed to reality warping powers more in line with her comic book counterpart. The narration even uses the terms "Chaos Magic" and "Hex Bolts".
  • Instead of receiving the ladybug Miraculous by Master Fu, Marinette in Nymph and the Corrupted Miraculous stumbles upon the butterfly miraculous in an abandoned mansion.
  • Rise of Mariposa
    • In the canon, Marinette is the holder of the Ladybug Miraculous and uses them to defend Paris as a hero. Here, Marinette instead uses the butterfly brooch. Not only can she grant superpowers to others, but unlike Hawk Moth, she has a pair of functioning wings. It is implied that the wings are a reflection of Marinette as a hero. It is even implied that she still is destined to wield the Ladybug Miraculous and that she will become the new ladybug later on.
    • In canon, Lila was turned into the villain Volpina by Hawk Moth, granting her the power to generate illusions and a fox motif. Here, she finds the ladybug earrings and, without any goading or corruption, uses it to commit crimes.
  • In the original series, Izuku was born quirkiness but is given “One For All” by All Might. In Waiting is worth it, he possessed the dormant source quirk “Telekinesis.” All Might even considered giving “One For All” to Izuku in this continuity also, but decided that Izuku would make a great enough hero without it.

  • X-Men Film Series changes a lot of the characters' powers:
    • While Mystique's blue skin, red hair, and Shapeshifting abilities all come from the comics, X-Men is the first iteration of her being reptilian in appearance, like a chameleon.
    • X-Men: The Last Stand:
      • To streamline the story, the Phoenix is just an aspect of Jean Grey's mind and superpowers and not a cosmic entity. Technically, this can qualify as an odd case of Composite Character, too.
      • Callisto is given the powers of super-speed and a mutant tracking sense that she does not have in the comics.
      • Part of Leech's mutation in the comics is his green skin and huge yellow eyes. In this movie, he retains his ability to suppress other mutant's abilities, but he appears as a normal human kid.
    • X-Men: First Class:
      • Sebastian Shaw's power in the comics is the ability to absorb energy to boost his personal strength and stamina. His film counterpart is able to absorb energy and then repurpose it in seemingly any way he wants, up to and including keeping himself eternally young and causing devastating explosions.
      • Azazel is a literal immortal demon in the comics with an assortment of near god-like powers. In the movie, he is a mutant with the power to teleport and a demon-like visage. He basically serves as an evil expy for Nightcrawler, who hadn't been born yet in 1962.
      • Riptide in the comics created whirlwinds by spinning his whole body, and he could also fling calcified projectiles from his body like shuriken or spikes. The movie version is missing the latter ability.
    • The Wolverine: Both Yukio and Viper are normal humans in the comics, but in the film, Yukio is given the mutant power to see into the future, while Viper is given snake-like abilities. Interestingly, Harada, who is a mutant in the comics, is turned into a normal human in this movie. Note that this technically also qualifies as Adaptation Species Change because frequently in the X-Men world humans (homo sapiens) and mutants (homo superior) are different species.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past:
      • Kitty Pryde, resident intangible girl of the X-Men inexplicably gains the power to project people's consciousness backwards through time in this movie. This is because her role is combined with that of Rachel Summers from the comics, who does not have a film counterpart, seeing as both her parents are dead in that continuity. Also, the creators were hesitant to just create a new character with time travel powers because 1) They wanted to honor the original ''Days Of Future Past'' storyline by including Kitty Pryde in the story with an important role, and 2) The movie already has a rather large cast, and introducing another character would've put narrative strain on the plot.
      • Hank McCoy, aka The Beast, has a minor change to his powers in this movie that differs from the comics. His powers act more as a version of Hulking Out in that he doesn't change appearance unless he is angry. The only reason this is so is because in this continuity the world at large does not know of the existence of mutants just yet. In the original source, humans are aware of the existence of mutants, (although they're not well liked or accepted), so Beast walking around all blue and furry is much less of a problem. Another reason, logistically, may be that it's a LOT of make-up, and hard to act in.
    • Deadpool: In the comics, Negasonic Teenage Warhead has Psychic Powers and her name is a music Shout-Out. The movie version gets a "warhead" power to cause explosions instead. Essentially, she's a Composite Character with Cannonball, who held her role in previous drafts of the script. The reason for all of this? They really wanted her in the movie just so that Deadpool could react to the name "Negasonic Teenage Warhead".
    • X-Men: Apocalypse:
      • In the comics, the purple energy blade Psylocke projects from her hand is simply a manifestation of her telepathic powers, and it can't do any physical damage, only mental damage. In the movie, the blade cuts through steel and concrete, and Psylocke can also morph it into a whip.
      • One of the comic book Apocalypse's main powers is total control over every molecule in his body, which means he can't be hurt by mere physical force. In the film, he doesn't seem to have this power, as evidenced by the way he dies.
  • Fantastic Four adaptations make it so Doctor Doom gets powers in the same accident that empowered the Four. In the comics, he has no innate powers but wears Powered Armor and has vast knowledge in sorcery. In the 2005 movie, his body is transformed into metal, giving him lightning powers. The Ultimate Fantastic Four comics, mentioned above, also turn his body to metal, but instead of lightning he can fire off metallic shards and breathe acid breath. The 2015 movie gives him very vague, near god-like powers that resemble telekinesis.
    • Also in the 2015 movie, an odd, purely superficial change occurs to Mr. Fantastic's elastic ability. According to the creators Reed isn't stretching himself when he seemingly extends his limbs, but he is manipulating local spacetime due to micro-blackholes integrated with his body. The effect has it so he still looks like he is super-elastic anyway.
  • In the film of I Am Number Four, Number Four's fire-resistance has been removed and instead given to Number Six. Number Six' invisibility has also become Flash Step.
  • In Dragonball Evolution the Kamehameha is given the power to heal, which it didn't have in the original series
  • In The Last Airbender the firebenders require a source of fire to bend. In the series, they don't. The reasoning behind this was because the director felt that the firebenders were too overpowered when compared to the other elemental benders in the show. However, the effect of this change lead to all other benders in the film version as seemingly much more pathetic and weak because they were conquered by a nation whose abilities are rather easily suppressed.
  • In Spider-Man, Spider-Man has the ability to shoot organic webs, whereas up until that point, his comic-book counterpart used web-shooters.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
    • Traditional magic users Loki from the Thor movies and the reality warping Scarlet Witch from Avengers: Age of Ultron, have had their powers altered in such a way that they're not using their godlike powers to the point of negating narrative suspense - for instance, Wanda's have been scaled back to telekinesis and mind manipulation. Also, at least in the case for Loki, he sometimes uses his powers in ridiculous ways in the comics, such as transforming an entire street into ice cream. Effects such as this might not translate well to the big screen. The powers are also described is pseudo-scientific terms instead of mystical ones in order to not break disbelief, though Thor makes clear in his first film that "magic" is just another name for the same things.
    • Iron Man's foe the Mandarin is usually known for wearing ten Rings Of Power. In Iron Man 3, the apparent Mandarin is only an actor and completely powerless; while the film's mastermind and "real" Mandarin, Aldritch Killian, has heat powers and a healing factor thanks to Extremis. However, a short film makes the claim that a true Mandarin exists and that Killian stole his identity for the actor to use; so the possibility is there that he does have the rings of his comic counterpart.
    • The Falcon, being a more grounded, realistic character in the MCU than in the comics, lacks a telepathic connection with birds. Instead of having a pet bird named Redwing that he has such a bond with, Redwing is a remote-controlled birdlike robotic drone as of Civil War.
    • The MCU incarnation of The Vision adds Super Toughness to his powerset, with vibranium incorporated into the 3-D-printed cells of his body. The laser beam he projects from his forehead gem has also ramped up in power, since the jewel is an Infinity Stone here.
    • In the comics, Star-Lord is essentially a normal human who uses various bits of alien gear that he's picked up. The movies mostly follow suit, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 shows that as the son of Ego the Living Planet (itself an Adaptation Species Change for Star-Lord), he can channel Ego's powers including matter-manipulation and immortality. However, Ego is dead by the end of the film, leaving Star-Lord a baseline human once more as there's no longer a power source to draw from.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane doesn't use Venom, the ultra steroid that boosts his muscle mass and makes him an incredibly formidable physical threat. Instead, he is a badly injured man in near-constant pain and his mask gives him painkillers. That being said, he is still an incredibly formidable physical threat and pummeled Batman senseless in their first encounter.
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children:
    • In the books Emma’s peculiarity was the ability to create and control fire, whilst Olive’s was being lighter than air. Here their powers are switched with Olive being the pyrokinetic and Emma an aerokinetic with uncontrollable levitation as just one aspect of her powers.
    • In addition to the Prophetic Dream ability he has in the books, the film version of Horace can project the images from his dreams into the air through his right eye using a special lens.
    • At one point in the book whilst explaining to Jacob about Wights, Miss Peregrine states they don’t have any peculiarities. In contrast the Wights shown in the film still have their powers from when they were Peculiars; specifically Mr Barron is a Shapeshifter and two Canon Foreigner Wights include a Cryo-kinetic man and a half-rat woman.
    • The method by which the Hollows become Wights is different. In the books it’s achieved by absorbing a Peculiars’ soul, in the film it’s by consuming a Peculiars’ eyes.
  • In The Maze Runner books Thomas and Teresa could communicate with each other telepathically, with Aris and Posthumous Character Rachel sharing the same ability between themselves and the aforementioned twosome. This was revealed in The Death Cure to be the result of a chip implanted in their heads by WICKED, which could also be used to control them and the other Gladers, who were also implanted. In The Maze Runner Series, all four characters lack this ability and whilst Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials reveals that the Gladers do have chips implanted in their bodies, it’s in their necks and merely functions as a tracking beacon.

    Live Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Daenerys is completely and consistently immune to fire in the show, whereas the books treat the pyre as a one-time thing (and even then her hair burns off) and when she mounts Drogon for the first time she's left hairless with burns on her hands.
    • The show depicts the Children of the Forest having Playing with Fire powers never seen in the books, though there are in-universe myths of them channelling the elements.
    • In addition to the prophetic visions, Living Shadow, and Glamour powers seen in the show, Melisandre can also manipulate fire and possibly influence the wind in the books.
    • In the books, Bran's visions of the past are limited to things seen by the carved eyes of weirwood trees. In the show, he can stroll around in a Pensieve Flashback unlimited by time or space, allowing him to witness events at the Tower of Joy and butt-dial the Night King.
    • In the show, Jojen Reed is a Fainting Seer whose visions come hand-in-hand with seizures. In the books, he's just naturally small and frail, even for a crannogman, and the harsh conditions beyond the Wall are what compromises his health negatively, not his dreams (except emotionally).
    • The warlock Pyat Pree has the power to create copies of himself in the show rather than practising unspecified dark magic and constantly ingesting prophetic drugs.
    • The Faceless Men's method of applying faces is quite vague in the books but involves complex Blood Magic, a touch of Ghost in the Machine, and is limited by size and gender. By contrast, the show makes it as mundane as wearing a mask since Arya simply steals one and uses it with any training and Jaqen and the Waif are shown swapping identities in "Mother's Mercy".
    • The Faceless Men can also apparently blind someone at will without touching them, something that's caused by a potion that must be re-administered daily in the books.
  • The Incredible Hulk Returns: The first Reunion Show bringing back the Hulk, also stars Dr. Don Blake and The Mighty Thor - but instead of them both inhabiting the same body, in Returns they are two different people. Thor is a Norse warrior who Blake summons by holding Thor's hammer and shouting "Odin!" Blake is still around when Thor is in the world.
  • Jessica Jones
    • The titular character is not a Flying Brick here. Instead, she starts out with Super Strength and learns how to perform powerful jumps with it.
    • In the comics, Nuke has pills that serve as placebos; they give him the illusion of increased adrenaline and therefore increase his power. The pills on the show do genuinely grant superhuman power for a time, as shown when Trish steals one and beats Nuke into submission.
  • In the made-for-TV movie of Generation X, Emma Frost was given the ability to create wind and lightning.
  • In Agent Carter, Whitney Frost has the ability to turn people into shadow energy called "Darkforce" and absorb it. Her comics counterpart Madame Masque has no actual powers.
  • The Flash (2014):
    • In the comics, the Mist can become a white gas that can hypnotize opponents that breath it in. In the show, the Mist (aka Kyle Nimbus) can become a green gas that poisons those can inhale it.
    • Downplayed with Tony Woodward/Girder. In the comics, his skin is permanently made of metal, but his television version allows him to activate metallic skin at will.
    • In the comics, Roy Bivolo/Rainbow Raider had goggles that could project light blasts. In the show, he can make people become impossibly angry, causing them to kill the next person they see.
    • In the comics, Hartley Rathaway/Pied Piper has a flute that can hypnotize people. In the show, he has gauntlets that can shoot sonic blasts.
    • In the comics, Lisa Snart/Golden Glider wears ice skates that generate ice, allowing her to skate on any surface and even in midair. The show's version wields a ray gun that turns whatever it zaps into a gold-like substance.
    • In the comics, Hunter Zolomon/Zoom has the power to slow down time for everyone but himself, making others perceive him as having Super Speed while he's really moving normally. The show's version has the same powers from the Speed Force the Flash has.
    • In the comics, Dr. Alchemy uses his Philosopher's Stone to transmute matter. The show's version uses his Philosopher's Stone to fire energy blasts and give people back the powers they had in the Flashpoint timeline.
    • In the comics, The Top can spin at super speed. The show's version causes people to become dizzy and lose their balance.
    • In the comics, Gypsy could create illusions, turn invisible, and see the future. The show's version has identical dimensional travelling and vibration powers as Vibe.
  • Inhumans:
  • Supergirl: In the comics, Irma Ardeen/Saturn Girl is a telepath. In the show, she has telekinesis. She may also have super strength, as in one scene, she punches Mon-El (a Daxamite, a being similar to a Kryptonian) in the gut and it hurts him.

    Video Games 
  • In the X-Men comics, Silver Samurai has the power to create a tachyon field around his katana, which enables it to cut through almost anything. In X-Men: Children of the Atom and Marvel vs. Capcom 2, he instead has elemental abilities related to fire, ice, and lightning, which he channels through his blade. Children of the Atom also gave him the ability to teleport and a technique that allowed him to attack his opponents with shadow clones, though these were removed in the subsequent games.
  • In Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems as well as in the Marvel Vs. Capcom games, Wolverine is able to unleash "claw energy". That is, shoot energy out of his claws. Somehow. At the very least, the former seemingly justified it with power gems. The latter, not so much.
  • In Super Mario Bros. Mario is able to shoot fireballs but only upon obtaining a fire flower. In Super Smash Bros. Mario not only is able to shoot fireballs without a power up, he's seemingly expanded to have greater control over fire in general, being able to create an explosion with the palm of his hand and having a very badass victory animation where he creates a chain explosion. He'd later gain such fire powers in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, but only in that game.

    Western Animation