"His truth. His justice. His way. And there's nothing anyone can do about it."
"[I]n any event, I never said 'The superman exists and he's American.' What I said was 'God exists and he's American.' If that statement starts to chill you after a couple of moments' consideration, then don't be alarmed. A feeling of intense and crushing religious terror at the concept indicates only that you are still sane."
— Prof. Milton Glass
, "Dr. Manhattan: Super-Powers and the Superpowers," Watchmen
settings, like any other setting, end up somewhere on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism
. On the more idealistic end, you have settings like mainstream comic books, where there's a sense of wonder and basic decency about the superhuman. While there are villains, they will usually get caught or their plans will be thwarted, and while the setting may take dark turns
, it will inevitably right itself. Somewhere in the middle, you have settings that look at superpowers a bit more realistically. While the government may have supers, so will despotic regimes, organized crimes, and terrorist groups. The good guys may win, but victories will be hard fought and likely to have their share of losses.
And then you have these settings. The world's not better for having superhumans. It's worse
. The government has no safety net to deal with rogue supers, and it seems like there ain't nothing but rogue supers terrorizing Muggles
or freaks on leashes
. And that's just the so-called heroes, who are usually anything but
, being all-too-aware of their superiority over the rest of the human race
and a little too keen
on arrogantly flaunting it
. Maybe the crisis hasn't happened yet, but the way supers seem to be developing, it's only a matter of time until one of them blows up Pittsburgh
and the rest go absolutely nuts. Not that they're exactly mentally-stable to begin with
; many will gleefully screw the rules with their powers
, but it's almost guaranteed that at least one of them is developing a God-complex
as a result of their powers, and that they're only one bad day away from trying to enslave
or wipe out
all of humanity (which they could easily do within an afternoon
These are often Deconstructions
of more traditional Super Hero
fare, and often use Take Thats
against popular characters like Superman
(or that particular writer's perception of them
Any hope for a Hope Spot
in such a dire scenario may involve calling the Cape Busters
Stories or articles involving The Singularity
sometimes put forth the idea that in Real Life
, enhanced humans
may cause this situation.
A milder version is Smug Super
, in which the superpowered being in question isn't exactly malevolent or evil, but is still something of a jerk. If both Beware the Superman and Fantastic Racism
toward metahumans are prevalent in a 'verse, expect things to get very
Trope title is a spin on the famous Nietzsche quote, "Behold the superman"note
(as in "Behold the Übermensch
"). Super Dickery
is a milder version of this trope. See also With Great Power Comes Great Insanity
, Crapsack World
, The Magocracy
, Muggle Power
, Transhuman Treachery
. Contrast with Tall Poppy Syndrome
, as the two are more-or-less ideological opposites.
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Anime / Manga
- Though the trope's name instantly makes you think of him, Superman thankfully averts this trope. Unless it's an Elseworlds story which has this trope as its point, Superman is (almost) always as responsible as he can be with his powers and always lets people know that he's here to serve them, not the other way around. But again, as mentioned, Elseworlds stories LOVE to play with Superman this way. Most recently, Alternate!Superman in Injustice: Gods Among Us, who's a totalitarian ruler after the death of Alternate!Lois Lane.
- Ultraman and Black Adam are the Evil Counterparts to Superman and Captain Marvel, for starters.
- The original version of Rob Liefeld's Supreme was essentially an incredibly arrogant, ruthless version of early Golden Age activist Superman. He killed terrorists, villains, and (in one particularly notorious case) government-sanctioned teams with impunity and gore.
- When this version was brought back at the beginning of Erik Larsen's run, he kills an invading army of villains in cold blood, depowers all the surviving Supremes from Alan Moore's run and embarks on a rampage of revenge against all the heroes (for not rescuing him)
- Marshal Law believes ALL superheroes are exactly like that. Including him. As his Catch Phrase says:
Marshal Law: I'm a hero hunter. I hunt heroes. Haven't found any yet.
- The Boys deals with a world where most superheroes consider themselves to be above mortal law; after all, no jails can hold them, and they can plow through most police officers and soldiers. The eponymous black ops unit aims to show them just how wrong they are. This makes the world something of a Black and Grey Morality situation as well, given that several of the members of this unit, themselves super-powered, are quite sociopathic themselves.
- The original Squadron Supreme's limited series has this as the central theme, with the superheroes taking over their world's United States after it's trashed an alien mind-control menace, for the "greater good", of course. They do in fact succeed in eliminating poverty, war, and, though a (mostly) voluntary brain-modification unit, reforming most of the world's criminals. However, their own personal failings, rising team death count, and totalitarian underpinnings leave their attempt a failure, case in point being how their Captain Ersatz for Green Arrow brainwashed their Captain Ersatz for Black Canary to make sure she is always in love with him. He quickly regrets this but has to live with the consequences until he is discovered and expelled from the team.
- Twenty years later, the Justice League (of whom the Squadron were expies) would likewise have a major storyline, Identity Crisis involving using Zatanna's magical brainwashing on super-powered criminals, following Doctor Light's rape of Sue Dibny. Not surprisingly, the main holdout on each team who rejected the plan in horror (playing the role of team conscience) was essentially the same character (Batman and his Captain Ersatz, Nighthawk).
- J. Michael Straczynski's Supreme Power (and later Squadron Supreme) redid the Marvel classic Squadron Supreme to show a world where most supers are at least a bit more unhinged. Hyperion, while well-meaning, has been raised since birth to be the ultimate American patriot, and goes through a Heroic BSOD when he finds out. Zarda's a vampiric alien with little regard for human life and a stalker-like crush on Hyperion. Doctor Spectrum's being yanked around by an alien superweapon that occasionally takes over his mind. Nighthawk's a black vigilante with a strong antipathy for whites and a violent hatred for racists. Blur is (at first) a sellout who uses his powers for advertising. Arcanna wants to get rid of her powers. The Shape is a severely retarded superstrong juggernaut. Nuke is so dangerously radioactive that he must be sealed inside a lead suit. Master Menace is... well, a master of menace. Collateral damage is a major theme of the series, and there's been one mini where Hyperion goes insane and takes over the world.
- Hyperion's actually still a really nice guy with some ideas about the world that you'd naturally get growing up the way he did. He went a little crazy once, but still. Serial killer Michael Redstone is Hyperion without the flight or the morality, and represents the opposite side of Hyperion's coin.
- Well, he was a nice guy... at the end of the most recent series... not so much anymore. Apparently he was always supposed to be the spearhead of an alien invasion... and he seems to accept that now.
- A truly evil version of Hyperion shows up in Exiles as a reoccurring villain. In his own universe, Earth was completely destroyed in an attempt to fight him off. His only interest in traveling between dimensions is to find one that he can rule without too much effort.
- JMS also plays with such a theme in Rising Stars; the Specials mostly mean well, but after All of the Other Reindeer turn against them, we start seeing some of the real damage they can do, especially after Critical Maas takes over Chicago. After the Surge, even the less aggressive ones tend to take what they want and ignore laws, just because they can.
- Miracleman portrays all its supers as at least a bit flawed, from the well-meaning but ultimately authoritarian Miracleman to the sociopathic Kid Miracleman, who destroys all of London For the Evulz.
- Whether or not The Authority are Earth's last line of defense against serious threats and a force for change, or a bunch of authoritarian despots who can't get outside their own heads, varies somewhat depending on who's writing which Wildstorm book this week. Much of the rest of the Wildstorm Universe is the same way.
- In their original portrayal by Warren Ellis The Authority at least twice casually killed tons of civilian bystanders, who were guilty of nothing more than living under the rule of an Evil Overlord. Of course the analogue to American military involvement is brought up, to grey the issue more.
- Planetary plays fast and loose with the trope, however: A cabal of superheroes does secretly rule the world and quite a lot of bad stuff is supernatural in origin. Still, many of the Earth's mysteries are neutral or even benign and the Century Babies (who are all immortal and superpowered) are implied to be the Earth's natural immune system against superpowered foes that would threaten humanity. By the end, Elijah Snow has managed to use the knowledge collected by The Four to avert Reed Richards Is Useless and eliminated global poverty, war and innumerable diseases.
- Watchmen has only two superheroes with actual superpowers, but the very existence and the enormous extent of Dr. Manhattan's powers almost leads to a nuclear war. Although benevolent enough by himself, he is very weak-willed and kills uncounted Vietcong in the Vietnam War and a solid number of American criminals (petty and otherwise) basically only because somebody told him to. Throughout all of this, he becomes progressively detached from humanity, at one point watching a pregnant woman being murdered without even attempting to interfere. The others, though baseline humans, aren't much better, being well-meaning-though-flawed everymen at best and fanatical nutbag mass murderers at worst, ultimately leading to their actions being outlawed unless specifically condoned by the US government.
- It is telling that it is the seemingly most benevolent of the superheroes, Ozymandias, who commits the largest atrocities, all in the name of saving the world from itself.
- In the DC Comics Multiverse Earth-3 and Anti-Earth are ruled by supervillain expies of Superheroes from Earth 1 or 2, and the only people capable of standing up to them are the superhero expies of the supervillains of Earth 1 or 2. Earth-8 is a Captain Ersatz of the current Ultimate Marvel universe in which the "heroes" are ruthless control freaks, and the Captain Ersatz Marvel villains (the Extremists), while hardly heroic, are the closest thing they have to good guys.
- For that matter, some of the Ultimate Marvel heroes, especially The Ultimates, border on the edge of this trope themselves sometimes, except Ultimate Spider-Man, who is still an idealistic teenager.
- The basic premise of Marvel Zombies is this borne of a Zombie Apocalypse. Almost all of the planet's heroes are now super-powered, flesh-eating monsters who hunt down and devour all life.
- Powers touches on this frequently, depicting most supers with feet of clay. A story involving the Superman analogue named Supershock is a particularly good example—he develops a god complex, destroys the Vatican and the Gaza Strip after going off the rails, and it's revealed that his power level has been underplayed to avoid worldwide panic.
- Kingdom Come is set in a future of The DCU wherein the next generation of superhumans took their cue from the Nineties Anti Heroes rather than 'outdated' heroes like Superman (who retired in disillusionment after one of them got off scot-free after murdering the Joker), with the result that the 'heroes' and 'villains' are more interested in recklessly kicking the tar out of each other than protecting the innocent. When The Capes do make a reappearance, their determination to rein in their more reckless brethren sees them quickly turn into Knight Templars. Unlike many of these universes, it's suggested that this one is at least partially the public's fault, as they overwhelmingly rejected the ideals of the old-fashioned heroes and placed their trust in the more 'modern' ones, only to learn too late what this meant.
Magog: They chose the one who'd kill over the one who wouldn't. And now they're all dead.
- Flashpoint has this as a scenario. The Atlanteans and Amazons are at war due to a convoluted, long-term plot by their leaders' Treacherous Advisors. Wonder Woman has taken over the UK, and Aquaman has sunken most of the European mainland in retaliation for Diana killing Mera. America is caught up in the paranoia that either of the parties may invade them some day (as Booster Gold can attest). Oh, and in a completely unrelated note, Grodd has dominated Africa through continent-wide genocide.
- In addition, this world has Subject Zero, a former U.S. Army soldier who became the first test subject of Project Superman, and had his powers augmented to the point of Nigh-Invulnerability. Due to him becoming increasingly unstable, he was locked down in the facility for twenty years and, when he broke out, he went on a rampage to prove himself as a hero. He is only stopped by Subject One - a.k.a. Kal-El.
- The End League. 12 years ago, a screw-up by Astonishman, the resident Superman analogue, left the environment screwed up, 3 billion people dead, and 1 in 10,000 survivors with superpowers. In the present day, the Earth is dying, the starving masses are completely dependent on the supervillains who rule the world, and the surviving 10 heroes spend most of their time hiding in a bunker and scavenging for food.
- The motivation behind much of Batman's distrust of many superpowered heroes, including among the groups he belongs to, in modern interpretations of the character.
- Speaking of Batman, there's also Jean-Paul Valley, the first long-term temp Batman - an unhinged former Knight Templar Super Soldier who went so far down the Slippery Slope that Bruce had to take the mantle back by force.
- Earth X starts out with the premise that every human being in the Marvel Universe has mutated into supers. Most of them are, at best, apathetic everymen, and a substantial number are jerkasses. The original heroes have either succumbed to apathy or are fighting a doomed war against human self-destructiveness. And then it turns out that all of this is part of the Celestial Plan.
- Another one happens in Irredeemable, where another Superman analogue, the Plutonian, went crazy and started to kill people and acting in a way that would make most of supervillains in history jealous. This comics is written by the same man who wrote Kingdom Come.
- Three mini-series Warren Ellis wrote for Avatar Press fits this trope. Black Summer begins with one of the super"heroes" murdering the president of the United States, No Hero shows superheroes who have actually been manipulating world events for their own selfish ends, and Supergod takes the position that superhumans (all created in the lab) turn out to be inhuman, unpredictable engines of destruction. Their motivations are unknowable to humanity because they just aren't human.
- Superman: Red Son plays with this trope, having Superman take a much more authoritative role in his world. He actually creates a paradise, as long as you don't have a problem with your every move being watched, your day optimally calculated for you, and your criminals brainwashed into Superman-loving servants of the state. This Trope eventually plays into his desire to quit as it made him reluctant to assume the role of world leader in the first place.
- Reign of the Supermen featured The Eradicator, who was Superman without moral constraints.
- Lex Luthor invokes this thinking in Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, encouraging people to question Superman's supposed Omniscient Morality License when he, for instance, saves The Toyman from an angry mob, after the latter had seemingly blown up a daycare centre killing about a hundred people, about 70 of whom were children. Though Luthor's real reason (or so he tells himself) for hating the hero is that Superman, whether he means to or not, by dint of his mere existence make all human progress irrelevant and thus serves as a crutch that we need to overcome, which is a soft variation of this trope. Of course, given that every single evil thing that happens in this comic- including the daycare centre bombing (which Toyman insisted he was innocent of)-, were probably orchestrated by Luthor himself, Lex is less The Cassandra he thinks he is and more the deluded egotistical sociopath he always is; coupled with his Improbably High IQ and his billion dollar corporate empire, this means that the only Superman humanity should be worried about is Lex Luthor himself.
- Frank Miller partially got in on the act in The Dark Knight Strikes Again: by the end of the series, variously due to needling from Batman and a series of Break the Cutie moments, Superman goes from a limp-wristed tool of the powers that be into the sort of personality who can say:
Superman: Father. Mother. You were wrong. I will always treasure your memory, but you were wrong. I am subject to no man's laws. I am Superman.
Superman: What shall we do with our planet, Lara?
- Miller might just believe that this is an improvement for Supes, mind you...
- Marvel's The Sentry has become this in a big way.
- The Mighty features Alpha One, a superhero with abilities like Superman. At first, he seems like a really good man who's been using his powers to the fullest ability to protect and benefit mankind. Then his latest second-in-command finds out... he's been engineering catastrophes to take the "tragic victims" off for his genetic experiments. Turns out he's a sociopathic alien who was exiled for blithely suggesting you can kill 1 in 10 people if it will make life better for everyone else.
- Omniman of Invincible was a protector of his planet until it turned out that he was a mole for a race of evil super powered beings who wanted to conquer Earth.
- Titan from Dark Horse Comics' Comics Greatest World imprint tried to act like a classic Superman, but the abuse he suffered during childhood, the trauma he suffered when he lost control of his powers during adolescence and the fact that most of the people he trusted and cared about manipulated him eventually caused him to suffer a mental breakdown, first against his former benefactors, then against United States in general.
- A God Somewhere (drawn by the same artist as The Mighty) tells the story of how suddenly becoming the first and only person with superpowers, and the mass media attention that comes along with this, sets an ordinary, sane man of arguably above-average character on a path that ends with a large body count and his loved ones traumatized for life. Because the reader is never given a direct glimpse of what this man is thinking, the motives behind his unnecessarily horrific actions remain as mysterious to us as to the characters in the story. After a certain point, he seems to have lost touch with any recognizably human sort of morality.
- A recurring problem in the Marvel Universe. New York City in particular has been the epicenter for superhuman events from Galactus trying to devour the planet (on more than one occasion), demonic invasions and seemingly endless battles between superheroes and villains (or sometimes just between superheroes and other superheroes), aliens, the occasional giant monster of undefined origin and one instance where a Herald of the above-mentioned Galactus levitated Manhattan Island into orbit. Magneto once blasted the entire planet with an EMP, has raised volcanoes on a whim and moved his giant space station around to anywhere he wants it. The Hulk has left trails of destruction across America countless times. A prominent head of state goes by the name Doctor Doom. The U.S. government has scary giant, purple robots flying around to "protect" the public from mutants. That any sane person does not live in a state of abject terror over all of this requires incredible powers of denial, a fact which has been lampshaded on many occasions.
- Amusingly lampshaded during an Avengers/JLA crossover when some of the Marvel heroes arrive on the DC Earth and, after thwarting some criminals, are so stunned by people admiring and respecting superheroes that they're sure the JLA must have the entire population under some sort of dictatorial control.
- Groups like the Friends of Humanity in the X-Men books believe this trope. While they're normal, they thrive on fear of mutants.
- Paperinik New Adventures plays with it by making it true for the main villains, the Evronians:
- Trauma, an Evronian general that was changed into a Super Soldier and was later imprisoned in the prison world known as The Well (because you can't get out, but the Evronians will draw you out if they need you) for various insubordinations and outright mutiny justified by his superiority;
- Raghor, a Super Soldier of a different breed (created in lab from Evronian DNA hybridized with that of the 'beasts of Ranghar'), who, like Trauma, commits various insubordinations and outright mutiny. But where Trauma was implied doing what he believed best for Evron, Rahor plans the genocide of the baseline Evrons and their replacement with the supposedly superior hybrids. Most of the hybrids are subdued when their imprisoned handlers break out from prison and activate a device that enforce their obedience (they had installed it after the initial mutiny, and failed to use it before being imprisoned only because caught by surprise), while Raghor escapes execution only because a pissed Xadhoom gets him first;
- Another super soldier, this time a cyborg, who committed unspecified crimes. Showing that the Evronians were Genre Savvy enough to expect this, they immediately subdued him by activating his off switch and shipping him to The Well;
- Xadhoom, an alien scientist who became a Physical Goddess whose vendetta against Evron and the fact she's pretty much invincible made her the primary cause for Evronian horribly painful deaths, to the point that in her final appearance in body (in the same issue the Evronian Empire was broken by the loss of a good chunk of its population and pretty much all its rulers), three Evronian battlefleets barely slowed her down while she was PLAYING with them;
- Zoster, an Evronian survivor. After Xadhoom became a star to save the survivors of her people, he managed to steal a recording of her mind and was told how to get her Power (with capital P in the original), and, as soon as he successfully did it, he threatened the whole universe of destruction if they didn't submit. Thankfully, Xadhoom created the recording exactly for this occasion, and the recording not only didn't tell him that the Power contains the seed of its own destruction, but was gloating as he dissolved into nothingness.
- In All Fall Down, Siphon is arrested for involuntary manslaughter, and held in suspicion by a portion of the public throughout her career.
- In Animal Man Grant Morrison did a potshot at the 80s with Overman, a Superman from an alternate Earth where all heroes were created by the government. Overman contracted an STD and went insane, murdering just about every hero who tried to stop him before deciding to commit suicide and destroy the world at the same time with a nuke. Psycho Pirate provides commentary on what a completely stupid idea Overman's world was and wondered who could've come up with it in the first place, or rather, why.
- Red Hood and the Outlaws: Jason has a respect for Superman as much as a surfer has for sharks. After having worked beside him after all those years ago has more or less taught him to be Properly Paranoid the second that the Kyptonian gets involved.
- Ironically the latest incident turned out to be a complete screw-up as Superman was trying to warn him and his friends about H'el, complete with his then girlfriend calling everyone involved an idiot for attacking without bothering to hear Superman out first.
- The DC New 52 reboot has most governments mistrustful of superheroes by default, Superman included. The Justice League Of America 2013 was spun out for this explicit reason - they wanted a team under their direct control.
- Pretty much all of America is afraid of Aquaman and Atlanteans after Throne Of Atlantis. What was "lol talking to fish is stupid", just got turned into "These guys could sink us all!"
- Empowered kind of invokes this; most superheroes are media-attention-craving jerkasses and most supervillains seem to be Silver Age in their antics. However, there is a strong anti-superhuman sentiment because of the attitudes of the "Capes", good and evil, and this is a very dangerous attitude to hold. The heroes won't normally try anything against an anti-Capeist, but if pushed, they will push back. One oft-talked about background incident is San Antonio, where an anti-Cape conspiracy actually went on a Cape-killing spree. Capes from both sides of the ethical divide promptly retaliated; we don't know all the details, but we do know that even heroes didn't hesitate to kill the conspiracy members, and somehow it ended with the entire city being swallowed up by an erupting volcano. We know of exactly one surviving anti-Cape from that day: Empowered's boyfriend, ThugBoy.
- DC Comics has The Spectre, who is a murderous Pay Evil unto Evil-preaching Reality Warper with a self-proclaimed Omniscient Morality License. Even when he's bound to a human soul, which is supposed to put some restraints on him, he can be incredibly destructive. As in, wiping out two entire countries down to the last newborn child destructive.
- Since the Spectre is literally the Wrath of God incarnate, his Omniscient Morality License is not really "self-proclaimed". This, of course, may only make him even more terrifying, when it hits you that God Himself is behind him, and that Spectre (at full power, which he isn't always at) is as close to genuinely omnipotent as is possible for anyone who isn't God to be. And the Spectre sometimes doesn't even want to do some of the things he does, but he's compelled to because that's his job. The Spectre is far, far more than superhuman, and even calling him a Force of Nature wouldn't do him justice. If The Spectre is after you, there may be nothing in the multiverse that will stop him; also, since he usually targets bad or wicked people, it can also mean that you will probably be going to Hell after he's conjured up a supernatural Cruel and Unusual Death to gruesomely kill you off. Have a nice day.
- In The Nail, there is no Superman...so there is no moral lighthouse for the rest of the world to trust in metahumans...causing them to Beware the Superman that is the Justice League. Funny how things work out, huh?
- In Star Wars, especially the Expanded Universe this is the reason why falling to the Dark Side is so terrible. Even a single one of the weakest of Dark Jedi and Sith are powerful enough to kill small armies singlehandedly, while some of the most powerful can KILL ENTIRE PLANETS, as well as raise armies out of similar minded individuals. Just one Force User going Dark Side is enough to cause Galaxy wide chaos.
- Even Jedi who haven't turned to the Darkside can often get this treatment from certain writers.
- This was one of the central arguments David Brin had against the world of Star Wars, arguing George Lucas's universe was based on a depraved Might Makes Right morality where Muggles had no role aside from spear carriers for a small, genetically elect elite.
- This is the motivation behind the Headmaster of Praetorian Academy in PS238. He doesn't trust metahumanity (not unreasonably given one of his major political opponents was a telepath who manipulated his way into the US Presidency) and thinks the world is on track for a Goo Goo Godlike scenario - and what happens when the first true Reality Warper child has a temper tantrum? There's also an element of this in the United States government keeping a supply of argonite, the kryptonite analogue that can stop Atlas, the local Captain Ersatz of Superman. Except it turns out the government manufactured the argonite as an all-purpose Flying Brick disabler, and his homeworld of Argos was never destroyed. But Argos is ruled by a repressive Fantastic Caste System where those with superpowers treat those without like garbage.
- In most of the stories and novels based on the popular Magic: The Gathering card game, the characters that you play the game as (powerful wizards and demigods who summon assorted fantasy creatures to fight for them in epic battles) are actively despised by the general populace. This is because they have the annoying tendency to summon people who are just sitting at home, minding their own business with their friends and family, into huge magical battles where they could easily be killed or crippled. Several stories detail the suffering the family members of summoned creatures have to endure when their loved ones are returned dead or crippled.
- A particular quote that sums it up after Freyalise has broken the Ice Age without concern for what the sudden climatic shift would do to the world at large:
Archmage Jodah: [Sharing the world with planeswalkers] is like sharing your bed with a mammoth. Sure, it may be a nice mammoth, but when it rolls over, you'd still better get out of its way fast.
- A major theme in Frank Herbert's Dune novels, many of the protagonists are powerful God Emperors who act like genocidal tyrants for the good of mankind.
- This is explored with a science-fiction twist in Nancy Kress's Beggars in Spain trilogy.
- This is how most non-powered individuals think of "freaks" in Those Who Walk in Darkness—whenever superpowered vigilantes appear, superpowered criminals try to earn prestige by killing them, and every couple weeks a few more innocent people get killed in the crossfire. So after one villain blew up San Francisco, the USA forcibly expelled all known supers, regardless of whether or not they were actually vigilantes, and any new ones that are discovered are either slaughtered or experimented on. Beware the muggles too!
- Ironically, Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster, the men who would go on to create Superman himself, originally wrote and illustrated a short story called The Reign of the Super-Man about an impoverished worker who gained super powers and tried to take over the world, only to find that the powers were temporary. They wrote the story for a science fiction magazine and later retooled the character as a superhero.
- In Hard Magic, Part of the Imperium's plan for taking over the world is to sow distrust of Actives in the United States, by framing them for a Peace Ray attack.
- Averted in most of J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium precisely because the good guys (the Valar, the loyalist Maiar, those Elves and Men who pay attention to them) recognize the fundamental truth that no matter how much power they might possess in their relative scale, they are not God. Thus Gandalf and his fellow Wizards, angelic messengers sent by the Valar to contest with Sauron, are specifically ordered to use persuasion and example, not force, to rally Elves and Men against the demonic Sauron. They use their vast powers only in extreme situations, where nothing else will do. Likewise, the Valar tend to leave Elves and Men to their own devices most of the time, since swaying them by force or fear does more harm than whatever harm they set out to prevent.
- In the Honor Harrington series, Earth's devastating Final War was fought by Super Soldiers with intelligence boosts that all too frequently had the side-effect of increased aggression and sociopathic tendencies. This is the main reason for Luddism and prejudice against genetic engineering. The Harrington family's Meyerdahl Beta line is one of the few successful lines to boost intelligence without creating amoral monsters, but even Honor is aware that her own killer instinct may be linked to it. It's worth noting also that the Winton family line are genies who probably have intelligence boosts, and Elizabeth is infamous for a volcanic and implacable temper.
- And it's continuing now with the Mesan Alignment, who believe in the superiority of those who have been genetically engineered over normals, and are trying to take over the galaxy.
- In the original novel of Carrie, it's implied that this is likely to happen in the future after the "Black Prom" made people aware of the existence of Psychic Powers. Government agents would be forced to round up and execute children the moment they display a hint of psychic ability, so as to eliminate the off chance that they may snap and use their powers to kill people and destroy towns like Carrie did. The possibility is also raised that some parents would resist having their children taken away, which, combined with the last page's discussion of little Annie Jenks, means that another disaster is still in the cards...
- Revealed to be the actual purpose of the White Council of Wizards in The Dresden Files. Sure, they occasionally stomp some mean mudder-hubbers from outside reality, but their main purpose is to prevent wizards from gathering too much power and going postal.
- Philip K Dick wrote his story The Golden Man as a reaction to stories such as Slan that starred superpowered and benevolent "mutants" that were often persecuted by the rest of humanity. In his own words:
In the early Fifties much American science fiction dealt with human mutants and their glorious super-powers and super-faculties by which they would presently lead mankind to a higher state of existence, a sort of promised land. John W. Campbell. Jr., editor at Analog,
demanded that the stories he bought dealt with such wonderful mutants, and he also insisted that the mutants always be shown as (1) good; and (2) firmly in charge. When I wrote "The Golden Man" I intended to show that (1) the mutant might not be good, at least good for the rest of mankind, for us ordinaries; and (2) not in charge but sniping at us as a bandit would, a feral mutant who potentially would do us more harm than good. This was specifically the view of psionic mutants that Campbell loathed, and the theme in fiction that he refused to publish… so my story appeared in If.
- Steelheart, an Expy of Superman, takes over Chicago in The Reckoners Trilogy, turning it into a totalitarian dictatorship where Epics rule and unpowered people live in constant fear. That said, Steelheart provides an area of relative stability with conviniences such as food and electricity compared to the rest of the United States, which has been torn apart by the constant fighting between Epics.
- Note that the use of superpowers, for any reason, turns the wielder into an evil psychopath, no matter how moral they might have been before.
- Invoked in Murderess: the man in Lu’s dreams quotes a prophecy saying that his and his wife’s daughter will either save the world or destroy it. The daughter is actually Lu.
- This is what everyone thinks of the Lost Radiants in The Stormlight Archive. They were super-powered knights dedicated to protecting the world from demons who one day turned on humanity as a whole. The actual story is a little more complicated: They learned a dark secret and...left. Just dropped their weapons and armor and left. A religious dictatorship called the Hierarchy heavily altered most records of the time to fit with their version of history, which means most people have difficulty thinking of anyone with powers as anything but a danger.
- Though we discover in the second book that it's a little more complicated than just "dropped their weapons and armor and left." Breaking their Oaths like that partially killed their Bond Creatures, leaving those creatures stuck in endless agony so severe that even a few seconds exposure to the pain is enough to drive men crazy. Entire species were wiped out this way.
Live Action TV
- KMFDM's 'Son of a Gun' is, at least on the surface, a song about a jerk-ass superman with a dollar sign on his chest.
- Forged from steel, iron will / Shit for brains, born to kill / All are equal, no discrimination / Son of a Gun, a simple equation / Son of a gun, master of fate / Bows to no god, kingdom or state / Watch out! Son of a Gun, superhero number one!
- Spiritus Mortis' 'The Man of Steel'
- Ultimate in body and soul/Every cell hard as diamond/Every thought crystal clear/Unbending,Unbreakable... /...March with the man of steel/Rejoice with the man of steel/Die for the man of steel/Obey every command given by the man of steel
- The superhero RPG Aberrant details the sudden emergence of superpowered humans in 1998; however, Aberrant came as a prequel to the futuristic sci-fi RPG Trinity, which reveals that many of the superhumans (named "aberrants" in the far future) became tainted by their powers, went mad, declared war on Earth, and caused all manners of destruction before taking off for the vast reaches of space. There are some sane "aberrants," but most of them went crazy nuts. Part of the drama of Aberrant comes from either trying to escape the fate of the future aberrants, or making sure it never comes to pass.
- A curious little detail of the Aberrant setting is that its most powerful "hero", Caestus Pax, is a publicity-obsessed jerk, while its most powerful "villain", Divis Mal, is a nice guy, even to the baselines he believes are lesser beings. (He's a megalomaniac, but he won't hurt you unless you're dumb enough to attack him.)
- In practice, this trope gets zigzagged, since it turns out what ultimately provokes the novas into starting the Aberrant War is the reveal that Project Utopia, the ostensible Big Good for baseline/nova peace, was secretly sterilizing all of its nova recruits to ensure their numbers would stay manageable. This is especially a case of Nice Job Breaking It, Hero when you learn that Project Utopia was started by a timetraveller for the purpose of preventing the Aberrant War in the first place. So, the Aberrant War is less a case of Beware the Superman and more a case of Don't Deliberately Manipulate & Betray The Superman.
- Exalted has the Great Curse, an infliction launched by the Primordials after being defeated by the Exalted that drives Solars and Lunars to states of ever-mounting insanity once they start to defy their core virtues. The books make clear that, for all the shiny transhuman fantasy of the First Age, it could also be a very scary time to live in if you were a mere mortal.
- To put this in perspective: In Dreams of the First Age, it is revealed that there was a political movement in the Solar Deliberative to literally dismantle the universe and reshape it to their specifications. What's more, they had more than enough power to pull this off. Imagine three hundred beings with all that power and confidence, in absolute control of the world...and slowly but surely going completely crazy.
- On the other hand, Exalted also features the Alchemical Exalted, who were created after the Great Curse was cast and thus aren't subject to the same bouts of insanity as the other Exalted. The Alchemicals are often explicitly compared to traditional modern superheroes in contrast to the Solars and others who bear more resemblance to the heroes and god-kings of mythology.
- In case you didn't notice the theme in White Wolf's other works, the Old World of Darkness often hints at these matters. The werewolves might be necessary to keep the universe's fundamental aspects of law, chaos, and corruption in order, the mages might be the last chance humanity has for real inspiration and survival After the End, but there's a reason Hunters want to take them down. At best, creatures of the Old World of Darkness are a slow, unavoidable slide down the slippery slope toward the complete destruction of their virtues into complete insanity, and not particularly disposed to think of people as people until then. At worst...
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Garou are dealing with the far-reaching consequences of their ancestors' cruelty and arrogance. The Garou of ancient times declared themselves masters over humans, then decided to cull the human population through the Impergium. The Impergium afflicted humanity with the Delirium and made it dangerous for Garou to reveal themselves to non-kinfolk humans, driving them underground. Unfortunately, if the tribebooks are anything to go by, many Garou still haven't learned from the mistakes of their predecessors.
- In Vampire: The Masquerade, Caine and the other ancient vampires ruled over humans in the First City, which wasn't exactly an urban paradise for their human subjects. Several Gehenna scenarios place humanity at the mercy of powerful antedeluvian vampires.
- Then we get the New World of Darkness. Here things are more or less as before, but without the same drive to The End of the World as We Know It. Half of any given race is on the high road, and the other half give the race a bad name.
- Unknown Armies, especially the adepts. The bibliomancer will sell your soul for a good book. The dipsomancer is drunk, and it might not be best to be within a few hundred miles should he get his hands on a major charge. The most powerful supernatural beings on the planet are a self-mutilating hermaphrodite, and a man that's best described as simultaneously being the greatest saint and worst monster humanity has ever approached. There are 'good' guys, but they're the magic-users throwing Mana into hamburger patties and seeing what happens.
- In Thrill Me, Richard and (to a lesser extent) Nathan both want to be seen this way. They're heavily influenced by Nietzsche, and their murder motive can basically be explained as, "We're superior to all of you, so why should your rules apply to us?"
- City of Heroes has a few examples of playing with this trope. First off is an enemy group called the Malta Group, who are zealously dedicated to making sure this DOES NOT HAPPEN in a world with literally millions of meta-beings. Trouble is, their methods routinely cross the Moral Event Horizon - but what do you expect from a conspiracy of members of various western intelligence agencies, who were unhappy that they could no longer simply draft metas to do their dirty work? Then there's a small-scale example with the Rogue Isles, setting of the expansion "City of Villains", where a country of islands is ruled by super-villains. The only thing that prevents them from taking over the world is endless in-fighting and Status Quo Is God. And finally, the most triumphant in-game example is the alternate universe Praetoria, which was fleshed out in the "Going Rogue" expansion. There, alternate versions of the game's signature heroes rose to power by saving their doomed world and now rule what little is left with an iron fist.
- Pretty much why half the Final Fantasy baddies go bad.
- Happens in Freedom Force. Time Master rebels against his mortality by trying to destroy time.
- The story line of Injustice: Gods Among Us revolves around Superman installing himself as the ruler of Earth after The Joker and Harley Quinn destroy Metropolis and murder Lois Lane. Driving this home, the resistance is headed by the Badass Normal Batman and most of the heroes with Superpowers are with Superman.
- In Mass Effect 3, the Extended Cut version of the Control Ending has shades of this, particularly with Renegade Shepard. While the Reapers are no longer harvesting worlds, they've being controlled by an AI with the same morals and ethics as Shepard. While Paragon Shepard vows to serve as a benevolent guardian and guide into the future, spreading hope and peace, Renegade Shepard vows to rule over the weak with strength, seek out and correct the mistakes of the past... and destroy anyone who threatens the peace.
- In Dragon Age, this is the Tevinter Imperium to the rest of Thedas. Due to their destructive actions supposedly leading to The Maker shunning mankind and the creation of the Darkspawn, the rest of the Mages in Thedas are forced to enter the Circle, due to the overwhelming fear of what they would do if they were free and left to their own devices.
- Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords runs a lot with this trope, as part of its Deconstructor Fleet towards all things Star Wars. The galaxy is in ruins after what's been called "The Jedi Civil War," with trillions of casualties across hundreds of planets. Many of the NPCs the Exile encounters neither know nor care about the difference between Jedi and Sith. (As one party member puts it, "Just men and women fighting about religion while the galaxy burns") Kreia points out that the Republic and the Empire themselves are little more than proxies for the Force Users' never-ending religious warfare, and the Exile is her means to try and stop it all by destroying the Force itself.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic doesn't go as far as that second game, but the Force Users are still at their religious war, and doing horrible things to one another and the galaxy with trillions killed in the crossfire. The Sith Emperor takes the cake, however. As the most powerful known Force User of that era, both immortal and immoral, he has orchestrated centuries of warfare, including the current conflict and even the protagonists of those last two games, to further his goal of being the only living thing in the galaxy!
- On close inspection, Girl Genius probably fits this. While Sparks are not explicitly superheroes, they are certainly more physically imposing than your average human, and high-level ones can go toe-to-toe with any gadgeteer. The negative impact on the world is much less arguable; Baron Klaus Wulfenbach is forced to maintain a despotic empire just to keep society from collapsing whenever some Spark decides to get uppity. The Other has come close to achieving The End of the World as We Know It at least once, and Othar's quest to wipe out all the world's Sparks is painted as hopeless and misguided.
- In Errant Story, the elves decided breeding with the humans was a good idea because of the birthrate being much higher than elf-elf matings, and also to "uplift" humanity. Only half-elves tend to be a lot stronger magically than humans, and many also have either birth defects or a predisposition towards madness. After a lengthy civil war, only one elven city and one quarter of the population remained.
- The protagonists of Keychain of Creation are certainly Good, but as Exalted (see above), are very aware of their superiority, and the bad guys are even worse.
- In Project Auberdem, US government brainwashes a Nazi superhuman with Superman-esque abilities into becoming Premium, America's greatest hero. This worked well enough until a time-traveling villain restored his memories and all the world's heroes realized just how lucky they were to have him in their side.
- Mountain Time's Surf Rat, though a powerful force against evil, is strongly implied to amass lots of collateral damage. For example...
- In To Prevent World Peace, Chronos predicts that at some point—-if they are not stopped—-the Magical Girls will kill all the villains and decide to conquer the world, for its own good, of course. It’s thankfully averted when Chronos shows Kendra her visions, thus ridding this revolution of its future leader. This trope has already happened on a much smaller scale in Brazil, where magical girls led the creation of a separate country, Terra de Liberdade e Mágic, built around their magical system. Word of God claims that the world revolution is bound to happen sooner or later, because magical girls become more aware of their power and less content with the social pressure to let things go once they reach adulthood. It’s up to the heroes whether these changes will be peaceful or bloody.
- In the Dungeons & Dragons webcomic Our Little Adventure, there doesn't seem to be that many high levelled people living on Manjulias. Those who are powerful end up in leadership positions, good or evil. Brian and Angelo are high levelled spellcasters, and though those who serve them regard them as a boon to their race, others are terrified of them and all their followers.
- In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, Pakistan, Chile, Cuba, Bermuda, and Viet Nam were all taken over by dictatorial super-villains (or in Chile's case, a team of dictatorial supervillains). This is slightly inverted in the case of Bermuda, where (despite being ruled by a crazed madman) the standard of living actually improved since the takeover.
- In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Doctor Horrible's nemesis Captain Hammer is an anti-intellectual ass who shoves the people he rescues into garbage and whose only use for women is sex. A prequel comic has Dr. Horrible get a sample of Hammer's DNA to create a Super Serum to give himself Hammer's Super Strength, claiming that his superior intellect will give him an edge. Unfortunately, a side effect of the serum is that Horrible's intellect drops to Hammer's level, turning the fight into a slugfest without a clear winner.
- In Destine Enormity, the superpowered villains rule Arcadia with an iron fist and force the Normals to live in the Slums.
- Shades of this occur in Worm. In a setting where superpowers emerge after a Trigger Event, it's been stated that there are more Super Villains than heroes, and even the heroes aren't always what they claim to be.
- Whateley Universe: The Dark Phoenix series of simulations, which pit one supposedly insane teammate against the others, is intended to drive home this point to would-be heroes. Unfortunately, even this is a watered-down version of the potential threats, especially from Tennyo.
- When Stygian, intent on Suicide by Cop, confronts Tennyo with the (literal) ghosts of the Star Stalker's past, she is horrified to learn the the being she's bound to has destroyed entire star systems as casually as one might swat a fly - over her eight billion year existence, whole galaxies have fallen to the Destroyer, and the only emotion she seems to have experienced was a mild frustration. Rather than driving her into a murderous rage, Billie goes catatonic. She still doesn't know the full truth, however: that the Star Stalker's primary purpose was to destroy the entire multiverse in case the Great Old Ones couldn't be stopped by any other means.
- Debates over transhumanism and genetic modification occasionally bring this up, the concern being that, someday, the rich would be able to buy their way into becoming physically and intellectually superior to the masses (on top of the social and economic advantages they already have), leading to a society that is even more stratified than our own.
- Surprisingly, some experiments and studies indicate that this trope would actually be either averted in Real Life or depend heavily on what kind of powers the person gets. People who simulated being a Flying Brick in the vein of Superman were found to act more benevolent and polite to the researchers, as if the very thought of being like Superman caused them to feel the need to be altruistic. Ironically when offered powers on the opposite end of the spectrum like invisibility or mind reading, most refused the idea out of explicit fear that this trope would come into effect; one man, when offered flight or invisibility, chose invisibility only to than change his answer after some thinking. He expressed the fear that being invisible would tempt him to indulge in morally dodgy behavior.