Dented Iron

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All of those little scrapes and bruises have a way of really adding up.

What happens when you get enough injuries, even if you appear to be Made of Iron. Usually showcased by having a Made of Iron hero trudge into their headquarters after an action scene (one that more often than not establishes how much punishment the hero can give and receive) only to have them shuffle off their uniform and reveal the various injuries and strain on their joints that a life of adventure would realistically lead to. Typically done to show the hero even more of a Determinator than first thought since they're still out doing what they do despite looking like they should be in a hospital.

Often the fate for a hero who pushes himself into Heroic R.R.O.D. mode on a regular basis.

See also Scar Survey, Perilous Old Fool.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • One Piece:
    • Whitebeard. He's still the strongest pirate in the world at the time of the series, but his age has caught up with him. Despite how much ass he kicks during the Battle of Marineford, it's acknowledged that he's not as good as he was during his prime. Which is why he dies. He was stabbed 267 times (including being impaled on a giant sword), shot 562 times, hit with 46 cannonballs, and pierced by lasers along with having half his face melted off. 20 years earlier, that still wouldn't have been enough to kill him. Special mention goes to the fact, however, that, despite his front side getting absolutely obliterated, his back, even all these years, is completely spotlessnote , owing to the fact that he never ran from a fight.
    • For a non-human example, we have Zunesha the elephant. It has lived for over a millennium and has carried the Mokomo Dukedom on its back for almost that long, but such a long lifespan took its toll on its body. Strong as it remains, its body has become a lot more fragile and not very durable.
  • This is the primary reason the original heroes of Kinnikuman, especially Kinnikuman himself, had to step aside for the younger generation in Ultimate Muscle.
  • This trope is brought up in the third and final arc of Rurouni Kenshin. In the epilogue that takes place five years later, it's gotten so bad that Kenshin has to give up his signature sword style due to the strain it put on him, despite only being in his 30s, because his frame was lighter than what his Hiten Mitsurugi style was designed for. (And unlike his teacher, and despite said teacher's warnings, Kenshin was never into that whole weight-lifting thing.).
  • Invoked during the course of the Blame! manga with the main protagonist, Killy, who endures many physical hardships during his journey. By the final chapters, his otherwise indestructible body is literally falling apart.
  • At the end of Guilty Crown, Shu ends up blind and with a bionic arm to replace the one Gai sliced off.
  • Underneath his flowing red trench coat, Vash the Stampede of Trigun hides a body covered with scars and stitches. Despite his absurd luck and reflexes allowing him to avoid and overcome an endless stream of bounty hunters gunning for him, his adherence to not killing means he's suffered at the hands of his more persistent opponents.
  • While Guts of Berserk is practically a One-Man Army, he never makes it through a fight unscathed. Over the course of the series he loses a hand and an eye, while his body becomes riddled with scars. Eventually he's forced to wear magic armour at all times to prevent a mystical wound from killing him, taking it off only to have his day-to-day injuries treated.
    • It gets to the point that his body is so scarred that he can't sweat any more and to make matters worse the mystic armour robs him of life the more he uses it, steadily bleaching his hair, making it so he can't see colour or taste things and implied to eventually lead him to be a literal walking corpse like the Skull Knight.
  • Mr. Chi/The Great Zuma in Tiger Mask: while his skills were top notch, his old age made him physically weaker and less tough than the other wrestlers, allowing Tiger Mask to ultimately defeat him. When Mr. Chi's condition is revealed, Tiger Mask is the first to recognize that he would have lost badly against him in his prime.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman whenever they show him in old age (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman Beyond, Kingdom Come, etc). Many times he starts relying on Powered Armor to compensate, which has its ups and downs (it's just as likely to injure him from use as a bad guy). Knight Fall has him overstrained by a breakout at Arkham and eventually crippled by Bane, which took him a year to recover from. Even in his older characterization (multiple Robins, involved with the Justice League) it's mentioned that the next injury he has will likely put him out of commission.
  • Jason Aaron's 2010 - 2012 run on The Punisher MAX explored the physical and emotional toll that 30+ years of crime fighting had had on the then-60 year old Frank. While still a nigh-unstoppable killing machine, as he's battered by more and more challenges, his condition gets more and more dire, finally resulting in his death.
  • The Dead Man arc in Judge Dredd showed that, horrific burns aside, Dredd has a lot of scars from bullets.
  • Shows up from time to time in Astro City, typically after a Badass Normal superhero has had a particularly tough fight.

     Fan Works 
  • A Crown Of Stars: Shinji and Asuka went through a medical check-up the second day they were in Avalon, and the doc was distressed by what she found. Both of them had signs of malnutrition, nerve damage in several areas, numerous signs of emotional and mental trauma, and assortment of old injuries and scars (Asuka still bore the marks from her fight with the MP Eva's and was nursing a recently healed gunshot wound to the gut, while Shinji had several broken ribs, a broken arm, and a hairline skull fracture from when Winthrop and his goons nearly beat him to death 3 years ago).
  • While Ganondorf managed to survive being stabbed in chest in Tangled In Time, he still suffers a lot of pain from it as it does not heal and has to take blue potions constantly to deal with it. Along with the loss of the Triforce of Power, Ganondorf is less powerful than he was in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
  • In Fallout: Equestria this is part of the reason why Littlepip decides to stay in the SPP at the end. After being repeatedly shot, stabbed, blown up, irradiated, and mutated she was just too broken both physically and emotionally.
  • Godzilla Junior in The Bridge has a Healing Factor that makes the old wounds he's accumulated as his world's lead protector very hard to see. However when he's depleted of most of his power following the battle to save Canterlot and requires about a week to recharge, they all become much more obvious and he's Covered in Scars.
  • Bucky Barnes in Ain't No Grave is still a One-Man Army, but seventy years having his brain zapped by HYDRA have left the former Winter Soldier with a host of neurological complications, ranging from an off-and-on stutter to full-blown seizures.

    Film 
  • A theme present in all Rocky films, Rocky Balboa even has Duke run down a laundry list of Rocky's injuries, and why he has to train for pure power.
  • James Bond:
    • In the aged version, the unofficial movie Never Say Never Again has a doctor declaring that most of Bond's skin is scar tissue.
    • The effectiveness of the aging Bond, M, Mallory, MI6, Skyfall Manor and Britain itself are all questioned in Skyfall, only for all of them to prove to be considerably tougher than they look.
  • One of the better moments of the Daredevil film has the titular hero shambling into his apartment after a relatively tame night of crimefighting, taking off his costume, tending to a battery of scars and bruises and popping an absurd amount of pain pills just so he can get some sleep.
  • Batman Begins has Alfred note that those injuries will add up over time and suggests talking about extreme sports to explain them away. The Dark Knight has a Shirtless Scene showing multiple lacerations and bruises on his back. This comes to a head in The Dark Knight Rises though not as much from aging as from injury and inactivity. The knee that he hurt in the fall at the end of the previous film never healed properly and he, at first, used a cane to get around. When visiting a doctor a startling list of injuries and damage is given, least of which is that the cartilage in his knees is destroyed. Defying recommendations from Alfred, he tries getting back into fighting shape using a bionic brace on his knee, but it's repeatedly mentioned he is off his game and out of practice.
  • Tim in Jurassic Park repeatedly survives what grown adults would be lucky to survive, but because of this, he has a limp, his hair is singed, one of his ears is bleeding, his arm is bandaged up, and he generally looks dazed. In his brief appearance in the sequel, he still has a bit of a limp, the poor kid. Also, according to this Character Blog, he's also severely, hilariously, traumatised.
  • The "Guardian" Terminator in Terminator Genisys shows signs of malfunction and disrepair after spending 30+ years looking after Sarah Connor. Even a Terminator can't last forever, especially in a time that doesn't have the technology to properly repair him. His joints actually stop working for a few seconds at a couple points in the movie. He's old...but not obsolete.

    Literature 
  • Evoked in one Redwall book with Lord Asheye, a Badger Lord who fought a great deal when he was younger and is now always aching because of his many, many scars.
  • Very much a running theme in The Acts of Caine series with Hari/Caine.
  • Zig-Zagged in The Dresden Files, where Harry notes that the amount of punishment he's taken over the years would give him the health problems of a football player. But, as a wizard, he heals perfectly over time, without scar tissue or the aftereffects of broken bones. That said, it still takes him a normal time to heal from his wounds. Such as when he had severe second-degree burns on his hand, it took several years for it to get back into his old range of movements without pain or stiffness.
    • In Cold Days, it's revealed that Mab grants her Winter Knight a higher pain threshold without necessarily a corresponding increase in durability. He's able to get back up when he wouldn't otherwise, but he'll be weakened after the battle without even realizing it. Mab gets all the power of an unstoppable juggernaut at less cost in effort than needed to control a weaker man, because he'll so frequently need her ministrations. That said, it is offhandedly mentioned that Harry's ability to heal is greatly increased, which makes sense. Pain or no pain, when the body can't move it just can't, so making your hit-man able to be in top condition faster than his opponents is a good idea.
  • Geralt of The Witcher series is in a profession where he is constantly at risk of getting slashed by both monster claws and man-made steel alike. While he's pretty much considered the best witcher that has ever lived, all those years on the job have really left their marks on his body.
  • Tortall Universe:
    • Alanna complains of this in the Protector of the Small books. Even her ability to heal herself with magic hasn't stopped numerous aches and pains from getting battered in armor for fifteen years.
    • Although Mattes Tunstall is one of the most famous Dogs in the Provost's Dog books, he's been in far too many fights and brawls over the years. He gets both legs broken in Bloodhound and spends the rest of the book laid up because his body is resistant to healing magic now.
  • The protagonist of A Harvest Of War has numerous scars to show for her violent, long life and mentions being in constant pain. Her ankle strength is a distinct problem.
  • Druss in Legend is pretty much scar tissue wrapped around the early stages of arthritis and pressed into the shape of a man. He gets plenty of advice on managing it and ignores every last bit, because he's 100% sure he's going to die soon anyway, so his body failing faster isn't going to be a problem.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Whenever a Police Procedural does an episode involving contact sports, there's a good chance that this trope will arise, probably because someone is covering up the fact that a celebrity player is dented iron and shouldn't be competing at all.
  • On a gymnastics-themed Bones episode:
    Boothe: Can you explain why your daughter showed signs of abuse?
    Professor Watters: Amanda was a gymnast, nationally ranked.
    Brennan: Gymnastics could definitely explain the damage to her bones.
  • On Vikings Ragnar is a badass Viking leader who fought in numerous battles and made himself the king of Denmark. In season 3 he leads a Viking army against Paris where during an assault on the city he is pushed off a city wall ans suffers grievous internal injuries. He still manages to pretty much single handily conquer the city. In season 4 we are shown the toll this has taken on him. It takes months for him to heal from his injuries and once healed he is noticeably weaker and less energetic than before. He quickly becomes addicted to the medieval equivalent of painkillers which makes him even more withdrawn and erratic. While still a badass, he is severely diminished both physically and mentally.

    Music 
  • Paul Simon's "The Boxer".
    In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade,
    And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down,
    Or cut him 'til he cried out in his anger and his shame,
    "I am leaving, I am leaving."
    But the fighter still remains.
    • Similarly, John Gorka's "Dream Street."
    They never leave the ring before it's too late
    They never seem to quit in their prime
    I guess it's taken as a given that a champion is driven
    So he can always win one more fight.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • One of Harley Race's goals with World League Wrestling was to reduce this, High Spots having quoted him saying that if he had wrestled in a ring like the one his own promotion uses, he would not have had to retire from wrestling when he did.
  • One heartbreaking real-life version of this was the case of pro-wrestler Chris Benoit. After his death, studies showed that his brain had significant degradation, and certain proteins that are most commonly found in elderly Alzheimer's patients. He also wasn't helped by nagging neck injuries and he had been suffering from severe emotional stress since the death of best friend Eddie Guerrero (among others).
  • The Undertaker is the same way. Scarily so in fact, because he has been wrestling for nearly 30 years and he can still go toe-to-toe with the younger guys. In a great bit of kayfabe exposition, John Cena once described The Undertaker as the only wrestler who intimidates him.

    Seeing the Undertaker actually wrestle is increasingly uncommon; due to the many injuries that have piled up over his long career he works a much shorter schedule than most WWE performers. In fact by the early 2010s he worked once, a year at WrestleMania. His appearances started to go up again during 2015, leading many to speculate that his retirement is imminent and that this is his "farewell tour" so to speak.
  • You'll notice that during Bret Hart's brief run in 2010 he didn't do any actual wrestling moves. He can't. He's taken so many concussions of such severity that he is medically banned from wrestling, lifting weights, or flying in planes. He also suffered a stroke in the early 2000s.
  • Mick Foley is another prime example. Never the most physically intimidating specimen, he was more than willing to go through the most hardcore matches imaginable. The toll those early years took on him are evident to this day, and he once described a trip to the doctor: "He told me that I'm in my thirties, but I have the skeleton of an eighty-year-old." He is so bad now that he can't even tie his own shoes.
  • Played for Laughs with Perry Saturn in 2001. The story was that he had suffered so many blows to the head that he was now a Cloudcuckoolander that ordered crayons with mustard at restaurants and dated a mop. This was punishment for shooting on a jobber on a syndicated show.
  • There's a reason Shimmer's second champion, MsChif, wrestled in a pair of DonJoys. Years of Gateway's signature Light Heavyweight Fatal Four Ways had done her legs few favors and that extra support let her tough out two years as champion of Shimmer and the NWA World Women's division.
  • Daffney Unger retired from active competition due to various injuries, including multiple concussions and a crushed sternum. She ended up suing TNA for repeatedly booking her in matches where she had to take extreme bumps even when she protested, and for refusing to cover her hospital bills. The case was settled out of court, but she has said she will likely never wrestle again.
  • Edge had to retire due to multiple injuries, particularly chronic neck injuries. It got to a point where simply working a match would be risking his mobility, if not his life.
  • Dynamite Kid is in pretty bad shape even for an ex-wrestler. His pioneering high flying style, coupled with years of drug and steroid abuse, took an incredible toll on his body, leaving his left leg paralyzed and confining him to a wheelchair.
  • Daniel Bryan wrestled his final match in May 2015 and after continuously being refused clearance to wrestle from WWE's doctors, he announced his retirement in February 2016 due to the multiple concussions he has sustained over time (after just a few months in the business, he already had three concussions), thankfully preventing another Benoit-case from happening.
  • After just two years of using her Rack Attack finisher, Nikki Bella of the Bella Twins required surgery for neck and back problems and was urged to pick a different finisher or else she'll just keep damaging them. Even if she does fully recover, her doctors have determined that she can never make a full-time return to the ring.
  • Like Edge above, Sting was forced to retire after sustaining neck injuries during his final match, which revealed that he also had cervical spinal stenosis.
  • Hulk Hogan's leg drop has caused significant damage to his knees and spine over the years, not helped by his long-term steroid abuse, and the sheer length of his career. He's had numerous spinal operations that have left him all but unable to wrestle, and have even resulted in him losing several inches of height. For this reason, "matches" with Hogan consist of bad guys running into his fists at full-force while he stands there like a turret.

    Videogames 
  • In the first Baldur's Gate, Dynaheir implies that her bodyguard Minsc's 'unique' view on life is the result of taking too many blows to the head over his career as a berserker.
  • The protagonist in Planescape: Torment is an immortal being who has lived for hundreds of years and been killed nearly innumerable times. As a result, he is covered head to toe in scar tissue.
    • He can benefit from items normally intended to work on undead zombies because his body is just that ruined.
  • In the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot, Lara goes through a LOT of punishment. The first thing that happens to her is her getting impaled on a spike. While she can push on throughout most of the game, the injures do pile up. There are times when her mobility is hampered until she gets some help. By the end, she has quite a few scars, and not just physical ones either.
  • Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4. In his career as a super-soldier, he's taking so much of a beating physically, mentally and genetically that he's turned into a man who's physically in his 60-70s and is reliant on nanotech injections to keep from coming apart at the seams.
  • In Mass Effect 3, this is the state that Commander Shepard is left in after being blasted by Harbinger. S/he's bleeding out, has severe burns and is obviously in great pain with every step s/he takes. It's impressive that s/he's even able to move at all.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II : Mandalore (Canderous Ordo from the first game ) is roughly sixty, and the de facto patriarch of his Proud Warrior Race, having fought battles since his early teens. He remarks that he has to rely more on his cunning and his equipment these days.
  • The Iron Bull, a potential companion in Dragon Age: Inquisition, is astoundingly big and tough, but he's been fighting for most of his life and has the scars to prove it- he's also missing one eye, part of two fingers, and wears a leg brace. Not that any of this slows him down.
  • Implied in The Sims and its sequel: Upon reaching the Superstar level of the Pro Sports/Athletic career track, the job description mentions that it's taking longer for the Sim to recover from injuries. Not that it has any effect on gameplay.
  • Reinhardt from Overwatch is still in his Power Armour kicking ass at 61 years old, but his age and his scars do occasionally catch up with him. It's implied he wants to retire, but he feels he can't. The superhero organisation he was a part of fell apart during after he was forced out of action and someone has to pick up the pieces. His suit is in a similar condition — it's still fully capable of kicking ass, but time is catching up with it.

    Webcomics 
  • Ben T. Sharpley from Everyday Heroes was caught in a training accident while in the Army. Because of this, his spine is bent at a right angle; still, he manages to work full-time running an amusement arcade.
  • Agent 250, of Niels / Secret Agent Men fame, is forced to transfer job positions within the Agency after this starts to occur.

     Western Animation 
  • Toph cites this as the reason she and Katara didn't participate in any of the goings on in The Legend of Korra. About seventy years after the events of Avatar: The Last Airbender, they don't move like they used to anymore due to age, injuries and what have you, although they do teach and heal where they can. Case in point, after the first real fight she's had in quite some time, Toph mentions that her back was just about to give.
    • It also shows when Zuko participated in the fight against the Red Lotus with Tonraq, Desna and Eska. While he lasted a good while longer than the latter two, who are exceptionally talented young waterbenders, he was floored by one solid hit from Ghazan.

    Real Life 
  • Bonnie and Clyde were like this: Clyde had an inmate chop some of his toes off with an axe to get out of hard labor at Texas' Eastham prison house, and walked with a limp as a result. Bonnie suffered third degree burns to her leg, possibly from battery acid, after a car crash in June 1933. The couple couldn't get medical treatment for her, and her leg muscles drew up, leaving her unable to straighten her leg out. Those pictures of Clyde carrying her? It's because she couldn't walk.
  • Many real life sports. Even the strain of exerting yourself in specific ways will eventually wear your body out even if you aren't suffering obvious damage from such things as being body-checked or tackled or punched.
    • Following the 1983 Stanley Cup finals, Wayne Gretzky famously said he walked past the dressing room of the victorious New York Islanders and saw them, not celebrating, but covered in ice packs and lying on benches. Thing is, when they won the first Cup in 1980, only two of the main skaters were over 25. After four years straight going to the finals (with an eventual fifth ending with Gretzky's Oilers winning), the deep playoff runs had taken its toll on those guys!
  • Most special forces personnel retire for medical reasons because of their grueling training regimen.
    • Military of every country has a LOT of soldiers like this, but especially the US Military, thanks to multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers are either unfit for duty and being medically discharged, or being retained but with significant limits on their ability to serve. Even beyond combat deployments, an infantryman's career spent jumping out of planes, marching for miles with a heavy load, kicking down doors and such wears on the body. Some manage to transfer to less physical positions, but others find they just can't stay in anymore due to cumulative injuries and wear and tear. This goes double for those in special forces.
    • Also, military personnel tend to ignore, cover up, or simply refuse to reveal serious injuries. Sometimes it's because the culture values toughness and ignoring hardship, or because they don't want to let their buddies down by being held back from deploying, or they're sincerely afraid of being medically discharged or retired. It's not unusual for doctors performing a retirement physical on someone who's been in 20 or 30 years to be stunned by the number of health problems they come across, often commenting that the person they're seeing should have been retired a decade or more earlier.
      • True story of a military officer who'd been serving for 25 years and who showed up at sick call one morning to be seen for a sore throat. The medical technician checking him in did something that apparently no one had thought to do in years, and printed off an entire list of all his physical problems and impairments and attached them to his sheet for the doctor to review. The doctor greeted the officer, took one look at his list of injuries, and recommended immediate processing for medical retirement. During the retirement physical, it came out that he should have been medically disqualified from his last deployment, but was sent anyway.
    • Special forces soldiers. Graduates from training programs where people run significant risks of dying, and then do work so hard they have to find the sort of ultradedicated superhuman nutcases to do it by challenging them to The Spartan Way, will naturally have crazy tough men who are fucked beyond repair. There's a reason nobody lasts long in special forces: the Training from Hell selection is just to see if you can even make it.
  • Several of the rules in Mixed Martial Arts seem to have the intended effect of mitigating this — for example, the lack of a standing count in MMA as well as referee stoppages (a referee is to stop a fight where a fighter is incapable of or is not "intelligently defending" himself or herself), as well as mandatory medical suspensions (in North American states where the sport is sanctioned). However, as the sport is so young there's only a few fighters who are anywhere near old enough to show this effect... although some of those from the "Dark Ages" of MMA, such as Gary Goodridge, have shown this trope to a disturbing effect.
    • Dana White's success in actually getting a health insurance company to cover MMA fighters under contract with the UFC is seen as a triumphant step in mitigating this. Many fighters would actually go into a fight injured so they'd get coverage after the fight was done (UFC already would pay fighters for medical expenses as the result of a fight), which obviously would put them at tremendous risk of aggravating their injuries or gaining new ones as the result of a one-sided beating. But now they can actually be covered for training-related injuries as well, resulting in fighters going into their fight at 100% or as close as possible given the sport, which is a great thing for everyone involved.
    • Ken Shamrock's Lion's Den has a lot of its graduates entering the sport as this, due to Training from Hell.
  • Jackie Chan had to lower the amount of stunts he does himself because of this. As an example, he used a stunt double where he would go over a ten-foot fence in an alleyway. In his younger days, he would simply jump straight over it or jump up to grab the top of the fence and pull himself over. Now, he has to do a series of wall jumps in the corner to do the stunt because he has injured himself so much that his ankles have fused into maybe three bones.
  • American daredevil Evel Knievel was renowned for two things: Real Life Ramp Jumps, and being listed in the Guinness World Records for "most bones broken in a lifetime" (433, including seven times for his back alone).
  • Russian muzhiki (tough guys) who live to become old, given what the cheeki breeki life does to the body on account of the danger posed by brawling (often with current or former soldiers), drinking terrifying amounts of booze, and Alcohol-Induced Idiocy.
  • Any skydiver, martial arts practitioneer, horseback rider or ice hockey player. Ever.
  • Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmeister drank at least one bottle of Jack Daniel's every day (and did this for at least 35 years), he loathed vegetables and lived on a diet of mostly meat and cheese, he was a smoker since he was 11 years old, and he also did copious amounts of drugs (mainly speed). This would catch up with him in his late 60s. He had Type 2 diabetes and had to get a pacemaker in 2013, after his irregular heartbeat forced him to cancel shows. In October 2013, he admitted to quitting smoking and drinking. In 2015, he was forced to cancel several tour dates after a lung infection resulted in difficulty breathing and prevented him from singing, before finally dying from cancer at the end of the year.


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