Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke
"Biotechnology promises the greatest revolution in human history. By the end of this decade, it will have outdistanced atomic power and computers in its effect on our everyday lives."Once upon a time, superheroes inevitably gained their superpowers from radiation, the latest and most mysterious-yet-powerful fad of the 50s and 60s. Technology Marches On, however, and gene splicing has replaced atom smashing as the most glamorous sciencey stuff: nowadays, many modern remakes of classic superheroes go with Genetic Engineering. Be it a bite from a genetically engineered spider, or exposure to it in a freak accident, genetically engineered origins are the Phlebotinum for the 21st century. Rarely are the effects of "genetic engineering" anything like those portrayed in adventure fiction — however, it's a buzzword that everyone knows, and that the average public knows just enough about for it to seem powerful, without any inconvenient actual education getting in the road of the Phlebotinum at work. God only knows what superheroes will be getting their powers from twenty years from now - nanotechnology, perhaps? (It's certainly very fashionable in Cyber Punk these days.) Quantum mechanics is another good excuse - anything can happen because of quantum. Genetic Engineering also lends itself to being weaponized to do exactly the same thing as those ultracool nukes that kill people but leave buildings standing. Now that nuclear apocalypse is substantially less likely (or at least less likely to wipe us all out), and Chemical/Biological weapons just aren't destructive enough in terms of human life, Genetic Weapons make a nice scary (and vague) alternative. It's also interesting to note the other favourite sources of weirdness used by SF writers before the advent of nuclear physics.
— Introduction to Jurassic Park
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Anime & Manga
- Bagi, the Monster of Mighty Nature is about Osamu Tezuka's fear about what happens when people play with genetics.
- The God Warriors from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind are both nuclear powered & genetically engineered, in addition to being cyborgs. At least they were honest-to-goodness products of super-science, designed and built from the ground up to be what they were, not mooks with upgrades.
- The Super Soldiers in Lyrical Nanoha. Artifical Mages are genetically engineered so they will be born with full combat mage capabilities. Combat Cyborgs are genetically engineered so they can be given cybernetic implants without their bodies rejecting the foreign object.
- The girls of Tokyo Mew Mew were "chosen by the earth", i.e. born as perfect matches to various endangered animals. They were then injected with the DNA of said animals and became a squad of kemonomimi Magical Girls.
- Euphorics in Speed Grapher gain super powers based on their fetishes after being carriers to a virus that is activated by contact with Kagura's bodily fluid.
- Guilty Crown gives us the Void Genome, a genetic weapon that allows whosoever it's been implanted in the power to draw weapons known as Voids from anyone seventeen years of age or younger. These weapons can be BFSs that can slice clean through Humongous Mecha or ribbons of light than can repair anything (including a completely decimated bridge.) Yes, it is a genetic weapon. And it winds up being implanted in an Ordinary High-School Student at the end of episode one.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED has the Coordinators, human beings whose genes have been improved prior to birth, resulting in a widespread increase in intelligence, talent, and physical aptitude. Unmodified humans are referred to as "Naturals", and there is significant tension (to put it mildly) between the two groups.
- Intresting enough, the Naturals tried destroying Coordinators with Nukes. It worked pretty well... Just not well enough.
- In Pokemon The First Movie a group of scientists funded by Team Rocket attempt to engineer "the ultimate Pokémon" by splicing genes from a Mew fossil. And they succeeded.
- In the second season of Birdy the Mighty Decode, it's revealed that there exist spawning sacs left over from the days of The Empire which produce beings called Ixiora, which seem to be based on the Human Alien Altan race. They possess extremely superior strength, durability, and, depending on the type of individual, various other incredible abilities. Whatever their original purpose was, the Federation government uses them for combat in a variety of capacities. Birdy herself is an Ixiora.
- The Shaman's Tears comic introduced Bar Sinister (who later got their own short-lived series), a group of genetically engineered, super powered human/animal hybrids.
- In Sonic the Hedgehog, it ends up the entire planet of Funny Animals is the result of the alien species called the Xorda dropping a "gene bomb" on the planet, mutating it severely. Yes, the origin story for the heroes homeworld is that Earth was bombarded by genetic engineering weapons that caused fault lines to shift, seas to drain, and left the planet uninhabitable in many places for many years. Which is what you'd expect to happen if a planet got hit by several thousand multi-megaton nuclear weapons. In other words, in the Sonic universe genetic engineering is the new nuke.
- Taken to pretty literal extremes in Daredevil, where the government's secret genetic experiment is named Nuke, to give an indication that, yeah, he was as deadly as a walking megaton bomb.
- Ultimate Marvel takes this trope all the way, with genetic engineering being compared to nuclear weapons in other ways, such as international supersoldier escalation & treaties being proposed to curb it. Several Spider-Man rogues (as well as Spidey himself) were re-imagined to be the subjects of secret, illegal super soldier experiments, and other superheroes and villains were designed by secret government projects for the same end. Ultimatum reveals that this includes mutants. Ultimate Marvel has even applied this trope to people who weren't even ostensibly super to begin with in regular Marvel. Ultimate Iron Man's super genius is explained as the result of genetic experiments his parents were involved in (which resulted in his mother's tragic death) that resulted in him being born with braincells throughout his entire body. Unfortunately, due to a defect in the process it also gave him cancer and constant, agonizing pain.
- The X-Men have always been mutants, but interestingly, the earliest issues of the X-Men comics refer to them as "children of the atom" and say that Xavier is a mutant because of radiation his parents were exposed to before he was born. Current X-Men comics have abandoned the nuclear angle in favor of pure genetics, but all mutants are the end result of genetic engineering- by godlike aliens called the Celestials tens of thousands of years ago.
- The Celestials also created two other races by experimenting on humans- the ugly, shape-shifting Deviants, and their enemies, the Physical God Canon Sue race the Eternals, which after a bit of space-travel and civil war ended up founding a colony on Saturn's moon Titan, which eventually spawned Thanos, who conducted further genetic experiments on himself to make himself stronger. The Celestials split other alien races into Deviants and Eternals as well- the Skrulls are a race of Deviants who conquered their entire planet and built an interstellar empire.
- About the time the Celestials showed up on Marvel Earth, the Elder Gods had a similar idea and started making their own species, though these were engineered magically- Set created the Serpent Men, whilst Oshtur and Chthon created numerous good and evil races, respectively, with Chthon going out of his way to corrupt and re-engineer some of Oshtur's (or attempting to, with varying levels of success).
- A lot of improbable origins, including many of the 'radiation is magic' type, have been retconned as Celestial experiments resulting in people who would gain powers from things that would kill most people. Before this, it was often theorized by fans that maybe these people were mutants with a 'get powers instead of cancer from radiation/toxic waste' power, or latent mutations triggered by the Freak Lab Accident; this seems to be Ascended Fanon without making everybody an X-Man. DC Comics has a "metagene" explanation that's similar. The Inhumans are a result of Kree experiments exploiting humanities' potential for superhuman abilities.
- Silent War revolves around S.H.I.E.L.D. getting a hold of the Terrigen Mist and trying to create its own Inhumans for military use. It doesn't work out so well.
- Similar to the above, Spider-Man's origins have moved from being bit by a radioactive spider in the original to being bit by a genetically enhanced "super spider" in Spectacular, Ultimate, and both the original movie and the the reboot. 90's Spider-Man show actually went half-way, being bit by a spider that was hit by "neogenic" radiation. The mainstream comics eventually decided to hint that his powers might actually be magic, which to be fair makes more sense than radiation.
- In Watchmen, Squid is a genetically engineered monster whose effect visually strongly resembles a nuclear attack, making it both a figurative and an almost literal example of Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke.
- Although the "nuclear" flash has nothing to do with genetic engineering and is in fact a result of the unstable teleport processes used to transport it.
- In a general sense, superheroes that would have been, and in some cases were, created by radiation accidents in the Silver Age are now created by genetic accidents.
- This is the entire point in Albedo Erma Felna EDF, as the entire furry cast were genetic experiments created by The Creators, also known as the human race, using Earth animals as guinea pigs, and put them in somewhere in some planet in the space.
- The Batman two-parter story Infection revolves around two Super Soldiers infected by a Bio-Augmentation virus genetically engineered during the Cold War escaping from government custody and coming to Gotham. As part of their genetic traits include the ability to disperse an infectious version of the virus, meaning they risk transforming every human in the city into a mentally addled killing machine like themselves, they really fit the "nuke" part of the trope.
- Biollante from Godzilla vs. Biollante is a genetic chimaera of Rose, Human, and Godzilla DNA which grows to immense size, eventually fighting Godzilla. There are even conversations in the film about the potential dangers of the misuse of genetic engineering, equating them to the dangers posed by nuclear weapons.
- Also the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria made from G-Cells that ironically is used to stop Godzilla. Still other nations see it as a huge threat that could upset the balance of power since it could render nuclear weapons redundant despite Japan making it clear they only wanna use it on Godzilla. In fact several countries try to steal it and one agent is sent to kill the only man who knows how to make it.
- The 2002-2007 Spider-Man Trilogy movies. The reboot franchise plays with it by having the spider be both radioactive and genetically engineered.
Is he strong? Listen here/He's genetically engineered.
- The Ang Lee Hulk movie. Bruce gets his power from a combination of genetic engineering, pharmaceutical drug testing, nanomachines, and radiation. It seems the scriptwriters just figured that one of those was bound to work. The new one fixed it to being genetic engineering jumped started with radiation.
- In the 2008 movie Bruce's research was specifically to recreate the super soldier serum, playing this trope as straight as possible since the original comic origin has Bruce developing a nuclear bomb using gamma radiation for the military.
- Any modern remake of a long-lived superhero is doing this.
- Planet of the Apes:
- In the original Planet of the Apes (1968) movies the apes simply "evolved" greater intelligence. In the remakes, they're genetically engineered.
- Also, in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, it appears mankind will be wiped out by the genetically-engineered virus which gives the apes intelligence instead of the nuclear war from the original.
- The novelization for Planet of the Apes (2001) reveals that the apes were engineered by the surviving crew of the Oberon to protect them against Big Creepy-Crawlies with a Hive Mind.
- The Island of Doctor Moreau is a prime example: In the 1896 science fiction novel by H. G. Wells, Moreau transforms animals on his island into Petting Zoo People called the Beast Folk and gives them intelligence, by a gruesome prolonged surgical vivisection process that is left deliberately vague, because the author wanted among other things to make a point against animal vivisection, common during his time, so the "how" wasn't the point of the novel. In the 1996 movie remake, set in 2010 and starring Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, however, Moreau uses genetic engineering to create transgenic human/animal hybrids, some of whom look almost perfectly human, while others are humanoid but covered in fur and have snouts, hooves, horns, fangs and claws; without regular injections of Moreau's serum, however, these creatures lose their intelligence and slowly regress to their animal forms.
- The virus in the Wild Cards series.
- The Iron Dream: While a worldwide nuclear war 1100 years in the past completely polluted Earth with radiation and turned most of mankind and the fauna into a race of mutant mongrels (and the Big Bad faction using radiation to breed their different sorts of mooks), in the end mankind is saved by excessive usage of genetic engineering, which finally even replaces normal procreation.
- The Meliorare Society in Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth series was a group of rogue genetic engineers who attempted to "improve" humanity by tinkering with the DNA of unborn children, hoping to create physical and mental superhumans. Naturally, things didn't go as planned, and after some of their more grotesque results came to light, they were outlawed and eventually hunted down. Their "experiments" were mainly destroyed or, where possible, surgically altered to remove their abnormalities. The fate of the few who are left over is a major plot point of the series, forming the origin story of Flinx as well as Mahnami.
- In Maximum Ride, Max and her friends are all bird-human hybrids, complete with wings. The laboratory that created them specializes in animal-human hybrids. In the sister books, (When the Wind Blows and The Lake House) Max is even more bird-like, even to the point of laying eggs and aging faster.
- Parts of the Star Wars Expanded Universe involve "Sith alchemy", which does whatever the writers want it to do.
- In the Jedi Academy Trilogy, Exar Kun spent the four thousand years since his death using it to breed monsters.
- The Thrawn Trilogy: Quick cloning. With Spaarti cylinders, humans could be safely grown in as little as a year without ysalamiri, and as little as a month with them. While they grew they received flash training, so it was possible to get an army in as little as two months. The Hand of Thrawn duology has a clone who had a bit of Thrawn mixed into his learning matrix in the hopes of making a leader with Thrawn's ability and long-range thinking. In Galaxy of Fear there is a cloning method that works in hours, but the results are too unstable to be particularly useful.
- In the X-Wing Series, Evir Derricote created and tailored the Krytos Plague, a very nasty disease with several variants, each targeting a different related group of nonhumans. The Quarren strain spreading to Mon Calamari, the Bothan strain also devastating Wookiees, and so on. He was ordered to make it something that mutated very quickly to infect as many species as possible, but also to be sure that it didn't infect humans, and while he succeeded on both counts that high rate of mutation also meant that once it was released it became less lethal.
- Galaxy of Fear is kicked off by a Mad Scientist trying to create a creature that would be the "ultimate weapon"; first creating six projects, many of them biological, then using them to make something with All Your Powers Combined.
- Used in the Whitney A. Curtis novel Legacy of Cryptia, in which it turns out that genetically engineered superwarriors doubled as living batteries for the weapons that devastated Wellia with all the force of nukes.
- The Moreau Factor (note the title) by Jack Chalker.
- The whole point of Oryx and Crake.
- The Shongili family in the Petaybee books.
- Sergey Lukyanenko's Genome novel is all about how genetic engineering results in Designer Babies that are specialized and conditioned to love their "chosen" profession. This ranges from simple mental modifications (e.g. police detectives have a hightened sense of logic and love for truth and law and are unable to form emotional attachments; High Class Call Girls easily falling in love with their clients and cannot fall out of love until the client reciprocates) to physical ones (e.g. starship pilots have a well-developed cerebellum for balance and can shrug off a 30-foot fall; fighters can move in the blink of an eye and have extra arm joints; power plant specialists have radiation-proof skin and hair with the males able to "suck in" their genitals).
- The Hunger Games have several weaponized creatures scattered around both the titular games and the Capitol; like ferocious wasps with hallucinogenic venom and wolf "Muttations" with the faces of dead children.
- The Hollows replaced the nuclear arms race with the genetic arms race as part of the backstory, which in Turn creates the virus which wipes out a big chunk of humanity allowing the loss of the Masquerade.
- Vorkosigan Saga:
- The Houses focused on medical issues on the lawless planet of Jackson's Whole occasionally dabble in this if they think there's profit to be had from it, including the creation of Sgt. Taura, a failed Super Soldier project.
- Cetagandans are big on genetic engineering, working toward Transhumanism for their ruling caste, as well as various bioweapons.
- In Tom Kratman's Caliphate, the virus being developed by the eponymous Caliphate, for use against the rest of the world is 97% fatal, with it believed by the protagonists that the other three percent would be crippled even if they didn't die from the disease.
- Much of the conflict in Honor Harrington was driven by the, ahem, conflicting opinions about genetic engineering and its outcomes, including the Final War on Earth, and plans of the Mesan Alignment's for the galactic domination. Weber even went to record stating that the Bigger Bad's position on transhumanism and genetic engineering is actually correct, but that they are antagonists because they're dicks about it.
- In Ancestor by Scott Sigler, biogenetics firms seeking to perfect xenotransplantation (the transplant of animal organs into humans) have shades of this. The book opens with US AMRIID (The Army's counter-biowarfare division) firebombing a firm whose research led to a fatal disease hopping the species barrier. The main plot Involves chimeric hybrids attempting to recreate a proto-mammalian "ancestor" unleashing quarter-ton, vicious, fast, intelligent monsters on a remote island.
- Twig hypothesizes a world in which a "great mind" (implied to be Mary Shelley) caused a massive leap forwards in biological manipulation in the early 19th century, resulting in the British Empire being even more expansive than it was in real history, but but by the beginning of the twentieth century teetering on the verge of overshooting itself with apocalyptic consequences.
Live Action TV
- New Doctor Who has a tendency to use genetics and DNA as a sort of Applied Phlebotinum, especially for the Daleks.
- Dark Angel: The superhuman abilities of X5 supersoldiers and other Manticore transgenics are the result of mixing genetic material from various humans (generally people who were very strong, smart, or talented) and animals, with some serious tweaking, into DNA cocktails. Genetic engineering is also the explanation for their attractiveness (the ones that don't look half-man half-beast or covered in huge bumps).
- Used in Heroes, whereby the plot-arc of a world-changing nuclear bomb from the first season has been replaced with the plot-arc of a gene-altering formula in the third season.
- In one episode of Stargate SG-1, the villain was messing around with genetic engineering. A similar experiment later turns up in Stargate Atlantis.
- Somewhat subverted, though, as powers tend to come from characters being naturally or artificially evolved toward some post-human ideal that results in ascension. Rather than powers being some unique attribute, all characters tend to evolve in roughly the same way. Other "superpowers" are usually the result of alien technology that operates on unexplained principles or some vague appeal to quantum mechanics (which probably ties back into how near-ascended beings actually do what they do, anyway).
- In Star Trek, The Eugenics Wars (aprx. 1993-1996) were a series of wars caused by an attempt to improve humanity through selective breeding and genetic engineering. Records of the era are patchy, so exact causes are unknown, but in 1992 genetically augmented Super Soldier Khan Noonien Singh gained control over more than half the Eastern hemisphere. The following year, over forty nations were overthrown by Augments, most of whom proceeded to enslave unaugmented humans to varying degrees. The subsequent wars nearly plunged the Earth into a second Dark Age and killed over 37 million.
- Genetic engineering was also a main cause of World War III (2026-2056), a genocidal conflict that killed 600 million, destroyed many of the planet's major cities and governments, and irradiated the atmosphere causing several nuclear winters. Recovery as a species was perhaps only possible through the help of the Vulcans, whom we made First Contact with in 2063, shortly after the official end of the war.
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Founders, the Dangerously Genre Savvy ruling caste of the Dominion, utilize bio/genetic engineering to create super soldiers and personal advisors.
- Once upon a time, a primate family hid a gravely injured Founder from pursuers. The Founder expressed its gratitude by promising that they will, one day, be transformed into a superior form and rule a vast galactic empire. The primate species is now known as the Vorta, advisers, scientists and policy makers of the Dominion.
- The Jem'Hadar, super soldiers of the Dominion, are noted to qualify at least dozens of recommendations of the Evil Overlord List in their biological design. They wear no helmets(1, 130), wear carapaces that have no semblance to Nazi uniforms(21, 130), have superior eye sight that makes them expert marksmen(4, 56), possess exceptional strength and hand-eye coordination(236) are asexual in design(33, 43, 51, 84, 153), gain sustenance from a single source the Founders have absolute control over and require nothing else to function(127, 200, fark-9), require no sleep or rest(172, fark-9), work for the pleasure of obeying the "order of things" imprinted in their instincts(44, 48, 94, fark-9), have no fear or qualms using human wave attacks for the "order of things"(75, 234), memorize the entire manual with eidetic memory(57), and finally, can camouflage themselves to match the surroundings(237). And that's just the "design" part, not including their equally Dangerously Genre Savvy training.
- Their design, summarized by Quark, is that "the Jem'Hadar don't eat, don't sleep and don't have sex."
- Bashir demonstrates the impact of genetic engineering on Earth had on Federation policy. By law genetically enhanced individuals like Bashir cannot serve in Star Fleet or practice medicine.
- The conspiracy in Utopia revolves around a genetically engineered two-part Sterility Plague.
- After The Bomb can be summarized by this trope, and this trope alone. It's a postapocalyptic setting brought about by genetic modification becoming so commonplace that everybody and their little kid could buy a kit from the store to do it, and the consequences of that coming back to bite everyone in the ass (a program to breed a better chicken accidentally produces theropod dinosaurs, for instance).
- Palladium's other game: Splicers takes this further, with La Résistance employing living Powered Armor and Beasts of Battle to fight a Robot War.
- The d20 Modern remake of Gamma World abandoned I Love Nuclear Power in favor of this; the Big Blast Out was a horrific spasm of genetic engineering and nanotechnology gone haywire that annihilated civilization and unleashed all manner of ghastly abominations, including giant snake/bears that are eternally, ravenously hungry, featureless shadow-skinned humanoids, and worse.
- While genetic engineering is mostly a low-level background affair in the BattleTech universe (sometimes offhandedly mentioned as having been used to adapt a particular plant or animal species to a new world, but even the Clans' warrior breeding program relies primarily on just old-fashioned eugenics), the recent Wars of Reaving sourcebook introduced DNA-targeted viruses capable of selectively infecting trueborn in general, particular bloodlines, and even specific individuals if desired as part of the arsenal of the renegade Clan scientist faction known as "the Society". (Of course, part of what made them effective in this case was that Society members had easy access to DNA samples of their intended targets courtesy of the scientist caste being charged with managing the breeding program just mentioned in the first place.)
- The Emperor of Mankind used genetic engineering to create super soldiers to defend humanity. His first attempts, the Thunder Warriors and the Custodes, were powerful but were also physically and mentally unstable and too difficult to mass produce respectively. He managed to solve both problems when he created the Space Marines. In the Space Marines' case, the Emperor didn't specifically modify the subjects' genetics. Instead, he created special organs that could be implanted into them, essentially making them fleshy cyborgs.
- The Old Ones took this to an extreme, creating an entire race to fight a war for them: the Orks. The Orks were for the most part a success. It's too bad the Old Ones had already taken such heavy losses when they made them — the desperation being the entire reason they were willing to create the Orks — that they died off before they could install one last feature they held off on to rush the Orks into battle: the off-switch.
- The twisted monstrosities of Fallout, which in spite of being set in a 1950s-esque retro post-nuclear wasteland, the Universe Bible credits largely to a mutated bioweapon.
- According to one source, Deathclaws are the products of direct genetic engineering. This applies to a number of other (significantly less widespread) creatures as well, with more canonical certainty.
- According to the Pokédex, Mewtwo was genetically engineered to be the most powerful Pokémon ever. Unlike most of what the Pokédex says, this was unmistakably true, at least in Generation I. Not only was the Psychic-type a total Game Breaker, but Mewtwo had the highest base stat total of all 150+1 mons at the time. Later generations have introduced Pokémon that surpass the Genetic Pokémon, but Mewtwo is still one tough bastard.
- The Trigen of Far Cry.
- The subjects of Les Enfants Terribles in Metal Gear Solid and its sequels. They use the 'genetically engineered from before birth' and 'nanomachine enhanced' versions.
- Crusader implies that Silencers are genetically engineered living weapons, just one of many in the Cliché Storm.
- The premise of the Geneforge series was the creation and alteration of new life-forms with magic and 'essence'. Indeed, all of the game's plots consist of one side trying to keep irresponsible people from creating life and others trying to stop the other from hoarding their power. Two of the more obvious examples are massive, fast-breeding bugs that are equally likely to eat your crops and yourself, or canisters that make spellcasting part of your DNA.
- This is also the entire premise of GEM: Genetically Engineered Monsters.
- BioShock: all of your plasmids and power-ups have abilities that, even with the most advanced bioengineering in the world, would be physiologically if not physically impossible. One of the worst offenders is a tonic that alters the way your research camera behaves.
- Retconned in Bioshock Infinite, where it's revealed that the ultimate source of these powers is extradimensional.
- The Zerg in Starcraft.
- In the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, genetic engineering in the form of the Jenova Project and its side-projects is responsible for producing Sephiroth, Genesis, Angeal, the Tsviets, and most of the series' other Super Soldiers.
- Shadow The Hedgehog, the Ultimate Life Form. Envisioned as a great defender of the world, and this is indeed what he ultimately becomes in spite of a setback after his creator went mad with grief over Maria's death, then amnesia, and then discovering that one of the genetic templates for his creation was an Eldritch Abomination. Shadow has gone on to destroy or take part in destroying a number of Eldritch Abominations and armies of Mecha-Mooks. His prototype, the Biolizard, also counts.
- In Evolva, your Genohunters will change their physical appearance (change colors, develop spikes or horns) based on the DNA (acquired from your enemies) they've used to mutate themselves.
- In Syndicate (2012), Eurocorp and Aspari use gene splicing in their Agents. One of the fruits of this is Agent Crane, who has an accelerated Healing Factor.
- Resident Evil 6 has a literal example of this trope, with the Big Bad Carla Radames possessing airburst missiles filled with the C-Virus in gas form, which she launches on the city of Tatchi in China to cause an instant Zombie Apocalypse.
- The "Mutation!" table of Balls of Steel is about a genetic experiment that has mutated into a deadly green Blob Monster.
- The titular Galerians in Galerians are a group of genetically engineered superhumans designed to supplant the human race.
- In the Guilty Gear fighting games, the titular Gears were created by extensive genetic modification of humans and animals, along with being empowered by magic, as weapons of war. Gears come in different classes which vary wildly in appearance and ability, but nearly all Gears are exceptionally resilient and difficult to kill, and they can rapidly regenerate their wounds - Dizzy, a young Command-class, was able to survive a thousand foot high drop from an airship. Sol Badguy, the Gear Super Prototype, has nonchalantly got up and completely recovered after being riddled with machine gun fire, shrugged off being impaled through the chest with a BFS that was specially designed to kill Gears, and tanked an ICBM going off in his face. Sin, a human-Gear hybrid, was once punched by Sol so hard that the tree he was tied to was uprooted and flung several hundred yards and crashed through other trees behind it, and was only slightly dazed for a bit. The more humanoid gears such as the ones mentioned also possess an affinity for magic and all the destructive power that goes along with it.
- In Civilization: Beyond Earth, genetic engineering comes up a lot with the Harmony affinity and it's sister hybrids in Rising Tide (Harmony/Supremacy and Harmony/Purity). Pure Harmony does everything from breeding Godzilla-like tamed monsters to hybridizing their human footsoldiers with alien DNA and giving them a Healing Factor whenever they breathe otherwise poisonous spores, all with the intention of integrating humans into the alien ecosystem to prevent the Great Mistake from ever happening again. Harmony/Purity uses gene-engineering with the expressed purpose of creating the perfect human being, creating superhuman shock-troopers. Harmony/Supremacy combines radical gene-engineering with cybernetic augmentation and a "power at any cost" mentality to create a new species so far removed from humanity that they're completely unrecognisable.
- Freefall generally shows Florence treated with as much suspicion as robots, the fact that she is a living thing only adds to their fears of unpredictability.
- In The Kenny Chronicles one can guess why a bunch of pirates scientists would create the Tarnekis, though they probably didn't intend them to rebel and form a "nation" of ships on the Pacific.
- The Lycanthrope Project in El Goonish Shive.
- Urgent Transformation Crisis uses this as the central plot element.
- Spinnerette lampshades and double-subverts it. The title character gains her powers from a Freak Lab Accident involving a "genetic infusion chamber" used to study spider heredity. This occurs soon after the head researcher berates a reporter for suggesting such nonsense.
Dr. Lambha: "God damn you idiots in the media! I'm doing research on spider genetics, and you infer that I'm going to cure fatness or turn people into spidermen! Do you understand nothing about science?"
- In-universe, this is known as the "Cherenkov-Kirby Reaction". It was being studied by Dr. Universe as a clean source of power before he and his assistant Greta turned evil.
- Comes up in Schlock Mercenary (okay, maybe not as powerful as an actual nuke, but still).
- Chapter 2 of Mushroom Go involves a piranha plant genetically engineered to be intelligent.
- All over the place in The Cyantian Chronicles, first the Rumuah created the immigrant Cyantians, then the Squids enslaved the Cyantians and augmented some as pit fighters, forming the first generation of Elites. Finally Exotica Genoworks has been creating new species of Cyantians ranging from skunks designed as air fresheners to psionic raccoons.
- And the WMD version as well when ED accidentally wiped out most of the fox species with a virus.
- In Genocide Man genetic engineering becoming cheap enough for open-source "biohackers" to wipe out 90% of humanity with designer plagues and create genetically enhanced supersoldiers. The titular Genocide Project was started to counter them with augmented but genetically completely human "Genocide Men" and their own targeted plagues.
- Jobe, of the Whateley Universe, is one of the great genetic engineers of the planet, despite only being fourteen. He has a plan for taking a person and changing her into a perfect drow. He accidentally gets an injection of the serum and finds out it has Gone Horribly Right.
- The Gate (2011) is an 8 minute sci fi/ horror film about people being mutated by unregulated performance enhancing drugs bought online.
- Batman Beyond, one of the groups of villains were the Splicers, they spliced animal DNA into their own. Generally lizard or snake.
- However most of them rarely use them for fighting, just purely cosmetic. To them it is pretty much getting a Tattoo in today's time. Just as tattooing can have unwanted side effects note , even with clean equipment, so splicing can have negative effects as well.note
- Came up a few times in Galaxy Rangers. On the lighter side was a Noodle Incident with mutated, flying plants that smelled horribly when decomposing. "Marshmallow Trees" had the titular trees (genetically engineered crops) growing out of control and threatening to destroy a colony world. The darkest example is the Supertrooper Project.
- The Spectacular Spider-Man uses this as the Phlebotinum du Jour, not only with Spider-Man's genetically-altered spider-bite, but with Electro's powers, granted partly by genetically-altered, phlebotinum-enhanced electric eels. The Lizard too, is a result of Curt Connors dosing himself with an electrically catalyzed formula containing genetically-modified lizard DNA. The big one, though, is many of Spidey's enemies- Rhino, Sandman, Kraven etc.- are the result of OsCorp experiments designed to create superhumans, some of whom were pitted against Spidey for the sole purpose of distracting him so that he is too busy dealing with them to worry about The Man Behind the Man Tombstone and all the crime he is behind (other villains are tech based). The Green Goblin, likewise, got his powers from an experimental superhuman serum. The series was Screwed by the Network, but had it continued it would have adapted The Clone Saga which would have continued using this trope as a theme, with Mad Scientist Miles Warren already working on such stuff by the end of the second season.
- The 90s animated Spider-Man series uses a weird mixture of this trope and its predecessor. Several of the heroes & villains in that series got their powers from the "Neogenic Recombinator", a device that used a controlled beam of radiation to rewrite a subject's genetic code, and "neogenics" was a new science that was being investigated by many parties.
- Almost invoked the trope by name when Landon claimed that metal was the way of the past, the material for the future being human flesh.
- Several of the monsters Godzilla, Jr. fights in Godzilla: The Series are the result of genetic-altering, such as the DNA Mimic and the D.R.A.G.M.A.s.
- During his Freak Lab Accident, Danny Phantom had his genetic makeup modified with with ectoplasm, thus making him half-ghost.
- Gargoyles has Anton Sevarius, a geneticist working for Xanatos (or whoever else is paying him at the moment), creating a genetics-altering compound that mutates Derek Maza and three other humans into Gargoyle-equivalents. The compound combines bat, big cat, and electric eel DNA, among others.
- While the summary of the topic is almost universally true (at least in human experience) there have been very recent success with gene therapy - a process where an engineered virus is used to inject DNA into a particular tissue to modify the function of that tissue in some slight, but predictable fashion. Gene therapy has been a "holy grail" of sorts in the medical/genetics world for the last couple of decades with little-to-no success to show for the time and effort. However, very recently there has been success in a specific instance, where the process has shown some success at reversing the effects of macular degeneration, a disease - usually in the elderly - that causes blindness. DNA is injected directly into the affected eye tissue with sequences that are designed to counter the effects of the degeneration, which is known to have some genetic components. The tissue accepts the new DNA and starts generating appropriate proteins to counter the degeneration. This is a well-known, well studied disease, with a very specific application of this treatment, but the literature has shown measurable, medically significant effect. It's not exactly super-powers, but is capable of modifying, however slightly, a very specific body tissue, in a very specific way, WITH SCIENCE!!
- A more general (that is, not focused on a single body part) application is the production of insulin from bacteria. We used to use pig or cow insulin, but they don't work quite as well for people, it's easier to retrieve from bacteria, and there is a chance of an allergic reaction to residual bits of pig or cow.
- Technically, a genetically engineered super power could be more probable than a random mutation by radiation. With radiation, even if you do somehow get a beneficial mutation (and this is incredibly improbable, mind you), you'll still get radiation poisoning and die. GE is at least purposefully done with an aim in mind, instead of just randomly damaging bits of the genome in the event of radiation exposure.
- Genetic engineering, when applied to animals, can create blind or abnormally smart mice. Or mice that are always very hungry. Or cats with coats that glow under black lights. Still a far cry from superpowers.
- Although genetic engineering has an overall stigma of "playing God", to the point where some countries even have laws against technological applications that aren't even remotely feasible yet, proponents point out that competent genetic engineering could end disorders like Lou Gherig's disease, Down syndrome, Neruofibromatosis, and a slew of other genetic conditions. To quote a Cracked article on the subject:
Genetic engineering will eliminate some of the most horrific things that can happen to anyone, ever, and make everyone better at everything as a mere side effect. Anyone campaigning against genetic engineering is saying, "I was lucky enough not to get cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, or any one of a hundred other unthinkable horrors, and that's 100 percent of the humans I care about! Yay!"
- Many works playing this trope straight blame genetic disasters on big corporations. One under-appreciated nightmare scenario is not that big corporations will make mistakes, but that genetic technology will become common enough and cheap enough that individuals will acquire it and play the genetic hacker.