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A common trope in Science Fiction
, the Heavyworlder is someone who is adapted to life in a high-gravity environment - either a human being who has been altered
to survive through Genetic Engineering
or Hollywood Evolution
, or an alien who evolved on such a world in the first place. One factor common to nearly all Heavyworlders is prodigious physical strength
(even though logically, physical stamina
would be more important when carrying around twice your weight every day). Another common element (one could even call it a fallacy) is that many Heavyworlders are described as being far larger and more massive that normal humans, despite this adding even more weight for them to carry around — in fact, basic mechanical considerations and Square/Cube Law
shows that it's much more advantageous for heavyworlder to have a compact, stout, but short
body, not unlike common portrayal of Dwarves in fantasy. Usually they have personalities to match (imagine an entire race as The Big Guy
). A few exceptions are noted below. In fights, a Heavyworlder is usually a One-Man Army
— skinny, delicate humans from low-gravity habitats, or orbital colonies without artificial gravity (see Space People
) — aren't nearly as common as straight treatments, as it's harder to portray your Big Damn Heroes
if they're built like toothpicks. Low-gravity characters are often female, fragility being more forgivable in women to most writers
. Truth in Television
here - astronauts on extended missions have been known to undergo growth spurts, long bones lengthening and the resultant bone is very, very brittle.
Ordinary humans who visit
low-gravity planets, and seem much stronger there than on Earth
, are a Humanity Is Superior
variant. While this variant is common in vintage scifi, the natives of such worlds are seldom portrayed as skinny, fragile inversions of this trope. That's probably because it makes for poor Fanservice
if the Distressed Damsel
rescued by the "incredibly strong" human hero makes Olive Oyl look like Pamela Anderson.
In reality, it is unlikely that any of these tropes would work; species generally survive best in the environment they're adapted to, and, as noted above, real-life astronauts who spend significant time in low-gravity situations rapidly suffer health problems, especially muscular and bone degeneration.
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Anime & Manga
- Charlie-27 of Marvel Comics' original Guardians of the Galaxy is a Jovian, a member of a human subspecies genetically engineered to colonize Jupiter. As such, he's huge, super-strong, muscular and very tough. Implicitly he's even stronger and tougher than the typical Jovian, as he was a career military man. He's also not short at all — the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe lists him at an even 6', only slightly taller than the average adult human male, though he's often drawn as the tallest of the team even so.
- Tom Strong was raised in a high-gravity environment, giving him immense musculature and strength while somehow not interfering with his growth. Just the opposite, in fact, he's huge; this may be due to how heavily the miracle food goloka figures into his diet.
- Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire is a Hoffmannite, from a violent race of large heavyworlders who call normal humans "jellybones" and are prone to Attack Hello. Hoffmanites tend towards the "big and portly" -type, but they were also genetically engineered by a team that thought that making a sub-race of centaurs was a good idea.
- Before he started flying and shooting laser beams out of his eyes, the late Golden Age and full Silver Age explanation for Superman's powers was that his home planet, Krypton, had exceptionally high gravity (the first explanation given in Action Comics #1 was Evolutionary Levels— Superman had originally been conceived as being from the future). Even after the yellow sun explanation came into play, Krypton was still described as having a much greater mass than Earth. This might be the inspiration for Tom Strong's origin.
- Elliot Maggin, a prominent Superman writer, once wrote that Krypton's gravity was so great that every explorer from another planet who had landed on, or even approached Krypton was unable to to ever return. Krypton gained an ominous reputation as a "black hole planet", whose gravity was inescapably strong.
- It apparently wasn't inescapable to Kryptonian rockets, which were rarely used before Jor-El shot Kal off because Krypton was such a paradise, there was no reason for the Kryptonians to try and leave via a space program.
- Krypton did have a space program, but it was grounded/banned by Krypton's government after the rogue scientist Jax-Ur blew up an inhabited moon of Krypton's. This also partly explained the lack of space rockets to evacuate the planet.
- Possibly as a reference to this fact, Stan Lee's presentation of Superman was a policeman from an alien world with high gravity.
- The Elseworlds comic "Superman: Last Son of Earth" is built upon a total inversion of Superman's backstory; here, he's Clark Kent, a human shot into space to escape a disaster who landed on Krypton and was raised as Kal-El. Arriving back on Earth in his adulthood, he's surprised to discover that growing up in Krypton's heightened gravity has given him superhuman strength and bulletproof skin.
- Not quite the same thing, but the idea that Aquaman's incredible strength and durability come from he and his fellow Atlanteans adapting to the "crushing ocean depths" is related to this trope.
- Thondor Allen, a "fifth-generation Jupiter colonist" and distant future descendent of Barry Allen, who appears to exist largely for the visual humour of a really massive speedster.
- Frequent foes of the Legion of Super-Heroes are the humanoid Khunds (no, I'm not going to ask how you pronounce that.)
- The Kree are a Marvel Universe race stronger than humans and just as bastardly— think Nazis with Star Trek technology. Only a small pacifist cult and the occasional superhero keeps them from falling into Always Chaotic Evil.
- The supervillain The Persuader from The Legion Of Super-Heroes is a normal human, but has incredible strength from being born and raised on a high-gravity world.
- In Bait and Switch (STO) New Bajor is stated to have about a third more gravity than Bajor.note LCdr. Reshek Gaarra, who's from New Bajor, is once seen in the ship's gym adjusting the weight set to mimic his planet's gravity so he won't lose the edge it gives him.
- The Phantasm films have dead humans resurrected as superstrong dwarves by compacting their density on a high-gravity world in an alternate universe.
- The creature in the B-Movie It Conquered the World (1956) was originally conceived as short and squat, due to the heavy gravity of its native planet. Actress Beverly Garland was unimpressed by the vertically-challenged villain — approaching it within hearing of director Roger Corman she cried "So, you plan to take over the world do you? Take that!" and kicked it in the head. Corman agreed to redesign the creature to more menacing proportions◊.
- Officially, Jek "Piggy" Porkins from A New Hope - the first pilot to die on the run against the Death Star - was from a high-gravity world. He was somewhat overweight but still strong. This might have killed him, in fact: in the X-Wing Series one of his surviving squadmates reminisces that Porkins dialed back his fighter's Artificial Gravity a bit more than usual, which could be why he insisted that he could pull out of his fatal dive into the Death Star's surface.
- Several minor characters and extras in the Star Wars Expanded Universe are also mentioned to be heavyworlders - however, unlike Jek, they're generally portrayed as being short and stout. In fact, it could be that Jek Porkins was adapted to a heavy world, and gained weight from the sudden drop in exercise upon moving to standard-gee worlds.
- E.T. should have a category all to himself in between these two, having the lower body of a heavyworlder and the upper body of a lightworlder.
- Earth has higher gravity than Barsoom, as John Carter finds out.
- He's also much shorter than the green-skinned Tharks, although he's the same size as the local humans. His Super Strength isn't shown much, although he easily breaks through the first chains that the Tharks put him in. Being Genre Savvy, they put him in heavier chains and attach them to a huge rock. Carter manages to throw the rock.
- Deja Thoris theorizes that the reason for Earthling and Martian physiology appearing similar is that Carter's body is more dense than the Martians. More realistically, the superpower that he shows off the most is being able to jump really far.
- One reason why Kryptonians are so strong on Earth in Man of Steel.
Live Action TV
- In Star Trek, Vulcan is said to have higher gravity than Earth, and Vulcans are consequently around three times stronger than humans. This explains why Spock, in spite of being a nerd, can kick most people's butts in hand-to-hand combat. Well, that and the fact that while Vulcans turned away from their previous proud warrior race society thousands of years ago, they kept teaching the old (and very effective) martial arts as a matter of tradition.
- In Andromeda, there are several genetically-engineered human variants, including people who breathe water and Heavyworlders. Captain Dylan Hunt's mother is a Heavyworlder, so he has genes that almost make him a physical match for a Nietzschean Super Soldier.
- In a straight fight against a Nietzschean with equivalent hand-to-hand combat, he'd lose. This is acknowledged by the producers in commentary tracks. Remember, Gaheris Rhade was eventually revealed to have thrown that fight..
- An episode of the Buck Rogers TV series had an unassuming man of average build named Toman who was secretly from a high-gravity planet, giving him great strength, which he used as a hit man who never needed weapons.
- The Sontarans, a race of cloned galactic warriors from Doctor Who. Although Sontarans 'grew' in size over the course of the series, the new series took the trouble to restore them to their original short height, leading to the inevitable Hurricane of Puns from the Doctor.
- The much-despised spin-off of the original Battlestar Galactica (Classic), Galactica 1980, had the Twelve Colonies with greater gravity than Earth so the Galacticans were considerably stronger and could jump much higher.
- The "Gatecrashing" supplement for Eclipse Phase introduces Dvergar (singular: Dvergr), short and stocky morphs meant for exoplanets with significantly higher gravity than old earth.
- Warhammer 40,000 has two prominent examples that ended up going in very different directions. One group of Heavyworlders adapted to their environment by bulking up (and up, and up) at the expense of culture and brainpower, developing into the abhuman Ogryns. Another population grew shorter, stouter, and squatter, becoming the Squats (and ultimately, Tyranid chow. Not that such a silly army ever existed in the first place).
- For a less extreme example, the jungle death world of Catachan has slightly higher gravity than Terran standard, which helps explain why its soldiers are so brawny. This earns them the somewhat unflattering nickname of "Baby Ogryns."
- Tau of the Air Caste have become much taller and thinner than other castes over the centuries inhabiting space craft and stations with low or no artificial gravity.
- Taken to an extreme by the 'lobster' form that Kheldians can take in City of Heroes; a previous common host for Kheldians were the inhabitants of a white dwarf star.
- According to official data, The Covenant has a few heavyworlders in its ranks. The Sangheili/Elite homeworld Sanghelios has 1.375G, Doisac (the Jiralhanae/Brute homeworld) has 2.1G, and the Yanme'e/Drones call Palamok, with 2.2G, their home. Fittingly, all three races are quite physically strong - Elites & Brutes can match Spartans in close combat, and Drones are strong enough to lift full-grown armored human marines into the air.
- Te, the Lekgolo/Hunter homeworld, has 4G.
- The Lekgolo are actually small wormlike creatures that live in massive colonies, which according to the 'smaller is better' angle would be more appropriate for a high g world.
- The Elcor of Mass Effect come from a heavy world, and as a result are very cautious and conservative in all aspects of their life, since a fall could literally kill them on their homeworld.
- Deconstructed in Mass Effect 3. As a race of slow-moving Mighty Glaciers who are outmatched by the Reapers, the vast majority of Elcor civilians fail to evacuate their home-world in time. It's implied that while some Elcor escaped, there aren't enough to recover the species.
- Mass Effect also has the Volus. The Volus homeworld has a high pressure atmosphere and a gravity of 1.5gs making the Volus rather short. They have to wear a pressure suit to keep their skin from splitting open when in environments that are suitable for the other council species.
- Gravitas in Meteos is the planet in the game with the strongest gravity. Its inhabitants have little leisure time. They are about 1 meter in height and seem to be angular in shape.
- There are a number of other planets with very heavy gravity too, though they don't have it as their defining trait like Gravitas. They're reflected in gameplay by everything falling quickly (and thus tend to be more difficult planets to work with).
- In Master of Orion II, races with the High-G World trait gain an extra hit in ground combat and do not suffer production penalties when colonizing other high-gravity planets, though they still suffer a production penalty when colonizing low-gravity worlds.
- One of the Biotechs in Sword of the Stars that allow colonists to be genetically tailored to their environments is Gravitational Adaptation.
- Reach For The Stars has a species that lives on the surface of the solid core of a gas giant. Yes, thousands of miles below the gas giant's apparent surface.
- In Star Ocean Till The End Of Time, the Klausian people are from a planet with a gravity roughly twice that of Earth's. True to form, they possess heightened speed, strength, and stamina relative to Earthlings.
- Orion's Arm has numerous races designed and redesigned for high gravity planets. Also comes in handy on accelerating spaceships.
- An early Futurama episode involves a high-gravity planet. The only person they meet on the planet is quite short and wide and incredibly strong.
- Tug-Mug from ThunderCats.
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Anime & Manga
- Zone of the Enders Dolores, i portrayed people born on Mars as being weaker than those born on Earth. It's mentioned that it's a criminal offense for an Earthling to strike a Martian, as there's a good possibility it could kill them.
- Which is why they built themselves Humongous Mecha about six times the power of Earth models in their most mass produced forms.
- This is also mentioned when main character James Links is challenged to a fist fight by a Martian gangster. James figures the fight will be easy as he's a Earthling, only to get his ass kicked in record time. Apparently the gangster works out in heavy G, just so he can knock arrogant Earthlings down a peg or two.
- The Red Mars Trilogy touched on this, too - when long-time Mars residents traveled to Earth, they often needed power-enhancing suits to cope with the higher gravity.
- Nono in Planetes. She's two meters tall. She's twelve. She was born on the Moon. However, since the human body wasn't designed for this sort of environment, the effects of lunar gravity to her physiology lead to her living permanently in a hospital, both to monitor her health as well as to aid medical research into the effects of low-gravity environments on humans —which is vital for deep-space missions like the Jupiter-bound Von Braun expedition. There is also a subversion of the "Earthborn protagonists are stronger" aspect of the trope in that professional astronauts who spend too much time in zero-G will suffer muscular atrophy and a form of osteoporosis. This is shown explicitly when the elderly Harry Roland easily overpowers the 25 year-old Hachimaki because the veteran astronaut actually made a substantial effort to maintain his muscle mass and bone density. Hachi is inspired to do the same after the incident.
- Although the world of MÄR Heaven doesn't have gravity that is notably different from Earth's, in that the humanoids look no different, it does give Ginta and Nanashi an extreme power up in strength and jumping ability when compared to the standard occupants of the world.
- Space colonies in Gundam generally don't have this issue, as they rotate to provide roughly 1G gravity on the interior. This is not as true for the Jovian colonies though, in which a full 1G of gravity is rare, and most time is spent weightless, or nearly so. A couple of Jovians in Crossbone Gundam visit the Earth and are barely able to walk across a room without collapsing.
- While we don't see much of them in the series proper, Moon people also have this problem, the semi-realistic tech level of most Gundam shows not being up to the task of making the Moon spin fast enough to generate centrifugal force. The most notable example would be the original Mobile Suit Gundam's Zeon Sovereign and de-facto Big Bad Degwin Zabi, who suffers from various health problems due to spending most of his life on the Moon. Contrary to the popular depiction of lightworlders as tall and elf-like, he's abnormally short and dwarfish due to severe osteoporosis.
- The Mercurians in Dan Dare fulfilled this trope by being very spindly in build, but also subverted it by being superhumanly strong.
- In Avatar, the Na'vi live on the lower-gravity Pandora. They're in the range of ten feet tall and skinny as a rail. Averts the weakness part: they're much stronger and more durable than humans, with the ability to use a hunting/war bow as tall as an average human man and their bones are practically natural carbon-fiber. Perhaps justified in that Pandora has only marginally lower gravity and the Na'vi evolved on a planet where everything tries to kill you. Not to mention that being so large, they have more places for muscles to attach too and just more muscles in general. And then the longer limbs could give them more leverage.
- The native Martians in John Carter of Mars are considerably weaker than John Carter, who can easily make 50-foot standing leaps in Barsoom's low gravity.
- The aristocratic Exultant caste in Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun are described as being very tall, possibly due to being originally from a low-gravity world and/or genetic engineering by their forefathers.
- Charlene Dula, a visiting gamer from The Barsoom Project, grew up in the orbital colony Falling Angels. Her elongated frame reminds people of a Tolkien elf, and she has a hard time with Earth gravity despite months of intensive exercise before coming to Earth.
- Inhabitants of Larry Niven's Integral Trees are somewhat taller and slimmer than Earth people, but they are strong, tough Heavy Worlders compared to people from the rest of the Smoke Ring. The tidal forces acting on the trees provides at least a little simulated gravity, but everyone else grows up in zero-G.
- One character, often referred to as a "dwarf", actually has an Earth-normal build; he's described as "monstrously strong" and is the only person who can wear one of the original spacesuits.
- There's also the planet "We Made It," whose homeworld has low gravity and such severe storms that everyone is forced to live underground. Its inhabitants are all tall, wiry, and albino— basically the opposite of the Jinxians.
- Earth's moon, Luna, is also colonized in Niven's stories. The people who grow up there, "Lunies," average around eight feet tall and are said to look like fantasy elves.
- Martians in the Red Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. There is a section where a second generation Martian travels to Earth, but is forced to leave because the higher gravity and air pressure are damaging his health.
- Brikar from Star Trek: New Frontier. Unusually, Brikarians aren't fragile; in fact they have some of the qualities of Heavyworlders.
- Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress uses a related idea - the tendency of muscles to atrophy in lower gravity - as a major obstacle in Mannie and Prof's trip to Earth.
- It even goes to the point of saying that living on the Moon for more than a few weeks can cause "irreversible physiological changes," to the point that a person who has lived their whole lives on Earth will be unable to handle Earth's gravity after about six weeks in the Moon, unless they exercise regularly and "stretch time" by using centrifuges to keep their bodies adjusted to 1g. Even then, it's chancy.
- Inverted in the Gor series, where the planet is often described as having lower gravity than Earth but the men of Gor are far stronger.
- That's because they use the muscles they have - wind, water and muscle are Gor's only motive powers, so they get plenty of exercise. It should be noted that the occasional Earth exports - Tarl Cabot and Jason Marshall - benefit from their Earth-developed muscle mass, even though Jason takes half of Fighting Slave of Gor to find out how strong he is. Otherwise, the usual comparison is between Gorean men and Earth women, where testosterone trumps gravity every time. And though Gor's lesser gravity is, plotwise, doubtless a tip o'the hat to John Carter of Mars, Gor is much nearer to Earth in size than Mars.
- In C.S. Lewis's The Space Trilogy, the Malacandrans (Martians) are all thinner and taller than humans.
- In The Gods Themselves, Moonborn people have weaker bones, leading to slight sexual incompatibility with Earth people. And due to the metabolism being about the same, they need constant exercises to keep their bodies under the proper strain. A human from Earth who comes to the Moon must spend at least a week every two months on Earth, unless he wants to become a permanent resident.
- The "1 on 1" gamebook Battle For The Ancient Robot had Zanleer from Venus as one of the human player's allies. His vital stats are given as 7' 6" and 169 pounds. As an aside, the surface gravity of Venus is about 90% of Earth's.
- Sector General again, this time with the GLNO Cinrusskin, a meter-long insectile species from a planet with 1/8 G. Requires an antigravity belt to survive, much less be able to move, in 1G conditions (if the belt failed it'd die of shock within minutes, assuming its exoskeleton didn't collapse first).
- In the Green-Sky Trilogy, the titular world does have much lower gravity, so much that a toddler's fall from the high treetops will injure, but not kill. The Kindar are on the willowy and frail side, while the ground-walking Erdlings descended from Kindar Exiles have developed a sturdier frame from generations of living underground.
- In the Hyperion Cantos, Kassad is from Mars, which has a lower gravity than Earth. He's very tall and slender, but he keeps in shape (it helped that he had to spend a year as a menial worker in a 1.3 G environment).
- The Martians in The War of the Worlds are massive, octopus like beings who could walk on their tentacles on their home planet, but can only drag themselves on their bellies on Earth.
- Honor Harrington also features a few lightworlder characters, such as Joachim Alquezar from the Talbott Quadrant world of San Miguel. They are described as being tall and lightly built.
- Rather harshly deconstructed in 3001: The Final Odyssey. After being effectively resurrected in the year 3001, Frank Poole (the member of the original crew from 2001 that floated off into space in his suit) spends a long period of recovery in the lower gravity of a ring built entirely around the Earth at about half the distance to the moon. While he feels completely physically fit by the end of his rehabilitation, when he takes a trip to the planet himself along a Space Elevator, he ends up in a wheelchair due to the relative lack of musculature.
- The Eldritch in M.C.A. Hogarth's Paradox Universe are from a planet with significantly lower gravity than Alliance average, they tend to be six-seven feet tall and thin, with noticeably elongated limbs. And they're notably fragile, in Mindtouch Jahir passes out from the strain Seersana's standard strength gravity puts on his body, though he goes on medication to help strengthen his skeleton and cardiovascular system.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine gives a Lightworlder in Ensign Melora Pazlar, the only Elaysian in Starfleet. She is mostly bound to a wheelchair (or a quite clumsy "exoskeleton" harness) because of her difficulties in adapting to standard gravity. In her quarters, she turns the artificial gravity to that of her world. Dr. Bashir tries a strengthening regimen, but when told it would be irreversible (thus making it impossible for her to return to her homeworld), she declines. Eventually, Melora beat some bad guys by turning off the artificial gravity and being the only one who could easily maneouver.
- The Tau of Warhammer 40,000 includes the Air Caste, the Tau social class who crew the empire's spacefleet. As they have lived almost exclusively in a low-gravity environment for generations, they are described as having developed very fragile, lightly-built bodies.
- Most post-Fall transhumans in Eclipse Phase live on planets, moons, or habitats with lower gravity than old Earth. Though the only morphs that particularly fit the "lightworlder" profile are Bouncers and Titan's "Hazers".
- Moonbabies in GURPS Terradyne are humans raised in Lunar gravity. They're tall and fragile, as one might expect, and can't safely return to Earth.
- Similarly, in the backstory of Trinity, "Lunar Aggravated Osteoporosis" was a massive problem for humanity when first colonizing the moon, before the invention of Artificial Gravity.
- The Covenant has two prominent light-worlders in its ranks. The Kig-Yar/Jackals hail from Eayn, which has 87.5% Earth's gravity. They are not physically strong or durable (being birdlike and thus likely having fragile skeletons doesn't help them either), relying on shields to protect them. However, even in Earth gravity they're pretty fast on their feet. Unggoy/Grunts come from Balaho, which has only 70.8% Earth's gravity, but are actually pretty strong judging by the weapons they've been seen carrying; in First Strike the ODST Cpl. Locklear has great difficulty hefting a fuel rod cannon over his shoulder, while Grunts carry FRGs with no problem.
- Some of the Unggoys' strength might be due to their homeworld being a Death World, with flame geysers and other hazards. This is also responsible for their rapid rate of reproduction, to the point where contraceptive chemicals are put in their gas and food while offworld to prevent overcrowding.
- In Meteos, Luna=Luna (two dwarf planets resembling Earth's Moon) and Arod (an Asteroid Thicket) have very weak gravity. In both cases, inhabitants seem to like jumping from one terrestrial body to another. Gameplay in these areas are more lethargic.
- In Master of Orion II, races with the Low-G World trait suffer a penalty in ground combat, as well as production penalties on normal-gravity worlds in addition to the penalty most races have on high-gravity worlds. While the trait removes the production penalty most races have on low-gravity worlds, it is considered a disadvantage since low-gravity worlds are slightly rare and tend to be small and poor in resources.
- Inverted in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, where Voluptua has said she is more fragile than she looks because Earth has higher gravity than her homeworld.
- In fact Fructose Riboflavin (same species) refers to Bob (a completely normal human) as a heavyworlder while fighting him, commenting on how he had to punch him dozens of times in a few seconds to even affect him, while if Bob got one good punch he'd be done for. Of course, we don't get to see the latter happen due to Galatea intervening.
- In Quantum Vibe Spyders and Beltapes were designed for microgravity, they can't even take Martian gravity for long. Though Beltapes avert the usual lightworlder build by looking like six-foot gorillas.
- Filmation's version of Flash Gordon claims that Mongo's gravity is a bit lighter than Earth's, so humans are stronger there than on Earth. Flash mentions this to encourage Dale when she has to jump across a wide gap to safety.