And be sure to drink it all, because sometimes the good stuff is on the bottom.
: Wait, back up. Your secret origin is drugs? Doesn't that kinda set a bad example for little kids? Cloak
: I am not your ROLE MODEL!
A hero who doesn't have his powers or abilities naturally, but has to get them from a process of digestion or injection of a specialized compound. For obvious reasons, depictions of this took a nosedive due to Moral Guardians
, as depicting heroes taking what seemed to be drugs became a strict no-no.
Heroes nowadays may get such treatments only once, often involuntarily (due to evil experimentation
) or as formal medical treatments. You're most likely to see this being done by villains, with an Anvilicious addiction metaphor
is the case when the abilities come from common foodstuffs. Applied to enough people at once, and it becomes a Mass Super-Empowering Event
. If (as in the case of Captain America
, pictured right) only one person gets it, it's a Disposable Superhero Maker
. A Superhuman Transfusion
(especially if it's from someone who drank Super Serum) usually has the same effects.
Compare Psycho Serum
and Bottled Heroic Resolve
. See also Power Source
and Higher Understanding Through Drugs
. For a similar trope in commercials, see Cereal Induced Superpowers
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Anime & Manga
- 8th Man was a Cyber Punk Super Hero who recharged himself (and his powers) through special cigarettes. His were the only cybernetics that didn't eat ones soul in the series. The OVA revival Eight Man After used plain old experimental Super Serum — in contrast to the Psycho Serum all the other cyborgs had to use.
- Naruto: Although his abilities don't center around them, Chouji's food pills can increase his chakra supply dramatically, allowing him to use more powerful attacks more often. These leave him burnt out afterwards at best, in critical condition at worst.
- As do Kiba and Akamaru's battle pills, which had been mostly abandoned by the ninja corps due to the side effect of not being able to move for three days after a ten-minute dose.
- Osamu Tezuka's superhero Big X (best known in the West for various cameo appearances he put in in various Astro Boy productions) got his powers from a Super Soldier serum his father was forced to develop for the Axis Powers during WWII. The drug was injected & came in two stages, one shot to make him Nigh Invulnerable & another turned him into a giant. In the anime this was changed to a pendant that emitted special EM waves due to Moral Guardians' concerns about the similarity to the then-emerging Heroin epidemic.
- One Piece. There are badass normals everywhere, and they can frequently match up against the likes of the super powered individuals just fine. But after consumption of a Devil Fruit, you get some sort of super power. Logia allow you to control and turn yourself into an element, Zoans give you shapeshifting and increased physical abilities, and Paramecia grant random, often strange powers such as the ability to produce wax or soap bubbles. But occasionally extremely powerful ones like Whitebeard's Quake Quake fruit show up as well.
- The Fishman Island arc has the Fantastic Drug, Energy Steroid. One pill doubles the user's strength but cuts years off their life. That last part is quite literal: constant abuse ages Hody's crew from their prime to old men within a day.
- The origin story of the hero of City Hunter is a bizarre instance of attributing cool powers to an actual illegal drug. According to the story, Ryo was born in poverty in Central America, and ended up used as a test subject and injected with a form of LSD. Rather than screwing with his mind, this instead gave him superhuman reflexes and a heightened sex drive, including Gag Penis.
- Ako's artefact as revealed in chapter 304 of Mahou Sensei Negima!.
- The drugs used by the Extended in Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny, which also double as a Psycho Serum. It has profoundly negative effects on the user, including fatal withdrawal symptoms.
- In Kurozuka, the blood of the immortal vampire Kuromitsu can give both immortality and Super Strength to those who take it—if they survive, which most don't.
- Baki the Grappler has X-4, a super steroid that increases muscular growth and overrides the effects of over-training. It turn's Jack Hanma from a stick of a person to a monster of a human.
- In the Marvel Universe:
- Puny Steve Rogers became Captain America thanks to the Super-Soldier serum, and failed attempts to recreate it are common plot points in both the regular and Ultimate universes.
- For instance, the 1950s impostor Captain America used a Nazi German variant of the formula to enhance his body. However, he learned the hard way that is not enough; the subject taking the serum then has to have it activated and stabilized in his body by a radiological treatment using "Vita-Rays" in order to take it into his system safe. Without the stabilizing agent, the serum caused mental instabilities, including paranoia; in the imposter's case, fueled by the Red Scare propaganda of that era, it caused him to see Communist enemies of America everywhere, leading to his being put on ice (literally) by the U.S. government and his fan-given nickname of "Commie-Smasher Cap".
- Omega Red was a failed Soviet attempt at making the serum as well as giving Red tendrils in his arms made of carbonadium (an alloy intended as a more feasible substitute for the astronomically expensive and rare adamantium). While Omega Red did gain most of Caps powers, he is constantly dying and has to drain the life-force of others in order to live (fortunately for him his mutant powers along with his tendrils can do just that). Apparently something called the "Carbonadium Synthesizer" will cure him of his condition.
- Some issues have it that instead of (or alongside) life-draining, he has a "death spore virus" that will eat him alive if he doesn't transmit it to others. It's his best weapon - your average opponent can't even try to fight him. Super-powered individuals can usually be allowed to box with him via Handwave about how whatever giving them their power making them partially resistant. A prolonged battle against his tentacles in a Spidey-vs-Doc-Ock sorta fashion? Only Wolverine has the Healing Factor to be up to that. However, he considers himself Blessed with Suck (despite being the type who would not pick a different career if cured or feel bad about the fact that he must kill to survive.) and seeks the c-synthesizer, as carbonadium is the only thing that can neutralize the virus. However, it's hard to know if he was born with that or if that's part of what was done to him.
- Interestingly, in Avengers: The Initiative, the original doctor who created the Super-Soldier Serum discovered similar results could be achieved with a perfect diet and an extremely specialized exercise program, which resulted in his grandson Michael Van Patrick having the same peak physical condition naturally. The research was not classified or ever used by the military because they wanted a quick fix; the natural super soldier would take a lifetime of dedication to produce. Unless you get your hands on one and just clone him over and over.
- The Sentry is a metafictional send-up of many Comic Book Tropes. Not only did he get his powers by taking "the Professor's secret serum", but comics-that-never-happened from the 1980s showed it blossoming into a full addiction metaphor. Later, it's revealed that he originally drank it hoping to get high.
- Patriot (Elijah Bradley) from Young Avengers is the grandson of Isaiah Bradley, the "first" Captain America, but his mother was conceived before Isaiah was experimented on, so he did not inherit his grandfather's powers. When Iron Lad came to recruit Elijah's brother, Elijah claimed to have gained superpowers through an emergency blood transfusion, but really was gaining powers artificially with MGH (Mutant Growth Hormone), an illegal street drug that causes brief periods of super-human abilities. Once discovered he stopped taking the MGH but went into battle anyway, was grievously wounded... and got an emergency blood transfusion from his grandfather, thus gaining superpowers.
- Vintage Heroes Cloak & Dagger were phased out for a while because their back story involved pharmaceutical testing (of the extremely involuntary kind). This is Lampshaded brutally in every scene they appear in when they make a comeback in the Runaways series. Every time they explain their back story another character says "So you got your powers from drugs, I bet the parent groups love you" to which Cloak usually declares that he is not supposed to be a role model. This is brought up again later where a modified version of the drug that gave Cloak his powers is mixed with mutant growth hormone and sold on the black market as the drug Darkforce, with the slogan "You wanna go night flying?" Superpowers are quite the buzz, apparently.
- A recent Retcon in Ultimate X-Men is that this version of Colossus needs the mutant enhancement drug "Banshee" to be able to so much as move his limbs in his organic steel form.
- More in the superpower-causers-equalling-drugs: There was an article in one issue of Year In Review, a tongue-in-cheek in-universe magazine, about Pym poppers, kids who took Pym particles to shrink and grow. This always backfired.
- As far as anyone at this point is able to understand, everything in the Ultimate Marvel universe involving superpowers are derived from attempted recreations of Captain America's Super Serum. Which in turn was reverse engineered from Wolverine, in the same experiments that created mutants.
- The various Green Goblins and Hobgoblins from Spider-Man comics used a serum that involved this trope mixed with a little bit of Psycho Serum since the Goblin formula increased a person's strength and intellect but also made them Ax-Crazy.
- In The DCU:
- Batman villain Bane (who also appeared in Batman: The Animated Series) got his superhuman strength from Venom, a steroid-like chemical derived from Miraclo. In a Continuity Nod, it later appears in Batman Beyond as a street drug and future-Bane has become a wheelchair-bound invalid due to the damage a lifetime of Venom use wrought on his body. In the comics, he also suffered severe problems from continued Venom use, but eventually got himself clean and now relies solely on his (considerable) natural strength. Or at least he did, and he was forced back into it. He tries not to use it as much, though.
- B'Wana Beast used a mystic elixir from somewhere in Africa. His mask-slash-helmet allowed him to control animals, though the elixir allowed him to fuse two animals into one... which he could control with the helmet.
- Also The Creeper got his strength and agility from a super serum, later changed into nanocell serum. In Batman: The Animated Series his powers came from the very same acid bath that created the Joker, combined with a blast of the Joker's very own laugh gas.
- Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke the Terminator, received increased strength, speed and endurance through an experiment conducted by the US Army. In the TV version (Arrow), he received these same enhancements through an experimental drug called Miracuru (The Miracle).
- Elongated Man gets his stretchy power from a substance called Gingold — usually fatal in its pure form, Elongated Man's metagene fortunately allowed him to drink it as much as he wanted.
- Hourman got his powers from the "miraculous vitamin" Miraclo, which gave those who took it superhuman strength and speed for exactly one hour. Miraclo turned out to be addictive, and both the Golden Age Hourman and his son who took up his mantle had to fight the addiction. (He currently takes a non-addictive "homeopathic" version of Miraclo.)
- Johnny Quick, The Mirror Universe Evil Twin of The Flash, uses an extract of his predecessor's blood to give him super-speed powers.
- Rex the Wonderdog got one suspiciously similar to that received by Captain America, complete with Nazi attack destroying the rest of the serum and killing the inventor. It made him strong and smart enough to win medals during the war (among other increasingly ludicrous accomplishments), and then survive for forty years naturally (after that, he drank from the Fountain of Youth and lives unnaturally).
- Static and the rest of the Dakota Bang Babies recieved their powers from being exposed to an experimental mutagenic gas during a massive gang fight. The police thought was tear gas meant to track the gangs to capture them later.
- The French Astérix books concern a Gallic town which fends off Roman domination by use of a magic potion which grants superhuman strength. In one entry, Asterix entered the (original Greek) Olympic games, only to be penalised for use of the potion (rather like steroid use in the modern Olympics, which is sort of funny since the original Olympics encouraged the use of performance enhancing drugs since it made for more interesting competitions). He finally won a race by tricking all opponents into using the potion previously mixed with a blue food colorant.
- The Top 10 comic series, which is a Homage to comic book tropes to begin with, has a whole subculture of power-granting drugs, such as "goose juice" that gives Super Speed.
- Bamse gets his super-ursine strength from "dunderhonung", thunderhoney, which is disqualified from being Power-Up Food because it is not just regular honey, but has to be mixed correctly with various herbs and spices (the working ingredient is appearently a rare flower that only grows on a single island in the Aegean, guarded by a seven-headed monster). However, something like Ralph Dibney's metagene above must also be involved, since most people just gets three days of stomach cramps from eating dunderhonung, and it seems to run in the family.
- One of the ongoing plot threads in Empire centers around discovering the secret of the production of Eucharist, a highly addictive substance that supercharges the abilities of those who take it. People under its influence can dodge bullets, and the high is described as being "Better Than Sex."
- Daniel Clowes Captain America parody "The Battlin' American" has horrible addiction problems requiring him to take regular doses of the super serum. The street thugs who steal it from him find this out the hard way.
- In the comic prequel to Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Doctor Horrible makes a super-serum using Captain Hammer's DNA. However, while he does gain Hammer's Super Strength and endurance, his intelligence is reduced to his level as well, resulting in a mindless series of Megaton Punches, until Horrible takes the antidote, becoming smart again but also scrawny and weak.
- Nedor Comics character the Liberator was a chemist who discovered an ancient Egyptian potion called "Lamesis", which grants super-human strength and speed when ingested. Naturally, he also figured out how to make more.
- The comic Fly is about a drug that gives people super powers.
- The lead character in the film Senseless gained Super Senses through a regimen of injections given to him as part of a pharmaceutical test.
- The protagonist John Grimm of the Doom film adaptation injects himself with a 24th chromosome which boosts his physical capabilities enormously, enabling him to plow his way through a building full of ravenous mutated monsters.
- To be sure, those monsters also have the chromosome. Apparently, said chromosome mutates you into a horrible monster if you're a bad person and turns you into a Super Soldier if you're a good person. Oh, and they first tested it on a convicted murderer.
- In 2008's The Incredible Hulk, the source of the Abomination's powers is a double dose of the Marvel Universe's fabled Rebirth Project super-soldier serum , combined with a blood transfusion from Bruce Banner. This appears to have been done as part of an effort to provide visible ties between Marvel Studios' adaptations of their canon characters - in this case, laying groundwork for the Captain America film.
- Actually, even Banner's mutation into the Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is due to his experimentation with the original serum. A combination of the fact that he didn't know what he was doing (the military had told him the work was for radiation resistance) and his replacing Vita-Rays with Gamma radiation led to his transformation.
- In the Bowery Boys movie Hold That Line, Sach mixes a bunch of random chemicals together and drinks down the mixture. The potion turns Sach into a super-athlete. Inverted later in the movie when Slip tries to replicate the formula. Slip gives the potion to the college Dean, who shrinks in size.
- In the 2011 movie Limitless the main character uses a drug to become super smart.
- After defeating his arch-nemesis Metro Man, Megamind decides to give Metro Man's superpowers to a random guy who would become the next champion of Metro City. He extracts Metro Man's DNA from some dandruff on his cape and accidentally injects it into Hal the cameraman.
- In Big Trouble in Little China, Egg Shen gives the heroes a potion just before the final showdown that will make them more heroic. It seems to work. Wang, at least, is able to jump superhuman distances.
- In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Dr. Jekyll keeps several vials of his serum that allow him to temporarily turn into Hyde. One vial is stolen by The Mole and copied by the Big Bad in order to allow him to create a whole army of Hydes. One of his lieutenants drinks a lot of the stuff and turns into a huge monster that even Hyde has trouble fighting. Ditto for Skinner's blood, which is used to recreate the formula for Griffin's invisibility serum. Presumably, Mina's blood is used to figure out how to turn people into vampires.
- The mother of a Tour de France cyclist wheezes and pants as she brings a tomato the size of a pumpkin to the table. She looks at her son and says, "I thought I told you to stop pissing in the vegetable patch!"
- In the Alterien series, Theseus, a chemical genius, developed a serum through his company that produces enhanced soldiers. The Alterien businessman called it the Superion Serum. He worked with the British military to begin the Actualized Augmented Soldier Programme. The Actuals, as they're called for short, receive impressive enhancements to their senses, muscles, organs and tissue. The serum makes them as powerful as other super soldiers such as the SABE Rs of the US or the Red Hammers of Russia. However, they require regular monthly injections in order for them to remain at top level performance.
- Captain Underpants didn't have superpowers initially, but gained them after drinking some literal Super Serum off of an alien spaceship in book three. This simply complicated things further, naturally.
- Wild Cards plays the "Super Serum = drugs" thing for all it's worth with Captain Trips, a genius biochemist, "the world's last hippie," and one of the most powerful Aces on the planet. He manages to bring each of his "friends" (alternate personalities each with their owns set of superpowers) out with "special concoctions" he makes himself. His first accidental transformation was primarily fueled by his first hit of acid.
- Melange, or spice, drives the Dune series— it not only extends lifespans, but in large doses, triggers precognition which allows for FTL Travel to be done safely (without it, you end up inside a planet or star one out of five times).
- The 39 Clues series is all about gathering 39 ingredients, or "Clues", to create a Super Serum that gives you the abilities of each of the four "branches" of the family searching for it - the cunning of the Lucians, the intelligence of the Ekaterinas, the strength of the Tomas, and the artistic talent of the Janus - feasibly allowing you to rule the world. These Clues include all kinds of ingredients, from harmless ones you can find in a grocery store such as honey, salt, and mint to highly toxic substances like mercury, lead, and king cobra venom.
- One of the first things Penny does in Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain is create the "Super Cheerleader Serum," which her friend Claire uses to get athletic enough to join the cheer squad. Her friend Ray drinks the rest, gaining a much larger boost in his physical powers, to the point that he's at roughly Captain America's level despite being thirteen. Penny explains that enhancing musculature is actually easy, it's just that most villains insist on adding aggression and combat skills and whatnot, which always goes horribly wrong.
- The Blackcollar trilogy has several of these used to create the titular Blackcollar commandos, the most important one being "Backlash," which vastly enhances reflexes and motor control.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Forrest used this initially.
- Late in the third series of The 4400, the Government trained up a squad of superpowered soldiers through a programme of injections of promicin, the neurotransmitter that gives the 4400 their abilities.
- A subplot in the second season of Arrow involves a drug called "Mirakuru", which was developed by the Japanese during World War 2 in order to create an army of Super Soldiers. It ends being what grants both Slade Wilson and Solomon Grundy their powers.
- A live TV example would be the sixties show Mr. Terrific - essentially Hourman again (not related to the comic book Mr. Terrific). A government agency came up with a pill that made 99% of humans sick, but gave nerdy Stanley Beamish the buffs (BFS - bulletproof flying strongman). Whenever a secret mission came along, Stanley would be given the 1 hour main pill and 2 15 minute boosters - one of which he would need in every episode due to power cutout.
- By Season 3 of Heroes Mohinder has developed a serum that gives people powers and used it to give himself Super Strength.
- In The Secret World of Alex Mack, Alex is doused in the chemical GC-161, which not only gives her the power to melt, levitate things and shoot lightning bolts, but also sets the Corrupt Corporate Executive to hunting her down.
- The Henshin One-Shot in Kamen Rider Faiz's movie Paradise Lost allows the user to be able to use Kamen Rider Kaixa's Rider Gear. But, like it's name states, it's only good once. After that, it causes the Kaixa Gear to dissolve into dust.
- An episode of The Invisible Man had a scientist rob a sperm bank full of sperm of geniuses and make a serum out of it that gives anyone he injects with it enormous intelligence. It turns out that people weren't meant to be so smart, as all of them end up burning out within days.
- Stargate Atlantis: The enzyme Wraith inject into their human victims during the feeding process actually makes the human much stronger. Lieutenant Ford begins taking the enzyme on a regular basis (and gathers his own group of human soldiers to take it, too) to help him fight the Wraith.
- The Centipede serum from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is a cocktail containing Chitauri metal (from The Avengers), Gamma radiation (from The Incredible Hulk), the Super-Soldier Serum (from Captain America: The First Avenger) and Extremis (from Iron Man 3).
- The Source Blood in Sanctuary is a vial of pure vampire blood (the vampires having been destroyed millennia ago) that the Five use to create a serum that gives each one different powers. Helen Magnus becomes The Ageless, John Druitt becomes a teleporter (agelessness may also be included in the package), James Watson becomes a super-genius, Nigel Griffin becomes the Invisible Man (the only one of the Five that appears to pass his core power to his offspring), and Nikola Tesla becomes a vampire with electric powers. Later, the Source Blood is stolen by the Cabal and used to make Helen's daughter Ashley and several "blank slate" humans into Superpowered Mooks.
- In the Rifts pen-and-paper RPG, the "Juicer" character class gain their superhuman abilities from a constant feed of intravenous drugs. The drawbacks are addiction, permanent organ damage in two years (making removal problematic), and death within seven. As most are shock troops and mercenaries, many die in combat long before that.
- Part of the extensive, complex, long and dangerous process of creating Warhammer 40,000 Space Marines is being steadily injected with a serum derived from the gene-seed of the chapter's Primarch- in turn derived from The Emperor himself (the other steps include bionics, numerous organ implants, and Training from Hell).
- In James Swallow's Red Fury, Rafen and his company come up against foes who inject themselves; Rafen is familiar with Bottled Heroic Resolve, and explicitly aware that this is far more. For one thing, they rise up from apparent death with them.
- Chaos Space Marines of Slaanesh and the Dark Eldar also have access to a variety of combat drugs which can boost their stats temporarily... or kill them.
- Pathfinder has the Alchemist, which trades almost exclusively in super serums, with their Jekyll & Hyde Mutagens, as well as many beneficial infusions (spells in potion form).
- Galerians centered around a boy named Rion, who had powerful latent psychic abilities he needed to consume drugs to use. His addiction caused him to waste away slowly.
- Final Fantasy VII's SOLDIERs were "infused with Mako energy"— which gave them strength enough to lift their favoured BFSes, as well as Glowing Eyes of Doom, a hallmark side effect. Other side-effects involve the hearing of voices and general loss of sanity.
- In Resident Evil 5, Wesker needs a frequent and precise dose of the virus running through his body in order to keep his superpowers and still stay (relatively) human-looking. This becomes the major gimmick of the penultimate boss fight, where the protagonists give Wesker an intentional overdose of the serum, and send him into a Villainous Breakdown.
- In City of Heroes the enemy group The Freakshow are cyberpunks powered by a drug called Excelsior, the Troll gang by massive overdoses of street drug Superadyne (or superdyne, or just 'Dyne), and with the release of the Superscience booster pack, players can change their costume by way of emotes that have them either drinking a potion from an Erlenmeyer flask or shooting up in the arm with a vial of the titular trope.
- Mario's Fire Flower.
- And by extension, all other items that Mario characters can get upgrades from, from Super Mushrooms to Feathers to Doki Doki Panic's Hearts.
- Prototype's Super Soldiers get their superhuman abilities from being injected with a strain of The Virus that has beneficial properties and none of the downsides.
- RuneScape has the Combat Potion made from Harralander herbs which can improve your strength and reflexes but most of all the herb in general has energy stimulating properties.
- The final bosses of Inazuma Eleven, Zeus, use a performance-enhancing serum dubbed Aqua of the Gods (or Ambrosia) to power themselves up to the level of "gods". In gameplay, this translates into them being able to use their incredibly powerful techs as much as they want without consuming TP.
- Deus Ex has "physiopharmaceutical" augmentation for the Men in Black, which among others makes them seriously Super Tough.
- In Freedom Force, the Domain's secret weapon is Energy X, which they have used to conquer all dimensions except this one. In order to have some fun, Lord Dominion decides to give Energy X canisters to Earth's worst criminals and watch them tear apart the planet. An alien named Mentor steals the ship containing the canisters and takes it to Earth, hoping to give it to good people to defend themselves and the others. The ship is shot down in orbit, and the canisters fall all over Patriot City and other parts of the world (Bullet is exposed all the way in Vietnam). Both good and bad people get hit with Energy X and transformed into superheroes and supervillains, respectively. Apparently, a super's blood can also act as super-serum, as Liberty Lad gets his powers from a transfusion of Minuteman's blood.
- "The Tyrany of King Washington" DLC for Assassin's Creed III shows an Alternate History where George Washington got his hands on a Piece of Eden and, after the power went to his head, declared himself king and forced his army of "bluecoats" to subjugate the land. After Connor's mother (still alive in this reality) tries to steal the artifact, Washington is determined to destroy the Frontier and enslave or kill its inhabitants. The village elder decides to make tea from the boughs of the Great Willow in order to imbue its warriors with strength to resist the king's army. Connor's mother is against this, as the tea has some nasty side effects. Later, Connor drinks the tea and, after a vision quest, is imbued with the spirit of the wolf. He gains the ability (Cast From Hitpoints) to become virtually invisible in plain sight and can also summon spirit wolves to attack enemies. It's implied that different people get different abilities from the tea. The tea is not mentioned in the original game, nor is the Great Willow present there, implying it's All Just a Dream.
- The second episode of the DLC introduces another power granted by a second sip of the tea. This one allows Connor to literally turn into an eagle and fly to any ledge/branch/enemy in the vicinity. There are three episodes, so the third may bring yet another spirit power.
- The third episode has Connor gain the power of the bear with the ability to Ground Pound. The end reveals that it was all a shared vision between Washington and Connor who both touch an Apple that a Templar has given to the general. Horrified, Washington has Connor get rid of the Apple (by tossing it in the ocean) and, later, gets angry when someone (supposedly) suggests that he declare himself king.
- Doom's Berserk Pack grants the Marine full health and ten times more damage when using his fists for the remainder of the level. It also makes his eyes bloodshot, tinting the player's screen red for about 20 seconds.
- In addition to Fallout's smorgasbord of experimental drugs to military-grade combat enhancements, certain varieties of Nuka Cola deliver a fair bit more than a carbonated sugar rush.
- In Starcraft, Terran infantry have access to stimpacks, drugs that increase movespeed and attack speed at the cost of 10 hitpoints (and have long-term effects in the novels). When they had no way of healing their troops, this was slightly risky (Marines only have 40 HP), but Brood War introduced medics that made them pretty much mandatory. In the sequel, the much tougher Marauders get them as well (though not in the campaign), allowing them to do horrible things to enemy vehicles and structures.
- The Goblin Alchemist from Warcraft III has an ability called Chemical Rage which greatly empowers his Ogre ride.
- Most of the heroes from Heroes Inc, a popular webcomic that makes use of public domain Golden Age characters, have taken serums that give them various powers and slow down their aging process.
- In Girl Genius, the Jägermonsters are the result of humans drinking a concoction first created by the Heterodyne family, brewed from the waters of a strange river that they built their castle over. The resulting "Jägerdraught" killed a significant number of the humans who drank it, but those who survived became nearly unkillable, immortal soldiers.
- The water of the river itself can also grant superhuman strength and stamina, but it's even more likely to kill anyone who bathes in it, let alone drinks it.
- Scary Go Round: The Vit Rx potion makes you big, strong, and attractive, even if you are an animal. Mayor Davies's body was too old to handle it, so instead of improving his musculature, it made him prone to outbursts, and barely intelligent enough to communicate.
- Several characters from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe gained their powers through one of these. Most noable would be Achilles, leader of the titular superteam, and Alloy, a shiny metal supervillain with superhuman strength.
- Every single character in Survival of the Fittest Evolution that takes part in the game gets their power via an injection of chemicals. Some of the powers are... questionably useful, though.
- In Worm, one of the major ongoing plot threads deals with Cauldron, a manufacturer of these. The Serum is derived from pieces of the corpse of a dead Cthulhu-like alien god .
- We Are Our Avatars: As part of his training to be a Feccian Bladesman, Zeke was given alchemical infusions that increased his strength and durability (and, by proxy, a certain degree of his other physical attributes) to preternatural levels. Both were already heightened by the training itself, however, with his infusions simply raising the bar further.
- Roger Ramjet got his powers from "Proton Energy Pills".
- Super Chicken, in his segment on George of the Jungle, had even more fun with this. The hero drinks a concoction known as Super Sauce... from a martini glass. Whether it really gives him any powers is also up for debate.
- The double-strength and triple-strength varieties of Super Sauce definitely have some effect. They cause the mild mannered Henry Cabbot Henhouse the Third to explode, hospitalizing him and any schmuck who happens to be standing at Ground Zero with him.
- As Underdog tells us, "The secret compartment of my ring I fill / With my Underdog Super Energy Pill." The film, naturally, opted for the Freak Lab Accident origin.
- Sometimes, Underdog says "Energy Vitamin Pill" instead of "Super Energy Pill." This may have been an exhortation for children to take their daily vitamins. Then, perhaps because the notion of popping pills for speed and strength became bad, later broadcasts omitted the pills and had Underdog spontaneously (without explanation) recovering his superpowers.
- One episode of Mighty Mouse ends with the titular hero contently smelling a flower. Some over-zealous Self-Appointed Moral Guardians, however, asserted that the Mouse was snorting opium poppies, and this eventually snowballed into the urban legend that Mighty Mouse gets his powers from cocaine (!).
- The Gummi Bears are a target for all number of villains because their magical Gummiberry juice temporarily grants superhuman strength to humans who drink it. (The juice allows the bears themselves to bounce much like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.)
- Parodied in the fourth season episode of Futurama, "Less Than Hero", where an alien "Miracle Cream" temporarily gives Fry and Leela super powers.
- An explosion of "meta-gas" during a gang feud on Static Shock gave Static and a bunch of other troubled teenagers in Dakota different powers. One Teen Genius Monster of the Week learned how to control it, and could grant himself different short-term powers through short-term exposure.
- Parodied in the classic Bugs Bunny Wartime Cartoon "Super-Rabbit", among other places.
- It's not technically Super Serum, but Popeye gets his powers explicitly by eating a can of spinach. Why no one else tries is this is unknown.
- The movie implies that the ability to get super-strength from spinach was a family trait. In the original comics, the Sea Witch does try it on Alice the Goon. It's uncertain if it actually worked, partly because Popeye added milk to his spinach diet to make himself even stronger and partly because the Goon fell in love with Wimpy shortly after, leading the way to her sympathizing with Popeye and the gang. The last fight she has with Popeye breaks up rather quickly, as he sees the Goon has a child and won't hit a mother.
- There actually was one episode where after Bluto starts sobbing about how he Popeye always beats him up, Popeye responds by feeding Bluto some of his spinach, causing Bluto to power up, and he immediately launches into a song about what a great guy Popeye is, while pausing to clobber him at every pause in the Melody.
- Furthermore, there are cartoons where Olive Oyl and a mouse each eat spinach (accidentally in the latter case). Olive instantly develops feminine but obvious bulging biceps and promptly uses them to bring the squabbling Popeye and Bluto to heel: the mouse ends up jamming Popeye into its hole in the wainscotting and takes his bed for the night.
- In the Tom and Jerry episode Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse, Tom tries to do away with Jerry by putting various poisonous substances in his milk, but it makes Jerry strong enough to violently body-slam Tom instead.
- In their origins, steroids were looked as if they were this: some magic serum that gave new soldiers muscles with no training whatsoever. As it turns out, there is a price.
- During the War of the Pacific Chilean soldiers developed a toxic drink nicknamed "La Chupilca del Diablo" (The Devil's Booze), which consisted of a mix of strong Aguardiente and black gunpowder. According to that era's records, the unholy mixture caused the Chilean soldiers to go absolutely berserker and able to ignore pain or fatigue, but because of the toxic nature of the drink, this Super Serum was only used on extreme situations. For the record, that war had Peru and Bolivia teaming up against Chile, and Chile won that war.
- Scientists have actually developed a reliable supersoldier serum. However, it only works on ants.
- The German military from 1938 throughout World War II used liberally a compound of the dreaded methamphetamine (then known as Pervitin and often laced into chocolate to mask its bitter taste), under the hope it would give the soldiers and most importantly airmen superhuman performance. While the effects of meth as an insanely strong stimulant are known, the mild concentration used back then led the troopers to stay awake for weeks, raise themselves from total exhaustion, but it did not grant superhuman powers.
- Usually performance-enhancing drugs are a technological and biological dead end. They can enhance one ability (stamina, when stimulants like methamphetamine or cocaine are involved, awareness with psychoactive drugs, or lack of inhibitions with marijuana) at great cost, they are addictive, they lose potency over time due to habituation, and, worse, they give a sense of false security. This is the reason evolution never pushed a species in the wild to consume a performance-enhancing plant: two animals fighting to a gruesome death because they lack the feel of pain both lose the possibility to reproduce themselves.
- Adrenaline, used in emergencies by medical professionals trying to stabilize/revive a patient and useful for allowing super human strength performance too. For as long as the stuff holds or until the body burns out anyway.
- It also combats swelling (it's easier to run away if the bruises don't kick in yet), hence its use in treating anaphylactic shock. The stimulant ephedrine is chemically similar, which is why pseudoephedrine is best known as the decongestant Sudafed. Swelling serves a purpose, though, reducing bleeding and closing off orifices from infection; between the body burning out and curtailing those two functions, an adrenaline-based super serum would need to strike a delicate balance to avoid Blessed with Suck (or need to be supplemented with, e.g., immune-boosting nanorobots).