In a setting where there is a Witch Species
, aliens, fairies, or superpowers that show up with sufficient regularity, these Differently Powered Individuals
will have the hardship of being hunted by those who want to exploit them for money, power and ...other uses. The government
, corporations, Mad Scientists
and criminal organizations may seek to enslave and co-opt them to evil ends, such as spying, Super Soldiering
, For Science!
! and many other purposes.
In extreme cases they may become a Slave Race
or Endangered Species
thanks to this Fantastic Racism
. The protagonists are likely a part of this oppressed group, and have to spend the story on the run from their oppressors, trying to escape their captors control, and/or thwarting their plans and helping their fellows escape. As a result of this trope, members of this oppressed group are likely to choose Transhuman Treachery
and the enslavement (or eradication) of mankind
, which can be poetically tragic
if the fear of this is what lead to the enslavement in the first place.
This has some basis in Real Life
. The Industrial Revolutions
(there are two
of them) deserve most of the credit for ending slavery, particularly in America. Although the introduction of the cotton gin in fact prolonged plantation slavery in the South by making cotton a profitable crop which needed many, many hands, the tractor and other farming machines did eventually help reduce the need for physical labor.
However, in a world with Differently Powered Individuals
, assuming that these powers are significant enough to upset the balance of order, you've once again made slavery a relevant business. Superpowers typically invoke a lot of free energy
that, for Muggles
, would take a lot of time, money, resources and manpower to replicate. Superhumans usually don't have to worry about such things.
Conceivably, finding a way to make these or functionally similar superpowers universally available via Super Serum would act as a "third" industrial revolution
, but the problem of Superhuman slavery would remain until technology outpaces superpowers once again
. But by then, you might have an even BIGGER problem on your hands...
See also Mutant Draft Board
and Super Registration Act
. For examples of what things can be like if Supers volunteer their abilities, check out These Look Like Jobs For The Superman
Anime and Manga
- In One Piece, Fishmen inherently have 10 times the strength of normal humans, but they are constantly getting captured and placed into slavery, where they are bought for extremely high prices by the fabulously wealthy. People confirmed to have Devil Fruit powers also fetch very high prices at the slave auctions.
- Witch Hunter Robin had the inquisition out to mostly kill witches, but the Japanese branch wasn't averse to recruiting witches... in order to use them to hunt down their own kind. The ones they captured were then enslaved (or processed, it's not clear) to produce "orbo," an Anti-Magic material.
- Darker Than Black Contractors were treated like dangerous, though useful monsters and either used as expendable killers or experimented upon at will — at least, until U.N. intervened... to demand that countries share this research and form PANDORA. Dolls who got a shorter straw were treated like corpses with still living brains — if normal humans don't take cyborgization well, try to cut off a Doll's legs and "program" him to test the replacement. Just like that, it's equipment. Or sometimes a pretty one get "programmed" and sold as a Sex Bot — illegal, but behind the masquerade there's very little difference.
- The manga series +Anima is about young people who develop the ability to transform into Petting Zoo People, with the ability to grow wings, claws, tails, and more. Discrimination against the +Anima occurs in many places, but in Sailand, enslaving them is legal and there is an active business. It's implied that they're usually sold to people who can make the most use of their abilities, (such as a fisherman who wants to use a swimming +Anima for his work) though attractive +Anima may be sold to rich people and artists for the purpose of standing around and looking pretty.
- Gangsta features a split-off of humanity called Twilights, all of whom have Super Strength, Super Speed, etc. but constantly face Fantastic Racism and were legal to enslave until just a few years before the main story starts. The only reason normals got away with this sort of treatment is because Twilights are a very small minority of the population and all of them are hopelessly addicted to the pricey drug Célèbre, which many slave masters used to control them. For example, one of the main reasons Nicolas never ran away from his highly abusive owners as a child was because they provided him with just enough Célèbre to keep him barely lucid.
- May or may not happen frequently with the more monstrous monster girls of Daily Life with Monster Girl. A shown example would be Rachnera Arachnera, whose host family was expecting a girl of the softer variety.
- In one of the more recent chapters, during a flashback we see several monster children being rescued from a group of kidnappers.
- World Trigger: The Neighbors' motive for coming to earth is essentially this. Drones are sent to earth to harvest humans for their Trion. Humans with low Trion merely have their Trion Glands removed (which is, naturally, fatal). Humans with sufficiently high Trion, however, are taken alive and used as Slaves Soldiers back in The Neighborhood.
- The 1970s alien version of Starman spent years as a drugged slave being bought and sold by various "collectors".
- At one point, Fantastic Four foe the Puppet Master attempted to sell a number of Marvel Comics superheroines under his Mind Control as Sex Slaves to various nasty sorts.
- 1980s Justice League of America villainess the (human) Queen Bee was introduced running an auction to sell off a brainwashed superhero from another world.
- Justice Society of America enemy Roulette engages in this so that she can profit from betting on superhuman blood sports.
- The Cyborg-Superman and Mongul have both tried to do this to the members of the Green Lantern Corps.
- The X-Men are basically the Trope Codifiers. Among the groups out to enslave them are: The Weapon X project, the U-Men (although in this case, they were specifically trafficking mutant body parts, blood and whatever else carried the mutations) and the island nation of Genosha, which built its prosperity on mutant slavery.
- X-Men villain Mojo's entire existence is practically to televise Differently Powered Individuals doing awesome things for the benefits of higher ratings. Their consent, is of course, purely optional.
- We once did see the Hellfire Club having an actual superhuman auction. This isn't as suicidally dumb as it sounds, as the Marvel Universe has always had a population of lower-level superhumans - not always visible, but there. The club wasn't selling anyone who could kill you with their brain. Not to mention, the Hellfire Club is run by an Inner Circle of powerful superhumans in their own right. Natch, the X-Men had to break it up.
- Gambit was stolen from a hospital shortly after birth and given to a slave trafficking sorceror as a gift because of his demonic-looking eyes.
- In the DCAU, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were once captured and auctioned off to the highest bidder. All the major villains of the DCAU were invited to the auction. It turned out to be a trap by the Justice League to lure out of hiding and arrest as many villains as possible.
- In First Try Series, Sasuke has to hide that he's Uchiha to not risk getting kidnapped and sold into slavery for his bloodline.
- In Wish Carefully, magically-strong girls were kidnapped by Death Eaters to be concubines for stave off their slow extinction.
- In the original Escape to Witch Mountain Tony & Tia are chased by a Corrupt Corporate Executive who wants to use their powers for his personal gain and a mob of people on a literal Witch Hunt. Not that they know what they'll do with them once they catch them.
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a solitary example: The Incredible Hulk, whom General Thunderbolt Ross says, in no uncertain terms "is property of the US Government". Specifically, since Banner tested an attempt to reverse-engineer a super-soldier serum on himself, the power of the resultant Hulk Out is seen by Ross as useful to the government as study. He's prepared to capture Banner and use him as a guinea pig/monster on a leash for the rest of his life.
- This is the premise of Push, all the world's superpowers hunt down... people with actual superpowers, killing, brainwashing, and experimenting on them.
- This is the ambition of the Doctor Who villain Henry van Statten. Pity his first attempt involves a Dalek.
- Heroes had a mix of both options by the same organization, which both hunted, exterminated, recruited and blackmailed people with abilities.
- In Firefly, psychics are taken to a lab known as "The Academy" at young age where The Man experiments on them to create Super Soldiers. Any escapees are hunted by "Hands of Blue" agents.
- This was the premise of The Immortal, a standard episodic drama from 1969 to 1971. Ben Richards was a race car driver whose blood contains every immunity and antibody possible, making him effectively immortal. A very rich and old man discovers this by receiving a transfusion from Richards and instantly feeling much younger and healthier. This prompts him to want to capture and imprison and effectively enslave Richards to ensure a constant supply of this (literally) life-giving substance. They even covered the point about paying Richards to frequently donate some blood, and the old man refusing by postulating that serious injury could kill Richards, thereby cutting off the supply of blood.
- In one Angel episode, Lorne is being forced to use his ability to read people's destinies so that they can be sold on the black market.
- In an Alternate History episode of Misfits, a Holocaust survivor travels back in time to kill Hitler, but inadvertently causes the Nazis to have a technological advantage and take over Europe. In the alternate present, the Nazis are rounding up superpowered individuals and using Seth, who has a combination of Power Parasite and Super Empowering, to give them to high ranking Nazi officials. The superpowered individuals are then killed.
- In Babylon5, human telepaths (except the very weakest) are required to join the Psi Corps, or take psi-dampening drugs that include suicidal depression as side effects.
- In the Aberrant role-playing, some novas (superpowered individuals) are hunted by criminal syndicates who kidnap them and harvest their organs to make superpowered drugs.
- Champions. The organization PSI (Parapsychological Studies Institute) hunts down and captures people with psionic abilities and brainwashes them into becoming villains and slaves of PSI. PSI plans to use them to take control of the world.
- In the New World of Darkness gameline Hunter: The Vigil, the Cheiron corporation does this to any being with powers, dissecting them to make medicine. Interestingly their strategy is stated to be very successful at curing the sick. They also harvest organs to give their agents superpowers.
- Shadowrun. Drakes are creatures which appear to be human but can shapeshift into the form of small dragons, with appropriate powers. Once they started to appear, powerful entities such as Great Dragons and MegaCorps immediately started to hunt them down and capture them.
- In the Dungeons & Dragons Dark Sun setting, muls (crossbreeds between humans and dwarves) have incredible endurance, being able to work three days straight without rest, but are rare due to sterility. Their endurance makes them great slaves, and large numbers are made into gladiators. Slave-hunters will generally put more effort into capturing muls than slaves of other races, and will probably have to because muls sprinting for freedom tend to be Bad Ass.
- The Harvester gang in Deus Ex: Human Revolution likes to kidnap people with augmentations and cut them out to either sell or install in themselves. Not a very nice group of people, all things considered.
- Biotics (especially untrained children) in the Mass Effect universe are very sought after by illegal groups, particularly if they're powerful for their species. In a more benign variant, biotics are also rare enough among humans that there are monetary incentives offered for them join the armed forces; the discrimination they face is so omnipresent that a very large percentage of them do indeed sign up just to escape it.
- The Blackwatch of Prototype once infected the entire population of a town with an experimental bioweapon. Every subject died after the town had to be shelled except for two, a woman and her newborn baby, who both exhibited odd capabilities. They were seized and designated "military assets" to spend the next forty years imprisoned and subject to all kinds of tests to develop tactics for fighting (and creating) new bioweapons.
- Legalized example in Dragon Age: Origins: all individuals, human or elf, with magical talent can be taken away by the Templars and placed inside a glorified prison with others of the like (ostensibly for their own and everyone else's protection) to toil away for the Chantry and whomever the Templars deem suitable clients.
- The situation is made complicated by the fact that mages are so because of their connection to the Fade, which includes a significant population of malevolent demons ready to use the mage as a tunnel to wreak havoc in the mortal world. A mage who loses control and gets possessed is generally accompanied by a massive body count. The Chantry sees its practices as a reasonable compromise: Mages are taken away from the public population for the safety of all, but the mages themselves aren't killed outright, but confined amongst their kind in relative comfort where they can study their art, use them for the better, and be warned not to give into the demons. As is with most complicated matters, there is ferocious IC and OOC debate on this, and lots of room for abuse on both sides.
- The Qunari, though, treat their mages as dangerous beasts. All mages are called Saarebas, which literally means "dangerous thing" in Qunari. They are forced to wear special collars that nullify their abilities and can be used to cause them great pain. Many also have their mouths sewn shut, so that they can't speak the words of a spell. In Dragon Age II, if a certain Qunari mage hunter finds out that you or anyone in your party is a free mage, he will go berserk and attack you immediately (of course, he would still attack you anyway for attempting to free a Saarebas). They have only recently started to grudgingly use Saarebas in warfare, once their attempt to fight the Tevinter Imperium (a magocracy) with only conventional means (including gunpowder) was met with devastating magic.
- A less legal example would be the elves. They used to be enslaved (the Imperium still uses them as slaves), and even now are treated as second-class citizens. This is motivated solely by prejudice as they're no more inherently dangerous than humans (some say all elves once had magic, but no-one knows for sure).
- In StarCraft, telepaths are deceptively (if possible) or forcibly (if not) recruited into the Ghost Program by wranglers. They are then trained The Spartan Way and mind-wiped.
- In Drowtales, while "Goblin" races (humans, orcs, etc.) are terrified of Fae races (elves, faeries), one kingdom has offered a reward for captives of elven blood for use as Human Sacrifice in hopes of obtaining the power of immortality.
- In Blue Yonder, the Davenports have been targetted. Their parents were taken in the Back Story, and Maiden Flight sacrificed herself to buy Blue Yonder time — and the reasons why are as yet unknown.
- One Global Guardians PBEM Universe story saw the heroes shutting down a slaver ring who were selling female Pelkons (a race of very human-like alien refugees who had been stranded on Earth during the Xorn invasion of 1985) into sexual slavery. A partial subversion in that the Pelkons have no "superhuman" abilities to speak of.
- Although the superhumans are the upper class in Arcadia, the primary setting for Destine Enormity, the Minos Corporation was found to be shipping Arcadian citizens out to be enslaved in the outside would. Both the Elite and the Messiah Complex were pissed when they found out.
- Not uncommon in Brennus. People with the Adonis trait (especially if it comes with little or nothing else in the way of superpowers) are targets for sex slavery. Other powers tend to vary depending upon the risk-versus-reward scenario, but the Califate pays top-dollar for Contrivers, and everyone wants a Gadgeteer.
- DC Comics villainess Roulette turns up with this M.O. on Justice League as well (see comic books above).
- In Young Justice, the "genomorphs" are this: genetically-engineered/cloned superbeings that are kept under mental control until ordered with a task. In fact, the pilot was a carefully-crafted revolt by the genomorphs to supplant the control of The Light (the Omniscient Council of Vagueness which created them) and allow the most human-looking of them (Superboy) to escape and act as their advocate to the outside world.
- Unfortunately, the Light is still in control, just more subtly, and Superboy has trouble even advocating for himself. Also, they left the same guy who was brainwashed into being head of security for the evil version as head of the reformed version, instead of getting him some damn therapy.
- As of season 2, both of them have been cured of this. On the other hand, the Light have started making deals with evil alien forces after advertising humanities potential for superpowers, which means lots of homeless people getting kidnapped and shipped off for human experiments to keep invoking this trope anyway.
- In Fairly OddParents, Fairy's are often hunted, almost always Mr. Crocker going after Timmy's fairies. in The Movie, Abracatastrophe, he succeeds