What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?
"At my most bad-ass, I make people feel like they want to take a shower."
This refers to a special ability of someone on a team such as a Five-Man Band
who is so specialized
as to seem useless in most situations
Good writers can make this work for a character
. They may have a power (such as it is), but it's not the real
reason they're in the group. Some characters end up being The Heart
(the social and moral compass), The Face
(diplomat and spokesperson), The Smart Guy
or the Badass Normal
. Often said character is The Captain
- superpowers would be just a tiny bonus to his real ability: leadership
. The Captain
tends to be specifically written to have no
superpowers, in fact.
Not every character is this lucky. It is a fact of life that leadership tends to favor the Bad Ass
, even if their level difference has been no fault of the weaker character himself
. Soon they will be ignored in favor of other, more interesting characters
and eventually people will even question why they are still on the team at all
. They may even turn into The Scrappy
There are a number of ways to fix this. If the character still seems ridiculously underpowered
, they can still be Rescued from the Scrappy Heap
by giving them additional powers
or responsibilities. A common method is to have the the character suddenly "evolve" to a higher power level
. Weak, but Skilled
characters might take advantage of the Required Secondary Powers
. Maybe there ARE more potential uses for this power
, it's just that the writers have somehow ignored them this far. Sometimes the character will uncover a devastating new use and become the dreaded Lethal Joke Character
. Maybe there's a trade off; for instance, powerful beings tend to look freaky, while those with more subtle powers look normal and are better able to deal with mundane society. The easiest device is to just crank out a good old Plot Tailored to the Party
, so that the character can make his seemingly useless superpower seem useful. In fact, characters who do nothing but gripe about their uselessness in battle might be a sign of bad writing. Couldn't they just carry a gun?
Named for an Internet meme
, itself referring to Ma-Ti's ring power in Captain Planet and the Planeteers
. While the other team members could control the raw elements with visually impressive feats, he could just talk to animals
with a Spider-Sense
. No doubt it was useful - his telepathy bailed them out a lot, as did the ability to get nearby animals to help, and it seemed to ward off the Idiot Ball
- but it lacked the total elemental
"badass" quality of the others. Then there was the fact that the one Big Bad
he bothered to use it on was invulnerable to its powers because "You have no heart!", and the other villains never merited an attempt, for some reason
. Ironically, since his power involved a form of limited mind-control, he probably could have been
the most devastatingly powerful of all the Planeteers
if he weren't a pacifist. Plus it's hard (but not impossible
) to have dramatic tension when the hero can just command the bad guys to shoot themselves in the head
. Inspired this video
Often the result of overdoing Cast Speciation
. Easier to take in a Heroes Unlimited
series, where not every character has to be in every episode. For Video Games, compare Quirky Bard
and Power-Up Letdown
; see also Crippling Overspecialization
If they won the Superpower Lottery
and still have one of these powers, it's Flight, Strength, Heart
. If he's suddenly in a situation where the power is useful all by itself, it's This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman
. If he's able to hold his own in a fight through good old training and determination, he Fights Like a Normal
For the (sometimes classified as elemental
) power of Heart (or Love) itself, see The Power of Love
and Heart Beat-Down
. Compare The Team Normal
and Story-Breaker Team-Up
. Contrast Heart Is an Awesome Power
and Lethal Harmless Powers
when these abilities are used more... creatively
. See also the Inverse Law of Complexity to Power
, which states that the broader a power is the more potent it is (and which often isn't used at the same time as this trope).
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Anime & Manga
- Almost all of the Aasu sisters in Puni Puni Poemi are victims of this trope, which wouldn't be so bad if they didn't make up the entire team. "Super breakfall" (the power to never be injured if you're knocked off your feet), anyone? Lampshaded during a fight scene when they realize they can't fight the bad guy since none of them have offensive powers.
- Sailor Moon
- In the third season, Sailor Chibi-Moon assumed the "useless member" role; as a Senshi-in-training her "Pink Sugar Heart Attack" was shown to be so weak and pointless that it mostly only annoyed the villain (it also occasionally just didn't do anything period, and on at least one occasion backfired on her). She got demoted even further in the fourth season, replacing that attack with one that summons the pegasus Helios to power up Sailor Moon for her final attack - in other words, she had no powers of her own, reduced to merely being able to call someone else to empower yet someone else. It was later revealed that she could still do her Pink Sugar Heart Attack with the bell for summoning Helios... for all the good that attack ever does.
- This is averted in the manga, where the Pink Sugar Heart Attack is actually effective and can do real damage.
- In Sailor Moon Crystal Sailor Moon herself basically laments that she doesn't have flashy elemental powers like the other Sailors, apparently not quite realizing The Power of Love is incredibly powerful in her genre.
- Yukino Kikukawa's CHILD in Mai-HiME, Diana, is a Magical Security Cam. In certain plots this is quite useful like the time she uses it to locate kidnapped or missing people and then tell the others where they are, like in the cases of Natsuki and Takumi, but given how everyone is expected to battle to the death, when it's time to fight this turns out to be useless.
- Cyborg 009's female member, Francoise aka 003 had non-offensive, surveillance-oriented powers (though she could still use a laser gun).
- Digimon Adventure:
- Gomamon, whose rookie "attack" is to control fish and is only seen actually battling twice over the entire series. Yet this becomes an inversion when you realise that it works in other situations while the Rookie attacks are only effective one time in the entire series (and Gomamon was helping out for that one too, tripping the monster)
- There was an episode where used his attack in a gym.
- Also, at the end, after the complete monster reduces the digi destined to ones and zeros...Yeah. The power of heart, or more accurately, the crests in their hearts.
- In Slayers, there were many, many magic spells... from the earth-shattering Giga Slave, to the Ferious Breed, the spell that summons pigeons. But Lina did find a use for the pigeon-summoning spell twice: first time, to break a hole in a pocket universe, second time, to knock off Pocota, who is not much larger than a pigeon.
- Played with the Jusenkyo transformations in Ranma ½: when the Musk Dynasty warriors Lime, Mint, and Prince Herb run into a forest full of murderous monkeys, the latter sense the aura of the martial artists and perceive a mighty tiger, a swift wolf, and an all-powerful dragon. They know they can't beat these great beasts, and wisely keep away. But when Ranma, Ryouga, and Mousse pass by, the monkeys see a small girl, a tiny piglet, and a nearsighted duck. They can win! (The monkeys then proceed to gang-pile the trio, who escape entirely covered in scrapes and bruises.)
- Da Capo: Junichi, grandson of a witch, has two powers: uncontrollably viewing others' dreams (which he emphasizes is incredibly boring in practice and only makes him lose sleep) and making Japanese sweets appear in his hands. On the plus side, though, the latter is useful with the little ladies, and he himself remarks that it is a good way to lose weight, since the required calories are drawn from his body. He can't read minds, shapeshift, talk to the dead, or warp reality, but whatever.
- Shugo Chara!: First, Amu and Rima were the only ones in the group of the Guardians who could do Chara Transformations and it was always depicted as something amazing and powerful. When the remaining members of the Guardians finally access their own Chara-Naris, everyone of them gets a cool weapon, like Kairi's Katanas or Tadase's holy scepter of doom... Yaya gets Ducks.
- In Project ARMS, three of the four ARMS protagonists are fitted with incredible bionic limbs in either their arms or legs, letting them fight bad guys effortlessly. The fourth member is fitted with bionic eyes which lets her foresee events and analyze battles to figure out strategies, but is mostly useless in actual combat (a fact she laments). She is later revealed though to have the incredible power to kill all ARMS born of Alice (as well as Alice), including herself, though she is unable to go through with it).
- Seikon No Qwaser: The title qwasars have the ability to control a single element. Joshua ended up with element number 111, roentgenium. To put it in perspective, roentgenium does not exist naturally on Earth, and if it did, its very short half-life would quickly render it not roentgenium (and therefore useless).
- From the Urusei Yatsura manga and anime, we have the alien girls Sugar, Ginger and Pepper. Sugar has the power to blend with the background like a chameleon; Ginger can feign death at will; Pepper can shed her whole skin (while still wearing a set of cloth underneath) to escape grapples. Said capabilities could sometimes be handy, but the trio has a much-inflated opinion of their usefulness. Especially compared to the powers of those they consider their "rivals": Lum (a Tsundere who can fly and shoot lightning bolts), Oyuki (an Ice Maiden) and Benten (a Super Strong Action Girl fond of BFGs). The fact that Sugar, Ginger and Pepper are morons doesn't help.
- In Canaan, Yunyun revealed that her superpower was having two appendices. In fairness, she is more of a comic-relief character.
- Zatch Bell! had the Majestic Twelve, an American team of superheroes who seemed to really have super powers, but were comically inept at using them (though that's only in the anime; the manga gives less than no indication that they are not as competent as they are portrayed to be). The only one who demonstrated any prowess in battle was Big Boing, whose powers are self-explanatory. Her greatest power was chopping her "boing" to distract the enemy.
- The Bleach filler villain Koga's power is to control the Zanpakuto of other Shinigami. Now, this in itself is an incredibly powerful ability. The problem is that Koga is a Shinigami himself, and is part of a larger Shinigami military force. Therefore, his ability would only be useful against his allies, and when fighting Hollows, he would be forced to rely solely on Kido and his own basic swordsmanship skills. On the flip side, this power came in very handy when he took part in a Shinigami civil war and later decided to rebel against the Shinigami himself.
- The comedy manga, Banana no Nana, takes place in a world where everyone has superpowers, which range from the typical but powerful, like water manipulation, to the situational but useful, like superhuman leg strength. The title character has the power to manipulate... bananas. If you look at Heart Is an Awesome Power, you'll see that her power is actually the most useful (especially since people with superpowers have to perform a Darker Than Black-style ritual to retain said superpowers. The water-manipulation person, for example? Has to sit in a bathtub for 20 hours a day, every day. The title character? Just has to eat a banana, peel included.)
- Subverted in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. No matter how stupid or ridiculously limiting a Stand power seems, the user will find a way to make it an advantage. Meaning the answer to the trope question is "the kind that can kill you."
- The Fantastic Adventures of Unico:
- Averted, as The Power of Love enables Unico to turn into a full-grown unicorn and kill a 50-story tall demon by charging through its torso. A rare instance where it doubles as a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Unico's power to stop all wars is nothing to laugh at either. This power forces the gods to get rid of him because it seriously messes with their plans.
- In the world of Tiger & Bunny where the focus is on corporate sponsorship and crowd-pleasing masked heroics, Origami Cyclone's ability to copy other people's appearances—which would be great for undercover police work or espionage— is unfortunately not very marketable and therefore almost useless to him. And he's still got it better than some of the other students at the Hero Academy, whose powers include being able to stretch their skin or sweat a lot.
- One Piece: Even though Heart Is an Awesome Power is frequently in play, this trope can come up now and again. Word of God is that there are joke powers out there;
- "Iron Mace" Alvida ate the Slip-Slip Fruit, which made her body...slippery. So far, the only uses her powers have shown is causing shrapnel to slip off of her (Causing no damage) and turning her from a Gonk to Ms. Fanservice...oh yeah, and letting her slide across the ground while barefoot. However, this is useless against Smoker's Smoke-Smoke powers, and she can't slip out of Seatstrone nets, and because she's Out of Focus, we have yet to see whether or not Heart Is an Awesome Power.
- Filler character Apis ate a Devil Fruit that gave her the ability to telepathically talk to animals. While this does have its uses, it's probably the only Devil Fruit in the entire series that has absolutely no combat ability and does not fit into Paramecia, Logia or Zoan types. Her power is made especially useless when Luffy spontaneously gains the ability to do the exact same thing in that arc. The next member to join the crew, Chopper, also has this ability because he happens to be an animal and his Human Human Fruit ability enables him to speak human languages.
- Newly introduced character Kinemon has the ability to disguise himself or anyone else any way that he chooses. Thus far, this has only been seen by materializing clothes from nothing, that will vanish when removed, meaning that his power has no clear combat potential. Good thing Kinemon is a bad-ass Samurai that can use fire attacks, so he doesn't need a Devil Fruit power to be effective in battle.
- Subverted with Brook's Yomi Yomi no Mi that allowed him to come back to life...once. And his disembodied soul had to manually find his body, which took a year, meaning that his body had wasted away to being a skeleton by the time he found it. At first, it seems to be less combat-oriented than the other Devil Fruits, but then we see that he has a major Healing Factor from drinking milk, and as a skeleton, he's much lighter than everyone else allowing him to run on water and jump incredible heights, and that's saying nothing for his You Are Already Dead sword techniques.
- There's also Gan Fall's steed Pierre, a giant bird who ate the Horse-Horse Fruit, allowing him to turn into a really goofy-looking pegasus, and has no real advantages since he was already a perfectly serviceable mount as a bird.
- Flashback character Corazon ate the Nagi Nagi no Mi (Nagi, meaning "calm" in Japanese), which basically gives him the power to be a...soundless human. To be specific, he can create an invisible bubble around him from which no sound can escape- no one outside can hear him, and those inside the bubble can't hear the outside. While it's very good for stealth, it has no obvious combat applications. Although, Corazon does use it effecitvly for a action sequence where he effectively ambushes a pirate stronghold without making ANY sounds, including fire burning, glass breaking, gun firing or EXPLOSIONS.
- Bossun's Concentrations Mode when he puts on his goggles in Sket Dance. While admittedly very useful in solving problems and aiding his aiming skills with the slingshot, its often called out for not being very cool for the main hero.
- In A Certain Scientific Railgun, Kazari Uiharu is an esper like Mikoto and Kuroko, but her power is rather underwhelming: she can maintain an object's current temperature so long as she's touching it. However, she can only tolerate touching the usual range of temperatures a normal human can, and she doesn't seem to be able to affect her own body with it either. She usually uses her ability to keep takeout food warm or stop ice cream from melting.
- In Hunter × Hunter, Komugi has the ability to improve rapidly at gung-gi, a fictional board game, and is the only superpower thus shown in the series with no proven combat or support use. That being said, she does, albeit accidentally, put her gung-gi skills to use in such a way as to stir up some respect from the Big Bad of the arc she appears in. This newfound compassion causes him to shift his priorities in favor of the heroes and to hesitate in battle just long enough for Netero to inflict radiation poisoning on him.
- The Firesign Theatre's Captain Equinox, from the album Pink Hotel Burns Down: his powers are unspecified, but true to his name, he is only Captain Equinox twice a year.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! has an assortment of cards like this too. A prime example is "Anti-Raigeki", a trap card designed to counter one particular magic card that ended up being Forbidden anyway. "Raigeki" allowed you to instantly destroy your opponent's entire field, leaving them completely defenseless until they could set more cards on the field on their next turn.
- Even worse are cards like "Senet Switch", which allows you to move one monster to an adjacent space... Something which is practically useless 99% of the time.
- Similarly a number of Magic: The Gathering cards are so situational as to be useless. One of the best examples of this is the Great Wall enchantment. Landwalk is an ability that renders a creature such that it can't be blocked if it's attacking an opponent who has the correct type of land (swamps for swampwalk, forests for forestwalk and so on). It's usually not that useful itself, since much of the time your opponent won't be playing the right kind of land so the ability does nothing— unless it targets a whole subgroup of lands, like, say, Dryad Sophisticate and her nonbasic landwalknote . The rarest of the basic landwalks is plainswalk, mostly due to Fridge Logic over how you stealthily move through a wide open plain anyway. Not a single card with this ability has ever been considered a threat in any known Magic Metagame. The Great Wall enchantment's sole effect is that it allows creatures with plainswalk to be blocked.
- In the comics, Aqualad developed concerns similar to Aquaman's (see Western Animation below) about feeling useless as a member of the Teen Titans, which became so severe that he later developed a psychosomatic illness. Once the cause of his problem was realized, Aqualad decided to relegate himself as a Titans reservist, who participated with the team only when they had a mission in the sea.
- He later got a costume change, a power upgrade and Took a Level in Badass, becoming "Tempest". Then he died.
- In the Teen Titans cartoon he was far more formidable too, being able to control water telekinetically. (Still, it did seem that the writers always "conveniently" placed him somewhere where he could make use of that; even indoors, there was always sure to be a large amount of plumbing nearby...)
- The second Aqualad was given the ability to create hard-water weapons and generate electrical blasts because the creators of Young Justice wanted to have an Aqualad who had powers that would be of use when not in the ocean.
- Fantastic Four
- The Invisible Woman originally only had the power to… be invisible. It got so bad that one issue's main story was made shorter to allow room to try to justify Sue's existence after all the letters they'd gotten. The best The Man himself could do is "a pretty girl inspires the boys to fight harder." (They also pointed out that one time she invisibly tripped a lone, fleeing Skrull. They forgot to mention that her male teammates had each dispatched several fighting-mad Skrull.) After it became obvious that she was useless as an action hero in her current form, creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby gave her the additional powers of making other objects/people invisible and projecting telekinetic force fields (making sure to call them invisible force fields instead of merely force fields every time they're used to try making it less obvious that it's got little to do with invisibility.) Wasn't until the John Byrne period that she found many different uses for the force fields, such as powerful attack (suffocating an enemy inside a force field, creating a field inside an enemy and expanding it until they explode, etc,) and as a mode of transportation. As such, Susan is now usually considered not only the most powerful member of the team, but one of the most powerful characters in the entire Marvel universe, and her personality has changed accordingly, as she realized she didn't need to bow to anyone.
- For that matter, Reed's stretching powers can seem a tad useless in a lot of situations (he's never displayed the kind of limitless shapeshifting abilities of, say, Plastic Man). But Reed's real super-power is being the most brilliant scientist on Earth. It's actually been implied a few times in different continuities that his stretching is related to his super-genius: by contracting the neural connections in his brain, he can actually think and learn faster than a normal human brain should be capable of (he was already a genius, but his powers make him a super-genius)
- Every Silver Age team had a token female that was as useless as they could possibly make her, it seemed, and The Wasp, of The Avengers fame, takes the cake. Her power was to become very small. She had wings in her small form, and stingers that, well, stung, but didn't really stop the enemy. She was about as useless fighting villains as her namesake insect, and spent most of the time begging for help, needing rescue more often than civilians. Her tendency to go small right away means she can't even qualify for Badass Normal. Worse still, she was always right alongside her boyfriend Hank, who also could become small, and more usefully, large, going from Ant-Man to Giant Man and swatting villains like bugs. His intelligence means bug-size was useful for him, as he knew how to sabotage villainous weaponry, and he had his bug-control helmet. Hitching a ride on bug-back means he can pretty much fly, too. This made Wasp's uselessness even more glaring. Wasp's being good at unarmed combat and deductive reasoning came later, and she's still more remembered for her many costumes than for actually doing anything. However, like many on this list, she was made non-useless decades later: She eventually became a great fighter in her own right and she even led The Avengers for a time. She also gained the ability to grow.
- This is completely averted in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, where she is capable of taking down villains by herself.
- And in The Ultimate universe, where her neurological knowledge means that she can attack people's brains. In addition, in Ultimate Canon, she is a mutant and can do the "Wasp Stings" innately at full size, where they are painful and cause nerves to go numb.
- She was, for reasons never made clear, on the superhero team in Secret Wars (a godlike being, the Beyonder, made the most powerful heroes and villains fight against each other for his amusement). Feeling useless next to a literal god (Thor), the master of magnetism (Magneto), and various others, she spent at least one issue sulking about how lame her powers were. She did manage to single-handedly beat the Lizard in that issue by basically being too small for him to be able to hit her.
- It was established via retcon that the reason Hank Pym abandoned the Ant-Man identity to become Giant-Man was because he felt his shrinking abilities were a little useless on a team that included Iron Man, Thor, and the Incredible Hulk.
- The Hawkeye solo series deconstructs this. Clint is shown to be quite the badass in his own right with his Improbable Aiming Skills and Trick Arrows, but the narrative makes a point of showing how just how out of his element he can be in superhero battles. For instance, he's immediately taken out during a battle with AIM that Spider-Man and Wolverine easily win without him, and Clint himself points out that his archery abilities are completely useless when it comes to rescuing victims of a hurricane.
- Not that Hawkeye didn't fight a few villains that fit the Trope, like Oddball. His power? He could juggle. He could juggle really well. (Sure, he juggles spheres that contained stuff like tear gas and liquid adhesive that he used like throwing weapons, but it was kind of lame. To make this worse, he actually formed a team of other villains who used juggling as their MO (seriously, he did) called the Death Throws, each of which specialized in a different type of juggling: Tenpin (juggled clubs), Ringleader (juggled rings), Bombshell (also juggled spheres, but preferred ones that exploded), and Knickknack (who could juggle objects of dissimilar sizes and weights, a difficult trick if you're a performer, yes, but as a villain, still lame).
- The X-Men had their fair share of members who's powers were pretty useless.
- For a lesser example (which just goes to show how bad these situations could be), when we first met Jean Grey, her powers were only good for levitating as much as she could physically carry. She was considerably more useful than day-one Sue and Wasp, but compared to Beast, Cyclops, and Iceman, her powers weren't so great. Even Angel made more of a non-combat power (having flight alone should make you a bullet sponge, but with incredible agility, high flying speeds, and super-strong wings, he could kick some serious evil mutant posterior even pre-Archangel.) to the degree that Jean fell behind. However, she had incredible precision with her powers, and the 'school' theme means, like her teammates, she became stronger and more skilled with her powers as time went. Eventually, she became so powerful that she reached Humanoid Abomination levels...at least before the retcon hit. But even after that she's still one of the most powerful mutants.
- Kitty Pryde takes this role later. Having the ability to walk through walls is great and all, but she lacked any offensive capabilities. At one point, she joined the rest of the X-Men to save the Morlocks from the Marauders, and realized that while her powers meant that the Marauders couldn't hurt her physically, they still seemed to be able to hurt her by taking out her friends. She Took a Level in Badass as well, being trained as a ninja and adding swords, guns and a dragon to her arsenal. Starting with Alan Davis' run on Excalibur, she developed the ability to phase through one opponent while striking another. She also gained the situational useful ability/side effect of causing electronics to malfunction when she phased through them. Kinda rough when your secondary power is only occasionally useful.
- In the classic "Days of Future Past" story-line, when her future-self is in control of her past-body, she gives a few indications of the more practical and dangerous applications of her powers, such as partial phasing while leaping through an assassin in order to disorient, disarm, and incapacitate him (She was once able to use this focus to remove the metal shard that threatened Tony Stark's heart). Young Kitty herself puts on an impressive display earlier, walking straight through her first Danger Room scenario (even over a Pit Trap) without a scratch. The senior members of the team are laughing their asses off while watching, thinking about how much time and effort Prof. X had invested trying to create a challenge for the rookie.
- Ultimate later upped the ante, having Kitty specifically train herself (off panel) to control her phasing ability; her theory that, if she can make her atoms separate enough to phase through things then she could condense them to gain invulnerability and super strength. This incidentally being what The Vision has done with his own intangibility in the main Marvel Universe all along.
- Subverted with Cypher/Doug Ramsey, whose power is to understand ANY language, even body language, or code, making him now quite the Badass as he can even foresee his opponents' movements (as long as he can "read" a pattern), or find the weak point of architectural structures. Any "language" was also shown early on to include computer languages, making him the best computer programmer the X-Men have ever seen. He's a character who was vindicated as Technology Marches On. Originally, he was an Omniglot without the skill or Made of Iron-ness to let him be a Badass Normal. Sentinels versus the ability to speak French without having to buy Rosetta Stone is every bit the Curb-Stomp Battle you'd expect, to the point that in the end it was decided that he was much more useful to the plot as a fallen friend to occasionally angst over not having been able to save. However, all forms of computer code being a language he knows instinctively is much more useful since he was brought Back from the Dead in The New Tens than it was back in The Eighties (he stopped Master Mold in Second Coming just by communicating with his source code - and that was while the Mold was attempting to swallow him!), and also, Badass Normal via body language reading is more often used. He just came along two or three decades too early, but now his time has come. Unlike the others on this list, he didn't need his powers changed to take a level in badass.
- Angel has similar problems to Hawkman and Aquaman. His power to fly is fairly useless in a superhero context. He was variously given razor-sharp metal wings, the ability to shoot poisoned metal pieces from his wings, and a healing factor to make him more powerful. The current version is physically powerful for a similar reason as Aquaman: to actually fly with his wings and survive hundreds of miles per hour winds, he must be very strong and resistant to damage. Angel was largely rescued by Marvel in an issue of Thunderbolts where he flies rings around them in their own comic in an awesome "Taking them back to school" moment. Angel also has a little-remembered ability of extraordinarily keen eyesight, comparable to a hawk's. That may not sound like much, but being able to spot movement from a rabbit when you're flying half a mile up is no small feat.
- Toad. He originally had the power to jump high, period. He actually made good use of it (mainly as a distraction to set you up to be nailed by the more powerful Brotherhood members, but he was able to kick fairly hard with those leg muscles) and like many of these characters, has since received a beef-up (He's now mainly known for his prehensile tongue and the ability to spit slime at his enemies, on top of having very strong leg muscles). Although back in the day, the reason Magneto recruited him was more so he could have an expendable lackey than because of the usefulness of his powers.
- Wraith (Hector Mendoza; there are a few other Marvel characters named Wraith, who all have more useful abilities) had the ability to turn his skin invisible. That was it. He later found that he could transfer this power to turn skin invisible to other people, but seeing the muscles of other people is still just as useless as showing your own.
- Jubilee has been a mainstay among the X-Men for a long time, often being paired as Wolverine's sidekick just because he's a badass and she's not. Her ability to shoot firework-like plasmoids from her hands rarely ever proved useful. Sure, they kinda burned like fireworks, but at the most they were only good as a signal flare or as a quick distraction. Also, since birth, her brain has always generated a natural psionic shield, which made her naturally invisible to telepaths unless they knew exactly what to look for when searching for her. She eventually lost her firework powers as a result of the M-Day and left the X-Men. As a member of the New Warriors, she used Powered Armor to give her super strength. This made her rather useful and effective in combat, but she eventually gave that up just to move on with her life. She would later be infected by a virus that turned her into a vampire. This gave her all the strengths and weaknesses typical to vampires: Enhanced strength, agility, speed, stamina, reflexes, fangs and claws, and the ability to turn into mist. By regularly feeding off Wolverine's blood, she temporarily gained his healing factor and could withstand limited amounts of sunlight. Whether she can use her fireworks again, after the Scarlet Witch has been brought back from exile and started to rectify what she did, is yet to be seen, though.
- Ironically enough, Jubilee's original powers were actually a subversion: she limited herself to only using the fireworks because her full power was far more destructive, and she feared hurting someone with it. Emma Frost once stated that had she ever utilized them to their full potential, she could detonate matter at the sub atomic level. This made Jubilee a walking fusion bomb.
- The Legion of Substitute Heroes is composed of rejected applicants to The Legion of Super-Heroes, who banded together in an effort to show their powers were not useless. Some members included Chlorophyll Kid, who has the power to make plants grow super fast (he also says he can communicate with plants; he can't, but that doesn't stop him from talking to them); Color Kid, who can change the color of objects; Infectious Lass, who spontaneously generates infectious diseases; and Stone Boy, who has power to turn into stone (at which point he becomes completely immobile.) Surprisingly, several members managed to prove their point and "graduate" into the LSH proper. Considering some of the heroes the Legion did admit, like "Bouncing Boy" and "Matter-Eater Lad", you have to wonder just how bad your powers had to be for them to actually reject you.
- Matter-Eater Lad is one of the ones who sounds useless in theory, but in practice... well, if there's anything you need to break into, or any dangerous item you need to dispose of, the guy who can eat his way through, and digest, anything... he's your man, er, lad.
- Likewise, Bouncing Boy is extremely useful because of one of his Required Secondary Powers; dude's good enough at physics and trig to ricochet off walls and into bad guys, which is pretty damn hard to do quickly.
- Some of the applicants were written so obviously planned-to-fail that it boggles the mind what made them think they'd be a contributing member in the first place. Double Header opened with the remark "Two heads are better than one!"... and immediately started bickering with himself. And Arms-Fall-Off-Lad could detach his arm and use as a club, apparently not considering that blunt instruments aren't that difficult to obtain.
- One of the Substitute Heroes eventually ended up as leader of the Legion of Super Heroes. That would be Polar Boy, whose powers (control over ice and temperature) were always pretty useful; he just sucked at controlling them. After training for a few years and mastering his powers, he became a powerful and respected hero.
- One of the Substitute Heroes' founders, Night Girl, had strength and durability roughly equal to Superman's. While this is impressive, she was rejected from the Legion of Super Heroes because her powers only worked in the dark, making them rather impractical. She compensated by learning martial arts, and is quite effective if she teams up with Shadow Lass, who can generate darkness. She also has the Required Secondary Powers of being able to see in the dark. Night Girl eventually became a respected hero.
- Stone Boy has also shown that he can fight reasonably well. It helps that all Legion members get a membership ring that allows them to fly—he can get right above a foe, turn to stone, and drop down on them.
- Fridge Logic enters the equation with Color Kid. He poses a major threat to the Green Lantern Corps! They should have recruited him—if not to bear a ring, then as a supporting player who could nullify the color yellow whenever necessary. In one story, Color Kid's power actually proved vitally useful. He saved Superboy's life by turning a chunk of deadly green Kryptonite into harmless blue Kryptonite ... which, by the way, was a completely nonsensical plot development. There is no logical reason why changing the color of a radioactive substance would alter the type of radiation it was emitting. Nevertheless, it happened.
- One Legion story was all about this trope. Dream Girl whose dreams are always prophetic was in an attempted mugging against herself and Karate Kid. She contemplated leaving the Legion because her power is useless in a fight. She is reminded of the value of her power the following night when she saves Karate Kid's life because one of her prophetic dreams warned her that he was going to die, of wounds he unknowingly suffered in the attempted mugging.
- Fire Lad was a rejected member who joined the Substitute Heroes; his powers were not lame at all; the reason he was rejected was because they were dangerous and, like Polar Lad, he had a hard time controlling them. (And true to the fears of the bona-fide Legionnaires who rejected his membership, he caused almost as many disasters as he prevented.)
- Tyrone Jessup of the teen paranormal group Psi-Force had the ability to leave his body in intangible astral form. While this was useful in some situations, it still looked pretty weak next to abilities like powerful telekinesis, mind control, healing everything short of death, etc. A later writer made a point of powering him up a bit.
- The Top Cow Productions comic book series Freshmen has a team full of this. Each character's ability is based on what they were thinking of when a Mad Scientist's machine blew up. While some powers are more traditionally useful (the ability to control other people's minds, the ability to cause earthquakes) some are hard to use particularly well (for instance, the Drama Twins: Renee can telekinetically pull stuff and Brady can telekinetically push stuff; to actually use telekinesis effectively requires them to be touching each other and coordinate), or have disastrous side effects (the Intoxicator can cause everyone around him to be as high or drunk as he is). Then there are things like the ability to understand and talk to plants (while being a vegan), the power to make someone fall in love with you, the powers of a squirrel (a weird haircut, a constant desire to hoard nuts, and a limited ability to glide), having an incredibly sticky body, having a 15-foot-long indestructible penis, and an incredible ability to build dams and having super-intelligence... while being a beaver. However, the team's "leader", an incredibly nerdy comic book fan named Norrin, has no abilities (except for a fairly useless utility belt): he was out getting a pizza when the machine exploded. Surprisingly, at least once in the first story arc everyone's power is put to use. Except the Gag Penis. And we can all be thankful for that.
- Played straight in normalman. Everyone on the planet Levram has superpowers, but not only do some of them never figure out just what their power are, some people can, for example, turn toast green.
- The Umbrella Academy:
- The Kraken's power is apparently the ability to hold his breath forever. It probably makes him the world's best swimmer and a top athlete, but it doesn't quite compare to, say, re-shaping reality at will. He compensates with excellent knife-fighting skills, to the point where he takes down a pack of Vietnamese vampires with a pair of knives. Gerard Way actually said in a lecture at SVA that he made him "fucking useless" on purpose, but at the same time also said that, in a world where no one else had super powers, something as simple as that is a big deal.
Hargreeves, for all his intense dislike of the boy, ranked the Kraken as #2 among the children, placing him right under his favorite pupil and above the Reality Warper, the psychic, the time traveler, the boy with a Lovecraftian Superpower, and the White Violin in that order.
- Vanya has the power to… play the violin really well. She ends up being so upset over this (plus a good amount of ostracization and emotional abuse from her peers and father figure) that she eventually becomes the main villain and, using a deadly violin, becomes a Musical Assassin powerful enough to destroy the world.
- Turner D. Century. With the amazing power of hating young people, plus a flying bicycle and an umbrella that shot fire. In keeping with his "let's be nostalgic for 1901!" gimmick, Turner rode a flying bicycle built for two. But he had no one to ride with, so the second seat was occupied by a life-size doll dressed like a woman. Is being pathetic a super power? It is when you are this pathetic.
- The Ten-Eyed Man. With the amazing ability of having eyes in his fingertips.
- His appearance in Batman: The Brave and the Bold (the only show a villain like this could appear on) is one big lampshading of how ridiculous the character is and how easy it is to defeat him. We see Batman following him only for Bat-Mite to show up, start reciting Ten-Eyed Man's origin story, express his appreciation for obscure characters getting the occasional nod and throw a cactus at him which he grabs rendering him completely helpless. Total time: about 3 minutes.
- And even the cactus is overkill. Anything it hurts to have in your eyes (therefore, anything period!) can stop him. The plant he was tricked into grabbing in his original comics appearance was a totally unremarkable one. Made sillier yet by Character Shilling: TB&TB plays him as a ridiculous villain with much Lampshade Hanging, but the comic pretended he was super-dangerous. He's gotta have his hands imprisoned in a box or "breaking out of here will be child's play for him." No, he hadn't been established as some master escape artist before; his almighty power of normal vision at the cost of the ability to touch stuff makes him a terrifying threat to humanity. Yeeeah.
- He was brought into Grant Morrison's Batman run, where Bruce Wayne defeats him using Shrimp Scampi sauce, which burns his fingers. He was only hyped a threat only by his apparent lack of sanity and general oddity.
- 52, also written in part by Morrison, featured the Ten-Eyed Men of the desert, who were explicitly shown to have trouble against opponents. Their ability was mainly played up for Body Horror.
- Great Lakes Avengers: The entire concept of this group is that they are LAME. Deadpool and Squirrel Girl notwithstanding.
- Mr. Immortal's only power is to come back to life. Something Deadpool takes advantage of, to the extreme, whenever the two are together. Before Deadpool joined the team, he was able to make good use of his power when the villain Maelstrom invented a machine that would destroy the entire universe. Mr. I convinced Maelstrom that if he destroyed the universe, then nobody would be left to study whatever may remain. Maelstrom became depressed by this, contemplating suicide. Mr. I formed a Suicide Pact with him, shooting himself in the head to show he was serious. Maelstrom shot himself afterward, then Mr. I woke up and shut down the device. He can also instantly heal any persistent injuries by killing himself.
- Doorman: The power to become a portal, but only into the next room. Unfortunately, that means while his power can let his teammates into a room, he can't follow them. (He's also a psychopomp with vaguely described powers.)
- Flatman: with the power of being two-dimensional. (He can also stretch à la Reed Richards.) With the addition of how his costume looks, he's quite often confused for Reed Richards too.
- Big Bertha: with the power to become really, really fat. (With accompanying strength and durability à la Blob.) She has to throw up her fat to get rid of it, but in her normal form she's a very famous supermodel. Her career funds the GLA, so there's that too.
- Tippy Toe: Squirrel Girl's sidekick squirrel, and a full member of the team. He's just a squirrel. A talking, fourth-wall breaking squirrel, but a squirrel all the same.
- In the Howard the Duck section from Civil War: Choosing Sides #0 we have the man that can grow a full beard in a minute!!
- Angelo "Skin" Espinoza from the X-Men comic Generation X, whose power was... extra skin. He wasn't much of a Rubber Man because his bones and organs didn't stretch with it, and it couldn't change color either, so he couldn't really shapeshift. On top of that, having extra skin hanging off of him made him none-too-pretty, and if he stretched it too far or otherwise overtaxed it, he could be in agonizing pain for a considerable amount of time after. He made a few creative uses of his power in combat, but still got the short end of the Superpower Lottery compared to his teammates.
- One of his teammates was Synch, whose 'synchronistic aura' let him borrow other people's powers. However, proximity was needed, so he has exactly the same power as the guy next to him. Sometimes it was more useful for finding certain mutants by using his aura as a sort of power detector. He once was put in critical condition by being beaten up by non-powered mundane thugs when not accompanied by superhumans. However, he could sometimes use the powers in ways the original users hadn't worked their way up to yet, and it was theorized that he'd eventually learn to retain powers, but that never happened before he died (as in dead-dead, not comicbook-dead.)
- Prodigy from New X-Men had similar limitations. He could absorb the knowledge of those around him, but not actually retain any of it once they left. He later learned that his mind had psychic blocks in place to prevent him from keeping any of the knowledge he absorbed, for fears that it would cause him to become an amoral tyrant. However, once he lost his powers following House of M, the Stepford Cuckoos removed his blocks, allowing him to access all of the knowledge he'd absorbed beforehand.
- Played with by the villains in Mark Gruenwald's Squadron Supreme. Some, like Pinball (can inflate his jumpsuit into a ball and roll into people) and Remnant (generate flying fabric from thin air) were pretty useless. On the other hand, Inertia, whose only ability was to transfer momentum from one place to the next, facilitates the epic beatdown of the Captain Ersatz equivalents of Superman, Flash, and Wonder Woman at the same time.
- Parodied in one arc of Pearls Before Swine, where the crocodiles form a "Fantastic Four" out of three crocs (since they're bad at math), which consisted of Paper Jam Boy, Stapler Head, and Doorstoppo; their powers are Exactly What They Say On The Tin. Paper Jam Boy then proceeds to be "defeated" by a printer that was out of ink.
- Teen Titans: Year One has this as a frequent point of contention between Aqualad and Kid Flash, both of whom think the other's powers aren't up to snuff. "Go talk to a fish!" "Oh, like running fast is really all that!"
- This is also a bit of an issue in Invincible, where Shrinking Ray feels he is often neglected by his teammates in the Guardians of the Globe because of his powers seeming less than formidable. This isn't exactly helped by the fact that he barely ever gets any lines or character development beyond this frustration.
- In the Doom Patrol Doom Force Special, a parody of X-Force, Shasta the Living Mountain agonizes over the fact that his power, turning into a mountain, has ridiculously limited application. This is probably also a parody of how in team books at least one member tends to have a complex about the perceived poorness of their powers. Since he's the Sacrificial Lamb, he dies, but since his teammates are Darker and Edgier, they not only don't mourn, they're actually happy he's dead because of his stupid powers.
- Independent character Dishman has the power to telekinetically clean dishes. He has yet to find a practical use for this beyond impressing women with the fact that he actually does household chores, but still seems to think it's interesting enough to base his hero identity around it.
- The old What's New? with Phil and Dixie comic strip from Dragon once had an episode about superheroes, which included a panel about the need to have powers that are actually useful: "Gazebo Boy finds his singular power of metamorphosis useless against the evil Termite!"
- Knights of the Dinner Table features an in-universe example of this when the Knights play a variant of their usual superhero-based tabletop game that focuses on this trope. In the first session, Dave's Pot-Lid Boy (power: creative use of kitchen utensils; his lid armor was as strong as Kevlar) and Bob's The Screecher (power: cripplingly-strong nails-on-a-chalkboard power, plus an inability to be touched by human flesh) were soundly defeated by Shrink-Wrap Man, Edward Tire-Iron-Fingers, and the Human Sprinkler (Exactly What It Says on the Tin).
- The team of the Red Shadows of the USSR in Suicide Squad is treated as a joke - for good reason. The most prominent and ridiculous member is called Bolshoi - a failed dancer who couldn't make it into the Bolshoi ballet and instead tried to become a Badass Normal in the Cold War superhuman scene. Since he got horribly maimed and nearly killed by Captain Boomerang of all people, you could say Bolshoi failed epically in his quest.
- In Avengers: The Initiative, Dragon Lord's power of conjuring and controlling dragons by mixing potions in his cauldron is derided by the Taskmaster as "not a superpower, son, that's home economics", and the fact that his teammates have to provide cover for him while he prepares for summoning is cited as one of the reasons his squad of trainees is ineffective. After his death, the Irredeemable Ant-Man is amused that the cremated Dragon Lord is "mixed up in a little jar" because "he'd like that."
- The original Eel in Marvel Comics' sole gimmick in his early career was being really slippery. Eventually this was deemed too low-key to make him a believable danger to guys like Captain America and Daredevil, so he was given electric powers as well. Similarly, C-tier Spider-Man villain Slyde wore a full-body suit that made him super-slippery and allowed him to run at up to 30 MPH. Unlike the Eel, he's never been augmented or redeemed in any way.
- Pantheon High is about the sons and daughters of deities attending high school. The main character has the power of luck. But he is also a typical teenage male, so this translates into sexual situations (i.e. seeing boobs). In one instance, two of his female allies were pondering whether the luck powers would allow them to put the smackdown on the baddies or he would end up "somehow making out with both of us at once".
- In Wildguard: Casting Call, some of the first round auditionees were… not very impressive. Adhesor sticks to things, for instance. Toughlon, while strong and durable, also has the useless ability of being non-stick like teflon (hence the name). The dolphin-like Dorsal Head complains about being pigeonholed as "only useful in a 'water' situation" despite this not being the case. Little Miss Sunshine can emit rays of light that aren't harmful to anything but vampires.
- Members of the newest incarnation of Infinity, Inc. tended to fall into this, due a depowering at the hands of Lex Luthor not quite sticking. Gerome McKenna went from having nuclear powers to being able to create a single duplicate of himself, while Erik Storn ended up with the power to turn from a stuttering man to a confident, self-assured woman.
- The Blimp of the Inferior Five has the ability to fly…very, very slowly. Actually, he can only float in midair. He needs a stiff breeze to push him in any kind of direction. Just redefines the concept of "useless", doesn't it?
- In Sergio Aragonés Destroys DC we are introduced to a lineup of would-be super heroes with useless powers, such as DejaVu Lad, who has the power to make events repeat themselves. He gets to do his intro six times before they throw him out.
- Obscure Golden Age Marvel hero the Witness, best known as one of The Twelve, has the ability to always remember every evil act he sees. This is his only power. True, it's useful when reaping revenge for those evil acts, but the guy's lucky he's a Badass Normal besides, because seriously.
- Marvel's very own Fad Super Dazzler has the ability to absorb sound and convert it into light. This may not seem like much at first glance, but she can do things like blinding people with bright flashes (duh), create a strobe effect that upsets equilibrium, create holograms, and Frickin' Laser Beams. She's also immune to sound based attacks, because they just make her stronger. This ability is shown to be obscenely powerful, as Galactus once recruited her to retrieve one of his Heralds and exposed her to unimaginable sounds, including the explosion of a galaxy (yeah yeah, no sound in space. He's Galactus, he has no care for your paltry human physics), to boost her to sufficient levels.
- In Mad House Comics Digest #5, there's a story where intellect-challenged superhero Captain Sprocket decided to get some respect by forming his own team. Unfortunately, all he could get were grade-Z superheroes like Roller Surfboard Man, who could do any roller surfboard trick in existence, and Super Pizza Pie Man, who could hit his target with a pizza of any size at a 50-foot distance.
- The Herder from Bazooka Jules can emit a sound that only sheep and cows can hears and that's it. He can't communicate with them nor can he control them. Jules and her boyfriend are less than impressed when he explains his powers to them.
- Discussed in Rising Stars. The "specials" are 113 people who were all conceived or in utero when a meteor detonated over their town. They all got powers, some flashier than others: a couple had super-strength and flight, a few others had various energy manipulation powers, and some had more specialized powers like complete invulnerability or Super Intelligence. One woman, however, displayed absolutely no powers, even though she had been born at the same time as everyone else. The possibility is raised that she simply never happened on the situation where her powers would manifest. For example, maybe she could make roses grow, but only roses, or maybe she could telekinetically control butter knives. Ultimately subverted when it turns out she can bring people back to life and merge animals and people into hybrids.
- In Ordinary, an event occurs that gives superpowers to everybody, barring the protagonist. Many of these powers are completely useless. For example, the main character's best friend becomes a talking bear, the thoughts of the president of the United States are broadcast for all to see during his speeches and a news reporter's teeth glow to unnatural levels. One minor supporting character is discovered to have the superpower of creating pints of beer.
- Deconstructed in PS238. Since colour-changing powers or the ability to make rocks edible aren't useful in fighting crime, PS238 hosts the "Rainmaker" program for metahumans with noncombat powers. They are taught how to apply their powers towards civilian projects and working in the private industry. And then deconstructed again when we learn how the Rainmaker program got its name: During the Cold War, the US took the first non-combative metahuman they could find (who could create rain) and turned him into a test subject to learn what creates metahuman powers.
Films — Live Action
- The team in Mystery Men is all about this tropenote
- X2: X-Men United:
Two students at Xavier's school whose mutant powers definitely qualified: One of them could change TV channels just by blinking his eyes, thus giving him the same super-powers as a hand-held remote control; and the other had a blue forked tongue and nothing else. Though this is the only thing we saw them do, so they could well be cases of Flight, Strength, Heart or Mundane Utility.
The TV-channel-changing kid told Wolverine that he doesn't sleep. And who knows, maybe he can control other electronic devices, but he is a bit young to be joining the X-Men quite yet.
Blue-tongue kid is allegedly the film's version of Artie Maddicks, a mutant with the ability to project holograms of his thoughts to communicate with others and disorient foes.
- X-Men: The Last Stand:
Taken to new heights with Kid Omega, whose abilities are... retractable inch-long spines. Apparently inspired by comic character Quill. But while Quill can usually shoot these spines, these just... stay there. While this could be a devastating power if you were intent on killing everyone at a chronic cuddler retreat, in combat with people with guns, psionic powers, and various other super-abilities, it's kinda weak. Despite this, he acts as though he is an impressive mutant, using his quills for intimidation purposes on multiple occasions. (Not a bad idea, but useless in the circles he travels in.) It's made worse by the fact that his only on-screen kill is a defenseless, crying woman whom he comforts with a hug then impales on his spines. Some sources describe the spines as poisonous, but still not all that interesting note .
And Phat, whose power is...He gets fat. Then thin again.
- The Specials features Night Bird. Even though she's applying for a middle-rung superhero team, she's bashful about her own power, which turns out to be laying eggs (and good hearing). She can't talk to birds, either, though they do "have an understanding." At the end of the film she discusses her role in the team's first battle - she hid in a dumpster. She commiserates with Minute Man (pronounced my-noot), who can make himself "minute" in size.
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie: When the Rangers get their new ninja Animal Motifs, Tommy gets Falcon, Rocky gets Ape, Billy gets Wolf, Aisha gets Bear, and Kimberly gets Crane. But what does Adam get?
- Something of a case of Lost in Translation. Frog/toad powers would have been considerably more Badass (even expected) to the Japanese audience of the original Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, where the guy getting them was named Jiraiya. (No, not that Jiraiya)
- In the series, Adam certainly doesn't fall behind the others, though. In fact, the Frog Zord's ability to breathe fire and release dozens of mini-Frog Zords that surround and shock your opponent make it a lot more powerful than the ones that are reduced to biting, despite being based on cooler animals. All that and getting to kiss Dulcea? Adam got a deal.
- According to Johnny Yong Bosch, he wanted to throw a scene into the second movie to act as a throw back to the first. When the rangers received their new Turbozords, Adam would have been bummed out to see that Tommy got a racecar zord, Justin got a mountain truck zord while he himself ended up with... a mini-van zord... Sadly, the director didn't go for it.
- Deconstructed in Sky High, where the Start of Darkness for the Big Bad was that she was a Technopath before that became a well respected superpower, so she was relegated to sidekick, unable to show how powerful she really was. The deciding factor for whether one is a Hero or sidekick? The coach, based on his first and only impression. More generally, the sidekicks' powers tend to fall under this, with plenty of "heroes" who contribute little.
- In 2006 Israeli movie Giborim Ktanim (Little Heroes), one girl is blessed with the power of being able to hear people from a distance. Sweet.
- Before The Avengers came out, many jokes were directed at the inclusion of Black Widow and Hawkeye because they were the only Badass Normals on a team with far more powerful members. How much this applies in the film is debatable (most of Hawkeye's most effective actions, like a hacking-arrow that shuts down the helicarrier, are done while brainwashed by Loki), but Black Widow makes effective use of psychological warfare.
- Averted and lampshaded in Finding Gaia. A female Green Thumb is generally the least powerful in any group of superbeings, but Anna is legitimately more powerful than Jason, her life-stealing male counterpart.
- Averted in the Circle of Magic series. What kind of lame power is "thread-magic?" While it's not quite as spectacular as, say, Tris' lightning magic, Sandry still uses it to tear several villains apart, escape a kidnapping, and make really durable clothes.
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince reveals that Harry's special power is his capacity to love. Dumbledore's explanations aside, Harry's immediate reaction — "So what?" — seems a bit on-the-mark. Taking into account Dumbledore's explanations, though, it's the most badass power of love ever. Just to drive this home, in Order of the Phoenix, the essence of love can melt metal on contact. Further, just being capable of love can banish Lord Voldemort from you if he possesses your body. As well, when Voldemort, in book 4, uses blood from Harry to resurrect himself, he becomes more powerful due to stealing Harry's mother's protection... but in book 7, we learn this protects Harry from Voldemort's killing curse, which gets the bit of Voldemort's soul in Harry's body instead. Harry's self-sacrifice in this instance also protected the inhabitants of Hogwarts from Voldemort.
- Some of the magical talents in Piers Anthony's Xanth are so widely useful and powerful that their possessors are known as Magicians and eligible to rule the magical land. And on the other hand are those with the power to make a small colored spot appear on the wall, play a magic flute, or make people in the vicinity age slightly faster. Much is made in the series out of finding real uses for even the feeblest talents, and a lot of crappy powers turn out to be surprisingly powerful, at least when facing the right plots. The spot-on-the-wall talent, for instance, can be used multiple times in order to make pictures, often quite convincing ones. The ability to make people age faster comes in handy when an important character is accidentally exposed to water from the Fountain of Youth and regresses to an infant.
- Tim Burton's Oyster Boy and Other Stories features a whole array of kid heroes with this trope, one being Stain Boy whose only power is to make nasty stains.
- Played with by Brandon Sanderson in Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians. Most of the main characters have magical "talents" that seem useless, even laughable at first, but turn out to be very useful. For example, one character's talent is arriving late to everything—which includes stepping into a certain spot just too late for a bullet to hit him.
- The Fingerprints series features characters with a variety of Psychic Powers: some awesome, some... less so. Lampshaded when the main character Rae, who has the ability to read thoughts from fingerprints, tries to fight a villain with a much stronger psychic power, who laughs at the uselessness of Rae's ability.
- In the Apprentice Adept series, the Tan Adept has the totem of the Evil Eye, granting him (later her) the power of mind control — much the same as Lelouch's Geass power, with similar limits (only targets one person at a time, only if they make eye contact, and only works once on the same person). Still sort of nifty, until you realize several of the other Adepts (Blue, Yellow, and Red in particular) could work spells to achieve much the same effect. Along with about a thousand other things which Tan can't do. In Tan's first appearance (Juxtaposition — the last book of the first trilogy), Tan had all the versatility of the other Adepts, limited only by line of sight. Piers Anthony apparently didn't read up on his own creations.
- In A Nightmare on Elm Street: Suffer The Children Freddy gives several teenagers powers, with his plan being to manipulate them into being his servants in the real world. Final Girl Alex gets empathy. She even states near the end of the book that this "power" just sucks compared to the ones her friends got, which included the likes of pyrokinesis, telekinesis and mind control. She tries to find a silver lining by thinking it could at least help her sense Freddy's presence. Reading her mind, his disembodied voice responds with "Don't count on it, bitch."
- In Twilight, some vampires gain genuine supernatural powers, while others just have a natural trait magnified. The latter circumstance tends to suck. Carlisle got stuck with compassion, Esme with The Power of Love, and Rosalie with beauty. Which in some worlds would be at least unusual traits for vampires to possess at all, but here just makes them...nicer. Then there's Victoria, who had her self-preservation instinct enhanced. Yes, some vampires gain the ability to cause pain at will, read minds, create illusions, while she gets not wanting to die slightly more than people already don't want to die. It's not as though her power even stopped her from embarking on incredibly dangerous tasks, like the one that, say, got her killed.
- That's not a valid interpretation of Victoria's power, as that enhanced self-preservation instinct acts along the lines of a Spider-Sense. The film version of Eclipse shows how effective this power is, as it allows Victoria to evade and escape both the shape-shifters and the Cullens in a high-speed chase... and in the books, Victoria's backstory explains how this allowed her to escape a full-on attack of her coven by the Volturi.
- Also, Stephanie Meyer explains that killing a vampire's mate acts as a Berserk Button. This explains the Idiot Ball handed to several vampires in the series, such as Victoria's attempt to fight Edward and Seth at the same time, Irina's going to the Volturi with news of Renesmee in retaliation for Laurent's death, and (most spectacularly) Edward attempting to commit suicide after Bella's (supposed) death by exposing himself to humans on the Volturi's doorstep.
- Marcus, anyone? The guy has the power TO SEE RELATIONSHIPS. I know it is intended to be more like a "relation-meter", but still...NO.
- Renesmee. Born from the two characters with greatest powers in the series (second only to Alice), she inverts our expectations completely. Literally. She inverts their powers. And what is the inverse of a mindreader and a mindshielder? A girl who can... show her own thoughts and who can't be blocked out from anyone. Keep in mind that her mother is the only one that last part is useful on, and later on Bella learns to take down her shield anyway, rendering it completely useless. Any thoughts of using it to relay information is wiped out by the fact that she has to touch her targets, at which point she might as well say it verbally like a normal person. Her power literally only has social purposes. If that doesn't fit the definition of heart, I don't know what does.
- Interestingly, it seems to be mainly the female vampires whose powers suck. Carlisle is immune to the vampiric bloodthirst, which makes him quite unique until Bella turns up and everyone kind of gets used to the scent of her blood. The power to see relationships doesn't suck as much as "beauty" or "self-preservation instinct"...at least an evil vampire can use it to more effectively blackmail people by taking their love interest hostage, even if they try to avoid that by lying about their relationships.
- In the case of "beauty" - not true. Even in Real Life, we see countless examples of how incredible good looks allow those so gifted to manipulate people more easily - and in The Twilight Saga, the enhancing of physical appearance is an adaptation that allows vampires to more effectively lure in and trap their primary food source - humans. Being incredibly beautiful is a highly effective ability, as it gives vampires the ability to manipulate and feed upon their food sources almost at will.
- Even Alice's power, that to be able to see the future or events taking place continents away, seems to work differently every time it factors into the plot, and gets much less useful further into the series where it's revealed that if you know she's watching there are ways to stay off her radar, and that she can't see anything involving species she's never been (like werewolves and half-vampires). Yet, the characters still talk about her as if she's infallible and nobody can plot against them with her around.
- These 'blind spots' are less Power Incontinence and more of Dangerously Genre Savvy (in the case of the Volturi - knowing the leaders will be 'watched', others are allowed to act independently) and Victoria (whose Spider-Sense leads her to do the same by having Riley act on his own as the lead of the newborn army). Regardless of it's shortcomings, Alice's precognition is immensely effective, as it has allowed the Cullens to amass a fortune in the tens of billions... and is still so coveted by Aro that he brings the entirety of the Volturi to attempt to destroy the Cullens and claim her.
- Jane and her mental-torture power seems to be one of few examples of females averting this trope.
- In Lawrence Watt-Evans' With a Single Spell, the orphaned apprentice's eponymous lone firestarting spell is useless and laughable the entire book, until it plays a deadly role in the end. Also, when the protagonist is trapped in a dead mage's extraplanar castle and is going through all the spellbooks for a means of escape, he casts the Badass but extremely lame spell "Jalger's Jar Opener". This spell summons a 9-foot silvery spike-covered demonic entity. To open a jar for you. After which it disappears...
- In Michael Grant's Gone series, a lot of kids who were left in the FAYZ develop superpowers. Some of these are powerful and useful, such as telekinesis, shooting powerful beams of light, Super Speed, or Healing Hands. Others... not so much. Astrid has a vaguely defined ability to sense the "potential" of people. In the second book, Duck has the ability to alter his mass and density. He can use this to sink into the ground, float in the air (just float, since he has no way to propel himself), and that's about it. This is lampshaded when immediately after discovering his power, he says, "I'm a moof with a really sucky power!" That said, at the end of the book Duck uses his power to defeat the Big Bad. By increasing his mass as he drops on said Big Bad, burying himself alive in the process. Yay?
- This trope appears often in William Boniface's The Extraordinary Adventures Of Ordinary Boy kids' novels, set in a city where everyone has super-powers (except for the eponymous protagonist). Said powers range from the typical Flying Brick and Mind Control Stock Superpowers to the less-than-useful — Puddle Boy can create puddles beneath his feet, Melonhead has a melon-shaped head and spits (ordinary) watermelon seeds, and Whistlin' Dixie can whistle any song perfectly.
- In the Mistborn series, the magic system is allomancy. People with all allomantic powers are called Mistborn, but many people, called Mistings, just have the ability to use one of eight abilities, such as the ability to repel metals, the ability to manipulate emotions, and so on. Some are much more useful than others. For example, one type of Misting, "seekers," have the ability to detect the use of allomancy. That's it. Allomancy is already rare and tightly regulated, and if you're a seeker, you just have the ability to tell what other people are doing. It gets worse: smokers can create "copperclouds," which block allomantic pulses—that is, it makes it so people can't sense allomancers. If seekers didn't exist, smokers would be completely useless.
- Subverted when it turns out that the Steel Ministry is highly interested in recruiting Seekers, since Hemalurgy can make them strong enough to pierce copperclouds, something the rest of the world thinks is impossible.
- And smokers do get one other perk: burning their metal makes them immune to the metals that manipulate your emotions.
- In The Alloy of Law novel, one of the main characters has the ability to create a bubble around herself in which time moves slowly compared to the rest of the world. She considers this basically useless, because who wants to move more slowly then everyone else? Then at the end of the book, our heroes need to stall for time...
- Several allomantic abilities are useful for Mistborn, because they are "meta-powers," enhancing other ones such as temporarily supercharging them, but do nothing for Mistings, for whom that is their only power. One ability associated with aluminum is useless even for Mistborn, because it just burns away their reserves of metals to no benefit.
- Though it is implied that aluminum could also be used to purge unwanted spiritual influences, and it can be used to safely dispose of bad metals (An allomancer can get very sick or even die if they burn an impure metal, and some of the allomantic metals will poison you if not burned off).
- In Maximum Ride, while everyone is developing awesome super powers such as super speed, invisibility, and mind control, Iggy gets the ability to... feel color and see if everything is white. Whee.
- Said invisibility only works if the character is standing still. Another character becomes magnetic. Not a very powerful kind of magnetic, either. To fully illustrate just how good these powers are, they're never used for anything.
- Lampshaded by Thom Creed and his teammates in Perry Moore's Hero. Thom's powers of healing may be cool, but team medic doesn't appear to be the most glamorous role for an aspiring teenage superhero.
- The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul has a brief appearance by a girl with supernatural knowledge of stock prices… by the time they've already appeared in the newspapers. Since she's reduced to perpetually mumbling stock prices and is confined to a mental institution, this could count as Blessed with Suck.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, the Powers of the World have different spheres of influence. One has mastery over the sky, one over metals, one over the ocean, etc. Some of the female Vala are lame, though. Nessa is "The Dancer," Vairë weaves, and Vána is the ever young, whose power is the ability to make birds chirp and flowers bloom by her presence. Even one of the Aratar (the most powerful of the Valar) Nienna, is the Vala of Grief and Mourning.
- Deuces in Wild Cards are all about this trope. There's Mr. Rainbow, who can change the color of his skin to any color (solid colors only, no patterns); a woman who can levitate, but only when she's sleeping; and a man who can stick his hand into a tub of water and make it boil in just under 8 minutes.
- Abby Carnelia's one and only magic power lives this trope. The premise is a bunch of kids have very lame, but still magical, powers. Abby can make a hardboiled egg spin if she tugs her ears. Another girl can float about a half inch off the ground. One boy can fog up glass for a second and another can turn white paper gray...and yet, somehow, these all end up saving the day. (Who knew, right?)
- In The Pale King, Claude Sylvanshine has Random Fact Intuition, which is ESP with nothing but useless facts.
- In The Hunger Games, Peeta jokes that the only thing he's really great at is icing cakes; Katniss, understandably, doesn't think that's likely to help him in the arena. In fact it makes him freaking boss at camouflage, which is great news for the NonActionGuy. In addition he is actually quite strong, even compared to the careers just without any real combat training. Though this is less true In Catching Fire after he has been injured in the first games.
- The Sidekicks series by Dan Danko and Tom Mason parodied this a lot, having such superheroes as Pumpkin Pete (his head is a pumpkin), Exact Change Kid, Spice Girl (she smells nice), Boom Boy (he can blow up...but only once), and Haiku Boy. In fact, when Speedy jokingly asks, "Where's Bar-of-Soap Boy when you really need him?" it turns out there ''was'' a Bar-of-Soap Boy on the team, but he moved away to a place "where it didn't rain so much".
- In the web-novel Domina, some of the superpowers are Super Speed, force fields, the ability to manipulate rock and stone, pyrokinesis, and...lie detection. Not even particularly good lie detection, either; half-truths slip right by.
- The first power Michael develops in the Knight and Rogue Series after getting magic are an ability to see magic in nature, while he could already sense it if he was close enough to the magical object, and he treats this like the end of the world. He's even less pleased to discover his ability to make water wetter (let that one sink in) because of what it can do. He only calms down when Fisk points out that, actually, having water that's extra wet isn't really that useful.
- In Kristin Cashore's novels Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue, a "Graceling" (an individual gifted, or cursed, with an unusual/superhuman ability) doesn't automatically know what their Grace is, and has to discover it through experience. Some of these Graces, once identified, turn out to be pretty useless. Among the examples given are the Grace to eat rocks and not get sick, the Grace to open your mouth so wide your face gets turned inside out — good only for grossing people out (Beetlejuice-inspired, perhaps?) and various nice but limited Graces such as knowing exactly what food will satisfy someone at the moment.
- In The Dresden Files, plenty of people ("minor talents") have smidgens of magical power, oftentimes so slight that they might not even recognize that it's a magical ability. A good example is Abby from White Night, who is precognitive, but can only see about two seconds into the future, making for some very confusing conversations.
- In Witches Abroad, Magrat's magic wand only seems able to turn things into pumpkins (because she doesn't know how to use it). However, she finds some good uses for this as the story progresses, turning it into Heart Is an Awesome Power.
- In Of Fear and Faith, Phenix’s Testament is called Love, and the others briefly make fun of it for this reason. Even Phenix himself doesn’t understand the logistics of having a weapon called "Love".
- The main character of The Caster Chronicles, Ethan Wate, is a Wayward - a mortal whose destiny is essentially intertwined with that of a specific Caster. Waywards are also essentially a guide or compass for their Caster, and instinctively know where they need to go and what they need to do, especially when Casters are about as lost as the next person in the room. Needless to say, this only ever comes in handy when all other options have been exhausted. Comes with plenty of Lampshade Hanging that explicitly references Aquaman and his usually useless powers.
- In Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain, Claire's "super-cuteness" powers aren't really all that effective against anyone other than Penny. They're a mild distraction to anyone else.
- The Temps novels include a man who can turn into a human-sized frog, with all the weaknesses of a frog, but can't swim very well, a man who can channel beer from elsewhere in the pub into his own pint, a woman who spontaneously generates rubbish when she's stressed (although she gets to show that Heart Is an Awesome Power), and a man whose Shock and Awe abilities are limited to very slowly building an electrostatic charge on a person or object, as long as the target isn't earthed.
Live Action TV
- Parodied in a recurring sketch in That Mitchell and Webb Look, which features the exploits of the crime-fighting duo BMX Bandit (who can ride a BMX bike really well) and The Angel Summoner (who can summon a horde of celestial superbeings to do his bidding); each adventure would begin with BMX Bandit suggesting an over-complicated primarily BMX-based strategy to deal with the threat they were facing (kidnappers, drug-runners, terrorists), only for Angel Summoner to reluctantly point out that it'd be a lot easier if he just summoned a horde of angels to do it instead. Needless to say, the latter usually proves a lot more useful... which gives Bandit a severe inferiority complex. Finally, BMX Bandit does get to use his skills, prompted by Angel Summoner who's eager to make him feel an equal part of the team, despite the utter unsuitability of the situation — and dies in the processnote .
- Also parodied in a sketch about a man with telekinesis - but it only works on biscuits. Downplayed by the fact that his companion thinks it is an awesome power (after all, ordinary humans can't cause biscuits to fly around with their mind), and that the man's problem with the power isn't that it is lame, but that he tends to inadvertently kill people when using it.
- The graphic novels had a Company agent whose passive ability was absorbing sound, rendering him deaf and mute as well as useless unless up against someone with a sonic power (who could still theoretically take him down through conventional means).
- The web-show spin-off Zeroes was about characters from the Heroes universe with incredibly lame powers. This includes a man who paints the future as stick-figures, rendering them indecipherable, and a girl who could fit her whole fist into her mouth, which is pointed out to be "just slutty".
- And then there's Alejandro, whose sole displayed power was the ability to absorb and stop his sister's killing power. Which she learns to do by herself anyway. And then loses her power permanently. Sylar kills him and doesn't even bother to try to learn how he does it.
- A new character's power to 'see' sounds appears to be this trope, until she discovers she can be quite dangerous with these abilities, somehow.
- Actually, the synesthesia (seeing sounds) wasn't her power, more like Required Secondary Powers. Her actual power is kind of a siren song/pied piper effect with her cello. She could use the music of her cello to bring people to her, make them experience emotions, or even kill people. The only problem is, she's deaf, which makes it slightly difficult to use a music-based power. So she developed the synesthesia to be able to use her actual power.
- The boy Claire met, whose power was to breathe underwater. So, Aquaman, but much less powerful. Nevertheless, it was apparently an issue of vital importance to national security that he be locked up. Thank you Nathan.
- The "Going Postal" webisodes featured a henchman of the Company with the fearsome power of "constriction". Let's just say he's harmless unless you let him give you a hug.
- Sylar seemed to love collecting these. He harvested the abilities of a guy who had the power to blow up (incredibly small) objects with his finger, a guy who could liquefy small metal objects (and they had to be metal) and another guy who could blow up (tiny) things with his mind (with a good thirty seconds of effort).
- In one issue of the graphic novels, Sylar killed a man whose ability was to be able to wave his hand over documents and have his signature appear on all of them; apparently it allowed him to write by just willing it. Initially this was thought to be one of the most useless powers on the show and many people questioned why Sylar would want it, until people on the Heroes Wiki started debating its possible uses and what its limitations were; i.e. "Is it limited to paper? Could you etch stone or metal with it? Could you write on skin and make tattoos with it? If you wrote on someone else's eyes, could you hurt or blind them? Is it limited to your signature? Could you write novels or essays really fast with it? Is the writing always your handwriting? Could you forge someone else's signature? Does the power extend to actually changing something that was already written? If Ando supercharged him, could he do abstract things, like rewrite someone's genetic code or even memories?" Since this was the only appearance of this power, we will never know.
- Arguably, Ando's initial power. His power is to generate a form of red lightning that supercharges other people's powers. He initially assumes it's useless on its own, but it later turns out that, when applied to anything or anyone not empowered, that red lightning behaves just like normal electricity, making it a useful weapon.
- Parodied in Mystery Science Theater 3000 in which Crow creates a superhero identity for himself. While he concedes that his super power is completely useless, he jumps into the role of superhero wholeheartedly, even creating a super costume and announcing himself in a deep booming voice. His name? Turkey Volume Guessing Man. His power? To estimate how many turkeys could conceivably fill any given space. Mike then immediately takes the wind out of his sails by demonstrating that he has the same power.
- This trope is the entire point of the Whose Line Is It Anyway? game "Superheroes". From just one playing: Suicide Boy, Yodeling-Pogo-Stick Man, Captain Bloodloss, and Cowboy Stunt-Rider. Other examples include Caught-In-A-Wind-Tunnel Boy, The Jitterbug Kid and Captain Coward (who promptly hid behind the other superheroes).
- This list has so far failed to include fan-favorite Captain Obvious.
- Nope. It just took a true crisis— dry skin— for them to call out the big guns.
: Hey, who ever thought that the world famous Captain Obvious
was really mild mannered Colin Mochrie
- In No Heroics we get Fuseboss whose power is fusing two things together. To make the matters worse, he also has a nervous tic that forces him to create new words by fusing two existing, hence we get jems like "bews" (bad news), "prules" (pub rules) and "blob" (...take a wild guess).
- Before achieving national fame as "the Science Guy", Bill Nye was a member of the Seattle-based comedy-sketch show Almost Live!. One of his reoccurring characters was a superhero named Speed Walker who fought crime "while maintaining strict adherence to the regulations of the International Speed-Walking Association!" (Heel toe! Heel toe!!)
- The primary conceit of Kamen Rider Decade is that the title hero can use the powers, techniques, and weapons of every previous Kamen Rider. Because Den-O relies entirely on the combat skills of the Imagin who possess him, his powers look kind of useless, leading to a hilarious scene when Decade first uses Den-O's powers and discovers that the attack cards simply make him perform the Imagins' Catch Phrases. Later on it's shown that he also gets the traits of Den-O's forms, such as Ax Form/Kintaros' Super Strength, making it look a lot more useful.
- Kamen Rider Super-1 subverts this and plays it straight at the same time: Gold Hand is a radar... yeah, not very useful until you get to the fact it can be used as a missile launcher.
- Friends had an episode where it was revealed that Ross, as a child, used to write comics about his own superhero, Science Boy! Blessed with the powers of... a super human thirst for knowledge.
- Saturday Night Live
- A sketch featured "The Interesting Four":
- Weather Woman, who could change the air temperature of the room she was in by up to eight degrees in either direction;
- Staple, whose thumb was a stapler;
- Seiko, who, by pressing a button on his watch, would go back in time by one second <click> one second <click> one second <click> one second (this continued until someone else snapped him out of it); and
- Mister Wonderful. He doesn't have any powers, he's just Mister Wonderful!
- Another ''sketch had more conventional superheroes, where The Flash was clearly underwhelmed by Ant-Man's powers.
- David Letterman made a top 10 list about this trope:
10. Super spelling
9. Lighning-fast mood swings
8. Really bendy thumb
7. Unusually natural smile when posing for photographs
6. Ability to calm jittery squirrels
5. Power to shake exactly two aspirins out of a bottle
4. Ability to get tickets to Goodwill games
3. Power to score with other superheroes' wives
2. Ability to communicate with corn. And the number one least exciting superpower...
1. Magnetic colon
- One of the players on Survivor: Samoa made a direct and detailed reference to the original Captain Planet and the Planeteers instance of this trope in describing his feelings of weakness and fatigue.
- Out of This World: On her 16th birthday, Evie is told by her father Troy that she can gain a new power from ten different choices. One of the choices is the ability to change shoes quickly. Troy admits "We don't get a lot of requests for that one..."
- The BBC character profiles for Robin Hood lists Kate's specialized weapon as "her imagination". In the eleven episodes in which she appeared, the most imaginative thing she ever did was to use a sword to drag a key toward her whilst she was locked in a cell. So not only is it a Lame Power, but it's an Informed Ability as well. In case you were wondering, she was indeed The Scrappy.
- Stringfellow Hawke from Airwolf has super-hearing (possibly equal to or greater than his dog), which only comes in useful in that no-one can sneak up on him.
- Subverted in an episode of House; a patient who at first appears to have the amazingly useful power of perfect memory recall is later discovered to suffer from OCD and actually can't forget bad memories and grudges. Truth in Television. It's called hyperthymesia, and one of the only 20 documented cases is that of actress Marilu Henner of Taxi. Yes, it's believed to be a form of OCD. Yes, it includes the inability to forget bad memories or to push out "bad thoughts" (which is what OCD actually is compared to the version you generally see in fiction).
- Misfits likes this, although several of them prove to be much more useful once they get used to them. But Alisha's power is to uncontrollably make any guy who touches her try to have sex with her. Nikki's ability to teleport would be good if she could control when it happened or where she went, but as is, is nothing but a liability. The girl who can make people go bald. Still, all of them pale beside the guy whose "power" is to mentally become a dog. This brings no enhanced abilities at all, and is just an especially embarrassing form of sleepwalking (i.e. naked and impersonating a dog whilst running around the streets of London). Subverted with a character who had the power of telekinesis, but only for milk (he called it Lactokenesis). After being roundly mocked, the character found he was able to kill people by filling their wind pipe and lungs with dairy from their own stomach.
- Played with in Merlin with Morgana's precognitive dreams. For a long time she doesn't understand them, and it's up to Merlin and Gaius to heed their warnings, whilst everyone else treats her as The Cassandra. In later episodes she understands them, but can't do anything to prevent them from unfolding (as in her Flash Forward dream to Guinevere being crowned Queen). If she does take action, they usually turn into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
- Stan Lee's Superhumans, a program on the History Channel (US) is all about this trope, including your basic human calculators and the like, along with a Discovery Channel documentary entitled The Real Superhumans which featured, among others, a man whose heightened core metabolism has left him nearly impervious to cold, which he sought to prove by running a half-marathon nearly naked barefoot in the Arctic. He made it. It also featured a man born with skin so smooth and sleek that objects can be stuck to it as if his belly was a suction cup.
- Mutant X, an action show that obviously was based on X-Men, had a guy who could shoot lightning from his hands, a girl who was crazy cat-like, a dude who could either ghost himself or make himself as hard as a statue and a girl who… had weak telepath powers. The last was often kept back at base.
- In later seasons they all got upgrades, and the telepath gained a weird "mental missile" attack that did manage to take out whoever it hit (but having no effect on the surrounding area); she still got left behind though.
- Emma's powers eventually grew to the point where she could erase memories with a thought and could keep an army from discovering a weird-looking jet in a jungle clearing. As she explains to Jesse, to do this she has to remove all safeguards from her mind, meaning she won't be blocking anybody's thoughts. While she's saying that, she's wearing an outfit with lots of cleavage, which Jesse just happens to look at. Her reaction to his thoughts shows that she's not pleased. Apparently, the writers thought this made her too powerful, requiring a bridge to be dropped.
- Charmed: While Phoebe's power of premonition is certainly not useless, she does experience some angst early on at not having an active power that she can utilize at will. This is what inspires her to learn martial arts. She later gains the active power of levitation, becomes an empath, and learns how to summon premonitions at will. And then she loses all of her powers. How sucky for her. And kinda only gets them back at half power (and empathy not at all)
- The Almighty Johnsons: A lot of the gods' powers are like this, since none of them have full access to their abilities.
- Ingrid is Snotra, goddess of wisdom. Her primary ability? She's good at organizing stuff, and automatically knows things that it would be prudent to know. For example, when she stays at a hotel, she instantly knows where all the fire exits and vending machines are.
- Ty is Höðr, god of everything dark and cold. His ability to survive virtually any temperature extreme, put out any fire, and freeze things with a touch would be awesome...if this were a combat show. Which it's not. He mostly uses his intuitive understanding of cold to fix refrigerators.
- Poor Stacey is Fulla, handmaiden to the goddess Frigg. Her "power" is that she obeys powerful goddesses. That's it, as far as anyone can tell.
- Parodied in a one-time sketch on The Amanda Show which featured a class full of teenagers with superpowers. The students included Lisa, a girl who could see the future, Reggie, a boy with the power of "super-burps" (which, while disgusting, were extremely powerful seismic events), an unnamed boy with telekinesis...and Billy, with the gift of "super-rhyming." What made this even worse is that Billy had no control over his power—he was compelled to speak in rhyme even when he had nothing to contribute to the conversation:
Lisa: You're giving us a pop quiz?
- Comedian David O'Doherty has a song called "Very Mild Superpowers".
O'Doherty: Sometimes when I'm cycling with my headphones on, I know exactly where I'll be at the end of a song.
- In the tongue-in-cheek roleplaying game In Nomine Satanis / Magna Veritas (American Tropers might better know its Darker and Edgier remake, In Nomine), character powers are assigned at random from a rather long list. If you're lucky, you can wind up with lightning bolts, holy dancing swords, mind control or even limited time travel. If you're not lucky, you're going to be the guy on the team who can control molluscs, or whose "power" is to have materialized on Earth in the body of a famous rock star (considering most scenarios involve discreet investigations among Muggles, this is all kinds of Blessed with Suck). There's also the unbalance of domain powers, granted by the Archangel/Demon Prince you serve (and by extension, the virtue/sin they embody). Again, some of those are powerful - petrification, turning people into pillars of salt, nightmare curses... but lust demons get Deadly Orgasm, which while somewhat awesome (YMMV) is not exactly useful in a fight. Meanwhile, sloth demons get a power which makes any physical exertion impossible to anyone in a 100m radius...demon included. Not to be outdone in the lameness department, some angels get the power to speed up crop growth.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, the School of Divination gets this treatment sometimes. After all, knowing about stuff doesn't seem to be as cool as throwing fireballs. More experienced players are all too happy to demonstrate how the ability to legitimately metagame beats the ability to set stuff on fire 9 times out of 10.
- In a little Mythology Gag, in Pathfinder, the Thassilonian Empire utterly dismissed Divination as worthless, instead focusing on the other seven schools instead.
- The Illusion and Enchantment schools, on the other hand, are a weird case of having this viewpoint be enforced. As with Divination, both schools provide spells and effects that are, while not as flashy as blasting someone with Fire, Ice, Lightning, still incredibly powerful. Game Breaker powerful even. However, whereas Divination slipped under the radar, and continues to bedevil DMs to this day, the designers realized just how powerful a skilled Illusionist or Enchanter could be, and responded by slapping down immunities to these effects on something like 90% of all the creatures in the game. Thusly, an Illusionist or an Enchanter is all but worthless outside of certain very niche campaigns, and every other player perceives the schools as worthless.
- In the post-modern horror game Unknown Armies, a significant magical ritual (that is, an effect of Authentic Thaumaturgy usable only by Adepts, not by normal people unless they HAPPEN to know the incredibly rare and costly Harmonious Alignment minor-charging ritual) is called "Scurvy Livestock". This ultra-rare power, which can be cast ONLY on a full moon night and which requires yellow phlegm from a sick woman with a least one living child, mixed with wine and honey which must be boiled (while saying magic words) in your opponent's field, causes livestock owned by the target to sicken: cows give sour milk, sheep get patchy, and piglets fail to thrive. Some, as the spell notes, will die. The book explains: "Sure, this doesn't seem particularly impressive today. But in the Middle Ages it was one of the all-time greats."
- This can happen if you get the wrong randomly drawn Alpha Mutations in Gamma World. Giant Clown Feet anybody?
- Warhammer 40K has this: The daemon 'Flamer of Tezeench (sic)' can breath random 'fires' at enemies. This can result in burning them to ashes in seconds; burning all their clothes off, but touching nothing else; or drizzling them in a fine mist of red wine (amongst other things).
- Pink Horrors have been noted as finding events like the last two an endless source of humour.
- The obscure RPG Stuperpowers is basically if somebody made a whole game based around this trope (with a dash of This Loser Is You). Its premise is that for every superhero who gets "real" superpowers, there are a dozen more who get such endlessly useful metahuman abilities as making it rain nachos, summoning mariachi bands, turning yourself into modern art, turning things plaid, and moving things with your brain (that is, by having your head actually pop open and your brain physically jump out and manipulate something). Those "dozen more" being the ones run by the players, of course. Meanwhile the characters they're meant to oppose tend to have "real" powers like strength, invisibility and death-beams, even if their concepts are almost as ridiculous as the players'.
- The short play The League of Semi-Superheroes is about a group of heroes each acknowledging the uselessness of their powers as they deal with a financial crisis.
- BIONICLE's Gali, a Toa of Water, complained to her trainer that she cannot think of a way to make good use of her Mask of Water Breathing as an offensive or defensive item, especially since the training took place in a desert. Later on, though, she moved to a watery area and also gathered five other masks, so it was all good. Actually, a lot of mask powers in the Bionicle Universe may seem kind of awesome at first, but when you remember that often these are the only masks their user has access to, they may find themselves in hairy situations.
- Bratzillaz dolls all have pretty cool powers according to their advert. Yasmina sees the future, Cloetta has transformation powers, Meygana can fly (and apparently grants wishes), Sashabella communicates with animals, and Jade... fixes broken hearts.
- On Homestar Runner, in the Strong Bad Email "super powers", Strong Bad reveals his secret super-power: removing caps (bottle-caps, beanie caps, etc.) with the power of his mind.
- The Animutation French Erotic Film by Andrew Kepple, where various animutation characters contribute elements and finally "spleen!" — with "What kind of lame-ass power is 'Heart' anyway?" written in the background.
- The flash animation by Egoraptor Girlchan in Paradise!! has Maytag, a woman with a price gun. Nobody seems to see this power as physically dangerous, yet everyone keeps reiterating they have no idea how to beat such a power, and The Green Guy comes to the conclusion he has to use a suicide attack and blow himself up with her.
- Pretty much every Bushido Blaster (except Swirly Glasses) could count. There's the Bushido Blaster who's superpower is lighting himself on fire, and...that's it (he's even defeated by a bucket of water.) He still manages to beat Yusuke, though, thanks to his strategy of attacking everything head-on, and everyone except Kenstar giving up immediately after that. And after that is the artist Bushido Blaster who's superpower is apparently owning a giant pencil (granted, the party fights him in a giant white void that might be linked to his power, but the series doesn't bother to explain anything.)
- League of Super Redundant Heroes IS this trope - some, like Buckaress, have no identifiable powers at all, and Good Girl's abilities are… well, we don't know what they are.
- Subverted by this Buttersafe comic, in which love is the source of energy which powers eye lasers.
- In The B-Movie Comic, Mopey hasn't been a Magical Girl for more than one minute, and she already asks that very question.
- Basilica in Man-Man has possibly the most ludicrous power ever invented. He turns into a basilica, then the resident priest tells you to knock off what you were doing. Worse, other people can trigger the transformation.
- In the Metal Gear Solid parody webcomic The Last Days of FOXHOUND, we have The Chinaman of the Dead Cell unit. In a team consisting of a giant explosives expert, a superb strategist, and a vampire who can see in the dark, run up walls, walk on water and pin people to the ground by their shadows, The Chinaman is... a special effects expert and a navy swimming champion. Who can also hold his breath for a really long time. Did I mention that he's currently stationed in a desert? Because of all this, he ends up trying way too hard.
Chinaman: I know what you're thinking. "What could a navy swimming champion and special effects expert possibly be good for in an anti-terrorist squad? Especially in a desert where there's no water to swim in?"
Raven: You're a navy swimming champion?
Chinaman: And a special effects expert, don't forget that! But I've got news for you Jack — I just spent four hours under the desert sun in a wetsuit! Pretty stupid huh? But I did it to prove I could, and now I'm gonna pass out!
Jackson: It's for the best. He was about thirty seconds from challenging you to a breath holding contest.
- Dead Cell also has "Old Boy", whose "power" is...being a 100+ year old former Nazi General. Why are these two even in the comic you ask? Because they were originally going to appear in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty before being axed and incorporated into other characters (The Chinaman's water running powers were given to Vamp and Old Boy was reworked into The End).
- Parodied in this installment of VG Cats.
- A short arc in the Sluggy Freelance B-Side Comics "Bikini Suicide Frisbee Days" dealt with the main characters getting powers like these. Riff gained the power to make sound effects, Torg gained the "power" of having his life narrated, and Zoe gained the ability/curse to speak a different language each time she opens her mouth (but never English). Gwynn's the only one who got a useful superpower: the power to create an anti-climactic ending, causing all the other useless superpowers to fade away.
- Lampshaded in this strip from Least I Could Do.
- Subverted in this strip from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
- Apparently the entire point of Irregular Webcomic!'s "Supers" theme. For both heroes and villains.
- This trope is the entire premise of the furry superhero comic Psychic Dyslexia Institute (PDI), where a "psychic dyslexia" is an exceptionally odd superpower; characters include, among many others: a girl who can create completely convincing illusions, but only of clothing; someone who has the power to tell whether or not a building contains cheese; a boy who subconsciously generates a field around him that makes anyone who enters it suddenly feel an irrational overriding hatred towards him, and an anthropomorphic chicken whose eggs glow in the dark. They actually find fairly creative ways to use these abilities, especially with the addition of a team member whose ability is to reverse the ability of any powered character he touches. Pathos, for example, generates a field that makes people become absolutely enraptured towards him while touching Reverso, generally used as an extremely effective distraction.
- Super Temps has this apply to the entire 'non-super' civilian populace. Everyone's got a power, just most suck — although some 'non-supers' do have Lethal Harmless Powers.
- Andrew "Smitty" Smith of Gunnerkrigg Court has the power to subconsciously create order where there was none, or as Parley puts it "his super power is to make everything boring!"
- During the super hero story arc of Dragon Tails, Lemuel's alter ego gained the ability to manipulate emotions and make people happy. Not only did he gain these powers while playing a villain, he couldn't actually stop people from doing things, merely change how they feel about doing those things.
- Noah of A Path To Greater Good has, at the start of the series, the magical power to not see his own reflection.
- In this Dinosaur Comics, T-Rex imagines bizarre superpowers for himself and his friends. "Your super power is shooting sunscreen out of your eyes." "What do yours do? Dribble out salty water, but only when you're sad?"
- Average-Man is the world's most average superhero. He's okay at flying.
- The premise of this Optipess strip.
- Hamsterfall from Bob the Angry Flower. When he wills it, hamsters drop from the sky.
- Also Plantae. He has the power to control plants. In comic books this is typically a reasonable power, but that's because it implicitly gives the plants the ability to move. The only plant that can move in this comic is Bob himself (and possibly Stumpy). Needless to say, the uses of commanding a flower with anger issues are limited.
- Almost the entire cast of Superslackers. For example, Invisible Right Leg Lad's power is having an invisible right leg. One of the few characters with a useful power dies in a somewhat ironic manner exactly two panels after his first appearance.
- Fletcher Apts. In here, Ma-Ti gets an upgrade to his Heart powers. A giant monkeywrench to smash people in the face with.
- In the Homestuck Midnight Crew Intermission, The Felt are a gang of mobsters specializing in time-related magic. Most of the powers are pretty useful, but a few of them are rather pointless. Sawbuck's power is that whenever he gets hurt, he and everyone around him will jump to a random point in the timeline. Biscuits believes that his "magical" oven can teleport him into the future. He's technically correct, although it only moves at a rate of one second per second, so he's essentially hiding himself in a completely mundane box until the timer rings. Doze has the power to speed up time around him, giving himself super-slowness, which causes him to be constantly be captured yet practically impossible to interrogate.
- The lolcat and fangirl parody Nepeta Leijon, who actually is the Hero of Heart among the troll kids. Which may or may not be a reference to this trope...
- Later subverted when the power of the Hero of Heart is elaborated upon by Calliope, the Guardian's Cherub guide. Apparently Heart is effectively the same as Soul, which, combined with the powers of the Hero's class, makes Nepeta the Stealer of Souls and Dirk Strider, the Prince of Heart, the Destroyer of Souls. Later he is shown being able to rip the soul from someones body which apparently is very painful.
- Also Biscuit's oven is apparently Bigger on the Inside, which makes it handy when you need to ferry the entire Felt around.
- Bob's power in The Way of the Metagamer is to "fail at building demolition".
- In A Path To Greater Good, Noah's power is the inability to see his own reflection. It later gets upgraded to travelling between two parallel worlds, but he often materialises dozens of feet in the air or surrounded by man-eating dinosaurs.
- Many fans of MegaTokyo initially felt this way when Junpei pointed out that Magical Girls gain their power from love, but… just head over to Heart Is an Awesome Power and you'll get the idea.
- Luke Surl Comics has one more view on Ma-Ti.
- Lampshaded in this Surviving The World strip on superpowers.
- Metaleeto has total power over O-shaped metal. Rings, washers, certain foreign coins, and maybe possibly nuts are completely under his thrall!
- "Heart doesn't win any awards, Reuben, it just tastes of iron... or in Jess' case, cholesterol."
- In Wright as Rayne, Misty Smid's superpower is the ability to sense when people are looking at her and where they're standing. This can make her a decent spy, but it's useless in combat, especially when you consider her best friend is a witch.
- Lampshaded in 'The Clone Wars' Online Web Comic 'The Valsedian Operation,' which features a scene where a washed-out ex-Jedi student (now part of the Agricultural Corps), with extremely limited Force abilities, is working with a competent Clone Captain to hunt an assassin through a city. When the Clone (who is used to working with full-fledged Jedi) asks her if she can sense anything, she replies all she can sense is that there are no plants around. The Clone confidently replies, "Well, think of it as a strength looking for a situation!"
- Terror Island's Obvious Dentist. His power is that everybody knows he's a dentist. He's not, but everyone knows he is all the same.
- When Ellen and Elliot start developing magic in El Goonish Shive Ellen gets the variation of Transformation Ray turning the target into a very impressive human female, the first being a Transformation Ray turning her into the target's clone. Elliot starts off able to transform into a girl, and then develops the ability to turn into any girl and change outfits. The first "really useful" spell he eventually got was the one turning him into a stock superheroine.
- Some of the other spells and powers of characters count too. Nanase has a disguise spell that only works on her hair and a spell that allows her to exchange a clothing item she's wearing with another clothing item. Sarah almost gets the ability to turn into a guy before she was foiled by her own brain. Susan's only known spell lets her summon magic hammers at any time, but they don't leave any serious injury and are mostly intended for gag purposes. Magus can slightly amplify emotions (This has yet to be of ANY use). And Rhoda and Dex have the powers to, respectively, make things larger and to summon a fairy companion. However, the former ability winds up saving the user's life and the person with the latter ability just wants companionship, so it works out in the end.
- Parodied in xkcd: Etymology-Man. It actually notes that, ironically, even Aquaman would be more useful in those circumstances.
- In Girl Genius Krosp I, Emperor of all cats, has the power to command other cats. The intent was to use cats as spies, but unfortunately cats aren't that bright, get distracted easily, and don't understand most of the things humans do. Even if they don't just forget what they're supposed to be doing, the chance of them coming back with any usable information is low, and Krosp was nearly killed off as an embarrassing failed experiment.
- Wondermark features "The Adventures of the Superhero Whose Left Ear Is Bulletproof". He got shot once in his left ear and assumed his whole body was bulletproof. His superhero career after that point was very brief.
- In Paranatural, Max gets magnet powers from his possessed bat. It would be pretty cool, except all the enemies in the comic are intangible ghosts and spirits, so throwing around a bunch of metal stuff isn't really as useful as you'd think.
- In a Savage Chickens webcomic strip: “What good is Aquaman, nothing ever happens in the ocean”.
- Selan Pike's Evil FTW has a girl who is psychic, but only when it comes to vending machines; all but Selanio, Xeno, Professor Pain, Reza, Damon Lords, and Apogee are Blessed with Suck in some form in this series. One might try to argue that Selan is different — right up until she faints from hypoglycemia. She can't use her powers while tired.
- Linkara deconstructed the Trope Namer himself in his review of the Captain Planet comic; said deconstruction can be found in the Western Animation section. He also deconstructed this trope as it applies to Aquaman. When the subject came up at one point, he went on a lengthy tract pointing out all of the legitimately Badass aspects of Aquaman's character and powers (He's King of the Ocean - the entire thing, 70% of the planet, mind you - and controls the Atlantean's navy, all of the Super Strength, Nigh-Invulnerability, and Super Speed that being able to survive, much less swim really fast, in the crushing depths of the ocean entails, as well as being able to summon the likes of sharks, whales, and Cthulhu to lend a hand if he felt like it), and noting that he is badass in virtually every media in which he appears… with the sole exception of Super Friends (and parodies written by people who seem to only know Aquaman through Super Friends).
- Dr. Horrible's roomie Moist from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog apparently has the power to make things... moist. Lampshaded when he laments that at his most badass he can make people feel like they want to take a shower. A prequel comic actually shows that it's not a superpower so much as a condition he developed when his father bought a plutonium-powered air humidifier to deal with his dry skin.
- Discussed at considerable length in the "Aquatic Justice" episode of Kevin Smith's podcast, which features much maligning of poor Aquaman.
"I mean, does anyone actually choose to be Aquaman? If you could be like, the Flash, would anybody opt for Aquaman?"
- There's an archived thread from /tg/ about this. Although, some of the powers listed therein can also tend towards Heart Is an Awesome Power
- The web game For The Win lampshades this. The "Pantheon" figure "Heartia" (based on the lesser-known Greek goddess Hestia), pretends to be a Magical Girl with the power of heart. It's revealed at the end of her description that it's all a lie, but she goes along with it because "what kind of power is 'Heart', anyway?!"
- In the online novel Dangerous Lunatics, Victor is a skunk boy who can control his flatulence to a musical degree, among his newfound friends with more traditional superpowers such as super strength, bendiness, speaking to the dead, and immortality. However, later on he finds out he can, in addition, actually blast a veritable tornado of force from his rear, and saves the rest of the team by doing so at a critical moment.
- The Spoony Experiment references this trope while decrying the weak plots of the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy I's plot, about the four elemental orbs: "The only way this plot could be gayer is if there was a fifth orb for Heart!" (Cue Stock Footage from Captain Planet.)
- There's also Terl, who has the ability to intuitively know how high above sea level any location on earth is, and concludes that because of this, people should worship him as a god. When Spoony counters that you could just look it up on Wikipedia, Terl responds "Well, yes. But only a lowly man-animal would need to."
- In the League of Intergalactic Cosmic Champions Mr. Obvious had the power to see the obvious!
- superuseless superpowers.
- In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, the Crimestoppers campaign was made of this trope. The team consisted of: Doctor Destiny, a sometime-clairvoyant who gets visions of the future with the aid of his magic 8-ball; Mister Excitement, a hero who gains his super-strength through adrenalin rushes, but who has no control over when those rushes occur; Rex the Wonder Dog, a talking American Mastiff (that is his power, he's a dog that talks); Silly Putty, a shapechanger who has to be physically manipulated to change his shape, and cannot change his color; and The Tagger, who possesses the power to spray any color of paint he wishes from his fingertips.
- Also the mysterious Mister Easter (not a member of the Crimestoppers), who had the power to change water into wine, multiply a single fish and a single load of bread into many fishes and loaves of bread, walk on water, completely cure leprosy, blindness, and a very small range of disabilities that prevented people from walking. Plus, if he was killed, he rose from the dead after three days.
- The setting also featured the Flower Lady could project a spray of rose petals from her fingers. Mr. Rainbow could change the color of his own skin, but only to one of the seven prismatic colors (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, or Violet). The Great and Powerful Oz could shape-shift, but only into one of the characters from the 1939 musical version of "The Wizard of Oz", and Soundtrack had the power to cause any piece of music (be it a song or an orchestral piece) ever used in any film to play out of thin air around him.
- A good chunk of the superpowers in Survival of the Fittest Evolution, which include black-mould growing saliva, choking up smoke, transparent skin, regrowing lost teeth, and glow in the dark eyes.
- In the TGWTG Year One Brawl, resident Butt Monkey Ma-Ti gets his ass handed to him by everyone while shouting "Heart" as his battle cry, then subverted as it suddenly becomes more badass when he repeats while repeatedly firing a gun. "Look out, Ma-Ti is packing heat!" Turned Up to Eleven in their 3 year anniversary, where heart is the only thing that can beat the evil wizard.
- Rambar in The Motley Two. As a Homestuck troll, he's got Psychic Powers, but rather than something useful, they just make him into a Fourth Wall Observer who can hear the mysterious voices that are the readers' suggestions and argue with them.
- Generator (Jade Sinclair) of the Whateley Universe. In a superhero universe, at a Superhero School, Generator has the power to... animate a blanket or a toy for an hour or so. She eventually turns this into Heart Is an Awesome Power. On the other hand, plenty of Whateley Academy kids stay lame. Lightweight has the ability to make an object weigh 5 pounds less. Glass has the ability to turn transparent. Not invisible, just transparent. Bluescreen has the ability to mess up some electronics. Hoarder has the powers of... the hamster!
- The entire school club The Underdogs is made of kids in this category. Kamuro can shoot sparks out of her hands. Not lightning blasts or anything dangerous. Just sparks. And don't ask about Miasma.
- Most of the "powers" on The Daily Superpower are pretty lame, alright.
- 'Bigfoot footprints'
- 'Ability to turn pennies into sushi'
- 'Electric fan head'
- Freddie Wong brings us Milk Man, whose superpower is vomiting milk. However...
- The Metokur Chimera as created by former internet troll site 'Metokur' has blue smoke breath and can turn people into 'penis-headed monsters' or into inanimate objects by clicking its fingers. The kicker...the chimera doesn't even have a real appearance at all or isn't even a real threat.
- What the Fuck Is Wrong with You?: Tara has declared herself to have the world's worst superpower in the ability to unwittingly give Nash the perfect segue into the next news story.
- Played in Kim Possible, when Ron unwisely mocks Burns' number-crunching abilities. Other examples occur throughout. "Mathter and Fervent" has Mr. Stoppable use his own math-based brain power to take on the Mathter and win to show that math is an awesome power.
- Played in South Park with Mint-Berry Crunch, with the combined powers of Mint and Berry with a tasty crunch! Then subverted when he's the one who saves the day. The same three-episode arc brings us Captain Hindsight, who arrives at a tragedy only after it happens and tells people what they should have done to prevent it. Then he flies away.
- Parodied and subverted in The Tick, with the character of Sewer Urchin. A useless comic relief hero most of the time, often seeming less than bright with Rain-Man-like speech patterns and frequently the butt of jokes about the way he smelled, one episode suddenly takes place in the sewers. All of a sudden, we learn about a huge subterranean ecosystem in which Sewer Urchin is an intelligent Bad Ass and his aboveground friends are reduced to bumbling Fish out of Water. By the end of the episode, the Tick and Arthur have even picked up Sewer Urchin's "normal" speech patterns of stuttering shy bewilderment and Sewer Urchin has begun referring to them with the benign condescension he receives on the surface.
- Most of the superheroes in the show (and the comics) were like this, with stars like Baby Boomerangutan (a man in a headless orangutan costume who threw exploding baby dolls), Captain Lemming (who liked to leap off of high things... without having Super Toughness) or Crime Cannibal (who had the power to eat human bodies really quickly).
- The much-maligned Aquaman from Super Friends, who often needed episodes specifically written to utilize his powers without the audience wondering why another character couldn't handle the situation just fine. (In one episode they actually put a very large lake in Death Valley simply to give him something to do when the team went there.) A mantra of sorts that people use to describe Aquaman's powers is "Swim fast, talk to fish". As lame as his powers were, Aquaman's arch-nemesis on Super Friends, The Black Manta, was even lamer. As Seanbaby's article on The Super Friends pointed out, his main power was that he owned a boat.
- What worsened (or perhaps initially caused) the entire problem was the level of censorship - far beyond the modern state of "be as Darker and Edgier as you like, but just don't say 'kill' and use futuristic guns to the same effect normal ones." When no use of force can be shown, Aquaman suffers a great deal: aside from "swim fast, talk to fish," he has Super Strength and durability, has a magic trident that shoots lightning, and is the literal King of Atlantis - all things they could not make much use of. Basically, it sucks to be anybody in that series except for Batman or Superman - Bats has plenty of bat-gadgets to stop enemies without full-on hitting or blasting them, and Superman has bigger things than Mooks to deal with, like pushing planets back into place.
- Lampshaded in a Cartoon Network promo in which Aquaman and Wonder Woman are tied up over a vat of acid.
Aquaman: My ability to talk to fish is of no use here, Wonder Woman!
Wonder Woman: (rolls eyes)
Aquaman: I call it "Aquaman's Rousing Song of Heroism!!!" ... You don't look roused.
- Averted in Flashpoint: in the original timeline, his way of disarming a bomb attached to one of Flash's Rogues gallery is to chuck the guy into the sea... and then tell millions of microbes to literally eat away at the bomb. His Flashpoint counterpart, on the other hand... oh boy.
- Aquaman's uselessness was parodied - and then subverted - on an episode of The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, where a device brought a team of comic book heroes to life in order to fight a team of villains (summoned by the same device). One of them was an aquatic hero named Fishmonger who at first seemed even worse than Aquaman; he could barely even walk on land, and at first could only wait on the beach while the others went to fight the bad guys. However, when the villains started to get the upper hand, he was able to turn the fight around in spades. (You never know when a guy who can summon a tsunami will come in handy...)
- Likewise, though not as widely bemoaned, the Super Friends version of Hawkman was almost as useless. He could fly... and that's it. Almost every other hero on the show had this ability and their namesake superpower. To add insult to injury, his wings weren't even real. Again the inability to show force kicked in. He could use nothing more lethal than a net, and his powers (strength, flight, eagle vision) were redundant with Superman around.
- The Super Friends also had the Wonder Twins, Zan and Jayna. While Jayna could turn into any animal (including a few alien ones), Zan could only turn into some form of water (like a wave, or an ice sculpture). This was spoofed in a Cartoon Network promo where Zan interrupted a mock-Public Service Announcement to complain about how lame his power was: "I could get beaten by a sponge! It wouldn't even have to be an evil sponge!" At the end of the promo, Zan is mopped up by a janitor, with an indignant "Hey!"
- In Justice League Unlimited Zan is shown to be legitimately threatening, since "Turns to water" could be used to drown people or blast them with high-pressure streams. This lasts right up until he actually has to fight Aquaman, who can breathe water, has super-tough skin, and is made of almost solid muscle. As Aquaman mocks him:
Aquaman: King of the Sea, remember?
- Also parodied in The Fairly OddParents, when Timmy's parents get the same powers as The Wonder Twins, his mother turns into a shark, while his father turns into a bucket of water. He looks at the screen and says, "Uh...beware my power?"
- Zan's uselessness was the focus of a Teen Titans Go! episode where The Wonder Twins try-out to join the Teen Titans. While the Titans are impressed with Jayna's ability to turn into animals, they are less impressed with Zan's ability to turn into water and ice. Jayna is chosen to be on the team and Zan is instead made the Teen Titan's receptionist and only choose to keep him around since Jayna needs Zan to activate her powers.
- And on the villain side of the spectrum, we had The Riddler from the Legion of Doom. The Riddler was basically a guy with OCD who was smart but not as smart as Batman, and regularly revealed the Legion's plans.
- Thunderbirds. Scott and Virgil get to fly planes, Gordon gets a nifty submarine, John is in charge of the spy satellite and Alan gets a spaceship. Sounds like Alan had the plum role, except people getting into trouble in space is a lot rarer than land- or sea-based rescues so Thunderbird 3 gets left gathering dust in the hangar while everyone else goes off on missions.
- Superhero parodies may deliberately saddle their hero with a lame or useless power just for comedic effect. Meltman from Action League NOW! had the utterly useless ability to melt himself; even he bemoaned its uselessness. In fact, the only time he's ever observed melting is during the intro, when he's clearly under a magnifying glass, suggesting he can't even melt himself as much as he can be willingly melted by others. Or that his superpower is simply the fact that he's been melted.
- In the Family Guy episode "Family Guy Viewer Mail #1", the Griffin family all get superpowers. As the Butt Monkey of the series, Meg is saddled with fingernail growth. ("Is that all you can do?")
- The original The Transformers. You'd think that the Big Bad would have the biggest, baddest vehicle mode, right? The Decepticons turn into jets for the most part, so the main villain should turn into the deadliest thing on wings, right? Wrong. The original Megatron's alternate mode was a gun that someone else had to fire. That someone was usually Starscream, who incidentally is the namesake of the trope about wanting to betray/kill/usurp your leader. And Starscream usually has lousy aim. On paper, it sounds a pretty moronic thing to do on Megatron's end, yet strangely, Starscream never did take advantage of the situation, and Megatron was a much better shot than Starscream.
- Taken to extremes in one comic strip when Megatron has to rely on a mind-controlled human to wield him. Said human then breaks his control and shoots the Decepticons' evil machine with Megatron.
- In the IDW G1 comics, Megatron now changes into a Cybertronian tank with a huge cannon that can fly, a la Revenge of the Fallen, so... problem solved.
- It's more intimidating thematically- while other Transformers (even Decepticons) had forms that could be used for multiple purposes (a tank could be used as a vehicle, for example), his alt-mode was designed only for killing.
- When Megatron got an upgrade into Galvatron, though, he no longer needed to be wielded by anyone- he was a cannon that was mounted on its own legs, and he could aim himself.
- Rugrats had an episode where the babies watched a superhero show called Mega Hyper Heroes and acted out an episode of it- Tommy playing the shapeshifting Changeling, Phil and Lil playing Spitball Boy and Dotted Line Girl, and Chuckie playing the part of Stinky (who smells as strong as two babies). Who turned this into Heart Is an Awesome Power by being able to beat the big bad just from his stench, when she had Villain Sue-d her way into taking out every other character's powers.
- Probably played straight for Dotted Line Girl.
Lil: How did you see me? I'm just a dotted line!
- Referenced and spoofed in an episode of Garfield and Friends. Garfield and Odie end up in a superhero cartoon. The hero team includes Expys of Cyclops and Beast, a superstrong woman... and Curdman, who can manipulate cottage cheese ("all the good superpowers were already taken") and is "laughed every year at the superhero Christmas party." But he later earns self-confidence by discovering his powers work with yogurt.
- Odd in Code Lyoko had a special power in the early part of the series in which he could see tiny snippets of future events. However, the power came at random, functioned as an absolute vision, and once resulted in him getting taken out by a Kankrelat immediately following a vision. While reprogramming the avatars of the Lyoko Warriors in the later season, Jérémie noticed the uselessness of this power and removed it, much to Odd's disappointment. He wasn't useless, though- he had the only projectile weapon of the group until Aelita gained energy blasts, and even then his could fire faster and more accurately.
- In an episode of Dexter's Laboratory, Dexter and his friends are playing a tabletop RPG called Monsters and Mazes, and Dexter is stuck with the least useful power: burrowing.
- Darkwing Duck
- One episode featured a number of mutants who gained their powers by being born and/or raised near an industrial site. Among the many varieties of mutant was an accountant born next to a banana plantation who could transform into a banana. That's it, he just turned into a banana. He wasn't proud of it either.
- Quackerjack's "power" is his "wackiness", and apparently, that actually counts as a super-power, because Nega-Duck was able to absorb it in the episode where he stole the powers of the Fearsome Five. Of course, what truly makes Quackerjack a dangerous villain is his arsenal of lethal toy-based weaponry, some of them on the level of Applied Phlebotinum, such as a Time Machine resembling a giant toy top - and he wouldn't be able to come up with such diabolically clever inventions if he weren't at least a little crazy, so there's something to be said for "wackiness" after all.
- In World Of Quest, the magician-in-training Anna specializes in bringing inanimate objects to life. In the beginning, no matter what spell she tries to do, she ends up bringing things to life by accident (lthough considering she brought A MOUNTAIN to life and then it helped them in a fight, even though the fight was almost over, it might not be so lame). After a while, it seems she has started to be able to do other spells, but animating stuff is still about 80% of her powers. Although, being a parody of fantasy campaigns, most characters are pretty one-sided. Way just shows the way, Prince Nestor can only rarely shoot some energy balls but usually just sucks in a fight, Grair only flies... and most of the other characters only fight. But considering most of those can actually fight well, only Nestor would count as lame.
- The rather obscure franchise Stone Protectors, about a group of very untalented musicians who gained super powers from a bunch of Mineral MacGuffins has some examples. They all gained stronger bodies, but each also gained an additional special ability. One guy became a skilled samurai, one a wrestling expert with super strength, and one became a skilled soldier who could turn anything into a weapon. THEN we have the guy who gained skill at using in-line skates and the guy who gained the ability to climb things. They also all gained actual musical talent, which, while helpful for a band of crappy musicians fighting music hating enemies is not the most awe inspiring power.
- Brother Bear, actually. The older brothers are mocking the main character for having a "love" totem. It's hard to say if being changed into bear counts as superpower, but it's obviously not natural.
- The Earthworm Jim cartoon had one episode with a new superhero auditioning for the Galatic League of Superheroes. Her power is to spontaneously combust whenever she sings. Sadly, she does not possess the ability to control or withstand her own flames. When one character asks what use that is, another simply replies, "Well, at least it's better than Lower Back Pain Man." The scene then cuts to Lower Back Pain Man himself, insisting that he'll be okay in a minute.
- It's hardly unique to these two, either. Jim is the main hero in the universe because, honestly, most of the other superheroes available are pathetic. Jim may be a Cloud Cuckoolander, but he is Made of Iron, has Super Strength, and carries a ray-pistol with enough of a punch to destroy spaceships. The only other superheroes we've seen who approach him in competence are the Cute Monster Girl Princess Whats-Her-Name (Super Strength, being an Action Girl and generally smarter and more levelheaded then Jim), the Mighty Hamsternator (who has Cheeks of Holding and maybe Super Strength), and Peter Puppy (whose power is not having a Superpowered Evil Side that comes out whenever he's hurt, scared or angry, as it typically only wants to attack Jim, but being intelligent, rational and levelheaded). In contrast, the other heroes of the universe include the Space Crickets (actual insect-sized crickets that ride on space-bikes and carry laser pistols), Whooping Cough Boy (a permanently sickly teen whose coughs are gale-force blasts of wind), A Shadow (an elderly man with a preternatural knack for making shadow puppets), Mr. Forehead Being (a man with an oversized cranium and two ugly arms growing out of his head), Zantor (a normal-looking bald man who can make his toupee hover in the air by straining hard), and Johnny Dactyl (a nerdy man who dresses up like a humanoid pterodactyl and is such a momma's boy he still lives with her and does whatever she says).
- On Jimmy Two-Shoes, the Superhero Episode had Heloise become Trouble Bubble Girl. Jimmy and Beezy laugh...until Heloise shows her powers off.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, unicorn ponies can use magic (most notably telekinesis) and pegasus ponies can fly and control weather (and walk on clouds and such). We need Word of God to even know that the "regular" ("earth") ponies also have some kind of a special power, some kind of connection with the land, meaning plants and animals and such. In case of the main characters, for Applejack this seems to involve being good at picking apples, and for Pinkie Pie it doesn't have any apparent manifestation, though she has her own set of what could be called powers derived from being unnaturally cheerful. Applejack is far from useless in a dangerous situation, but it isn't because of the apples (though she can use them as projectiles), it's just because she's just that tough. Ironically, it's Fluttershy, a pegasus, who at least once makes good use of being a Friend to All Living Things (theoretically normally associated with Earth ponies) to calm a dangerous monster. This all said, it's obvious the situation came about when Pinkie Pie's and Fluttershy's original concepts were switched from Pinkie being the pegasus and Fluttershy the earth pony.
- These "earth powers" finally appear more impressive in "Hearth's Warming Eve", where a story from the past when the different types of ponies lived apart and grudgingly exchanged services reveals that the earth ponies, though appearing poorer and dirtier than the unicorns and pegasi, were the only ones who could grow enough food to feed all three societies.
- Princess Cadence in spite of being a alicorn princess has amazingly specialized magic: Love magic (this is likely having to do with Lauren Faust having meant her to be a unicorn). Mostly used for mending broken hearts, she does however turn her talent into Heart Is an Awesome Power when she uses her love for Shining Armor to power up his bubble shield magic. She's been seen using other spells more often lately, though.
- Shining Armor on the other hand most likely can only use his aforementioned bubble shield magic. Likewise most unicorns likely can only use magic based on their special talent. Exceptions being Twilight Sparkle, whose special talents is Magic itself.
- Shining Armour effectively makes force fields. This could be a highly effective power, especially for a royal guard. However, given that every time we see him use this power, it ends up failing and putting everyone in life-threatening danger, it's less useful than perhaps was intended.
- Granted, each time we see Shining use his forcefields, we're seeing them after having been used for days straight, with no rest, and with his power actively being sapped or diminished. This is a guy who can singlehandedly (singlehoofedly?) create a nigh-impenetrable force field around all of Canterlot that lasts for days even with a lot working against him; when he and Cadence put their horns together, make that the whole Crystal Empire. Barrier Warriors just don't come more powerful.
- In the Mane 6, each pony represents a different quality, known collectively as the Elements of Harmony. Most are actually useful things, in addition to being praise worthy, such as Rarity's generosity, Rainbow Dash's Loyalty, or Applejack's Honesty. Even Pinkie Pie's Laughter is useful in a way. However, Fluttershy's quality is "Kindness." While it's very praise worthy, it's not exactly a useful quality to represent if the qualities only ever matter for taking out threats.
- Applejack has been shown on occasions to be rather strong for a pony her age (her human counterpart has even been shown to lift a table with one arm that needed two boys to carry). Whether this applies to merely Applejack or is a connection to her being an earth pony as to be said as no other ponies has been shown to carry an odd sense of strength minus her brother who towed a house along when in a love-struck stance. Possibly the Apples being a Badass Family?
- Cheerilee, an earth pony elementary school teacher, actually smashed her way through walls, doors, and barricades in the same episode to get at Big Macintosh (the same Love Potion episode.) Ms. Peachbottom, an earth pony middle aged tourist, also got a juggernaut moment like that. Pinkie's sister Maud can pulverize boulders into dust with her bare hooves. Because of moments like that it has long been generally accepted that earth ponies are stronger - finally explicitly stated in the season four finale.
- In addition to that, we find that unicorn magic isn't all it's cracked up to be: every pony has a special talent that his or her "cutie mark" personal symbol is based on, and a unicorn will have one magical ability in line with their special talent. Twilight Sparkle, whose special talent is magic, is one of a kind - outside the princesses, the strength and variety of her abilities is far from typical, maybe even completely unprecedented. Rarity's spell is to find gems (the kind that make clothing prettier, not the kind that make you super-rich.) and we've seen it in action twice. Trixie basically creates special effects, making her stage performances that much snazzier (something Rarity also did, once.) Also, unicorn telekinesis has never been seen moving anything heavier than ponies of other races easily carry (again, unless you're Twilight or an alicorn. Or if more than one unicorn was moving it.) In a combat situation, you'd probably rather be as strong as Cheerilee than have your average unicorn's single-use magic.
- My Little Pony And Friends, the 80s series, also gives unicorns single-use magic - the most useless-seeming is Fizzy with her bubble powers. However, When All You Have Is a Hammer was in full effect, and the ditzy, childlike pony was actually the best at figuring a way to make her power useful. However, the basic unicorn ability is teleportation. However, its usefulness is Nerfed by the fact that you can only teleport through open space - even a net is too much. Teleportation is most useful in that series when cheating at hide-and-seek.
- In Sabrina: The Animated Series Harvey's comic book superheroes lampshade their own lame powers (including the villain). They include Gazebo Boy who turns himself into a gazebo to trap people in, Mega Girl with "Atomic Tantrum Power" (though that's arguably more effective than she makes it out to be) and Shoe Horn who has gadgets that appear to be monster shoes. There's also Calamari Queen who can shoot squids out of her hands (though it's helpful when the artist runs out of ink necessary to finish the story).
- In W.I.T.C.H., Will's power is literally Heart. While the 4 other girls have elemental abilities, Will merely controls the Heart of Kandrakar that turns them into their guardian forms, making her basically useless once the battle actually starts. This is averted later in the series when she gains lightning powers.
- This is only in the cartoon- in the comics, she has the ability to talk to devices that use electricity (which sounds like it falls under this trope, except that it can make appliances work with no source of power and it allows her to talk security systems into ignoring her) and fire energy blasts. In the show she doesn't get the like until season two.
- In both series, the electric power turns out to be part of something bigger: "Absolute Energy" in the comic and "Quintessence" in the show is the power of life itself and the strongest element. However, Nerissa has the same power and a few decades more practice...
- In Winx Club, Tecna's specialty is technology. Compare to the other main cast members, whose powers include music/sound (Musa), nature (Flora), stellar energy (Stella), a liquid element similar to water (Aisha), and the power of the source of all good in the universe (Bloom), all of which have been played to devastating effect in various parts of the series. It's never come up as a major benefit for as long as Tecna's been in the series (which is probably why she's never gotten her own individual episodes, or even drawn the ire of any villains unless it's against the whole group), and for most of the first season her only combat spell was an energy shield that covered her arm ("Digital Firewall"). Most of the time she is used more for her intelligence (and she's not even the best at that, at least when it comes to schoolwork) and acting as tech support for the rest of the group instead of doing anything involved with her element.
- In Masters of the Universe there was Mekanek; his power, as he explains it in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002), "I can stretch my neck and look at stuff." Of course, he was always kind of lame compared to the other good guys, but as the quote shows, he was sadly aware of his limitations in the more modern version. In the same episode he said that, his ability proves very useful, and a pep talk from He-Man at the end gives him some confidence.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold's B'Wana Beast was specifically called out on this in a series that gives Aquaman no crap. His power (merges two animals into a single creature that he controls) isn't actually that useless, and even ends up becoming a plot point, but most characters in the series find it weird, impractical, and gross... except Captain Marvel, who thinks it's really neat.
- This was done intentionally in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Super Zero". After watching a superhero cartoon that was big on Product Placement (for yogurt) Billy wanted Grim to make him into a superhero; however, when asked what powers he wanted, he wanted to be green, and to squeak (yup, that's what he said) and to be able to shoot yogurt out of his armpits. (Mandy convinced Grim to give him some Stock Super Powers like Super Strength and the ability to fly, preferably as far away as possible.)
- In The Powerpuff Girls episode "Nuthin' Special," Buttercup vainly tries to show off a power she can call her own, only for Blossom and Bubbles to duplicate it. Defeatedly and defiantly, she sticks her tongue out at them, curling it as she does. Blossom and Bubbles are dumbfounded by this and try to curl their tongues, to no avail. Nobody else in Townsville can either, with overjoys Buttercup to no end. Her sisters and the narrator don't see what the fuss is about since it's not a power per se, but Buttercup still finds victory in being able to do something nobody else can.
Narrator: That's it? That's her special power? It's lame!
- This guy has super strength. He worked as a smith in England during 70's but he uses it now to... crack nuts with his fingers!
- A documentary aired on the Discovery Channel that examined people with savant syndrome and super-human memory featured a man who, after being struck by a softball at a young age, gained the ability to remember the day of the week and the weather conditions of any date following the incident. His crime-fighting career has yet to take off.
- And just to add insult to injury, mathematician John Conway also has that power, but still gets to be one of the world's greatest living mathematicians.
- There is an Urban Legend that Jaqueline Priestman could change TV channels without touching a remote or the TV because her body had a larger than normal voltage. Several equally silly Urban Legends attribute similar powers for similar nonsensical causes to various other people.
- Some people have more taste buds on their tongue than most people, making them "supertasters." Their power is disliking foods that have very strong or lots of different flavours. Alternative forms of these make great sommeliers.
- The Vice President of the United States of America is supposed to be the second most powerful job in the US government, right? But usually the only thing he does that isn't ceremonial is cast tiebreaking votes in the Senate. Unless the top spot suddenly becomes vacant, VP is a pretty powerless position. The office of VP was even used as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians, and quite often the VP was kept in the dark about important things, such as what was going on while the nation was at war. This has seriously backfired a few times, like when the unwanted politician (Theodore Roosevelt) inherited the top job, or when John Tyler suddenly gained it despite only being expected to scoop up southern votes. It's a case of Common Knowledge. The President was never intended to be the "most powerful job in the US government" nor the Vice President be the "second most powerful job." The executive branch was set up to be the weakest branch of the government. The purpose of the executive branch is to enforce the laws. However, Andrew Jackson realized the veto power given to the president when he believes a law is unenforceable was a valuable bargaining chip, which every president has since used to pass their own agendas. The only reason the Vice President's office exists is to create a clear line of succession to a person that has no major duties in the government. That, and protect the space-time continuum. Read the Constitution. The Vice President was, until the passage of the 12th amendment, awarded to the loser of the Presidential election. The lack of power was by design, in those days. Though by "loser," it was less often the candidate of the opposing party, and instead the candidate of the SAME party. Electors voted for two candidates, and one elector would abstain from voting a second time. Then they realized this was dumb, and changed it so that the Vice President would be on the same ticket of the President. The irony of this is, the House Speaker is third in line for the Presidency, and his job has far more formal responsibilities than the Vice President.
- Two rare diseases, Naegeli syndrome and dermatopathia pigmentosa reticularis, cause people to have no fingerprints. This can cause lifelong problems with background checks and other identification-related tasks.
- Some people who have had their corneas replaced with plastic corneas can see slightly farther into ultraviolet.
- Some women have a genetic mutation that allows them to see a fourth color of light, probably yellow, as its sensitive to wavelengths between red and green.
- It gets worse: the why of the mutation that means only women can get the 'power' means their male children run a high risk of colour-blindess.
- Pick up the latest copy of the Guinness World Records and turn to the "Human Achievements" section; the record holders there hold records for stuff that are certainly interesting (like say, wheelbarrow racing, shaving, and riding non-stop on a merry-go-round) but not exactly stuff that looks good on a resume.