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Break Them By Talking / Comic Books

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  • The Marvel Comics character Karnak has refined his powers to the point where he can do this. At first his power was just sensing the weak point in objects so he (or his stronger ally Gorgon) can smash it. Now he find personality flaws and verbally destroy an opponent.
  • Emma Frost of the X-Men is incredibly good at this. A great example of this can be found when after finding Kimura sneaking around the X-Mansion getting ready to kill X-23, Emma goes up to her and says...
    Emma: Do you ever wonder why you take such pleasure from abusing a little girl who can't hurt you, let alone defeat you? No, I thought not. You'll notice that you cannot move. I've shut down all your motor control so you can listen while I enlighten you. You are a bully, plain and simple. A product of your past. Being kicked around your whole life by an alcoholic father and an uncaring mother at home, only to find the same waiting for you from your peers in the schoolyard, day in and day out. You were born into a life you did not deserve... a life no child deserves... Someone needs to fill the role of victim and you played that part for so many... until your grandmother came to your rescue. But sadly she came too late. All the hope and good you held onto was beaten out of you long ago. After your grandmother's heart attack, you found your way to the Facility to the men that could give you what you wanted so badly... Revenge. A hollow prize, but one you begged for and once you'd gotten the best of those who wronged you, you became the very person you hated and feared growing up. And X-23 played the role of your victim. Like you, Laura didn't deserve that horrible life. No child does, remember? But you didn't care. Even though you know all too well the pain she suffered, you enjoyed inflicting it. You still enjoy it. That's why you're a bully.
    Kimura: Why are you telling me this?
    Emma: Because today you go back to being the victim. It's a shame that the people that perfected your body didn't do enough to safeguard your mind...
  • Batman:
    • Every one of Batman's enemies has tried it. As an action hero, he's immune, but some writers have played it as the villain being right. In the animated series, The Joker, master manipulator that he is, convinces a meek psychoanalyst named Harleen Quinzel to go crazy and fall in love with him; she becomes Harley Quinn. During the montage flashback that gives this backstory, they even trade places — he in the chair, she on the couch — in several of the analysis scenes.
    • In the one shot comic Mad Love as well as the episode of Batman: The Animated Series based on it, Batman does this to the Joker, manipulating him into freeing him from Harley Quinn's otherwise inescapable trap then taunting him about how she'd come closer to killing him than the Joker had ever managed. Puddin'.
    • Joker also gives Batman one in The Killing Joke, in which his plot is to drive Commissioner Gordon insane the same way he was. When Batman shows up to stop him, Joker gives him a long speech about how Batman is just as crazy as Joker is, and how the world is too hopelessly absurd for anyone to stay sane in. Batman powers through it, and, noting that Gordon was not driven mad, says that maybe Joker was the only one who couldn't take it. However, at the end, it becomes clear that Batman finds at least some truth in Joker's notion that they were both insane or, at least, absurd beings. There are also some visual hints that the Joker may have come close to breaking himself with the speech.
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    • Brian Azzarello's Joker graphic novel. The Joker tries this on Batman — only to have Batman not only demolish it, but turn it into a devastating taunt right back with just three words:
      Joker: Uhh, God you disgust me. You have no charm at all, just... obviousness. Dumb, dull. Disappointing. Obvious. Shame on you. Obvious... and everybody knows. You wear your shame like a badge, because you don't have the balls to actually pin one on. Yes, just look at you. Desperate to be feared, you want to be perceived as a monster, dressed in black. And yet... you leave that little window. A glimpse at the perfection underneath. Obvious—the chiseled good looks, not the jaw, the mouth of a monster... why do you let it be seen? Tell me why.
      Batman: To mock you.
    • In Death of the Family, when Batman goes to confront Joker at the Ace Chemical Plant, he find Joker wearing the red hood. Joker launches into this trope by saying that having an network of allies has made Batman soft and weak, and that Joker would be doing Batman a favour by getting rid of them. Batman ends up pulling off the hood to reveal Harley Quinn instead! And he continues to do this constantly throughout the story arc to all of the members of the Bat-Family in order to shake their trust in Batman and break up the Family. And it works.
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    • In the JLA arc Rock of Ages, which depicts a Bad Future in which Darkseid has conquered Earth, Batman makes his way to the tyrant and with his last breath shatters him.
      Batman: You always say you're surrounded by these 'worthless maggots'. Well, that's because you won, and did exactly what you said you'd do. You've recreated the whole world in your image; and what we see in it is your own ugly fa...
  • Superman:
    • In the "Elseworlds" (out-of-continuity) comic from DC, Superman: Red Son, where Superman's pod landed in the Soviet Union instead of the United States, Lex Luthor does this to Superman with one sentence, written down, and tucked into Lois Luthor (nee Lane)'s coat pocket. Stalingrad, which was shrunk and put in a "bottle" instead of Kandor, haunts Superman. Luthor, the president of the US, takes advantage of this fact by questioning Superman's "perfect" totalitarian rule of most of Earth with the single written sentence, "Why don't you just put the whole world in a bottle, Superman?" He has Lois put the note in her pocket and, when his plan finally spurs Superman to come to the White House personally, she is to ask Superman to use his X-ray vision to read the note. Superman very nearly breaks down in despair.
    • Actually Averted earlier in the same issue, Superman is perfectly willing to debate with Luthor as a way of peacefully addressing their problems (as opposed to the more violent way suggested by Brainiac). Before Luthor can open his mouth, Brainiac wraps him up in tentacles and drags him away, pointing out how a man of Luthor's intellect could've conceivably pulled this.
    • An issue of Superman features a military-sponsored super-villain, Atlas, attempting to deliver such a lecture to Krypto the Superdog, after having delivered an almighty smackdown to Superman and caused him to temporarily withdraw, leaving Krypto the only one left to make a stand. Unfortunately for Atlas it doesn't work, for the same reason that it probably wouldn't work if you tried to verbally undermine a dog's sense of self-confidence with a lecture in real life.
  • In The Eternals (or at least the Neil Gaiman revival), there is a character whose power is the ability to know just what to say to make a certain person break. When he first discovers this power, he manages to make a cop attempting to keep him in an embassy for questioning pass out with just a few words.
    Druig: Yes. Tell me, is it the SLIME of the tentacles that upsets you, or the way they twine bonelessly, the faceless snaking of them... Does it remind you of the way your brother forced a rubber toy into your infant mouth, CHOKING you, the wet, the...
    (Cop faints)
    Druig: Interesting.
  • More than one villain has tried this on The Punisher. Emphasis on tried.
  • In Global Frequency #8 Miranda Zero is kidnapped by a terrorist who tries to do this to her. She does it right back to him with rather more success.
    Zero: Maybe you could rape me. That'd make you a real man. Do you think I'm scared of pain? Three years ago in Haiti, a cell of ex-Tonton Macoute fired a nail gun through my right thigh. Five years ago, radical white separatists in Maine painted an eagle on my back in paint-stripper gel. Last March Russian black marketeers took bolt cutters to my breasts. Understand, you don't frighten me. Your stupid little hands and your thing with the gun do not frighten me. You are ignorant and gutless and you do not frighten me.
  • Sin City: Poor John Hartigan gets it twice. The first time comes from Senator Roark who explains that Hartigan will be framed for his son's crimes and there is not a thing he can do about it. The second is from Detective Liebowitcz who chides him on being a clean cop. Both of these lectures are so that Hartigan will sign a confession... which he doesn't.
  • In V for Vendetta, V does it to Lewis Prothero with elaborate props, reminding him of his role at the Larkhill concentration camp, revealing that he, V, was the man from room five, and finishing up by driving him insane by burning up his precious collection of dolls in the ovens in his replica of the camp.
  • Moon Knight villain "The Profile" is a profiler who uses his mutant observation powers to instantly size people up. He is also a Jerkass who likes to give Breaking Speeches to people for fun.
    The Profile: Hey, old man. I almost forgot something. That whole thing about abandoning your family and your wife dying alone and your son becoming a serial killer? You're right. It was all your fault.
  • In Watchmen, the Comedian gives one to Dr. Manhattan, in a flashback scene in Chapter 2. The Comedian gunned down his pregnant Vietnamese girlfriend after she slashed his face. He points out how Dr. Manhattan did nothing to stop him, proving he no longer cares about humanity.
  • Supergirl:
    • In Many Happy Returns, super-villain Rebel tries to harass Kara after trying to kill her and Linda Danvers. Supergirl proceeds to tell him that he is a pathetic, insignificant nuisance with delusions of grandeur and she is a very busy and very angry Physical God. He runs away.
      Rebel: So whattaya say we just finish this off with one final dance?
      Supergirl: Don't you get it, Rebel? You're not important! You never were! You were just — something to do! Something for Supergirl and me to bounce off of for a while until people and events of real consequence came along! Look — Here's the problem. You've done some bad things, but I'm really, really upset right now. So much so that, honestly, I don't trust myself. And if you attack me or I attack you... I will hurt you. I'll hurt you worse than you've ever been hurt in your whole life. I can carve you up as soon as look at you. I can break you, boil you, freeze you. I can do things you can't imagine. Things I can't imagine, until I have to. And then I'll improvise. Part of me is hoping you will attack. And part of me is praying — for your sake, and my own peace of mind — that you don't. It's up to you.
      Rebel: You doing that? Causing a storm to roll in?
      Supergirl: Maybe.
    • In Supergirl (2005) Sakki, The Hate Furnace, delivered one to Supergirl. He mistakenly believed that she was Superman's daughter and picked at her shame at failing to live up to Superman's example. Sakki and his partner, Gakidou, were also emotion eaters, so Supergirl's despair and other negative emotions served to make them stronger. Unfortunately for them, she became so angry that they nearly overloaded, and they found out the hard way that their extra strength isn't nearly enough to deal with a Kryptonian.
  • It's a popular tactic of the Black Lanterns in the Blackest Night event, in an attempt to get their victim to show emotions so their heart can be ripped out and themselves added to the Black Lanterns. It's a brutal Xanatos Gambit whether the victim responds one way or the other: either they're swung in by the words, or grow enraged, which works just as well for the Black Lanterns.
  • In one issue of his comic, Wolverine has been imprisoned by the unusual method of throwing him in a pit and shooting him constantly so he'll be too busy healing to escape and he still manages to verbally break down the guy with the gun, who eventually lets Wolverine escape in the expectation that Wolverine will kill him.
  • West Coast Avengers' #16 saw minor super-villain Whirlwind (David Cannon) attempt to escape Tigra and Hellcat, only to run into his old archnemesis Hank Pym. Pym, the former and original Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath and Yellowjacket, boasts that even though he's retired from active crimefighting, he's still directing the fight against Cannon, who in turn mocks Pym as a pathetic has-been who is so lily-livered that he not only gave up being a superhero, but allowed several other people to take up his identity, emphasizing what a loser and quitter that makes Pym. Hank, who'd been suffering extreme self-esteem issues for years, recklessly launches himself at Whirlwind, who uses his Super Speed to easily move out of the way, allowing Pym to fall to what would have been his death off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA, averted only by the timely intervention of Hellcat. But Pym remains so traumatized by Cannon's words that he actively tries to kill himself not long afterward.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Artemis does this by accident. Due to her inexperience with the Lasso of Truth and her very coarse personality when she orders a hired gun wrapped in the thing to look at what he's done and how pointless and cruel he is he turns his gun on himself and commits suicide before she can stop him.
  • In an issue of Immortal Hulk, the Hulk finds himself dueling with She-Hulk, who is holding him at bay... until he horrifies her with a cutting observation about how their respective roles have changed, causing her to freeze up and giving him the opening he needs to punch her halfway across the state. It also works as a nice meta-commentary on why She-Hulk's fans disapprove of the recent changes made to her character.
    Immortal Hulk: Now you're mad. And the madder you get... right? Funny how that works...
    She-Hulk: Shut up! Hulk smash you—SMASH
    Immortal Hulk: See—I was everything that Banner wanted to hide. Everything he wanted to pretend he wasn't. You were everything that Walters wanted to show the world that she was. Only now that line between us is harder to see, isn't it? What do you think... Hulk?
    She-Hulk: No—Hulk is notI'm not like you
    Immortal Hulk: Hnh. Gotcha
  • In an issue of Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, Scourge attempts to ambush Sonic by sneaking into his house in the middle of the night, only to be confronted by Jules (Sonic's father) instead, who proceeds to tear Scourge a new one for being a lowly Evil Doppelgänger that could never live to match up to his own son in strength, cunning, and leadership.
    Jules: That's your answer to it all? Violent takeover and anarchy?
    Scourge: Not really anarchy since everyone bows to me. Since you seem so hung up on the correlations, how do you like this one: Sonic's dad ins't really a mobian anymore. My dad simply isn't.
    Jules: Are you trying to shock me? Intimidate? That falls short when the mighty world-conquering "king" has to sneak in during the middle of the night to get a leg up on my boy.
    Scourge: (Gets in Jules's face threateningly) Sonic's good at smashing bots. Want to see what I can do?
    Jules: (Stands up to make Scourge back off) I am not your father. I was on the front lines of the Great War. I won't go quietly. And while you may not care about the loss of your Jules, I'm certain my son will be very upset. Do you want that on your head too?
    Scourge: Just a bunch of empty words. You're no different from my old man after all.

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