A DC Comics Elseworlds storyline by Doug Moench about heroes everywhere losing their powers and learning to live with it. This story was somewhat different from other DC Elseworlds, which normally recast the heroes in completely different times and places, rather being set in a copy of the then current DC Continuity (similar to the What If stories at Marvel Comics).
One day, all the heroes and villains are shown going about their business. Superman is fixing a dam, Green Lantern is battling a supervillain and so forth. Then suddenly a large mysterious purple energy wave sweeps over the planet causing everyone to lose their powers except for normal crimefighters and tech-based heroes (except Green Lantern, who loses his connection to his ring despite it being technological). Nobody can figure out how it happened and the world begins to adapt. Mostly.
Superman becomes despondent, seemingly traumatized over the last disaster he was unable to prevent as his powers were fading, and is seen doing nothing but moping all day, to the point that Lois leaves him, causing him to go mope with Wonder Woman, until she converts to Catholicism and gets a job as a stock broker. Green Lantern can't get over his defeat by Sonar and, after months of rampaging around his apartment, begins channeling his aggression into a boxing bag looking for a rematch. The tech-based heroes, consisting of Steel, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, each in turn lose their tech or have it stolen. Supergirl (Linda Danvers) tries joining the police force, but is frustrated with all the paperwork that comes with fighting crime "by the book."
Eventually, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, The Flash, and Supergirl all decide to go to Batman, concluding that the Badass Normal school of crimefighting is the only option they have left. And thus a new generation of heroes is born.
This story contains examples of
- Age-Appropriate Angst: While the rest of the non-powered heroes spend practically the whole story whining, Billy Batson, an actual kid, actually acts his age (and still has more maturity than several of them).
- Angst: Many, many heroes do nothing but mope about losing their powers. Critics and readers noticed that it bordered more on Wangst than anything else, and point out how Billy Batson trying to get his powers back, failing and trying to move on and make the best of the situation stands as the most mature response to the event. We should also mention Billy Batson is a child.
- Author Appeal: Doug Moench apparently really, really likes Batman, considering that he practically turns into a Marty Stu/Creator's Pet hybrid and how many characters gush about how great he is, to the point where it feels like an...
- Author Tract: The slightly-more-subtle-than-D-Day message of this comic is "superpowers bad, Badass Normals good."
- Author Avatar: The Martian Manhunter quite blatantly serves as one for Doug Moench. His praising the Batcave as reminding him of something out of pulp fiction (Has he even been there before?) makes this painfully clear, not to mention his rant about how the heroes' loss of their powers was "deserved," even when his own "powers" are natural. Plus he's the most philosophical about what happened.
- Babies Make Everything Better:
- The ending, with Superman and Wonder Woman's kid.
- Which further makes absolutely no sense that it should have powers, while its parents don't.
- The kid's very existence makes even less sense, because one of its parents is a divinely created golem in the image of a human, and the other is an alien. You can't even handwave it with magic because magic would have been lost with all the other superpowers.
- Black Dude Dies First: Steel, who also fell victim to The Worf Effect, since right before he dies a reporter is explaining how he's the most powerful hero left. During the original release of the series, this seems to have been the moment when most readers said "This Is Gonna Suck."
- Broken Aesop: There is an underlying implication that the superheroes were being punished for their arrogance. Even though people like Superman and Wonder Woman are fairly humble in normal continuity (not to mention all the characters who are nothing but humble, such as Captain Marvel), while Batman in this story is ego tripping and denigrating the contributions of his formerly powered friends even as they kiss his ass. Apparently the writer thought the superheroes WERE being arrogant because they weren't bowing at Batman's feet and worshiping him as the greatest superhero of them all. This requires the aesop not to apply to Batman, because he's the single most arrogant person in the story.
- Also, there's a comment about Supergirl's actions as a superhero was an abuse of power, acting outside the law, only to disregard this and comment about how inefficient police work is and how much more effective she was as a superpowered vigilante and how she should go back to being a vigilante. Then it breaks that aesop because standard police work (like forensics) did more to uncover what happened to The Atom than vigilantism.
- Brought Down to Normal: Every powered character in the DC Universe. Only Badass Normal and Powered Armor heroes are unaffected and the Powered Armor heroes all get their tech damaged or stolen eventually.
- Weirdly, this only applies if "normal" strictly means human. Superman and Martian Manhunter don't have any superpowers, technically speaking; their abilities are "normal" for their species. The same goes for Aquaman, except possibly for his ability to breathe air (which he does not lose).
- Character Shilling: Clark outright claims that Batman "has always been the best of us" because he never got superpowers. Nevermind that he's not the only Badass Normal and other heroes have abilities besides their powers. Under Lost Aesop and Broken Aesop we discuss what the moral of the story seems to be as the other heroes try to figure out where to go from there, but it seems the real point Moench was trying to make was "Here's why my favorite is a million times superior to everyone else!" Between everyone talking about how great he is and his teaching them how to fight his way being their only hope for getting back in the game, the story pretty much outright worships him for being better than all those arrogant powered heroes because he alone has figured out how to do the same job as a normal human from the minute he shows up, ignoring the facts that (a) there are a lot of non-powered heroes, and the powered ones have all been depowered at times before, so it's not like Bats is the only one who has the courage to fight without powers, (b) it's not like the powered heroes ever did see themselves as superior to the rest of humanity, and (c) Batman uses as many high tech devices as anyone considered to have "powers" because of their tech.
- Derailing Love Interests:
- Lois Lane. Big time. The story suggests that Lois can't love Superman without powers, even though in this continuity, she fell in love with Clark Kent before learning he was Superman. This suggests that Moench is basing his characterization of Lois off of either the Silver Age comics or the movies. What's worse is, if the story needed Lois to leave Superman, it could have easily been justified by his behavior.
- Of course, if you take into account the ending of What Ever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow (assuming you consider it canonical) and the (however brief) relationship between Lois and
SupermanClark in Superman II, then this still doesn't hold water.
- Deus ex Machina:
- Driven to Suicide: Diana was thinking about suicide after a week of praying and nothing happening. She was stopped by Clark. Oh yeah, she was also pregnant.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Superman, of all people, went to the bottle after losing his powers.
- Empty Piles of Clothing: The cover of Book 2 (pictured above), though it's because everyone took off their costumes rather than the usual Inferred Holocaust of this trope.
- Epic Flail: Justice's double sided 'Scales of Justice' has one spiked flail on each side of a foot long pole. It looks... awkward to actually use in battle.
- Goo Goo Godlike: Superman and Wonder Woman's child was born with superpowers.
- Informed Flaw:
- The superpowered beings' "arrogance." It's frequently brought up that they deserved to lose their powers because they held themselves above everyone else because they had power... which doesn't make any sense because they used their powers to save people.
- Not to mention, many of these characters lived secretly among normals bearing humiliations that they could have easily addressed in their heroic identities. And, as Linkara pointed out, Wonder Woman even once worked as a fast food employee when she needed work, with no shame. Hell, people like Superman and Martian Manhunter don't technically have superpowers. Their abilities are based entirely around their species, making them essentially "normals" already.
- Depowered Superman praises the group of former League members who join Batman for "risking [their] lives without any powers", implying that the Justice League never faced anything dangerous to them when they had powers.
- Lost Aesop: Is the moral of the story that powers leads to arrogance? You're only a real super hero if you don't have super powers? You should work inside the system? It's never really clearly told. (And no, the aesop is not "Never let Doug Moench write an Elseworlds story ever again.")
- Magic A Is Magic A: failed hard, with the main characters of the story being huge walking violations of the rules of the black light event. Metahuman powers go away, magic-users vanish, tech remains the same, right? Well, in that case, Superman and Martian Manhunter should be completely unaffected (Martian Manhunter's powers are normal for Martians, Superman's are normal for Kryptonians under a yellow sun; they don't have powers by their races' standard.) Magic-powered Wonder Woman should have vanished instead of being depowered. Green Lantern should be unaffected, since the ring is alien technology.
- Meaningless Meaningful Words: The heroes (read: Doug Moench) tried to sound deep but ended up sounding strange and confusing.Wonder Woman: Two "Gods" humbled by an act of God... with no one else to turn to. But together will our humbling be canceled or doubled?
- Doug Moench is prone to doing this in all his works.
- Only Sane Man: As noticed by Linkara, Billy Batson, of all the other superheroes, is the ONLY ONE to act realistically and even maturely over all this situation.
- Out-of-Character Moment: In part 3, Wonder Woman is seen in a Catholic church, praying to the Christian God for a sign/answers as to why she's lost her powers. Being a servant, avatar, and occasionally member of the Greek pantheon, there is absolutely no way she would be doing this.
- Plot Hole: The Black Light is said to only affect heroes with powers bestowed upon them, making Badass Normals and tech-based heroes such as Booster Gold the only heroes left. Yet at the same time, heroes with powers as a part of their DNA (Superman, Martian Manhunter) and even other tech-based superheroes (Kyle Rayner, The Atom) are affected.
- It (mostly) makes sense if you treat the Black Light as not "removing powers" but rather "transforming everyone into a baseline human" (and just consider Green Lantern and The Atom as goofs resulting from an author who didn't check his facts). However, this itself then does not makes sense on its own merits.
- While the depowering event affects almost everyone, it should have been lethal to Aquaman and Wonder Woman. While Aquaman's fish-controlling powers are most famous, he's an Atlantean who can breathe in the air for an extended period of time — an ability that should have been removed. Wonder Woman has it even worse, as without magic, she'd just be a woman-shaped pile of clay.
- The Plot Reaper: The real reason why the magical superheroes have simply vanished: they'd be able to explain what's going on.
- Recycled Premise: Depowering supers was part of the premise of the Genesis Crisis Crossover just a few years prior, and the Black Light bears more than a passing resemblance to the Godwave. None of the characters comment on this, despite the similarity to the still-recent Genesis event.
- Returning the Wedding Ring: Lois gives Clark back their engagement ring once she can't stand anymore of his angst about his depowering.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Wally West does this halfway through his training under Batman. When he comes back, Bruce just tells him to pick up where he left off.
- Sudden Humility: The basis for the plot is this trope, as applied to anyone with superpowers.
- Suddenly SHOUTING!: This:Linda: Alcoholism is a disease which-
Aquaman: WE ARE NOT ALCOHOLICS!!!
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Batman takes about thirty levels in arrogance. Which breaks the already Broken Aesop about humility even harder as the story takes his side.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Superman is holding back a broken dam when he loses his powers and the dam breaks, flooding a nearby town; the townspeople immediately start chewing him out as if he did it on purpose, despite the fact that he's clearly injured and disoriented. As Linkara points out, this sort of thing could only occur via bad writing, since in that situation the average (ie not stupid) person would realize something was wrong with Superman and try to help him.
- Useless Without Powers: The comic depicts all superheroes with powers as being like this. For example, Superman becomes a moping depressive after he loses his Kryptonian powers. However, some former superheroes, like Supergirl, still try to help out as Badass Normals.
- What's stranger still is that any hero who has been published long enough has had at least one Brought Down to Normal storyline wherein they've proven themselves to be heroes with or without powers. For example, Superman is usually shown to put even more effort into his career as a reporter and exposes crime and corruption that way.
- Another issue is why, when a few decide to train with Batman, they're treated as little better than rookies. They have had years of action and conditioning long before losing power. Sure, using Batman's methods would be a big adjustment, but not nearly as difficult of one as the comic makes it seem.
- It has to be pointed out that Superman was "Batman" when in Kandor City, as Nightwing, something Moench should have known since Dick Grayson chose that name inspired by Superman's stories.
- Variable-Length Chain: Very noticeable when the "Scales of Justice" has the chain on one side go from about a foot to at least six feet so Linda can twist and hit a guy.
- A Wizard Did It:
- There is no Meta Origin that encompasses all or even a majority of the DC Comics superheroes, making it highly unlikely that any phenomena could depower all of them. For example, Superman, Martian Manhunter, Starfire and Aquaman all have innate abilities (caused by how their DNA is made up, no less) that are somehow stripped. This wouldn't be such a bad thing, normally, but there is serious inconsistency; a few characters that have ties to mysticism (and could probably explain the whole thing) have conveniently vanished, while characters who get their powers from the gods, like Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, or are mystical in nature, like Red Tornado, just lose their powers. It's even inconsistently applied with regards to tech heroes. Booster Gold's future tech keeps working while Green Lantern's ring, which is explicitly a technology made by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, stops working. Hank Henshaw is somehow still able to use his powers, despite the fact that the only reason he can be Cyborg Superman is the result of a superpower that allows him to inhabit and control machines. The list goes on.
- The story later implies that God (Yes, that one) caused this whole mess in order to teach the DC heroes a "lesson of humility" or something like that. The same God directly responsible for creating, powering, and directing several of 'em.
- This may be slightly justified if God decided to revert to an "Old Testament"-style mentality... But mostly, it would just raise further questions.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- A group of supervillains attacks with stolen super technology. Sure, Batman's little crew stopped them at the end, but there is nothing stopping other villains from trying this again. With all the more potent tech heroes either killed or just giving up entirely after one loss, what's to stop other villains from trying the same thing. The biggest super-tech bad guys on Earth are still around and Batman's small team alone isn't nearly enough to stop them all.
- No one questions any cosmological changes to the universe from the Black Light event when divinely-connected characters either lose power or suddenly disappear.
- Despite Superman being chastised for failing to finish saving people from breaking dam in the beginning, none of the other heroes are worried about the fact that none of them are equipped to address larger scale natural or technological disasters afterwards.
- No government officials get involved in what would be a society changing event and the sudden loss of the world's greatest defenders.
- Since it's never stated if the Black Light event affected the New Gods, they have no mention, despite the fact that an Earth with only Badass Normal and tech-based superheroes would be the perfect target for Darkseid. It's especially baffling when you consider that Orion has been part of the Justice League, yet he doesn't even get a mention.
- Wolverine Publicity: It's not really a JLA story but at the time, Grant Morrison's extremely successful revival of the Justice League made anything with JLA in the title sell well.
- Writer on Board: It seems the primary purpose of this story is to exalt Badass Normals like Batman who don't need powers to take down criminals. Not that any non-powered heroes outside of Batman's crew ever show up, while tech-based superheroes all screw up or are killed. And apparently "tech-based" heroes are solely the ones that wear Powered Armor, completely ignoring the vast amount of technology that Batman uses (which at times HAS included Powered Armor).