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Bad Powers, Bad People

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Unlikely to be one of the good guys. But you never know.
Image by Jonas Springborg

"I'm bad luck. Good was never an option for me."

People who have powers that aren't conducive to superheroics. People with powers that seemingly can only be used to the detriment of others, rather than being useful for traditional day-saving. Alternatively, they simply give off a "villain vibe" rather than a heroic one.

Let's face it: there are some powers that just don't feel heroic. Necromancy? Nope! Toxic kiss? No. Inducing terror? Hardly. Life-draining touch? Not very likely. Bone tentacles out of your back? No way. Telekinetically tipping cups of milk over? Don't you know how important calcium is?!?

So, if you happen to be on the receiving end of these powers, there seem to be only two logical options:

  1. Accept the fact that you're living a life Blessed with Suck and try to make the best of it, or.
  2. Embrace your newfound powers and descend into full-on cackling villainy.

Surprisingly, more often than not, people with "bad" powers end up picking the latter (and even those that stay good end up being pretty dodgy). And don't even think of using your bad power: when it starts feeling good, you've already fallen off the slippery slope. Even if you use it for good, odds are that you'll become an angst-ridden Anti-Hero. If you're lucky enough not to have the ghastly appearance that tends to accompany the receipt of these powers, you could simply ignore them and go on living a civilian life, but such violations of the Rule of Drama have a strong tendency to fail.

A few such powers aren't even any more truly evil than other powers, but have the same stigma attached; sprays of acidic slime or shards of bone aren't much more damaging than freezing solid, but they're still a Bad Power because they have more of a Squicky organic feel to them. Even "neutral" powers like telepathy can require good Mind over Manners to stay clear of becoming a Puppeteer Parasite.

Compare with Red Right Hand, often goes along with an Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance. This can be derived from ideas about Personality Powers, including how the characters think about the idea. Characters can get "evil powers" because their heart was already dark, or they can turn evil due to their powers, and which way isn't always explained. Often, this goes hand in hand with No Cure for Evil, where evil characters are forbidden the "good powers" of healing. Then again, some settings will use Good Powers, Bad People to show that powers have no inherent morality, and even good powers can be used for evil ends. And, of course, if you deliberately went out of your way to get bad powers...

Lovecraftian Superpower is often a subtrope. Also see Dark Is Evil. Contrast with Dark Is Not Evil and Bad Powers, Good People, where just because the related powers seem innately evil doesn't mean their owner is, and Walking Wasteland, in those cases where the person responsible doesn't mean or want to be an affliction. Very unlikely to be stacked with Light Is Not Good, which is where something that seems innately good turns out to not be so good or even outright evil. This is an extreme form of the Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality, as the power has no use outside of evil.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Double Subversion in Code Geass. Mind Control is a morally questionable power at best, and Lelouch's first use of it is to order a group of soldiers to kill themselves. But in spite of this, Lelouch has a noble goal (to free Japan from the Evil Empire). As time goes on, it becomes clear he's gone off the deep end of Well-Intentioned Extremist territory, even willing to manipulate his friends, betray allies, and slaughter children to achieve his goal. The only thing that keeps him from being an outright Villain Protagonist is the Grey-and-Gray Morality of the series.
    • Suzaku goes so far as to outright classify Geass as a sin. Of course, he is understandably biased, since he's suffered at the hands of something he doesn't have himself.
    • The novels state that Lelouch actually hates his power because as someone who highly values personal freedom, the ability to rob someone of their free will is abhorrent. Therefore, he usually reserves his use of it to short-term orders and, occasionally, self-defense. Only late in the series, when he fully immerses himself in his Well-Intentioned Extremist ways, does he start doing the "obey me" command that everyone was asking why he never used before.
  • While all of the Contractors in Darker than Black are thought to be evil, this really applies well to the character Wei. His power is Bloody Murder, powered by cutting himself - he sprays blood at enemies and once he snaps his fingers, whatever area was hit by the blood explodes. He definitely comes across as more of a Psycho for Hire than most Contractors. Havoc also counts, as her power is Explosive Decompression and she fuels it by drinking the blood of children - this clearly is one power that offers no possibility for good. When she is depowered and regains her personality/morality, she becomes The Atoner and begs the protagonist to kill her if her powers should ever return.
    • Ilya from the second season has a Deadly Gaze that kills the victim by gradually shutting their brain down piece by piece, turning the victim from high-functioning to brain-damaged to vegetable to brain-dead in seconds. It really should surprise no one that even by Contractor standards, he's one evil and creepy bastard.
    • There are a few odd examples, too. One girl, for example, has the power to liquefy the internal organs of one person at a time. Her payment is that all her human emotions come back for a few minutes—at which point the guilt hits her so hard that she can't even stand.
  • A Death Note is technically an artifact and not a power, but otherwise, it fits perfectly.
    • Especially applies when used by the Shinigami, though they mostly take lives simply because they must to extend their own. Whereas a human with a Death Note could at least theoretically use it to indirectly save lives (not that any of the ones given the chance takes it, being more concerned with punishing the guilty than protecting the innocent), Shinigami are explicitly forbidden from extending a human's lifespan by any means. If they do so, they instantly die.
    • Despite some characters thinking along the lines of Bad Powers, Good People, particularly Matsuda, the investigation team is overall pretty resolute in their view that Kira's power of killing people by knowing their name and face are evil and that Kira himself is nothing but a murderer. Summed up by Near in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
      Near: To speak of extremes, I can understand a person who would try the notebook out after learning what it could do. Even if they killed one or two people with it, I'd still call them "normal". But if it were a moral person, they would be horrified and ashamed at what they did, and either gotten rid of or destroyed the notebook.
    • According to Word of God, a good person will never use a Death Note the way Light did - which is why, in the prototype version of the manga, Taro (the original protagonist) got rid of it after only using it once.
  • Delicious in Dungeon:
    • The Lunatic Magician uses The Dark Arts. She's also murderously insane.
    • Subverted with Marcille, who studies and uses forbidden Blood Magic but is still heroic.
  • Zeref, of Fairy Tail, whose two known powers thus far are to create horrible demons and suck the life out of anything and everything in the surrounding area. It has since been revealed that he was literally cursed with the power to suck the life out of everything in his vicinity. The worst part? He is only able to control his powers if he doesn't care whether the things and people around him die, as long as he loves anything in this world he will not be able to stop himself from killing that very thing/person. Also, Mavis certainly counts as well, since she suffers from the same curse. Her story is even more heartwrenching to watch, since she actually cares about everything and everyone, while Zeref has already learned to be apathetic over centuries.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Kimblee destabilizes the air, transforming the entire area he is standing in into a ready-made bomb. Pride uses shadows to slice apart and devour his victims. They are both bad guys.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
  • Played with and arguably deconstructed in Medaka Box. Most of the Minus Abnormals are driven into utter sociopathy through being born with horrible, destructive powers, like the ability to rot anything that your hands touch, that cannot be turned off. Yet the guy whose whole abnormality is an overwhelming killing instinct successfully suppresses his urges and even helps the heroes after some point, while the Big Bad's superpower not only can easily be used for good but wasn't even what corrupted him - he got it when he already was evil... The title character disagrees, saying that the Minuses are strong people because they keep going no matter how hard their lives have been, and offers them her friendship — bearing in mind that their leader Kumagawa has been her own personal Dreaded for the last three years.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • The first villain of the manga, the Sludge Villain, is a thief whose body is made out of sludge, and he can use it to grab and possess the bodies of other people.
    • This trope is a massive hindrance to Hitoshi Shinso; while he's actually a case of Bad Powers, Good People, everyone assumed that he would have a villainous nature because of what his Brainwashing quirk could do, and belittled his dreams of becoming an actual hero.
    • The Heavy Shigaraki's quirk, "Decay", is able to make anything he touches rot away and is a violent Psychopathic Manchild. Deconstructed when it's revealed he accidentally killed his family with his Quirk when it first activated, which basically drove him insane and made it so much easier for All For One to sway him to his side.
    • The "Hero Killer" Stain has the quirk "Bloodcurdle", which makes him capable of paralyzing anyone whose blood he ingests. My Hero Academia: Vigilantes reveals that he actually started out as a vigilante, but even when fighting villains, he was still in no way a good person.
    • Mustard is a young villain whose quirk allows him to release a strong neurotoxin in gas form.
    • Himiko Toga's quirk Transform allows her to turn into other people after drinking their blood, and she's an utter psychopath Serial Killer. Deconstructed in that, to fit within society, she had been told to actively suppress it and the related Blood Lust, something she did until she just snapped, killed the boy she had a crush on to drink all his blood, and became a serial killer.
    • The Shie Hassaikai has two examples: their leader, Overhaul, has a quirk that allows him to disassemble and reassemble anything he touches, which makes him capable of making people he touches explode. Rikyia, another member, is able to suck and absorb the life force of people.
    • The society of My Hero Academia in general has a bad habit of assuming this to be the case when it really isn't, driving many of the above-mentioned villains into Then Let Me Be Evil territory.
  • In Naruto:
    • We have the Mangekyou Sharingan, which can use Mind Rape by compressing 72 hours in a second (or a weaker version which Sasuke uses), control the strongest Eldritch Abomination, summon ethereal warriors which feed off lifeforce, and create black flames that burn forever. It's said the only way to obtain this power is to kill the person closest to you, and the only way to keep it is to take the eyes of another Uchiha (who needs to also have the Mangekyou Sharingan). However, this gets played with with The Reveal the emotional reaction of feeling responsible for the death of the person closest to you is more important to the activation than literally murdering them, since one character gets his retroactively upon learning Big Brother Had A Good Reason For Abandoning You, and two others got theirs after failing to save the person closest to them.
    • Hidan's Voodoo Doll style ability to cause any damage he inflicts on himself to appear on his opponent can pretty much only be used by an immortal Combat Sadomasochist with a homicidal streak, a bill that Hidan fits all too well.
  • No Longer Allowed in Another World: An otherworlder's divine gift usually reflects what kind of person they are, though it's vague whether or not the divine gifts reflect who they were all along or if the power itself corrupted them.
    • Zuk is a tyrant that preys on the helpless and desires nothing more than to lord over everyone else, so it should come as no surprise that his special gift "Obedience" grants him the ability to Mind Control people merely by petting them. The more good and innocent they are, the more susceptible they are to his power.
    • Kashiwahara is the "Fallen Angel of Gluttony", his divine gift being the ability to summon a giant set of fanged teeth to eat who or whatever he wants, from whole people to even an entire building. He shows up to conquer Grün just because he likes the taste of demi-humans, bluntly telling the crowd of onlookers that he plans on eating all of them.
  • Blackbeard, a primary antagonist of One Piece comes at this the opposite way. He specifically wanted the darkness-based Dark-Dark Fruit because it was considered the most evil Devil Fruit around.
    • In general, in the One Piece universe, the broadly-defined nature of Devil Fruit abilities often mean that they grant both good and bad powers, and characters tend to stick to using whatever fits their spot on the morality spectrum (Gecko Moria's example below is a good example).
    • A more straight example would be Gecko Moria. The power to steal peoples' shadows (without which they will vaporize in sunlight) and then put them inside corpses to make a slave army of Zombie Mooks? What possible use for good could that possess?
      • Note, however, that that is merely one of the various applications of Moria's Shadow-Shadow Fruit; he's shown to also be able to use those powers to create impromptu weapons and temporary mooks, teleport, and use people's shadows to temporarily add the strength and skills of the shadows' owners to someone else(and considering how Devil Fruit powers tend to be pretty broadly defined, there's probably a lot more to it than even that.). Moria didn't start using his powers to create Zombie Mooks until his True Companions were all killed; at the same time, it's implied that he was actually a fairly nice guy back before that point, too. So it's actually a matter of him becoming evil and finding some very evil ways of using his power.
    • Played with by Chief Warden Magellan: while he's an antagonist and has the ability to generate poisons from his body, his job amounts to keeping the worst criminals in the world under lock and key: the only reason he's fighting Luffy is that Luffy's trying to free his brother from prison. Otherwise, he'd probably be content to live and let live.
    • Played straight with Sugar from the Donquixote family. She can turn people into toys; her victims are forced to obey her will (most of them can't act by themselves). As a side effect, everyone, friends, family, loved ones, and even Sugar herself, loses their memories about the people turned into toys. Pretty convenient power if you are a tyrant that wants to keep a good king facade, considering the giant pile of broken toys hidden in Dressrosa. Not to mention she's 22 years old but looks 10 due to her Devil Fruit.
    • Her boss Doflamingo has the power of strings, which are often associated with manipulation. Doflamingo himself is a vicious manipulator.
    • Big Mom's power amounts to ripping the souls out of people, in chunks (measured by lifespan) or the whole thing at once, and stuffing them into things like animals or inanimate objects to bring them to life. Not many moral applications out there for a power like this one (though we do get to see her predecessor to the power use it to stop a raging wildfire by putting a chunk of her own soul into it), and even then Big Mom takes it further than most: taxes in her land are paid with chunks of your soul if you want to keep living there, and she uses it all to create a twisted wonderland like something out of a Disney parody.
    • Charlotte Smoothie's power amounts to draining the liquids of living beings and leaving them empty husks. She enjoys doing so to innocents.
    • Kurozumi Orochi is a hedonistic, cowardly, violent and very spiteful tyrant who became the monster he was fighting against by persecuting the entirety of Wano. His power turns him into the most infamous demon of Japan, Yamata no Orochi.
  • In Speed Grapher, the super-powered characters have their abilities determined by their depravities and fetishes, so there are several of these, including a evil dentist who grows his own instruments for use as implements of torture, a guy who can bring his creepy tattoos to life, and a Big Bad who uses his own blood as a weapon. Subverted in the case of the hero Saiga, whose power is the ability to destroy anything he takes a picture of. He was a photographer, but he can't turn off the explosions.
  • Talentless Nana: Shinji's talent is necromancy, which is generally associated with bad people. His "not-so-but-totally-is-girlfriend" Yuuka will defend him every time and she will always loudly say that despite his talent, he is actually a really good person. It turns out that Shinji is not a necromancer; Yuuka is. Not only has she reanimated his corpse, she will kill anyone who learns about her secret and she's not above using an army of reanimated corpses to kill her target. The tip of the iceberg is that she's the one who (indirectly) killed Shinji by setting the cinema on fire he and his girlfriend were in. She's actually a Stalker with a Crush and Shinji hated her. She's misusing her talent to be him forever.
  • Inverted in Yaiba: the Devil King Sword's power is proportional to how wicked the wielder is.

    Comic Books 
  • Mind Control is a pretty nasty power; many mind controllers from comics, like Purple Man, The Controller, and The Scarecrow, tend toward amorality if not full-fledged For the Evulz behavior. Professor X, who has Psychic Powers, maintains a strict code against controlling someone else's mind. There are some exceptions, like the Pied Piper from The Flash, who reformed.
    • Maxwell Lord, former member of Justice League International, is an example of the temptations of Mind Control. He was originally a good guy who headed the League and had some psionic powers, then we found out his powers had increased a great deal and he had been manipulating the League for a long time. He went speeding past the Moral Event Horizon by murdering Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle, then used mind control to give Superman and Batman hallucinations and endanger their lives, forcing Wonder Woman to kill him to save them. He's back to life as of Brightest Day and making his former teammates' lives a living hell. His powers are once again increased and he also nearly killed Kord's successor as the Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes. Unambiguously a bad guy at this point.
  • The character Red Mask from Animal Man had originally wanted to become a hero and learn to fly. But when he gained a deathtouch power from a radioactive meteorite, he reluctantly became a supervillain, and even acknowledged that he wasn't very good at it.
    • The only reason Red Mask became a villain was because his powers didn't have an "off" switch. He couldn't even be near his wife, lest he accidentally killed her. One of the main points he was trying to say by giving his origins was that with the continuous power to kill with a touch, there was little he could do otherwise. The other was that if he had almost any other power (flying being his most wanted), he would have been a hero instead.
  • Astro City: Many of the new "heroes" who appear in "The Dark Age" story arc would qualify. Special attention should be given to Black Velvet, who uses her Touch of Death to disintegrate criminals, and the Pale Horseman, who fries all evildoers whether they're super-criminals or shoplifting teenagers.
  • Avengers Academy is a series about averting this. The first six students were manipulated, enhanced, and tortured by Norman Osborn, and many of them are inherently lethal, such as Striker's lightning and Hazmat's toxic and radioactive secretions.
  • Poison Ivy, from Batman. What homicidal environmentalist would be complete without a poisonous kiss? Besides Ra's Al-Ghul, that is. Ivy is also a case of Good Powers, Bad People. She could regrow the rainforest, feed the hungry, fix global warming, etc. Shame she's insane, really. In Justice, Ivy, along with a number of 'former' villains, started a series of goodwill moves across the globe. She was shown in an impoverished desert, either North Africa or Middle East, growing entire orchards and crop fields. The main reason she doesn't do this more often is that she is essentially an eco-terrorist with superpowers who believes she can help the environment more by destroying factories and businesses.
  • The DCU had The Brotherhood of Evil, and the name alone told you which side of this trope they came down on. The second incarnation of the Brotherhood backed it up with members like Plasmus, a being made of living radioactive protoplasm, and Phobia, a woman with the ability to make others live out their worst fears.
  • Mr. Bones, a villain in the original 1980s Infinity, Inc., had invisible cyanide skin which gave him a death touch and a perpetual walking skeleton appearance. He changed sides, though.
  • Mano, one of the villainous Fatal Five from the Legion of Super-Heroes, can disintegrate anything he touches...and sometimes more; in at least one continuity, he destroyed his home planet this way.
  • Red Robin:
    • The Wanderer has the ability to kill nearly instantaneously via skin contact and views murder and tracking down and killing especially challenging targets as her favorite game. She's also got a healing factor and martial arts skills which means most ranged weapons barely annoy her.
    • The daughters of Acheron have an ability that can knock someone into a permanent coma or cause other permanent damage even when being used without deadly intent, which causes their eyes to go wholly black and their bodies to start emitting a dark smoke-like substance when in use. The two who are met are both murderers, and Acheron is the name of the river of pain in Tartarus.
  • D-lister mutant The Mandrill, a 70s opponent of Shanna the She-Devil and Daredevil is a Living Aphrodisiac, secreting mutant sex pheromones that can completely enthrall the minds of women, reducing them to love-addled, mindlessly loyal zealots who will die for his pleasure. Oh, and prolonged exposure can result in a victim becoming literally addicted to his pheromones. He just happens to be a raging misogynist who sees women as toys and who regularly rapes any woman who succumbs to his pheromones... there's a reason the character has been brushed more or less under the rug.
  • Miss Misery of Sleeper (WildStorm) will waste away and die if she doesn't kill, steal, and/or betray on a regular basis. If she does do those things, she gains superhuman strength, speed, durability, and healing directly proportional to how bad she's being. To put it mildly, Being Good Sucks for her.
  • Superman:
    • Unlike Alternate Company Equivalent Rogue, Parasite never decided to try the second option. His inhuman looks didn't help, making him more inclined to be taken for a villain in the first place.
    • Silver Banshee, as the name implies, has a shriek with the capacity to kill. Great for villainy, but not so great for anything else.
  • X-Men:
    • It can be said that this is the whole point of the entire X-Men series, i.e. most mutants in the series struggle to control their superpowers, some of which are pretty good-proof, like the superpowers of the original horsemen of Apocalypse. Even some neutral or good-affiliated powers can be dangerous at times and the Xavier institute is founded for training the amateurs to control their superpower for the humans and their own safety.
    • Wither, whose skin broke down organic matter on contact. When his powers first manifested, he accidentally killed his father. After trying for a life of semi-normalcy, he went over to the dark side.
    • Jean Grey's experiences with the Phoenix Force kinda dance around this line. She has the power to manipulate entire timelines for the better, can go toe-to-toe with Galactus, can make matter with her mind, survive being inside of and eating stars, beat Xavier and Emma Frost in a telepathic battle, make star-gates, breathe in space, generate all kinds of awesome fire, oh, and burn up the life force reserved for beings who have not yet been born. Good thing she's on our side most of the time. For added fun, her Phoenix powers are actually their own sentient being, which for a while impersonated Jean.
    • Justified with the Juggernaut, as the evil god Cyttorak is responsible for giving him his powers. If Cain Marko ever tries to be good his powers significantly weaken due to his disapproval.
  • Melter of the Young Masters of, Young Avengers is told this. Then again, being able to turn people into puddles of steaming goo doesn't often have "good" uses.
    Coat of Arms: You've got a villain's power...You've got a power that naturally inclines you towards becoming a villain. But maybe even because of that, you're the one who most wants to be a hero.

    Fan Works 
  • Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger: In this Star Wars/RWBY crossover, Darth Nihilus, on top of being a Dark Side user and a Force Wound who can suck the life out of others like in canon, is a lot more explicitly wilfully malicious and omnicidal here than his Star Wars canon portrayal.
  • Duke Greengrass in RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse has a cutie mark talent for weeding, which in his case means that he instinctively knows everything's physical, mental, and/or psychological weak points. This makes him very good at breaking other ponies down, but not so much at building them back up.
  • Discussed in there is a fire in me with firebending, as the Freedom Fighters believe Jet will turn in an homicidal monster bent on spreading the imperialistic Fire Nation's agenda if he keeps using his newly awakened firebending, but Aang staunchly believes one's bending has nothing to do with one's morality and insists criminals are bad because they're rotten people to begin with. Jet's character arc revolves around him growing away from his self-loathing and understanding that fire only has to hurt if he lets it.

  • Some of the titular Gifts in the first Annals of the Western Shore book are just not easy to use benevolently. How else are you supposed to use the Body Horror-inducing "twisting" or the power to cast a wasting illness except brutally? Gry, however, suspects that "gifts" like these are inversions of what used to be healing gifts.
  • Justified in Black Dogs, where mages are assumed to be immoral or evil and magic is a thoroughly nasty practice - for example, the most common means of magical communication is to take a living human and possess them as an avatar from a distance - completely destroying their mind in the process. Magical power is strengthened by doing things such as ritual bloodletting and human sacrifice, and powerful spells require either of these two things to even be cast. Naturally, the people willing to do this kind of stuff for power are not nice people.
  • Books of the Raksura:
    • The Ruler caste of the Always Chaotic Evil Fell have limited mind-control powers that let them pull a Villain Override on their minions and make outsiders into Manchurian Agents. Given their inclinations, they happily use the latter to sow dissent and soften up communities for slaughter.
    • There's an in-universe stereotype that shapeshifters are sinister predators who only infiltrate other sapient species to hunt them, exacerbated by the Fell (for whom it's entirely true) and at least one other shapeshifter group the protagonist met. It's far from universal, but often causes trouble when the shapeshifting Raksura try to deal with other peoples.
  • In Jeramey Kraatz's The Cloak Society, shadow powers belong to evil characters.
  • In Devil's Cape, one of Cain Ducett's patients is a woman with the ability to reduce anyone to a withered husk by touching them, and strengthen herself by doing it. She is also sadistic and sociopathic, and enjoys using her power even on people who are no threat to her.
  • In The Dresden Files, the skinwalker has a vast variety of magical powers, many of which could theoretically be used for good, but two stand out as just plain evil. The first is to devour the power of other magic-users, which naturally leads to it hunting people down to kill them and take their power. The second is from Word of God, that it always instinctively knows what act will cause someone the most suffering possible. Yeah, find a nice way to use that one. This is the reason why it tried to reach Harry through Thomas despite not knowing of their connection, and also why it tormented a would-be Friendly Neighborhood Vampire by torturing him into starving madness, then giving him someone to eat. Repeatedly.
    • Also subverted (and discussed) with the necromancer in Dead Beat, who uses her power to keep dying people alive long enough to get to a hospital. Though given how such magic affects people psychologically, she's not so much good as a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
    • Warlocks, Practitioners that have used Black Magic, become genuinely bad people even when they start as Well Intentioned Extremists. Black Magic is addictive, as is the mindset of using your Power to solve any problems or become more powerful. They may even still have good intentions, but their means rapidly and possibly intractably go south.
  • The Gone series: in book 3, a new villainess is introduced who has the power to create illusions of monsters. Not illusions of anything else, only monsters. Also, an extremely sadistic villain had his arm replaced with a powerful whip. Justified in that powers in the Gone series seem to often be based on personalities, desires, or needs.
  • In Murderess, this is the common view of magic and magic-wielders in Ciaró.
  • Nowhere Stars protagonist, Liadain, has the power of sickness, of corruption, of rot. Liadain selfishly drains health from innocents because she is terminally ill and her powers are the result of her desperation to stay alive at any cost. This habit has done nothing good to her reputation, but she will not stop because she is still dying, racing to change herslf enough before her own blood kills her.
  • Patternist:
    • Wild Seed has two characters, Lale and Joseph, with mind-control powers. Both try to use them to rape women — the latter even murders the man who stops him via Psychic-Assisted Suicide and tries to do the same to his intended victim — and each gets his throat ripped out by Anyanwu for trying. Doro observes that people with those powers tend to be mentally distorted in childhood by the experience.
    • Doro is a Body Surfer who absorbs the mind and soul of anyone he inhabits, causes Possession Burnout within months at most, and is so apathetic to the death he causes that he'll possess a new body just to hop across a river. His power forces him to take a new body whenever an old one dies; after 3700 years of this, he simply doesn't care anymore.
  • Justified in A.L. Phillips's The Quest of the Unaligned. Since aligning yourself to magic actually alters your personality to match your element (wind mages become hyperactive "airheads", fire mages are brilliant but tend to have tempers, etc), becoming a mage of darkness pretty much turns you Ax-Crazy on the spot.
  • In The Reckoners Trilogy, seemingly random people gain superpowers but without exception they all become villainous. It is initially unclear if this is a case of Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely, only bad people get powers, or the powers themselves turn the people bad. The end of the book reveals that it is indeed the third option; an epic using their powers causes them to become evil, and refraining from doing so can even reverse the effects. Book 3 further reveals that this is due to the psychic pressure of the original Epic, Calamity. Once his influence is gone, many of the Epics undergo a Heel–Face Turn, although some remain evil.
  • In Renegades, most Anarchists have powers that aren't very conductive to heroics - The Detonator can create bombs with her mind, Phobia can transform into the embodiment of various fears, The Puppeteer can Mind Control children...
  • In Rogue Sorcerer, the Sorcerers use blood magic and command evil spirits. They use these powers very sadistically, torturing and murdering their enemies without hesitation.
  • Shades of Magic: The Caligula Athos is dreaded above all for his talent for dominating human minds, bodies, and souls. His favourite form of Cruel Mercy is to make victims into People Puppets so they're fully aware of their bodies being controlled, but most of his guards are Empty Shells driven only by his will.
  • In The Stormlight Archive, Parshendi who assume a "form of power" go Ax-Crazy from Odium's influence.
  • Peona from Super Minion, though in her case the cause and effect may have been reversed. Her personality was probably the reason for her developing her specific power.
  • The Seven in Vampiros do Rio Douro were vampires transformed by the Devil and each one of them were gifted with a unique hellish superpower: their leader can freeze anything, one can raise the dead, another can transform himself into a Beast Man, and so forth. The nicest one of the bunch (who is pretty much an Anti-Villain) can stop time in place, while the most evil one can transform into a bat-like demon.
  • Wild Cards doesn't shy away from this trope, and most major antagonists have powers that can hardly be used for good.
    • The Astronomer has a large array of powers (among which we have mind control, telepathy, flight, energy blasts, etc) that he must "recharge" through violent acts like murder and rape.
    • Blaise Andreux can mind control people, with victims retaining awareness of what they are doing but not the control of their body.
  • In The Witchlands, Voidwitches are people with various unsavoury powers, including bloodbending, cursing people with various illnesses and turning them into zombie puppets. Of the four Voidwitches in the story, three are villains.
  • In Worm:
    • Powers are unrelated to their wielder's morality, and there are plenty of instances of both this trope and Bad Powers, Good People. However pretty much every power shown has some sort of direct combat application with many of them having seemingly no use other than killing people, and the nature of powers (people gain powers after experiencing extreme trauma) tends to create more villains than heroes. At the end of the story, it's revealed that the first point is not a coincidence, as the shards that created the powers are designed to foster conflict to spur their evolution.
    • A former member of the Slaughterhouse Nine was a Case-53 dubbed "Nyx", who could spew a gas that let her make solid illusions...and was also a deadly poison.
    • Miasma, another member of the group, generated an odorless, invisible gas that made him invisible and caused brain damage in everyone else. Kinda hard to think of a "good" use for that power.
    • The Slaughterhouse Nine had a lot of these: one of their former members was Breed, whose power was to produce parasites which devoured people from the inside out... and they seemingly exclusively fed on human beings.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Charmed:
    • Good magic and evil magic are functionally distinct, and using the other side's magic or, to a lesser extent, simply being able to use it will turn you to that side - especially with evil magic. Poor Cole Turner, if only he'd lived in a world where the dichotomy between good and evil wasn't supported by Applied Phlebotinum. He is a downplayed example though, as he spends a chunk of time fighting on the side of good despite still using his demonic powers, only losing them after being unable to control his Superpowered Evil Side.
    • Also demonstrated by Phoebe. In a previous life, she was a fireball-throwing witch who turned to evil, and nowadays if Phoebe starts summoning fire too, it's a clear sign she's going bad. This despite that power seeming pretty useful for demon-slaying, and less destructive than Piper blowing stuff up.
  • Doctor Who: Clara is furious to find out that the Doctor has zombie creatures in the TARDIS. "Good guys do not have zombie creatures! Rule one, basic storytelling!"
  • In Friday the 13th: The Series, you have a slew of Artifacts of Doom which either require someone to die in order to grant miracles to their users, or it just makes it easier to straight out kill someone. Not surprising as these items were cursed by the Devil. As such it would be nearly impossible to actually use these items to do good, and the villain of the week is usually some unrepentant sociopath who uses the artifact to kill people or kills people to use the artifact.
  • Sylar in Heroes has the superpower of instinctively understanding how things work. Not exactly the most spectacular talent, except that it includes the ability to take the powers of others by killing them. If his power had been more like Peter's, i.e., the ability to duplicate the powers of others just by being exposed to them, then he might never have become evil.
    • He actually can copy powers without killing people, though he doesn't find out until the third season. It doesn't matter for long.
    • Even his normal copying power isn't necessarily lethal; it just includes direct study of the brain, so Claire is the only one to survive it.
  • Jessica Jones (2015) has an interesting example in Kilgrave. His Mind Manipulation is more or less inherently dangerous and evil and even small orders are incredibly traumatic to the victim. The ability to get whatever you want whenever you want is also so inherently corrupting that it's near impossible to turn out normal, let alone good. Especially since Kilgrave developed his powers in childhood, and thus never learned about reciprocal relationships; as far back as he can remember, everyone in the world only exists to fulfill his desires.
  • Michael in Roswell was convinced he was this because his strongest powers killed while Max's healed. Of course, you could argue that that made him a born soldier, not a bad person.
  • In Smallville, most of the meteor powers are neutral, but there are also a few nasty ones, like Sean Kelvin who needs to reduce people to a frozen corpse to stay warm, another guy who causes strokes with physical contact, and of course, the classical Death Touch.
  • Supernatural: Many of the Special Children whom have psychic powers courtesy of being fed demon blood as infants turn to evil sooner or later, and turning to evil in turn amplifies and broadens their power set.

  • Multiple characters from Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues gained superpowers that are difficult to view in a positive light:
    • Daigo, already a Card-Carrying Villain, gained the power of vampirism and takes it as a sign that he's destined to be a villain. Shortly thereafter he tries to use his power to mutilate and murder innocent people.
    • His girlfriend, Melissa, is a budding sociopath who gained the ability to turn herself into smoke. She quickly demonstrates the villainous capabilities of her power by hijacking a car without leaving any prints.
    • Another member of their gang of vagrants, Devin, has the ability to not only control acid, but had his blood become acidic so he could control it too. Being able to manipulate both acid and blood is fitting for a person with a slimeball personality who's incapable of feeling pain.
    • Jessica gained powers identical to the Purple Man of Daredevil and Jessica Jones fame, turning her skin purple and allowing her to mind control people with the use of pheromones. The power gets to her head and she uses it to control people to her pleasure. Even when she gets called out on it by the other characters, and starts to feel guilty for using her powers for bad, she still finds herself tempted to abuse them.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Your Story (the main rulebook) lists all the supernatural powers observed in the series up to and including Small Favor. They're all in the same place for convenience's sake, but both the text and margin comments made by Harry and Bob point out some powers and say something along the lines of, "Yeah, you're pretty much only going to use this to make bad guys."
    Billy: (on Mimic Abilities) It’s a bit of an "evil people eater" power, so it should be treated very strictly when in PC hands.
    • And as in the books, using "black" magic is corrupting for human practitioners. How corrupting? There are mandatory Lawbreaker stunts (one for each Law of Magic) that you have to take for breaking the relevant Law even once, reducing your refresh — which incidentally also reflects your mortal free will — while providing a bonus that's really only useful for breaking the same Law again. And every third time you do break the same Law, even if you still have refresh remaining, you get to replace one of your aspects with a suitably "corrupted" one to reflect how your powers slowly but surely twist your very personality...
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In general, D&D has lots of magic spells that are considered to be inherently evil. Anything to do with creating undead, for instance. It doesn't matter if you order your army of skeletons to build orphanages and help old ladies cross the street, creating them was still evil. This makes it almost impossible to play classes like Dread Necromancer and have a good alignment; neutral with antihero tendencies is pretty much the best you can do. (At least one 3rd Edition sourcebook explained that this is because even animating unintelligent undead like skeletons and zombies binds the soul of the dead in a rather excruciating manner, as well as perverting the natural order of things. The same source does give one "good" use for Necromancy in general, which is the fantasy equivalent of forensics, but it doesn't involve animation of the dead.)
    • Many Classes and Prestige Classes in a few editions have required an evil (or at least non-good) alignment. Generally this applies to classes that only an evil person would even want to be, such as necromancers, mages that manipulate diseases, or characters that serve entities like demons and evil gods.
    • Illithids, or mind flayers, have a host of powerful abilities that only evil creatures would likely use. Their physical attack can extract the brain of a victim (which they then devour) while they can use their Psychic Powers to enslave a victim forever or create their dreaded Mind Blast. As one might expect, they are rightfully dreaded for the numerous atrocities they have done in the past and universally hated by most others, Good and Evil alike.
  • In the Eberron setting there are families with hereditary magical tattoos called the dragonmarked houses. These families used their powers to economic ends...except one. Their mark was known as the Mark of Death; while its exact powers are never detailed, it's been implied that they were both disproportionately strong and not very well-suited to making a business profit. They had to be wiped out for the good of Khorvaire. That, and attempting to stop a war by hybridising an elf and a dragon. This was immediately considered a crime against the natural order, and the war was put on hold while the elves and dragons wiped out the hapless House Vol. Frankly, who wouldn't turn evil after that kind of experience?
    • The aforementioned Eberron setting basically says "evil, schmevil." There are no Always Chaotic Evil races or classes, and you're perfectly free to play a Lawful Good necromancer as long as you can justify it to the GM (try "These people were taken before their time; I'm restoring the natural order, not perverting it" or "Now in death they can atone for the evil they did in life").
  • In Exalted any Abyssal or Infernal that embrace the masters cause. Certain Infernal charms cause elements of Blue-and-Orange Morality, but this usually manifests in negative ways.
  • In Mage: The Ascension, we had Widderslainte, children who have been reincarnated with the reality-warping avatars of dead Nephandi. These kids tend to be amoral sociopaths BEFORE awakening, but when they do, most of them dive headfirst, cackling into the dark side.
  • The Marvel Super Heroes game had Mind Control as a power (in the expansion listing an obscene number of superpowers, there are about 87 different versions of this). Using this on anyone would drain your Karma, which was basically your XP plus a power meter for badass stunts. Anyone. Not only is it unethical to use it to avoid paying landing fees, but you'd lose Karma by causing Doctor Malevolent's henchman Igor to not pull the big red lever releasing a Horde of Genetically Engineered Monster Locusts.
  • While Vampire: The Masquerade had a bunch of "Disciplines" that could be considered context-neutral, one power was more often than not used for wicked purposes — Vicissitude, the ability to rework the flesh and bones of one's self and others. Needless to say, it ended up in the hands of the Tzimisce, a clan full of twisted transcendentalists almost completely devoid of ethics, but fond of sadism and agony. And if that wasn't enough, they often decide to show it off by turning humans and animals into monstrous servants and other vampires into screaming, insane pieces of furniture.
    • In one Old World of Darkness source book pertaining to sorcery (magic, but not the full-on reality-warping kind) and psychic powers, this trope is lampshaded. Magic and Psychic Powers by themselves, even the ones with obvious evil potential (like Shadowcasting or Pyrokinesis), were wholly dependent on the practitioner...but people with Psychic Vampirism, the ability to leech emotion, willpower, and life from others, have a general trend of turning evil (because, in that power's case, Evil Feels Good).
  • The Warp operates this way in Warhammer 40,000. When you wake up with the ability to Mind Rape people at will, turn bodies inside out, create a mini-Negative Space Wedgie at will, or teleport by means of traveling through hell, you know you cannot possibly be employed by a benevolent organization. The setting being what it is, of course, this means you're as likely to be employed by the "good" guys as the forces of hell.


    Video Games 
  • Played with in Age of Wonders 3. The Destruction and Creation specializations tell the player outright before selecting them that many of the skills they grant are evil or good in nature, however that doesn't mean the player has to follow that alignment path. One might take the Destruction specialization just for useful abilities like Storm Magic and Disintegrate, ignore all the skills related to blighting the land and razing cities, and use their ultimate destruction spells to eradicate evil. Or they might take Creation and use the powerful healing spells to keep their armies of doom healed and able to cause more destruction.
  • An unsurprising number of the bad guys in City of Heroes, and a few of the signature villains in City of Villains. Probably the most visible is Dr. Vahzilok, a scientist intent on conquering death, who's had some actual success. Of course, since the visible results of the process tend to be zombies more often than sentient undead, he's got to be a bad guy looting morgues and kidnapping people off the street for raw materials. (Never mind that the city he's in has undergone at least three major disasters within as many years and must have been all but overflowing with dead bodies.) For players, it used to be impossible to have a necromantic Hero, or one with a focus on assassination strikes.
    • One of the main features of the Going Rogue expansion is that characters can now switch sides - heroes can fall, and villains can be redeemed. So Bad Powers, Good People is now equally possible.
  • Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins starts off with several of the basic Entropy-class spells, including those that freeze the target with fear, screw with the target's mind, and drain life from them. Correspondingly, she is the most outright evil party member you get, disparaging any assistance or kind acts you show to anyone but her. She also plots and schemes, if not against you, then certainly not with you.
  • Played with in Duel Savior Destiny. We're assured that necromancy isn't evil and is in fact the same school of magic that the medic Berio uses, but in actual practice, the only one bringing undead to the field is the very bitter Lobelia.
  • Inverted in inFAMOUS 2, thanks to Personality Powers: while Joseph Bertrand might think that his Conduit power of turning into a city-destroying maggot and turning innocent people into monsters is what made him evil, beforehand, he was willing to murder hundreds of people just to activate his powers.
  • In theory, being a necromantic Lich in Nexus Clash is morally neutral and one can be either good or evil. In practice, the Lich's status on the Karma Meter is tied to its minions...who are ravenous, fearsome undead. It doesn't take many unplanned battles with good-aligned characters to drag the Lich down to evilness.
  • While using the Dark Side powers in the Star Wars universe almost inevitably leads you down an all too familiar path (due to the addictive nature of the negative emotions used to power them), Kyle Katarn from the Jedi Knight series holds the opinion that powers themselves are neither good nor bad. He tells that, for example, to Jaden in Jedi Academy if you predominantly develop Dark Side powers. That coming from the man who has been tempted by the Dark Side on many, many occasions is quite powerful.
  • Illidan in the Warcraft series was somewhat of an Anti-Hero that tried to use his acquired demonic powers for good, but his efforts didn't earn him a lot of appreciation, with fears of this concept leading to even his own brother abandoning him. This eventually led to him fleeing to another world and going a bit mad.
    • Garrosh was always reckless, but when he became Warchief, his tyrannical ideas of racial supremacy came to the forefront. It was to the point that when he unearthed the heart of an Old God that influences you through negative emotions, he was so full of hate and pride that he was able to use its powers without being corrupted, becoming a purple and multi-eyed abomination that was still in full control of his faculties.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: Agahnim is an evil sorcerer with mind-controlling powers. Summed up nicely in the below quote from the Prologue.
    "A mysterious wizard known as Agahnim appeared as from nowhere [...] and with strange magic powers he eliminated the good king of Hyrule."

    Web Comics 
  • El Goonish Shive: Magic typically runs on Personality Powers. This is the biggest reason for The Masquerade to be in effect, since anyone can get magic and bad people will get the most dangerous kinds. As a prime example, "Not-Tengu" being a sociopath led to him acquiring Brainwashing and Clone by Conversion powers when he discovered how to gain magic.
  • Wanda comes closest to being clearly evil in the Grey-and-Gray Morality of Erfworld; she is uninterested (though proficient when necessary) in magic other than Croakamancy.
  • Drake from Gold Coin Comics can create a teleportation portal. Too bad the good guys can't do that!
  • Although the inverse is more common in Homestuck, this is played straight with Gamzee, the Alternian group's bard of rage. It's suggested that this may happen fairly often (although not inevitably) with rage players.
  • Richard in Looking for Group. Even after he joins the group, he's still a homicidal, sadistic, sociopathic warlock who commits genocide out of nothing more than boredom. While he doubtlessly seems to enjoy what he does, he's less evil for the lulz and more of an Anti-Villain, since Richard reverts back to a normal, BLEEDING human unless he does something pointlessly vile like murdering the innocent while being shown to actually have noble goals, and needs his powers and invulnerability to achieve them and help his companions.
  • Xykon, the sorcerer/necromancer from The Order of the Stick. How he became like that is told in the prequel, The Order of the Stick: Start of Darkness. It starts with reanimating his boyhood pet, then having his reanimated grandmom kill his parents, and goes from there. The fact that he thinks of the first thing as awesome rather than as Came Back Wrong tells something of his prior tendencies to be bad.
  • Pluton from Sidekicks kills for fun, enjoys challenging fights and has a deadly superpower that either drains the victim's life force or just outright kills them. Either way, he's bad news.

    Web Original 
  • Most of the liches in Angel of Death. Cody, the only exception we've known so far, is referred to by Kaburlduth and Bavandersloth as an anomaly, and it's implied that "do-gooders" are extremely rare, either because the book liches use to get their powers plainly spells out their need to devour the souls of the living, because they usually get killed quickly when they interfere with another liches' plans or violate the rules and get themselves executed, or because they usually perform a Face–Heel Turn before too long. Other liches seem to regard them mostly as a source of annoyance, and Valthakar constantly seeks to induce Face-Heel Turns in them to occupy his time.
  • In Deviant the Degenerates are a gang of despised human traffickers - their superpowers tend to complement this profession. Zeal can seduce with a glance, Verity can brainwash people, etc.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-106 is a truly depraved SCP who can decay matter wherever he goes and pull people into a dimension of torture. He doesn't get along with the Foundation staff
    • SCP-353 fully embraces her Plague Master powers, to the point where she refers to herself exclusively as Vector.
  • Maggot and Killstench of the Whateley Universe. Maggot's skin gives off something that burns like acid. Killstench gives off toxic gas. They're still in high school and using their powers to be jerkass bullies, but it sure doesn't look like they'll graduate and decide to become superheroes.
  • Played with and discussed in Void Domain: Blood Magic has an even worse reputation than demonology, thanks to many of its applications requiring extensive, enthusiastic, and deadly use of Human Resources. Eva manages most of her feats with voluntarily donated demon blood, but gains a reputation as an Enfant Terrible all the same — and spends a holiday looking for criminals to Pay Evil unto Evil to for raw materials.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel The Legend of Korra:
    • Bloodbending is a particularly nasty variation of Waterbending that manipulates the water in others' blood to turn them into People Puppets. The inventor of the technique was a particularly vicious old woman bent on exacting her pound of flesh from the Fire Nation by attacking innocent Fire Nation civilians. In fact, her Start of Darkness was when she had to learn to bloodbend. Katara learned the basics, but only uses it twice: once to save her friends from it, and the second time she was in a very bad place mentally. Yakone and his sons Tarrlok and Noatak/Amon are evil ambitious control freaks who, at least in the former's case, get a sadistic thrill out of turning people into blood puppets. Coincidentally or not, they also happen to have a talent for Bloodbending to the point where they can do it without a full moon, and Yakone and Noatak even without motion mnemonics (IE: purely by thought).
    • Subverted with Firebending, which many people outside the Fire Nation consider to be inherently evil. Most notably, even Jeong Jeong, a master firebender and defector from the Fire Nation army, believes that firebending is evil, referring to his power as a "burning curse" which can only cause pain and destruction. Even worse, firebending is powered by rage and hatred, meaning anyone who uses it has to be angry all the time for it to work, which seems to be a big part of why the Fire Nation is so evil. As the series goes on, however, we see that firebending is not evil after all and that firebenders are just as capable of good as anyone else. In season 3 we even learn that firebending is not supposed to be fueled by anger at all, but by willpower - the practice of fueling the fire with anger was started by the evil Fire Lord Sozin as part of his crossing the Moral Event Horizon and has weakened modern firebenders considerably compared to those from a hundred years ago, at least in versatility.
    • The subversion is further driven home in The Legend of Korra. While some firebenders still use their powers for evil, there are just as many criminals from the other bending elements and non-benders. Firebenders see good use of their powers in manufacturing and, for those that can bend lightning, power plants. Notably, while there are bad and villainous firebenders, none of the main Arc Villains for each of the seasons is a firebender.
  • Ben 10: Michael Morningstar/Darkstar, introduced in Alien Force, is a mutant with the ability to strengthen himself by draining life energy from others. He's also a sociopath with no empathy for anyone but himself and no compunctions against hurting others for his own benefit, and he firmly believes in Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!.
  • Because of the type of nanites that he has in his body, Rex from Generator Rex can cure EVOs, which are organisms mutated into rampaging monsters from an overload of nanites. After Van Kleiss has Rex's nanites inserted into his body, he can turn organisms into EVOs.
  • My Little Pony:
  • Jinx from Teen Titans (2003) has the ability to affect probability negatively. In the episode "Lightspeed", she tells Kid Flash that because of this, she felt she had to be a villain. However, she changes sides at the conclusion of the final arc.


Video Example(s):


Joseph Bertrand III

The rotten, power-hungry Bertrand has the ability to become a monster.

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