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Beware the Superman

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"His truth. His justice. His way. And there's nothing anyone can do about it."

I never said "The superman exists and he's American." What I said was "God exists and he's American." If that statement starts to chill you after a couple of moments' consideration, then don't be alarmed. A feeling of intense and crushing religious terror at the concept indicates only that you are still sane.
Prof. Milton Glass, "Dr. Manhattan: Super-Powers and the Superpowers," Watchmen

Superhero settings, like any other setting, end up somewhere on the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. On the more idealistic end, you have settings like mainstream comic books, where there's a sense of wonder and basic decency about the superhuman. While there are villains, they will usually get caught or their plans will be thwarted, and while the setting may take dark turns, it will inevitably right itself. Somewhere in the middle, you have settings that look at superpowers a bit more realistically. While the government may have supers, so will despotic regimes, organized crime, and terrorist groups. The good guys may win, but victories will be hard fought and likely to have their share of losses.

And then you have these settings. The world's not better for having superhumans. It's worse. The government has no safety net to deal with rogue supers, and it seems like there ain't nothing but rogue supers terrorizing Muggles or freaks on leashes. And that's just the so-called heroes, who are usually anything but, being all-too-aware of their superiority over the rest of the human race and a little too keen on arrogantly flaunting it. Maybe the crisis hasn't happened yet, but the way that supers seem to be developing, it's only a matter of time until one of them blows up Pittsburgh and the rest go absolutely nuts. Not that they're exactly mentally-stable to begin with; many will gleefully screw the rules with their powers, but it's almost guaranteed that at least one of them will become a full fledged Super Supremacist and develop a God-complex as a result of their powers, and that they're only one bad day away from trying to enslave or wipe out all of humanity (which they could easily do within an afternoon). Any hope for a Hope Spot in such a dire scenario may involve calling the Cape Busters, but even then, that's not a guarantee.


These are often Darker and Edgier versions of more traditional Super Hero fare, and often use Take Thats against popular characters like Superman or Spider-Man (or that particular writer's perception of them). Other times, these are stories or articles involving The Singularity and forth the idea that in Real Life, enhanced humans may cause this situation.

A milder version of this trope is Smug Super, in which the superpowered being in question isn't exactly malevolent or evil, but is still something of a jerk. If both Beware the Superman and Fantastic Racism toward metahumans are prevalent in a 'verse, expect things to get very ugly.

Trope title is a spin on the famous Nietzsche quote, "Behold the superman" (as in "Behold the Übermensch")note . Superdickery is a milder version of this trope. See also With Great Power Comes Great Insanity, Crapsack World, The Magocracy, Muggle Power, Transhuman Treachery. Contrast with Tall Poppy Syndrome, as the two are more-or-less ideological opposites. This is a common feature of stories following the Cape Punk model of storytelling.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Paptimus Scirocco from Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam is a Newtype supremacist who wishes to eliminate all mundanes.
    • The sole Newtype in Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt is the Big Bad High Priest Levan Fuu, the leader of a extremist Buddhist cult who uses his psychic powers to brainwash people into becoming his followers as he believes himself to be the Chosen One destined to guide humanity to eternal peace through religion...and terrorism.
  • In After War Gundam X several belligerents use Newtypes to enhance their weapons and one side even uses Newtypes' existence to justify a racial/cultural supremacy ideology. Most of the existing Newtypes are reasonably nice people, but their existence has made the world a more warlike place. It is also implied people are less likely to look for solutions to the problems of war and conflict because they expect Newtypes to resolve them.
  • Geass users in Code Geass might qualify if not for the fact that regular, non-geass-possessing individuals are still responsible for most of the world's woes anyway; it's just that pretty much everyone with a Geass tends to add even more misery on top of that.
  • Baki the Grappler has a setting where with enough training a martial artist can rival armies in strength. Three notable examples are: Biscuit Oliva, a man so strong he takes down entire drug cartels by himself for the U.S government and uses a super max prison as a penthouse. Che Guevara (yes the Che Guevara) the ruler of an island nation who is, and has soldiers, strong enough to casually assassinate world leaders if he ever felt his nation was threatened. Last is Yujiro Hanma, explicitly the World's Strongest Man and the main villain of the series. To get a good grasp of how powerful he is he uses George W. Bush as his personal driver.
  • In Darker Than Black part of the package deal that makes you into a Contractor is a loss of emotions and conscience: All Contractors are, per definition, sociopaths. But they're also rational sociopaths and can thus see the inherent futility in trying to use their powers to Take Over the World. That said, the world is most definitively worse off for their appearance, especially what with all the wars that are being fought with Contractors as human weapons.
  • In the three part soft-core manga, Don't Meddle with My Daughter!, the superheroine Eighth Wonder, and her daughter, the new Eighth Wonder, are the most powerful members of the agency N.U.D.E., and the other members worry that "if Eighth Wonder loses control, it'll be the end of the world."
    • In the second volume, the new Eighth Wonder falls victim to a mind control device and goes on a rampage damaging the city she lives in. She then attacks N.U.D.E. headquarters, and corners the staff in a reinforced bunker. The only reason she didn't burst in and kill them all was because her mother, the original Eighth Wonder, intervened, and after their fight demolished most of the base, the original ends it by putting her daughter over her knee and giving her a spanking.
  • Dragon Ball has brave, selfless martial artists like Goku. It also has Frieza and his evil family, supremely powerful mutants who use their power to run an interstellar syndicate and slaughter billions of innocent people, and the gene-optimized murderer Cell that doesn't even bother trying to empathize with those he consumes to become stronger or, later, tortures and kills for no reason other than his amusement. And that's to say nothing of Super Buu.
  • Most of the Huckebein from Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force are "just" Smug Supers proud of their seemingly flawless Anti-Magic, but their more vicious members like Cypha go straight into this.
  • Sorcerer Hunters has a magical version where the 'supermen' in question come in the form of Sorcerers who for most part, make life very miserable for the Parsoners who live on Spooner. It's even stated that the Sorcerers are treated as nobility as a way to keep them under control (with the eponymous Sorcerer Hunters as a stick to go along with the carrot).
  • AKIRA. Tetsuo fits the trope, with a healthy amount of With Great Power Comes Great Insanity.
  • Fairy Tail has about 10% of the population able to work magic but so far we have not seen on screen magically powerful despots. The closest the setting has is probably Zeref or Acnologia. One of the humans empowered by dragons with Dragon Slayer magic, he eventually turned on his benefactors and became a dragon himself by bathing in the blood of a hundred dragons; a rather literal use of this trope. Another example is Grimoire Heart's "ultimate magic world plan" where people without magic would be killed and only those strong in magic would survive.
  • Death Note gives us Light Yagami, a brilliant and beautiful teenage boy granted a godlike magical power. Unfortunately, that power happens to be the titular Artifact of Death, and When All You Have Is a Hammer...... no matter how well you intend to use your power, you go flying off the slippery slope faster than you can say "justice". The same happens to his girlfriend Misa.
    L: If [this person] is an ordinary human being who somehow gained the power, he is a very unfortunate being.
    • Not to mention the fact that the only people who can stand against them are cutthroat, coldblooded investigators who are, when push comes to shove, Not So Different at all. The rest of the world just gets caught in the crossfire.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, while there are a large amount of Nen-enabled fighters who genuinely want to do good for the world, there are just as many, if not more, of those who gain these superpowers and use them purely for personal gain. Most of the really powerful ones see themselves as above anyone who cannot give them a good fight and casually mass-murder Muggles and less powerful combatants for trivial reasons like chasing after people, stealing valuables, or simply out of being in a bad mood. These mass deaths are so common that everyone, even the muggles, see them as no big deal and the survivors simply moving on as soon as the danger has passed.
  • The first users of Psychokinesis in From the New World, who brought about the end of the modern age when they abused their near-limitless power for indiscriminate violence and governments tried and failed to contain them with military force, then with nuclear weapons.
  • Downplayed in Pokémon. Pokémon have been used by villain teams and villains of the week alike, but not only are Pokémon a part of everyday life in the Pokémon world to the point that no one tries to ban Pokémon training, but much of an individual creature's power comes from training, which humans can undergo as well. Legendary Pokémon are the exception, however, and are portrayed as far more powerful than they are in the games or manga series.
  • Played for Laughs in Love Hina: The Shinmei-ryū style of kendo was created specifically for protection and Demon Slaying. Motoko Aoyama, the heir to the school, is a borderline Ax-Crazy girl with a Hair-Trigger Temper who uses these skills to assault anyone who even slightly irritates her, dealing a lot of Amusing Injuries.
  • Inuyashiki is a story about two people, an old man named Ichiro Inuyashiki and a teenager named Hiro Shishigami, who gain superpowers from a UFO crash. While Inuyashiki decides to use his powers to help people, Shishigami becomes a superpowered Serial Killer.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • In the backstory, when Quirks first appeared, normal humans were terrified and demanded strict limits be placed on what they were allowed to do. While by the time of the story 80% of the population have Quirks, it's made clear that they weren't wrong to do this. Villains cause major disruptions on a daily basis, and All For One is simply a random man who decided to use his power to hurt and manipulate everyone around him.
    • My Hero Academia: Vigilantes: Number Six mentions that this is why All Might adheres so strongly to Villains Act, Heroes React. He is the strongest in the world by a huge margin—if he was more proactive, he could annihilate crime. But even if his judgment was absolutely perfect, it wouldn't take long for people to worry that he might come after them next. By acting only to keep people safe, everyone loves him, but it means he's not as effective as he could be.
  • In the world of Talentless Nana, superpowered individuals called "The Talented" suddenly started being born. They had incredible powers such as control over the elements, the ability to manipulate time and space, and even predict the future—there seemed to be no limit to what they could do. Unfortunately, many of them quickly grew to gravely misuse and abuse these "Talents", causing untold amounts of havoc, chaos, and death. The government attempted to create its own superhero squad of law enforcement to control the lawless Talented—until they started abusing that authority, too. It was only the appearance of the mysterious and deadly "Enemies of Humanity" that regular humans and the Talented were finally united, the latter being sent to special schools and facilities to train and serve as the first-line of defense against these monsters. In truth, the government is just quarantining them to be exterminated, doing whatever it takes to prevent another Talented-induced catastrophe ever again.

    Comic Books 
  • Superman:
    • Though the trope's name instantly makes you think of him, Superman has dedicated his life to defying this trope.
    • Unless it's an Elseworlds story which has this trope as its point, Superman is (almost) always as responsible as he can be with his powers and always lets people know that he's here to serve them, not the other way around. But again, as mentioned, Elseworlds stories LOVE to play with Superman this way. One example of this is Alternate!Superman in Injustice: Gods Among Us, who's a totalitarian ruler after the death of Alternate!Lois Lane.
    • An interesting play on this trope would be the popular story What's So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way? from Action Comics #775 and animated as Superman vs. the Elite as the Man of Steel deals with a team known as "The Elite", who gleefully put people in harm's way with their methods of stopping threats and their flippant attitude to that. When Superman becomes their enemy by opposing their corrupt philosophies, he gets challenged to near-death to break his "outdated" values of truth, justice, and valuing humanity... and then he does, cruelly and systematically curb-stomping them to their (and the watching civilian population's) abject terror. Metatextually, the story is an examination on Superman's ideologies during The Dark Age of Comic Books where cruel anti-"heroism" like The Elite's actions were sincerely in vogue, challenging whether his straightforward, all-loving ideals still mattered. The answer it provides is a resounding yes: the ending reveals that Supes did intentionally brutalize and traumatize the heck out of The Elite, yet he does not kill them, because despite everything, he utterly refuses to make that choice. Laterally, this displays that had Supes not been the all-loving Cape we know him to be, you better believe that we should be terrified of him, which is the whole point, in-universe and out.
    • At least All-Star Superman has inverted this by suggesting that anyone who gained Superman's powers would gain such a heightened sense of what it means to be alive and how living beings think, work and feel that it would be almost impossible not to become an altruist like Superman.
    • In Kryptonite Nevermore several characters argue the issue at several points:
      • Morgan Edge is not happy about Superman being immune to Kryptonite because he thinks absolute power corrupts absolutely.
        Lois: What've you got against Superman, sir?
        Morgan: The same thing I'd have against anyone supremely powerful... I don't trust anyone who can't be stopped! A wise man once said that "power corrupts... and absolute power corrupts absolutely!" How do we know Superman will be an exception?
      • Later Superman thinks he doesn't buy his reasoning:
        Superman: Morgan Edge was wrong! Power isn't corrupting... It's freeing me — to do unlimited good!
      • Later Superman recovers his powers thanks to Wonder Woman's mentor I-Ching... but he hasn't recovered from a brain injury, and he becomes cocky, arrogant, impulsive and short-tempered. Ching fears that Superman will go berserk unless they help him.
      • Finally, after having a horrible vision in which he accidentally destroys the planet, Superman does not want to get his full powers back.
        Ching: Perhaps I can transfer the powers you took from Superman back to him!
        Superman: No! I've seen the dangers having too much power... I am human — I can make mistakes!
    • Ironically inverted in The Nail. In an alternate universe, Clark Kent never becomes Superman. This means that there's no moral lighthouse to make the world realize that metahumans and superheroes aren't inherently dangerous, with the result that metahumans are viciously discriminated against and the Justice League are despised and distrusted. Funny how things work out, huh?
    • The Superman Adventures has an Animal Superhero example in "Old Wounds"-turns out that combining normal canine instincts with Superman's power set is a recipe for disaster.
    • In Supergirl story Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade Lena hates super-powered beings. Linda -alias Supergirl- tries to convince her that a person can have superpowers without being a jerk. Unfortunately, their schoolmates are determined to prove Linda wrong.
    Linda: Come on... It's not like everyone with super powers is a complete jerk... [...] Okay... See... He's not everybody. Some people are jerks no matter what. But that doesn't mean that we're suddenly going to be treated differently just because we don't have super powers.
    • In the Supergirl arc Red Daughter of Krypton, Hal Jordan admits that a kryptonian wearing a red lantern ring is quite possibly the most dangerous thing in the universe.
    • In The Supergirl Saga, the only Kryptonians left in the Pocket Universe after Superboy's departure from that world and subsequent death are the Phantom Zone criminals. Its Lex Luthor accidentally let loose three of them, which proceeded to terrorize that universe's Earth and its inhabitants, going so far as to eradicate all life on that world, leaving Lex Luthor and his resistance team in Smallville as the only survivors. And even they proved to be no match against the three criminals who have Superboy's power. Thus its Lex Luthor brought Superman from the mainstream DC Universe to deal with the rogue Kryptonians once and for all.
  • Ultraman and Black Adam are the Evil Counterparts to Superman and Captain Marvel, for starters.
  • Badra, a Wonder Woman Vol 1 foe, was an early take on what might happen if a superpowered alien who was the last of their race and whose alien parents told them just how special and amazing they were landed on earth and was an entitled elitist who saw humans as beneath them and sought to recapture the glory of their destroyed homeworld. Diana sent her packing.
  • The original version of Rob Liefeld's Supreme was essentially an incredibly arrogant, ruthless version of early Golden Age activist Superman. He killed terrorists, villains, and (in one particularly notorious case) government-sanctioned teams with impunity and gore.
    • When this version was brought back at the beginning of Erik Larsen's run, he kills an invading army of villains in cold blood, depowers all the surviving Supremes from Alan Moore's run and embarks on a rampage of revenge against all the heroes (for not rescuing him)
  • Marshal Law believes ALL superheroes are exactly like that. Including him. As his Catchphrase says:
    Marshal Law: I'm a hero hunter. I hunt heroes. Haven't found any yet.
  • The original Squadron Supreme's limited series has this as the central theme, with the superheroes taking over their world's United States after it's trashed an alien mind-control menace, for the "greater good", of course. They do in fact succeed in eliminating poverty, war, and, though a (mostly) voluntary brain-modification unit, reforming most of the world's criminals. However, their own personal failings, rising team death count, and totalitarian underpinnings leave their attempt a failure, case in point being how their not-Green Arrow brainwashed their not-Black Canary to make sure she is always in love with him. He quickly regrets this but has to live with the consequences until he is discovered and expelled from the team.
  • Twenty years later, the Justice League (of whom the Squadron were expies) would likewise have a major storyline, Identity Crisis involving using Zatanna's magical brainwashing on super-powered criminals, following Doctor Light's rape of Sue Dibny. Not surprisingly, the main holdout on each team who rejected the plan in horror (playing the role of team conscience) was essentially the same character (Batman and his Captain Ersatz, Nighthawk).
  • J. Michael Straczynski's Supreme Power (and later Squadron Supreme) redid the Marvel classic Squadron Supreme to show a world where most supers are at least a bit more unhinged. Hyperion, while well-meaning, has been raised since birth to be the ultimate American patriot, and goes through a Heroic BSoD when he finds out. Zarda's a vampiric alien with little regard for human life and a stalker-like crush on Hyperion. Doctor Spectrum's being yanked around by an alien superweapon that occasionally takes over his mind. Nighthawk's a black vigilante with a strong antipathy for whites and a violent hatred for racists. Blur is (at first) a sellout who uses his powers for advertising. Arcanna wants to get rid of her powers. The Shape is a severely retarded superstrong juggernaut. Nuke is so dangerously radioactive that he must be sealed inside a lead suit. Master Menace is... well, a master of menace. Collateral damage is a major theme of the series, and there's been one mini where Hyperion goes insane and takes over the world.
    • A truly evil version of Hyperion shows up in Exiles as a reoccurring villain. In his own universe, Earth was completely destroyed in an attempt to fight him off. His only interest in travelling between dimensions is to find one that he can rule without too much effort. However, his ultimate defeat comes at the hands of two good counterparts who the Exiles have contacted, and who are very displeased.
    • JMS also plays with such a theme in Rising Stars; the Specials mostly mean well, but after All of the Other Reindeer turn against them, we start seeing some of the real damage they can do, especially after Critical Maas takes over Chicago. After the Surge, even the less aggressive ones tend to take what they want and ignore laws, just because they can.
  • Miracleman portrays all its supers as at least a bit flawed, from the well-meaning but ultimately authoritarian Miracleman to the sociopathic Kid Miracleman, who destroys all of London For the Evulz.
  • Whether or not The Authority are Earth's last line of defense against serious threats and a force for change, or a bunch of authoritarian despots who can't get outside their own heads, varies somewhat depending on who's writing which Wildstorm book this week. Much of the rest of the Wildstorm Universe is the same way.
    • In their original portrayal by Warren Ellis The Authority at least twice casually killed tons of civilian bystanders, who were guilty of nothing more than living under the rule of an Evil Overlord. Of course the analogue to American military involvement is brought up, to grey the issue more.
  • Planetary plays fast and loose with the trope, however: A cabal of superheroes does secretly rule the world and quite a lot of bad stuff is supernatural in origin. Still, many of the Earth's mysteries are neutral or even benign and the Century Babies (who are all immortal and superpowered) are implied to be the Earth's natural immune system against superpowered foes that would threaten humanity. By the end, Elijah Snow has managed to use the knowledge collected by The Four to avert Reed Richards Is Useless and eliminated global poverty, war and innumerable diseases.
  • Watchmen has only two superheroes with actual superpowers, but the very existence and the enormous extent of Dr. Manhattan's powers almost leads to a nuclear war. Although benevolent enough by himself, he is very weak-willed and kills uncounted Vietcong in the Vietnam War and a solid number of American criminals (petty and otherwise) basically only because somebody told him to. Throughout all of this, he becomes progressively detached from humanity, at one point watching a pregnant woman being murdered without even attempting to interfere. The others, though baseline humans, aren't much better, being well-meaning-though-flawed everymen at best and fanatical nutbag mass murderers at worst, ultimately leading to their actions being outlawed unless specifically condoned by the US government. It is telling that it is the seemingly most benevolent of the superheroes, Ozymandias, who commits the largest atrocities, all in the name of saving the world from itself.
  • In the DC Comics Multiverse Earth-3 and Anti-Earth are ruled by supervillain expies of Superheroes from Earth 1 or 2, and the only people capable of standing up to them are the superhero expies of the supervillains of Earth 1 or 2. Earth-8 is a Captain Ersatz of the current Ultimate Marvel universe in which the "heroes" are ruthless control freaks, and the Captain Ersatz Marvel villains (the Extremists), while hardly heroic, are the closest thing they have to good guys.
  • For that matter, some of the Ultimate Marvel heroes, especially The Ultimates, border on the edge of this trope themselves sometimes, except Ultimate Spider-Man, who is still an idealistic teenager.
  • The basic premise of Marvel Zombies is this borne of a Zombie Apocalypse. Almost all of the planet's heroes are now super-powered, flesh-eating monsters who hunt down and devour all life.
  • Powers touches on this frequently, depicting most supers with feet of clay. A story involving the Superman Substitute named Supershock is a particularly good example—he develops a god complex, destroys the Vatican and the Gaza Strip after going off the rails, and it's revealed that as powerful as the world knew he was, his true power level has been underplayed to avoid worldwide panic.
  • Kingdom Come:
    • This story is set in a future of The DCU wherein the next generation of superhumans took their cue from the Nineties Anti Heroes rather than 'outdated' heroes like Superman (who retired in disillusionment after one of them got off scot-free after murdering the Joker), with the result that the 'heroes' and 'villains' are more interested in recklessly kicking the tar out of each other than protecting the innocent. When The Capes do make a reappearance, their determination to rein in their more reckless brethren sees them quickly turn into Knight Templars. Unlike many of these universes, it's suggested that this one is at least partially the public's fault, as they overwhelmingly rejected the ideals of the old-fashioned heroes and placed their trust in the more 'modern' ones, only to learn too late what this meant.
      Magog: They chose the one who'd kill over the one who wouldn't. And now they're all dead.
    • Never mind that the final act of the story features Superman going into a blind rage at the governing powers. Just imagine that guy deciding to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against society. Fortunately, he gets talked down by someone who appeals to his older ways, but it's a close thing there.
  • Flashpoint has this as a scenario. The Atlanteans and Amazons are at war due to a convoluted, long-term plot by their leaders' Treacherous Advisors. Wonder Woman has taken over the UK, and Aquaman has sunken most of the European mainland in retaliation for Diana killing Mera. America is caught up in the paranoia that either of the parties may invade them some day (as Booster Gold can attest). Oh, and in a completely unrelated note, Grodd has taken control of Africa through continent-wide genocide.
    • In addition, this world has Subject Zero, a former U.S. Army soldier who became the first test subject of Project Superman, and had his powers augmented to the point of Nigh-Invulnerability. Due to him becoming increasingly unstable, he was locked down in the facility for twenty years and, when he broke out, he went on a rampage to prove himself as a hero. He is only stopped by Subject One - a.k.a. Kal-El .
  • The End League. 12 years ago, a screw-up by Astonishman, the resident Superman analogue, left the environment screwed up, 3 billion people dead, and 1 in 10,000 survivors with superpowers. In the present day, the Earth is dying, the starving masses are completely dependent on the supervillains who rule the world, and the surviving 10 heroes spend most of their time hiding in a bunker and scavenging for food.
  • The motivation behind much of Batman's distrust of many superpowered heroes, including among the groups he belongs to, in modern interpretations of the character. There's also Jean-Paul Valley, the first long-term temp Batman - an unhinged former Knight Templar Supersoldier who went so far down the Slippery Slope that Bruce had to take the mantle back by force.
    • Ironically a story of Superman/Batman comic has Bruce get Superman's power and became exactly this. He use his new powers to bring complete fear and order to Gotham's criminal underworld and eventually sets his sight to the world, but he became increasingly aggressive and nearly kills Bane and Catwoman. Superman and Zatanna restore him to normality.
  • Earth X starts out with the premise that every human being in the Marvel Universe has mutated into supers. Most of them are, at best, apathetic everymen, and a substantial number are jerkasses. The original heroes have either succumbed to apathy or are fighting a doomed war against human self-destructiveness. And then it turns out that all of this is part of the Celestial Plan.
  • In Irredeemable, the Plutonian went from Earth's mightiest and most beloved superhero to a mass murdering psychopath, pushed to the edge by a horrible combination of several factors (his pathological and desperate desire for everyone's unconditional love and approval, a very deeply messed up childhood, and just being Blessed with Suck). This comic was written by the same man who wrote Kingdom Come.
    • Before the Plutonian went full psycho, the only person capable of going toe-to-toe with him in a fight, Max Damage, was himself an embodiment of the trope. Max has his own excuse for it: he's incredibly strong and incredibly tough ... but as a result his skin is insensitive and he can no longer feel anything. Sleeping resets his powers to baseline momentarily, but he's got to shave or ... whatever else he wants to do and be able to feel itnote  ... as soon as he wakes up, because in less than an hour he's back to being invulnerable.
  • Avatar Press:
    • Three mini-series Warren Ellis wrote for them fit this trope. Black Summer begins with one of the super"heroes" murdering the president of the United States, No Hero which revolves around the worlds premiere superhero team in reality controlling world politics from behind the scenes, and Supergod takes the position that superhumans (all artificially created, like biological nukes) are exactly that, inhuman, alien beings who have moved beyond human concepts of morality and even basic mindset, and range from Well-Intentioned Extremist Krishna (who enacts a holocaust in India with the intent of reducing the population to a level where everyone can enjoy a high-technological lifestyle) to Omnicidal Maniac Daijal who destroys most of the planet because he thinks utopia is too boring.
    • And now there's Kieron Gillen's Über, where Nazi Germany manages to create super soldiers in the dying days of World War II. Things go downhill from there fast.
  • Superman: Red Son plays with this trope, having Superman take a much more authoritative role in his world. He actually creates a paradise, as long as you don't have a problem with your every move being watched, your day optimally calculated for you, and your criminals brainwashed into Superman-loving servants of the state. This Trope eventually plays into his desire to quit as it made him reluctant to assume the role of world leader in the first place.
  • Reign of the Supermen featured The Eradicator, who was Superman with fewer moral constraints. For example. upon foiling a bank robber, he crushes the man's hands so that he'll never be able to crack a safe again.
  • Lex Luthor invokes this thinking in Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, encouraging people to question Superman's supposed Omniscient Morality License when he, for instance, saves The Toyman from an angry mob, after the latter had seemingly blown up a daycare centre killing about a hundred people, about 70 of whom were children. Though Luthor's real reason (or so he tells himself) for hating the hero is that Superman, whether he means to or not, by dint of his mere existence make all human progress irrelevant and thus serves as a crutch that we need to overcome, which is a soft variation of this trope. Of course, given that every single evil thing that happens in this comic- including the daycare centre bombing (which Toyman insisted he was innocent of)-, were probably orchestrated by Luthor himself, Lex is less The Cassandra he thinks he is and more the deluded egotistical sociopath he always is; coupled with his Improbably High I.Q. and his billion dollar corporate empire, this means that the only Superman humanity should be worried about is Lex Luthor himself.
  • Frank Miller partially got in on the act in The Dark Knight Strikes Again: by the end of the series, variously due to needling from Batman and a series of Break the Cutie moments, Superman goes from a limp-wristed tool of the powers that be into the sort of personality who can say:
    Superman: Father. Mother. You were wrong. I will always treasure your memory, but you were wrong. I am subject to no man's laws. I am Superman.
    Superman: What shall we do with our planet, Lara?
    • Miller might just believe that this is an improvement for Supes, mind you...
  • Marvel's The Sentry eventually developed into this. The big problem is that Sentry is a Superman-level person who also happens to be an agoraphobic schizophrenic. This is not a good combination. In fact this is so bad that his latent telepathic powers actually created his archenemy the Void, meaning that Sentry manages to be a double case of this trope through his sheer existence.
  • The Mighty features Alpha One, a superhero with abilities like Superman. At first, he seems like a really good man who's been using his powers to the fullest ability to protect and benefit mankind. Then his latest second-in-command finds out... he's been engineering catastrophes to take the "tragic victims" off for his genetic experiments. Turns out he's a sociopathic alien who was exiled for blithely suggesting you can kill 1 in 10 people if it will make life better for everyone else.
  • Omniman of Invincible was a protector of his planet until it turned out that he was a mole for a race of evil super powered beings who wanted to conquer Earth. However, this is eventually subverted when it turns out both Omni-Man and the majority of his species are actually the result of a poorly-conceived social engineering experiment to make the race "stronger", and many of them are torn between the quasi-nazi ideology they've been brainwashed with, and their repressed desire for emotion and social and family bonding, which are all strictly forbidden by their society. Only a few are actually evil, and the rest quickly revert to forming normal emotional bonds when no longer under constant pressure to conform to social purity. Omni-Man himself basically had a nervous breakdown when torn between his obsession with his duty and the love for his human family.
  • Titan from Dark Horse Comics' Comics Greatest World imprint tried to act like a classic Superman, but the abuse he suffered during childhood, the trauma he suffered when he lost control of his powers during adolescence and the fact that most of the people he trusted and cared about manipulated him eventually caused him to suffer a mental breakdown, first against his former benefactors, then against the United States in general.
  • A God Somewhere (drawn by the same artist as The Mighty) tells the story of how suddenly becoming the first and only person with superpowers, and the mass media attention that comes along with this, sets an ordinary, sane man of arguably above-average character on a path that ends with a large body count and his loved ones traumatized for life. Because the reader is never given a direct glimpse of what this man is thinking, the motives behind his unnecessarily horrific actions remain as mysterious to us as to the characters in the story. After a certain point, he seems to have lost touch with any recognizably human sort of morality.
  • A recurring problem in the Marvel Universe. New York City in particular has been the epicenter for superhuman events from Galactus trying to devour the planet (on more than one occasion), demonic invasions and seemingly endless battles between superheroes and villains (or sometimes just between superheroes and other superheroes), aliens, the occasional giant monster of undefined origin and one instance where a Herald of the above-mentioned Galactus levitated Manhattan Island into orbit. Other examples include...
    • Magneto, who once blasted the entire planet with an EMP, has raised volcanoes on a whim and moved his giant space station around to anywhere he wants it. The Hulk has left trails of destruction across America countless times.
    • A prominent head of state goes by the name Doctor Doom and has successfully conquered the multiverse (or what was left of it, after the Incursions).
    • Oh, and there are multiple Reality Warpers, including the likes of Nate Grey, who can do it in their sleep.
      • Nate is a particular example, as he tended to act unilaterally from the start. Sure, he had the best of intentions and was generally a sweet kid, but he was obsessed with preventing another Age of Apocalypse, and was willing to do anything to that end. This progressed into his Shaman era, where he acted as protector of Earth from multiversal threats and eliminating people, especially mutants, who abused their powers. Later, he crossed the Despair Event Horizon, he decided to save the world whether it liked it or not, warping reality to that end, and effortlessly curbstomping multiple teams of X-Men who tried to stop him in the process (doubly worrying since they're the people who know him best and should be best able to stop him). He had a Heel Realization at the end of the following story, Age of X-Man, but even still - as Dark X-Men noted, he's an Omega Class mutant with a social conscience, which can be... disconcerting.
    • Oh, and the U.S. government has scary giant, purple robots flying around to "protect" the public from mutants. That any sane person does not live in a state of abject terror over all of this requires incredible powers of denial, a fact which has been lampshaded on many occasions.
    • Amusingly lampshaded during the Avengers/JLA crossover when some of the Marvel heroes arrive on the DC Earth and, after thwarting some criminals, are so stunned by people admiring and respecting superheroes that they're sure the JLA must have the entire population under some sort of dictatorial control.
    • Groups like the Friends of Humanity in the X-Men books believe this trope. While they're normal, they thrive on fear of mutants. Ironically, to even the playing field, they tend to rely on various high-tech weapons, many of which makes them MORE monstrous than the mutants they hate. Several prominent anti-mutant villains, such the infamous Reavers, are heavily modified cyborgs that are barely human anymore. One of the worst, and most hypocritical, are the U-Men; an organization which seeks to acquire super-powers by vivisecting mutants and grafting tissue, organs and limbs to themselves. Needless to say, they don't show up very often, because they're even Darker and Edgier than the Reavers.
    • Speaking of Magneto, he has an idealistic view of a world that is just like this. You should Beware The Superman because the human race is ready to die out. Mutants deserve to live as the supreme beings, towering over regular humans, operating on a "might makes right" principle (if humans do not have powers to defy mutantkind, then it is mutants who should inherit the Earth). House of M is the realization of this reality (unpowered humans have scattered while Magneto leads a world where mutantkind is the dominant species).
    • As of Jonathan Hickman's X-Men, the X-Men themselves have decided to give the world a reason to Beware the Supermen. Apparently snapping after decades of persecution with no end in sight, they've created an island nation and invited every mutant, heroic and villainous, to come be part of their society. No non-mutants allowed, of course. And they've embraced Magneto's Super Supremacist dogma, too, going so far as to liberate murderous mutant villain Sabretooth from human custody because, as far as they're now concerned, mutants are above human laws and courts. If if all that wasn't enough, they're also making deals with human governments to distribute mutant-made drugs to the population, taking a page in pharmaceutical population control out of Superior Iron Man's handbook. Suddenly all those human Strawman Political X-villains look like The Extremist Was Right... though later issues make matters more complicated, with Sabretooth's being acknowledged and his being made an example of (i.e. he won't end up in a human prison, but what happens is arguably worse - an And I Must Scream fate Buried Alive under Krakoa), while others explicitly reject Magneto's attitudes. However, a lot of issues are still structured to convey a kind of Grey-and-Gray Morality.
  • Paperinik New Adventures plays with it by making it true for the main villains, the Evronians:
    1. Trauma, an Evronian general that was changed into a Supersoldier and was later imprisoned in the prison world known as The Well (because you can't get out, but the Evronians will draw you out if they need you) for various insubordinations and outright mutiny justified by his superiority;
    2. Raghor, a Supersoldier of a different breed (created in lab from Evronian DNA hybridized with that of the 'beasts of Ranghar'), who, like Trauma, commits various insubordinations and outright mutiny. But where Trauma was implied doing what he believed best for Evron, Rahor plans the genocide of the baseline Evrons and their replacement with the supposedly superior hybrids. Most of the hybrids are subdued when their imprisoned handlers break out from prison and activate a device that enforce their obedience (they had installed it after the initial mutiny, and failed to use it before being imprisoned only because caught by surprise), while Raghor escapes execution only because a pissed Xadhoom gets him first;
    3. Another super soldier, this time a cyborg, who committed unspecified crimes. Showing that the Evronians were smart enough to expect this, they immediately subdued him by activating his off switch and shipping him to The Well;
    4. Xadhoom, an alien scientist who became a Physical Goddess whose vendetta against Evron and the fact she's pretty much invincible made her the primary cause for Evronian horribly painful deaths, to the point that in her final appearance in body (in the same issue the Evronian Empire was broken by the loss of a good chunk of its population and pretty much all its rulers), three Evronian battlefleets barely slowed her down while she was PLAYING with them;
    5. Zoster, an Evronian survivor. After Xadhoom became a star to save the survivors of her people, he managed to steal a recording of her mind and was told how to get her Power (with capital P in the original), and, as soon as he successfully did it, he threatened the whole universe of destruction if they didn't submit. Thankfully, Xadhoom created the recording exactly for this occasion, and the recording not only didn't tell him that the Power contains the seed of its own destruction, but was gloating as he dissolved into nothingness.
  • In All Fall Down, Siphon is arrested for involuntary manslaughter, and held in suspicion by a portion of the public throughout her career.
  • In Animal Man Grant Morrison did a potshot at the 80s with Overman, a Superman from an alternate Earth where all heroes were created by the government. Overman contracted an STD and went insane, murdering just about every hero who tried to stop him before deciding to commit suicide and destroy the world at the same time with a nuke. Psycho Pirate provides commentary on what a completely stupid idea Overman's world was and wondered who could've come up with it in the first place, or rather, why.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws: Jason has a respect for Superman as much as a surfer has for sharks. After having worked beside him after all those years ago has more or less taught him to be Properly Paranoid the second that the Kryptonian gets involved.
    • Ironically the latest incident turned out to be a complete screw-up as Superman was trying to warn him and his friends about H'el, complete with his then girlfriend calling everyone involved an idiot for attacking without bothering to hear Superman out first.
  • The DC New 52 reboot has most governments mistrustful of superheroes by default, Superman included. The Justice League of America (2013) was spun out for this explicit reason - they wanted a team under their direct control.
    • Pretty much all of America is afraid of Aquaman and Atlanteans after Throne of Atlantis. What was "lol talking to fish is stupid", just got turned into "These guys could sink us all!"
  • Empowered kind of invokes this; most superheroes are media-attention-craving jerkasses and most supervillains seem to be Silver Age in their antics. However, there is a strong anti-superhuman sentiment because of the attitudes of the "Capes", good and evil, and this is a very dangerous attitude to hold. The heroes won't normally try anything against an anti-Capeist, but if pushed, they will push back. One oft-talked about background incident is San Antonio, where an anti-Cape conspiracy actually went on a Cape-killing spree. Capes from both sides of the ethical divide promptly retaliated; we don't know all the details, but we do know that even heroes didn't hesitate to kill the conspiracy members, and somehow it ended with the capes destroying the whole city by breaking the Earth's crust with an alien superweapon, an event officially explained away as a mysterious erupting volcano. We know of exactly one surviving anti-Cape from that day: Empowered's boyfriend, ThugBoy.
  • In Star Wars, especially the Expanded Universe this is the reason why falling to The Dark Side is so terrible. Even a single one of the weakest of Dark Jedi and Sith are powerful enough to kill small armies singlehandedly, while some of the most powerful can KILL ENTIRE PLANETS, as well as raise armies out of similar minded individuals. Just one Force User going Dark Side is enough to cause galaxy-wide chaos. And to make things worse, the Dark Side is addictive. Even if a Jedi slips into it by accident, it takes incredible willpower to turn back and avoid becoming a monster.
    • Even Jedi who haven't turned to the Dark Side can often get this treatment from certain writers.
    • This was one of the central arguments David Brin had against the world of Star Wars, arguing George Lucas's universe was based on a depraved Might Makes Right morality where Muggles had no role aside from spear carriers for a small, genetically elect elite.
  • This is the motivation behind the Headmaster of Praetorian Academy in PS238. He doesn't trust metahumanity (not unreasonably given one of his major political opponents was a telepath who manipulated his way into the US Presidency) and thinks the world is on track for a Goo Goo Godlike scenario - and what happens when the first true Reality Warper child has a temper tantrum? There's also an element of this in the United States government keeping a supply of argonite, the kryptonite analogue that can stop Atlas, the local Captain Ersatz of Superman. Except it turns out the government manufactured the argonite as an all-purpose Flying Brick disabler, and his homeworld of Argos was never destroyed. But Argos is ruled by a repressive Fantastic Caste System where those with superpowers treat those without like garbage.
  • The Ten-Seconders: A group of aliens crash-landed on Earth to escape a greater threat and posed as godlike superheroes to rule over humanity. These "Gods" then decided that humans were beneath them and proceed to wipe out their civilization.
  • Subverted in Brat Pack with True-Man, a godlike being and Slumburg's only genuine hero.
  • In The Boys virtually all superheroes are narcissistic sociopaths and the Superman Substitute of the setting is a greedy, ruthless tyrant as well as a Big Bad. The only truly benevolent superheroes shown are Starlight, who hasn't been in the game long enough to be thoroughly corrupted, and the Superduper team, which is essentially a superhero equivalent of the short bus, consisting mostly of metahumans with marginal powers and various disorders.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm is broadly optimistic about heroes who, even if they are sometimes ruthless, keep to the Thou Shalt Not Kill rule whilst acting as superheroes, fight selflessly and inspire hope. However, there is a consistent fear that Harry might finally snap and become this, thanks to all that he endures throughout the story (dying is a relatively mild example), the vast amount of poorly-controlled power dumped on him, and the fact that he's connected to the Phoenix, which makes him a potential Apocalypse Maiden. He veers very close on a couple of occasions, but ends up emerging more heroic than before (eventually). Yet even still, the concerns of the likes Victor von Doom that the Avengers might just decide to depose him one day because they don't like him (which they have done before In-Universe) are treated as at least logical, and Peter Wisdom a.k.a. Regulus Black is depicted as a Well-Intentioned Extremist (if leaning towards Token Evil Teammate territory) rather than simply a ruthless Hunter of His Own Kind when leading MI13 with the intent of usurping the Ministry.
    • Oh, and then there's the fact that Doctor Strange casually makes and breaks people, empires, even gods, to fit his own plans, and has absolutely no accountability to anyone whatsoever. As Lt. Murphy says when she's told of the sheer scale of his manipulations (they go back millennia, and if something doesn't have his fingerprints on it, it's directly affected by something that did), that kind of power is "terrifying."
  • Contract Labor: In chapter 17, Tsuruko bemoans the fact that the skills of the Shinmei-ryū school, which have been passed down for generations in order to protect others, have been abused by an "angry petulant little girl" like Motoko.
  • In A Force of Four Superman was the Earth's protector for forty-seven years and Power Girl is his heiress. The two of them are decent people. Badra, Mala, Kizo and U-Ban… are not. They’re confident that their powers allow them to get away with anything: Killing, raping, destroying…
  • In-Universe in Service with a Smile, there is a bit of a social barrier between civilians and Huntsmen. As Jaune's business gains popularity among Huntsmen, many of his civilian customers start abandoning it. As Roman points out, Hunstmen have super strength and can cause accidents without meaning too.
  • In Supergirl story Hellsister Trilogy, Satan Girl shows how dangerous and terrifying it'd be a Pre-Crisis Kryptonian with nonexistent morals. She’ll head-butt a planetoid out of orbit only for amusement.
    Kryptonians could survive in space without a suit. Was that not a pleasure? It certainly was. She could live her life between the stars, and never once need to breathe.
    She could devastate planets, wipe them clean of life. Rebuild them at her whim.
    She could tyrannize worlds, whole systems of planets, make them bow to her mighty hand, instantly execute anyone who dared protest—or just anybody she wanted to kill.
    She could explore pleasures of the body that Kara never would have dared to, satisfy lusts that the blonde beast never even knew she had. She could force herself upon any suitor, male or female or whatever, and destroy them after their job was done. Or perhaps just maim them, so that they could never again do such a job for anyone else. Satan Girl smiled. Now that was being imaginative...
    She could have children from those couplings, or kill them in the womb.
    She could become a goddess to an unsophisticated planet's people. Drinking in their worship, demanding sacrifice.
    All of this she could do, she would do, and more.
    For Kryptonians and Daxamites were gods, off their homeworlds. They really were. What a pity their morality forced them not to realize that fact.
    She clasped her bent knees to her chest and thought. The problem was, in this time, she was hardly unique. Billions of Kryptonians existed on Rokyn. Billions more Daxamites, with the same power, existed on Daxam. Luckily, there was only one prisoner still left in the Phantom Zone, that old poop Gazor, so there wasn't much competition there.
    But, somehow, she'd have to do something about both planets. Daxam would be easy. A shower of leaden hail across its surface, and the dead would litter the ground in heaps beyond Hitler's and Stalin's dreams.
    That world would stink of corpses for eons to come.
    She laughed soundlessly.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supergirl crossover The Vampire of Steel, Zol-Am was an evil asshole long before being turned. Now he's an evil asshole of a vampire with powers greater than a regular Kryptonian. And he's hungry.
  • Reconstructed in Teen titans fanfic Transition out of four metahumans affected by the Swirly Energy Thingy only Beastboy plays it straight when his attempts to find Raven result in Slowly Slipping Into Evil. By contrast Terra starts blaming herself for Ravens disappearance and becomes suicidal, but ultimately stays good while Raven and Jinx develop Enlightenment Superpowers (which was what the Swirly Energy Thingy was supposed to do) but people's paranoia that they'll play it straight (mostly the police and Batman) inadvertently make them wreak havoc before the situation is cleared up and they can fix everything.

    Films — Animated 
  • Megamind: The premise of the Super Hero Deconstruction film has the titular Super Villain try to create a new superhero, after his traditional opponent, Metro Man, died. Megamind ends up giving the Flying Brick powers to seemingly lovable loser, Hal, and tells him to be a hero. When the girl Hal was obsessed with, rejects him, he decides to give up being a Super Hero and use his powers for petty crime instead. When Megamind taunts Hal in an attempt to get him to oppose him like Metro Man did, Hal turns into a flat-out Super Villain, takes over the city and creates real havoc as opposed to the comparatively Laughably Evil villainy of Megamind.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie had the eponymous characters treated as outcasts, after their game of tag destroyed most of the city.
  • Superman vs. the Elite, which is based on one of the definitive Superman stories, 'What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, and The American Way'. At the end Superman seemingly takes on the Elite's brutal style of heroics during their fight. The results terrify even the Elites, who'd been espousing their style for the entire movie, and proves WHY Superman holds himself to such a high standard. However, this ends up being an act as a means to scare the Elite without resorting to murder.
    UN Official: Is that... Superman?
    UN Official: Not anymore.
  • In Superman: Doomsday, when Superman comes back to life following his battle to the death with Doomsday, he starts behaving more like a violent vigilante. The least offending act has him berating an old lady whose cat couldn't get down from a tree, and very subtly warning that it better not happen again, or else. When Toyman kills a four year old girl, Superman goes to the police station where he's being taken, flies him up several hundred feet and lets go, killing him. When it's revealed that Superman is acting the way he is because Luthor cloned him, and unknowingly conditioned him to be like him, Superman rips out the red-sun room Luthor tried to lure him into from Lex Tower, and drops it hundreds feet onto the street. Seeing that Superman is getting out of control, the military is sent to apprehend him, and goes exactly as expected. He's only stopped because the real Superman arrives to confront him, and used a kryptonite bullet to put him down.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Hancock plays with this trope. Hancock is mostly a good guy but is also a drunk, extremely arrogant, ends up causing millions of dollars worth of collateral damage when he doesn't need to, and is just plain rude. At the start of the movie, it is quickly pointed out that the public doesn't really want him around and that he's actually wanted by the police for all of the damage he's done whilst "saving" people. Obviously, no one can arrest him unless he wants to be. He does get nicer by the end, though.
  • My Super Ex-Girlfriend plays this trope for laughs when an average Joe breaks up with his girlfriend who just happens to be a superhero... and abusive, too.
  • There is a sub-plot in Superman III where he becomes temporarily evil due to Applied Phlebotinum. In one scene, he starts flicking bar nuts through a wall while drunk.
  • In Spider-Man 3, we get elements of this when Spidey is influenced by the symbiotic suit, turning him evil. The public perception of him throughout the series sometimes reflects this as well. Specifically, J. J. Jameson plays up this perception to sell newspapers, much to Peter Parker's dismay. Jameson only does this because Spider-Man won't do an exclusive for his paper.
    J.J. Jameson: He doesn't want to be famous? Then I'll make him infamous.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • The series plays with this trope, although it's more along the lines of Beware the Supermen. Generally, this attitude of not trusting superpowered mutants is seen in a negative light, but considering the villains that pop up, some audience members might understand why non-mutants are so afraid.
    • X-Men: First Class appears to end in a manner which puts the world into such a setting. Up until the Cuban Missile Crisis, mutantkind was an unnoticed breed, but then the whole thing is blown wide open due to Magneto's actions against the fleets of ships at the climax. However, X-Men: Days of Future Past reveals that the US government had kept the mutants' involvement a secret from the public, with one member even pointing out to Trask that, Magneto's actions aside, mutants have obviously been living peacefully (and silently) alongside humans for decades.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past: Dr. Bolivar Trask's goal in building the Sentinels is to prevent the extinction of Homo sapiens by Homo superior.
  • The trope was fundamental for the DC Extended Universe's beginnings:
    • Jonathan Kent believes he is preventing this reaction in Man of Steel by trying to keep Clark's talents under wraps through his childhood. He even willingly gives his life just to maintain his position. However, Clark can't resist his instinct to prevent unnecessary tragedies when he can do something about it and eventually he is forcibly outed by Zod's invasion. Zod's invasion does indeed provoke this response from humanity (and rightfully so; Zod's scheme likely left a six-digit death toll in its wake), though they also learn to believe Superman is their ally through the same experience, though the military is still wary at the end of the movie, with Clark disabling one of their drones, telling them to trust him.
    • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the massive destruction wrought by Zod and Clark's fight leads to widespread distrust of Superman from a significant portion of the world, including Bruce Wayne, who was present in Metropolis as he saw many of his employees die. This is also Lex Luthor's reason for opposing Superman, alongside what seems to be a hatred of Godlike figures.
    • And in Suicide Squad, this fear of what a Superman-like entity could do if he decided to act against the world (or at least the interests of the U.S Government) is the driving force behind the creation of the eponymous squad of supervillains pressed into government service.
    • The trope is heavily discussed in SHAZAM! (2019). The last remaining member of the Wizard Council is aware of the consequences of giving his magic to the wrong person since their previous champion eventually went evil, so he wants to be sure he gives it to a human pure of heart. However, since Humans Are Flawed, he takes too long to find one that meets his criteria, and is ultimately forced to give his powers to a kid and hope for the best.
  • In Perfect Creature, the Brothers are a Christian order of vampires that lives in peaceful coexistence with humans, who views them as benevolent creatures that are closer to God whose purpose is to teach and protect humans rather than prey on them. This trope comes into play, when a rogue Brother named Edgar goes on a killing spree, seeing humans as nothing more than blood-bags to feast upon.
  • Played on multiple levels in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
    • There's regular Joes and politicians who think that the "supermen" like the Avengers should not be allowed to act on their own (one important reason being their collateral damage). These viewpoints get explored in Iron Man 2 and are the main driving factor behind the Accords in Captain America: Civil War.
    • On a grander scale, mankind finding out that gods exist in Thor causes a few scares for mankind. The Avengers (2012) shows the effect a few times (mainly SHIELD's reaction), and by the end of that film actual aliens have caused massive damage in Manhattan, providing additional arguments for this trope in future movies.
    • WandaVision also explores this, as noted in the Live-Action TV section.
  • Brightburn is a horror film that casts a little boy with Superman's powerset as the monster, and showcases, in true horror fashion, just how frightening someone with these kinds of powers and no concern for humanity can actually be. This film is essentially Beware the Superman, The Movie.
  • Glass toys with this concept in dialogue between Mr. Glass and the Horde, with Glass seeking to bring about this scenario to prove to the world that superpowered beings exist. Meanwhile, the Clover group seen in the climax has apparently been working for 10,000 years to avert this. As explained by Dr. Staple, they have secretly spent millennia killing people with powers, good or evil, specifically to give humanity a fighting chance. With the Masquerade having been destroyed by the end of the film, it appears that only time will tell whether their fears were warranted or not.

  • In the early stories based on the popular Magic: The Gathering card game, the characters that you play the game as (powerful wizards and demigods who summon assorted fantasy creatures to fight for them in epic battles) are actively despised by the general populace. This is because they have the annoying tendency to summon people who are just sitting at home, minding their own business with their friends and family, into huge magical battles where they could easily be killed or crippled. Several stories detailed the suffering the family members of summoned creatures have to endure when their loved ones are returned dead or crippled. After the lore Revision following the start of the Weatherlight Saga, Summoning instead materializes an idealized image of whatever you are trying to summon, be it a soldier, a particular animal or even a specific person.
    • A particular quote that sums it up after Freyalise has broken the Ice Age without concern for what the sudden climatic shift would do to the world at large:
    Archmage Jodah: [Sharing the world with planeswalkers] is like sharing your bed with a mammoth. Sure, it may be a nice mammoth, but when it rolls over, you'd still better get out of its way fast.
  • A major theme in Frank Herbert's Dune novels, many of the protagonists are powerful God Emperors who act like genocidal tyrants for the good of mankind.
  • This is explored with a science-fiction twist in Nancy Kress's Beggars in Spain trilogy.
  • This is how most non-powered individuals think of "freaks" in Those Who Walk in Darkness—whenever superpowered vigilantes appear, superpowered criminals try to earn prestige by killing them, and every couple weeks a few more innocent people get killed in the crossfire. So after one villain blew up San Francisco, the USA forcibly expelled all known supers, regardless of whether or not they were actually vigilantes, and any new ones that are discovered are either slaughtered or experimented on. Beware the muggles too!
  • Ironically, Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster, the men who would go on to create Superman himself, originally wrote and illustrated a short story called The Reign of the Super-Man about an impoverished worker who gained super powers and tried to take over the world, only to find that the powers were temporary. They wrote the story for a science fiction magazine and later retooled the character as a superhero.
  • In Hard Magic, part of the Imperium's plan for taking over the world is to sow distrust of Actives in the United States, by framing them for a Peace Ray attack.
  • Averted in most of J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium precisely because the good guys (the Valar, the loyalist Maiar, those Elves and Men who pay attention to them) recognize the fundamental truth that no matter how much power they might possess in their relative scale, they are not God. Thus Gandalf and his fellow Wizards, angelic messengers sent by the Valar to contest Sauron, are specifically ordered to use persuasion and example — not force — to rally Elves and Men against the demonic Sauron. They use their vast powers only in extreme situations, where nothing else will do. Likewise, the Valar tend throughout history to leave Elves and Men to their own devices most of the time, since swaying them by force or fear does more harm than whatever harm they set out to prevent. Played straight by Morgoth, Sauron and Saruman, fallen angels who (in the first two cases) actually set themselves up as gods over people they rule. Not surprising, of course, as fallen angels are usually called demons, and in Morgoth's case he was specifically modeled on Satan (or be him by another name).
  • In the Honor Harrington series, Earth's devastating Final War was fought by Super Soldiers with intelligence boosts that all too frequently had the side-effect of increased aggression and sociopathic tendencies. This is the main reason for Luddism and prejudice against genetic engineering. The Harrington family's Meyerdahl Beta line is one of the few successful lines to boost intelligence without creating amoral monsters, but even Honor is aware that her own killer instinct may be linked to it. It's worth noting also that the Winton family line are geniuses who probably have intelligence boosts, and Elizabeth is infamous for a volcanic and implacable temper. And it's continuing now with the Mesan Alignment, who believe in the superiority of those who have been genetically engineered over normals, and are trying to take over the galaxy. Oh, and the Harrington Line was originally one of theirs.
  • In the original novel of Carrie, it's implied that this is likely to happen in the future after the "Black Prom" made people aware of the existence of Psychic Powers. Government agents would be forced to round up and execute children the moment they display a hint of psychic ability, so as to eliminate the off chance that they may snap and use their powers to kill people and destroy towns like Carrie did. The possibility is also raised that some parents would resist having their children taken away, which, combined with the last page's discussion of little Annie Jenks, means that another disaster is still in the cards...
  • Revealed to be the primary purpose of the White Council of Wizards in The Dresden Files. They're nominally in charge of dealing with supernatural threats to humanity (since no one else is, mostly), but their main concern is dealing with humans using their magic to harm others.
  • Philip K. Dick wrote his story The Golden Man as a reaction to stories such as Slan that starred superpowered and benevolent "mutants" that were often persecuted by the rest of humanity. In his own words:
    In the early Fifties much American science fiction dealt with human mutants and their glorious super-powers and super-faculties by which they would presently lead mankind to a higher state of existence, a sort of promised land. John W. Campbell. Jr., editor at Analog, demanded that the stories he bought dealt with such wonderful mutants, and he also insisted that the mutants always be shown as (1) good; and (2) firmly in charge. When I wrote "The Golden Man" I intended to show that (1) the mutant might not be good, at least good for the rest of mankind, for us ordinaries; and (2) not in charge but sniping at us as a bandit would, a feral mutant who potentially would do us more harm than good. This was specifically the view of psionic mutants that Campbell loathed, and the theme in fiction that he refused to publish… so my story appeared in If.
  • A central part of Epics in the The Reckoners Trilogy. Every single person who develops super powers is becomes evil, basically losing any regard for the lives of those around them. Steelheart, an Expy of Superman, takes over Chicago and turnS it into a totalitarian dictatorship where unpowered people live in constant fear, and most of the rest of the country (if not the world) is in a similar situation. Newcago is actually considered a relatively nice place to live, since it is fairly stable with food and electricity and other conveniences available.
  • Invoked in Murderess: The man in Lu’s dreams quotes a prophecy saying that his and his wife’s daughter will either save the world or destroy it. The daughter is actually Lu.
  • This is what everyone thinks of the Lost Radiants in The Stormlight Archive. They were super-powered knights dedicated to protecting the world from demons who one day turned on humanity as a whole. The actual story is a little more complicated: they learned a dark secret and...left. Just dropped their weapons and armor and left. A religious dictatorship called the Hierarchy heavily altered most records of the time to fit with their version of history, which means most people have difficulty thinking of anyone with powers as anything but a danger, though we discover in the second book that it's a little more complicated than just "dropped their weapons and armor and left." Breaking their Oaths like that partially killed their Bond Creatures, leaving those creatures stuck in endless agony so severe that even a few seconds exposure to the pain is enough to drive men crazy. Entire species were wiped out this way.
  • The genetically engineered superhumans in Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars are all ambitious, taking over territory and causing nothing but trouble. They're all willing to trade away innocent lives for whatever their goal is.
  • The world as a whole having this reaction is what initiates the third act of Fine Structure. Powers are created when a random individual has a fraction of Oul's power earthed into them. It was occasionally stated that the US Military was hoping for a Power to eventually be created in the US, and eventually they discover how to earth parts of Xio's power, resulting in them becoming able to manufacture their own artificial Powers. The sheer potential for such power to be abused is demonstrated to horrifying effect when the newly-formed United States Special Air Command (USSAC) is used to dominate the entire world and bring every other nation under the US' rule. After the New Cosmology is put in place and all the Powers are cut off from Oul and Xio, the rest of the world is so angry at the United States for the abuse and conquest the suffered that they retaliate with all the nuclear arsenals available to them, ushering in the Hot Wars.

    Live Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Simone from the comics, as a vampire slayer. In Slaypire, her goal was to turn Slayers into vampires.
    • Faith believed she was better than other people because she's a Slayer.
  • Star Trek:
    • In "Space Seed" and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Khan and the Augments were genetically engineered superhumans created by a cabal of scientists; their enhanced abilities resulted in enhanced ambition, leading to them betraying their creators and launching a worldwide conflict in which rival warlords fought one another while treating normal humans like slaves. Their defeat led to laws restricting the genetically enhanced in Federation society, which nearly ends the career of Dr. Bashir (whose parents had him illegally enhanced) on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
      • Star Trek: Enterprise eventually shows that the real problem with the Augments is the process was defective: The changes made to their brains that gave them greater intelligence also made them emotionally unstable and poorly equipped to deal with the consequences of physical and intellectual superiority to other people. The results were...unfortunate.
    • A number of other examples show up in the series, going back to Gary Mitchell in the second pilot:
      Kirk: You were a psychiatrist once. You know the ugly, savage things we all keep buried, that none of us dare expose. But he'll dare. Who's to stop him?
  • J. Michael Straczynski likes this trope. His Babylon 5 series has the Psi-Corps, the result of a Super Registration Act that only served to unite telepaths in a monstrous organization with the creed that "mundanes" are expendable.
  • In Heroes the fear of this trope coming into effect is partly the motivation of the Company. They fear that if allowed to go unchecked, superpowered people will cause destruction and chaos. This fear is later revealed to have been brought about by a case of this trope; Linderman and a bunch of other people with powers decided to work together as a team to help the world, only for several members of the group to betray the others and use their powers for evil. The Company arose to prevent such an incident from happening again.
  • The whole plot of Misfits is based around a group of super-powered teenagers that are forced to contend with other super-powered people who are bound to abuse their powers. This is stated from the very first episode and becomes a point of conflict when Kelly scorns Seth for selling powers due to the chaos that would ensue.
  • The Nietzscheans of Andromeda brought about the fall of the multiple galaxy-spanning Commonwealth. Their precise motivations aren't so clear.
    • In a twist, it becomes clear fairly early on that Neitzscheans aren't so superior physical or mentally to the average human, in part because most of humanity is genetically modified in some way or the other. One should beware the superman, but more because he thinks he is a superman than because he is one.
    • According to the background material, the Nietzscheans had legitimate concerns, especially after the Magog invasion and the resultant treaty, which gave the Magog a number of border worlds, most of which were settled by Nietzscheans. To these übermenschen, this was not only a betrayal of them by the Commonwealth but appeasement (see World War II for how well that worked historically). Their goal was to replace the "weak" government with a powerful Nietzschean Empire with the Drago-Kazov pride as the imperial dynasty. Thanks to Dylan, that was not meant to be, although it's implied that the empire would've quickly collapsed on itself through infighting, given their tendency toward Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
  • Smallville:
    • The Earth-2 Metropolis is terrorized by Clark Luthor (Ultraman), an acknowledged vigilante and murderer.
    • The Superhero Registration Act story arc was caused by certain people convincing the government that superheroes would all become this trope if left unchecked.
    • This also happened in season 9, in the Bad Future where Clark had failed to stop Major Zod from turning the sun red and giving his troops artificial superpowers from the stolen sunlight.
  • On Supergirl (2015), exposure to Red Kryptonite makes Kara into a berserk Person of Mass Destruction, attacking people and destroying everything in her way. She's overcome with remorse as the people of National City now fear her.
  • Arrowverse crossover Crisis on Earth-X features an alternate reality where the Nazis took over the world and heroes like Green Arrow, Supergirl and the Flash are Nazis as well. The Dark Arrow in particular serves as the current Fuhrer during the start of the event.
  • In Doctor Who, it's revealed in 2013's "The Name of the Doctor" that the central character's title of "The Doctor" is his self-imposed promise never to succumb to this type of behavior, but rather to be "Never cruel or cowardly. Never give up. Never give in." (As he puts it in the next story, "The Day of the Doctor".) In several stories, he does temporarily break that promise, and always when he has no companion serving as a Morality Pet. He always comes back to his best self, but usually at a cost.
    • The Tenth Doctor's turn as the "Time Lord Victorious" in 2009's "The Waters of Mars" has him attempt to change a fixed moment in time — one that's crucial to the history of humanity in the larger universe — to save doomed lives, justifying it on the basis of being the Last of His Kind. The problem is that changing a fixed moment threatens the universe with a Reality-Breaking Paradox, and in the end that's only prevented via a woman's suicide. The resultant changes his actions manage to make are all for the worse, and he doesn't fully redeem himself until the next story, "The End of Time"... which is also his last, not counting "The Day of the Doctor" set earlier in his timeline.
    • The War Doctor, of "The Name of the Doctor" and 50th anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor", was an extended example of this happening to him. Happily, the ending of the latter reveals that he and his other lives later managed to save Gallifrey rather than destroy it.
    • Over the course of 2015's Series 9, the Twelfth Doctor becomes increasingly frustrated with his nigh-immortality meaning he ultimately loses everyone he comes to care for and others besides. He becomes increasingly desperate to protect his companion Clara Oswald and to save others no matter how risky the means are, resulting in him immortalizing a human girl, Ashildr — which causes him trouble down the line. This sets up the Series 9 finale "Hell Bent", in which he becomes The Unfettered Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds in the wake of captivity, torture, and the death of Clara. Said spoilered event is another fixed moment in time that he attempts to undo, arguing Dude, Where's My Reward? with regard to all he's done for others at one point. Perhaps because he follows the "Never give up. Never give in" part of his credo a little too well this time, in the climax he revises it to "Never be cruel and never be cowardly. And if you ever are, always make amends" as he returns to his best self with a little help from a Mind Rape that made him forget Clara ever existed.
    • In fact the Twelfth Doctor would realise in the novelization of his Grand Finale that the only Doctor not to have engaged in this was the selfish, irritable old man that was the First Doctor.
  • In Powers the original purpose of Kaotic Chic was to raise awareness of how reckless Powers could be. Unfortunately they ended up proving to be just as, if not more, dangerous.
  • The Boys (2019): One of the series' main themes. Superheroes, just like normal human characters in this world, are at best individuals dealing with serious issues and at worst are villains drunk on power.
    • Homelander is the most obvious example of this since he is actually a twisted Superman Substitute.
    • Billy Butcher invokes the trope as justification for his hatred of all "supes", most prominently expressed during the group therapy scene. How much of it is genuine and how much is it just an excuse he uses to deal with personal trauma is left for the viewer to decide.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In the episode "It's a Good Life" Anthony Fremont is a six year old boy who can wish up anything he wants, and can also read people's minds. Thus everyone has to do and put up with whatever he wants, and they better say, and think, they like it or he'll turn them into some ungodly horror, or send them into "the Field."
  • WandaVision shows that, ever since the events of Avengers: Infinity War, there has been a lot of paranoia about superpowered beings, and that this heavily informs Director Hayward's distrust of Wanda Maximoff. It also shows us what happens when a superhero with Reality Warper powers has a complete mental breakdown. The residents of Westview, New Jersey are fully aware of what Wanda has done to them, and they are absolutely terrified of her.

  • KMFDM's 'Son of a Gun' is, at least on the surface, a song about a jerk-ass superman with a dollar sign on his chest.
    Forged from steel, iron will
    Shit for brains, born to kill
    All are equal, no discrimination
    Son of a Gun, a simple equation
    Son of a gun, master of fate
    Bows to no god, kingdom or state
    Watch out!
    Son of a Gun, superhero number one!
  • Spiritus Mortis' 'The Man of Steel'
    Ultimate in body and soul
    Every cell hard as diamond
    Every thought crystal clear
    March with the man of steel
    Rejoice with the man of steel
    Die for the man of steel
    Obey every command given by the man of steel
  • GWAR is made of this trope, but less focused on taking over the world and more focused on drugs and violence.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The superhero RPG Aberrant details the sudden emergence of superpowered humans in 1998; however, Aberrant came as a prequel to the futuristic sci-fi RPG Trinity, which reveals that many of the superhumans (named "aberrants" in the far future) became tainted by their powers, went mad, declared war on Earth, and caused all manners of destruction before taking off for the vast reaches of space. There are some sane "aberrants," but most of them went crazy nuts. Part of the drama of Aberrant comes from either trying to escape the fate of the future aberrants, or making sure it never comes to pass.
  • Exalted has the Great Curse, an infliction launched by the Primordials after being defeated by the Exalted that drives Solars and Lunars to states of ever-mounting insanity once they start to defy their core virtues. The books make clear that, for all the shiny transhuman fantasy of the First Age, it could also be a very scary time to live in if you were a mere mortal.
    • To put this in perspective: In Dreams of the First Age, it is revealed that there was a political movement in the Solar Deliberative to literally dismantle the universe and reshape it to their specifications. What's more, they had more than enough power to pull this off. Imagine three hundred beings with all that power and confidence, in absolute control of the world...and slowly but surely going completely crazy.
    • Another specific example in the second edition is in the description of the Charm "Lawgiver's Parable Defense," which allows a Solar to pre-emptively find signs of a crime to be committed against their loved ones. "... a growing number of Solars have stopped using this Charm, suspecting some defect in its design—surely Lawgiver’s Parable Defense must be in error when it points to the Solars themselves as the threats that menace the things they love."
    • On the other hand, Exalted also features the Alchemical Exalted, who were created after the Great Curse was cast and thus aren't subject to the same bouts of insanity as the other Exalted. The Alchemicals are often explicitly compared to traditional modern superheroes in contrast to the Solars and others who bear more resemblance to the heroes and god-kings of mythology.
  • In case you didn't notice the theme in White Wolf's other works, the Old World of Darkness often hints at these matters. The werewolves might be necessary to keep the universe's fundamental aspects of law, chaos, and corruption in order, the mages might be the last chance humanity has for real inspiration and survival After the End, but there's a reason Hunters want to take them down. At best, creatures of the Old World of Darkness are a slow, unavoidable slide down the slippery slope toward the complete destruction of their virtues into complete insanity, and not particularly disposed to think of people as people until then. At worst...
    • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Garou are dealing with the far-reaching consequences of their ancestors' cruelty and arrogance. The Garou of ancient times declared themselves masters over humans, then decided to cull the human population through the Impergium. The Impergium afflicted humanity with the Delirium and made it dangerous for Garou to reveal themselves to non-kinfolk humans, driving them underground. Unfortunately, if the tribebooks are anything to go by, many Garou still haven't learned from the mistakes of their predecessors.
    • In Vampire: The Masquerade, Caine and the other ancient vampires ruled over humans in the First City, which wasn't exactly an urban paradise for their human subjects. Several Gehenna scenarios place humanity at the mercy of powerful antedeluvian vampires.
    • Then we get the New World of Darkness. Here things are more or less as before, but without the same drive to The End of the World as We Know It. Half of any given race is on the high road, and the other half give the race a bad name.
  • In Unknown Armies, the incredibly powerful beings that hide amongst humanity are, on average, less concerned with human life and ethics and more concerned with collecting even more power. This doesn't necessarily make them evil, but it does lead to erratic, antisocial behavior that puts everyone around them at risk. And since power directly correlates to how much of yourself you're willing to spend to get it, the most powerful beings that humanity's ever produced often don't map well to any moral compass. They might help you, and they might save the day, but their assistance rarely comes without complications or cost.
  • Horus from Warhammer 40,000 was said to be afraid and resent The Emperor creating the High Lords of Terra because he thought it would mean he and the other Primarchs were to be subordinated to a body composed of normal humans. Horus wanted to guide and protect mankind but he refused to be beholden and accountable to them. Ironically, most loyalist Marines agree.
    • What's worse is that it's heavily implied that the Emperor planned to destroy Primarchs and Space Marines once they had outlived their usefulness.
  • Even though there are no actual super powers in the BattleTech universe, at their worst, MechWarriors can exhibit much the same drunkenness off the power that comes with driving a 12-meter-tall war machine with enough firepower to potentially level a city block in one salvo. Apart from pirates or too-big-for-their-britches mercenaries, noble-born MechWarriors have also been known to grossly abuse their powers. Perhaps the most egregious example were the various "MechWarrior Brotherhoods" that sprang up where nobles began extorting or worse the residents of planets they were stationed on. Since said residents were not piloting 12-meter-tall war machines with enough firepower to potentially level a city block in one salvo, they really didn't have much choice but to acquiesce, at least until other groups of MechWarriors got fed up with their shenanigans and began opposing them.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse has Iron Legacy. Originally, Legacy (an Expy of Superman) was a hero... up until Baron Blade, his nemesis, killed him in a climactic duel on the Wagner Mars Base. In an alternate timeline, however, Legacy survived at the cost of his daughter's life. In his grief, Legacy killed Blade and took over the world. Oh, and if this is sounding slightly familiar, you're not wrong.

  • In Thrill Me, Richard and (to a lesser extent) Nathan both want to be seen this way. They're heavily influenced by Nietzsche, and their murder motive can basically be explained as, "We're superior to all of you, so why should your rules apply to us?"

    Video Games 
  • In the BioShock series, genetic engineering allows people to gain fancy superpowers. But most of them eventually become hideously deformed homicidal maniacs.
    • And in BioShock Infinite, the same principle is taken up even further. The Luteces are bordering on reality warpers, able to teleport early in the game and are eventually revealed to be suspended outside of time after their deaths. Though they choose to their powers mostly for messing with Booker, the full limits of these powers are revealed when Elizabeth destroys the siphon in Monument Island. After this she is able to easily take out Songbird and teleport all three of them to an alternate Rapture. And even before this, she can summon murderous automatons and a tornado through the "cracks".
  • Prince FU and his fellow intergalactic alien criminals decide to "jump on" the superhero craze of America by rebranding themselves as such when they invade the world in the third No More Heroes game.
  • City of Heroes has a few examples of playing with this trope. First off is an enemy group called the Malta Group, who are zealously dedicated to making sure this DOES NOT HAPPEN in a world with literally millions of meta-beings. Trouble is, their methods routinely cross the Moral Event Horizon - but what do you expect from a conspiracy of members of various western intelligence agencies, who were unhappy that they could no longer simply draft metas to do their dirty work? Then there's a small-scale example with the Rogue Isles, setting of the expansion "City of Villains", where a country of islands is ruled by super-villains. The only thing that prevents them from taking over the world is endless in-fighting and Status Quo Is God. And finally, the most triumphant in-game example is the alternate universe Praetoria, which was fleshed out in the "Going Rogue" expansion. There, alternate versions of the game's signature heroes rose to power by saving their doomed world and now rule what little is left with an iron fist.
  • Pretty much why half the Final Fantasy baddies go bad.
    • Final Fantasy VI: Kefka is noted to be an extremely powerful mage from an experimental procedure, who goes insane and destroys the world.
    • Final Fantasy VII: Sephiroth AND Genesis both go mad when they discover their true pasts and becoming evil supersoldiers of unrivalled power bent on killing many, many people.
    • Final Fantasy VIII: Ultimecia knows she's doomed to die because her entire life is part of history, so she tries to screw over all existence to prevent it.
    • Final Fantasy IX: When Kuja learns he hasn't got long to live, he destroys a planet and then attempts to destroy all of creation. Inverted, in that he was already evil.
    • Final Fantasy XIV: The main Chessmasters of the game - the Ascians - were a race of incredible arcanists capable of bending and shaping reality itself, who lost their empire after a series of catastrophes that shattered their society and - eventually - the world itself. Their end goal is to rejoin the disparate shards of the world and regain their former power, though of course doing so puts them at odds with the remaining mortal races, whom they see as lesser than and a necessary sacrifice to bring back their world.
      • The Garleans also have shades of this, though in their case their supremacy comes from them being technologically superior to the other Eorzean races, whom the Garleans view as primitive natives that rely on crude and barbaric magic rituals that will drain the land dry. The irony is that the Garleans themselves are dependent on technology because they are incapable of using magic themselves, though it's barely even a Freudian Excuse as far as the Garleans' judgement of the other races go.
    • Final Fantasy XV: Ardyn was a legendary exorcist traveling the world and exorcising demons. Then the king of Ardyn's country got jealous because he was worried that the masses would replace him with that travelling miracle-worker, and had Ardyn arrested, mind-raped, and demonically possessed. And since that made him into an unkillable half-demon banned from the afterlife, he's fixated on ending the world because there's nothing else left to do.
  • Happens in Freedom Force. Time Master rebels against his mortality by trying to destroy time.
  • The story line of Injustice: Gods Among Us revolves around an alternative-universe Superman installing himself as the ruler of Earth after The Joker tricks Superman into killing Lois Lane and their unborn child, as well as setting off a nuke that destroys Metropolis. Driving this home, the resistance is headed by the Badass Normal Batman and most of the heroes with Superpowers are with Superman.
  • In Mass Effect 3, the Extended Cut version of the Control Ending has shades of this, particularly with Renegade Shepard. While the Reapers are no longer harvesting worlds, they've being controlled by an AI with the same morals and ethics as Shepard. While Paragon Shepard vows to serve as a benevolent guardian and guide into the future, spreading hope and peace, Renegade Shepard vows to rule over the weak with strength, seek out and correct the mistakes of the past... and destroy anyone who threatens the peace.
  • In Dragon Age, this is the Tevinter Imperium to the rest of Thedas. Due to their destructive actions supposedly leading to The Maker shunning mankind and the creation of the Darkspawn, the rest of the Mages in Thedas are forced to enter the Circle, due to the overwhelming fear of what they would do if they were free and left to their own devices.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords runs a lot with this trope. The galaxy is in ruins after what's been called "The Jedi Civil War," with trillions of casualties across hundreds of planets. Many of the NPCs the Exile encounters neither know nor care about the difference between Jedi and Sith. (As one party member puts it, "Just men and women fighting about religion while the galaxy burns") Kreia points out that the Republic and the Empire themselves are little more than proxies for the Force Users' never-ending religious warfare, and the Exile is her means to try and stop it all by destroying the Force itself.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic doesn't go as far as that second game, but the Force Users are still at their religious war, and doing horrible things to one another and the galaxy with trillions killed in the crossfire. The Sith Emperor takes the cake. As the most powerful known Force User of that era, both immortal and immoral, he has orchestrated centuries of warfare, including the current conflict and even the protagonists of those last two games, to further his goal of being the only living thing in the galaxy!
    • Driven home in the expansions. Force-wielders can be kind, respectful, responsible, wise, and generous, or they can be conquerors, killers, and hypocrites. It is an MMO, after all. Just like in the movies, though, some Force-wielders are depicted as an unambiguous good, such as the disguised one that Republic players meet and secretly work for on Tatooine.
  • Kingdom Hearts: As a Keyblade Master, Xehanort is supposed to be a hero who protects the worlds. Instead, he's become Drunk on the Dark Side and uses his power as a Master to spread darkness and chaos wherever he goes.
  • Throughout the Pokemon series, the player is able to strike up a bond with incredibly powerful Legendary Pokemon thanks to their kind heart and skill as a Trainer, thus giving them a massive advantage over other Trainers should they choose to use the legends on their team. Black and White show what happens when a villain manages to win the loyalty of a Legendary through their pure heart. He defeats the Champion and nearly separates Pokemon from humans entirely. Anthea and Concordia tell the player that the villain in question is dangerous because of his innocence and kindness, which makes him able to bring out the full power of pretty much any Pokemon but doesn't guarantee that he's in the right.
  • Dark Souls III turns Gwyn into a case of this; the Ringed City DLC reveals that Gwyn was the absolute worst possible Lord of Light, expressing a severe and completely unwarranted hate of the dark to the point he placed a seal of fire, aka the Darksign, on the Pygmies, which was passed down to their descendants, creating the Undead Curse. He also set in motion the Firelinking cycle, eventually ending the world, and through the soul of cinder acts as the True Final Boss of the entire franchise. He also took extreme measures against anyone who disobeyed him or wasn’t exactly what he wanted them to be(annexing the Nameless King from history for betraying him and forcing Gwyndolin to present as a woman for being born with talent at Moonlight sorceries), and based on how long it took for the information to be uncovered, was very good at hiding it. Light Is Not Good taken to its logical extreme; the only reason the abyss ever caused any trouble at all was because Gwyn tried to restrain it when it was never a threat to begin with.
  • A major theme in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Part of the driving force behind the anti-augmentation activist movement is fear over the danger people with augmentations may pose. This can be seen in Jensen's backstory, which features an incident in which he was ordered to kill an augmented teenager simply because his augmentations made him a potential threat.
  • The genocide run of Undertale runs with this as its main point, almost to the point of being a Deconstruction. The twist comes in that it's you, the player who is the superpowered villain. From an in-story standpoint, humans are overtly stronger than monsters and are limited only by their desire (or lack thereof) to kill, which gets stronger as your EXP (i.e. Executioner Points) go up. The entire tone of the game changes from a morally ambiguous narrative where both sides misunderstand one another, to one where you are overtly and incontestably the evil party. Thematically, the entire point of this path is to deconstruct the video game concept of grinding by making you realise just how cruel and psychopathic you'd have to be in reality to go around senselessly killing creatures to get stronger. It's also exacerbated by the fact the player character's ability to save and reload is an explicit in-universe power, meaning that a particularly cruel player is capable of undoing missed opportunities to kill or even go back in time and kill a monster they've already killed again; the final boss of the route lampshades this if you do it.

  • The Bouletcorp gives us a graphic depiction of life as a normal human in a world with superheroes and villains. In the alt-text he says that it would be pretty much the same for a normal human in a movie like Man of Steel.
  • On close inspection, Girl Genius probably fits this. While Sparks are not explicitly superheroes, they are certainly more physically imposing than your average human, and high-level ones can go toe-to-toe with any gadgeteer. The negative impact on the world is much less arguable; Baron Klaus Wulfenbach is forced to maintain a despotic empire just to keep society from collapsing whenever some Spark decides to get uppity. The Other has come close to achieving The End of the World as We Know It at least once, and Othar's quest to wipe out all the world's Sparks is painted as hopeless and misguided.
  • In Errant Story, the elves decided breeding with the humans was a good idea because of the birthrate being much higher than elf-elf matings, and also to "uplift" humanity. Only half-elves tend to be a lot stronger magically than humans, and many also have either birth defects or a predisposition towards madness. After a lengthy civil war, only one elven city and one quarter of the population remained.
  • The protagonists of Keychain of Creation are certainly Good, but as Exalted (see above), are very aware of their superiority, and the bad guys are even worse.
  • In Project Außerdem, US government brainwashes a Nazi superhuman with Superman-esque abilities into becoming Premium, America's greatest hero. This worked well enough until a time-traveling villain restored his memories and all the world's heroes realized just how lucky they were to have him in their side.
  • Mountain Time's Surf Rat, though a powerful force against evil, is strongly implied to amass lots of collateral damage. For example...
  • In To Prevent World Peace, Chronos predicts that at some point—if they are not stopped—the Magical Girls will kill all the villains and decide to conquer the world, for its own good, of course. It’s thankfully averted when Chronos shows Kendra her visions, thus ridding this revolution of its future leader. This trope has already happened on a much smaller scale in Brazil, where magical girls led the creation of a separate country, Terra de Liberdade e Mágic, built around their magical system. Word of God claims that the world revolution is bound to happen sooner or later, because magical girls become more aware of their power and less content with the social pressure to let things go once they reach adulthood. It’s up to the heroes whether these changes will be peaceful or bloody.
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons webcomic Our Little Adventure, there doesn't seem to be that many high levelled people living on Manjulias. Those who are powerful end up in leadership positions, good or evil. Brian and Angelo are high levelled spellcasters, and though those who serve them regard them as a boon to their race, others are terrified of them and all their followers.
  • In Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, one Running Gag is Superman abusing his powers. This can range from setting fire to brothels so he can save the sex workers, to threatening to smash the moon into the Earth if he isn't granted access to Earth's Women, to demanding the key to the city because "I just stopped Superman from killing everyone", to running for president and then threatening to kill everyone with lasers if forced to abide by term limits.
    • Inverted hard in one strip. Decades ago, the people of Krypton sent dozens of babies into space, so that when they grew up they would use their powers to conquer whatever planet they landed on. When the remorseful Kryptonians go to Earth to overthrow him, they are horrified to learn that Superman is the only Kryptonian who didn't take over his adopted homeworld, because humanity produces a steady stream of violent sociopaths to fight him.
  • American Barbarian author Tom Scioli made a surreal story called "Soldier", about a Superman pastiche going crazy and wreaking destruction on the world, universe, and eventually multiverse. What started out as him using lethal force against villains who trying to destroy his hometown developed into paranoia, sadism and full-on madness.

    Web Original 
  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Doctor Horrible's nemesis Captain Hammer is an anti-intellectual ass who shoves the people he rescues into garbage and whose only use for women is sex. A prequel comic has Dr. Horrible get a sample of Hammer's DNA to create a Super Serum to give himself Hammer's Super Strength, claiming that his superior intellect will give him an edge. Unfortunately, a side effect of the serum is that Horrible's intellect drops to Hammer's level, turning the fight into a slugfest without a clear winner.
  • In Destine Enormity, the superpowered villains rule Arcadia with an iron fist and force the Normals to live in the Slums.
  • Shades of this occur in Worm:
    • In a setting where superpowers emerge after a Trigger Event, it's been stated that there are more Super Villains than heroes, and even the heroes aren't always what they claim to be.
    • Taken to its logical conclusion on a parallel Earth (Earth Shin), in which a supervillain known as "The Woman in Blue" or simply as "Goddess" used a Mind Control superpower to enslave every other superpowered person in that reality and rules the planet with an iron fist.
    • The obvious example is Scion. Considered the saviour of humanity, he's a strange golden man with powers beyond any parahuman who almost never speaks, but instead flies around Earth endlessly helping people. It's later revealed that he's an alien who lost his purpose for living and only helped people because he thought it would fill the emptiness inside him. When he's convinced to start destroying things instead, he finds he likes the feeling, and goes with that instead.
  • Whateley Universe:
    • The Dark Phoenix series of simulations, which pit one supposedly insane teammate against the others, is intended to drive home this point to would-be heroes. Unfortunately, even this is a watered-down version of the potential threats, especially from Tennyo. During preparation for this, Phase at one point rattles off a long list of heroes who, for various reasons, went evil, and the horrific rampages they went on.
    • When Stygian, intent on Suicide by Cop, confronts Tennyo with the (literal) ghosts of the Star Stalker's past, she is horrified to learn the being she's bound to has destroyed entire star systems as casually as one might swat a fly - over her eight billion year existence, whole galaxies have fallen to the Destroyer, and the only emotion she seems to have experienced was a mild frustration. Rather than driving her into a murderous rage, Billie goes catatonic. She still doesn't know the full truth, however: that the Star Stalker's primary purpose was to destroy the entire multiverse in case the Great Old Ones couldn't be stopped by any other means.
    • A lighter version of this trope is the hero known as the Flying Bulldozer. At one point in his ongoing battle against his nemesis, Doctor Debt, the Flying Bulldozer tried to stop him by throwing cars at him. He stopped the Doctor, and also caused millions of dollars in property damage and put dozens of innocent bystanders in hospital.
    • Imp, as a villain who's been in the business for decades, has a lot of things to say about superheroes. She'll readily admit that there are many who genuinely want to do the right thing, but there's also far too many who got into it because they want people to look up to them, not because they care. Those 'heroes'- and others who are self-righteous- inevitably become convinced that because they are heroes, anything they do is justified. She doesn't agree.
  • Red Panda Adventures supervillain the Crimson Death was given Combo Platter Powers in a project that experimented on low level supervillains to pass their powers to him. While his creation is stated to be intended as a check against lone wolves like the Red Panda who answer to no one, the Crimson Death himself states his creators really just wanted a superhero they controlled. This backfires as the Crimson Death's debut episode features him killing everyone who knew his identity.
  • Done jokingly on Superdickery, which takes out-of-context images (mostly from the Silver Age) and uses them to paint genuine heroes and heroines like Superman as complete and utter dicks.
  • In Magic, Metahumans, Martians and Mushroom Clouds: An Alternate Cold War, several mentions are made of metahumans turning to lives of crime with their powers. The most prominent example so far, however, is Sabhas Bose, whose telekinetic and flight abilities lead to him declaring himself chosen by the gods (and later viewing himself as an incarnation of Shiva), leading an ultranationalist takeover of India, and going to war with Pakistan.

    Western Animation 
  • Justice League dealt with this trope in the episode "A Better World", presenting the Well-Intentioned Extremist version of the league: The Justice Lords, who run an authoritarian earth free of crime, but likewise also empty of free speech or self government.
    • Bruce Timm states in the commentary that the episode was originally supposed to be a straight up "Crime Syndicate" story, which involved characters that are almost-Evil Twins-but-not-exactly, but fell in love with the idea of using actual alternate versions of the regular characters. He comments during the Batman vs Batman fight in the Bat Cave that the scene was specifically animated to not make it clear from visual clues who was talking, so either character could be saying either side of the argument. Ultimately, Justice League Batman is unable to respond when Justice Lord Batman points out that in this new world "no 8 year old boy will ever lose his parents because of some punk with a gun." This scene arose from conversations among the writers, who were trying to find a way for Batman to successfully respond when they realized that there was no verbal response; they had meant for League Batman to win the argument, but the fact of the matter was that, because of who the characters were, the Lord Batman won instead. Justice League Batman does get his response later. After showing the zeal of the Police State his counterpart helped create, he sarcastically mentions to Lord Batman: "They'd love it here. Mom and Dad. They'd be so proud of you." Justice Lord Batman is not pleased at this realization, prompting his Heel–Face Turn (or at least, willingness to rid his own universe of superpowered heroes). Perhaps the proper verbal response would be "I'm glad they're dead so they didn't have to live in this world", but there's no way Batman would be able to say those words.
    • The regular Justice League in the Unlimited incarnation, seeing the horrors the Lords have done, work to avert this trope by recruiting Green Arrow, a politically astute and strident Badass Normal to be the team's political conscience. Sure enough, he essentially saves the team's soul during the Cadmus affair, which revolved around this trope as it involved a secret government agency being set up to rival the League in the event it turned evil.
      Green Arrow: Hey, I'm the only guy in the room who doesn't have superpowers, and let me tell you: you guys scare me. What if you do decide to go down there, taking care of whoever you think is guilty? Who could stop you? Me?
    • The aforementioned "Crime Syndicate" story was the later basis for Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, where as planned the League is recruited by an alternate universe Good Counterpart of Lex Luthor to deal with the evil Syndicate which here are so powerful they are the de facto rulers of the world, bullying the President (Deathstroke!) and working on a bomb that can destroy the planet to hold the world hostage indefinitely (or as Owl Man chooses, to blow up every universe in existence). Animation and voice actors aside, its written in a way that it can easily fit into regular DCAU continuity, and implicitly serves as a bridge between the regular Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series, so the League had that hanging over their heads as well.
    • The Cadmus arc of Unlimited invoked this trope further, with Cadmus being reimagined as a covert government agency that exists to counter the League in the event they ever go rogue (which is what prompts Arrow's "you guys scare me" speech). That they are backed by Lex Luthor (and actually recruit supervillains to work for them) is neither surprising nor does their cause any favours, nor does all the disasters they inadvertently cause as a result of this crusade (such as creating, then accidently unleashing, Doomsday, as well as the Ax-Crazy Supergirl clone Galatea; or even, indirectly helping Evil Sorceror Felix Faust take over the Underworld), basically showing that its not the power, but who wields it that matters.
      • The conversation between Amanda Waller and Batman during this arc brings to a head the series' attitude towards this trope. After a number of run-ins with Cadmus, Batman does some digging and then confronts Waller after bypassing her house's heavy security to catch her in the shower.
        Batman: Whatever you think you're doing, if you present a threat to the world, the Justice League will take you down.
        Amanda Waller: If WE present a threat? You've got a space station floating above our heads with a laser weapon pointing DOWN. In another dimension, 7 of you overthrew the government and assassinated the President! We're the good guys, protecting our country from a very real threat: YOU.
      • Lex, for that matter, is running for President during this arc, and he milks this trope for all its worth, most notably by tricking Superman and Captain Marvel into a very public and very destructive fight in order to make Superman look bad, and later hijacking the laser the League attached to their Watchtower and using it on a city in order to frame them. The whole Justice Lord fiasco started when their-President Luthor murdered the Flash and seemed ready to start World War III (if that big red button on his desk was any indication) and regular-Luthor only ran for President just to make Superman and the League paranoid and ticked off- his true plan being to get superpowers for himself, though he later changes that to merging with Brainiac, destroying the world and remaking the universe. Once again showing that Luthor himself is a bigger threat to humanity than the entire League combined.
  • Another example is the Batman Beyond episode "The Call" - although not exclusively this, it is basically centered around the premise that Superman has lost it and is taking out Justice League members one by one. Although he doesn't give the theory any more credence than any of previous brainwashing or mind-game Superdickery Superman has gone through, Bruce Wayne does acknowledge the real possibility of the world's strongest man snapping from the strain of his responsibilities.
  • Superman: The Animated Series had an episode where Lois Lane went into an alternate future where, due to her death, Superman had become a benevolent dictator over the years. He and Lex Luthor ruled the world side by side.
    • The 2-part finale "Legacy" deals with this in some detail; Superman is Brainwashed into becoming a minion of Darkseid, partly out of petty vengeance for his earlier defiance of him, and becomes The Dragon, his ultimate soldier who leads his armies to conquer the universe. He is eventually unleashed on Earth where, with the help of Lex Luthor, he is captured and defeated, and his brainwashing removed; he is also rather annoyed to find out that they are also holding Supergirl prisoner, after he had beat her up while under mind control. Its this show of rage that actually leads to Emil Hamilton joining Cadmus in Justice League Unlimited, as it was the first time he was actually afraid of Superman (there's nothing like seeing someone pissed off that their family has been hurt to convince you that person can never be trusted again). The episode ends with a number of characters being asked if they can ever trust Superman again.
    • An unproduced final season would have been entirely Beware The Superman. Superman, coming off his perceived betrayal of humanity, would have had to deal with people's mistrust and skepticism of his actions at the end of "Legacy".
    • Mala (an Expy of Ursa and Faora) and Jax-Ur (an Expy of General Zod, since Jax Ur is a scientist in the comics) serve as Superman's evil counterparts.
      • In "Blast from the Past," Superman discovers Mala in the Phantom Zone, and Braniac reveals that she and Jax-Ur were imprisoned in the Phantom Zone because they tried to take over Krypton a few years before its destruction, but were stopped by Jor-El. Jax-Ur was given a life sentence, but since the court ruled Mala was Just Following Orders, she was given twenty years. Mala seems to have been rehabilitated, but she then steals the Phantom Zone projector to bring back Jax-Ur, and when they imprison Superman in the Phantom Zone they use their powers to take over earth. When Superman is let out thanks to Lois and Hamilton, they imprison Mala and Jax Ur once again.
      • In the episode "Absolute Power," after they escape the Phantom Zone, they take over an inhabited planet, and show Superman they are benevolent rulers who have raised the natives' standard of living. Superman decides to leave them alone, until a member of a rebel group shows that Mala and Jax-Ur are building a fleet of star-ships to invade earth. They are only stopped because they were sucked into a black hole that was near the star system.
  • The Bad Future shown in Danny Phantom has been driven to ruin by Dan Phantom, a Fusion Dance between Danny Phantom and Vlad Plasmius. He has all of Vlad's evil as well as Danny's powers, allowing him to dominate humans and ghosts alike without fear of consequence.
  • The reason Thundarr the Barbarian's After the End world has not had any resurgence of civilization in 2000 years is primarily because the wizards like having their petty little kingdoms, and knock down any attempt by the Muggles to organize or build.
  • In an episode of Darkwing Duck, Gosalyn accidentally traveled to a Bad Future where DW, not realizing she was in the time machine, suffered a breakdown over her disappearance which resulted in him becoming Darkwarrior Duck, a dictator who punished people harshly for the smallest of "offenses" such as eating too much junk food. Even though he didn't have super powers, he was still pretty scary, even being more savvy than he was before his dark transformation. Also, he had a tank and an army of robots, which helped.
  • A more comedic example occurs in the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Super Robotnik", where after gaining superpowers, Robotnik promptly uses them to steal loot from others, including candy from 4,822 babies.
  • Discussed in the Transformers: Prime episode "Grill", with regards to Optimus Prime. Eventually defied: if Optimus Prime were capable of going down this road, he'd be fundamentally incapable of being Optimus Prime.
  • The Avengers, Assemble! episode "Hyperion", featuring Marvel's notoriously despotic Superman expy, naturally explores this concept, as Hyperion attempts to take over Earth in order to "save" it.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic brings this up with Princess Celestia and her hypothetical counterpart Daybreaker, who would be what Celestia would become if she decided that, as the most powerful pony in Equestria, she stopped caring about the dangers of their own power and the wellbeing of others and decided to whatever she wanted with nopony capable of stopping her. Thankfully averted since the real Celestia is far too idealistic to fall down that path.

    Real Life 
  • Debates over transhumanism and genetic modification occasionally bring this up, the concern being that, someday, the rich would be able to buy their way into becoming physically and intellectually superior to the masses (on top of the social and economic advantages they already have), leading to a society that is even more stratified than our own.
  • Surprisingly, some experiments and studies indicate that this trope would actually be either averted in Real Life or depend heavily on what kind of powers the person gets. People who simulated being a Flying Brick in the vein of Superman were found to act more benevolent and polite to the researchers, as if the very thought of being like Superman caused them to feel the need to be altruistic. Ironically when offered powers on the opposite end of the spectrum like invisibility or mind reading, most refused the idea out of explicit fear that this trope would come into effect; one man, when offered flight or invisibility, chose invisibility only to then change his answer after some thinking. He expressed the fear that being invisible would tempt him to indulge in morally dodgy behavior.

Alternative Title(s): Tyrannical Superhero, Knight Templar Superhero, Rogue Super


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