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Freak Lab Accident

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"Bitten by radioactive beebles in a freak algebra accident, young Ricky Robertson discovered he'd gained the ability to harness the awesome power of fractions!"

An opportune, unplanned and unrepeatable (hence "Accident") event that gives a character their superpowers. Similar to No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup, only for people instead of machines and technologies. Opinions on this are extremely subjective, and this origin isn't used as much nowadays.

Common subtypes include:

Given the relatively tiny probability of being struck by lightning, it also ties in with that.

More tolerated in superheroes created decades ago. Remakes tend to either avoid these random-chance origins or eventually tie them into a grander mythos (or at least a Story Arc of some kind).


It is still used frequently, despite having very nearly become cliché, making it an Undead Horse Trope. This is probably due to the fact that superheroes don't exist in real life, and it is simply difficult to find other ways to make superheroes.

Can also be used to create a Monster of the Week, with the same caveats. This can be used to create a Science Is Bad plot if wanted when things have Gone Horribly Wrong. See also Disposable Superhero Maker, Miraculous Malfunction, Testing Range Mishap. Contrast Mass Super-Empowering Event.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • It is during one of her father's lab-experiments that Kurau in Kurau Phantom Memory gets merged with an energy being called "Rynax".
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion might count, what with the contact experiments infusing the test pilot's soul into the Eva's core. This happened twice with different circumstances: first, Yui was completely swallowed by Unit 01 and gained limited control in the form of going berserk; second, Kyoko's transition was incomplete and a clinically insane body was left behind that eventually killed herself, making Unit 02 the most stable one. Subverted in that Yui knew what was going to happen but did it anyway; unfortunately, it just made things even worse as she hadn't bothered to tell anyone and when her peers tried to extract her, she resisted and made it look like the operation failed (when the same happened to her son, everyone believed the same because Yui was holding them back until Shinji left on his own). Considering the fans' habit of deifying Yui-sama, it's a definite subversion.

    Comic Books 
  • The classic Super Hero Origin of The Flash involved lightning and a shelf full of chemicals in a police lab.
    • But, as mentioned above, this was eventually tied into the "Speed Force".
    • The origin of the Golden Age Flash involved Jay Garrick being exposed to hard water vapors. Apparently, there was a rumor at the time the comic was written that the chemicals typically found in hard water could increase the metabolic speed of animals who ingested or inhaled them.
      • This too was retconned to being part of the Speed Force, though during the period of time when the Speed Force disappeared, he still retained a weakened version of his powers thanks to his metagene.
    • In Flashpoint, Barry recreates the accident in an attempt to regain his powers. It didn't work and Barry instead suffered the real-life consequences of being struck by a bolt of lightning while being doused with dangerous chemicals. He has to fry himself two more times before it works.
      • Before that, Wally West (the third Flash) tried recreating the accident after losing his powers. It almost worked right... he got the Super Speed, but not the necessary reflexes to maneuver, blasting a trail of destruction across the country in the split-second before he could stop running.
    • That origin was so good, DC recycled it exactly for Kid Flash.
    • Slightly changed in the 2014 TV series to a lightning that is the result of a particle accelerator malfunction at S.T.A.R. Labs, which results in the release of dark energy into the city. The same release also creates a number of other "meta-humans".
    • Professor Zoom, Barry's Evil Counterpart and Arch-Enemy, had this retconned into his origin story, only in his case he deliberately recreated the accident that gave the Flash his powers (he was an obsessive Flash fan from the far future who even went as far as to surgically reconstruct his own face to resemble Barry). Prior to this retcon, his original backstory outlined that he only had his speed whenever he wore his costume, which was a Flash costume he'd found in a time capsule and scientifically increased its residual speed energy (from Barry's constant use of it) before then dyeing it in reverse-colors.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Spider-Man was given powers by a radioactive spider bite, the spider itself being a result of the lab accident. In the Spider-Man movie, this was retooled into a genetically-engineered spider's bite to reflect the discrediting of I Love Nuclear Power. At one point, the comic attempted to retool this by saying that the spider which bit him transferred some form of mystical totemistic power on him, which in turn explained his many animal-themed enemies. Cue Fan Discontinuity.
    • Marvel Comics in general (due to copious amounts of "Stan Lee Science") and Spider-Man in particular loves this trope. Many of Spidey's big foes (Doc Ock, Green Goblin, Lizard, Molten Man, etc.) were created by some sort of lab accident or experiment gone wrong.
    • Retooled again and made (somewhat) more plausible in the modern re-imagining, Ultimate Spider-Man. It was a genetically altered spider high on OZ instead of radiation. The Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus got their own ones in a second lab accident, that attempted to repeat the circumstances of Parker's accident, but which has Gone Horribly Wrong.
  • The initial origin-story for Swamp Thing followed this trope with sabotage rather than an accident. Subverted when Alan Moore got ahold of the character and revised him from a formula-altered scientist to a plant elemental who thought he was a formula-altered scientist.
  • Man-Thing was also the result of a botched experiment, also retconned by the series' most notable author, Steve Gerber.
  • This works for villains as well. In The Silver Age of Comic Books, it was shown that Lex Luthor turned villainous after Superboy's "interference" in a Freak Lab Accident resulted in his life being saved, his experiments being destroyed, and his hair loss. Furthermore, when Luthor tried to retaliate with grandiose tech projects to show up Superboy, they went wrong disastrously enough to force the superhero to intervene, embarrassing Luthor enough to hate him even more.
  • This somewhat applies to the Joker of Batman fame, who gained not superpowers but his clownish appearance and Slasher Smile from falling into a vat of chemicals. Even the "no-superpowers-gained" thing is debatable, as some speculate that the Joker's insanity is actually a form of fourth wall-breaking "super-sanity" gained at the same time.
    • In a 1989 Batman storyline, a mad Joker-wannabe hurls himself into a chemical vat in an attempt to replicate the transformation. However, as Batman unsuccessfully warns him, the industrial acids therein are much stronger than the ones that disfigured the Joker years ago, and the wannabe simply disintegrates.
    • Mr. Freeze is a more conventional playing of his trope. In the current past of the character, the attempts of his heartless bosses to get rid of him and his work to save his cryogenically frozen wife caused his equipment to go haywire, drastically altering him. Of course, this isn't so much a superpower as it is a handicap, and his resulting powers come in the form of technology he invents himself.
  • The post-Zero Hour: Crisis in Time! Legion of Super-Heroes hangs a lampshade on the trope when Spark, in an effort to regain her super-power, attempts to recreate the circumstances of her freak origin — and gets herself killed as a result. (However, the rest of the Legion manages to revive her, and afterwards she does indeed have her powers back.)
    • Pre-Zero-Hour, there was Comet Queen (who is also known for speaking Totally Radical In Space). She had heard that Star Boy got his powers by flying through a comet, so she intentionally flew through one despite everyone telling her how stupid it was, especially since Star Boy did it in a spaceship. It worked anyway.
  • The monstrous villain Chemo was created this way. Originally it was a plastic vessel used by scientist Ramsey Norton to dispose of the chemical by-products from his failed experiments, built in the shape of a man to remind him of his failures. One day (ironically, the day he planned to empty it) he dumped the remnants of a failed growth formula in the vessel, accidentally causing it to double in size and coming to life. After killing Norton and destroying the lab, it lumbered forth with no purpose but to destroy, fighting numerous heroes, including the Metal Men and Superman.
  • Although it actually took place on a testing range, the original origin of The Incredible Hulk is for all practical purposes a Freak Lab Accident. Later versions — most notably the TV series and the first motion-picture adaptation — make it a more literal lab accident.
    • A number of the classic Hulk's foes had Freak Lab Accident origins involving nuclear power and nuclear radiation (originally, anyway). One of them, the Leader, was a janitor exposed to nuclear waste.
  • In Watchmen, the apparatus that created Dr. Manhattan by "removing his intrinsic field", i.e. disintegrating his body, is for some unspecified reason impossible to use to repeat the process. It's not so much the effect of the device that gave Dr. Manhattan his powers, but the force of his will and mind maintaining their integrity afterwards and subsequently learning how to reassemble himself. That's an individual, possibly unique, factor that renders the result possibly irreproducible. And who wants to try to create a new Manhattan? One alone messes up the geopolitical situation seriously. What if the new guy would be even less stable and more detached from the human condition? The risks are way too great, even for the USSR to try to replicate. They did try at first, but stopped when they realized that forcefully disintegrating people in the hopes of turning them into gods might backfire.
    Ozymandias: You get to be a superhero by believing in the hero within you and summoning him or her forth by an act of will. Believing in yourself and your own potential is the first step to realizing that potential. Alternately, you could do as Jon did: fall into a nuclear reactor and hope for the best.
  • One of the versions of Donald Duck's superhero identity Paperinik (though not the one in Paperinik New Adventures) faces a parody of Spider-Man villain Sandman called Sandham (as he's a pig, natch). Sandham was a janitor in an oatmeal porridge factory who gained his powers when he was accidentally exposed to a procedure to "remove those nasty lumps from oatmeal porridge". Donald ends up having to dissolve him with it, and finally tosses his head, the only thing left of him, into a vat of porridge.
  • Inverted with Superboy (Kon-El). He was being grown and programmed in a lab to be a replacement for Superman, but a freak lab accident interrupted his maturity leaving him as Superboy.
  • Parodied in the Bongo Comics crossover, "When Bongos Collide!", when a nuclear plant meltdown (caused by Itchy and Scratchy) grants superpowers to nearly everyone in Springfield (and somehow automatically gives most of them costumes), whereupon everyone starts pummeling each other.
  • Spider-Girl's foe Mr. Abnormal is both an expy of Plastic Man and a parody of this. His origin is that "he had an improbable accident with a chemical at a toy factory that had a unique effect with his body chemistry", as quoted from Speedball.
  • In She-Hulk, Daniel Jermain became "Danger Man" when a workplace accident at Roxxon Industries transformed him into an atomic superhuman. The interesting part is that he has no desire to be a superhero or villain. Daniel just wants Jennifer to help him sue Roxxon because of all of the hassle his new powers have brought into his life.
  • The original Firestorm was created by sabotage (a bomb) in an experimental nuclear reactor, fusing the teenage Ronnie Raymond and the designer of the reactor, Professor Martin Stein into a single super-powered hero. Also affected by the explosion was Stein's evil assistant, who became the villain Multiplex. A later attempt by Multiplex to recreate the "accident" produced the heroine Firehawk.

    Fan Works 
  • A popular Harry Potter fanfic cliché is for a transformation plot to be launched by a potions accident in Snape's class. Usually, they make you younger or change your gender.
  • Not a lab accident as such, but an unpredicted side effect of a new and highly experimental procedure. In the Discworld fiction There's nothing like a fresh pair of eyes, is there?, the Igors of Ankh-Morpork replace the shattered eyes of a wounded student Assassin. (One of those regrettable little accidents that happen at the Assassins' School). The donor, of corneal cells that Igor carefully nurtures into bio-artificed new eyeballs, is Quirmian Assassin Emmanuelle les Deux-Epées. Over the following few months, the pupil becomes very like Emmanuelle. In all ways.
  • In Movie Magic, Twilight Sparkle makes the mistake of looking at a rogue rainbow-powered rocket through a magitek camera when the rocket explodes, searing her right eye with magical energy and giving it super-powers.
  • In Empathy there's a full on accident, in the sense that nobody involved really saw what would be coming due to a genetic issue. In this case, Riley puts on the Neurotransmitter, but since Oh finished it according to Boov brainwaves rather than human brainwaves, the transmitter bounced Riley's brainwaves back on themselves. This scientifically sent her into a kind of REM, but it also transported her consciousness into Headquarters. And when she came out, she became The Empath as a side effect.
  • The Secret Return of Alex Mack: This is the origin of both Tsurara (who was doused with a mixture of chemicals as a result of Gojira's attack) and Ultraman (whose neighbour was a biophysics professor performing unauthorised experiments).

  • This is the origin of all the villains in the Spider-Man Trilogy, save Venom, who was the result of an alien symbiote.
    • The Amazing Spider-Man Series uses this for every villain except Rhino, who's just a crook in a mech suit: Lizard was created by a botched formula designed for limb regrowth, Electro fell into a vat of genetically-modified eels, and Green Goblin was created by another botched formula intended to cure his terminal disease.
  • Less heroically, The Fly, involving a Teleporter Accident when a fly is merged with the scientist who used himself as a guinea pig. In the 1958 version, the scientist changes heads and one hand with the fly. In the 1986 version, he slowly mutates into a sickened man-fly hybrid.
  • This is the origin of Big Bad Ava Starr/Ghost in Ant-Man and the Wasp. Her father, Elhias Starr, created an unstable Quantum energy machine that exploded, killing Ava's parents and turning her into a ghost. Ava seeks to cure her condition and believes that killing Janet is the key.
  • Quite a few B-Movie monsters, most notably Tarantula!. And that's not counting all the ones created by The Bomb.
  • Howard the Duck pulled this one twice: the first Freak Lab Accident dragged Howard to Earth; the second pulled down the alien demon that possessed Dr. Jenning.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, it is learned that one of these resulted in the formation of the Mutagenic Goo that resulted in the Turtles coming into being — namely, an unknown mixture of discarded chemicals being accidentally exposed to radiative waves.
  • Happens in Watchmen, for details see under Comic Books.

  • Done rather subtly in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll's elixir only worked because of an unidentified impurity, something he only discovered after running out of the contaminated batch. At which point Hyde had become his "default form" and he needed the elixir to be Jekyll.
  • Played with in Animorphs. This was how the Ellimist became a godlike being. Having his consciousness spread across multiple advanced bodies, some remaining in space and some in Z-space while the rest was sucked into a black hole, allowed his consciousness to integrate with the fabric of the universe. However, his Evil Counterpart Crayak was unfortunately watching when this happened (being the guy who pushed the Ellimist into said black hole), and was thus able to replicate the feat and become god-like himself.
    Ellimist: The odds of it happening once were astronomical. The odds of it happening twice were inevitable.
  • Parodied in Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. At the beginning of Life, the Universe and Everything, we are introduced briefly to Wowbagger the Infinitely-Prolonged, an alien who was granted immortality in a freak office accident with "an irrational particle accelerator, a liquid lunch, and a pair of rubber bands". All attempts to recreate it "have left people looking very silly, dead, or both". Wowbagger deals with the growing tedium of immortality by seeking to insult everyone in the universe — individually, personally, and in alphabetical order.
  • A variation appears in the Isaac Asimov short story "Lenny". A small child (lost on a guided tour) plays around on an unlocked keyboard in a robot factory. This results in a robot which has no superpowers — indeed, it has roughly the intelligence of a human infant — but is a scientific gold-mine, programmed with the Three Laws but lacking the knowledge to act upon them properly, and having the ability to learn rather than simply be programmed.
  • Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible: CoreFire and Dr. Impossible got their respective superpowers in separate lab accidents, though both accidents involved Dr. Impossible's research.
    "I saw the misadjusted dials and the whirling gauges and the bubbling green fluid and the electricity arcing around, and a story laid out for me... I was going to declare war on the world, and I was going to lose."
    • So did Erica Lowenstein, the Lois Lane to CoreFire's Superman and Dr. Impossible's Lex Luthor, who followed a lead on some villains and ended up falling into a vat of chemicals and becoming virtually indestructible and transparent.
  • In Dream Park (by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes), a small girl who'd accidentally wandered into the theme park's R&D division managed to combine an anatomical model with pieces of model roller coaster, and the result so intrigued the staff that it spawned a "Mr. Digestion" themed attraction. The kid got a spanking and a college scholarship.
  • Kilowatt of the Seekers of Truth got her start this way. Her end would have closely followed her start if not for the intervention of the Wizard.
  • Carl Castanaveras, in Emerald Eyes by Daniel Keys Moran, was the first in a series of telepaths created by Project Superman by gene manipulation. Played straight because at the time he was created, the scientists admitted that the technology to create him didn't work yet, and only the inexplicable (at least to the scientists working on him) radiation at the moment of his conception, made the fetus viable. Averted because the source of the radiation was the time traveler Named Storyteller deliberately showing up at that moment to perform the gene manipulation that the scientists were incapable of performing, in order to make sure that Carl (his distant ancestor) existed at all.
  • Not a superhero, but Cheery Littlebottom's career change from alchemist to forensics officer with the Discworld Ankh-Morpork City Watch took place after she left her previous workplace through the roof. Explosions at the Alchemists' Guild are hardly freakish; blowing up the entire Guild council, however, causes comment.
  • In Kathy Reichs' Virals series, a spinoff to the Temperance Brennan novels, Temperance's niece Tory is a teenage girl who, along with her friends, accidentally contracts a genetically engineered parvovirus (a virus that normally only affects dogs) and is turned into a sort of hairless werewolf.
  • In The Accidental Superheroine, Orlov claims to have engineered their empowering event at the LHC, but he also seems completely ignorant of how it works.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Peter Brady (no, not THAT one), The Invisible Man from the 1958 TV series, fits this trope and subverts it: While he became invisible in a lab accident, he is perfectly able to reproduce it and make anyone invisible (of course, reversing the process is another story). At one point, he was even able to detect when a rabbit had been invisible for a short period of time.
  • Best Friends Whenever started with the titular best friends_Shelby Marcus and Cyd Ripley_accidentally getting blasted by a laser in Barry's lab which gave them the power to time travel through physical contact. This gets a Call-Back in season 1 finale.
  • The Big Bang Theory
    • Referenced jokingly to warn one character away from escalating vengeance against a misanthropic genius:
      Leonard: Penny, you don't want to get into it with Sheldon. The guy is one lab accident away from becoming a supervillain.
    • In another episode, a rat injected with radioactive isotopes bit a lab tech. Raj became incredibly disappointed to find that the lab tech didn't get superpowers.
  • Subverted in The Flash (2014): Barry's Super Hero Origin resembles the one from the comics, except that the "accident" was nothing of the sort. He would have got his powers this way eventually, but a time travelling Eobard Thawne deliberately engineered it to turn Barry into the Flash "ahead of schedule" due to losing his speed after doing what he came there to do.
  • Pretty much played straight in The Secret World of Alex Mack, where the title character gets her powers after being doused by chemicals that fell off a truck in the first episode.
  • Referenced humorously in an episode of Shake it Up. Child Prodigy Henry Dylan shows up at Flynn's house after being beat up by a bully. Flynn, however, assumes Henry's battered and bruised appearance was the result of this trope.
    Flynn: (excitedly) Was there an explosion in your lab? Did you get superpowers? Jump on the wall, let's see if you stick!
  • Stranger Things: It's implied that Eleven's psychic powers were caused by drug experiments done on her mother during her pregnancy.
  • Also appears in the French Gender Bender series Vice Versa.
  • In Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, the title character gains the ability to hear people's feelings in the form of song and dance routines that only she can see after a freak accident involving being inside an MRI machine when an earthquake strikes.


    Video Games 
  • Every other Science origin NPC or Player Character in City of Heroes gains their powers this way (the rest are unwilling test subjects). This game loves its tropes and knows it. For Professor Backfire, gaining superpowers was an inevitability.
  • Played with in TRON 2.0 — emails in the game indicate Lora Baines-Bradley suffered one with her Shiva laser misfiring. It apparently killed her, but there was enough of her mind left behind in Cyberspace to compile her into the Benevolent A.I. Ma3a.
  • In Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters, during Bass' ending, Dr. Wily yells to Bass that he regrets making him, and Bass retorts that if Wily created Bass, it must have been a mistake. Dr. Wily reveals that it is actually true, revealing that before the events of Mega Man 7, Wily was making a robot to be similar to Mega Man, accidentally developing Bassnium, which then led to the creation of Bass. Dr. Wily then reveals that he plans to make a robot stronger than Bass and Mega Man combined.
  • Late in Digital Devil Saga 2, it's revealed that the first carriers of the Demon Virus were infected after an experiment where a psychic child (Sera) communicated with God went horribly wrong. However, one subject was killed (Serph Sheffield as Varuna), and the other was imprisoned (an unknown individual as Meganada). While the virus was reproducible, the incident itself was not.
  • Two of the playable characters in Overwatch owe their superhuman abilities to accidents.
    • Lena Oxton, call sign "Tracer", was a test pilot flying an experimental fighter jet capable of teleportation. The teleportation matrix malfunctioned, dislocating Tracer from time. She would appear and disappear at random, unable to interact with the world like a ghost until Winston invented the Chronal Accelerator. The device not only stabilized Lena but granted her a limited control over her place in time, letting her travel forward and back in time for a few seconds.
    • Dr. Siebren de Kuiper was an astrophysicist studying gravity. After decades of research, he conducted an experiment to harness the power of a black hole. A containment breach exposed Kuiper to a singularity, driving him insane and giving him power over gravity, turning him into "Sigma".

  • Subverted in M9 Girls!: The Freak Lab Accident makes the eponymous M9 Girls terminally ill by radiation exposure. Their mentor then proceeds to cure them with LEGO Genetics.
  • Parodied by Man-Man, who was bitten by a radioactive man, and so gains the powers of... a man. Apart from a mutant head on top of his own, these "powers" merely make him invisible to women.
  • In Second League, a rat gains superpowers from being bitten by a mutant superhero.
  • Parodied in Terror Island, where Ned Sorcerer, DDS got his superpower (which is causing everyone around him to know he's a dentist) from a freak epistemological lab accident.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Molly the Peanut Butter Monster is described as a fuzzy pink lab accident.
  • Parodied in Antihero for Hire, where one character got super-powers in a freak skateboard accident.
  • It's implied that some sort of lab accident caused Othar, of Girl Genius, to come to his "Great Truth" that all Sparks have to die (or to become suicidally insane, as anyone else who knows about this "Truth" would consider it). The exact details are left as a Noodle Incident for the readers, but it may have involved the Great Wall of Oslo. (It's also all but stated by Word of God in the first adventure on Othar's Twitter that Othar was always just one freak accident away from becoming a suicidal maniac anyways — every single version of himself had realized this "truth" through various accidents. One involved waffles. It's unknown right now, however, how canon the Twitter is.) The man is also surprisingly resilient, even for a Spark; this may be a side-effect of the accident.
    • The world of Girl Genius is populated by Mad Scientists. If your lab work doesn't involve freak accidents of some kind (most likely deadly instead of empowering, but still), you're probably doing it wrong.
  • Hero by Night has these as origin stories of Saul Simian and (sort of) Steel Phantom. Alchemy is not a toy, people.
  • Heather Brown in Spinnerette gains spider-powers in a freak genetic engineering accident in a more or less Affectionate Parody of Spider-Man.
    • The reader is even led to believe that she'd obtained her powers from a spider-bite, just like Spider-Man. However, she only developed her extra limbs after falling into a vat of chemicals.
  • Ruby's World heroine Ruby gains her enhanced size, strength, and power from a freak lab accident that was actually engineered post-mortem by her late mother, as a means to give her the capabilities to fight the Big Bad.
  • In El Goonish Shive, this is what the Goo originally was before a Cerebus Retcon turned it into an attempt by Lord Tedd to kill this universe's Tedd.
  • Parodied in a Fourth-Wall Mail Slot on VG Cats. Dr. Hobo is asked how he became a hobo, and recounts his origin:
    Dr. Hobo: A bright young docshtor wash working in hish lab... when shuddenly! I did crack!
  • A lab technician in Biter Comics tries to recreate the accident that gave his coworker superpowers, with less that satisfactory results.
  • In Tales of Schlock, Roux's butt and Fukumi's boobs accidentally get hit with zafti-gamma rays and they start to grow dramatically when they get excited. Roux uses her powers to become the super heroine "Queen 'B'" while Fukumi gets brain damage and becomes the diabolical "Double D."
  • Peter Parker: Foreign Exchange Student:
    • Peter got his Quirk from the radioactive spider bite, a secret he keeps under wraps out of fear of being treated like a freak of nature.
    • The Fantastic Four's powers, which they received after being bombarded with cosmic radiation, are also classified as Quirks.

    Web Original 
  • Most of the supers in the Whateley Universe are mutants, but Sam Everheart got his powers this way. It wouldn't have been a Freak Lab Accident if bad guys weren't trying to steal the nanomachines that Sam was guarding. The resulting explosion ended up with Sam getting a body reconstructed by the nanites.
  • Lightning Dust's Klaus Melfton becomes the eponymous character via a strange invention of his father. After getting his powers stolen, he successfully repeats the accident to regain them.
  • Frances "Pythos" Graye of AJCO participated in a experiment involving the magical, regenerating blood of a Hydra and ended up with rather more than she bargained for. She didn't end up with the regenerating abilities of the original creature, but she did get freakish teeth and a forked tongue that she likes to freak people out with.
  • This was how Yogscast Duncan caused Kim to become "fluxed" in their Minecraft series, although she didn't get superpowers, she just turned kinda purple.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in The Fairly OddParents with the origin of The Crimson Chin (voiced by Jay Leno). Before he was a crime fighter, the Chin was a talk show host, much like the guy who voiced him. He got bit on the chin by a radioactive handsome actor, and that is how he became The Crimson Chin!
    • At least it was, until the comic story "Untold Tales From the Big Superhero Wish!" revealed that this origin story caused a lawsuit, and as a result, The Chin was given a new origin all to similar to Superman.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man is stuffed with these. There's Peter Parker's radioactive spider-bite, but supervillains have them too:
  • Danny Phantom
  • Darkwing Duck tries to give himself super powers in one episode by deliberately standing in front of a Transformation Ray, claiming that it works in the movies all the time. His sidekick Launchpad doubts the plan, specifically pointing out that you can only gain superpowers from a lab accident, and not on purpose. Darkwing brushes off the advice, fires the ray, and is reduced to cartoon ashes.
    • Incidentally, many members of Darkwing's Rogues Gallery had their origins in a Freak Lab Accident; Megavolt, Bushroot, and the Liquidator are the most notable instances.
  • Dexter's Laboratory
    • Dexter spends an episode trying to gain superpowers through experimentation, and runs into the same it-doesn't-work-if-you-do-it-on-purpose problem. In the end, he gives up in frustration. Then Dee Dee waltzes into the lab, spills chemicals on herself, and gains super powers.
    • Subverted by Monkey; Dexter deliberately experimented on him, which gave Monkey his superpowers. The subversion comes from Dexter never figuring out that he succeeded.
  • The whole premise of The Powerpuff Girls (1998) revolves around a freak accident that occurred while the girls were being created: Professor Utonium's pet chimp Jojo accidentally shoved the Professor while he was trying to create the perfect little girl, effectively causing the Chemical X spill that created the Powerpuff Girls (the blast from the spill also gave Jojo super-intelligence, and his jealousy of the girls eventually drove him to become their arch-enemy Mojo Jojo). Why the Professor had that Chemical X located where someone could break it and cause it to spill inside the pot is anyone's guess.
  • Meltdown in Transformers: Animated gets his powers by angrily knocking over the beakers of chemicals he was working on, after his funding gets cut.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force when Shake tries to gain superpowers using barrels of toxic waste. First he tries to get some worms to eat the waste before biting him. This doesn't work, so he dumps a spoonful of the waste over his head, shouting, "Oh, no! A horrible accident!". This doesn't work, either.
  • In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Tombstone had the very Jokeresque origin of falling into a vat of chemicals during a bungled factory robbery. Spider-Man even lampshades it later.
    Spider-Man: You better stay still, another swim in that chemical soup and your hair might turn green!
    • Spidey, of course, has his classic backstory. In this case, the spider that bit him was mutated by passing through the energy beam of a prototype "neogenic recombinator", part of an experimental new science that uses specific radiation wavelengths to selectively manipulate DNA. The process is more or less replicated to recreate his iconic foes the Lizard and the Scorpion.
    • Morbius gets his powers when he is bitten by a vampire bat that was exposed to a neogenic recombinator's beam whilst he was trying to use it to break down the genetic code of a sample of Spider-Man's blood — it got zapped feeding on the blood sample, and when Morbius tried to shoo it away, it bit him on the hand, which mutated him into a "living vampire". He then gets zapped with the same recombinator beam in a Taking the Bullet fashion, transforming him into a humanoid bat-creature.
    • The Green Goblin gained Super Strength and a villainous split personality after being exposed to toxic chemicals in an explosive leak at his factory. The costume was a spare Hobgoblin suit he had on hand whose colors changed as a result of exposure to the chemicals.
    • The Spot is a scientist who became a living portal network after being accidentally sucked into the interstitial dimension by a malfunctioning portal generator.
  • Parodied on Family Guy. After the entire Griffin family gain superpowers and start causing trouble, Mayor Adam West tries to give himself superpowers by rolling around in toxic waste. The result? He gives himself lymphoma. His doctor berates him for the stupidity of such an action. He does at least stop the Griffins' rampage, since they feel guilty about his cancer.
  • The origin of Dr. Two Brains in WordGirl. Obviously, you don't get a rat brain stuck to your head playing golf.
  • The Simpsons episode "Three Men and a Comic Book" affectionately parodies The Incredible Hulk with Radioactive Man's origin: he gains his powers when trapped at the site of a nuclear detonation.
    Martin: I would've thought that being hit by an atomic bomb would've killed him.
    Bart: Now you know better.
    • In the Bongo comic series, a pre-nuclear Golden Age version of Radioactive Man ('Radio Man') is hinted at, who looks a bit like the Golden Age Flash. God knows what his origin is.
  • Stinkor, one of Skeletor's henchmen in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002), gains the power of stench after ruining one of Triclops' experiments.
  • Brain of Pinky and the Brain once had a plan than hinged on this concept. He posed as a human and got a job at a big corporation, which he planned to sue for the money to fund his latest world-domination scheme by staging a freak accident involving a microwave and non-dairy creamer, reasoning that no one understands either well enough to argue against the claim.
  • On South Park, Jack Brolin A.K.A. Captain Hindsight was a former news reporter that gained the power of extraordinary hindsight through a freak accident involving a retroactive spider.
  • In The Mask animated series, a couple comic book fans try to replicate the accident that created their favorite superhero Insector the Bugman by breaking into a nuclear power plant and getting bitten by a bug after they become radioactive. Unfortunately they forget to bring a bug with them to the power plant and succumb to radiation poisoning. Then their ambulance crashes en route to the hospital. One guy crashes into a putty shop and is mutated into the Clayface expy Putty Thing. The other guy crashes into an aquarium and becomes Fish Guy, who has the awesome power of being a fish. Who still can't swim.
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, Jack Ryder was a talk show host doing a set piece on the Joker's origin. Joker barges in and decides to have some fun by dosing Ryder with Joker Venom and throwing him into a vat of chemicals similar to the one that transformed the Joker. This backfires on the Joker when the combination of the Joker Venom and the chemicals gives Ryder a Superpowered Evil Side that calls himself Creeper. The Creeper then proceeds to scare the crap out of the Joker. By the end of the episode, the Joker is begging Batman to save him from the lunatic.
  • The Venture Bros. lampshades this. When Phantom Limb is creating the Secret Society, One of the people taking up the offer explains he got his powers from a freak lab accident, to which they immediately point out they understand as they themselves have had a freak lab accident that changed them into what they were.
  • Martha Speaks is a milder example. It's pointed out several times throughout the show that the alphabet soup gave only Martha the ability to speak, and that she ate it by accident. This is most likely put into place to dissuade kids from giving their pets alphabet soup in the hopes of having a talking pet. (Of course, the show is also aware that it's a cartoon...)
  • The Batman Beyond episode "Heroes" presents a dark Deconstruction of the concept. Three scientists are accidentally irradiated and become "The Terrific Trio" (with obvious parallels to the Fantastic Four). Then it turns out that their transformations are slowly killing them and driving them insane, and were caused by a colleague's scheme to Murder the Hypotenuse.
  • In Freakazoid!, a computer chip with a computer bug is somehow able to suck a person into cyberspace, instantly granting them all of the information on the Internet, but also turning them into a Freakazoid, if the person hits a specific sequence of keys ("@[=g3,8d]\&fbb=-q]/hk%fg") followed by Delete. Dexter gained his powers when his cat pawed across his keyboard chasing a butterfly (inadvertently typing said sequence) and he tried to delete the resulting gibberish.
  • Ogrest from Wakfu was created when a piece of candy accidentally fell into the alchemist Otomai's Ogrine mixture. Otomai instantly takes a liking to the baby and adopts him as his son.
  • Tom of T.H.U.M.B. (a segment of the 1966 King Kong cartoon on ABC) was a janitor in a secret agent office lab who took a spill while cleaning. His friend, Smilin' Jack, helped him up, only to trigger a ray that reduced both to thumb size. Together, Tom and Smilin' Jack tackle assignments that the regular agents couldn't take conspicuously.


Video Example(s):


Danny Phantom Theme

The opening theme for Danny Phantom explains just how normally fourteen year old Danny Fenton became a half-ghost hero.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / ExpositoryThemeTune

Media sources: