Electromagnetism is a strange beast. It's one of the four fundamental forces of nature, the others being gravity, the weak nuclear force (radioactive decay), and the strong nuclear force (binds atoms together). In Real Life it's not at all as powerful as superpowers portray them in fiction.
How powerful this is varies. These characters if too powerful can just fold their arms and let their Powers Do the Fighting and will never even have to touch you themselves. They'll be floating in the air, levitating steel girders around, and lobbing them at you, and while those normally weigh tons they do this with just a flick of their hand. Plus being able create extra appendages with spare junk lying around. On the other hand, when this is downplayed this can take the form of the character being literally magnetic with metal just sticking to them wherever they go, but not having very good control over it. This is often played for comedy, because what kind of lame power is that anyway?
Sometimes characters with these powers will be fully electromagnetic and can manipulate electricity as well. This is far broader than just simple magnetism because now their arsenal of abilities includes control of plasma and radiation. Depending on how much they know about the science of magnetism, they may have won the Superpower Lottery, as this could give them the power to, to an extent, manipulate the other three forces of nature — bending light (possibly giving them cloaking powers), or being able to disassemble the very atoms that make up an object.
There is also Esoteric Magnetism, which is more like "magical magnetism". Someone is capable of manipulating objects via the concept of "attracting" or "repelling", regardless of whether the object is magnetic or not. Sometimes, it even applies to non-objects like emotions.
Artistic License – Physics definitely applies to works that use magnetism powers. Shock and Awe and Extra-ore-dinary are Sister Tropes. Often involves Selective Magnetism and Hollywood Magnetism. Magnetic Weapons is when technology uses the force of magnetism for guns.
- Volto from Mars, like all Martians, can repel with his left hand and attract with his right when he says his name. Although it's described as magnetism, he often attracts non-metallic objects. Oh, and he needs to recharge said power by eating cereal, with his favorite being Grape-Nuts.
- In A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun, Misaka Mikoto can do this as a side effect of her control over electricity. By modifying the flow of electricity in the air or on objects, she can replicate the effect of an electromagnet, allowing her to create a chainsaw out of iron filings or cling to metal surfaces. Even her signature Railgun is based on generating a powerful electromagnetic field.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has a few Stands that invoke magnetism:
- Stardust Crusaders: Mariah's Stand, Bast, takes the form of an electrical outlet in with an ancient Egyptian motif; touching it magnetizes the unfortunate victim. Which seems like a minor inconvenience... but the magnetism increases with time and proximity to Mariah, and will eventually get to the point of flinging cars at whoever Mariah targeted.
- Golden Wind: Risotto Nero has a more sophisticated approach. His Stand, Metallica, lets him manipulate magnetic fields to shape iron into razor blades, scissors, and needles inside his victims' bodies. A side effect of this draws iron out of the blood, leading to severe anemia that further weakens his opponents and can even kill them. Even though the iron in hemoglobin isn't ferromagnetic. He also uses it to make staples to close wounds he suffers in a fight and to camouflage himself as a rock with red iron dust.
- Steel Ball Run: The shared Stand of the Boom Boom Family, Tomb of the Boom, gives each of the three members different magnetism-related abilities. The father, Benjamin's Tomb gives him the ability to use magnetism to manipulate the iron implants in his skull to mold his flesh and bone to disguise himself. The youngest brother, L.A.'s Tomb gives him the ability to manipulate iron-bearing sand, which he uses as a weapon. The older brother, Andre's Tomb works similarly to Mariah's Bastet in that once someone is targeted (in this case, by coming into contact with Andre's blood), they become a magnet that grows more powerful the longer they're affected and the closer they get to other magnetized people. Benjamin and L.A. use their Tombs almost exclusively to isolate victims of Andre's version and drive them together, since if three people affected by Andre's Tomb of the Boom come into simultaneous physical contact with each other, the magnetism becomes strong enough to literally rip the victims apart.
- Solva of NEEDLESS has Magnetism as her power, which works likes the Half-Life 2 Gravity Gun, except it allows her attract/repel anything since it's specifically the power to create a "unique magnetic field".
- Mx0: Ise uses a form of magic based on magnetism, he can make anything magnetic and attracted to something else, allowing him to stick people to walls and so on.
- My Hero Academia: Kenji Hikiishi, aka Magne, a member of the League of Villains, has the power to turn other people into magnets.
- The Magnet Release bloodline limit is fairly prominent in the Hidden Sand Village; the Third Kazekage was famous using it to manipulate "Iron Sand". His successor the Fourth Kazekage used Magnet Release to manipulate gold dust, and both the Fourth's son Gaara and the Tailed Beast sealed inside him, Shukaku, can use the ability to do the same with sand.
- Magnet Release also crops up in other villages; Toroi from the Hidden Cloud was famous for using it to magnetize both his weapons and anything they came into contact with, turning his basic ninja tools into Homing Projectiles.
- Late in the story, Naruto temporarily gains Magnet Release from Shukaku and uses it to form a Magnet Release Rasengan.
- Eustass Kidd from One Piece ate the Magnet-Magnet Fruit that allows him to manipulate metals via magnetism, which he usually uses to repel metal projectiles (cannonballs) and form giant arms made of scrap and metallic tools and weapons.
- Zatch of Zatch Bell! has a spell like this, but not as most fiction portrays it. Instead of flinging around metal beams, Zatch instead releases an electric orb that magnetizes anything it hits. It sounds lame, but it's a lot more useful than it seems, considering there's not much his enemies can do when they're stuck to the side of a metal wall.
- Happy Heroes, Smart S.'s main superpower is to use magnetism to move around metallic objects.
- Amazing Man from All-Star Squadron gained magnetic attraction and repulsion powers after he lost his matter-mimicking powers in the sequel series The Young All-Stars.
- Control of magnetism was the main power of Green Lantern foe Doctor Polaris.
- This was Iron Man's power during the Silver Age, being able to move heavier objects and people, and to fly due to Iron Man's repulsors using magnetism.
- Legion of Super-Heroes:
- Magnetic manipulation is Cosmic Boy's power. It is a common ability for everyone on the artificial planet he's from since it was populated by rescued experiments who had been caused to develop this ability, but Cos is incredibly powerful. He's used his powers to manipulate his opponents' blood and to act as a Technopath in addition to the usual applications of such a power.
- Like most people from Braal Cos' little brother Magnetic Kid (Pol Krinn) shared his powerset, though he had a different approach to using it.
- Mago (Dyrk Magz) is also from Braal and struggled with trying to live up to Cos' example. He eventually lost his powers to a villain.
- Repulse of the WorkForce is also from Braal and is a retired Magnoball champion. Magnoball can only be played by those with magnetic manipulation abilities.
- Spider-Man villain Electro once had this as his main power. Where he was able to negate his weakness to water by making them evaporate with electromagnetism before it touches him, he was also able to paralyze people by overcharging their synapses with it. Otherwise, his normal Shock and Awe powers had basic electromagnetic capabilities which he used for things like the ability to Wall Crawl and fast traveling on metal objects.
- Teen Titans and The Flash (Wally West) enemy Magenta. Frankie Kane was a one-time girlfriend of Wally West, who gained magnetic powers which killed her family. Not knowing her purpose in life, she became a villain.
- Transformers (2019): Windcharger has this power, just like his G1 toy. As Cybertronians are a species made largely of ferrous metals, this makes him The Dreaded.
- This is Magneto's main power. His application for it is normally for manipulating metals like molding them and moving them about or punting them as projectiles, but he can do other things with it like Flight (via repulsing Earth's magnetic pull), make Force Fields, Bloody Murder (blood has iron), Telepathy resistance (brain waves are electromagnetic... ? Though this may just have a lot to do with experience of telepaths and sheer bloody-mindedness), Invisibility (light waves are electromagnetic). Really, just head to Marvel Wiki.
- Polaris has magnetic powers similar to Magneto's; he was later revealed to be her biological father. She can sense and control magnetism, create magnetic energy pulses and magnetic force fields, and manipulate the Earth's magnetic field in order to fly.
- Static gained electromagnetic powers after being doused with an experimental chemical during a gang war he was caught up in. He can manifest both electrical and magnetic energy allowing him to perform feats like magnetizing objects, electrocuting opponents, levitating objects (such as manhole-covers or his self-built metal saucer for use in flight) and restraining or adhering people/objects to various surfaces in the form of "static cling".
- Akira Otoishi has learned how to do this via Static Electricity in Iron Touch, which he uses to magnetize the protagonists to the floor of a falling plane in order to prevent them from parachuting.
- The Secret Return of Alex Mack sees one of the North Korean supers gain powers that Terawatt describes as "a Magneto type". She mostly uses it to steal guns and return bullets to sender.
- Viridian: The Green Guide: During the Heroes vs Villains training exercise, Kaminari suddenly gains the ability to magnetise himself due to having acquired One for All from All Might shortly before the exercise started.
- Godzilla gains access to this power in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla after being hit multiple times by lightning. He uses his magnetism in the final battle, first to rip electrical pylons from the ground, then counteract Mechagodzilla’s attempt at flying away, using the remarkably strong magnetic field generated from his body to pull MG back towards him!
- In the live action Transformers movie, Jazz seems to have have magnetic powers, pulling the firearms of soldiers away from them. Blackout also has an EMP weapon.
- Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto again in the X-Men film series, played by Ian McKellen in the original trilogy and the future of X-Men: Days of Future Past and Michael Fassbender in the "prequel" series that started with X-Men: First Class. Magneto's most impressive feats include:
- Lifting the Golden Gate bridge of San Francisco to allow his army to attack the Cure-producing facility in X-Men: The Last Stand.
- Lifting a submarine out of the water in First Class.
- Lifting a whole stadium in Days of Future Past.
- Manipulating the entire Earth's magnetic field once he's empowered by En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse, to the point where it's stated that he's destroying "everything built since the Bronze Age."
- The Dresden Files: Earth magic includes magnetism in its purview. While Harry's go-to elemental magics are fire and wind, he sometimes carries a Sword Cane bearing carved runes that allow him to throw guns and such around.
- In Mistborn: The Original Trilogy, Coinshots can Push on metal of any sort except Aluminum (whether or not it's magnetic) by burning steel, whilst Lurchers can Pull the same way by burning Iron (Mistborn can do both). Pushing metals causes them to fly directly away from the protagonist's center of mass (or causes the protagonist to fly away from the metal if the piece of metal is large or being pushed against something large and unyielding), while iron causes the metal to fly towards the protagonist or the protagonist to fly towards the metal (subject to the same limitations).
- Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain. Claire has electricity gloves which can magnetically stick to walls (letting her climb walls) or make people magnetic (letting her stick other people to walls).
- The servant Karkash from The Zombie Knight has power over electromagnetic fields, giving him both magnetism and lightning powers. He's kind of oddly matched with Hector, who's an iron materializer; Hector can neutralize Karkash's lightning by creating lightning rods, but Karkash's magnetism can use Hector's iron constructs against him if Hector can't uncreate them in time. Karkash can also fly by wearing chunks of iron under his clothes and moving those.
- In The Villains Series, one of Eli's victims, Beth Kirk, has magnetism powers. She acquired her powers only recently and didn't have the time to master them, hence they weren't enough to save her from Eli.
- Chosen, the fourth book of Alex Verus, introduces Dhruv Chaundhury, an adept with magnetic manipulation powers. He uses them to hurl small metal spheres at his targets.
- Mighty Med: One of Experion's powers.
- In Sanctuary, Nikola Tesla becomes magnetized after losing his vampirism and Shock and Awe powers. He can pull metal towards his hands from long distance. And retains that power after becoming a vampire again.
- Smallville: In "Magnetic", Seth Nelson gains the power to control magnetism. This also allows him a form of Mind Control by manipulating the brain's electromagnetic activity.
- The kaiju Antlar from Ultraman, an Antlion Monster who can fire a beam of magnetic energy from between his mandibles capable of pulling a jumbo jet from the sky. He can also magnetize enemies to drag them into his massive mandibles. In fact, his Boss Subtitles is even "Magnetic Monster".
- Return of Ultraman had another kaiju nicknamed "Magnetic Monster" called Magnedon. Like Antlar, Magnedon can produce magnetism powerful enough to pull down a plane. Unlike Antlar, Magnedon is a Gentle Giant whose powers are naturally emitted from his body, meaning any harm it does is totally unintentional. Unfortunately, MAT and Ultraman Jack are forced to kill it due to the hazards the otherwise harmless creature poses.
- In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Jemimah has a form of esoteric magnetism as part of her superpower. By touching an object, she can imbue it with a field that repels her at speed (or repels the object, if it's smaller than her).
- The power Telekinesis can be given the special effect "Magnetic" and the Disadvantage "only affects metallic objects", which would reduce its cost. The disadvantage could be made even greater by limiting it to only affecting iron or iron alloys (such as steel).
- In the supplement Enemies III, the super villainess Gaussian had magnetic powers which depend on the planet's magnetic field. She can fire a Magnetic Blast that affect targets wearing metal armor or clothing, create a magnetic force field and fly.
- DC Heroes 3rd Edition. The Mental power Magnetic Control allowed the Character to create and manipulate magnetic fields. This allowed hurling metal objects at an opponent to cause Physical damage, defending against attacks by metallic objects (swords, bullets, robots etc.), and simply moving metal objects around.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Lodestone marauders can create powerful magnetic bursts to either send metallic objects flying away, typically to disarm enemies and knock down those wearing metal armor, or attract them towards themselves, usually in order to yank metal objects out of other creatures' hands and make them stick to the lodestone marauder's body. In addition, a magnetic aura surrounds them at all times, making it difficult to strike them properly with metallic weapons.
- Myriad Song: Towsers can take the "Towser Magnetics" Gift. It allows them to walk on magnetic surfaces and intercept radio signals, as well as allowing their brawling attacks to ignore armor.
- Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution:
- The effects of magnekinetic and technokinetic talents are both caused by espers consciously manipulating electromagnetic fields to affect weather systems and electronics, respectively.
- The Magnetic Field talent allows technokinetics to manipulate nearby metallic objects in a way that mimics telekinesis.
- Villains & Vigilantes. The "Magnetic Powers" power allows the user to move metallic objects, including using the object as a weapon.
- In BIONICLE, Toa of Magnetism have the power to control magnetic fields. Gahlok-Kal and Kraata/Rahkshi of Magnetism and all Makuta have limited Magnetism powers. Skakdi of Magnetism can only access their power if they work with another Skakdi, or if they carry a weapon that allows them to focus their Magnetism power individually. Makuta Icarax once showed just how dangerous this power is in a world of bio-mechanical beings by using his Magnetism power to crush Botar to death within his own armor with the victim helpless to do anything about it.
- In The Transformers, several Transformers had magnetic abilities that they used for various purposes.
- Ravage used it to cling to objects in his tiny alt-mode, making him an excellent spy.
- Windcharger actually has a relatively realistic portrayal: he can make each of his arms the pole of an electromagnet and use it to manipulate metal. The closer the metal is, the more powerful his pull.
- Tailgate (incidentally, his toy is a remold of Windcharger's) has a powerful magnet in his front bumper, which he uses to follow other vehicles while saving fuel.
- "The Magnetic Avarice" Carrera from Azure Striker Gunvolt, who produces powerful magnetic fields that manipulate metals, be it scrap metal or the Giant Hands of Doom that are a part of his armor. His Limit Break involves creating a quasi-singularity out of an intense magnetic field that draws in matter and makes it detonate. His powers also nullify the Septimas of other Adepts. He's a particularly tough foe for our hero Gunvolt, because aside from the Power Nullifier aspect, mistimed usage of GV's electromagnetic powers can either make Carerra's own attacks stronger or harder to avoid due to drawing him in.
- BlazBlue: Part of Iron Tager's cyborg enhancement is that he can generate magnetic currents through his body that he can use to magnetize his opponents and, after that, drag them closer to him for his devastating close-range attacks. It also allows for some...really weird hijinks.
- Dota 2: Reverse Polarity changes properties of matter, sucking all nearby enemies in front of Magnus.
- Dark Elf in Final Fantasy IV has magnetic powers that cause your characters to become paralyzed if they enter his lair while equipped with metal gear. Though in a rare case of Shown Their Work for a fantasy RPG, silver weapons aren't affected (this is inconsistent, as Easy Type allows Silver to be used while Hard Type and 3D don't).
- The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons: The Magnet Glove, which changes poles with each press of the button. Used to move magnetized balls, or Link himself toward or away from marked pillars.
- MapleStory: Arrow Illusion creates an illusion of an arrow on the ground which draws in enemies and allows the Marksman to reflect damage when hit.
- Mega Man:
- In Mega Man 3, Magnet Man's gimmick is magnetism; he can either fire homing Magnet Missiles or pulling Mega Man towards him with magnetic force. The blurb also mentions more of it: He's been known for sleeping on ceilings by attaching himself on them and likes giving magnetic therapy, but he has to avoid floppy disks and other sensitive electronics because his magnetic field can affect them.
- Mega Man Zero 4: Mino Magnus, one of the bosses, wields the power of electromagnetism thanks to lots of electric conductors inside his body. He can do feats such as polarizing Zero's body with magnetic force and makes chunks of iron attach to him to impede his movement, repel and attract Zero with magnetic current, using magnetic force to gather chunks of iron scrap to be used as projectile, or even Detachment Combat.
- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
- Monsoon's gimmick is Electromagnetism. Since his body is just segments put together by magnets, he does Detachment Combat by shooting his segments at you. Throughout his Boss Battle, he also uses magnetism to throw tanks and choppers at Raiden. Finally, his Boss Banter consists of referencing Genius Bonus terms like Lorentz Force and Left Hand Rule (which can be confused as the other Left-hand-Rule, or rather, Path.)
- In the Jetstream DLC, Senator Armstrong demonstrates similar abilities, using his powers to toss the debris of a helicopter at Sam. It's not clear why he doesn't demonstrate this power in the fight with Raiden.
- No More Heroes III: Gold Joe has the ability to change the magnetism polarity whenever someone steps into a affected area. Travis is then quick to point out how his battle will contain puzzle elements and asks Gold Joe to label his polarities with a red north and blue south.
- Magnet-Shroom in the Plants vs. Zombies series is a mushroom with a U-magnet for a head which he uses to attract zombies' metal objects from afar to weaken them. It is noted that magnetism is such a powerful power that Magnet-Shroom himself is scared of his own powers.
- Magnetism is used in a couple of moves. Magnet Bomb is a Steel-type move that never misses, and Magnet Rise uses electromagnetism to make a Pokémon float above the ground, rendering it immune to Ground-type moves.
- The item "Magnet" increases the power of Electric moves by 20%.
- Many species of Pokémon such as Magnemite and its evolutions use magnetism to move around. Some of those species also have the ability "Magnet Pull", which prevents enemies of the Steel type from escaping the battle in any way.
- Resident Evil Village has Lord Karl Heisenberg who has this as one of his powers from the Mold, introducing himself by impaling Ethan Winters, trapping him, then presenting him to Mother Miranda and the other Four Lords. He's also The Starscream who also wants to kill Mother Miranda for cursing him with his powers and his boss fight has him go into a One-Winged Angel metal/organic monstrosity that's fought against in a motherfucking tank! With a chainsaw arm!
- Super Lesbian Animal RPG has Killer Ray, one of the villain Javis's four 'sons', a being created from a fragment of Javis's life force and who possesses the ability to manipulate electromagnetism. He can swap the polarities of matter, and uses this ability on both himself, and the party in battle. His energy beam attacks have different charges depending on his own current polarity. Being hit with an oppositely charged beam deals far more damage.
- In Teslagrad, this is the main mechanic for exploring the tower. You get a magnetic glove in the beginning that can polarize certain objects, and later you get a cloak that emits a polarized field while active. Most of the game's puzzles are based on using these tools to manipulate attraction and repulsion (plus some boots that let you Ride the Lightning).
- Warframe: Mag's elemental forte. Oddly, this makes her powers strong against the Corpus not because she can disrupt their robotic proxies, but because she can dampen their shields. She can magnetically yank enemies from across rooms, place a magnetic field around an enemy that causes all nearby bullets to home in on them, short-circuit shields, and crush enemies into tiny balls of flesh and metal.
- The Watchmaker (2018): Alexander wields a glove that has magnetic powers.
- In a Dorkly Originals short "Why Magneto can't be in the MCU", Magneto uses his magnetic abilities to defeat both The Avengers and Thanos using their own weapons against them.
- RWBY: Pyrrha's Semblance is polarity, the ability to control magnetism. She uses her Semblance to subtly shift weapons away from her before they land a hit. This eventually earns her the nickname "The Invincible Girl", which she resents.
- In Girl Genius, the sentient locomotive The Beast has this as one of its powers, while the human Count Wolkerstorfer is also an expert in the field (assuming there is an actual human running that Giant Mecha..)
- Paranatural: Max's weapon is a baseball bat which acts as a giant mentally controlled magnet.
- XRS: Manipulation of electromagnetic energy is the cornerstone of the XRS capabilities.
- Ben 10: Alien Force: Lodestar has magnetic powers.
- Biker Mice from Mars featured a villain with magnetic powers named Lectromag.
- Static Shock: Static has this as a secondary superpower that comes with his electricity powers. He can use electricity to magnetize metal objects and attract them to him like keys and change, as seen in the show's intro. And he uses his electric powers on a metal disc so he can levitate on top of it in the air via diamagnetism. This extends to his appearance in Young Justice.
- In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) episode "Super Irma", Irma temporarily gained this ability after getting zapped by a magnetic device. She was powerful enough to lift metal objects the size of cars. Unfortunately, her powers wore off at the worst possible time, forcing the Turtles to rescue her.
- Windcharger in The Transformers can generate magnetic fields from his arms. This came in particularly handy when he was among several Autobots who disguised themselves as the Stunticons, only to be challenged by the real Stunticons who combined to form Menasor. Using Windcharger's magnetism and Mirage's power of illusion, the Autobots managed to pull of an ersatz Menasor that, while unable to withstand the real thing, confused Megatron long enough for his doomsday device du jour to blow up in his face.
- Ratchet in Transformers: Animated, like G1 Windcharger, has a pair of magnets in his forearms. As a medic, their initial use was loading damaged Autobots onto his sick bay, but they're quite useful in combat. Interestingly, he also had an Electromagnetic Pulse Generator that functioned entirely differently, instantly knocking out any Transformer in its beam. He could also combine his magnetism with teammate Bumblebee's electric Stingers to somehow make an EMP.
- A piece of Lost Technology in Transformers: Prime is a Polarity Gauntlet. It allows the wielder to not just pick up and manipulate metal (a helpful ability in a war between giant robots), but also magnetize objects and cause them to become magnetized for a time.
- In X-Men: The Animated Series, The meaningfully renamed Magneto once recovered from being Only Mostly Dead (with the accompanying Meaningful Funeral courtesy of his long time Frenemy Professor Charles "X" Xavier) by crash landing on Earth. The reason? Earth has magnetic fields and it healed him.
- Try it yourself with a strong enough battery, wires wrapped around a long conductive object (a nail or a screw), and if you like, a switch in the middle. The electromagnet.
- As Biomagnetism shows, animals and humans can give off and utilize magnetic fields. This doesn't mean we're going to be lifting the Golden Gate Bridge with our minds any time soon, but still.