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Mass Super-Empowering Event

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"It's a wave of new costumed super-characters! The inevitable result of a nuclear explosion!"

"I call it 'The Wall of Weird.' It's every strange, bizarre, and unexplained event that's happened in Smallville since the meteor shower. That's when it all began — when the town went schizo."
Chloe Sullivan, Smallville

In Super Hero stories, there are many, many ways to give the lead superpowers. However, sometimes it becomes cost efficient in terms of descriptive effort or setting construction to give every character the same super hero/villain origin story in a Mass Super-Empowering Event.

The Mass Super-Empowering Event serves to kick start the series (The Event usually happens in Act 1 or 2 of the pilot) and provide a handy reason for the entire cast to get superpowers. The Eventnote  can be technological, mystical, accidental, deliberate or unexplained, but it always serves as a tangible link between the heroes and villains. Sometimes, it will also kill some unlucky other people in the process, perhaps to discourage repeated usage.

So why do authors use this trope? After all, it reduces diversity of Super Hero Origin stories by repeating it across several characters. Well, it turns out that having fifty ways a Freak Lab Accident can give you superpowers got old, fast, forcing quite a few Meta Origins to be applied to tidy up the place. Another is that it frees the author from having to give exposition on the source of the powers to focus on the characters themselves and the way that they use their new powers, effectively giving more Character Development and characterization by showing how they react to getting great power — be it betrayal, smugness or responsibility. It neatly provides a ready-made reason for a connection between the hero and villain, especially if one of them (rightly or wrongly) blames the other for causing the event. In settings where this event is the one and only source of superpowers, it can help enforce a Like Reality, Unless Noted "feel" for the setting, contrasting with standard comic book universes. Lastly, the cause for The Event can be a major plot hook for the hero(es) to unravel throughout the season.

A sister trope to Meta Origin, in which multiple seemingly unrelated super-empowerings are retconned into having a common origin. Compare Bizarre Baby Boom. Contrast Randomly Gifted. And do both with World-Wrecking Wave, which may have this as a side effect. May overlap with Mass Transformation if enough people effected are forced into new forms.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Charlotte has the short-period comet Charlotte, which passes by Earth every 75 years and spreads dust particles across the planet small enough to be inhaled, which stimulates the development of superhuman powers in children once they hit puberty.
  • Darker than Black fits this rather neatly, having a mysterious event which opened two mystical singularities known as "Heaven's Gate" and "Hell's Gate" — in South America and Tokyo, respectively — resulting in people from around the world being transformed into either Contractors (those with special powers who are stripped of their emotions/morality although, that turns out to be much more complicated) or Dolls (people left almost completely non-sapient who are used as living tracking devices), and the atmosphere around the earth being replaced by an Alien Sky that cut off Earth from the rest of the universe.
  • Calumon from Digimon Tamers is something of a sentient version of this. It's hinted throughout the series that he's the power of digivolution incarnate, with reactions and shows of power from him whenever the Tamers' digimon needed to evolve. Calumon is then captured by one of the Digimon Sovereign, and after being rescued and his captor beat around by one of his peers (as well as the Tamers), he fully 'awakens' and summons an army of Digimon to warp them all to Mega-level in order to fight the D-Reaper.
  • Full Metal Panic! has 1150 GMT, 24 December 1981, in which babies born at that time become a Whispered.
  • At the end of HuGtto! Pretty Cure, everyone cheering on the Pretty Cure ends up combining with the magic the heroines are already pouring in, allowing Cure Yell to pass that back on and let them be Pretty Cure and help finish off George and save the day. Notable for allowing young and old and boy and girl — and even reformed villains — to do so.
  • The whole fractured frog rain phenomenon in Jagaaaaaan, but taken to a horrifying extreme in Chapter 40, where Chiharu creates an artificial fractured frog rain-revealing that he's been hoarding the fractured frogs he collects instead of eating them, and releasing the hundreds if not THOUSANDS of fractured frogs over/into the massive crowd gathered to protest the fractured human bill, unleashing completely insane fractured humans, rampaging and murdering throughout the crowd.
  • In Jujutsushi Wa Yuusha Ni Narenai, the Class 2-7 has the entire classroom they're in sucked to an alien world, and they're instructed by some unknown voice to swear devotion to the local gods to gain the [Vocation]s they need to survive. The students in question have no choice which deity they're paired with, what [Vocation] they're given, or their starting skills.
  • My Hero Academia had such an event in its history, causing most of humanity to develop "Quirks" as a result. At the time of the story proper, about 80% of the global population have powers, while the remaining 20% do not have any powers at all. In addition, the percentage of people with Quirks increased in each generation as time went by, and in the modern generation being born without a Quirk is extremely rare. It's also possible for non-human animals to have Quirks, but this is seemingly much rarer. However, it's also a Superpower Lottery in that many quirks aren't particularly useful, such as the ability to stretch your eyes out of your head really far. Most of the time, a person's quirk is either a copy on one of their parents' quirks or a combination of both their parents quirk mixed together in some way. Also, a person can only ever get one quirk, so whatever you get, you're stuck with it. Except for two quirks that break this rule: One For All, which can be voluntarily transferred from one person to another, and its evil counterpart, All For One, which can involuntarily steal other people's quirks and allow the user to either utilize it themself or transfer it to someone else. What the actual event was that caused this empowering remains a mystery. As far as anybody knows, one day a baby was born with the power to glow, then suddenly other people around the world started gaining powers too, and the rest is history. Later parts of the story talk about a theory that Quirks are the result of a virus that was spread to humans through rodents that mutated us. However, none of this has yet to be proven, so the origin of Quirks remains a mystery.
  • In Myriad Colors Phantom World, a Japanese company named Alayashiki was attacked by terrorists, releasing a brain-altering virus. This caused people to start seeing mythical creatures, like Youkai. A small percentage of children also developed special abilities.
  • NEEDLESS has a World War III level event causing a 'black spot'. Many of the people within this area have superhuman powers. Late in the anime, it's revealed that originally a Crystal Dragon Jesus Figure existed within the area and his death caused the powers to spread throughout the black spot.
  • The Reflection, the title is named for the event 12 years before the story that gave some people powers. At the end of the 12th episode, a second wave seems to begin.
  • In the Tiger & Bunny universe, people started developing or being born with many and varied superpowers about forty-five years before the time the show's set in. No one is quite sure why this happened — they just roll with it.
  • At the end of Part One of Tokyo ESP The Bad Guy Wins and over 20% of Kanto gains Psychic Powers.

    Comic Books 
  • The gems of knowledge in The 99.
  • Captain Carrot and each original member of his amazing Zoo Crew gain their powers because of exposure to fragments from the same strange meteor.
  • In The Boys, the first supes in the setting were created by Vought American via Compound-V. Due to the extremely expensive nature of this process (it was said that the watered-down knockoff serum that Butcher used to give the rest of the team temporal super powers cost like one billion a single shot), Vought eventually arrived to the conclusion it wasn't going to be profitable in the long run. Instead, the corporation opted to try and invoke this trope through callous disregard of environmental protections hoping that at least some of the victims would develop powers useful enough to be worth recuiting.
  • The setting of Earth X comes from this, but the reason is not revealed until later in the story. It turns out that it was Black Bolt, who used a weapon to cast Terrigen Mists down to Earth so that the Inhumans would not be seen as outcasts when they left Attilan. What he apparently didn't predict is for Earth to turn into such a Crapsack World.
  • One day in Eight Billion Genies, a genie appears for every single person on Earth, granting them one wish each. The initial rush of rash, selfish wishes immediately creates global chaos. Within a week, a so-called "Powered Age" has begun as people wishing for various super-abilities start challenging and battling each other.
  • The Elementals comic by Bill Willingham had the Shadowspear, a mass of supernatural energy collected by Big Bad Saker to help him conquer the world; when Saker is defeated by the Elementals, the Shadowspear spell runs wild and becomes attracted to pain and death, causing various people and animals all over the world who have died in especially weird ways to be resurrected as supernatural beings, most of whom fought the Elementals.
    • What's more, an extremist religious group learns how the Shadowspear works and sacrifices hundreds of its followers in gruesome ways, trying to create their own superhumans. And it worked. The vast majority of these "martyrs" died, but enough were empowered to create the Rapture super-team.
  • In The End League, most superpowers are a result of the Green Event, wherein Astonishman was tricked by Dead Lexington into blowing up a crashed alien spaceship, releasing exotic radiation from the ship's power core. The radiation killed around 3 billion people but empowered several hundred thousand.
  • Inverted at the end of House of M, where the Scarlet Witch uses her reality-warping capabilities to remove the superpowers of ninety percent of the mutant population.
  • The Terrigen Bomb from Marvel's Infinity event awakened the powers of every human carrying Inhuman genes. This became the setup for some new titles — for example, the new Ms Marvel.
  • During the DC Comics crossover Invasion!, the Dominators set off a "gene bomb" which activates a lot of people's dormant metagenes. Since the Dominators' aim was to get rid of Earth's superheroes, this was a textbook case of Nice Job Fixing It, Villain.
  • JLA (1997): Near the end of the World War III storyline, in an effort to defeat Mageddon and rescue Superman, every human on Earth is given powers comparable to Wonder Woman via attuning the human morphogenic field to a superhuman frequency via a Purple Ray array powered by a giant known as The Glimmer.
  • Inverted in JLA: Act of God, which involved a mass depowering event.
  • Zig-Zagged in Lazarus Planet. In Batman vs. Robin, a volcano that hid a Lazarus Pit erupts after the Pit is spoiled by the magically-supercharged Helmet of Nabu, Dr. Fate's helm. The eruption causes magically charged superstorms that transforms humans caught up in them, futzes up some metahumans' powers or even adds extra powers to them.
  • In Milestone Comics' universe, there was the "Big Bang", a massive gang war on Dakota Island. The event ended when police used tear gas unknowingly tainted with the mutagenic Quantum Juice, killing 90% of those caught in the gas and giving various superpowers to the rest. Virgil Hawkins aka Static was among the 10% of people who survived the Big Bang, and received his electric powers as a result.
  • The White Event from The New Universe.
    • Similarly, the White Event from the short-lived reboot newuniversal, which explores the idea more. Here, rather than being random happenstance, it's a deliberate act by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, designed to help mankind through a "paradigm shift" as the planet enters a "strangematter web". Problem is, the choosing is at random. So the man given the Starbrand is drunk off his ass (sound familiar?), and the man give the Justice glyph is a brain-dead cop (who subsequently thinks he's in Hell). The setting also mentions a previous failed event, The Fireworks, which occurred back in the 60s, and only produced three superbeings, who were all killed within a decade. And there was another event several thousand years before, which did work... only one of the people empowered was an utter bastard who started killing and mind-raping the others for his own gain (and by the modern day, that event is completely lost to history).
  • The miniseries North 40 has this happen to a small Midwestern town after someone reads from the library's resident Tome of Eldritch Lore. Lovecraftian Superpower Lottery ensues.
  • Ordinary has this happen by way of an airborne virus. Everybody in the entire world gains a power (some more useful than others) except for the protagonist.
  • In Project Superpowers, Pandora's Urn didn't so much mass-empower the heroes as it twisted their existing powers and/or skills in bizarre ways.
  • J. Michael Straczynski's comic Rising Stars has a version of this, where all the supers on Earth were in utero in a small midwestern town on the day of a bright flash of light. The first powers manifested when they were in elementary school. The government put them in a camp under military control until the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. They did have a normal-as-possible high school experience after that, but all the heroes and villains have already known each other since childhood.
    • In another of his comics, Supreme Power, all superpowers (except Hyperion and Zarda's) were caused by a nanovirus that came to Earth along with Hyperion.
  • In The Simpsons comic event "When Bongos Collide", every human in Springfield except Bart got hit with a nuclear blast caused by Itchy and Scratchy turned real. Not only did they gain diverse powers, but they started fighting each other for no particular reason. Bart observed, "With great power comes even greater irresponsibility!" In order to set things right, Bart dons his Bartman persona, and using Flanders' video camera, a comic book, and the same alien technology that made Itchy and Scratchy real, he teams up with Radioactive Man.
  • Downplayed in Strontium Dog: Most characters in the series who have some form of superpowers got them due to Strontium-90 fallout from the Great War, but vanishingly few of those exposed to Strontium-90 came out physically or mentally superior to baseline humans.
  • Transformers: Generation 2: Redux (otherwise known as the comic book that was distributed at BotCon 2010) revolved around the Decepticons experimenting with forestonite. Eventually, an attempt to destroy it to keep it out of the Autobots' hands results instead in forestonite gas granting superpowers to all the Transformers present (along with the occasional new look).
  • In Malibu Comics' The Ultraverse, the only sources of superhuman powers were magic, technology ("wetware") or "the Jump Start" — an alien artifact located on the moon that every so often sent out bursts of energy that granted humans superpowers, at first theorized to be intended to advance humanity to the point where we could reach the moon and free it, but later revealed as attempts to gather its scattered components including the Nanomachines that had long ago infected all life on Earth including humans.
  • In The Underburbs, the young vampire Countess Winifred Pale pulls a Becoming the Costume on the whole town of Pendleton. Many of them develop powers, including the main character Angie, her mother and her brother.
  • WildStorm Universe had several — the Comet Effect, Gen Factor, being a partially human from one of the alien races that masqueraded their way through Earth's history, whatever it was that created Century Babies, exposure to the Snowflake... that should about cover it.
  • The X-Men have the detonation of the Atom Bomb as the cause for the explosion in their birth rates, having been a very tiny percentage of the human population beforehand. They ain't called "The Children Of The Atom" for nothing.
    • In the Ultimate Marvel universe, mutants appeared in the world thanks to Super-Soldier experiments performed on Wolverine, the first true mutant.

    Fan Works 
  • In All For Luz: The story starts after Luz's universe goes through what All For One calls a "Quirk Awakening", with 10,000s of people developing powers (all children and teenagers), including Luz. A month later, The World Health Organization dubbed it “The Mass Power Awakening Event or, the MPAE. All For One was actually the one that caused it after his death at the hands of All Might in his world and his soul was sent to another world and put into Luz's head. He notes it's more advanced than the one that happened in his world, which will lead to more devastating global consequences.
  • Superhumans begin to appear in the world of Equestria Girls in Equestria Girls: The Empowered World after an explosion of Equestrian energy in Canterlot. The source of it is yet unknown, but it appears to have been caused by the formation of the Human World Elements of Harmony.
  • In the A Man of Iron series, this happens at the climax of the second book A Crack of Thunder. The wildfire explosion that devastates Stannis' army at the Battle of the Blackwater happens to inadvertently match the requirements for a Valyrian Blood Magic ritual for awakening superpowers in people, causing numerous people in King's Landing to gain powers as a result.
  • The entire plot of the Case Closed fanfic Midnight White starts with a mysterious stranger breaking into a science museum during a Kaito KID heist and setting off a device that produces a strange blue/white smoke when caught. The rest of the plot revolves around the main characters and a few Original Characters discovering and dealing with their powers and relationships, while trying to figure out what the mysterious stranger wanted.
  • Miraculous City starts with Monarch granting Mr. Pigeon a special Alliance Ring meant to channel powers from all the stolen Miraculous at once. During the fight, Ladybug's Yo-Yo wraps around the ring, causing a surge of energy that spreads across the entire city. By the time that Monarch depowers Mr. Pigeon, every person in Paris has ability to transform into a Miraculous form and use that power, including the Ladybug, Black Cat, Rabbit, Peacock, and Butterfly Miraculous.
  • My Little Avengers has three: the first happened in the distant past, when Asgard was destroyed, and the magic released by it created Celestia and Luna, as well as the first Unicorns and Pegasi. The second occurs when Celestia is forced to release most of her own magic when Loki attacks her; this causes random mutations across Equestria. The third occurs at the end of the story, when Loki dies, and his magic is released in the same way. According to him, this will ensure that everypony (and every other species) will all be mutants within a few generations.
  • The dramatic climax of A New World includes a downpour of dragon blood, which dramatically increases the power of youkai touched by it, and transformed humans soaked in it into youkai.
  • The Nucleus Incident, a very popular Team Fortress 2 fanfic, involves the RED team being exposed to a blinding light the glowing machine in the center of the Nucleus map gives off one day. Each team member wakes up some time later to find out they've acquired strange superpowers and the BLU team have superpowers of their own.
    • The fanfic Hikari which is explicitly very inspired by The Nucleus Incident has a similar thing but in Library of Ruina with the Light going momentarily haywire and granting the Patron Librarians initially uncontrollable superpowers. There is also a hint of a certain assistant librarian not being entirely normal. Incidentally, the number of suddenly empowered characters is the same (9) as Roland and Angela are both entirely unaffected.
  • Downplayed in the Oversaturated World. At the end of the first story, the whole world is infused with magic and every human has strange new mutations... but for the most part these mutations follow very similar patterns, with only a few individuals being more powerful than everyone else.
  • In Poké Wars, Ho-oh uses the orb of creation to substantially boost the power of Pokémon attacks and make them lethal. In addition, Lugia uses his own orb of creation to remove the dampeners of humans, granting them the ability to perform superhuman physical feats.
  • Downplayed in A Posse Ad Esse, a Die Anstalt fanfic in which the six playable toys get specialized superpowers. The energy wave coming out from Dr Wood only affects the toys inside the asylum at the time; in fact, not even that far, since Dub is found without any, being "furthest away from the blast".
  • Red Lightning has the Storm, which gave a significant minority in Peach Creek superpowers.
  • The Secret Return of Alex Mack:
    • Invoked and deconstructed when North Korea gives various empowering substances to 680,000 soldiers. The vast majority of recipients just die, and most of the survivors are grossly mutated without gaining any special abilities. Only a handful of them (six, out of more than half a million) end up with combat-useful powers.
    • There's a more successful (but unintended) example when the traces of GC-161 leaking into Paradise Valley's water system cause a significant fraction of the population to gain various powers.
  • Take a Stand: In the third "book", The Broken Mirror, a dimensional rift opening above Zootopia results in several mammals developing random superpowers. Previous superheroes in the setting relied on skill or tech.
  • Troll Cops: While the Green Sun Incident is largely responsible for the activation of the Skaian Artifacts from which most of the setting's heroes and villains derive their powers, it also directly awakened several characters' powers, including Sollux and Aradia's psionics, Terezi's blindness-compensating synesthesia, and Snowman.
  • Zim the Warlord: Irken Reversion: According to Zim, every species goes through a phase where they experiment with Childergy, ultimately leading to a critical mass moment, with unpredictable results. Sometimes it will devastate the planet, but others it will alter the species on it in ways that result in bizarre abilities. In the case of Earth, the end result is all native species getting the potential for magic and psionic powers.
  • The Megarift Disaster in Sacrifice (Ravenshell) is an incident where-in something in Dimension X goes horribly wrong and a rift opens above New York, spilling a portion of Dimension X onto New York City, including a massive amount of mutagen. This results in an estimated 1.2 million mutants now inhabiting the city.
  • This is why Incubators in A History of Magic feared Anomalies, humans that spontaneously developed magical abilities without contracting with an Incubator, because one powerful enough could cause this trope to happen. It was why they had arranged for Jesus to be crucified, and why 2B was executed for covering up that Mary Magdalene had been an Anomaly as well for endangering their mission. Their fears were eventually realized when Billy Kane used Haitian magic to become a Puer Magi without contracting, which set off a chain reaction that cause Puer and Puella Magi to spontaneously awaken all over the world.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In All Superheroes Must Die this is hinted at for the reason that all of the heroes got their power except for Charge in the first place.
  • In The Amazing Spider-Man, The Lizard plans to make all humans into superpowered reptilian humanoids like him by releasing a chemical cloud from Oscorp's tower, to eliminate the weaknesses he believes plague humanity. Needless to say, Spider-Man stops him.
  • Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends: The movie's prologue reveals that the Ultramen all got their superpowers when an attempt to revive their dying star not only mutated the entire planet's population into giants but also released a universe-spanning energy wave that gave rise to the universe's many kaiju. In response, the Ultras collectively chose to protect peace and justice in the universe for millennia to come.
  • In X-Men, Magneto's plan is to turn all the world leaders into mutants. The technology he uses is deeply flawed, however: not only would it kill the leaders if unleashed, but it also broke the mental barrier that sealed the Dark Phoenix within Jean Grey's psyche.

  • The creation of The Maze in Gary Gibson's Against Gravity novel marked the beginning of a rather long and drawn out empowering event; as an Elaborate Underground Base dedicated to researching how to make Super Soldiers via the use of Nanomachines, it processed hundreds or perhaps thousands of people. Many eventually escaped and spread across the world, with enhanced speed, increased strength, regeneration, superior reflexes, sensing and control of electronics, enhanced vision and hearing... you get the idea.
  • The web novel Anathema has The Pulse. After a worldwide blackout on February 2010, people around the world began developing supernatural abilities.
  • In Brennus, Point Zero (00:00 1st January 1923) was this. Subsequent generations developed powers through a mix of Puberty Superpower and Traumatic Superpower Awakening.
  • In The Curse of M, a global fever pandemic leaves survivors afflicted with abilities that most of them can't control. Why this happens is unknown, but the victims are known as the Cursed, and very rapidly also become The Dreaded due to the damage done by their Power Incontinence. This gets a number of them rounded up to be studied.
  • In Forging Hephaestus, there are occasional events called Confluences that result when a combination of unrelated factors result in the appearance of lots of new metahumans. While metas can still appear outside of Confluences, those occasions are far less frequent. The first known Confluence involved a Freak Lab Accident, resulting in the laws of physics becoming far more malleable than before, thus allowing superpowers to be possible. Both the Alliance of Heroic Champions and the Guild of Villainous Reformation anticipate Confluences and scramble to snatch up new recruits and prevent collateral damage from people suddenly having powers. The book's protagonist, a Wreathed in Flames scientist named Tori Rivas is "recruited" into the Guild and becomes an apprentice to a retired villain. While she herself gained her powers outside of a Confluence, one happens not long after she joins the Guild, and all other recruits (both capes and villains) join after the latest Confluence.
  • In The Grimnoir Chronicles books, at some point before the American Civil War, people all over the world suddenly started gaining superpowers.
  • The titular Infection of The Infected. An unexplained event that causes superpowers, and still is. It's not evolution, mutation, or a disease, though people thought it might be in the early days and tried quarantining Infected. Actually, there are at least a couple of "specific infectors" whose power is that they're contagious and spread powers around.
  • In I Need A Hero, the event only ever referred to as "The Event", seemingly triggered by a nuclear detonation that destroyed the city of Madison, Wisconsin, gave every single human being on Earth superpowers. In the chaos that ensued, a small subset of humanity went mad with their new power and ended civilization across the globe by killing more than 90% of the population. 10 years later, only a handful of people know what caused it, and the protagonist Roxy is not yet one of them.
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie has 1001 children born at midnight on the day India gained its independence acquiring low-level superpowers and a telepathic network as a result.
  • In the Mistborn books, the only way for a potential Allomancer of any kind to unlock their abilities is to face a near-death experience, resulting in an event called "Snapping." Late in second book and all through the third one, the mist sickness is a deliberate attempt by Preservation to forcibly unlock the Allomancy inherent in the entire human population by deliberately push anyone who has inherent Allomantic powers to near-death.
  • Perry Rhodan explains the sudden turn up of mutants with radioactivity because of the A-Bomb.
  • In Phaeton whenever a nuclear bomb goes off or a public experiment is carried out either this will happen or eveyone will die.
  • In Philip José Farmer's "biographies" of Tarzan and Doc Savage (and the Massively Multiplayer Crossover "Wold Newton Universe" based on Phillip's stories), the Event is the titular Wold Newton meteorite. The radiation of the meteorite affected the passengers of a passing coach (and several animals in the area); their descendants were endowed with unusual strength, intelligence, and ambition, becoming the inspiration for many of the heroes and villains of fiction. (See the other wiki for more details.
  • Possible example in Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain. Evolution, one of the first heroes, spent the first week after he got his powers as a tree, trying to learn how to control everything. The massive amounts of pollen he released during that time spread across the globe, to the point that everyone on the planet has traces of his DNA in their system. It's theorized (in-universe) that this is the cause of the later surge in superhumans.
  • One night in The Reckoners Trilogy, a red object appeared in Earth's orbit and bathed the planet in a strange red light. Thereafter, some humans developed superpowers, called Epics. The world named the satellite, and the day Epics were created, "Calamity" for all the chaos the Epics would bring.
  • In Scorpion Shards, the protagonists' superpowers are triggered by the supernova of a distant star. The shards of the star's soul enter the bodies of all six of the infants born at the exact moment of its destruction.
    • At the end of the series, billions of stars go supernova simultaneously, transforming the entire next generation of humanity into Star Shards in recognition of the Shards showing mercy on their enemies in the final battle.
  • Super Minion actually has two, though they are related. Every few years, there is an event called an Odd Summer, which among other things causes people to develop permanent superpowers. Additionally, the mutavus virus, which appeared during a previous Odd Summer, will occasionally trigger in someone close to death and change their body in such a way as to make them more resilient. Depending on the situation, mutavus can range from fairly benign to utterly horrific.
  • In Twilight Watch, the book's villain wants to use a magical artifact to turn all humans in the world into Others, not realizing that it'll be total chaos with people settling scores and grudges with magic rather than the usual way. In Sixth Watch, a prophecy predicts the death of all Others in the world. It's explained that this will result in humans becoming Others to compensate with the same result as in Twilight Watch. Both events are averted, fortunately.
  • Lavie Tidhar's novel The Violent Century is a deconstruction of World War II Alternate History stories involving the existence of superpowered people (the superpowered people are too few in number and historical forces too gargantuan for history to be changed much if at all) in which all the great powers have superpeople by 1939 due to the effects of a quantum physics experiment in the mid-1930s by a Mad Scientist named Dr. Vomacht.
  • In Wearing the Cape, the Event changes the world as we know it. For 3.2 seconds everyone in the world experiences complete sensory deprivation, along with a worldwide power outage. Since the Event, a small percentage of people who experience great trauma or stress become "breakthroughs," manifesting superhuman powers. The cause of the Event and source of these powers is never explained.
  • The Wild Cards book series has an alien virus that grants superpowers to about 1% of victims, while the other 99% either die horribly or become grotesque mutants. In 1946 it is released in the atmosphere over Manhattan, killing thousands and creating a few dozen supers. It's later revealed that a percentage of the seemingly uninfected are carriers when the virus manifests in their offspring.
  • Worm:
    • Scion, the world's first superhero, first appeared floating over the Atlantic in May 1982. After this, people began developing powers, but did not reveal their existence to the public until 1987. At first people assumed that Scion was the source of the superpowers, but that still begged the question of where he got his powers. This theory is abandoned soon after it was confirmed that people who had had zero contact with Scion were still developing superpowers. The question as to where the powers are actually coming from doesn't get answered until near the end of the story.
    • Endbringers usually cause such events whenever they attack major cities. Justified because extreme trauma is the most common cause of superpowers in the Wormverse.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The powers manifested by The 4400 are eventually revealed to stem from a "fifth neurotransmitter" called "Promicin". It can be injected into normal humans to give them powers. Or kill them, it's about even odds.
    • The series has arguably had three mass super-empowering events, the first being the infusion of the initial 4400 returnees with promicin. Many non-returnees later get powers when well-intentioned extremists make promicin shots available to the public. The series ends with thousands of people in Seattle, including almost all of the remaining protagonists, getting powers as a result of the Power Incontinence of a character with the ability to release promicin into the atmosphere.
  • The Season 2 finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ends with a crate full of Terrigen crystals that fell into the ocean earlier in the episode dissolving in the water. A bunch of fish are seen swimming through the cloud of dissolved crystal, which are then caught and made into fish oil capsules sold in stores all over the world, waiting to give superpowers to anyone with Inhuman ancestry. S.H.I.E.L.D. quickly gets the fish oil off the shelves, but some slips through the cracks, and since this is a marine pollution event, any fish products could contain Terrigen. The Season 3 premiere later gives an estimate that the Terrigen will spread throughout the entire ocean in a year and a half; while not everyone in the world will be affected, anyone in the world could be affected. One man went through Terrigenesis when he went out in the rain.
  • Arrowverse:
    • The Flash (2014): The same particle accelerator accident that gave the main character his powers is also responsible for multiple villains of the week, and the team's stated goal is to deal with any other 'metahumans' similarly created by the accident. Season 2 involves metahumans from an Alternate Universe, which had its own particle accelerator accident.
    • Of course, this doesn't include powers granted through magic, and an episode of Arrow Season 3 also revealed that metahumans exist who were nowhere near Central City at the time of the accelerator explosion. We also learn (in the post-Flashpoint timeline) that Caitlin and her father gained their ice powers long before that as a result of an attempt to cure ALS.
    • Then along comes Legends of Tomorrow, revealing that metahumans have been around since at least The '40s (e.g. some members of the Justice Society of America). Then there are people affected by Nth metal (an alien substance from planet Thanagar), such as Vandal Savage, Hawkman, and Hawkgirl. Some are never explained, such as the Pilgrim's ability to freeze and reverse time locally.
    • Season 4 of The Flash opens with a smaller-scale version. When Barry gets pulled out of the Speed Force, he emerges in the path of a bus, and the energy released turns everyone on board into a metahuman.
    • Season 4 of The Flash ends with DeVoe performing a final spiteful act by using his powers to drop a satellite on Central City, which is stopped at the last minute via being destroyed by a Megaton Punch. An early Season 5 episode reveals that the resulting debris which rained down over the city was full of dark matter, resulting in numerous new metas being empowered (and, in an interesting twist, also empowering objects with powers as well).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer ends with a mass super-empowering event, with Willow using the power of the Slayer Scythe to make all the Potential Slayers around the world into full Slayers.
  • The eclipse in Heroes at least looked like one of these at first, but it's not completely clear. The eclipse didn't grant everyone's powers, certainly not all at once, but it did remove everybody's powers once.
  • Kamen Rider Wizard: All of the Phantoms in the show are the result of a singular event, a dark ritual called the Sabbat that killed many people and released the Phantoms that existed within their psyches. This also serves as Wizard's origin; Haruto was present at the Sabbat, but fought back from the Despair Event Horizon, gaining access to his Phantom's magical power in the process. Later on the show introduces characters who got powers independent of the Sabbat, like Beast, who found an artifact Transformation Trinket with a Phantom sealed inside of it.
  • The cast of Misfits and most of the Monsters Of The Week are empowered by a mysterious storm that included misshapen black clouds and hailstones the size of dogs. Everyone struck by lightning got superpowers.
  • Motherland: Fort Salem has one at the end of the series in which the main characters turn everyone in the world into witches.
  • The Kryptonite meteor shower of Smallville in which Clark first arrived to Earth and at the same time giving many of the locals odd powers and/or altering their personality sometimes and causing them to become the Monster of the Week. There are a few humans empowered by Kryptonian technology, and it's vaguely implied that there's some Kryptonian ancestry among humanity.
  • This is the Origin Story of the title entities of the Ultra Series. They originated as beings similar to humans, but their sun began to die. So they built the Plasma Spark to act as their artificial sun to survive. This had the side effect of mutating the entire species into gigantic Energy Beings of immense power.
  • Raising Dion: Years prior to the events of the show, a unique aurora borealis in Iceland gave everybody who was there to watch it superpowers. It took some years for these powers to manifest however. Dion's father Mark was one of these people, and he passed them on to his son.
  • In The Tick (2016), while there are some characters who seem to derive their powers from other sources, the arrival of Superman Expy Superian on Earth introduced genetic anomalies into the human population that kicked off the Age of Superheroes.

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues had roughly 40 children gain superpowers when their high school was overrun with green fog that took the shape of snakes and impaled them. While there were other students and teachers in the school, they were blind to the paranormal happenings. Many of the now empowered students have set out to discover what caused the event in the first place.
  • DC Nation, in their version of Blackest Night, had hundreds of rings in every color of the emotional spectrum descend on Earth for the final fight. This included black ones.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In White Wolf's supers RPG Aberrant, super-powered "novas" come about after a massive release of quantum energy into the atmosphere begins to trigger the "eruption" of heretofore unknown nodes of the human brain that allow the novas to manipulate the very building blocks of the universe in certain ways.
    • In the Pulp Action game Adventure!, which is a prequel to Aberrant, the Hammersmith Incident released waves of "telluric energy" across the globe, allowing for the appearance of low powered individuals to appear (and laying the seeds for the later explosion of Novas).
  • Champions The New Millennium had the Wildstrike, in which millions of people around the world developed superpowers at once. In a subversion, these powers often came with horrific drawbacks or were very weak.
  • In the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons psionics is a result of an incursion on reality by The Far Realm.
    • The 3.5 Expanded Psionics Handbook suggested a number of possible ways to Retcon in psionics; this was one of them, although not necessarily the Far Realm specifically.
    • In the Forgotten Realms campaign setting a battle between two deities resulted in the genesis of magic in that world.
    • 2nd Edition had the Ravenloft module Requiem, where the central event renders everyone in a small city — including the player characters — undead.
  • Exalted has a variation: the titular Exalted have always been a part of the setting, but after the breaking of the Jade Prison, Solars began reappearing in numbers unheard of since the Usurpation, and the brand-new Abyssal and Infernal Exalted showed up as well.
    • Also expressed in the origins of the Exalted, as the Exaltations were created by the gods to imbue their chosen mortal champions with the power to defeat the Primordials. They might have different flavors, but all have the same original reason for existing.
      • At least until 3e: the Liminals didn't show up until the Shogunate, and the Exigents are created on a case-by-case basis — some may well be results of the Primordial War, but others are created afterwards (e.g., the example Chosen of Harvests is a present-day creation).
  • Godlike, a supers Tabletop RPG set in World War II, posits the appearance of superpowered "Talents" starting in 1936. Talents may believe they got their powers from magical artifacts or radioactive spiders or alien rays, but all are psychics with the power to warp reality to their will. Because they all share the same origin, all Talents can detect other Talent powers in use, and can attempt to interfere with other Talents in a contest of wills.
  • The Hellstorms in GURPS Technomancer, which generated a wave of magical radiation which imbued magical abilities in hundreds of thousands of people in the fallout zone.
  • In Monte Cook's World of Darkness, an unsuccessful attempt by Eldritch Abominations to dissolve reality unleashed the Nightmare Wave, which awakened supernatural forces across the Earth. Practitioners of magic traditions suddenly found their spells working, people were transformed into vampires or werewolves through possession by long-dead murderers or primal spirits, and still others found themselves preternaturally competent at everything, in a world now infected with Eldritch Locations and bizarre supernatural entities.
  • The Mutants & Masterminds setting Paragons deals with superpowered individuals appearing in a world Like Reality, Unless Noted. The point when the paragons first started appearing is called "The Breakout." Depending on the Game Master, the Breakout can be overt or subtle and a backstory event or the focus of the first session.
    • In the World of Freedom, Emerald City has recently been hit with what's being called the Silver Storm with survivors gaining powers.
    • The setting Shards: Unsung Destiny, featured in the sourcebook Mecha & Manga, has all powers come from special crystals deposited on Earth by a comet.
  • Progenitor, another Wild Talents setting, subverts the Mass Super-Powering Event by having it empower only one person, and only become a mass event when it turns off superpowers are contagious, so every use of powers on someone has a chance of giving them powers (albeit, slightly weaker). Then those people pass on more (slightly weaker powers), often on enemies they use their powers to stop, and before you know it there are thousands to millions of superpowered individuals (though there is a limit to how many people each person can spread powers to, and that limit decreases to nothing after ten 'generations', so it's not like everyone will get powers).
  • Downplayed in Scion. The gods have always had children with mortals, resulting in Scions, people with incredible abilities who can potentially become gods themselves. But when the Titans broke out of Tartarus, the gods realized they couldn't fight a war on two fronts (those fronts being the World and the Overworld), and ramped up their seductions of mortals, resulting in a surge of Scions with the duty of facing the agents of the Titans on Earth.
  • The first day of any given century in Spirit of the Century is this. Anyone born on January 1st, 1900 (and before that January 1st, 1800 and so on going back) is born with incredible potential, which can express itself in any number of ways.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • City of Heroes has a grand total of three Events (with the tie-in books, technically five, as the first spawned beings who became the Titans, and another generation who became the Greek gods), two playing it straight and one inverting. The first is Marcus Cole and Stefan Richter drinking from the Well Of Furies, which supposedly opened the Pandora's Box on superpowers of all origins. Similar to the X-Men example above, mutants began appearing with more frequency after the first atom bomb was detonated. Finally, the Event was inverted at the beginning of the comics series when Lord Recluse (alias Stefan Richter) depowered all of Paragon City's extremely numerous heroes. Tying into this is the Event that re-powered all the heroes, the unleashing of Prometheus's Flame.
  • DC Universe Online has something like this. Lex Luthor comes from the future where he killed the Justice League, only for Brainiac to show up and ruin his party. So he goes back in time to give large numbers of people superpowers to stop his past-self's plans AND Brainiac. The Exobytes contain data on all of Earth's heroes and villains, and are released into the atmosphere infecting random people who can be either good or evil depending on their personality before being infected.
  • In the "good"(ish) ending of Deus Ex: Invisible War, all of humanity is augmented with Nanomachines that provide perfect health, universal education, and a link to a central AI as part of program of "perfect democracy" — not just universal suffrage, but universal intelligence, ensuring that everyone's vote is based on educated opinions. This results in The Singularity — world peace, universal prosperity, rapidly advancing technology, easy space development and nanotech superpowers... for everyone. In comparison, the alternatives are dictatorships by Mega Corps, Church Militants, or Social Darwinists.
  • Dislyte: As explained in the game's intro, a floating monument called the Miracle suddenly appeared, gifted numerous people the powers of mythological figures, turning them into the Espers alongside bringing Miramon, mineral-like monsters that attack humans. Even after the Miracle's initial appearance, it's still awakening people into Espers as seen with Brynn when she awakens her Valkyre powers during the prologue.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: In one ending, after securing the vast reserve of Soul Power necessary to become Divine, you may decide to share it, granting Source magic to everyone in the world. They easily defeat the demonic Voidwoken invasion, but then go back to fighting each other.
  • The main characters of Final Fantasy XIII, minus two (who get their powers before the story starts), are branded l'Cie at the same time, after meeting up as strangers in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • Final Fantasy XIV:
    • Summoners can only manifest Primals whose aether they have been exposed to; accordingly, you must have defeated Ifrit, Titan and Garuda to learn to summon their respective Egis. However, the Heavensward questline reveals that everyone in Eorzea has absorbed at least some amount of Bahamut's lingering aether after the Calamity, justifying the ability to call upon his power whether or not the player has completed the Binding Coil of Bahamut raids.
    • In the Shadowbringers patch quests, the Ascian Ellidibus does this to reveal the truth behind the Echo powers the Warrior of Light and other characters have, activating numerous surrounding NPCs' latent Echo through a fake meteor shower, revealing them as reborn Ascians. The belief that the Echo is a gift from the goddess Hydaelyn to her chosen is false; rather, only those who already have the power are able to hear her, and she is constantly reaching out to find new champions.
  • In the Freedom Force games, when Mentor's ship is destroyed in Earth's orbit by Lord Dominion's forces, his supply of Energy X (the most powerful substance in the universe!), rains down all over Earth, empowering many heroes and villains.
    • This was actually Lord Dominion's plan for Earth all along, except he only planned to give Energy X to criminals, then sit back and watch humans destroy each other.
  • Golden Sun: The eruption of Mount Aleph spreads Psynergy Stones all over the world. Many people and animals hit by them suddenly gain Elemental Powers, but the only effect they have on the party (who already have Psynergy) is a full refill of their PP.
  • inFAMOUS starts this way, turning the hero and anyone with a specific gene into a Differently Powered Individual.
  • Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader had a cataclysmic magical explosion known as the Disjunction during the crusades. Many people were possessed by spirits this time which granted them magical powers, though such possessed people are shunned and distrusted by normals.
  • In Mass Effect, an explosion at a Singapore spaceport in 2150 caused Element Zero to be spread across a wide area, affecting many unborn humans exposed to it. If you were lucky, nothing happened. If you were unlucky, you died from radiation poisoning. And if you were extremely lucky, you got biotic powers. Kaidan, a biotic caused by the Singapore incident, also mentions that several other such incidents occurred over the next few years. While there's never been any proof they weren't genuine industrial accidents, it's very interesting how they never seemed to happen in unpopulated areas...
  • The opening of Plants vs. Zombies: Heroes features Dr. Zomboss atop his brand new Zombot Hero-Tron 5000, whose laser he uses to transform a regular zombie into Superbrainz. While comemorating his success, he accidentally punches the Big Red Button that activates the robot's Self-Destruct Mechanism, causing a blast that empowers the rest of the playable cast.
  • In Vagrant Story, simply being within the city of Lea Monde begins to gift you with magical powers and extra senses. The same goes for your enemies, and even the Damsel in Distress, who gains the ability to see the hidden thoughts of the guys capturing her. The extra-sensory perception comes in handy for Ashley Riot to see cutscenes involving the villains when the villains are nowhere near him.

    Web Comics 
  • The Change in Chisuji (happened before the story starts).
  • Matt and Joel do this near the end of Concession, which means everyone is now aware that they’re in a webcomic, as evidenced on occasion on Ballerina Mafia.
  • A much smaller-scale version than usual happened in Knowledge Is Power; a Negative Space Wedgie opened up in a cafeteria-type-area on a college campus and granted superpowers to the eight humans currently in it, with the nature of the powers being based on what they were thinking about — their homework.
  • In Strong Female Protagonist — A world-wide storm that occurred around twenty years before the start of the comic is heavily implied to have given some of the super-powered individuals their powers. Everyone with superpowers is shown to be around 20-21 years old, although not everyone around that age has powers.
  • WondermarkSpoofed
    "You there! Have you seen my son go by? He's infected with a terrible virus that will kill one third of the earth's population, making five eights of those remaining lactose intolerant and while granting amazing superpowers to a quarter of the remainder!"
    "Well, come on then, either you've seen him or you haven't."
    "Wait, no, start over. I was always bad at math."
    • For those interested, approx. 7.5 billion people in the world (as of October 2017 estimates), that would be roughly 469 million individuals with amazing superpowers or about 1-in-11 people (granted that's after 1-in-3 people have died).
  • The Weirding in Yosh! (happened before the story starts).

    Web Original 
  • The SCP Foundation Apotheosis canon is an Alternate Continuity where an extradimensional Eldritch Abomination called SCP-3396 has given 7% of Earth's population superpowers. Turns out, mutants can infect other people too.
    • This leads to an apocalyptic scenario in which the Foundation tries to control the rapidly grown number of empowered individuals and ends up destroying the world in the name of "preserving normalcy", with agents killing themselves when it's clear that they are on the losing side. A short story set fifty years later shows that mutants survived the event known as "the Cleansing" and have likely totally replaced "normal" humans.

    Western Animation 
  • The Nanite Event from Generator Rex. Five years ago, there was an explosion in a research facility, and nanomachines infected every living thing on Earth. Every so often, the nanomachines turn something into a mutant, usually mindless and aggressive. And it's not just humans — animals and plants can be mutated, too.
  • After Harmonic Convergence at the end of Season 2 of The Legend of Korra, many non-benders, including Commander Bumi and Arc Villain Zaheer, gained the ability to Airbend at the beginning of Season 3.
  • In Loonatics Unleashed, the evil brother of the titular team's mentor launched a massive meteor at their homeplanet, knocking it off its axis and unleashing cosmic energy that gave the team their powers, along with several members of their Rogues Gallery.
  • The intro for Pet Squad shows that The Professor created a machine called "The Superizer" which he wrote off as a failure and had his robot assistant Pepe throw it away in his basement. However, his three pets and a crazy goose got stuck inside and it accidentally turned on, giving the three pets superpowers and uplifting them whilst the goose became Mother Goose. Meanwhile, the Superizer's effects hit all of P-Town and gave nearly all animals in the area differing degrees of superpowers.
  • The Big Bang from Static Shock (and from the original Milestone Comics line that inspired it): the experimental "radioactive tracer gas" that police used during an apocalyptically large gang war left many of those exposed to it (both participants and bystanders) with superpowers of varying benefit or determent. One also didn't even need to be anywhere near the event to be affected, as Virgil's best friend Richie gains powers thanks to residue on Virgil's clothes (though the emerging of said powers is delayed). This also explains why so many superpowered individuals are criminals: the majority of people who were affected by the Big Bang were already criminals. It's also somewhat deconstructed in the Grand Finale, as Ebon (who, along with every other Bang Baby, had been Brought Down to Normal) hits on the idea to try and recreate the mass-empowering event, only much larger and more potent, enough so to turn the entire city and beyond into Bang Babies. After all, the first Big Bang gave Ebon superpowers, an ample supply of wannabe supervillains to recruit for his burgeoning criminal empire, and the social chaos necessary to build up such an empire. An even bigger one will just give him even more to work with.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Mass Empowering Event


Power Lunch

The Gangreen Gang somehow get superpowers when the blast from the girls' laser vision causes a chemical reaction with all the food they've eaten. Each member gets a different power based on the types of foods they took: Ace gets ice powers from all the frozen treats, Lil' Auturo gains super speed from the coffee, Snake gets stretchy powers from the stretchy candies, Grubber gets sonic burping from the gassy foods, and Big Billy becomes a super strong rock from the hard candies.

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Example of:

Main / SuperpowersForADay

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