Follow TV Tropes


Phlebotinum Bomb

Go To

A Phlebotinum Bomb is a Weapon of Mass Destruction, minus the "Mass Destruction." Instead of destroying everything within its blast radius, it only destroys certain things, like life forms or computers, and leaves everything else miraculously untouched.

Name comes from a dream one contributor had, in which he built "a Phlebotinum Bomb" from various bits of Phlebotinum to cause a planet-wide wave that would destroy all the evil shadow-monsters.


A Sub-Trope of Trick Bomb and often a superweapon as its targets have no meaningful way of defense. May also be a Wave-Motion Gun. Not to be confused with a Fantastic Nuke, which is a full-on Weapon of Mass Destruction, but often runs on phlebotinum. A form of Damage Discrimination, giving this attribute to weapons is a possible way to justify Friendly Fireproof.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • The Death Mask from Astro Boy: Omega Factor was a gigantic Mayincatec-looking Kill Sat that could generate a worldwide EMP that would kill all the robots on Earth, created as a contingency plan in case a Robot War broke out. Unfortunately its powersource, Omotanium, could also emit radiation that was harmful to humans, making it possible for the device to eradicate humanity instead, leading to extremists on both sides trying to gain control of the weapon.
  • Not a bomb, really, but a terrorist organization in Cowboy Bebop developed a virus known as "Monkey Business" which targets only the two percent of human DNA that makes us different from other apes. As for what it does... I hope you like bananas.
  • Markarov's Fairy Law in Fairy Tail only hits those the user sees as enemies. It also has about a city sized radius.
    • Laxus can use it too.
  • In the Trigun anime, Vash's Angel Arm can vaporize an entire city and yet not kill a single inhabitant caught in the blast. Of course, a bunch of people in the desert with no shelter didn't exactly fare well after that fact.

  • In the Eclipso comic book series from The DCU, there was the sun bomb, as 'Eclipso zombies' were vulnerable to the sun. Handwaved by a previous crossover having the DC super geniuses working long hours on sun weapons, the device simply covered every inch of the local area with the sun's rays. Someone needs to send this stuff to Superman.
  • The short lived Guy Gardner comic book series. One of his many, many changes involved a bizarre alien heritage (Discontinuity) allowing him to generate, from his own body, any weapon he could think of. His body was his power ring. He creates a sticky nuke which only fries that which it is touching (Major Force).
  • In the Incredible Hulk comics, at least the Marvel Adventures version, the gamma bomb is apparently supposed to be the anti-Neutron Bomb — destroy inanimate material, leave living things aside. That's not quite what happens, but you can say this about the end product — he doesn't specifically go after civilians, and can be persuaded to try and save them. Indeed, a recent story claimed that the Hulk's rampages have never killed an innocent person. Yes, even when he knocks over entire buildings.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), in the 21st century (which was ten thousand years before Sonic's plot started), an alien race known as the Xordas didn't take kindly to human scientists murdering and dissecting their peace-bringing emissary. They responded by detonating "gene-bombs" across the Earth, which specifically targets all of its organisms' DNA; if they're human, they were to die (a tiny fraction survived and devolved over 10,000 years into the Overlanders, like Robotnik and such), but as for non-human animals, they evolved into the Mobians during said period (ex: Sonic and pals), and were meant to be the new dominant species of the planet.

    Fan Works 
  • The Secret Return of Alex Mack: The Collective base is covered in GC-161 bombs, which will empower regular humans — usually with unstable powers, thus temporarily incapacitating them while they get used to the changes — and dissolve Orphans.

  • In Casino Royale (1967), the rather height-challenged antagonist is devising a weapon that will make all women beautiful and kill all men who are taller than he is.
  • The first movie of Get Smart, titled The Nude Bomb, features a bomb that only destroys clothes.
  • The "pinch" in Ocean's Eleven which releases an EMF pulse that causes a momentary blackout in Las Vegas.
  • The film version of V for Vendetta had biological weapons that wiped out humans in a region while keeping the resources and atmosphere intact. The corrupt UK government used it on one of their own regions to control their subjects with fear. In a chilling case of Truth in Television, such weapons really are likely being developed and may be perfected in the future.
    • But in real life only the most insane people ever would be willing to use them in practice; they are notoriously unreliable, and can easily mutate or demonstrate unexpected effects that will quickly turn against the original user, as well. They are mostly being developed for the sake of finding countermeasures against them, just in case an insane enough person ever got their hands on them.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • At the end of X-Men, Magneto tries to use a weapon that is supposed to turn normal humans into Mutants, but will actually kill them.
    • In X2: X-Men United, Cerebro is repurposed to kill mutants by brainwashing the Professor into unintentionally killing them while the machine is targeting them. After that's foiled, Magneto alters it so it instead targets humans and lets the Professor keep going.
    • Arclight's shockwaves in X-Men: The Last Stand allow her to target specific materials, the plastic weapons of the soldiers in this case. (In the comic books, she doesn't appear to be able to fine-tune it like that... and wouldn't have bothered sparing the soldiers, anyway.)

  • The "blue-rinse" bio-bomb in the Artemis Fowl series kills all organic life, but leaves everything else untouched.
  • One of the Biblical plagues killed every first-born son in Egypt.
  • Hyperion Cantos: Toward the end of Fall of Hyperion, the TechnoCore convinces the Hegemony's leaders that the best way to deal with the invading Ousters is by unleashing the deathbomb, a weapon which kills all humans within several lightyears but has no effect on the environment or any other form of life.
  • In Seeing Redd, the sequel to The Looking-Glass Wars, there is a device called WILMA (Weapon of Inconceivable Loss and Massive Annihilation), the exact workings of which are kept somewhat vague, but the effects of which seem to be destroying the imaginative powers of anyone within range.
  • The Machineries of Empire: Threshold winnowers cause every aperture in their area of effect — from doorways to eye sockets — to boil over with spectral eyes and deadly "corpselight", which fatally mutates, exsanguinates, and/or outright cooks every living thing it touches. Even the Hexarchate, which ritually tortures dissidents to death on holidays, considers them a weapon of last resort.
    Kujen: They're bombs that kill living things within the gate radius without damaging nonliving structures. The part that scares all the civilians is all the eyes and mouths that chew up the victims. That's just cosmetic. Dead is dead.
  • In Shatnerquake a bomb is planted at ShatnerCon with the purpose of retroactively eliminating all William Shatner-related media ever created.
  • In the Robert A. Heinlein novel Sixth Column, the heroes have perfected a ray-weapon that can be tuned to only kill Asians while leaving everyone else unharmed.
  • In Uglies, society was nearly destroyed many years in the past by a bacteria that caused petroleum and it's assorted byproducts to become unstable and burst into flame on contact with air.

    Live Action TV 
  • Dark Angel had a massive EMP destroy the world's computer systems, creating enough record loss and confusion that Max and her fellow Half Human Hybrids could escape into normal society without immediately being tracked down.
  • One Fringe episode featured a former Nazi whose gas weapon could be altered to only target particular races, family lines or individuals, based on genetics.
  • In the last episode of Power Rangers in Space, Zordon tells Andros to break open his tube, killing him, eliminating the Power Rangers' source of power, and most importantly wiping out all evil in the galaxy. It works, destroying nearly every villain that ever appeared on the show except Divatox, Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa, who are inexplicably turned into yuppies. Considering how many seasons there have been since then, this obviously didn't take.
  • In Stargate SG-1, the Goa'uld planet of Dakara turned out to be home to a device that could create or destroy anything, including specific lifeforms or objects. Ironically, the device was originally used to recreate life in the Milly Way Galaxy after a plague swept through it. While its range normally only extended to the planet it was on and the surrounding space, SG-1 managed to use it in conjunction with the gate system to destroy all the Replicator nano-bots in the galaxy.
    • Later, the Ori are destroyed by the Sangraal (Holy Grail), a weapon designed to specifically destroy all Ascended beings in a galaxy while leaving all other lifeforms unharmed. Understandably, their followers remain a threat next season.

    Video Games 
  • In general, many examples of Smart Bomb — a trope describing a game mechanic for clearing the screen of enemies — will overlap with this. Its Trope Namer refers to the name of an item from multiple Shmups which kills all enemies in its large blast radius, but not its user or their allies, though it doesn't have to be a bomb.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: The Elven homelands were depopulated by a Fantastic Nuke that deployed Deathfog, which kills every living creature it touches. Justinia has a similar device shipped to the Arx, which the player characters can choose to deploy, inflicting the same fate on its citizens.
  • In Evolve, overloading a Patterson generator, like the ones powering FTL drives or large facilities, creates a pulse of minkowski radiation that kills every monster it hits. Unfortunately, that same radiation is intensely painful to the monsters even at low levels, higher levels can mutate them into newer and more dangerous forms, the overload process increases the output until it finishes building up, and they can detect Patterson tech. In short, any attempt to detonate a Patterson generator will be met with hordes of angry supermonsters dedicated to tearing it and you apart before it can go off.
  • In Freelancer, when the Hyper Gate is finally activated, all the Nomads get sucked through to some faraway sector, but the good-guy ships stay right where they are.
    • Only because the Hypergate messed with the power supplies that the Nomads were using, since they all draw from the same quantum foam-based power technology. Power to the ships gets screwed with, thus get left helpless while the Hypergate sucks them up, unless my memory fails that badly.
  • The Halos in the Halo series, which are designed to starve out the Flood by killing all sentient life in the galaxy (including any Flood form more advanced than an infection form). Low-level lifeforms will survive the effect, but the Flood can't really feed on them. The Forerunners resorted to firing the Halos 100,000 years ago because there was no way to directly kill off all Flood forms without also killing off all life, period.
  • Mass Effect 3: If you pick that option, the Citadel can become one, destroying all synthetic life in the galaxy...the Reapers, the Geth, and EDI. And you did it.
  • Bloodtox gas in [PROTOTYPE], which causes necrosis in those infected with the virus (including the protagonist) but is completely harmless to normal human. "In fact, it's so harmless that you've been breathing it since you entered this room."
  • The Xel'Naga artifact you assemble over the course of the Terran campaign in Starcraft II kills all Zerg and only Zerg within its blast radius. As a side effect, at full power it also cures infested humans and restores them to normal.
  • The Syphon Filter virus is genetically engineered to kill people of certain ethnicities, sort of like Fox Die in Metal Gear Solid.
  • The Necrotic Mutox (or Rust Gas) of Thief II: The Metal Age can function this way. The reaction it causes will spread until it runs out of organic matter to fuel it, with no inherent size or range limit other than constantly needing fresh material to spread to. It could (and was likely intended to) consume all organic life on the planet of the games, and was explicitly expected to destroy all human life.
  • One of the many powerups in Warblade turns everything on the screen into diamonds, which only give 1000 points (a good score is about 2 billion so that's not a lot) but when you catch 100 of them you get a special bonus round where giant gems drop that are worth 100000+ each. You can normally get 10000000 from such a bonus round. Diamonds that increment the counter by 5 or 2 appear in other forms of bonus levels. There are 5 different forms of bonus levels by the way. Another powerup turns everything into money, which is much, much more beneficial in the long run.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Gorilla Grodd builds a device that could turn all the humans within a 500-mile radius into apes. His downfall was probably adding a switch that made it do the opposite.
    • He tried that in the DCAU Justice League cartoon as well, but the effect was only temporary. What was worse for Grodd was that finding out THAT was his master plan finally got Lex Luthor annoyed enough to shoot him and take over the Injustice League.
  • The Omnitrix on Ben 10: Alien Force has the ability to repair genetic damage, such as removing DNAlien parasites from their hosts. It reaches phlebotinum bomb proportions in the season finale, when it repairs the genetic damage of the entire Highbreed race that had rendered them sterile due to inbreeding.
  • In the second-to-last episode of the first season of Teen Titans, Slade presents the threat of a Cronoton Detonator (which will freeze everyone in time if detonated)
    • Subverted when the actual goal was to separate Robin from the other Titans. Not to mention that what it really did was break into pieces. In the confusion this caused, the other Titans got zapped by a nanobot-inducing laser from behind.

    Real Life 
  • An EMP (electro magnetic pulse) will disable electronics without affecting humans (at least directly). However, seeing that large scale tests were never conducted (mostly due to a potential side effect of knocking out all the electronics in too large a radius to make a test feasibly safe), its true effects in any realistic scenario are not precisely determined, and may range from doing near nothing at all to total destruction of all electronic circuits on the continent. Also, seeing that the only feasible way to produce an EMP powerful enough to be of use in warfare with current technology is a high altitude nuclear explosion, we likely won't be seeing it used in anything short of a nuclear exchange.
  • The likely inspiration for many fictional versions is the Neutron Bomb, a special kind of nuclear warhead developed during the height of the Cold War. Although it's not entirely blastless, its purpose was to wipe out armored divisions with neutron radiation, which would leave the vehicles intact while lethally poisoning the soldiers within. The idea was always extremely controversial, and the last American neutron bomb was dismantled in 2003.
    • The justification for this was that tanks are actually very good at withstanding a nuclear blast as long as they're not right at ground zero — and the Soviet Union had a bajillion tanks they could use in a European ground war. Leaving the enemy vehicles intact wasn't the goal (or even desirable, as it presented the possibility that they could be decontaminated and put back into service), just a necessary side effect of increasing the radioactive output of a nuclear bomb by sacrificing explosive yield.
  • Biological warfare. Biological weapons usually contain some of the nastiest, most dangerous viruses, bacteria or other organisms as well as biologically produced and particularly biologically active organics ever known. These weapons are capable of causing mass destruction with very high lethality rate while leaving the infrastructure and most of the living environment intact.