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Self-Made Superpowers

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"Well, not every superhero has powers, you know. You can be super without them. [gestures to his rocket-powered boots] I invented these. I can fly. Can you fly?"
Incredi-boy to Mr. Incredible, The Incredibles

So you are a born genius? Do you possess Super-Intelligence? You can create reality-bending, physics-defying, impossibly complex machines before lunch?

There is one thing you are short on though. You have no superpowers or even the skills of a Badass Normal. Or you just want to surpass your peers. Or maybe you do, but there is Always Someone Better.

The solution is simple. Use your incredibly advanced mind to give yourself powers. Do some self-Bio-Augmentation. Give yourself Artificial Limbs or more. Create a ritual because it's Time to Unlock More True Potential that only the Chosen One is entitled to. Build a device to mutate your genes into that of the resident Reality Warper. Integrate the Magitek you have stolen to your brain. Develop a Super Serum to give yourself The Gift and become an Instant Expert.

Done? Great! Now your powers match your intelligence.

The key point is that the character does the upgrading to themselves by giving themselves innate superpowers by themselves and can do so safely. May involve some Self-Surgery.

May overlap with Professor Guinea Pig, which is about testing inventions on themselves; the characters in this trope may alternatively know what they're doing.

Compare Charles Atlas Superpower, when vigorous training is used to gain superpowers, and Gadgeteer Genius, for creating superpowered devices.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Naruto:
    • Orochimaru, the Big Bad of Part I and a brilliant scientist, modified his body to be very malleable and snakelike, a power he refers to as the Power of the White Snake. He gains a Healing Factor, the ability to reconnect body parts via snakes, the ability to shed his skin to regurgitate a new body free from all damage, etc. Most importantly, he gains the power to use Living Corpse Reincarnation, his path to immortality that allows him to transfer his consciousness to another body. He can store his consciousness within the cursed seals he brands others with, allowing him to revive himself, albeit with some outside help, even after being sealed by Itachi Uchiha's extremely powerful sealing jutsu.
    • Orochimaru's right-hand man and highly skilled spy and Combat Medic, Yakushi Kabuto, integrated multiple Kekkei Genkai (unique abilities) into himself, granting him among other powers, a powerful Healing Factor, ability to liquefy, creating a clone, use a Super Mode indefinitely along with becoming a Master of Illusion capable of overcoming Itachi and Sauske Uchiha simultaneously.
    • Madara Uchiha, unlike his rival Senju Hashirama, is a brilliant scientist and to surpass him, integrated Hashirama's DNA in him, granting himself his rival's signature Wood Release technique and most importantly, the eyes of the God of Shinobi. See his page for the full list.
    • Obito Uchiha is a skilled surgeon and well-versed with genetics and transplants. He made up for his lack of natural talent by mastering Hashirama's cells, allowing him to phase through all attacks for 10 minutes with 1 Sharingan, and later transplants a Rinnegan stolen from Nagato's corpse.
  • Bleach:
    • Mayuri Kurotsuchi takes this a step further. Being a scientist first and foremost but needing combat prowess he used his brilliant mind to upgrade his Shinigami abilities. As Urahara Kisuke's successor as the Head of Shinigami Research Institute, he gave himself the ability to liquefy and make himself immune to any attack, a grappling hook in his arm and a scythe that extends from his ear. He also created something that allowed him to achieve Bankai the non-traditional way. Additionally, he installed a censor on his sword that can perfectly block any attack, making up for his lack of swordsmanship skills.
    • Aizen Sosuke created the Hogyoku to break the limits of Shinigami potential and steals Kisuke Urahara's, the only person he acknowledges to be smarter than him, to create a single one. He gains so many transformations and powers that it is best to see his page.
    • Oko Yushima is another brilliant scientist and is also a chessmaster who invented the mod-soul and Regai Technology. He later turns himself into a mod-soul through a series of convoluted schemes and gains access to the full extent of his power.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Dr. Gero is so brilliant that he creates multiple cyborgs and Androids more powerful than the second strongest being in the universe, Freeza, and the strongest Super Saiyans without ever leaving the Earth, a very remote and weak planet. He then converts himself into a cyborg.
    • Dr. Wheelo from the movie Dragon Ball Z: The World's Strongest is much like Dr. Gero, a brilliant scientist. He transplanted his brain into a mecha. His goal is to take over Goku's body by transplanting his brain in it.
  • Kengan Ashura gives us Hanafusa Hajime, a Combat Medic who modified his body to have Wolverine Claws, air canisters in his heels to increase the speed and power of his kicks, immunity to pain, a device to prevent his heart from stopping, and several others.
  • One Piece: Franky performed self-surgery on himself twice and turned himself into a Cyborg, despite not specializing in it (he is a shipwright), and displays superhuman strength, durability, and hearing. His cyborg body also has its own arsenal.
  • Giovanni of Fire Force modified his body to be able to transform into countless firebugs, gaining insect-like traits to increase his strength even further. Even when decapitated, he still survives as his head can move according to his thoughts.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • As a Side Effect of being the creator and controller of Level Upper, Kiyama Harumi gains multi-skill, the ability to use the skills and powers of its over 10,000 users.
    • Kihara Gensei later creates his own version and reveals gave Kiyama Harumi the idea. He doesn't possess the sheer quantity of Kiyama but makes up for it by choosing the abilities needed to reach Exterior.

    Comic Books 
  • In Dark Nights: Metal, The Drowned modified her body to give herself the superhuman abilities of an Atlantean. She uses them to murder Aquawoman in cold blood, supposedly to stop an inevitable Atlantean invasion, out of her paranoia against metahumans. This is despite being a metahuman herself.
  • In 52, Lex Luthor's "Everyman" initiative is ultimately revealed to be a trial run for giving himself superpowers.
  • In The Wild Storm, genius Dr. Angela Spica accidentally kicks off an arms race between two clandestine organizations when she manages to create a "transdermal drysuit" — essentially a retractable suit of armor housed in pieces beneath her skin — by reverse-engineering technology she had observed in an alien ship.
  • Eobard Thawne of The Flash is a brilliant scientist who recreated the Freak Lab Accident that gave the Flash his powers.
    • The first Kid Flash, Wally West, did the same thing to gain his.
    • Minor villain Speed Demon managed to partially empower himself with the same method, but the process was so flawed that he needed life-saving surgery that crippled him for life. He later used his expertise to restore Wally's powers when he was depowered, successfully if with a few hiccups.
  • Iron Man: During the "Extremis" six-issue arc, Tony Stark modified the titular virus to store his armor inside his body, directly interface with technology, use some of its powers without manifesting it, enhanced reflexes and regeneration of both his body and armor. He later develops Extremis 3.0, which grants him the ability to alter his appearance, enhanced strength, agility, reflexes and a Healing Factor. He also claimed it can make people immortal.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows: The Big Bad of the story captures every single powered individual he can find and uses his scientific prowess to absorb their abilities. They die after that.
  • Spider-Man 2099: In the 2019 reboot, unlike the original, Miguel, who is an Alchemax geneticist, gives himself his spider abilities on his own accord. That's because of the urging of the original Miguel and the death of his brother Gabriel.
  • Thanos uses his considerable intellect to argument his powers through bionic modifications.
  • X-Men:
    • Nathaniel Essex, better known as Mr. Sinister, gave himself quite a few powers by implanting X-genes of other mutants, such as shapeshifting.
    • Henry McCoy of Earth-295, better known as Dark Beast, continuously experimented on himself and others and gained Super-Strength, slowed aging, etc. The full extent of his capability remains unknown as he continuously changes them. He also received cybernetic enhancements from Mr. Sinister.
    • Doctor Nemesis has the mutant power of superintelligence and used it to devise further augmentations to his body such as enhanced eyesight. In the Age of Apocalypse universe, where he's allied with Sinister and Dark Beast, he also implanted the powers of multiple mutants within himself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Tomorrow People (2013): Jedikiah Price, an Evilutionary Biologist, narrows down the superhuman gene and artificially "breaks out", gaining considerable psychic powers.
  • In the third season premiere of Heroes, Mohinder Suresh takes a syringe of Maya's blood/DNA/super-powered-Applied Phlebotinum out onto a dock all by himself and injects it into himself, becoming a case of Professor Guinea Pig. He gets insect-like super-strength, agility, wall-climbing ability, and cocoon generation, but as a side effect appears to be mutating uncontrollably. Once the perfected formula he develops washes over him, he gains superhuman strength but loses the other powers and detriments.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Base Raiders: The disappearance of the world's superheroes and villains and the subsequent looting of their secret bases has led to a wave of "DIY" superbeings who attempt to replicate the events that led someone to develop superpowers.

    Web Original 
  • Zig-Zagged in Worm with a few variations. For starters, a number of characters have the ability to expand their powers through various means as an explicit powerset. The Tinker category, whose powers make them an Impossible Genius in the engineering facets of a particular (often oddly specific or abstract) subject, are especially prone to this ala Professor Guinea Pig, but examples can also be found among other categories like Thinkers and Changers who use indirect powers to bootstrap themselves into abilities with more direct applications.

    Western Animation 
  • Rick Sanchez of Rick and Morty fame grafts cybernetic parts into himself, though the exact effects remain unknown.
  • Professor Membrane from Invader Zim replaced his arms with cybernetics of his own inventions capable of firing energy blasts.