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Super Serum

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Drink it all, the good stuff's always at the bottom!

Victor Mancha: Wait, back up. Your secret origin is drugs? Doesn't that kinda set a bad example for little kids?
Cloak: I am not your ROLE MODEL!

A hero who doesn't have his powers or abilities naturally, but has to get them from a process of digestion or injection of a specialized compound. For obvious reasons, depictions of this took a nosedive due to Moral Guardians, as depicting heroes taking what seemed to be drugs became a strict no-no.

Heroes nowadays may get such treatments only once, often involuntarily (due to evil experimentation) or as formal medical treatments. You're most likely to see this being done by villains, with an Anvilicious addiction metaphor in effect.

Power-Up Food is the case when the abilities come from common foodstuffs. Applied to enough people at once, and it becomes a Mass Super-Empowering Event. If (as in the case of Captain America, pictured right) only one person gets it, it's a Disposable Superhero Maker. A Superhuman Transfusion (especially if it's from someone who drank Super Serum) usually has the same effects. If the superpower being given is Super-Intelligence, it overlaps with Genius Serum.

Compare Psycho Serum and Bottled Heroic Resolve. See also Power Source and Higher Understanding Through Drugs. For a similar trope in commercials, see Cereal-Induced Superpowers. In many ways, this is the science fiction and pulp equivalent of the Magic Potion.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 8th Man is a Cyberpunk Superhero who recharges himself (and his powers) through special cigarettes. His are the only cybernetics that don't eat one's soul in the series. The OVA revival Eight Man After, he uses plain old experimental Super Serum, in contrast to the Psycho Serum all the other cyborgs have to use.
  • Attack on Titan:
    • A serum made from Spinal Fluid is used in the process of giving a person Titan powers. This is first hinted when Eren has glimpses of his father with a needle, about to inject him with something. The serum can be tailored to produce different results, modifying the size and function of the Titan as desired. While gaining the power of one of the Nine Titans requires eating one of the current owners, some of their abilities can be transferred via specialized serums. Eren gains the ability to harden his Titan's skin after consuming a serum labeled "Armor".
    • If someone is injected with Zeke (a.k.a. the Beast Titan)'s serum, he can force them to transform into mindless titans by screaming. Nobody knows why, but presumably it's due to his royal blood.
  • Baki the Grappler has X-4, a super-steroid that increases muscular growth and overrides the effects of over-training. It turns Jack Hanma from a stick of a person to a monster of a human.
  • Osamu Tezuka's superhero Big X (best known in the West for various cameo appearances he put in in various Astro Boy productions) got his powers from a Super-Soldier serum his father was forced to develop for the Axis Powers during WWII. The drug was injected and came in two stages, one shot to make him Nigh-Invulnerable and another turned him into a giant. In the anime, this is changed to a pendant that emits special EM waves due to Moral Guardians' concerns about the similarity to the then-emerging Heroin epidemic.
  • The origin story of the hero of City Hunter is a bizarre instance of attributing cool powers to an actual illegal drug. According to the story, Ryo was born in poverty in Central America, and ended up used as a test subject and injected with a form of LSD. Rather than screwing with his mind, this instead gave him superhuman reflexes and a heightened sex drive, including a Gag Penis.
  • Gundam: The Extended in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny are three human mobile suit pilots who have been taking the drug called Gamma Glipheptin to boost their combat powers to the same level as the Coordinators. The drug also doubles as a Psycho Serum with profoundly negative effects on the user, including fatal withdrawal symptoms, which were added on purpose in order to keep the Extendeds loyal (you can't rebel against the only people who can keep you alive).
  • Naruto:
    • Although his abilities don't center around them, Chouji's Food Pills can increase his chakra supply dramatically, allowing him to use more powerful attacks more often. These leave him burnt out afterwards at best, in critical condition at worst.
    • As do Kiba and Akamaru's battle pills, which had been mostly abandoned by the ninja corps due to the side effect of not being able to move for three days after a ten-minute dose.
  • Ako's artefact, as revealed in chapter 304 of Negima! Magister Negi Magi.
  • One Piece: In the Fishman Island arc, Hody Jones and his crew of fishmen consume great quantities of an "energy steroid" which increases their strength. Hody and one of his allies end up overdosing on it. Instead of dying, however, they transform into stronger forms. This is only temporary, and their abuse of the drug cuts years off their lives — literally, as they age from their prime to old men within a day.

    Audio Plays 

    Comic Books 
  • The Asterix books concern a Gallic town which fends off Roman domination by use of a magic potion which grants superhuman strength.
    • In one entry, Asterix entered the (original) Olympic games in Greece, only to be penalized for use of the potion (rather like steroid use in the modern Olympics, which is sort of funny since the original Olympics encouraged the use of performance enhancing drugs since it made for more interesting competitions). He finally won a race by tricking all opponents into using the potion previously mixed with a blue food colorant.
    • Obelix is the only character who doesn't need the potion to have superhuman fighting powers... because someone dropped him in a cauldron of the potion when he was a baby, giving him its effects permanently. The Gauls were prevented from intentionally dropping any other babies in cauldrons by Getafix, because Asterix and Obelix All at Sea reveals that an overdose of the potion turns the drinker to stone. Obelix was a lucky survivor when he was a child, and he made the mistake of sneaking into Getafix's hut amidst yet another Curb-Stomp Battle against the Romans and drinking a whole cauldron of it, turning to stone and causing a grueling journey to bring him back.
  • Bamse gets his super-ursine strength from "dunderhonung", thunderhoney, which is disqualified from being Power-Up Food because it is not just regular honey but has to be mixed correctly with various herbs and spices (the working ingredient is apparently a rare flower that only grows on a single island in the Aegean, guarded by a seven-headed monster). However, something like Ralph Dibney's metagene above must also be involved, since most people just gets three days of stomach cramps from eating dunderhonung, and it seems to run in the family.
  • Daniel Clowes' Captain America parody "The Battlin' American" has horrible addiction problems requiring him to take regular doses of the super serum. The street thugs who steal it from him find this out the hard way.
  • The Black Terror is a hero from The Golden Age of Comic Books who started off as a normal chemist before he develops a formula called "formic ethers" which gives him and his sidekick Terror Tim their powers.
  • In The Boys, Compound V is what gives people superpowers.
    • Usually, samples just give temporary powers, but the pure kind gives you powers permanently (or at lower doses, a permanent boost to physical abilities, immune system and longevity). Guess which sort Billy Butcher injects Wee Hughie with?
    • The problem with Compound V is that it's manufactured by a company with more interest in the bottom line than actual competence. The compound finds itself transmitted through multiple vectors, resulting in Traumatic Superpower Awakening for people who had little to no connection to the company at all.
    • Mother's Milk is so named because his mother worked with V while pregnant and now not only has to regularly be breastfed by her or he'll lose his powers, he'll die. His mother also mutated into a huge pile of flesh with prehensile breasts, so now he can't even see a documentary about big snakes without throwing up.
  • In Cavewoman, Mona develops pills that temporarily confer on her (and later Carrie) Meriem's heightened endurance and Nigh-Invulnerability) for a limited period. However, the pills have to be specifically tailored to the individual's biochemistry.
  • The DCU:
    • Batman:
    • B'Wana Beast used a mystic elixir from somewhere in Africa. His mask-slash-helmet allowed him to control animals, though the elixir allowed him to fuse two animals into one, which he could control with the helmet.
    • The Elongated Man gets his stretchy power from a substance called Gingold — usually fatal in its pure form, Elongated Man's metagene fortunately allows him to drink it as much as he wanted.
    • In Final Crisis, Tawky Tawny is able to defeat Kalibak thanks in part to his legendary tiger tea, which briefly grants one The Strength of Ten Men.
    • The Golden Age version of The Flash, Jay Garrick, had a professional rival named Eric Clarris who managed to work out his Secret Identity and the cause of his superpowers (inhaling hard water vapors during a smoke break) and used the source of this to gain Super-Speed himself... but only temporarily, and he had to keep using it like a drug to maintain his powers. He became the Rival, the very first Reverse-Flash.
    • Rex Tyler, a.k.a. Hourman, gets his powers from the "miraculous vitamin" Miraclo, which gives those who take it superhuman strength and speed for exactly one hour. The remaining toxins must then be purged in the bloodstream over the following 24-hour period before it can be used again. Rex actually discusses the psychological effects and his reliance on the drug with a concerned Dr. Mid-Nite in "The Justice Society Returns!". (He currently takes a non-addictive "homeopathic" version of Miraclo.)
      • His son, Rick Tyler, the second Hourman, also had an addiction to Miraclo, much to his father's horror. He knew how addictive and harmful Miraclo was for himself, so he was really troubled by the idea of his son following him and using it himself. His fears were founded when use of Miraclo caused Rick to develop leukaemia.
      • In the 1992 Justice Society of America series, it's actually explained that Miraclo was, essentially, either a placebo or just some sort of toxin; the Tyler family just naturally have Super-Strength and other related abilities and using Miraclo was just unlocking it. Training with Jack Chambers, the Golden Age speedster Johnny Quick, allowed Rex and, later, Rick, to activate their powers through just concentration, without the use of the drug.
    • In the Justice League of America comics, Johnny Quick, the Crime Syndicate of Amerika counterpart of The Flash, uses an extract of his predecessor's blood to give him super-speed powers.
    • Rex the Wonder Dog got one suspiciously similar to that received by Captain America, complete with Nazi attack destroying the rest of the serum and killing the inventor. It made him strong and smart enough to win medals during the war (among other increasingly ludicrous accomplishments), and then survive for forty years naturally (after that, he drank from the Fountain of Youth and lives unnaturally).
    • The young revolutionary Dava Sborsc from Robin (1993) takes a mixture called Aramilla that gives her temporary superspeed, though it dulls the user's sense of morality. She ends up drugging Robin with it and accidentally (and temporarily) kills Lady Shiva, though he resuscitates her.
    • The Shazam! comics have the minor villain Captain Nazi, who has similar Flying Brick powers, but unlike the big red cheese whose powers come from a magic transformation, Nazi gained his from a scientific serum.
    • Static and the rest of the Dakota Bang Babies received their powers from being exposed to an experimental mutagenic gas during a massive gang fight. The police thought it was tear gas meant to track the gangs to capture them later.
    • Supergirl:
      • The Girl with the X-Ray Mind: As posing as Lena Luthor, Supergirl villain Lesla-Lar pretends she has gained powers because she drank a serum created by Lena's brother Lex.
      • The Supergirl-Batgirl Plot: Subverted. When Superman unmasks the imposter Supergirl, he finds out it is Black Flame, one of his cousin's Rogues who had been depowered a while back. Superman asks how Black Flame got her powers back, and the woman claims she invented a super serum which gave her most of them back, but trading her invulnerability to nearly everything for invulnerability to Kryptonite. However, it is soon revealed that Mr. Mxyzptlk was impersonating Black Flame, and the "super serum" was nothing but humbug.
    • Teen Titans: Slade Wilson, a.k.a. Deathstroke, received increased strength, speed and endurance through an experiment conducted by the U.S. Army.
  • In the comic prequel to Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Dr. Horrible makes a super-serum using Captain Hammer's DNA. However, while he does gain Hammer's Super-Strength and endurance, his intelligence is reduced to his level as well, resulting in a mindless series of Megaton Punches, until Horrible takes the antidote, becoming smart again but also scrawny and weak.
  • One of the ongoing plot threads in Empire centers around discovering the secret of the production of Eucharist, a highly addictive substance that supercharges the abilities of those who take it. People under its influence can dodge bullets, and the high is described as being "Better than Sex". It's so addictive that anyone who stops using has a good chance of being driven permanently insane during withdrawal. It turns out that it's derived from the blood of the defeated superhero Endymion.
  • The comic Fly is about a drug that gives people superpowers.
  • The Nedor Comics character the Liberator was a chemist who discovered an ancient Egyptian potion called "Lamesis", which grants super-human strength and speed when ingested. Naturally, he also figured out how to make more.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Puny Steve Rogers became Captain America thanks to the Super-Soldier serum created by Dr. Abraham Erskine, and failed attempts to recreate it are common plot points in both the regular and Ultimate universes.
      • For instance, the 1950s impostor Captain America used a Nazi German variant of the formula to enhance his body. However, he learned the hard way that is not enough; the subject taking the serum then has to have it activated and stabilized in his body by a radiological treatment using "vita-rays" in order to take it into his system safe. Without the stabilizing agent, the serum caused mental instabilities, including paranoia; in the imposter's case, fueled by the Red Scare propaganda of that era, it caused him to see Communist enemies of America everywhere, leading to his being put on ice (literally) by the U.S. government and his fan-given nickname of "Commie-Smasher Cap".
      • Wolverine's enemy Omega Red is a failed Soviet attempt at making the serum as well as giving Red tendrils in his arms made of carbonadium (an alloy intended as a more feasible substitute for the astronomically expensive and rare adamantium). While Omega Red did gain most of Cap's powers, he is constantly dying and has to drain the life-force of others in order to livenote  (fortunately for him, his mutant powers along with his tendrils can do just that). Apparently, something called the "Carbonadium Synthesizer" will cure him of his condition. It's his best weapon — your average opponent can't even try to fight him. He considers himself Blessed with Suck (despite being the type who would not pick a different career if cured or feel bad about the fact that he must kill to survive) and seeks the C-Synthesizer, as carbonadium is the only thing that can neutralize the virus. However, it's hard to know if he was born with this or if it's part of what was done to him.
      • Interestingly, in Avengers: The Initiative, it turns out that Erskine discovered similar results could be achieved with a perfect diet and an extremely specialized exercise program, which resulted in his great-grandson Michael Van Patrick having the same peak physical condition naturally. The research was not classified or ever used by the military because they wanted a quick fix; the natural super soldier would take a lifetime of dedication to produce, unless you get your hands on one and just clone him over and over.
    • Cloak and Dagger were phased out for a while because their back story involved pharmaceutical testing (of the extremely involuntary kind). This is lampshaded in every scene they appear in when they make a comeback in the Runaways series. Every time they explain their backstory, another character says "So you got your powers from drugs, I bet the parent groups love you", to which Cloak usually declares that he is not supposed to be a role model. This is brought up again later where a modified version of the drug that gave Cloak his powers is mixed with mutant growth hormone and sold on the black market as the drug Darkforce, with the slogan "You wanna go night flying?" Superpowers are quite the buzz, apparently.
    • The Sentry is a metafictional send-up of many Comic Book Tropes. Not only did he get his powers by taking "the Professor's secret serum", but comics-that-never-happened from the 1980s showed it blossoming into a full-on addiction metaphor. Later, it's revealed that he originally drank it hoping to get high.
    • After receiving an emergency transfusion of Bruce Banner's blood, She-Hulk gained Hulk powers of her own (not quite as strong, but more controllable). It has been more or less established that anyone receiving a transfusion of Bruce's blood can receive Hulk powers temporarily, but presumably only a close relative like Jen can keep them.
    • In Spider-Gwen's Earth-65, Jesse Drew (a male version of Jessica Drew) was bitten by alien moon spiders, and the antidote that saved his life also granted him the abilities of his Prime Earth counterpart. He was made to believe that he needed to keep taking regular doses of the "antidote" in order to stay alive, but in actuality it simply allowed him to keep his powers.
    • The various Green Goblins and Hobgoblins from Spider-Man comics used a serum that involved this trope mixed with a little bit of Psycho Serum since the Goblin formula increased a person's strength and intellect but also made them Ax-Crazy. The original Hobgoblin claimed that his variant didn't induce insanity while Phil Ulrich, who fell into a vat of another variant made by Harry Osborn, had a slow onset of insanity long after his heroic career had ended, pushing him into villainy.
    • Ultimate Marvel:
      • It seems that almost everything in the Ultimate universe involving superpowers is derived from attempted recreations of Captain America's Super Serum, which Ultimate Origins reveals was in turn reverse-engineered from Wolverine, in the same experiments that created mutants.
      • While his mainline self does not use it, in Ultimate X-Men, this version of Colossus needs the mutant enhancement drug "Banshee" to be able to so much as move his limbs in his organic steel form.
    • More in the superpower-causers-equaling-drugs: There's an article in one issue of Year in Review, a tongue-in-cheek in-universe magazine, about Pym poppers, kids who take Pym particles to shrink and grow. This always backfires.
    • Patriot (Elijah Bradley) from Young Avengers is the grandson of Isaiah Bradley, the "first" Captain America, but his mother was conceived before Isaiah was experimented on, so he did not inherit his grandfather's powers. When Iron Lad came to recruit Elijah's brother, Elijah claimed to have gained superpowers through an emergency blood transfusion, but really was gaining powers artificially with MGH (Mutant Growth Hormone), an illegal street drug that causes brief periods of super-human abilities. Once discovered he stopped taking the MGH but went into battle anyway, was grievously wounded... and got an emergency blood transfusion from his grandfather, thus gaining superpowers.
  • The Top 10 comic series, which is a Homage to comic book tropes to begin with, has a whole subculture of power-granting drugs, such as "goose juice" that gives Super-Speed.

    Comic Strips 
  • Popeye: It's not technically Super Serum, but Popeye gets his powers explicitly by eating a can of spinach. Why no one else tries this is unknown.
    • The movie implies that the ability to get super-strength from spinach was a family trait. In the original comics, the Sea Witch does try it on Alice the Goon. It's uncertain if it actually worked, partly because Popeye added milk to his spinach diet to make himself even stronger and partly because the Goon fell in love with Wimpy shortly after, leading the way to her sympathizing with Popeye and the gang. The last fight she has with Popeye breaks up rather quickly, as he sees the Goon has a child and won't hit a mother.
    • There actually is one cartoon in which after Bluto starts sobbing about how he Popeye always beats him up, Popeye responds by feeding Bluto some of his spinach, causing Bluto to power up, and he immediately launches into a song about what a great guy Popeye is, while pausing to clobber him at every pause in the melody. Furthermore, there are cartoons where Olive Oyl and a mouse each eat spinach (accidentally in the latter case). Olive instantly develops feminine but obvious bulging biceps and promptly uses them to bring the squabbling Popeye and Bluto to heel: the mouse ends up jamming Popeye into its hole in the wainscotting and takes his bed for the night.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm:
    • Erskine's original serum is in Steve and his descendants, as it turns out, with what initially appear to be diminishing returns — Alison, his daughter by Peggy, is a fully fledged super-soldier, but her children are only marginally above human if at all, and their children don't appear to be enhanced at all. However, as his great-granddaughter Carol Danvers demonstrates, it's mostly just dormant, and simply requires a sufficient kick in the genetic pants to get working. On more than one occasion, it is observed that almost every attempt to replicate it has failed, however, there have been a few successes.
    • Bruce turning into the Hulk, if you want to call that a success. Ditto the Abomination.
    • The Russian Infinity Formula, given to Natasha, Ivan Petrovitch and the Winter Soldier, in the latter case to stabilize his enhancements by Zola, mostly just slows aging and provides minimal enhancements within human parameters. S.H.I.E.L.D. also has the Infinity Formula, implied to have been used by Nick Fury, who offers it to Coulson (who turned it down) and to the Flamels in exchange for them working for him, a primary inducement being that the formula repairs everything... including reproductive systems.
    • Maya Hansen's Extremis formula, the basic version being the one seen in the film, is refined by Arnim Zola to become its infinitely more terrifying comic book variant — it allows you to reprogram someone's genetics to, essentially, do whatever the hell you want them to, within certain ill-defined power limitations. Zola being Zola, immediate uses include Elite Mooks and a strange human... griffin... thing that mostly seems to want to be put out of its misery.
  • Chronomistress: Out of Time: Sassafrass syrup, also known as "chronoserum". For most ponies it's just alcohol, but the Royal Order of Timekeepers knows meditation techniques which make it work as a Super Serum.
  • Juicer from Hottie 3: The Best Fan Fic in the World gains Super-Strength from a super steroid, as well as Getter Ray treatment.
  • In Intrepid, Panacea's ambrosia can be used to give a minor Brute power, along with other effects.

    Films — Animated 
  • In "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse", Tom tries to do away with Jerry by putting various poisonous substances in his milk, but it makes Jerry strong enough to violently body-slam Tom instead.
  • Looney Tunes:
  • Megamind: After defeating his arch-nemesis Metro Man, Megamind decides to give Metro Man's superpowers to a random guy who would become the next champion of Metro City. He extracts Metro Man's DNA from some dandruff on his cape and accidentally injects it into Hal the cameraman.
  • In Turbo, Theo the snail acquires Super-Speed, and other car-like traits, after being dunked in nitrous oxide inside a race car's engine and swallowing some of it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Big Trouble in Little China, Egg Shen gives the heroes a potion just before the final showdown that will make them more heroic. It seems to work. Wang, at least, is able to jump superhuman distances. It at least somewhat overlaps with Liquid Courage, since they're all obviously drunk after drinking it.
  • John Grimm from Doom is injected with a 24th chromosome which boosts his physical capabilities enormously, enabling him to plow his way through a building full of ravenous mutated monsters. In turn, those monsters also have the chromosome, and said chromosome mutates you into a horrible monster if you're a bad person and turns you into a Super-Soldier if you're a good person. They first tested it on a convicted murderer.
  • In the Bowery Boys movie Hold That Line, Sach mixes a bunch of random chemicals together and drinks down the mixture. The potion turns Sach into a super-athlete. Inverted later in the movie when Slip tries to replicate the formula. Slip gives the potion to the college Dean, who shrinks in size.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Dr. Jekyll keeps several vials of his serum that allow him to temporarily turn into Hyde. One vial is stolen by The Mole and copied by the Big Bad in order to allow him to create a whole army of Hydes. One of his lieutenants drinks a lot of the stuff and turns into a huge monster that even Hyde has trouble fighting. Ditto for Skinner's blood, which is used to recreate the formula for Griffin's invisibility serum. Presumably, Mina's blood is used to figure out how to turn people into vampires.
  • In Limitless, the main character uses a drug to become super-smart.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In The Incredible Hulk (2008), Bruce Banner's mutation into the Hulk is due to his experimentation with the original Rebirth Project super-soldier serum. A combination of the fact that he didn't know what he was doing (the military had told him the work was for radiation resistance) and his replacing vita-rays with gamma radiation led to his transformation. The source of the Abomination's powers is a double dose of the serum combined with a blood transfusion from Banner. This appears to have been done as part of an effort to provide visible ties between Marvel Studios' adaptations of their canon characters — in this case, laying groundwork for the Captain America film.
    • Captain America: The First Avenger: Steve Rogers receives the Super Soldier Serum from Dr. Erskine, giving him his iconic power set. It's later revealed that Johann Schmidt used a prototype version of the same serum on himself, but because it was incomplete scarred his face into a red skull.
    • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: It's revealed through flashbacks that Bucky Barnes also received a different version of the Super Soldier Serum developed by Dr. Arnim Zola just before Steve broke him out of his restraints. It's the reason he was able to survive his fall from the train late in the previous movie, and why Zola continued experimenting on him and turned him into the Winter Soldier.
  • Project Power: A new street drug called "Power" gives people a random superpower for five minutes, or they simply explode. A given person gains the same superpower every time they use, and some of them clearly get intoxicated from the rush.
  • The lead character in Senseless gains Super-Senses through a regimen of injections given to him as part of a pharmaceutical test.
  • In Wonder Woman (2017), Dr. Poison gives General Ludendorff capsules with a gas that gives him temporary Super-Strength and toughness, enough to put up a fight against Diana.

  • The mother of a Tour de France cyclist wheezes and pants as she brings a tomato the size of a pumpkin to the table. She looks at her son and says, "I thought I told you to stop pissing in the vegetable patch!"

  • The 39 Clues is all about gathering 39 ingredients, or "Clues", to create a Super Serum that confers the abilities of each of the four "branches" of the family searching for it — the cunning of the Lucians, the intelligence of the Ekaterinas, the strength of the Tomas, and the artistic talent of the Janus — feasibly allowing the user to rule the world. These Clues include all kinds of ingredients, from harmless ones that can be found in a grocery store such as honey, salt, and mint to highly toxic substances like mercury, lead, and king cobra venom.
  • In the Alterien series, Theseus, a chemical genius, developed a serum through his company that produces enhanced soldiers. The Alterien businessman called it the Superion Serum. He worked with the British military to begin the Actualized Augmented Soldier Programme. The Actuals, as they're called for short, receive impressive enhancements to their senses, muscles, organs and tissue. The serum makes them as powerful as other super soldiers such as the SABERs of the U.S. or the Red Hammers of Russia. However, they require regular monthly injections in order for them to remain at top level performance.
  • Blackcollar has several of these used to create the titular Blackcollar commandos, the most important one being "Backlash", which vastly enhances reflexes and motor control.
  • Captain Underpants didn't have superpowers initially but gained them after drinking some literal Super Serum off of an alien spaceship in book three. This simply complicated things further, naturally.
  • Melange, or spice, drives the Dune series — it not only extends lifespans, but in large doses, triggers precognition which allows for Faster-Than-Light Travel to be done safely (without it, you end up inside a planet or star one out of five times).
  • In Ex-Superheroes, all superpowers come from a drug called Ephemera. The world's seven leading economies (the S7) have signed a treaty restricting the use of Ephemera only to themselves, making it illegal for other countries to get superheroes of their own. Ephemera smuggling is a profitable business (a single canister is worth about $10 million), but also a dangerous one, and there are plenty of illegal Ephemera manufacturers, although Ephemera that's less than pure can have kill the subject, and even if it doesn't, the powers they get can range from useless to dangerous to themselves. The main character Hunter McNeil was caught smuggling Ephemera to freedom fighters in several countries hurt by the S7. He himself was given Ephemera by the U.S. military and became a Barrier Warrior.
  • In Kurozuka, the blood of the immortal vampire Kuromitsu can give both immortality and Super-Strength to those who take it — if they survive, which most don't.
  • One of the first things Penny does in Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain is create the "Super Cheerleader Serum", which her friend Claire uses to get athletic enough to join the cheer squad. Her friend Ray drinks the rest, gaining a much larger boost in his physical powers, to the point that he's at roughly Captain America's level despite being thirteen. Penny explains that enhancing musculature is actually easy, it's just that most villains insist on adding aggression and combat skills and whatnot, which always goes horribly wrong.
  • Rebuild World:
  • In Superheroes Anonymous, Mobium is effectively a Super Serum, providing superpowers to the individual it's provided to. Unfortunately, its adaptive nature makes subjects difficult to control and prone to insanity.
  • Elixir in Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle, which has variable effects depending on dose and whether the user has undergone Baptism (a surgical procedure to prepare the body to better accept Elixir). A low dose and an un-Baptised user grants temporary resistance to the sanity-eroding power of Iblis. A high dose and an un-Baptised user results in a transformation into a Nocturnal, a creature with black skin, white hair, massively increased physical abilities and also increased negative emotions. Oh, and Nocturnals also have a high probability of running out of life energy and dying. If the user is Baptised, the Elixir will heal any injuries they have and even restore stamina. It's eventually revealed that Elixir is refined from the life energy of living things and is more effective the closer the source of the life energy is to the user, so all of the Elixir seen in the series comes from the life energy of humans.
  • Wild Cards plays the "Super Serum = drugs" thing for all it's worth with Captain Trips, a genius biochemist, "the world's last hippie", and one of the most powerful Aces on the planet. He manages to bring each of his "friends" (alternate personalities each with their owns set of superpowers) out with "special concoctions" he makes himself. His first accidental transformation was primarily fueled by his first hit of acid.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Late in the third series of The 4400, the government trains up a squad of superpowered soldiers through a programme of injections of promicin, the neurotransmitter that gives the 4400 their abilities.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • The Centipede serum, which is a cocktail containing Chitauri metal (from The Avengers), Gamma radiation (from The Incredible Hulk), the Super-Soldier Serum (from Captain America: The First Avenger) and Extremis (from Iron Man 3).
    • In the second season, Mr. Hyde shows up with his own serum, made from a bevy of experimental drugs, as well as gorilla testosterone and peppermint. A full dose gives him enough Super-Strength to break through bulletproof glass and enough Super-Toughness to survive getting rammed into a wall by a car, with the only side effect being a minor physical transformation and increased aggression. However, it's implied that using it has caused the effects to last longer and possibly even become permanent; even when not using the serum, he has performed feats of strength and endurance that might not be superhuman but are definitely improbable.
    • In the fourth season, it is revealed that the U.S. government created a serum and gave it to Jeffery Mace, in order to allow him to pretend to be an Inhuman so that they could put an Enhanced person with a good public face in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. And the serum was based on Hyde's serum.
      General Talbot: We took the bad stuff out! ...mostly.
      Fitz: So you're only mostly idiots.
  • Arrowverse:
    • A subplot in the second season of Arrow involves a drug called "Mirakuru", which was developed by the Japanese during World War II in order to create an army of Super Soldiers. It ends being what grants both Slade Wilson and Solomon Grundy their powers.
    • In The Flash (2014), the Velocity drug can not only temporarily boost a speedster's, well, speed, but can also be used to temporarily turn a normal human into a speedster. It does have some nasty side effects, however. In addition to hallucinations, speedsters who overuse it will eventually lose their speed entirely, while non-speedsters will not only be affected by the hallucinations faster but also eventually disintegrate as they move faster than their bodies can handle.
    • In Legends of Tomorrow, the Nazis are given a sample of a super serum by the Reverse-Flash. When used by a Nazi Nobleman named Baron Krieger, it temporarily turns him into a Hulk-like berserker immune to most damage (but not to a barrage of bombs from a B-17). After capturing Ray and Amaya, Krieger threatens to kill Amaya, if Ray doesn't figure out how to make more of the serum for the entire Wehrmacht. While working on the serum, Ray modifies it slightly in order to use it on himself to gain superpowers (without Hulking Out). After Nate is badly hurt and is dying because of his hemophilia, Ray uses the serum on him to help his body heal. In the next episode, Nate develops the ability to become a Chrome Champion and starts calling himself "Steel", also finding out that he is no longer a hemophiliac.
    • In Superman & Lois, X-Kryptonite can be turned into a gas that temporarily grants a human Kryptonian strength and powers. The DOD develops the gas, but so do a bunch of drug dealers who begin selling it in Smallville (especially to high school athletes). Jonathan begins taking X-K in order to improve his football performance and also because he's jealous of his twin brother Jordan, who has their father's powers. In the Inverse World (AKA Bizarro Earth), green Kryptonite has the same effect on humans and can also boost Kryptonians. One human who becomes superpowered thanks to Kryptonite is Lana-Rho, while the Superman of that world begins abusing Kryptonite to get stronger and faster (jealous of his son's popularity). It eventually begins affecting him physically and mentally, giving him the appearance of Bizarro from the comics.
  • In The Boys (2019), all supes are created by giving babies Compound V. In already super-powered adults, Compound V is like a cross between cocaine and steroids. In Season 3 Vought International develops a temporary variant to be used on adults with the intent of selling it to the military, which the Boys get their hands on to become Empowered Badass Normals.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Forrest used this initially.
  • By Season 3 of Heroes, Mohinder has developed a serum that gives people powers and uses it to give himself Super-Strength.
  • An episode of The Invisible Man has a scientist rob a sperm bank full of sperm of geniuses and make a serum out of it that gives anyone he injects with it enormous intelligence. It turns out that people weren't meant to be so smart, as all of them end up burning out within days.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • The Henshin One-Shot in Kamen Rider 555's movie Paradise Lost allows the user to be able to use Kamen Rider Kaixa's Rider Gear. But, like its name states, it's only good once. After that, it causes the Kaixa Gear to dissolve into dust.
    • Kamen Rider Kiva has the Kivat-family belts work by first biting the user's hand, injecting them with a serum that activates their dormant vampiric powers. The same serum also works on a regular human, but at the eventual cost of death from the strain.
    • Kamen Rider Build has Nebula Gas, an alien compound that grants whoever's injected with it super strength and toughness along with the ability to use belts fueled by the same gas, as long as they were already physically capable. If they're not tough enough to handle the injection, then the serum will instead turn them into a monster or kill them.
  • A live TV example would be the 1960s show Mr. Terrific — essentially Hourman again (not related to the comic book Mister Terrific). A government agency comes up with a pill that makes 99% of humans sick but gives nerdy Stanley Beamish the buffs (BFSbulletproof flying strongman). Whenever a secret mission comes along, Stanley is be given the 1-hour main pill and two 15-minute boosters — one of which he needs in every episode due to power cutout.
  • The Source Blood in Sanctuary is a vial of pure vampire blood (the vampires having been destroyed millennia ago) that the Five use to create a serum that gives each one different powers. Helen Magnus becomes The Ageless, John Druitt becomes a teleporter (agelessness may also be included in the package), James Watson becomes a super-genius, Nigel Griffin becomes invisible (the only one of the Five that appears to pass his core power to his offspring), and Nikola Tesla becomes a vampire with electric powers. Later, the Source Blood is stolen by the Cabal and used to make Helen's daughter Ashley and several "blank slate" humans into Superpowered Mooks.
  • In The Secret World of Alex Mack, Alex is doused in the chemical GC-161, which not only gives her the power to melt, levitate things and shoot lightning bolts, but also sets the Corrupt Corporate Executive to hunting her down.
  • Stargate Atlantis: The enzyme Wraith inject into their human victims during the feeding process actually makes the human much stronger, so that the victim doesn't die as quickly and the Wraith can feed off of them longer. Lieutenant Ford begins taking the enzyme on a regular basis (and gathers his own group of human soldiers to take it, too) to help him fight the Wraith. Unfortunately, the enzyme turns out to be highly addictive.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Dracula Dossier: Edom makes extensive use of Seward Serum. Billed as a combat drug, it boosts users to the physical equivalent of Renfields (people granted limited vampiric powers by Dracula or one of his servants). Which only makes sense, since it's derived from vampire blood...
  • Pathfinder has the Alchemist, which trades almost exclusively in super serums, with their Jekyll & Hyde Mutagens, as well as many beneficial infusions (spells in potion form).
  • In Rifts, the "Juicer" character class gain their superhuman abilities from a constant feed of intravenous drugs. The drawbacks are addiction, permanent organ damage in two years (making removal problematic), and death within seven. As most are shock troops and mercenaries, many die in combat long before that.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Part of the extensive, complex, long and dangerous process of creating Space Marines is being steadily injected with a serum derived from the gene-seed of the chapter's Primarch — in turn derived from the Emperor himself (the other steps include bionics, numerous organ implants, and Training from Hell).
    • The Apothecaries, the Chapter's group of medics, have their main role of reclaiming the gene-seed out of their fallen battle-brothers' bodies and monitor the gene-seed organs of recruits and neophytes. They also tend to the wounded, but the survival of the gene-seed is more important than the Marine it's in, considering that most Primarchs are either dead (save for Roboute Guilliman), missing (such as Rogal Dorn and Jaghatai Khan), fallen to Chaos (such as Fulgrim), or am mixture of the above (Horus and Alpharius Omegon), so getting more gene-seed is nearly impossible.
    • In James Swallow's Red Fury, Rafen and his company come up against foes who inject themselves; Rafen is familiar with Bottled Heroic Resolve, and explicitly aware that this is far more. For one thing, they rise up from apparent death with them.
    • Chaos Space Marines of Slaanesh and the Dark Eldar also have access to a variety of combat drugs which can boost their stats temporarily... or kill them.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed III: "The Tyranny of King Washington" DLC has three examples:
    • It shows an Alternate History where George Washington got his hands on a Piece of Eden and, after the power went to his head, declared himself king and forced his army of "bluecoats" to subjugate the land. After Connor's mother (still alive in this reality) tries to steal the artifact, Washington is determined to destroy the Frontier and enslave or kill its inhabitants. The village elder decides to make tea from the boughs of the Great Willow in order to imbue its warriors with strength to resist the king's army. Connor's mother is against this, as the tea has some nasty side effects. Later, Connor drinks the tea and, after a vision quest, is imbued with the spirit of the wolf. He gains the ability (Cast From Hitpoints) to become virtually invisible in plain sight and can also summon spirit wolves to attack enemies. It's implied that different people get different abilities from the tea. The tea is not mentioned in the original game, nor is the Great Willow present there, implying it's All Just a Dream.
    • The second episode of the DLC introduces another power granted by a second sip of the tea. This one allows Connor to literally turn into an eagle and fly to any ledge/branch/enemy in the vicinity. There are three episodes, so the third may bring yet another spirit power.
    • The third episode has Connor gain the power of the bear with the ability to Ground Pound. The end reveals that it was all a shared vision between Washington and Connor who both touch an Apple that a Templar has given to the general. Horrified, Washington has Connor get rid of the Apple (by tossing it in the ocean) and, later, gets angry when someone (supposedly) suggests that he declare himself king.
  • In City of Heroes, the enemy group the Freakshow are cyberpunks powered by a drug called Excelsior, the Troll gang by massive overdoses of street drug Superadyne (or superdyne, or just 'Dyne), and with the release of the Superscience booster pack, players can change their costume by way of emotes that have them either drinking a potion from an Erlenmeyer flask or shooting up in the arm with a vial of the titular trope.
  • Deus Ex has "physiopharmaceutical" augmentation for the Men in Black, which among others gives them serious Super-Toughness.
  • Doom:
    • The Berserk Pack grants the Marine full health and ten times more damage when using his fists for the remainder of the level. It also makes his eyes bloodshot, tinting the player's screen red for about 20 seconds.
    • In the comic, it has a bit of a Psycho Serum effect as well:
    • Doom (2016) and Doom Eternal's protagonist, the Doom Slayer, is a human who has been augmented with refined Argent particles, giving him physical immortality, super-strength, and the ability to regenerate health as he executes enemies. Finding more of this stuff augments the Doom Slayer's stats.
  • Parnell from Evolve has a Rage Trooper serum injector built into his armor. While Cast From Hitpoints, it increases firing speed, jump height, and movement speed, while decreasing reload time. In-universe, it causes long term adrenal failure, something debated about by Parnell and his teammates.
  • In addition to Fallout's smorgasbord of experimental drugs to military-grade combat enhancements, certain varieties of Nuka Cola deliver a fair bit more than a carbonated sugar rush.
  • Final Fantasy VII's SOLDIERs are "infused with Mako energy", which gives them strength enough to lift their favored BFSes, as well as Glowing Eyes of Doom, a hallmark side effect. Other side-effects involve the hearing of voices and general loss of sanity.
  • In Freedom Force, the Domain's secret weapon is Energy X, which they have used to conquer all dimensions except this one. In order to have some fun, Lord Dominion decides to give Energy X canisters to Earth's worst criminals and watch them tear apart the planet. An alien named Mentor steals the ship containing the canisters and takes it to Earth, hoping to give it to good people to defend themselves and the others. The ship is shot down in orbit, and the canisters fall all over Patriot City and other parts of the world (Bullet is exposed all the way in Vietnam). Both good and bad people get hit with Energy X and transformed into superheroes and supervillains, respectively. Apparently, a super's blood can also act as super-serum, as Liberty Lad gets his powers from a transfusion of Minuteman's blood.
  • Galerians centers around a boy named Rion, who has powerful latent psychic abilities that he needs to consume drugs to use. His addiction causes him to waste away slowly.
  • The final bosses of Inazuma Eleven, Zeus, use a performance-enhancing serum dubbed Aqua of the Gods (or Ambrosia) to power themselves up to the level of "gods". In gameplay, this translates into them being able to use their incredibly powerful techs as much as they want without consuming TP.
  • Many games have stat-boosting powerup potions, but the sheer number of them in Kingdom of Loathing makes it a notable example; it's not uncommon to boost yourself to over 1000% of your normal strength. Not all potions are, strictly speaking, potions (many are oddball things like horoscopes or trivia cards), but most of the actual potions consist of questionable substances like "gremlin mutagen", were-seal blood, or dangerously high-pressure spheres of something concocted by evil mer-people.
  • The stat-boosting items in Luxaren Allure are called Serums.
  • [PROTOTYPE]'s Super Soldiers get their superhuman abilities from being injected with a strain of The Virus that has beneficial properties and none of the downsides.
  • In Resident Evil 5, Wesker needs a frequent and precise dose of the virus running through his body in order to keep his superpowers and still stay (relatively) human-looking. This becomes the major gimmick of the penultimate boss fight, in which the protagonists give Wesker an intentional overdose of the serum and send him into a Villainous Breakdown.
  • RuneScape has the Combat Potion made from Harralander herbs which can improve your strength and reflexes but most of all the herb in general has energy stimulating properties.
  • In StarCraft, Terran infantry have access to stimpacks, drugs that increase movespeed and attack speed at the cost of 10 hitpoints (and have long-term effects in the novels). When they had no way of healing their troops, this was slightly risky (Marines only have 40 HP), but Brood War introduced medics that made them pretty much mandatory. In the sequel, the much tougher Marauders get them as well (though not in the campaign and at the cost of double the health), allowing them to do horrible things to enemy vehicles and structures and kite combined with their concussive grenades, kite or chase down nearly anything.
  • Super Mario Bros.: Mario's Fire Flower, and by extension, all other items that Mario characters can get upgrades from, from Super Mushrooms to Feathers to Doki Doki Panic's Hearts.
  • Super Snail from QCplay Limited has a Tech relic, the vial of the Super Soldier Serum that created a certain patriotic American superhero. Additionally each country that Super Snail visits, has about 15 mutagenic injections to increase his stats permanently as well as the "wonder fungus" mushrooms that he can eat which provides a smaller stat boost than the injections but have the advantage of a perpetual supply - including being available at Super Snail's fungus farm.
  • The Goblin Alchemist from Warcraft III has an ability called Chemical Rage which greatly empowers his Ogre ride.

  • Brother Complex: This is the secret behind Rose's massive growth spurt from a little girl to a ball and busty one in just a year. It also seems to improve her intellectually, as she's able to solve an equation the teacher provided in response to her... flirtatious advances with Jack. She actually got it courtesy of her father, after she ended up overdosing in response to Jack's abroad trip. In desperation, Frank used an experimental serum to keep her alive. The government found out, and Rose volunteered to partake in tests regarding the serum's effects, with Frank as the project's director, and they'll manage to keep normal lives, especially for Rose. Using data from this research on Rose, she slipped in a formula based on that for Mimi, who then offers one to Eclaire.
  • Girl Genius:
    • The Jägermonsters are the result of humans drinking a concoction first created by the Heterodyne family, brewed from the waters of a strange river (the Dyne) that they built their castle over. The resulting "Jägerdraught" killed a significant number of the humans who drank it, but those who survived became nearly unkillable, immortal soldiers.
    • The water of the Dyne itself can grant incredible healing, but it's even more likely to kill anyone who bathes in it. The original Heterodyne did the unthinkable and drank it, gaining superhuman strength and stamina and becoming revered as the consort of the local battle goddess. The Jägerdraught uses the water of the river as a key component.
    • When in England, Agatha encounters a scientist who has attempted to replicate the Jägerdraught, with minimal success. The drink transforms him into a stronger form, but only temporarily — he requires an increased dosage each time, if he stays like that for too long he'll become psychotic, and when it wears off, he is left in an imbecilic state. He offers to serve Agatha if she transforms him with the true Jägerdraught, but unfortunately, she hasn't learned how to make it yet. And she probably couldn't have anyway without the waters of the Dyne.
  • Most of the heroes from Heroes Inc have taken serums that give them various powers and slow down their aging process.
  • Scary Go Round: The VitRx potion makes you big, strong, and attractive, even if you are an animal. Mayor Davies's body was too old to handle it, so instead of improving his musculature, it made him prone to outbursts, and barely intelligent enough to communicate.
  • The Rainbow Reverie from Slightly Damned is a five-piece set of magic potions, with each colored potion having a different temporary effect (Red gives Super-Strength, Blue gives Super-Speed, Yellow improves magic, Purple makes your body invulnerable and Green is a powerful Healing Potion). It was used by medians during the Great War to even the battlefield with the demons but is near impossible to make now due to its most important ingredients being extremely rare in Medius until recently. It also has different effects on certain groups. For instance, the red potion causes demons to enter a more controlled and nonlethal version of their typically fatal berserk form, and the yellow potion can make someone who's descended from one of the twelve guardians reconnect to the bloodline.

    Web Original 
  • 7-Second Riddles: Some riddles will involve the audience finding pills that grant them temporary super-powers. The riddle involves figuring out which pill would help them deal with their situation.
  • In The Iron Teeth, people known as Vessels or more informally as Sloshers consume a special elixir created and sold by mages to gain superhuman abilities. The power granted by an elixir needs to be replenished by consuming more. Not everyone can use it though as some people who take it die and others can become addicted.
  • Every single character in Survival of the Fittest: Evolution that takes part in the game gets their power via an injection of chemicals. Some of the powers are... questionably useful, though.
  • We Are Our Avatars: As part of his training to be a Feccian Bladesman, Zeke was given alchemical infusions that increased his strength and durability (and, by proxy, a certain degree of his other physical attributes) to preternatural levels. Both were already heightened by the training itself, however, with his infusions simply raising the bar further.
  • Whateley Universe:
    • Most of the Super-Soldier experiments performed during World War II by both the Axis and the Allies involved various Super Serums, most of which proved to have, uh, undesirable side effects. For those whose test serum proved to be a Psycho Serum, both sides chose to use the victims as shock troops, with the Axis also using them as propaganda meant to terrify Allied soldiers (the U.S. and U.K. preferred to keep the test low-key). Even the 'successful' tests often led to breakdowns after the war, with many 'Flag Heroes' becoming villains after the war.
    • After the war, Super Serums continued to be common experimental projects for Mad Scientists, with a lot of them turning out to be Psycho Serums. This results in the creation of quite a few supervillains; however, some successful ones create superheroes instead. Even these usually have some kind of price; for example, Dr. Venus' super-treatments wear off over time, and eventually stop working, often with crippling side effects for the 'studmuffins' whom she used them on.
  • In Worm, one of the major ongoing plot threads deals with Cauldron, a manufacturer of these. The Serum is derived from pieces of the corpse of a dead Cthulhu-like alien god.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in the Futurama episode "Less Than Hero" when an alien "Miracle Cream" temporarily gives Fry and Leela superpowers.
  • Super Chicken, in his segment on George of the Jungle, drinks a concoction known as Super Sauce... from a martini glass. The double-strength and triple-strength varieties of Super Sauce cause the mild-mannered Henry Cabbot Henhouse the Third to explode, hospitalizing him and any schmuck who happens to be standing at Ground Zero with him.
  • The Gummi Bears are a target for all number of villains because their magical Gummiberry juice temporarily grants superhuman strength to humans who drink it. (The juice allows the bears themselves to bounce much like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.) While the bears can drink it as often as they want, humans only get a strength boost every 24 hours.
  • One episode of Mighty Mouse ends with the titular hero contently smelling a flower. Some over-zealous Self-Appointed Moral Guardians, however, asserted that the Mouse was snorting opium poppies, and this eventually snowballed into the urban legend that Mighty Mouse gets his powers from cocaine (!).
  • In The Powerpuff Girls (1998), Mojo Jojo gives a group of kids Powerpuff-styled superpowers via exposure to Chemical X. This was played up as a Very Special Episode as it was shown to be super addictive to them (that, or they were addicted to the powers) as they demanded more and were promised that if they could defeat the girls.
  • Roger Ramjet gets his powers from "Proton Energy Pills".
  • An explosion of "meta-gas" during a gang feud in Static Shock gives Static and a bunch of other troubled teenagers in Dakota different powers. One Teen Genius Monster of the Week learns how to control it and can grant himself different short-term powers through short-term exposure.
  • As Underdog tells us, "The secret compartment of my ring I fill / With my Underdog Super Energy Pill." Cue the Wingding Eyes each time he takes one! The film, naturally, opted for the Freak Lab Accident origin. Sometimes, Underdog says "Energy Vitamin Pill" instead of "Super Energy Pill." This may have been an exhortation for children to take their daily vitamins. Then, perhaps because the notion of popping pills for speed and strength became bad, later broadcasts omitted the pills and had Underdog spontaneously (without explanation) recovering his superpowers.
  • The Venture Bros.:
    • Sgt. Hatred is a product of a Captain America-style serum given to him by the O.S.I. It turned out to be a bit more of a Psycho Serum, as it gave him pedophilic tendencies, which led him to defect from the O.S.I. and join the Guild of Calamitous Intent. After defecting again from the Guild to become Dr. Venture's new bodyguard, the O.S.I. supply him with "Nomolestol" to calm those urges, but the new side effect of that was... breasts.
    • The Action Man of original Team Venture was also generally on a serum during his heyday. It is implied to have been addictive, and possibly to have had psychotic side-effects. For instance, a tipsy Col. Gentleman baits him about the time he killed a baby, which the Action Man insists was a werewolf. There is no indication of whether this serum is related to Sgt. Hatred's.

    Real Life 
  • In their origins, steroids were looked as if they were this: some magic serum that gave new soldiers muscles with no training whatsoever. As it turns out, there is a price.
  • During the War of the Pacific, Chilean soldiers developed a toxic drink nicknamed "La Chupilca del Diablo" (The Devil's Booze), which consisted of a mix of strong Aguardiente and black gunpowder. According to that era's records, the unholy mixture caused the Chilean soldiers to go absolutely berserker and able to ignore pain or fatigue, but because of the toxic nature of the drink, this Super Serum was only used in extreme situations. For the record, that war had Peru and Bolivia teaming up against Chile, and Chile won that war. Including one battle where they took a fortified camp sitting atop a sheer cliff, and they climbed it by hand to take it while apparently under the effects.
  • Scientists have actually developed a reliable supersoldier serum. However, it only works on ants.
  • The German military from 1938 throughout World War II used liberally a compound of the dreaded methamphetamine (then known as Pervitin and often laced into chocolate to mask its bitter taste), in the hopes it would give the soldiers and most importantly airmen superhuman performance.note  While it certainly did not grant superhuman powers, it really did enable levels of wakefulness and concentration similar to that achieved by caffeine and increased levels of aggressiveness. Germany was particularly dependent upon Pervitin because the blockade meant she was unable to acquire coffee or caffeinated tea in the requisite quantities. The Wehrmacht actually cut back on the issuing of pervitin in 1941-2 due to the adverse side effects of hyperaggression and addiction, but ended up issuing more of it than ever before from 1943 onward as things went from bad to worse in Ukraine and then Belarus.
  • During World War II, the British, American and Japanese militaries all issued amphetamine pills to their troops (Benzedrine for the Allies, Philopon for the Japanese), in varying quantities and dosages, which gives new meaning to the phrase "War on Drugs"...
  • In the years before World War II, Finland was one of the world's largest users of medicinal heroin. When the war began, and the Soviet Union invaded Finland, beginning the Winter War, Finnish soldiers were issued with heroin pills. At least one Finnish historian has said that the Finnish army's exceptionally level-headed defense of Finnish territory was in part due to the fact that Finland's soldiers were, shall we say, feeling no pain.
  • Despite all objective studies showing that it was most certainly not a super serum, the Western Allies touted Amphetamine and Methamphetamine as Super Serums anyway. The Royal Air Force, British Army, and US military used significant quantities of both drugs from early 1942 onward even though they knew fine well they were no better for warding off fatigue than caffeine — and caused recklessness, addictiveness, and sometimes outright delusions. The rationale for this seems to have been partly medical, as it was the only known anti-depressant which might possibly reduce incidences of 'psychological casualties' from "combat stress" — about half of which had physical causes, and the rest mental. But for the most part the adoption seems to have been driven by the militaries themselves, which valued the morale boost. In the USA, pharmaceutical companies' commercial interests were also a significant factor. British businesses were literally unable to profit from promoting the drug due to the 'excess profit' tax (of 100%), but US businesses didn't have this problem and so seem to have played a big role in their early adoption.
  • Usually performance-enhancing drugs are a technological and biological dead end. They can enhance one ability (stamina, when stimulants like methamphetamine or cocaine are involved, awareness with psychoactive drugs, or lack of inhibitions with marijuana) at great cost, they are addictive, they lose potency over time due to habituation, and, worse, they give a sense of false security. This is the reason evolution never pushed a species in the wild to consume a performance-enhancing plant: two animals fighting to a gruesome death because they lack the feel of pain both lose the possibility to reproduce themselves.
  • Adrenaline, used in emergencies by medical professionals trying to stabilize/revive a patient and useful for allowing super human strength performance too. For as long as the stuff holds or until the body burns out anyway.
    • It also combats swelling (it's easier to run away if the bruises don't kick in yet), hence its use in treating anaphylactic shock. The stimulant ephedrine is chemically similar, which is why pseudoephedrine is best known as the decongestant Sudafed. Swelling serves a purpose, though, reducing bleeding and closing off orifices from infection; between the body burning out and curtailing those two functions, an adrenaline-based super serum would need to strike a delicate balance to avoid Blessed with Suck (or need to be supplemented with, e.g., immune-boosting nanorobots).