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Superpower Disability

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"There's a fine line between superpowers and a chronic disease."

A lot of superpowers come with weaknesses. A good Kryptonite Factor can add danger and drama to a story, and as comic books have become more self aware plenty of authors have taken to exploring the Logical Weakness for their characters.

And some writers take it further, where the drawbacks of being superhuman are for all intents and purposes a disability all unto themselves.

Contrast with Disability Superpower, where the disability caused the superpower instead of the superpower causing the disability. Also contrast Disability-Negating Superpower, where a superpower effectively gets rid of a disability.

See also Blessed with Suck, Heroic RRoD, Power at a Price, Required Secondary Powers, Logical Weakness, Power Incontinence, and Power-Upgrading Deformation. Cast from Hit Points, Cast from Lifespan and Cast from Sanity are subtropes.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Shunsuke from Charlotte has the ability of Mental Time Travel, but it degrades his eyesight with every use. By the time the series starts, he's been rendered completely blind and can no longer use his ability (since light needs to be entering his eyes in order for him to activate it).
  • Shion Pavlichenko from Darker than Black is a Contractor who has the ability to create anything. As with all contractors though, he has to pay a price for using the power. In his case he is left unable to walk, and the duration of this disability is proportionate to what he creates.
  • The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. show just how much it would suck to have just about every psychic power imaginable and have poor control over them when you just want to live a normal life. Kusuo Saiki constantly reads the minds of everyone around him so he cannot enjoy going to movies because he will hear spoilers from other people's thoughts. He doesn't like animals because he can read their minds too and thus knows what they are really thinking. His X-Ray Vision makes other people unattractive to him because he can see their insides. He has to constantly wear transparent gloves so that he doesn't have to see into the past of any object that he touches or share the senses of any people he touches. He always wears green-tinted glasses to avoid turning people he looks at to stone. Before he was given a device to keep his powers at a manageable level he risked blowing up his house every time he slept and his Super-Strength has become so strong that without the device he can't touch anything without sending it flying away. His powers have taken almost all of the joy out of his life because, with the exception of social situations, nothing is challenging to him. For most of the series the only thing that can make him smile is eating sweets.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Stands can occasionally be this if the user lacks the will to control them. Holly's Stand, for example, drains her to the point of falling into a coma, and Masazo Kinoto's stand has no power except killing the user if anyone looks at their back (and then jumping to the person who looked). They're still Stands and their users can still see other Stands, but they're detriments to the user that need to be worked around or removed entirely.
  • In My Hero Academia, Yuga Aoyama's Navel Laser can seriously mess up his digestive system when overused, and a birth defect makes it prone to leaking out. He has to wear a specially-made belt at all times to prevent this. The real reason it does this is because he wasn't actually born with the Quirk, but instead granted it by All For One, and because he never went through proper conditioning to prep his body to handle it (like what Midoriya had to do in order to strengthen himself to receive One For All) he suffers from the mentioned issues.
  • In Yuki Yuna is a Hero, whenever the Heroes go Mankai, they sacrifice a part of themselves in a process called the Sange. This sacrifice can involve losing anything from sight in one eye, to their voice, to mobility in both legs.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Some writers argue that the Joker's insanity counts as a superpower. Sure, he's immune to psychic influence, and the lack of self-preservation instinct lets him fight harder than the average guy. The downside is, well, he's insane. His memories of his own life are a chaotic, indecipherable mess, and his impulse control and ability to interact with people in a non-lethal way are basically nonexistent.
  • The Boys: During a screening of superpowered children (that strongly resembles child beauty pageants), one little girl's eyes melt out as she tries to show her powers, all the while screaming that she's sorry.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • The supervillain Taskmaster is capable of perfectly imitating any move that he's seen. Unfortunately, this takes up most of his short-term and long-term memory, to the point that it's questionable whether he can still remember his own name.
    • Deadpool: Deadpool's Healing Factor comes with the unpleasant side effect of accelerating his already present tumor growth, causing all of his skin to always be scarred and blotched. It's also suggested that his insanity stems from his brain being constantly damaged by tumors before healing over in an endless cycle.
    • Fantastic Four: Ben Grimm is nigh-invulnerable and super-strong... too bad he's also a giant orange rock monster, and unlike his teammates, he can't turn it off. Basically everything he interacts with has to be specially reinforced so he doesn't break it, and his sense of touch is all but nonexistent.
    • Jonothon Evan Starsmore/Chamber from Generation X is missing his lower jaw and a fair chunk of his chest (only his own powers are keeping him alive) from the result of his powers manifesting.
    • Black Bolt of The Inhumans gives off destructive energy waves every time he speaks — as in, him whispering can pummel the Hulk or come close to capsizing a battleship- so he has to remain mute if he doesn't want to become a Person of Mass Destruction. He killed his parents shortly after gaining his powers.
    • In New X-Men: Academy X, Prodigy can unconsciously absorb the collective skills and knowledge of anyone and everyone around him, but he can only retain that information for as long as the people who originally held it are around him. This effectively forces him to study twice as hard as everyone else, because he can't rely on his own personal knowledge base remaining constant.
    • In NYX, Bobby Soul can temporarily possess other people and absorb their memories, but every time he uses this power, he loses huge chunks of his own memory, to the point that he once became a near-complete amnesiac.
    • Thor (2014): Every time Jane Foster transforms into Thor, it has the side effect of negating the effects of whatever chemotherapy she has had since the last transformation, meaning that her powers cause her to slowly succumb to her cancer.
    • Downplayed with Cyclops of X-Men. Because he can't innately control his Eye Beams powers, he can't see well; he has to wear a ruby-quartz visor to limit it and allow him to see "normally".
  • A one-shot character in from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage) is a man with Super-Speed who destroyed his knees through years of running far faster than the human body is supposed to be capable of going, and now is wheelchair-bound.

    Fan Works 
  • When the first lightning bolt struck Izuku in Jade Lightning, it stopped his heart and essentially killed him instantly. The second lightning bolt resuscitated him, but the electricity in his body now operates many of his bodily functions like his cardiovascular system, meaning his heart (among other things) is all-but dead. If the amount of energy in his core reaches 0 or if Aizawa were to use his quirk on him, he would die instantly.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Amazing Spider-Man shows us the problem with Spider-Sense. It immediately draws Peter's attention to any possible threats, no matter how minor, leading to sensory overload. In one scene, he has difficulty with simple conversation because a fly, imperceptible to anyone else, buzzes slightly near him, causing him to freak out. He evidently learns to suppress it with practice.
  • The Butterfly Effect: Evan starts suffering brain damage when he uses his time-travel ability to change his life, as years of memories from each alternate timeline fight for space. In the alternate ending, he commits Heroic Suicide before the damage is too great.
  • In Captain America: Civil War, Peter reveals that he used to have problems with Sensory Overload until he learned to tune it out with darkened goggles. His new Stark suit comes with retractable lenses to help narrow his focus.
  • The Golden Voyage of Sinbad: Prince Koura visibly ages each time he uses his black magic. By the end of the film, he's an old man. Luckily for him, the treasure he's searching for can give him back his youth.

  • In The Cinder Spires, etherealists' powers come at the cost of Sanity Slippage as the etheric currents eat holes in their minds. Most develop strong compulsions that "fill the holes" and help them concentrate, and might become lost and incoherent if their compulsion is denied.
  • In the Dreamblood Duology, the Gatherers gain powerful narcomancy magic, but become unable to produce Dreamblood, a spiritual substance that's generated by and sustains human souls. They rely on collecting Dreamblood from others and undergo a torturous Metamorphosis into a Reaper if they run completely dry.
  • The Grave Of Empires, magic is bestowed by the goddess called the Lady Merchant. As her name implies, magic use is a trade-off, coming with disadvantages that get worse the more a mage uses their powers. Examples shown in Seven Blades In Black include wind mages developing breathing problems and tank mages who can heal from any nonlethal blow but whose bodies reject their own blood, forcing them to rely on artificial substitutes that carry nasty side effects.
  • Common in Kroniki Drugiego Kręgu where magical talent takes over a seemingly random part of the brain, resulting in an inability to use it for what it normally does. The protagonist, a powerful Master of Illusion (which also comes with a side helping of Telepathy) is deaf.
  • Otto And The Flying Twins has the humorous version: the magical creatures, known as the Karmidee, cannot pronounce the word "lemon".
  • Redwall: Badger Lords have the Bloodwrath, a berserk rage that lets them fight through horrifying injury and lose all sense of strategy, plowing through armies they don't even see to reach their hated enemy. In Lady Cregga Rose Eyes' case (so named because while the Bloodwrath causes Glowing Eyes of Doom, hers was always on), it caused her to go blind after her final battle.
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible features several examples. The only one which directly affects the plot is Doctor Impossible's Malign Hypercognition Disorder (which some characters say isn't real anyway). The most severe is Rainbow Triumph, who needs a strict regimen of medication to stay alive. Crosses over with Disability Superpower as her powers are artificial and were created when her father's company tried to fix her birth defects.
  • In The Witcher, gradual infertility is an inevitable side effect of magic use, which is a blessing for some (they're free to fool around with no danger of little accidents) and a curse for others, such as Geralt's Love Interest Yennefer of Vangerberg: she wants children but is long past the point of no return, and ends up becoming a surrogate mother for Geralt's foster daughter Ciri instead.
  • Worm has the Case 53's, or Irregulars, which are powered individuals left deeply disfigured in one way or the other because they were used as test subjects for Cauldron's Super Serum.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Characters in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. who gain Inhuman powers often acquire a deformity or disability at the same time. For instance, Gordon gained the power to teleport and lost his eyes.
  • In Alphas, every Alpha has a disability alongside their powers. Bill's Uninhibited Muscle Power comes with a heart condition. Gary can sense radio but is autistic. Rachel's super senses are easily overwhelmed. Kat has perfect muscle memory, but no conscious memory beyond the last month. Anna can understand any language, but she cannot speak.
  • The Unsullied's complete inability to feel any fear in Game of Thrones also makes them unable to find people who have hidden themselves, since they cannot comprehend that people who are afraid will sometimes choose that option rather than fighting.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Eclipse Phase, asyncs develop Psychic Powers as a result of an extraterrestrial nanovirus rewriting sections of their brains, the process also leaves them with at least one mental disability, often two.
  • Leviathan: The Tempest: Hybrids are, essentially, the result of splicing alien DNA into a human genome, and unlike full Leviathans they lack the divine essence to shrug off the side effects of this. Hybrids are required to take a number of Genetic Conditions to represent the harmful side-effects of their heritage, anything from not being able to walk to requiring a precise drug regimen to remain healthy.
  • Pathfinder:
    • In First Edition, uniquely among the character classes, the Oracle's divine magic comes with a permanent Curse. Examples include clouded vision, deafness, a lame leg, a wasting sickness, and glossolalia. However, each curse has a side benefit that scales with character level.
    • Second Edition's version of the Oracle frames the oracle's mystery (aka their divine Power Source) as this trope, since their curse is a direct consequence of their mystery — for example, the Life mystery makes the oracle a natural channel for healing, but that channel's one-way nature makes them much harder to heal in turn. The curse also grows stronger when the oracle draws deeper on their mystery through revelation spells, going from flavor text (Mild) to inconvenient (Minor) to crippling (Moderate) to dangerous (Major) to outright life-threatening (Extreme) if the oracle doesn't take some time to rest or Refocus. The curse still grants side benefits when drawn on to Moderate or higher levels, though.
  • In Princess: The Hopeful, each Umbra (specific ways that the Darkness can warp those it Taints), conveys a benefit balanced out by a drawback. For example, the Loathsome Weapon Umbrum twists some part of the Darkened's body into a natural weapon: fingers stiffen into claws, or a mouth elongates into a muzzle full of fangs. However, the Darkened can't change the altered body part back, and can't use it for anything other than attacking. Similarly, the Cold Flesh Umbrum makes the Darkened immune to the effects of cold, but at the cost of making him supernaturally vulnerable to sunlight (even a few minutes in direct sunlight will cause painful burns).
  • Warhammer 40,000: Psychically empowered humans are very often completely insane, as their powers come from the daemon-filled dimension of raw emotion called the Warp.

    Video Games 
  • Drakengard: Pact partners lose something when making a pact with a supernatural creature, which links both lives together and allows the two to communicate telepathically. Some are physically disabling (Caim lost his voice, Arioch her fertility, Leonard his sight), some metaphysical (Inuart lost his musical talent, Seere lost his ability to age past six years old), and some aren't exactly hard to live with (Verdelet lost his hair, though his pact partner has since been petrified).
  • In The Elder Scrolls, the eponymous Elder Scrolls are a cross between Tomes of Eldritch Lore and Tomes of Prophecy and Fate. Referred to as "Fragments of Creation", the Scrolls are of unknown origin and number which simultaneously record past, present, and future events irrefutably; what did happen, what could have happened, what might yet happen. As such, a reader can gain immense knowledge by reading the scrolls, and even predict the future to a degree. However, without proper training, merely glancing at one will cause immediate blindness, and even with said training (such as the kind members of the Cult of Ancestor Moth receive), a reader will gradually lose their sight with each reading until they're completely blind (essentially a play on the Blind Seer trope).

  • Laser Pony from League of Super Redundant Heroes has Eye Beams as a superpower, but his eyes have been fried ever since the first time he used them. His blindness is a major source of gags.
  • Sorcery 101:
    • Seers' prophetic powers cause their eyes to degrade, turning the strongest of them into Blind Seers.
    • People with large amounts of latent magical power can easily become The Ace, but are prone to horrible migraines, seizures, and full-on god complexes if they don't carefully channel their abilities.
    • Werewolves gain a powerful Healing Factor and other abilities, but go colour blind. Most don't much care, but Brad's career as a graphic designer suffers after he's turned.
  • Widdershins: Jack O'Malley can see the spirits of emotion that are generated by all people and form the basis of magic, thanks to being a Witch. However, this ability renders him completely colour-blind. When his power is briefly transferred to Ben, the colour-blindness goes with it.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Batman Beyond episode "The Winning Edge", repeated use of the Venom injection has turned Bane into a frail wheelchair-bound cripple.
  • Sapphires in Steven Universe can usually see the future. One Padparadcha Sapphire we meet instead sees the past, and only the past (and the very recent past, at that), which mostly results in her having a Delayed Reaction to everything.
  • The Impossibles in The Venture Bros. are twisted parodies of the Fantastic Four, of whom only Mr. Impossible equivalent has a useful superpower. Sally's skin was turned invisible, making her look like she's been flayed, and she has to concentrate just to keep it visible. Ned is incredibly strong, but his body is basically one giant callous. Cody has it the worst, as his "power" is to uncontrollably generate flames on contact with oxygen, which don't injure him but do cause extreme pain — which is why he spends most of his time in stasis.

    Real Life 
  • Per evolutionary biologists, this trope is responsible for the many flightless bird species native to New Zealand. Eons ago, when the two islands broke away from the landmass that is now Australia and drifted south, there were no large mammalian predator species that were able to sustain a population on the islands. Birds thus didn't have to be able to fly away from threats, eliminating any practical need for wings, whose muscle mass requires a great deal of a bird's caloric intake to sustain. This changed the natural selection balance to favor birds with less powerful wings, and eventually they came to dominate the gene pool, leading to birds like kiwis whose wings are largely decorative and were thus almost literally sitting ducks for predators that hitched rides, or were brought to the islands, when humans reached them.