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Tainted Veins

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Who'd have thought putting an experimental energy source in your chest might have harmful side effects?

"He has veins on his forehead now, which is the official Star Trek code for "This poor bastard is in for a horribly painful transformation and/or death." Seriously, if you are ever yourself in a Star Trek episode and you see this happening to yourself, turn your phaser on yourself. There is no hope if you have a veiny head unless you are an alien or a main cast member. Just put yourself out of your own misery."
SF Debris recaps the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Threshold"

Sometimes I feel I've got to (dum dum) run away I've got to (dum dum) get away from the pain that you drive into the heart of me...

In general, the tendency of people suffering some sort of abnormal condition to develop highly visible, off-color veins all over their body or near the distressed areas.

Might be due to catching a bite from someone/thing infected with The Virus, or as a manifestation of a villain's Red Right Hand after willingly succumbing to The Dark Side or The Corruption. It's also possible if the character is suffering a Super-Power Meltdown, Power Degeneration, or as a side effect to taking too much Psycho Serum. A vampire, werewolf or other supernatural critter hit with Depleted Phlebotinum Shells inducing a burning reaction (or even just partial sun exposure/blood starvation) may develop Tainted Veins because their glamour is failing. Special mention goes to zombie bites for always creating nasty necrotic veins wherever they bit.

Expect characters with a Healing Factor (or with friends possessing Healing Hands and or a Magic Antidote) to quickly and neatly reverse the appearance of these veins.

See also Volcanic Veins for when they glow. Compare Vein-o-Vision, which is where a character has a power that makes them see the world this way. May involve a Wound That Will Not Heal.

This is Truth in Television: There are toxins that cause venous thrombosis (clotting of blood in veins) which can make surface veins visible and dark — especially if the clotting is in deep tissue in an affected limb. Telangiectasias, or spider veins, is also a real life example, though just small red blood vessels under the skin. Usually harmless, sometimes a sign of something serious, so get it checked out if you can.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • This is one of the warning signs of Tetsuo's imminent mutation near the end of AKIRA.
  • Attack on Titan: A side effect of Titan shifting.
  • Inverted in Bleach, where highly visible veins are caused by the use of "Blut Vene", a Quincy defensive technique.
  • Babidi's human henchmen in Dragon Ball Z have unusually bulging veins without discoloration.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist
    • The second Greed gets these whenever he and Ling have a disagreement.
    • Ed also gets these temporarily when Pride tries to take him over.
  • In Granblue Fantasy, Tiamat has red veins near her eyes when Freesia corrupts her using the Dark Essence.
  • A Downplayed example in Naruto: activating the Byakugan technique causes the veins around the user's eyes to noticably bulge due to increased blood flow to the eyes.
  • Owning to his tendency to forcibly insert himself right into the bloodstream and organs of his opponents to extract 'information', Armisael in Neon Genesis Evangelion causes this to both the Eva he's attacking and the pilot of the Eva. Let's just say that Rei's encounter with Armisael looked incredibly painful.
  • Kurumi from School-Live! gains these on her right arm, the right side of her neck, and a bit of the right side of her face, after her close brush with zombification. It is unsure if this will be permanent however, as she's treated quickly but there are signs the treatment wasn't permanent.
  • These have a tendency to show up whenever someone's using their powers in Snow White and Seven Dwarfs. With it being a series about being Blessed with Suck, they're generally not a good sign.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, Ghouls tend to get raised, red veins around their eyes when angry or otherwise using their powers.
  • Viruses in Venus Versus Virus have these, usually on their faces.
  • Dark Marik of Yu-Gi-Oh!.

    Comic Books 
  • Robin (1993): Strader Pharmaceuticals illegally developed a super-drug which causes the users to have bulging discolored veins as their bodies start breaking down from the side-effects.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A sign that you are falling under the Big Bad's sway in 5ive Girls.
  • The vampires in 30 Days of Night.
  • Poison Ivy's toxic kisses cause these to appear on her victims in Batman & Robin.
  • Blood Ransom: Sometimes, Crystal's veins turn black to show the vampirism infection.
  • The Crazies (2010): This is a late symptom of infection with the Trixie virus, long after the victim has become a homicidal maniac.
  • Dreamcatcher has this, but it was an alien plant growing into the infectee's face.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: Near the end of the film, Holga is mortally stabbed by Sofina's blade. To visually indicate that a wound from a Red Wizard's blade is so fatal it can't be healed by regular magic, veins around the wound begin to darken and spread.
  • The vampires in Interview with the Vampire have visible veins on their faces, too, but that's due as much to their creepily transparent porcelain white skin as it is to their veins being full of freshly drunk blood.
  • Embrace of the Vampire (2013): When the vampire transforms from his human form to vampiric, the veins across his neck become prominent and turn black. (Possibly it extends across his whole body, but his face and neck are all that are visible.)
  • The vampires in John Carpenter's Vampires have them.
  • In Kingsman: The Golden Circle this is the first sign that a drug user is infected with the virus Poppy tainted the drugs with: blue veins start appearing all over the user's body.
  • In Let Me In, this trope applies to Abby's vampiric Game Face when she needs to feed, although the dim light can make it difficult to see.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Tony Stark's Palladium poisoning in Iron Man 2 cause grey veins around his arc reactor.
    • Thor: The Dark World: When Loki seemingly dies, his skin turns ash-grey, and his veins become highly visible.
    • Black Panther (2018): As part of the trial of combat to claim the title of Wakanda's king, T'challa drinks a concoction that strips him of his abilities, giving him a series of purple veins across his body.
    • Thor: Ragnarok:
      • If you look closely, you can see that Hela has faint but visible black veins on her shoulders, forehead and around her eyes and jawline. This is presumably to represent that she's maybe not fully alive (as the goddess of death) and is maybe a mild homage to the goddess Hel appearing as half alive and half dead in the original Norse Mythology.
      • When Thor and Loki are zapped by the shock devices (which likely contain a neurotoxin) for long enough, they develop purple veins.
      • Bruce Banner, finding himself on an alien planet after two years as the Hulk, rants to Thor about how stressful this is to him. While he does, the veins of his face and neck briefly flush green.
  • Rampant: Zombies (and people who are about to become zombies) have black veins.
  • Zombies in Rockabilly Zombie Weekend, as part of the gradual breakdown of their body, have their veins gradually begin bulging out until they're visible as thick purple lines etched across their bodies.
  • Siren (2010): When Silka resumes what is (presumably) her true form. her skin is waxy and translucent—like a drowned person—with black veins running beneath.
  • In Star Trek: First Contact, as the Borg invade the Enterprise, they convert crew members by injecting (presumably) some kind of nanobot version of The Virus which can be seen spreading through dark veins from the point of injection.
  • Space Sweepers: James Sullivan is suffering from some illness that is never explicitly revealed (presumably related to the way his lifespan was artificially lengthened). It flares up throughout the film whenever he loses his composure, and when it does, his veins became discolored and visible and his skin becomes discolored, spreading outwards from the veins.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • This happens to whoever Rogue touches in the movies.
    • Mutated Senator Kelly also has them before he dies.
    • Instead of the expected fire effects, movieverse Jean Grey/Phoenix gets Tainted Veins and Black Eyes of Evil when in Dark Phoenix mode in X-Men: The Last Stand.
  • XX: In "Don't Fall", the first visible sign of Gretchen's transformation is the veins in the palm of the hand that touched the cave wall turning black.
  • Hidden: In the end, the virus is revealed to do this to carriers when they "lose control" and go into berserker rage.

  • In the Chaos Gods series, when the demonic energy tainting Ki's body rises to the surface, her skin becomes covered in black lines.
  • In Crier's War, the Automa that consume Nightshade eventually develop veins that are black and bulging.
  • Dark Skies: All creatures (included humans) that are infected by blight, have visibly blackened veins that stand out on their grayish skin.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • In Proven Guilty, Harry looks upon a heroin addict with the Sight and sees her addiction manifesting as green-black veins under her skin ending at dozens of tiny, hungry mouths opening and closing where her needle marks were in the real world.
    • In Changes, we are treated to a minor case of this courtesy of Ebenezar, as a result of using the Blackstaff.
  • Shades of Magic has a Harmony Versus Discipline divide over how people use magic. Those who try to impose their will over magic for brute power have their veins turn black, which is implied to be a very bad thing. The same happens to people who are being infected and overwhelmed by a sentient magical effect, in which case they have much more immediate problems.
  • In the Skulduggery Pleasant series, people possessed by Remnants (evil shadows/sprits) get black veins and lips, but only if the Remnant wants to show itself. Otherwise they just look like normal people.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • When Tash Arranda is infected with The Virus in Galaxy of Fear: The Planet Plague, she starts off with a rash that becomes a swelling bump with raised brownish veins. Then it starts leaking brownish-green Blob Monster goo.
    • Spore assimilates people by sending out dark vinelike things that sink into the skin and are quickly only visible as a "dark tracing of lines", like veins.
  • The Trials of Apollo: After Apollo gets scratched by a eurynomos giving him an infection that threatens to eventually kill him and raise him as a vrykolakas, he slowly starts to get purple veins spreading all over his body. This is a sign that the infection is reaching its final stages.
  • In Warbreaker, the magic sword Nightblood feeds on the magic energy (called Breath) of whoever is holding it when it is fully drawn. It destroys anything it touches into a cloud of black smoke, but if the wielder runs out of Breaths or Stormlight black veins begin to climb up their arm as the sword consumes their life force. Despite all that, the sword is was created to do good, with the magic purpose of destroying evil.

    Live-Action TV 

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Luna Vachon's gimmick, as a result of being crazy or occult, depending on what time period and which promotion you saw her in. Bull Nakano had a similar look, so naturally the two were put together as a team when they ended up in the same locker rooms.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Seventh Soul in GURPS Villains has black veins all over its body. These are its only persistent identifying feature, since it reincarnates.
  • In the New World of Darkness, black veins in a character's Aura are a sign that they're a Soul Eater, the worst possible crime against the game's Karma Meter.

    Video Games 
  • It happens to Batman in Batman: Arkham City after the Joker infects him with the Titan disease, the veins becoming more prominent and black across his face.
  • This also happens to Batman again in Batman: The Telltale Series after Lady Arkham injects him with the same psychoactive drug other characters have been injected with prior to this. It makes the victim more aggressive, acting on impulses they would not act on otherwise. Naturally, this gets him into some trouble.
  • After Beatrice dies in Dante's Inferno, her spirit form has dark veins... all over her naked pale chest.
  • Darkest Dungeon: The Abomination, as seen in his skill slots. He has a stabilized flow of blight in his veins, and can deepen the veins to increase his resistances... or just cough up venom and spit it at his foes. Note that blight represents a combination of poison, venom, and acid all in one goopy package.
  • In Deus Ex and other games set in the same universe, nanotech augmentation gives you this. Although you're far from sick... Actually, you are sick and your augs and Gray Death are one and the same, you are just immune to the bad symptoms.
  • Dragon Age
    • Dragon Age II, this is one symptom of the Darkspawn corruption that finally kills Wesley. And Bethany/Carver, if they die in the Deep Roads. Or anyone who dies via the Taint, of course.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition: During Cassandra's personal quest, her former apprentice Daniel has these after being forced to consume red lyrium. This turns out to be a particularly bad form of the Darkspawn taint, as Varric's personal quest reveals that lyrium turns red when it is infected by the Blight.
  • If a character consistently favors magic in certain Fable games, the 'will lines' they develop resemble this.
  • In Far Cry, seeing the veins in your arms turn dark is how you find out that you've been exposed to the mutagen.
  • An archaeologist affected by poison in Hidden Expedition 15: The Curse of Mithridates has creeping purple veins.
  • In Killzone, Helghast have these, as a result of the first settlers trying to adjust to Helghan's sickly atmosphere and hundreds of years worth of forced evolution.
  • In Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic, ash-pale skin with pronounced dark veins signifies your character going completely darkside.
  • The Legend of Heroes - Trails: In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV, after Rean defeats Osborne in their final duel, Ishmelga passes itself into Rean's body, slowly turning his body dark with red glowing veins. Valimar on the other hand, being linked with Rean, gives a more not-so-pleasant sight.
  • In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, each time Samus absorbs a Phazon Core, her veins become more noticeable in reflections of her face; bigger, longer, bluer.
  • [PROTOTYPE] and [PROTOTYPE 2]. Alex Mercer's and James Heller's bodies are covered in thick, pulsating red and black veins when they unleash their Blacklight-virus powers.
  • Resident Evil:
    • Happens to Leon in Resident Evil 4, during a dream sequence after he's infected with the Las Plagas parasite. Fortunately for him, he's able to find a cure before anything like that starts to happen for real.
    • Happens to Wesker in Resident Evil 5 after the heroes overdose him on his own serum. They become even more prominent when he infects himself with Uroboros, but are quiclky concealed by his skin partially decomposing.
    • In Resident Evil 6, Derek Simmons, after being shot with a viral dart, develops a cluster of these spreading from the wound onto his face and shoulder. They disappear when he transforms shortly after.
  • Skullgirls' Painwheel has dark veins all over her body, thanks to the experiments that transformed her into her current state.
  • Spore has this as a variant of coloration for your creature.

    Web Animation 
  • Big Bad Salem from RWBY sports prominent black veins all over her body, including on her exposed hands and face. This is apparently normal for... whatever she is. She's a human infected with Grimm essence, but flashbacks show that she didn't have black veins when she was initially corrupted and that it developed later somehow, either from repeated exposure or time.

  • Ayuri: Fenna, or more accurately, her host.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: The character Incubus is covered in abnormally enlarged, red-pink veins that make audible heartbeat noises, as is revealed when he ends up taking off his robe during the Discordance of the Demiurges. The Rant implies this is a side-effect of using Black Magic.
  • In Wake The Sleepers, Locke's hand.
  • Wilde Life: When Cliff rescues Oscar from the spider-thing's cave Oscar does not rouse and radiating out from the point where he was bitten his veins have turned black.

    Western Animation 
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force:
    • "Hoppy Bunny" has Frylock develop popped-out veins after Shake extracts his jewel from his body.
    • "Piranha Germs": After Shake injects himself with piranha bacteria, it devours his body from the inside bringing out infected veins.
  • Played for Laughs in ''Family Guy" when Herbert responds to Chris turning up on his doorstep looking for a place to live by pinching himself to see if he's dreaming; he gives himself a blood clot, causing the veins up the entire length of his arm to turn black.
  • In one episode of Invader Zim, Zim sends little rubber pigs back in time to progressively injure Dib. Dib is shown with missing teeth, a robot arm, missing chunks of his hair, and large, bulging, grotesque veins on his forehead.
  • Metalocalypse: The Stinger in The Doomstar Requiem shows Murderface's veins slowly turning black as the virus planted in him that will turn him into a traitor courses through his body. (Unfortunately this never pays out due to the show being Screwed by the Network.)
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "Second Contact", the crewmen infected by the Hate Plague display engorged black veins on their necks that spread as they go berserk.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Eclipsa and Moon have dark purple veins on their hands as a result of using dark magic.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
  • Sym-Bionic Titan: Xishi, a squid-like monster about the size of an average human, climbs all the way down her victim's throat and forces them to speak the truth, causing their veins to be strained.