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Useless Without Powers

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Clark: [after getting beaten up] Blood. It's my blood. Maybe we ought to hire a bodyguard from now on.
Lois: I don't want a bodyguard. I want the man I fell in love with.
Clark: I know, Lois. I wish he were here.

While some characters manage to still continue to be badass when being Brought Down to Normal, that doesn't happen to these characters.

These kind of characters may be very competent and powerful with their superpowers, the drawback of being so powerful is that they become completely dependent on them. So much in fact that they are unable to face any situation without them, becoming useless against any kind of opponent, even the random low-level mooks; or worse they become a Distressed Dude / Damsel in Distress.

When taken to extremes this kind of characters will be unable to do even basic tasks like taking a shower or even walking due to their power loss.

This trope is often used in order to showcase the value of Badass Normals who actually have to train in order to be skilled and risk their lives much more than their powered counterparts. Also, it can often be part of a Magic Feather-type plot: Hero loses superpowers and is initially useless, but eventually realizes that his brain (or his heart) is his real superpower.

Relates to You're Nothing Without Your Phlebotinum and Disability Superpower. Can be defied through Boxing Lessons for Superman. Inversion of Power Loss Makes You Strong. Bigger Stick is the equivalent as applied to equipment instead of inherent abilities. Compare the even more extreme counterpart Death by Depower, where losing superpowers directly or indirectly kills someone.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • This is generally true for hanyou in Inuyasha. Once a month, they lose their demonic powers and become pure human beings (conversely, they also turn into pure youkai when they are in severe pain or their lives are in danger). Whether they are completely useless is probably different from hanyou to hanyou, but they are just as strong as humans, and thus much weaker than they are otherwise. Both Koga and Inuyasha say that most hanyou hide in fear on the day they lose their powers so their enemies will not find them.
    • For Inuyasha, one big point in his character development is that he no longer needs to hide because he has friends who protect him when he turns into a human being. However, it still bothers him that he can not fight at such a time.
    • Jinenji is hiding under a blanket when he becomes human. He is so big and strong that he would probably not be a weakling as a human being.
    • Gyu-oh is an exception among the hanyou. He is a pure human during the day and a pure youkai at night. However, he simply built two different identities so his enemies would not find him.
    • It is especially extreme with Naraku. It came into existence because a human being made a pact with several "lower yokai", and on his weak day he consists of a heap of human and demonic body parts, and can barely move.
  • In the end of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, Hayate becomes the most powerful human mage in the multiverse. However, outside of Unison with Reinforce, she is just a crippled nine-year-old girl. It is especially evident in the last episode, where she is unable to even reach Reinforce in attempt to prevent her Heroic Sacrifice despite only being a few feet away. She gets better during the Time Skip, however.
  • Syuta Hayami/Cameron Clix in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL is able to take photgraphs of future events while influenced by Number 25, and uses them to plan his entire duels. When Yuma is able to Screw Destiny, it's noted that he's not a strong duelist if he has to make his own decisions.

    Comic Books 
  • This tends to be a problem for Daredevil. Understandable since his super-power compensates for the fact that he's blind.
    • In one issue crossing over with Secret Wars II, the Beyonder gives Matt Murdock his sight back. Murdock assumes that this will make him an even better crimefighter, but he can't adjust (including losing his Hyper-Awareness) and gets the Beyonder to take back the "gift".
    • One arc during Frank Miller's legendary run on the series had him lose his powers and need to go through Training from Hell with his mentor Stick to get them back again.
  • This happens to Storm from the X-Men when she loses her powers. She eventually overcame this by learning various martial arts techniques in order to compensate for her loss and become a Badass Normal for a few years real time. Afterwards when she got her powers back the experience of being depowered made her even more powerful.
  • JLA: Act of God: The comic depicts all superheroes with powers as being like this. For example, Superman becomes a moping depressive after he loses his Kryptonian powers. However, some former superheroes, like Supergirl, still try to help out as Badass Normals.
  • An inversion with The Punisher, who thinks he'd be useless with powers. During a conversation with Deadpool, he says a Healing Factor would make him sloppy (exhibit A: Deadpool). That, and depending on the continuity he considers his crusade against crime to be the only useful thing he can do until he's inevitably killed, so he wouldn't want anything that would keep him living longer.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Superman II. While at his Fortress of Solitude, Superman gives up his superpowers so he can be with Lois Lane. When they return to civilization, he runs into a bully who beats him up badly. This results in the opening quote above.

  • The Mortal Instruments shows Simon, who was a vampire, and has been transformed back into a human. When he battles a female vampire in Tales of the Shadowhunter Academy, he realizes that he has not the slightest chance because he's too weak as a human. But it works better for him, because later he becomes a shadowhunter.
  • The Wheel of Time: Defied when Rand founds a new Magical Society; he insists that their Training from Hell include swordsmanship and other non-magical skills to fall back on in situations where they can't or shouldn't use the One Power.

    Live-Action TV 
  • There's an episode in the first season of Angel where Angel becomes human. He has to push the Reset Button in the end because he believes he's become The Load.
    • Subverted in Angel: After the Fall when Angel becomes human again. He manages to kill demon hordes rather effectively, but has to rely on magical spells to keep himself from succumbing to his injuries.
  • Arrowverse:
    • Laurel Lance of Earth-1 was largely this upon first becoming Black Canary. Justified in that while she had some self-defense training she was not really a fighter. Training with Wildcat and an artifical sonic scream helped but not enough to keep her alive.
    • The Flash (2014): Barry has lost his speed a few times, and when he has, he finds it much more difficult to stop criminals and has to find other ways instead of relying on his speed and the Healing Factor that comes with it. Justified since there's not really anything that can compensate for running extremely fast.
    • Jax uses this as justification for leaving the Legends of Tomorrow after Martin Stein's death despite being the only one who knew how to repair the Waverider.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer shows it was known as Cruciamentum, a test for slayers. They were supposed to fight a vampire without their special powers to make sure they were not useless without their powers. Of course it was cruel and many slayers were killed.
  • Doctor Who: In "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood", this is Martha's opinion of the temporarily human and amnesiac Doctor when things start getting dangerous due to the arrival of the evil aliens pursuing them.
    "God, you're useless as a human! Come on!"
  • Heroes: With her powers, Daphne can run at Super-Speed. Without her powers, she is unable to walk unaided due to her cerebral palsy.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This applies to wizards, sorcerers and other spellcasting-focused classes in Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder: antimagic is a major Kryptonite Factor to them as it strips them of their spellcasting and other supernatural powers, making them as useful as mere commoners in combat situations due to their low base attack bonus and hit points. It's worse for those who built their entire skill set around spells and supernatural abilities without at least investing in mundane skills since losing their magic means losing everything they have.
  • Warhammer 40,000: It doesn't happen often (Anti-Magic people exist, but they're as rare among psykers as psykers are among humanity), but the loss of psychic power can either leave a psyker helpless (most of them), or if they're a Space Marine Librarian (a Kung-Fu Wizard still capable of fighting as an ordinary seven-foot-tall genetically-modified killing machine in Power Armor) or a Grey Knight (an entire Chapter of Magic Knights), still fully capable of physically kicking ass.

    Video Games 
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords: Much of the plot revolves around this happening to the Jedi as the potential death of the Force itself looms.
    Kreia: Yes, and what are they without the Force? Take the greatest Jedi Knight, strip away the Force, and what remains? They rely on it, depend on it, more than they know. Watch as one tries to hold a blaster, as they try to hold a lightsaber, and you will see nothing more than a woman or a man. A child.


    Western Animation 
  • In The Batman: Superman, Martian Manhunter, Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman have their powers stolen by some androids. After this they become completely useless against the villains and dependent on the local Badass Normals in order to regain their powers.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • As long as Katara's able to bend water, she's a force to be reckoned with. Take that away from her, and she's still physically fit, but lacks any martial arts or weapons training. In "Return to Omashu" episode, Ty Lee blocks Katara's chi, which robs her of the ability to bend, leaving her defenseless against Mai.
    • Toph can do many things with Earthbending, and is so hands-on it looks like she's superhumanly strong, but doesn't seem to have any notable amount of physical strength or mobility. When stuck in a steel cage, she escaped only because she found out she could bend metal as well. When Toph was stuck in a wooden cage, she was out of luck and needed Katara to figure out a way to break out.
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • Amon's ability to take away a bender's powers leaves everyone he de-bends completely and totally helpless from the very moment they're depowered. The process seems to be physically (or at least emotionally) debilitating on top of removing bending, as even athletic pro benders seem very low in energy afterward.
    • A variation in the third season, where the Red Lotus members are all kept in a Tailor-Made Prison that denies them access to their bending element: The firebender is kept in an underground ice fissure that's too cold for her to make fire, the earthbender in an offshore wooden platform with no coal or earth, etc. They're all quickly freed after Zaheer escapes from his mountaintop prison to give them what they need to bend, but to be fair, no one expected him to suddenly gain airbending abilities.
  • It's shown in DuckTales (2017) that the Born Lucky Gladstone Gander doesn't seem to have any of the skills people need to get them through life because his luck makes it so that everything turns out all right for him in the end. This is why he calls his family when he becomes the prisoner of a luck vampire, who sees him as an all-you-can-eat buffet. Later in the series, when a magic-eating monster takes Gladstone's luck, he's so utterly useless that he can't even open a door because he doesn't know how doorknobs work (someone or something always opened the door for him), and he's completely bemused at the notion of having to pay for things rather than winning a free meal for being their latest significant customer.
  • Deconstructed for Laughs in Teen Titans Go!, when Robin begins getting very frustrated at the others for relying too much on their powers and dares them to not use them for 24 hours. After seeing how effortlessly they do so, he straps himself to a multitude of bombs at the end of a grueling obstacle course that they breezed through earlier, demanding that they use their powers (and lose the dare) to save him in time. They insist on going powerless, and because of that, they don't make it in time. Luckily, it turned out to just be an android strapped to those bombs.