A stock phrase (prone to variations) uttered by the villain whenever the hero suffers a case of Phlebotinum Breakdown, We Have Forgotten the Phlebotinum, Brought Down to Normal or Useless Superpowers, in which they take the time to enjoy some evil gloating about the heroes' reduced effectiveness.
A form of Tempting Fate, as the hero will usually promptly prove that no, they are in fact not nothing without their phlebotinum, usually making use of their wits and improvisational skills to make up the difference.
Alternatively, it may take the form of I'm Nothing Without My Phlebotinum, when the hero himself is left feeling inadequate due to his depowering, triggering either a Heroic B So D or a 10-Minute Retirement.
This usually works out the same with the hero again proving it's not true, and getting over his inadequacy, minus any Kick the Dog on the villain's part.
In another version, the villain tauntingly suggests this and dares the hero to prove otherwise by fighting without using his powers. If the hero accepts the challenge, he will usually prove the villain wrong.
Please note that this is strictly a dialogue/characterisation trope—if a hero is merely deprived of his usual powers/gear/resources, but is not mocked for it by the villain, then it's not this trope—it's one of the above mentioned.
Also note that it can be reversed.
Contrast Super Weapon, Average Joe, where someone really is just coasting on their equipment's strength. Compare Amulet of Dependency; Contrast Magic Feather, where the "phlebotinum" is just a psychological aid: the power was in the character all along.
- In The Big O, the Hollywood Cyborg Psycho for Hire Alan Gabriel tells The Hero Roger Smith that "You're just a mere human who doesn't have his Megadeus, what could you possibly do to me?". As Roger is an expy of Batman and consequently a Badass Normal, it turns out quite a lot.
- Naruto: The main character gets this from Kabuto, who claims that Naruto's only saving grace is the Nine-Tailed Fox sealed inside of him, a not unfair accusation, seeing as most of Naruto's victories up until that point were due to the power-boost from the Fox. Naruto would shortly after prove him wrong, sending Kabuto flying with naught but his wits and the new attack he just learned. Much later on, Kabuto would express admiration that Naruto was able to overcome the stigma of being the Nine-Tails' container.
- Alessi in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders gloats when he manages to turn Jotaro into a kid with his Stand. He's confident he can beat Jotaro since Jotaro didn't have his Stand Star Platinum when he was a child. Seven year old Jotaro pummels Alessi anyway. Hilariously, this means that Jotaro's mother Holly was likely wrong about Jotaro being a sweet kid who only recently turned bad. He was always a badass, though maybe she meant that he was not like this in personality.
- In Dragon Ball Z, King Cold takes Trunks' sword and says he is nothing without it, then attacks him with it. Trunks catches the sword and kills him.
Trunks: Apparently, it takes more than just the sword.
- In Rave Master, a demon prevents Haru from getting to his magical sword and says he can't possibly defeat him without it. Haru punches right through his metal armor and kills him instantly. Haru notes that carrying that heavy sword and fighting with it for so long was what made him strong enough to do that.
- In A Certain Magical Index, enemies sometimes say that Touma is nothing without his Anti-Magic right hand, Imagine Breaker, with varying results:
- Aureolus Izzard says Imagine Breaker is the only reason why Touma can ward off his Reality Warper powers, and chops it off with a sword. Touma proceeds to terrify him into submission with an Evil Laugh, accompanied by a dragon emerging from the stump of his arm.
- Fiamma of the Right chops off Imagine Breaker, then declares Touma is now nothing more than a purposeless mass of flesh. Touma then reveals he has an invisible creature inside him (it's unclear whether this is related to the dragon from before) which is magnitudes more powerful than Fiamma and scares him half to death. However, before it can kill Fiamma, Touma reseals it, regenerates his arm, and punches Fiamma out.
- Othinus tears off Imagine Breaker and says it was the only thing she feared, while Touma himself is an insignificant nobody. However, she proceeds to completely curb-stomp the invisible creature that emerges from him, and would have killed him if he hadn't been rescued at the last second.
- Eventually, Imagine Breaker separates from Touma and turns into a clone of Touma. The clone mocks him and says since he has the power, Touma is worthless. However, Touma gains the power to turn into a dragon, and manages to defeat the clone and take Imagine Breaker back.
- Blackbeard of One Piece tends to do this with his opponents, since he specifically got ahold of a Devil Fruit gives him the power to negate the powers of anyone he has physical contact with. Of course, he then tried it on Whitebeard, quite forgetting that the guy was the World's Strongest Man, frikken huge, and carries a rather large bisento. Whitebeard turns the situation around quickly, very nearly kills Blackbeard when he has access to his powers again, and only fails to do so because Blackbeard called in his entire crew to back him up at the last second.
- Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV: Early on, Nyx is told that all his power is on loan from the king, which is true to an extent - when the king dies, the loss of Regis' magic reduces Nyx's options considerably. But he's still badass enough to stay alive long enough to gain magic directly from the Ring of the Lucii.
- In Koi Cupid, Cupids can't give up their pochettes; if they do they are disqualified from training. Lizette is aware of this, and says she'll be Ai's friend if she throws her pochette away. Ai attempts to do this and almost drowns trying to recover it.
- Subverted in Overlord (2012): When Sebas is facing off against a Carnival of Killers, he instakills one of them without even a weapon. One of the killers manages to pull his gloves off and claim this, thinking the gloves actually were some kind of rare item. The truth is much simpler: Sebas is just at a much higher level, and takes out the rest of the killers just as fast (the gloves didn't even do anything, they're a part of his Battle Butler uniform).
- The only reason the people of Asterix's village are able to fend off the larger, better equipped Roman Legions is due to Getafix's magic potion. In Asterix At The Olympic Games, when Asterix is forced to compete without the potion's help, he comes in last in every event. There have been several stories in which the Romans attempt to stop production of the potion by either neutralizing Getafix or one of the potion's ingredients. In the animated film Asterix Conquers America, a Roman Centurion even states, "You are nothing without your magic potion!". However, Getafix himself is prompt to tell Asterix the opposite: "My potion gives you strength, but your intelligence and cunning are yours only."
- In Legion of Super-Heroes, Nemesis Kid negates Princess Projectra's powers and smugly says there is no way she can win. She proceeds to beat the crap out of him and snap his neck with her bare hands.
- Disney Ducks Comic Universe: In one story, the Beagle Boys steal Gyro Gearloose's thinking cap and threaten to destroy it if he doesn't make them special tools for their crimes. As the Beagles go on a crime spree, Gyro laments that without his thinking cap, he can't come up with a brilliant idea to stop them. Then Gyro realizes that the idea needn't be ''brilliant''. He then neutralizes the Beagle Boys with a fake diamond full of tear gas.
- Subverted in the 2011 Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld reboot when a witch steals Amaya's pendant, thinking it's her power's source. It turns out that, unlike the original series, her pendant is merely a costume-changing trinket, and her powers are innate. Amaya promptly conjures up some weapons and starts smashing her way free.
- In Superman stories:
- At the end of Superman: Up, Up and Away!, Superman loses his powers, prompting Lex Luthor to declare he'll kill the "alien" with his bare hands. The ensuing one-sided boxing match highlights the fact that, unlike Luthor, Superman is a well-built man with long experience in hand-to-hand fighting.
- In Who is Superwoman?, Reactron gloats he'll kill Supergirl easily after nullifying her powers. Supergirl proceeds to use her fighting skills to kick his butt.
Supergirl: "I trained with Batman. With the Amazons. I know first level Klurkor. Just because I can't use heat vision doesn't meant I'm helpless."
- More or less said by Brox in With Strings Attached after she, Grunnel, and the Raleka wizards render both George and Ringo powerless and kidnap the other two. George rescues John and they get their magic back, and Brox still sneers at their relative powerlessness.
- In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Wataru tends to taunt Kyon for being unable to do anything without "his dolls" (Haruhi, Yuki, etc). To be fair, Wataru has already met some Alternate Universe incarnations of Kyon so Wataru is probably talking from experience here (and, much like in his own canon, Kyon at the beginning of the fic isn't a fighter; the fic hints the current combined skills of the SOS Brigade are an unique occurrence).
- Loved and Lost: Jewelius taunts the imprisoned heroes by saying that without Twilight, they have no hope of defeating him. In the 17th chapter, they're forced to admit he's right when they're unable to come up with a plan. Fortunately, Twilight arrives shortly thereafter with the Elements of Harmony to fully reconcile with her loved ones and bring the tyrant down.
- In Shadowchasers: Torment, Ben suggests Yami Marik isn't that good a duelist without the Winged Dragon of Ra. Though Ben wins their duel, Marik proved he was a competent duelist without it.
- Fates Collide: Tamamo no Mae disarms Glynda Goodwitch of her riding crop and calls her useless without her "magic wand". Glynda corrects her that the riding crop is not the source of her powers, it just helps her focus.
- Remnant Inferis: DOOM: Team CRDL taunts the Doom Slayer by saying he's nothing without his Powered Armor. The Slayer proves them wrong by putting the armor away and thoroughly kicking their asses.
- Of State: As Grimmel is detailing how Hiccup is nothing without his dragon, Hiccup interrupts him by splashing some Speed Stinger venom onto his face, instantly paralyzing his entire body.
- In Monsters vs. Aliens, Gallaxhar taunts the depowered Susan with "if you wanted to stop me, you should have done it when you possessed the Quantonium. Now you're nothing!" He comes to regret his words later.
- In Aladdin, Snake-Jafar tells Aladdin that he's nothing without the Genie. Aladdin promptly proves how wrong he is by using the same response on Jafar in order to trick him into becoming a genie himself.
- Hercules, when Hades takes Herc's powers away: "Now you know how it feels to be just like everyone else. Isn't it just peachy?" Hercules uses his wits to defeat the Cyclops.
- Maui in Moana self-identifies with his magic fishhook to a rather unhealthy degree, even using it as his signature when he autographs Moana's oar. When it gets damaged, he says this trope word-for-word and chooses to abandon Moana and her mission rather than risk breaking it. He gets better.
- BASEketball had one of these in the end when Coop was trying to hit a home run.
- Austin Powers: "I've lost my mojo!" The horrified words Austin's states when he realizes his mojo has been stolen, rendering him perpetually flaccid. Later in the movie, Austin's nemesis Dr. Evil mocks his rival's impotence by claiming, "You can't stop me now, Mr. Powers. I have your mojo!"
- During the climactic battle of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Motaro tears off one of Jax's bionic arm enhancements, leaving Jax with only his original arms since the other arm enhancement is now useless as well.
Motaro: Without your weapons, you are NO match for Motaro!
(beats Jax up)
Jax: (raises his fists) I've got everything I need right here! (tide of battle turns)
- Both the Green Goblin and New Goblin are this in the Spider-Man Trilogy, where they only have the upperhand against the titular hero by using their advanced weaponry against him. Whenever they get pitted against Spider-Man in unarmed combat, who also stops pulling his punches, it becomes a one-sided beatdown.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- From The Avengers (2012): Iron Man and Captain America trade these:
- Steve Rogers sneers at Tony Stark, "Big man in a suit of armor. Take that away and what are you?" Stark immediately responds, "A genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist." Rogers then immediately shoots down Stark's smug reply by pointing out he knew plenty of better men who had none of that. However, the question of whether Stark has the heart of a hero is not concluded until the finale.
- Stark almost immediately returns the favor by telling Captain America, "Everything special about you came from a bottle.
- In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Batroc taunts Captain America with, "I thought you were more than just a shield." The Captain puts his shield away and kicks his ass.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming: After Spider-Man screws up, Tony Stark demands that he returns the enhanced Spider-suit Tony gave him.
Peter: Mr. Stark, please! I'm nothing without this suit!
Tony: If you're nothing without the suit, then you shouldn't have it.
- Inverted and played straight in Thor: Ragnarok. After Mjolnir is destroyed, Thor believes he is no longer strong enough to fight Hela. In the film's climax, he speaks with Odin, who chides him that the hammer only ever channeled his powers, but he was the source. In the ensuing battle, he fights off Hela's minions with his lightning after entering Super Mode.
- Captain Marvel (2019): Yon-Rogg tries to goad Carol into proving that she can fight him hand-to-hand. She dismissively blasts him in mid-rant and tells him she has nothing to prove to him.
- In Avengers: Endgame the examples from the first Avengers film listed above both get proven wrong as Tony proves his innate heroism when he knowingly gives his life to save the Universe from Thanos by using the Infinity Stones to snap away the Mad Titan and his forces while Cap proves that it is not the Serum that really makes him special when he picks up Mjolnir and subsequently uses it along with his iconic shield against Thanos, throwing him around like a rag doll for a short while.
- From The Avengers (2012): Iron Man and Captain America trade these:
- In Green Lantern, Hal Jordan has been deprived of his ring and Parallax grabs him with his telekinesis. Parallax admits that he's slightly impressed that Hal's willpower is strong enough to stop him from killing him instantly, but Hal's nonetheless nothing without the ring. The villain has a point, as there's nothing Hal can do to break free, and he would have been killed if Carol hadn't distracted Parallax and then thrown him his ring.
- Warlock: Redfren taunts the Warlock by saying that without magic nobody would've feared him. The villain agrees to fight fair... and kicks Redfren's ass anyway.
- In Blast of Silence, Big Ralph makes this taunt toward Frankie when he tries to blackmail him, saying he's nothing without a gun. Frankie soon proves him wrong by killing Ralph by strangulation with an electrical cord.
- Played with at the end of On a Pale Horse, Satan bluntly tells the incarnation of Death that Death is nothing without his magic. So, the person who assumed the role of Death takes off all of the magic items (cloak, gloves, boots, etc). But, Death's powers are part of him and cannot be taken by Satan, or by taking the items — Satan was lying.note
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Answering whether or not she's anything without her powers is the premise of a test the Watcher's council tries to put Buffy through in the third season, by hypnotizing and doping her, they bring her down to the level of an ordinary girl in order to make her prove herself against a vampire without her powers.
- And in the Season 8 comics we get a truly awesome example of this when one vamp makes the mistake of taunting a depowered Dracula. "The vampire's the least of your concerns. It's the old man you need to worry about."
- In "Becoming, Part 2," Angelus taunts Buffy that he's fought her to the position of having no weapons, no friends, and no hope. What's left? Buffy replies simply "Me," and proceeds to kick his ass. Perhaps an inversion, in that the phleobotinum, her super-strength, is what she hasn't lost.
- An odd subversion of the self-inflicted version happens in the Doctor Who episode "The Eleventh Hour," where the newly regenerated Doctor muses that he has no TARDIS (it's busy rebuilding itself) and no sonic screwdriver (it's blown itself up). However, rather than feeling emasculated, he uses it as a sort of self Dare to Be Badass.
- Used in Power Rangers Ninja Storm. Big Bad Lothor mocks the titular rangers for having lost their ranger powers. They then kindly remind him that they are still trained ninjas with Elemental Powers, which they use to knock him into the Abyss of Evil five feet behind him.
- Awkwardly, this trope is done hero to hero in season six of Supernatural. When Castiel's powers are suppressed for an episode courtesy of Eve, Dean promptly calls him "a baby in a trench coat." Although Castiel is generally less effective without his powers (seeing as they include Super Strength and teleportation), he's still intelligent and combat capable and has saved Sam and Dean's lives without them before. One can only wonder how much that little comment might have influenced the season ender...
- In True Blood, Sam angrily threatens Marcus with a gun after Marcus kidnapped Emma. Marcus calls him a coward and a weakling, saying if he didn't have a gun, he wouldn't stand a chance against him. Sam proves him wrong by putting the gun away and kicking his ass.
- In Legends of Tomorrow, Vixen taunts Ray Palmer about this when she finds out all his abilities come from his Powered Armor. He retorts that her abilities come from her amulet, but she explains that she's also a martial artist. Palmer steps up when his armor is stolen and later destroyed, proving he can be a hero without it.
- As Characterization Marches On for The Undertaker and Paul Bearer, heels would target Paul Bearer and steal his urn so the Undertaker can't draw power from the power of the urn.
- Harvey Wippleman and Giant González hospitalized Paul and stole his urn to show Undertaker vulnerable until Bearer returned to attack Whippleman, and raises the urn to bring Undertaker "back to life" to defeat Giant Gonzales.
- This is shown when Yokozuna defeated the Undertaker in a Casket Match when Undertaker was outnumbered by ten heels, and they stole the urn with Yokozuna removing the lid with a green smoke coming out of it, signaling the Undertaker's power leaving him to the point where he was lifeless, and Yokozuna simply just kicked him in the casket.
- When the Million Dollar Corporation stole the urn and Kama melted it down into a gold chain necklace, the Undertaker drew power from his fans (Creatures of the Night).
- Magic: The Gathering: Some cards, such as the Primalcrux for example, have variable power and toughness which change based on things like the power of the other cards you have on the field or the amount of lands you have played.
- In Champions, buying a power through an Obvious, Accessible Focus can cut its point cost in half. Which can result in a defeat when (not if, when) the villain takes your Focus away from you.
- In Hamilton, Washington sides with Hamilton in "Cabinet Battle #2" and decides to remain neutral in the The French Revolution. Later, Jefferson, who advocated for America siding with France, corners Hamilton. This ensues:
Jefferson: Well someone oughta remind you—
Jefferson: You're nothing with Washington behind you.
Jefferson: Daddy's calling.
- BIONICLE: When Tahu meets Zaktann for the first time, the latter goads him into a straight up sword fight between the two, without using his Elemental Powers, and unusually for this trope, the villain wins (albeit, partially because had no problem using his own super powers note in the same fight). It gets a Call-Back in the Grand Finale when Nektann, another member of Zaktann's species, tries the same trick; luckily, Tahu learned from his mistake.
- Kingdom Hearts:
- In Kingdom Hearts, Riku takes the Keyblade from Sora and mocks him by saying he was nothing but a delivery boy for him, then mockingly leaves him a wooden sword to try to defend himself with. Sora's courage, determination, and The Power of Friendship eventually make him worthier than Riku, causing the Keyblade to return to him.
- In Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, Xigbar mocks Sora by pointing out that since he gets his strength from The Power of Friendship, he has no power on his own. Xigbar is shocked when Sora reveals he doesn't mind, and is proud of being part of something bigger.
- This phrase is word-for-word in second X-Men Legends installment by Apocalypse, when he destroys Cerebro along with X-mansion, effectively rendering Xavier and company blind to his schemes.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations, Pearl Fey angrily calls out Franziska von Karma, saying that "[she's] nothing but a little girl without [her] whip!"
- In Trials of Mana, each of the final bosses tells the heroes that without the Sword of Mana, there's no way that they can win. Of course, since they were doing just fine without having the Sword for more than a few minutes anyway, let alone wielding it, they should have known better.
- Virtually epidemic in the DC Animated Universe.
- In Part 2 of the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Demon Quest", Batman is captured by Ra's al Ghul and his henchmen, and is stripped of his utility belt (and, oddly enough, his shirt), two henchmen are assigned to lead him off to a cell, one commenting "not so tough without your precious belt". Both henchmen are rendered unconscious by Batman roughly 30 seconds later, as the hero escapes and goes on to thwart Ra's scheme perfectly competently, even sans utility belt (But with help from Talia).
- In the Justice League episode "The Savage Time", when traveling back to World War II to fix the timeline, Green Lantern's ring loses power in Nazi Germany. He soon finds himself among Easy Company, a group of American commandos. The Big Guy Bulldozer questions what John can do without his ring. John promptly beats Bulldozer down with his bare hands. When asked where he learned that, he tells them The US Marine Corp.
- In the Justice League Grand Finale "Starcrossed", General Talak comments that Green Lantern is "nothing without his toy", referring to his power ring. When the two later fight, and Talak destroys said doodad, Green Lantern still defeats him by tricking him into slamming his axe into a piece of machinery, electrocuting him into unconsciousness.
- Part of a crisis of faith in Batman Beyond. Terry begins to wonder if he's worthy of wearing the suit or if it's the suit that makes him a hero. Due to an AI infiltrating and taking over the batsuit, Terry ends up having to fight it to prevent a major catastrophe. Partly averted in that Terry uses a bunch of Bruce's old gear to do it and has been shown to be training under Bruce's tutelage.
- This also happens to Batman in The Batman, when captured and once again stripped of his belt by Black Mask's thugs, one of those thugs mockingly dangles the belt tantalisingly in front of Batman (who is locked in a cage at this point)- Batman's response? "Utility belt, charge to stun" Cue one electrocuted mook, and one free Batman.
- Averted in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. He challenges Darkseid to hand-to-hand combat, telling him to lay off the Omega Beam and call off his army. Darkseid complies and beats Batman silly.
- In Ben 10, Ben seems to feel this way about the Omnitrix. This comes to a head in the series finale...where Ben also proves he's an awesome fighter even without it. Gwen also mentions and inverts this when trying to comfort her cousin after it is taken away: "You're still a hero, even if you can't go hero."
- Later series would Avert this trope in a much straight forward example by having Ben take self-defense classes, allowing him to better handle himself whenever he's cut off from the Omnitrix or it runs out of power at an inconvenient moment.
- Also used in the Kong: The Animated Series cartoon, wherein the teenage hero confronts the mad scientist villain on an airplane without the titular ape to back him up- the villain snarls "Without your ape you are nothing!". He is promptly judo-tossed out the side of the plane.
- An example of the secondary type is from the Mortal Kombat cartoon, where Jax's bionics are disabled in a fight with Reptile. Initially, he angsts about his perceived uselessness, being "just a strong man". He's forced back into action and as per the trope description, defeats Reptile by outsmarting him.
- In The Tick, the Carpeted Man refuses to remove his static-electricity-generating carpetsuit despite it making him too hot, claiming "I'm the Carpeted Man! Without my suit, I'm NOTHING!"
- Said by a hero, about himself, rather than a villain in Darkwing Duck. After showing Darkwing up all over St. Canard for a whole episode, Gizmoduck is trapped by a magnet, making his suit useless. He bemoans the fact that he's useless without his suitnote - but Darkwing, on the other hand, is not, and he's not shy about proving it, either.
Darkwing: "Superpowers do not a superhero make!"
- In an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Grim destroys Hoss Delgado's mechanical/weaponized hand and mocks him. Hoss punches him out with his normal hand.
- Filmation's 1960's Green Lantern series episode "Evil Is As Evil Does". After Evil Star uses his Star Band to grab Green Lantern's ring off his finger, he says "Without this you are powerless!"
- Used in SWAT Kats, where resident Big Bad Dark Kat manages to capture the titular feline vigilantes after they have disembarked from their Cool Plane the Turbo-Kat.
Dark Kat: "What did I tell you? Without the Turbo-Kat, they're nothing".
- Popeye is usually powerless when Bluto/Brutus finds away to part him from his spinach. But somehow Popeye finds a way to retrieve spinach from unlikely sources and right the wrongs.
- Another hero-invoked instance: Danger Mouse to the Demon of the Fourth Dimension after DM traps the Demon in a corridor between his dimension and ours (episode "Demons Aren't Dull").
- Justice League Action: In "Under A Red Sun", Steppenwolf tricks Superman into following him to a planet with a red sun, which takes away his powers. Steppenwolf mocks him by saying his powers are nothing but an accident of his biology, so he didn't earn them. As he and his mooks attempt to hunt Superman like a wild animal, Superman takes out his mooks with booby traps. Then, even after getting a broken leg, Superman defeats Steppenwolf by knocking him into water and then throwing one of Steppenwolf's own broken devices in to electrocute him into unconsciousness.
- Harley Quinn (2019): In "Harley Quinn Highway", Poison Ivy is imprisoned in a laboratory that is sterile with no plant life, making her power over plants useless. When she tries to escape, a few guards relax, saying without her powers, she's just a helpless girl. She responds by stealing one of their guns and killing them with it.