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Power Incontinence / Comic Books

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Power Incontinence in comic books.


The DCU

  • Negative Man from the Doom Patrol is perpetually radioactive, needing to wear head-to-foot specially treated bandages to contain his condition. This is just one example of the sort of Disability Superpower typical of the team.
  • The Human Bomb, a character created by Quality Comics and later bought by DC, had the ability to cause explosions with a touch. Most versions of the character need a containment suit to prevent him destroying everything he touches, and/or medication to keep him from spontaneously combusting.
  • Justice Society of America
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    • Citizen Steel, one of the newer members, gained the powers of Super Strength and Nigh-Invulnerability through exposure to liquid metal blood. The exposure removed his ability to register temperatures, textures, and (more importantly) how much strength he's exerting. He goes around in a steel costume he's literally welded into to keep him from accidentally crushing anyone.
    • Another member, Lightning, can't touch anything electrical; otherwise, she causes it and the the surrounding area to short out. Her being a teenage girl who had a popular social life makes it worse for her.
  • Superman
    • The limited series Secret Origin shows Clark Kent's heat vision going off involuntarily when his emotions are stirred up. The first time fire shoots out is when Lana Lang kisses him, which is... suggestive. At this early point in his life, his glasses serve much the same purpose as Cyclops' shades.
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    • Superman villain Parasite is a little worse off than Rogue, stealing life force from anyone near him and being constantly hungry for more.
    • After being restored to full power on his return from death, Superman's powers started slowly increasing, which was welcome at first, but eventually led to his powers being out of control and his body physically warped. This was eventually cured by having Parasite leech his excess power and the strange element with it that was causing the problem. This also justified an art shift for Parasite from basically looking like a bald man with purple skin to his current more monstrous appearance.
    • This tends to happen to him periodically because it taps into one of his greatest fears: losing control of his immense power and the harm that could result.
    • Superman's (canon) son, Jon Kent, has his powers tied to his emotional state, thus he has no real control on what triggers off what and he has to be as calm as possible so that he doesn't accidentally kill someone.
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  • The League of Supermen, a far future team in Superman Annual #8, all suffer from variants of this, due to each having one of Superman's powers (and their artificial nature, as they are all humans genetically modified to simulate Kryptonian powers). Heat has to fire his heat vision every 15 minutes, or he'll burn up from the inside; See-Through has to wear a lead-lined visor when not using his powers; Flyboy has to be tethered to stop him drifting away if he doesn't concentrate; Pounder Does Not Know His Own Strength; and Shield can't feel anything. New recruits Tempest and Speed are given Power Armor that simulates the powers rather than genetic modification; they still have disadvantages (Tempest can't breathe in too sharply; Speed needs to constantly replenish her energy), but at least they can turn them off.
  • In The Superman Adventures (a series based off the animated series), a body-swapped Jimmy Olsen gets a mild case when Superman's x-ray vision comes on by accident. Unlike many of the cases mentioned, nothing catastrophic occurs.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Mayfly's speed is not fully under her control by the design of those who granted it to her. This leads to her death when she can't stop and runs into a gate while trying to escape prison.
    • Wonder Woman (2011): Dio has a bit of an issue in that just being around him makes people's inhibitions go right out the window. He can control it if he's trying to but he normally isn't, if his sclerae are black it's not safe for mortals to be near him.
    • Wonder Girl Vol. 1: When Cassie is upset for long periods it sometimes electrical storms, but she has no control over this and does not gain a method for channeling her Shock and Awe powers for quite some time.

Marvel Universe

  • Fantastic Four:
    • Franklin Richards, the pre-teen son of Reed and Sue Richards. His mutant reality warping powers are practically without limit; he was the one who created the Heroes Reborn universe that saved The Avengers and the Fantastic Four from dying at the hands of Onslaught. However, he rarely has any control of his powers at all. Things... just seem to happen.
    • Ben Grimm is the only member of the Four who cannot turn off his powers without the use of occasional one-off phlebotinum. He's always in his rock-man form.
  • Firestar, former member of The New Warriors, The Avengers, and current X-Men member has the power of controlling microwave energy. However, due to her inexperience with controlling her powers, one of the bad side effects of this was developing breast cancer.
  • Incredible Hulk
    • Bruce Banner transforms into the Hulk whenever someone makes him too angry, and once he's in that form, he has no control over his actions.
    • Joe Fix-It (a smaller, gray-skinned variant) had a brief storyline where he always came out at night and generally did things Bruce did not approve of. (This is in fact what the Hulk was always like in the very earliest issues. This new storyline tweaked the original Gray Hulk a bit, taking him from Early Installment Weirdness to a different manifestation of his powers.)
    • Hulk villain Emil Blonsky aka the Abomination. He follows this trope in a different manner. While he has full control of himself, he cannot change back to his human form. His gamma powers are always active. Since his transformation is fueled by his own self-loathing, that really says a lot about Blonsky.
    • Bruce's cousin, She-Hulk, has been hit with this a few times.
      • During a stint with the Fantastic Four, she was hit with a dose of gamma radiation that locked her in as She-Hulk permanently (at that time). She didn't mind as she preferred that form over her normal mousy Jennifer Walters look.
      • Following the events of Civil War II, Jen developed a "Gray She-Hulk" of sorts that was born out of her grief and regret of Bruce dying at the hands of Hawkeye. She's able to shake it off once she's able to come to terms and properly grieve.
  • Black Bolt of The Inhumans has vast energy powers, comparable to or exceeding a Herald of Galactus. Sadly, the region of the brain that controls them is the same one that controls his voice. The net effect: he can't open his mouth without unleashing devastation. (Which often gets mistaken for a sonic attack.)
  • The Sentry has the problem that he is literally his own worst enemy. Due to a Mind Rape by the old Mastermind, Sentry is completely unbalanced, and displays any number of psychological problems on any given day. He also has some undefined psionic ability to periodically make everyone in the world forget he exists. His biggest problem is that every time he tries to do good with his vast power, he manifests his own arch-nemesis, The Void. The Void then proceeds to do as much evil as the Sentry does good. Which one is working with Norman Osborn?
  • Spider-Man was like this during the Acts of Vengeance storyline. He received the powers of Captain Universe (in order to fight a threat that the Uni-Power predicted would happen after the crisis) but an experiment he was working on with an ESU professor muddled it a little, making him unable to fully control the incredible cosmic powers. This caused horrible mental strain on him, almost pushing him over the edge; he had lived by the saying "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" all his life, and now had godlike power. Fortunately, the power of Captain Universe is always temporary; once he had defeated the threat and fulfilled the purpose for which he had been given the power, it went away.
  • Like Ghost Rider, the first Spider-Woman was at first unable to keep her pheromones in check, causing guys to be attracted to her and women repulsed at her. She learns to control it, eventually.
  • Thane, the son of Thanos, has two powers. His left hand can rewrite reality and his right hand can trap others in a state of "living death". He can't fully control the power of his left hand yet, so it just ends up killing everything around him. Despite this, he's already more powerful than his father. The moment Thane decided to stop running from Thanos and fight, he used the power of his right hand to imprison him in an instant.
  • Ultimate X-Men
    • In Ultimate X-Men, Gambit joined the evil Fenris corporation because they helped cure his Power Incontinence. He tells Rogue that his energy charging powers had gone out of control and he couldn't even eat — any food he tried to touch would explode.
  • Wundarr absorbed ambient energy constantly, and if it wasn't burned off by occasional acts of Super Strength or dampened by special S.H.I.E.L.D. equipment, he tended to explosively regurgitate it periodically. Later, as Aquarius, his power is modified to neutralize all energy above a certain threshold near him, whether he wants it to or not.
  • X-Force
    • Zeitgeist, the original leader and Sacrificial Lamb of the revamped X-Force. While this didn't carry on for very long, when his powers (vomiting acid) first manifested, he accidentally killed the girl he was drunkenly making out with on the beach.
    • Guy Smith, a.k.a. Orphan and Mister Sensitive, led the team thereafter, including when it became X-Statix. His superhuman senses meant that any irritation to his skin caused him great pain. Attempting to block out the pain with mental exercises didn't work; eventually Professor X designed a special suit for him.
    • Phat, one of the members of X-Force/X-Statix under the Orphan, has the power to fill his body with extradimensional gunk, causing it to balloon to grotesque proportions but increasing his strength exponentially. Prior to discovering he was a mutant, he experienced severe fluctuations in weight.
  • Many X-Men suffer from this:
    • After the events of Avengers vs. X-Men, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magneto, and other mutants who were close to the Phoenix Force all suffered problems with their powers in the aftermath. Magneto's magnetic powers fell back down to the Seep end of his perpetual Power Creep, Power Seep, Cyclops' eyebeams became too strong even for his visor to contain (expounded on below), and Emma Frost's Psychic Powers went dormant (though she retained her secondary mutant ability to turn into diamond). Eventually, Status Quo Is God kicked in and their powers stabilized back to their normal levels.
    • Cyclops, without his trademark visor he wears as part of his costume, or a pair of ruby quartz glasses out of costume, would be firing his Eye Beams 24/7. (In fact, he is firing them 24/7, they're just being blocked.) This limitation was eventually revealed to be a mental block, and was fixed by Emma Frost. It used to be from having hit his head in the accident that killed his parents. There was a throwaway scene in one of the comics shortly after Wolverine lost his Adamantium (and briefly regressed to a neanderthallic state) where Cyclops hit his head in some kind of rune-covered pit, and a caption stated, "A subtle change is worked in an area of his brain damaged so long ago", so it's possible both explanations are correct. After the events of Avengers vs. X-Men, the visor can't block his eyebeams anymore. The only thing that can are his own eyelids. Because of the fact that losing his visor and glasses turns him into a dangerous liability, Cyclops has trained himself to fight while blind and to perfectly retrace his steps in order to (when possible) retrieve his visor if it's knocked off.
      • Cyclops' brother Havok originally required a special containment suit to control his powers. Interestingly enough, Cyclops and Havok are immune to each other's powers.
    • In an arc of Deadpool, a North Korean man had been artificially implanted with Wolverine's healing factor. However, not only was it so incomplete that he couldn't heal brain damage, but his body kept trying to heal every orifice he had!
    • One of the residents of the all-mutant neighborhood District X was a woman who could spontaneously burst into flames. Unfortunately, unlike other mutants with similar powers, she was not immune to fire...
    • Gambit had to go to Mr. Sinister to have a portion of his brain removed to curb his powers. At the time, he was having difficulty touching things without having them explode, and was worried that people would die because of it. The operation took him from having the power of an Omega-Level mutant (on par with the likes of Jean Grey, Hope Summers, and Cable) to an Alpha-Level mutant (still extremely powerful, even powerhouses like Magneto and Apocalypse are "only" Alphas). The storyline eventually revealed he was right to worry thanks to an encounter with an alternate universe counterpart of his who didn't get the surgery. Said parallel Gambit had changed his name to "New Sun". Because he had awakened to his full powers in a firestorm of energy that incinerated all life on Earth in a few seconds.
    • Chamber of Generation X is what happens when a mutant isn't immune to his or her own powers. He is a "chamber" of psionic energy, a power that is always on, and is so powerful that it destroyed half his face and some of his internal organs (heart and lungs) when he first used it. Though it has been established that the fire is actually his true form and his human body is more of a "shell" (or, one might say, a 'chamber') that he doesn't really need, so no real harm done (at least, physically; half your face being missing tends to put a cramp in one's social life).
    • When Jean Grey (Marvel Girl, Phoenix) was a child, she couldn't control her omega-level Telepathy and ended up in a catatonic state. Later on, she had a similar problem with the Phoenix Force, which amplified her already broken power level Up to Eleven.
      • Her past counterpart in All-New X-Men has her telepathy manifest early as a result of the stress of time travel and finding out about the future, and she frequently has to fight to keep thoughts out of her head. Eventually, it causes her to gain a whole new power by combining her two powers.
    • Jubilee can also lose control of her powers if she's angry. (In fact, she once used this to her advantage when she and the rest of Generation X were being held hostage by the mutant criminal Emplate. She insulted him to the point that he was so angry, he used his powers to drain a large portion of her life energy, gaining her powers in the process... which he could not control, because he was so angry. Suffice to say it turned the situation around.)
    • Kitty Pryde became stuck in her intangible phase in the aftermath of an extended period spent hurtling through space inside a giant, ever-hardening bullet that she had phased through the Earth. She was also stuck in intangible mode once after being hit with an energy harpoon during the Mutant Massacre, but was restored to normal with the help of Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Doom.
    • Magneto's powers are in a near-perpetual state of Power Creep, Power Seep, with various reasons and excuses furnished depending on the storyline to justify him being as Strong as They Need to Be in any particular story. Said powers were also eventually established as playing havoc with his mental stability (overlapping into With Great Power Comes Great Insanity) as a Retcon to explain away his years of being a Card-Carrying Villain. However, absolutely Played for Laughs in "What If? Magneto got stuck in an elevator with Colossus, Iron Man, and Doctor Doom?"
    • From the second volume of New Mutants is Wither, a mutant with an always-on Touch of Death that dissolves any biological matter that comes into physical contact with him. Including, to his horror, his own father. Good thing he was born into an age of polyester. (If his power really affects organic matter in the chemistry sense, he'll dissolve polyester too. Tough luck, kid.)
    • Another New Mutant who suffers this is Surge, who absorbs electrical energy around her from all sources (outlets, appliances, static electricity in the air, etc), building up a charge in her body which can then be released. She has no control over this, and is constantly absorbing energy. And if she absorbs enough, it begins wreaking havoc on her mental state, leaving her incoherent and babbling. Much like Cyclops, Nori is reliant on an external apparatus to regulate her power. Originally she was addicted to drugs that helped keep her powers in check, but after joining the Xavier school, Beast designed a pair of gauntlets for her that served the purpose instead, though she can lose control of her powers if the gauntlets are ever damaged (or even overloaded, as nearly happened in a fight with fellow electropath Striker). One story arc invoked this, when the Leper Queen, acting under the orders of Bastion, kidnapped her and used a modified form of the Legacy Virus to artificially intensify her powers to the point that even her gauntlets would no longer regulate it as part of an attempted terror attack.
      • Fellow New X-Man Wallflower secreted pheromones which could influence the emotional state of those around her, and originally she had no control over her ability to release them and it usually led to her making others feel what she was currently feeling. As a result, she was roomed with first Mercury (who was immune) and later Winddancer (who could use her powers to scatter them). Wallflower did eventually overcome her power incontinence.
    • Rogue drains the powers of anyone she touches, so she wears gloves and skin-concealing outfits to avoid accidental physical contact with others. Even worse, when she used this power on Ms. Marvel, it didn't wear off for a long time afterwards, absorbing Marvel's powers and memories seemingly permanently. Rogue lives in constant fear that this same thing might happen again to someone else she uses her power on. She was cured of this power incontinence by Professor X in X-Men: Legacy #224. It didn't last.
      • Recently, it got worse in Mr. and Mrs. X, with her range increasing from just touch to an undefined distance around her.
    • Storm is very serene and calm, which she has taught herself to be over the years because if her emotions change, so does the weather. One of the most dramatic examples had the Beast take Storm into the stratosphere to let out her grief and anger after Wolverine was killed. The result: the entire Northern Hemisphere experienced an aurora borealis.
    • One of the Morlocks from Uncanny X-Men is Leech, a deformed but innocent young boy with a mutant power which acts as a Power Nullifier to any other mutant abilities. Said power is always on, whether or not Leech wants it to be.
    • The Gamesmaster, also hailing from Uncanny, is a mutant with Telepathy so advanced he is actually called an "omnipath" because he is in constant telepathic contact with every sentient mind on Earth, all at once, all the time. This came so close to destroying his sanity he had to insert computer chips into his brain to help regulate his mental activity so he doesn't fry his own brain. Even this extreme measure was not enough, and he turned to becoming the titular "gamesmaster" for the Upstarts, not out of any sense of malice, but just because their Deadly Game provided him a diversion from the horror of being constantly connected to over six billion minds.
    • Fabian Cortez from the first volume of Adjectiveless X-Men actually weaponizes this as his mutant power, which is a particularly nasty form of Super Empowering. By overcharging another mutant's power beyond their ability to control, he could effectively induce this in all but the most powerful of mutants.
    • Strong Guy of X-Factor has the power to absorb kinetic energy and redistribute it as super strength, but if he doesn't let it out soon enough, it has effects on his physiology (which is the reason for his... unique appearance, and also causes him permanent pain).
    • Jamie Madrox/Multiple Man from the same team. His ability is that he can create duplicates of himself from kinetic energy... but he can't turn this off, so any firm impact will create a dupe of him. He later learned to limit this power, but he has to be actively thinking about doing so for it to work, and obviously he can't constantly be doing that. During his time with the government task force incarnation of X-Factor, he also wore padded armor to make him less likely to create duplicates when he doesn't actually want to.
    • Exodus, first introduced in the aforementioned X-Factor, is a cautionary tale of what happens when this trope is combined with the Superpower Lottery. Literally described at one point as being able to use his psionic energy manipulating to do "anything he wants", Exodus also happens to be a Fish out of Temporal Water crusader knight who has been a Sealed Badass in a Can for the past 800 years. Consequently, he is shown in his first twenty or so appearances having visible difficulty using powers he is unfamiliar with, and is even implied in a few cases to suffer from a psychic variant of schizophrenia, as like the aforementioned Gamesmaster, he was unable at first to block out the voices around him with his Telepathy.
    • Wolverine villain Omega Red shows even bad guys suffer from this, as he had to drain people's life energy to survive and temporarily had to release the death spores his body built up or they would kill him. Even after he found a cure that allowed him to survive without other people's life, he stole it anyway and would probably do the same with his death spores.
    • Minor villain Unus the Untouchable has a powerful psionic barrier that repels anything that gets near him. That also includes air. A few times his powers have gone out of control, he's suffocated himself.
    • Colossus once suffered an injury battling the X-Cutioner, trapping him in his steel form for a time. This didn't do wonders for his mental health as, soon after, his little sister Illyana died and it lead to his Face–Heel Turn soon after when he joined Magneto's Acolytes during Fatal Attractions. He does apologize for his actions once Excalibur is able to pull him out of that state.
    • Nate Grey tended towards this when he was younger. Since reality warping is in his playbook, this worried more than a few people. Incidents when he loses control/is acting subconsciously include: influencing people around him, stopping time in a small area around him, rewriting reality in a limited area around himself, and subconsciously creating psychic constructs of people, including ones he'd never actually met (most notably, Maddie Pryor, the Age of Apocalypse version of Gwen Stacy when he was on the bridge where 616 Gwen had died, and in Age of X-Man, Dani Moonstar). It got to the point where Nate was terrified that one day, his nightmares would lead to him rewriting 616 into a new Age of Apocalypse.

Other

  • Happened a few times in Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog.
    • When Mina Mongoose first awakened her Super Speed, she had absolutely no idea how to control it, slamming into things at high speeds. She's forced to ask Sonic for help, though she also uses that time to show off her crush for him, too.
    • When Knuckles accidentally awakens his Chaos Force powers following an attack by the Dark Legion that tossed everyone save Knuckles and a captive Julie-Su into another dimension, he ends up glowing green and accidentally unleashing a lot of power. When the echidnas in Abilon find out about this, they attempt to suck his powers out. All he does is blow up the machine and turn the poor sap at the controls into Doctor Finitevus.
  • In the original Creature Commandos stories, Warren Griffith was the team's "Wolfman", but due to an imperfection in the formula that gave him his werewolf powers, he would change to human form and back almost randomly, and typically at the most inopportune times.
  • Emmy in Demo has a Compelling Voice that she has no control over; it's always on. She tries to get by without talking at all, which generally she can... unless someone's hassling her and refuses to back off, that is.
  • Suntop in ElfQuest has a version of this. Since his power is extreme empathy, he's able to feel the anguish of any elf strong enough to communicate it magically. Even pain from thousands of years into the future. He can't help it, since he's just a child for most of the main plot.
  • Mind*** in Empowered can only speak and see using her psychic powers, which makes her unable to lie, because her brother removed her tongue and eyes so she'd be forced to rely on her powers more, and reads the minds of everyone nearby; since most of those people are superheroes and most of them are jerkasses, she can't really handle being in groups for long and spends most of her time on their space station alone, which she hates.
  • In Finder, Jaeger's healing factor makes him near impossible to kill, but is so robust he has to get injured regularly to avoid becoming ill.
  • In the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. comics, Liz Sherman has a great deal of difficulty controlling her pyrokinetic powers. Some of this is due to the nature of her abilities, but some of it is also due to psychological trauma related to her first manifestation (at age 11, she destroyed her entire family and 30 other people) and the institutionalized upbringing that followed.
  • Xadhoom's power in Paperinik New Adventures need to be kept in complete check, otherwise she will either explode with the force of a nova before collapsing in a black hole (or so she says) or (in the earliest moment after she acquired them) dissolve into nothingness (as happened to Zoster when she let him find out how to achieve her powers). Also, they once reacted to her wish to return normal by making her recover her original looks while apparently disappearing, only returning when she got pissed at the villain.
  • The character whose murder starts off the plot for Rising Stars is physically invulnerable, but that results in him being unable to have any sense of touch at all. He becomes an obese couch potato because without physical sensation, he can't experience any form of physical pleasure except for the taste of food. His murder is carried out when he falls asleep in his chair and he's unable to feel that he's being bound to it by the murderer (who asphyxiates him with a plastic bag).
  • Star Wars Legends: The reborn Emperor in the finale of Dark Empire creates a Force Storm to deal with a Rebel fleet parked in front of his enormous battlewagon Star Destroyer. When he's about to be killed by the Skywalker twins, somehow he loses control over the Force abomination and it begins to consume him and his ship in a titanic conglomeration of power.
  • The Magnet in Terra Obscura. By the time the story takes place, he has almost no control over his magnetic powers. However, they're also not nearly as powerful as they once were, so he mostly attracts coins, staples, and other small objects made from ferrous metals, and even then only when he's within arm's reach of them.
  • Queen Bee: Haley often has trouble with controlling her psychokinesis, with results ranging from merely embarrassing to quite destructive. Alexa, who has the same abilities as Haley, is far more skilled with her powers.

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