On Writing: Bad Powers, Bad People?

One trope that annoys me is the whole idea of Bad Powers, Bad People. Two main reasons. First and foremost, it shows a lack of creativity on the part of the writer. If there’s one thing humans have been good at for millennia, it’s, “I’ve got too much X, you have Y that I’d like, Let’s Make a Deal.”

(And yes, I mean make a deal instead of murder and banditry. We’re innately lazy critters. Why expend all the energy to kill someone and take their stuff if you can bargain them out of some of it instead? Then you can do it again next year, and so on. Murder is a one and done; you can’t get any more from that person. Wasteful.)

You secrete acid with a touch? Chemists want your number. Zombies rise in your presence? Search & Rescue at mass disasters would be glad to have you; why risk lives recovering the dead if they can crawl out of the rubble themselves? You can kill all life in a 50’ radius? Okay, that one’s a little trickier, but you could do a thriving business going through temporarily-empty hospitals to kill off all the stray MRSA and other nasty bugs just waiting to infect people. Surgeons would pay for a sterile operating room! Heck, there are farmers and ranchers who’d call you in when something infectious hit their properties.

But one that’s really made me cranky lately is BnHA’s Shigaraki – “he disintegrates everything he touches, of course he’s a villain!”

First off, it’s a five-point contact Quirk (all 5 fingers must touch the target), so as long as he knows that, he has control over what he does and doesn’t disintegrate. A bandaid wrapped on one fingertip would be enough to keep it under wraps.

Second, “disintegrate what you touch” is something medicine, construction, and many other industries would love to have on call.

Someone’s been impaled by a girder. What would you rather do; cut them up more to get it out? Or disintegrate it with someone standing by to vacuum the dust and clean the wound?

You took down a hotel. Which is cheaper, hiring a crane and its specialized operators to move various unstable pieces to a dumpster? Or a bulldozer to scoop up dirt and dust?

You’re making fine porcelain. Do you want to pay hand over fist for access to the few good deposits of kaolin clay? Or would you rather get much more common granite, and hire a guy to turn it to clay dust?

It’s not your powers. It’s how you use them.

Which leads to the second main reason for my cranky; yes, it also involves a “lack of writer creativity”. People are more than just their powers and abilities. They are what they choose to do with those powers.

The knife that slits a throat can be turned to lifesaving surgery. The same fire that burns a house down can boil water to sterilize that knife. Radiation that leaves people dying in agony can – in small, controlled doses – kill cancer and save them.

Ethics. Self-control. Knowledge of what is and isn’t safe. If your hero doesn’t have those, it doesn’t matter what powers they have; they’re a menace to themselves and anyone around them. If your villain does, and still uses their powers to hurt and kill-

Then that’s a choice. Not their powers.

If you want to make a villain with horrible terrifying powers, fine. If those powers drove them insane, and that’s why they’re a villain – okay, valid, insane people can do horrible things. It won’t be as interesting a villain for your hero to beat, but that’s real life too.

But saying someone with a scary power is innately evil is like saying everyone with a knife is a sadist out to stab you. Sometimes they’re a surgeon instead.

(Yes, there are sadists who channel that “want to cut people up” into surgery. Real-life potential evil turned to moral ends.)

Make your villains real. Give them reasons for their villainy. “Bad powers” isn’t nearly enough.


73 thoughts on “On Writing: Bad Powers, Bad People?

  1. I agree with your points – destructive powers aren’t inherently evil, and writers shouldn’t substitute them for motivations. Though in Shigaraki’s case, that’s not what happened. Technically, Shigaraki’s reason for being evil isn’t his powers. Those just aren’t helping (he received an upgrade of terrifying proportions recently – no need for five finger contact now, or even contact with anything but what his target is *standing on* to disintegrate everything within several *miles* of his position). His main reason for being evil is that “no hero came to save him” after his power activated and he killed his family. He admits, later, that he enjoyed killing them because his father was abusive and his mother, grandparents, and sister did nothing to stop him. Sister even blamed Shigaraki for something she’d done because she didn’t want dad to catch *her.*

    This neglects the fact that, unbeknownst to Shigaraki, his mother and grandparents took a stand against his father after he beat him that final time and said, “This stops, or we move out and you never see us again.” His sister also came out to apologize to him for getting him in trouble before he dusted her, but he ignored her and/or doesn’t consider it enough reason to regret what he did to her. He decided that night that he “hate[s] everyone,” which is why he uses his powers the way he does. All For One’s corruptive teachings *did not help*, either.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. BhNA also has Hitoshi Shinso, who can control people’s bodies.
    He faces a lot of social problems, but the heroes specifically train him because it’s a really good tool for law enforcement.

    It’s important to draw a distinction between an author who designates someone evil because they have an evil power and characters reacting as if someone’s evil.

    As a whole, I’d say humanity doesn’t do particularly well accepting people that they feel threatened by.

    Honestly I think BhNA tends to swing too far the other direction with assuming someone who is properly “heroic” won’t have any negative consequences, no matter how dangerous their powers are.

    Fire powers have a very narrow range of safe applications, and none of them are “attack someone with fire.”

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I agree with your analysis of fire powers having few safe applications, but that’s in a more realistic setting. BNHA operates on shonen battle logic, where everyone and everything is more durable. Except the scenery, which is less durable when people are smashed into it. (If we want an in universe explanation for this, we can say it’s further mutation and evolution like what led to quirks, only everyone has it not just people with a quirk factor. No explanation for the scenery however, that’s just typical shonen overdramatics)

      The way Shoto uses his ice powers for example, would absolutely do as much damage from frostbite to some of the people he targets as just burning them with fire would have done.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Heh, pretty sure Marvel’s Iceman could cause frostbite when he freezes someone, too. Most of his targets are superpowered and therefore durable enough to take it, but for others…. Yeah. Frostbite. Eeep.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. *spoiler*







      I totally freaking SCREAMED with glee when he got a crowning moment of awesome (thus far)– in the middle of what he KNEW, rationally, had to be the test to get him into what he desperately wanted, and he could have used his power to beat Midoriya– and instead used his power to do The Right Thing, and save him from a power malfunction, then made a ton of excuses about how it was REALLY a selfish motive.

      And then Eraser basically said “shut up already.”

      …it’s so nice to actually like almost everybody. Even hentai girl or whatever her name is, the older gal who’s very sensitive about the whole aging thing.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. As a whole, I’d say humanity doesn’t do particularly well accepting people that they feel threatened by.

      … this. I hadn’t figured out how to pin point it, but yes, THIS.

      K, trying to grasp spiderwebs, but….

      I grew up with a family culture that recognized that “fighting like a girl” was bad, because girls have to UTTERLY DESTROY threats. There is no “wait for attack,” because 1) you can’t take the hit, and 2) if you did, you couldn’t do anything against a threat.

      Second thread, will meet up with idea:
      What bugs me about My Hero Academia is that they don’t allow folks to use their powers outside of massively limited zones. (very Japanese, just still bugs me)
      I look at this and go “this is why the second amendment is a good thing.” (keep and bear arms=> equalizing force; “Sam Colt made them equal”.)

      If you have access, or access to someone with access, to someone who has a near absolute equalizing force– most people are no longer threats.

      Because you *can* respond, effectively, without dying in the process.

      Folks who feel secure are WAY more accepting. They may have guns sticking out like they’re a bloopin’ hedgehog, but they’ll be cool with you getting in sneeze distance BECAUSE you are not an insurmountable threat.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. This. So much. When you’re the smallest, clumsiest, and most fragile person in a group, there’s always the drumbeat of underlying terror. Because there’s always That One Guy who’s looking for the easy target.

        Liked by 5 people

      2. So here’s the problem.

        Quirks don’t make anybody equal.

        Imagine you have a quirk that’s functionally useless for any combat. (I think I remember one kid that had long fingers?)
        That person isn’t going to be reassured by being able to use his quirk.

        Imagine a person with a quirk extremely well suited to combat.
        He don’t feel afraid of anyone.
        He has the confidence that he can do anything and nobody can stop him.
        He might not be correct, but he can hurt a lot of people learning he’s wrong.

        Imagine our current society where every single human being is on a scale of 1 to 10.
        A huge amount of our culture is based on the idea that the most physically dangerous person in the world isn’t actually that dangerous alone.

        Now imagine a society where everyone is on a scale of 1 to 100.
        How would it feel to be a 1?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I can’t remember that guy…but I can think of ways to make long fingers A Thing for threat.

        And while I can think of guys who’d find combat not a threat I can’t find one that would be correct

        Liked by 4 people

      4. I would quibble with that ‘most dangerous guy, isn’t that dangerous alone’, for American society, which is I think a lot weirder than a lot of analysts realize.

        Japanese society, with the firearms and blade control law, is an example of relatively common flavor of society where a lot of people have been physically and mentally disarmed. It had a melee/muscle armed warrior caste/class, that was successful in efforts to mentally disarm the peasants. Melee/muscle means supplying calories to specialists who spend a lot of time developing skill/ability. There are ranges of consent by peasants they are willing to tolerate in the official decision making, and different degrees of extremes resorted to deterring peasant rebellions, but the general system has been used in many places. And the cultural impact of oral history can be very persistent.

        Another obvious extreme is your tribal endemic warfare society. Where if a man is not a cripple, and is young enough, they are some degree of a warrior. You definitely need a cheap supply of weapons, and an ability to produce food without a significant opportunity cost in training. So, the hunter-gatherer scheme is fairly compatible. So, basically, this is the case where the men are largely neither mentally or physically disarmed, and often thinking as individuals in the 1-10, 1-20 sort of range. (There are reasons why soldiers with metal weapons supported by an agrarian society often beat these warrior bands.)

        A key thing with both of these types of society is that they are usually neighbored by other societies, are a little uglier to the other societies, and somewhat have a greater tendency to trust internally, and back each other up.

        America is rifles, ‘fighting is a distraction from business, if you /have/ to do it, make sure you do not have to do it again right away’, we absolutely know that the most dangerous enemies are internal (because our oral history, up till very recently, was ‘whupping’ everyone else), and we have little to no internal divisions that we are confident in for a fight. By that, I mean we have internal divisions, lots of them, but we fragment down to the individual level. Example, we have a lot of idiots pushing white-black race war right now. But, as a white guy, I trust exactly zero other ‘white’ people to back me in a fight that is nominally along race lines. We have all of the different national origins of white, the different regional cultures in the US, a bunch of wildly different political ideas… And, speaking for myself, I have cousins I absolutely do not trust.

        My read of the fundamental dynamic in the US, is that we have a lot of very dangerous people, and most of them run the calculus of “who will go against me if violence starts”, and make very conservative choices when they consider initiating violence. If you know exactly who will back you in any fight, you can carefully pick opportunities for violence where you have a free hand, due to isolated victims, or your backing being better than the other guy’s backing. If everyone else is keeping their own counsel, and likely to pick sides based on their own notions of justice, expedience, or necessities of defense, most violence has unpredictable risks.

        Lone killers actually have a fairly high potential effectiveness in America, it is simply that most of the people who choose to murder do not manage to prepare to the level of peak effectiveness.

        Forex, the people who go forward with the spree killings are often mentally impaired, and make mistakes that decrease their body count. Maximizing body count is target selection, not alerting the target in order to permit choice of best timing, practice, and preparing the tools. A disturbed highschool kid, or an old guy who has suddenly gone crazy, pretty much does not have the skillset for preparing the best tools without alerting anyone. If you aren’t trained to make explosives, your choices are to find a recipe (necessarily incomplete), carefully experiment (which is detectable), or try to learn enough engineering to design explosive devices that will reliably work without needing a lot of experiments (this is LOL hard). If someone is stable enough to function long enough to study engineering, they will probably be stable long enough to get out of a terrible emotional place, or to find other things to live for. You need three aspects of a design in different disciplines of engineering, and the technician/practical skills matching those disciplines are also difficult to learn, so just having the recipes/designs from somewhere else is not good enough.

        (Reliability, and design for reliability, are basically statistical, which means a prohibitive number of experiments. A lot of criminal bombers working on their own screw up, and get caught practicing, or their bombs fail because they stopped after a few successes. The more reliably engineered non criminal explosions are precisely because the people doing them can afford to farm out the engineering to people in different specialties. )

        The other sorts of criminals are likewise mostly not pushing themselves to peak effectiveness. Sometimes they are simply very stupid, and lazy about preparing. But the other aspect is that a lot of them do have people that they trust to back them, and are in that pattern of picking victims that they can personally overpower, because they have no fear of the escalation. The criminal justice system in general appears to, and certain politicians and lawyers in particular definitely do, back criminals in the crimes that they commit, and deter retaliation by more lawful Americans. If one is criminally inclined, can operate in an area where the legal system will go after vigilante death squads, and at the same time will ignore the crimes that one wishes to commit, there is no immediate need to be good at violence in absolute terms. (This decision by criminals is perfectly rational unless more lawful Americans decide that vigilantism is preferable to the legal system, and implement vigilantism.)

        (There is a reason why thoughtful people are hesitant to implement vigilantism. Vigilantes kill criminals. However, in recent ordinary circumstances, the major killers of criminals have been other criminals. Ergo, we can expect criminals to try to brand themselves as vigilantes, and also expect a substantial risk of vigilante blue-on-blue. Anyone who has really worked at reaching their own personal maximum level of killing power is likely going to have learned to forecast well enough to predict this.)

        Anyway, if a large enough group has paid attention to effectiveness, and prepared properly, they can probably defeat any individual. But, preparing groups is difficult, and leaves much more of a paper trail than preparing as an individual. Groups, you can trace by their previous activity, and you can probably figure out where to find them. Groups cannot detect all prepared lone individuals, and can be weak against a carefully prepared carefully timed attack put together by an individual. The two reasons groups look supremely effective is a) recent domestic history, they have mostly only been used against criminal groups and idiot criminals b) relatively few of the dangerous, prepared, individuals have been depressed, suicidal, and motivated enough to go after armed groups. Infantry combat is at least as deep a skillset as engineering, and likewise stably functional long enough to learn it properly can also mean learning coping skills for whatever mental problems one has.

        Anyway, people high on some drugs are pretty impressed with how much better and tougher they are than everyone else. Sometimes this makes them pretty dangerous to be around. No matter how high, if shot through the heart at a distance, won’t be able to do anything. (Okay, you need a wide enough wound channel through the heart, and ‘far enough away’ is a rather concerning thing when you study it…)

        I’m not sure the hypothesis about superhero society necessarily holds either, after saying all that. It is definitely in genre to have supers that are truly invulnerable. Question is, how rare are just the semi-invulnerable supers? Silver age superman could have potentially had a super-appear-to-be-dozens-of-distinct-invulnerable-supers-at-the-same-time power, but most of the almost completely invulnerable types are not that OP. If you know that someone invulnerable is committing crimes, that is a ‘paper trail’. Fundamentally, that means that they are traceable, and potentially a lot of resources could be spent on stopping them. Exactly how invulnerable are they? Thing about humans, is that human bodies are surprisingly fragile. In fiction, superman dying of a heart attack isn’t soemthing that makes sense to do, except as a short story. But if we are gaming out the society realistically, there are bunches of powers or other methods that could cause death, and how likely is it that someone happens to be invulnerable to everything? Sure, we can say that it is so by authorial fiat, but if you write a setting with Index/Railgun Academic City espers, an evil Superman, and no kryptonite, that is a blatant authorial choice of the setting’s moral tone. (Akshully, I think I recall that Superman is also supposed to be vulnerable to magic and psionics. So he should be weak against both the espers of the Science, and the magic users of the Magic faction. Well, not to the point of automatically losing, but he isn’t going to cheese his powers and ‘win’ by killing everyone on earth using relativistic projectiles from beyond the distance that Index folks can work over. OTOH, I’m not entirely sure what the limit of reality warping on the magic side actually is.)

        Liked by 3 people

      1. I recommend (again?) the “Wearing the Cape” novel series, which has a *lot* of serious worldbuilding around how early-21st-century society would react to a sudden Event where random people start getting random superpowers. Legal liability, licensing, insurance, PR, and various political movements that range from “Final Solution the Capes!” to “Put the Capes in charge!”….

        And while it’s mostly US-centric (with every state having its own “spin” on Cape Law), other nations have their own different ways of coping, which do get showcased a few times. And there’s no Right Way — the author portrays most of the non-Villain, non-dysptopian parties as just trying to muddle through as best they can.


        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is the one with All Might, eating hair, etc., right?

    Is it fanon that there’s a law that you can’t use your quirk in public unless you’re a licensed hero, or is that canon? Because if that’s the case, doesn’t ‘bad powers’ mean ‘isn’t photogenic enough to have journalists calling you nice things’?

    In that kind of messed-up setting, they’re pushing ‘ugly’ quirks towards villainy, yes.


    Liked by 3 people

    1. You can’t use your quirk even in self-defense without a license. There are apparently various licenses, for cops, medical use, etc. that aren’t full-blown hero licenses.

      It’s that “even in self-defense” that makes the bunnies want to snarl at the whole setting, because dude. Dude. If someone’s trying to kill you you’re going to throw everything and the kitchen sink at them. And then if you live you get charged with “unlicensed Quirk use”? The system sucks.

      Liked by 9 people

      1. I wish I knew how self-defense laws in Japan actually *work* in the real world. I’ve always felt Horikoshi was using that law in-canon to comment on life in Japan, but…. That could be an error on my part.

        And I’m not sure that that law in-canon is *universal* in-canon; I can see it being true in a Japan full of Quirk-users, but stateside? It’s possible they’d try to enforce something like that. But I think it probably wouldn’t last long.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Short form?

        They don’t.

        Work, that is.

        You *can’t* really fight back.

        There are good cops, of course, who will fail to notice stuff– but self defense isn’t a “thing.”

        I don’t know how much of that is Japanese and how much is the post-60s-ish anti-crime laws (which DID work), but I suspect it’s a Japanese thing about having a “right” to initiate force.

        It’s one of the brain-breaking things for me, in watching anime.

        You human. You have RIGHT to fight to live.

        Liked by 5 people

      3. Worse. 😉 We’re all ronin!

        After all, the classic line of the English guy going to a ranch and asking one of the hands there to take him to the boss: “Where’s your master?”

        Ranch hand: “The son of a —- ain’t been born.”

        Liked by 6 people

      4. Yep! Masterless samurai who would as soon beat them up as help them out. We give the *whole world* fits precisely because we *don’t* fit anywhere. And that’s why we had to make our own place here in the world. 😉

        Liked by 3 people

      5. *Rueful* Not this specifically. More that I hit an article on Instapundit about trigger warnings, checked the source to be sure it was accurate, and the rabid bunnies foamed at the mouth from there.

        But now that you mention it that would make an interesting post… noting to work on next!

        Liked by 4 people

      6. There’s a reason there are a lot of fics with Izuku striking out as a vigilante early. Because, technically nothing he does can be considered vigilantism. Pre-quirk anyway. The laws call unauthorized use of quirks illegal. Someone pointed out that the spin off series, set before BNHA, deals with the darker side, the less shiny stuff. It’s called Vigilantes, I haven’t read it yet.

        I’m actually not sure if I want to get more into the canon stuff, instead of fanon.

        In a meager defense, circling back around to the first point, it may just be the author took Japan’s current self defense laws and extrapolated out from there. I’ve never looked into Japan’s laws because, well, it’s never come up. I dunno.

        Liked by 4 people

      7. I have a little, due to SAO; I get the impression whatever the laws are, the attitude toward violent self-defense is the killer, so to speak.

        I was stationed in Japan for a bit over 2 years (actual time in country like 10 months, max) and this fits my impression.

        We had a couple of inner city MORONS who…short version, went bag-grabbing in the shopping district, because their “read” on good victims assumed that folks who wouldn’t fight them would ALSO not report to cops.

        As six foot plus tall black dudes.

        Wearing Navy PT gear.

        With the *hoods down*.

        The only local black dude was barely five and a half, in all directions.

        I think they’re still in Japanese jail (which is all solitary) and that was about 15 years ago.

        Liked by 4 people

      8. That is how Japan handles things, apparently–the “if you killed in self-defense, society considers you a murderer” part, anyway; I don’t think it’s actually illegal to defend yourself, though I suppose they’re probably more stringent about how than in the States.

        As I understand it, SAO’s depiction of how society treats Sinon–and how she treats herself over it, prior to Therapy By Kirito–is distressingly accurate; from the look of things, her arc and Asuna’s subsequent troubles with her mother are both Kawahara criticizing his own society.

        (Semi-off-topic: it drives me nuts how TV Tropes claims even Kirito and company regard Sinon as a murderer, just a sympathetic one. They most assuredly do not–unsurprising, considering they had to live in a situation where Japanese cultural rules flat-out didn’t work. But then, TV Tropes also claims Kirito angsts over having “murdered” three players in SAO, when what he’s actually castigating himself for is trying to forget it….)

        Liked by 4 people

    2. Is it fanon that there’s a law that you can’t use your quirk in public unless you’re a licensed hero, or is that canon?

      Canon, and massive “oh my galt, is this like subversive against gun control?” level stuff where one of the ‘villains’ had the initial crime of going, roughly, “someone needs help, I can help, I DO help.”

      Liked by 3 people

    3. In that kind of messed-up setting, they’re pushing ‘ugly’ quirks towards villainy, yes.

      While I am no kind of expert at cross-culture reading…. I think that the creators actually REALIZED that, and built it into their world building.

      Thus the agnst of full body control dude with a “villain” power, and things like “villainous looking hero” indexes, and multiple Designated Villains (and non-Quirk kids) that at least from a US viewpoint seem to be hammering on “this culture is sick, it NEEDS HELP.”

      Liked by 3 people

  4. You can kill all life in a 50’ radius? Okay, that one’s a little trickier, but you could do a thriving business going through temporarily-empty hospitals to kill off all the stray MRSA and other nasty bugs just waiting to infect people. Surgeons would pay for a sterile operating room! Heck, there are farmers and ranchers who’d call you in when something infectious hit their properties.

    RV storage. Wrap the RVs, and then sterilize them.


    Get raw milk that is actually as safe/safer than pasteurized.

    Medium rare pork as a meal option.

    If it’s painless, 100% ethical slaughter method…and I just realized that the big hurdle there of having to drain the corpse quickly wouldn’t apply, because there wouldn’t be any germs/parasites in there until they were introduced via draining.

    Wiping out beetle infestations in national forests– yes, it’d kill the animals in the area as well, but part of why the infestations are so nasty is that the dead-wood makes for wild fires that are sterilizing hot, rather than normal fires.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Yeah.

        I strongly believe that happiness is partly a choice, and that trying to do something productive is partly a choice.

        Okay, depression is definitely a real thing, and cannot be simply overcome with sheer willpower. (Ask me why I am confident in that.)

        Thought is partly habit, and there is some ability to choose how one sees the world.

        If I dislike what just happened, how do I respond mentally? If the world is not the way I want it to be, what are the things that I can do? I have made some of these choices very unproductively in my life. But, when I have accumulated enough good choices of this sort, the habits can carry me through some difficult circumstances.

        I probably have tomorrow to work with, and to try again. And /if/ I don’t have tomorrow, I’ve attempted some things with my life, and not all my choices have been bad.

        The angst, the whining, and the acceptance are things I find offputting.

        So, I am reminded of a character who I like as a take on ‘bad powers, bad people’. Early in Memories of the Fall, we have a scene from the viewpoint of “Ancient, Eldritch Arach’Naros”. Who is not exactly super compatible with human life, and is implied to have been generated by a horrific event. For what he/it is, he tries to be a good person as he understands it. Compare the dancing spiders, likewise a viewpoint character once during Book One, likewise not terribly human, and very definitely evil.

        Embracing victimhood is basically loser talk. The ideas you speak change your thinking a little, and some thought patterns would almost ensure that you would fail.

        So, and I’m not sure how wide the range of characters are my audience for this, “go out there, and win”.

        Liked by 4 people

  5. In defense, what are the mechanisms for how powers develop, and what are the mechanisms for how character/personality develops?

    There is limitation for how we can describe the latter, and still be plausible.

    In theory, one could world build a magic system where power selection works off of the same things that shape character.

    In practice, hard to pull off, and I think I would just be angrier at authorial cheating or failure to understand the full complexity of what is going on.

    I definitely have personality tendencies that go back to very young ages.

    Am I good or bad?

    Certainly, I can point to tendencies of mine that are very bad.

    I think the story telling short coming in question may be a specific example of the general case of people being into simple models, where everything is easily measured, etc.


    1. Quirks do have an effect on one’s personality, though the degree varies from person to person. For instance, if a person has a fire or explosive Quirk, then his or her temper is more likely to be a bit hot/explosive. Shigaraki’s Quirk plus his unstable personality = eep! Tokoyami’s Dark Shadow almost has a mind of its own, and he tends to be reserved because of his power, and so on and so forth.

      Part of what Quirk users have to learn to achieve, especially in hero courses, is how to control their impulses – which, again, makes the difference between heroes and villains. The villains don’t *want* to control their impulses; they revel in using them for chaos, in doing whatever they want no matter who it hurts. Endeavor, in contrast, has a fiery temper that causes his Quirk to flare up. He mostly channels this into his hero work and even when he cuts loose in a fury, as he does after All Might’s retirement, he does so in a contained environment so he won’t hurt anyone with his fire. Later on he also risks his life to make sure he doesn’t accidentally burn civilians when he defeats the Nomu named Hood. So he and other heroes are pretty responsible with their Quirks, in contrast to the villains who practically throw their power around for the sheer heck of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I recall someone breaking down Bakugo’s quirk, once. It was actually really funny, by the end. Because nitroglycerin? Apparently causes low blood pressure in people. And one way for the body to combat that potentially lethal issue?


        As in, ridiculously high levels of “I’mma fight it all” adrenaline.

        There was a little story, even, where Bakugo and several others got hit by a quirk that caused a massive adrenaline rush. Those who had experience with adrenaline and all it’s nasty could fight through it. Others went into fight-or-flight.

        …Bakugo didn’t notice a thing. Which tipped everyone off that hey, something’s off here.

        They gave him meds to calm him down for once in his life… his blood pressure promptly crashed through the floor, proving that it would, in fact, kill him to be nice. His response to finding this out? Call his mom.

        “Remember all those times you asked if it’d kill me to calm down? Well guess what…!”

        Liked by 5 people

    2. In theory, one could world build a magic system where power selection works off of the same things that shape character.

      I’m actually working on a system like this, narrative wise– the sun mage has to be flashy. (folks’ belief in him gives power) The water-healer HAS to be borderline pacifist. (or she will go with the other side of water– which is hungry) The water-elementalists HAS to be weak. (or she’s a tsunami; even as weak, there’s an issue with unexpected boosting). Fire elementalists flare up, and consume a LOT to act.

      Necromancers look like they’re half dead.

      You have your power, and you use it, you form yourself to the power– and that makes the power stronger, and it spirals.

      So a really strong necromancer focused on controlling the dead will LOOK like a lich, while one that bends to support of the living (such as by helping the dead fulfill their duties that keep them here) will “just” look like they’re half-dead, and have the scent of corpse-preserving herbs around them.
      And do stuff like ride an undead but lively horse, because I love Binky.

      Liked by 3 people

    3. https://babylonbee.com/news/hitlers-newly-discovered-diary-reveals-he-was-just-following-his-heart

      Yeah, this is a satirical article, and I know it is satirical.

      Yeah, this is me frothing on the subject of natural drives and self control again.

      Variations between individual humans mean that some have wants that would be very bad to act on. And there may not be any apparent cause, much less a cause that can be definitively blamed on others.

      Definitely, there are enough people with bad tastes that the ‘nobody could ever want to do something bad’ policy theorists are wrong. And no matter what is going on in the society they grew up in, you will get some people with bad tastes, who additionally do not choose self control.

      So, basically, I really do have to ask myself if some of the reason for not acting on my worse impulses is the difficultly of what it would take to implement the worst impulses in some cases.

      I philosophically am suspicious of the hypothetical offer to grant a wish of mine, precisely because of some of the stuff with a high place on the list. That readily extends to the possibility that I could take a sufficiently flexible power, and use it mainly as a bad power.

      The one I’ve considered most is teleportation with no limits and a perfect parser. As in, you tell the power what to do, and it does what you mean. There are some obvious valuable applications. There is also pulling atoms from unused portions ot the universe to assemble any arbitrary item of material wealth. It could also be used to filter out large selections of people, put them where they will surely die, and maybe slowly enough that they would suffer.

      But I concur, this thing of someone getting a power, their drives and morals changing, getting a new wardrobe, and starting to present as an edgelord is not my favorite storytelling.

      It is perfectly possible to be evil with conventional, sedate manners, normal appearance, and no super powers what so ever.

      Drives can be learned to some degree, the company you keep matters, and habit can be for good or for ill. The guy who joins the Evil Murderer Cult, and lives his life cultivating according to the Evil Murderer teachings, can have bad powers and be a bad person.

      Morality, civilization, etc., are choices. Yes, shaped by religious values and cultural values, but choices that go well beyond cultural and religious preferences. Most people wind up making choices that somewhat align with fundamental aspects of their personality, but it is still choice.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Which leads to the second main reason for my cranky; yes, it also involves a “lack of writer creativity”. People are more than just their powers and abilities. They are what they choose to do with those powers.

    Honestly, this is where social media shines.

    Make a contest of “what is the most sucky super power I can think of that has no possible upside but is also scary?” and then throw it at folks to crowd-source awesome options.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. The knife that slits a throat can be turned to lifesaving surgery.

    :evil laugh:
    I sometimes tell folks that my grandfather slit a man’s throat when he was a logger, then shoved a pen down his throat.

    ….he did. Guy had a ham sandwich, yellow jacket landed on it and he didn’t notice, he bit, turned out to be allergic.

    He couldn’t breath because that area at the back of the throat was swollen.

    My grandfather, with his pocket knife, IN A MOVING MONDAY FRIDAY VEHICLE, slit his throat and put a disassembled pen into the hole so he could breath.

    I actually got to meet the guy, when I was very small; by some miracle papa managed to NOT damage the vocal cords, and he introduced himself as “the guy who had his throat cut by [papa].”

    Which may explain why I find it *hilarious* to tell folks I’ve been gutted repeatedly (C-sections) and my mom will inform folks she married dad less than a year after meeting him, in October, and I was born in January. (….15 months later). There’s just something really fun about making horrific claims that are totally normal when you have the context.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Getting scalped apparently being good for longevity, at least if you survive it. One of my umpty-greats grandmothers was scalped by indians, but managed to crawl into a hollow log and hide while they finished killing the rest of the crew/passengers of the ship (it had been blown off-course by a storm, and they landed on the first shore they encountered because they were out of supplies). She was the only survivor, and after being nursed to health by an indian from another tribe “looking for survivors” (or loot), she ended up living to be over 100 and have 14 children (had to get a new husband, since the first one died in that event).

      Liked by 5 people

      1. …I may end up stealing that, with focus on the “looking for loot” and then you find a little girl and… look, looting dead bodies, fine, but KID….

        Reality is so blessed cool.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. She wasn’t “little” at the time, tho she’d only just gotten married before boarding the ship. Still, you’re right that it would work better for fiction as a “little girl” because that just screams for “protect”. Also, as a side note, family lore is that her hair did grow back, thick and full, and she made a point of letting it grow long enough to reach the ground.

        Liked by 4 people

  8. Ethics. Self-control. Knowledge of what is and isn’t safe. If your hero doesn’t have those, it doesn’t matter what powers they have; they’re a menace to themselves and anyone around them. If your villain does, and still uses their powers to hurt and kill-

    Then that’s a choice. Not their powers.

    And I totally forgot to say what my original comment was:
    The Flash.

    He is freaking terrifying if you look at what he can do, cannon.

    …and he’s just a total sweetheart dweeb. (Justice League and Justice League Unlimited did an awesome job of showing both.)

    He could EASILY destroy Superman, with his intelligence and powers, if he had any malice.

    But he chooses to have no malice.


    Liked by 3 people

  9. I always thought the way Katara had to face blood bending in AtLA was a great way to show that your bending wasnt the real issue, it was your morals. And Hero Acadamia is one of those shows I do prefer the fanon to canon on things like ‘evil’s quirks.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Of course there’s a related version of this idea; what about the guy just who’s not interested in using whatever powers he’s gained via mutation, radiation, random+clingy cosmic/magic artifact or whatever?

    Instead of immediately grabbing some spandex and running out to be a hero or villain, he goes “I have a life and career already. I don’t want to be a super hero/villain.”

    Now it’s understandable why this doesn’t show up in media a lot since that sort of character would seem boring; but if you have the presence of powers that don’t include a mental ‘Use Me!’ there would be people that just want to remain civilians.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. /And then you get into, how hard is it to pass for normal and/or convince people you’re Just Not Interested?/
        Or even being able to live normally. It was an independent super hero setting that I ran across (can’t remember the name, it was years ago) but one of the things I remember in it was that most powers were by and large not the proverbial free lunch.

        Super human strength, agility and toughness? Sure that’s a possible mutation but depending on the means said abilities are expressed your needed caloric intake can be anywhere from doubled to ‘For lunch I’ll have six large pizzas with everything and what do you guys want?’.

        Or being able to naturally produce various exotic gaseous chemicals constantly. Potentially valuable but if anyone wants to see you face to face they have to wear MOPP 4 gear. Hope you weren’t a party person.

        As for ‘Not interested’ well that probably depends on what your power is. If it’s something like changing your skin color people won’t care. Well, most people.

        But if it’s something like a large compulsive honesty aura which prevents people from even telling the little white lies that occur every day in society? That might cause a different reaction.


    1. I’ve been trying to build isekai settings, with superheros, cultivators, and travel between planets using spacecraft. Superheroes and cultivators have wildly different standards of behavior; why wouldn’t one subsume the other?

      One of the answers I’ve been playing around with is that the super powers, and cultivation foundations are somewhat parallel, but very definitely different. In that being able to sustain or improve super powers requires a persona established in the public eyes, and internal personal convictions. And that these two requirements are incompatible with the stuff that cultivators do to be successful. As in, a cultivator may have personal convictions, but their powers partly depend on how they live the ideology contained in their cultivation arts. And, cultivator immortality and xianxia timescales are incompatible with sustaining a presence in the public eye.

      Anyway, what if people without that strong internal motivation do not necessarily develop powers, or what if they lose their powers if they don’t go the spandex route?

      In conclusion, I am definitely nuts.

      Liked by 1 person

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