Thursday, March 29, 2018

Top Ten Trope Thursdays: Heart is an Awesome Power


*Note: if you've seen these, you know there's spoilers. If you haven't seen these…well, there's spoilers. Fair warning.*

Now the last three of these were about characters. I'm hardly done with character tropes, but I want to slip aside just a bit and explore another trope that I tend to personally enjoy in media: Heart is an Awesome Power.

We all see this in sci-fi/fantasy settings. People have awesome powers and abilities…except Jenny. Jenny can control sugar. That's it. Everyone writes her off, maybe our one kindly character tries to make her feel better, but even Jenny thinks her power is dumb.

Until she realizes glucose is a sugar. Suddenly Jenny goes from being a weak little nothing to an unstoppable killing force, halting blood in its tracks at her will. Why? Because "Heart is an Awesome Power." Less about the actual limitations of a preternatural ability and more about the character putting it to good use, this is a trope that allows a writer to show off creativity, and it allows characters to have obvious, visible growth within a form of media.

Now, I'm not sticking to heroes with this, and part of that is…well, this tends to play well for villains. It's a great way to bring a recurring joke villain out of the shadows and shake everything up. Plus, if the character in question was ridiculed for their shit power, there's a fair chance that they'll retaliate once they figure out they can.

So on with the list!

10: The Amoeba Boys (The Powerpuff Girls)
Oh boy, these guys. They really really wanted to be evil villains. But at best they were nuisances, and at worst they actually made people's lives easier in the City of Townsville. Oversized single celled organisms. Not only do they not pose much of a physical threat, they don't have the brain capacity to come up with anything more complex than, say, stealing an orange. The Powerpuff Girls actually pity them, for the most part.

Until "Gesundfight." The Amoeba Boys are determined to stand on the grass in spite of what the sign says. They stay there overnight, get rained on, and get the flu…and that's a problem. Because of their freaky-ass single-celled-organism-ness, the disease mutates inside of them and, when spread around, is incredibly virulent. Within hours from exposure, humans are passing out, coughing, sneezing. The Amoeba Boys have released a plague upon Townsville.

Of course it all gets solved in the end, but they did it. The only reason they're number ten on the list is that they didn't choose to do this. They got sick and it kind of happened. But it couldn't have happened if Mojo Jojo or Fuzzy Lumpkins got sick: only The Amoeba Boys (Of note also: a lot of the villains in The Powerpuff Girls could fall in here. Fuzzy Lumpkins is…a hillbilly. That's about it. Elmer Sglue has…glue powers. Sedusa has prehensile hair.)

9: Ma-Ti (Captain Planet)
The Trope Namer in this case. In Captain Planet, five internationally sourced teens are given five power rings by Gaia to help protect the planet. The rings allow them to control one individual aspect of the world: earth, wind, fire, water, and…heart. Even Ma-Ti says it's a stupid power.

And then Ma-Ti uses that power to control a motherfucking bear to attack the Monster of the Week. Because "heart" is basically a nice way of saying "willful manipulation." Ma-Ti can make a connection to the metaphorical heart of any living creature. In fact, in an alternate future, we see exactly how devastating his power could be. Ma-Ti becomes an evil dictator, because his power of heart has allowed him to brainwash the masses into following him.

It doesn't get much more complex than that. Why so low for something so clearly available? Like with the next entry, it's rarely, if ever, used to that full devastating potential. Which in Ma-Ti's case, I think we should all be thankful for.

8: Jubilee (X-Men)
The fireworks girl? Really?

Yes, the fireworks girl. The one with the banana yellow coat whose powers are only ever vaguely explained most of the time. And I know she actually got depowered, but we're talking old school mutant Jubilee.

See, those fireworks are actually plasma. She's just creating plasma. And while this seems like a way to try to make her cooler…think about what she has to do to accomplish that. She's supercharging the air around her into plasma. Plasma that really has no difficulty creating explosions wherever she wants it to, within her specific range.

But it goes beyond that. Pushing her power, she's able to break down matter. Yeah. She can actually split atoms with her fucking brain if she wants to. She can split atoms inside your liver, or inside your head, or inside your wife. Luckily, Jubilee is a nice person, and she only ever did that to a Sentinel. But she could have done it to anyone she wanted.

So yeah, the fireworks girl.

7: Karen (The Almighty Johnsons)
This isn't the only time The Almighty Johnsons is going to be on this list, so no worries. Karen, for anyone who doesn't remember her sort of brief appearance, is Michele's mother, as well as the human reincarnation of Lofn, goddess of festivities.

Parties? Now that's a lame power.

Unless applied correctly. She's another one who doesn't do a ton to fully capitalize on her powers, but if she plans a party, you're going to be there. It's literally unavoidable. You'll find out about it, you'll be there, and if there's a theme, you're going to adhere to it.

She uses this all of once, as she's only a bit character. But we see that power. She can make anyone show up anywhere she wants as long as she throws a party. She does it for positive reasons, of course. She wants to breed familial harmony. But if she was evil? If she'd been working with the goddesses since the beginning, the gods would have been dead in an instant.

6: Squirrel Girl (Marvel Comics)
Now you can tell me she's just meant as a joke character, and you're pretty much right. But on paper, as it stands, Squirrel Girl is one of the most effective heroes in the Marvel universe.

What's her power? Well, she has "things related to a squirrel" down pat. She's considerably stronger than an average human, though nothing compared to super-strength heroes like Carol Danvers. She can jump several stories. She has a moderately prehensile tail. She has a spike on her knuckle that can carve through wood. And she can also communicate with and command squirrels. She also has enhanced regenerative abilities, like most of Marvel's animal-themed mutants.

That's it. That's Squirrel Girl. But she makes damn good use of those powers. She took down Thanos. She took down Doctor Doom. She took down Terrax the Terror. Ego the Living Planet. Four Avengers. Wolverine. Deadpool. Fin Fang Foom.

Did I mention Thanos?

I say she's used as a joke because Squirrel Girl does most of her fighting off screen. However, that doesn't make it less canon. I assume that they just don't want to go that graphic, showing her army of squirrels ripping Thanos apart an inch at a time.

If I were to meet Squirrel Girl in a dark alley, though? I'd be super nice to her in the hopes that she never met me while the camera was pointed somewhere else.

5: Pig God (One Punch Man)
Pig God is the tenth ranked hero in the world of One Punch Man…and lord if you'd ever be able to tell. He's morbidly obese, constantly eating…because that's his power. He can eat. More specifically, I suppose, he has an "inhuman digestive tract," along with other abilities, such as surprisingly immense strength.

Sounds a little shaky. Like, maybe he should be in the top 100 heroes. Maybe. But the tenth strongest hero in the world?

But Pig God has several things going in his favor. He's massively durable and can even survive being eaten himself. He has so many layers of body fat that venom can't reach his blood stream, making him immune to venomous attacks. And he has an inborn sense of duty to the people of the world. He wants to keep everyone safe and healthy, which is not the most common trait at the top of the hero pack in this world. A lot of them are fairly self-centered.

But the eating is his "heart" power. He can eat and digest anything. Anything of any size. Pig God's digestive abilities are one of the most destructive forces on the planet. If there's an enemy that can't be beaten by conventional methods? Feed them to Pig God. Problem solved. Not just solved for today, but for good.

Damn.

4: Aquaman (DC Comics)
Yep, Fish Boy himself. I'm not even considering him controversial. The only worry I have is whether he's high enough on the list. See, Aquaman is scary. Other characters in the DC Universe are afraid of him.

This one is not so much that his powers on paper seem silly. It's just his perception. People out in our world don't give him the respect he deserves. So let's break down what Aquaman brings to the table.

He can survive in the depths of the ocean. Boom, that right there should be enough. He has immense speed and strength at the bottom of the ocean, under 6000 psi of pressure. When you put him on land? Watch the fuck out, Superman, you've met your match.

But you don't care about that. You want to hear how he talks to fish. Okay. Conservative estimates put the percentage of ocean life at 50% of all life on earth. So for every human, animal, and bird, there's a form of sea based life form. A more realistic estimate is probably closer to 70%. And yeah, that includes krill and plankton…but you know that also includes deadly jellyfish, whales, giant squid, and thousands upon thousands of undiscovered life that could be dangerous as fuck.

Aquaman is dangerous enough by himself. With his marine communication? He's nearly unstoppable.

3: Baise (Hunter x Hunter)
A minor character, but so deserving of this. She can kiss any man and instill in him any sexual desire she chooses. And for the most part, she imparts extreme, all encompassing masochism. Why?

Because that masochism is so powerful that, as she literally beats the man to death, he won't fight back. He enjoys it and asks for more. Both disturbing and effective, all because she can grant men sexual desires.

2: Cypher (X-Men)
Don't ask me how mutation makes you able to understand all languages, but it does…apparently. That's cypher's ability. And initially that was it. But then he died and came back, as comic book heroes are wont to do, and his powers had supercharged. He could read and understand any spoken language. And computer language, which made him an expert hacker. And body language, which made him able to read and respond perfectly in battle. And sometimes, these powers extended to things that are questionable language-based, like…somehow finding the weak point in buildings. I guess the structure or the blueprints or something are a language of their own?

But what should have been a translator and possible diplomat turned into a massively impress threat to the well-being of anyone who dared to fight him or use a computer.

1: Mike Johnson (The Almighty Johnsons)
And here we arrive at the gold standard, for me, of this trope. Mike, like most of the other significant characters in The Almighty Johnsons, is the reincarnated version of a Norse deity. In his case, this is Ullr, god of the hunt. Ullr, commonly invoked before duels in the olden days, was also interpreted in this medium as the god of games. Whether that's accurate or not…well, I can't find anything that puts him as god of games, but it's A: not a huge stretch and B: not important. The Almighty Johnsons uses him as god of games, and that's what we're going with.

As such, Ullr can't lose. This seems to be a really narrow power. Good for, say, beating everyone at rock paper scissors every single time, or taking the house at poker, but otherwise not all that useful.

But as the series progresses, we see how broadly a game is defined, and hence see Mike's true power. He can not only bend the laws of probability, but the laws of nature. Did you, in your villainous quipping, bet that he couldn't beat you? Well, you've just made this fight a game, ensuring your defeat. He now barely feels your punches, and you really feel his.

Or, did you say "Guess what happened?" Well, that's a guessing game. He can now read your mind. That's the one that's really mind blowing. As long as you tell him to guess, he's functionally omniscient.

It's a specific set of circumstances, but once you initiate a game? Watch out for Mike. Or better yet, just give up.

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