Superheroes are some of the most powerful characters in fiction. They can fly, shoot lasers out of their eyes, lift train cars, read minds and all sorts of other fun stuff. True, not all of them are inherently super-powerful, but even those who are human use highly advanced tech designed to imitate those who actually do have powers. So what happens when a superhero loses their fantastic powers? That depends on the hero. For some, their time as mere mortals only served to make them stronger, and when their power was restored, they became better heroes -- and better people -- then ever before. But the few who never regained their powers faced the ultimate test of character and courage. Some learned to live with their new reality, while others were unable to bear the thought of being permanently grounded and went to extreme, even criminal, lengths to feel superhuman again,
Of course, “permanent” is a relative term in the world of comics. The vast majority of depowered heroes have since regained their special abilities. As for those who haven’t, it could very well be just a matter of time before they, too, are back in top form. These things happen in cycles, it seems. But one thing we know for sure: the 20 characters on this list all suffered the trauma of losing their powers. Which ones ultimately got their powers back, and which ones are still waiting for a miracle cure? You can read the answers below -- no superpowers required!
20 GOT THEM BACK: MOST MUTANTS
It's always sad when a character is so overcome by grief that they're no longer able to function. But when that character is the Scarlet Witch, a staggeringly powerful reality warper, things can go from sad to catastrophic. In a misguided attempt to end her pain, the Scarlet Witch depowered almost every mutant on the planet with three simple words: "No more mutants."
In a heartbeat, the mutant population fell from the millions to the hundreds. This 2005 event came to be known as M-Day, or Decimation. Since then, most of the mutants who lost their powers -- or at least, most of the mutants readers care about -- have returned to their previous power level.
19 NEVER DID: MOONSTAR
Before M-Day, Danielle Moonstar could create illusions based on other people's thoughts. She used this ability, along with her exceptional archery skills, as a member of the New Mutants and the X-Force. But when the Scarlet Witch all but wiped mutants off the face of the Earth, Moonstar was left without her gift.
And yet she was still better off than many of her fellow ex-mutants. Previously, Moonstar had gained a new set of powers by joining the Valkyries. This included perks like enhanced durability and a winged horse. She has used these abilities to continue her crimefighting career, but she never did get her illusion casting powers back.
18 GOT THEM BACK: CAPTAIN AMERICA
Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, got his powers from the famous Super Soldier serum. It also had the happy side effect of slowing the aging process. But an encounter with the Iron Nail deactivated the serum, leaving him a physically weak old man.
Anyone who knows anything about Steve Rogers knows that he isn't one to let such a minor setback slow him down. While longtime friend Sam Wilson took over as Captain America, Steve sought to continue improving the world however he could. Eventually, interference from Kobik, a sentient version of the Cosmic Cube, reactivated the serum and allowed Steve to be Captain America again.
17 NEVER DID: JANE FOSTER
After being diagnosed with cancer, Thor's longtime friend/love interest Jane Foster received a psychic call from Mjolnir, Thor's erstwhile hammer. She answered the call and became the new Thor. But this great power came with a price: every time she transformed into Thor, all the progress made by chemotherapy got erased.
Jane tried to stay out of action long enough for her cancer to go into remission. A cosmic threat, however, forced her to transform into Thor one time too many. Thor was able to revive her, but she no longer possessed Mjolnir. Afterward, Jane elected to concentrate on her cancer treatments rather than try to get the hammer back.
16 GOT THEM BACK: WALLY WEST
Kid Flash had served with both the Flash and the Teen Titans for years before he began experiencing mysterious power fluxes. It turned out that his speed was killing him -- the more Kid Flash used his powers, the faster his health would deteriorate.
Then Crisis on Infinite Earths happened and had two very different effects on DC's two premiere speedsters. Kid Flash's uncle, Barry Allen, heroically sacrificed himself to save the universe. Kid Flash, meanwhile, was hit by an energy blast that restored him to full power. This happened just in time for him to take on the mantle of the Flash.
15 NEVER DID: GUY GARDNER
Although he's most famous for being the most obnoxious Green Lantern, Guy Gardner has gone by a variety of names. In the mid-'90s, when he was calling himself Warrior, he discovered he wasn't entirely human. As a member of the Vuldarian race, he had access to all sorts of cool new abilities, like shapeshifting into any weapon he could imagine.
In a sense, Guy had become the Green Lantern ring he used to wield. But after Parallax possessed him, he lost access to all of his spiffy alien powers. Nowadays he's back to relying solely on his power ring and his bad attitude.
14 GOT THEM BACK: ANT-MAN
Hank Pym and all subsequent Ant-Men get their powers from a substance called Pym Particles. They're useful little things, allowing anyone exposed to them to shrink and grow as necessary. But they can also be quite finicky and have caused Hank no end of trouble.
Hank has been depowered and repowered so many times it should be a running joke. He spent most of the '60s bouncing between being able to shrink or grow at will and risking his life with every size change. For a while, he could only grow to a specific height for 15 minutes before having to shrink down to normal. When forced to deviate from this routine, he got stuck at an abnormally large height for months.
13 NEVER DID: THE PUNISHER
Traditionally, the Punisher, aka Frank Castle, didn’t have or need superpowers. He just used his giant collection of guns to make criminals very, very sorry they were ever born. But there was a little blip in the '90s when he did gain powers in the weirdest way possible. An angel nudged the Punisher into ending himself, and as soon as Frank reached the afterlife, he found himself in the middle of a demon war.
With an assortment of heavenly weaponry capable of felling even supernatural foes, the new Punisher set his sights on a less earthly enemy. This abrupt change left readers scratching their heads. It wasn't too long before Frank returned to the land of the living, sans his demon-ending guns.
12 GOT THEM BACK: JESSE QUICK
When Wally West was preparing to go up against Professor Zoom, he knew he'd need all the speed he could get. So he turned to his fellow speedster, Jesse Quick, for help. Jesse could tap into the Speed Force by reciting a special formula, which she told to Wally so he could increase his own speed.
The gambit work, at the cost of Jesse forgetting the formula and losing access to the Speed Force. Undeterred, she took the name Liberty Belle and used the super-strength she inherited from her mother to make a new start as a hero. Jesse has since remembered the Speed Force formula and is her super-speedy self again.
11 NEVER DID: THE JUSTICE LEAGUE
JLA: Act of God revolves entirely around the premise of superheroes losing their powers. We never get an explanation or a resolution for it, and none of the heroes ever regain their lost abilities. All we ever know is that, one ordinary day, everyone with superpowers loses them all at once.
Some heroes, such as the Spectre, vanish without a trace during the initial event. The rest must learn how to cope as normal humans. Supergirl becomes a police officer. Blue Beetle and Booster Gold sell tech that will allow the depowered heroes to compensate for their lost abilities. Superman mopes for a while, then has a child with Wonder Woman. The child, by the way, seems to have powers...
10 GOT THEM BACK: THOR
Depowerment is Odin's favorite method of punishment. Any time Thor annoys him -- even if Thor is completely justified in his words or actions -- Odin is quick to pull rank and rip Thor's powers from him. One such depowerment came after Thor called him out for nearly destroying Earth and refusing to explain why. But Thor always manages to regain his father's favor and get his powers back.
More recently, Mjolnir itself decided Thor was unworthy during a fight with Nick Fury on the moon. This led to Jane Foster becoming the Goddess of Thunder, but after Jane sacrificed herself to defeat Mangog, the hammer returned to its most famous master.
9 NEVER DID: MARY MARVEL
At the start of Countdown to Final Crisis, Mary Batson awoke from a long coma to discover that she no longer had powers. Not even shouting "Shazam!" did anything to change that. Mary missed having powers so much that she turned to Black Adam, a decidedly less moral member of the Marvel family, and gratefully accepted his powers.
Everything went downhill from there. Adam's power corrupted Mary, making her susceptible to Darkseid's machinations. Captain Marvel Jr. was only able to stop her by stripping her of her powers once again. After 2011’s New 52 reboot, a different version of Mary turned up with her powers intact. But the pre-reboot version never did get her powers back.
8 GOT THEM BACK: PATRIOT
Eli Bradley wanted to be a hero so badly that he was willing to risk his own health and reputation to do it. Lacking powers of his own, Eli started taking illegal substances that gave him super soldier-like powers. As Patriot, Eli led the Young Avengers during their inaugural adventure. At last, he was a hero.
It was too good to last. When his teammates discovered the true source of his powers, Patriot quit the team in shame. But he didn't remain on the shelf for long. A blood transfusion from his serum-enhanced grandfather gave Eli powers of his own, no questionable substances required.
7 NEVER DID: NEGATIVE WOMAN
Soviet pilot Valentina Vostok first gained powers by absorbing the residual radioactive energy of the supposedly deceased Negative Man. She retained a modicum of control over the energy and could temporarily send it out of her body to do her bidding, just like her predecessor did. Appropriately calling herself Negative Woman, Valentina joined the new Doom Patrol.
But her life as a superhero came to an abrupt end when Negative Man returned. The power-giving energy fled Valentina to return "home," so to speak. Valentina then used her own natural intelligence to become a leading member of Checkmate, a government organization.
6 GOT THEM BACK: WONDER WOMAN
In the late '60s, DC took Wonder Woman in a new, less wondrous direction. The Amazons decided they'd had enough of Earth and planned to retreat to another dimension. Princess Diana elected to stay and protect mankind, even though it meant giving up her powers, seemingly forever.
Now deprived of her Amazonian strength and gadgets, the "new" Wonder Woman set about preparing herself for a life as a powerless crimefighter. She learned karate and used whatever weapons she had to hand. Readers didn't take to this revamped Wonder Woman, and she eventually returned to her full glory as DC's most powerful heroine.
5 NEVER DID: PESTILENCE
Lorna Dane often used the magnetic manipulation powers she inherited from her father, Magneto, to aid the X-Men as Polaris. But her fortunes took a nosedive after the Scarlet Witch's "no more mutants" decree. Depowered and desperate, Lorna accepted Apocalypse's offer to become Pestilence, one of the Four Horsemen.
As Pestilence, Lorna could create virulent diseases with which to very literally plague humanity. But Apocalypse also altered her biology in such a way that her magnetic abilities eventually reactivated, allowing her to ditch her pestilential powers and go back to being plain old Polaris. Yeah, that's probably for the best.
4 GOT THEM BACK: BANSHEE
Banshee's main claim to fame is his sonic scream, which can destroy enemies and buildings alike. After seemingly burning himself out in a fight against Moses Magnum, he retired from the X-Men and went to live on Muir Island with his beloved Moira MacTaggert.
By the time of X-Men: Deadly Genesis, Banshee's vocal cords had healed enough to allow him one last heroic moment. Vulcan, Cyclops' long-lost and less friendly brother, set a passenger plane and the X-Men's Blackbird on a collision course. Banshee tried to stop the jet with his sonic scream. He failed, and neither Banshee nor the plane passengers survived.
3 NEVER DID: B'WANA BEAST
Mike Maxwell got more than he was expecting when he crash-landed in Tanzania. The combination of a special mask and elixir gave him the ability to fuse different animals into one creature under his control. It was a weird talent, to be sure, but he successfully used it to protect Tanzania from evil.
Unlike most of the others on this list, B'wana Beast relinquished his powers voluntarily. Dominic Mndawe, a South African civil rights advocate, accepted Mike's powers and took the codename Freedom Beast. Meanwhile, the former B'wana Beast ended up being possessed by Antagon, a destruction-happy force of nature, and was offed in battle with the villain Metaman.
2 GOT THEM BACK: VALKYRIE
The first time Valkyrie got depowered was thanks to Odin, who disapproved of her helping someone against his wishes. She got back into his good graces by ending herself over the demise of a man she'd fallen in love with -- Odin isn't exactly the nicest god out there.
The second time Valkyrie suffered depowerment was when Amora the Enchantress put her in suspended animation. While Valkyrie slept, Amora had lots of fun with her powers, even mind-swapping Valkyrie with a human woman, Barbara Norriss. It wasn't until Doctor Strange stepped in that Valkyrie's mind returned to her body and she was fully restored to normal.
1 NEVER DID: JIMMY OLSEN
Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen has a long and hilarious history of gaining and losing superpowers. He has grown into a giant turtle man, sprouted porcupine quills and become super-stretchy, among other crazy things. Countdown to Final Crisis paid homage to this grand tradition by throwing all of these strange powers at Jimmy at once.
Unbeknownst to Jimmy, he had become a storehouse for the powers of the New Gods, who were dropping like flies at the time. He tried to join the Justice League and the Teen Titans under the name Mister Action. Surprisingly, neither team wanted him. Towards the end of Countdown, the Atom crawled into Jimmy's body and removed the device storing all those powers.