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Comic Book Characters With Powers That Make Them Hurt Themselves

March 17, 2020 20.8k votes 4.3k voters 626.1k views14 items

List RulesVote up the heroes with powers that sound more painful that they're worth.

If you're reading this, you're almost guaranteed to have spent at least a little time daydreaming about what it would be like to have superpowers - and maybe you still do, from time to time. Who wouldn't want to be strong enough to lift a car or jump over a building, to turn invisible, read minds, or simply step into the air and fly away? 

In such fantasies, we usually ignore the real-world implications of being born a mutant, bitten by a radioactive spider, or bathed in cosmic rays and just think about how awesome it would be to have superpowers. But even by comic book logic, superpowers are not all sunshine and rainbows; sometimes, they come with painful and even horrifying side effects. Help us rank the comic book characters on this list whose powers are as much a curse as they are a gift.

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    Husk Has To Rip Off Her Skin To Access Her Powers

    For whatever reason, a simple, unassuming farming family from rural Kentucky has one of the highest concentrations of mutants in Marvel Comics. Of the 10 children born to Lucinda and Lucas Guthrie, half carry the X-gene that grants superpowers, including the most famous Guthrie, Sam, AKA Cannonball, and his little sister, Paige, AKA Husk. While most mutants discover their abilities accidentally, typically during a particularly stressful or emotional time coinciding with the onset of puberty, Paige was anxious to follow in her big brother's footsteps and actively attempted to trigger her latent X-gene. Paige succeeded but initially kept her abilities secret, even from Sam, because of the strange and disturbing side effects of her powers.

    A "transitional omni-morph," Paige is one of those rare mutants who can manifest multiple superpowers, including super-strength and -speed, enhanced durability, flame projection, and the ability to transform her skin into various substances, from rubber to glass to diamond. Unfortunately, to access her powers, she has to tear away the outer layer of her skin. When she does, the new dermal layer beneath is super-charged with whatever properties she needs. Initially, she had little control over the process and her body reflexively chose its powers for her; but with practice, she has learned to control the outcomes. Removing her outer "husk" typically causes a bit of discomfort, but the process can be more painful if done too quickly or repeatedly within a short period of time, leaving her body covered in bruises and painful lesions.

    Paige later developed a secondary mutation that allowed her to develop multiple skin abilities at the same time, but the new power came with new problems in the form of blackouts and psychological instability.

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  • Anti-mutant bigotry is a big problem in the Marvel Universe. It's what prompted Professor X to form his School for Gifted Youngsters to educate young mutants and the X-Men to protect them. But even within the marginalized mutant community, there is a schism between those that can "pass" for human - those with internal powers that do not affect their outward appearance - and those whose bodies are altered by their X-gene. The latter rarely have normal lives; many are forced to flee humanity, taking refuge in places like the sewers beneath Manhattan, where Sarah, AKA Marrow, and the Morlocks once made their home.

    Born with pink skin and hair and a hyper-accelerated metabolism that causes unsightly protuberances to erupt from her bones, Sarah took refuge with the outcast Morlocks until they were massacred by the Marauders. Sarah was forced to become a deadly weapon to survive, using her unusual abilities in service to an extremist branch of mutants called the Gene Nation, before eventually joining the X-Men. The thick bone growths serve as armor, and she can break off the longer protrusions for use as spears, blades, or clubs. Her enhanced healing factor and twin hearts help to repair her skin after each rupture, but the fast-growing bones and dermal fissures keep her in constant pain - to say nothing of how much it must hurt to snap off the bones.

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  • Wolverine. Patch. Shrimp. Logan. Whatever you call him, James Howlett is one of the toughest comic book characters in any universe. Born in the 1880s, young James was plagued with allergies and bouts of sickness until the day his X-gene triggered and his mutant powers manifested, granting him heightened senses, retractable bone claws, and a regenerative healing factor that makes him extremely long-lived and capable of healing from nearly any injury: the infectious bite of a vampire or werewolf, the implantation of an alien embryo, the atomic fallout of a nuclear explosion, or being punched clear into another state. A forced experimental procedure conducted by the Weapon X Project made him tougher than ever when unbreakable adamantium was bonded to his bones and claws. 

    As tough as his body is, however, Wolverine's mind has to be even tougher to withstand the constant agony his adventures put him through. His healing factor regenerates his body, but it does nothing to deaden the pain he feels when he is sliced, hacked, hammered, burned, crushed, and irradiated, or the burning and itching feeling of having his nerve endings and tissue grow back at an accelerated rate. Not only that, but his own best feature - his claws -- have to slice their way through the skin and ligaments of his knuckles every time he pops them to defend himself. He once explained to Jubilee that he pops them out "a few times a day" even when it's not needed, because it "keeps the channel open." When asked if the pain ever stops, Wolverine replied simply, "Nope."

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  • Japheth grew up in a modest South African household with four siblings, so when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer at a young age, he decided to wander out in the desert and end his life, rather than burden his family with expensive medical treatments. Saved from his fate by Magneto, Japheth discovered the source of his pain was not cancer but two sentient slugs that lived inside his stomach. Horrified by Magneto's nature, Japheth sought a different path but ended up trying to seek out Magneto to help him master his power as the pain was becoming too intense to bear. Instead, finding the X-Men, Japheth was invited to join them after using his powers to save them all from an explosive device.

    Japheth's slugs, nicknamed Eany and Meany, are his own mutated digestive system. Five times a day, they must burrow out of his stomach to feed, causing him excruciating pain in the process. After feeding, they return to his body, where they digest the matter they consumed and impart energy to Japheth, temporarily granting him super strength and durability and turning his skin blue. Japheth can not digest food without the slugs, so if they are removed from him for too long, he will expire from malnutrition.

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