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We can be heroes!Just for one day.
—"Heroes" by David Bowie.
A stock plot that comes up pretty often in superhero stories. The hero has lost his/her powers! But wait, there's somebody else with suspiciously similar powers now, but they aren't near as effective and/or virtuous as the hero. Something bad happens, but the story ends with the hero getting the powers back somehow. In more detail, it follows this chart:
1) The hero loses the powers somehow. Maybe some Green Rocks sapped him/her of them. Maybe they lost their Amulet of Concentrated Awesome. Or maybe somebody stole the Powered Armor. One way or another, the hero is Brought Down to Normal.
2) Somebody else now has the same powers. Not similar powers, but exactly the same. It might be one of the (usually jealous) friends/fans of the hero, a civilian that randomly ended up with them, or one of the unextraordinary thugs the hero has defeated before.
3) The neophyte will now either choose to try to take the hero's place, use the powers for selfish reasons, or turn to villainy with the misguided belief that nothing can stop them now. Their effectiveness with the powers will be inversely proportional to their virtue level (i.e. if they want to replace the hero, they will be incompetent, but if they are a villain, they'll be at least as competent).
4) If the neophyte is not the villain of this story, then one of the villains in the hero's Rogues Gallery will start up a plan to defeat them (with the belief that it should prove ridiculously easy).
5) How this gets resolved is up in the air. Maybe the hero has to use a "prototype"/lesser version of whatever granted their powers (it will not put them anywhere near their original power level). Maybe they have to be a Badass Normal and resolve everything without superpowers. Maybe their sidekick (or a fellow, usually lesser hero) has to take care of the situation. Or maybe the hero will get the powers back somehow before the crisis is resolved.
This story is common to the point where now, it gets subverted a lot more often than used straight (for example, it might make the neophyte way better than the hero in every way and have it be almost tragic to return to the status quo).
- Happens to Superman sickeningly often in all adaptions. Seriously, just browse SuperDickery for a while. Those are just the ones with the flimsiest premises, too.
- One episode of Magical Project S had Sammy lose her baton, with it ending up in the hands of Haida. She uses it to become Funky Connie, carelessly and selfishly using her powers while just ignoring all the "mundane" crime around her. Her only act of "justice" being to repel a meteorite ("a job worthy of a magical girl"), with her otherwise using it to build herself a castle and brainwash Hiroto to adore her. After finding that she could only force Hiroto to love her alter-ego, she threw it away, with it embedding itself in Sammy's face.
- The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Superstar" followed this as one of the many elements, with Johnathan stealing Buffy's abilities as part of the reality altering spell.
- In the first Iron Man movie, the villain steals the power generator for Tony Stark's Powered Armor to run his own version of the suit, leaving Stark "powerless". To combat the villain, Stark resorts to the Flawed Prototype solution, and uses a sub-optimal power generator to charge his suit.