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When Fireballs go flying around, you normally expect a certain amount of equipment loss. The same goes to when you hand a screwdriver to your average super-strong individual, or ask a human flamethrower to aim a gun.
These don't tend to end as badly as expected, though. Whatever strange mutations, unlimited cosmic powers, or Applied Phlebotinum stops the hero or villain from turning themselves into a deep-fried crispy critter instantly passes onto any clothing, weapons or Plot Coupon that he, she or it may pick up -- unless, of course, the lack of protection is a plot point.
Furthermore, a character's super-strength provides its full benefit, regardless of size issues with the items they use with it. Additional strength simply results in an even-harder hit. Never mind that most weapons and so on aren't designed for people who can strike with earth-shattering force.
Even mundane huge objects picked up by Super Heroes generally don't shatter and bend like would realistically happen -- the hero may have vast strength, but the area to which they could direct that strength is relatively small. (Witness Superman picking a car up by the bumper -- by rights it ought to tear off in his hands, leaving the car right where it was!)
Contrast Magic Pants, where clothing implausibly protects the hero's modesty; My Suit Is Also Super implausibly protects plot points, weapons, or the special effects and art team from spending too much time.
Often handwaved by explaining that the hero's gear is magical or otherwise of sufficient durability and strength for them to gain the equivalent benefit.
Of course, this does not apply if the suit is supposed to be super-powered, and is what gives the character their powers in the first place.
Contrast with Does Not Know His Own Strength, where the hero tends to forget that not everything is as super as them. See also Required Secondary Powers. Also contrast Clothing Damage, when the inability of the (usually female) hero's equipment to survive disintegration leads to Fan Service.
Handwaved as a Subset of Powers
Anime and Manga
- In One Piece, it is explicitly stated that the Logia Devil Fruit powers also make the user's clothing affected by their powers - it transforms along with it's wearer. Luffy doesn't have such luxury, so he wears very open and baggy clothing that will not rip when he stretches himself. However, no explanation is offered on topic of Sanji's flaming kick not burning his pants, but then again - he himself is not burned by it because "his heart is burning hotter".
- In Durarara, Celty's clothes are created using her ability to manipulate shadows. Izaya wonders out loud at one point if shining a really bright light on her would leave her naked. (She gets a couple of spotlights put on her in Episode 12.5 and nothing happens.)
- In the DCU, the reason why the various Flashes and other speedsters don't burn their clothing - or themselves for that matter - from air friction is that each has an invisible aura around their bodies to protect them. In fact, that's how the Barry Allen Flash first defeated his evil counterpart, Professor Zoom. The villain bragged how he used a chemical coating to protect himself from air friction and Allen successfully bet that his aura was better protection when he starting pushing Zoom fast enough to have the resulting heat overwhelm his coating. The current Flash, Wally West, literally has a super-suit made out of the Speed Force that powers all "speedsters".
- Superboy (Kon-El) had "Tactile Telekinesis" that let him extend a telekinetic field into anything he touched.
- This is directly related to the phenomena that currently protects Superman's costume (see below.)
- Green Lantern's costume/uniform is created by his power ring by simply changing his regular clothes to his uniform. Thus, as long as the ring is working, his work clothes are usually going to look great and clean by default.
- Common among the X-Men. Kurt Wagner's, Kitty Pryde's and Jamie Madrox's clothes are teleported, phased and duplicated as well. The same goes for whatever they are holding. The story breaking potential of this is rarely touched upon.
- The reason for this is briefly explained in Giant-Size X-Men #1 as the X-Men's costumes being made of unstable molecules, provided by Reed Richards (see below).
- Common in the Marvel Universe as a whole, really.
- In Animorphs, the characters couldn't figure out how to morph clothing at first, leading to two occasions when Tobias morphed out of his clothes and demorphed naked. Cassie somehow figures out that tight clothing, like spandex or bike shorts, will morph with you, so after the first book the characters have standard "morphing suits" they wear under their normal outfits. A later book mentions something about their powers creating a "morphing field" around them, which may have something to do with it.
- Ability to morph clothes is also related to one's proficiency with morphing. Cassie, the best morpher among the Animorphs, is the first to figure out how to morph clothing. Later, the team crosses paths with a young female Andalite who can morph normal, non-skintight clothes due to her advanced skill.
- Aberrant has the "Attunement" Background, which protects everything within the immediate (and we mean immediate) radius of the character from powers such as growth, self-immolation, and shapeshifting. One dot is enough to protect their clothing; five dots is enough to protect another person.
- In the Whateley Universe, there is more than one kind of power-set to be a brick. One type, as demonstrated by the main character Lancer, is a PK field about and through his body, which provides (for him) five tons of motive force and absorbs up to five tons of impact. But the PK field extends slightly past his skin, to protect his clothes. In fact, by the end of Lancer's first term at Whateley Academy, he has learned how to extend his field over objects he holds, as long as they aren't too long. He has a pair of foot-long paper 'swords' in his pocket, and when he extends his field over them, he has short swords that have a PK 'knife edge' that can cut through a LOT of stuff. He has also done a similar trick with a baseball bat, essentially making the bat as indestructible as he is. How's that for Handwavium?
Handwaved as a Super Suit
- Superman has no problem diving into the center of the sun without even leaving scorch marks on his spandex booties, so having bullets bounce off without ripping the material isn't exactly attention-getting. Pre Crisis, this was explained by his wearing a "super suit" made from Kryptonian materials. Post-Crisis, it was explained that the same force that made his skin nigh-impregnable transferred the quality to skintight costumes (thus allowing for dramatic rips of the cape, as well).
- Similarly, his glasses are fashioned from pieces of the windshield of the rocket that brought him to Earth, so as to allow his heat vision to be used without melting his glasses. Although whether his Eye Beams generate heat throughout their length or only where they converge varies according to artist and writer. He's been shown to be able to generate points of heat within objects (heat vision heart massage, anyone?) while others show parallel holes where his heat vision burned its way in.
- The current canonical explanation is that Superman has a bioaura that protects his suit. He's even extended it a few times to save people.
- The costumes of the Fantastic Four are explicitly made of "unstable molecules". Even beyond that, though, the Invisible Woman transfers whatever makes her invisible to anything she picks up, the Human Torch can flame on while carrying a paper Plot Coupon, and the Thing doesn't always turn instrumentation into dust.
- Good thing too, or they'd be hard to take seriously.
- Eventually, unstable molecules became pretty standard for Marvel superheroes, or at least for the ones who are either on good terms with the Fantastic Four or rich enough to just buy the stuff (there being a substantial overlap in those groups, of course).
- Colossus's traditional costume had Magic Pants made of unstable molecules, exposing his thighs when he was in his metal form and allowing them to be decently covered while in human form. "Had" is the operative word. Ever since Colossus' return in Astonishing X-Men, whenever he's in his otherwise-just-like-day-one costume, he shows just as much leg in human form as in metal form. No complaints.
- Miguel O'Hara, Spider-Man 2099, wears a suit made from the above mentioned unstable molecules. However, being from the future, the material has entered the mainstream market, though he comments on how expensive it is to have a wardrobe solely made of that (civvy clothes too). His Spider-Man costume was actually something he already had in his closet from a recent Day of the Dead festival just in case things got a bit too rowdy.
- Doctor Strange's Cloak of Levitation is magic and all-but-indestructible, meaning he can use it for cover in a firefight. (The rest of his clothing, however...)
- The Incredibles had costume designer Edna Mode make them (and likely all the other Supers) super-suits that could stand up to their powers and do things like turn invisible in reaction to their wearer doing so.
- Non-superhero variation; the Ealing Studios movie The Man In The White Suit stars Alec Guinness as an inventor who creates a fabric that's not only completely indestructible but impervious to stains. He explains that dying agents can be introduced to the polymers before they're fully formed, and that heat can be used to cut the fabric. Subverted in that the textile companies want to prevent this fabric from being made because it would put clothing manufacturers and laundries out of business. Further subverted when the fabric ends up decomposing due to being exposed to the air.
- In the Corean Chronicles by L.E. Modesitt Jr, there is a fabric known as nightsilk. High quality nightsilk is not only warm and comfortable, when it is worn in a tightly fitting outfit, it can absorb impact damage. The reason that most people in the story give for the main character of the first trilogy surviving all the stuff he gets put through is because he's wearing bulletproof underwear (In truth, he needs to reinforce it with his psychic powers to survive the more extreme incidents, but casual observers know about his nightsilk body stocking and don't know about his powers). This material is not widely used as military armor due to a limited supply and the high manufacturing costs (The hero of the first trilogy can acquire nightsilk clothing mainly because his family makes it).
- In the Inheritance Cycle, when dragon riders fight, ordinary swords cannot withstand their Super Strength. Thus, a rider's sword must be forged from Thunderbolt Iron by the Ultimate Blacksmith.
- In the myth of Heracles (Hercules), he kills the Nemean lion for his first labor. Starting with the poet Bacchylides, this lion's hide is invulnerable, so Heracles has to strangle it to death, then skin it with its own claws. He later uses the hide as armor, making this trope Older Than Feudalism.
- GURPS Supers had an advantage called "Costume", which provided the benefit to superhumans of an outfit that was not harmed by powers and changed with shape/size shifters; essentially, it acted as an extension of the character's skin.
- Aberrant has this in addition to the 'Attunement' example above, in the form of a form of living silk-like fibers that bond to the Nova in question called Eufiber.
- In Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey, the "DEMOuntable Next Integrated Capability Armor" (or Demonica) is a Latex Space Suit (plus bulky helmet and optional magazine/field equipment vest) that protects regular humans from the unbelievably hostile environment of the Schwarzwelt. In fact, when you earn experience, you don't level up, the Demonica does --which means, the suit is the one responding to enemy attacks, adapting to become more resistant as it's exposed to more dangerous foes and magic. Strip an endgame-level human of the suit, and he's just as squishy and vulnerable as when he started the mission.
- In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, biofiber is an artificial multi-cellular colony organism that tends to grow in a film only two cells thick. The resulting "fabric" is extremely tough for its weight and will accept dyes of a specific formulation only. Biofiber possesses a small measure of cellular mobility, making a tight-fitting garment of biofiber self-fitting to a certain extent, and its natural biological defenses mean that in large part its self-cleaning. However, it is the fabric's interaction with the exotic metabolisms of metahumans that make it truly amazing. After a short period of acclimation, biofiber adapts to energetic or metamorphic powers. Thus, a costume made of bio-fiber can stretch, grow, or shrink with its wearer, and will not be incinerated, frozen, or otherwise harmed by the energetic emissions projected by its wearer.
- The provided image is from the Fleischer Studios Superman Theatrical Cartoon "The Mechanical Monsters". In context, the scene has Supes just saving Lois from being dipped in molten lead, only for the mad scientist of the short to pour a whole vat of the stuff to try and kill them both--cue Superman saving Lois by using his cape to deflect it.
- In one episode Gargoyles, Dingo makes friends with a grey goo entity made of nanobots, and it decides to fuse itself with his power armor. From then on he wears armor-shaped grey goo instead of actual armor, and it retains its intelligence and amazing abilities.
- Spider-Man's costume is apparently more prone to rips than most, but still keeps his ability to cling to walls. A sub-example is some artists being picky enough to suggest while his ability to cling works through a skintight costume, this shouldn't work if he's wearing shoes.
- The black outfit Spidey wore at one point takes this trope's name literally, mostly because it really is more organic.
- Some superhuman characters prove their strength by surviving infernos that would have disintegrated lesser men. While this sometimes destroys the clothes, more often it doesn't.
- When the Ultimate Marvel counterpart of Giant-Man grows, he winds up naked, and his 60-foot costume was confiscated when he left the Ultimates, leading to embarrassing publicity when he has to grow in public during an unsanctioned rescue attempt. Oddly enough, when Wasp later has to become a giant, her costume grows with her.
- Hancock. The titular character is constantly suffering Clothing Damage, which is realistic, he's invulnerable, and his clothes aren't. However, when Ray supplies him with his costume, the leather is never shown to take any damage. Presumably, based on Hancock's own comments about how tight it is, he has a "force-field" similar to Superman's.
- Harry Dresden has to regularly spell his duster to keep it bullet/claw/fire/etc-proof. It comes with all sorts of cool side effects - you can clean slime off it by throwing it in a fire and then peeling the hardend slime off, it can shrug off most conventional attacks, it's waterproof because of the kinetic defenses, but it still breathes. Sufficiently advanced technology, his ass. Most of his accessories have also been known to be spelled - including a bear amulet with stored energy, his original kinetic ring, and his ten newer triple-linked kinetic rings. He's griped that he doesn't have the skill or money for the materials to make the enchantments more permanent, as some of the Senior Council does.
- In Changes, Lea amps Harry's defenses up significantly, to his slight chagrin and awe. During the ensuing battle, it takes so much damage that when the enchantments wear off (at noon - she's a fairy godmother from Winter , after all), the whole thing collapses into shreds.
- Mutants & Masterminds runs mainly on the Rule of Fun, thereby neatly absorbing this trope, although a possible alternative rule is to allow characters to have a typical 'indestructible' costume for one equipment point (since Mutants & Masterminds works on point buy and one character point will buy 5 small pieces of equipment, such as a mobile phone or handcuffs).
Anime and Manga
- Usually averted in anime, but mainly due to the fact that it makes room for Fan Service.
- Example: in Busou Renkin, the alchemic warrior Ikusabe's spear Gekisen allows him to instantly regenerate any injury, even one that completely disintegrates his body. This regeneration does not, however, extend to his clothes, with the end result that Ikusabe usually ends up fighting completely naked after being blown up a couple of times.
- In Utawarerumono Karura quickly breaks any normal sword she is given. Since this is anime the solution is to get a BFS.
- Completely averted in Claymore, where it isn't rare to have a Claymore walking barefoot and or with a broken armor because, unlike the titular warrior their equipment doesn't regenerate or stretch. Played straight and justified with their sword.
- Mixed usage in Dragon Ball, sometimes a big beam attack damages clothing, and sometimes it doesn't. Notable instance in Goku's first fight with Vegeta, Goku's shirt is burned off by an energy blast from the former, yet latter in the fight, Vegeta's armor doesn't have any damage from him taking a planet destroying energy blast, but later shows that it can be cut with an ordinary katana.
- A common exception is Wolverine. His healing ability lets him recover from things that melt his skin off (such as orbital re-entry in one Joss Whedon issue), but his costume stays gone. A recent issue saw him take a nuclear blast from Nitro at ground zero; he recovered in short order despite being reduced to a skeleton, but he had to spend the entire next issue fighting in the buff.
- This one goes back almost to the very beginning of his existence - one of the earliest issues of X-Men he appeared in had him blasted by a fireball that burned off most of his clothes and roasted him. So he beat the crap out of the nearest Mook and stole his outfit.
- This happened in the Star Wars book I, Jedi, when the titular Jedi is caught in a massive firestorm of explosives. He just absorbs all the energy, and his lightsaber is made of sterner stuff than most objects, but nothing is left of his clothes except a distinctive smell.
- Nigh Invulnerable Fairchild of Gen 13 often finds her costume shredded by attacks, with a good deal of Fan Service resulting, as well as the occasional Lampshade.
- She Hulk has often been the butt of this trope's joke. There is a partial handwave in that much of her clothing is made of unstable molecules or is "approved by the Comics Code Authority" (for modesty purposes) however she often loses items of clothing that she is fond of during fights. Her shoes are a full handwave, however. A 6'7" woman with a body weight of close to 700 pounds needs some nigh-indestructible Jimmy Choo's. Hers are made with Adamantium heels.
- Superboy (Kon-El) originally had his tactile telekinesis protect his clothes, but in recent years as he grew more and more into his Kryptonian powers, he relied less on it and more on natural invulnerability. This, coupled with the fact that his last costume was just a t-shirt and jeans led to rips and tears. In a relatively recent story arc in Action Comics (written by Chuck Austen, but let's forget that part), this trope was subverted entirely by Kon hilariously losing bits of clothing as he progressed through a fight with a ton of Superman villains, from battle damage (tearing, napalm, an exploding gas tanker...) It ended with him wearing only his underwear. (Apparently, he's a briefs man).
- Subverting this trope for the sake of Fan Service is pretty much the whole point of Empowered. The titular heroine's costume seems to be about as durable as wet tissue, and her main weakness is the loss of powers as she accrues Clothing Damage. Played with in that the actual durability of her suit is linked directly to her pysche. The less willpower she has, the weaker her costume and powers become, which makes for an unfortunate catch-22 when her self esteem is already so low.
- With Strings Attached has the total subversion of Paul. After being turned to diamond, blown up, and reformed with Super Strength, he completely shreds his clothing as he thrashes around trying to contain himself. Later, after he's shed most of his power but is still extremely strong, he attempts to put on clothing and destroys it in the process. He has to be taught an illusion spell to clothe himself—which turns out to have unexpected utility later, as it lets him turn himself invisible too.
- In the Fantastic Four movie, a lot of attention is paid to how:
- A. Johnny keeps burning up his clothes (and anything else he comes in contact with);
- B. Sue can only turn herself and her super-suit invisible, and
- C. Ben keeps breaking things, not yet used to his strength (early in the movie, he shatters a glass while trying to have a drink. Later, he's shown using a metal cup...and ends up smashing his date's drink when he tries to toast.)
- Partially subverted in Superman Returns: early in the movie, Superman tries to stop a passenger plane that's spinning out of control, but he ends up ripping its wings off instead. The trope returns quickly, though, because he carries the wingless plane down by its nose, and then somehow places it on the ground right-side up (still holding it by the nose) without breaking the plane or the bones of any of its passengers.
- Averted in Beowulf, where the hero's prodigious strength pretty much means that no conventional sword really gives him much of a benefit. When battling the dragon at the end of his saga, Beowulf's great strength actually shatters his sword.
Live Action TV
- Zig Zagged on Smallville. Clark got thrown into a furnace once and emerged completely in the buff, but then later his clothes are shown surviving exploding buildings.
- World of Warcraft has no problem letting you dive into lava with a bag full of paper notes, fur armor and a wooden staff. As long as you get out before the lava kills you, there's no economic hardship, and even if it does take you out, the worst you have to pay for is repairs for the armor.
- Not to mention you pay the same cost for repairs (10% of all your equipped items durability) regardless of how you died (lava, falling, being mauled by wildlife).
- Subverted in Batman: Arkham Asylum where during the course of the game, Bats suit gets tears and rips as the player passes certain scripted areas, a few examples are when Harley Quinn drops an elevator on him, and when Batman is thrown back by an exploding safe (these are cinematics but it also occurs during portions of the gameplay).
- Subverted in Nox. If you don't take care of your weapons and armor, they will break. If take your armor off and leave it on the lava, it won't sink, it'll just quickly lose vitality, then break. There are only really three types of items that never break: potions (despite being made of glass), the clothes that came from PC's home world with him and the Cosmic Keystone.
- Pretty much every Final Fantasy character. The Ribbon you're wearing to protect from status ailments isn't so much as scratched by a ten-foot iron meteor dropping on you.
- An especially egregious example is the duel of Cloud and Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. The duelists slice sections of skyscraper in two, or tear them to pieces, but their swords themselves survive the impact. Granted, Cloud's sword has to be over 30-50 pounds of solid, fine steel, but his opponent is using a long, thin katana! Then again, Katanas Are Just Better...
- At least 400 pounds if you calculate with the density of iron. Most steel alloys are similar.
- Considering that Sephiroth's sword apparently was summoned out of sheer will (despite turning "back" into the other guys dual blade katana which was dropped before the transformation) he might be able to will it not to break. Both the Buster Sword and Masamune were of course made with superhumanly strong soldier candidates as the intended users, presumably they are both steel-handwaveium alloys. Not to mention that Word of God says that Rule of Cool counts for all the fight scenes. And it should be noted that in the Director's Cut "Advent Children Complete" that Cloud suffers a good deal of Clothing Damage during his extended fight with Sephiroth.
- Pretty much every First-Person Shooter, where despite being shot at and surviving missiles, mines, and all forms of deadly explosions, then healing, they never seen to damage their clothes.
- Especially Egregious in Bioshock 2, in which for the entire game you wear a watertight diving suit. No matter what happens, it never stops being watertight. Of course, big daddies are made by melding the subject's insides to the armor itself, if they weren't made to endure what rapture dishes out, they'd probably spill out like soup if they ever got gashed enough.
- Averted in Doom (and just about any FPS which includes armour as an item) which has armour shards (basically a piece of bullet resistant material which can be slid into "pockets" on a protective jacket and replaced when damaged) and full suits of body armour as a pickups. Implying that at least the Player Character is suffering Clothing Damage to some equipment.
- Nethack is a prime counter-example. Unless your precious magic scrolls are in a waterproof bag, they will be destroyed when you get wet.
- While your potions turn to water. Note that both of these facts can prove to be useful.
- Also, if not properly protected, cold will freeze your potions, shattering the bottles, fire will burn your scrolls, boil your potions and damage cloth/wood equipment, and lightning can explode your magic rings/wands (causing extra damage), and so on. Best to invest in a cloak with good Magic Cancellation promptly.
- Angband (and its variants) also has item damage, though with a slightly simpler model. Actually, most roguelikes probably avert this trope.
- In the T-O-M-E variant, using various area effect spells to get rid of anything lesser than an ego/artifact level item is a very efficient method to deal with the increasingly high number of item you'd consider worthless as you level up.
- While your potions turn to water. Note that both of these facts can prove to be useful.
- The game Area 51 is an FPS, and therefore you can't look at your character during gameplay. By the end of the game, it's shown that the originally pristine environmental suit is now mostly shredded and destroyed, with large sections missing.
- Subverted in Samurai Jack, the titular character's clothing is extremely prone to damage, as it's the closest thing the animation get have to him getting shoot or slashed.