Superpower Silly Putty

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From the diary of James Bartholomew Olsen:

"Dear Diary,
I became Turtle Boy today. I was better than last time; I only fell on my shell once and a nice man was there to flip me over. I don't know quite what set it off -- the radioactive meteorite I was investigating or that mystical talisman my girlfriend gave me.
It was certainly better than yesterday: a combination of Omega Radiation and a kryptonite candle turned me into Melting Lad. I really don't understand how melting is a superpower, but I was a puddle for half the day. Superman had to use his super-sculpting skills to put my atomic structure back together. I have to remember to get him something good for his birthday. Maybe a tie?
Well, tomorrow is a new day. Let's hope I don't get any more weird or wacky powers -- I don't know how much I can handle, to be honest. It's never just super-strength or flight, it's always something weird, like lycanthropy or becoming super-fat (again, how is that a superpower?).
Tomorrow looks to be better, though, diary. I only have one assignment with Ms. Lane: to photograph STAR Labs' new particle decelerator. Here's hoping there are no mishaps.
Until tomorrow,

Where an Unfazed Everyman is a normal person surrounded by weirdness, but who stays normal nonetheless, Superpower Silly Putty is a Sister Trope describing someone who is transformed by the weirdness. Numerous times. They never keep the powers, however; the sap always manages to lose them just as they're getting used to them. Don't expect 'em to know exactly how to use them during the duration, either.

This trope was one of the hallmarks of the Silver Age of comics, and is pretty much a Dead Horse Trope in that genre by now.

A subtrope of Superpowers for A Day. Not to be confused with Plastic Man, a literal Silly Putty superhero.

Examples of Superpower Silly Putty include:

Comic Books

  • As mentioned above, this was a frequent trope employed by DC Comics during the Silver Age of Comic Books, and became much less common as the genre transitioned to the Bronze Age. For the most part, it stopped being played straight well into the post-Final Crisis era.
  • The arguable poster boy (and definite provider of the page image) is Jimmy Olsen, who has had and lost so many superpowers, there is an entire collection called The Many Transformations of Jimmy Olsen.
    • In the Elseworld story The Nail Jimmy Olsen is the aide of Metropolis Mayor Lex Luthor because he has extensive experience of Meta-Human affairs due to his numerous transformations. Deconstructed when it is revealed that without Superman as his best friend, the transformations have driven him insane. And then Luthor used him as a guinea pig for grafting Kryptonian DNA to a human body. One short With Great Power Comes Great Insanity later and Olsen is the Big Bad, using Luthor as a Brainwashed puppet to bring down anyone who might be a threat to his dream of "New Krypton".
    • One comic (a lead-up to the New Krypton story) suggests Jimmy has had this happen to him so many times that it's made his mind impossible to read. Jimmy himself figures it out while being chased by a mind reading assassin. Long story.
    • And in Countdown to Final Crisis, Jimmy starts cycling through all his powers, and decides now's his moment to become a superhero: Mr. Action.
  • Lana Lang also fell into this a lot in the Silver Age. So did Lois Lane. In fact, on, the sheer amount of Silver Age Superman stories where either Jimmy, Lois or Lana get superpowers is the most frequent Running Gag.
  • Silver Age Batman was either getting a superpower or experiencing a bizarre transformation (alien, genie, giant, merman, etc) every month. It would always Snap Back at the end of the story.
    • It still happens every now and then. There's even an Elseworld based on Bruce Wayne becoming a Green Lantern. (Or a pirate, or a knight...)
    • And according to Grant Morrison, every single wacky Silver Age transformation is now canon... albeit with most of them retconned into being hallucinations brought about by a sensory deprivation experiment, or by the many chemical weapons Batman's rogues tend to use.
  • Rick Jones, the sidekick to the entire Marvel Universe.

Western Animation