When Power Armor Makes You a Cyborg

Charlie Jane Anders and Michael Ann Dobbs

There's nothing cooler than power-armor. All of a sudden, your plain human body has a super-strong shell, and you're stronger than an army. But what happens when the armor changes you? Here are a bunch of heroes who found out.

With Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance in theaters in the U.S. right now, we've been discovering first hand how easily you can start out as a regular human — but the moment you put on power armor, things start to change. Something about wearing cybernetic armor starts turning you into a post-human cyborg, and you're changed forever.


(Note: This isn't just a list of regular people who put on power armor and gain some temporary enhancement as a result — it's people who are changed forever. We're also not listing people who are already cyborgs even without their armor, like Motoko Kusanagi or Darth Vader.)

Here are just a few examples — feel free to suggest your own in the comments!

Tony Stark, Iron Man

You could definitely argue that Tony Stark becomes a cyborg the moment he needs his arc reactor in his chest to keep his heart beating. But several times in the comics, Tony's gone a lot further towards cyborg-hood. In particular, in one storyline, Tony gets injected with Extremis, a techno-organic virus that rebuilds Tony's body — and gives the ability to link to any computer on Earth. With his upgraded technology, Tony has the Iron Man armor inside his body, until nanobots bring it out of him. Also, in the first storyline of Mighty Avengers, Ultron transforms Tony's armor and re-engineers Tony's body and the armor into a new cyborg body — which looks like a naked Janet Van Dyne, mostly so that Frank Cho can have something sexy to draw.


The player character, Armored Core

In this game, you're a Raven, a mercenary, who pilots a giant mecha in a post-apocalyptic future where two mega-corporations are battling for supremacy. At first, you're just a regular human in a suit of mecha armor. But some special Ravens can enable the "Human-Plus" upgrades, which involve "enhancing the skeletal, nervous and muscular systems of the human." This improves your performance, including enhancements like the ability to fire your shoulder cannon without kneeling. How do you get these amazing upgrades? By failing your missions until your Credit count reaches -50,000. That's right — it's a cybernetic upgrade that you can only get by losing.


Samus, Metroid

The original power-suit videogame eventually went to the cyborg level. By Metroid Fusion, Samus is so integrated with her suit it cannot be removed from her while she's unconscious. At least not without surgery. She also says in the intro to Fusion that the suit can't be removed without her cooperation, because she and the suit have become one entity.


Jeremiah Gottwald, Code Geass

He's an elite pilot of a Knightmare Frame, which is a type of mecha, officially designated as the Humanoid Autonomous Armored Knight. During a battle in the show's first season, he takes on a superior Guren Mk-II armor, which he can't even land a hit on. He's nearly killed, and trapped in his suit's broken escape pod, when he's found by a group of mad scientists who fix his injuries — and experiment on him, giving him a neural interface and a cybernetic left eye. His new implants run all the way up his spine and cover the left side of his body. He manages to escape before the process is complete, stealing a new experimental Knightmare Frame armor.


Doctor Octopus, Spider-Man 2

At first the metal arms are just a harness that Otto Octavius wears. But when the arms fuse to Otto Octavius's spine in the second Spider-Man film, Otto goes from being a poetry quoting romantic to a bank robbing cyborg, controlled by the arms, in the amount of time it takes to reboot your computer.


Steel, 52

Steel, one of the replacement Supermen who stepped up after the O.G. Supes died in The Death Of Superman, uses power armor to kick almost as much ass as Kal-El. For most of his run, Steel is just a regular guy in armor — until Lex Luthor injects him with a techno-organic virus which transforms Steel's own skin into actual metal and gives him powers without the suit. For as long as it lasts. What Lex giveth, Lex also taketh away.


Earthworm Jim, Earthworm Jim

Earthworm Jim is a regular earthworm who a finds himself in a regular Ultra-high-tech-indestructible-super-space-cyber-suit. Which mutates him into a giant, aggressive earthworm, intent on doing battle with evil across the universe.


The Cybermen, Doctor Who

In at least one retconned version of the Cybermen's origins, their shiny metal bodies started out as protective power suits for their human bodies, but eventually the whole species went cyborg.



Minor spoilers ahead... In Evangelion, plain human kids climb inside giant mecha armors, EVAs, and fight "Angels" that come from space to destroy us. But spending so much time inside cybernetic armor that links with these kids neurologically has a heavy cost — and you could argue that wearing neurologically linked armor, like in Appleseed and Bubblegum Crisis, always makes you a cyborg by default. But especially in the second movie — spoiler alert! — we're told over and over again that if Shinji Ikari and the other pilots descend too deep inside an EVA, they will change and become something no longer human. And this keeps happening, with the pilots evolving into something post-human in the process. In the anime series, we eventually learn that the goal is for Shinji to merge with his EVA, and "Shinji's mind will evolve beyond individuality in its merge with his EVA."


Tactical, Johnny Saturn

In this webcomic, the villain Tactical wears power armor just to attack the good guys — but after he suffers a stroke, he's forced to wear his armor all the time, for life support and mobility.


The Guyver, The Guyver

You could argue that just wearing the armor makes Sho Fukamachi and the other wearers instant cyborgs, because they're bonded with the Guyver and become something other than human. The same would go for the Teknomen in Tekkaman Blade, whose bodies contain the System Box crystals that put the armor on them. However, in that case, there's never a moment where they're just regular humans wearing armor, so this is debatable.


Ryo, Project Arms

The anime Project ARMS is full of Alice in Wonderland inspired weapons suits. But these suits, like the Jabberwock, are made up of nanobots. Putting one on means becoming part of the nanobot swarm. Instant cyborg.


Terra, Teen Titans (animated version)

Like her comic counterparts, this version of Terra has power over things like rocks, electricity, ice, etc. But here she is a cute, misguided animated figure who cannot control her powers. Slade, the Titans' archnemesis, gets her to betray the Titans and convinces her that a power suit will help control her powers. Alas, Slade has lied to her, and the suit actually fuses to her nervous system and takes over. A cyborg slave of Slade's, Terra attacks her former friends, the Titans.


Commander Shepard, Mass Effect

This isn't really an example of power armor making someone a cyborg — but it is a hero who wears power armor and then becomes a cyborg by other means. Shepard wears the N7 power armor in the first game, and kicks a lot of ass along the way. But before the start of Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard dies and gets brought back to life... except with a few added enhancements. Because Shepard gets woken up before the reconstruction is complete, he's left with some glowing orange scars, which light up with his cybernetic implants if his alignment is more to the Renegade side. If he goes too far in the Renegade direction, his eyes light up red as well.


Matthew Kane, Quake 4

This is another edge case — Matthew Kane starts out as a regular human wearing power armor, but then he becomes a cyborg for reasons you could argue are unrelated to his power-armor-wearing. He gets captured by the cyborg alien Stroggs, who slice him up and replace bits of him with cybernetic parts. His teammates on Rhino Squad rescue him before the control chip is implanted in him, though.


Thanks to Poormojo, Justin Partridge, Andrew Platt, Andrew Liptak, EldritchGirl, Mathilda Gregory, Kyle Brown Watson, Dr. Dave Goldberg, Girl Nerd, Seanan McGuire, Helene Wecker, Dave Calkins, Tamara Brooks, Stacia Kane, Alex Irvine, Mia Eaton, Brian Huberd, and everybody else who helped with this!

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