In sci-fi and fantasy, overcoming obstacles with realism and subtlety usually isn’t on the menu. For instance, when fictional characters lose limbs, they tend to get prostheses pretty fast. (It’s rare to find congenital amputee characters.) This keeps them from being sidelined for long. These aren’t, however, the kinds that are available to regular people. These artificial limbs are even more useful than the originals and tend to be designed to look cool over what would be functionally feasible in reality. It also makes fans envious that they don’t have robot parts too.
I get the feeling that kids sticking their hands into lawnmowers to become the next Steve Austin make for a more likely Darwin Award than lighting themselves on fire to become the Human Torch. Real life amputees will tell you that fiction makes prosthetics way more glamorous than they really are – we’ll leave it up to you to debate whether fetishization of imaginary artificial limbs shows society is growing more accepting of real life people with prosthetic or it’s insidious ableism. Of course, great strides are being made in making prosthetics more ergonomic, practical, & stylish, so maybe bionic limbs will indeed become the status symbols of the future? Just don’t stick any of your parts into a woodchipper expecting to be tricked out with a superior cybernetic replacement any time soon.
In the meantime, here are the best fake ones.
10) Cherry Darling
There are plenty of characters who have hands replaced with guns (like The Machine Girl’s Gatling gun or Marvel’s Bushwhacker with his flesh-colored gun arm), but how many have guns for legs? Grindhouse: Planet Terror’s Cherry Darling used to be a go-go dancer until mutated Sickos (please don’t dilute the term any further by calling them “zombies”) tore off her leg. Escaping from the infected zone, however, became a much bigger concern than the future of her career. Fortunately her, sometimes-boyfriend, El Wray was able to affix an M4 carbine/M203 grenade launcher to her stump (after using a wooden table leg as a temporary solution). Cherry quickly adapted to having an assault rifle for a leg and retained her go-go spryness to become an improbably nimble murder machine. Even more amazingly absurd is that she’s able to fire her leg weapon without pulling its triggers or even a handwaved cyber-neural connection. Erg,o we just have to make the lateral move of presuming Cherry is a latent psionic who can fire it telekinetically.
9) Trap Jaw
Like most Masters of the Universe characters, Trap Jaw is named for a unique physical characteristic. (I prefer to imagine these are the names on their official Eternian or Etherian birth certificates, MOTU Classics toy bios be damned!) In his case he’s called Trap Jaw because he has half a bear trap for a jaw, yet is not a Nutcracker themed villain. Surprisingly, this is only his second most impressive prosthesis! This patchwork evil minion is kitted out with a multi-purpose robotic arm because why not borrow all of Iron Jaw’s gimmicks? What this industrial cybernetic limb lacks in elegance it makes up in versatility. His action figures are accessorized with hook, laser, and clamp attachments, but the cartoon had almost as broad an array of alternate hands as Batman has tools in his utility belt. Trap Jaw’s got range! He’s like the living Swiss army knife of lackeys, making him MOTU’s cyborg MVP. Meanwhile his competition is best suited to epic games of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
If you can see past Pixar elitism, you’ll find How to Train Your Dragon is a quality cartoon. One of the most surprising bits of the first movie is that its youthful protagonist, Hiccup, loses his foot during the explosive climax. In a shocking turn of events, Hiccup isn’t shown wallowing in teen angst over this misfortune – making him an excellent role model for young amputees; he is instead equipped with a prosthetic foot by Gobber (who has a primative pegleg and a variety of interchangeable hands). In the sequel, Hiccup has augmented his new foot so he can easily switch between walking and flying with his dragon, Toothless. (This adaptable leg is a tremendous engineering feat for ancient Vikings that talk like Americans or Scots depending upon their age bracket). Now he and Toothless, who has a prosthetic tail fin constructed by Hiccup, really epitomize the old joke about pets and their owners looking alike. It’s too bad Hiccup didn’t transfer his inherited village leadership to the much more interested and qualified Astrid, so he could concentrate on being an engineering genius.
7) Imperator Furiosa
The spectacularly named Imperator Furiosa may have an artificial arm that’s futuristic, but it’s not glamorous. Its industrial aesthtetic meshes perfectly with the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max: Fury Road. This arm is all business, just like the woman herself. Of course she’s perfectly capable of taking care of herself without it, as she punched Max Rockatansky in the face with her stump! She even sacrificed her prostheses to kill the inaccurately titled Immortan Joe. Now that she has liberated his former Citadel, she’ll need a replacement iron fist to maintain order. She more than deserves one that’s shiny & chrome!
6) Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker
Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker dubbed his iconic personal weapon THE SATAN CLAW! Never let it be said that HYDRA lacks a flair for the dramatic. Originally the Satan Claw was just a power gauntlet granting him enhanced strength and an electrified touch, but Baron Strucker had the good sense to adapt it into a bionic hand after his real one was destroyed by Nick Fury. It has more general functionality than the specialized weapon hands of Klaw and Grim Reaper. The Satan Claw’s most impressive upgrade was in the dearly departed Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon, where it had the ability to drain the life from others to keep the nonagenarian Strucker rejuvenated. Aside from its badass name, its cherry red angular plating make it a memorable weapon, and it’s so iconic and fun to say that an ersatz version known as the Devil’s Paw made it into an issue of Planetary. So naturally, Avengers: Age of Ultron gave us a nifty sequence pitting Captain America’s shield against Von Strucker’s Satan Claw, right? Damn it, Whedon!
Rarely do we see characters with prostheses that incorporate real world functionality over sexy aesthetics. Rather than invent fantasy prostheses that just look like shiny biological limbs, the assassin Gazelle specifically has realistic yet inorganic looking paralympian legs. (In a tragic case of life imitating art, the character in The Secret Service comic was inspired by Paralympian Oscar “Blade Runner” Pistorious, before he killed Reeva Steenkamp.) Of course most paralympians don’t have swords in their prostheses, but you get the idea. Gazelle’s sword legs appear to have been forged by Hattori Hanzo, because they slice gracefully through anything like butter. Nothing about the delightfully over-the-top Kingsman: The Secret Service broke my suspension of disbelief like the most lethally agile character losing a kick fight just because she wasn’t the protagonist.
4) General Grievous
I wanted to put somebody on here from Star Wars, as the Skywalker boys are some of the most high profile amputees in popular culture. (Do NOT slice off your son’s hand as a family bonding strategy!) I didn’t include Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker, however, because their bionic replacements are missing some pizzazz. They’d be top tier if they existed in real life, but they don’t stand out against the wide field of fictional completion (my brainstorming list was pretty lengthy). So instead I’ll going with the dark horse choice of General Grievous. Contrary to first impressions that he’s 100% robotic, he counts because he still has his original brain, eyes, and smoker’s lungs.
He used to be Kaleesh general Qymaen jai Sheelal before the Separatists made him more man than machine (providing that EU continuity tidbit survived the Disney purge). His robot arms can bifurcate into four independent limbs, which is an unique enhancement since he only had two natural ones. They’re even coordinated to twirl lightsabers around at ridiculously unsafe speeds because they came with a “doctor, can I play the piano?” upgrade. He also received giant talon feet for walking up walls and ceilings. So getting cyborg parts turned General Grievous from what would’ve been another background alien to another fantastic antagonist who was unceremoniously wasted onscreen.
Aquaman losing his hand is a huge deal because he’d been a largely unchanged flagship character for decades rather than a character designed to be handicapped. Shortly after the Zero Hour soft reboot, Aquaman got his hand chewed off by piranhas whilst his fish telepathy was negated. (The Justice League cartoon gave a more heroic explanation with Aquaman cutting off his own hand to rescue his baby from a deathtrap, a.k.a. pulling a KGBeast.) An understandably grumpy Aquaman affixed a harpoon tip to his stump because the ’90s were literally edgy.
This was then replaced by a liquid metal cybernetic hook crafted by STAR Labs. It could launch off on a prehensile filament, spin like a drill, and reshape itself into a golden hand like a less decorative Jaime Lannister. The Lady of the Lake later gave him a magical hand made of water instead of a sword, which gave him additional powers of hydrokinesis, healing, and extradimensional portals. Unlike most gimmicky changes from this era, this development seemed like it could be a permanent status quo. Then Aquaman was resurrected for Brightest Day with two hands. Black Manta lopped the other one off but it was reattached immediately just to troll readers. Outrageous! Jason Momoa’s cinematic Aquaman looks to be inspired by the ’90s version, however, so maybe the golden harpoon hand will be making a multimedia comeback.
Evil got into Ashley J. Williams’s hand and he had to amputate it with a chainsaw to keep it from metastasizing. Then he literally single-handedly modified the chainsaw to attach over his fresh stump. That’s even more impressive considering the massive blood loss, lack of painkillers, and the high anxiety caused by the ultimate experience in grueling horror. It turns out having a gas chainsaw for a hand is really helpful in dealing with Deadites and Candarian demons, and it’s specially balanced to couple to his stump when tossed to him in mid-leap.
When Ash was transported to the Dark Ages, he built himself a fully articulated metal hand from a knight’s gauntlet with the aid of some primitive screwheads. It was so sophisticated that it’s still anachronistic when he returns to his own time to work in the housewares department of S-Mart. Sadly neither his robo-hand nor S-Mart made it into Ash Vs. Evil Dead due to licensing issues, but hand-carved Italian rosewood is way classier than expected of this blue-collar Tony Stark. Fortunately Ash kept his chainsaw paw in working order after thirty years. Groovy!
During the worst Take Your Kid to Work Day ever, Victor Stone was seriously mutilated by a gelatinous alien his parents accidentally teleported into STAR Labs. To save his life, his father grafted silver cybernetics into him, much to his son’s initial horror. Unlike most of the other characters listed here, his stories didn’t skimp on him adjusting to his new limbs and how the world reacts to him. After being dumped by his girlfriend and banned from football for having an unfair mechanical advantage, Cyborg found acceptance with the Teen Titans and Justice League. His primary feature is transforming his hands into a sonic amplifier with more diversified settings than a sonic screwdriver, although periodic upgrades have expanded his mechanical body’s functionality like technopathy and technomorphing.
I wouldn’t be surprised if his legs were programmed to beat Jean-Claude Van Damme at kickboxing as well. He’s even gotglowing red replacement eyes that can see in more wavelengths than a regular one. At the climax of Trinity War, his robotic parts tore themselves out of his organic body to become a supervillain named Grid – not having to deal with nightmarish situations like that is an upside to real world cybernetics being far less sophisticated. He improbably got better and now headlines his own ongoing series. Victor Stone has overcome his personal tragedy to become a superhero, although he still struggles with having one of the most generic codenames he could possibly get.