So common (and annoying) is this phenomenon that I bet before I ever start to explain, you know exactly what I mean. A character who has a power from an outside source, say, a machine, at some point "internalizes" the power and doesn't need the outside power source any more.
We've all read, "On my first outings, I had to rely on my 'soap-bubble belt' for my amazing bubble powers. But now I've discovered that, probably as a result of constant exposure to its bubble emanations or the otherwise fatally toxic chemicals it uses, I have internalized my amazing bubble powers!" Or words to that effect.
Translation? "My reliance on an external gimmick for my power rendered me too vulnerable, so my new writer decided to make things easier on himself by giving me the power directly without further explanation."
The classic example is Black Lightning. Had a belt that gave him electricky powers. The belt gets blown up or he forgets to take it out of his pants and his mother accidently sends it throught the laundy; no more zappy belt (replaced by a Sears bill for a new washing machine). But THEN, through the authorial magic of power internalization, he discovered he could generate electricity without the belt. How lovely!
Almost without exception, power internalizations are introduced quickly, like pulling off a band-aid. One world balloon, later, and we the readers can forget the original power device (indeed, we are encouraged to). No writer wants to dwell on "power internalization", for the obvious reason that it strains our credulity; better to move along quickly!
As a result of this need to press on, characters who experience power internalizations always take it both well and casually. It's always, "Now I can't wait to take on my archnemesis, Captain Plaster!". It's never, "What the !@#%!!??!?! I've become a freak, good lord I'm going to die, I need a doctor, now, now, NOW!!!!"
You probably think I'm being silly. You're probably thinking, "Well, who wouldn't be suddenly overjoyed at finding themselves blessed with a superpower?" Uh-huh. That just shows how deeply comic book conventions have imbedded themselves in your thinking. If you were suddenly able to receive television signals directly into your brain or to brown bread just by your presence, would you think, "Gosh, constant exposure to tv/toaster emanations has allowed me to internalize their powers! I can't wait to show the wife!"? I doubt it.
Power internalization is a favorite trick of second generation characters. The Icicle 1 had a cold gun (whoever has the patent on those in the DCU is making a fortune). His son, the Icicle 2, has internalized the cold-making power (due to exposure in utero to the "emanations" from the cold gun; no, really). The original Spellbinder used machinery to disorient foes; the new Spellbinder has the power internally (through a nice "clean" plot device: Neron). The first Quantum Kid (the pompous jerk) used a belt to generate his quantum fields; the second Quantum Kid, his sister, internalized the power (through a series of dangerous experiments, if I recall correctly).
Some characters seem happily immune to the phenomenon. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to work in Keystone or Central City at all, where gadgets and gimmicks are still the thing. Except for Replicant. Remember him? No, neither do I.
Power internalization also happens sometimes when a character moves from one medium to another. In comic books, Mr. Freeze uses a freeze ray; on "The Batman" he generates cold himself. Most famously, when Spiderman went to the big screen, the writers said to themselves, well, if he got all those other powers from the spider why wouldn't he get the webbing, too? Thus the 'webshooters' became internalized.
What other power internalizations have you noticed? Enjoyed? Condemned?