This is a setting where there are no Stock Superpowers
of any kind, or are at least highly
limited, and one or more characters decide to don a costume and fight crime. Yep, right out the gate there's a huge amount of Wrong Genre Savvy
applying, since these settings are usually Like Reality Unless Noted
, so muggers will shoot at you and the police will be more interested in arresting you than putting up a Bat Signal
on the roof.
There's usually something very dysfunctional about these (super?) heroes. They seem to have a combination of a deficiency of social skills, a Dark and Troubled Past
and/or a deep desire to feel special and help others. Seriously. There is rarely a real life superhero character who doesn't
have some hugely defining trait of this kind, otherwise why would they put on that shiny Spandex, Latex, or Leather
? These settings usually have very human component to these stories, since it's the flawed would be super driving it with a Tragic Dream
This genre is rarely PG, not least because these characters also rarely
have any formal combat training. So yeah. There's usually a good chunk of the film where they get their asses kicked until they get combat training or serious.
Another nasty side effect of this it's usually nigh impossible to enforce Non-Lethal Warfare
, and a lot
of characters will get gruesomely injured if not killed.
Within the "no powers" limits of this genre there is some leeway. It's possible for there to be a Badass Normal
or someone with Charles Atlas Superpowers
, and anyone with actual combat training is perfectly fine. If the setting does
have superheroes with actual powers, there's usually a distinction between them and these no power, no training, no money
types. The question of Never Be a Hero
is likely to come up.
- In Condorman, the title character is, in reality, a cartoonist and inventor who feels compelled to invent the gadgets his Show Within a Show alter ego uses in the comic (It Makes Sense in Context). He becomes an Ascended Fanboy when the CIA decides to help him make the gadgets real. Seen here.
- The 1980 film Hero at Large, sort of.
- The Dark Knight Saga has normal guys in hokey gear emulating Batman in this manner. Batman is fairly disapproving of it.
- Defendor also plays up the tragic aspect, with the titular character being painfully maladjusted from childhood.
- The Green Hornet film with Seth Rogen and Jason Scott Lee, though in a bit of a twist the Big Bad actually likes the idea and gives himself a supervillain makeover... which deeply reduces his menace and effectiveness.
- Mystery Men: There are a few exceptions power wise. There's a Superman Expy, a guy who can cut guns with his mind, a quasi-invisible guy among others. However, most of the cast have no powers and rely on skills, training, and chutzpah to get by. And a bowling ball possessed by the vengeful spirit of a murdered father. Yeah, it's awesome.
- SUPER deconstructs the trope, with Crimson Bolt and Bolty resorting wrench beatings, guns and knives.
- There was the short-lived television The Cape, where the hero deliberately imitated a known comic book hero by using illusionists' tricks.
- There is apparently a subculture of people who dress up in costumes and do charatable or vigilante activities. Perhaps the best known is Phoenix Jones, but there are many others.