[[quoteright:250:[[WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Batman_the_Animated_Series_logo_9695.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:250:"[[ComicBook/BatmanYearOne Without warning, it comes. Crashing through the window of your study. I have seen it before... somewhere. It frightened me as a boy... frightened me. Yes, father. I shall become a bat]]."]]
->''A cloud of smoke and he appears;\\
The master of surprise;\\
Who's that cunning mind behind;\\
The shadowy disguise?\\
Nobody knows for sure, and bad guys are out of luck.''
--> -- ''WesternAnimation/DarkwingDuck'', "[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=375ENQbru8s Opening Theme]]"

In the dead of night, an innocent's scream pierces through the darkness. The laughter of the wicked echoes through the streets, and with the click of a gun being cocked it seems that evil will take the life of yet another. But, all of a sudden, there is movement in the shadows. The alleys fill with smoke as the silhouette of a mysterious interloper rushes towards the would be murderer. In a moment, the tides turn, as swift and severe punishment is meted out to the unjust. Suddenly finding their life saved, the grateful citizen looks to find their savior, only to find merely a passing shadow, gone just as quick as it appeared.

Yet another tale of the night, a tale that leaves criminals looking over their shoulder in search of the shadowy phantom whose swift justice is as mysterious as it is indomitable. A hero who is always ahead of his quarry, and who never fails to arrive when help is needed, coming from the shadows, using monsters' own fear against them.

The Cowl is TheCape with a dark twist and typically on the cynical side on the SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism. Instead of adventuring in the daylight and showing themselves for the glory of the protected, they stick to the shadows of the night where evil lurks and prey on the fears of their quarry. The Cowl tends to be a NonPoweredCostumedHero, their greatest assets being wit and psychological tactics, but if they do have powers, they tend to be related to darkness or some kind of sufficiently-creepy animal.

See also DarkIsNotEvil and AntiHero. Compare and contrast with TheCape. Sub trope of TerrorHero.

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!!Example:

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[[folder: Anime and Manga ]]

* ''Kaiketsu {{Zorro}}''
* Franchise/{{Batman}} in ''BatmanGothamKnight''.
* [[InvokedTrope Invoked]] in ''CodeGeass'', where Lelouch (who is [[MagnificentBastard definitely]] [[TheChessmaster not]] [[SquishyWizard this]]) tries to play himself up as a combination of The Cowl and The Cape in order to gain public support.
* ''{{Karas}}'', which has some resemblance to Batman.
* ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica'' applies this to {{Magical Girl}}s. This is especially true of Homura, whose mysteriousness and StealthHiBye antics make her Batman-esque even to other magical girls.
** While all the magical girls [[spoiler:with the arguable exception of [[AllLovingHero Madoka]]]] display this to varying extents, the most stark example is [[spoiler: Sayaka, as she is the most clear-cut example of TheCape (with an actual cape) who slides towards this trope as the reality of her idealistic wish bears down on her soul. Then she slides past it into FallenHero when she becomes a Witch. The series spends the most amount of time on her journey.]]
* Kaitou Kid the Phantom Thief from ''Detective Conan'' and '' Magic Kaito'' has a cowl.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* Franchise/{{Batman}} has [[TropeCodifier practically built this trope, or at least the way it is seen now]], but is not the UrExample, and is arguably not exactly the TropeMaker (see Literature, below). The description describes the quintessential BatmanColdOpen, emerging from the shadows and inducing fear in all the criminals his eyes meet. Most examples of the trope nowadays are at least partially influenced by the Dark Knight.
* ComicBook/TheSpirit
* Comicbook/MoonKnight, a rare version that wears all white.
* When ComicStrip/ThePhantom (the name is telling) is after a group of bad guys, there will typically be someone around to tell them about the legend of the Ghost Who Walks, the Man Who Cannot Die. Just when they dismiss it as nonsense, they start noticing members of their group turn up knocked out or having been attacked and questioned by a mysterious masked figure, with an ominous skull symbol (of the Ghost Who Walks!) where they were punched. He always disappears when they go after him, but if they try to victimise an innocent, he will be sure to show up to whisk them away unseen or reveal himself and kick arse. By the time he reveals himself to the last or leading villains, they're liable to be a bunch of nerves. Most good guys he saves will be left wondering who the heck that was (but agreeing that he was awesome).
* [[ComicBook/VForVendetta V]], swishy black cape and all.
* ''Comicbook/{{Spawn}}''. He pulls the trope description off several times, for one.
* {{Franchise/Zorro}}.
* Comicbook/{{Daredevil}}, who is in many ways the closest Marvel analogue to Batman.
* ComicBook/BlackPanther.
* In [[http://johnnysaturn.com/2006/01/18/book-one-page-01/ "Johnny Saturn"]]Johnny Saturn I is clearly a cowl, a street-level avenger who fights organized crime.
* The Revenant in ''ComicBook/PS238''.
* The Confessor from ''ComicBook/AstroCity''.
* TheSpectre is somewhat a subversion. Yes, he's scary, wears a cape and a [[strike:cowl]] hood, chases villains at night, cloaks himself in shadows, makes bad people look over their shoulders and uses their fears against them. He is also one of the most powerful beings in the goddamn universe, and can juggle galaxies with one hand if he feels like it.
* [[CloakAndDagger Cloak]]. Which is to be expected from someone whose name is almost a synonym for this trope.
* In ''ComicBook/{{X-Men}}'', {{Wolverine}} sort of serves as this to Cyclops' TheCape.
* The Terror from Alan Moore's ''ComicBook/TomStrong''.
* Rorschach in ''ComicBook/{{Watchmen}}'' considers himself The Cowl. Many others just see him as a psychopath.
* From ''{{Stormwatch}}'' and ''TheAuthority'', Midnighter, who is so rarely seen out of his cowl that no two artists have ever been able to agree on what colour his hair is (explained away by admitting that he likes to dye his hair). His husband and crime-fighting partner Apollo is very much TheCape.

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[[folder: Film ]]

* Halle Berry's best-forgotten portrayal of ''Film/{{Catwoman}}'' as an AntiHero.
* [[Film/TheMaskOfZorro Zorro]]
* Film/{{Batman}}
* David Dunn from {{Unbreakable}} is an example of this trope applied to a somewhat realistic setting- he wears a cowl-like poncho as part of his "costume", uses violence to save innocents, and has difficult family issues to boot.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Literature ]]

* Radio/TheShadow, which is the other candidate for TropeMaker of the modern version of this trope.
* Pulp magazine characters inspired by Radio/TheShadow:
** ''TheSpider''
** [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Phantom_Detective The Phantom Detective]]
** ''Literature/TheAvenger''.
* {{Zorro}}, [[OlderThanTheyThink who was a main influence to the creation of Batman]].
* in ''Literature/TalesOfAnMazingGirl'' NightHawk, The flame and Knife Girl are all this-and all seem to be very diffrent examples of this from A street Level Bruiser, to a Masked Avenger to a Demonic Presence.
* Franchise/{{Batman}}, in many prose books and movie novelizations.
* Creator/PhilipPullman's ''Spring-Heeled Jack'' is described as "Batman in VictorianBritain", and it suits.
* The Opera Ghost in Creator/TerryPratchett's ''Discworld/{{Maskerade}}'', while mostly a parody of, well, [[ThePhantomOfTheOpera exactly who you'd expect]], has a brief scene where he takes down a gang of muggers in a very Cowl-esque way.
* [[SoonIWillBeInvincible Blackwolf]].
* Though a villainous example, the appropriately-named Cowl in ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'' believes he is one of these.
* [=NightHaunt=], in ''Literature/InHeroYearsImDead''. [[spoiler:Too bad, he's also the BigBad]]
* Dr Shade in Creator/KimNewman's fiction. A British CaptainErsatz of Radio/TheShadow, he's so mysterious that the closest he's come to appearing in a story is as a spirit based on a fictional character in "The Original Doctor Shade". In settings where he's real (such as the ''Literature/DiogenesClub'' series... [[BroadStrokes usually]]), he is [[TheGhost only referenced]], often as someone the Diogenes heroes really don't want involved, because it'll lead to a lot of dead people and no real answers.
* Stealth from ''Literature/ExHeroes''.
* Barry Reese's new pulp hero The Rook is one of these. Unsurprising, as he's a deliberate homage to characters like The Shadow, The Spider and The Phantom Detective discussed above.
** Indeed, many pulp-throwback novels will feature variants of The Cowl as the protagonist, such as Chuck Miller's Black Centipede or PJ Lozito's Silver Manticore.
* Anita and Edward from ''Literature/AnitaBlake'' can make all minor and most moderate supernaturals shit bricks by simple introduction. Well, they have probably the highest body count of all kill..., ergh, executioners of preternatural criminals.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* ''{{Buffyverse}}'':
** Angel in early episodes of ''Buffy'' and his own series. At least in spirit since his wardrobe is more of a BadassLongcoat
** Subverted in the final season, when [[spoiler: he tries to pull this only for his security team to show up and the person he saved being asked to sign a form attesting that she had been saved by Angel, CEO of Wolfram and Hart, and they turned it into a photo op. He didn't try again.]]
** Subverted on other occasions as well. At one point, he leapt heroically into the wrong car. ("City Of...")
* An in-universe comic book cast the mysterious mass-murderer Series/{{Dexter}} as one of these: The "Dark Defender".
* {{Zorro}}
* Series/{{Batman}}
* [[Series/JackOfAllTrades The Daring Dragoon]], being pretty heavily based on Zorro after all.
* [[TheCape Ironically]], Series/TheCape.
** Justified. He used to be a ByTheBookCop until the BigBad framed him, forcing the cop to fake his death. After being trained by carnies to use the titular cape and other magician tricks, he is forced to stay in the shadows and mostly comes out at night. He even has a VoiceWithAnInternetConnection ([[spoiler:the BigBad's daughter with daddy issues]]). Meanwhile, the BigBad is one of the most respected and powerful men in the city. In fact, when another villain tried to out him in the middle of a high society event, they just [[CassandraTruth laughed at him]].
* Spanish TV show ''Series/AguilaRoja'' (Red Eagle) set in 17th century Spain.
* In {{Smallville}}, GreenArrow is the Cowl to Clark's [[TheCape Cape]].
** In the episode ''Vengeance'', Andrea Rojas aka "the Angel of Vengeance". Unlike GreenArrow, who was a recurring character before becoming a main character, she only appeared in one episode.
** And now GreenArrow in Arrow, to a much greater extent.
* John Reese of PersonOfInterest.

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[[folder: Professional Wrestling ]]

* [[{{TNA}} Suicide]] dresses in full-body spandex, appears out of nowhere to save people with violence, goes on and on about his dark and mysterious past... despite not being billed as a SuperHero, he's probably the purest example of The Cowl in wrestling history.
* [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Zorro_(wrestler) El Zorro]], who worked the masked wrestler gimmick for a number of years.
* TheUndertaker can have shades of this, as a face at least. Normally when he does save someone it's because he's feuding with the other wrestler. He can appear suddenly after the lights in the arena go black for a few seconds and come back on again to the sound of his gong.
* [[{{TNA}} Sting]] also has shades of this following his change from Malibu Sting to Crow Sting- the black clothing, billowing trenchcoat, sudden dramatic appearances (either suddenly after the arena lights go out, or descending from the rafters in Batman-like fashion) and general DarkIsNotEvil aesthetic definitely evoke this trope.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Radio ]]

* Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Radio/TheShadow knows!
* RedPandaAdventures
* {{Zorro}}
* Franchise/{{Batman}}

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Tabletop Games ]]

* ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}''[='s=] backstory has two, both Primarchs. Corvus Corax ended up leading the miners of his homeworld in an insurgency against their overlords, and passed on those skills of stealth and asymmetrical warfare when he was given command of the Raven Guard legion, resulting in an army of uncannily sneaky hulking [[PowerArmor armored]] {{Super Soldier}}s. Konrad Kurze, aka the Night Haunter, is a darker take on Batman - he turned his WretchedHive home planet into a law-abiding community by personally hunting down and butchering every criminal on it, uniting the populace in mortal terror. ''His'' legion went renegade, and today the NightLords are among the most [[TheDreaded dreaded]] foes the Imperium faces.
* Both DC and Marvel have released role playing and table top games based off their comics, so yes, it is possible to play as Franchise/{{Batman}}.
* Further, there was a Zorro RPG released by Gold Rush Games.
* The ''FreedomCity'' setting for ''MutantsAndMasterminds'' has The Raven, and his daughter, Raven II, homages to Batman and The Huntress, respectively.
** And Graywing (GoldenAge Batman), Black Wing I (SilverAge Batman) and Black Wing II (ModernAge Batman/Nightwing) in the ''HaltEvilDoer!'' setting for same.
* {{Champions}} has the [[DarkerAndEdgier Dark Champions]] setting with extensive rules and suggestions for building street-level super heroes.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Video Games ]]

* Garrett from the ''VideoGame/{{Thief}}'' series.
* ''[[LegoAdaptationGame Lego Batman]]''
* ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamAsylum''
** Taken further in the sequel ''[[VideoGame/BatmanArkhamCity Arkham City]]'', particularly in the side mission which essentially allows you to do a variation of the trope description by swooping in to save innocent people being threatened by thugs and then swooping away again once the bad guy's been taken down.
* Tombstone in FreedomForce.
* You can play this character archetype in CityOfHeroes.
* There was a {{Zorro}} game as well.
* Both Altair and Ezio from the ''Franchise/AssassinsCreed'' games have elements of this, albeit in a period setting. While primarily assassins (albeit, ones with heroic motivations and objectives), both are also acute sufferers of ChronicHeroSyndrome, and have no problem dealing with city guards assaulting young women/psycho's threatening to slice up the local prostitutes etc. Both even wear cowls as part of their costumes.
** Later protagonists Connor and Edward Kenway have some of the same elements (both are cowl-clad heroes who use stealthy tactics), but don't really match the trope completely due to their adventures generally not taking place in the sort of shadowy urban setting typical of TheCowl.
* In ''AceAttorney'' the newspaper artist's depiction of the Yatagarasu is a shadowy cowled figure. The real Yatagarasu looks nothing like this. [[spoiler: For one, there's [[CollectiveIdentity three of them.]]]]
* Yuri Lowell in ''VideoGame/TalesOfVesperia'.
* Garrus Vakarian in ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'', who in the two years between the games have become their universe's equivalent of ''Franchise/{{Batman}}'', as a vigilante on [[WretchedHive Omega]] known as "Archangel". [[TheCape Paragon Shepard]] can curb the more extreme tendencies he's picked up, during his loyalty mission, pointing out that Garrus is very close to [[HeWhoFightsMonsters becoming one the monsters he's fighting.]]
* A [[AntiHero "good"]] player character in ''VampireTheMasqueradeBloodlines'' can assume this role (which is probably a good idea if that [[HorrifyingHero character]] also happens to belong to [[LooksLikeOrlok Clan Nosferatu]]).

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Web Original ]]

* From the ''GlobalGuardiansPBEMUniverse'': Achilles, leader of the Global Guardians. Battlecat and his daughter, Lynx, in New Orleans. The Nightwatchman in Boston. El Buho in Mexico City.
* [[spoiler:[[RunningGag Batman]]]] in TheJokerBlogs.
* Warden from the [[WebOriginal/AcademyOfSuperheroes ASH Universe]].

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* WesternAnimation/DarkwingDuck, as the page quote shows, though, unlike most examples of this trope, despite being shadowy and mysterious he is also a teensy bit of a glory hound. Though he's a AffectionateParody of this concept anyway.
** When he says LetsGetDangerous, the trope becomes ''very'' real for the bad guys.
* ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'' spoofed this in an episode where Cartman becomes a vigilante called The Coon but no one pays attention to anything he does. Played semi-straight with The Coon's UnknownRival, Mysterion.
* Monkey Man in ''HeyArnold'' is a comedic example of this.
* An episode of ''The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh'' centered on Tigger calling himself the "Masked Offender", a ScrewySquirrel parody (though he initially fails to recognize it) of an adventure novel featuring a straight example called the "Masked Avenger". When he's outed as the "Masked Offender" thanks to a BatmanGambit concocted by Rabbit, he retires out of shame, but when real danger looms over the others, he comes back into action and genuinely saves the day.
* "Catman" in ''TheFairlyOddparents'' is another obvious parody. They even hired Adam West to do the voice.
* One episode of Disney's ''Disney/{{Hercules}}'' featured Theseus as The Cowl, in contrast with Herc being TheCape.
* {{Zorro}} [[RunningGag again]]. He's had at least four {{animated adaptation}}s, five if you count the RecycledInSpace version.
* Franchise/{{Batman}} in some of his animated incarnations.
** Going meta, ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'' had the tv show character "The Gray Ghost", voiced by [[AdamWesting Adam West]]. Since he was clearly inspired by The Shadow (a major inspiration for Batman), he probably counts.
* After having to retire from the KidsNextDoor due to a technicality, Tommy begins to dress like Radio/TheShadow and attempts to reinvent himself as one of these.
* Subverted with the Blue Spirit [[spoiler:(Zuko)]] from ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'', who frees Aang from Zhao's clutches, but [[spoiler:only to capture Aang and get the glory for himself.]]
[[/folder]]
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