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Disproportionate Retribution: Comic Books

  • Action Comics: In Grant Morrison's run that launched the New 52 universe, Mr. Mxyzptlk is a 5th Dimension imp who works as the Court Jester for the land of Zrfff. He entertains the kingdom by annoying the heroes of several worlds, including Superman, and letting Zrfff watch. Enraged with jealously over Mxyzptlk's popularity and success, the kingdom's other jester, Vyndktvx, decided to uses his powers to secretly make Superman's life a living hell before eventually killing him, even assembling an "Anti-Superman Army" — and do it all before Superman ever met Mxyzptlk in the first place. Of course, Superman has no idea who he is, but Vyndktvx holds him responsible for Mxyzptlk's success because the kingdom really liked how he was the only hero to best Mxyzptlk.
  • Bane from Batman: Knightfall
    Batman: You'd kill just to "rule" this city?
    Bane: I'd kill for anything. I'd kill to silence a grating voice. To darken the light of the eyes that dared to look at me.
  • One of the Tales of Arkham comics features The Penguin, and uses this to explain why a criminal like him belongs in Arkham despite his relatively sane methods and motives. In the story, after a chef is seen laughing in the Penguin's general direction while he is eating dinner: "Maybe it was just a coincidence that the chef laughed while looking in the Penguin's direction. Maybe he just happened to think of something funny, some joke he'd heard the other day, while glancing around the room. Maybe there was nothing malicious about it at all. But in the end... it really didn't matter. And so they ate their dinner, and enjoyed their evening, and the Penguin never said a word about the chef who'd laughed. But a few days later, that building had a new owner, and the restaurant was forced to close, its employees all fired. And the day after losing his job, the chef found that his girlfriend had been suddenly deported to Romania and his best friend arrested for child pornography despite his insistence that he was framed. The day after that, a new tenant moved in next door and begin blasting their stereo at all hours of the day and night. The landlord stopped taking his calls. The church he attended was closed for fumigation, after a bizarre infestation of killer bees. The park where he liked to sit and read was annexed and bulldozed. And then the chef, who was a recovering alcoholic, woke one morning to find that a 24 hour liquor store had opened across the street from his apartment. Less than two months after he'd crossed paths with the Penguin, a night janitor found the chef in a bus station restroom. He'd hanged himself."
    • Penguin does it again in his miniseries Penguin: Pain and Prejudice. At a party, a guy bumps into him and starts to call him a fatass before he sees who it is and begs for forgiveness. Penguin responds by having him fired from his job, burning down his apartment, cutting the brakes on his parent's car and having his girlfriend infected with what's heavily implied to be AIDs.
  • Bloom County aimed a few Take Thats at Mary Kay cosmetics around 1989 after its animal testing techniques were made public; in one series of them, the company's CEO ordered a one million dollar bounty on Opus (on his nose, specifically) because he wrote a letter to the editor saying that overly made-up women looked "ungodly". (However, she later agreed to end the bounty if he simply made an apology, which he did, being far too frightened to stand up for his comment.)
  • Season 8 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer gives us Monroe. Disagree with your former teachers on what it means to be a werewolf? That's okay. Just slaughter most of the Buddhist monks of the monastery they live in.
  • Abundant in various Chick Tracts, mostly by God himself. However, one that stands out is "Fairy Tales?" In this Tract, a young boy goes on a killing spree, burns down his school, and is sent to juvenile hall. After his release from juvie, he becomes one of the FBI's top ten most wanted who is eventually arrested, tried, executed, and sent to Hell for his crimes. What exactly caused all of this to happen to him? The fact that Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and Easter Bunny aren't real.
  • In Death Of The Family, Joker punches Harley Quinn in the face. He claims that it is because she had hubris on her face.
  • Diabolik was quite bad for this, at the start. In the third story Elisabeth Gay, his Unwitting Pawn and first lover (with whom he was about to break up) accidentally outed his secret identity to the police, so what did he do her after narrowly escaping a much deserved execution? Why, he waited for her to recover from nearly going crazy out of fear of what he'd do her and fall in love with a doctor before driving her completely mad by appearing from nowhere in her room before faking the beheading of her fiancee a few days before the wedding. And he did it because she had once told him it was a Fate Worse than Death. And then made sure to drive her deeper into madness. Thankfully, modern day Diabolik has mellowed somewhat, and doesn't do such things anymore... Because of what he experienced when Elisabeth recovered enough to leave the asylum and managed to capture him.
  • Donald Duck can be one mean avian. Even being the universe's Butt Monkey doesn't justify this. Once he also gave a woman a black eye because she gave him a gag gift (she didn't know it would throw a pie at him).
    • One could even go so far as to call him Donald Dick.
    • Even in his 'superhero' version of some Italian stories, Paperinik the Devilish Avenger, he's quite mean. His first story as Paperinik in a nutshell: Scrooge offered him an underpaid job as a fanner and insulted him for kicking a ludicrously overpaid job as a dog-sitter that went to Gladstone, and Donald as Paperinik stole Scrooge's money-filled mattress while he slept on it and framed Gladstone for it. (The destruction of a manor that Gladstone won at a lottery wasn't part of it: Gladstone did it on his own by lighting a candle with explosive hidden in it that Paperinik left around.) While these almost murderous tendencies of Paperinik have been toned down and he now tends to reserve them for people who actually deserve the treatment, he still loves putting his quarry in Humiliation Conga, like that time he convinced Gladstone he had lost his luck due a fake curse launched on him by Donald. Donald himself is the victim of disproportionate retributions far more often than he's the instigator.
      • Paperinik set up a lynching mob twice, and for rather petty offenses. The first time, it was the Beagle Boys who had decided to empty Duckburg to sack it and thus organized a marathon whose prize set him off: Paperinik's secret identity (that they didn't even know. It was just the one thing that would have convinced every single citizen but Paperinik himself to take part), only for Paperinik to detour the marathon right back in town. The second time the husbands of Duckburg, fed up with being beaten and humiliated by their wives for not measuring up to Paperinik, tried to ruin his fame as a gentleman by playing pranks dressed as him, and Paperinik reacted by having them discovered by their very pissed wives (plus Daisy. Who recognized Paperinik as Donald, guessed he was one of the pranksters and beat him up for it).
  • In the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Comic Book series, "Prisoners of Time", Adam Mitchell decides to get revenge on The Doctor after he was kicked out of the TARDIS for bad behavior by teaming up with The Master, kidnapping all of The Doctor's companions and trying to force him to choose one and let the rest die.
  • In the Vault of Horror story "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime," a group of children end up murdering another child by pushing him into live wire. Why? He stole a girl's doll and wouldn't give it back. The local lawyer had told the kids that "robbery and kidnapping" were offenses punishable by death in the electric chair, so ...
  • Used many times by the insane elf, Door, in the ElfQuest New Blood stories, against his human servants including at least three boys and several men (one boy whose ultimate fate is unknown was threatened with death for simply dropping a bowl of fruit).
  • Doctor Doom's grudge against Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four reflects this trope. In this case, however, the yearned-for retribution is really disproportionate, in that Reed didn't even do what Doom blames him for; Doom blames Reed for causing the accident which disfigured him, whereas all Reed did was bring to Doom's attention flaws in his calculations which had the potential for disaster if they weren't fixed. Doom went ahead with the experiment anyway, and when disaster happened as Reed predicted, Doom's ego couldn't let him admit fault and that Reed, in identifying Doom's error, was smarter than him. In response, he has attempted to kill Reed and his family on numerous occasions, and at one point possessed his daughter and trapped his son in Hell.
    • The disproportion is enhanced further in some tellings of this origin, which state that Doom was not even injured that seriously in the accident to start with. His injuries amounted to a small scar on his cheek, but Doom's vanity could not tolerate even such a minor blemish. He himself caused the horrific injuries by putting on his iconic metal face mask immediately after it had been forged without waiting for it to cool down first. So not only did Reed not cause the accident in the first place, he apparently had no connection with Doom's horrific injuries at all.
    • In Books of Doom, one of the tellings of said origin from Doom's perspective, Reed didn't even do that. He looked at Doom's notes and couldn't even make sense of them because Doom was blending magic and technology. He got the scar from Mephisto, the machine being designed to send him to Mephisto's realm so he could find his mother. Why he blames Reed isn't explored.
    • In the Ultimate Marvel universe, Doom has even less reason to blame Reed for his problems, as he was the one who, after being told not to, reprogrammed the coordinates for the transporter due to his egotistical belief that he knew better than the man who created the machine, transforming himself into a creature of living metal. This version of Doom... just say he has issues even beyond the Reed Richards issue.
  • Firestorm using his powers to strip Plastique naked and leaving her to be laughed at in public while he took the bombs her suit carried to be disposed of elsewhere could be seen as taking it too far. Then again, she was going to blow up lots of innocent people so you can't feel too bad for her.
  • In one issue of Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset, mobster Vinnie Assapunto goes on a rampage, murdering five people because they were connected to someone who had been telling jokes about him.
  • Delilah Hack of Hack Slash, who after witnessing her daughter being mistreated by a group of bullies, immediately proceeded to abduct, kill, and cook said bullies, before ultimately feeding them to their friends.
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac? Even being near the wrong person can result in one's horrible death.
  • In Judge Dredd, this is pretty much how the entire legal system works, which makes a degree of sense given how much of a Crapsack World Mega-City One is. A cover for one issue of 2000AD played it for dark laughs, showing a young kid dressed in a bad Dredd costume - presumably, dressing that way out of hero-worship - with Dredd himself barking "Impersonating a Judge. Five years in the Juve-cubes."
  • The Legendaries suffers this from the population of their native world Alysia. After they accidentally caused a magic incident by breaking a magic stone from the Arch-Enemy and accidentally turned everyone on their world into a child, the population of Alysia start hating and despising them : they are mocked, insulted, forced to hide their identities for five years, considered as failures, and everyone who has connections to them (brothers, parents, former teams...) are considered as ashamed as well. While it's understandable on the first look, it become excessively ridiculous if you take account of the fact the Legendaries also saved those same people countless times from their said Arch-Enemy (who was an homicidal, megalomaniac Sorcerous Overlord feared in all Alysia), making the mere fact to have trapt everyone in child form not bad in comparison. The inhabitants of Alysia seems to have quickly forgotten about those heroic actions.
  • Early on in Lucifer, two Jin en Mok are having a discussion in a diner. When the janitor accidentally interrupts them with his sweeping, one of the Jin gives him a coin. The janitor will be compelled to look at the coin for increasing amounts of time each day with a corresponding increase of both pain and pleasure. The Jin en Mok estimates that janitor will last about a year before the coin kills him. It's implied that the Jin does this to people all the time, just because he (it) finds it funny.
  • In Luke Cage Noir, Luke examines a body for clues after being hired to investigate a murder. "The black and blue marks around her neck meant she was choked — which is usually personal. Though I did once choke a cellmate because he ate my peanut butter."
  • Worst things Max And Moritz by Wilhelm Busch do: Putting gunpowder into the pipe of the teacher (OK, that's pretty harsh, but he survives.) Their punishment at the end (not by him): They're killed and ground to grit in the mill.
  • Enchantress tried to get the Asgardians to punish Dazzler for offending the gods by having a better singing voice than her. Fortunately, Odin agreed that Dazzler does have a better singing voice, ordered Enchantress to drop the matter, then sent the girl home with the promise that the Asgardians would not hurt her.
  • In one Peanuts storyline, the Environment Protection Agency, of all people, did this. When the Kite Eating Tree ate one of Charlie Brown's kites, he lost his temper and bit it. His "reward" for actually standing up for himself? The EPA threatened him with legal action! (And Lucy was a big help as usual, saying, "Ten to one says they'll throw him in the slammer!" Poor Charlie Brown actually ran away from home to escape trouble (and briefly became a mentor to some little kids trying to form a baseball team), but fortunately, the tree eventually fell over in a thunderstorm, and with no evidence against him, he was able to go home.
  • Morpheus of the Endless is also known for this: he sends a lover who refused to become his queen to suffer in hell and he didn't let her out again for ten thousand years.
    • When Delirium was justly pulled over by a cop (she Drives Like Crazy), she condemned him to forever think that he is covered with spiders. Lampshaded to an extent as Morpheus started to call her out on this, to which she promptly told him to mind his own business, and that with the aforementioned 10,000 years affair and all that he has little to no rights to complain at all.
  • In The Sentry Bob finds out that some Yoga instructor is pulling some moves on his wife; sometime later his alter egos, presumably, act; The Sentry saves 150.000 people from a crashing boat while The Void hurls a jet airliner into a building killing 150.000 people, Ramón the Yoga instructor was in that building.
  • Thrash the Devil in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. Your people are almost extinct thanks to horrific experiments caused by a group of Echidna scientists. You've been drilled into your head that all echidnas are evil. What do you do? Punish what's left of the echidna race that had nothing to do with those experiments by tossing all but one into an alternate dimension, possibly never returning. That one? Knuckles the Echidna.
  • Spider-Man is a frequent victim of this, as his opponents' goals shift from "get money/recognition/cured" to "revenge on Spider-Man" as he stops them. This apparent Motive Decay is somewhat justified by Spider-Man's tendency of persistently insulting the people he fights, and that fact that most of his opponents are unhinged to start with.
    • Venom was a particularly bad example of this: Eddie Brock hated the Spider-Man because his journalist career had been ruined when he brought forward a man claiming to be the murderous Sin-Eater, but who turned out to be a compulsive confessor instead as Spider-Man caught the real Sin-Eater.
    • Lampshaded in Ultimate Spider-Man when Peter was captured by former joke villain The Shocker who chained him up and tortured him, intending to kill him as revenge for sending him to jail so many times.
      Shocker: The way I see it, kid... you owe me hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not including — not including the months I've lost in and out of the joint. Legal bills.
      Spidey: Hey man, AGH!! You rob banks. What did you think was going to happen?? OW!! What did you think the outcome was going to be??
      Shocker: The outcome?? The outcome is I get what is coming to me.
      Spidey: You got what was coming to you. That's my point.
      • Also a subversion in that the Shocker's real reason for wanting revenge of Spidey so badly is that Spidey mocked him every time they clashed — and he felt the whole world was laughing at him — and he finally snapped. Finding out Spider-Man was just a kid didn't help his mood. The entire chapter was meant to show the Shocker was an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain — with the emphasis on "Sympathetic" and the "Ineffectual" de-emphasized.
      • After Peter got himself free and beat Shocker up again, the story ends with the cops coming to arrest him and one commenting about Shocker being just a living joke.
  • In Spy Boy, even Schweitzer (who is The Bully) finds a little absurd the reaction of his father to the Class president's campaign: hire a hitman to take out both Alex and his ex-girlfriend.
  • In the Silver Age, Lex Luthor's lifetime animosity to Superman was triggered by Superboy saving Lex from a laboratory fire. During the rescue Lex got some chemicals spilled on him that made him go bald! Later retellings of the origin have given Lex different reasons to hate Superman, usually having to do with Lex not being able to stand being inferior to him. Wanting a man dead just for being there might be one of the most disproportionate retributions on here.
    • In Superman: Red Son he breaks off his engagement and relationship to Lois Lane in order to devote his entire life to beating Superman because....The deformed clone of Superman beat him in Chess! This is particularly hilarious because earlier he had explicitly stated "I have no doubts that [Superman] and I would get along if we had been born in the same country."
    • During the time Superman was dead, Lex Luthor, in his clone body of Lex Luthor II, murdered a female training instructor because she beat him in one of their matches. Then, he gloats at Superman's grave as proof that, with Superman gone, he can do whatever he wanted to. Too bad, a little while later, she came back and tried to kill him.
    • The Bruce Wayne: Murderer and Bruce Wayne: Fugitive storylines? Bruce protested Lex's presidency by cancelling his defense contracts with the government. In return, Luthor arranges David Cain to frame Bruce for murder. Turns out that he chose the one guy who knew Bruce was Bats and he used it to fuck with everyone.
      • Bruce gets one back at the end of the first Superman/Batman storyline by having Talia Al Ghul sell every last bit of Lexcorp to Wayne Enterprises.
      • Said assassin's main motivation for agreeing to the job and handling it the way he did? Mostly petty jealousy since his daughter Cassandra liked Bruce more than him.
  • The Adventures of Tintin: The entire reason Tintin and Rastapopoulos was put at odds with each other is because the former stopped the latter from assaulting somebody. Which lead to the latter to send people to kill the former.
  • In the Vampirella story "Into the Inferno" Granville decides to repay Pendragon's abandoning of his family by addicting Vampirella on cocaine.
  • Wanted. The main character gains the resources to do whatever he wanted. As an example, he deals with the frustration of a neighbor being too cheery with...a bullet to the face. BLAM.
  • Director Malcom Concord from the 2000's Weapon X series...If BUILDING A FREAKIN' CONCENTRATION CAMP for mutants, just because one scarred up your face a bit isn't disproportionate retribution, we don't know what is.
  • Zipi y Zape: Sometimes, Zipi and Zape are chastised for really stupid reasons, one notably one is when Doña Jaimita punish them to cutting grass in the garden just because they didn't know how to use a flypaper.
    • And Jaimita is by far the nicest one of the parents. Pantuflo, the father, borders on the Abusive Parents trope, as he's able to punish them for things they've clearly done not deliberately just as if they've done that way, and sometimes for things whose blame is actually his.
  • Moose Mason in Archie Comics goes into violent rages and assaults any boy who he thinks is trying to hit on "his gurl," Midge. Interpretations of "hitting on" seeming to vary, including merely bumping into Midge by accident, accepting some item from her she didn't want (candies, etc.), or just trying to converse with her period. Earlier stories with Moose tended to be particularly brutal—one story has Moose sending Archie flying through the air just for saying "hi" to Midge. Another has him hospitalizing Reggie, when Reggie cheats him out of $5 and tries to use it to date Midge. Even Jughead (in Moose's first appearance) isn't spared from this, ending up with bandages, a cast, and a black eye (and missing several days' of school) for being asked by the school to tutor his girlfriend. Dilton's not spared Moose's wrath, either, despite Word of God claiming to be one of his "closest friends"; a 90s story sees someone try to trick Moose into thinking Dilton liked Midge, which cues Dilton flying through the air with one punch. Rule of Funny for why Moose isn't in juvenile hall/jail and has such antics tolerated by the others... I guess?!

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