Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu
...You lose. Brainiac Luthor:
Hardly. Look around you — the Justice League is completely defeated, and so are you. For all your efforts, you have but inconvenienced me, speck
Okay, so you've just gotten into a brawl with your local Eldritch Abomination
, just after you deliver the Knockout Punch
against him. Apparently as a final "screw you," something bad happens to you, or the world you live in, in such a way there is almost no way to solve that problem that will be done without sacrifice.
Congratulations, you just broke your arm punching out Cthulhu.
This trope is called upon as a way of showing the true futility of trying to stop the physical or literal manifestation of an all-powerful being. It really doesn't matter if you have powerful mythical weapons or giant galaxy destroying guns; the physical form of him is irrelevant to his powers to utterly smack you aside with merely a nod
. It just can't really be done. Eldritch Abominations
such as the namer of the trope himself do not feel much pain from being punched out, since all you did was merely destroy his physical manifestation
, and punching him out will only delay your demise as you:
- Stop him for now; when he wakes up, he is going to be pissed.
- Find out your punch didn't even graze him.
- Have a broken arm, so when he wakes up, you will be screwed.
- Are now possessed or infected with The Virus as a result of touching or killing him, and will eventually become him...
- Truly do defeat him, but only at the cost of almost everything you were trying to save, up to and including your sanity or your soul.
- Truly do defeat him, but have drawn the attention of even worse things that want revenge on you.
- Kill his weak form, then he transforms...
- Set off his back up plan - can be anything from a child with a water squirter to a bomb to the awakening of a giant demon.
- Find out that he was the sanest of the bunch; without him, the smaller fry are now beating up one another and the brawl takes out the world since there is no one to lead them. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
- Have to face him again when you die because he's in charge of the afterlife.
This trope can also extend to normal all-powerful organizations, or an alien race where it is only a temporary victory and the next battle can be for sure a total defeat. For endings related to this trope, either 1) A close call
, or 2) all for naught
of Pyrrhic Victory
. Unlike Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?
, this one will
happen in a Cosmic Horror Story
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Anime & Manga
- The Mighty Thor
- Thor managed to slay the Midgard Serpent - a giant dragon among giant dragons - with a massive hammer blow to the head. He was already in constant pain and obliged to wear a full-body armor suit for support due to a curse by the goddess of death, but the death blow reduced him to a pulped (yet still living) mass of flesh contained within said armor. Given he was prophesied to die after killing the Midgard Serpent, as per Norse Mythology; this is actually a plus.
- A more graphic example was when he hit an invulnerable Viking named Herald Jaekelson so hard it nearly tore his hands off.
- There are many times in the comics where Thor managed to break his hammer, Mjolnir, while fighting some of his most powerful enemies, usually by utilizing the Odinforce. One example is when he tried to fight Exitar, the largest Celestial, in one of his older comics and shatters his Mjolnir into pieces trying to break into its skull.
- In Fear Itself, Thor's battle against his Evil Uncle Cul Borson aka the Serpent aka the Norse god of fear — who turned out to be the true serpent destined to kill him — ends in a Mutual Kill. He gets better, as always.
- The only way for Dr. Strange to beat Shuma-Gorath on his home turf was to tap into the demon's power source. Using Shuma's power started to make him become another Shuma-Gorath though and "killing" Shuma only sped up the process, so Strange had to commit suicide. Luckily someone else was able to save the Doctor, which was good a while later when we learn Shuma wasn't permanently dead.
- In Hellblazer, this is the only way the only kind of win John Constantine ever pulls off. To get rid of this issue's monster, chances are either someone he loves has to die, or his actions set up an even greater problem to be dealt with at a later date.
- One Exiles arc features Galactus attacking earth, and for once he's actually at full strength rather than nearly dying from starvation. Eventually team powerhouse Thunderbird manages to break Galactus' skin and insert a device specifically made by that earth's Reed Richards to hurt the creature. Thunderbird is left brain dead from the shockwave though he does manage to get Galactus to flee.
- At the climax of Marvel Comics' Generation One Transformers series, Circuit-Breaker, a.k.a. Josie Beller attacked Unicron with all her power, paralyzing him long enough for Optimus Prime to destroy him with the Creation Matrix. Sadly, however, Beller was left catatonic as a result.
- Played straight litterally in Les Légendaires, where protagonist Jadina attempts to punch the God of Evil Anathos. Anathos stops her attack with one finger, and causes her arm to break in the process. Even worst, he mentioned she is lucky he needed her alive at that point, because otherwise he would have let her kill herself punching him. Then immediately subverted when Jadina Out-Gambits him. And before this, Danael already suffered a case of The Virus against Anathos when coming up with a scheme to prevent him from reincarnating into Shimy, only to serve as the host instead of her.
- In Final Crisis Batman shot Darkseid with a Radion bullet, mortally wounding him. The dying God of Evil inflicted the Omega Sanction on Batman trapping him in a cycle of death and rebirth into horrible lives and accelerated the universe's decay which his rebirth started out of spite.
- In My Little Pony Micro Series Issue #2 the Sonic Double Rainboom certainly defeats the gremlins, but completely paralyzes Dash's wings for two months.
- Occurs whenever Batman and Superman fight, if Superman doesn't outright win. An almost literal example in Batman Hush, when trying to survive against a Brainwashed and Crazy Superman, even with his krypnoite ring, Batman could land a few punches on Superman before not being able to punch him anymore because impacts broke every bone in his hand.
- Another occasion in Death In The Family. The Joker has just killed Robin, and Superman is withholding information from Batman. Batman angrily punches Superman. Given the dark tone of the story, what happens next is actually pretty funny.
Superman: (Unfazed) Feel better now?
Batman: (Clutching his fist) I think I broke a couple of knuckles!
Superman: No, they're just badly bruised. You're lucky I rolled with that punch. You could've crippled yourself.
- The Spiderman storyline "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut" has Spiderman's this in Spiderman's second fight with The Juggernaut. Struggling to find a way to hurt him, Spiderman tries ramming a tanker truck into him, and gets horrified that he might have killed him, but then finds it just made him angry. Ultimately, Spiderman manages to win the fight by tricking Juggernaut into a load of cement, but by end, he crawls out. Keeping the latter part of the trope from being played straight, Juggernaut doesn't go after Spiderman in the future.
- The third film in the series has The Amityville Horror house getting destroyed, though this fails to stop the evil, with it just living on in the form of mundane objects like lamps and clocks salvaged from the rubble, which allows the evil to spread out all over the country and establish "new homes" when people obtain the junk. Amityville toaster, makes breakfast spooky. Spooky talk from toaster. Spooky eat me toast. Yum yum yum. Human hand.
- Damnatus. All the heroes give their lives to try and stop G'guor, an Eldar spirit accompanying them pulls a Thanatos Gambit, and inquisitor Lessus invokes exterminatus on the planet, but the outro voiceover implies that G'guor will still be back someday.
- The 1998 film Fallen is about a demon that can leap from one body to another instantaneously. It ends with the lead character leading it into the middle of the woods, then poisoning himself before shooting the demon's current host. Cut to a nearby cat, and the narration picks up again: "Oh! You forgot something, didn't you? Back at the start, I said I was going to tell you about the time I almost died. [chuckles] Be seeing you."
- In The Astronauts Wife - a Recycled In Space version of Rosemarys Baby - the heroine tricks the alien possessing her husband by acting like she's going to commit suicide through a variation - an awesome variation - on the Electrified Bathtub, only to electrocute him instead. Unfortunately, the alien manages to flee her husband's body and possess her instead, for a Downer Ending.
- Alright! Rocky Balboa hass KO'ed the powerful Soviet superman Ivan Drago. He has avenged his friend Apollo Creed and won over the hostile Russian audience in the process. Rocky IV ends on a happy note... but leads into Rocky V, where we learn that Balboa has gone bankrupt. He tries to take another title fight to earn money, but the match with Drago left him with crippling brain damage which forces him to retire from the ring.
- In the remake of The Haunting (1999), Elinor becomes a Christ-like figure, confronts the villainous ghost, Hugh Crane who has transformed into a twenty-foot, roaring, Witch-King of Angmar lookalike and defeats him with The Power of Love, banishing him through the Gates of Hell which are conveniently placed in his hallway. Don't ask. The spirits imprisoned within the house are released and Elinor conveniently dies. It's like something out a Saturday morning cartoon.
- In How to Train Your Dragon, Hiccup loses half his left leg in the process of defeating the humungous dragon at the end.
- At the end of Silent Hill, Rose finally rescues her daughter and defeats the Order by way of letting Dark Alessa have her Roaring Rampage of Revenge. However, when they leave Silent Hill, they're still stuck in the Fog World, and the movie ends with both them and her husband in their house at the same time, in two worlds, unable to communicate except for a single static-laden voice mail. In the sequel, it turns out that in the interim she somehow finds a way to get her daughter back to the real world, but not herself. Too bad for her, the Order was able to do the same thing with Vincent, thus setting up the events where Dark Alessa and the powers of the Order are defeated for good, Pyramid Head pulls a quasi Heel-Face Turn, and Heather, her dad and Vincent all get to go home, just as the permanent ash fall is coming to an end. They pass a prison bus heading into the town's general area, just as it starts to rain and the creepy music kicks up again, meaning that all they did was change who the instigators and victims were going to be.
- The 2011 adaptation of The Whisperer in Darkness expands on the ending by having Wilmarth discover the Mi-Go performing a ritual that will open a portal and allow for a mass invasion. He succeeds in preventing said invasion, though most likely only temporarily. He is also unable to escape from the Mi-Go, with the final scene revealing his brain has been removed and placed into a jar for transport.
- At the end of Predator 2, Harrigan kills the Predator, only to immediately face several more Predators that materialize in front of him. However, the trope is averted in that the others don't want revenge; on the contrary, they give Harrigan a gift and send him on his way.
- John Carpenter's entire "Apocalypse Trilogy":
- In The Thing the characters are able to make a stand against the monster, but by the time they're done all but two are dead, and the survivors are likely to freeze to death. It's also not entirely clear if they actually succeeded in destroying the Thing or if they've only temporarily contained it, and there is a faint possibility one of the two survivors could be a Thing. To make things even darker there's an Alternate Ending where a dog is seen running away from the ruins of the camp, implying that the thing escaped, and Macready's efforts were for nothing.
- Prince of Darkness: The Eldritch Abomination is prevented from bringing something even worse into our world and trapped in another dimension, but at the cost of the Love Interest's life, along with most of the rest of the cast. The final scenes also hint that it will find a way back. The final scene has the main character reaching for a mirror, but we don't see what happens next.
- In the Mouth of Madness: Poor John Trent tries again and again to punch out Cthulhu, but he just doesn't stand a chance. He constantly tries to find ways to outwit mad writer Sutter Kane, but the latter constantly remains one step ahead. Trent tries to burn the manuscript for an insanity-inducing novel? Too bad, another one shows up in the mail. He tries to warn the publisher to keep the novel from coming out? He already delivered the manuscript, the book's been selling like hotcakes, and there's a movie about to come out.
- Occurs in nearly every successful attempt to stop Godzilla:
- Godzilla's first fight with Mothra left the adult Mothra dead before the larva sealed itself off in a cocoon, and even that wasn't enough to stop him forever. The only thing keeping this trope from being played entirely straight is that Godzilla ends pulling a Heel-Face Turn in the later movies.
- Godzilla vs Biollante is a case of this being played for Godzilla himself. He manages to kill Biollante, but the anti-nuclear bacteria he's infected with starts acting up so much he has to return to the sea and can't leave.
- In Godzilla vs King Ghidorah, the cyborg pilot of Mecha-King Ghidorah isn't able to kill Godzilla and while she survives, Mecha-King Ghidorah is wrecked by Godzilla when it drags him out to sea, meaning all the fight did was temporarily slow him down before he returned for another attack.
- The remake of Godzilla vs Mothra has both Mothra and her Evil Counterpart Battra teaming up against Godzilla. They manage to defeat him, but all they really do is drag him out to sea again where Godzilla kills Battra, meaning in the future Mothra would have to face him alone. She's not strong enough to stop him by herself, though Mothra didn't appear in the later films in this series as it is.
- In Godzilla vs Space Godzilla, the humans built Humongous Mecha MOUGERA to stop Kaiju attacks. It fails completely its first fight with Space Godzilla. The second fight, it manages to destroy the crystals on his shoulders, which prompts him to wreck the thing so badly the crew is forced to abandon it. Godzilla later finishes the job and completely destroys the robot after killing Space Godzilla.
- In Godzilla vs Megaguirus, humans try to kill Godzilla using a Kill Sat that fires an Unrealistic Black Hole. Not only does this manage to do little more than inconvenience him, it causes a horde of giant insects to appear, including the titular Megagerius. The only thing that stopped them was Godzilla himself. The humans try the weapon again and it apparently kills him, up until the last scene of the movie, where we hear him roar again indicating he survived.
- Godzilla All Monsters Attack, has all three of the Guardian monsters that were meant to stop die trying. Some quick acting by humans manages to seemingly kill him, but his heart survives and starts to regenerate his body, meaning he'll return, and this time there won't be any Kaiju to stand in his way.
- Godzilla Final War, a rare case of this not involving Godzilla. Instead it's when Mothra fights Gigan at the climax of the movie. Mothra manages to keep Gigan out of Godzilla's fight with Monster X, but he injures her fatally before she can kill him.
- In Tolkien's books:
- In The Silmarillion, when Fingolfin sees all his army defeated, he rides to the very gates of Angband to defy Morgoth himself, inflicting several wounds to him. It doesn't end well. However, he did inflict wounds on Morgoth that would never heal. There's a reason why this is one of the greatest Crowning Moments of Awesome ever.
- The final battle of the First Age could qualify too, sure the hosts of the Valar have destroyed Morgoth's forces and he's captured and beaten, but the entire continent that everyone not living in Valinor has called home since the dawn of time ends up so damaged it breaks apart and gets swallowed by the sea. Though Morgoth is sealed beyond the Void, it turns out one day he will escape leading to the Dagor Dagorath, the final battle the will destroy everything.
- Melkor essentially writes suffering and imperfection into fate before the world's creation, and after he becomes Morgoth pours his essence into Middle-Earth itself, so that even after his spirit gets banished his presence remains; he is the evil that exists in the world.
- Two examples occur in The Lord of the Rings. First, Gandalf's famous Heroic Sacrifice, when he killed the Balrog but died from the ordeal. Second, Éowyn's shield arm actually was broken by the Witch-King, but that wasn't the worst wound she suffered; just touching the Witch-King is enough to seriously harm you, so when she and Merry stabbed him, their respective weapon arms were hurt and they needed special medicine to recover. Éowyn wound up so deeply comatose she was at first mistaken for dead.
- Frodo himself never recovered from his adventures. The wound that the Witch-King inflicted upon him never fully healed, and he was also damaged psychically from his possession of the Ring. Eventually, he had to abandon all that he used to love and depart to Valinor just to come into terms with his inner pain.
- In HP Lovecraft's original stories:
- In The Dreams in the Witch House, a fellow manages to stop a servant of said Eldritch Abomination, but is unable to save the child from sacrifice. Though he manages to stay sane throughout the ordeal, he is later killed by an Eldritch Abomination drilling itself out of his body as punishment, and his friend, seeing this, ends up in a mental institution.
- This also happens in The Thing On The Doorstep.
- Even the original The Call of Cthulhu had a textbook example of this. When the titular Thing attacks, a sailor rams him with a yacht, forcing him to retreat back to R'lyeh. The problem is, Cthulhu is still very much alive, having reformed soon after getting punched out. As for the sailor, not only does the entire ordeal push him off the deep end, but it's hinted that Cthulhu's cultists kill him soon afterward. Ironically, Cthulhu himself isn't even all that high on the power-scale of Lovecraftian abominations. Yes, he's bigger than a Deep One or Mi-Go, but he's really just a mouthpiece for the real cosmic-caliber deities like Azathoth and Yog-Sothoth.
- Any kind of victory over Lovecraft's Eldritch Abominations, is, at best, delaying the inevitable. Which is the point of the expansion to the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, Delta Green. A task force, that doesn't officially exist, whose duty is to 'delay that inevitable' for another few years, and continually.
- In The Heroes of Olympus, the gods of Olympus are in no shape to fight a war against the giants precisely because they're still broke from fighting the Titans and Typhon.
- A literal case in the first book of War of the Dreaming: Peter Waylock attempts to use Thor's hammer against an enemy sorcerer, and ends up breaking both his arms — not good, considering he also can't walk.
- In The Wheel of Time, the Dragon (no, not that one) took independent action and led a strike force of male channelers in storming Mordor and sealing the hole in the Dark One's prison. (He disregarded the original plan, to include females and use certain absurdly-powerful power-enhancing artifacts, after the forces of evil overran the locations of the access keys to said artifacts and political strife among the channelers resulted in all female Aes Sedai refusing to participate.) Good news: mission accomplished. Bad news: the Dark One subsequently tainted the male half of the One Power, thereafter driving anyone who used it insane and thus causing the Breaking of the World—the face of the world reshaped, billions killed, and the entire utopian society crushed into mythology. Though the society was kind of in the crapper from a decades long war against the forces of darkness anyway, though at least not entirely broken up.
- Old Kingdom series:
- In Sabriel, Sabriel's father uses the bell Astarael, which sends anyone who hears it deep into Death, to try to permanently kill the book's undead villain. It doesn't work. It does, however, delay him enough for Sabriel to get away and find a better way of killing him. Which also doesn't work. So she seals him away instead.
- In Abhorsen, the only way to seal the Big Bad would result in the death of the caster of said seal thanks to a backlash effect and the Big Bad trying to take her with him. Lirael goes through with it anyways, but survives when the Disreputable Dog bites off her hand, saving Lirael's life.
- A frequent Downer Ending in Philip K Dick short stories. In "Faith of our Fathers", the Eldritch Abomination in question turns out to be God, and the minor wound the hero received in the encounter ends up being fatal. However, it is seen as a vaguely optimistic outcome, as it's hinted rebellion is impossible, so his minor act of defiance (in punching Cthulu in the face) is a victory for the human spirit. After he is 'branded' as a result with a deadly sore, which slowly spreads over his body, he chooses to ignore it and spend his last night alive making love with his girlfriend as an act of humanity, denying Cthulhu a moral victory.
- In a short story by David Brin (which was made into a comic book) a soldier broke the spear by which he ought to have been killed over his knee. The spear belonged to Odin, and his knee didn't really like the treatment.
- In the Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novel Deus Sanguinius, Rafen manages to slay the Eldritch Abomination Malfallax. However, Malfallax's death comes with a curse that triggers the Black Rage in all of the nearby Blood Angels, and while Rafen manages to free them of it, Malfallax's true form is still alive in the Warp, plotting vengeance on him.
- The first arc of the Deathstalker series ends with the protagonist delaying the Recreated long enough for them to be restored to their true forms. However, the stress of doing so leaves him too exhausted to return to his point of origin or even fight effectively. Instead, a man who destroyed countless armies is murdered by a pack of half-mad drug addicts, far from friends and allies. They even took his boots.
- In Azure Bonds, the red dragon Mist lays down her life to destroy the vile god Moander.
- Harry Potter:
- Harry's origin story goes both ways. Voldemort as Cthulhu: Harry survives Voldemort's attack, but both his parents had to die in the process, Voldemort is left alive as a wandering spirit with a big grudge against Harry, and Harry is now a Horcrux, carrying a piece of Voldemort's soul around with him. Harry as Cthulhu: Voldemort kills both Harry's parents. But when he tries to kill Harry, who is protected by The Power of Love, his spell backfires, destroying his body and forcing him to wander as a spirit until someone can forge him a new one.
- In Chamber of Secrets, this almost happens to Harry — he kills the Basilisk, but is poisoned by its venom, and he would have died if it hadn't been for the restorative properties of phoenix tears. This is probably a homage to the multitude of serpent-or-dragon examples of this trope listed under the Mythology heading.
- In Deathly Hallows, Harry is forced to give his life to stop Voldemort (who, due to his extensive use of Horcruxes, is now a borderline Humanoid Abomination). The reason for this sacrifice is that during his failed attempt on Harry's life, Voldy accidentally transferred a bit of his soul into Harry's body, turning Harry into a Horcrux. This means that as long as Harry is alive, Voldemort can't die either, because a bit of his soul will be tethered to Harry's body.
The good news is that the reverse is also true—that due to a complex bit of magic that occurred during Voldy's resurrection, Harry's soul is bound to Voldemort's body, allowing Harry to return to life without the soul fragment in him. This means that after Neville destroys the final Horcrux, Harry can finally kill Voldemort.
- In 1984, Winston and Julia break their souls failing to punch out Cthulhu.
- In the Chronicles of Prydain book The Black Cauldron, the only way to destroy the eponymous Artifact of Doom is for someone to willingly throw himself/herself into the Cauldron, an act that would kill that person as well. Prince Ellidyr, who for most of the book was a Prince Charmless, saves the day by making the sacrifice.
- The Goosebumps book How To Kill A Monster ends with the heroes captured by the monster, even after their attempts at killing it by making it fall through the stairs and poisoning it. Said monster is allergic to humans, and keels over dead after merely licking one. Unfortunately, the monster's friends are pissed off after this. Cue the terror, as the book ends with the heroes alone, far away from town, and in a marsh filled with these hungry, soon to awaken creatures. Hopefully the other monsters are allergic to humans too.
- Moby-Dick is an early example of this. Ahab spends the entire story relentlessly pursuing the unusually large whale in search of revenge. This determination gradually reduces his sanity as he becomes more and more obsessed with his target. When he finally does catch up to the whale, it takes the lives of all but one of the crew, and it's not even clear if Ahab's efforts even hurt it.
- In The Bartimaeus Trilogy book Ptolemy's Gate, Nathaniel uses Gladstone's Staff to destroy Nouda, but he did so by exploding the staff at point black range, ending in mutual kill.
- In Robert E. Howard's short story "The Valley of the Worm," the main character, Niord, succeeds in killing the giant title creature and its piper/herald, but is mortally injured in doing so. As he dies, the story ends.
- This is a frequent trope in the works of Stephen King.
- In Jerusalem's Lot, Boone manages to destroy the book, De Vermis Mysteriis. But the evil is not destroyed (Boone notes, "The burning of the book thwarted...it, but there are other copies"), and to cut his family's ties to the evil, he dives into the ocean. Unfortunately, that doesn't work either, as a descendant of the Boone line takes up residence in the ancestral home, and events begin again.
- In IT, Eddie Kaspbrak loses his arm battling the title monster, and dies. He does weaken the creature enough for the rest of the Losers' Club to kill it.
- In Carrie, Margaret actually manages to seriously hurt Carrie, badly enough that her blood loss contributes to her death by the end. Margaret doesn't live to see it, though, as Carrie quickly kills her with a psychically-induced heart attack.
- In the 1976 and 2013 film adaptations, this is changed to Carrie throwing every knife in the kitchen at Margaret, crucifying her. However, the guilt of killing her own mother, on top of all the people she killed at prom, causes Carrie to commit suicide soon after. Score one for Margaret from beyond the grave!
- The Power of Five: Sapling had to die to trick the Old Ones the first time. When Matt incapacitated them in Evil Star, he almost died (and would have, had Pedro not been present). When the Old Ones are finally defeated for good, it requires a Heroic Sacrifice from Scott and a Kill the Ones You Love from Richard to Matt.
Live Action TV
- In the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Scoobies take on The First Evil, who cannot take corporeal form and therefore can't be killed. They manage to defeat its army, but only after destroying the Hellmouth by blowing up Sunnydale and after the deaths of Spike, Anya, and several potentials. Even then, they never truly defeated it. How can you defeat pure evil?
- In the season five finale, Sam Winchester deliberately breaks his arm punching out Lucifer when he, after inviting the Devil to possess him, somehow manages to throw the both of them back into the Devil's Cage. The upside: the Apocalypse is averted. The downside: Sam's soul is trapped, for the foreseeable future, in an abyss with an enraged and betrayed Satan. The personal kickback is nonexistent.
- Also used for Black Comedy earlier in the episode. Castiel hits Michael with a Molotov Cocktail of sacred oil to buy Dean time. Michael is far too powerful to killed by this, and is merely temporarily banished. Lucifer is pissed (only he gets to dick with Michael) and promptly makes Castiel explode.
- In the season seven finale, Dean and Castiel manage to kill Dick Roman, thus stopping the Leviathans' plans to Take Over the World. However, the backlash from Roman's death drags Dean and Cas into Purgatory along with his soul.
- The basis of the Wraith conflict in Stargate Atlantis. The tech level of Earth and its allies is enough to hold them off, but there are so many of them each victory is just delaying the inevitable.
- Stargate SG-1
- The first 8 seasons of consist of the Tau'ri and their allies trying to avoid (and sometimes causing) Type 6(ish). As the Tok'ra are fond of saying, lots of warring Goa'uld are preferable to one all-powerful Goa'uld.
- In season 10, SG-1 manages to "kill" all of the Ori (they're energy beings so "kill" isn't quite the right word), but this doesn't stop their followers from continuing their war on the galaxy. It also means that when Adria ascends, she now has all the power that was once split among all the Ori. This makes her insanely powerful.
- This trope very nearly comes to pass in the Season 4 finale of Angel, when Angel narrowly succeeds in thwarting rogue Power Jasmine's attempt to brainwash the entire human race for its own good by breaking her powers of illusion. While this does weaken her somewhat, it mostly just convinces her that humanity should die instead. Thankfully, Angel's son Connor (who is Jasmine's mortal father) turns up and manages to punch her out for good. Hey, being Cthulhu's dad has its advantages.
- And the trope then does come to pass, as with her out of the picture, the human race goes from its Jasmine-induced state of perfect understanding and empathy with all other human beings to normal. The crash brings out suicidal and homicidal tendencies in most of the population, including Connor himself. The good guys are forced into a Deal with the Devil for a Reset Button and the Devil in question claims to be dealing with them out of respect for their demonstrated aptitude for inflicting pain and suffering on levels its own minions had failed to match. The messenger of said Devil starts out by congratulating the heroes for "thwarting world peace". Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
- The series finale features Angel and his gang causing as much damage as they can to Wolfram and Hart, having determined there is no way to take down the Senior Partners themselves. They successfully destroy their agents on the mortal plane and disrupt operations enough to set back the apocalypse significantly. However, the time they purchased for Earth costs them heavily and the Big Bad send an army to make their displeasure known.
- And the comics show that this results in L.A. being cut off from the rest of the world and plunged into Hell. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
- Are You Afraid of the Dark?:
- In "The Tale of the Curious Camera" the protagonists destroy the camera by making it take a picture of a mirror, but the demon possesses a video camera instead. Then they smoke it out of that, only for it to invade the computer.
- In "Pinball Wizard", Ross wins the life-size pinball game, but is doomed to replay it forever.
- In "Super Specs", the attempt to close the portal to the parallel universe results in that universe taking over "our" space and trapping the heroes in a Pocket Dimension.
- At the climax of the TV miniseries version of Stephen King's The Shining, Jack regains himself long enough to turn the hotel boiler's wheel back, increasing the boiler pressure and destroying the Overlook. But the ending shot shows that a new Overlook Hotel is going to be built on that same spot...
- In Doctor Who "Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways" when Rose Tyler uses the power of the Time Vortex to destroy the Daleks she is nearly killed by the vortex. The Doctor saves her by absorbing it, but this causes him to regenerate.
- In the Big Finish Doctor Who story Neverland the Eighth Doctor saves Gallifrey from being infected by Anti-Time by materialising the TARDIS around the satellite containing the Anti-Time. However in the process he is infected with Anti-Time and becomes the monstrous Zagreus.
- Jyu Ken Sentai Gekiranger: the show's penultimate episode has Rio attempt a suicide attack on Long's One-Winged Angel, which so appeared indestructible and has easily beaten the Gekirangers with they tried to stop him. Rio enters long's body and release all of his ki causing both of them to explode apparently killing them both. But, as Long reminded us already, he can't die, right as appears again a few seconds later and mocks how Rio just gave his life for nothing.
- In Greek Mythology, Sisyphus managed to cheat death by chaining up Thanatos. However, doing so messed up the whole cycle of life and death. So eventually the impulsive Ares frees Thanatos, and Sisyphus was dragged to the underworld. His punishment? Sisyphus must roll a boulder up a steep hill... But it will always roll back down again whenever he's almost at the top, forcing him to perform this pointless task forever. In some versions he doesn't have to, he was just told he'll be let out if he actually manages it and he refuses to give up.
- Ragnarok, the end of the world in Norse Mythology, is full of this. The gods kill the giants and monsters, but almost all of them get killed in the process. Odin gets killed by the giant wolf Fenrir, but is avenged by his son Vidar. Thor kills Jormungandr, the Midgard Serpent, but dies of the monster's poison. Loki gets killed by Heimdall, but not before bringing Heimdall down with him. And Tyr and Garm kill each other. Double subverted in the Sigurd legend, where he is warned beforehand that the blood of the dragon Fafnir is very poisonous, and builds a special pit trap to channel the monster's blood away from him. But then he finds out too late that a piece of the dragon's treasure - a ring - is cursed, and it becomes the catalyst in a long and bloody plot arc that eventually got adapted into a Wagner opera and likely served as the inspiration behind another cursed ring.
- In Japanese Mythology, wolves are regarded as one of the most powerful and noble yokai, and while friendly to humans, it's known that's unwise to piss them off. For example, in a myth in Tōno monogatari relates that a few people of the Lide village spotted three young wolves in their reeds, but despite it being common knowledge that attacking a wolf is a very bad idea the farmers somehow thought killing two wolves and capturing the third (presumably to domesticate) would be a good idea! Result: the other wolves got mad and started to harrass the citizens of Lide village. Further arm breaking happened later. The village tried to fight back by hunting the wolves down, but the pack was stealthy, and refused to directly confront the humans. However, a man called Tetsu (Iron in Japanese) challenged the wolves to single combat, and a female leader accepted. Tetsu proceeded to wrap his arm in a jacket and jam it straight into the she-wolf's guts. Sure it killed her, but she still had enough strength and willpower to amputate Tetsu's arm, and Tetsu died of blood loss.
- In some versions of the Mordiford Wyvern legend, the dragonslayer Carston is poisoned to death by the monster's blood.
- In the legend of the Lambton Worm, Sir John Lambton is told by a wise woman that after killing the dragon, he must kill the next living thing he sees or else his family will be cursed for the next nine generations. He tells his servants to send a dog into the swamp after he signals his victory, but his father gets overexcited and runs ahead of the dog to congratulate his son. Sir John can't bring himself to kill his father, so he gets the curse.
- Dino Attack RPG
- Pterisa's lightning bolt barely even hurt the Darkitect, and was more akin to Flipping Off Cthulhu than Punching Out Cthulhu. The Darkitect responded by knocking off her helmet, causing Pterisa to suffer a Heroic BSOD.
- Kate Bishop successfully managed to defeat the Maelstrom on Adventurers' Island, but the whole ordeal combined with several other discoveries about her past ultimately pushes her over the deep end.
- The team did eventually expel the Maelstrom from the planet, but it is still very much alive, and there is no guarantee that it won't someday try to come back. Additionally, at least half the cast died in the process of achieving that temporary victory, as well as the fact that Kate, Sam Race, Sarah Bishop, and untold numbers of other survivors were severely traumatized by the experience.
- The premise of the Arkham Horror Board Game is to keep the Ancient One from awakening, because this trope is the best possible outcome if it has to be fought. They usually don't deal the usual Stamina and Sanity damage: they'll dish out unhealing wounds, remove limbs, force players to sacrifice hard-one prizes or die, force players to sacrifice each other and their NPC allies for time, Mind Rape players to death, or just disintegrate people outright with a Touch of Death. Meanwhile, the Ancient One's mooks are wreaking havoc in and around Arkham.
- In Call of Cthulhu, it's possible (if your investigators are insanely brilliant and cunning) to hit Cthulhu with a nuclear weapon. The game has rules for what happens when you do this. What are the rules? Cthulhu regenerates about 15 minutes later... but now he's radioactive.
- Does that mean that if we keep hitting him(it?) in an organized manner every 10 minutes, the problem will be solved? Can side-effects of regeneration be harnessed to produce power? Cthulhu-powered Orion spaceship, anyone?
- There is nothing that humanity can do which will kill Cthulhu for more than 1d10+10 minutes. When the stars are right, everything is over. Until then, you might be able to put him back to sleep until next time, at the cost of your sanity and probably your life. And as an added bonus, in the event of Cthulhu's death (which there is no known way to cause) he will be immediately reborn from one of the other eldrich abominations.
- In Exalted, the Exalted killed the Primordials. Their Death Curse has led to two apocalypses so far and counting.
- Also, She Who Lives In Her Name's last act before being sealed away was to Ret Gone vast swathes of Creation into nothingness. According to accounts by The Fair Folk, who witnessed the whole sequence of events from outside creation, even the splendor of the First Age was just a tiny, burned-out remnant of what Creation used to be.
- To be more specific, the Ret Gone didn't just destroy physical area, it supposedly annihilated nine-tenths of Creation on a conceptual level. Whole principles of being ceased to exist, leaving only what players and characters understand as conventional reality. It's a reality with magitech, super-sorcery and god-given Elder God-smacking heroes. But the implication is that the time before the Three Spheres Cataclysm is more or less impossible to wholly comprehend.
- Kult plays with this. Humans are actually super beings who are unaware of their power. Various supernatural forces try to prevent humans from being awakened, yet their efforts seem to be futile.
- This is why you can't kill a Titan in Scion - Fate, being an utter asshole in the Scion universe, will go berserk if something that big is taken out of reality. When Ymir died, the Ice Age ended, causing worldwide catastrophe. The best the Gods can do is make the Titans into Sealed Evil in a Can.
- The whole business of fighting Chaos in Warhammer 40,000. Any really powerful daemon simply cannot be destroyed by physical means, as they live in the Immaterium, and there's exactly one psyker powerful enough to fight them on their turf... and he's on the life support for the last ten millennia. All that He Who Fights Monsters could do is to banish the daemons back to the Warp, for them to return again later. Even though such banishments aren't exactly the bed of roses even for the Daemon Princes, and many lesser daemons could be vanquished entirely with proper procedure, this fight is essentially a defensive one, with no chance of a true victory. And the Enemy is dangerous indeed.
- For example, take Lucius the Eternal, Champion of Slaanesh, one of the aforementioned Great Champions. If he is killed in battle and the foe takes even the slightest satisfaction from or pleasure in his death, he possesses his killer and eventually takes him over entirely, with the former victor now nothing more than another screaming face on Lucius's armor...
- What if the Necrons or other mechanical beings manage to kill Lucius?
- The whole idea behind the Tarrasque ("The", not "a"; also note the capital letter) in Dungeons & Dragons. It's a mouth with a giant body attached to it. It wakes up every couple of years for a few days, then just chows down on everything in sight, demolishing whole kingdoms before going back to napping. On the off chance you manage to fight it, you're in for a big one. It can remain conscious and fighting all the way down to -30 HP (and it has a lot of health to start with) and regenerates health automatically no matter what happens. The only way to permanently kill it is with a Wish spell, and that has a 50% chance of allowing it to come back after a while. Don't have a Wish spell? Your best bets are to either bury it alive (it won't die, but it will remain unconscious at -30 until somebody decides to be a dick and unbury it) or put it at the bottom of the ocean (it will manage to surface eventually, but it will take a long time; it will get enough health back to swim about five feet up, get knocked unconscious from drowning, get a bit more health back and keep doing this... until it surfaces).
- The fourth edition decided to cut directly to the chase: Defeating the Tarrasque merely makes its physical form sink back into the earth, from which it is inevitably revived. All you've done is cut short its current rampage. The Tarrasque in that edition is a curse laid upon the earth by a being older than the gods, and cannot be undone by mortal hands. In Pathfinder it is non-killable: It will revive automatically no matter what you throw at it.
- Magic: The Gathering: if one of the big colourless Eldrazi - even the weakest of them - attacks, you will automatically have to sacrifice a permanent even if you manage to kill it. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, will cost you six permanents. Meaning that even if you're able to kill the creature, you will have lost quite a bit of board presence.
- In one Time of Judgment scenario in Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Wyrm materializes in the Aetherial realm and makes a beeline for Earth. Rorg, the Incarna of the Asteroid Belt, attacks the Wyrm but fails to injure it. To boot, the Wyrm breathes balefire in Rorg's face, blinding him.
- In The Order of the Stick, the Order of the Scribble's attempts at sealing the Snarl may count as this. They successfully manage to patch up the holes in the Snarl's prison with the gates, but one of them dies and the survivors break up for good, with bad blood between many of them. Said bad blood ends up destroying any united plan they may have had for protecting the gates, allowing Xykon to attack them piecemeal.
- Further arm-breaking occurs when it turns out their solution to containing the Snarl allows for someone to access and control the power of the Snarl without setting it free, which is essentially the main plan of every major villain in the series.
- Charon McKay's first punch against Deep One Prime was a massive Shoryuken that splintered some of the shadow-armor on her hand.
- Sluggy Freelance: The Sluggyverse exists in a Vicious Cycle of creation and destruction. The god of creation, Prozoatu, creates the spark of life, and the god of destruction, Kozoaku brings about extinction events, killing much of it. Kozoaku is technically supposed to do this, but he always does it prematurely, ending the world before he is meant to. Khronus has opposed him many times, but has only ever stopped him at great cost. But for all the trouble Kozoaku causes, killing him would make things even worse, since breaking a pillar of reality will cause a Reality-Breaking Paradox. And since Khronus has become completely indifferent to mankind, a tangle in the malfunctioning Fate Web is going to cause this to actually happen.
- Tales of the Questor: Quentyn and his allies manage to kill the dragon they were tracking (a dragon twice the size of the one they thought they were tracking) but at the cost of a broken arm for Quentyn, various bumps and bruises for Sam and Pelinor and Ember (Quentyn's mountain pony) being mortally wounded and having to be put down. Then they find out that the scent of the dead dragon has sent the other dragon (The one they were actually after) into a berserker fury and it sets about torching the countryside. Quentyn and the others are in no condition to even try to fight it and fear the people will blame them for the rampage.
- Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures : Cyra (Dan's grandmother and a powerful cubi of her own) attempts to steal the power of M'Chek and conquer Hishaan, the city that he protects. However, unknown to Cyra at the time, M'Chek wasn't just the protector of the city, he was also its reaper, and killing him has devastating consequences, among them:
- The sheer amount of magical energy unleashed upon his death turns the city into crystal,
- The dragon race becomes pissed at M'Chek's death, starting a thousand world war between Dragons and cubis, and tensions between the races is still pretty strong,
- As a result of the above, Cyra's whole clan and family are almost completely killed off, with only Dan, Destania and Cyra herself still alive. Did I mention that since Cyra is the Clan Leader, she is incapable of having other children of her own?
- Oh, and Cubi and dragons alike hate Cyra and her clan. No wonder Cyra regretted it.
- Invoked in Code Name: Hunter as the main reason why the agency doesn't go to war against the Fey. As explained by Hunter, the Fey are divided in two courts, the Seelie and Unseelie, or Summer and Winter courts. The problem, is that they doesn't just named themselves after the seasons, they ARE the seasons, with their Queens being the living incarnations of Summer and Winter respectively. So, while it's perfectly true that the agency has resources to hunt down and destroy the Fey, they can't do that fast enough to prevent the courts to retaliate and cause climatic disaster of global proportions.
- Happens to Jesse in Apothecia when she tries to blow up the alien. It infects her instead.
- In Draw With Me, it becomes did you just lose your hand trying to punch out Cthulhu (in this case, an instantly regenerating glass wall).
- Phase, in the Whateley Universe, fighting a tiny aspect of a demon trying to gain a foothold in this dimension. She stalled it long enough that it could be sealed off again. For now. But she ended up with broken bones, life-threatening injuries, psychological damage and hideous nightmares that required intervention to stop. And, the personal enmity of said demon.
- Halloween at Whateley, since killing Sara was the whole point. Not only did it fail, but the two commanders of the force that attacked are now wanted by the criminals as well as the law, and the one who ordered the attack got into deep shit, and a good portion of the attacking soldiers were killed or taken into MCO custody.
- Jay from Marble Hornets in Entry #52 tackles the Operator/Slender Man, but in doing so he loses the last seven months from his memory.
- Occurs in the Goku versus Superman Episode of Death Battle. Superman manages to completely atomize Goku with the Infinite Mass Punch, but the impact causes the entire earth to be shattered.
- In Worm fanfic Weaver Nine: after the heroes kill one of the most powerful beings in the setting, the defeated villain uses their last moments to unleash an apocalyptic-level attack that destroys an entire city and wipes out most of the attackers.
- Justice League
- The page quote is taken from the Unlimited episode "Divided We Fall", after the titular league knock themselves out in the process of destroying the Doomsday Device of a near Physical God Nanomachine-controlling Brainac/Lex Luthor fusion. The villain, able to rebuild it a matter of minutes and being utterly undamaged, shrugs it off with the above comment. It is then subverted, when Flash taps into the Speed Force and uses it to demolish the villain atom by atom, faster than his nanomachines can compensate.
- The episode "The Terror Beyond" featured a team of Defenders-expies set up to beat back an incursion of Eldritch Abominations, which they end up doing by killing Ichthultu… but Solomon Grundy dies in the process.
- A much less serious version of this trope happened in "This Little Piggy" when Batman and Zatanna picked a fight with Circe. The two make a fair account of themselves until Circe actually starts fighting back, at which point she reveals that she's just humouring them. Since Circe is a Screwy Squirrel, they manage to talk their way out of further confrontation.
- Anything used to try to stop the Beast Planet of Shadow Raiders. Turn your whole planet into an energy gun, the firing of which kills everyone on it? Not even a scratch. Ram it with another planet? It's annoyed. Turn a planet into a bomb and blow it up when The Beast is eating it? Doesn't even get heart burn. The best the heroes do is send it somewhere else, so it just attacks another system.
- Something similar happened with Alpha Q's planets in Transformers Energon. When Unicron came to eat their world Scorponok set off a bomb in the center of the planet in order to destroy him, since their own lives were forfeit anyway. Unfortunately the bomb only sent Unicron into a temporary coma, and when he woke up Alpha Q was trapped inside him, alone and slowly going mad.
- Transformers Prime has in Stronger Faster, when Ratchet has use synthetic energon to take a level in badass and seems invincible most of the episode, so he gets confident enough to try fighting Megatron, who initially laughs him off as Optimus "pet medic", before Ratchet punches him across the room, but as Ratchet soon learns the hard way, all this did was make him mad, or more accurately, put him in worse than he was already in, and tear Ratchet open nearly cause him to bleed dry from Energon lose. Ratchet survives, but the Decepticons get away with a sample of the synthetic energon with plans to reverse engineer it.
- Wheeljack and Ultra Magnus' fight with Predaking, with the two compensating for Predaking's greater strength through their teamwork and managing to land a beating on him before dropping a giant stalactite on him. They thought they killed him, but what they find the hard way is that only gave him a weapon which he nearly crushes Wheeljack with it and then nearly killing Ultra Magnus.
- The show's finale Predacons Rising. Optimus Prime manages to permanently stop Unicron but tricking him into opening an empty container that he though contained the All-Spark, which instead leads to the container sucking out Unicron's spark and trapping him. This unfortunately is followed by a reveal that to pull this off Optimus had insert the All-Spark into himself, and to release it back into Cybertron to fully revive the planet, it meant releasing his own spark to join it, costing him his life.
- In Gargoyles, the heroes (and anti-heroes) find themselves up at one point against Lord Oberon, ruler of The Fair Folk. They try various weapons against him, which do nothing, until finally hitting him with an iron harpoon that does some serious damage. Unfortunately, even an injured Oberon is stil the most powerful character in the series, and now he's really mad.
- Later when he's standing over baby's crib, Fox blasts him with magic. This also actually manages to hurt him. Unfortunately, she has no idea how to do it again, it didn't hurt him that much, and now he's even more pissed. She still saves the day, since Goliath used this display of magic to convince Oberon that Alex's magical potential can be nurtured without taking him away from his family.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
- A rare villainous example. Admiral Zhao manages to kill Tui, the Moon Spirit. La, the Ocean Spirit, gets pissed, fuses with Aang into an enormous One-Winged Angel, and lays an absolute smackdown on a massive Fire Nation fleet. After Tui is revived via Heroic Sacrifice, La parts with Aang, grabs Zhao, and drags him underwater.
- Later in the series, the Gaang is fighting knowledge spirit Wan Shi Tong, who's trying to sink his library and trap them forever so they won't try to use his knowledge to hurt people. Sokka manages to knock Wan Shi Tong unconscious by hitting him over the head with a book. The Gaang barely manages to escape the sinking library with knowledge that can help them win the war. But unfortunately, the library still disappears, Appa gets stolen during the fight, and worst of all, the Gaang's new friend Professor Zei gets dragged down with Wan Shi Tong and the library. Presumably, Zei stays trapped there forever. In the squeal series "The Legend of Korra" it was noted that Professor Zei remained in the library for the remainder of his life as we get a glimpse of his skeleton later in the second season.
- The Legend of Korra has another villainous example in season 3, where Zaheer attempts to end the Avatar Cycle by kidnapping Korra, injecting her a metallic poison to force her into the Avatar State, and then killing her in that state. Despite his huge precautions to ensure this goes well (keeping restrained with chains made from a metal she cannot bend and assembling all his comrads to attack her at the same time), Korra easily frees herself and goes on a rampage, almost killing him until the poison finally starts kicking in. By the end of the episode, he has managed to cripple her and was only stopped from killing her by the New Air Nation and Suyin, but the whole operation indirectly caused the death of all his friends, as well as his own capture.
- At the end of the Teen Titans "The End" trilogy, the Titans prepare to face off against Trigon. The only one who doesn't fight is Raven, who has been reduced to a child, lost all her powers, and is convinced the fight is hopeless. The Titans and even Slade fight and manage to actually wound him. Unfortunately, this just pissed him off and he quickly defeats Slade, takes down Cyborg, Starfire, and Beast Boy with one shot, and finally even defeats Robin. Their courage and refusal to give up however, leads to Raven taking a level in badass and properly punch him out.
- Honeybees die whenever they sting a human, or anything else with thick skin. They will try to avert this. If they have to give up their life for one tiny attack, they will make sure to make it count. Usually by having the whole hive sting you at once.
- Eleazar Avaran, one of the leaders of the Maccabean revolt, where the Jews fought for and won their freedom from Seleucid rule. Eleazar killed a war elephant with a spear, but the elephant fell on him and he was crushed to death.
- This is also a crowning moment of awesome. Having no idea how to deal with Elephants he ran under the thing when it reared... and allowed it to fall on him, spear planted firmly in the earth.
- A national-level version occurred in the dying stages of World War I, with the German Spring Offensive, which let them break through the British and French lines...but their troops got so far ahead of their own supply lines that they simply couldn't sustain the attack and were thus screwed when the British and French made their counterattack, aided by American forces.