A group of bad guys with a bone to pick have rounded up a group of Innocent Bystanders
as hostages and deliver a cold ultimatum:
"Either Captain Hero
shows up to settle the score with us or these people get it! He has 15 minutes!"
There's only one problem - through complete luck (or lack of it), Captain Hero is
one of the hostages, he's just present in his "civilian" identity
Now he must find a way to rescue the hostages, bring the bad guys down, and prevent anyone present, good or bad, from putting 2 and 2 together
and figuring out that he and his alter ego are the same person.
Note that the hostages being bait to draw Captain Hero must
be part of the villain's plot to qualify as this trope. (Ultimatum optional.) If the villains don't specifically
intend to draw out Captain Hero, or known associates thereof, then he is merely the Right Man In The Wrong Place
or they've unwittingly picked the wrong bystander to victimize
Compare Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard
. Contrast Safety In Muggles
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Anime & Manga
- The first season of Sailor Moon had Zoisite trap Mamoru, and Usagi by accident, in a building and chased them with intent to kill as a trap for Tuxedo Kamen; Usagi, not filled in on all the details, thinks he's after her and Mamoru is the innocent hostage. She ends up revealing her identity to the both of them.
- A curious inversion happens in Moldiver, during the episode with the space shuttle. Machinegal tries to steal the shuttle and takes the crowd hostage, and dares Moldiver to stop him. This is because he thinks Moldiver is in the crowd — specifically looking at an old student of his and a close friend of Hiroshi who looks just like you'd think Moldiver would look without a suit. Except he's not Moldiver, Hiroshi just modelled its physique after him because he wanted to look buff. So the villain, the poor guy's date, and the crowd want him to transform and try to save the day, while he tries to convince everyone he's not the superhero.
- A Daredevil villain once tried to stop Foggy Nelson from running for DA... by holding poor, blind, helpless Matt Murdock hostage.
- A variation occurred in a Silver Age Superman story. During an attempted heist at a museum, some goons take a bystander hostage and force Superman to help them. Only the "Superman" they have is a lookalike in a Superman costume on his way to his son's school, and the "hostage" is Clark Kent, who they grabbed before he could change clothes. The real Superman ends up having to use his powers to covertly make his kidnappers believe the fake one is the real deal until he can get him safely away.
- A Silver Age Superman/Batman story in "World's Finest Comics" twists this around by having a group of crooks taking Lois Lane and Clark Kent hostage while attempting to escape from Batman and Robin. Clark has to do everything in his power to keep himself looking like a hostage while also helping his friends out.
- A story in the Batman and Robin Adventures comic inverts this and then subverts it. Riddler takes all the occupants of a prestige Gotham City club hostage on Christmas Eve, similar to the Moldiver example, because he's apparently two and two together and realized that Batman has to be pretty wealthy and connected so it's all but guaranteed he and Robin are at the club that night. They aren't. Then it turns out that the hostages are actually one giant distraction for the Riddler to secretly steal a pair of priceless gold statues in the club.
- This happened in an issue of PK2 wherein Donald Duck, now working as a mall security guard, is taken hostage along with a bunch of others inside of a clothing store by a mind-controlled hobo with a shotgun demanding to talk to Paperinik. Interestingly, Donald uses some makeup to draw a PK mask on his face and grabs a long, blue piece of cloth to wrap around himself as a cape so he can "pretend to be PK so the others can escape". His coworker even remarks that he only barely resembles PK! He then runs a negotiaion with the guy for quite a while... until the hobo notices the price tag on his "cape". Oops.
- Batman Forever - when Two-Face threatens to detonate a bomb at a circus, killing everyone there unless Batman shows up. Two-Face actually points out that he wouldn't be surprised if Batman is in the wealthy and well-to-do audience. It turns out Bruce Wayne is in the audience and willing to reveal himself. He stands up and yells "I'm Batman," but no one can hear him because everyone is screaming in panic. He then tries to push his way down and either stop the bomb or give himself up in his civilian identity.
- In Batman: The Movie, as Catwoman lured Bruce Wayne into a trap designed to force Batman to save him.
- Smallville: played with in the episode "Mortal." Clark Kent and his family are held hostage by three Meteor Freaks, who know Clark has superpowers, and wants him to use his superpowers to help them, or they'll kill the Kents. Except what they don't know is that Clark has been Brought Down to Normal. So instead of saving the day while still hiding the fact he has superpowers, he's got to save the day by pretending to have superpowers.
- In Batman The Brave And The Bold, Batman does it to himself. A Tap on the Head has him thinking he's actually the gangster he's posing as, and he puts the Birds Of Prey in a Death Trap, demanding that Batman come and fight him, or else.
- An Alvin and the Chipmunks episode parodying Batman even had this. The Jokester (Alvin) kidnaps Brice Wayne (Simon) and Nicki Nale (Brittany) and threatens to kill them unless Batmunk brings him the toy he's been trying to steal. Fortunately, loyal butler Happy (Theodore) takes on the role himself for this.
- The same thing happened to Drake Mallard in Darkwing Duck. He managed to pull it off by moving very quickly from the bank he was held hostage in to where he had a spare costume. Then the villain, Tuskerninni, and the law started arguing over whether hostage Drake had to be let go before hero Darkwing surrendered or vice versa...
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
- In the rebooted version, Prince Adam is kidnapped by Skeletor to serve as bait for He-Man. Obviously, it's a long wait until a robotic stand-in for He-Man cobbled together by Man-At-Arms shows up to complete the ruse.
- A similar plot occurred in an episode of the original, in which Prince Adam was frozen in phlebotinum along with other hostages by someone who wanted He-Man's help. Orko, the comic bundle of rags, was the only one available to float in with a sword and declare in a magically altered voice that he was He-Man and would only help if one hostage was freed as a show of faith.
- In the one episode of the animated TV series The Mask, the villains take several people at the mall hostage, including Stanley. Stanley is forced to read out the threat on TV. He overemphasizes the fact that they need the help of the Mask, to give his dog the hint that it needs to bring him the mask.
- In Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (2003), Peter Parker finds himself among a group of hostages in a TV studio held by ex-KGB terrorists and volunteers to be cameraman so they can put forth their demand. The catch? They want Spider-Man in person.