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Anime & Manga
- In Berserk we have the "Bakiraka" an elite group of Kushan Assassins led by Silat. Then there's the "Black Dog Knights" a not so elite group of murdering scum led by the biggest murdering scumbag of them all: Wyald. Both are employed by the King of Midland to track down the outlawed Band of the Hawk.
- Happens twice in Black Lagoon, once in response to the Vampire Twins, and once in response to Greenback Jane. In the second example, one of the episodes of the arc is even called "The Roanapur Freakshow Circus". (It sums up a lot about Black Lagoon when you point out that several of the characters involved then end up working with the heroes in the "Baile de la Muerte" arc.)
- It sums up more when you realize that two of the characters defending the target during the second carnival participated in the first.
- The second half of the anime Trigun is about Vash trying to stay alive while keeping the 12 Gung Ho Guns at bay as they come at him.
- The many and various groups and individuals trying to kill Bambi and retrieve the stolen child in Bambi And Her Pink Gun, which include a gang of smuggling truckers in rigs bigger than most battleships, a powerful mafia family, a posse of biker cowboys, a cyborg luchadore, and psychopathic rock star Gabba King
- The Seven Warlords of the Sea in One Piece, to a degree as not all are antagonistic towards Luffy. CP9 probably counts as a straighter example, and they're actual assassins as opposed to the Warlords...
- Baroque Works plays this straight
- Happens in the Yorknew City Arc of Hunter × Hunter. After the Phantom Troupe has proven to be too much for the Mafia to handle alone, by killing their Praetorian Guard, the Elders call in the most famous assassins in the world to finish them of, including Killua's father and grandfather
- Frequently ended up on the wrong end of Oogami Itto's sword in Lone Wolf and Cub. Hired by the Yagyu clan, until the situation got desperate enough that they revealed themselves to wear this mantle as well.
- In Until Death Do Us Part, one of these was called against Mamoru by Edge Turus. Notable in that the "target" then spread the word that he'd be in a certain location at a specific time, and when they gathered there, took out the assassins all at once.
- In Yaiba the Seven Revenant Swordsmen summoned by Onimaru during the Ryuujin Orbs arc, who are all famous warriors from the past, including monks, ninjas, samurai and a Warrior Poet assassin.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Seto Kaiba creates an almost literal carnival of killers with "Death T", the "Theme Park of Death" he made specifically for Yugi.
- In Arachnid, Alice Fuji is made the target of such a game by an organization of insect-themed assassins. However, the reward for killing her gets increased for every assassin that dies, implying one purpose of this is to set them against each other and weed out the weak members of the organization.
- Describes the rest of the world for anyone who puts on the Number 2 Headband in Afro Samurai: Afro routinely fought gangs of heavily armed killers determined to take the headband from him, even when he was just minding his own business.
- Akuma no Riddle is about a girl who's the target of twelve assassins, until one of them decides to defend her instead. From that on, it's "only" eleven.
- Akame ga Kill! is a subversion of the usual formula since the Carnival of Killers are the protagonists. Night Raid accepts assassination contracts on the corrupt and powerful.
- An early arc in Punisher: War Zone had the New York mob hiring the seven best assassins in the world to hunt down the Punisher. Such things are something of an occupational hazard for The Punisher.
- Deconstructed in Welcome Back, Frank, where a Gangster employs three badass killers to take out the Punisher. The first guy is a Martial Arts expert "with a black belt in anything you care to name." Punisher says that he "knows a little myself", but settles on simply shoving the guy onto a subway track. The second guy is some kind of Neo-Cowboy Gunslinger, famous for a firefight with a police officer, where he ducked the bullet fired at him, and shot the cop dead. The Punisher riddles him with an UZI. note Lastly we have an ex-Marine sniper and Desert Storm veteran. Punisher runs him over with a car.
- One of the Batman Versus Predator mini-series had this running as B plot. An open bounty on Batman brought a variety of hitmen to Gotham to attempt to collect.
- In the "6 Gun War" arc in Jonah Hex, Quentin Turnbull recruits a variety of assassins from around the world to bring him Jonah's head, including an Irish boxer, a Persian assassin, a Masai lion-hunter, and a Mexican Dual Wielding machetes.
- These groups get sent after the Secret Six all the time. In fact, the roster of the Six themselves read as a veritable carnival of killers:
Deadshot: World class marksman with a death wish.Catman: Feral tracker and knife expert.Scandal: Strategist with a healing factor and great at close combat.Ragdoll: Contortionist and thief with surgically augmented flexibility.Cheshire: Assassin and poison expert with a penchant for killing members of her own family.Knockout: Superhumanly strong former gladiator and enforcer for an evil space god.Parademon: Mindless drone of aforementioned evil space god who gained sentience.Jeanette: Practically immortal banshee dominatrix with super strength.Mad Hatter: Head wear and Lewis Carroll obsessed murderous dwarf with mind control technology.Bane: Legendary mercenary who's been on and off an experimental steroid that makes him insane.Fiddler: Genius musician who kills with hypersonic violin.Harley Quinn: Crazed psychologist, gymnast and Joker's ex-girlfriend.
- Red Robin (DCU) introduces the Council of Spiders, a spider-themed carnival of killers that decides to take on another carnival of killers, the League of Assassins.
- Hawkeye was subject to one of these in Avengers Spotlight #24-25 when Crossfire put a bounty on his arm.
- In Teen Titans Annual #2, a mob boss hires one to protect him from the Vigilante and kill the Titans. It included Scorcher, Spear, Bazooka, Tanker, Slasher and Cheshire (the only one to survive/catch on and make subsequent appearances.)
- In the 14th issue of Daredevil, after word spreads about Ka-Zar's vibranium medallion, a motley crew of "agents from every nation and killers without a nation", in addition to the Plunderer and the police, all start gunning for Ka-Zar and Daredevil.
- In the Sin City tale, Hell and Back, the protagonist deals with one assassin after another. All of the assassins belonged to the same guild, however.
- Also done in the first story. Marv has to deal with a SWAT team, two hitmen, a cannibal Serial Killer, and a group of federal agents all asigned to take him down.
- The Spider-Man storyline "Identity Crisis" is about Spider-Man being framed for murder and a $5,000,000 bounty on his head, dead or alive. Eventually he assumes several different costumed identities so he can keep up the superhero game without being harassed, but before he thought of that he was fighting off dozens of bounty hunters every day. The guys after the 5 mil ranged from mundane gun nuts and thrill seekers (like the Hunters) to professionals (like Shotgun) to actual costumed villains (like Override and Aura).
- In World's Finest #8, a mob boss puts an open contract on the Huntress's life, causing a large number of assassins to start targeting Helena in an attempt to collect.
- The Gray Riders, a group of twelve mercenaries and assassins hired to hunt down and kill Red Sonja in the Legends of Red Sonja mini-series.
- Le Scorpion: In The Mask of Truth, Cardinal Trebaldi puts a 1,000 gold coin price of the Scorpion's head. Every assassin in Rome tries to claim it.
- In the New 52 series of Harley Quinn, a $2 million bounty is placed on Harley's head, bring a veritable army of hired killers out of the woodwork to try to claim it.
- In issue #4 of his first series, Moon Knight is targeted by the committee, a crime syndicate who feels MK double crossed them. They send out five assassins: Ice, Bull, Dragon, Razor, and Boom Boom.
- In the "Run Like Hell" arc in Catwoman, the Penguin puts out a $1 million contract on Selina's head. This attracts a large number of Gotham's costumed criminals out of the woodwork to take a shot at her.
- In Lex, a secret society aims to dispense justice where they think the legal system has failed. Their chosen method is to capture serial killers and other interesting types and offer them the choice of working for them or death. The comic's main team is a diverse group of assassins. Including a gentleman bomber, hacker, SM-mistress and punisher-like ex-cop. By the third album, an escalating conflict with The Mafia makes Lex concentrate it's forces and they call in every killer they control. Technically, Lex aims to be the good guys but their morality is questionable and their assets approach can be quite brutal.
- Button Man: When Harry's leverage on Senator Jacklin becomes useless after the latter's death, the Voices organize a massive game by sending thirteen other Button Men to go after Harry in a cross-country hunt. They get into each other's way to get to Harry a bunch of times, which is handily exploited by him.
- The Pink Panther:
- In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Dreyfus demands that Clouseau be killed or he will destroy the world. Several nations send assassins to kill Clouseau at Oktoberfest in Munich, only for the assassins to wind up killing each other by accident.
- In Revenge of the Pink Panther, the main villain's henchman hired a whole Carnival Of Killers. When the Big Bad saw them he said "are these the men you have hired to kill Clouseau?" The henchmen replied he had hired these men to kill Mr. Chong. The Carnival of Killers had been hired merely to test the skills of the real killer they were sending after Clouseau . . .
- Invoked for laughs in Blazing Saddles:
Hedley Lamarr: "I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and METHODISTS!
- The whole premise of Smokin' Aces is that a huge bounty is placed on a mob rat and a whole lot of colorful assassins swarm on his location at the same time trying to collect.
- The finale of The Last Dragon, where Bruce Leroy fights off everyone from a wrestler with a white Mohawk to an acid bath murderer...
- The Superposse in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which includes Indian tracker Lord Baltimore and lawman Joe leFors and which has been paid to stay on the trail of the outlaws till they are dead.
- Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead - the reason our protagonists are dead is because they know they can't survive long against a Carnival Of Killers sent by Christopher Walken.
- The bounty hunters in The Empire Strikes Back, although the only one who actually gets anywhere with hunting the occupants of the Millennium Falcon is Boba Fett.
- The lineup of killers sent to kill Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Running Man includes a homicidal hockey player, a chainsaw-wielding biker, an opera-singing lightning-man and a pyromaniac with a jetpack.
- The Three Stooges face one in The Outlaws Is Coming. The eponymous outlaws called in to wipe out the heroes are Rob Dalton, Wyatt Earp, Johnny Ringo, Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Bat Masterson, Cole Younger, Wild Bill Hickock and Belle Starr.
- Austin Powers: Among the various killers hired by Dr Evil are an Asian man using his shoe to kill people named Random Task and a vaguely Middle-Eastern man who angers Dr Evil but will just not die.
- The Hassansins in the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time who comprise of; a man that controls snakes, a man that shoots darts, a guy with two deadly whips and finally a guy that throws explosives.
- The eponymous characters in Slashers, which include Chainsaw Charlie, Preacherman, Doctor Ripper, Pirate Pete, Slasho the Clown and... Switchblade Sam.
- The Red Triangle Circus Gang in Batman Returns is about as literal as this trope can possibly get. True to their name, they are indeed ex-circus performers and continue to dress as clowns, acrobats, and various other circus people while serving as the Penguin's shock troops, apparently because Crime Doesn't Pay. More to the point of this trope, they function as a sort of highly anarchic guerrilla fighting force with every weapon known to man: machine guns, rocket launchers, ninja weapons, various incendiary devices, and (in the Nintendo spin-off video game and various other adaptations) swords, knives, and pitchforks. The only way in which they don't fit the trope is that the Penguin isn't paying them, which makes one wonder why they're working for him in the first place. We do get subtle hints here and there that some of them may be ordinary street toughs looking for something to do, or even kidnapped and brainwashed children who have come to look upon the Penguin as a father-figure).
- Pretty-boy gangster Dorian Tyrell promises $50,000 to whoever can kill the title character in The Mask (no mean feat, since the green-faced creature is practically immortal).
- In Flag of Iron, an old Shaw Brothers kung fu film, the main character is hunted by the Ten Killers of the Underworld. One of the killers is The Accountant who uses a weaponized abacus. Another is a Hitman with a Heart who ends up aiding the hero.
- The Assassination Bureau is about a member of a Carnival of Killers who challenges his fellow assassins by putting a bounty on himself. Things do not bode well for those other assassins.
- John Lee, the protagonist of The Replacement Killers, is being chased by a group of assassins that are vying for his position, after he refused to perform a hit on the cop who killed his former employer's son, while Lee attempts to get back to China to save his family from the vengeance of the mob boss.
- In Masters of the Universe, Skeletor hires a group of mercenaries to follow He-Man and the others to Earth to recover the Cosmic Key. They consist of the Master Swordsman Blade, the Beast Man, the reptilian Saurod, and the hook-handed Karg. When they fail in their first mission and return empty-handed to Skeletor, he kills Saurod and forces Evil Lyn to join them.
- In the Roger Zelazny book Roadmarks the antagonist declares a "Black Decade" on the protagonist, legally permitting ten attempts to kill him. Agents may be employed... and so ten highly skilled assassins/hunters have been hired from the entire range of Earth's histories (including alternate pasts and futures). This includes an assassin robot, a genetically enhanced and cybernetic super soldier, and a martial arts master.
- In Matthew Reilly's Scarecrow, Majectic-12 sets a bounty on the 15 people who could possibly foil their plan. Various groups respond, including Professional Bounty Hunters, Mercenaries, AWOL Military Units, Corrupt Corporate Executives...
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Tywin Lannister employs a carnival of killers for "foraging" missions, which is essentially sending armed men to plunder and murder the enemy's peasants. His troupe includes a mercenary gang called the Brave Companions, but nicknamed the Bloody Mummers, which is almost literally a carnival of killers, right down to a Monster Clown, the fool Shagwell who kills people for not laughing at his jokes. In fitting with the spirit of the trope, the group is also extensively multicultural, and individual members often have their own signature derangements. They are led by Vargo Hoat, his long beard and helmet with horns lead to him being nicknamed the goat. However he's a sadistic psychopath who enjoys cutting off limbs, and even his laughable Speech Impediment is sinister, due to it coming from him catching a disease from raping someone.
- The Destroyer: The Last Alchemist had an interesting variation of this. The Dragon as part of his backstory, participated in an open contract on a crimelord. After he killed the target, he was given a job as the personal assassin of the Big Bad who had placed the contract simply to find a suitable person for the position. The trope appeared in a few other books in the series as well.
- This is what happens in No Country for Old Men after Moss steals the money. He has numerous Mexican mooks, Professional Killer Carson Wells, and Psycho for Hire Anton Chigurh after him.
- In Nobody Lives for Ever, the dying leader of SPECTRE places (literally) a prize on the head of James Bond, which brings opportunistic killers from various organizations after him. However, SPECTRE has no intention to pay any of them, and instead uses them to find and herd Bond to their base in Florida, where they are going to claim his head by themselves with a guillotine.
- In Kill Dusty Fog! by J.T. Edson, General Trumpeter offers a $1,000 bounty on the head of Captain Dusty Fog, despite this being against the rules of war. Several guerillas make attempts to claim the bounty, before Dusty decides to confront Trumpeter directly.
Live Action TV
- At least Once A Season on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For example, in season 2:
Dalton: Uh, yes, but... The Order of Taraka, I mean... isn't that overkill?Spike: No, I think it's just enough kill.
- In "Homecoming", the Carnival Of Killers is combined with Hunting the Most Dangerous Game.
- A nice subversion is in the episode "Angel," where the Master hires the Three, three apparently badass vampires to take down Buffy. In their first encounter with her, she manages to barely escape with Angel's help (who kills one of them)...and the Master, incensed that they failed, has Darla kill all of the Three, making their scenes a total of two. They weren't the real threat of the episode; that happened to be Darla herself.
- Max faces one in the Get Smart episode "Someone Down Here Hates Me" when KAOS puts a $250,000 on his head (and later ups it to $500,000).
- In the The Amazing Extraordinary Friends episode "Quality Time", Renfield hires the 'world's greatest super assassins' (the Invisible Ninja, Captain Tardy, Geyser Girl and the Easter Bunny) to eliminate the Friends.
- Inverted in the "Black Seal" episode of Blackadder when the protagonist assembles a team of the biggest bastards in all of England (including himself, naturally) to carry out a fiendish plan. They all turn on him in favor of an even BIGGER bastard by the end of the episode.
- There was an episode of the 80s Bret Maverick TV series where an authur who writes westerns hires a Carnival of Killers to take out professional gambler Bret Maverick, so he'd have an ending to his latest book that's more exciting than "And he retired with a saloon and a cattle ranch."
- White Collar had one of the protagonists calling on a carnival of killers, when Mozzie places a six million dollar bounty on Keller who killed one of their friends and was threatening them.
- Sherlock: In "The Reichenbach Fall", a group of international assassins appear around Sherlock, although initially they appear to be keeping Holmes alive. Ultimately, it is revealed they have been hired by Moriarty to kill Holmes' friends if Holmes refuses to kill himself.
- The A-Team:
- Babylon 5 had another protagonist example. In "Objects in Motion", Garibaldi learns, but can't prove, that the board of Edgars Industries is trying to have him assassinated. As part of his response, he arranges to put large bounties on all their heads if anything happens to him or Lise.
- In The Cape, the Big Bad Chess occasionally hires members of an assassin order called Tarot, each of whom specializes in a different skill. Cain is a poison expert, while the Goggles and Hicks duo (brothers) specialize in surveillance. After one too many failures, Chess refuses to have any more dealings with the Tarot. Ironically, he does this moments before Hicks would have revealed the true identity of the Cape. However, since he no longer works for Chess, Hicks feels no obligation to hand over the information and, instead, uses it to bargain with the Cape for the location of his captured brother.
- The Aaron Stewart-Ahn video for The Decemberists' "O Valencia!" features Colin Meloy protecting a woman from assassins.
- In his final appearance in the Dick Tracy strip, 'Big Boy' Caprice created an open contract: an offer of one million dollars to anyone who killed Tracy. This led to multiple attempts on Tracy's life. (New writer Max Allan Collins used this storyline to kill off Moon Maid, Creator's Pet of the series; killed by a car bomb meant for Tracy.)
- Steven Richards, Thuggin and Buggin Enterprises, La Résistance, Tommy Dreamer and Dave Batista all tried to get the money Triple H was offering to whoever would take out Goldberg for him
- Vince McMahon issued a contract on D-Gneration X (Shawn Michaels and Triple H) in the summer of 2006 when DX was running amok on Monday Night Raw. Both Chris Masters and Eugene (who, being a babyface, didn't bear DX any ill will but just liked the idea of getting a reward) failed to collect, so Vince enlisted the help of Cuban businessman Armando Alejandro Estrada, who actually succeeded for a time in getting Triple H sent to jail after framing him for having smuggled Cuban cigars into the country. There were even hints that non-wrestling personnel could get involved: Vince boasted that he and his son Shane had access to "unlimited resources", causing DX to retort, "Bring in anybody from the street - we don't care." Eventually, at SummerSlam, the McMahons had Big Show, Mr. Kennedy, and King Booker's Court (Sir William Regal and Sir Fit Finlay) rough up Shawn and Hunter before Vince and Shane even set foot in the ring - and DX still won.
- A staple of Suda 51 console games; You play as one of these in Killer7, and fight your way to the top of a different group in No More Heroes.
- In Knights of the Old Republic II, the gangster Goto hires dozens of bounty hunters to bring in the Player Character. Goto wants you alive, but the people he hired don't pay attention to that part so much.
- Team Fortress 2 consists of a team of these being pitted against another team of them. To wit:
- A Bostonian Fragile Speedster with a penchant for baseball.
- An Ax-Crazy, not-quite Shell-Shocked Veteran of World War II.
- A Pyromaniac of indeterminate gender and origin.
- A black, Scottish cyclopean demolitions expert who can swing a mean sword.
- A large Russian man with a love for massive chainguns.
- A Texan Gadgeteer Genius somewhat addicted to More Gun.
- A sadistic German doctor.
- An Australian sniper who uses an ancient martial art.
- A French espionage agent with a variety of cloaking watches.
- A constant theme in the first Baldur's Gate game is a never-ending stream of bounty hunters and assassins attacking the protagonist. Unusual in that the protagonist didn't do anything to screw the Big Bad's plans; all the assassination attempts are simply for him or her existing.
- Subverted in Dragon Age: Origins. Arl Howe approached the Antivan Crows about assassinating the Grey Wardens, but since it's considered in poor taste (and often suicidal) to go after members of that order, only Zevran stepped up to accept the contract. Once he makes his attempt, no more Crows bother the Warden for the rest of the game. When they do return, it's more because they are after Zevran for failing to get his target.
- The basic premise behind Batman: Arkham Origins is that Black Mask put a fifty million dollar bounty on Batman's head, and eight professional killers show up trying to collect, though Lady Shiva and Deadshot are only encountered in side quests missions, and the third side-mission-only mini-boss Anarky is not one of the eight.
- From the Global Guardians PBEM Universe. A Syndicate boss put out a $1,000,000 bounty on the head of '90s Anti-Hero Strafe, and a fifteen-man Carnival of Killers took up the challenge. After the smoke had cleared, the six surviving killers decided to stick together as a "business cooperative" they named "The League of Assassins", with the body of Strafe as their first advertisement.
- At the end of The Venture Bros.' third season, Jean-Claude LeTueur, Russel "Go-Fish" Sturgeon, and Herr Trigger are hired to track and kill Brock.
- All of them manipulated by Molotov Cocktease into getting killed by Brock so that her Black Hearts assassins agency would be the only game in town for high profile assassination jobs.
- This was common enough in Samurai Jack that eventually an episode is told from the perspective of the disparate group of Bounty Hunters searching for Jack. note Another example is the endless progression of hunters facing Jack head-on in "Jack and Mad Jack" (most notably, "Crazy Round Man" and Huntor).
- Also the various groups that tried to catch Danny Phantom after Vlad put out a bounty on him, including the Guys in White and the Extreme Ghostbreakers.
- On The Boondocks, Gin Rummy tells the tale of Bushido Brown fending off a group of these hired by the beef industry to take out Oprah Winfrey, including pastiches of Walker, Texas Ranger and Billy Jack.
Gin Rummy: Apparently only one guy actually managed to get his hand on Oprah's door, they say Bushido Brown kept that hand.Ed the Third: Dang, I think I just shit myself.
- The Young Justice episode "Infiltrator" dealt with the heroes protecting a scientist from a group of assassins.
- However, all of the assassins were working for the same group—The League of Shadows—and operated as a team with zero infighting.
- Lupin III The Italian Adventure features an almost textbook example of the trope. An Italian politician hires some assassins from all over the world to kill an African dictator, among them a bomber, a Knife Nut, Goemon and a young Italian girl who's a Cold Sniper and whom Goemon swore to protect at the cost of his life. Years later the killers get killed in turn by the sniper hired by the murdered dictator - or so it seems...
- In the Wander over Yonder episode "The Bounty", Lord Hater gets tired of Peepers' repeated failures at capturing Wander and Sylvia and hires three bounty hunters to do the job: Rongroffle the Huntress, Killbot 86, and... a potted plant (one that turns out to be of the man-eating variety).