Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/cap_locker_8524.jpg
...I thought his last name was "America"...

"What's a Magneto? ...'Sabretooth'? 'Storm'? What do they call you? 'Wheels'? This is the stupidest thing I ever heard."

Steven Ulysses Perhero finally got a role in the newest blockbuster film! Finally, the mainstream audience can be introduced to the awesomeness that is Grass Man!

...Except no one ever calls him that.

Throughout the movie, he's just "Steven Ulysses". We get all of one scene where he hints at casual drug use in college, saying his roommates used to call him "The Grass Man" with a snicker. Afterwards, they never use that name again, even when he gets the ability to control plants. Heck, even the end credits refer to the character as "Steven". What the heck just happened?

Simple: "Grass Man" is a name that the general audience might have a hard time taking seriously, and the producers knew it. Sure, that's what he's been called for forty years in comics, but there are very poignant reasons why people still have a hard time disassociating comic books with Campiness. Forty years ago, "Grass Man" might have been perfectly feasible for a character that can control plants, but nowadays, there's almost no way to use that name around the uninitiated without invoking a snort and a snicker. Hell, even a potentially "cool" name like "The Sabre" or "Dark Wolf" might seem a little too superheroic, especially if you're going to be calling someone by that name the whole movie. And on the villain side, it probably wouldn't make sense for someone to go through a traumatic experience and immediately start calling themselves "Dr. Destructo".

However, because the producers don't want to completely alienate the comic fans which supported the character to begin with, they add a little Shout-Out just to appease them. "Grass Man" was definitely in the movie, even if that wasn't officially his name. They might even call the movie "Grass Man" without ever calling the character that. However, sometimes this trope gets taken Up to Eleven and the superhero name is never used at all.

In the case of long-running TV adaptations rather than movies, it's not uncommon for the writers to forget that they're using this trope after a while and accidentally use the character's comic book codename once or twice in a non-ironic fashion. Furthermore, it wouldn't make much sense for the hero to refer to himself and be referred to by his real name when around people who don't know his secret identity, so in those cases the code name has to be used.

Related to Movie Superheroes Wear Black, Not Wearing Tights. Superhero Sobriquets, however, may be exempt from this rule, due to the fact that they're used more as a title than a "name". Contrast with Do Not Call Me "Paul", which is when calling a character by their true name is forbidden. And Kayfabe is when it can't even be hinted that a fantasy character has another identity.

Note: Aversions must be notable. If we try to name every superhero film/media that averts this, we'll be reading this all day.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

Film

    (Non-MCU) Spider-Man Films 
  • An entire scene played for laughs in Spider-Man 2 was dedicated to J. Jonah Jameson coming up with a good nickname for Doctor Octopus, only for him to mostly go by his real name or the nickname "Doc Ock" for most of the movie, as well as the real life advertising and merchandising.
  • Venom is known only by his real name, Eddie Brock, throughout all of Spider-Man 3. Similarly, Flint Marko is generally known by his real name for most of the film until a reporter calls him "the Sandman" during the final battle.
    • In the novelization, the name is at least alluded to when Eddie taunts Spider-Man by saying that they are (in reference to himself in the symbiote) his "venom".
  • While Norman Osborn was called "Green Goblin" multiple times in the first movie, when it came time for his son Harry to adopt that persona, the name was never uttered. In fact, promotional material called him New Goblin, a name that was never used in the comics. The closest Harry comes to being known as the Green Goblin is when Peter mockingly calls him "Goblin Jr.". Harry himself strips most of the goblin styling out of the hardware, going for basic armor and a hoverboard in place of the spiky hang-glider (which makes sense, given that those spikes killed his father...).
  • Averted in The Amazing Spider-Man. The mutated Dr. Curt Connors is referred to as "the Lizard" several times. Spider-Man himself, of course, is another clear aversion.
    • Played straight and averted in the sequel though. Spider-Man is called such very frequently. Electro refers to himself as such even when he's just being tortured and continues to when he becomes a proper villain. Harry, however, isn't called the Green Goblin at all. The Rhino gets very little screen time but is only identified by his civilian name (though he calls himself The Rhino). We also have "Felicia" but she doesn't become Black Cat within the film.

    DC Extended Universe 
  • In Man of Steel, Clark/Kal-El is never directly called Superman. At one point, Lois almost says it before being cut off, and a soldier refers to him by the nickname to the confusion of his commanding officer. Presumably the soldiers got it from Lois.
  • On the other hand, the film also features Anatoli Knyazev. who's never called KGBeast, Justified. as The KGB has been disbanded a long time ago.
  • When Diana suits up in the finale to battle Doomsday alongside Bruce and Clark, she's never given a codename. and is only referred to as Wonder Woman in the credits.
  • Likewise, Bruce is only actually called "Batman" once. when Perry says that nobody would be interested in Clark Kent fighting the Batman, the other times it's some variation of "the Bat" to refer to him.
  • The creature is never called "Doomsday," though Lex Luthor uses the term when describing its role.
  • Wonder Woman never has the title character referred to as anything other than Diana.

    Other Films 
  • During the live action film adaptation of Casshern, the titular hero only refers to himself as "Casshern" once, and it isn't even near the climax of the movie.
  • The original Hulk movie also hardly used the term "hulk", the characters preferring to call him Bruce Banner, or "Angry Man". His father was never a supervillain so he never had a codename to begin with.
    • His father was kind of a Composite Character, with powers similar to the Absorbing Man's. He even turns briefly into an electrical humanoid like old Hulk's foe Zzzax. Think about which of those names would have been less Camp...
    • In the DVD commentary, Ang Lee notes that he didn't want to call him "Absorbing Man" and briefly calls him "Partaking Man", coming from David Banner's line: "I can partake in the essences of all things." But this name is never used in the film itself either.
  • The Fantastic Four movies, (including the Roger Corman one) rarely mention the codenames of the heroes and never refer to Victor Von Doom as Doctor Doom (this is actually in keeping with the nature of the original series since none of the characters had a Secret Identity). Resident clown Johnny makes up the codenames on the spot when being interviewed, thus explaining the apparent cruelty of Ben being named "The Thing".
    • Oddly, "Doctor Doom" would seem to be a perfectly sensible thing to call a person with a doctor's degree whose last name is "Doom". In some of the dubs (the Brazilian one, for example), his line "Call me Doom" is changed to "Call me Doctor Doom".
    • In the 2015 reboot, Sue jokingly calls Doom "Doctor Doom". It also completely avoids any kind of codenames for the heroes until the very end, when Reed starts brainstorming names for the team and Johnny jokingly suggests "The Human Torch and the Torchettes" and "Two Guys, a Girl, and The Thing Nobody Wanted." Reed eventually gets an idea when he hears the word "fantastic", but then the movie cuts to the end credits before he actually says it.
    • This is true to the comics as they rarely use the code names with each other, since they are public figures. Reed, especially, is more know for his scientific accomplishments. Ben and Johnny are more likely to use them in public since they are more outgoing and are more likely to cater to "fans". Ben will call HIMSELF "The Ever Lovin' Blue Eye Thing", but other heroes rarely do.
  • Kamen Rider: The First and The Next, Darker and Edgier modernized retellings of the original series and V3, never use the name "Kamen Rider"; Takeshi Hongo and Hayato Ichimonji are called Hopper 1 and 2 respectively, while Shiro Kazami is simply called V3 (which, in the movie's universe, stands for Version 3). This is in line with the majority of modern Kamen Rider TV shows; see below.
  • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance never refers to Carrigan's character as Blackout, which was his name in the comics.
    • Johnny himself only ever refers to his firey-headed alter-ego as the Rider.
    • In the first Ghost Rider movie, Ghost Rider is mentioned quite a bit. When Sam Elliot's character is revealed as the original Spirit of Vengeance, the name Phantom Rider is not mentioned. This is likely due to the comic character being obscure, the reveal happens not long before the character leaves the film, and the characters have little in common.
  • While not a traditional superhero, Tarzan is a pulp hero who was an inspiration for the superhero genre and shares many elements. That said, in Graystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, he never goes by his more famous moniker but instead is called John or Lord Graystoke. Tarzan is never mentioned except for the title.
  • In RoboCop (2014), after his conversion into a cyborg, Alex Murphy is only called "RoboCop" twice: Once by Pat Novak as a propaganda catchphrase, then later by his partner Lewis as a joke ("Good Cop, RoboCop"). Otherwise, he's mostly referred to by his real name, as unlike in the original trilogy, the fact that he's Alex Murphy is a matter of public record.
  • In The Punisher (2004) The Punisher spends most of the movie being called his first or last name, it is an origin story. There are only two references to his code name. The first is before the final battle, when he says what he's doing isn't vengeance but punishment. The second is the last line of the movie, where he says "Frank Castle is dead. Call me...The Punisher."
  • In Thor: Tales of Asgard, Valkyrie is simply called Brunhilde, though her group of female warriors are collectively known as the Valkyries.
  • Big Hero 6 inverts it—we never learn the real names of Honey Lemon, Wasabi, and Gogo Tomago. Then again, we never learned in the comics if "Wasabi No Ginger" was an alias or not, and even ignoring his Race Lift, "Wasabi" is stated to be a nickname. Likewise, given their Race Lifts (they go from Japanese to Latina and Korean-American), it's equally unlikely that Honey and Gogo's real names are repsectively "Aiko Miyazaki" and "Leiko Tanaka"; in fact, regarding the latter, according to Gogo's voice actress, Jamie Chung, Gogo's first name is Ethel.
    • The team is never called "Big Hero 6" in the movie. However during the closing credits, a news website headline reads "Big Hero 6 Saves Orphanage".
  • Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher never sees Elihas Starr called "Egghead".
  • In Batman & Robin never sees Jason Woodrue called "the Floronic Man". Though, we never see him go "Floronic" in the first place.

    Script 
  • In the 1989 Watchmen script by Sam Hamm, all the superheroes in the Cold Opening are referred to with codenames except Adrian Veidt. In the main action, when Nite Owl and the Silk Spectre come back into superhero action, they are still respectively named Dreiberg and Laurie in descriptive actions and dialogue headers. The name Ozymandias goes unused, but it's justified- Hamm's version of Veidt was never a superhero himself. His only involvement in the pre-Keene Act days was as a financier/quartermaster to the team.

Non-film examples

     Comics 
  • When introduced, the Ultimate Marvel version of Emma Frost did not use the "White Queen" cognomen, as she (at first at least) had no connection to the Hellfire Cub.
  • In Nextwave, none of the members use their code names except for The Captain, and that's only because nobody knows his real name. Machine Man actively mocks Monica's attempts to use them stating that Tabby's (Boom-Boom) sounds stupid, hers (Photon) sounds non-threatening, and his own (as well as his real name which is just a model code) doesn't give him much of an identity.
  • The Runaways started off with some code names, but dropped them almost immediately, except for one who insisted on being called "Princess Powerful." (note that she's a 12 year old girl...) Just as well, their code names sucked. The dinosaur still kept the name Old Lace to go with Gert's soon abandoned "Arsenic" codename, but anyway, she's a dinosaur, she does not have a "normal" name.
  • One of the reasons that Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is considered a notable move towards "Grim and Gritty" storytelling in comics is that it manages to go the entire story without referring to any of the superheroes (other than Batman) by their code names, thus making it easier to put the story in a real world context.
  • The Killing Joke never has Batman or Joker referred to by their codenames; they are always referred to by some other descriptor, such as "bat-themed vigilante", and the closest to their actual names is when "Joker" appears partially obscured on the Batcomputer.
  • Secret Six: Catman simply goes by his civilian identity of Thomas Blake.
  • Very briefly during the Knightfall saga of 1993-1994, there is a storyline in which, shortly after the defeat of Bane, one of Gotham City's mobsters enlists the services of "Mekros" to take down Batman. Nobody ever learns Mekros's real name (the mob boss even refers to him as "Codename: Mekros", which is also the title of the story) or even sees his face, because he is a masked, cybernetic, brainwashed assassin who is a product of the CIA's legendary "MK-Ultra" project from the Cold War (which gets a Continuity Nod a couple of years later when Batman faces off against a woman who is the product of that same program, although Mekros is never named again). However, Mekros himself never uses the name Mekros, for the only reason he ever speaks at all is because he's been programmed by mind-bending drugs to endlessly recite passages from Machiavelli's The Prince, the most prominent of which is "Only the Phoenix survives chaos." Thus, more naive readers could have been forgiven for assuming his codename was "The Phoenix."
  • A one-off Superman villain in the early 2000s eschewed giving himself an alias, instead using his given name, "Gabriel Van Daniken." He even mocks the practice of villains giving themselves code names:
    "You think just because I put on this battlesuit, and threaten to poison the water supply, I have to give myself a ridiculous-sounding alias? Get a grip, Superman. I'm thirty-five years old!"
  • Done via retcon for Hal Jordan's nemesis, Sinestro. "Sinestro" was originally just his supervillain title (an obvious play on "sinister"), but as he was fleshed out as a fallen Green Lantern who went rogue, it was decided that "Thaal Sinestro" was actually his real name. Calling him "Sinestro" is the equivalent of calling Lex Luthor "Luthor".
  • Green Arrow: During the 80s run by Mike Grell when he lived in Seattle, Ollie abandoned most of the "superhero" trappings of his life, including the name "Green Arrow". In the entire 80-issue run, he's never referred to by that name. People usually call him Ollie or "That Robin Hood lookin' dude."
  • Played with by X-23: She wasn't even given a real name until she was thirteen years old, when her dying mother, Dr. Sarah Kinney, named her Laura. Until that point, she was either referred to by her Facility code name, X-23 (derived as her being Sarah's 23rd attempt to create a female clone), or various insults (particularly as being an animal) to dehumanize her. Her official codename with the X-Men, Talon, is almost never used or referenced. Most of her friends, loved ones and teammates just call her Laura, and occasionally they'll use "X" as a sort of nickname. X-23 is used much less frequently within the books, though is how she's typically marketed.

    Literature 
  • The Animorphs were rarely referred to as that within the books, except by Marco (who coined the name); this was partially because most of their enemies thought them to be Andalites, not humans (hence referring to them as "Andalite bandits"). They did start using it more frequently towards the end, though (and it was also used quite a bit in the TV series, too).

    Live Action TV 
  • In Smallville:
    • Clark Kent is never referred to as Superman, though the word is mentioned multiple times in reference to Friedrich Nietzsche. The traditional "Superman Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster" message appears in the intro.
    • Because of its Prequel state, most characters aren't referred to by codenames, as the incidents that led to them adopting these names haven't happened yet. Green Arrow is the first to do so, and we'd known him for more than a full season when he started using it.
    • It takes a weird turn when Clark finally becomes a full time but covert crime fighter and is dubbed with the comparatively unimpressive name "The Blur", which is used frequently even by him.
    • Clark finally starts using the Superman persona in the Grand Finale, and by the epilogue seven years later his alter ego is known to the world by that name, but "Superman" is used to refer to him only exactly once by Chloe.
    • Slade Wilson gets a Marvel movie-style codename treatment: as a General Ripper and not a supervillain, "Deathstroke the Terminator" is never uttered. However, after coming back from a should-have-been-fatal injury with no harm beyond now having his Eyepatch of Power, he said that "the reaper can swing his sickle at me, but I'm beyond death's stroke now." Also, because the Teen Titans cartoon version is so well-known, way more people are on a First-Name Basis with him than you'd expect with a general. He is pretty much just called Slade.
    • Brainiac is short for "Brain Interactive Construct" and he's usually described as that when not being called by the name of his assumed human identity. We don't hear the name "Brainiac" for several seasons after his introduction.
    • Bizarro does it the same way Slade would go on to: When a Phantom Zone criminal absorbs Clark's DNA to create a body that's an exact copy of his, powers and all, he answers Clark's What the Hell Are You? moment with "I'm you, only a little more bizarre."
  • The Heisei-era Kamen Rider series vary in this respect, asserting the autonomy of their own universes from each other (at least until Kamen Rider Decade screwed with their timelines and the subsequent team-ups), with only a handful of series actually calling their warriors "Riders:"
    • Kuuga is generally referred to as "Unidentified Lifeform #4" (or just "Number 4" for short), thanks to the police mistakenly thinking he's one of the Grongi at firstnote . Only a few people know his proper name is Kuuga, and the term "Kamen Rider" doesn't exist outside the opening credits.
    • Agito, a loose sequel to Kuuga, has its hero initially mistaken for a returning Kuuga/No. 4, and was unique in the respect that a handful of chosen people implanted by the Seed of Light can become Agito themselves. So Agito is not so much a unique warrior of justice than a step in human evolution.
    • Ironically, Kamen Rider Ryuki uses it plenty, in a series where what it means to be a Rider is very different. A Kamen Rider is one of your opponents in the Rider War, and There Can Be Only One in the end. If you don't fight, you won't survive!
    • Faiz was never referred to as a Rider, and neither were the similarly-themed Kaixa and Delta systems and their users. When Kaixa first appears, the side-characters are surprised to see "another Faiz," not "another Rider." The series being a really ambiguous world as it is, with these systems created by the more-megalomaniac elements of the Orphenoch race (here again, another step into human evolution), it probably fits.
    • Averted in Kamen Rider Blade. This series advances the idea that Kamen Riders are Urban Legends, with supporting cast member Kotaro Shirai trying to research them for a book he wants to write, which leads to his befriending Kazuma Kenzaki (Blade). However, it's (perhaps intentionally) hard to tell if he means all the Kamen Riders or just the ones from this specific series, who were active for a little while before the series begins. On top of that, the belts are actively called "Rider Systems" by their creators, and the term "Kamen Rider" is used many times throughout the show.
    • Hibiki and his fellow warriors are precisely called "Oni", never "Riders." This being an adaptation of another independent Ishinomori series (Ongeki Hibiki) reworked as a Kamen Rider series, it is the source of contention among the KR fandom.
    • Kamen Rider Kabuto is a noteworthy aversion, since the term is built into the show; the Transformation Trinkets are called "Masked Rider Systems", and can form-change between the heavily armored Masked Form and the much more agile Rider Form.
    • Kamen Rider Den-O also rarely, if ever, uses the term outside crossovers.
    • Kiva (and for that matter, Saga and Dark Kiva), were considered as "armors" to be worn by the villainous Fangire leaders/kings when their Fangire forms are not enough. And for that matter, the secondary Rider (the IXA system) was never called that as well. The "IXA System" was referred to, but not "Kamen Rider Ixa" as a name. "Kamen Rider" itself was rarely heard - when Ixa's first seen user says "My Rider System is much stronger than his," this may be the only time. Kiva did have the same head writer as Kamen Rider Faiz.
    • Unsurprisingly averted in Kamen Rider Decade, being an anniversary season featuring every Rider at that point. Decade even refers to himself as "just a passing-by Kamen Rider"
    • Averted in Kamen Rider Double, where the people of Fuuto give the name "Kamen Rider" to their mysterious protector. Shotaro, who's very fond of the city, takes a good deal of pride in the name, and when a Monster of the Week tries to frame them he almost seems angrier at his sullying the "Kamen Rider" name. However, only people in the know refer to him as "Double".
    • In Kamen Rider OOO, Kougami seems to know about Riders, so Birth is "Kamen Rider Birth" (it's even in the suit's instruction manual!) but OOO is only called a Rider during crossovers. And of course all this is ignoring the Fourth Wall-shattering Milestone Celebration of the franchise's 999th and 1000th overall episodes, which openly refer to Kamen Rider as a franchise, with a retired Mook who has a notebook listing the names, episodes, and airdates of every monster the Riders ever defeated.
    • In Kamen Rider Fourze's second episode, Perky Goth Tomoko sees Fourze defeat the Monster of the Week and refers to him as a Kamen Rider, explaining that they're considered an Urban Legend by the world at large, but she has proof of their existence (security camera footage of several past Rider battles). Gentaro proudly adopts the name and does his best to live up to their reputation, including seeking out past Riders' approval (and friendship) in crossovers.
    • Kamen Rider Wizard plays by the rules of the early 2000s' series, not using the term "Kamen Rider" outside of crossovers. Outsiders refer to the heroes as "wizards" (mahoutsukai) rather than Riders, while people who know them personally use their Gratuitous English titles like "Wizard" and "Beast". However, one such character (the White Wizard) is only referred to by this nickname; his "Rider name" wasn't revealed until after the series had ended, and since the name would have been a massive spoiler the use of a nickname was wholly justified. The name is "Kamen Rider Wiseman", which reveals that the White Wizard and the villains' leader Wiseman are one and the same.
      • This brings up an interesting point: even if a character does not share an origin with any other Rider, and the term never comes up and never has a reason to, when he finally meets other Riders, he will know the term, maybe even using it as if he always has. Nobody ever says "Kamen who?" except in Fourze, where again, Tomoko applied the term to Fourze due to his similarity to Riders past. Fourze introduces the term to Wizard on their first meeting, and the latter gladly adopts it because the idea of "masked heroes who fight humanity's enemies in secret" sounds pretty cool. Meteor actually gets mildly offended at Wizard's flippant attitude, saying "Don't take the Kamen Rider name so lightly!", but Fourze calms him down.
    • Played with in Kamen Rider Gaim, where the local DJ gives our hero his name... but that name is Armored Rider Gaim (as an armored member of the Team Gaim dance crew, where such crews are called "Beat Riders"), and "Armored Rider" becomes the term used for the series' warriors instead of "Kamen Rider". Like with other shows, the phrase "Kamen Rider" is used in crossovers, though Gaim is one of the rare ones that goes "Kamen Who?" at first. It ends up being Fridge Brilliance, as most of Gaim's Armored Riders are not in fact heroic, so it becomes pretty clear that the series may have many characters in armor but only one true Kamen Rider.
      • This is however averted in the Ex-Aid special Kamen Sentai Gorider; Baron and Marika both refer to themselves as Kamen Riders, and absolutely no mention is made of the term Armored Riders.
    • Averted in Kamen Rider Drive, where the name is used regularly; the Roidmudes coined it in the backstory to refer to the original Drive as something of a Dreaded nickname; when the new Drive pops up, the Roidmude's reaction is "Oh, Crap! Another one of you Kamen Riders?!", making it the first time both Drive himself and the audience hear the term. Funnily enough, this is the series where "Kamen Rider" is an Artifact Title, since Drive is the only hero in the franchise who uses a Cool Car instead of a Cool Bike.note 
      • This also allowed the staff to play around with the advertising campaign, by announcing "This Rider is a driver!" When they introduced the Second Rider Mach (who actually does have a motorcycle), they spoofed themselves by declaring "This Rider is a rider!"
    • Kamen Rider Ghost goes back to generally not using the title (except for the Opening Narration). Oddly, it is established to exist in-universe as Ghost is given the "Kamen Rider" title by the sage who gives him his powers; but unlike in other Rider series no reason is ever provided as to why the sage would name him that. Kamen Rider 1 suggests that this is because the sage knows about the original Kamen Rider and has a great deal of respect for him, giving Ghost the name in honor of the legendary hero.
    • Averted in Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, which uses a similar system as Blade and Kabuto in that there's an organization recruiting and equipping people to fight the monsters, and they're the ones designating such people as Kamen Riders.
    • Kamen Rider Amazons plays this straight for the Kamen Rider name, as it appears to take place in a world with no previous Riders at all. Furthermore, the main Riders are never referred to as Amazon Alpha or Amazon Omega, instead using their names or "the red/green Amazon" (the Amazons being the monsters of the series), despite their transformation belts calling out "Alpha" or "Omega". The third Rider, Kamen Rider Amazon Sigma, is indeed called "Amazon Sigma" once to differentiate him from Jun Maehara, the dead body he posesses, although the Kamen Rider name is still never used.
    • Though it's said in the movie section, just for the sake of completeness: Kamen Rider: The First and Kamen Rider: The Next never use the term. Shocker calls Riders 1, 2, and V3 "Hopper version [number]" only, and no name is ever used by people who don't know those names, dialogue written so as to not make it awkward that they don't.
  • In The Incredible Hulk TV series, reporter Jack McGee and his readers often use the name "the Hulk," but most characters (including the Hulk's alter-ego David Banner) just say "the creature."
  • Arrow, a CW series based on Green Arrow:
    • That name isn't used until halfway through the first season, when Merlyn of all people suggests it during a dinner conversation, only for Ollie to shoot it down as "lame". He also isn't initially called "Arrow" - he spends the first season being referred to as "The Hood" after his costume design, or just "the vigilante," and has to specifically ask people to start calling him The Arrow after he takes up a Thou Shalt Not Kill policy in the second season. It's not until season four that he starts calling himself the Green Arrow.
    • Zig-zagged with Deadshot, aka Floyd Lawton, who is known to the CIA by that codename, but is mostly referred to by his real name.
    • Count Vertigo, reimagined as a drug lord, goes by the Count with the drug he peddles called Vertigo. In the second season however, he officially starts calling himself Count Vertigo.
    • Firefly never uses a codename but it is the name of the team of firefighters he was a part of.
    • Perhaps the strangest example is Malcolm Merlyn. In the comics "Merlyn the Archer" is a code name he chose due to his obsession with Arthurian myth, in the series it's his real name, while the nickname given to him by the SCPD is "the Dark Archer", or, alternatively, "the Copycat".
      • Additionally, Merlyn's real name from the New Earth comics, Arthur King, appears in Arrow tie-in Dark Archer comics, where it's mentioned as his actual birth name. He legally changed from "Arthur King" to "Malcolm Merlyn" to evade a whole different shadowy group going after him.
      • However, his League of Assassins name, "The Magician", is used fairly regularly by League members and others in the know. Ironically, he got the name from a young Nyssa Al'Ghul for doing a stage magic trick (pulling a flower from nowhere) rather then as a play on his own name.
      • Additionally, in the current Prime Earth comics, Tommy Merlyn plays the role of Green Arrow's rival, going by simply "Merlyn" as a mercenary. On Arrow, Tommy never becomes the Dark Archer.
    • Barton Mathis is referred to as Dollmaker, and is justified in this case. In the show, he's a flat out serial killer, and "Dollmaker" was the name given to him by the media in reference to the manner in which he murders his victims.
    • A.R.G.U.S. refers to Slade Wilson by the codename "Deathstroke", but the name didn't exist during the island flashbacks and he and others generally use his real name in the present.
    • Sara Lance does use the name "The Canary", a name she chose after joining The League of Assassins, instead of the comics Black Canary. Later on, Laurel Lance, her sister, takes up the mantle after Sara's death, and was called the Black Canary.
    • Bronze Tiger also breaks the rule.
    • Anatoli Knyazev is never called the "KGBeast". He's also a sympathetic mob captain (who is only shown doing anything nasty to other, less honorable rivals) as opposed to a supervillain. Also also, he's a decade or two too late for the name to make sense.
  • Averted in the relatively Lighter and Softer spinoff The Flash (2014), where all the superhero trappings are happily embraced. Cisco is The Nicknamer and comes up with most of the hero/villain names.
  • Gotham:
    • The series plays with this: Bruce Wayne is still a kid and not a superhero yet, so he's not called Batman. Selina Kyle is already a thief, but instead of Catwoman, she's just called Cat, a nod to the fact that Catwoman was originally just called "The Cat." Oswald Cobblepot is nicknamed "The Penguin", but he really doesn't appreciate being called that and most people just call him "Cobblepot." Similarly, Edward Nygma is just called "Nygma," though he's not yet a villain, just a GCPD lab rat who likes to spout riddles at people.
    • As Cobblepot's star rises within the Gotham mob, he grows more fond of his nickname, even insisting on "The Penguin" when a henchman drops the article.
    • This is likewise played with, with more minor or new villains, some are called by their codename more than their real one. The Balloon man, The Electrocutioner, The Ogre, and notably the Dollmaker (whose real name is only mentioned once by himself). Others don't have a code name, and some are ownly known by their codename (such as Copperhead).
  • Usually averted in the 1966-1968 Batman TV series, but on occasion the more serious villains would have their true names mentioned, such as Batman referring to Mr. Freeze as "Dr. Shivel" in Freeze's very first episode (the "Victor Fries" name did not yet exist). There were also a few more ordinary villains who went by their birth names, or at least by names that sounded like they could be real, such as "Nora Clavicle", a crooked female politician. And there were more subtle examples: Commissioner Gordon was never once called "James" or "Jim"; of course, considering what a stuffed shirt this incarnation was compared to other portrayals, he probably wouldn't have appreciated anything other than "Commissioner."
  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon plays with it. In contrast to the anime where the girls made a point of addressing each other by codenames when transformed, they're more likely to call each other by their real names. They're only ever called 'Sailor X' when they themselves are delivering their In the Name of the Moon speech, when someone is talking about them or from people who don't know their civilian names. And often they'll drop the 'Sailor' part and refer to the respective girl by her planet's name instead.
  • Supergirl mostly averts this, but in the episode "The Darkest Place", Villain of the Week Philip Karnowsky is never referred to as "Barrage", his codename from the comics.

     Toys 
  • Although the Hellboy films avert this trope, the toyline for the second movie does not. The first movie's toys, sold only in specialty shops, were sold under the "Hellboy" title, and featured the character's name on the packaging; the second movie's toys, sold in Toys R Us, were apparently from the movie "HBII," and the main character was "Red."
  • The movie toys for Kick-Ass go out of their way to avoid putting the word "ass" anywhere on the packaging. The toys for the second movie went so far as to have "uncensored" package variants sold as an exclusive.

    Video Games 

     Webcomics 
  • Ciem Webcomic Series
    • Candi has to actually tell the reporter that "Ciem" sounds like a good abbreviation for "ciempies." But other than instances where there is no choice but to call her by that name, most characters take pains in the books to avoid ever using the word "Ciem" at all.
    • Likewise, Jeral Cormier is only routinely referred to as "Botan the Plant-Man" by the media. Those who know him will almost never use the name; calling him Jeral all the time. Some strangers know him as "Derrick of the Dandelions," and prefer that over calling him Botan.
    • After learning about the AI backvisor that was controlling Jeraime, Candi always insists on distinguishing between Jeraime and "Musaran" with the latter referring to the AI.
    • Jack has the codename of "Jackrabbit" because of his jumping ability, but has no real way to conceal his identity. So the nickname proves to be useless and everyone calls him Jack anyway.
    • Inverted with the Chinese spies, whose real names were not revealed until they were published to the wiki in 2011. Black Rat, Tin Dragon, Teal Hog, and Stung Hornet are known almost exclusively by their codenames, even to each other. Possibly justified in that they're spies.

     Western Animation 
  • DCU:
    • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Clock King", the villain never identifies himself as the Clock King, nor in his next season episode, "Time Out of Joint" The only one who calls him that is Commissioner Gordon because this Mythology Gag earlier:
      Batman: I'm here to clean your clock, Fugate.
      Fugate: Don't count on it, Batman. When it comes to clocks, I am king. En garde!
    • However, Robin calls him "Clock King" in "Time Out of Joint", and in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Task Force X", Colonel Flagg presents him as "Temple Fugate, a.k.a. The Clock King" to the rest of the Task Force.
    • In Batman the Animated Series, Count Vertigo is known simply as "Vertigo", which is his Code Name in the Society of Shadows.
      • In The New Batman Adventures, Catman just goes by Thomas Blake. He also wears a black outfit rather than his colorful comic book costume.
    • The Martian Manhunter is only called by that name once in all five seasons of Justice League, only being referred to as J'onn or "the Martian."
      • Though again, this may simply be keeping up with the comics, where the rest of the League has used his name almost solely for some time. Similarly, Wonder Woman is usually just "Diana" to the others, both in the comics and DCAU.
    • Aquaman's brother Prince Orm never adopted his moniker of Ocean Master. In fact, Bruce Timm flat out said he considered Ocean Master to be too silly a name to take seriously.
  • X-Men:
    • Jean Grey is never called Marvel Girl. But it had been a long time since the comic book version had used a codename anyway.
    • Zebediah Killgrave also never uses the name Purple Man. It helps that Killgrave is a pretty badass last name in its own right.
  • Due to Never Say "Die", DC villain Deathstroke went by his civilian name "Slade" throughout the animated Teen Titans series. (It probably helps that "Slade" sounds like a codename without the "Wilson".)
    • Especially if you don't know they're saying his name (Slade), and instead think they're saying the past-tense of "slay" (Slayed.)
    • In fact, the popularity of the Teen Titans cartoon and its version of him means that (a) in any DC series he's required to show up, and (b) he'll be called Deathstroke once or twice to get it out of the way and he'll be Slade from then on. In Young Justice: Invasion, he was referred to as Deathstroke at first but mostly conversed with the one member of the Legion of Doom who knew him well enough to call him Slade. He was the Big Bad of the final arc of Beware the Batman, in which there's a battle with the mysterious Deathstroke before anyone knows what he's all about, but when it's time for him to take center stage as the new main threat, Batman and Alfred learn that Deathstroke and another of his aliases are both Slade Wilson, and from then on he's Slade no matter what he's wearing.
      • Part of this is due his using the Heel–Face Revolving Door. He was pretty much a good guy and ally once his original Titans storyline ended and he'd always been a little picky about his mercenary work even before that.
    • Inverted with the Teen Titans themselves. In the comics they refer to each other by name when they're being civilians or aren't in public but the cartoon never has them refer to each other by names. It's implied that they don't even know each others names; the gang are shocked when they learn Beast Boy's name is "Garfield", when they always call him "Gar" in the comics. Cyborg is never called "Victor", although his last name, Stone, is used as an alias in one episode as a Mythology Gag. On the other hand, Raven is her actual name, and Starfire is less a pseudonym and more a direct translation. Though she is referred to as Koriand'r once in a line of Tamaranean dialogue, she's just Starfire to her teammates. Robin's the big one: his name was never said, and there are a lot of Robins out there! In the early days, "Who is Robin?" was considered a Riddle for the Ages. Word of God says that he is meant to represent the concept of Robin rather than any one incarnation. In personality, he's closer to an amalgamation of Dick Grayson and Tim Drake, with the odd bit of Jason's attitude. However, there are plenty of references in the show that make it clear who he must be (His alternate self is named Kcid Nosyarg, his future self is Nightwing, it's the 80s team lineup, and Starfire was primarily Dick's Love Interest. The tie-in comics finally went ahead and established him as Dick Grayson.
    • And it doesn't just go for the main Titans. Every hero and villain we meet already has a codename and is already active by the time we meet them. When the Titans go recruiting, the teen heroes they're scouting are never at school or at home; we find Argent mending a dam, Herald chilling in the other dimension the things he teleports travel through, etc. We never catch anyone on the day of their Freak Lab Accident.
  • Usually averted in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!, but Crossfire only gets addressed as "Cross" or "William." Publicity materials refer to him by his codename. Outside of his imagining device, he's not wearing his costume, either.
  • In Young Justice, Professor Desmond is never actually called "Blockbuster". Instead, Blockbuster is the name of the serum he developed to give him his superhuman strength in the first place.
  • In G.I. Joe: Renegades, General Hawk is only referred to by his real name, Clayton Abernathy. Likewise, a flashback to Duke's past has Tripwire merely referred to by his real name, Tormod Skoog. Similarly, Dr. Archibald Monev doesn't use the codename Doctor Venom.
  • In Avengers Assemble, the Space Phantoms don't refer to themselves as such. Instead, it's just an offhanded name Captain America gives them since he has no idea what they're actually called. Hawkeye even stops to point out how incredibly ridiculous "Space Phantoms" actually sounds.
  • In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Superman is never referred to as such. He's called "Clark" throughout the entire story, even while in costume.
  • Similar to the examples of Crossfire and Union Jack, Miles Warren in both Spider-Man: The Animated Series and The Spectacular Spider-Man never went by the codename "Jackal" or wore his costume—but given the latter ended prematurely, it's entirely possible that he would've at some point had Spectacular continued.
  • Daedalus Boch is never referred to as "Doodlebug" in Beware the Batman.

Notable Aversions:

  • Played with in the films. Hellboy's real demonic name is not known to him until towards the end of the first movie. He grew up with the name Hellboy and since his other name is tied with the destruction of all mankind and wasn't known until he was about 70, he kept it.
    • While on cases, the BPRD paranormal agents usually use names such as "Sparky" and "Blue". His is "Red".
    • It should also be noted that in Hellboy, demons have the whole "bound/released by their names" deal going on; going around calling himself Anung Un-Rama would be the equivalent of legally changing your name to your social security number.
    • His name is mentioned at the end of the second film by Princess Nuala, when her twin brother Nuada questions Hellboy's right to challenge him. Since Hellboy is really demonic royalty, he does have the right to challenge Nuada.
  • In the original Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher Batman films, The Joker, Catwoman, The Riddler and Poison Ivy give themselves their names, while the Penguin, Two-Face and Mr. Freeze have had their names given to them sometime before the films begin.
    • The Joker names himself as soon as he reveals himself to his first victim - whom he promptly kills. Interestingly, the first time he makes his name known to the public, he uses "Joker" as the name of the brand of (poisoned) beauty products he's advertising on television, never explicitly stating that that's his name as well (at least not until late in the movie, when he hijacks another TV broadcast and announces "Joker here", ironically while disguised by flesh-colored makeup). Nevertheless, that is just what he is soon being called by the media and by all the other characters.
    • The name "Catwoman" spreads quickly in Batman Returns, even though Selina Kyle tells only one person that that's her new codename. However, most of the other characters do not call her that, usually only making smart remarks about how she looks like a cat ("Just the pussy I've been looking for!" or offering her "a very big ball of string"). The only exceptions are tabloid newspaper coverage ("I read that Catwoman is supposed to weigh 140 pounds") and one of the Penguin's speeches:
      Penguin: I may have saved the Mayor's baby, but I refuse to save a Mayor...who stood by, helpless as a baby, while Gotham was ravaged...by a disease that turned Eagle Scouts into crazed clowns, and happy homemakers into catwomen."
    • With The Riddler, there's a scene dedicated to him thinking up a code name for himself. Other names he considered are "The Puzzler" (name of an actual villain from DC Comics), "The Gamester", and "Captain Kill".
    • The Penguin in Batman Returns goes by both his real name and codename quite frequently. The prominent use of his real name is justified as part of his original plot to murder all of Gotham's first born children; when he reveals himself to the public, he puts on a big show for the media of him "discovering" his real name to be Oswald Cobblepot in order to gain private access to Gotham's public records. This likewise apparently plays into his new Villain with Good Publicity ploy to become mayor. When Batman eventually foils his scheme and he suffers his Villainous Breakdown, he's apparently revealed to care nothing for his real name when, in response to a henchman calling him Oswald, he angrily snaps that his name is Penguin.
  • Although not based on any specific comic book or manga, Pacific Rim is still based on manga/anime properties and notably averts this trope. Directed by Guillermo del Toro (of Hellboy fame, also on this list of aversions), the movie unabashedly embraces the tropes of manga and anime, including giving each and every one of the Kaiju and Jaegers a Code Name.
  • The Ultimate X-Men comic goes to some trouble to justify why these kids should have codenames, beyond "because it's a basic trope of the genre". Apparently, these are their "mutant names", as distinct from the "homo sapiens names" their parents gave them.
    • This is also touched on during the Grant Morrison run on New X-Men as part of his efforts to give mutants a sub-culture.
  • Averted in the Blade series. The audience learns that Blade's real name is Eric but it is rarely mentioned.
    • Ditto for the TV series. The only mentions are the flashback episodes to his childhood and when he meets his father, who will not call his only son "Blade".
  • Averted with Rorshach in Watchmen since no one knows his real identity until the mid-way point. Even then, he prefers the name Rorshach. Other characters oblidge since they never knew him by the name Walter Kovacs anyway. Also, Edward Blake is called by his real name, and his codename, The Comedian, interchanging it scene through scene, partly because no one outside the government knew he was The Comedian until after he died. All the Minutemen are also called by their codenames only, just Hollis Mason (Nite Owl I) and Sally Jupiter (Silk Spectre I) being given their real names in the film. Nite Owl II and Ozymandias are called mostly by their real names, except on a couple of instances.
  • Averted in the G.I. Joe Films. The Joes and Cobras are referred to exclusively by their codenames.
  • Averted in Godzilla (2014). Despite rumors that Godzilla would not be referred to as such in this film, Dr. Serizawa introduces him during the briefing as "Gojira" and the military uses the name Godzilla as a code name for the beast. News broadcasts even dub him "King of the Monsters."
  • Ironically, averted in Real Life.
    • Decades ago, in order to make news more memorable, rather than use real names, news networks often used nicknames and codenames. Even in more modern eras, this is used when the real name of an individual is unknown or deliberately withheld. For example, "The Unabomber" is a better-known name than "Ted Kaczynski" and "Girl X" is better known than "Shatoya Currie". However, when the real name is known, the news tends to use it, if only to be respectful.
    • Also averted in sports, with some noteworthy players having nicknames more famous than their real names. Examples include "Orenthal James ("OJ" or "The Juice") Simpson, Earvin ("Magic") Johnson, or Edward ("Fireball") Roberts.
    • If a writer, musician, artist, etc. achieves fame while using a pseudonym, chances are they'll be far better remembered by that than by their birth name. While sometimes these pseudonyms are outlandish enough to indicate otherwise, there are times when the pseudonym can seem less outlandish than the person's actual name. Case in point: how many people would guess that Anne Rice's given name is Howard Allen O'Brien? Or that Mark Twain wasn't actually named Mark Twain (but Samuel Langhorne Clemens).
  • Generally averted in Arrow's spinoff The Flash (2014); mostly because Cisco is the kind of geek that insists on coming up with cool nicknames for everything. Most of the others roll their eyes at Cisco's habit but sometimes admit that they've Got Me Doing It. Captain Cold in particular seems to enjoy having a supervillain name and encourages its use (though he tends to drop the "Captain" more often than not).
    • Played with in the case of Weather Wizard. The premiere episode featured Clyde Mardon (brother of Mark Mardon, the comics' Weather Wizard) as the apparent adaptation of the character, but Cisco never gave him a name and he was a Starter Villain that was quickly killed off. Later in the season, Mark himself showed up with the same powers, and by having Cisco give him the name the show has recognized Mark as the "official" Weather Wizard.
    • Roy Bivolo is an odd case, as Cisco names him "Prism", which isn't used in the comics. It's Caitlin who instead comes up with his comics name, "Rainbow Raider", but Cisco tells her something to the effect of "see, this is why we don't let you come up with the names." "Prism" is the name used in the show and other official materials from then on, though "Rainbow Raider" still gets the occasional nod.
    • Earth-2 Hunter Zolomon plays with this. He is generally referred to as Zoom, but he is never called the Black Flash after becoming it.
    • Lampshaded when The Flash and Arrow cross over, and Oliver tends to use the codenames as an example of how Arrow is Darker and Edgier while The Flash is Lighter and Softer:
      Oliver: Last month, you took on a man named Leonard Snart—
      Barry: We call him Captain Cold.
      Oliver: We can talk about you giving your enemies silly codenames later.
      Barry: You mean, like, over coffee with Deathstroke and the Huntress?
      Oliver: The point is...

      Oliver: Barry... you live in Central City, where it's sunny all the time and your enemies get cute nicknames. You're not in Central City.
  • While played straight with the G.I. Joe: Renegades versions of Dr. Venom, General Hawk, and Tripwire, the rest of the character is Renegades generally averted it in three ways.
    • The first being many characters including Duke, Flint, Lady Jaye, Heavy Duty, Snake Eyes, Stalker (shown in the same flashback as Tripwire, though modified to Stalker One), Shipwreck, Snow Job, Frost Bite, Wild Bill, Lift-Ticket, Red Star, Steeler, Jinx, and most of Cobra's other agents already had theirs before the series.
    • The second is many other characters including Scarlett, Roadblock, Tunnel Rat, Ripcord, Destro, Breaker, Airtight, and Barbecue gain theirs over the course of the series.
    • Thirdly, a few characters who don't outside of Tripwire and General Hawk aren't in the military: While this wouldn't affect Carl Greer as "Doc" is commonly used as a short version of "doctor", anyway, it does mean Courtney Kreiger, Christopher Lavigne, and Vince Hauser aren't respectively called "Cover Girl", "Law", and "Lt. Falcon".
  • Deadpool uses codenames more than the character's real names. Negasonic Teenage Warhead, a relatively minor X-Men character, got promoted to one of Deadpool's partners simply because the writers really liked her codename and wanted to defy this trope as much as possible. The one exception is Ajax, whom Deadpool insists on calling by his real name of Francis just to annoy him.
  • This is played with in the 2012 adaptation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Mikey being the one who gives the codenames.
    • Played with by Rocksteady who always prefers his code name but the Shredder always calls him by his real name.
    • Bebop prefers to use his real name and hates being called Bebop.
    • Rahzar always gets called by his real name by most of the Foot Clan.
  • Deadshot has been referred to as such in all of his live-action adaptations, including 2016's Suicide Squad. This is probably because it sounds cool, and calling him Floyd just wouldn't cut it.

Alternative Title(s): Comic Book Movies Do Not Use Codenames

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ComicBookMoviesDontUseCodenames