9 Hours Left to Support a Troper-Created Project : Personal Space (discuss)

Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames


"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.


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    The Marvel Cinematic Universe 
In general, the Marvel Cinematic Universe goes out of its way to subvert, lampshade, and defy the concept of a Secret Identity. None of the Avengers have one — not even Iron Man, who had one for decades in the comics. Tony himself mocks how pointless it is and defies the trope by outing himself in the last scene of his first film before the end credits. That isn't to say that the heroes don't have their comic codenames, though they are usually given to the characters by another source, either as propaganda, used as a military call sign, or are dubbed as such by the media.

  • Iron Man:
    • Iron Man himself doesn't get called that name until the end of the first film and it's only used once or twice in the following films where he appears ("I am Iron Man" gets an echo in Iron Man 2 and Nick Fury refers to him as Iron Man once), but the name is also used in specific reference to the suit (i.e. "the Iron Man weapon" or "Tony Stark's Iron Man").
    • The words "War Machine" originate in Iron Man 2 as an offhanded insult from Tony to James Rhodes. Averted by 3, where "War Machine" is his official codename and Tony is incredulous that Rhodey actually adopted it just from that remark. Or rather, his official codename in 3 is "Iron Patriot", which Rhodey claims "tested better with focus groups"; but a number of people state they liked "War Machine" better. By Avengers: Age of Ultron, he's just "War Machine" again and uses the name in a Badass Boast.
    • As for the villains, Obadiah Stane is never called "Iron Monger", although he briefly says the word in reference to Stark Industries' role as a weapon manufacturer. Meanwhile, there's Ivan Vanko: a Composite Character of two villains named "Crimson Dynamo" and "Whiplash". He gets called neither in the second film, though the marketing referred to him as Whiplash. In Iron Man 3, Eric Savin and Jack Taggert go by their real names, and are never once referred to as "Coldblood" or "Firepower" (and the Extremis soldiers all have heat powers, so "Coldblood" wouldn't even make sense anyway). The Mandarin is an aversion, being referred to as such, though the character Ben Kingsley played is ultimately revealed as a Decoy Leader. The real villain, Aldrich Killian, only refers to himself as the Mandarin once. This gets even stranger in the short All Hail The King, where it's revealed that Killian wasn't the REAL Mandarin either, and had stolen the name. The REAL one, though never shown, is naturally miffed at other people stealing his shtick.
    • In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony uses a special massive set of armor designed to subdue the Hulk. It's popularly known and marketed as the "Hulkbuster", but the name only shows up in the movie on Tony's HUD - in dialogue, the actual codename for the armor seems to be "Veronica".
  • The Incredible Hulk:
    • Averted by The Hulk, who is called "Hulk" four times. The first time comes after the Culver University fight, where some college students refer to him as a "big hulk". Later, the military guys chasing the transformed Blonsky through New York mistakenly report that "the Hulk is in the street." Blonsky explicitly uses that name after the Hulk shows up for the final battle and the Hulk himself uses his patented "HULK SMASH!" at the end of the fight. In The Avengers, Bruce Banner notably takes pains not to call his alter-ego "the Hulk", preferring to call him "the other guy" instead. The one time he does say Hulk, he immediately corrects himself. But no-one else has the same qualms.
    • "The Abomination" a.k.a. Emil Blonsky goes by his given name and there is only an offhand reference to that title once, when Dr. Sterns tells Blonksky that augmenting him with the Hulk's blood might turn him into "an abomination". In The Consultant, the name Abomination is brought up but Agent Coulson says "[The World Security Council] really don't like when you call him that."
  • Averted in the Thor films, where everyone's "superhero" identities are in fact their real names. Thor himself inverts it in the first movie, as the character once had a civilian identity in the comics, but the movies don't bother. So "Thor" is used all throughout the movie, while the name "Dr. Donald Blake" is the one that only gets a few token mentions.
  • In the Captain America movies:
    • The eponymous hero plays with the trope constantly. He only takes the name Captain America as a stage name, not as a superhero. Once he makes the transition to war hero, all of the characters call him Steve or "Captain Rogers" with a few exceptions (once by Bucky, once by Cap himself, and the other time by the Red Skull), and most of those examples are used as humor, irony, or mockery. Further, unlike in the original Golden Age comics, Cap does officially have the rank of "Captain", and since we've got various characters referring to him by "Captain", it's hard to know if they're using his stage name or military rank. By The Avengers, though, Captain America has become legendary and the name is in widespread use.
    • Johann Schmidt gets called "The Red Skull" (by Hitler, no less) one time as an insult, much to his annoyance. For the rest of the movie, only his real name is used. However, when he's mentioned in future movies and shows, it's only done by his codename.
    • The Falcon has his codename used regularly in the various movies he appears in, adopted from the model of flight pack he uses.
    • Technically, this trope is true of Montgomery Falsworth, aka "Union Jack", in the first movie. However, Falsworth is not a costumed hero in this movie so there would be no reason to say the name at all.
    • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier: The "Winter Soldier" codename is invoked frequently, but the heroes stop calling him this once they find out that he is Bucky Barnes. In Civil War it's explained that there are more HYDRA super-assassins, and Bucky refers to them as "Winter Soldiers" as well. Georges Batroc is revised to be a normal mercenary instead of a supervillainous one and is never called "Batroc the Leaper". Finally, Sharon Carter is referred to as "Agent 13" throughout most of the movie, with Natasha only revealing her first name during the movie's last scene; in Civil War she only goes by her given name (and may in fact have lost her "Agent" designation after S.H.I.E.L.D. fell).
    • Captain America: Civil War: Brock Rumlow is never referred to as Crossbones, though a tie-in comic establishes that the codename does exist in-universe (it also wasn't used when the character was in Winter Soldier, but at that point he hadn't taken the identity of Crossbones yet). Zemo never had a codename to begin with, but is nonetheless changed from Baron Zemo since he's a Sokovian soldier rather than an German aristocrat as he is in the comics. Averted with Spider-Man as Peter told Tony that's what he calls himself and he goes along with it to protect the kid's identity. And Vision is called that, specially as he has no other name.
  • From multiple movies, Natasha Romanov's handle of "Black Widow" never comes up in Iron Man 2, and is only used in The Avengers twice. In the first instance, it was spoken in Russian, so anyone watching the film outside of its Russian dub actually only gets to read the name in subtitle form. Its other brief appearance is on the screen of a dossier Coulson is viewing. It's used all of once in The Winter Soldier, where an agent refers to her as Black Widow while communicating with Rumlow; an absent from Avengers: Age of Ultron.
  • In The Avengers, Clint Barton is called "Hawkeye" all of once by the Black Widow during the Battle of New York. It appears to be his radio callsign, with the name appearing briefly when Coulson is viewing his dossier in the film's beginning. The closest anyone comes otherwise is Dr. Erik Selvig semi-dismissively calling him "the Hawk". During his prior cameo in Thor it wasn't even alluded to, and in Avengers: Age of Ultron it's used once in an affectionately mocking way by his wife.
  • This trope can be applied to the MacGuffin of Captain America and The Avengers. In the movies, it's called the Tesseract, or "the cube". They never use its comic book name, the "Cosmic Cube". However, it and other MacGuffins are collectively known as Infinity Stones, a name that is taken from the comics.
  • From Agents Of SHIELD: Most characters don't go by codenames, though a reference is often snuck in somewhere:
    • Franklin Hall and Donnie Gill didn't go by their supervillain names, Graviton and Blizzard, in their introductory episodes... but then again, they weren't supervillains yet. When Gill reappears, it's mentioned that the experiments with his powers had been codenamed "Project Blizzard".
    • Lampshaded aversion: Raina manipulates a pyrokinetic's ego by suggesting he adopt the name "Scorch," commenting on how nobody knows "Steve Rogers" but "Captain America" is a household name. Everyone who hears it is incredulous at the idea, including the pyro at first, but he warms up to it (pun not intended) and by the time S.H.I.E.L.D. shows up he's embraced it; which is then taken as a sign he's getting out of control.
      Coulson: Ah, crap, they gave him a name.
    • Another episode concerns a device whose name is Russian and translates to "Overkill" in English; there's some snark that something must have been lost in translation but it's generally referred to as the Overkill Device in this and future episodes — in the comics it was called the Overkill Horn. (Since it uses sound waves)
    • Averted again with the first season Big Bad, who is known as "the Clairvoyant"; although almost every character rejects the possibility of actual psychic powers, they keep calling him that because they don't have another name for him. They eventually are able to communicate with him directly, where the Clairvoyant says his subordinates coined the name and he himself finds it a bit overdramatic. Once he drops his cover he encourages everyone to use his real name. (And for the record, no, he does not have psychic powers; his "omniscience" is based on high-level SHIELD security clearance.)
    • Coulson's team discovers a super-soldier project codenamed "Deathlok", and they soon start referring to the project's subject himself as Deathlok completely unironically. Later in the first season, it's discovered that there is more than one subject, at which point Deathlok becomes somewhat of a generic label.
    • Marcus Daniels is never called "Blackout" in dialogue, though eagle-eyed viewers can make out the name on his profile. The source of his powers is called the Darkforce, however, with requisite lampshading:
    • Other villains that don't have their codenames used include Carl Creel (the Absorbing Man, though it is referenced in dialogue), Daniel Whitehall (Kraken), Marcus Scarlotti (Whiplash, likely because it was already taken by Vanko in Iron Man 2), and David Angar (Angar the Screamer). The same goes for a couple of the heroes, Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird) and Elena Rodriguez (Slingshot, though her comics nickname of "Yo-Yo" gets used).
    • Inverted with one of Whitehall's Dragons, Agent 33, who had suffered a Loss of Identity thanks to Brainwashing and whose name (Kara Palamas) was not known, even to her, until she started getting it back.
    • The real names of Skye and her father (originally credited as "the Doctor") were deliberately withheld from the audience in order to hide their identities and the fact that they are even from the comics in the first place. Eventually their names were revealed to be Daisy and Cal Johnson respectively, known in the comics as "Quake" and "Mister Hyde" (real name Calvin Zabo). Cal's codename wound up never being used during his time on the show, but he implied that it existed (he mentioned that he changed his surname, though he didn't specify whether it was to "Zabo" or "Hyde"). Skye eventually switched to using "Daisy Johnson" full-time, while the name "Quake" didn't appear until another season and a half after the reveal, when Daisy became a vigilante and the media caught wind of her.
    • Canon Foreigner Lincoln Campbell was assigned the codename "Sparkplug" by SHIELD, but it has never been used in the show and barely shows up in promotional material either.
    • Averted with Lash for similar reasons as the Clairvoyant; to preserve the mystery of his real name. After The Reveal, it's still used to differentiate his human identity from his less rational superpowered side.
    • The Season Three Big Bad is known in the comics as Hive (as in Mind Hive). In the show, it took most of the season to reveal that in ancient times it was known as "Alveus" (Latin for "Hive"), but once that's known the English translation caught on quickly. Up until then, the closest thing it had to a name was "It".
    • Defied with James in Season Three. As soon as he gets heat and explosion powers, he starts brainstorming fire-related codenames to use before he settles on his comics name of "Hellfire".
    • The results of an imperfect attempt to create Inhumans are dubbed "Primitives". In the comics, these are the Alpha Primitives, the Inhumans' slave race. The "alpha" part gets a nod when their creator says they're just an alpha version and begs his boss to let him make improvements for a beta test.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: In general, the movie uses the same aversion as the Thor movies in that everyone's names are their real ones, but there are a few examples:
    • The team's name "the guardians of the galaxy" is a mocking nickname given to the group by Ronan the Accuser. Peter throws it back in his face when they defeat him, with the implication that they may adopt it as a group name.
    • Parodied with "Star-Lord", as Peter Quill introduces himself as that, but people just respond with confusion. When the space cops later look at his rap sheet, they comment that apparently the only person who calls Quill "Star-Lord" is himself. Comically, he is ecstatic when, in the last act of the film, someone actually does call him Star-Lord.
      Rhomann Dey: Hey! If it isn't "Star-Prince."
      Quill: Star-Lord.
      Rhomann: Sorry; "Lord." [to his partner] I picked this guy up a while back for petty theft. He's got a code name!
      Quill: Come on, man, it's an outlaw name.
      Rhomann: Relax, pal, it's cool to have a code name. It's not that weird.
    • Inverted with Drax the Destroyer. In the comics, he's a transformed human named Arthur Douglas. In the movie, he's an alien and Drax is his real name (with the "Destroyer" nickname earned for his Roaring Rampage of Revenge).
    • Rocket's full name in the comics is "Rocket Raccoon," but everyone calls him Rocket. It's justified by two reasons: 1) Rocket hates being called an animal, which the name clearly insinuates; and 2) he doesn't even know what a raccoon is.
    • One character is only named once, as "Taneleer Tivan, the Collector", covering both real name and "codename" in one fell swoop.
    • Like the Cosmic Cube example from Captain America and The Avengers, nobody refers to Ronan's hammer as the Universal Weapon (partly because it never comes up; the bigger threat is Ronan himself).
  • In Agent Carter:
    • Neither of Season One's main villains are called by their codename. A Black Widow agent has no direct reference made to her codename (or any real name for that matter; her given name is explicitly an alias) and is only identifiable by sharing a backstory with Natasha Romanoff. The codename of Doctor Faustus gets a nod when he's shown reading his namesake play. Codenames are also referenced when Peggy teams up with her war buddies in the Howling Commandos and "Dum Dum" Dugan realizes she never had a nickname like the rest of the squad. He suggests "Miss Union Jack" (see in the Captain America section above), which she declines.
    • In Season Two, Whitney Frost doesn't go by her codename Madame Masque; there are some visual references made to it but as Whitney never actually wears a mask, the name wouldn't make sense if it were used. Joseph Manfredi also doesn't go by "Blackwing", though it's another case where this version isn't a supervillain and so has no need for a codename. The conspiracy of powerbrokers has been renamed from the Secret Empire to the Council of Nine or just "the Council". Finally, the season's Phlebotinum is called Zero Matter instead of Darkforce, though Wilkes calls it a "dark force" (and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had already established that it will be called Darkforce by modern times).
  • Daredevil:
    • Daredevil starts out as just "the man in the black mask", and then when the media thinks he's a terrorist they dub him "the Devil of Hell's Kitchen". It's only at the end of the season when he's proven himself a hero by taking down Wilson Fisk, that he becomes "Daredevil", which Matt Murdock and his friends make fun of but admit is better than the last name. However, "Daredevil" barely gets a mention in season 2 as people mostly use his more dramatic "Devil of Hell's Kitchen" alias.
    • Wilson Fisk is never called "The Kingpin", but he receives two or three references to kings over the course of the show (examples: Ben Urich indicating him with a King of Hearts playing card tacked to a board by a pushpin, Detective Blake calling him "King Frickin' Kong"). It eventually comes into play when he's in jail in the second season, when Dutton tries to intimidate Fisk by claiming he's the kingpin of the place. Fisk, of course, has him killed and takes the title for himself.
    • In the second season, "The Punisher" started out as a codename on a police psych evaluation while they were trying to figure out who the guy was, and the media popularized it from there.
    • Played straight for many of Wilson Fisk's henchmen, like Leland Owlsley (The Owl), John Healy (Tenpin and/or Oddball), Ebersol (The Fixer), and Melvin Potter (Gladiator); justified since they're all normal people and not costumed supervillains. Potter's name does get a nod in that he has some Roman gladiator posters on his workshop wall, but that's it.
    • Season 2 has a rare inversion, assigning a codename to someone that didn't have it before. Part of the plot involves tracking down a mysterious drug lord, called "the Blacksmith" because nobody knows his real identity. The character existed in the Punisher comics, and like the show was a drug dealer and Frank's former commanding officer, but didn't have a codename.
  • Shared among the various Netflix shows, the alien invasion from The Avengers is simply known as "The Incident". The early script drafts for Daredevil were originally going to refer to it more directly, but it was found that the words "Alien Invasion" killed the mood the series was going for.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron:
    • Averted with Ultron and The Vision, who have no other names. Vision was originally referred to as a metaphorical vision of various characters', but later, Tony, and eventually Steve and Thor use it by the end of the movie, all in a way that indicates it's been adopted as his official name.
    • Wanda and Pietro Maximoff are never referred to as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. The closest is when Tony refers to Wanda as "that little witch".
    ...The Avengers roster bloats even further with Vision, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, who for some reason, are never called Vision, Scarlet Witch or Quicksilver.
  • Ant-Man: The "Ant-Man" moniker is used by S.H.I.E.L.D. (in its anti-Soviet propaganda films) to refer to Hank Pym. The latter then passes the title (along with the corresponding powered suit) to Scott Lang. Hank also explicitly refers to his wife Janet van Dyne as "The Wasp". "Yellowjacket" is the name for the new powered suit Darren Cross develops rather than a specific person's nickname, although he is the only person to use this technology in the movie.
    • In Civil War, Scott uses his powers to grow to Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever size for the first time, but none of the related codenames like "Giant-Man" or "Goliath" are mentioned.
  • Played dead straight in Jessica Jones, as nobody uses codenames.
    • Sure, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage (below) hardly use them in the comics to begin with, but Trish Walker (Hellcat) and Will Simpson (Nuke) don't get their codenames referenced either. Not even established superheroes like the Avengers have their names stated when they're mentioned, instead being "the flag-waver" or "the big green guy" (although in one scene a kid in a Captain America costume can be seen running in a park). Super-codenames are referred to only once. For instance, in a flashback, Trish encourages Jessica to take up heroics, suggesting she use the nickname "Jewel", but Jessica shoots the idea down and says that "Jewel" (a name she used in her comic backstory) sounds like a stripper's stage name.
    • Played with for Kilgrave, the main antagonist. In the comics he's "The Purple Man", real name Zebediah Killgrave. In the show, he's simply "Kilgrave", and characters still mock it as sounding like a blatant scary name; something that a kid would come up with to sound threatening. It turns out that "Kilgrave" is an alias. His real name is Kevin Thompson, and he really is that childish.
  • Luke Cage 2016: Black Mariah and Cottonmouth are referred to by their real names - Mariah Dillard and Cornell Stokes - while Luke Cage is still just Luke Cage. He won't be using his old "Power Man" name from the comics. Justified since he hasn't gone by Power Man even in the comics in years.
  • Doctor Strange is another case where nobody has codenames to begin with. Yes, even our hero himself, who is legally Stephen Strange, MD.
  • Black Panther: When the character is introduced in Civil War, T'Challa mentions it to explain why his costume is cat-themed, but it's otherwise unused. Even so, its existence is justified since it's not merely a codename but a tribal and royal title. In Age of Ultron, Panther villain Ulysses Klaw appears under his original surname of Klaue, instead of his supervillain name.

    X-Men Film Series 
  • This trope is played with all over the place. Codenames are something of a plot point; it's shown that the concept of a "true name" began with Xavier's eponymous "first class". However, it's originally used in playful jest and doesn't become serious until Magneto insists upon being called by that name at the very end of the film. In later movies, mutants seem to adopt codenames as their "true names" as evidenced when "Marie" changes her name to Rogue or when Magneto asks "John" what his real name is and he starts calling himself Pyro. Other than that, the codenames are used as Mythology Gags or Futureshadowing.
    • Cyclops' codename is mentioned but he mostly goes by Scott throughout all of the movies.
    • The name "Prof. X" is only used twice in both X-Men: First Class and the series, and Xavier brushes it off.
    • Jean Grey and Kitty Pryde never use codenames in the films. While their comic counterparts went through a few over the years, they usually go by their real names anyway (a rarity for superhero comics).
    • Storm is the lone aversion. She's almost always called by her code name in the films. The only time her real name Ororo is used is when Xavier introduces her to Wolverine, or when Beast greets her in the third film.
    • Magneto is often referred to as "Erik", although only by Xavier and Mystique, his oldest friends.
    • Wolverine goes by the name Logan almost exclusively and even mocks people with codenames. Stryker seems to be the only one who wants to call him Wolverine, which was more of a military-style Code Name. In the first film, it is mentioned that "The Wolverine" is a nickname he uses in his cage-fighting career, and in X-Men Origins: Wolverine he's inspired to take the pseudonym by a Native American folk-tale his wife tells him.
    • Deadpool is never referred to as "Deadpool" in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and is always called "Wade" or after his transformation "Weapon XI". The closest they ever get is Stryker calling the experimental procedure "The Deadpool". This is averted in his solo film where he is referred to as such the whole time.
    • Sabretooth is only called "Victor" throughout X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
    • The Blob never gets called by that name. The best we get is a Lampshade Hanging where he mistakes Logan's "bub" for that name, and sees it as an insult.
    • The name "Gambit" is used a few times, though it's stated to be a prison nickname he was given by Stryker's guards.
    • "Bobby" has no codename in the first movie, introduces himself to Wolverine as Iceman in the second film, and is then called Bobby throughout the rest of the series until a brief moment in which Pyro picks a fight.
    • Colossus was referred to by his codename by Wolverine as they walked out of the Danger Room near the beginning of X-Men: The Last Stand. Beforehand, Wolverine calls him Tin-Man as a joke. (he does go by Colossus in Deadpool, along with the other X-Mansion resident that shows up, Negasonic Teenage Warhead)
    • The name Nightcrawler is only mentioned when "Kurt" expounds about his time in the circus. In X-Men: Apocalypse, he is introduced in a cage fight as Nightcrawler and mentions the nickname while correcting Mystique erring his surname, but mostly goes by Kurt.
    • Angel (Warren) and Beast (Hank) never use codenames in X-Men: The Last Stand. Hank does eventually use the name towards the end of First Class, however. In Days of Future Past, Wolverine calls Hank (who has essentially retired from superheroics due to the X-Men having disbanded) Beast and "Beastie" several times to try and goad him into a fight. The other gets a big subversion in Apocalypse, being referred to only as "Angel".
    • Subverted and played straight with Jimmy in X-Men: The Last Stand as his profile indeed shows his alternative alias of "Leech", but he's never called that by anyone nor does he refer to himself as such.
    • Darwin from First Class is actually a nickname which happens to fit his powers, and his real name (Armando) is never referenced.
    • It gets a bit tricky with Angel (the First Class member as opposed to the one mentioned above); in the comics, her real name and code name are both Angel, but she takes the codename "Tempest" when she loses her powers and gains Powered Armor. In the movie, though, she explicitly states that Angel is a stage name.
    • Lady Deathstrike is never used. Her real name (Yuriko) is only mentioned in passing.
    • The Wolverine:
      • Played straight with the adamantium Powered Armor that is not explicitly called Silver Samurai. The moniker of Silver Samurai was named after a suit of samurai armor that serves as a Legacy Character for the Yashida generations.
      • Played with for Viper, who never calls herself "the Viper" but does says she's a viper. For legal reasons her other moniker "Madame Hydra" does not come up, due to Marvel owning the rights for HYDRA.
      • Played straight with The Hand (mainly linked to the Daredevil / Elektra franchise, and ownership of those rights reverted back to Marvel before the film was finished), who are referred to as "The Black Clan" and led by Harada.
      • Wolverine does use his codename, however.
        Shingen: What kind of monster are you?!
        Logan: The Wolverine!
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past:
      • The new Bad Future X-Men never have their real names used (with the exception of Bishop). Of course, in the comics, he's a strange case; from the future and known only as Bishop for the longest time, he eventually took the name Lucas Bishop. Which we should consider his 'real name,' and if either is what his momma named him when he was born, is hard to know.
      • It's also played straight a few times. Quicksilver is never called by that name, for instance.
    • In Deadpool, it's a plot point that villain Ajax is actually Francis, with the title character only calling him by the given name to mock Ajax afterwards. Subverted with his henchwoman Angel (Angel Dust in the comics), who never gets a proper name.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: the title villain is never called by anything other than given name En Sabah Nur, though there's a Mythology Gag to the name he adopted in the comics ("Where ever this being was, he would always have four followers who he would imbue with power." "Like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."). Subverted by Psylocke, who is only called by the codename.

     The Dark Knight Saga 
  • With the series angling for a less outlandish and more "grounded" depiction of the Batman mythos, the films naturally use this trope extensively:
    • The Scarecrow is almost exclusively referred to by his last name Crane. The only times you ever hear the word "scarecrow" are 1) when one of Crane's victims, a delirious Carmine Falcone, utters the word over and over again, and 2) when Crane briefly calls himself "Scarecrow" while under the influence of his own gas.
    • In Harvey Dent's case, the name Two-Face is used exactly once, in reference to an old, derisive nickname given to him by the corrupt cops he used to investigate.
    • Anne Hathaway's portrayal of Selina Kyle is never once even referred to as Catwoman, and out-of-universe, even early press releases only referred to her as "Selina Kyle," fueling speculation that she would not be using a costumed identity at all in the film. The only time "Catwoman" is ever close to being mentioned is a newspaper headline reading "The Cat Burglar Strikes Again" when Bruce is showing Alfred the background information he's pulled up on her. This may have become the best-known and most prominent example of the trope, to the point that various bloggers and reviews go out of their way to refer to the character as "Selina Kyle" and not "Catwoman". This makes sense when you consider the last time the character was referred to as "Catwoman" on screen, and how hard it flopped.
  • Batman's vehicle, the Tumbler, is never referred to as the Batmobile, either the black version shown in the first two films or the unpainted Tumblers driven by Bane's mercenaries in the third. (This was also true in the 1989 film, when Batman tersely refers to the Batmobile as simply "the car"; the more famous title wasn't used until Batman Returns three years later.) However, his motorcycle and flying craft both receive bat monikers: the Batpod and the Bat (as opposed to the usual comics names of Batplane or Batwing), respectively. If "sounding less silly" was the objective here, names like "Batpod" and "Tumbler" are a lateral move at best.
  • The aversions in the series, meanwhile, are as follows:
    • Batman and Ra's al Ghul are commonly referred to as such. Oddly enough, in the comics, Ra's al Ghul is essentially the character's real name (it's complicated) but in the movie his real name is Henri Ducard.
      • In Batman's case, the film uses a mix of "Batman" and "the bat-man" to refer to him. The latter is generally less used in popular culture these days, but it sounds a tad bit less outlandish and treats the word "Batman" as less of a guy's nickname and more of a thing or a creature like "the snowman" or "the boogeyman," which fits in line with the whole angle of being a scary monster that terrorizes criminals.
    • "The Joker" has no known identity other than his Codename.
      Gordon: Nothing. No matches on prints, DNA, dental. Clothing is custom, no labels. Nothing in his pockets but knives and lint. No name, no other alias.
    • Like the Joker, Bane never has his true name revealed in The Dark Knight Rises, and he goes by "Bane" exclusively, an element which is also true to the comics. It helps that, compared to names like "Mr. Freeze" or "the Mad Hatter", it's probably one of the easier names to use without raising too many eyebrows.

     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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice features Anatoli Knyazev, though much like in Arrow, he is never called "KGBeast".
  • 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."
  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.
    • 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, 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.
    • 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.
  • 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 was frequently referred to as yongo (No. 4), in reference to his being the fourth "unknown being" the police force encounters, lumped with the villainous Grongi. (In fact, one of his modes is Unknown Lifeform No. 2; The white Growing Form and the red Mighty Form aren't known to be the same guy by the authorities at first.) Only a few people know the term "Kuuga," and the term "Kamen Rider" doesn't exist outside the opening credits.
    • Agito, a loose sequel to Kuuga, has its hero initially confused to be a returning Kuuga/Yongo/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. The term is used like in any of the early series, with a guy who wants to write about them as one of the supporting characters. It is (perhaps intentionally) hard to tell if he means these Riders (active for a little while pre-series) or all Riders when he talks of the deeds of Riders past. On top of that, the belts are actively called "Rider Systems" by their creators
    • 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 Fourze, the other Kamen Riders are regarded as an urban legend; when Gentaro (Fourze) hears about them through Perky Goth and Rider fangirl Tomoko, he proudly adopts the name and does his best to live up to the reputation, including seeking out past Riders' approval (and friendship) in crossovers.
    • 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.
    • Kamen Rider Wizard plays by the rules of the early 2000s' series, not using the term "Kamen Rider" outside of crossovers. People who know Wizard call him by that name (in English), while enemies call him "the ring-bearing wizard"note . Similarly, when Kamen Rider Beast arrives, people are surprised to see another "Wizard". He even introduces himself as "the wizard Beast", while the villains call him the "ancient wizard" note , or "Archetype". The mysterious figure who trained Wizard and gave him his Transformation Trinket is only ever referred to in-series as "The White Wizard"note ; he does have an official "Rider name", but it's a rather major spoiler: 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 truly heroic, so it becomes pretty clear that the series may have many characters in armor but only one true Kamen Rider.
    • Averted in Kamen Rider Drive, where the name is used regularly; the monsters coined it for the previous wielder of the Drive powers, and the current Drive (along with the audience) first hears it in the context of "Oh Crap!, we've got another one after us now?" Funnily enough, this is the series where "Kamen Rider" is an Artifact Title, as while the previous Drive followed Rider tradition and rode a motorcycle, the current Drive does not.
      • 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!"
    • Averted in Kamen Rider Ghost, where Ghost is given the title of Kamen Rider when he gets his powers. It remains to be seen if there's any special meaning to the name, as there has been in past series.
    • 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 Malcolm 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 Merlyn the Archer. In the comics that's a code name he chose due to his obsession with Arthurian myth, in the series it's his real name. His "Dark Archer" persona is only ever named in advertising materials for the show.
      • And then subverted with his League of Assassins name, "The Magician", which 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.
    • Barton Mathis is referred to as Dollmaker, and is justified in this case. In the show, he's a flat out serial killer rather than a supervillain, 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".
  • 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.

  • 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 

     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.
    • 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 (It's Dick Grayson's costume, 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.
  • Simiar 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.

  • 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.

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?
  • Generally averted in Arrow's spinoff The Flash; 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.
    • 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.
    • 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: 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.

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