"My nemesis is Captain Hammer. 'Captain Hammer: corporate TOOL!'"In many superhero works, the problem comes up of Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys? Superheroes have to pay the bills, after all, and superheroics isn't really that lucrative. So what's a superhero to do? Well, if you weren't lucky enough to inherit a large fortune and head a major corporation, you can either find a day job or seek out sponsorship for your heroics! While some might turn to the government, others might want to head to the private sector for financing. Enter the Corporate-Sponsored Superhero! Captain Bland-Name Product is here to save the day, and tell you about all the great deals you can get on insurance to cover the damage incurred by your rescue! Note that this applies only to heroes with explicit ties to their corporate sponsor. Characters who use funds from their corporation to secretly finance their heroism (Batman, for example) do not count. Expect to see corporate logos printed on tights, advertising appearances, and rampant toy marketing. Also expect the heroes to develop serious qualms about the shilling they have to do, especially if they discover their sponsor in engaging in unethical or criminal activities. Related to Law Enforcement, Inc. and Heroes "R" Us. May overlap with Punch Clock Hero if they view heroics as nothing more than a 9 to 5 job to pay the bills.
— Doctor Horrible, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
open/close all folders
- The product Mr Muscle has a bulging superhero as a mascot that combats stains and unsightly limescale in the bathroom. Mr Muscle's previous incarnation was that of a nerdy looking character who needed the product's strength to do the work for him; effective but presumably hard to use him outside of TV adverts.
Anime & Manga
- This is the premise of Tiger & Bunny. All superheroes are sponsored by corporations, who seem to serve more of an entertainment and advertising function than actual fighting crime. All of the heroes featured on HeroTV are genuinely heroic, however, and are in the business at least in part because they want to help people. As such, it's a more idealistic take on the concept than one might expect. Worth noting is that in this case the products aren't Bland Name Products but real Product Placement from the actual anime's sponsors like Pepsi, and Bandai.
- Revelations later on in the show suggest that the entertainment aspect was part of a plot to reduce anti-NEXT (superpowered individuals) bigotry, which worked admirably. Unfortunately, the guy masterminding it all jumped off the slippery slope, murdering people for technology and building up his own villain teams for the heroes to fight.
- Special Duty Combat Unit Shinesman features a corporate sentai team, complete with business-themed weapons like business card launchers and tie clip bombs.
- In Ratman, pretty much every member of the Hero Society. As that's the only way the heroes can often afford the treatments for their abilities.
- One-Punch Man generally averts this trope, since the heroes are part of a government organization and therefore get a salary. However, there are still a few "heroes" who are only in it for the money, and will gladly try to tear down other heroes in order to raise their own standings (and paychecks). The closest to this trope is the number one A-Class hero Amai Mask, who spends much more time acting and producing pop music than he does actually fighting evil. He's also a colossal scumbag who has a twisted Beauty Equals Goodness worldview and values image much more than actual heroics.
- In Season 8 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the slayers are being supported by donors, and the occasional bank robbery.
- Watchmen: Possibly deconstructed; one of the side notes in the comic mentions one of the earlier heroes was a bank-sponsored hero named Dollar Bill, who had to wear a garish costume as one of the conditions of his sponsorship. Perhaps not so ironically, the cape was caught in a revolving door, tripping him up long enough for a crook to shoot him dead as he tried to stop a bank heist.
- Booster Gold has been this at different stages in his career. His stint as leader of the Conglomerate is probably most emblematic; every member of that team wore a jacket emblazoned with dozens of corporate logos and were featured in magazine and television ads for various companies.
- In DC's Seven Soldiers, The Manhattan Guardian was sponsored by a newspaper. A notable case in that the heroism was the primary reason why he was hired, rather than for advertising or public relations purposes.
- A character named "Captain Copyright" was created by Canada's Access Copyright agency to "educate" children about copyright law. The campaign was wildly denounced as corporate propaganda, and was cancelled soon after.
- Iron Man, when Tony Stark isn't filling the role. Jim Rhodes wore the armor for a while under the employ of Stark and a few of Stark's other employees have worn variations of the armor briefly. Part of Iron Man's Secret Identity was that he was sponsored by Stark Enterprises as Tony's bodyguard.
- Speaking of which, The Avengers, in many incarnations, were sponsored by Tony Stark himself.
- The Wild CATS from WildStorm were sponsored by different companies and entrepreneurs in the past.
- In Great Lakes Avengers, at least one of the ill-fated men to bear the superhero moniker of Grasshopper was sponsored by Roxxon Oil.
- The Blur in Supreme Power actually started as a corporate spokesman, seen in ads for everything from mp3 players to soda. After Nighthawk got him to start being heroic, he switched to a single sponsor — Kyle Richmond/Nighthawk's own company.
- One of the major hooks behind X-Statix was the fact that the team of mutant media darlings were also inveterate corporate shills.
- Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol run had Sunburst, a Japanese superhero with his own reality show and tie-in manga.
- Capes, Inc., a group of B-list heroes, from Invincible.
- One of the hopefuls in Wildguard: Casting Call was Running Girl, a speedster who had her own shoe deal even before she debuted as a superhero. Currently, the deal's pending — she didn't make Wildguard and the contract stipulates she be on a team. Human Shield mentioned being contacted by home security and plastic bag companies to act as a spokesman, but didn't say whether he was actually going for it.
- DC Comics also had Aztek, who was sponsored by LexCorp so that they could have their own member on the JLA.
- LexCorp also sponsored one iteration of Infinity, Inc..
- The entire team from All-New X-Factor is sponsored by Serval Industries. It's implied they recruited former Avenger Quicksilver to add a sense of legitimacy to the group.
- A-Pex in Power & Glory, whose appearance of an all-American virtuous superhero is all manufactured by his government handlers.
- Invoked and Played for Laughs in Amazing Spider-Man #550. When the Blue Shield attempts to apprehend Spider-Man for the Initiative, Spidey's first quip is to ask how he can get a better deal on his health insurance premiums.
- Played straight during the titles All-New, All-Different Marvel relaunch, which takes a cue from Iron Man and makes Spider-Man the "mascot" of Parker Industries.
- In Astro City, some of Honor Guard's members technically count, as the team has a stipend available (via N.R.Gistics) for those who need financial support to offset their time being heroes.
- Also, Roscoe James (Jack-In-The-Box III) qualifies as this — his predecessor pays him to take over the role so Roscoe can make his way through college without requiring a handout.
- The post-Secret Wars relaunch of New Avengers revolves around the A.I.M. corporation assembling and sponsoring their own team of Avengers.
- The Marvel Universe's version of the Greek gods have a front company called the Olympus Group that bails them out when they have problems with mortal authorities, which would thus technically make Hercules and Ares corporate-sponsored heroes.
- In The Red Ten, the titular ten are a corporate-backed expy of the Justice League.
- Various stories of the Core Line Shared Universe focus on a superhero team called "The Champions", which are funded and geared by a Mega Corp. called "Stingray Industries" (with The Champions being (on the books) a sub-division of its security teams focused on dealing with super humans). The short story "Coreline A Tale Of Two Maris" has the Commander of the Champions' Indianapolis Division discuss that two other superhero groups of the setting (the Avengers Infinity and the Justice League Unlimited) are also arguably "corporate-sponsored", being mostly funded and geared by fellow Mega-Corporations Stark Industries and Wayne Enterprises and having a history of dealing with issues with said sponsors (Avengers teams having done missions that (unknown to them at the time) were in the interest of Stark Industries and Justice League members having had to deal with Alternates of Bruce Wayne/Batman that went too far with their paranoia)... which, frankly, makes their looking down at The Champions because of their corporate roots a bit hypocritical, to say the least.
Films — Live-Action
- Captain Amazing from Mystery Men (see page image) wears a costume emblazoned with sponsors' logos.
- The film's plot is kicked off when Captain Amazing is informed that, without a good arch-nemesis, he's no longer as popular as he was in his heyday, and many of his sponsors are considering backing out. This is why he decides to get Casanova Frankenstein paroled. It doesn't go exactly as he planned.
- RoboCop is a subversion on the superhero genre (much like Judge Dredd was) in that the hero defends the existing power structure, though he finally defies it in the original film's finale. RoboCop is actually a press stunt by Omni Consumer Products; the company, which already owns everything in Detroit, proposes a new law enforcement robot in order to get a foothold in law enforcement as well.
- Used partly on Hancock. Ray was a marketing executive, and in one of Hancock's visits to his house saw a logo Ray made as part of a charity campaign he was doing (with little success). At the end of the movie, he makes a replica of it ON THE MOON, so everybody could see it. It was a good deed between friends rather than actual business but you know Ray would get a lot of business after that.
- Big Man Japan has ads and logos tattooed all over him. At one point he's forced to let a monster free from his chokehold because the watching advertisers complaining he was covering up their ad!
- In Iron Man 3, War Machine is given a patriotic paint job and rechristened as "Iron Patriot", which is said to have tested better in focus groups. Word of God is that the government specifically created Iron Patriot to cash-in on the goodwill superheroes were receiving after the events of The Avengers.
- A variation in Corpies, where the titular term is a derogatory name for PEERS (Privately Employed Emergency Response Supers) used by actual licensed Heroes. Unlike Heroes, PEERS are employed by corporations and typically feature logos of their sponsors on their uniforms. They are also not allowed to engage supervillains (except in self-defense) and are limited to rescue and disaster recovery work. Some PEERS teams work with cops, while others employ Hero liaisons. A liaison's job is to use his or her experience to determine if an emergency is caused by a Super or a Powered and to either keep the team away or confront the Super/Powered, while the team focused on rescue work.
- In keeping with the more adult themes of late-season Buffy the Vampire Slayer, its spinoff Angel was primarily concerned with how demon hunters cope with no parents or outside support structure (like the Watchers) to help them. As it turns out, not so much: the gang opened their own for-profit agency (with Angel dragging his heels on the whole 'invoice' thing), gradually upgrading their pokey office, and finally were co-opted by a vast, morally neutral corporation. A number of old acquaintances — Cordelia, Spike, Lindsey and even Andrew — pop up to deliver stinging rebukes about how Angel and co. are just glorified paper pushers.
- Commander Cash from RoboCop: The Series.
- Dinosaurs: Earl Sinclair once gained superpowers and named his alter ego "Captain Impressive". Once his boss found out, he invoked a clause in the work contract requiring him to use his powers in service of Wesayso Corporation. Earl became spokesperson for the company.
- The Power Rangers Operation Overdrive were brought together and equipped by Andrew Hartford, head of Hartford Industries. Though the Rangers have little to do with his business ventures - Andrew's an Adventurer Archaeologist on the side and needs Rangers to help deal with a mess of trouble he stirred up on one of his treasure hunts.
- The aborted Wonder Woman 2011 reimagined the heroine as a sort of Superman/Batman hybrid; juggling her duties as CEO of Themyscira Industries with a lonely single life. The company funds its crime-fighting activities by shilling merch, including a busty Wonder Woman figurine (which Diana objects to).
- Most of the heroes in the Zodiac universe are this. The eponymous team is sponsored by the New Dawn corporation.
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog has "Captain Hammer, corporate TOOL!"
- Duffman, the corporate mascot for The Simpsons'' Duff beer. His utility belt holds six cans of beer.
- Powdered Toast Man from Ren and Stimpy.
- The Flash did this in an episode of Justice League, but Green Lantern scolded him upon hearing about it. After that episode it was made an official part of the Justice League charter that members do not do this.
Morbo says new job at Justice League is tireless job for tired old worker. Try [Insert Product Name Here] [Insert Slogan Here].
- So they got the intern to do it.
- As we see here on the other Wiki, this is fairly common with Japanese "Local Heroes". Many of them are actually the mascot of a corporation.
- Corporate superhero mascots exist in many countries, but are usually limited to comics, if not just billboards.