1 Days Left to Support a Troper-Created Project : Personal Space (discuss)

Faustian Rebellion


In just about every superheroic version of a Deal with the Devil, the hero is granted superhuman powers and/or brought Back from the Dead in exchange for a price; usually servitude, his soul, or being bound to complete a certain task. Trouble is, the hero has no intention of being a pawn in the Devil's game, and after a short stint of doing Old Scratch's dirty work, breaks free and declares that he'll use the Big Bad-given power against him and combat evil as a Badass Darker and Edgier Anti-Hero. The villain doesn't specifically have to be Satan; this trope applies to any story in which the hero is given powers by the bad guy and then rebels and uses them to combat evil.note  This trope is often used as a way to give a hero awesome Hell-themed powers without having to actually make him evil. It even comes with a ready-made antagonist and his Legions Of Hell to boot, who will already be gunning for the blood of the renegade agent of Hell!

A common justification for why the Big Bad apparently never has the ability to take his gifts back with the same snap of his fingers with which they were given, is that breaking free from Old Scratch's control is the very thing that stops the Devil from taking the power back. (See analysis page) Another possibility is that the transfer is one way—the villain never could take back the powers, but only claimed to be able to, or the powers were derived from knowledge which cannot be unlearned.

Just because you create something doesn't mean it's easy to put it back in the box, regardless of what you may be, and sometimes Finagle's Law works in the hero's favor.

This makes you wonder why the villain would be stupid enough to give this guy enough power to beat him- sometimes more power than the villain himself has, or unusual powers that he doesn't have, which are effective against their own creator, and why they do all this with no contingency plan should the hero choose to rebel. If you think about it, though, it's actually not as crazy as it might seem. There are any number of reasons that the hero might be able to successfully rebel:

Sooner or later, may involve the Hero going To Hell and Back and most likely fighting his way to stick it to Mephistopheles.

See also Hoist by His Own Petard, and Phlebotinum Rebel. Compare Pro-Human Transhuman. A subversion of Evil Is Not a Toy. This trope can also be the cause of Dark Is Not Evil. Contrast The Punishment and The Problem with Fighting Death.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Naruto, Sasuke betrays Orochimaru. This trope is played to an even greater extent, because instead of killing him, Sasuke absorbs Orochimaru, becoming even more powerful.
  • Mai Hime. The HiME eventually destroy the HiME Star using the powers it bestowed upon them in the first place. After that, the powers vanish.
  • Both averted and played straight in Slayers. Black Magic, the form of magic the protagonist uses, is basically getting powers from the local equivalent of Satan and his closest demon-minions. It is explicitly noted and shown that black magic does not work against the ones who give the powers. But nevertheless, Lina manages to use her powers indirectly to thwart the demons' plans, usually by using black magic on lesser demon mooks (which is okay).
  • The main premise of Umineko: When They Cry is for the main character to deny the existence of witches. And the being he's holding this debate against? A witch. And his only tool to defeat her? To use her magical colored text to prove and disprove certain aspects of the mysteries and show that the crimes were possible by human hands. Fortunately Beatrice is Genre Savvy enough to catch on eventually, and starts intentionally using "red text starvation tactics" to deny Battler his handicap.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica's Grand Finale, Madoka uses her wish to erase every single witch (past, present, and future) from existence, thereby keeping all Magical Girls from becoming witches themselves. Reality becomes a bit unstable and unfortunately, her wish doesn't come without a price.
    • Not to mention Homura Akemi, who keeps using her time-based powers in order to relive her meeting with Madoka, in the hopes of saving her (which includes killing Kyubey repeatedly). While she didn't stop Madoka from becoming a magical girl as intended, she was just as much part of foiling Kyubey's plans as Madoka was — First, by giving Madoka enough power as a magical girl so that her wish could work in the first place and secondly by getting Madoka to think thrice about becoming a magical girl. And when she did, it was solely in order to end Kyubey's plans.
    • Given the context, it's somewhat hilarious that the subtitle of the sequel film is The Rebellion Story.
    • For those people who know German and bother to translate the runes in the series none of this will come as a shock. The series pretty much is a magical girl reinterpretation of Faust and blatant references are everywhere.
  • In the battle vs Galaxia in the Stars season of the Sailor Moon anime, Neptune and Uranus sell out to Galaxia, turn on Pluto and Saturn and take their star seeds...then reveal their true intention by turning the star seed stealing bracelets on Galaxia. To their surprise, it doesn't work, because Galaxia had no star seed, and the two are killed shortly after.

  • Spawn is one of the best known examples of this trope. Which is really too bad, because in its original form it was an inversion. Spawn was sent back to Earth with a finite amount of power. In a demoralizing lecture, the devil explains quite coldly how he does not care what Spawn does with his powers — if he uses them to do evil, great, Hell's cause is advanced on Earth. If he uses them to do good, great, he's sending evil souls down to Hell to swell the devil's army and thus hastening the final war against Heaven. If he refuses to do anything with them, great, he'll eventually turn cold and emotionless if not outright insane from the emotional stress of never getting involved with anything, the powers will drain away anyway (although much more slowly), and he'll return to Hell with a mindset much more befitting the general the devil wants him to be. Now that's a devil who knows how to bargain. Even the loophole of not killing while doing good seems thought-of, as that way, Spawn is setting a positive example of Faustian bargains.
  • Before Spawn there was Ghost Rider (though the premise changes later). Most Marvel heroes Mephisto decides to mess with as well... With one unfortunate exception.
  • The Saint of Killers in Preacher. Initially being obedient to God, he hesitates in killing the protagonist when he learns that Jesse has information regarding the deaths of his wife and child, and eventually turns on God with the same guns he was given.
    • Though at least in this case God is pretty much an egomaniac who wants to see how much he can get away with and still make people love/obey him.
    • Don't forget that the very first he does with those guns is turn them on the Devil and the Angel of Death, right after they give them to him.
  • The comic and movie adaption Faust.
  • Constantine in Hellblazer has played around with variations of this at times.
  • The Silver Surfer from Fantastic Four. In the comics, the Surfer just refused to work for Galactus, and as punishment, was condemned to never return to his homeworld and girlfriend ever again (he and the FF eventually figure a way to get him off Earth and Surfer does Galactus a favor big enough to fully release him). In the movie... well, he seemed to be fully capable of killing his almighty master at the cost of his own life or maybe not.
  • Subverted in Earth X, where Mephisto's goal is to create as many alternate universes as possible, so that the world will never entirely end and he will never face divine judgment. Mephisto deliberately creates as many heroes by such bargains as possible (certain none of them will ever be powerful enough to truly defeat him) as well as many other "devils" to rule their own versions of hell. The result is a multiverse in constant chaos, with people continually travelling back in time in hopes of changing the past.
  • In the Atlas/Seaboard comic Grim Ghost the titular character is given enhanced powers by Satan for the purpose of fighting a demon plotting against Satan on Earth. The Ghost immediately asks Satan how he knows the Ghost won't use these powers against Satan. Satan tells him that the Ghost's existence stems directly from Satan; if Satan is destroyed, so is the Ghost. The Ghost later reveals this to the renegade demon, pointing out that if Satan took this precaution with a lesser servant like the Ghost it must be true of him as well. The demon suicides out of despair.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In Decks Fall Everyone Dies, there is an example with monetary power instead of superpowers. The duelists get funding for their club/theater from Duke Devlin. He orders the players to promote dice games as a way of running the country (over card games). The players, most of whom are duelists, don't agree with this and plan to revolt. Duke doesn't seem to be able to take the money back after signing their contract.

  • This is the premise of the movie Faust: Love of the Damned, in which the Faustian character uses his powers to become a superhero, and, in typical b-movie violence, takes on the hordes of Hell.
  • The entire plot (such as it is) of the Rudy Ray Moore blaxploitation epic Petey Wheatstraw, the Devil's Son-In-Law. After he is gunned down, Petey is allowed to return to life with Crazy Satan Powers if he marries the devil's hideous daughter. Petey agrees, and almost immediately begins scheming to use his powers to get out of the arrangement. Hilarity ensues.
  • In Angel On My Shoulder, Paul Muni plays a gangster who is murdered by his own men. He dies and goes to Hell, where the Devil (Claude Rains) offers Muni a chance to go back to Earth, occupying the stolen body of an honest judge (also played by Muni) providing Muni does the Devil's work while wearing the judge's body and identity. In this second chance at life, Muni repents his evil ways and decides to go straight. He defies the Devil by announcing that he intends to live an honest life this second time, so that when he dies in this second body he'll go to Heaven. But of course the Devil gets the last word: since Muni is occupying a body he stole from someone else, he continues to commit evil so long as he wears it: in order to do good, Muni must accept that he's had his one chance at life by giving up the stolen body and returning to Hell. He does this.
  • The film version of Little Shop of Horrors, as opposed to the stage version, which is a straight Deal with the Devil story.
    • The directors cut, which came out about 25 years after the original movie, restraightens the story, and includes the (quite spectacular) bad ending.
  • The Ghost Rider film plays this trope straight. The Devil offers to remove the power from Blaze, but at no point does he say he can reclaim the Ghost Rider power against the wielder’s will. (And in fact, if he could, Carter Slade’s rebellion wouldn’t have been possible to begin with.) For the record, he can’t claim Johnny’s soul for refusal to surrender the curse either, as he had specifically contracted that if Johnny defeated Blackheart, his soul would be freed, with no other conditions mentioned.
  • The protagonist in the remake of Bedazzled (2000) does this accidentally. By making the "truly selfless wish" for Allison to have a happy life, his contract with the devil is voided, he gets to keep his soul, and he seems to end up dating a girl who is Allison's long-lost twin sister.
  • The Silver Surfer in the second Fantastic Four movie somehow has enough power to defeat Galactus with a Heroic Sacrifice, even though Galactus gave him his power. And The Stinger reveals he didn't even die.

  • Subverted in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, when Pryrates uses the power the Storm King gave him in an attempt to bind the Storm King to his will. Of course, Pryrates is far from a good guy, and the power he gained is insufficient. A Karmic Death results.
  • "That Hell-Bound Train" is a fantasy short story by Robert Bloch from 1958 that won the Hugo Award in 1959. Martin makes a Deal with the Devil that he would be able to stop time for himself whenever he wanted. In other words, once he found a point in his life he enjoyed, that happy moment would last forever for him. He found out that The Devil had tricked him, others have tried this wish, but they never found the perfect moment, always waiting for something better, until they died. Martin dies and has to ride the Hell-Bound Train with the Devil to Hell. At that point, knowing Hell awaits and enjoying the company of minor sinners (gambling, sex, etc.) all having their last and greatest time, Martin stops time on the train, trapping everyone there (including the Devil) forever.
  • In The Dresden Files:
    • By White Night the Shadow of Lasciel, the Fallen in Harry's head for the past four years or so is shown by Harry if he could be swayed to the dark side, then as she is just as malleable as his own mind, the Shadow can be turned good. Harry has endured her for so long, whose to say she cannot be changed even more? This breaking in her self-confidence allows her to rethink her existence, knowing that if Harry would take up the coin one of two things would happen. Either Lasciel Proper would absorb her back into her being or because she was so corrupted by this mortal she would destroy the Shadow. Either way was a death sentence. The nail to drive this home was Harry Naming her Lash, giving her a definite and unique identity from Lasciel. Because of this, and her growing feelings for Harry, she did rebel and planned on helping Harry from then on without getting him to call on the Coin. Sadly, the first act she did with this new freedom was choose to take a psychic bullet that would have killed Harry.
    • A few words of wisdom from Archangel Uriel help Harry Dresden realize that, even as the new Winter Knight, Mab has no true control over him because he has free will. It's up to him how or even if he obeys Mab's orders. Which is just what she wants.
  • Johannes Cabal the Necromancer ends up as this.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sam on Reaper is trying to find a way out of the Deal with the Devil his parents made that ended up ensnaring him to serve as Hell's bounty hunter. However, when a solid opportunity comes along, he gives it up to aid another, noting that Satan would probably find another way to get him back on Hell's roster. Furthermore, several demons have considered knocking over Satan and setting up a new rule in Hell. It hasn't exactly worked out well for most of them...
  • In the Mexican superhero comedy El Chapulín Colorado, one episode has the hero narrating the story of Faustus. In this version, Faustus regains his youth from a deal with the Devil, who also throws in a magic wand in the bargain. When the Devil comes to claim Faustus' soul, Faustus asks to be shown the contract. When The Devil produces it, Faustus uses the wand to make it disappear. The Devil cried like a little girl afterwards.
  • Subverted in Supernatural. An agent of Lucifer gives Sam mystical powers that allow him to exorcise and even destroy demons with his mind. Seems a little stupid of Lucifer, right? Except that there are a number of seals keeping Lucifer bound in Hell, and the final one is the archdemon Lilith... and Sam ends up using his power to kill Lilith, unwittingly releasing Lucifer. Which was the plan all along. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Perfectly possible for Abyssals and Infernals in Exalted; however, there are backdoor penalties for defying the will of their undead/demonic masters. Abyssals get Resonance, which builds up as they adopt the trappings of life; if it's not bled off, it can result in an explosion of necrotic energy that basically kills everything the Abyssal holds dear. Likewise, the Infernals get Torment, which allows their master to hijack them if it builds up too much; the only way to bleed it off is to act like a supervillain. Seriously; this is what happens when the Ebon Dragon has a hand in the creative process.
    • Abyssals and Infernals have received much more dangerous (to their masters) ways to rebel, thanks to later updates. Abyssals are able to completely defy their masters, Resonance be damned, if they act to protect or support their Lunar mates. And Infernals... well, it's called the Heresy charm set, the first one allows the Infernal to eat their master alive (it's not called "Swallowing the Scorpion" for nothing), and once this gets around, the Ebon Dragon is going to be beating his head against the wall for a week.
    • More broadly, the creation of Exalts in the first place was essentially the gods using this trope to their advantage. They specifically designed Exaltation to be something they couldn't take back, because they needed the Exalted to fight the Primordials and the Primordials could've just ordered the gods to remove the powers of the Exalted.
  • Incredibly common among the PCs in Deadlands. Heroic Hucksters tend to be more common than villainous ones, thanks in no small part to the fact that they don't so much deal with devils as gamble with them for power. Mad Science (which comes from the same source as Huckster Magic), is behind the creation of the Holy Wheel Gun. But Hucksters and Mad Scientists pale in comparison to the The Harrowed who have their own problems to deal with.
    • Mad Scientists are somewhat of a subversion though. Once one of them comes up with the idea of splitting the Ghost Rock Atom (basically creating magical nukes capable of reducing the world to slag), the Demons giving them their creativity/power immediately stop giving and Mad Scientist the ability to make anything *except* these Nukes. Sort of a "Lets make all their wild plans come true until one comes up with something suitably destructive, then we'll give it (and nothing else) to everyone"
  • In Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition, this is pretty much expected of any Warlock, especially those who made a very literal Deal with the Devil. A sample Infernal Pact is, in fact, actually an ancient warlock who tried to pull this trope off, but failed, and now teaches other humans the arts of infernal magic in hopes that one of them will become skilled enough to come and set him loose.
  • Liliana Vess in Magic: The Gathering, who made a deal with four archdemons from throughout the multiverse for immortality. She's killed two so far and is currently seeking out the other two. For extra hilarity, she killed the first archdemon with the very artifact (the Chain Veil) that he ordered her to bring to him. It apparently never occurred to the demon that Liliana might pull a stunt like this, or that the Veil would give her the power to pull it off.
  • In Sorcerer, a sorcerer can attempt to Banish the demon they summoned themselves, but the demon will oppose it with everything it has (and it doesn't actually break their Binding by itself). This trope is also inverted in that demons can rebel against their summoners, too, the difference being that a rebelling demon gets a chance to offer its services to another sorcerer (rather than being Banished from the material world outright).

  • Raziel in the Legacy of Kain series. Brought back from the dead (for the second time) as a wraith by the Elder God in the first game of the Soul Reaver subseries, he starts showing off some true Rage Against the Heavens by the second game, after he learns what he used to be (a Sarafan general, leader of the army that killed nearly every vampire in the land of Nosgoth in genocide), the Elder's true nature (a parasite who feeds on the souls of the dead, and who despises vampires because he cannot feed on their undying souls) and Kain's true motives (to bring the world of Nosgoth back to vampire rule, as it originally was).
    • Kain's own transition to a vampire in the first game was actually intended to end this way, since the necromancer brings him back to take his vengeance for his murder, when the necromancer himself had arranged it.
  • Ares grants Kratos his powers in God of War. Kratos stays thoroughly evil throughout, but Ares manages to piss him off enough that he resolves to murder Ares.
    • To Ares' minor credit when the fight with Kratos starts to go against him he does remove Kratos' powers and weapons, and if it hadn't been for a conveniently placed giant sword, he would have killed Kratos.
  • Averted in Sonic Unleashed; Sonic's Werehog form is the result of Sonic inadvertently absorbing some of Dark Gaia's essence, and Sonic spends most of the game using the form to beat up Dark Gaia's minions. Before he gets a chance to fight the big guy, however, it takes back the essence from Sonic, robbing him of the Werehog form.
  • Kingdom Hearts II: Hades becomes increasingly frustrated in his attempts to defeat Hercules, since the hero kills every opponent the Lord of the Dead throws at him. At Pete's suggestion that he "send somebody already dead and save him the trouble," Hades decides to summon Auron, offering to let him out if he kills Hercules. Auron declines and insults him, telling him that "This is my story, and you're not part of it." Hades, in a rage, attacks him just as Sora comes in, and the group escapes, later foiling Hades's next attempt at Hercules's life.
    • Also doubly subverted in that later, during your second visit to Olympus Colosseum, Hades is able to exert power over Auron by stealing his free will and forcing him to fight Hercules without mercy. After several more events happen, Sora and the group steal back Auron's will (which was in the form of a small statue of him) and break Hades' control over him.
  • Sparda, the demon father of Devil May Cry protagonist Dante, literally sealed off the demon world because of his love for a human woman. The result: he's presumably dead (and thus stuck in Hell with all of his enemies), and the entire family is stuck in the business of devil hunting right up until the present day. Still, it pays, and who can disagree with being able to stack bullets or cut through walls with one arm and a sword?
  • The Knights of the Ebon Blade in World of Warcraft certainly qualify. After being sent on a suicide run to draw out Tirion Fordring, head of the Argent Dawn (soon to be Argent Crusade), they turn on Arthas and decide to join the fight against the Scourge. It doesn't seem that there's any explanation why Arthas doesn't just take back the spell or magic he used to bring them back or failing that just get rid of the Death Knight powers that HE gave them in the first place.
    • Similarily, what Warlocks mostly do is make the Burning legion and its fel energy turn on itself. In fact, a big part of warlock PCs lore is that they are pretty much always an example of Bad Powers, Good People, or else they would have gone rogue/
  • Mass Effect 2:
    • The Cerberus head honcho Illusive Man resurrects the KIA Commander Shepard (in the course of "Project Lazarus", no less) in return for the latter's help in fighting back the Collectors. Since the Collectors are a common enemy, even Paragon Shepard cooperates with Cerberus willingly (although their methods differ), but the actual Faustian Rebellion can come in the end of the game, when Shepard decides whether to destroy the Collector base for good (Paragon choice) or let Cerberus reverse-engineer it, potentially leaving a backdoor for the Reapers.
    • Miranda also performs one if she's taken along during the final leg of the Suicide Mission. She informs the Illusive Man that she's not going to stop Shepard from destroying the Collector Base, this is her resignation from Cerberus and promptly hangs up when he begins furious ranting. For extra irony, during Project Lazarus she wanted to install a Mind Control chip in Shepard's brain to make him/her subservient to Cerberus only for the Illusive Man to veto her due to the aforementioned reasons.
  • Zig-zagged in all kinds of ways with Oswald in Odin Sphere. His adopted father Melvin offered him as a baby to Queen Odette. She granted his Psypher sword dark power without equal. However, this power rots his body and dooms him to become Odette's consort upon his own death. When Oswald meets his true "master", he discovers that his hellish power cannot harm its master. However, it IS the only thing that can hurt King Gallon, whom Odette preserved in endless undeath.
  • Cynder from The Legend of Spyro did this to some degree. Once Spyro sets her free from Malefor's spell, she retains enough of his darkness to use four elements no other dragon can; Shadow, Poison, Wind, and Fear. How does she use these powers? Why to fight Malefor's evil army and help Spyro kick his butt of course! Though said darkness does let him take over her mind to some degree, but he has to drive her over the Despair Event Horizon first and the Power of Love is an effective antidote.
  • In Undead Knights, Fatima made a deal with the Beast, but broke free of his control (leaving her with the awesome supernatural powers) by isolating the Beast's blood within her in a stone. After the Bloods kill her in the final battle, she claims that the Beast was pulling their strings the entire time. Her last act before dying is to give the stone to the Bloods so they can free themselves from the Beast like she did. The Bloods do so, though the Beast angrily declares that they are still damned after everything they have done throughout the game and he's keeping a spot warm for them in hell.
  • In The Binding of Isaac, you can buy powerful upgrades from the Devil Room at the cost of your hearts. When you get far enough in the game to actually fight the Devil, these upgrades make killing him that much easier.
  • Judas in Tales of Destiny 2 was brought back to life by Elraine and told he would be rewritten as a hero if he assisted her in reviving Fortuna. Possibly because Barbatos was so quick to agree to the same deal, she didn't seem to have any kind of failsafe for when he said no, and he spends the game trying to stop her instead.
  • Supplementary material reveals that The Emperor of Final Fantasy II sold his soul to the Devil for his demonic army. After his death, the Emperor returns as the Emperor of Hell. The remake even shows that Upon his death, the Emperor split his soul in two, and was able to conquer both Hell and Heaven, making him the lord of the entire afterlife.
  • Pony Island: You use the equine Player Character from the games Lucifer makes to destroy Lucifer himself.

    Web Originals 
  • In Sailor Nothing, Himei and all of the Sailors were given their extremely effective Yamiko-killing powers by a rebel Yamiko general... who was easily dispatched via the same powers when he rejoined the Yamiko.. Of course, being the story it is, there are more reasons too.
  • Chuck Norris Facts: Chuck Norris agreed to trade his soul to the Devil in exchange for his incredible martial arts abilities and rugged good looks. As soon as the exchange was completed, Norris used his newfound powers to kick the Devil's ass and retake his soul. The Devil, appreciating the irony, became friends with Norris. They now play poker in Hell every second Wednesday.

  • A subversion occurs in Dominic Deegan with Tim the infernomancer. He shows up with powers enough to rip through the legions of Hell... only for us to discover that he had the balls to steal these from his master.
    • His master then notes that he couldn't take the power (a set of gauntlets) back even if he wanted to; the gauntlets had somehow bonded to Tim. However, he hides this fact, making Tim believe he could take back the power at any time, but offering to let him keep them if he kills their mutual enemies, the Deegan family. Dominic figures the truth out and tells Tim, hoping he'll stop his highly-motivated killing spree. Instead, Tim simply decides that now he's free to take his time.
  • In Panthera, after it's revealed that Ari is actually Oosterhuis, Panthera wastes no time in transforming and getting ready to kick ass.

    Western Animation 
  • The Transformers:
    • In the episode "Ghost In The Machine", Starscream's ghost makes a deal with Unicron's disembodied head. Starscream will help repair Unicron's body and Unicron will bring him back to life. At first, Starscream makes the repairs by taking over host bodies, but they get destroyed or lost over the course of the episode. Eventually, Starscream convinces Unicron that bringing him back to life (thus making him solid) is the only way to complete the repairs. Unicron does it and orders him to complete the repairs, but Starscream says, "Do it yourself!" and escapes, with Unicron powerless to stop him.
    • Megatron, after becoming Galvatron tried something like this earlier. After stealing the Matrix like Unicron ordered him to, he then decided to turn on Unicron and destroy him with the Matrix's power. It didn't work out exactly how Galvatron would have liked.
  • In Teen Titans, when the demon lord Trigon decides not to honor the deal he made with Slade, Slade angrily attacks him, only for Trigon to laugh and say, "I granted you these powers and I can take them away!" He absorbs the powers out of Slade and makes him disappear.

Alternative Title(s): Rebel Against The Devil, Faustian Rebel