"All hail the Hobo King"This character is the leader or even "king" of all the homeless, indigent, and castoffs in a city. Either by dint of age, respect, or obstinate madness he has authority over the homeless. The king may be a crime boss type, a mayor who keeps their society running, The Fagin leading a group of street urchins, or an actual king who holds court. Regardless of how much wealth he has, he always stays purposefully poor and in a homeless lifestyle. More often than not, Muggles in the know will respect him and even ask him for help or Wisdom from the Gutter, assuming he doesn't have a higher education equivalent knowledge. Usually these guys are also suffering a mental illness that makes them a Cloud Cuckoo Lander. However, an especially beloved king (it helps if they aren't violent) may have their delusion humored by a whole city. See also/compare The Fagin and Wasteland Elder. For a normal king who is now homeless, see Fallen Princess. This trope is almost Always Male, hence the use of masculine pronouns.
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Anime and Manga
- The Jim Starlin Batman miniseries The Cult features Deacon Blackfire's evil cult of homeless people.
- During the Frank Miller run of Daredevil the title character encountered "the King," who ruled the homeless in the New York sewer system in analogy to the Kingpin ruling the New York mobs. He even has his own pet Sewer Gator that he feeds with those who displease him.
- Marvel also has an evil example, the Tatterdemalion. Originally a member of high society from a rich family, he was swindled out of everything he owned by Las Vegas mobsters, and because a destitute. After being recruited by the Committee to foster an environment of fear in Los Angeles, he committed random crimes against the wealthy, destroying their material possessions, motivated purely out of envy and hatred towards the system. He has fought heroes like Spider-Man, the Werewolf by Night, and Ghost Rider.
- One Hellraiser comic has a literal King of the Homeless, holding court in the sewers.
- One story in The Goon has the term "hobo jungle" taken literally, with the hoboes looking like Amazonian natives. Their king is a long-haired guitar player.
- In DC Comics's brief Magog series there was a villain named Miasma who was basically Bernie Madoff turned into this trope.
- In the pages of the Justice Society of America, the Golden Age supervillain Ragdoll eventually becomes one of these, forming a cult around himself that he uses to terrorize Star City and his old nemesis Starman.
- In Runaways, The Swell thinks that he's a King of the Homeless because he leads the Street Arabs gang. In reality, he's a Smug Snake who's only survived as long as he has because the larger gangs didn't see any point in killing him. This changes after he tries to sell the Runaways to the leaders of the Sinners - who just happen to be Dale and Stacey Yorkes, two of the Runaways' enemies. After learning that their future selves were killed by the Runaways, the Yorkes decide to liquidate the Street Arabs, destroying The Swell's tiny "kingdom".
- In Seven Soldiers of Victory, the Manhattan Guardian spends the first half of his miniseries dealing with a war between two kings, No-Beard and All-Beard, whose pirate gangs are in a race to find a treasure hidden in the subway system.
- The Chairman in Basn O Ludziach Stad is a crime boss type. Getting rid of him (kinda...) causes much rejoicing.
- John Wick: Chapter 2 has the Bowery King, who runs a network of homeless or otherwise downtrodden people throughout New York City.
- King of Beggars, a Wuxia movie starring Stephen Chow, deals with a main character who quests to become one.
- Played for laughs in The Muppets, with hoboes carrying off a tied-up Jack Black while declaring him their King. (It actually does make sense in context. Sort of.)
- Newsies has the newsboys of New York who live together in boarding houses and live day-to-day by buying the newspapers to sell them to the people. When their prices are raised, Jack Kelly bands them together to go on strike, but to be effective they need every borough of New York, especially Brooklyn which is the territory of Spot Conlon. As the most respected and feared newsie in New York, Jack knows Spot holds the most leverage.
- Silent Movie has a gag where Mel Funn — having just fallen off the wagon, hard — buys an absolutely massive wine bottle and stumbles into a back alley. All the homeless in the alley gather around Mel and hail him as "the king of the winos".
- Soviet propaganda film Strike has such a character, who is actually referred to as the "King". ("My kingdom is limitless.") He mobilizes his army of vagrants to infiltrate the striking workers and cause a disturbance, so the authorities will have an excuse to break the strike with force.
- The Beggar Sect is a faction that shows up often in many Wuxia works, and the leader is called the King of Beggars, who usually masters two distinctive styles, the 18 Dragon Subduing Palms and The Dog Beating Stick, each a legendary style of combat.
- The Areas of My Expertise discusses the Hobo Kings in some depth. Among other distinctive features, they apparently reincarnate rather like the Dalai Lama.
- Bloodsucking Fiends has a Homeless King in San Francisco, very clearly modeled on Emperor Norton of the same city.
- Discworld has Queen Molly, head of the Beggar's Guild. This is Played for Laughs; the King or Queen of the Beggars has to be aware of their station, so in Guards! Guards!, Molly's predecessor asks people if they could spare 300 dollars for a civic banquet, or could put him up in a sixteen-bedroom mansion for the night.
- There's the Beggar King of Nadsokor from the The Elric Saga. A whole city where everyone has the kind of defects that characterize the worst of the lumpenproletariat beggars, and the story is about their king stealing Elric's imperial jewels.
- Rafi, from James Elroy Flecker's Hassan (1923), is probably the earliest straight example of this trope happening on a large scale: He's rich and conspiring against the Sultan - This, of course, makes this one Older Than Television.
- Clopin in The Hunchback of Notre Dame is something along the lines of a beggar king. He is a beggar, conman, and pickpocket, whose skill has earned him the leadership position among the Romani, and lower class citizens. He decides judgement of Trespassers in the Court of Miracles. Clopin's main redeeming factor is his genuine concern for all his "subjects", and willingness to put his life on the line to help them.
- Cheng Pa, the leader of the Beggar's Guild in some of the Judge Dee stories. Despite his laid-back personality, he's just as capable a fighter as the judge's henchmen (one scene has him settle a dispute between two beggars by picking them both up and knocking their skulls together). He's also a civil force to be reckoned with: anybody who pisses him off can look forward to an army of filthy hoboes parked on their business' doorstep, driving customers away without any violence or effort on their part. He also has a major crush (hinted to be reciprocated) on a Mongolian wrestling champion, but can't make an official proposal due to his position, while she won't respond to anything but an official proposal.
- The novel The King of Schnorrers involves a character who is the leader of professional beggars in London.
- Koba is the leader of Echo's homeless in Labyrinths of Echo.
- Nikos Kazantzakis portrayed Jesus in this fashion in his novel The Last Temptation of Christ, which also carried over to Martin Scorsese's film adaptation—not without controversy of course.
- The Matthew Swift series has the Beggar King, a character who is the embodiment of this trope — literally, as in-universe, Archetypal Characters abound if their trope is famous enough.
- Neverwhere has a whole feudal system among the denizens of London Below, but there doesn't seem to be any particular overlord. The highest-ranking single person seems to be the Earl of Earl's Court.
- In Reliquary, Mephisto is the leader of a large community of homeless living in the tunnels under Manhattan. Pendergast and D'Agosta seek his help in navigating the tunnels and finding the den of the Wrinklers.
- The Outcaste in the Spaceforce novels are people who have been convicted of serious crimes by the Taysan Empire, and stripped of their caste — which means they have no way of earning a living and typically starve to death. In the second book, Deadline, we meet a former royal bodyguard, Calia, who was punished for the heinous offence of marrying a servant, and has organised the rest of the Outcaste into a secret community.
- Star Wars Legends:
- In the Jedi Academy Trilogy Jacen and Jaina Solo got lost in Coruscant's underworld and stumbled into Dakyim's Kingdom, a community of refugees. Their leader was King Onibald Daykim, a former low-level banker who led his fellow bureaucrats into hiding when they earned the Emperor's ire. After learning the Emperor was dead and the Empire largely collapsed, Onibald decided to remain a king rather than return to banking.
- The Thief Lord: Title character Scipio, "the thief lord", is the ringleader of a band of runaways and child thieves.
- Thieves' World: Moruth the Beggar King was the leader of the beggars in the Downwind section of Sanctuary.
- In Terra Ignota, Mycroft doesn't hold any official title, but the other Servicers follow his instructions anyway. Mycroft has protected and fed them and campaigned for more little luxuries for them, so they deeply respect him in spite of his reputation.
Live Action TV
- Aibou: There's a whole homeless republic/hippie commune in a section of one of the cities, and its self-appointed President becomes the victim of a crime.
- Babylon 5: Byron, leader of the rogue telepaths on the eponymous space station.
- "The Doctor" from the Criminal Minds episode Persuader, a vindictive former Stage Magician who led a community of homeless pickpockets living in an Absurdly Spacious Sewer. He attracts the BAU's attention when he begins having followers who tried to leave him killed.
- Doctor Who: "Daleks In Manhattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks" features a Depression-era Hooverville in New York City, where the de facto leader of the homeless is a wise man named Solomon.
- Newsradio: Jimmy James's nemesis Johnny Johnson, having been ruined in a previous episode, showed up later as "King of the Winos".
- An early episode of Bones has a murder occur in the flood run-off tunnels underneath Washington, D.C. The primary witness/suspect is a homeless man who lives in the tunnels, and has a clear position of leadership and respect among the homeless community down there. Brennan has to remind Booth that the homeless man does have authority in the tunnels, so Booth can't just rough up or intimidate the guy like he would normally do.
- Flash Gordon has Terek, who leads the mutant Deviates, exiled by Ming from the city. Unbeknownst to Ming and Aura, he's Ming's son and Aura's brother. He and Aura eventually lead a takeover of the city and try to have their father executed.
- In Geist: The Sin-Eaters we meet Dregs, who died in New York City. Returning from the dead actually cleared up most of his mental difficulties, and he's now the unofficial chief of an krewe of homeless Sin-Eaters protecting the indigent from supernatural predators, and acting as information brokers to other krewes.
- The Beggar King, leader of the Beggar Fraternity in Legends Of The Wulin. This being a Wuxia game, he's obviously a badass Kung Fu master, and in fact winning a martial arts tournament in which everyone is open to participate is one of the requirements for being the King's successor.
- The Warhammer 40,000 Gaiden Game Necromunda has the special character Redwart the Magnificent, the self-proclaimed King of the mutant and destitute Scavvies who are forced to live in the most polluted and dilapidated areas of the Underhive.
- In The Threepenny Opera, Peachum is the head of London's Beggar's Guild and is referred to at least once as the Beggar King/King of the Beggars.
- One of the Templar targets that Arno pursues in Assassin's Creed: Unity is le Roi des Thunes, translated as "The King of Beggars". After Arno assassinates him, he's replaced by the Marquis de Sade. Yes, that de Sade. Fortunately, he's an ally to Arno and the Assassins.
- Fallen London has the Topsy King, additionally a Talkative Loon.
Who is the Topsy King?
In his own words: 'A goden most capering! Hines the walkskies, chanter the powb raggedy men. Dab with viddlo, too, goden!' So there we have it.
- inFAMOUS has Alden Tate of the Dustmen, who are sort of... super-powered homeless that can make junk mecha and trash spiders.
- Hodgman the Hoboverlord from Kingdom of Loathing.
- Portal 2: In an Alternate Universe, Cave Johnson became the Hobo King, ruling over the derelict remains of Aperture.
- The Adventures of Dr. McNinja has Archibald, the King of the Hobos, who wears half of a Campbell's Soup can as a crown. He may have actually done some ruling as a hobo king, but that was before he went on adventures, befriended a mummy, became immortal, and took over as mayor of Cumberland.
- Johnny Saturn features a literally underground society that functions surprisingly well, and while they have some main members, John Underhall is pretty much their king.
- Batman: The Animated Series introduced the Sewer King, who fits the Fagin archetype of this trope.
- The Santa Claus Brothers had one who also thought he was the King of France.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had The Garbageman, a hideous and ruthless villain who dreams of ruling a garbage kingdom with the homeless as his slaves. After he was defeated, The Professor (so named because he used to be a university professor) became a good and wise leader to the homeless and gave a valuable Aesop on recycling.
- Bruce Lee (not that one) is a drug dealer and former street fighter who acts as the self-appointed leader and protector of the huge population of homeless, addicts, street kids and other social rejects in Romania's captial city Bucharest. He even rules a community in the underground heating tunnels beneath the city.
- Steam Train Maury, who died in 2006, was for much of his life the King of the Hobos, elected by the National Hobo Convention.
- Joshua Abraham Norton was not only king of the homeless in San Francisco, but declared himself Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico after losing all his money in a bad rice deal. He seemed to exist on the cusp of homelessness, sometimes living in a boarding house and tolerated by amused high-class citizens who saw him as a source of entertainment for patrons of their establishments.