He's The Hero
. Being Punched Across the Room doesn't seem to hurt him in the slightest
. Throw her through a wall
and she'll jump back through that same hole and nail you in the gut. He's the Determinator
, standing up while still on fire
from that last bomb to the face. She has keen senses and lightning reflexes - just try landing a hit on her.
But then they get a soccer ball kicked into the back of the head... and it knocks them out.
The bane of the Part Time Hero
has nothing to do with the Big Bad
and his Frickin' Laser Beams
with dials that go Up to Eleven
. It's the mundane hazards - the stray dodgeball, the unseen Banana Peel
, and the abruptly-opening door
- that bypass his defenses. He was able to handle Training from Hell
, but God forbid he be forced to do push-ups in gym. All stamina, reflexes, and willpower suddenly disappear when the Part Time Hero
(and especially the Idiot Hero
) is off-duty.
This is usually done to emphasize the fact that the characters are still human, make human mistakes, and have human problems without the need to make them too incompetent on the job. Slapstick varieties are commonly played for comic effect and ignore the characters' defenses because the scene wouldn't be as funny
. Occasionally, though, injuries and sickness acquired in mundane situations are used to justify poor performance
when the hero is abruptly put back on duty, or sometimes outright used to handicap
the hero for a more challenging (or sometimes, just more humorous) fight. While handicapped fight scenes can be more creative and entertaining, one wonders why the Determinator
was able to resist the Mad Scientist
's mind control virus
through force of sheer will but can't do the same for the common cold.
This trope may have some other legitimate reasoning behind it, however. Whether the character's powers require conscious effort or not, the human body is designed to only work at peak capacity when necessary. It's no stretch to assume that powers work along the lines of the adrenaline rush and fight-or-flight response, and that having them working at full capacity all the time would burn too much of the body's resources.
See Armor-Piercing Slap
and Megaton Punch
for specific mundangerous techniques. Contrast Mundane Utility
, where the hero actively uses his powers to accomplish mundane ends. Compare Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World
, the social and mental counterpart to this trope.
Anime and Manga
- Spider-Man was hindered in an encounter against the Black Widow by what, in nearly anyone else, was a case of pneumonia. He still broke out of her line. One good night's sleep, and he was good to go.
- In one of his old cartoon series, Spider-Man caught a cold while the Lizard was on a rampage. It kept screwing him up, so he figured he'd have to go to the doctor's office... as Spider-man, since a blood test from Peter Parker would come back with spider DNA.
- The original (Marvel) Captain Marvel, who survived a hundred brutal battles, died of cancer suffered from accidental exposure to a chemical weapon caused by battling the villain Nitro.
- In the end of one early Fantastic Four story, The Thing kicks a rock (or something, don't remember the details) as a result of his usual bad temper, and breaks a toe from his own super-strength. He confines himself to bed - it's not that a bad injury, but he is horribly embarassed that him being childish hurt himself worse than many of his enemies, and vows to stay out of sight until he is ok again.
- One Batman story from the Seventies had Bruce Wayne desperately trying to fight crime while dealing with a high grade fever. Alfred practically had to restrain him in bed to keep him from going out, and when he did, it was clear it was heavily impeding his skills.
- Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, is physically no more than a mature man in good shape. He is usually prepared for most attacks, but anything that can take down an ordinary person can also disable him, particularly if he doesn't see it coming. He also requires the free use of his hands and voice in order to cast spells, so he is vulnerable if Bound and Gagged.
- War of the Worlds, in all its forms, ends with the seemingly invincible Martians all killed by common Earth bacteria to which they had no immunity.
- This is parodied in Mars Attacks!, where the invaders are killed by country music.
- In the Kate Daniels novel Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews, Kate and her allies are gearing up for a potential battle. The Beast Lord explains that the werewolf Alpha is absent because he broke a bone due to "LEGOS". At first Kate is confused, trying to remember a Greek monster or spell that might have disabled a werewolf, before the Beast Lord clarifies that the wolf tripped over his kid's toys and fell down the stairs.
- Hammered home again and again in Mercedes Lackey books, who likes to remind her readers that all mages are basically squishy mortal people who can be killed just like anyone else.
- Harry Dresden may be one of the most powerful wizards on the planet in terms of sheer evocation, but he still carries a gun. In the short story Day Off, he's confronted by a group of very-low-grade magical talents who want to throw down, and ready their wands and other magical paraphernalia to do so. Harry calmly draws his gun, which scares the crap out of them.
- In Changes, Two BIG spoilers. Harry finally gets himself crippled. Not by the vampire assassins, fairies, or demons, but by falling off a ladder and breaking his back on the patio. Granted, it was indirectly because of the vampires, but still. Then again at the end, when Harry is shot and killed by a sniper.
- Lampshaded by Stargate SG-1, in "Nemesis". Daniel can't participate in a mission because of an appendectomy, and says, "You know it's funny. I mean after everything we've been through these past few years. And, of all things, it's my appendix that lays me out."
- Also an example of Written-In Infirmity. Michael Shanks was sidelined from filming by an appendectomy.
- Gen. George S. Patton, possibly the most brilliant military strategist and tactician the Allies had in WWII (or possibly not), Blood Knight and all-around Four Star Badass, died after he hit his head in a minor car accident 8 months after Germany's surrender.
- Any character with the "Combat Luck" ability from Hero System (5th and 6th editions) is prone to this. Combat Luck gives you increased defenses ... but only if you're aware of the attack and thus can try to avoid it. Blow your Perception Roll, and that club/knife/whatever is gonna hurt.
- A milder version can be see with Phoenix Wright, who can be knocked unconscious by a whipping from Franziska or even a hard series of slaps from seven-year-old Pearl. However, he survives falling nearly a hundred feet from a burning bridge into a frigid, fast-flowing river in the middle of winter with no injuries, and only spends a few days in the hospital because of a mild case of pneumonia. He's back at court the day after he gets out.
- In Super Mario RPG, given what Mario goes through in almost every game in the entire franchise, it's pretty ridiculous to see him knocked out in one shot from the Geno doll. Some players just attribute it to being Geno, but still.
- Lampshaded by Uncle in Jackie Chan Adventures; Jackie was able to run down the side of a building while it was being demolished, but broke his leg in the next scene upon tripping over an action figure, and Uncle pokes fun at him for it.
Uncle: Run down side of exploding building, nooo problem. Step on child's toy, break your bones. Bwahahahaha.
- Jade also manages to do this, when she tries to demonstrate that Jackie really is an nigh superhuman fighter at Bring Your Parent to School Day. She chucks an apple at his arm in an attempt to evoke a reflex, only for the apple to smack him in the arm. Jackie jokingly teases her for having an overactive imagination and a good throwing arm.
- Played for laughs in an episode Kim Possible, in which most of the main characters who appear in the episode are incapacitated by the common cold at some point.
- An almost daily occurence for the Nigh Invulnerable The Tick.
- In the episode "Sports a Poppin" of Dexters Laboratory has Dexter be completely incompetent in sports and, despite his best efforts, lets his father down who was trying to teach him to be good at sports. Then at the end of the episode, Dexter's dad give up and goes inside. Immediately after this a monster let loose by Dexter's sister Dee-Dee comes out. Dexter proceeds to fight it, using skills that obviously should have made him be more capable at the sports than he was.
- Parodied in Futurama on the xenophobic robot planet showing a horror movie featuring a monstrous human in "It came from Planet Earth!"
Robot General: "Funny, isn't it? The human was impervious to our most powerful magnetic fields, yet in the end he succumbed to a harmless sharpened stick!"