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

Non-Powered Costumed Hero

A masked adventurer's costume is one of those things nobody really thinks about. Should it have a cape, or no cape? Should it be thick and armored to protect you from harm, or flexible and lightweight to allow maneuverability? What sort of mask should it have? Do bright colors make you more of a target than dark ones? All of these were things I had to consider.
Hollis Mason, from his autobiography Under the Hood, Watchmen

We all know this type of guy. He wears an unusual outfit and shows up to fight villains or monsters. He's probably got a Secret Identity and a mild-mannered alter ego to keep his private and crimefighting life separate.

Sounds like a Superhero, right? He probably will get called that, too. But in this case he hasn't got any superpowers. He's probably an expert fighter, sure, and he may have all sorts of gadgets or other unusual advantages, but there's nothing more superhuman about him than perhaps unrealistically good human skills or abilities. (Being good at it isn't a requirement, though... just highly preferable for survival.) So he's a Non-Powered Costumed Hero.

If the setting has proper superheroes or other individuals with powers and the non-super can keep up with them, then the character is a Badass Normal as well. Don't confuse the two tropes, though; Badass Normal is about having no powers but matching those who do, this is about having no powers and wearing a costume. So, for example:

  • The Phantom is a Non-Powered Costumed Hero but not Badass Normal, because while there is some magic in his world, there are no powered superheroes in his stories to compare to.
  • Ajax does without powers in a setting filled with divine influences, but obviously isn't a costumed crimefighter, so he's Badass Normal but not Non-Powered Costumed Hero.
  • Batman is both, working alongside Superheroes and fighting Supervillains.

The character is probably Super Weight Class 1 (unpowered but formidable), although they could be lower if they're just, you know, bad at what they do. They tend towards being The Cowl. The Proto-Superhero is likely to be this, as many pre-date the assumption that superheroes needed special powers.

The actual type of costume varies, but may involve Cool Mask, Coat, Hat, Mask, Badass Longcoat, Superheroes Wear Tights and/or Superheroes Wear Capes. Due to the nature of the trope, tropes about superheroes wearing stuff usually apply here too.

The trope is not about villains, at least not traditional ones (no Joker), but the character doesn't need to be "genuinely" heroic. As long as someone, even if just the character themselves, sees them as fulfilling the "costumed hero" role, that suffices. An Anti-Hero or Knight Templar could qualify.

Contrast with Clothes Make the Superman, where the character becomes powered when wearing the costume.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • At the end of Tiger & Bunny Kotetsu decides that he's going to be one of these once his powers run out completely.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman, and most of his supporting cast - Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, Oracle, Huntress, Spoiler, Orpheus, etc.
  • In Watchmen, all the costumed crimefighters are ordinary people — except for Dr. Manhattan, who's on another level altogether. Also the Trope Namer, though the phrase "non-powered costumed hero" is only used once in passing (chapter V, page 13, of Under the Hood).
  • The Question.
  • Superduck/Paperinik, the costumed hero alter ego of Donald Duck, who's popular in European Disney comics. He's basically the Batman of Duckburg: he has no powers, he fights crime in a costume, few people know he's actually Donald, and he uses all sorts of gadgets developed by Gyro Gearloose. The stories where Donald appears in this guise seem to be in a whole different continuity from all others, as his becoming a Badass with a Secret Identity would have huge ramifications for his character.
  • Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher.
  • Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle (but not Dan Garret or Jaime Reyes).
  • Also from Charlton Comics, Judomaster and Peacemaker.
  • Karate Kid of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Since the Legion's bylaws require each member to have a unique superpower, yet Karate Kid is an ordinary human, fans joke that his "power" is being able to put Superboy in a headlock.
  • Avenger (formerly the Pink Avenger) from Gold Digger — one of the few super-heroes in that Verse who continues to do her thing publicly and in costume instead of joining the MIB organization Agency Zero.
  • Many heroes in The Tick, aside from those Blessed with Suck such as 4-Legged Man. Arthur is the most prominent (and least capable) example.
  • Green Arrow
  • Hawkeye: A former Circus Brat who after seeing Iron Man in action and decided he could do it better. Arguably, since Tony has a Powered Armor and a Genius level IQ while Hawkeye's an archer with Trick Arrows and a borderline Book Dumb Idiot Hero, he actually does.
  • Mockingbird: Though she was originally a spy, she dipped into costumed heroing when she discovered high levels of corruption within SHIELD and had her professional reputation tarnished trying to expose it And after being put ito a coma, dropped her civilian alias to protect her family.
  • DC's The Seven Soldiers of Victory. (The Original Lineup, none of this Grant Morrison nonsense): Shining Knight, Vigilante, the aforementioned Green Arrow, Speedy, Star-Spangled Kid, STRIPE, and Crimson Avenger. Then they joined the All Star Squadron, with powered heroes like the Flash (Jay Garrick), Superman, and Firebrand II
  • Colt from Femforce.


  • Zorro
  • In After The Golden Age, the Hawk is a vigilante costumed hero, and is famous for being the only superhero in Commerce City with no actual superpowers.
  • Called "costumed adventurers" in the works of Simon R. Green, who's used quite a few of them in his urban fantasy novels. Most notably, there's Ms. Fate from the Nightside, Indigo Spirit from the Secret Histories, and pulp Proto-Superhero Lester Gold from Shadows Fall.
  • Justice Jack from the Sammy Keyes series. His heroism tends to be ineffectual at best, but he does try.
  • The heroes in Relativity don't have super powers, but some of the villains do.

    Live Action TV 
  • Padre Coraje from a telenovela by the same name: A hooded man in the 1950s Argentina, making justice among the rural workers of the village of La Cruz.
  • Bones has a variation of this. One of the victims was a teenage amateur comic book writer, having his own Author Avatar as the hero. He was found dead in the costume of the hero he created. The kid died trying to protect an abused woman he had a crush on from her husband. The husband killed the kid, fully aware of the fact that he was dying of cancer.
  • Black Scorpion

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The Phantom. Even his "civilian" attire — long coat, shades and hat on top of his bodysuit — practically counts as a costume of this sort, and since he has no proper civilian identity, it really is more a disguise than his superhero outfit is.
  • The Spirit. He only wore a mask as a concession to the editor, who felt audiences wouldn't buy a crimefighter who didn't wear a costume.
  • Human-Man, from Tom the Dancing Bug, is a superhero with human powers: "Bipedal locomotion; Functioning nervous system; Opposable thumbs". Human-Man always loses his fights, because he has no powers. Human-Man makes a contrast with God-Man, a superhero who has God powers but is too stupid to use them well.


    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • In City of Heroes, Manticore. Also, any Player Character can be this if the player so chooses (typically involving taking the Natural origin and powers that are less-obviously super).
  • Overwatch gleefully dances the line with this trope. Very few of the heroes have powers themselves, but all of them have and wear tech that grants them special abilities. The ones that do have powers are the results of experiments, cybernetically enhanced, or robots; even then, it's not entirely clear whether the character is the source of the power or just using something else.

  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
    • Invincible Man, who was faking being a superhero until someone tried to shoot him and succeeded. (Or before the votey was added, just didn't have powers.)
    • The Iron Sociopath, who fights crime to get to commit more violence. His other job is as a politician.
    "What's your superpower anyway?"
  • Doctor McNinja
  • In the Sluggy Freelance filler story "Stick-Figure Tales of Cotton", parodying the superhero genre, Riff becomes "Science Guy", fighting bad guys with gadgets, although actually he only ever uses the bazooka. In his origin story, which is a parody of Batman's, his parents get shot and he first becomes "Orphan-Boy", with the proportional speed, strength and dexterity of someone without parents. His superhero outfit is the same as Riff's normal outfit (insofar as you can tell on a stick figure), except that he wears the Badass Longcoat as a cape.
  • Athleta and Ms. Terial in The KA Mics.
  • In this El Goonish Shive guest comic, Tedd and Sarah fit this role being unpowered but part of a superhero team.
  • The Munchkin Man has James Andrews, alias Rocketman. His "gadgets" include a big gun and what may or may not be jet shoes.

    Web Original 
  • Justice Squad: Nightflyer, being an Expy of Batman, acts as one of these to the titular team.
  • Brigand of the Whateley Universe. While considered in-universe to be a supervillain, he's an anti-hero who fights crime by stopping and exposing corporate crime, in his efforts to track down the monsters who long ago forced him to kill his own father.

    Western Animation 
  • Darkwing Duck
  • The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh:
    • Winnie-the-Pooh becomes one of these in the Show Within a Show in the episode "Paw and Order", appearing to fight Nasty Jack and his gang of horse thieves (as in, they're horses) as "the Masked Bear". Eeyore, too, gets a mask as the "faithful steed".
    • In "The Masked Offender", Tigger is inspired to try to be one by stories about "the Masked Avenger", though as you can see from the episode title, he doesn't quite get the name right.

    Real Life 

Alternative Title(s): Costumed Non Super Hero