Bikini Bottom's noblest, boldest, oldest superheroes.
Often, in a show, they'll want to parody
the 60s Batman
. However, if they do, the vast majority of the time it'll be a Super Hero
active back then... but now is old, decrepit, and retired.
Usually, they'll still wear their old costume for no apparent reason, which will fit badly over their gone-to-seed bodies. If they had a sidekick
, he (this character is almost universally male) will also be there, and still be called "Something Boy
" or "Something Lad" despite the fact that he's past middle age. Expect stories of the Glory Days
The first appearance of this character will usually involve the main characters trying to bring him back into action, either to defeat an also-returned villain or to bring him out of his post-retirement funk.
This can also be applied to WWII-era
heroes; the character is nearly the same except for the type of outdated slang he uses.
This character rarely shows up in actual Super Hero comics
. Instead, Comic-Book Time
usually applies; heroes don't age unless the story calls for them to or unless they don't appear in a comic for a while. If one does age, they'll usually still able to hold their own, often having their powers or equipment make up the difference. The original (Jay Garrick) Flash
and the (Alan Scott) Green Lantern
are major examples of this; they may be in their 90s but between their adventures that led to their physical ages being slowed and their powers, they are respected elders in the The DCU
's superhero community. Others become still-active Cool Old Guys
, just look at the Justice Society of America
There is a significant chance that said character will be played by Adam West
, in reference to
his character on the 1960's Batman
If this is a recurring character, they're likely to play the role of a mentor
, although they can still duke it out with the best
from time to time
. Although they may complain about their backache and leg injuries once the battle's over.
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Anime and Manga
- Pokémon had Gligarman, a Batman parody who tried to continue the superheroing business, but was completely useless except in selling his own merchandise.
- GUN×SWORD has the El Dora V, a Combining Mecha piloted by a Five-Man Band (well, four- The Chick of the team is dead) of old guys who come out of retirement to protect their town. Their first opponent constantly complains that their methods are obsolete, but they manage to win in the end. The show takes the opportunity to homage all kinds of Super Robot shows from the '70s, '80s, and '90s, including Combattler V and GaoGaiGar.
- Mr Legend from Tiger & Bunny. An unusual variation—rather than being a young, athletic hero who since retired and let himself go, Mr. Legend performed many of his heroics whilst an overweight middle-aged man... and was no less effective for it. Until he lost his powers.
- Worse, the first time we see him - in a flashback to how a young Kotetsu was inspired to become a hero - Mr Legend bears a certain similarity to, say, Mr. Incredible. And then episode 16 comes around, and we find out just how badly losing his powers affected Mr Legend. Confronted with the reality of his fading powers and the fact that HeroTV stage arrests for him, Legend becomes an abusive alcoholic. Same Old Superhero, two very different sides.
- Pretty much one of the things that defines the Justice Society of America is the amount of Golden Age superheroes (appropriately aged) that comprise its roster. Even though they've had young heroes like Stargirl and Damage, the first thing that comes to mind when talking about the JSA are the veterans: Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, Kent Nelson, Ted Grant (Wildcat) and so on. In a subversion, though, they still display the same degree of physical preparation and badassitude from the time they were created.
- The Dark Knight Returns has an old superhero bar. The kicker is, the book is set in the future, so all the superheroes are (in the current continuity) young and active.
- It's also an old supervillain bar. And, this being a book about the badassery of Batman, if there's one thing that can spoil the mood, it's mentioning the Bat.
- Watchmen plays this trope straight. They do not mention... Adam West.
- The comic book series Welcome to Tranquility is based on the idea of a whole town full of old superheroes (and supervillains), more or less retired.
- Carried to extremes in Earth X, which was specifically about these aging heroes in a world that appeared to be passing them by. Particularly egregious cases: Spider-Man (who returned to action in a Halloween costume that could not conceal his spare tire), Mr. Fantastic (bearded, and living as "Dr. Doom" out of guilt), Captain America (still in good shape — time doesn't affect the Super Soldier Serum, it seems — but bald, despondent, and wearing a tattered American flag as a costume), and Wolverine (a drunken slob married to a disgusted Jean Grey).
- The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books and cartoon have the Justice Force, a team of old superheroes called back into action when members of the team begin getting kidnapped.
- Back when the eponymous hero of Nightwing still lived in Bludhaven, his downstairs neighbor was a hero from the World War II era, the Tarantula. Even having grown up with superheroes, Nightwing was still fascinated by the man.
- The Authority. In response to the eponymous team staging a bloodless coup, a Big Bad brings back a stable of WW2 superheros note who are decrepit and senile in a retirement home. He reverses their aging and turns up their powers and sets them loose to start a revolution. Things go very wrong. Now the leader of the team impales cops on the American flag and anyone who freely chose the Authority religion gets slaughtered.
- Kingdom Come. Notable in that many of the old characters are still badass and everyone has changed their costumes.
- Astro City is rife with examples of this trope, as it establishes a long history of generational superheroes. Some (e.g. The Confessor, The Hanged Man) are extraordinarily long-lived, but some have retired and still make appearances in various capacities (many of them at former hero K.O. Carson's bar, Bruisers). The oldest we know of was Coyotl, who was (presumably significantly) pre-Colonial native american. The oldest that we know is still alive is Iron Horse, a steam-powered automaton who's been active in some form since the 1860s.
- And then there's the story "Old Times", where the aged Supersonic is called out of retirement to deal with one last crisis. In the olden days, he'd come up with some clever way of taking down the seemingly-impossible enemy- probably a nonlethal way that gets it into somewhere safe to fight. Now, he just whales on it until it breaks, destroying six blocks of residential buildings in the process. Sounds a bit like the shift into gritty realism that normal comics have gone through...
- The Jesus League of America, one of the many things fought by Marshal Law. They're zombies.
- Rising Sun in The DCU, an over-the-hill hero out of Japan who spends most of his time nowadays criticizing the current super-generation, specifically the Super Young Team. He's become a paunchy alcoholic, a pathetic imitation of the paragon he once was. He eventually gets possessed by a Mr. Mind parasite and becomes the ultimate threat faced by the Super Young Team.
- One Superman comic featured a retirement home for supervillains, who sat around still dressed in their costumes reminiscing about their Glory Days.
- The Legionary, one of the Club of Heroes in Batman: The Black Glove. No older than the other heroes, but he has gotten fat and become a fame whore.
- A Darkwing Duck comic in Disney Adventures featured a villain who stole the masks of other heroes. Gosalyn got some retired heroes whose masks were taken to help out.
- Slingers had the Golden Age character Black Marvel act as a mentor to the team. However, it later turned out that he was just manipulating them into preparing the public for his return, which naturally went disastrously.
- The Destroyer MAX mini-series starred Keen Marlow, a WWII hero who aged into one of the more badass◊ versions of this trope.
- Archie Comics' character The Web was a Golden Age hero in the forties, then settled down and got married. In the sixties, the character was revived—twenty-odd years older, a bit out of shape, and with a wife who wasn't exactly thrilled with his return to superheroics. (Though she did eventually give in and took on her own superhero identity.)
- The Alan Arkin movie The Return of Captain Invincible is equal parts this trope and Rocky Horror Picture Show, attempting to play the whole mess for So Bad, It's Good laughs. It vastly overshoots the mark.
- Chronically unappreciated All-American Boy in Sky High is the past-his-prime sidekick without the retired superhero. His assigned mentor, The Commander, is still operating at his peak, while All-American Boy is now teaching "hero support" classes in the eponymous hero school. Downplayed as All-American Boy is all but decrepit, and is still able to help the heroes.
- Mr. Incredible is not as old as most of the examples shown here, but fifteen years after his forced retirement he is noticeably out of shape, and is still holding on to his glory days, even doing superhero work in secret.
- The scene in which he gets back INTO shape is entertaining. When an ordinary middle-aged man gets in shape he goes to the gym. When a Nigh Invulnerable middle-aged man with superhuman strength gets in shape... he hits the railroad yard.
- Big Man Japan's senile grandfather counts, when he turns big again to "relive his glory days" but merely makes a mess.
- The first few scenes of The Dark Knight Rises shows Bruce Wayne several years on, including the toll his injuries have taken on his body. He's not old, but definitely feeling it, at the start.
- When George and Harold invent Captain Underpants, their first comic book issue starts off by saying that all the other superheroes in the world had become too old to fight crime.
- In Hero Years, I'm Dead runs on this trope. The main character, Coyote is a retired superhero, and all the superheroes he knew from his glory day are retired as well.
- Discworld has Genghiz Cohen the Barbarian and his Silver Horde, a group of barbarian adventurers (and one geography teacher), the youngest of whom is in his eighties (And the oldest is close to a hundred). Other characters assume that their advanced age has left them feeble and incapable, conveniently forgetting that these guys have lived to be octogenarians in a career that kills most people that go into it before they reach age twenty-five. They don't move as quickly as they once did, but they don't have to. Cohen and the Silver Horde are actually upset that they've reached old age since they would have preferred dying young and gloriously. The death of one of their members via choking on a cucumber in his salad drives them to go on one last adventure to get payback on the gods for denying them glory.
- The extremely short-lived Legends Of The Superheroes had, as its second and final episode, a Celebrity Roast for "Retired Man".
- Saturday Night Live had a few sketches featuring Mike Myers as "Middle-Aged Man," whose superpower was that he was old and thus had more wisdom and experience than young people.
- The Green Termite from The Amazing Extraordinary Friends.
- The French series Hero Corp takes place in a whole village of such retired superheroes. Most of them are not that old, however, but their powers have certainly decreased a lot from their prime.
- The Swedish Advent Calendar series Superhjaltejul centres around retired superheroes Stålhenrik (Steel-Henrik) and Supersnällasilversara (Superkindsilversara), telling the story about their first adventure to their grandchildren Vega and Nova.
- In the short-lived The Flash, Paul Winfield played a retired judge who moonlighted as a vigilante named Nightshade in the late '50s. He came out of retirement to join the Flash in fighting one of his old enemies who had emerged from cryogenic sleep.
- The video for the song "Kryptonite" by Three Doors Down was built entirely around this trope.
- Almost entirely averted in most wrestling promotions. It doesn't matter how old or flabby Ric Flair, Terry Funk, or Jake "the Snake" Roberts gets. They'll still be portrayed as just as vital and strong as when they debuted.
- A variant of this occurs in Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2, where one stage revolves around an elderly version of the Japanese folk hero Momotaro being called out of retirement to once again drive away the oni from Onigashima. He goes and fights them, then for some reason convinces them to open a theme park. Seriously.
- Captain Blue in Viewtiful Joe visually matches this trope, but can still fight with the best of them.
- Parodied in Earthworm Jim with the Puce Dynamo.
- Paco from Anachronox. He's not old, he is a depressed drunkard, but still.
- Are we forgetting Evil Inc.? Captain Heroic and Evil Atom, for starters.
- What about The Hero Businesswhich likes playing this a number of ways.
- Bravado is a retired Hero who seems to be an Expy of Golden Age Superman-esque superheroes, we are informed he's been around almost that long. While his former Arch nemesis turned coworker Dr. Malefactor is clearly showing his age.
- Throw some random continuity reboots that all the heroes notice, but almost nobody else seems to, and some random old timers reminiscing of the gold and silver ages of superheroes and you got one whacked out world that is just fun to visit
- Seemingly half the staff at Superhero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe. Earth Mother, the heavyset woman who used to be Flower Child back in the 60's, Dr. Yablonski the physics teacher who apparently had to retire when he lost an arm and a leg, and most importantly, the headmistress: Elizabeth Carson was the original Miss Champion back in the 1940's, and she is still superheroing. At least she has the 'ages at comic book rates' power too, so she currently looks like she is in her mid-thirties.
- Spongebob Squarepants's Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy are shining examples of this trope. After the back-to-action episode, they become Recurrers, their plots usually involving some returned supervillain they used to fight.
- Ironically, no one in their Rogues Gallery seems to have aged at all. With the exception of the retired Atomic Flounder.
- This is justified because the Dirty Bubble is a literal bubble, and Man Ray was frozen in tartar sauce.
- The Powerpuff Girls had Captain Righteous and Lefty, who had split up quite some time ago over a relatively minor squabble. They only came back because the Mayor insisted they were the only ones who could defeat The Ministry Of Pain, their equally-ancient arch-nemeses, who the Girls only held back on because Blossom believed they should be "respectful to one's elders".
- The whole thing ultimately ends with a bunch of old men that need to be hospitalized, and the news programs blame the girls for not doing anything to stop it.
- Timothy North from Kim Possible used to play the Fearless Ferret. He was voiced, naturally, by Adam West.
- Also a subversion as Timothy North thinks he was a real hero, but was actually just an actor on a tv show who was delusional.
- Adam West also appeared as a similar character in The Fairly OddParents, named... Adam West. He had played "Catman".
- Batman: The Animated Series had a similar character, the Grey Ghost, except that he was a throwback to the pulpy '40s era rather than the '60s superheroes, and he was played as a straight homage rather than a parody. He was voiced by... you guessed it... Adam West.
- It is worth pointing out that Grey Ghost was a character in a show which Bruce Wayne watched religiously as a child, not an actual superhero.
- The Dark Knight Returns shows Batman as this. At roughly age 50 Bruce puts on his costume again and tries to play the hero.
- And by the time we get to Batman Beyond, Bruce Wayne himself is the retired superhero who plays mentor to the new Batman, Terry. Bruce does occasionally join in with a well-timed use of the environment or jab with his cane, though.
- Plus there's the first two episodes with Inque. In the first one, when she snuck into the batcave Bruce took her on with a firehose (while wearing the Gray Ghost's mask!), and in the second, when Inque catches Terry and demands "the old guy" come out so she can get him, Bruce arrives wearing a powered armor prototype he had earlier told Terry was much too stressful on its wearer to be used.
- Batman Beyond also gives us a retired Batgirl (although she's gone on to become the commissioner of the Gotham police). Robin is revealed to have retired in The Movie and works as an electrical engineer. Both of them are fairly dismissive of their previous superhero lives and bitter towards Bruce, and it is implied they got off lightly compared to Nightwing.
- Both the animated version of The Tick and Freakazoid! visited superhero retirement homes. The Tick met Golden Age-type characters including Captain Decency (a Captain America type), The Seeing Eye (who could shoot his eyes out of his head), Sufra-Jet (a play on 'suffragette', now an old lady in a jetpack), and The Living Doll ("I'm full of tinier men!"). Captain Decency had a few teenage sidekicks over the years, but they're all off on their own.
- The Tick also reversed the trope in an episode that featured "The Terror", a frail, partially senile 104-year-old supervillain (his first major crime was punching out Teddy Roosevelt on the White House lawn) who comes out of retirement to conquer the world. His stable of minions include a multi-gendered alien, the Human Ton and Handy, a college student he believes to be Joseph Stalin (codename Stalingrad, since he graduated from a Stalin impersonation school) and the Man-Eating Cow. MEC was originally a hero, but the network forced the change.
- To be fair, the Man-Eating Cow was sort of a Harmless Villain as it didn't really do anything evil. In fact, one wouldn't put it past the terror to simply have picked up a regular (if slightly bad-tempered) cow and claim it was 'man-eating'.
- Soul Power, Sparky and their nemesis Professor Menace in Static Shock.
- Hammerman (Yes, M.C. Hammer as a superhero) played the Mentors angle, with Hammerman's predecessor (Soulman) hanging around to show him the ropes.
- Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, episode "Over the Hill Hero" has Captain Rescue.
- Captain Nemesis, Ben's superhero idol in the Ben 10: Ultimate Alien episode "Hero Time", is on the verge of becoming this — something that deeply disturbs him. It really doesn't help that a younger hero like Ben effortlessly upstages him, culminating in his utterly humiliating defeat in a contest of superheroics. While the actress covering the event (who is clearly biased in Ben's favor) describes the setting, a scrapyard for traincars, she mentions that it's the resting place for "rusted out old hulks" — the camera pans to Captain Nemesis at that point. Ouch. Nemesis loses the first event by an embarassingly wide margin. Even after he wins the second event (by cheating), he gets another dose of humiliation after Ben as Rath furiously pins him down and makes him scream in pain. The final event ends with Nemesis falling into a mudpit after losing a tug-of-war. Nemesis has a Face-Heel Turn and becomes Overlord as a result — he'd rather be a new villain than an obsolete hero.