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Popularity Power
aka: Comic Books
Manager: "It's a secret, so keep it under your head, but the most popular robot always wins."
Bender: "You mean I'm not a great fighter? I just won 'cause I'm popular?"
Manager: "Bingo!"
Bender: "WOOHOO! I'M POPULAR!"

Have you ever gotten into an argument where you have to defend your beloved Local Sports Team's honor and superiority against the "merits" of that honorless and inept Opposing Sports Team? Time consuming and pointless debates ensue (they really should just accept that that Local Sports Team is better and move on with their lives). If things get really bad, you can always wait for both teams to play against each other to settle the issue.

There's just one problem. Your team is in Major League Rugby, and theirs is a peewee soccer team. And they win.

This isn't the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits beating an Evil Empire, they don't have The Ace or Mary Sue leading them to a last second win by exploiting a Weaksauce Weakness or using a Drama-Preserving Handicap, they're normal and otherwise mundane, or even notably horrible. They are however far more popular and sell merchandise far better than your team. And somehow, much like The Power of Friendship, their Popularity Power gives them that added boost to take on teams far, far, far above their league that should logically crush them like so many naive hopes and dreams under tax returns.

Comic Books tend to fall to this a lot, much like an Ensemble Dark Horse but canonized in media. The super hero in question is usually the kind that stars in Wolverine Publicity or is a Badass Normal in a team of supers. Authors then give them Power Creep, Power Seep until they can take on anyone and win without flinching, or at least won't lose, to someone who should easily beat them. The means to this are usually liberal applications of Plot-Induced Stupidity to the opponent, a few Contrived Coincidences to help the hero (a fire extinguisher near a fire villain), or Joker Immunity to make a popular villain's outright defeat impossible.

Note: when a character in their own title makes short work of a more popular or widely-known guest star, that is not a subversion of this trope. I'm looking at you, example section.

Compare Pandering to the Base, Wolverine Publicity, Spotlight-Stealing Squad, Power Creep, Power Seep, Running the Asylum. Related to Joker Immunity and Contractual Immortality since some characters will never get caught/Killed Off for Real because of their popularity.

Contrast The Worf Effect. See also Story-Breaker Team-Up. For the out-of-universe version, where a work has power because it's popular, see Quality by Popular Vote.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 
  • The Viewtiful Joe anime adaption did with this Alastor. In the game he's not seen as an especially tough fight, but he's an Ensemble Darkhorse in the anime which led to him being presented as the strongest villain in the first season besides the Big Bad. This trope likely also played in reverse with Fire-Leo, who in the game is unanimously regarded as the toughest fight, which meant fans complaints about how hard he was made the anime turn him into and Adaptational Wimp.
  • In Bleach, this is Mask de Masculine's actual power. He gets stronger the more people cheer for him. As long as he has at least one fan, he's unstoppable.

    Comic Books 
  • The Incredible Hulk has been this for years and years, but it became most apparent in World War Hulk where he easily defeats people he has no business defeating, like Doctor Strange.
    • Doc Strange was justified, however poorly, mainly due to exploiting the fact that the characters are friends instead of a set of powers to be thrown against each other (Banner disabled Strange before the fight by tricking him and playing on his emotions). Aside from Strange, Hulk beating everyone else he beats in World War Hulk is completely reasonable.
    • Except the Sentry.
    • There seem to be two competing ideas about how the Hulk should be used; one sticks closer to his original conception as "the strongest one there is" with a few exceptions. The other sees him as a perfect candidate for The Worf Effect and not much else.
  • Batman has become a walking Deus ex Machina in comic books and "versus debates" thanks to the words "with prep time". Given enough prep time, he is speculated to be able to defeat: Superman, Galactus, Darkseid, Death, Taxes, Tofu, and Jelly Beans. The sheer amount of times he's faced Superman and lived would qualify him here even if nothing else would.
    • The 'Batman smacks down Superman' issue was subverted in The New Frontier; initially, it appears that Batman handed Superman his cape after Superman attempted to arrest Batman, who was refusing to register or resign as a superhero. It's eventually revealed that the two men staged it as a protest against McCarthyism and the witch-hunts of the 1950s. At Superman's urging, no less.
    • More concretely, he made contingency plans in one arc to take each member of the Justice League of America down should they go crazy. Of course, they fall into the wrong hands, and work remarkably well on all the heroes.
      • Even those plans are sometimes criticized by readers. The plan against Flash, for example, relies on him vibrating through a special bullet, instead of just, y'know, moving out of the way.
    • In several stories, it's later expanded to note that every single one of the Justice League members have at least some vague plan to take out their team-members in case any one of them goes rogue. They vary in effectiveness, though. Hal Jordan's contingency plan shows one of his own moments of Popularity Power - his plan to defeat Batman was to create a jetpack, strap it to him, and shoot him as far away as possible to be sure. Despite certain obvious flaws, his plan worked (even if it was entirely unnecessary for a guy that can casually exceed the speed of light and destroy planets without trying).
    • The entire issue is parodied in this Dinosaur Comics strip.
    • In one alternate universe, after Jason Todd was killed Batman went ...a little more nuts than normal...and killed every single villain on Earth, resulting in a utopia. No one thought this was unlikely.
    • Fortunately Alan Moore seems to be immune to Popularity Power. During Moore's run on Swamp Thing Batman takes on the much more powerful title character with plenty of prep time after making careful preparations, including putting wood cutting buzz-saws on the Batmobile and bringing a herbicide thrower. Swamp Thing wipes the floor with him.
      • There are a few crossovers where Batman isn't shown as an all-around invincible badass. In one crossover between Spider-Man and Batman, they got into a brief scuffle and Peter grabbed Bats, tossed him half-way across the building. The priceless look on Bruce's face said it all as he was being thrown so easily.
    • And sometimes, even "with prep time" is unnecessary. Like putting down Cheetah, who is a recurrent Wonder Woman villain, at times able to take a punch from Superman (who, for the uninitiated, has Super Strength and Super Speed, which Batman lacks), with a single punch, running with three adults on his back, and sucking enough bullets to sink a frigate. And apparently, doesn't need to sleep.
    • One issue of Batman Confidential had him fighting several members of the proto-Justice League. He took down Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman. This was their first meeting, and he didn't know what any of their abilities were when the fight started. It helped that neither did the writer. Let's see... throwing a smoke bomb in front of The Flash is yet another example of writers forgetting that 1. He has Super Reflexes and even so wouldn't immediately crash into a wall if blinded 2. If you're in a small room with The Flash, there is no time to throw something before he reaches you. There's not time for a human to do anything before he reaches you. Wonder Woman cannot be taken out by kicking her in the stomach with human strength. At a best case scenario it's ineffective. Worse case, you break your foot. The same goes for Martian Manhunter. Batman's ability to manhandle Aquaman or utterly incapacitate Green Lantern with a batrope is also just slightly dubious (Aquaman has Wonder Woman levels of Super Strength and Green Lantern can make literally anything he can think of with his ring).
    • Frank Miller's Batman/Spawn crossover actually has their fight be even, to a degree. Batman beats down Spawn, but when Spawn turns the tables the rest of the fight is conviently off panel.
    • Wonder Woman beat down Batman in one of her issues. A criminal Batman was after sought sanctuary in Wonder Woman's headquarters, and Batman demanded she turn her over. Wondy said no. With her foot. In fact, Wonder Woman is a good case of Reality Ensues, as his track record against her has been slightly against him. She's a Flying Brick with no obvious weaknesses who often sees through his ruses.
  • The Joker has been such a popular villain in all of his incarnations (both in comic books and onscreen) over the past 70+ years that he named a related trope.
  • Despite allegedly being just a hair above maximum human potential, some of Captain America's feats have gone seemingly far beyond what he "should" be able to do. Any average human superhero or villain who goes up against him is sure to lose. Even superpowered denizens like Spider-Man and Wolverine fold before the Cap. And if that weren't enough, Captain America has actually gone rounds against Namor, Hulk, and the other super heavyweights of the Marvel Universe and STILL come out on top (or at the very least, fought these beings to a draw). Why? Because he's popular. Because he wears the red, white, and blue. And to top it all off, Marvel loves him so much that they'll never have the guy lose, just like DC is never going to have Batman lose.
    • This is made especially ridiculous in the animated movie, Ultimate Avengers, which has the team fight The Hulk in the finale and has Cap last better than any others who engage him in a direct fight. Notably, The Hulk takes down The Mighty Thor (an ACTUAL GOD) in two blows. Cap gets thrown all over the place and manages to endure around/over FOUR. Sure, he's bleeding and disoriented afterwards, but logically he shouldn't even be conscious.
    • Although there are a few well-known instances of Captain America subverting this trope. There are plenty of battles where he shows up, makes an inspirational speech about determination over power, then gets his ass handed to him (most famously against Korvac, Thanos, and the Masters of Evil).
    • It should be noted that Cap's shield is often described as playing merry havoc with the laws of physics. For example, it's not just indestructible (it can shrug off a direct hit from everything short of Thor with the power of Odin), but it also arrests most (if not all) of the momentum directed at it, too. One imagines that works in reverse when used as a weapon. But still, all it should take is one shot from most people listed here and Cap is down for the count.
      • In a Fantastic Four story, Cap's shield takes Gladiator (Superman's Captain Ersatz) at bay for minutes. Heat vision ("The heart of a star") and lighting-fast, moon-blasting punches don't even ruin the painting of the shield. Maybe it's not even Captain America Popularity Power in action - the Star and Strips logo must be a reality breaker.
      • During the 90s, Cap had an encounter with a few of the X-Men in a scuffle which saw him getting frozen from the waist down by Iceman. The move did not stop Captain America on his tracks. He then somersaulted across the air and knocked Iceman out while his entire lower body was frozen, meaning that he shouldn't even have the kind of momentum to pull off such a move. Not only that, he effortlessly beat the crap out of Beast. To make things clear, Hank McCoy is no Hulk or Thor, but he's still a highly dangerous mutant who possesses strength, speed, and agility far better than the best of Olympic athletes AND he can lift well over thirty tons. That didn't stop the Cap from making short work of him. It got worse in the X-Men vs Avengers storyline when Cap went up against Gambit. During the fight, Gambit used his kinetic powers to charge up Cap's suit and levelled him with an explosion that should have reduced any human or peak human fighter to a charred skeleton. Immediately after the explosion, Cap emerged from the blast with no injuries and proceeded to punch Gambit out like nothing happened to him.
    • Cap himself puts it best in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2:
    "I wear the flag. That means I don't lose."
    • Civil War at least is fair about about it. Iron Man always wipes the floor with Cap in their various duels, causing him to need rescue by more powerful allies, unless Cap cheats by shorting out his armor in which case Iron Man is basically helpless to do anything but lie there and eat shield, not really making Cap look all that powerful.
      • Civil War is also one of the times that Captain America defeated Spider-Man. This time Spidey offers a meager justification for it: "There is no 'next move' to read, for him, it's all one long move from start to finish, he has it all planed out in advance while you're still trying to react to his last blow.", which of course ignores quite a number of things about Spidey and Marvel in general but there you have it.
    • Deadpool has been shown as possibly being Cap's superior. In their first meeting, Deadpool takes out the (mind-controlled) Captain with a solid hit to the junk. In a recent team-up, an enraged Deadpool got into a heated battle with Steve Rogers, now Super Soldier. In that battle, Deadpool managed to put a really good hurting on the former Captain America. Just when it seemed that Deadpool was finally overpowering Rogers, he was shot in the back with several tranquilizer darts to end the battle and even then Deadpool was the one still standing while Cap was the one on his knees who looked worse for wear. Considering how Captain America usually shows up other superheroes like Wolverine and Spider-Man in their own comic books, it's quite amazing that Deadpool managed to come off looking really strong against Captain America with the implication that he might have won their interrupted battle if he were to continue going all-out.
  • Heroes aren't the only ones with Popularity Power. Dr. Doom has become a villainous equivalent of Batman who can defeat anyone (given enough "prep time" (admittedly a FAR more stable claim than Batman, but still quite ridiculous)). Despite being the villain of the story, the good doctor has gained an immense following of fans who believe he's capable of defeating anyone and anything, including the most powerful beings in the comic books multiverse. Given enough time to study opponents, it is said that Doom could defeat Thanos, Galactus, Magneto, Hulk, Thor, Darkseid, Superman, Batman, Silver Surfer, Jesus, and even the almighty Rubik's Cube. It really is an almost endless list.
    • A really ridiculous example of Doom oozing God Mode Suedom was during an arc where he teamed up with Dr. Voodoo and battled their way across hordes of demons. Dr. Voodoo got taken down by Ghost Rider but before Ghost Rider could finish Voodoo, Doom came in and took Ghost Rider out with one punch. This is a highly dubious feat considering Ghost Rider has been shown to be able to fight toe to toe with Dr. Strange before, take some of his best attacks, and even defeat the Sorcerer Supreme after a brutal mystical fight. And of course, Doom's powers are only second best compared to Strange. Apparently, the message that the writers want to drive home is that one punch from Doom is greater than the sum of two Sorcerer Supremes put together.
  • In the Suicide Kings Deadpool storyline, the Punisher beats Deadpool up to the point where he needs rescuing by Outlaw and Daredevil. With a sword. This is despite the Punisher being an ordinary human and Deadpool being a guy in peak physical fitness who heals all injuries, never gets tired and is almost definitely the best swordfighter in the Marvel Universe - plus, it's his book! In fact, any fight between someone with a Healing Factor and someone without is only going to end one way - that would be why they apparently put DP's factor on a major go-slow for this series.
    • Punisher was on the receiving end in a Punisher/Batman crossover. Bats beat him in about two panels and described his fighting style as that of a bar brawler, which given Frank Castle's rather extensive training includes SEAL training and one particular writer went into detail on his martial arts techniques....But mostly, that crossover is also another case of Batman's own Popularity Power at work.
  • That time Spidey took down Firelord, a former Herald of Galactus. We're talking Silver Surfer-level power. Granted, Firelord swore he would fight Spider-Man in single combat (and not just, you know, OBLITERATE NEW YORK STATE WITH A THOUGHT). Spidey beat him after throwing him in the East River, tricking him into a building in the process of being demolished, and exploding a gas station on him, but come on. This guy flies through stars!
    • To further explain how batshit insane this is: Heralds of Galactus are high order Reality Warpers capable of exceeding the speed of light several thousand times over and demolishing planets without trying.
    • And in the storyline immediately after the Firelord/Spidey fight — and we mean immediately after, as in the very same day — Firelord got smacked by the full power of the Sanctuary II battlestation, which had just finished spanking the entire Skrull Armada. Firelord was blasted all the way across the solar system and headfirst into a moon at relativistic velocities... and got up out of the smoking crater, staggered a short way, and only then collapsed unconscious. So, Spidey's fist > Death Star level firepower and near-lightspeed collisions with celestial bodies.
    • Said incident was even mocked by Spidey himself in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, assuming you play as him during the endgame.
    "Did I mention I beat up Firelord once? No, seriously. Firelord."
    • Secret Wars also, infamously, had Spidey mop the floor with the X-Men, including Wolverine, all on his own
  • For Wolverine, take for example Marvel vs. DC/DC vs. Marvel comics, which was literally one big popularity contest. One issue had a scene in which Wolverine is able to make short work of Lobo, an alien being that gave Superman a run for his money and destroyed an entire planet, in less than four panels, simply because polls showed that his stats were higher that week. Moreover, both of them have regenerative healing, but Lobo is able to regenerate his entire body From a Single Cell if his entire body is destroyed. The best part? The final blow of the fight took place off-panel, because, apparently, even the writers couldn't figure out how Wolverine could possibly win.
    • According to Stan Lee the "single panel" part is a Coconut Superpowers moment...the polls were held close enough to the publication of the DC vs. Marvel volumes that most of the comics had to be drawn before the polls were finished. The result was drawing all the fights such that they could easily go either way until the very end.
      • And the artist had drawn an alternate ending depicting Lobo's victory (in fact, only the three final panels were different, where instead of Wolvie, it was Lobo raising his hand, picking the cigar from the counter and smoking it).
    • A later issue of Lobo's own comic implied that he was paid to throw the fight regardless, which is in-character for him while also nicely avoiding an outright denial.
    • The same series also had Wolverine's X-Men teammate Storm hand a smack-down to Wonder Woman, which seemed more than a little unlikely to many objective observers; however, X-Men titles were selling better than Wonder Woman at the time.
      • Context on the above fight; Storm did not win by keeping the fight at range and spamming typhoons at Diana until she fell over, which would have at least made some kind of sense. Diana was able to make it to melee range and successfully connect with a kick to Storm's head, and Storm still stayed conscious.
    • In his "Brainwashed by Hydra" arc, Wolverine takes on the like of Namor, the Fantastic Four, and Stan Lee knows how many others, without getting beaten or captured once.
      • Somehow, Wolverine also managed to defeat Hercules with little difficulty. The same guy who's fought evenly with Heralds of Galactus and Thor.
      • A "What If...?" of this storyline saw Wolverine practically wipe out the entire Marvel Universe. This was especially headachey because it had Magneto, who canonically pulled the metal from Wolvy's bones and left him for dead in the original, shanked. It did, however, have Kitty prove why phasing is awesome.
  • Parodied by the Marvel character of Squirrel Girl, who manages to hand some of the most powerful, godlike villains in the Marvel Universe a humiliating defeat despite having not particularly impressive superpowers.
    • It's reached the point where other people are starting to recognize her tendency to beat nearly godlike beings, with Deadpool gaining extra recognition for being powerful enough to be defeated by Squirrel Girl.
      • Twice.
    • This is helped along by those writers who dislike the idea of a joke character winning against people who outclass her. Those writers invent Ret Cons or Hand Wave the victory away... and the rest of the writers have her beat up someone bigger instead.
    • As her squirrel companion Tippy-Toe once pointed out in a Breaking the Fourth Wall address to fans who reacted more humorlessly to her tendency to defeat Dr. Doom:
    "Yeah, that's right. Squirrel Girl totally pwns Doc Doom. Know why? 'Cause of somethin' that happened in a story by Steve-freakin'-Ditko! That's so in continuity. So just deal with it, fanboy."
  • A notable aversion came in one of the DC/Marvel crossovers, when the JLA went up against the X-Men. Batman, the most popularity-powered character of them all, sprang a surprise attack on Cyclops who, while he has plenty of fans, also attracts more hate than probably any other X-Man (with the possible exception of Gambit). Guess which one got taken down.
  • In Fables this is one speculated source of the eponymous Fables' powers. The more popular the story about a Fable is, the more powerful they are. For example, Snow White recovered from a sniper's bullet to the skull—her sister Rose Red might not have survived since most people have forgotten her part of the fairytale— Frau Totenkinder is one of the most powerful Fables in existence because she is every anonymous witch in folklore, and Goldilocks raises this to a level bordering on Blessed with Suck when she discovers she can't heal any faster than the fish are eating her.
    • Jack Horner, who is every Jack in fairy tales (except Jack Sprat), exploited this by going to Hollywood and making a trilogy of movies about him. He's now effectively immortal, but not invincible.
    • The series has actually avoided directly answering the question on whether Popularity Power is actually in effect. Frau Totenkinder for her part actually expresses doubt on whether it is or not.
  • Deadpool once realized that this was the reason that he can never die, so in order to die he decided to go out and kill all of his fans.
    • Does the same in Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe. He also gives an interesting speech to Wolverine about his healing factor. He states that it's incredibly fitting: the popular character has a power that makes him immune to death. Wolverine doesn't live because of his skills, but because the fans love him.
  • Back in 2000, Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen wrote a short graphic novel, Superstar, about a hero who was powered by popularity. Kind of. The hero of the story gained superpowers as long as he had the energy to spare, but it was limited and did run out. His father ended up merchandising him to hell and back (even against his express wishes sometimes) with toy lines, live shows, televising his battles, etc. Part of the cost to watch the shows or buying the merch? A small energy donation, not even enough to make you wheeze from tiredness. Of course, being really popular and taking energy donations from millions of fans, he was actually rather powerful.
  • The Marvel villain Arcade has to date, been 100% unsuccessful at killing any superheroes or villains that feature in his appearances. It's assumed that all of his success with Murderworld assassinations occur offscreen. Killing overweight and out of shape buisnessmen is one thing. But he is clearly out of his league with superpowered characters. But his offbeat characterization (not too unlike The Joker) is probably why he gets to stay around for the occasional guest appearance, and trying to Take a Level in Badass in the pages of the Battle Royale inspired Avengers Arena.
  • In the early days, Spider-Man was the hero at Marvel that benefited most from this. His early altercations with other heroes would frequently see Spider-Man out maneuvering or outclassing all of them. This includes when he fought handicap fights against the Fantastic Four and The Avengers. He outright beat the X-Men all by himself during the Secret Wars. In more recent years however, there has been a reverse of the trend; writers preferring to portray Spider-Man as a perpetual underdog.
  • Deathstroke is an incredibly popular villain. So of course, writers have to amp up his badassery from reasonable to absurd. The man has enhanced reflexes, speed, strength and intelligence, but only several times above peak human as opposed to, oh, Kryptonian level. In Identity Crisis #3, he single-handedly took out an entire Justice League roster. He stops Black Canary from using her Canary Cry via a bag over her head. (That scream of hers can rip through steel). He beats the Atom senseless with the light from an ordinary laser pointer because 'the Atom has no mass when he shrinks'. (This directly contradicted how the Atom's power has worked since his very first appearance in comics.) Green Lantern Kyle Rayner can't use his ring because Deathstroke grabs his hand, and uses his own willpower to overpower Kyle's. (Not only do GL rings not work that way, at that time Kyle's ring had a failsafe put in to refuse commands from anyone not having Kyle's brainwave pattern... and that's before you factor in the pure unleaded stupidity of Kyle actually being caught within arms' reach of Deathstroke at all, seeing as how he can fly and Deathstroke can't.) Oh, but at least in those cases, he put a minimal degree of effort in. Against the Flash, Wally West just ran right onto the tip of Deathstroke's sword. (Wally West can move at the speed of light — on a slow day. To be able to move too fast for Wally to be able to react in time, Deathstroke's sword would have needed a built-in hyperdrive.)

    Films 
  • Go back and watch Return of the Jedi, before Boba Fett's popularity rocketed. Boba has his gun taken out and then gets knocked over like a wuss by a rookie Jedi. He is then propelled into the side of Jabba's sailbarge when a blind man set off his jetpack. By accident. He then rolls right into the Sarlacc's mouth. The final humiliation is granted by the Sarlacc letting out a satisfied belch after swallowing him. Now compare him to the man who, among other things, went head to head with Darth Vader in a Star Wars Expanded Universe story and came out of it alive.
    • It gets even better, in another one he shoots his way out of the sarlacc like some sort of FPS player character; said sarlacc is nearly dead now.
    • Taken to extremes in the pre-Empire novels, where he actually almost killed Mace Windu (aka Samuel-Motherfucking -Jackson) in revenge for his dad's death in Attack of the Clones, when he was no older than thirteen years old.
    • It should be noted that Lucas had no idea Boba was so popular when Return of the Jedi was made. He confesses that Boba would have gotten a much better send-off if he had known.
  • The Green Hornet: Kato being revamped into Hyper Competent Sidekick taken Up to Eleven was obviously inspired by Bruce Lee's increased popularity since playing the character.
  • Agent Coulson of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a fairly minor character in Iron Man before he became a recurring character throughout the series. At the peak of his popularity, and once his characterization had developed, he was suddenly killed in The Avengers. Upon hearing of this, Twitter and Tumblr exploded with support for him to come back, campaigning the slogan #CoulsonLives. Their attempts were so successful that not only did Marvel bring Coulson Back from the Dead and make him the star of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., they even made tweeting #CoulsonLives unlock a trailer for the TV show.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sylar from Heroes. He's cheated death a half a dozen times and reached belief-defying heights of Joker Immunity because the writers seem in love with him. Not only does he have a myriad of powers (which he can increase as the plot demands, though not without some justification) he's survived two near fatal attacks (one of which he was originally planned to die from), escaped imprisonment three times, and Elle completely misses him twice with electric blasts when she nailed fast flyer West in one shot. In short, he's a Villain Sue.
  • In Angel, "Destiny" had Angel and Spike in a titanic, epic brawl in an episode sometimes labeled a 'fan dream.' Spike often leads fan polls in popularity with Angel right behind him. Remember, Badass Decay only happened because he was a fan favorite. Originally the episode was to have Angel win, because it is his show, but the writers realised that they were missing a golden opportunity to drive home Angel's loss of motivation. Once Angel got back his groove in later episodes he would soundly beat Spike in a normal fight, even once as a puppet. It's also worth noting that Spike actually beat Buffy in a fight once, which Angel never did.
    • This carried over from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where Spike became immensely popular and went from a recurring villain to one of the main characters and a Heel-Face Turn.
    • Pretty much most of the focus of the Angel series was that he was well-known and going to be a popular player in the apocalypse. But on whose side? Turns out he was well in the midst of it already; who said the apocalypse couldn't drag out over decades?.
    • Faith gets this as well. She was originally going to be written out and had been given the Designated Monkey treatment. Fans loved her however so she was kept for the remainder of season three. She then appeared in season four (Buffy) and one (Angel), eventually being put in a prison cell. She would return in season seven\four.
  • In a bit of an odd example, Iron Chef America and Iron Chef Bobby Flay. Now, he doesn't -win- an unfair amount, but he gets -chosen- more than every other chef in the show by a huge margin because he's the most popular Food Network star in the series. Basically, the episodes in which he's chosen get a lot more views than any other chef's, so Food Network has him picked all the time.
  • Jerry Springer didn't win Dancing with the Stars, but he got a lot farther than his dancing talent alone would have carried him. It got to the point that he actually asked his fans to stop voting for him, as he only appeared on the show to learn to dance and was tired of coming back.
    • This is also arguably the reason why Jerry Rice won out over Stacy Keibler. Many people thought that Keibler was the most talented dancer on the show.
    • In the British equivalent Strictly Come Dancing, John Sergeant famously pulled out because he felt that his popularity power was unfair on the contestants who were actually good dancers.
  • Xena from Xena: Warrior Princess was a beneficiary of this, having grown popular enough to have her own spinoff show after appearing on Hercules. Even though she's a mortal warrior, Xena has gone on to beat people far above her weight class and accomplish other feats that one would think is impossible for someone who isn't a god or demi-god. In short, she's slain multiple deities from Greece and from other lands, single-handedly fought off entire armies, killed off almost all of the Olympians, fought off arch-angels, and defeated not one but TWO incarnations of the Judeo-Christian Devil. Admittedly, she does gain the ability to kill gods but even then, it's questionable if she should even be able to exercise that ability against gods as powerful and as experienced as Artemis and Athena.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Professional Wrestling uses this trope to full advantage of course, with most wrestlers' positions on the cards determined entirely by how popular they are. However, most pro wrestling promoters aren't above subverting the trope, whether it's to launch a new character, keep things unpredictable, or simply to give the fans a happy moment as the dominant heel gets beaten by the lowest of the low.
    Wrestlecrap: There were 18 WCW Title victories in the year 2000; at 12 days David Arquette had a longer reign than Chris Benoit (who admittedly quit the day after winning), Sid Vicious, Jeff Jarrett three times, DDP, Ric Flair twice, Kevin Nash, Booker T and Vince Russo.
    • One of the most well-known subversions was WCW wrestler Bill Goldberg, who, in his first match, got the standard Jobber treatment — no music, no televised entrance, no flashy costume, just a quick announcement of name and hometown during his opponent's much flashier entrance. And then he won that match. And then 171 more. By the end of that streak, he had his own Popularity Power going.
    • Another storyline involved a WWF Jobber losing a few matches to better-known wrestlers under names like "The Cannonball Kid", "The Good Luck Kid", "The Kamikaze Kid", etc. until finally, now simply known as "The Kid", he scored an upset victory over Razor Ramon. This earned him the name "The 1-2-3 Kid", as his entire gimmick was that he started getting upset victories, winning 2 more times against Razor Ramon, then beating other top heels as they came out of the woodwork to put the kid "in his place". Razor actually made a Heel-Face Turn simply by taking his losses in good humor and taking the kid under his wing. Eventually. As a side note, said kid was Sean Waltman, the wrestler later known as Syxx (in the nWo) and X-Pac (in D-Generation X).
    • And then there was the famous Barry Horowitz, whose 800-strong losing streak came to an abrupt end when he beat Skip of the Bodydonnas, rolling Skip up for a pinfall when he stopped to do push-ups in the middle of the match. He'd go on to get two more wins, one more against Skip and one against Hakushi, and again Hakushi was able to turn face by taking his loss in good spirits (of course, Hakushi's face turn was somewhat less successful than Razor's, as he went from the enigmatic Badass "White Angel of Death" to a Funny Foreigner).
    • ECW did this with a guy by the name of Mikey Whipwreck, who would take vicious beatings in the ring without getting in a lick of offense. Eventually, the fans started sympathizing with him, and started to root for Mikey to win � and when, as a surprise substitute for Terry Funk in a match for the ECW Tag Team Championship (with tag team partner Cactus Jack), Mikey not only landed an offensive maneuver against his opponents (The Public Enemy), but managed to get the pinfall and win the match, making him even more beloved amongst the fans.
      • WWE tried repeating it with Colin Delaney, formerly Colin Olsen of CHIKARA. However, the angle got abandoned about a month or so in.
    • "The Brooklyn Brawler" Steve Lombardi, a man whose name has become synonymous with Jobber, holds a victory over Triple H.
    • The Futurama example in the page quote, obviously.
  • On the non-subverted side of the fence, there's Hulk Hogan. And Hulk Hogan always, always won, thanks to "the power of the Hulkamaniacs", even when faced with somebody who was bigger, badder, or just plain better. This went on for most of the '80s, and the beginning of the '90s, across two different wrestling promotions, before it got stale enough for a Face-Heel Turn to even be considered.
    • There's the half-straight / half-inverted example of John Cena, particularly from his WWE Championship win in 2005 until his return from an injury in 2008. The vast majority of the crowd (i.e. the men) absolutely loathed Cena and would call for his head at every turn... but due to Cena's popularity with women and children, he went on to constantly overcome the odds of more popular Heels en route to one title run that lasted just three months shy of a year (and with only a three week break between his next one that lasted another five months) and one that went just over a month past a full year and even that was only ended due to aforementioned injury.
  • In a Meta Example during the 1990s, The Undertaker had his urn stolen and melted down by Ted DiBiase's henchman, Kama Mustafa. Taker turned to his Creatures Of The Night to give him the strength to beat Kama in a casket match. Being one of the most popular wrestlers in the WWF, he had no trouble getting enough.
  • You can always tell when a Faux Action Girl face Diva is starting to get really popular with the fans: she'll start getting out-of-nowhere victories over heel Divas who are bigger and/or a great deal more athletic. Sometimes this will be due to other face wrestlers helping the good girl out (which is, of course, "cheating" when done by the heels), but at other times it's just due to the heel Diva's stupidity and/or overconfidence. Which is how Stacy Keibler, Maria Kanellis, and Kelly Kelly were able to gain victories over Molly Holly, Melina Perez, and Beth Phoenix, respectively, despite having none of their ability.
    • And that is WWE's problem: they keep trying to replay the Trish Formula. Trish Stratus spent her first year in WWE as a valet, then a stint as Vince's girlfriend before turning face and starting to wrestle regularly. When she defeated Ivory in a match, fans began to take her seriously as a wrestler instead of being just a model (some fans still think she was all-hype, though). In the subsequent times they've tried this, the fans saw through it and called WWE out for it. When Kelly Kelly became Divas Champion and went over on Beth Phoenix twice, fans chanted "BULL-SHIT!!" at her.
    • Subverted with the debut of Brie Bella on SmackDown, who was immediately put into a match against former Women's Champion Victoria. Brie at first played the part of a Lovable Coward, hiding from Victoria under the ring only to magically reappear from out from the under the other side of the ring, slip behind Victoria, and roll her up for a pin. Yes, in her very first match! Then it was eventually revealed that the girl who'd pinned Victoria was Brie's twin sister, Nikki, who had switched places with her in the middle of the match. (And then, double-subverted in that both of the Bella Twins remained faces for a time).
  • George "The Animal" Steele has said since that his feud with Randy "Macho Man" Savage wasn't intended to last as long as it did but it got so over that they ran with it.
  • If a heel gets popular enough they may make a Heel-Face Turn (which tends to curb said popularity, making them do a Face-Heel Turn and so on and so forth). The most notable example in recent years is Randy Orton. Every time he attacked someone, people cheered him on, even when said person that was attacked was a highly popular face. It eventually reached a point that they had no choice but to turn Orton himself face. The dissolution of Legacy was originally have Ted Dibiase Jr as the face and Randy and Cody Rhodes as the heels. However, Randy's popular made it so they had to rewrite the storyline to make him the face. And his popularity continued to the point that he stayed face for three years and was only able to turn heel against the massively over Daniel Bryan, seeing as (with the exception of CM Punk), attacking anyone else would have still gotten him cheered.
    • It should be noted that the only thing that changed about Randy's character was who he attacked. Otherwise he was still the same sadistic psychopath he's always been.
  • The only times Shawn Michaels isn't booed in Canada is when he's in DX, supposedly because of this trope. In fact, Shawn's so popular that his Chronic Backstabbing Disorder never managed to make the fans boo him — until he screwed the massively over Daniel Bryan out of the WWE Championship.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A variation on this frequently crops up in licensed roleplaying games: characters from the original canon will be given game statistics built on the presumption that such characters are the absolute best specimens of their particular niche. What begins as a hope for insurance against potential Mary Sue Player Characters running roughshod over the continuity can easily become ludicrous when compared to the game's own stated benchmarks for mundane characters, resulting in situations where such individuals couldn't actually be challenged/threatened by scenarios faithfully reproducing their own adventures. What makes it even worse are the Game Breaker powers and ridiculously inflated abilities designers will give canon characters that are often direct violations of the rules. Players who see these stats and abilities can rather reasonably demand why their characters can't attain the same levels of power, which can put a DM in an awkward position.
    • Subverted often with those same characters. While they often have overinflated levels in the skills and abilities that they demonstrate on the show, they are usually so poorly built (as are most pregenerated "example" characters) that they cannot actually handle the canon adventures they are described as undertaking successfully, nor would they last very long at all in a real campaign. Nor would any PC with a mind to clear out the overabundance of Mary Sue characters have much trouble in doing so, even at a drastically lower level.
    • The Star Trek RPG from FASA clearly assumed that not only was the Enterprise the most successful ship of its class in service, but that every position on the ship was filled by the single most competent individual in that field to be found in Starfleet. One must feel sorry for the security chief of any other vessel by comparison...note 
    • White Wolf's Street Fighter RPG. Theoretically based on the arcade game franchise, a by-the-book starting campaign is more about the role roughly "real world compliant" martial artists would have in a world with Street Fighter characters in it (i.e. window dressing.)
    • Averted in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel RPGs. All major characters are statted out, and they are indeed much more experienced than the PCs. However, the character's stats and xp are tracked for each individual season. Want to have Buffy on par with your group? Just set it around the first season.
      • Even then, the game gives you a choice of character type between Heroes/Champions, with awesome stats, and White Hats/Investigators, with worse stats but more Drama Points to begin with plus a lower cost for more Drama Points. There is also a third option, Experienced Hero, which gives you better stats than the Hero and the Drama Point use of the White Hat. The Experienced Hero is designed for a whole party to use together, for balance, to reach the power level of a slightly more experienced canon character, although still not quite as experienced as the canon builds.
    • A particularily egregious example would be R. Talsorian's Bubblegum Crisis RPG. The Knight Sabers were built to ludicrous levels; Priss was superhumanly strong and could survive a hit from a 120mm cannon without her Hard Suit or any other protection.
  • Many roleplaying games use builds of the creator's own PCs as background for their publishing the setting. Having been played for many years, they obviously reach extremely high levels. But, having been played for that long, they usually are pretty good at surviving a normal campaign or fending off lower level PCs.
    • Elminster is obviously the most powerful of these for the Forgotten Realms, although most of the major FR characters are subjected to it in one form or another.
    • Mordenkainen, Tenser and other characters got this treatment in the Greyhawk setting.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles And Other Strangeness had an elaborate character creation system that provided rules for creating mutant squirrels, Moose, Housecats, or whatever. But the title characters were impossible to create according to the rules. Their Ninja Skills were fine, but their mutations were more advantageous than was possible for Player Characters.
  • The Revised Core rulebook of the D20 Star Wars Roleplaying Game gives all the main characters average stats. Coupled with the fact that they are poorly built, this actually means that the Luke (circa Episode IV) of the core books is weaker than many heroes on their third or fourth adventures. Fortunately, later supplements improved the NPC quality, bringing the heroes to an even level with the average PC.
    • Luke wasn't that powerful, though. Circa episode IV, he barely even knew how to use the Force, had only some casual pilot experience under his belt, and was really just on his first adventure himself.
    • This is also somewhat a backlash from the WEG D6 version of the rules, which gave all the canon characters -incredibly- pumped up stats. Han Solo, who is shown in the movies as being a pretty bad liar ('We're, uh, all fine here. How're you?') is given 8d or so in lying for instance. And 8d being basically one of the best people in a galactic sector or such. Their other stats are just as inflated. (Starting PCs for the record could start out at 5d-6d). Their focus skills were even worse. Someone once added it up and decided it'd take over a decade to get as high as Han Solo or Luke.
  • Starting with Dungeons & Dragons 3.0, dragons are given "Challenge Ratings" that are lower than usual for their power level. Thus, if the dungeon master follows the challenge rating system, dragons are always more powerful than whatever else the player characters are facing. The game designers state that this was intentional, so that encounters with dragons always feel special.
  • Warhammer 40,000, Kharn the Betrayer. The developers of the game seem to have notice his popularity after game's their edition, because his incarnation in the next rulebook made him cheaper to field and a stronger unit, and he essentially stayed the same in the rulebook after that.

    Video Games 
  • In the Mega Man X series, Zero somehow pushed his way from Mauve Shirt status to the co-protagonist role - even after being killed!
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, Axel was originally going to be killed by Roxas in the beginning prologue. But due to all the hype surrounding his character and how much the fans liked him, he not only got many more scenes but is now one of the supporting protagonists!
  • In the Touhou series, Cirno started out as not only being one of the weakest characters but being famous for it within the fandom. She's the second stage boss in the first game in which she appears and the stage one miniboss in the next game (making her the weakest boss in that entire game). However, her popularity propelled her to become a playable character in two later games. Her storyline in Hisoutensoku seems to put her as being as being only somewhat weaker than the main characters, putting her at well above average for the setting.
    • She now has her own game. Interestingly, however, she's depicted as being a lot less powerful than fans assume and even somewhat below her Fighting Game incarnation. Most of the foes she fights are fairies (of which she is already the strongest, meme notwithstanding) and she gets roughed up in the process of defeating the Extra Boss (Marisa), a first for the series PCs.
      • This is explained by her game talking place after Perfect Cherry Blossom (a while before Hisoutensoku).
  • Leonhardt Raglen in Agarest Senki is the protagonist of the first generation only. However, his storyline, his awesome stats, his fairly heroic status, and his badassery earned him the number one spot as to who the fans want to bring back in Agarest Senki 2 where he suddenly can pull off flash steps and Implausible Fencing Powers.
    • And then he does it again with Compile Heart's new game, Mugen Souls.
  • In the original Mobile Suit Gundam Char was barely able to harm the original Gundam with his modified Zaku II and was an even fight with Amuro when his skills were only half-decent. In Dynasty Warriors: Gundam's original story he battles some of Gundams most powerful suits and pilots(including some who beat him in the Hyaku Shiki) in that Zaku II and often times has the upperhand which is made all the more ridiculous by Amuro and the original Gundam barely able to go toe-to-toe with many of these people.

    Web Comics 
  • In Bob and George it's stated that fan popularity or "Star Power", like the plastic wrap force fields for main characters, means a character will not die. This is very literal, as when Bob tried to attack briefly appearing, but popular Metool-D2 he spontaneously started generating a force field. When Star Man tried this, it was shown that Ran can counter this with "the taint of communism":
    Starman: Oh no, I've been blacklisted!
    • In a later comic, again with Star Man, Star Man declared that he knew about Popularity Power and how it would allow him to defeat anyone. However, he immediately forfeits when he finds out he's slated to battle against the bigger Fan Favorite, Shadow Man.
  • Discussed to the point of parody in Samurai Pizza Cats Through The4th Wall. Speedy loses fights against both Twilight Sparkle and the White Ranger and Guido explains that he lost due to the others having more popularity power.

    Web Original 
  • GameFAQs has the Character Battles which seemingly pit two characters against each other and have users vote for the winner. While there is some debate going on, popularity ultimately decides the winner. This is sometimes ridiculed to the degree it's practically a subversion of itself, such as a Tetris piece winning the contest.
  • Subverted to hell and back in the Earth 2706 universe. A-list characters are relegated to guest star appearances, while C- and D-list heroes, and even more so villains, are given the spotlight.
  • The makers of Death Battle have made it explicit that they do not allow a character to win by Popularity Power, unless their research shows the character in question would win. Even if it's the one popular with themselves as Haggar vs. Zangief shows.
  • The web series Super Power Beat Down involves characters from various comic books, video games and films meeting and fighting each other. The winner is based purely on whichever character gets the most votes from fans.

    Western Animation 
  • Oddly enough, this is actually one of Danny's enemies' powers! Ember Mclain is a ghost whose power grow exponentially the more people cheer her name. In fact, the only way Danny could initially defeat her was by having Tucker sing on international TV... an act so horrifying it de-hypnotized the populace of the world almost instantly.
  • In the DCAU, Darkseid fired his Omega Beam at Batman...and missed.
    • Well, more of a "forced Batman to run all over the place before finally positioning a Mook into it and let it die instead." Still counts, though. On the other hand, Batman's actual attacks were at best distractions for Superman to capitalize on and at worst mere annoyances.
  • In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Batman gets this in spades, taking direct punches from beings like Mongul, Kalibak, and Darkseid, and... surviving them. Somewhat subverted in that there are a few episodes that show Batman dying, but each and every time he's resurrected through mystical means. While he wasn't hit by Darkseid's Omega Beam, the effort he needed to exert to actually deal with it obviously exhausted him...and then Darkseid began hand to hand combat.
    • Many times the show completely subverts the trope as Batman often needs the episode's guest hero to save him, and has a times been utterly destroyed when he hasn't had any help, aside from the above with Darksied, Lex Luthor also once broke into the Batcave while armed with a suit he built to take on Superman, and proceeds to flatten Batman while NoSelling every weapon thrown at him.

Place of PowerPowerPower at a Price
Popularity PolynomialAdded Alliterative AppealPorky Pig Pronunciation
Pec FlexProfessional WrestlingPower Stable

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