Run the Gauntlet
A Super Hero
has to face their entire Rogues Gallery
one by one in rapid succession, leaving no time to rest. Race to stop this villain from blowing up the bridge, then dash to the other side of town to free the mayor from another villain...and the villains are almost always fought in order by the Sorting Algorithm of Evil
— weakest first, strongest last. In the climax, the hero has to face the toughest villain, who is quite refreshed, while the hero is exhausted.
While it makes sense in theory, the scheme raises the question of why the villains don't just attack all at once
. One reason is that the villains would all get in each others' way and allow the hero to win by turning them against each other, particularly if they have no experience in fighting as a team. Another common reason is that they didn't plan it — the Big Bad
has manipulated them into doing it. That way, the hero and villains can weaken each other for the Big Bad
to step in and win (Let's You and Him Fight
). Either that, or they all coincidentally caused incidents for the hero to stop one after another
, but since when do such things happen without being orchestrated by someone?
Heroes with especially awesome Rogue's Galleries
will run into this more often; Batman does it all the time. Made possible by Villain Decay
— the guy who almost killed you last time is taken out with a flick of your wrist while you move on to the next one.
Incidentally, the "Gauntlet" that appears in the name of this trope doesn't refer to an armored glove, or even to the notion of "throwing down the gauntlet." It comes independently from the archaic word gantelope
, meaning a double-file of men facing each other and armed with clubs (or other weapons) with which to strike at an individual who is made to run between them. (It was commonly practiced in the British Army; you can see how speakers with different accents would get those two words confused.) So, yes, it should be spelled "run the gantlet
", but the pun's too obvious
Compare Boss Rush
for when videogames have you face previously defeated bosses in rapid succession.
Compare Rogues Gallery Showcase
. For when a character runs a physical gauntlet
, see Death Course
Anime and Manga
- A heroic version occurs in the Pokémon animé when Ash is facing Drake, the Orange Islands champion. Through most of their match, Ash has knocked out five of Drake's Pokémon, while Drake has taken out only two of his. Drake sends out his trump card, a very powerful Dragonite, but Ash eventually manages to beat it by rotating his remaining Pokémon and forcing Dragonite to take them down one by one. Dragonite defeats Charizard, Squirtle, and Tauros one after another, but they all do enough damage that the Dragonite is exhausted by the time Pikachu is sent out. The Frontier Brains is another non-villainous version of this. While League tournaments involve hundreds of trainers, a participant in either of these special "leagues" only ever battles each of the Frontier Brains one at a time.
- In an anime where singing is the (pretty much) only method of battle, Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch had a gauntlet run. And it was Played for Laughs. Why? In the first level of the tower the bad guys made as part of some ridiculous plan or other, the first 'boss', Alala, was merely bypassed and ignored. In the second level was Lanhua, who was Bowled Over by a bowling ball (don't ask how it go there, they don't know either). The third was Lady Bat, who was 'repelled' when his (yes, his) breath reeked of curry. The fourth level had the 'planner' Napoleon, who let them by after the heroines threatened them with a beating (he was rather short). It was at the fifth and final level where the singing ensued. But not before a Funny Music from the hostage the heroines were trying to rescue.
- In Bleach, after Ichigo defeats Grimmjow, he is immediately pitted against Nnoitra Jilga, who was a full rank above Grimmjow. This trope gets inverted on Nnoitra when Nel is revealed to be the former third Espada, who then proceeds to mercilessly beat the crap out of Nnoitra. However, Nel's release deactivates at the worst possible time. After Nnoitra's Kick the Dog moment, he sends his Fraccion Tesla to finish off Ichigo, but Kenpachi appears to not only defeat Tesla, but almost immediately goes to fight Nnoitra.
- This has happened to Ranma. It took a while.
- When the Seven Devils kidnap Meat (More specifically, they break him into pieces and keep each part), they force Kinnikuman to fight each of them one at a time. After defeating Stecase King and Black Hole, Kin has become too injured to fight and the other Justice Choujin have to step in and take out a few Devil Choujin on their own. However, only Terryman and Brocken Jr (With aid from Mongolman) prevail, leaving Atlantis to Kin, Springman to Mongolman, and finally Buffaloman to Kin. Something similar happens when the Devil Knights steal the Gold Mask and force Kin to fight them for it.
- Saint Seiya' Twelve Temples Arc in a nutshell: to save a mortally wounded Saori, her Bronze Saints have to cross the Twelve Temples and recover Athena's Shield in twelve hours, with (almost) every Temple having a Gold Saint to defend it-with the Gold Saints being so much stronger than them it's not even funny. Thankfully, the first one knew the actual situation and decided to give some help and the second had enough doubts to not go all-out, or they would have died at the first Temple.
- Spider-Man's first fight with the Sinister Six. This has been explained as being so each villain would have a chance to get the "honor" of killing Spidey himself. Spidey has since called this a "bone-headed method of teaming up" and in all subsequent fights, the Six attack en masse.
- Gently parodied in Spider-Girl's fight with the Savage Six — the entire issue was one big homage to the entire first Sinister Six issue, the leader of the Savage Six employed the same method of attack, and his brother, also a super-villain, called him an idiot. The final fight (between the exhausted hero and fresh villain) is thoroughly subverted when Spider-Girl calls in a few favors, and the last villain is confronted by just about every hero in the Marvel Comics 2 'verse. He wisely surrenders at that point.
- Norman Osborn once claimed that only a gauntlet would work against Spider-Man since the webhead is "good with groups," using the opponents' powers against them and cause infighting.
- After a period where the classic villains were put aside to focus on new faces, there was an arc titled "The Gauntlet," where the Kravenoff family set up Spidey's classic Rogues Gallery to fight him one after another and wear him down. The cover for the first collected volume encapsulates the trope almost perfectly - Spider-Man lies battered atop his fallen enemies.
- The X-Men frequently faced this, with a Plot Tailored to the Party to go with it.
- Every arc Batman has been in lately, from Knightfall to Hush — and also every non-canon miniseries he's ever been in, from Child of Dreams to The Long Halloween to Dark Victory. Child of Dreams is an interesting case - none of the villains he faces are the real deal. They're crazies who think they're his iconic arch enemies.
- Batman: The Animated Series,The Batman, and Beware the Batman had The Bat fight all of his villains one after the other. Deadly threats from previous episodes were reduced to petty Mooks, Elite Mooks at best.
- In fact, the last level of the video game (which was based on the animated series) is a boss rush, called 'The Gauntlet'.
- Justified in Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. Batman faces all of his opponents in the eponymous Asylum, as part of a twisted game of hide and seek. They don't all just fall on him at once because they've spread out to look for him. Many of the confrontations are also purely psychological. Of course, then there's the wheelchair-bound Doctor Destiny- Him, Batman just kicks down the stairs.
- The 2017 "I am Bane" arc has a heroic example. After Bane beats Batman to a pulp, Bruce retreats inside Arkham Asylum and releases almost his entire rogues gallery. In a reversal of Knightfall, Bane solos them all in a single night while Bruce tries to recover.
- Alan Moore's Superman story, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow??" is one part parody, one part Deconstruction, and one part Lampshade Hanging.
- It's subverted in The Flash because the Rogues are rarely known to pull a caper alone. They firmly believe in strength in numbers.
- Of course, in the case of The Flash, most of his enemies are either underpowered or ridiculously unsuited for facing a guy who can move and react at near light speed. Even all together it's no surprise they get their asses kicked every time.
- Actually they are very well suited to fighting a Speedster, they just don't want to kill him. When there's someone coming at you at near the speed of light or even the speed of sound the best tactic is to slow him down enough to get away or land a hit that will knock him out.
- In fact, the first time this plot was used back in The Silver Age of Comic Books, it was in a story called "The Gauntlet of Super-Villans;" after that, the Rogues began appearing in team-ups at least as often as they did solo to the point that such team-ups became unremarkable in the series.
- Freedom Force has you fight your entire Rogues Gallery before taking on Time Master.
- Typhoid Mary recruits a number of Daredevil's enemies to put the horn-headed hero through this trope. It's also a variant in that the villains win, beating Daredevil to within an inch of his life and leaving him for dead.
- The Typhoid version is specifically a deconstruction of the Sinister Six plot from Spider-Man, complete with epic full-page splash panels as each villain turns up, to show what would most like happen if the hero really did have to fight so many villains in a row and they weren't handed the Idiot Ball. As each villain appears and takes their shot, Daredevil's injuries and fatigue pile up until the final few confrontations have him as a bloody, concussed, hallucinating wreck basically being kicked while he's down.
- Even earlier, Daredevil contended with a small squadron of his 1960s villains in the Emissaries of Evil, which started out as this trope before turning into a more standard Legion of Doom scenario where they all regrouped after losing to him one-on-one and attacked him together to equally poor results.
- A variant on this happened in the conclusion to Bendis' New Avengers, where Doctor Strange had to fight the assembled Avengers and New Avengers one-on-one, without hurting them, because a spirit-form enemy who wanted him dead was body-surfing from one to another.
- The first arc in the Joe Books continuation of Disney's Darkwing Duck sees both Darkwing and Gosalyn trapped in prison right as Negaduck breaks every single supervillain out, forcing them to deal with nearly every villain Darkwing has ever faced in a huge case of Continuity Porn, including major and one-shot villains from the show, villains exclusive to the new comic, and even several villains created exclusively for other material such as the Nintendo video game, the Disney Adventures comics, and story books.
- In The Fairly OddParents! fanfic Discovery, Timmy Turner Runs the Gauntlet of all his magical enemies and his Imaginary Friend.
- Issue #50 of Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams forces Sleepwalker to take on all six of the Nasty Boys by himself. A few issues later, he goes through this trope again when the Green Goblin puts a $1 million prize on his head. He's forced to fight several villains trying to claim the prize one after another, and they each do a number on him. By the time he fights the last villain, Sleepwalker is so exhausted that he would have been killed without the help of a Heroic Bystander.
- Happens twice in My Little Mages: The Nightmare's Return:
- First, the girls have to fight each member of the Quirky Miniboss Squad (or a trap laid by them, in Iron Will's case) while making their way to the castle in the Everfree.
- The second time (which also incorporates a non-lethal Dwindling Party scenario), has them running into each villain again while fighting their way through the castle itself, with the girls peeling off one by one to deal with them and catching back up later.
- Happens in Chapter 60 of Child of the Storm with the forces of HYDRA gunning for Bobby Drake and having to go through Harry and his aged up friends to get him. Justified because their first attack is geared for a quick snatch and they quickly find themselves monstrously outgunned. After that, Lucius responds by chucking the kitchen sink at them (in the form of a proto Destroyer controlled by Baron Zemo and an army of Slendermen because Bobby is a young Omega Class mutant and with Xavier out of commission and Magneto distracted, this is possibly their only chance to 'recruit' him and because he recognises Harry's singular talent for being a Spanner in the Works, having been on the receiving end of it before, and is intent on making sure that it doesn't happen again. And unlike most examples, but for an appropriately timed Big Damn Heroes and a Heel–Face Turn by the Winter Soldier, it would would have worked.
- Double Subverted in Ultimate Spider-Woman: Change With The Light, when Will O' the Wisp initially plans to recruit several of Spider-Woman's other enemies to attack her in a Villain Team-Up. Jack O' Lantern points out the flaws that plague most villain team-ups. Having the hero run a traditional gauntlet often doesn't work, for any number of reasons. However, having all the villains attack the hero at once isn't necessarily better, since they can all get in each others' way. Jack also points out that Spider-Woman's enemies aren't exactly willing to train together until they can work as a team. Instead, Jack advises the Wisp to force Spider-Woman to Run the Gauntlet, but to be smart about it by figuring out how to best use each villain's individual talents to best effect. The Wisp realizes that this doesn't just involve villains' powers, as he gets Psycho Psychologist Moonstone to create a psychological profile of Spider-Woman and determine what would be the best way to not only exhaust and cripple Spider-Woman physically, but emotionally as well.
Live Action TV
- Among the many types of gimmick matches devised in pro wrestling, there is the "running" variation of the "Gauntlet" match, where one wrestler has to fight three or more opponents one after another, without a break. The match can end when the runner is defeated or if the match maker is being particularly nasty, when every wrestler has wrestled, regardless of how many times the runner is defeated. As you can tell, running is usually a form of punishment, though it will make the runner look good if he succeeds, such as when Chris Benoit took on and defeated on his fellow Radicalz (Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Eddie Guerrero). "Normal" gauntlets are not examples of this trope though, being a series of matches that continue until there is one winner and are not centered around a single wrestler.
- Johnny Doyle's NWA Los Angeles introduced the "Beat the Champ" Television Title in 1950s, where the current "champion" was given the challenge of beating randomly selected "challengers" for five weeks in the row. If he failed, he had to pay the former "champion" 100 USD. The belt was revived by NWA Hollywood in 1960s, Smokey Mountain Wrestling in the 1990s and NWA Wildside in the 2000s.
- This trope is often invoked by wrestlers who vow to run through the local Power Stable one by one, such as Samoa Joe's targeting of TNA's Main Event Mafia. This almost never works though because stables usually do send more than one person to meet the lone opposition or employ some equally ignoble tactic(the mafia convinced Joe to join them with money).
- After he turned 40 in 2012, Bob Evans challenged himself to an "Iron Week", where he would wrestle a sixty minute Iron Man match every day to prove to Ring of Honor that he could handle working for them beyond his role as a trainer/manager (he faced Grizzly Redwood, Todd Sople, Julian Starr, Adam Cole, Biff Busick, Antonio Thomas, and Vinny Marseglia).
- In a variation, The Big Show (in early 2013) challenged all comers and several members of the locker room decided to come out like this. After a few matches, The Miz stood up from the announcer table where he was filling in and decided to take the challenge, whereupon Show decided enough was enough and went backstage to rest.
- Chris Hero spent EVOLVE 25, 26 and 27 running the gauntlet against the best the promotion had to offer, as well as what was left of Dragon Gate USA.
- In June 2015, following the Smash Kicks ALS event, Chris Hero decided to raise more money for the cause by willingly running the gauntlet thirty minutes to every five hundred dollars. He raised 3440, resulting in him wrestling for three hours and thirty minutes straight and him winning twelve out of seventeen matches.
- Power Rangers Lost Galaxy: the episode Hexuba's Graveyard, a sorceress named Hexuba brings back several former monsters of the week to fight the rangers before fighting them herself. This example include the Villain Decay, in that a monster that the Rangers previously couldn't defeat without their group power-up, the Lights of Orion, is taken down by the Red Ranger alone. (To be honest, any time a monster appears for the second time in the franchise, it's rarely as powerful as it was the first time.)
- An earlier season featured Lord Zedd doing this with several monsters as well. It also provided a very rare case of a Monster of the Week Taking a Level in Badass, as Pumpkin Rapper put up a good fight against the Megazord by himself when the Rangers had previously destroyed him without even using one.
- The short-lived game show Whew! had this for the Bonus Round, and was called "the Gauntlet of Villains". The contestant would encounter 10 different "villains" and have to answer "bloopers" (statements with intentionally wrong words) correctly to advance past them- defeating all the villains within 60 seconds (plus a few more seconds, depending on how much money you won in the front game) would net you $25,000 buckaroos.
- The final book of the Spy High series, Agent Orange, has this. The heroes fight through virtual recreations of every major villain (and some minor ones) from the previous 11 books in order to finally reach the Big Bad's lair.
- The entire Batman: Arkham Series:
- Batman: Arkham Asylum: For the same reasons as A Serious House on Serious Earth. The Joker is either the leader of or leads Batman into confrontations with villains such as Harley Quinn, Scarecrow, Bane, Victor Zsasz and Killer Croc.
- Batman: Arkham City averts the trope somewhat: the villains aren't a unified force, but Batman still eventually fights half his Rogues Gallery in one night. The full list of everyone Batman takes down: Dr. Hugo Strange, The Joker, Two-Face, Penguin, Riddler, Harley Quinn, Ra's al-Ghul, Mr. Freeze, Clayface, Mad Hatter, Hush, Deadshot, Victor Zsasz, Bane and Solomon Grundy.
- Batman: Arkham Origins plays it straight: now it's a team of assassins (Deathstroke, Deadshot, Bane, Lady Shiva, Killer Croc, Firefly, Copperhead and the Electrocutioner) out for Batman's blood over the course of one night, under the banner of Black Mask. Or at least the Joker in disguise. And there are side-mission villains to fight too - Mad Hatter, the actual Black Mask, Anarky and Bird.
- Batman: Arkham Knight has Scarecrow as the Big Bad this time, uniting Gotham's major villains under one banner. His team consists of Two-Face, Penguin, Harley Quinn, Riddler, Deathstroke, Firefly, and finally his partner, the mysterious Arkham Knight. Most of the villains follow the trope by committing a big crime each to wear Batman down, while the Knight and Scarecrow work on their Evil Plan. Other villains like Hush, Man-Bat, Deacon Blackfire and Professor Pyg are out doing their own thing, and to cap it all off Joker's infected blood manifests as the mad clown trying to take Batman's body for himself.
- In the final arc of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, all of the Dr.'s enemies seek the Doctor's head for Revenge, and King Radical, being as he is, deliberately sets up the trope in order to break and destroy the Dr. as thoroughly as possible.
- In Tower of God Phantaminum single handedly enters the palace of Zahard and defeats all who stand in his way (comprised of the strongest rankers in the tower) who then makes his way towards Zahard.
- Inverted in Transformers Cybertron, when Starscream decides he's getting the Omega Lock, dammit, and fights his way through eleven Autobots in a row, successfully distracts Optimus Prime, and gets away with the Lock, free and clear.
- One episode of Justice League Unlimited centers around four of the Flash's rogues taking turns trying to kill him as Central City prepares to dedicate a museum to him. Eventually, however, Captain Cold decides that taking turns is dumb and says that they should all attack him at the museum's opening. The others (except for the Trickster) agree.
- Teen Titans did this for an entire arc in the fifth and final season, culminating in an ultimate battle royale with every single hero facing off against every single villain ever to appear over the course of the series (yet surprisingly successfully).
- Then they follow it up with every single hero fighting Dr. Light, which is the inverse of this trope. We don't learn the actual result, but we can safely assume Dr. Light won.
- In the final episodes of Action Man, Dr. X and his League of Doom kidnap Alex's team and put them in death traps in different parts of the world. Alex has to race from one place to the other to save his friends, fighting different members of the 5 Bad Band along the way. This was also a Xanatos Gambit on the Big Bad's part, who ensured that Alex would be forced to overuse his Awesome by Analysis superpower so that he could copy it.