You can't kill me, either. Oma Desala:
I can fight you. "Jim":
Well, you can't win. Oma Desala:
It won't matter. You won't be able to do anything but fight me back. "Jim":
What're you gonna do? Oma Desala:
Something I should've done a long time ago. (she attacks him)
Sometimes, the Big Bad
is just too darned evil to be Sealed in a Can
. Perhaps he already was, and it didn't work. After hammering him time and again, our hero eventually realizes that It's Up to Him
, and carries out the Heroic Sacrifice Worse than Death
: Trapping themselves in a duel with the bad guy for all eternity
, thus effectively "sealing" their opponent with themselves as the plug.
If they aren't strong enough, the baddy will escape, possibly using its would-be impediment
as a Soul Jar
This can also be used as a Back Story
, with the release of the Big Bad also releasing the original hero
May invoke Someone Has to Do It
. On the other hand, sometimes only their conscience is keeping them on the job.
Sub-trope of Hell Is War
. See also Kill Us Both
; often overlaps with Enemy Without
and Tailor-Made Prison
. The furthest possible extension of How Much More Can He Take
. Might be the ultimate duty of a Barrier Maiden
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Anime & Manga
- The Justice Society of America did this when they fought the Norse Gods, to prevent Adolf Hitler from destroying the world with the Spear of Destiny. Justified as the battle was Ragnarok, which ended like this.
- Once, after Doctor Doom came within an inch of wiping out the Fantastic Four, Reed decided the only way to keep his family safe from Doom for good was to trap the two of them in an inescapable pocket dimension. Knowing the team would never allow him to do this, Reed tried to distract them and push them away emotionally, but they managed to stop him anyway (unwittingly letting Doom escape). The kicker? Doom was already in Hell when Reed resorted to this — with Doom's record, he didn't trust the devil to hold him.
- and he was right! The comic shows Reed interrupting Doom in hell just as Doom was beginning to put a plan in motion.
- Another FF storyline, when they faced Reed's time traveling evil grandson Hyperstorm, ended with Hyperstorm trapped in a pocket dimension with Galactus, constantly blasting him with his own limitless energy to keep him at bay, but with Galactus feeding off the blasts. At the time, the FF assumed the two might be stuck that way forever, with Ben commenting that it was an awful fate even for a crumb like Hyperstorm. However, Galactus has since reappeared, which implies that Hyperstorm either found a way to escape or else Galactus ate him.
- In the Transformers Generation 1 comic books, this is how the planet Cybertron and the planet-eater Unicron came to be — he and Primus were elder gods who battled across several planes, with the single-mindedly destructive Unicron winning the battle. As a last resort, Primus led Unicron from the astral plane into what is our dimension and directly into two metal asteroids, trapping both of them for eternity. While Primus turned his asteroid into the planet Cybertron, Unicron managed to turn his asteroid into a transforming planet-sized robot.
- In Marvel Comics's what-if of their crossover Atlantis Attacks (in What If? v2 #25), Set the Serpent God succeeds in freeing himself from interdimensional exile and returns to Earth, killing most superhumans and converting the rest (as well as regular humanity) to serpent people. One by one the remaining heroes and villains fall, and all hope seems lost, until Quasar arrives on the scene, having just escaped Set's dimension (where he'd been lost since the Serpent God escaped). He's been granted the Captain Universe power, which combined with his Quantum Bands to make him Set's equal. He opens the recently deceased Doctor Strange's Amulet of Agamotto, using it to pull them both into a pocket dimension where the two of them will battle forever. Unfortunately, although Set has been removed from the equation, he's had time to reproduce...
- Another example from Marvel - after Odin got Killed Off for Real in a battle with Asgard's arch-enemy Surtur, their battle continued on the doorstep of afterlife. Every day Surtur tries to reach a part of his spirit that will allow him to revive in the real world, and every day Odin kills him and then dies from terrible wounds, just for their injuries to disappear by the next day, so that their struggle may continue until the end of time. Odin doesn't mind though, seeing this fate as an atonement for his old misdeeds and mistakes.
- During the prestige format run of Legion of Super-Heroes, the Legion finally "defeated" the Time Trapper (the Anthropomorphic Personification of the Cold Universe cosmic model) by unleashing the Infinity Man (the Anthropomorphic Personification of the Cyclical Universe cosmic model) on him. The two end up locked in eternal combat with each other.
- An Elseworlds posits that Batman and the Joker will be fighting each other in one form or another for eternity. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker also supports this notion, at least until Tim kills him.
- This is how Palpatine is ultimately defeated in the Star Wars Expanded Universe: Empatojayos Brand sacrifices himself so he can carry Palpatine's spirit away from the universe and in the custody of every Jedi who has ever lived, never to be resurrected again. He doesn't have to undergo Fate Worse Than Death himself, fortunately, but the effort of carrying away a spirit of pure evil does cause his own spirit a great deal of suffering.
- An issue of the Dark Horse Godzilla comics featured Gekido-Jin, an invincible demon who is imprisoned in a statue by a warrior whose soul fights his soul for all eternity. When Godzilla decides to go sightseeing on the (still inhabited) island Gekido-Jin is imprisoned on, a minor character sacrifices himself to free the ancient warrior from his eternal battle and let Gekido-Jin live long enough to drive Godzilla off, at which point the man who sacrificed himself takes up the spirit-duel with the demon.
- At the end of the Crimson comic, one half of the Big Bad Duumvirate, the king of dragons, who it's implied can never be truly killed (and thus it's implied could otherwise always recreate the dragon race in time), is dealt with this way when it and the current reincarnation of Saint George (yes, that one) are trapped in a Pocket Dimension to fight each other forever. Actually subverted in that God intervened, so that the dragon king would be Fighting a Shadow for eternity, while the real Saint George, after centuries of service culminating in a Heroic Sacrifice, is finally taken to his final reward.
- While not exactly "sealed", it's revealed in the Sonic the Hedgehog series that the Xorda, aliens that eradicated most of the humans when Mobius was known as Earth, and Black Arms, aliens seeking to feast on Mobius' population, are locked in a vicious war with no end in sight over their claim of Mobius.
Films — Live-Action
- Used as a Back Story in The Sorcerer's Apprentice with both the Grimhold (with Morgana and Veronica) and with the Chinese vase in which Balthazar and Hovard get locked for 10 years.
- It's implied that Balthazar and Horvath didn't fight in the vase, as Horvath claims he was extremely bored, reading the same (poorly-written) essays on Napoleon over and over. You don't really have time to do that if you're busy fighting. At least Balthazar had his Incantus.
- One of the many alternate endings for Freddy vs. Jason had the pair locked in eternal battle in an arena in Hell.
- The Pirates of the Caribbean lampshades it, but the duel itself manages to end when Barbossa becomes mortal again.
- In Twilight Watch, Anton, The Hero, has to go up against an uber-powerful vampire. He's given various spells by the forces of both light and darkness, as well as the Inquisition. The inquisitors' ultimate spell "Sarcophagus of Ages" encases the target and the caster in a tomb they will be alive for all eternity. Anton doesn't use the spell this time, but it is revisited a couple novels later. The sarcophagi look like white marble domes as big as two-storey houses, drifting in nothingness of the Dark World. And there turn to be one or two ways to leave them.
- In The Book of the Dun Cow, Mundo Cani drives the Wyrm back into its prison inside the Earth where it's said that not only does he keep fighting to prevent Wyrm from invading the upper world, but that the souls of the brave go to join him in the battle when they die.
- In Rick Riordan's The Red Pyramid, they deduce that this is what Bast was freed from, meaning that what she was fighting now has a chance. (She had to be; she was weakening, and needed to recover her strength.)
- In The Sorceress, Aoife willingly triggers this to stop Coatlicue from rampaging across the myriad worlds.
- In Riddle of the Seven Realms by Lyndon Hardy, Astron can only stop Palodad from destroying the multiverse by pushing the Big Bad into the flame that's tearing a hole in the daemonrealm, then jumping through himself and pulling the source of flame in after him. Subverts this trope, as Nimbia is able to create a new pocket-world within the Void to encase Astron, then retrieve him.
- This is how the Penhaligon trilogy ends: Fain Flinn will fight Teryl Auroch forever to keep him from destroying Mystara.
- This is how Superman wins against Saturn, The Devil's Agent on Earth in the novel Miracle Monday: by threatening to spend every second of the rest of his life fighting him and undoing all his evil deeds. (Actually, the book makes clear that Saturn could've won easily and destroyed the Earth if he wanted- but neither of those were his goals; he wanted to break Superman's spirit and end the hope he inspires in humanity. But just the realization that Superman would never give up effectively caused his defeat due to the laws that govern demons.)
- At the end of A Night in the Lonesome October, Lawrence Talbot pounces on the evil Vicar and they both go tumbling through the otherworldly gateway, which seals behind them. This not only traps the Vicar where he can no longer open the way for an Eldritch Abomination invasion, but also confines Talbot somewhere where he can no longer harm people as a werewolf.
- A variant in the Dr. Seuss story The Zax: A North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax bump into each other, and each is too stubborn to go around the other, since this would require them to move slightly to either the east or west. After a brief argument the two are simply stuck glaring at each other, as years pass and other people build highways around them.
- In The Golden Cat - the sequel to The Wild Road - the mentor character and the villain from the first novel are locked into this.
- This is how the Dreadking is defeated in the final volume of The Riftwar Cycle. The Dreadking is an Eldritch Abomination, personification of the Ultimate Evil, that is too powerful for any ordinary magic to contain and will ultimately consume the entire universe, past, present, and future, if freed. Against it are set Pug and Tomas, a human who possesses the power of a Valheru. To fully tap into that power, Tomas has to let himself be subsumed by the Valheru personality, an Above Good and Evil demigod warlord, but that's the only way he can be powerful enough to grab the Dreadking's undivided attention. So Tomas unleashes his Superpowered Evil Side, goes in to fight the Dreadking- and then Pug uses all the power he can to trap them both eternally in that moment, preventing either from becoming a threat to the world and warding away the Dread from the living world for good- at the cost of his own life and much of the surrounding geography.
- A possible example in The Rhesus Chart. A powerful vampire sorcerer attacks the Laundry and Angleton (an Eldritch Abomination Sealed Inside a Person-Shaped Can) apparently performs a Heroic Sacrifice to stop him, but they Never Found the Body as they're sealed inside a dome-shaped protection ward too powerful to even approach. Earlier another vampire had demonstrated the use of such a ward to keep his victims alive so they can be fed upon.
- Star Trek: The Original Series: In the episode "The Alternative Factor", Sane!Lazarus asks Captain Kirk to imprison him and his evil, normal matter counterpart in a time corridor, where both will remain fighting in a form of living death for all eternity. Since refusing to do this would put the universe at risk, Kirk reluctantly agrees to carry out this plan. Fridge Logic kicks in because, unlike almost every other example of this trope, Lazarus is not a god-like being who can only be opposed by his opposite half, he's just an ordinary man with slightly better advanced technology. There's nothing to stop them from simply shooting the evil Lazarus, or at least handcuffing him to a pipe.
- Stargate SG-1:
- After season eight, Oma Desala vs. Anubis.
- Used again in The Ark of Truth: Morgan le Fay vs. Adria.
- A nod to this trope was seen in the Doctor Who episode "Last of the Time Lords". After the decisive defeat of The Master, the Doctor was not willing to execute the only other member of his species in existence. So he volunteered to live up to this trope, keeping the Master confined in the TARDIS for all eternity or until he reformed. The Master prevented this by committing suicide (or at least refusing to come back from the dead).
- While most details about it have not been revealed; certain references to the Time War make it a potential candidate, where the evil locked away is the entire Dalek race with the time lock as the barrier keeping them fighting the Time Lords, and only the Time Lords, in an unending loop where the dead are brought back just to die all over again. Then the unending war drove the Time Lords just as violent and insane as the Daleks, making them both sealed evils keeping each other bottled up
Jack: One minute they're the greatest threat in the Universe, the next minute they vanished out of time and space.
Doctor: They went off to fight a bigger war. The Time War
Jack: I thought that was just a legend.
Doctor: I was there. The war between the Daleks and the Time Lords, with the whole of creation at stake.
- In the season 5 finale of Supernatural Sam combines this with Sealed Evil in a Can by inviting Lucifer to possess him, then trying to keep control of his body long enough to jump into the Can they have no chance of getting Lucifer into otherwise. Sam does end up jumping into the cage, with Michael (In Adam) falling in with him.
- In Magic: The Gathering's "Innistrad" pack, the whole plot is driven by the fact the archangel Avacyn got herself trapped in the Helvault alongside her demon nemesis Griselbrand.
- In the Eberron setting, the Church of the Silver Flame was founded around a Lawful Good energy phenomenon supposedly created when Tira Miron and a couatl merged together to trap an archdemon inside of it. Tira's voice is often heard from the flame, though there are heretical rumors that the couatl and demon sometimes speak from it also.
- Legend of the Five Rings does this with Hida and his son, and later with Iuchi Karasu and Kuni Yori.
- This is the origin of the Calim desert in the Forgotten Realms Dungeons & Dragons setting, in the form of a never-ending duel between a djinn and efreet lord.
- Sisyphus shows up in the Fantasy Kitchen Sink that is Scion, and his specific case is subverted - when the Titans broke out, a rock took out the top of the mountain, letting him finally finish the job. As a result, he is now Nigh Invulnerable, possesses great power... and has no clue which side to sign on with. (If the Titans win, the world is screwed; on the other hand, three thousand years of pushing a boulder is a long time...)
- A spell card called Different Dimension Gate emulates this trope in the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game.
- Warhammer 40,000
- In prior editions of the game, to stop the Thirteenth Black Crusade, Eldrad Ultharan had to trap his soul in a battle with the Chaos spirit powering Abbadon's Planet Killer. There was significant disagreement about whether he was dead or not, but given that it's now been retconned there's not much to argue about anymore.
- Similarly, an Ork vessel once crashed on a planet in the Eye of Terror. Everyday, umpteen million Orks awaken and wage unending battle against countless hordes of demons until they die horribly, only to reawaken the next day. The Demon Lord in charge of the planet uses this to train and harden his army, except they keep getting killed and weakened; the Imperium thinks of this as a Fate Worse Than Death; the Orks consider this paradise.
- On the Warhammer fantasy side, Caledor Dragontamer and his disciples have been trapped in the Vortex on the Isle of the Dead, where they have been stuck for at least 3000 years, ceaselessly performing a magic ritual designed to pull the excess magic out of the world and prevent (or at least massively delay) the victory of the Chaos Gods. In an interesting variation, the Chaos Gods are not on, or even touching the world near the Isle of the Dead (the closest being the overlap between the "real" world and the Realm of Chaos at the north and south poles), nor is any champion of Chaos present. It just happened to be where Caledor chose to set up his world-spanning spell.
- In the world of Tales From My D&D Campaign, the Big Good Ioun discovered the Source of all magic aeons ago. Unfortunately, the Big Bad Vecna learned of the Source almost immediately thereafter, and ever since they have been locked in a duel for control of the Source. Should Vecna win, he will be able to destroy all other gods, strip all magic from the world, and rule unopposed and unopposable. To this point, Ioun holds Vecna at bay, but at any moment the end could come.
- The 90s Spider-Man: The Animated Series
- Captain America and the Red Skull. Eventually, Electro joins them.
- From the same series, a sort-of-reformed Venom ends up jumping into a portal after his Evil Counterpart, Carnage, and since the portal closes after that, it's implied that this will be their fate. A sort-of Sequel Series saw them on another planet/dimension, though.
- The Carnage symbiote (possibly not the original) escaped at the conclusion of the original series. What happened to Kasady and Venom is never discussed.
- Jackie Chan Adventures ends with this, as the fifth season's Big Bad Drago (using the powers of all eight demon sorcerers) and his father Shendu (the Big Bad of the entire series, using all twelve of his talismans) are sealed within another realm to duel for all eternity. Neither of them takes their fate very seriously, and they spend their time bickering: Shendu chastising Drago for being an impudent child playing with his father's world (yes, Shendu still thinks Earth is his for the taking), while Drago whines about Shendu never being there for him because he's always busy fighting wizards.
- One episode of The Fairly OddParents had a variation on this. Timmy wished Vicky wasn't his babysitter, and she became mayor of the city instead. Subsequent attempts to remove Vicky from power through wishing instead resulted in Vicky gaining even more power, up to the point where she became a galactic conqueror. In the end, Timmy realized it was up to him to prevent any of these from happening, and wished her to be his babysitter once again.
- As for a closer example, there is an episode where Timmy wishes both of his parents were the best surfer. Due to the impossibility of two people being best at the same thing at the same time, they get locked into an eternal surfing competition known as Wish Limbo...limbo...limbo...limbo... However, it's broken when they find something that's more important to them than wishing, Timmy, who is attacked by the Kraken he wished up to try and scare them out of Wish Limbo...limbo...limbo...limbo...
- Adventure Time has Goliad, Princess Bubblegum's genetically engineered heir who'd gone mad with power and tried to take over the Candy Kingdom with her mind control powers, ultimately defeated by Stormo, another Candy Sphinx created using Finn's DNA, sacrificing himself by locking her in a psychic duel with himself. Nobody thinks to just kill or knock out Goliad now that she's incapacitated.
- In the original storyboards for "The Lich", Billy tells Finn about the Crystal Citadel, a prison for the multiverse's most dangerous criminals. He also says that Finn's birth father was unjustly imprisoned there and has been battling the criminals held there ever since.
- This has been both confirmed and refuted in canon, as Finn's father WAS imprisoned there, but he's actually a criminal just as bad as the other inmates (so far).
- One episode of Mighty Max contains this: An immortal, invincible caveman (the good guy) and an immortal, invincible sabre-toothed tiger (the villain). Originally sealed together in a cave, construction excavations accidentally freed both. Ultimately, since neither one could be destroyed, the caveman dragged the sabre-toothed tiger down to the bottom of a tarpit, where the two of them continued to battle, possibly until the end of time.
- In the season 2 finale of Wakfu, this seems to be the fate of Goultard the Barbarian and Rushu, king of the Shushus, after the former drag his opponent back to his demonic realm. Indeed, the "Where Are They Now?" epilogue shows them still facing off through Igor the Shushu mirror.
- In the backstory for The Legend of Korra, the Ultimate Evil Vaatu was kept contained by a centuries-long duel with the light spirit Raava. This fell apart when Vaatu tricked Avatar Wan into thinking that Raava was a bully that needed to be taken down a peg.