Superhero Paradox

"I don't want to stop crime, I just want to fight it."

Superheroes try to make the world safer for innocents, but in the short term, they seem to make the world more dangerous.

They fight crime, but their victories never seem to make a real difference. They have a frightening tendency to attract villains (or worse, create new ones). For some reason, the members of this Rogues Gallery never die, no matter how many times they cross paths with the hero — when apprehended, they're sent to a prison from which they inevitably escape.

Elements of this include:

But underneath the surface, the real cause of this is a cabal of extra-dimensional intelligences, intent on preventing the hero from hanging up their cape and retiring: the authors and readers.

As long as the hero's comic books continue to sell, the parent company will continue to pump them out. And since these comics are driven by the Fight Against Evil, continued production of the comics necessitates the continued existence of Evil to be fought. And as subsequent installments try to outdo their predecessors, the threats grow worse with time: The Cape begins his career by saving the City of Adventure from mobsters and bank robbers; but after a hundred issues' worth of hero-ing, he's regularly saving the city from planet-destroying aliens and would-be world-conquerors and garishly themed psychotic lunatics. And of course, those planet-destroying aliens and would-be conquerors and psychotic lunatics themselves become popular, meaning that they can't be killed off or permanently taken out of the picture without their fans getting annoyed.

Pretty much every Long Runner superhero franchise has succumbed to this to some degree or other; consequently a number of series have addressed this issue. Of course, all it takes is one averted planet-devouring menace (whose appearance the hero's actions did not invite, admitted) to obviate the basic logic of the complaint: once the hero's presence has been directly responsible for preventing the local Galactus expy from eating the planet, then the statement 'We'd have been better off if you'd never showed up!' ceases to be a true fact. Constant superhero battle is bad, yes, but total planetary annihilation is worse.

In many cases there is a Meta Origin or an implied Magnetic Plot Device working alongside this theory.


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     Anime and Manga  
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Until Goku's adventures began, there weren't that many villains causing trouble on Earth, at least not on a planetary scale. In fact, from the switch to "Z" onward, many of the villains that target Earth do so because of or in connection to Goku: the Saiyans show up to check on their Tyke Bomb, Freeza wants revenge for his defeat on Namek, and Cell and the rest of the androids are created by Dr. Gero to avenge the Red Ribbon Army. This trope is one of Goku's reasons for refusing to be resurrected after his Heroic Sacrifice in the Cell Games.
    • Double Subverted with King Piccolo: he would have been there even without Goku, with nobody capable of stopping him... But he exists only because of another heroic alien arriving on the planet long time ago - the Namekian that split himself into Kami and Piccolo.
    • And speaking of Kami - a great portion of villains in Dragon Ball (as well as Vegeta and Nappa in DBZ) engage in schemes to obtain the magical wish-granting balls that he created. If there were no balls, Pilaf's, for example, ambitions to conquer the world would be just regular squabbles of mortal kingdoms.
    • It's Subverted with Babidi, Dabura, and Buu who have no connections at all with the heroes and the heroes would have been extremely unprepared if the other threats to Earth didn't happened. Although, one of the suppose heroes did make the situation worse.
    • It is also Subverted on an universal scale. Although the Earth itself may have been better off without Goku or the Nameless Namek, if they weren't around, Frieza would still be alive terrorizing the universe along with the remaining Saiyans. And Buu would still exist, waiting to be awaking one day and destroy the universe. Also, who's to say they neither Frieza or the Saiyans wouldn't one day go to Namek and use their Dragon Balls or go to Earth to sell it.
  • In Sailor Moon, it is often the Senshi themselves whose energy is needed by villains to fulfill their plans. In the original anime Galaxia comes to Earth exclusively to harvest the Senshi's Star seeds and awakens Nehellenia to lure Saturn out of hiding.
    • The last chapter in the manga has a minion of the villain accusing the Senshi of causing the universe to generate bigger and badder villains.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, once Touma Kamijou made his presence known, several members of the Magic Side target him and his home Academy City, seeing the existence of his Imagine Breaker as an offense to God. Etzali, the Mitsuki Unabara imposter, even angrily tells Touma that if he had never shown up, his friends would have never been endangered. After Touma helped end World War III, the organization GREMLIN was formed to counter him, willing to do things like attempt a Colony Drop that would trigger a second Ice Age just to kill him. Subverted in that many of these enemies had been in operation long before Touma showed up and had already been planning to attack Academy City; Touma just provided a scapegoat. Also, without Touma, many of them would have succeeded.

     Comic Books  
  • This happens with Batman so often that we might as well have called this the Batman Paradox. Batman's greatest success is breaking the mob's hold on Gotham and its government, but the question of whether it's his fault that a Rogues Gallery of costumed freaks has risen in their place is always there, waiting to be asked.
    • Noted in The Long Halloween, as seen on the Quotes page.
    • In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, a psychologist claims Batman's Rogues Gallery are the real victims — that Batman's actions were somehow responsible for their mental instability and criminal behavior. He's partly right, as the Joker had given up supervillainy after Batman retired — then resumed his villainy after the Bat's return. Then the psychologist declares the Joker rehabilitated, and then gets killed by him. That said, the only reason Batman came back in the first place was because Gotham (and as The Dark Knight Strikes Again shows, the entire planet) had degraded from Crapsack World to a full-blown Dystopia, so probably subverted.
    • In the Penguin Triumphant graphic novel, a psychologist postulates that Batman is like a lightning rod for supervillains. But she argues that this a good thing, pointing out what happens to buildings that don't have lightning rods. Essentially she argues that the villains concentrate on Batman rather than doing even worse damage to Gotham.
      • This is directly referenced in Superman's story of Batman's death in Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?:
        Superman: I told him, "They've made a treaty. All of them. If I take you back to Gotham, they'll kill you. They won't stop until you're dead." He smiled that scary smile. He said, "And while they're trying to kill me, they aren't killing innocents. Now take me home."
    • In one issue of The Flash (during Wally West's time in the role), Captain Cold notes much the same thing about Barry Allen - that he made it all a game to the Rogues, and thus prevented them from doing a lot more than they otherwise could have because they were so fixated on him.
      • Cold's attitude shifts when Barry comes back. He notes that the Rogues had Wally convinced it was all something of a game for years - he'd stop their crimes, but he'd also work with them against worse threats or during their various attempts to go straight. Barry, a cop, always treated the Rogues like what they are: dangerous criminals.
    • Although Batman is often accused of this, when you start examining his rogues you see that he actually had less involvement in his villain's origins than most other superheroes. Two-Face was a dual personality anyway, and is often associated more with Bruce Wayne than Batman. Also, his disfigurement is due to a mob trial, not Batman. Poison Ivy usually isn't even in Gotham when she's transformed, Harley is made by the Joker, Croc is just insane, the Ventriloquist is another split personality, Solomon Grundy had nothing to do with Batman, the Penguin, Zsasz, Ra's and Red Hood were all criminals beforehand. Really, the only rogues who can really be traced directly to Batman are the Riddler, Bane, Hush, and possibly the Joker, but who really knows about him? And if we accept the original Joker origin story at face value, he, too, was a pre-existing criminal gang leader who ran afoul of Batman (and accidentally became a supervillain thereby). Riddler, Bane, and Hush were already evil long before they fought Batman.
    • The Wayne Foundation is a philanthropic organization that attempts to address the underlying conditions that lead to crime in Gotham.
    • In Batman and Robin Adventures # 4, the Penguin frees all the birds at the zoo, causing collateral damage that is not covered by Hero Insurance... but was worth it... because those caged birds are free! When Batman confronts him, the Penguin genially throws this in his face:
      The Penguin: Oh itís true, I forgot that you believe it's yours!
    • Defied in the "Wrath" debut storyline of the New 52's Detective Comics. The point is made that while yes, Batman's presence has caused the emergence of many Super Villains, he also stopped the corruption of the Gotham Police Department, which gave people hope in, in the very least, their own police force.
  • The X-Men aren't far off. When mutants were defenseless, they weren't a big target. Once the X-Men came around and started defending mutants, anti-mutant crime exploded. William Stryker, The Sentinel Project and even some aspects of Weapon X probably wouldn't be nearly so strong in-universe if not for humans (unreasonably) feeling threatened by the X-Men, whom some in-universe view as a private mutant army. Even the Brotherhood has seemingly grown more powerful in backlash against the X-Men. And one could go on for ages about all the alien threats brought to Earth as a result of the X-Men.
    • One X-Man villain is even genre-savvy enough to take advantage of this. Cameron Hodge has the first five X-Men form X-Factor, which is supposed to be a mutant neutralization group, but secretly finds mutants and trains them. The amount of good X-Factor did (a lot) was far outweighed by the amount of anti-mutant hysteria they stirred up.
    • On the other hand, it could be argued that anti-mutant paranoia started exploding when Magneto first attempted to hijack nuclear weapons with which to blackmail all of Earth — which was in Uncanny X-Men #1.
  • In Kingdom Come, the new batch of Nineties Antiheroes kill off all of the old supervillains and then proceed to tear up the world fighting each other because there aren't any more supervillains to fight.
  • In Watchmen, the presence of costumed vigilantes (particularly the genuinely superpowered Dr. Manhattan) tips the Cold War balance of power enough to bring the world to the brink of nuclear war. But if you look closely, the superpowers seem to be patching things up by the time Ozymandias pulls off his plan, implying that they didn't do as much harm as they caused - until someone was dumb enough to try to clean up after them; what'll happen when the cover-up inevitably tumbles apart?
    • And on a smaller scale, their existence causes a police strike in New York across the country, which in turn encourages rioting and looting, and requires an act of Congress to rectify (outlawing vigilantes).
  • J. Michael Straczynski posits this theory during his run on Spider-Man as the reason why Spidey has so many enemies with Animal Motifs — he is being assaulted by jealous pretenders who subconsciously realize that his power comes direct from its source. Magic is confusing.
    • J. Jonah Jameson had been claiming Spider-Man was an example of this for years before that whole storyline. This is actually true in the case of Mysterio, since he wanted to take out a superhero to become famous and picked Spider-Man since he thought he was weak and inexperienced. Jameson himself also helped create the Scorpion and the Spider-Slayers specifically to capture Spider-Man.
    • This is actually invoked in Marvel Knights Spider-Man, where Spidey learns (from Mac Gargan of all people) that many of the villains who confront heroes on a regular basis, were actually created by organizations (mostly associated with white collar crime) as a way of distracting superheroes from noticing the crimes commited by these people and organizations.
  • While Superman is a magnet for criminals and alien powerhouses, it's worth noting that the "normal" human Jimmy Olsen is not harmless. Marvel's Rick Jones is an even more blatant counterpart.
    • Superman is an interesting case, as (at least in current continuity) most of his biggest enemies were entrenched long before he arrived on the scene (Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Darkseid, Zod, Intergang) or created to dick with him personally (Bizarro, Metallo). Also the ones that already were there (the aforementioned Darkseid and Mongul come to my mind, along many, many others) took interest in Earth because of Superman.
  • In an issue of Birds of Prey, Huntress stops a villain named Carface. The police aren't thrilled with her presence, even when she mentions that she stopped the bad guy threatening the city. The cops state that the crime rate was low until the heroes showed up and vigilantes are just "trouble magnets".
  • Lampshaded and subverted in Gold Digger. Once the comic had been running for years, it was becoming increasingly clear that Earth in the Gold Digger universe was a huge Fantasy Kitchen Sink, and that the public seemed aware of it. This begged the question, why amidst all this weirdness are there no superheroes? The answer is that there used to be. However, it eventually became clear to the cape n' spandex set that their high-profile adventures were attracting more superbaddies out of the woodwork than they were putting away. Their solution was to form Agency Zero, a Men In Black-type organization of supers who still fight supernormal threats, but do it as quietly and anonymously as possible.
  • Lex Luthor, of all people, subverted this. In the Silver Age, Lex told Superman that if not for him then he would rule the planet. (Though in the Silver Age, it was an experiment in a lab Superboy built for him that led to the chemical fire that precipitated his hair loss and turn to evil, so it's at least ambiguous.)
  • The Hulk brought this up in World War Hulk : Gamma Corps, while talking down the team sent to kill him. He mentioned that the greatest threats earth had ever faced, namely Dormammu, Galactus, and Ultron, had nothing to do with him. Dormammu was usually chasing Doctor Strange, Reed Richards had actually brought Galactus back to life so he could keep eating planets, and Ant-Man had built Ultron. Comparatively, the threat the Hulk posed at his worst and the threat his whole Rogues Gallery posed to the world combined didn't add up to the threat posed by a single one of those guys.
    • Though it's worth noting that at least in Galactus' case, his existence is necessary for the universe to function properly.
  • The main theme of Civil War. The New Warriors, a band of untrained irresponsible teenagers with superpowers, attacked Nitro to film a reality show. Nitro blow up like an atomic bomb, taking the city of Stamford with him. That the last thing the cameraman filmed live was the kids in the school next to Nitro, caught in the Ground Zero, did not help. A huge anti-superhero hysteria ensues, and the Congress sanctions a law forcing all superhumans to register in SHIELD. Iron Man supports the law, Captain America resists it with a guerrilla group, but surrenders when he realized that Iron Man has a point.
  • A What if... has the wife and sons of Frank Castle killed in the crossfire of a superhero vs. supervillains fight. His solution? Kill the Marvel Universe.
  • Non-PKNA Paperinik stories sometimes tackle this: some supervillains were born specifically to defeat Paperinik (in particular, the criminals of Duckburg created a fake superhero named Pap-Man to get Paperinik pensioned, and a series of stories had a Mad Scientist create a new supervillain every time specifically to defeat Paperinik), he himself admitted that some of his interventions caused enormous collateral damage, and in some occasions Daisy became reckless because she knew Paperinik would save her (at least in stories where Daisy doesn't have a superhero alter ego herself and barely tolerates Paperinik). On the flip side, there's the reason the criminals created supervillains specifically to deal with Paperinik: he's extremely good at dealing with criminals (at least three stories depict him arresting every single criminal in Duckburgnote , and the Pap-Man one had him visiting outsider criminals in their own homes to warn them away), and without him Duckburg would be in much worse conditions.
    • Even Paperinik New Adventures tackled the problem from time to time-namely, the Evronians sent Trauma to Duckburg specifically to kill him, and in one of the summer specials supervillains from the rest of the United States went to Duckburg just to challenge him.

    Fan Works 
  • Inverted and subverted in Drunkard's Walk II by Robert M. Schroeck, when Corrupt Corporate Executive Big Bad Quincy of the anime Bubblegum Crisis reveals that he is a superhero fan who built himself up into a Lex Luthor-style supervillain in order to force the universe to spawn real superheroes to oppose him. It worked.
  • In chapter 48 of Child of the Storm, Minerva McGonagall observes that the heroes are coming back, with a new Golden Age of heroism like the Greek Myths... but the heroes have to something to fight. So the monsters are coming back too.
  • Discussed in Connecting The Dots, a Justice League-Teen Titans-Naruto Crossover: The reason Batman doesn't want Wonder Woman's help in Gotham is because she attracts supervillains and suchlike by acting like a hero, flying around, showing herself and thus being a challenge for every villain wannabe.
  • This is brought up in A Dark Knight Over Sin City in keeping with the cynical nature of work. It's made explicit that Batman showing up in Gotham led to the creation of supervillains and once he goes to Sin City, things get more dangerous there as well.
  • In Consequences Of Unoriginality, Emeris is put under a curse where he basically becomes the most powerful being in Equestria, dwarfing even Princess Celestia and Luna. In exchange, evil monsters and disasters regularly spawn and threaten the land, and he's the only one powerful enough to deal with them. This causes him no end of grief, but he dutifully defends the land. When the curse gets broken, several citizens angrily blame him for everything, but Princess Celestia understands that this is in no way Emeris' fault, as he never asked to be cursed.

  • The Dark Knight Saga deals with this head on. It begins at the end of Batman Begins, when Gordon wonders aloud about what the criminals will do to keep up with Batman being on the side of the police, and then mentions this weird new hitter going around who uses a playing card as his signature. Then, in The Dark Knight, Escalation is the main theme. The cops and organized crime were locked in a stalemate. Then Batman came and tipped the scales, and the existing criminal element didn't stand a chance against him. The Joker is explicitly named as crime's response to the Batman, a monster that didn't — couldn't — exist before Batman did. Nobody's very pleased with the thought.
    • At the same time, the series also provides a strong argument for Batman's necessity. In Batman Begins, the League of Shadows intended to completely destroy Gotham, and had been planning to do so long before Batman came on the scene. Without Batman, they would have surely succeeded. Gotham City with the Joker, and the new age of supervillainy he heralds, is undeniably bad, and Batman caused it. But without Batman, there wouldn't be a Gotham City to terrorize.
    • The third movie goes both ways: the events of the previous movie lead to all the criminals being arrested and Bruce Wayne to retire as Batman became an outlaw. Then arrives Bane and a reformed League of Shadows, forcing Bruce to take the cowl back. And again, if he didn't come back in the end there wouldn't be a Gotham.
  • In the fictional "Under the Hood" documentary made for the Watchmen film, Moloch talks about how the arrival of super-villains was a reaction to the rise in costumed adventurers. He ominously comments that he's waiting for the arrival of Dr. Manhattan's nemesis...
    • Which directly contradicts what Hollis Mason says in both the book and the film. In the Watchmen universe, costumed criminals came first (wearing disguises meant they couldn't be recognized), and crime fighters started wearing costumes to "finish what the law couldn't".
  • Invoked by Thor in The Avengers. According to him, when S.H.I.E.L.D. activated the Tesseract to create weapons capable of harming Asgardian-level threats, they ironically sent the message to everyone in the galaxy that the Earth "is ready for a higher form of war". Nick Fury, in turn, cites Thor himself and his arrival on Earth in New Mexico as an example of this trope and the reason S.H.I.E.L.D. was escalating in the first place, since Thor's fight with the Destroyer showed everyone that Earth is "hopelessly, hilariously outgunned" by pretty much every alien race out there.
    • Later Marvel movies would show more supervillains appearing because of the Avengers: the Mandarin was specifically manufactured because "subtlety's gone out the window" now, SHIELD was crippled and HYDRA went public due to the actions of Captain America, and Ultron was an Avenger-created peacekeeper that had Gone Horribly Wrong.
  • Specifically cited by the new Secretary of Defense in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. In this case, because the Autobots have been killing Decepticons they find on Earth, they don't even have the excuse most such characters do. The Secretary of Defense suggested the Decepticons could only be on Earth to fight the Autobots, and asked whether they would leave if told. This complaint is muted with Optimus' suggesting that there is a risk in assuming that to be the case.
    Optimus: Freedom is your right. If you make that request, we will honor it. But... what if we leave, and you're wrong?
    • In the first movie, this is Inverted. The Decepticons are on Earth first, seeking Megatron, who was seeking the AllSpark. The only Autobot on Earth was Bumblebee, who was keeping a low profile. The other Autobots arrive to stop the Decepticons.
    • Subverted once and for all in the third movie- the Autobots actually are forced to leave by the government thanks to threats by the Decepticons...who promptly blow up the Autobots' space ship with a missile as they are leaving the planet, killing them all (not really, of course). The 'Cons then attack the city of Chicago and start to massacre everyone, and use the city as a base to summon the ruins of Cybertron with the goal of enslaving the human race and using them as slave labor to rebuild it. Though the Autobots being kicked out was partly prompted by one of them turning out to be a traitor, it is also revealed that the Decepticons had secretly been on Earth since the 1960's, so Optimus and co. had even less to do with their presence on Earth than they thought before.
    • And yet this revelation doesn't stop some elements of the government from hunting down all remaining Autobots in the fourth movie.
  • Implied in The Incredibles: Once Super Heroes are outlawed, all super villains disappear, too (except for one particularly obsessive fanboy...).
    • According to the tie-in comic, and implied by the movie itself, the super-villains more or less were all imprisoned or forcibly depowered by the government. Though a few more did manage to lay low...
    • As the Parr family take up superheroics again, the Underminer appears.
      • One could make the argument that forcing all the superheroes didn't make supervillains disappear: it just allowed them to go underground.
  • Part of the Ghostbusters montage chronicling their success is a Larry King segment on them, mentioning the possibility that they were the very cause of the paranormal activity they combated. It could have been more an accusation that they were con-artists faking the incidents rather than that they were attracting ghosts. This is clearly wrong, as they invented the ghostbusting job before the paranormal activity was rising, and do such an excellent job that by the beginning of the sequel they are jobless.
    • This happens again in the animated series; one episode begins where Egon announces the Ghostbusters are out of work....because they have eradicated all paranormal activity in New York. Their solution? Rebrand themselves as the Crimebusters and clean up New Yorks criminal underworld. Turns out they are even better at that because by the end of the episode New York is crime free and they are once again unemployed...fortunately, right as they realize that, the ghosts have come back.
    • Something similar happens in the first episode of the sequel series Extreme Ghostbusters. The Ghostbusters have long since split up because there were no more ghosts in New York City. Unfortunately, some construction workers accidentally unleashed a powerful evil spirit, forcing Egon to gather a new generation of Ghostbusters to beat it. After it's been defeated, they think things will go back to normal, right? Unfortunately, that episode's villain wasn't the only ghost released, providing an explanation for the resurgence of ghosts in the series.
  • In Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass became the first costumed hero, which inspired others to become heroes, but also inspired others to become costumed villains. Near the end of Kick-Ass 2, the Motherfucker taunts Kick-Ass about how he created all the villains.
  • This will be a huge plot point in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Batman is completely convinced that Superman's presence on the earth causes more harm than good (and a flashback to the battle of Metropolis shows how he came to that conclusion), and that he poses a danger to Earth's life. However, were it not for Superman, there would be no Earth for Batman to protect. It is worth pointing out that he's also after Superman due to Superman having unintentionally become a godlike figure to humanity, but it's tied to the first reason.

     Live Action TV  
  • Addressed and averted by Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Sunnydale had as much trouble before Buffy moved there, because Sunnydale stands on a Hellmouth and was specifically built to be a feeding ground for demons and what have you.
    • Angel also averts this because he is attempting to atone for the sins of Angelus, leading him to seek out a lot of the bigger threats that pop up. He later plays it straighter, many later threats are the result of Wolfram & Hart taking an interest in pissing him off, or the result of prophecies relating to him.
      • Also, Sunnydale was run by Mayor Wilkins for over a century, and since Wilkins was playing the long game, it's likely any trouble makers before Buffy were put down with extreme prejudice.
    • Lampshaded in a Crowning Moment Of Heartwarming at her senior prom, where Jonathan announces her award as class protector — noting that this year had the lowest death rate at Sunnydale High in memory.
    • And in the episode "The Wish" we get to see that Sunnydale most definitely is better off with Buffy around.
  • In Supernatural, monsters, vengeful gods, and other beings have always existed, long before hunters. Even though the Winchesters had a hand in causing it, the Abrahamic religion apocalypse (or the little of it we saw) could even be excused as being fated. However, that's only one arc that was fated. The unleashing of the high demons in hell (season 3), the monster armies (season 6), the vengeful new "god" (season 6, 7), and the leviathans (season 7) were all directly caused by the Winchester's actions. For good measure, some Timey-Wimey Ball and loose lips even enabled Azazel to set all the fated stuff in motion.
    • That said, though the boys may have accidently caused all of that, You Can't Fight Fate was in play and they were being manipulated into those acts the whole time by both The Legions of Hell and the Celestial Bureaucracy; even their births were at least predicted and accounted for, if not outright engineered, by one or both sides. It is also made clear that if they refuse to play along, then neither the angels, the demons, nor Satan himself are above forcing them to do what they want either by threatening their loved ones or through outright torture...and between Year Inside, Hour Outside, the immortality of the soul and the ability of both angels and Lucifer to resurrect them indefinitely, sooner or later they are going to give in. Plus, while their acts do make things worse, by the time they realize this they are given a choice between a Crapsack World (Lucifer and demons running rampant across the globe) or The End of the World as We Know It (Michael and Lucifer destroying the Earth in a final apocalyptic showdown. Which Lucifer could still win, leading to the former anyway.)
  • An interesting version exists in Dexter, in the first episode Dexter mentions how low the homicide solve rate is in Miami. Obviously this would attract the criminal element into Miami and logically increase the numbers of murderers who Dexter can then target. And why is the solve rate so low? Probably due to the guy who keeps killing murderers before they are caught.
    • By the time of later seasons, Dexter pretty blatantly tampers with evidence in order to make sure the serial killers stay off the radar so he can kill them. The police are usually good enough to catch onto them anyway, and sometimes Dexter has to tamper with evidence like this because he himself left evidence at the scene. Either way, he started actively sabotaging murder investigations from within, instead of only killing ones who definitely got away.
  • Discussed in Arrow. Early in Season 2, Laurel comments about how there were no "earthquake machines and copycat archers" in Starling City before the Arrow first appeared. In the Season 3 premiere, the new Vertigo taunts the Arrow by suggesting that his existence gives fuel to the 'Vertigo' legacy.
    • For the most part, its averted in the case of Merlyn, Deadshot, China White and numerous other villains like them whose operations in Starling City and elsewhere have nothing to do with the Arrow; but played straight with villains like Deathstroke, Huntress, Cupid etc. whose origins the Arrow is responsible for in some way or the other.
  • Generally averted in The Flash (2014). The large majority of metahumans were created at the same time by the particle accelerator explosion, heroic and villainous alike, so one didn't cause the other. Even when a few non-accelerator-related metahumans pop up, there's no indication that the presence of superheroes was a direct or indirect factor.
    • However, the Reverse-Flash complicates things, since he's a time-traveler. The particle accelerator originally went off in 2020. Centuries later, Eobard Thawne was somehow inspired by the existence of the original Flash to become his Evil Counterpart. Thawne then travels back in time to harass the original Flash, eventually getting trapped in the year 2000 without his powers. In order to get them back, he has to re-create the Flash; he takes the place of the accelerator's inventor Harrison Wells, gets the accelerator up and running years ahead of schedule, and mentors Barry in his powers. So, without a Stable Time Loop to simplify things, the Flash leads to the Reverse-Flash leads to the Flash leads to ow my head hurts...
    • Captain Cold plays it straight, as he was already a criminal but has upped his game because he enjoys the challenge the Flash provides - but then it's zigzagged since the Flash has dared him to carry out his heists nonlethally, reducing his overall threat level.
    • This gets discussed during the first major crossover with Arrow, as Diggle is uncomfortable with all the weirdness the Flash crew deals with. Cisco points out that a bunch of both teams' weirdness was in play independently of the heroes, and suggests an inversion that Fate or God or something was making sure heroes were there to deal with it.
  • Being averted in Gotham. Unlike most portrayals of Batman where he starts out his career fighting regular criminals and corruption then builds up his Rogue's Gallery of supervillains, the show has the supervillains arriving well before: the Penguin is already a crime boss, Zsasz is a mob enforcer/serial killer, Edward Nygma has already gone nuts and is becoming the Riddler, and at least one character hinted to become the Joker is already an axe-crazy murderer. In the show's universe, it appears it will be the existence of the villains that will create the need for the Dark Knight.

     Video Games  
  • In the Visual Novel Fate/stay night, part of the main character's angst is the realization that his desire to be a hero is also paradoxically a desire for a villain to exist so that people will be in danger so he can rescue them. It's gleefully Lampshaded at the beginning by Kotomine, when Shirou is horrified that such a thing as the Holy Grail War exists, Kotomine tells him "Rejoice. For now you have a chance to be the hero you've always wanted to be."
  • Invoked in Batman: Arkham City, as Big Bad Hugo Strange taunts Batman with the idea that Gotham would be less of a hellhole if he wasn't around. A lot of his Evil Plan focuses on the idea of fixing that.

  • In Killroy And Tina, Tina's budding career as a superhero gets put on hold, and Brandon points out that at least they won't have to deal with the "Metropolis Effect":
    Brandon: It's kind of hard to explain. It's the irony of a hero who attracts danger. ...Take Superman! Before Supes came to town, the worst crime Metropolis had was wife beaters, thugs, and the occasional mob bosses. Nowadays, Metropolis gets a weekly visit from some overbeast with a unibrow and a tiny dick, thrashing the city just to stand toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel. Indirectly, all of Metropolis' major disasters have been caused by Supes. In the end, Metropolis was probably better off without a crime fighter.

     Western Animation  
  • Most incarnations of Transformers have this to an extent, since the Decepticons are usually depicted as following the Autobots to Earth. The series Transformers Animated is the most blatant example, since in this one the Autobots are pretty much seen by Detroit as superheroes. They're also frequently shown rebuilding the city after Decepticon attacks out of guilt for being the partial cause.
    • Also they are construction workers/engineers, so it's also a Justified Trope.
  • Lampshaded in The Powerpuff Girls when the Monster of the Week explains that it's no fun to threaten a city if there aren't heroes to defend it; the more powerful the hero who defeats you, the more bragging rights you get. The only reason the monsters attack Townsville so regularly is to fight the Powerpuff Girls. Ironically, The Movie reveals that The Professor created them to help the then-lawless, rampantly crime-ridden town.
    • The girls also aren't welcome in other cities due to collateral damage: When they moved to the town of Citysville, they destroyed a bridge to stop some robbers. Rather than congratulate them on saving the day, the mayor scolded them for destroying the bridge, because the repair will cost more than the robbers actually stole.
    • There's also an episode which addresses the third point of this trope. The girls find the citizens are far too dependent on them, and refuse to help anymore so the normal people can defend themselves against a lawyer-friendly stand-in for Godzilla.
    • On the other hand, there was an episode in which the girls are put under a strict curfew so that they can get enough sleep. The many supervillains of Townsville quickly take advantage of their absence and are only stopped by a loophole in the curfew (Daylight Savings Time).
  • Also lampshaded in the Futurama episode "Less Than Hero", where Fry, Leela, and Bender become superheroes; Leela mentions the collateral damage (and possible lawsuits spawned from it) as the number one reason to have a Secret Identity. Subverted later in that episode: after fighting off a villain trying to steal a priceless gem from a museum, its curator thanks them and states the price of the gem is a little higher than the cost to repair the museum.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, Spidey (or ESU labs, which also created him) is responsible for the creation of almost every villain he fights. Examples include Venom (since it was him pissing off Brock that made him angry enough to bond with the symbiote) Shocker (who was employed by the Big Man to "squash the bug?"), Rhino and Sandman (who were created by the Big Man to distract Spidey), Kraven the Hunter (who came to New York to hunt Spider-Man), Electro (who was pushed over the edge by Spidey unfairly attacking him), Captain Jupiter (who turned crazy after an argument with Spidey) and Molten Man, who was again made to kill Spidey.
    • Pretty much lampshaded by J. Jonah Jameson in one episode. In his typical monologuing about why Spider-Man is evil, he brings up the fact that Spidey's appearance was followed by that of tons of costumed villains.
    • On the other hand, the Green Goblin, easily the worst of any of his enemies, more or less created himself, and then went on to accidentally create Doctor Octopus by way of a failed assassination attempt (which was just the Goblin covering up the link between the Big Man and Norman Osborn, though granted said link was strengthened by the appearance of Spider-Man). Also most of these guys were villains already, Spidey just prompted the Big Man (a pre-established and dominant crime lord) to give them powers, which in the case of Shocker already existed. The Vulture (who has a vendetta against Norman Osborn), Chameleon (an established freelance spy), the Tinkerer (another freelancer), and to a lesser extent Mystero (who was "inspired" by Spidey in his own way) also count as aversions.
    • Venom is debatable since this Spidey had no part in the creation or bringing the symbiote to Earth, unlike other versions (unless you count Spidey saving John Jameson, who piloted the craft, but someone could have taken his place) so the symbiote would still be around without Spider-Man. At some point it would have most likely bonded with someone else (best bets are Black Cat or the Chameleon since they opened the containment chamber trying to steal the symbiote) then it would try to corrupt them like it tried with Peter. You would just end up with with Venom with a different name/host/theme but still be the same evil symbiote bonded to a human.
  • Mentioned in the Darker and Edgier period of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Donatello worried that they might be "part of the problem" because most of the Shredder's schemes are or have become dedicated to killing them rather than world domination.
  • Batman: The Animated Series had an episode where the new DA of Gotham City wanted to arrest Batman, until she and Batman were captured in Arkham Asylum by the villains and Batman was put on trial by them for this trope. The ultimate conclusion, incidentally, was that in the Batman animated universe this trope worked both ways. While Batman may have inspired most of his foes to use the gimmicks they do, many would be out there causing mayhem regardless. That mayhem, incidentally, was what created Batman.
    • Interestingly enough, various villains attacked Batmanís Secret Identity: Kyodai Ken wanted revenge on Bruce Wayne in Night of the Ninja. Roland Dagget hired Clayface to get rid of Bruce Wayne in Feet of Clay, while Mr. Freeze wanted to destroy Bruce Wayneís life in Cold Comfort. Robin lampshades that Lock-Up was a case of Create Your Own Villain for the Wayne Foundation in his eponymous episode. Mask of the Phantasm had Salvatore Valestra wanting to hire the Joker to kill Batman and Sleazy Politician Councilman Arthur Reeves orders the police to chase the Batman with lethal force.
    • Despite its highly episodic nature, the first two seasons chronicle the Story Arc of the fall of traditional crime and the rise of supervillains in Gotham City. When the series begins the Joker is the only active supervillain (we see almost everyone else's Start of Darkness, and Rah's Al Ghul only comes to Gotham to meet the Batman). Corrupt Corporate Executive Roland Dagget runs the city, along with Rupert Thorne and Arnold Stromwell, traditional gangsters. Over the course of the series, Dagget gradually loses his fortune as legal fees and criminal charges catch up to him, and Thorne and Stromwell have their operations systematically taken apart as new, colorful villains appear in the scene. This comes to a head in "Batgirl Returns", when Dagget is arrested, and "Shadow of the Bat," where Thorne himself is arrested after another of his criminal operations is busted and it is revealed that Two-Face has been taking control of Gotham's mob behind the scenes. By the time of The New Batman Adventures, almost all criminal activities are the work of costumed and themed supervillains. Then we see Jack Rider claiming in his show that Batman created The Joker seven years ago...
    • Chief Rojas just will not stop bringing this up in The Batman.
      • The creators of the show state as much, by saying that Batman's work defeating organized crime in Gotham has opened the door for supervillains. The "heroes are ineffective" aspect is averted in the first episode where it's stated that Gotham is now the most crime-free city in the country. Gotham. Think about that.
    • The vigilante Rumor also points this out, claiming that Batman drew the supervillains to him, "like moths to a flame", to the point where he can barely contain them.
  • Stated outright in The Venture Bros.. Evidently the villains like the "arch" (as in -enemy) system, in which each is matched with a nemesis. Break up the system and you're just going to have a bunch of pissed-off guys with death rays, and that wouldn't be good for anyone.
  • Explored a little in Justice League Unlimited where Shadow Thief is portrayed as the Enemy Without of Hawkman's nature. Carter Hall wanted to be a hero, so his darker impulses manifested as a villain for him to fight. The moment Shadow Thief revealed this, Carter destroyed him. On the other hand, JLU actually did allow the heroes to have genuine, long-term victories. In the final season, Gorilla Grodd points out that the good guys, working together in the League, are so good at fighting crime that the supervillains can't operate individually anymore. And considering how the Grand Finale leaves over half the villains dead or ascended to a higher plane, it's not much of a stretch to say that the remaining villains' days are numbered. But there's a new batch of bad guys by the time of Batman Beyond...
  • Batman Beyond averts this mainly. Terry spends most of his time fighting villains with well-established operations (like Derek Powers, Inque, The Royal Flush Gang and Curare), and some that have seemed to have sprung up precisely because of Batman's absence (like The Jokerz).
    • The Jokerz and The T's are simply street gangs with a flashy theme (which isn't that uncommon in Real Life). It's not until Terry becomes Batman that we get genuine super-villains again like Blight, Big Time, Shriek, Spellbinder, Stalker, and Willy Watt — many of whom Batman had a hand in creating, while others are simply fixated on him because he's there. On the other hand Terry also has a tendency to see his villains (and a couple of Bruce's) get shut down. Permanently.
      • Terry freely acknowledges that he created Blight (or at least that he caused his transformation, Powers was a criminal already) — and he's perfectly okay with that, as Blight ordered his father's death.
  • Axe Cop: One episode reveals that Axe Cop killed 7000 bad guys in one night, and by the end of the episode it turns out that there are no bad guys left anywhere in the world. Baby Man asks if there are any bad aliens in the universe, at which point Axe Cop wishes for every alien to be a bad guy so he can have something to do.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes references this in part from Maria Hill being the most prominent thinker. There are some examples from the show proper which show this, such as Wonder Man, Ultron, Kang as a borderline example or Red Hulk. However, for the most part, the avengers in this show were thrust into a world at chaos, with villains like Loki releasing supervillains on the world as part of his gambit to take over Asgard, and most of the evil forces being active long before the avengers ever formed. In fact, the avengers manage to make things better on several occasions, by putting an end to long entrenched organizations like HYDRA or stopping long held wars like the Kree-Skrull war.