Superhero Trophy Shelf
aka: Superhero Trophy Room
Batman collects weird trophies.
A Super Hero
trope that originated in The Silver Age of Comic Books
Way, way back in the campy Silver Age, superheroes usually had too much time on their hands. As did their readers. As such, the superhero should be able to waste time in the same kinds of hobbies as their readers did.
That's why we have so many superheroes who are into collecting. But, instead of collecting rocks or strains of alien herpes
, they'll collect alien rocks and their enemies' evil weapons. These collections might be all over their base, have their own room in the base, or be only a modest trophy rack
with all the keys to different cities they saved from destruction.
When the reader is treated to a view of their collectibles, the result is a Continuity Cavalcade
of references to prior plots that often reaches into Scenery Porn
territory. Having collectibles that appeared in previous issues is a good way of building the legend around a character, giving space for interesting plots
and helps explain why exactly character has such a big Secret Base
. Sometimes, it may serve as Chekhov's Boomerang
, as the hero takes an old relic from his collection to defeat an enemy that has invaded the hero's lair
. On the other hand, some writers just forget all about continuity and say, "Heroman goes to the room where he keeps a trillion of his old foes' super-trinkets," or something. In which case, the trophies are Noodle Implements
and Cow Tools
that leave the reader/viewer wondering: "How the heck did he get that
This might seem odd today, with the change that both superheroes and the hobby of collecting have gone through. As superheores started to be more relatable, they had too many problems on their hands to worry about their collections of MacGuffins
all the time. And, as children (and, let's face it, adults
) became more interested in collecting manufactured items such as Star Wars
action figures or even comic books, the idea of having a never-ending collection ceased to exist for those of us
who aren't filthy rich
Also, superheroes who put too much thought on their collections began to look like a bunch of overgrown children. And having stuff from different planets just because
is a good way to say, "Hey, look at me, I'm a Marty Stu
Superheroes also have a thing for making shrines to people: Photos of enemies, statues of friends and Love Interests
, the chattel that belonged to their old sidekicks
, et cetera. This might be a bit creepy to modern readers: "So, Superman, you really have a room in your fortress filled with depictions
of your scantly clad cousin
? Why, exactly?" But it makes sense when you consider that, comics being a visual medium - decades before the Decompressed Comic
revolution - it was pretty hard to represent someone's feelings without resorting to clunky speeches like, "Jane is so beautiful! If only I could tell her how much she means to me! But I dare not...for a girl so lovely would never marry a lame man!
For examples detailing the collecting exploits of more normal individuals see The Collector of the Strange
. Compare Shrine to Self
. Subtrope of Battle Trophy
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- In a variation on the theme, Volrath, the Big Bad of Magic's Rath story arc had his Dream Halls — a place in his stronghold where, rather than mementos, he magically stored his memories to be able to revisit them at leisure.
- Superman examples:
- Superman's Fortress of Solitude has a zoo with animals from across the galaxy, shrines to his home planet, statues of his friends and enemies, a window to the Phantom Zone, toys and weapons from all around, and even even (in All-Star Superman) the RMS Titanic. That is because Superman is a gigantic nerd, and this is why the world's richest nerd's house will look a lot like the Fortress of Solitude.
- Superman also gave his pal Jimmy Olsen a souvenir of each adventure (which Jimmy, naturally, keeps scrupulously organized and labeled). This was the focus of a story in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, where a criminal on the run corners Jimmy and orders him to provide some gizmo to help him escape the law. See the comic's cover on Superdickery here◊.
- One story showed that Superman also collects various letters. Not only from those he's helped, but also angry or sorrowful letters from those he couldn't save (or their families).
- In the Silver Age, Metropolis also featured the Superman Museum, dedicated to their hero (and probably the inspiration for the later Flash Museum. (Unlike the Superman Museum, the Flash Museum was actually the focus of a number of stories and, unlike the Superman Museum, managed to stick around in Post-Crisis incarnations.)
- There's also a "future" Superman Museum in one of the Legion of Super-Heroes continuities — with a holographic Jimmy Olsen as the tour guide.
- Batman has his Batcave, with the iconic giant penny and the robot T. rex, souvenirs from early Golden Age adventures that have been depicted in the Batcave since those days, and all the bat-sidekicks' uniforms, and a Dalek.◊
- Many depictions of the Batcave show the T-Rex as part of a security system.
- The Bad Penny is also always depicted. Lampshaded by The Thing in the JLA/Avengers crossover. "Your idea o' small change, huh?"
Poison Ivy: So, Harv, what became of the giant penny?
Two-Face: They actually let him keep it!
- In the animated series The Batman, the trophy room is started at the suggestion of Alfred, who proposes that if that the public grows to like Batman he could have a Batman museum, like the Flash has his.
- In Batman: The Animated Series, the trophy room has a shrine for Batman's childhood hero The Gray Ghost.
- This results in a neat Call Back in Batman Beyond, when a villain infiltrates the Batcave and the first thing that (Semi-retired) Bruce Wayne does is go get the Grey Ghost mask to protect his identity.
- The costumes of his sidekicks sometimes hold significance for Batman because, well, most of them have since either died or graduated from being sidekicks. Several versions of the trophy room have a separate shrine in memory of Jason Todd. In one comic, the password to enter this shrine was "Chili Dog", chili dogs being Jason's favourite junk food. Manly Tears time.
- There's one lovely moment in an old comic where Batman and Robin are going through their souvenirs with those unsettling Golden Age smiles, and we get the immortal line:
Gosh, Batman— remember this leather thong
? It still has your teeth marks in it!
- A lot of the items also tend to be fully functional, as Inque found out when she infiltrated the Batcave and got a face-full of Mr. Freeze's ice gun.
- In The Batman Adventures, Dick Grayson reveals that the trophy collecting was his idea. He begged Batman to keep the iconic robot dinosaur. Initially, Batman refused, but the next morning, Robin found it waiting for him in the cave. After that, they started collecting trophies as a way for Dick to feel good about the things he did after he agreed to stop drawing attention to his accomplishments in civilian life. The comic ends with a grown-up Nightwing entering his new apartment in his own city of Bludhaven... to find the mechanical dinosaur waiting for him, with a note from Batman that it's to help him start his new trophy collection.
- Deconstructed in this Parody strip: Batman Hoarder.
- The Joker also commented on it when he teamed up with Batman in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. "Look at all your toys! My own wing! I knew you cared."
- Green Arrow as well. He was, after all, a Batman ripoff, like many Golden Age superheroes.
- Alan Moore's Supreme had many trophies in his secret lair, as well as his mythopoetic zoo. A bit more humane than that kept by Superman, as there were only gateways to other dimensions, not cages. Of course, he had his own version of the Phantom Zone as well, Looking-Glass Land, where his greatest enemies are housed for the good of mankind.
- Tom Strong's volcano base.
- An adventure has his enemies create a trophy room as well, all part of a Xanatos Gambit. His archenemy Paul Saveen claims it was intended as a tribute to Tom's success - and actually compares it to the trophy room of a hunter.
- The Legion of Super-Heroes has a Hall of the Fallen, to honor all Legionnaires who have died in battle, especially Ferro Lad. That stays true often from reboot to reboot.
- Superman's been in at least one Galactic Petting Zoo, and at least one version of Brainiac had the MO of "Collect all the knowledge, then destroy the originals so my copy's worth more".
- For a very brief time in the '90s, Wonder Woman had the WonderDome, a weird living alien construct that hovered over Gateway City and of which her famed invisible jet was an extension; it served the same function as the Fortress of Solitude or the Batcave. It was unceremoniously dropped from her mythos and forgotten in the early '00s. Since then, the Themysciran Embassy in Manhattan has become her new home base/shrine to the gods/museum.
- Subverted with Astro City's Samaritan, who has "the Closet" (not that kind), a Phantom Zone that he uses only as storage space for the many awards and souveniers that he receives, and which merely gather the extradimensional equivalent of dust.
- Played straight with the Trophy Room in Honor Guard's flying base.
- And the Furst Family seem to have a lot of supervillain knick-knacks lying around, but the number of trophies (compared to cans of evil or "gizmos-Augustus-wants-to-tinker-with-at-some-point") is anyone's guess.
- Both the Four and members of Planetary maintain large collections of the world's secrets, including mementos from dead superheroes and alien artifacts. As Mr. Snow observes when visiting a parallel earth "They killed an entire world so that they had somewhere to store their weapons."
- The Fantastic Four store the advanced technological wonders that they have collected over the years, along with assorted memorabilia. The list has included Doctor Doom's time machine, a Skrull spaceship, Vibranium brass knuckles, pieces of Doctor Doom's armor and, for a short time, even Dr. Doom's comatose body.
- The Minutemen's headquarters in Watchmen contains at least a few trophies, including Moloch's solar mirror weapon and King Mob's ape mask. This is, of course, a Shout-Out.
- Nite Owl II also keeps a modest trophy case in his workshop full of momentoes from his career as a superhero. Then again, he is supposed to be kind of a dork.
- In Mark Millar's Old Man Logan story arc the future president of the United States, Red Skull, has his own trophy room full of items belonging to superheroes he and other supervillains killed.
- In the future of the Maestro (an evil future version of the Incredible Hulk), Rick Jones had a trophy room/reliquary full of mementos, including Captain America's shield and Wolverine's indestructible skeleton.
- Most iterations of the Justice League of America have a trophy room. This sometimes serves as a Chekov's Gun, despite Batman making sure the trophies are harmless. During the time the first Green Arrow was dead, the second one used a collection of his father's original cheesy arrows to defeat the Key, a super-powerful villain. Being able to open portals to higher levels of reality doesn't quite help when you're still vulnerable to a boxing glove arrow to the face.
- Central City opened The Flash Museum in honor of their resident superhero.
- Amazing Spider-Man #248 features the famous story The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man, about a young boy named Tim Hammond, who idolized Spider-Man and had an extensive collection of newspaper articles and other artifacts of Spider-Man's career. Spider-Man visited the boy, told his origins and even unmasked himself in front of the kid. At the end of the story, it was revealed that Tim was suffering from leukemia and only had a few days left to live.
- Subverted and lampshaded in Wanted. During a guided tour of his lair, the Professor mentions that the supervillains were not supposed to keep trophies from the fallen heroes (to avoid any reminders that they ever existed). Played straight in that he still kept a certain tattered red cape on display.
- Tom Strange's Strangelands in Terra Obscura. In America's Best Comics A-Z, we see a layout of the Strangelands drawn to resemble the one of the Batcave featured in Who's Who, which notes the special trophy room - including a robot T-Rex!
- Doctor Strange has a number of magical items which contain or seal away various mystical menaces. This became plot-critical when he was forced to destroy all his artifacts to prevent another sorcerer from getting them and then had to spend a year re-sealing all the evils that had just been loosed.
- In Alan Moore's Tomorrow Stories, Cobweb has the Vault of Voluptuousness, which contains souvenirs of all her cases, very few of which are SFW. Her version of Kandor, for instance is the Nano-Bordello.
- Ultiman in Big Bang Comics is headquartered out of the Secret Citadel, which is hidden in an active volcano. Being that it's based on the Fortress of Solitude, it's naturally packed to the gills with souvenirs, trophies, and just plain exhibits. As if the writer was going down the 'stock superhero hideout amenities' checklist, he's got (among other things) the shrunken lost city of Atlantis in a huge fishbowl, a giant dollar bill, and a rubber Apatosaurus.
- Much like Doctor Strange, Madame Xanadu keeps minor demons sealed in mason jars in her shop, and assorted magical items and memorabilia she's collected across her long life. She's very miffed with John Constantine for stealing stuff from her, most notably a relic named the Wind's Egg.
- In Die Another Day, Q has a collection of stuff.
- This tendency became a major plot point of Sky High. Here's a hint for all the superheroes out there: Don't let your kid have access to your collection of confiscated supervillain weapons!
- In the Iron Man film franchise, Tony Stark's basement lab was already a trophy room in the first film, with his expensive cars and prior tech projects on display (and in use, in the case of "Dummy" the robot); it just got an upgrade when the lab became the primary workshop and display room for the Iron Man suits.
- Sherlock Holmes is the Ur Example. He always keeps a "trophy" from all of his solved cases.
- In John Creasey's The Toff series, the titular character, Richard Rollison, kept a trophy wall of souvenirs of his cases.
- Doc Savage's Fortress of Solitude, being the basis for Superman's, had many of the same characteristics. Including being the basis for a "supervillain steals superweapon from it" plot.
- Nightside Adventurer Club's decorations: the shadow of Leopard Man, alien skull, used as an ashtray, something from Black Lagoon, stuffed and mounted, the ever-burning demon head, a mumified hand of the original Grendel monster (donated by Beowulf himself) and other interesting stuff.
- Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain:
- Mech keeps a trophy room in his home.
- On the other side, Penny (a villain) decides to keep a magical cursed statue she stole as a trophy, largely since she doesn't know what else to do with it.
Live Action TV
- On Eerie Indiana, Simon and Marshall keep souvenirs from their bizarre encounters in a cabinet in Marshall's attic. Each item is tagged at the end of its episode and locked away; only the two boys have keys.
- A brief scene in Doctor Who has the Doctor looking in a box to find a book he wants to show to Donna, and picking up various trophies from previous adventures (including a Cyberman's piece and the Carionites' Crystal Ball) in the process.
- GoGo Sentai Boukenger: the Boukengers store all the precious they collect (and have to fight the various evil organisations and their mooks for to get them) in a special storage facility. Among these precious are items that actually belonged to their enemies to begin with, like the hearth and brain of the Gōdom God and Ryuuwon's helmet.
- In City of Heroes various veteran rewards allow you to put these in your Supergroup base. These are only decorative, and serve no function otherwise.
- Though not on display anywhere, the game also has a menu of souvenirs as a way of recalling past adventures.
- Similarly, as one might expect coming from the same developer, Star Trek Online has trophies both in the Captain's ready room aboard his/her ship, and in the mess hall. Some trophies are acquired via rank and level, while others are earned from coming in first place during raids or completing difficult accolades. Of course, other people are only going to see these if they're invited aboard.
- The BBC's Doctor Who Adventure Games have one for the TARDIS that you can visit.
- In many of her games, Tomb Raider's Lara Croft has one in Croft Manor that serves as an Easter Egg. Often, the treasures inside are call backs to previous titles. It makes sense for her as she's an Adventurer Archaeologist.
- Kingdom of Loathing allows players to buy their own display case to fill whatever the hell they want. There's even leaderboards to keep track of it all.
- The Lord of the Rings Online allows players to decorate their houses and gardens with trophies, leading to many hobbit holes with a dragon's skull on the lawn.
- The Elder Scrolls games throw far more artifacts and other items of Power and Significance at the player than they conceivably have a use for, and many players like to keep mementos of tough kills and hard-won quest rewards on display. The physics engine in Oblivion made it easier to arrange and organize these than in Morrowind, but dedicated 'trophy room' mods exist for both games.
- Twilight Heroes, like Kingdom of Loathing above, allows the player to fill a display case with whatever they want; this trope especially fits if said items are the trophies taken from various recurring enemies.
- Mass Effect examples:
- In Mass Effect 2, artifacts bought or otherwise acquired during the course of the game end up being displayed in Shepard's cabin. These include a collection of model ships, a tank filled with exotic fish, a space hamster and a picture of their love interest. Various DLC add a Prothean orb, the helmet of Shepard's original armor found at the Normandy crash-site and Shepard's original dog tags.
- Mass Effect 3 contains most of the above items, which are found scattered through the Normandy, having been put into storage during its retrofit. If in a romance with Tali, after a certain point in the game, she leaves a photo of herself unmasked on Shepard's nightstand.
- In the Leviathan DLC, Shepard can pick up a severed Husk's head that Dr. Bryson was experimenting on for the cabin.
- In the Omega DLC, Aria sends you General Petrovsky's chessboard.
- Scattered around Roger's quarters in Space Quest 6 are various items from earlier games.
- Whateley Academy has a huge one - the Homer Gallery - in the main campus building, locked so outsiders don't accidentally stumble upon the fact that it's a Superhero School. Each dorm has its own smaller trophy room. Some of the weapons in the Homer Gallery still work - which is an important plot point in the Halloween stories.
- Mr. Incredible has a rather smaller one of these, mostly magazines and thank you notes from children he saved, but also a jar labelled "Bullets that bounced off me".
- In The Simpsons, every time the attic or closet is shown, we see such items from past episodes as Homer's space helmet, Mr. Plow jacket, a box of Mr. Sparkle, a Malibu Stacy doll, and several other items. The giant stone head of Xtapolapocetl is also occasionally shown sitting in their basement.
- In in the Young Justice animated series, Kid Flash collects a souvenir from every mission, possibly working on that museum there'll someday be. The show's young too, so currently it's kinda small but getting there. An item from it has come in handy once or twice.
- In season 2, Beast Boy takes over the job of collecting souvenirs for the team.
- The Justice League also has a trophy museum at the Hall of Justice in Washington, D.C.
- Ben 10 had an example of this in the original series, with Ben occasionally collecting in a small box weapons and objects he got over his adventures. The box is seen again briefly at the beginning of Ben 10: Alien Force, where Ben picks the Omnitrix from it.
- In Teen Titans, it's revealed Robin has a small room set aside as this. (Although they call it an evidence locker.) One of the more prominent items in it is the remnants of the Puppet King.