Superman Stays Out of Gotham
And this is why.
"Rachel and Harvey are being held by the Joker in two separate warehouses, and they're really far apart, like, twenty blocks—"
"Are you f*ing kidding me? BRB!"
heroes are defined as such because they live in a Shared Universe
of Mages, Superhumans
, Human Aliens
or everything in between. This gives the writers plenty of opportunity to develop their heroes in contrast to their superpowered neighbours, while at the same time being able to focus on the very mundane issues taking place in the hero's own backyard.
The hero can learn to become a part of the enhanced reality of his not-so-Badass Normal
colleagues, and even fight alongside them without any apparent difference in crime fighting ability. However, it's much more difficult the other way around: most of the time, the Applied Phlebotinum
-wielding heroes simply don't fit into the everyday world of a regular Joe.
Even though they could probably help the hero fix every daily problem (health troubles, car troubles, tax troubles, love troubles) in a heartbeat, it would make for a pretty dull storyline. Often, this is avoided by simply keeping the demi-Gods of comic continuity out of the less talented heroes' homes altogether.
This trope occurs when a hero lives in a sprawling verse full of tremendously powerful allies and fantastical elements (and regularly crosses over with them) that could completely up-end their mundane struggles and headaches, were it not for the fact that the fantastical elements never show up in relation to the story's real life issues. If the hero is so thoroughly associated with a common everyday problem
that solving it would damage their franchise, it simply won't be solved — even if the hero's superpowered friend could fix it at once. More often than not, the problem is so integral to their own works
that the reader accepts it.
Any Cross Over
team-ups between the heroes will usually Hand Wave
away the possibility of the Phlebotinum-based hero making any substantial impact in the Badass Normal
It's not strictly limited to Badass Normals
either; some heroes endure heaps of abuse just for being a superhero
that can metastasize into Super Registration Acts
and other anti-superhero hindrances that never end up on the radar of their colleagues.
Common in works starring the Anti-Hero
. The plots and characters within their own works take place in their own hometown with its own tone and rules for the genre of acceptable morality
and realistic plot resolutions
. This leads to Fridge Logic
when Green Rocks
-based innovations that would work under any other circumstances that have been used numerous times are proposed
but they just won't work for that specific hero, resulting in a Broken Aesop
A less-common Double Subversion
is when the hero calls upon his pantheon of super-allies for help in solving some intractable problem that they may or may not have solved before, only to get back a unanimous "There is nothing we can do" response.
A sub trope of Reed Richards Is Useless
. Compare This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman
, Fantastic Aesop
, Status Quo Is God
, Plot Technology
, The Only One
, and Law of Conservation of Normality
. For this as a learning/interaction trope, see Die or Fly
or Sink or Swim Mentor
. When Badass Normals
and other heroes could become superpowered or much more powerful rather easily and then clean up their respective areas instead of some other hero, but for some inexplicable reason don't, that's One Super One Powerset
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Anime & Manga
- Tower of God - Rankers, people who have already climbed the Tower, made their wish and received great power on the way up, are not allowed to interfere with the Regulars who are still climbing. That's why overpowered characters like Yuri and Lero-Ro rarely make an appearance on the front lines and often act with severe restrictions. Most Rankers aren't even allowed to get close to the testing areas of the Inner Tower. This rule does get broken occasionally, though. At one point Yuri threatens to blow up an entire testing area and murder the test director, and is only stopped when the director threatens to fail everyone involved if she doesn't back down.
- The Caped Crusader's hometown of Gotham City is the Trope Namer. The Dark Knight himself is the poster child for the down-to-Earth superhero: an ordinary man who relies on "mundane means": training, smarts, a scary costume and pure determination to get the job done; he just wouldn't be Batman if he gained superpowers or called upon superpowered allies as a Deus ex Machina to solve the pervasive risks of being a superhero. In universe, he comes across as being paranoid and mistrustful of metahuman heroes and Applied Phlebotinum in general and his attitude towards other heroes so much as entering the city uninvited is an unequivocal boot to the glutes.
- Lampshaded in the first JLA Classified story, which revealed the Batcave has a "sci-fi closet" full of rayguns, teleporters and antigrav discs. He just hates using it. By Grant Morrison, naturally.
- Batman has built Powered Armor and acquired powers (like a Green Lantern Ring in the Elseworlds story Batman: In Darkest Knight), which his human allies wield in spades, none of which ever lasts in his case. As Batman is only one hair away from being as nuts as his Rogues Gallery, having a bit of extra power in hand is generally portrayed as the corrupting influence to push him over the edge to Well-Intentioned Extremist.
- By comparison, Batman has used Powered Armor in stories that take place in the future (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman Beyond) where his armor is a contemporary innovation. The Batman Beyond armor was over 20 years old and thus dated (but still effective) by the time Terry McGinnis took up the role.
- Gotham's status as a hellhole, Arkham Asylum as a Cardboard Prison and the existence of Joker Immunity have all been lampshaded / Hand Waved as due in part to a supernatural curse, which Batman's magical allies (Zatanna, Spectre) do not seem to know about, let alone consider removing.
- Likewise, it is frequently established as the most nightmarish city on Earth, a metropolitan hellhole with a ridiculously high violent crime rate overrun by murderous pychotics like The Joker who terrify even the superpowered rogues of other cities, yet Supes and the rest of the demigodic heroes who could easily clean up the place and overpower pretty much all of those homicidal lunatics in seconds barely do any meaningful crime fighting when they visit. They actually show up quite frequently- they don't really "stay out of Gotham"; it's just that on those occasions they tend to talk with Batman more than they actually help him out.
- During the early Silver Age of the late fifties and early sixties, Gotham was depicted as a pleasant place to live, relatively free of crime, with law-enforcement methods that were admired and studied by cities all over the world — expressly because of the presence of Batman. That's right: Batman was at his most effective in the deepest depths of his Dork Age. Though this might have something to do with the DC world in general being much more Lighter and Softer than it became later on.
- In the Superman reboot launch miniseries The Man of Steel, Superman aids Batman with a criminal named Magpie. At the end, Batman says that Gotham requires a different touch than Superman's Metropolis.
- It doesn't necessarily work both ways, though: during The Death of Superman series, Batman patrolled Metropolis in the days during and after Superman's funeral. He even played by Superman's rules.
- During the No Man's Land Bat Family Crossover, the government features a literal version when it cuts Gotham off from the rest of the USA and enacts legislation to prevent anyone (normal or superhero) from going in or out even to assist. This proves remarkably effective given how many superheroes are aliens, not Lawful Neutral, or for whatever reason shouldn't care at all about the ruling:
- Superman travels to Gotham to deliver supplies and help set up a power plant to provide heat during the winter. The plan falls apart leading to Batman explaining how the city has changed and Superman realizes he's not up to the task of fixing Gotham and leaves. Similarly, the Huntress in a JLA storyline points out the League's refusal to assist Gotham and Superman replies her presence is the League's presence. Superman does return to No Man's Land... but only as Clark Kent. He still seeks to help, but as a normal man doing things like growing gardens for food. He even dirties up his appearance to make it look like he's been there all along, but Batman points out that his disguise is flawed (no one in Gotham has smelled like soap in months).
- In the League's own book, it was shown that, during "No Man's Land", they were keeping a slew of opportunists (Kobra's organization, evil Atlanteans, assorted alien armadas, etc.) from seizing Gotham for their own. This neatly balanced Superman Stays Out Of Gotham with "Brainiac Is Kept Out Of Gotham."
- Jim Gordon revealed during the crossover that he cannot get a job in any police department outside of Gotham as no one wants a cop who needs an "urban legend" to do his policing for him, which Batman is considered despite being a known member of the JLA and living in a universe with other cities that have local superheroes (he mentions Keystone City by name). The Keystone example is especially curious given they have been shown, in multiple storylines, to be nearly useless at dealing with the Rogues without the Flash around. Of course, they are the Keystone Kops.
- Barbara Gordon, formerly Batgirl until The Joker put a bullet in her spine, was rescued from the fridge and turned into the information-broker superhero Oracle. She became one of the DCU's most capable heroes and an iconic figure of an effective disabled person yet did not regain the use of her legs despite the loads of superpowers, magic & technology the DCU had to offer. In-universe, Barbara has justified refusing offers to insta-heal her spine as not wanting special treatment for being a superhero that a regular citizen wouldn't have access to. One offer came from Amanda Waller. Not trusting 'The Wall' is just logical. Using magic in the DCU? It's just begging for trouble. As of the New 52 reboot, her back is fixed and she's back to being Batgirl, although she feels incredibly guilty about being given a cure that the average person doesn't have access to.
- A black and white Batman back up story has him calling in Superman as a glorified ambulance when a woman falls down with heart damage. Naturally the Big Blue Cheese gets in a pissy mood but can't do much about it with the badly injured woman right there.
- Another thing to consider about why the other DC heroes don't come along to chip in and help Batman out is that they usually have their own fish to fry at the same time — at the same time that Batman's, say, dealing with the Joker's latest escape attempt in Gotham, Superman's usually dealing with some scheme that Lex Luthor's got going in Metropolis, and so forth.
- Superman and Batman have both mentioned of having a noted dislike for operating in each other's respective cities. Superman hates working in Gotham because it's so dark and dingy, not to mention most of the buildings are lined with lead, blocking his X-ray vision, making him less effective than he could be. Batman hates working in Metropolis because everything is so brightly lit, making it difficult to hide and the buildings are further spaced apart preventing him from scaling them easily.
- This was discussed in an issue of Superman/Batman, where it's explained that whenever Batman has business in Metropolis, Superman insists on keeping watch on Gotham City. The Dark Knight always makes sure to return the favor for the Last Son of Krypton. Anyhow, Superman notes that Commissioner Gordon always seems happy to see him. Furthermore, they two have noted in the same issue that crime and trouble come in very different shapes in their two respective cities; with Gotham City, it's mostly about psychos like Joker, Zsasz, Firefly, Two-Face, and the rest robbing banks or blowing stuff up. Metropolis, on the other hand, is mainly endangered by the "sci-fi monsters rampaging down 2nd Avenue," or something to that effect.
- John Byrne addressed this in the third issue of his Superman reboot: Batman tells Supes that "Defending a planet and cleaning up a city are two very different things... Gotham City isn't your turf. It requires a different approach."
- The Punisher:
- He really doesn't get along well with the rest of the Marvel heroes: he's a Vigilante Man who lives in a Darker and Edgier world and kills criminals in a universe full of superheroes who hold Thou Shalt Not Kill as an ethical absolute. In non-Punisher stories, any hero that runs into the Punisher contends he's a murderer like any other and tries to apprehend him (it never works). Within his own Black and Gray comic, Frank Castle is the hero (or Anti-Hero) and his victims run the gamut of unrepentant mobsters, psychopaths and hired killers but no hero ever takes the initiative to come down to Hell's Kitchen to apprehend him for racking up such a high body count.
- There was at least one story where superheroes tried to neutralize him (Wolverine would have been happy to kill him, but Daredevil and Spider-Man were against it). This being The Punisher, he takes them all out (non-lethally).
- Averted in later years with Castle being split into the Darker and Edgier MAX imprint in which only a few Badass Normal Marvel characters appear, such as Nick Fury or The Kingpin or Bullseye, quite different from their mainstream counterparts, and he takes on contemporary criminals (terrorists, sex slavers). Mainstream Punisher tries to replace Captain America, killed alien invaders, wears a costume based on the Venom symbiote, fights The Hood and his supervillains with stolen weapons of various superheroes and gets killed by Daken but is then resurrected as a Frankenstein-esque monster to aid Morbius, Man-Thing, Living Mummy, and Werewolf by Night in their fight against Nazi Zombies.
- In an odd example, Batman beats up The Punisher for 20 minutes in JLA/Avengers.
- Also often averted during the nineties. Back then The Punisher was one of Marvel's cash cows along with Spider-Man and Wolverine, and as such he had quite a few crossovers. Surprisingly, most heroes were either okay with him, or at least willing to put aside their dislike to work with him. The stories tended to focus on both character's intent to save innocent lives first and foremost. But in one particular instance, Castle was recorded shooting a corrupt psycho cop on TV, which led to the police and a few other heroes to try to apprehend him. Captain America tried to reason with him. Spider-Man just stomped his ass flat.
- Since Punisher operates in Hell's Kitchen he often has meetings with Daredevil. One of those encounters ended with DD chained up to a pole with Punisher giving a Hannibal Lecture on how his way is the right way and he doesn't even want DD to try it.
- The mini-series Punisher: War Zone revolved around The Avengers trying to bring down the Punisher after he was falsely accused of killing a New York police officer. Word of God from Greg Rucka states that the Avengers have known of the Punisher's murders for years, but ignored him because they felt that sending him to prison wouldn't do any good. Rucka also contends that the Punisher respects heroes like the Avengers, as he's smart enough to realize that if they didn't keep threats like Loki and the Skrulls at bay, there'd be no streets left for him to protect.
- One More Day had a forced double subversion: Spider-Man asks numerous heroes for help in healing Aunt May's gunshot wound, to which the various heroes responded with a collective "There is nothing we can do." The X-Men in particular had an Omega-level mutant with Healing Hands at the time who had healed far worse injuries, including someone having their heart torn out of their chest. Spidey is forced to make a Deal with the Devil to heal Aunt May in exchange for erasing his marriage from history. That aside, Spider-Man/Daredevil is perhaps the single most recurrent team-up in Marvel history, the second obviously being any combination of those two and the Punisher. Part of the reason, of course, is because they're roughly similar in terms of power levels, realistic themes, and the sorts of enemies they go up against. Spider-Man headlined Marvel Team-Up for nearly 15 years — he couldn't swing a web without bumping up against some other hero.
- Most heroes in the Marvel Universe are based in New York City, so they can't be accused of "staying out of Gotham". Yet although it is the base and home of The Avengers, Doctor Strange, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men and various other immensely powerful superhumans and superteams, it's usually left up to Spider-Man, Daredevil and various other "street-level" heroes to sort out the city's superhuman crime wave. While they do cross over more frequently than DC's heroes, and Rogues-Gallery Transplant is a little more common, it's amazing how many times Doctor Octopus or the Rhino can go on a rampage or normal crooks can rob a bank and end up running into Spider-Man instead of, say, The Thing, or even a Badass Normal like Captain America. Even considering that they are often on adventures to another country or battling aliens in a different dimension, you'd think that with how easily the Web Slinger and others come across serious criminal activities they should run into this kind of thing every other day. It could be argued that Spider-Man is the main adversary for New York's crime because he is always on duty, 24/7. New York is the other heroes' main base, but they take time off, get fringe benefits, and are often off fighting threats on a larger scale. Spider-Man, and to a lesser extent Daredevil, are the heroes charged with guarding New York itself.
- The concept was lampshaded in an issue of Iron Man. Tony built a new suit of stealth armor and bragged about how it effectively made Black Widow useless, only to be quickly discovered by some villains and beaten senseless. Turns out even with invisibility on Tony's side, there's far more to Black Widow's stealth skills than being able to disguise herself.
- Non-mutant heroes with superpowers function side by side among mutant superheroes who face discrimination from humans who fear them because they have superpowers. The anti-mutant regulations include high-profile government-sponsored elements such as Mutant Registration Acts and mutant-hunting Sentinels, which the rest of the heroes have to know about, as The Avengers were once forced to fire their mutant members as a result of increasing public scrutiny and used a fleet of Sentinels in a major battle against Kang, the Conqueror. Despite not being anti-mutant racists themselves, all the heroes who got their powers through other means (and therefore are exempted from the Fantastic Racism and government scrutiny) have decided the plight of mutants is not their problem.
- X-Men works both ways too. When evil pro-mutant forces like Magneto threatens the world, it's the job of mutants like the X-Men, and specific anti-mutant forces to stop him. Magneto rarely ever has The Mighty Thor or Doctor Strange coming down on him, unless he's done something specific to drag them into the story (beside his usual Kill All Humans spiel).
- The Civil War storyline mended the hypocrisy, subjecting all superheroes to a Super Human Registration Act. In a twist, the X-Men declared the whole thing not their problem (specifically citing how the non-mutants never bothered to interfere with Mutant Registration Act(s)).
- Similarly, other large-scale threats to mutantkind exist in the X-Books alone. The Legacy Virus was meant to stay active until they found a cure for AIDS but it became a Plot Tumor when the writers had no clear answer for why scientific geniuses like Reed Richards or Hank Pym couldn't find a cure.
- Beast reaches out to nine of Marvel's Mad Scientist supervillains for help in solving the "Decimation" that Brought Down to Normal most of Earth's mutants. They all just laugh in his face.
- A trend that comes and goes Depending on the Writer, and one that at present has "come", is that Marvel's superheroes will act like jerkasses in X-Men comics and the X-Men will act like jerkasses in other Marvel comics, yet they will never be portrayed as jerkasses (or that jerkish, anyway) in their own stories. Witness Reed Richards getting pissed at the X-Men for summoning the giant metal bullet that trapped Kitty Pride back from space (long story), basically a long overdue rescue attempt aimed at saving a member of their extended family, albeit with some (averted) danger to the Earth. Never mind that Reed himself would go to equally insane lengths to save one of his friends or family, that he frequently messes about with stuff that potentially puts the Earth in far greater danger (sometimes for his own curiosity), or that he didn't even give Cyclops the chance to explain that it wasn't even them doing it (Magneto had decided he owed them a favour).
- When Magneto took over New York during Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men he explained that he had tricked the Avengers and the Fantastic Four into leaving on a wild goose chase. That does not explain why none of New York's other heroes who weren't associated with any of those groups did not try to help the X-Men. While Magneto may be a few power levels above them, there is no way Spider-Man, Daredevil or Luke Cage would have stood by and watched while Magneto sent New Yorkers into gas chambers.
- One story did its best to explain why Magneto is usually the X-Men's problem. Immediately after the Legacy Virus is cured, Magneto sets about gathering mutants from all over the world and organizes them into an army on Genosha in preparation for his latest attack on the rest of the world. Questioned by news reporters on why the Avengers haven't moved in to stop him, Captain America explains that, because the Avengers are a government-sponsored team and Magneto is legally recognised as the ruler of Genosha, they can't move in until he actually does something (of course, he subsequently attacked Professor X in his home, kidnapped him and put him on display in the centre of his city, which seems like the kind of thing the Avengers would respond to). At the same time, Israel's main superhero (Sabra) says that she would be willing to strike him preemptively.
- In the non-canon Universe X comic, one character hypothesises that the more powerful evil forces in the Marvel Universe- for instance, Hell Lords like Mephisto, and other demons and dark gods- actually go out of their way to manipulate characters and events to sabotage human-mutant relations, with the explicit aim of stopping them banding together more often and kicking their collective asses or making the world a better place. This is quite a clever justification, even if it wouldn't explain everything (as demons can't affect Free Will), but it has yet to cross over into the mainstream stories.
- The Avengers vs. X-Men Cross Over averts this with a vengeance. The Phoenix Force is returning to Earth, and while the Phoenix was always an X-Men problem in the past, this time the Avengers have caught wind of it. Their disagreement on how to handle the incredibly powerful cosmic entity that could potentially save mutantkind or destroy the Earth is the main conflict of the event. It also includes the X-Men (or at least Cyclops's side) calling the Avengers out on their constantly staying out of Gotham while mutants nearly go extinct, only to suddenly decide to get involved once the issue becomes a potential threat to them.
- One X-Men Expanded Universe novel trilogy had Magneto conquer New York City. Despite this being the home turf of Spider-Man, Daredevil, and The Fantastic Four, the X-Men are the only people (Other than the US Military) to even try to do something about it. All the other heroes who happen to live in New York aren't even mentioned.
- Uncanny Avengers is built around breaking down this trope. After admitting that the Avengers never did much to help the mutant race, Captain America decides to form a new mutant-centric team of heroes in order to convince humans and mutants to get along.
- This problem is very much averted in the Ultimate Marvel universe. They have a separate crossover series which is acknowledged to mostly be canon, and there was an arc called Ultimatum which affected ALL of their superheroes. Furthermore, there are frequently villain crossovers, and other heroes making guest appearances. Particularly notable in Ultimate Spider-Man: There is an issue where Spidey shows up to stop the Rhino and discovers that Iron Man has already taken care of it. To name but a few other occasions: The Fantastic Four show up to help Spider-Man face off against SHIELD during the Clone Saga; Nick Fury always has his back when Norman Osborn turns into the Green Goblin; he briefly dates Kitty Pryde; the X-Men show up to help him take care of a reckless teenage mutant; Daredevil recruits him to a superhero team to take down the Kingpin; he has teamed up with the Ultimates before; The Human Torch is a close friend and briefly attends his high school; Etcetera.
- Black Panther:
- Like Batman, he works alone. During the "Enemy of the State" arc, T'Challa must sort out on his own a conspiracy by the American government to take over his homeland of Wakanda. When his former comrades The Avengers offer their help, he flat-out refuses it, stating that assisting him would be equivalent to turning on the American government and they weren't ready for the consequences, even though the Avengers have tussled with their government sponsors and came out on top before.
- Deconstructed in Black Panther: The Man Without Fear. Panther turns down Luke Cage, Spider-Man, The Falcon, and other New York heroes after they offer to help out with the crime situation in Hell's Kitchen, and only accepts their help grudgingly. It gets to the point where Cage threatens to have The Avengers intervene if T'Challa does not prove himself worthy of defending the neighborhood.
- From about 1985-2010, DC Comics was essentially split into two barely-related worlds. Dark and magical characters such as Constantine, Swamp Thing, the Endless, and Lucifer interact with each other but rarely cross over with mainstream superhero characters (though it still happened very occasionally). This changed with the Flashpoint event, where the Wildstorm, Vertigo, and main DC universes were all fused together. Interestingly, for a time, Constantine existed as a younger version in the mainstream DCU, while retaining all his years of real-time aging and mature content in his solo title Hellblazer, until the latter's conclusion in 2012, replaced with the slightly-more-mature-than-mainstream DCU title "Constantine".
- Seanbaby lampshades this on his JLA page, in which Superman could do everything if he wanted to. Not that he hasn't tried. There have been a few stories where Superman tried to save everyone and do everything, usually with An Aesop that he can't do everything alone, or that it's just not worth sacrificing his social life to save a few cats stuck in trees.
- In John Ostrander's writing of The Spectre, his human host (Jim Corrigan) asks Father Cramer why the Spectre never responded to the obliteration of Coast City. Father Cramer suggested that the Spectre was designed by God only to respond to certain cries for vengeance.
- The series Alias lampshades this. Jessica Jones investigates what appear to be relatively mundane crimes. When she realizes she's in over her head, she tries to contact her old friends in The Avengers, but they are busy with supervillains.
- Touched on during Stephanie Brown's run as Batgirl which showcased both her friendship with Supergirl, and the fact that when she went up against a team of bad-guys with power-armour induced superpowers, she had already pre-planned an intervention of Kara and her team of equally superpowered heroes.
- An egregious example with the character Adam Strange over at DC. The character's entire premise was that the Zeta Beam that takes him to the planet Rann will wear off, so he can only stay there for a limited time. There was no reason that he couldn't have asked Green Lantern or other space-travelling superheroes for a lift to permanently solve this problem.
- Justified in the Naruto/JusticeLeague crossover, Connecting The Dots. Batman insists that any superheroes in Gotham operate under his rules, and stay out of the public eye. When Wonder Woman engages in a very public battle with Sakura and Rock Lee, this later draws the Cheetah, who had gained some new abilities, to Gotham. Batman explains that she was drawn there by Wonder Woman's public presence in the city, and uses Metropolis's Superman-induced villain infestation as a justification for why he insists that supers in Gotham operate under his rules.
- Also justified to a considerable extent in the Earth-2706 verse, the setting of Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams and its companion series Ultimate Spider-Woman: Change With The Light. Unlike Earth-616, the main setting of the Marvel Universe, superheroes like the X-Men, The Avengers, Iron Man, The Mighty Thor and Doctor Strange are not based in New York City and are not usually available to help the street-level heroes out. Even the Fantastic Four aren't even in New York half the time. As a result, Sleepwalker, Spider-Woman and every other hero in New York has their hands full with their own individual Rogues Galleries. Except for the rare occasion when they can team up due to responding to the same emergency, the heroes simply can't help each other out even if they might like to.
- Iron Man 3 had to address this, since the film takes place after The Avengers, and the director acknowledged in interviews that they'd have to explain why Tony couldn't just call his fellow superheroes or S.H.I.E.L.D. for help. Iron Man 3's justification for their absence is, to quote Rhodey, "It's an American problem" and America wants to show it doesn't need SHIELD; later on, Tony is stranded in Tennessee for much of the film, with his remaining suit offline and lacking money, his cellphone, or wireless internet to contact anybody. Once Tony manages to reach his friends again, he's short on time and would be wasting it waiting for the Avengers to arrive. The ending of The Avengers also has the heroes go their separate ways, suggesting that, with the exception of Bruce Banner, Tony may not know where any of them are, especially since half of the team are classified S.H.I.E.L.D agents and the other has returned to Asgard.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier retroactively makes SHIELD's absence in Iron Man 3 easier to believe by revealing that significant elements within SHIELD want chaos in general, and the death of the president and Tony Stark in particular. So they had good reasons not to interfere with the villain's plans, at least not immediately.
- This film also justifies it in regards to Steve and Natasha not contacting the Avengers for help. They were branded fugitives and being hunted down by S.H.I.E.L.D., who was keeping tabs on all communication channels. If they tried to contact Tony, Bruce, Thor, or Clint, they would've alerted S.H.I.E.L.D. to their whereabouts.
- Rick Riordan, author of Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Kane Chronicles, writes stories where the Greek, Roman and Egyptian gods run around in the modern world, with all their classical bad guys also around and doing horrific things such as turning random people to stone to sell as lawn decorations, blowing up Elvis's home and creating more chain restaurants, let alone the various attempts of creating Apocalypse How as soon as possible. Yet you never see the Egyptians deal with Titan uprisings, or the Demigods reacting to the very real threat of the sun being eaten. True, the pantheons do try to stay apart due to the many comments that the meeting of god pantheons creates wars. And true the Greek and Roman demigods did, indirectly, work together against the titans, but that was more like The Night Of The Owls Batman vs Talon, Batgirl vs Talon thing, as oppose to a Superman and Batman vs General Zod thing. Though the new "Heroes of Olympus" series has the Greek and Roman elements working together directly. And a line mentioning a mysterious source of magic on Long Island seems to indicate the Kanes and their band of Egyptian magicians may also get involved. There is a short story titled The Son of Sobek which features Percy and Carter. After nearly killing each other, they team up to take on a monster crocodile. It's implied that there are forces at work to keep the Greek and Egyptian pantheons separate, and that someone had engineered their meeting in hopes of it ending violently between the two.
- Legacy The Tale Of The American Eagle implies that this has something to do with the Department of Justice Registration (so police can work out standard crimefighting plays?), and is explored as a theme in the novel when the Hero of St. Theodore uproots and goes on a crusade across the world, irregardless of international boundaries. On a larger scale, there appears to be laws against sending superheroes who operate in one country into another, explored with Nightwolf, a former supersoldier who was court-martialed for violating the Non-Combatant Treaty (superpeople can be medics or chefs, but not fight in wars.)
- In The Lord of the Rings, a commonly asked question in fandom is "Why couldn't the Eagles just fly the Fellowship to Mount Doom?". It makes sense, since Gandalf had good relations with the Eagles as seen in The Hobbit. And the Eagles did show up to save Frodo and Sam from certain death after the One Ring was destroyed. So why couldn't they just fly the Fellowship to Mount Doom in helping to destroy their shared enemy? Tolkien has never given a definitive answer but most agree that he probably would also have attempted to give an in-universe explanation, but only after stating the obvious, most important reason: "Because then there would be no story". Fans have come up with several hypothetical explanations such as the Eagles too conspicuous as they approached Mordor. Sauron would have sent his winged Nazgul immediately.
Live Action TV
- On The X-Files, all those demons and vampires and mutants running around would have been really useful for the Earth Home Team when the Alien Colonization finally hit.
- Any of those various godlike alien species that Kirk (from Star Trek: The Original Series) and Picard (from Star Trek: The Next Generation) were always running into could have been a very big help once the Dominion invaded. Granted, most of them were amoral or actively malign (and the Organians, one of the few who were actually somewhat benevolent, had implicitly ceased to be a concern as early as the sixth movienote , even if it was left up to the Star Trek Expanded Universe to provide answers why). For example, Q's idea of helping was to push the inevitable confrontation forward a few years. That's not helpful.
- Doctor Who runs into this rather frequently as well. There are other advanced species besides the Doctor who could be of help to Earth, but this seems to have happened once in the 50-year history.
- Several mercenary forces would probably gladly sign up with Earth for the right consideration, but there's never any mention of an offer being solicited. The Sontarans in particular would love to mix it up with the Daleks after being left out of the Time War. However, only one Sontaran (that was demoted to a nurse as punishment) joins the Doctor's army in "A Good Man Goes to War". In that same episode though, an army of Silurians that owe a debt to the Doctor takes command of Demon's Run.
- Averted with "The Pandorica Opens". When all of reality is at risk of never having existed, every race of baddies were willing to band together to stop the threat, the Daleks included. It didn't help in this case though, since the problem was the TARDIS, which they intended to solve by locking up the Doctor, when someone else was in control.
- After two series of deconstructing the way the Doctor operates and showing just how hated he's become amongst certain people, the Series 6 finale reveals that millions upon millions of individuals wished to answer River's distress beacon and prevent the Doctor's (unknown to River, faked) death in 2011 Lake Silencio.
- In Torchwood: Children of Earth, this is played harrowingly straight, except that it's the Doctor from Doctor Who who stays away. After learning that the government is willing to give up children to the aliens, Gwen posits that the reason the Doctor doesn't do more to help Earth is that sometimes the Doctor is too disgusted by humans. However, this is just Gwen speculating — the Doctor has been known to just not know Earth is in danger, since he's definitely not omniscient. Word of God is that the Doctor will never appear in Torchwood, as Torchwood is very much not aimed at children and his presence might encourage them to watch it.
- The Doctor clearly does not and cannot know when and how Earth is in danger given he is a time traveller who can visit any time and location in the universe and does so largely at random. Furthermore history tends to be in constant flux thanks to the Timey-Wimey Ball. In short, if you want the Doctor at a specific time and place to help with a specific threat, you have to have the ability and desire to call him, as Winston Churchill does. There is also the issue of "fixed points" — historical events that must not be changed, such as the eruption of Mount Vesuvius over Pompeii — meaning the Doctor may have stayed away on purpose because he knew he could not and should not stop the event from occurring (the one time he broke down and defied a fixed point to save some people, the consequences were far from pretty).
- The other Doctor Who spin off, The Sarah Jane Adventures also has this problem. The Doctor pops in occasionally, but for the most part the fate of the Earth (or at least London) appears to be in the hands of a middle-aged woman and some school-aged children. Likewise, while it's established that Sarah Jane Does Not Like Guns and the Doctor Who Crisis Crossover ""The Stolen Earth" implies this is why she doesn't ever call in shoot-first-ask-questions-later Torchwood (and the real out-of-universe reason being, again, Torchwood is not for kids, the which is exact opposite of SJA's tone), it's still bit glaring that Sarah Jane and Captain Jack Harkness never seem to share notes in crisis situations, even after working together well in "Journey's End".
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel:
- Buffy is not allowed in Los Angeles. Not because she's too powerful, but because Angel kicked her out after she tried to kill Faith rather than allow him to try and redeem her (they reconciled). Mid-way through Buffy season 7 / Angel season 4, Willow visits L.A. when the Fang Gang need a witch, then returns to Sunnydale with Faith.
- There's also the fact that Buffy can't stay away from Sunnydale for too long (she doesn't go to L.A. after they reconcile), mostly because all of those demons trying to open the Hellmouth or get one of those Artifact of Doom hidden around the town. If the beginning of Season 6 is any indication, Buffy's presence is what's keeping the demons under control.
- In Angel season 5, the lack of help from Willow or any of the others who could've possibly helped with Fred's demon possession is explained by their refusal to cooperate with Angel due to his decision to work for the resident Big Bad, Wolfram & Hart no matter if his intentions are to subvert their assets into something good.
- The opposite is in effect, too. Angel turns up again in the Series Finale of Buffy, ready to help fight the Big Bad, but Buffy immediately sends him away so he can prepare "a second front" in Los Angeles in case she dies.
- In the second Superman radio series this was sort of averted, Superman DID stay out of Gotham, but Batman was in that continuity living in Metropolis too. Team-ups with Batman, Robin and Superman were common, mind you.
- The Spider-Man games for the PlayStation:
- There are appearances by several NYC-based heroes in the cutscenes to express their sympathy at his frame-up but who are of no help at all. Daredevil leaves to "spread the word" about his innocence right before the NYPD swoops down to arrest the wallcrawler. Spidey naturally refuses The Punisher's' offer of help knowing his penchant for bloody murder.
- Averted in past and later games, where Spidey has had a surprisingly large number of allies. The 4-player arcade game featured Namor, Hawkeye and the Black Cat as the other three playable characters. His first Game Boy game featured the X-Men. In Maximum Carnage and Seperation Anxiety, Venom was an optional playable character while several hero icons popped up throughout both games, summoning characters like Captain America, Firestar, Daredevil and more in order to help the player. Finally, Web of Shadows has Wolverine, Luke Cage, and Moon Knight as summonable allies who feature largely in the plot.
- Batman: Arkham Asylum:
- The game invokes it, by having the Joker specifically announce that if he sees anyone in a cape besides Batman on the grounds, he's going to detonate the bombs he has scattered around the city.
- There's a subtle hint in the game that Batman is a greater threat to the mooks than someone like Superman. One of the mooks mentions moving to Metropolis, guarded by the Man Of Steel himself, as a favourable career move. This is likely because, due to Superman's strength, he can easily restrain criminals without having to punch them unconscious.
- Batman: Arkham City, not so much. In fact, Robin's brief appearance is just to be told off by Batman, so Gotham is saved by Batman and Catwoman despite the fact that the Justice League would have been all over it even without Bruce calling for help at the start of act 5.
- On the subject of videogames, the Batman-related games among the Lego adaptation games break this trend: while the first Lego Batman played this trope straight by featuring only Gotham characters, the sequel, the aptly titled Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes makes it quite clear it averts the trope by having, well, the rest of the DCU joining in. And the game actually lampshades the entire concept by having Superman just casually drop by and save the day, pissing off Batman greatly and telling Robin don't expect Superman to swoop in and save the day every time. When The Joker and Lex Luthor invade the Batcave, Batman begrudgingly lets Robin call out to Superman, but when he doesn't immediately show up, Batman goes to tell him I Told You So, but ends up being saved at the last minute. At the end of the game, the entire Justice League shows up to save the day, making Batman realize that sometimes, outside help IS needed.
- Averted in Injustice: Gods Among Us. The prequel comic starts with Superman and Batman talking in Metropolis. Later, The Joker causes trouble in Metropolis and tthe Justice League tries to deal with him. They fail, and his plan to kill Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane and ultimately all of Metropolis goes off without a hitch. This leads to the dystopia years later in the main game, where Superman has taken over the world Knight Templar style along with other fallen heroes and Batman leads other heroes in the La Résistance against Superman's forces.
- An interesting variation. In a NES video game starring The Flintstones, Fred and the others travel to the future in search of their pets and run into George Jetson. Despite being his time frame, he tells Fred he can't help out because Spacely Sprockets is in the middle of their own crisis that he has to fix himself.
- Fans!. A huge mish-mash of tropes includes a sci-fi organization with teleporters and rayguns chasing down Osama Bin Laden. Or so they thought. Their hearts were in the right place. 'Osama' didn't even have one.
- Somewhat justified in Iron Man: Armored Adventures - As a High School AU, despite taking place in New York most of Tony's super-hero counterparts are probably not of age (Black Panther, in his appearance, was still just a teenager, and Iron Fist is mentioned as a local teen martial arts champion), and the adult characters who make appearances are otherwise uninterested or unable to in help Tony out (Nick Fury and SHIELD views Iron Man as a vigilante threat, The Hulk was in one of his rampaging moods during his appearance, Captain America is still apparently frozen, Black Widow and Hawkeye had yet to do their Heel-Face Turn.) It starts to fall apart in the second season where Doctor Doom and Magneto show up, but neither the Fantastic Four member nor X-Men do. Jean Grey does show up as a teenager and is clearly shown to not yet be a superhero or member of the X-Men. It's possible that the team hadn't even been put together by that point. Though Word of God states that Wolverine at least would have shown up had the series been given a third season.
- Teen Titans:
- The Titans never even mention their adult counterparts, at least not by name. Even when the fate of the world is at stake, and every teen-aged hero on Earth has been captured except for half-a-dozen C-list Titans, no one thinks to let Superman know what's happening. This despite the presence of characters like Robin, Aqualad and Speedy.
- The League wasn't even mentioned when Trigon made a successful planet-side takeover. Neither were the Titans East. There's Die or Fly, and then there's this. This specific case may be justified by those who read the source story, showing the other superheroes were petrified when Trigon's dimension began absorbing Earth.
- Batman is the only "adult" superhero that actually appears, or is even made reference to, but it's in one of the cartoon-based comics. The main heroes of the DC Universe do show up more often in the comics that the show was based off of.
- The reason for this is at the time, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation had a policy of "protecting" characters for other productions— a character couldn't appear in one show if another show already had dibs. While Teen Titans was running, for example, it had dibs on Robin, so Robin couldn't appear in Justice League or The Batman, and no Batman characters could appear on Justice League, since The Batman had dibs on them. Ironically, this ban included Harley Quinn, a character who was created for one of the shows that Justice League was a continuation of. Batman was grandfathered into Justice League by virtue of being a main and popular character, but the only other exceptions were Speedy's guest appearance in Justice League and, technically, Kid Flash's appearances in Teen Titans, as both he and Justice League's= Flash were obviously Wally West. Both ''Justice League''[='s Speedy and Teen Titans's Kid Flash were clearly based on the other show's version of the character, going so far as to use the same voice actors.
- Justice League Unlimited
- Superman: The Animated Series:
- "Girls' Night Out", an episode of The New Batman Adventures, gender-flips as well as subverts it when Livewire escapes to Gotham (and runs into Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy). In response, Supergirl must team up with Batgirl to stop the trio.
- Averted in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, where other heroes often pop up to help the team. The Grand Finale has the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, War Machine, Black Widow, Winter Soldier, The Falcon, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and other New York-based heroes aiding the Avengers in the final battle against Galactus.
- Similarly, Ultimate Spider-Man often has Spidey teaming up with any one of the numerous superheroes who live in New York City. This is largely due to Spider-Man often facing villains from other heroes' rogues galleries.
- Lampshaded in Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Night of the Batmen!" Aquaman, Captain Marvel, Green Arrow, and Plastic Man regularly team-up with Batman during the course of the series, but run into numerous obstacles when they try to fight crime in Gotham.
- Young Justice:
- Averted where the Justice League has evolved into an international organization so effective that the villains had to form a Legion of Doom in response, because individually they were no match for the heroes. This even when the League has only twice as many members as they normally do in the comics. Team-ups if anything appear to have become the norm.
- Apparently played straight earlier in their careers. Word of God confirmed that before the League was formed, there was one team-up between Batman and Superman and one between The Flash and Green Lantern, and that was it.
- The Super Hero Squad Show was very specifically designed to avoid this trope. Aside from being Lighter and Softer (and funnier) in general, the series takes place in Super Hero City where all the Earth-based Marvel heroes live (in fact, only a handful of people shown are NOT heroes.) The city is separated from Villainville by a giant wall. All the villains live there. Even though the series mainly focuses on the "Super Hero Squad" composed of Iron Man, Falcon (Spider-Man couldn't be included due to licensing issues with Sony Pictures), Silver Surfer, Reptil, The Mighty Thor, Wolverine, the Incredible Hulk, and later the Scarlet Witch, many episodes had other heroes join in just because they were literally in the neighborhood. One episode involved the Squadies trying to recover the show's MacGuffin from a Bratty Halfpint named Brynnie Bratton. Eventually she ends up being passed around like a football by random heroes and villains alike such as Colossus, Ms. Marvel, Juggernaut, various members of the Avengers, the Wrecking Crew, The Fantastic Four, Dr. Doom, Abomination, M.O.D.O.K., Storm, Sabertooth, and numerous others along with the Squadies themselves all trying to stop the other side just to get the tiara she's wearing. By the end of the first season, most of these same heroes did whatever they could to stop Galactus from going on an eating binge.
- The American Voltron franchise has King Zarkon of Planet Doom as a vassal of the Drule empire from the Vehicle Voltron series. Given how many times Zarkon and Lotor have had their butts kicked by the Lion Force Voltron, as well as their overall untrustworthiness, it raises the question as to why the Drules haven't sent a fleet or two to planet Doom to effect a change in management. Also, the Drule robeasts that regularly fail to destroy the Vehichle Voltron and the Explorer fleet are nowhere in the same league as Haggar's magical robeasts. Why didn't they enlist Haggar's expertise in fighting the Explorer and Vehicle Voltron? Especially given that VV, being an Earth knockoff imitation, was obviously technologicagally inferior to the definitely Magi Tech Lion Voltron. Additionally, the Drules were looking for a new planet as their home planet was doomed. Why couldn't they just go to planet Doom whether Zarkon liked it or not? The real-life reason for this, of course, is due to the fact that Lion Force Voltron and Vehicle Voltron are based on two separate original anime.
- Phineas and Ferb save Summer features the entire world being put in peril of a new ice age. Earlier, the Avengers and Kim Possible appeared in the show showing they are part of a Shared Universe. This was an incident that involved the entire world that everyone knew about so these other characters couldn't be accused of staying out of Danville.