The superhero as an ideally good person. Generally associated with older protagonists
, before whenever the latest round of deconstruction
happened, and often invokes elements of the Messianic Archetype
. Has now become nigh-synonymous with the "classic" Super Hero
Capes don't need to actually wear
capes, although a distinct outfit and some kind of special ability is part of the image. The most important feature is these heroes adhere
to a strict code of honor
and sense of authority
; capes can be notoriously inflexible and perceive things in black and white
, and even be painfully straightforward and selfless
. They often downplay their own heroism
and will act heroically even when no one will know
. They almost universally subscribe to Thou Shalt Not Kill
. Capes usually have secret identities
, but make public appearances in costume and actively try to keep a good public image.
One major reason for this is it serves as self-imposed safety to keep them from abusing their powers. Most Capes have Evil Counterparts
who do whatever they want and eventually devolve into villains
. A second is to set an example for others to follow, as in the page quote and image quote.
Capes are usually born with their powers, or get them in a unique fashion
(or are given them to act as champions of Good
). Though this is not absolutely necessary; its the mindset (or self-preception) that's critical.
Capes are contrasted with the past two decades
' emergence of vigilantes and Anti Heroes
who have become more extreme
(sometimes to ludicrous effect), mainly as a response to the perception of comic books as "kid stuff." Nearly all Super Hero
series eventually address the idea that Capes and Badass Normals
have unspoken issues: Capes can impose their morality because they have the power to back them up. In a setting where these two types of heroes coexist, The Cape usually considers the latter to be unstable, amoral Smug Supers
. In more cynical
universes, the Smug Super
might consider himself to be a Cape, but very much isn't.
If they do have powers, expect a Flying Brick
This trope is named, appropriately enough, for Oliver Queen
's term for certain superheroes, as opposed to Badass Normals
who live otherwise relatively mundane lives.
See Superheroes Wear Capes
for the actual wearing of capes.
to Ideal Hero
Compare the Knight in Shining Armor
(the medieval version of this character), Captain Patriotic
, The Paragon
Contrast Nineties Anti-Hero
Compare and contrast with The Cowl
If you're looking for NBC
's cancelled series of the same name, go here
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Anime and Manga
- Lazenby, from Rave Master was made as a parody of this.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Sayaka Miki declares herself an ally of justice who will keep the city 'super safe'. She is one of the few magical girls who fights familiars in addition to witches to reduce the number of muggles that are killed by them, and of the five main characters her Magical Girl outfit is the only one with an actual cape. Homura explains why these magical girls are always the first to die or corrupt. Because they fight familiars (who don't drop grief seeds) they engage many more battles which means more chances to die in battle. Also, it taxes their magic supply which accelerates the rate at which their soul gem darkens. Because they run on lofty ideals like selflessness and heroism and justice, they are more vulnerable to despair, which turns them into witches .
- Mr. Legend and Sky High from Tiger & Bunny. Kotetsu wants to be this but his destructive approach to justice usually gets in the way.
- In an interesting turn of events Mr. Legend turns up to be a Subversion of this trope, and while well-intentioned, Sky High is a bit of a ditz.
- Fate Testarossa of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha spends one or two seasons as a Dark Magical Girl. Flash forward 10 years in StrikerS and she's a Lawful Good law enforcer donning a white cape instead of her old completely black attire. Out of the main trio, she is the most classically heroic and focused on enforcing justice and has neither Hayate's trickster attitude nor Nanoha's Blood Knight characteristic. This is also evident in the climax of StrikerS, where she gets the honor of punching out and arresting the Big Bad.
- Son Goku of Dragon Ball, especially in later stories. He flies on a cloud that only supports the pure of heart; he is a firm believer that Rousseau Was Right, always sparing his enemies and often turning them into friends. He respects the pride of an individual, yet draws the line when that pride would hurt others; he always keeps his promise, no matter how little he understood when making it; and, above all, he never demands recognition or fame, instead preferring to live quietly and discreetly with his wife and sons, and then emerge from nothingness when the world - or even the universe - needs saving once more.
- Superman is usually considered the most famous modern example of a Cape. He could just about be considered the Trope Namer; the fact that he wears a cape is one of the main reasons why capes are associated with costumed superheroes.
- In the Novelization of Kingdom Come, Wonder Woman probes his reasons for being so visible. He easily could have done all of his superhero work anonymously instead of "showing off like Apollo". Superman replied that he felt that "an ounce of prevention" would do more good preventing crime. She counters that that was the source of all of the other metahumans' desire to do good - through his example.
- Oddly enough, the classic Cape on Justice League Unlimited isn't Superman, but golden-age boy scout Captain Marvel. The series also frequently has subplots involving Superman's motivations and temptations despite being The Cape everyone looks up to.
- To some extent it depends on the writer exactly how different The Big Red Cheese and Billy Batson actually are (they talk about each other in the third person, but there's substantial overlap). Given that Billy, even if he's not literally a Boy Scout, certainly tries to be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent, it makes a certain amount of sense that his super-powered alter ego is usually shown to be pretty much pegged at one edge of the sliding scale from idealism to cynicism.
- Kyle Rayner once observed that Captain Marvel is essentially 10-year old Billy Batson's concept of the perfect adult, made real.
- Silver Age The Flash Barry Allen. A CSI with Super Speed powers, a trained police officer, and founding member of the Justice League of America, he sacrificed himself to save the multiverse in a last ditch attempt to defeat the Anti-Monitor, this was one of the longest lasting comicbook hero deaths until "he got better" in Final Crisis.
- Batman holds himself to enough standards that he is often closer to this than an Anti-Hero, just more on the pragmatic side. But regardless, there's a reason his comics are the Trope Namer for Joker Immunity.
- When Superman was dead, Steel took up the role of The Cape and fought "to keep the spirit of Superman alive." Many readers thought he was an even better Cape than the Man himself.
- The Martian Manhunter is arguably also a better cape than the codifier, as he is the most well-loved superhero in the entire southern hemisphere of Earth, and he is (Depending on the Writer, of course), more powerful than Supes.
- Nightwing is considered one of the greatest capes in the entire DC universe (right up there with Superman himself) as he's one of the most experienced superheroes who ever operated (having started around age twelve). Even Superman and Batman are willing to defer to him on occasion.
- Cassandra Cain* is a very surprising example of a Cape. If you only read her very troubled backstory, you'd think she'd be an Anti-Hero Substitute for Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. But her experiences shaped her into being a very idealistic character instead of an anti-hero.
- A number of the early DC heroes from the Justice Society of America era were and often still are this trope, most notably Green Lantern/Sentinel and the original Flash.
- Captain America is probably Marvel's best capeless Cape. As a youth, he tried out for World War II, but was rejected on physical grounds, so he volunteered to be a guinea pig in a military experiment. He did not know there had already been successful trials, and the risk was much less than is commonly advertised; the experiment turned him into a soldier with physical and mental capabilities very slightly above peak human. In the modern era (how he survived is another story), he is such a tactical and moral exemplar that while powerless and wielding nothing more than an indestructible shield that doesn't obey the laws of physics, he leads a team consisting of powerhouses like Thor, Iron Man, Wonder Man, Ms. Marvel, and the rest of "Earth's Mightiest Heroes".
- Further punctuating his status as The Cape, Cap makes it clear on numerous occasions that he doesn't stand for America as a nation specifically, but for "the Dream", to the point where he's willing to fight and die for his beliefs against his own government.
- And on a different note, as a young artist he liked to sketch a muscular costumed man called "American Eagle". Later, once it turned out that he would be the only Super Soldier, his remaining experimenters stole the sketches and made a costume based on them. It did not include a cape, unlike the sketch, despite Steve writing "Has to be a cape. So boss!". Much later in the Seventies, when Steve despairs at the corruption of his country, he takes a new identity and sews a new costume, this one caped. Promptly he tripped on that cape, tore it off, and it was never seen again.
- Spider-Man is Marvel's second greatest Capeless Cape after Captain America, he radiates the ideals of responsibility and hope for others. He once was originally a young man whose goal was just to get into university and study science, while on an excursion to a museum he was bitten by a venomous spider, having no life taking effects but instead turning him into a man who now possesses spidery features. Then once having control over the power he now possesses he must arise at every moment where his city and loved ones may run into danger. Like Cap, Spidey is Marvel's most trusted and beloved heroes in the franchise, and one of the friendliest and selfless of the entire heroic roster. Many heroes including Cap, enjoy his presence along with his heroism, determination and light heartedness due to the fact he is the heart of the Marvel Universe.
- Todd McFarlane's Spawn subverts the cape image with minor characters repeatedly pointing out how "faggy" Spawn's superhero outfit looks. Also, he's very much a Nineties Anti-Hero.
- Justice of the New Warriors.
- Captain Metropolis in the backstory of Watchmen is the closest to emulating the mold... but of course, this is Watchmen. He's noted to have been racist, and was in a homosexual relationship with Hooded Justice. Among the main characters, Ozymandias is a deconstruction of the Cape.
- The Comedian is a very brutal deconstruction of the Cape,
- Both Nite Owls would also qualify. The first Nite Owl is actually closest to being a conventional superhero out of the whole group.
- Based on the first Nite Owl's description of him in "Under The Hood", Dollar Bill seems pretty close to being one too. And he actually wears a cape... unfortunately for him.
- Samaritan in Astro City.
- Hyperion of the Squadron Supreme.
- In Irredeemable, the Plutonian was seen as one of these until his Face-Heel Turn. The comic book series is essentially exploring what would happen both is Superman went bad and, by extension, what would happen if someone who ultimately didn't have the moral fibre to be The Cape was given this role.
- Bright, Cheery, Mentally-Sound Man from Dark, Brooding, Mentally-Disturbed Man. An "evil" counterpart to DBMD Man (even though they're both vaguely good-ish), BCMS Man is trusting and gentle to a fault. In that he believes violence is not the answer when dealing with armed lunatics and gives mad scientists a stern talking to before escorting them back to their hidden volcano bases to think about what they've done.
- The eponymous Empowered might well qualify. For all her faults and frailties, she knows what's right, and will go to tremendous lengths to do just that. In the last story in issue 5, she's willing to very probably die to save Mindf*** , and she only slightly knows the other woman. Mindf*** had to resort to using mind control to force Empowered to save herself instead.
- In Johnny SaturnJohnny Saturn I is a cape, due primarily to his reputation for integrity and his unwillingness to compromise. The Utopian, especially later in the series, is a cape, and his father Elect is the archetypical cape.
- The title of Thom Zahler's independent comic-book sitcom Love and Capes says it all. Issue 10 reveal some practical reasons for superheroes to wear capes.
- Thundermind of DC's Great Ten fulfills this archetype despite lacking a cape. As a result, he's the only member of the Great Ten deemed capable of being a media darling.
- Atlas in PS238.
- Cyclops in X-Men, though Depending on the Writer. Some play up his 'boy scout' image, others play up his 'emotionally conflicted and badass leader' image, so he varies on either a cape in charge of the group, or a somewhat reckless, Crazy-Prepared Four Star Bad Ass that often makes him look like a Jerk Ass. In general, the most consistent thing about Cyclops is that he is a skilled field leader that lacks the natural charisma of a true "Cape".
- The Mighty Thor is another Marvel Comics Cape.
- Another Marvel one is The Sentry. When he's sane. In theory.
- He wants to be one, and his Sentry persona is essentially the expression of his desire to be Marvel's answer to Superman. Unfortunately, his Superpowered Evil Side is having none of it.
- All Fall Down has the superhero veteran, Paradigm. Of all the victims of the Fall, he handles it best.
- Supergirl, is traditionally very much a Cape. During the Silver Age in particular she was one of the most caring and humble superheroes, perhaps more so than her cousin himself since for her first few years she had to do her heroism in secret.
- Deconstructed in Power & Glory: while A-Pex may appear to be an all-American blonde, blue-eyed, virtuous superhero, in reality he's nothing of the sort — the guy is actually a government-created nationalist fantasy whose fear of germs leaves him incapable of fighting anyone, and it's his handler who has to take care of things from behind the scenes.
- The titular character in Captain America: The First Avenger. The movie is able to play this trope straight, and beautifully so, by giving him a deep need to prove himself and making him adorkable.
- The trope is also played straight in The Avengers where Cap gives Tony Stark a lecture about his selfishness and lonewolf behaviour.
- Which gets turned around at the end, when Tony is actively working with the other Avengers while battling all over New York and ends up nearly performing a Heroic Sacrifice, only being saved at the last moment by the Hulk.
- MegaMind. Metro Man is the quintessential Cape with a strong dash of Smug Super. Turns out it was a facade, and he was a completely burned out Stepford Smiler, and needed a change.
- As should be expected, Christopher Reeve as Superman played this straight as well.
- Captain Carrot of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. He has no overtly superhuman abilities, but he combines a strong sense of justice with a fountain of charisma — he assumes that everyone else is basically a decent person, and somehow, they can't help but live up to his expectations.
- Of course Carrot is only defined as not overtly superhuman by local in-universe standards; he still has a punch that trolls respect and his sword, while "quite the most unmagical sword" most people have ever seen, can stab several inches into a stone pillar. Through someone else. He was raised by dwarfs, who are tougher than humans and stronger pound for pound, and had to get stronger to keep up.
- Sarah the titular character in Tales of an Mazing Girl. But that's just the character she plays. On the inside shes a snarky, and egotistcally Self Satisfed . But she hides it as the Big Good . Or maybe thats who she really is.
- Tycho Celchu. He's a brilliant pilot but not superhuman. What makes him a Cape - well, there's an exchange in Wedge's Gamble that illustrates it.
: "So, you don't even know, really, if you are an Imperial agent
waiting to happen or not?"
Celchu: "I know I'm not. Being able to prove it is something else again."
Horn: "But being constantly under suspicion, that's got to wear on you. Why put up with it? How can you put up with it?"
Celchu: "I put up with it because I must. Enduring it is the only way I can be allowed to fight back against the Empire. If I were to walk away from the Rebellion, if I were to sit the war out, I would have surrendered to the fear of what Ysanne Isard might, might, have done to me. Without firing a shot she would have made me as dead as Alderaan, and I won't allow that. There's nothing in what I have to live with on a daily basis that isn't a thousand times easier than what I survived at the hands of the Empire. Until the Empire is dead, I can never truly be free because I'll always be under suspicion. Living with minor restrictions now means someday no one has to fear me."
- Wedge, his CO, probably qualifies too. One example: during the Borleias evacuation, the shuttle he's supposed to ride out is destroyed, so he grabs a damaged X-Wing from the vehicle bay. A freighter warns him of nearby Vong ground troops, so he goes and destroys them. Then, while escorting the transport up, they're jumped by a squadron (12, for those of you keeping score at home) of Vong fighters. Wedge proceeds to pull them off the freighter and annihilate the squad, losing his shields in the process. Another squadron catches up to the freighter in this time, and Wedge pulls them away too, despite knowing that there's no possible way he can win. ..except the Rogues showing up.
Gavin Darklighter: "Blackmoon Eleven, what did you think you were doing going after an entire squadron?"
Wedge: "My job."
- Subverted viciously in Minister Faust's Journal of Dr. Brain. Omnipotent Man is a semi literate idiot, The Flying Squirrel is a racist, Iron Maiden is a self-loathing depressive etc.
- Played straight in the Nightside novels with Julian Advent, who could've been another Dr. Jekyll, but chose to drink a formula that brought his Good side to the fore instead.
- In Aaron Allston's Galatea in 2-D, Captain Steele, a full blown superhero. Roger drew him in order to have a really powerful ally but discovered it took too much to get him out of the painting. Uses him in the end, though whereupon Kevin kills him with an Evil Weapon. Roger reveals that he didn't bring him out, he brought Kevin into his painting.
- Gently subverted in Wearing the Cape. The more powerful and photogenic superheroes are major media celebrities, who often publicly play to the Golden Age Hero stereotype and have whole marketing campaigns and PR departments to back them up.
- Of course, Atlas did start out as, and remained, pretty much the closest thing they had to The Cape. This was even lampshaded when Astra comments you could have put a big S on his chest and dared someone to claim it wasn't appropriate.
- Trapped on Draconica: Daniar is a Flying Brick who enforces her father the king's justice. More than simple fighting she tries to set a moral example with her insistence of showing mercy to her enemies instead of killing them.
- Michael Carpenter from The Dresden Files, although he'd never trivialize his work as a Knight of the Cross by comparing it to comic-book superheroism, fits this trope.
- Knights have all the virtues, including humility. When Harry has repeatedly compared him to everything from Superman to Dudley Do-Right, Michael has usually seemed to actually find it moderately funny, somewhat complimentary, and not in the least embarrassing. Which pretty much doubles down on the trope.
- Stannis Baratheon of A Song of Ice and Fire is what would happen if a non-superhero Cape existed in real life. He stands for truth and justice, but comes off a vengeful Jerk Ass. He always does his duty but has little to show for it which fuels his quest for the throne. He wants to bring peace to the realm and the people in it, but has no problem sacrificing a few to save all.
- American Eagle, of Legacy The Tale Of The American Eagle. His idealism and code of "No One Dies", (even when running through Vietnamese jungle after a drug cartel and getting repeadtedly ambushed), annoys the team of mercenaries accompanying him to no end.
Live Action TV
- The Crash Test Dummies song "Superman's Song" is actually a fairly interesting, in that it contrasts Superman with Tarzan, to explore the concept of The Cape, as sort of a Reconstruction of the concept before Deconstruction of it became popular.
- Parodied in Calvin and Hobbes with Stupendous Man, whose powers (not counting his costume) exist only in Mild-Mannered Calvin's imagination, and whose actual motives are purely selfish.
- Optimus Prime, from any incarnation of the Transformers franchise, is a non-superhero example, somewhat like Carrot above but played a great deal straighter. To be fair, Optimus and the rest of his race do fall under the Super Robot category, so to us Puny Earthlings, he seems pretty strong... But his respect for sentient life, his inspiring oratory, his dedication to justice, his courage in the face of impossible odds, as well as being one of the finest warriors and most well-constructed Transformers in history... He's a shining example of this trope, and a beacon of light in a war without end.
- A much less publicized character called Countdown is, if possible, even more so. He's no more powerful than Optimus (though his recent Ultra-class figure gives ridiculous statistics for him), but in attitude, morality, determination, intelligence, and so on, he's sort of a cross between Captain Picard, Superman, Thor (from Stargate SG-1), and Carl Sagan.
- The central figure of the "mythology" behind City of Heroes, Statesman, is a classic Cape. Strict moral code, no-kills rule, monochrome vision, enforces his code upon others and backs it up with literally demigod-like powers. Naturally, he comes complete with an Evil Counterpart, Lord Recluse.
- He is also canonically over 100 years old and has been in the superhero business since the 1920s. So being a little jaded and tired of it all is somewhat understandable.
- Ky Kiske from the Guilty Gear series exemplifies this, minus the actual cape. Always standing up for peace and justice, his flaw is his primarily black-and-white view that leads him to be at odds with the lawless-yet-positive Sol Badguy.
- In many RPGs the player can become The Cape, examples include the Fallout series, Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic.
- Haran Banjo and Rom Stol get turned into these in Super Robot Wars. When all seems lost, Haran Banjo will arrive on the scene (sometimes with a distinct yell of "DAIITAAAARN...COME HERE!!!") and will deliver his Bad Ass Creed and Boast of how Daitarn 3 is here to smash evil ambitions (along with fixing whatever the problem was). Rom Stol one ups this by always interrupting the villain with a yell of "MATE!" (HALT!) before going into a speech about justice, love, punishment et al., sometimes in improbable places (like on top of the stage boss' cockpit). Inevitably, he will be asked who he is, whereupon he declares that they "do not deserve to know [his] name."
- The Warrior of Light was made out to be a MASSIVE cape in Dissidia: Final Fantasy. He's unwaveringly loyal to Cosmos, flatly shoots down Ultimecia's Hannibal Lecture, and even vows to save his Evil Counterpart Garland from his fate. No wonder Cosmos' Batman Gambit worked so well.
- Mario. He may be something of a Flat Character, but his defining quality is his unrelenting altruism. He is an incorruptible do-gooder. He even gets a cape in Super Mario World.
- While the "No kill" rule is obviously not in effect, even before the final battle and possible Heroic Sacrifice to save all the advanced species in the entire galaxy, now and in the future of Mass Effect 3, a completely (or close to it) paragon Commander Shepard is damn near worshiped as a deity by multiple species and civilizations across the galaxy for his/her altruism, courage, and decency.
- And in the Extended Cut DLC, The Control Ending shows that Shepard's personality can live on as an actual cybernetic deity that is dedicated to protecting and helping all life, real and synthetic, in the galaxy.
- Like Superman, Paragon Shepard's best friend is the Mass Effect universe's equivalent of Batman, Garrus Vakarian. It's lampshaded in the third game that when they work together they make an unstoppable team.
- Bob and George. George, though, sometimes has to be reminded
- In "The Adventures of Gyno-Star" Gyno-Star embodies a feminist version of the trope, attempting to abide by a strict feminist code (although often failing).
- Several characters in the Johnny Saturn series could qualify, but the most blatant is The Utopian, the local Superman Expy, he's one of the series' most moral characters, and his powers are actually fueled by his idealism, the one time he (completely accidentally) breaks the Thou Shalt Not Kill rule, he is Brought Down to Normal instantly. He claims he's powered by his "Devotion to the Utopian ideal", but it's never made clear if he lost his powers for breaking the code, or if his guilt and horror over doing so caused him to somehow shut his powers off since genuinely believed he didn't deserve them.
- For reference, the guy he killed was a supervillain, who had killed dozens of people and was responsible for multiple atrocities, and the killing itself was a complete accident. No-one would blame him or deny it was justified, but Utopian still views it as My Greatest Failure,and, for a while, his Moral Event Horizon.
- Plus he wears a white and gold costume, and defeats a Face-Heel Turn-ed friend of his by forgiving him and flying away, since he believed the guy would do the right thing, he is not only one hundred percent sincere, he's also completely right!
- The unashamedly corny and Silver-Agey Lady Spectra of Lady Spectra And Sparky.
- Elliot of El Goonish Shive is brave, kind, chivalrous, and is the most straight up-and-down member of the eight True Companions. He hates injustice and bullying more than anything else, and his greatest fear is that he might begin to do bad things.
- From the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, there's Ultra-Man, The Golden Marvel, Centennial, Empyrion, Thunder, Champion, Dharma, Kismet, Shaktimaan, Scanner, Protonik, Paladin, and El Grifo Rojo, just to name a few. Somewhat subverted by The Aryan (a white supremacist NPC crimefighter who most of the players hated to deal with).
- Subverted in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog with Captain Hammer, who is treated like a cape by most characters, even though he is really a Jerk Jock.
- In Worm, anyone who dons a costume is referred to as a 'Cape' though few indeed fit the actual trope. However there are several clear examples, Legend is a crystal clear case. Chevalier and several other heroes may well be examples and a couple of the Brockton Bay Wards fit as well. Most unusually though, the main character herself is very close to fitting, avoiding it mostly through disliking authority and simple answers.
- The titular villainess of Interviewing Leather has nothing but respect for the "old school" superheroes.
- The <3-Verse has Mr Perfect of the Brat Pack as a Cape-in-Training, as well as Thunderbolt and Uncle Sam as full-fledged Capes.
- In the Whateley Universe, there are plenty. The Headmistress of Whateley Academy is a retired Superhero and very much fits the The Cape trope, even if her current superheroine garb is a body suit without cape. Since she's been fighting villains since 1943, she has a 1940's sensibility about superheroing... along with over sixty years of experience. She still looks early- to mid-thirties.
- And don't forget the 'Future Superheroes of America', better known around the school as... The Cape Squad.
- Unlike his Marvel Universe counterpart, the Sentry of Marvels RPG is The Cape. Other heroes might also qualify, but he stands out.
- Web reviewer The Cartoon Hero uses a heroic persona and a typical cape outfit.