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To Catch Heroes Hire Villains
A dramatic convention that allows The Hero to face off against a Villain, while being hunted as a criminal. Wait, what?

This trope is sometimes used during an In Media Res opening, giving us the twist of surprise that the hero is suspected, or even completely guilty, of breaking the law, or their moral code. It allows the story to continue with the conflict the heroes have with the people they're trying to defeat, even while the cops are now chasing our hero as well.

Our hero is now on the side of criminals and ne'er-do-wells, but there's a way to neatly avoid the issue of attacking police officers, who are only doing their job. Someone in a position of authority goes Recruiting the Criminal from one of the defeated villains. Now their job is to catch the same person they've lost to before. Often rejoicing in being tasked to take out their enemy and cause as much collateral damage as they wish, one of the cops (or even the person who hired them) will question if crossing the Godzilla Threshold was the right thing to do.

The chances, by the way, of the whole thing being a huge frame-up designed to make the heroes look bad are reasonably high.


Examples:

Anime
  • In Outlaw Star, after Hilda steals Melfina and the titular starship from the Kei Pirates, they manage to track her down with help from the MacDougal brothers. A little more ambiguous than hero/villain since both Hilda and the MacDougals live outside the law, but they're certainly more heartless and ruthless than she is, and go on to be one of Gene's worst enemies.

Comics
  • Civil War features Tony Stark hiring legions of supervillains to capture the resisting supers. Thunderbolts is an interesting example because the villains are the protagonists.
  • The original Freedom Force in the Marvel Universe: The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants agreed to serve the U.S. government in exchange for full pardons for their past crimes. Their second mission was to bring in the Avengers, who had been framed by Quicksilver.
  • In Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, President Luthor frames Superman for endangering the Earth and forms a posse of superheroes led by Captain Atom to bring him in—plus he puts Major Force on the team, one of the most sadistic villains around (the phrase "Women in Refrigerators" refers to a murder he committed. He's pretty vile.)
  • Early Spider-Man comics had J. Jonah Jameson hire villains, or in case of the Scorpion help create him in order to try and take down Spider-Man.
  • Tomahawk and his Rangers were the arch-enemies of the British forces in the Revolutionary War. One of the Crown's more successful plots against them involved pardoning notorious criminals — giant strongman Bull, agile thief the Fly, a Native tracker called "the Indian", vicious pirate Captain Salt, and peerless gunman the Highwayman. They easily capture all the Rangers, including Tomahawk himself, though Tomahawk manages to lead an escape as their execution looms.

Video Games
  • In Tin Star for the Super NES, the townspeople elect Black Bart, the game's villain in every previous "day" of gameplay, as sheriff after Tin Star is framed for the murder of a small child. He isn't actually dead.
  • In City of Heroes, one Story Arc has your character become a fugitive (although it doesn't really affect jack, of course). You get ambushed a couple times by Malta and once by a Nemesis group, the former suggested to have actually been hired by the city.

Western Animation
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender :
    • After Toph Beifong commits the crime (as her parents see it) of running away from her family at the age of 12 without telling them where she's going, Toph's dad hires the thug which Aang and co had just spent the half the episode fighting (mainly because he managed the feat of successfully kidnapping Toph and Aang earlier) to track Toph down. It actually works, until Toph manifests an ability that nobody else in written history has ever done and everyone thinks is completely impossible.
    • When Aang disappears near the end of the third season, the rest of the group turn to their newly acquired Lancer to find him. When he asks why, they point out that before his Heel-Face Turn, he had spent two seasons tracking the Avatar down over and over again, and as such is the most qualified one to do it now.
  • In one episode of Batman: The Animated Series, after Batgirl dies (All Just a Dream), Gordon releases Bane to bring in Batman.
  • In Justice League Unlimited, Project Cadmus is a government organisation aimed at creating pre-emptive measures should the Justice League go rogue. It is largely composed of supervillans and is funded by Lex Luthor.

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