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Reality Ensues: Comic Books
  • Kick-Ass starts with repeated uses of this, but moves away from reality as the story continues.
  • The second issue of Mark Millar's Superior has a kid testing out the superpowers of his favorite Superman Expy. He attempts to use his "super-breath" to put out a house fire, only to demolish the house and spread the fire over a much larger area.
  • Before Kick-Ass and Superior, Millar had fun Deconstructing street-level heroes in an issue of The Ultimates. Batman clone Nighthawk tries to stop a gang of teenagers, only to break his ankle during his Dynamic Entrance and end up beaten to a bloody pulp.
    • In the same issue it even deconstructs the concept of a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits by showing how badly a group of people, inexperienced at superheroing, with the exception of one, performs during their first outing as superheroes.
  • A common situation with superheroes since the end of the Silver Age. And it has resulted in some great stories, but fails in others. The problem being that some of the basic tenets of superheroes, namely the ones that require a greater suspension of disbelief, have to be kept in order for the genre to work.
  • Hitman
    • Early, there's a wannabe superhero/anti-hero who is introduced kicking some people's asses, and then a few issues later he is simply shot to death by some mafia guys like he was a joke.
    • There's a similar scene in one of the first issues, where a group of supervillains are hired to confront Tommy. During the leader's dramatic introduction speech, Tommy gets bored and simply guns them all down before they have a chance to attack.
  • Ultimate X-Men's Colossus ended Reality Warper Proteus' reign of terror by... slamming a car down on him.
  • One of Wolverine's greatest vulnerabilities is drowning, particularly as he is so heavy with his metal skeleton. If his brain suffocates, his healing factor can't do anything about that.
  • Similarly, the villain in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers event. Time-travelling jellyfish-totem Gothic Queen versus runaway car. And it rocked.
  • During Warren Ellis' Ultimate Fantastic Four run, the team traveled to Denmark to capture Doctor Doom and turn him over to the U.S. military. The story ended with the Danish military not only protecting Doom, but then forcibly ejecting both the Fantastic Four and the American soldiers from their country. Turns out foreign governments aren't too keen on Americans stomping around their borders and assaulting their citizens without any real legal basis.
  • In an early issue of New Mutants, Dani Moonstar injures her hand after punching out a pair of Viper's guards. While escaping, she notes that they never show you that part when someone punches a bad guy on TV.
  • Every time Wonder Woman and Batman go up against each other. You expect Batman to pull out one of his special contingency plans or gadgets to take her down, because that's what Batman does right? He's after a criminal under her protection! Here they go, this will be good, talking has failed! Epic hero vs hero will ensure. Oh she just blocked his batarangs and punched him off the roof. Wonder Woman is taking down all the members of the Justice League to save them from a prophecy, and Batman has caught on to her! He figures out she is doing this because of a prophecy (by analyzing a hair or something, it's Batman) from an ancient Greek Oracle. Batman does not believe in pre-destined fates, Wonder Woman thinks this is the only way. Batman tries to get her to make a mistake by insulting her, he escapes from her unbreakable lasso! Oh she just threw a rock at his head and punched him out. Huh. That's what you get when a normal person goes up against a Super with no Kryptonite Factor.
  • In an issue of Avengers World, Shang-Chi draws strength from the tales of three warriors from Chinese history: A monk who fought off a squad of his emperor's warriors, a lawman who managed to defeat the assassin who poisoned him, and a peasant girl who single-handedly defended her village from a group of bandits. Despite the inspirational nature of the stories, Shang-Chi later notes that they all come with very unfortunate epilogues: The monk died of a broken heart after realizing he'd been betrayed by the emperor, the lawman defeated his attacker but succumbed to the poison while in a hospital bed, and the peasant girl was murdered after the bandits returned and attacked her while she slept.
  • Famously, when Gwen Stacy was thrown off a bridge and Spider-Man caught her. The sudden stop made her neck break. Word of God says that she was already dead from the shock, and the long fall into the water would have killed her just as well, averting Soft Water too.
    • One Spidey issue had the Vulture try to rob the Daily Bugle. However, he finds that their safe is full of paychecks, and the actual money is in the bank.
    • Also in Back in Black storyline, once Peter learns that the Kingpin was the one who hired the assassin that shot his aunt, he goes straight to the prision where the Kingpin was, but the Kingpin already expected that and is prepared to challenge Spider-Man in combat. While the Kingpin has faced Spider-Man before and often battled him to a draw, the problem is that Spidey always holds back in fear of accidentally killing him, but this time, he doesn't! The result: Kingpin is quickly and badly beaten. As it turned out, no matter how skilled hand-to-hand combatant or how strong Kingpin is, challenging someone who is superhumanly strong and agile, has experience in fighting far stronger opponents and is really mad at you can't possibly end well.
    • Spider-Man was built on a deconstruction of superhero tropes. Because of his superhero activity, Peter Parker has a hard time keeping a regular job or staying current at school, and constantly is hurting for money as a result. Even sales of his photos to the Daily Bugle are subject to the needs of the paper. Peter also has to deal with the emotional stress of being the Un Favorite in his everyday life and (thanks to J. Jonah Jameson's smear campaign against Spider-Man) as a superhero, as well as caring for his elderly Aunt May (who is vulnerable both because she is old and sickly, and because she is Peter's—and therefore Spider-Man's—closest emotional tie).
  • In Common Grounds, Let's You and Him Fight situations between people with superpowers end up with at least one corpse, along with a subsequent trial and lengthy prison term. You do not get a free pass because you were a hero, you do not escape prison every other week to wreak your vengeance or operate as an outlaw vigilante, you do spend several years behind bars and, once released, have to scrounge in the trash for food because an ex-con fresh out of jail for murder has plenty of trouble finding gainful employment. However, on the upside, the death in that fight will inspire the foundation of an international chain of coffee shops where Heroes and Villains can chat amicably over donuts.
  • In Uber, the American superhuman Colossus goes up against his Nazi counterpart Sieglinde. Colossus hasn't been fully enhanced yet, but he's brave, clever and determined...and the fully-enhanced Sieglinde rips him to pieces in a matter of seconds.
  • Irredeemable
    • The Ax-Crazy title character experiences a truly horrible example in a flashback from his early teens. From two miles away he hears his foster mother is about to commit suicide, and gets there in a fraction of a second, intending to stop her. But sound takes almost ten seconds to travel two miles. She had already been dead when he heard her.
    • When he reveals his Secret Identity to his Love Interest, instead of being awestruck by his awesomeness she's freaked out that he deceived her like that and wants nothing more to do with him.
  • In Uncanny Avengers, Rogue absorbs Wonder Man's fantastic strength during a battle with the Grim Reaper. Unfortunately, she lacks any sort of discipline or training when it comes to these new abilities, so she ends up accidentally killing the villain with a single punch.
  • Amusingly one of the first times Empowered comes across as actually being badass. She points out, quite effectively, that driving an SUV at 75 miles an hour into a villain's back is much more effective than hitting him with a thrown one at about 5 miles an hour. This allows her to defeat a villain that the entire superhero squad she's a Butt Monkey for was defeated by. Unfortunately, the car is totaled, leaving her tied up and unable to brag, and her superhero squad walks off, assuming they and the villain knocked each other out. (Forgetting about Empowered in the process.)
  • In the first Sam and Max comic, they're tied up on top of an active volcano and a husky cult leader intends to kill them. The large amount of heat from the volcano causes the cult leader to spontaneously combust. However, the comic decides to play it off as a Deus ex Machina for the sake of humor.
  • In his first battle, Freedom Ring faces the Abomination, Arch-Nemesis of the Hulk. The boy manages to land a few decent blows, before the villain ends the battle with a single punch. It's later stated that were it not for his Reality Warper abilities, Freedom Ring would never have been able to walk again.
  • In an issue of X-Factor, Monet is ambushed by mercenaries. How do they dispose of her? Some advanced Super Science weaponry? An old fashioned superhero brawl? Nah, they just sneak up behind her and chloroform her, since having super strength doesn't actually affect your respiratory system.
  • Likewise, it's been shown that her teammate Siryn can be subdued by an assailant who uses little more than some good old-fashioned duct tape. Turns out a sonic scream isn't all that useful if you can't actually open your mouth.
  • This is the central premise of Watchmen: what happens to superheroes when Reality Ensues? What becomes of people who dress up in costumes but 1: They have no proper training or resources, 2: They're all at least a little unbalanced, and 3 (most importantly): They are taking the law into their own hands in a world just as full of political and social complexities as the real world? They die. They go insane (presuming they weren't insane already). Or they become monsters.
    • The first Nite Owl was in fact a police officer during his day job, so he at least was properly trained and had official authority if he chose to use it. He's also the Only Sane Man among either generation of superheroes.
    • In the latter's autobiography, he casually mentions that once the "costumed hero" phase hit its peak, most costumed villains simply gave up entirely or became regular criminals because, honestly, what's the point?
  • Similarly, The Boys works on a decidedly more realistic take on superheroes. They have PR agents and are fighting over defense contracts, among other things. It's shown that The Seven [DC analogues] spend most of their time being faces for the Mega Corp., doing very little, if any, actual hero work, since there are no villains to fight. The one time they actually try to fight evil, The Seven find out very quickly that having superpowers doesn't automatically mean they know how to fight crime. Cue September 11.
  • Ultimate Avengers
  • In one of the Secret Invasion tie-in issues, Shanna the She-Devil tries to mug a female SHIELD agent for her uniform. Unfortunately, the karate chop Shanna uses to knock the woman out (often portrayed as non-lethal in most uses of this trope) ends up accidentally breaking her neck and killing her instantly. However, it turns out the agent was actually a Skrull, so it's okay. I guess.
  • Ant-Man: Season One tries to portray the realistic dangers behind an untrained person using Size Shifter powers. For instance, on his first outing, Pym is nearly killed and eaten by a spider.
  • The Transformers: A "virus" of smaller robots is released on earth, which quickly infect the Autobots and Decepticons stationed there. Several expendable Autobot prisoners are sent to earth by the Decepticons to spray acid on the infected. Instead, a cure is discovered, water. The water causes the small bots, Scraplets, to fall off of the transformers. The Scraplets then merge into a larger creature with a Hive Mind. Spraying it with water just makes the creature fall apart, but it easily reassembles itself. So the Autobots just free the Decepticons, who use their weapons to butcher, blast, and set the creature on fire. Miracle cure or not, shooting the damn thing was pretty effective. One of the formerly infected Autobots then grabs the acid and douses the creature with it, killing it for good.
  • As a result of his high exposure to radioactive Kryptonite, Lex Luthor eventually got cancer. Hey—human or superhuman, a radioactive rock is a radioactive rock. The irony is that it was thought to be without any effect on humans, except that Lex was exposed to more Kryptonite than any other human alive. (Batman has the sense to carry his tiny piece of Kryptonite in a concealed lead-lined box. Lex, being an arrogant tool, just had to flaunt his Kryptonite on a ring.)
  • Hawkeye
    • The very first issue opens with this. Clint falls from a great height and manages to catch himself with a grappling arrow... but still suffers some pretty severe injuries and ends up in the hospital for six weeks.
    • In another issue, Kate tapes up and gags Madame Masque and steals her costume. It's shown that she needs to use padding and a wig to complete the disguise, since her body type doesn't really resemble Masque's.
    • That same story shows the risk of breaking into a room through the window. All of those glass shards lying around hurt.
  • Dilbert joined a society dedicated to the preservation of an endangered squirrel. The idea was to tranq the last male and mate it with the last female.note  Dilbert's team get to work, they fire the tranq from the rifle from a few feet away, there's a Reaction Shot of their Oh Crap faces, and then one of them points out that, perhaps, they should've used a smaller dart.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise, a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender , the plot revolves around the fact that there will be a difficult peace process following a century-long war in which many people died and some land changed hands. Even if both sides are headed by well-intentioned individuals, there remains the potential for conflict to reopen.
  • During the Batman: Hush storyline, at the start of the story Batman's rope for his grappling gun is cut, causing him to fall toward the ground. He manages to grab onto a nearby statue... except that just causes his arm to snap like a twig due to the inertia of the fall. Then the old, worn-out statue breaks under Batman's added weight and Batman plummets into the alley below. He breaks his fall somewhat but still ends up fracturing or breaking half the bones in his body. His injuries from a fall from which people regularly walk away in comics result in him nearly dying.
  • There's a very similar example in "Marshal Law Takes Manhattan", in which a psychotic parody of Daredevil is falling to his death from a skyscraper and manages to grab hold of a flagpole protruding from the building... whereupon the inertia rips his arms off.
  • In an issue of Superboy from the New 52, Superboy offers to fly a woman home. Shown from Superboy's perspective, it seems to be a normal trip, but when they arrive, the woman throws up and is extremely upset. Superboy then realizes that he flew at super speed without any thought to the fact that people aren't invulnerable or used to such things.
  • A similar scene takes place in Ultimate Comics: Wolverine when Quicksilver grabs onto Jimmy and then runs at superhuman speeds. Quicksilver is protected thanks to his mutation, but the wind speeds tear Jimmy's body to shreds, with only his Healing Factor saving his life.
  • The final run of Punisher MAX shows us exactly what kind of a toll a 30+ year war on the criminal underworld can have on your mind and body. It makes you old, slow, arthritic, unable to shrug off injuries that would barely phase you years before, and that much more prone to slipping up. And the more you slip up, the less intimidating you are to the criminal underworld you hunt.
    • In an earlier arc, "The Slavers", The Punisher decides to attack a group of former Bosnian soldiers turned sex-slavers. A huge deal is made in earlier stories about how Castle's success rate owes mainly to his opponents being street hoods and armed thugs who're only good at intimidating people... but not this time. Castle quickly realizes his mistake when the men he's firing on quickly and methodically get under cover and start firing back, and is quickly forced to flee for his life. Turns out it doesn't matter how much of a badass you are: when you're facing combat-hardened soldiers, twenty to one are really, really bad odds.
  • In Forever Evil issue 1, Ultraman pushes the moon into the sun to create a solar eclipse. In Black Manta's Villain's Month issue, Ultraman's act causes tides to go wild; flooding coastal areas. This includes demolishing the graveyard where Black Manta's father is buried and he's not happy about that.
  • Superior Foes of Spider-Man shows that if you're The Load, the group or organization you work with simply isn't going to keep you around, no matter how much they like you. Poor Boomerang learns this the hard way from the rest of the Sinister Six when they kick him out of the group despite him being the team founder.
  • Superman by his very nature avoids most of these tropes, but his official authority is often an open question. The Man of Steel averts this by having the mayor of Metropolis (as fallout from a challenge to his authority by Lex Luthor) commission Superman directly as a special deputy, which at least gives Superman jurisdiction within Metropolis city limits.
  • In Spider-Man's "Death of Jean DeWolff" story, Spider-Man gives the Sin-Eater a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. The next time the Sin-Eater appears, he's a stuttering, limping wreck as a result of the severe injuries he suffered.
  • In the first issue of All New Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes tries to stop three gang members from stealing his brother's wheelchair. One of them pulls out a gun. You would expect Robbie to show what a Badass Normal he is, dismantle the thug with the gun and beat them all up. Instead, he stands still and the thugs beat him up and steal both the wheelchair and his shoes. This shows that, despite growing up in a bad neighborhood, Robbie isn't some sort of impossibly tough delinquent, but just a regular guy.
  • A few years ago X-Men character Fantomex saved the world from a monster brainwashing people into worshipping it as their god by revealing he is programmed to be incapable of conceiving anything greater than himself, therefore he cannot believe in any god. A 2014 issue of X-Force reveals that whenever he is outdone at anything, the same ability causes so much cognitive dissonance he ends on the verge of mental breakdown.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW):
    • An issue has the Mane Six get a warning about a giant monster. Eventually, they encounter... the remains of said monster. It turns out, monster or not, if you don't feed a creature for a long time, it tends to die.
    • In a strange twist, the same issue showed that when one of the deities is away for a week, someone had to fill in for her so the world doesn't go into chaos. Luna had to instead raise the sun every morning for a week, because according to the reality of their universe the Sun doesn't raise itself. She also finds out that it wasn't as easy as it appeared.

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