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Comic Book / Rat-Man (1989)

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"I flex my muscles and I'm in the air!"

Rat-Man was an Italian comic book created in 1989 by Leonardo "Leo" Ortolani and published until 2017. It depicted the adventures of an unlikely hero, the eponymous Rat-Man, a not very bright (and very inept) guy without any superpowers in a goofy yellow rat costume.

What had begun as a Shallow Parody (albeit very funny) of Tim Burton's first Batman film progressively grew into a very complex storyline, full of homages to the Silver and Golden Age of comics (Leo is an avid admirer of Jack Kirby's characters), but also to the gritty realism of the Dark Age. The main purpose of the comic was originally to make a parody of anything and everything, not only superhero-related tropes, but of other genres, films and popular culture in general; however, it introduced a number of long and fairly serious story arcs that gave a deeper insight into Rat-Man's previous life. Of course, there were still plenty of parodies and wacky moments.

In 2006, Rat-Man was given an Animated Adaptation which was not very well received.

Unfortunately, the series is not yet available in English language. There were shy attempts at translating Rat-Man in Croatian and Spanish, but they didn't go beyond a few dozen issues due to the lack of a genuine interest among non-Italian readers.

The Spin-Off 299+1 has a separate page.

Not to be confused with the manga Ratman, nor with Ratfist.

Rat-Man provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Cinzia the transgender hooker, a former male postman who fell in love with Rat-Man (or rather, his civilian identity before he became a hero). He never realized who she was despite some blatant evidence, and the fact she involuntarily helped him to become Rat-Man in the first place (in short, he subscribed to Mickey Mouse comic books and the postman sent him those comics every week, then he decided to wear a rat costume...).
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Played straight with Boda Valker, who was an horrible father for his son Janus. The desire to gain his love and respect was one of the factors that drove Janus to evil.
    • Averted with Janus Valker himself, who - while being very strict and even harsh with his son - clearly loves him dearly. Ironically, this is another decisive factor in his descent into evil, as he decides to surrender to the Shadow to save him from Joba.
  • Achievement in Ignorance/Beyond the Impossible: in the Ratto arc, Jordan gets shot in the head. A few pages later, he turns out to be ok, explaining that he had a bulletproof vest. And then he notices that it's just a heavy coat.
  • All There in the Manual: If the story gets a bit too confusing and convoluted, there have been summaries of the plot so far added after the stories (in Rat-Man 35 and Rat-Man 70-75), which also explain details and things you may have missed because you were laughing too much.
  • Always Identical Twins: In the "Marvelmouse" story arc Rat-Man meets Marcus and Marcellus, two nasty and cynical twins who arrange the fights between heroes in the Arena. They wear a T-shirt with "Io sono l'altro" (I'm The Other One) written on it, because nobody can tell them apart. In their final appearance Marcus incredibly manages to mistake his own brother for himself. And, as stated in Author Avatar below, both of them are the avatar of Leo's publisher.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Jorgensson, Janus Valker’s right-hand man. He is eventually revealed as being gay and deeply in love with his boss, to the point of sacrificing his life to save him from Hell. As Ortolani would say, even in Rat-Man’s world, All Girls Want Bad Boys
  • The Antichrist: It is Rat-Man. Not bad for a monkey-face guy who habitually wears a mask with mouse ears.
  • Anti-Hero: Rat-Man is a Type 1.
  • Are These Wires Important?: Parodied in an issue where, to stop a conspiracy of evil geologists (don't ask), Rat-Man infiltrates their base, finds a control room and smashes every piece of machinery he can put his hands on. This has the effect of shorting out the conspiracy's vending machine.
  • Artificial Human: The "Vegetoidi", humanoids created from plants and vegetables. Thea, Rat-Man's Love Interest and the only woman he ever really loved or, rather, the clone and unwitting impersonator of the real deal, was one of these, the most advanced example.
  • Art Shift: In some issues, such as the "Yellow" trilogy which spoofs/homages Anime and Manga.
  • Ascended Extra: Cynthia Otherside. In the first story she was just a male mailman who is mentioned becoming a transgender hooker as part of a throwaway gag, but acquired a larger role in following stories, and it was discovered she was already in love with him before the throwaway gag of the first story.
  • Author Appeal:
    • Geology. Ortolani has a degree in that field, and it shows when the usually dumb Rat-Man becomes knowledgeable about rocks. There are also many gags involving geology during the comic, including an entire story, which is also a James Bond parody on top of that!
    • "Author Not-Appeal": Rat-Man has an extreme hatred of cats, and it is implied that Leo hates them too.
  • Author Avatar: Ortolani loves this trope. Not only his avatar, but also those of his editor, of his childhood friends and of his wife (who is usually depicted as the only sane woman of the group) regularly appear in the comic, both as background characters and as main ones. His publisher (who has a double name, relatively uncommon in Italy) even gets two of them (one for each name).
  • Back from the Dead:
    • In one issue Rat-Man dies and goes to Hell, but a very powerful demon (which is an obvious Shout-Out to Spawn) helps him on his way back to life. At the end of the issue, it is revealed that the demon is really major antagonist Janus Valker's soul, and he helped Rat-Man because every time he performed a good deed his punishment would be a little less harsh.
    • Janus Valker
  • Badass on Paper: Rat-Man is a superhero whose achievements include defeating an apparently invincible robot designed to kill superheroes and a Goku Expy, and being the greatest enemy of the Shadow. He's also too stupid to operate a car's seatbelt.
  • Bad Boss: Janus Valker could well be the epitome of this trope. Among the most frightening examples:
    Valker: Look at the mess you have done, you idiot!
  • Beat Panel: Leo is very fond of these. Many jokes and Overly Long Gags rely on them for maximum comedic value, and to stretch the scene to make sure that the action continues from the first panel of the next page. It's even (hilariously) Discussed as a comedy tool in the story "Comic School".
  • Berserk Button: Do. Not. Threaten. Or. Harm. Janus Valker’s son. Seriously, even if you are an all-powerful demonic entity bound on conquering and destroying the Earth. Even if you have suicide tendencies and even if this may be one of the most effective suicide methods in history, there are more pleasant ways to die. Believe us. And faster. Definitively faster.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: When Rat-Man was young, the papers ruined the career of a superhero revealing that he had sex with a sheep. Then they ruined the sheep's career by revealing she had sex with Rat-Man.
  • Better Manhandle the Murder Weapon: Rat-Man does it in a Marvel crossover... twice. First by "securing" the weapon used to kill an old Punisher's relative, just in time for the latter to see him. After several pages of dodging bullets, he manages to escape only to "secure" a metal pipe used to beat a certain "Mrs May". Seconds before Spider-Man enters the scene.
  • Big Bad:
    • Janus Valker.
    • In the story arc starting with issue #94, Mr. Mouse.
  • Big "NO!": done by Darth Vader when he is dumped by the philosophal woman in the Harry Potter/Twilight parody.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: While they are not particularly extended, the Valkers are royally screwed up.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Played for Laughs in an out-of-continuity parody of Franchise/Star Wars}}, where Rat-Man plays a character who is a combination of Episode I's Anakin and of the original trilogy's Luke Skywalker and Brakko is the equivalent of Han Solo. The story parodies the famous bilingual dialogue of the Star Wars universe by having Rat-Man pretending to understand the language of his droid (a parody of R2-D2 resembling a Shop-Vac). Of course, this backfires spectacularly when the droid must perform a critical task that requires good communication between him and Rat-Man (which is something that happens quite frequently in the story):
    Bib Fortuna: Great Jarba note , we have captured two trespassers who were trying to free Brankio, while a third accomplice outside kept shouting "They are still awake".
  • Birds of a Feather: All of Rat-Man's love interests are good people with jerkish attitudes just like him: Cinzia is a raging pervert but ultimately one of the most moral characters in the series (only Brakko and his son are nicer), Kimmy is rude and abrasive but also can't stop herself from helping people, and Aima can be as much of an asshole like Rat-Man (notably, they share the same cruel sense of humor) but is also a good mother and spent much of her life helping people.
  • Black Comedy:
    • Sometimes literally, like when Rat-Man joked that Brakko's son was stillborn.
    • Example from the first story: the Buffoon kidnapped an orphan and demanded a ransom from his parents.
    • The "I Vendicatopi" story arc decided to establish Mr. Mouse's villainy with a whole issue filled with September 11, 2001 jokes, starting with him recreating the attack on the Twin Towers to try and murder Rat-Man. Yes, this series is Italian, not American, why do you ask?
    • The 2015 stories parodying The Walking Dead feature a character who is a stillborn zombie. Enough said.
  • Black Comedy Animal Cruelty: In the "Yellow" storyline we discover that Rat-Man's stress relieving activities include throwing chicks against a wall with a tennis racket and beating pandas with a baseball bat.
  • Black Dude Dies First:
    • Set up in the parody of The Expendables, where there is a character known only as (even by that character himself) "Muscly Black Dude Who Dies a Gruesome Death", and whose purpose is only to say "You're totally mad, bro!" and "You said it, dude!". He frequently Lampshades this behaviour, and even explains how a family photo is the way they chose to give depth to his character. Eventually averted, because the first one to die is Dolph Lundgren's character.
    • Fully averted: as a bid to save their lives, Chat Morris (a not-too-subtle tweaking of Chuck Norris), cornered and taunted by Bel Pupone (a thinly disguised parody of Jean-Claude Van Damme) in calling someone's help, he calls for the defeated, broken Black Dude, who earlier claimed that, owing to his useless, Red Shirt status, was literally unable to outlive his lack of usefulness. As soon as Black Dude is made aware that Chat Morris, calling him "Toby", gave him a name, a backstory and a purpose, he takes a level in badass, dispatches Bel Pupone and forces him into a fistfight with Chat. And at the end he dies in a car crash.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Often. Sometimes, it's more subtle, where the characters are aware that they are starring in a comic book (and they treat it as a job) and interact with panels and speech bubbles. Others, they make jabs at the artist, or comment on the nature of the comic (a favourite one is remarking on the bimonthly publication schedule.)
  • Brown Bag Mask: Rat-Man as a young kid in an orphanarium used one to pass unnoticed to the bully who had previously threatened him. Unfortunately, he forgot to remove it during the classes...
  • Calling Your Attacks: In the story "Il Grande Ratzinga!", Rat-Man became the pilot of a giant Super Robot, and naturally used this trope. The story was mostly a parody of the Super Robot and anime tropes.
  • Cape Busters: Valker's job for the government in a nutshell. He's frightenghly effective at it thanks to his talent at killing people in general, sheer pragmatism, and his utter lack of fear and respect for superheroes (he divides superheroes in ones who think he won't shoot and ones who think they can stop bullets with their hands, and keeps a collection of superheroes masks and gloves with bullet holes in them). In fact, the only superhero who survived a confrontation with him without Valker being recalled was Rat-Man, who, being Valker's amnesiac son, had the sense of stealing his gun before Valker decided to kill him.
  • Captured Super-Entity: Averted in one of most surreal stories. It featured an evil comic book publisher who gave Rat-Man (the character and the series) an award as part of his plan to capture God (represented as a humongous hand over the horizon) and turn Him into another of his characters. In the end it was all part of God's plan to trick the publisher into crossing over to the comic book world and let him meet his end at the hands of a forgotten comic book character. It Makes Sense in Context, sort of.
  • Catchphrase: "Fletto i muscoli e sono nel vuoto!" ("I flex my muscles and I'm in the air!")
  • Cerebus Syndrome: A comic book originally published in a small fanzine? Check. As a parody of a beloved Comic Book genre of its time? Check. With a (sort of) anthropomorphic animal as the protagonist? Check. That continued as a self-published independent comic book? Check. With a limited lifespan, as the author has decided to limit its run to a predetermined number of issues? Check. That progressively becomes Darker and Edgier, with huge retcons of previous storylines? Check. Transforming into a very personal (and surprisingly deep) reflection of his author on the Comic Book industry and contemporary life? Check. With strong religious overtones? Check. Let’s face it. Rat-Man could be the long lost Italian brother of the Trope Namer. Well, were it not for the fact that Ortolani accepted to publish the character with the Italian subsidiary of a mainstream publishing company, that he decided to continue to write Rat-Man’s stories after the original deadline, as he believed that he had not exhausted the potential of the character, that he resorted to his country’s Roman Catholicism instead of inventing his own religion and, of course, that he apparently did not drive himself mad in the process, as the Trope-Namer's author.
  • Chekhov's Gag / Brick Joke: In spades. Expect minor jokes, throwaway lines, references and characters to return several times. It may be in the next page, at the end of the episode or even at the end of the story arc, several numbers later.
    • At the beginning of a 2001: A Space Odyssey parody, a prehistoric monkey throws a bone in the air, and in the very last panel the bone falls down and hits Rat-Man in the head... followed by another brick joke from that issue, a sabretooth tiger that carries an unconscious Rat-Man away.
    • In "Rat-Man's Escape", Rat-Man is evading Cinzia, who claims to have a gift for him. He rudely remarks that it's probably thirty centimetres long, but she chastises him, saying it's only a rose. He apologizes and admits that sometimes he's biased against her/him, only for him/her to reveal that she had it tattooed on her penis. When, at the end of the arc, three episodes later (which correspond to six months of real life between publications), Rat-Man and another character are about to have a horse race, Cinzia promises a rose to the winner, prompting him to shoot his horse to avoid competing...
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Incredible Ik, Aima, and the woman that looked like Thea who called Denam "father" and suggested him Thea's name, only appeared briefly, but the final story arc brings them back and reveal the truth: Aima is the mysterious woman, Denam's real daughter and Rat-Man's real One True Love, but their memories of each other were wiped out by Denam and Kalissa to set up a weapon against the Shadow for when it would possess Rat-Man, and Ik is the personification of Rat-Man's love for Aima who emerged after the memory wipe.
  • City of Adventure: La Città Senza Nome ("The City with No Name")
  • City with No Name: Again, la Città Senza Nome, as you might have guessed.
    • Another city in the Rat-Man universe is called La Città Molto Grande ("The Very Large City").
  • Clone Degeneration: The eventual fate of Rat-Man's clones in the mentioned story arc.
  • Clumsy Copyright Censorship: Many earlier stories had Rat-Man meeting various Marvel heroes. Since the bonds between Panini (the Italian owner of Marvel comic rights, and Rat-Man's publisher too) and Marvel became looser in the years, the recent reprints of these stories have been altered turning the various heroes into expies. More in detail:
    • Spider-Man became "The Human Spider", and the web pattern on his suit was altered.
    • Victor Von Doom's cape lacks the classic golden buttons, and his mask now looks like a japanese Oni's face (similar to the one Guilty wears)
    • The Punisher is now "The Polisher" and the skull insignia on his suit is replaced with a smiley face.
    • Wolverine, now "Hunter", haves extendable fingernails instead of his classic claws.
    • The big "A" on Captain America's mask is now a star, and his name is now "American Star".
    • Nick Fury is now "Furio", with a blatant white space left after his name showing that a longer name was here before.
  • Comically Missingthe Point: Lots of. The most hilarious ones usually involve Brakko and the fact that he is completely oblivious to his wife's blatant infidelity and unbelievable promiscuity, even if she is sleeping with one (or more) of her many lovers when he is in the same home or even when he is in the SAME BED.
    Brakko: Father Angelini, please help me. I am desperate. I want to cheat on my wife
    Father Angelini: Come on, Brakko: revenge is useless. And the child is innocent. When he will grow up, it will be as if he were really yours.
    Brakko (completely clueless): What?
    • And even "his" 2-years old son seems to know the truth, as he regularly refers to the postman as "daddy".
  • Crapsack World: In Rat-Man's world, almost everybody is stupid, violent or insane. Sometimes all three at once...
  • Crossover:
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass:
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: See under "Janus Valker"...
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Janus Valker with Topin, literally and very, very effectively.
    Topin: Are you threatening me with a SPOON?
    Valker: Spoons are grossly underestimated as weapons. They need more strength and time, but you can get great satisfaction from using them.
  • Darkest Hour: You probably may take a hint from the fact that there is a storyline with this very name...
  • Determinator:
    • For God's sake, if you are between Janus Valker and whatever he may want, JUST STEP ASIDE!
    • Even Rat-Man can be one sometimes: as the saying goes, like father, like son
  • Death of a Child: Sometimes it is Rat-Man himself who causes the death of children, through incompetence or sheer malice.
  • Disney Owns This Trope: Parodied with Mr. Mouse, a Shallow Parody of Mickey Mouse, who has created countless superheroes and their villains to make money selling comic books about them.
  • Dogs Are Dumb: Svarz, Brakko's "guard" dog. Though it's hard to tell if he's dumber than his master...
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: All the events of the "Comic School" story (see Stylistic Suck below) are revealed as the plot of Graziello, a doodle-boy with an Annoying Laugh appearing throughout the issue (scribbled on walls, papers etc.), who never had the opportunity to be published, and so hijacked Rat-Man's story to finally be printed and appearing in a comic book!
  • Downer Ending: "The Darkest Hour" ends this way. Rat-Man realizes that Thea, his true love, is really dead. Janus Valker dies in an hospital (he eventually gets better), making Jorgesson's sacrifice to free him from the Shadow pointless. Brakko is fired by the police department and is hunted down as a criminal by his former colleagues. The Shadow possesses Rat-Man and throws the world into chaos. It can't get darker than that. Except that it does.
  • Dragon Ascendant: Janus Valker is initially introduced as the head of the "Governativi" note , the hit squad of a secret organization within the government.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • La Gatta, which looks like a beautiful woman, but whose true form is a demonic being from another dimension that feeds on humanity's lust and desires.
    • One early issue featured Galactus and Silver Surfer expies, with Rat-Man being turned into another Surfer expy and trying (and, of course, failing) to save the Earth from being devoured. As soon as the Galactus expy is breaking the Earth's crust to get to the core, hundreds of tentacles attached to something living in the abyss wrap around him and consume him in seconds. This is never explained or brought upon again in the comic.
    • The character of War in the "Rat" storyline is strongly implied to actually be the most feared horseman of the apocalypse.
    • The Shadow.
  • End of an Age: Issues #77-81 of the original Italian series feature a long story where Rat-Man visits New York City and meets the local superheroes, who are clearly based on Marvel Comics's classic characters. The saga ends with the American superheroes accepting that they have no place any more in the modern world and disappearing into the light. The story is an affectionate homage of the The Silver Age of Comic Books and a scathing parody of the more modern approach of The Dark Age of Comic Books.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The final story arc is basically the story of the Apocalypse set in Rat-Man's world.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Janus Valker with his son, who will eventually become Rat-Man, and to a lesser extent with his wife, Kalissa.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: Kalissa's group is a bunch of mad scientists who forcibly separate Rat-Man and his (pregnant) true love only to guarantee that Rat-Man remains a superhero, but all of these is done in order to avoid that the Shadow consume all reality.
  • Evolutionary Levels: In the 2001 homage/parody, a scientist uses on himself the power of the monolith and suddenly evolves into various lifeforms (including Pikachu), before ascending to a higher plane of existence and short-circuiting the monolith.
  • Expy: During his adventures Rat-Man meets many transparent expies of superheroes, such as "L'uomo con il costume da ragno" ("The Man in the Spider Outfit"). Justified by the fact that the times of real superheroes are over, and those are people without powers inspired by the heroes of times past. It is maybe something of an homage to the Golden and Silver eras of superheroes, it's not really that clear.
  • Eyeless Face: One-time character Mr. Tristazzi from the "Comic School" story has spectacles... but no eyes underneath.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Subverted in the final issue, when Janus Valker is severely wounded and is lying in a nameless alley during the final fight with the Shadow’s horde. Everything plays straight according to this trope. He has a chance to speak with his granddaughter, saying that he is happy because he never thought that he would become a grandfather and he always believed that he would have died alone in a nameless alley some day. Finally, he sends her away saying that he has fought all his life and is a bit tired now; so he needs a moment to catch his breath. When she departs, a huge crowd of monsters slowly approaches and he quietly asks them: “So… Does any of you bastards know how this alley is called?” But he is back at the end to kill the Shadow once and for all (maybe), also stating the name of that alley.
  • Fake Crossover / Covers Always Lie: One cover of the comic depicts Rat-Man being terrified by Aldo, the hideous main character of Venerdì; 12, a series that shared space with Rat-Man in the comic books. The two characters have never met in the actual comics.
  • Funny Background Event: Often there will be one in order to cram more jokes or get through exposition.
  • Future Me Scares Me: Averted. Rat-Man meets his future self, but he looks and acts just like him... only fatter.
  • Gag Penis: Transgender Cinzia Otherside's defining feature.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Parodied. Rat-Man once met the well-endowed starlet Gessica Lovebol, and had the chance to undress her. Both the devil and the angel on his shoulders asked him to remove her bathing suit!
  • Go Through Me: Parodied.
    Ortolani (narrating a flashback, in which he's surrounded by thugs): I thought I was done for, but then... a shadow appeared.
    Rat-Man (in the flashback): If you want him... you'll have to go through me.
    Ortolani (back in the present): Marvellous. Just marvellous. (pauses) They put us in the same hospital room, so we quickly became friends.
  • Government Conspiracy: A main theme of the first story arc dealing with Rat-Man’s convoluted past. In the 30s a group of masked crimefighters joined together to form a so-called “Secret Squad” of superheroes. Some years later, they convened a press conference to denounce an attempt to bring them under the control of a secretive cabal inside the institutions and revealed their secret identities. Unsurprisingly, they were (almost) all killed shortly thereafter and the government decided to create a “Second Secret Squad” of superheroes to replace the first. A young Rat-Man (who went by the name “Rat-Boy”) became a member of the Second Squad.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Janus Valker, in the latest instalments of the saga. Sort of.
  • Heart in the Wrong Place: Averted. Janus Valker, being a very clever scientist and an unstoppable killing machine, knows very well where your heart is.
  • Hero Killer: Janus Valker is a professional one: while his job is to keep the superheroes under the Government's control, he's not only authorized to use any mean he wants (resulting in him being paid for killing superheroes), but when the Government wants a superhero dead he's the one doing the job.
  • Hidden Buxom: Parodied in a story with the top model Jessica Lovebol: she has some visibly large breasts, but when she loses her bikini bra they're revealed as large as the entire beach.
  • Hidden Depths: Neither Rat-Man nor Brakko aren't as stupid as people think they are. Case in point, Rat-Man can come up with surprisingly intelligent plans at times, and Brakko, contrary to what almost everyone thinks, is perfectly aware that his wife cheats on him and Cinzia is a transexual, he just loves Clara too much and doesn't think that Cinzia being born with a man's body makes Cinzia's less of a woman.
  • Hitchhiker's Leg: Hilariously parodied with Cinzia Otherside. She was in need of a lift and did this to stop a truck, but we only see the aftermath... Cinzia in a bar, and behind her the wrecked truck, upside-down and burning!
    Cinzia: (to the bartender) Call a taxi for me.
  • Hollywood Jehovah's Witness: Rat-Man got a bad karma from how he scares them away.
    Jehovah's Witness: Good morning. Do you know God?
    Rat-Man: Yes, that's me. What do you want?
  • Hope Bringer: If Rat-Man has one redeeming quality which makes him worthy of being considered a true Super Hero is that he never gives up on hope, no matter how outclassed he is or how desperate the battle may seem (and, Rat-Man being Rat-Man, he is usually seriously outclassed and pretty much all of his battles are desperate). And this makes the end of the "Darkest Hour" storyline even more heartwrenching, as the Shadow leads him to realize that:
    Rat-Man (v.o.): Sooner or later, hope just runs out.
    • According to Valker and Topin, the ability to never give up on hope and even inspire it in other is what makes a true superhero. The absence of this ability is why the costumed and sometimes superpowered vigilantes that appeared after the death of the First Secret Squad are dismissively called "Men in Tights" rather than superheroes.
  • Hope Spot: at the end of the "Darkest Hour", Rat-Man has apparently defeated the Shadow, saved his father and, on the top of that, he has also discovered that Thea is alive. Wait a minute. Didn't the Shadow just said:
    The Shadow: The Shadow is deceit.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Possibly Janus Valker and Joba, since they are possessed by l'Ombra (The Shadow).
  • The Igor: Janus Valker's assistant, Jorgesson, is a faithful and competent scientist who serves his boss with loyalty and abnegation. It is stated several times that he is one of the few people Valker cares for, and the only one he tolerates after embracing the shadow.
  • Insistent Terminology: Valker does not like to be called "granpa".
    Valker: You have a father of your father.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Recent reprints of the stories where Rat-Man meets Marvel heroes (see above) were altered for copyright issues. Spider-Man is replaced with "The Human Spider", for example.
  • Mad Scientist: There are many, most notably Dr. Denam.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Thea Denam, who really was an Artificial Human and his most advanced experiment ever. Also, Aima, of whom Thea is a clone and a replacemnt love interest for Rat-Man.
  • Magicians Are Wizards:
    • Spoofed in an issue that was a parody of Conan the Barbarian: the seemingly all-powerful wizard our "heroine" met fought with playing cards, a rabbit and spells from... a bunch of Magic: The Gathering cards!
    • Later we get a two-issue spoof of Harry Potter... Where wizards liberally combine Potterverse-like magic and stage magic tricks. We're even treated to pulling rabbits out of hats for use as projectiles and a giant top hat used as a siege cannon.
  • The Man Behind the Man: During the events of the six-part story about Rat-Man's origins (known among fans as "The Hexalogy"), a mysterious cloaked man appears in various places without ever saying or doing anything, but it is mentioned that he knows about Rat-Man's fate and will control it. Characters acknowledge his presence, but rarely interact with him (an exception is, for example, the Jack Kirby expy) and Rat-Man is afraid of him. The very last page reveals that the cloaked man was Leo Ortolani himself, and thus the story doubled as Leo's real-life issues in creating the Rat-Man character and his influences (Jack Kirby above all).
    • From the story arc starting with issue #94, Mr. Mouse. Who, in issue #97, is revealed being responsible for creating every single superhero and every single supervillain, including Cosmicus, the Devourer of Worlds. It's also implied that there's someone behind him too, namely The Shadow, even if he doesn't know.
  • Meaningful Echo: "The Shadow is deceit".
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Rat-Man's real name is revealed as being "Deboroh La Roccia". "La Roccia" in Italian means "The rock", a nod to Ortolani's degree in Geology. "Deboroh" is just a silly name, as it's a male version of Deborah, commonly used in Italy for vapid hot girls.
    • Cinzia Otherside is trans. What a shock, uh?
    • Thea Denam (see the Artificial Human example) is named after the Tea rose, the plant she was created from.
  • The Men in Black: This is how the servants of the Shadow appear when they roam the earth.
  • Mind Screw: The story called "The R-Files", a parody of The X-Files, but a very twisted story on its own, full of Breaking the Fourth Wall moments and Doubly subverted tropes. For examples, the Mulder and Scully parodies find the real Rat-Man, but then he is revealed as being Leo Ortolani, the creator of the (real and in-story) series. Moments later, Ortolani accidentally spills ink all over his panels and he disappears into blackness, revealing they were characters in a comic all along... It Makes Sense in Context. Or maybe not.
  • Mole in Charge: The Wolf is the head of the Second Secret Squad and an agent of the Government Conspiracy that killed the First Squad.
  • The Movie: Rat-Man: il segreto del supereroe.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg:
    • Mixed with Self-Deprecating Humor, the title of number 78: "The Greatest Heroes of the World! And Me."
    • Also in number 88, "Il Grande Magazzi e il Principe Mezzo-rospo" (something like "The Great Wizardus and the Half-toad Prince"), Rat Man is randomly called Olaf, and has been attending a Wizardry School for a long, long time (without success). The headmaster begins his start of year speech with the words "My dear future wizards...*beat*...and Olaf."
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Many characters have features based on popular actors and other celebrities. Brakko is based upon Danny Glover, Kalissa (Janus Valker's Love Interest) looks like Cher. Lupo, Rat-Man's former instructor, is based on Sylvester Stallone, and Il Pipistrello, Rat-Man's mentor, is obviously Patrick Stewart. Even the Animated Adaptation is not immune: recurring character Dr. Schafausen is based upon Christopher Lee. Venerdì 12 also had one-time character Cicciola, the fairy of love, who was almost a carbon copy of the infamous Hungarian pornstar Ilona Staller AKA "Cicciolina".
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: It happens often to Rat-Man as Marvelmouse, while he was fighting many opponents in the Arena and getting destroyed in seconds by all of them. Once a member of the audience asked the Kenshiro parody to stop senselessly beating Marvelmouse, and another time Il Drago (see Take That! below) bashed him with a stone for so long that... the stone asked for mercy! It's all part of the humorous tone of the comics, but these fights also show how much of a determinator Rat-Man is.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Piccettino (something like Li'l One), Rat-Man's old, small, worn-out teddy bear. He's just a regular teddy bear (maybe), but Rat-Man thinks it can speak and do things. Then again, it's stated many times that Rat-Man is mentally retarded.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis: Valker. If he feels you're a threat or otherwise need to be dealt with he will kill you, the fastest and most effective way possible.
  • One True Love: Thea Denam. Or, rather, Aima, if Denam and Kalissa hadn't wiped their memories and replaced her with a clone.
  • Papa Wolf: Janus Valker. Harm his son or granddaughter and he will kill you as soon as he can get his hands on you. The only exception are children-for them, he'll wait their 18th birthday and then shoot them in the head.
    • Rat-Man himself: when Topin kidnapped his daughter he left him a broken wreck barely alive, and when Topin threatened to come back and kidnap her again he was this close from killing him in cold blood before Valker arrived and brutally finished him.
  • Parody Names: Averted. The parodies usually give to the characters names with no relation to the original ones. Try to get which character's parody is supposed to be Professor Richlady without reading the story where he appears. note 
  • Patricide: it is implied that Joba Valker ordered the murder of his father Boda so that he could claim the power of the Shadow for himself. This bites him in the ass when the Shadow chooses his brother Janus instead.
  • Pocket Protector: With a hamster.
    • Also parodied with his encounter with the Punisher and gets shot eight times: the bullet to the heart is stopped by a Bible, the one to the stomach by a Quran, the one to the liver by a copy of Das Kapital, one of The Betrothed stops another...
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Where to begin? There is probably not a single issue or minority group, which is usually addressed with careful tact nowadays, from sexual orientation (mainly with Cynthia and his friend Tamara, two transgender prostitutes) to pedophilia, from the homeless to senior citizens, which has not been mercilessly mocked by Rat-Man, sometimes in the most inappropriate way. This may count both as values dissonance as political correctness is widely despised as hypocritical in Italy and as an author tract, as Leo Ortolani’s notion of humor is that of “the old schoolmate whom you can’t help to find funny, even if he sometimes cracks outrageous jokes”. However, it must be said that he takes great pains to drive home the point that Rat-Man is a complete moron and (especially as the series progresses) that he can be an unlikeable and selfish character.
    • This is lampshaded in one of the first stories, a parody of Space: 1999, where Rat-Man is deported to a detention facility on the Moon because of (among other things) his inappropriate sense of humor. The inmates wear uniforms which allow to identify the reason they were deported by the different color of their sleeves (Rat-Man gets the brown one, of course) and are subject to mandatory counseling:
    Yellow sleeve guy: “This is an old story. They dropped tons of nuclear waste on the Moon in the Seventies. Then they shut down the base because the personnel started to develop a lethal form of Capricorn.”
    Rat-Man: “of Capricorn?”
    Yellow sleeve guy: “Hey dude, I am just trying to help here. The last time you mentioned cancer in this comic book all hell broke loose!”
    • And very bluntly in a more recent story:
    Rat-Man: “With all this politically correct words we do not understand what the activity-between-two-people-for-the-purposes-of-pleasure-and/or-reproduction note  we want to say any more”
  • Postmodernism: The more this comic is running, the more its humour becomes post-modern: characters are aware of being in a comic book, or are just actors playing a part; one story arc eventually revolved around the fact that Rat-Man (the series) had won a prize (in real life) and Rat-Man was supposed to take it... and then discovered it was all a plan devised by an evil publisher who used Rat as a means to capture and publish God! And it was "God" who rigged the awards with the help of new toons so that Rat-man would try to run away from the editor, which would eventually lead the evil publisher to enter the toon world and be killed by a long-missing toon . Obviously both Rat-man and Brakko don't understand what happened even after Brakko himself explains the convoluted plan.
  • Psycho for Hire: Reegar is a government killer nicknamed "The Bride". When he is given the task of killing someone, he falls in love with the victim and starts to plan the wedding (with the victim's collaboration). When he comes to you with a wedding dress, you know he's about to kill you. Oh, and he has changed his sex at least three times and is a cannibal.
  • Pun: There are some: for example the plot-wise very important labs are called "Altrove", which means "Somewhere else":
    Insomma, tutta la scienza del mondo era Altrove. ("In short, all the science in the world was Somewhere Else.")
  • Reality Warper: Leo Ortolani can change the world with his drawings. Justified as he's the author.
  • Really Gets Around: Clara, Brakko's wife, has slept with almost every man in town (and, it's implied, her dog), but Brakko is apparently completely oblivious to this. He actually knows, he just loves her too much to say anything. During the final battle she arrives with all her lovers, and there's enough of them to turn back the Shadow's horde of monsters.
  • The Reason You Suck: Rat-Man delivers an epic one to Mr. Mouse, while hanging on for dear life from an aircraft thousands of feet high, with a gun in his face!
    Rat-Man: You don't have any new dreams to sell, Mister Mouse. Just one that keeps recurring. And do you know how recurring dreams are called? Nightmares!
  • Reformed, but Not Tamed: Valker after his Heel–Face Turn: he's just as efficiently murderous as ever, he just turned his tendencies on the Shadow's minions out of paternal love.
  • Running Gag: There are some, such as Cinzia Otherside's desire to marry Rat-Man and the Chuck Norris Facts being treated as reality.
  • Samus Is a Girl: The Spectre. And, less dramatically, the Carp turns out to be this as well.
  • Satanic Archetype: From its first appearance, the Shadow is strongly implied to be Rat-Man's world equivalent of the devil and the analogy only grows stronger with time. It is an all-powerful entity who rules on a dimension where the standard rules of physics of our world do not apply through an army of monstrous creatures who can change into the appearance of human beings to act in our world incognito. He lures good people to help him with its schemes through lies and deceit. Its preferred modus operandi is to possess a human being and transform him into an Eldritch Abomination, granting him immense power in the process. Its victims are imprisoned into a living wall where they are confronted with their sins and mistakes for all eternity. Finally, in the final story arc it unleashes The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Scream Discretion Shot: Played for Laughs in the "Yellow" storyline. Rat-Man asks Rat-Girl to give him back her engagement ring, but she laughs and answers that her cat ate it. Cue to Rat-Man holding the engagement ring in an hand and a pair of nail scissors in the other. The horrified looks from the rest of the cast imply that he has just eviscerated the poor animal.
  • Self-Deprecation: Leo Ortolani himself appears as a minor or semi-minor character, usually as a pathetic little man (whom even Rat-Man makes fun of sometimes!) who sometimes gets killed. He frequently makes fun of of his "useless" degree in Geology. But sometimes, like when Rat-Man succeeds in finding out a secret hideout by moving a rock that shouldn't be in that environment, it's surprisingly useful.
  • Sequel Hook: As the series was slated to end with issue #100, issue #99 has one when Rat-Man finally opens the letter that reveals his real identity: he is Janus Valker's son not just by adoption but also by blood, taken from the mother as a fetus, and as Valker's son he's fated to become the avatar of The Shadow in 2014.
    • Ortolani had either lied or changed his mind about that, so the hook was followed on starting with issue 101. Then the series ended for good... But the last panel is a shot of the cryo chamber where Rat-Man's last surviving clone sleeps.
  • Shout-Out: Too many to count. Many covers are homages to famous comic book covers, such as the first appearances of Superman, Batman and Spider-Man, and many other iconic arts. Rat-Man usually substitutes the hero in the cover.
  • Sibling Rivalry: this may sum up the relationship between Joba and Janus Valker nicely.
  • Specsof Awesome: Janus Valker almost always wears a pair of glasses and he is arguably the biggest badass of the series.
  • Stand-In Portrait: Rat-Man tries to pass unnoticed by hiding among figures on a wallpaper. He fails... even if it is revealed that the pattern on the wallpaper looked exactly like him!
  • Stylistic Suck: The "Comic School" story is an interesting example of this. Basically, in the "Comic School" story, Rat-Man and other characters attend a school for future comic artists, but he and the others represent the real people behind those characters, and so each one of them is drawn in the style of those people wanting to be artists, but not having the abilities to do that. The majority of them are little more than doodles.
  • Succubi and Incubi: La Gatta ("The Cat") is implied to be some type of succubus, given she's a supernatural embodiment of Lust.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: In one story, Rat-Man revealed he never managed to read a book because as soon as he opens one Chuck Norris appears and takes him on an adventure. Later, threatened by an invincible killer robot, Rat-Man opened a book, causing Chuck Norris to pull a DynamicEntry on the robot.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Valker and Joba never remove their sunglasses. They do this to hide their real demonic/possessed nature: the sunglasses also act as some sort of Power Limiter, and when they remove them, they can unleash terrible powers in the form of living shadows.
  • Super-Empowering: Mr. Mouse' shtick, both through his own lab and those of others (the most prominent is August Abbard by virtue of handling the Second Secret Squad, Rat-Man included). At first he simply equipped people who wanted to be supeheroes inspired by Sorro (in-universe stand in for the Superman comic book), but by the time of the Second Secret Squad at least some of the interventions included kidnapping and genetically altering fetuses. Mr. Mouse also created their villains, up to and including an alien invasion and a Planet Eater.
  • Super Zeroes: Rat-Man is an almost totally useless cretin and coward, whose attempts at being a superhero tend to end with his total humiliation. Keyword: almost. Once in a while he'll pull something worth of actual superheroes, like jumping on the head of a Shadow-possessed villain while being forced on an electric wheelchair (apparently there's the right sequence of commands for that) or summoning freakin' Chuck Norris on a killer robot designed specifically to kill superheroes. Also, Valker treats him with (grudging) respect since he managed to be the only superhero to survive a hostile encounter with him: most heroes think he won't shoot or that they can catch bullets with their hands and get killed, but Rat-Man stole his gun.
  • Take That!: Many to be found, especially against anime and manga, which Leo isn't too fond of. Most notably the battle between Rat-Man and Il Drago, a transparent parody of Dragon Ball's Son Goku.
  • The Television Talks Back: Used in a story parodying The Ring. Bizarrely, it wasn't even a real cursed tape, just a prank by the owner of the store Rat-Man rented the tape from.
  • Think of the Censors! / Think of the Children!: Parodied:
    Cinzia: "Hi there! I'm Cinzia, and I'm a transsexual!"
    Interviewer: "Cinzia, there are kids out there."
    Cinzia: "Hi there, kids! I'm Cinzia, and I'm a transsexual!"
  • Too Dumb to Live: Most of the characters behave like this one time or another, usually for comedic effect.
    • The first price goes to an American tourist who is lynched by an angry mob in the Third World country of Eutanésia: he apparently started yelling "here I am!" when somebody asked if any Americans were present during an anti-American riot.
    • Brakko (described by the author as "Even stupider than Rat-Man, if it's even possible") proved to be the worst, and literally graduated to this, in issue #104. Previously in the issue his friend and subordinate police officer Jordan had told him that if he were ordered to arrest a friend he'd tell him to run and count to 20 before giving chase, knowing that, having trouble remembering what comes after 12, he'd give him a huge headstart. Later, we have this situation:
    Brakko: "Jordan? This is my office!"
    Jordan: "I know, sir. I'm really sorry. RUN!"
    *Brakko realizes Jordan has to arrest him and starts running*
    Jordan: "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve..."
    Jordan: "Twelve..."
    *Brakko comes back*
    Jordan: "Oh, thank you!"
    *Brakko runs away again, and Jordan continues counting*
  • Throwing Your Shield Always Works: Captain America's take on this is parodied twice:
    • In a fanzine-era story, the actual Cap (transformed in a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo in later reprints) shows up to teach Rat-Man, and when he does it the shield does a lot of things among bounces, including cleaning with the vacuum. But he wasn't always that good, as Nick Fury's missing eye can testify.
      • Rat-Man is obviously a disaster with it, and nearly hits Fury's remaining eye during training. Then, when he's the last hope against Hydra's take over of the world, he has an Imagine Spot in which he finally succeeds (and also hits a cat. He hates cats), then he actually launches... And then cut to old Rat-Man, who once again didn't end the story of his adventure with Cap and the blind colonel, and then salutes them with "Heil Hydra".
    • In a later story, Valker muses on the many superheroes he killed, all of which either believed themselves bulletproof or believed he wouldn't shoot. Then he remembers the one who carried a shield... And wonders why the hell he threw it (Valker shot him, and then took the Captain America-like shield as a trophy).
  • The Trope without a Title: Almost every setting in the series has a name like this, such as "La Città Senza Nome" (City Without a Name), "La Città Molto Grande" (Very Big City) and so on.
  • Turn Coat: At some point in time, The Wolf, one of the members of the “First Secret Squad”, joined the Government Conspiracy that wanted to replace the Secret Squad with another under their control. It is also implied that it is him who actually killed the other members.
  • Two Girls to a Team: The second Secret Squad is eventually revealed to be this.
  • Unperson: Played for Laughs. Rat-Man as Marvel Mouse once fought a character called Il Drago (a parody of Son Goku and the Saiyan from Dragon Ball), who had a special move which, according to Rat-Man, sent the opponents in a dimension so far away that nobody would have remembered their existence. Il Drago was stopped by a superhero called "L'uomo con il costume da Ragno'' (a Spider Man expy) who reversed the effect of the move and sent them both in the other dimension. Later, Rat-Man saw a poster of his fight with Il Drago and wondered who the latter one was.
  • War Is Hell: Played surprisingly straight in the "Rat" storyline, a ferocious satire of the developed countries' indifference to the plight of people living in war-torn Thirld-World countries. Rat-Man and his friends buy a package holiday to visit Eutanésia, a developing country ravaged by a terrible civil war (the civil war being the main tourist attraction of the country!). Naturally, as soon as they get there, their own stupidity and ignorance of the local situation get them in horrible trouble. Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, Rat-Man has become a sociopathic mercenary, who is starting to question his life choices. And the two stories seem strangely to converge...
  • Wham Episode: Many, especially when the Myth Arc is concerned.
    • Wham Line: What was written in Abbard's letter.
    • Wham Shot: At the end of the Spider Trilogy, a panel set in the past of the main timeline showed Thea's cloning chamber and a woman looking exactly like her telling professor Denam (her father) to name her Thea.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Fittingly, this happens to Tòpin The Wonder Mouse, Rat-Man's former sidekick and a parody of Robin the Boy Wonder. However, it is implied that Valker may have killed him. The question was answered in issue #94: Tòpin asked him to teach him how to be evil, and Valker accepted.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: more precisely "Whole Story Arcs Flashback". Rat-Man's backstory is recounted in three long story arcs (in issues #3-4, #17-20# and #29-#34 of the original Italian series), two of whom are entirely composed by episodes happening in the past. Something similar is made in issues #91-93 for the backstory of the main antagonist, Janus Valker.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me:
    • Janus Valker divides superheroes in two categories: the ones who think they can catch his bullets, and the ones who think he won't shoot.
      • Magnificently executed when he tried it on Rat-Man, who had earlier grabbed him by his clothes and told him he was finished. Valker asked him which of those two kinds of superhero Rat-Man was, Rat-Man replied "I'm the kind you can't shoot", Valker reached for his gun... And that's when Valker found out that Rat-Man stole his gun.
      • Later one of the Endings says this to Rat-Man, because he knows Rat-Man is a superhero and superheroes don't shoot anyone. Turns out, Rat-Man isn't exactly considering himself a superhero anymore and pulls the trigger.
    • The Wolf to the Spectre. He's right, because he knows something of her that we don't.

The Animated Adaptation provides examples of the following tropes

  • Bowdlerised
  • Breakout Character: Corn Man, a giant humanoid ear of corn, was an enemy of Rat-Man who appeared in the comics for a grand total of one panel. In the cartoon he becomes the villain of an entire episode.
  • The Cameo: In almost every episode a caricature of Andrea Plazzi, Leo's editor, appears. Caricatures of the production staff appear as well. Also Fry appears sometimes.
  • Continuity Nod: In his Rat-Cave, Rat-Man has a picture of the Second Secret Squad, the Guardian and the Cat's calendar.
  • Couch Gag: At the end of the credits something different happens to Rat-Man every time. One of these even directly referenced The Simpsons, the Trope Maker. Like this giant foot?
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Some plotlines, characters and jokes are recycled from the comic, usually simplified to compress it in a ten-minute cartoon and not let the complex mythology lock out those who do not know the source material. For example, the movie is based on the cloning arc (Rat-Man 12-14) with several details changed to make it a stand-alone story.
  • Shout-Out: Again, lots and lots.

Alternative Title(s): Rat Man