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Comic Books Are Real

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Green Lantern: But this still doesn't explain the Justice Guild comics I read as a kid.
Martian Manhunter: Perhaps the creators of those comics had a subconscious link to this Earth. What they thought was merely imagination was a psychic memory of the Justice Guild's real exploits.
Tom Turbine: I couldn’t have put it better myself.

In some works of fiction, the characters have their own favorite Television shows or favorite comic books. Usually, most of the cast reads these comics and they are generally favored. One day, the characters are minding their own business and then out of the blue, it's revealed to them that their favorite comic book hero is real! This usually results in a superpowered team-up from time to time.

On another note, sometimes the stars of the Show Within a Show are known/revealed to exist, and this also falls under Comic Books Are Real.

This usually overlaps with Direct Line to the Author and/or Recursive Canon. If it goes both ways — the "real world" characters have their own comic book in the "comic book" universe — then the two worlds are Mutually Fictional.

If Show Within a Show is fictional but the characters still interact with the main show characters, the show has No Inner Fourth Wall.

Also see I Wish It Were Real, Refugee from TV Land, Celebrity Paradox.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Bleach, this happens, but just to Ichigo. He thinks that Don Kanonji's show is fake and that he can't really kill ghosts, but then it is revealed to him while fighting a Hollow that Don Kanonji actually does have powers... they just aren't very strong: he can see ghosts, but not clearly, and can fire one Painfully Slow Projectile made of spirit energy.
  • The plot of C'mon Digimon revolves around technology that can give digital monsters three dimensional forms that can interact with tamers more directly. It's still a game though. Digimon V-Tamer 01 reveals there is in fact an entire Digimon World, that is not a game and the C-mon device rendered them completely wrong.
  • In Digimon Tamers, Digimon is thought of as nothing more than a media franchise including the first two seasons of the anime. Then Guilmon and the others come to the real world and everything changes.
  • Interestingly, Wormmon plushies can be seen in Digimon Frontier. The meaning of it (as in, if the franchise exists as in Tamers) is unknown.
  • In One Piece, there is a comic strip in the world's newspaper called "Sora, Warrior of the Sea". The series is regarded fictional and it tells about the adventures of a Marine hero named Sora. One issue shows Sora fighting against an evil army called Germa 66. It turns out that said evil army is real and some of those "fictional adventures" are probably true.
  • Sailor Moon:
  • Swans in Space: The episodes of the Show Within a Show Space Patrol actually really happen. Every episode is a dramatization of their real exploits, acted out by the Space Patrol members who performed that mission, and then broadcasted to Earth in an attempt to find new recruits.
  • In Cardfight!! Vanguard, the characters play the titular game, and they assume that the lore surrounding the units and their home world of Cray were just totally made up. Then certain players start claiming they can hear the voices of their units. By the end of season 1 it's confirmed that all of the units do actually exist and they really do live on the planet Cray.
  • Played for laughs in Witch Watch, where one high schooler claims to have a Superpowered Evil Side because he's a descendant of Dr. Jekyll, only for someone to point out The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is fictional. Apparently, in this universe it's both.

    Comic Books 
  • The Silver Age The Flash read adventures of the Golden Age Flash, then discovered he really existed in a parallel universe.
    • There's a homage to this in Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!, where there's an issue where Captain Carrot discovered that his favorite comic book heroes (and the ones that pay his paycheck, as Cap's alter-ego is a cartoonist for his world's DC Comics) really existed in a parallel universe.
    • Recursively, the Crash revealed during said crossover that he'd grown up reading comics about Earth-C's Terrific Whatzit, the Golden Age Funny Animal superhero and uncle of Zoo Crew member Fastback. Presumably a Shout-Out to the pre-Crisis Golden and Silver Age Flash relationship.
    • And the episode "Legends" of the animated Justice League, in which Green Lantern discovers that the heroes from his favorite comic as a boy really ... etc.
    • Our universe exists in the DC multiverse; we're Earth-Prime (Earth-33 in the post-Flashpoint multiverse). We get comics based on other universes, like everybody else, which raises the question of if what the writers put in comics affect other verses, or are they just story tellers?. We have only one native superhero (a Superboy, which makes sense since every Universe seems to have a Superboy/Superman), left to help with the Crisis on Infinite Earths before he was scheduled to go public. He's become a bit of a Jerkass Straw Fan in the decades since, being the last piece of the Silver Age the heroes tend to forget him in-between appearances. (He believes that the writers cause the events in the comics to happen, but that could just be to avoid taking responsibility for his actions.)
      • We created another superhero in The Multiversity. That kind of blew up in the multiverse's face.
      • Incidentally, Earth-Prime was one of the worlds destroyed in said Crisis on Infinite Earths. Linkara quite deservedly mocks this when running down the event.
  • One Golden Age story in Superman has an in-universe comic book character created by Lois Lane called Mental Man come to life. Like the Sherlock Holmes explanation in The Real Ghostbusters below, he explained that he was brought to life by the collective belief of his readers. Turns out to be a subversion when it's revealed to be Aquaman in disguise, helping Supes in one of his Golden-Age-style complex plans to catch crooks.
  • In the Marvel Universe, some heroes license their likenesses for charity comics published by... Marvel.
    • Marvel went so far as to have Captain America's civilian identity become the artist for his own comic!
    • Stan Lee in general liked to fuel the perception in the readers' eyes that the comics they were reading depicted real events, often inserting himself and Jack Kirby into the story as cameos, and setting the stories in real places like New York. This may be one reason why modern-day Marvel is so obsessed with Recursive Canon.
    • The in-universe comics are depictions of the heroes' public adventures with any parts of their personal life made up by the authors. Nonetheless, She-Hulk, when acting as a lawyer, frequently uses back-issues of comics as evidence against supervillains in her own No Fourth Wall series.
  • Also in Marvel, there was the mini-series Marvel 1985. It seems to be happening in our world, until Marvel villains start showing up and murdering people...turns out that as in Earth-Prime in DC, this world has one guy with superpowers, a lonely comicbook nerd with Franklin Richards-level powers he didn't know about. The hero, his son, somehow or another goes to the Marvel Universe and brings the heroes back to contain everything, just as we see Galactus' helmet peeking over the edge of the town's sign mumbling "I hunger..."
  • The Marvel multiverse also includes our world (we're Earth-1218). They go around the circularity of involving it in comicbook stories by not doing that. Meaning: The only known way for us to actually interact with the rest of Marvel (and remember, according to an editor we also got destroyed for Secret Wars (2015) and subsequently recreated by the Richards family, but we forgot like almost everybody else) is through the Fourth-Wall Mail Slot, and if a "real world" is actually shown in any Marvel media that's not the actual real world just a Close-Enough Timeline.
  • An Astro City story examines the common comic book subtrope of superheroes' lives being documented by comic publishers in-universe, and establishes that real-life major publishers exist in the Astro City universe. Some superheroes even attend comic book conventions and sign autographs, while supervillains read their own comic books and take their displeasure out on the publisher. At the end of the story, when one comic publisher switches to stories about extraterrestrial and "cosmic" characters to try to avoid further attacks from supervillains, their entire building is mysteriously annihilated. That's right, there is an Eldritch Abomination out there somewhere who reads comic books.
    • In "My Dad", someone mentions that Penny Bright — the star of an in-universe romance comic book — is actually a real person who never grows old.
  • In Alan Moore's Tom Strong series there is a parallel Earth far away across the galaxy, Terra Obscura. It has more, and more powerful, 'science heroes' (the series term for superheroes) than the 'regular' Earth. Tom Strong travels there on several occasions, the second time he has found out that the heroes of Terra Obscura are featured in numerous comic books on his own world, much to the amazement of his Terra Obscura parallel Tom Strange. On the long trip back after saving the world he puts his feet up and reads them all.
    • The Terra Obscura characters are all pre-existing out-of-copyright characters created by Nedor Comics. Including Tom Strange himself, who was originally Doc Strange and whose first name was Hugo.
  • In one Calamity James strip, James buys a huge stack of Mega-Man (nothing to do with the video game character comics) and promptly has them fall on top of him. Fortunately, the real Mega-Man suddenly swoops in and saves him... but then James offers him a jelly baby in thanks, forgetting that jelly babies are the one substance that can defeat his Mega-powers.
  • Mitchell Hundred, protagonist of Ex Machina, is a DC comics fan as a kid before becoming the world's only superhero. He's also seen as an adult visiting comic book stores selling issues of The Authority and Planetary, titles published by Wildstorm - the DC imprint that also published Ex Machina.
  • Science Dog, a comic book character in Invincible, suddenly appeared at the door of Mark "Invincible" Grayson's house. Mark was understandably surprised by the visit of the non-human being but it turned out to be an alien using Science Dog's form to make the encounter easier. Bad idea.
  • The Authority themselves, in an abortive Grant Morrison series, found themselves on our Earth, where they encountered the comics in which they had made their first appearances.
  • A key concept of The Multiversity, according to Grant Morrison: each Earth has comics featuring characters from other Earths, through which the heroes can keep informed about what's going on elsewhere. For example, Mastermen #1 begins with Adolf Hitler reading Action Comics while using the toilet.
  • Averted, played with and generally trashed by The Unbelievable Gwenpool...
  • Wanted says the world used to be a Standard Superhero Setting until the villains teamed up and built a machine that altered reality. Superheroes are now confined to comics and movies with the depowered heroes now turned into actors who play them on TV. This story and Marvel 1985 were inspired by Millar as a child assuming that superhero comics were based on true stories and that the real heroes were wiped out in a war with the villains.
  • The Mickey Mouse story "Mickey Mouse meets Captain Thunder" is based on this trope. In the context of the story, there are a lot of superheroes who regularly save the day in Mouseton and their real life adventures are then rendered as comics and sold in stores. The story features Mickey helping an unlucky superhero whose adventures are too boring and so his comics don't sell.
  • Every Supe in The Boys has comic books based on them and their adventures. That's all false propaganda, according to Billy Butcher.

    Fan Works 
  • There's a Power Rangers fanfic inspired by the crossover between Power Rangers in Space and Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, where each team thought the other was just an urban legend.
  • A Game Comes to Equestria: in Domino City, and pretty much in all of the world, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic airs on television and is as pretty popular as it is in Real Life (almost rivaling the popularity of Duel Monsters In-Universe), but is generally regarded as a work of fiction. Then Yugi appears on the show from a mysterious re-airing of "Luna Eclipsed" onward, and everything changes. this makes Rebecca Hawkins do a Double Take When she sees him during the Lost Element chapters that were televised In-Universe.
  • In The Bridge, Planet Terra holds an amalgamation of various Kaiju franchises like Godzilla, Gamera, and Pacific Rim. The story starts with several Kaiju getting transported to the world of Equestria. Later, the spinoff The Bridge: Humanity's Stand reveals that the cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic exists on Terra. When the human characters learn what happened to the missing Kaiju, Lauren Faust (who in this universe, did not leave the show after season 2) is shocked because she thought Equestria was just something she made up. She and her husband Craig McCracken get hired by the Global Defense Force as consultants to teach everybody about Equestria in case it is needed, though the two worry that anything they say may not be accurate to the real Equestria.
  • Digimon: Children of Time: Due to Canon Welding. Takato is surprised to discover early on that the Digimon television show is all real events, and that Tai and his friends all actually went through it all.
  • In Amazing Fantasy, Spider-Man and the rest of the Marvel Universe are fictional in Izuku's universe, having been written by real-life writers like Stan Lee. This lends to his disbelief that he could have Spider-Man's powers when he starts developing them one after the other after recovering from a spider bite. His disbelief is stretched even further when he meets Peter Parker.
  • Superman and Man: Christopher Reeve believed Superman was just a comic-book character until he got body-swapped with the Man of Steel and found himself in the DC Universe.
  • In Misadventure to a Tripolar World, the A.U., especially the OTL "Prime Universe," are aware that Code Geass, along with the worlds of The Domination and Nineteen Eighty-Four, were fictional in their universe until discovering their existence.
  • Echoes of Yesterday: In Earth-Bet the characters of The DCU and the Marvel Universe are considered fictional characters who fell out of fashion in The '80s, which is because Taylor is so shocked when she meets Supergirl.
    Kara: My proper name, Taylor Hebert, is Kara Zor-El. I am the last Daughter of Krypton from Prime Earth. Your world knows of me and my friends and family through old comic books printed by Detective Comics Incorporated, but where I'm from, we and our conflicts are very real.
    Taylor: S-so you're not just a cape. You're a fictional character brought to life?
    Kara: Yes and no. I am fictional to your world, but my world is very real. There are many possibilities in the multiverse, Taylor. Fiction and reality blur the lines when you travel between worlds. Yours is not the first world I've encountered where we existed as stories, and I guarantee there are worlds where the lives of your people are recorded and told as stories of their own.
  • In A Spark of Genius, the Scooby gang find out thanks to Andrew and Jonathan that not long after Xander was sent into the DC universe that comics detailing his adventures began to roll of the company presses. No one was writing them, editing them, drawing or colouring them, they were just printing themselves from nothing and the company decided not to question the comic that didn't require them to pay anyone to produce and started distributing it. The gang are able to follow Xander by reading the comic.
  • Here There Be Monsters: In Earth-S, Superman is a comic book character. It would be twenty years before the Marvel Family found out he is a real person in other universes.
  • In The Day After You Saved the Multiverse, Clark Kent tells his parents he now has Superboy-like powers. And he was dragged into a dimension where comic-book characters are real, and he fought alongside Superman, Batman, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Flash and the like. And then he was dragged into still another conflict to stop Darkseid from enslaving the Multiverse. Jerome and Naomi Kent have trouble coping with the idea that they were almost turned into a fictional character's zombie slaves.
    "Yes, Dad, busy. Busy saving five whole universes, six counting this one, from Darkseid." It sounded ludicrous as he said it. But there was nothing else he knew to say.
    "Oh. Darkseid," said Naomi. "Another comic book character we didn't know we needed saving from, before two weeks ago."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Condorman, the creator of the eponymous comic book hero is so obsessed with being realistic that he refuses to write anything that he can't do himself in real life. Sure enough, when the CIA ends up sponsoring his antics in order to rescue a major Soviet defector, they build all of the gadgets he's invented, leading to a hilarious Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys? speech from the Big Bad.
  • In Hellboy (2004), Hellboy is only known to the outside world as an urban myth and the star of a series of comicbooks. When John Meyers meets the real HB, he complains that the comics never get his eyes right.
  • In Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers is being dressed up and paraded as the mascot "Captain America" as a way to boost the morale of the troops. They not only make films about the fictional character, they also make a Captain America comic-book series. While it's a hit stateside, it backfires when he actually gets overseas and the troops not only don't take him seriously, they're offended.
  • Wolverine happens upon some vintage X-Men comics in Logan, though according to him they're mostly exaggerations and fabrications.
  • In Unbreakable, Elijah Price believes comic book superheroes are based on real life people with extraordinary abilities, just embellished with Artistic License. His attempts to find out whether David Dunn is one of these people drive much of the plot.

  • In Lev Grossman's The Magicians the world described in a popular fantasy series titled Fillory and Further turns out to really exist and is visited by the novel's protagonists.
    • In its sequel The Magician King, the world of The Teletubbies turns out to really exist as well.
  • The Captain Underpants series starts off with two boys, George and Harold, being punished by Principal Krupp, for drawing comic books starring their hero, Captain Underpants. In retaliation, they hypnotize Mr. Krupp into thinking he's actually Captain Underpants. And then the boys can't un-hypnotize him...
  • Zig-zagged in Jack Blank. Jack grew up reading comic books. When he arrives in the Imagine Nation, he finds out that many of his favorite comic book heroes are real people. However, Direct Line to the Author comes into play when Jack reads a storyline where Prime succumbs to a Rüstov infection and finds out later it's instantly fatal, but the real Prime is perfectly fine and healthy. Jack asks Prime if that story really happened, Prime tells him that sometimes the authors and artists embellish history. Also, Jazen Knight mocks Jack for believing Captain Courage is real because he's an entirely fictional character, but Jack doesn't see the difference between believing in a real person and a fictional one if they're both equally amazing, having very little exposure to real-live superheroes at that point.
  • In the world of Wild Cards, the Special Committee for Ace Resources and Endeavors puts out comics featuring famous aces as propaganda pieces. The Great and Powerful Turtle is a bit miffed that his comic book counterpart has an Elaborate Underground Base while in real life he operates out of a junkyard.
  • In Kim Newman's Diogenes Club series, the vigilante Dr. Shade has his own comic book that provides the details of his secret identity and the location of his secret base, leading everyone to wonder why they're called "secret".
  • Gary Karkofsky in the superhero universe The Supervillainy Saga talks about how "historical comics" exist. These are adaptations of the adventures of the Society of Superheroes and have more or less replaced fictional superheroes in their reality. Given reality is every bit as crazy as in comic books, it's implied the comics actually have to tone the stories down.
    • Gets worse (better?) as the series goes on. All of his books take place in the same The Multiverse and occasionally have crossovers with each other. However, all of the characters are fictional in the realities they visit so Jane Doe is a popular urban fantasy series in Gary's world even when she drops by and vice versa.
  • In the story of The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System: Ren Zha Fanpai Zijiu Xitong, Shen Yuan believed that the characters and story of Proud Immortal Demon Way were just a part of a regular trashy web novel. After he is transmigrated after his death, he finds out the story is its own dimension. The canonical events of the novel where Shen Yuan didn't transmigrate into Shen Qingqiu exists as its own dimension and timeline.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Referenced in Sherlock, when a couple of clients claim that the things that happen in a comic book series seem to be coming true around them. According to supplemental material (John's blog), it was a company's attempt to promote the comic series and Sherlock uncovered it.
  • In Heroes, in the clairvoyant's comic book some of the Heroes (like Hiro and Ando) are depicted as characters in it. Most people outside the main cast would assume that it is a work of fiction.
  • This is the premise of Big Bad Beetleborgs, though the main characters become the comic book heroes, instead of them showing up as separate characters.
  • In Power Rangers Ninja Storm, Tori dismissed the Power Rangers as comic book characters and/or urban legends before she and her friends became Rangers themselves. This infamously sparked some fan debate, as it suggested Ninja Storm was an Alternate Continuity, and when the next season confirmed it wasn't, then how could she justify ten years of giant monster attacks as fiction?
  • Inverted in the Supernatural episode "The Monster at the End of This Book". Sam and Dean discover that their lives have been turned into a series of horror novels. Played straight with the writer, who discovers (when Sam and Dean show up at his house) that the characters he thought he'd created are actually real.
  • This is part of the premise of Mighty Med, wherein two teenage comic book fans discover that the superheroes they've been reading about for years have always been real, and end up getting jobs at the secret hospital where said heroes are treated thanks to their love of comics making them surprisingly well-equipped to assist in treating their ailments. It's later explained that one of the hospital workers is the one making the comics, as his superpower gives him the ability to see vision's of other people's lives, and the comic sales are how the hospital is presumably funded.


    Video Games 
  • In Psychonauts, Raz grew up reading True Psychic Tales for years before he went to Camp Whispering Rock and trained under the real-life Sasha, Milla and Crueller. In this case, though, it's implied that everyone knows psychics are real, which presumably means the comics are just well-known Psychonauts' adventures marketed to kids.
  • In Skullgirls, the title character of the Show Within a Show Annie, Girl of the Stars, is not only based on the folklore exploits of the real in-universe Annie, she actually is the original Annie who fought against multiple Skullgirls in the past and uses it as a cover for her life in the present. She has to change her hairstyle every few years to keep appearances up, but every "new" Annie is still the same girl. She even lampshades it.
    Annie: It's kinda weird playing yourself on television, isn't it?
  • Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle: In the opening cutscene, the unnamed inventor is shown to be a huge fangirl of the Super Mario Bros. franchise; her basement is decorated with figurines and posters, she hums the theme song as she works, and she even dresses in blue overalls, a Star powerup T-shirt, and a red hoodie. Then the Rabbids show up, and a series of events send them to the actual Mushroom Kingdom.
  • Kingdom Hearts III features the Game-within-a-game Verum Rex in the Toy Story world, which acts as both a parody of Tetsuya Nomura-directed games and a Mythology Gag to Rex's difficulties with videogames in the Toy Story movies. In this world, Sora is mistaken for a toy of Yozora, the game's main character. Then the game's secret ending heavily implies that Yozora is real.
  • The comicbooks as mentioned in Anachronox are based on the real exploits of superheroes and -villains of the planet Krapton. At one point Sly and his team gets captured by Rictus, one of said comicbook supervillains, who they manage to defeat but, with Sly forgetting what Rictus did after being defeated in one issue, get sucker-punched by him and put into the brig together with many other superheroes.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In Legion of Nothing, superheroes are real, but comic books like Spider-Man and X-Men are as common as they are in our universe. No doubt some real superheroes run their own comics, too...
  • Played with in The Descendants where the fact that comic books are, by the time of the series, a 100+ year old art form. This leads to an inversion where the media refuses to call them superheroes.
    • One company however, takes full advantage of their Secret Identity issues to publish comics using real heroes in fictional stories without getting likeness rights.
    • Other folks, especially street vendors, make a killing off unofficial merchandise the same way. Whitecoat buys spares of his hat from them. He also invokes the above inversion this trope in the page quote for the series.
    • Alloy recently got to save the writer and artist of the comic based on the eponymous characters.

    Web Videos 
  • The premise of WarpZone Project can be summed up as "What we know to be true history is fiction and what we know as to be fiction is true history". The latter implies this trope. This is done as part of a Masquerade to keep things under control in a world where Everyone Is a Super via making most people think super-powers only exist fiction (the show is about those on which the Masquerade doesn't work).

    Western Animation 
  • Throughout Adventure Time, there are several episodes revolving around the adventures of Fionna and Cake, gender bent versions of the two lead heroes. In most of their appearances, they’re framed as crazed fan fiction by the Ice King, with several characters writing their own versions and one episode involving an attempt to bring them to life. It wouldn’t be until season nine where it would be revealed that Fionna and Cake were actually real… after an imposter briefly appears, the episode ending by showing the stories being beamed into Ice King’s head.
    • In the sequel show, Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake, it’s further established that Fionna and Cake are the creations of Prismo, a nigh-omnipotent being tasked with granting wishes. After years of serving others, he becomes curious if he could create something for himself, using Ice King’s head as a means to hide his unauthorized universe.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: The Crimson Chin was originally fictional, but he's been brought to life by fairies so many times it's not even mentioned anymore. Timmy himself is also a superhero, as Cleft the Boy Chin Wonder as a result of the Chin, thus making him part of the comic book's continuity. He's got a variety of other alter egos as well, but that would be another entire page.
  • Static Shock: Virgil grows up reading comic books about Superman and the Green Lantern, and eventually meets and teams up with them from time to time. Probably more of a subtle retcon. Static Shock was originally disconnected from the regular DC universe with the DC characters as fictional (kind of like Milestone Comics to The DCU). Then Static and his universe got added to the DC universe, so now Static couldn't have possibly read those comics or everyone should know Superman's Secret Identity as well.
    • Possibly justified if the Superman comics in-universe are meant to depict battles that Superman actually fought in-universe, and details like Superman's secret identity are never touched upon in those comics. The line "Even Clark Kent has a day job" in "They're Playing My Song" was subjected to Orwellian Retcon and cut from later broadcasts.
  • In the Justice League episode "Legends", John Stewart, Hawkgirl, Flash and the Martian Manhunter are transported to an alternate universe inhabited by the Justice Guild of America, Golden Age heroes which were featured in comics John used to read as a kid. J'onn brings up the possibility that the comics' authors in the primary universe had a subconscious link with the Guild's universe, hence why they existed only as comics characters in the primary universe.
  • The Real Ghostbusters:
    • An episode had a superhero and villain from one of Ray's comics become "real" and clash with the Ghostbusters. Unusually, no explanation was ever given for why the comics characters were able to enter Ray's reality. (This shouldn't be confused with a later episode in which a shapeshifting ghost briefly imitated the same superhero.)
      Incidentally, the superhero "Captain Steel" was a Superman Substitute while the villain was the pre-Crisis Lex Luthor; their creator was an obvious pastiche of Marv Wolfman of DC Comics, and the cartoon was made during the Crisis on Infinite Earths comic event.
    • A later episode had Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty show up, and it was explained that the collective belief of their fans was sufficient to make them "come to life".
  • The Justice Friends are a part of Dexter's Laboratory's Three Shorts format, but seems to be portrayed as half real and half fictional in Dexter's universe: Major Glory has a television show, but actually exists and has super powers. Likewise, Dexter and Dee Dee meet the stars of the in-series shows Action Hank and Pony Puff Princess (twice in the case of the former).
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Mermaidman and Barnacleboy are superheroes who star as themselves in a TV show. They have real super powers and an invisible boatmobile and whatnot, but SpongeBob once defeats one of their enemies using something he learned from their show. It's also shown in another episode that the show isn't totally accurate, as the televised and real origins of Mermaidman are different.
  • On Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Michaelangelo reads a comic book series about the superhero Bugman, and then discovers that there really is a Bugman.
  • This happens in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) as well, when Mikey tries to get an issue of the Justice Force comic to find out what happened to one of the heroes in the cliffhanger of the previous issues, but finds his favorite characters real, but the character he was hoping to have survived, had died. (This is based on an issue of the original TMNT comic, but Mikey being a fan of the comic is new in this version.)
  • Rocko's Modern Life has comic book hero Really Really Big Man, who will occasionally drop in and save the day. And perhaps offer you a vision from his Nipples of the Future. Seriously.
  • Robotboy has the Human Fist. The trope is double subverted in the episode The Human Fist on Ice, by first introducing a Camp Gay ferry boat captain, playing the role of the Human fist in a spectacle, then having the real Human Fist show up to beat the crap out of the villain.
  • An episode of Dragon Tales has Max's hero Mondo Mouse turn out to be real, in Dragonland at least. And apparently he can enter and exit the comic books at whim.
  • In Count Duckula the Count's hero Tremendous Terrence is a comic book star and cereal mascot but no-one shows any surprise when they meet him in person.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Rainbow Dash is a fan of The Adventures Of Daring Do. Two seasons later, it's revealed that Daring Do is a real pony who publishes the stories of her adventures under a pseudonym. A few seasons later, the fact that it's still a secret is driving Rainbow nuts when another fan is complaining that the more recent books are starting to rely too much on clichés.
  • In The New Scooby-Doo Movies episode "Wednesday is Missing", Mystery Inc. runs into The Addams Family (1973). Fred mentions growing up watching the Addams Family on TV and is shocked to meet them in the flesh. The Addams Family are apparently unaware of any TV show documenting their lives.
  • Mixels has the Nindjas, a team of ninja protectors of the city, with their past adventures chronicled in their comic book series. While some of the others are skeptical about them, Booger insists that they're real, which ends up being a good thing when they show up in the flesh.
  • Zig-Zagged in Gargoyles with respect to "The Pack". Initially presented to the viewer as a fairly campy action television Show Within a Show, but believed real by the main characters who were new to modern times and technology. Then we the viewer learned that the actors on the show really did have the portrayed abilities and called each other by the super hero code names out in the real world.... but then revealed that they're actually criminals who just do the TV show to make money between crimes.
  • In Atomic Puppet, superhero comics are the illustrated retellings of superheroes' actual feats. Captain Atomic is shown to have his own comic book series with the first issue being equivalent to Action Comics #1, for example. Then in "Quick Draw", when Joey and AP defeat a washed-up comic book artist who went mad with power after discovering his ink could create life, the artist makes the first issue of his Atomic Puppet series about that very battle.
  • The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants as part of every episode has the main characters drawing a comic book that in one way or another ends up becoming real later in the episode.
  • The comic shops in DC Super Hero Girls that Barbara/Batgirl and Harley frequent are shown to sell comics based on actual superheroes in that universe.