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Corporate-Sponsored Superhero

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Captain Amazing just got a bid for his ab-space.

"My nemesis is Captain Hammer. 'Captain Hammer: corporate TOOL!'"
Doctor Horrible, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

In many superhero works, the big, problematic question is usually "Where DOES he get all those wonderful toys?". Superheroes have to pay the bills, after all, and superheroics isn't really that lucrative. So what's a superhero to do? Well, if you weren't lucky enough to inherit a large fortune and head a major corporation, you can either find a day job or seek out sponsorship for your heroics! While some might turn to the government, others might want to head to the private sector for financing.

Enter the Corporate-Sponsored Superhero! Captain Bland-Name Product is here to save the day, and tell you about all the great deals you can get on insurance to cover the damage incurred by your rescue!

Note that this applies only to heroes with explicit ties to their corporate sponsor. Characters who use funds from their corporation to secretly finance their heroism (Batman, for example) do not count. Expect to see corporate logos printed on tights, advertising appearances, and rampant toy marketing. Also expect the heroes to develop serious qualms about the shilling they have to do, especially if they discover their sponsor in engaging in unethical or criminal activities.

Related to Law Enforcement, Inc. and Heroes "R" Us. May overlap with Punch-Clock Hero if they view heroics as nothing more than a 9-to-5 job to pay the bills. See also Celebrity Superhero.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Godaigo Daigo: In this story, the titular hero is a giant-sized man whose job is fighting kaiju sized lizard aliens. It seems that in this universe, all heroes wear clothing or armor with the name of their sponsors (which helps pay for Hero Insurance). Daigo has fallen on hard times because he's getting little action and thus less sponsorship for him and his support staff.
  • Magilumiere Co. Ltd.: In addition to exterminating Kaii, the magical girls of the setting are each tied to their respective companies. When they aren't fighting monsters, they can be found making public promotional appearances and sponsoring their company's products. For instance, Miyakado sells makeup for magical girls that won't smudge or smear even when flying at 40 km/h.
  • My Hero Academia also plays with this. Heroes are government sponsored and also have strict limitations on how they can use their powers, but they also have their image and use it to gain public popularity, which can increase their ranking and get them more work. Heroes work out of firms that function like independent businesses, jockeying for government contracts based on their specialization.
  • One-Punch Man generally averts this trope, since the heroes are part of a government organization and therefore get a salary. However, there are still a few "heroes" who are only in it for the money, and will gladly try to tear down other heroes in order to raise their own standings (and paychecks). The closest to this trope is the number one A-Class hero Amai Mask, who spends much more time acting and producing pop music than he does actually fighting evil. While he is genuinely a hero, he's also a Knight Templar and Jerkass who believes Murder Is the Best Solution when dealing with monsters, even ones that have surrendered, and he's secretly a monster himself that's slowly losing what little humanity he has left.
  • In Ratman, pretty much every member of the Hero Society. As that's the only way the heroes can often afford the treatments for their abilities.
  • Special Duty Combat Unit Shinesman features a corporate sentai team, complete with business-themed weapons like business card launchers and tie clip bombs.
  • Tiger & Bunny:
    • All superheroes are sponsored by corporations, who seem to serve more of an entertainment and advertising function than actual fighting crime. All of the heroes featured on HeroTV are genuinely heroic, however, and are in the business at least in part because they want to help people. As such, it's a more idealistic take on the concept than one might expect. Worth noting is that in this case the products aren't Bland Name Products but real Product Placement from the actual anime's sponsors like Pepsi, and Bandai.
    • Revelations later on in the show suggest that the entertainment aspect was part of a plot to reduce anti-NEXT (superpowered individuals) bigotry, which worked admirably. Unfortunately, the guy masterminding it all jumped off the slippery slope, murdering people for technology and building up his own villain teams for the heroes to fight.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City:
    • Some of Honor Guard's members qualify, as the team has a stipend available (via N.R.-Gistics) for those who need financial support to offset their time being heroes.
    • Beautie is sponsored by Tip-Top Toys, the creators of the "Beautie" line of fashion dolls that she is modeled after.
    • Reflex 6 has corporate sponsors, and team benefits include a stipend, branding research, and a genre-savvy marketing department.
    • Jack-In-The-Box III (Roscoe James) technically counts, as he gets paid by his predecessor so he can earn his way through college without resorting to handouts.
  • The Boys is about a group of enhanced vigilantes that hunt down and kill corporate-sponsored superheroes who in this universe are hedonistic, immature, egocentric assholes who commit atrocities and suffer no consequences for them, this being the purpose of the formation of the titular team. It goes further: sometimes, the sponsors themselves will order the death of any super that becomes a liability and whose behavior begins to hurt the bottom line. The G-men are a perfect example of this. Despite them being one of the most profitable teams working for Vought-American, the defense contractor ordered them to be wiped out after leader and Professor X stand-in John Goldokin's M.O. of kidnapping and abusing runaway children to make them part of his group was endangering the company's business.
  • In Season 8 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the slayers are being supported by donors, and the occasional bank robbery.
  • A character named "Captain Copyright" was created by Canada's Access Copyright agency to "educate" children about copyright law. The campaign was wildly denounced as corporate propaganda, and was cancelled soon after.
  • The DCU:
    • Aztek was sponsored by LexCorp so that they could have their own member on the Justice League of America.
    • In one run of Batman and the Outsiders (sans Batman himself), the team under Nightwing's leadership accepts sponsorship from a multimedia company named Optitron. The team has some doubts about the potential issues that could arise, but the funding is too good to pass up. It turns out that hey had good reason to be suspicious about the offer: they discover that Optitron is actually a shell company owned by Wayne Industries, of aforementioned Batman fame. Dick is pretty pissed that Bruce went behind his back like this.
    • Booster Gold has been this at different stages in his career. His stint as leader of the Conglomerate is probably most emblematic; every member of that team wore a jacket emblazoned with dozens of corporate logos and were featured in magazine and television ads for various companies.
    • Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol run has Sunburst, a Japanese superhero with his own reality show and tie-in manga.
    • LexCorp also sponsored one iteration of Infinity, Inc..
    • Justice League Incarnate: The thought-projected Superman, Superdoom, was originally meant to be this, but when its "corporate owners" used it to dominate its native parallel Earth with the clear objective to eliminate any and all competitors across the multiverse, a literal "killer franchise" was born.
    • In Seven Soldiers, the most recent user of the Guardian title is the Manhattan Guardian, who is sponsored by a newspaper that has bought the rights to the name and costume from Cadmus. A notable case in that the heroism is the primary reason why he's hired, rather than for advertising or public relations purposes.
    • Wonder Woman:
      • Within Diana's first day of arriving in the US back in the pages of Sensation Comics, a man badgers her about becoming her sponsor. She turns him down at first and then plays along just long enough to expose the scam he's trying to run.
      • Both deconstructed and reconstructed in Wonder Woman (1987). One of Diana's most... distinctive supporting characters is Myndi Mayer, a brassy, loud-mouthed publicist who turns Wonder Woman into a celebrity and merchandising juggernaut shortly after her debut in Man's World. Diana is rarely directly involved in said merchandising or its proceeds, but she does (reluctantly) give Myndi's company exclusive rights to her superhero name and emblem. While her image takes a blow, the money also goes to support plenty of worthy causes, especially feminist ones, meaning that Diana achieves a lot more than she could've sans her help. Unfortunately, Myndi ends up dying from what is initially believed to be gunshots, only for it to be revealed that she overdosed because of her cocaine addiction. The entire thing is a painful wake-up call to Diana, who at the time is still pretty naïve to the world.
  • Capes, Inc., a group of B-list heroes, from Invincible.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has media companies paying most of the Long-Lived but senile clients' bills in the Old Superhero retirement homes in case their TV or movie franchises become profitable again.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • The entire team from All-New X-Factor is sponsored by Serval Industries. It's implied that they recruited the former Avenger Quicksilver to add a sense of legitimacy to the group.
    • The Avengers:
      • In many incarnations, the Avengers are sponsored by millionare industrialist Tony Stark — himself an example of this trope.
      • A planned Marvel comic series would have featured the Avengers teaming up with a superhero group run by real-life military contractor Northrup Grumman. The sheer backlash from readers outraged about promoting the military-industrial complex to children caused it to be canceled before it was even released.
    • In Great Lakes Avengers, at least one of the ill-fated men to bear the superhero moniker of Grasshopper was sponsored by Roxxon Oil.
    • The Incredible Hercules: The Olympians have a front company called the Olympus Group that bails them out when they have problems with mortal authorities, which would thus technically make Hercules a corporate-sponsored hero.
    • Iron Man, when Tony Stark isn't filling the role. Jim Rhodes wore the armor for a while under the employ of Stark and a few of Stark's other employees have worn variations of the armor briefly. Part of Iron Man's Secret Identity was that he was sponsored by Stark Enterprises as Tony's bodyguard. One back-up feature in a '90s annual was a news article about how many other companies were trying to Follow the Leader with their own corporate-backed heroes; none of them were doing so well, though.
    • New Avengers (2015) revolves around the A.I.M. corporation assembling and sponsoring their own team of Avengers.
    • Spider-Man:
      • Invoked and Played for Laughs in Amazing Spider-Man #550. When the Blue Shield attempts to apprehend Spider-Man for the Initiative, Spidey's first quip is to ask how he can get a better deal on his health insurance premiums.note 
      • Played straight during the title's All-New, All-Different Marvel relaunch, which takes a cue from Iron Man and makes Spider-Man the "mascot" of Parker Industries.
      • King's Ransom: Desperate to make ends meet, Spider-Man agrees to work with Threats and Menaces to provide them POV coverage of his battles in exchange for income.
      • Equally played straight in the Spider-Man Beyond storyline, which sees the returned Ben Reiley Spider-Man as the "mascot" of the Beyond Corporation. Deconstructed too, as it soon becomes clear that at best being given assignments by Beyond is keeping Ben from helping as much as he should and at worst he's an Unwitting Pawn to their corporate schemes.
    • The Blur in Supreme Power actually started as a corporate spokesman, seen in ads for everything from mp3 players to soda. After Nighthawk got him to start being heroic, he switched to a single sponsor — Kyle Richmond/Nighthawk's own company.
    • One of the major hooks behind X-Statix was the fact that the team of mutant media darlings were also inveterate corporate shills.
  • A-Pex in Power & Glory, whose appearance of an all-American virtuous superhero is all manufactured by his government handlers.
  • In The Red Ten, the Alliance is a corporate-backed expy of the Justice League. The plot is kicked off when one of the members is murdered to cover up the dirty secrets she'd discovered and protect the corporation's image.
  • Watchmen: Possibly deconstructed; one of the side notes in the comic mentions one of the earlier heroes was a bank-sponsored hero named Dollar Bill, who had to wear a garish costume as one of the conditions of his sponsorship. Perhaps not so ironically, the cape was caught in a revolving door, tripping him up long enough for a crook to shoot him dead as he tried to stop a bank heist.
  • Wild C.A.T.s (WildStorm): The Wild C.A.T.s were sponsored by different companies and entrepreneurs in the past.
  • One of the hopefuls in Wildguard: Casting Call was Running Girl, a speedster who had her own shoe deal even before she debuted as a superhero. Currently, the deal's pending — she didn't make Wildguard and the contract stipulates she be on a team. Human Shield mentioned being contacted by home security and plastic bag companies to act as a spokesman but didn't say whether he was actually going for it.

    Fan Works 
  • A Champion in Earth-Bet: In The Avatar's World, Omnicorp sponsors the world's largest Super Team, the Omni-Force. While they've been accused of being nothing more than a massive PR stunt, they've still managed to garner a lot of good will.
  • Various stories of the Coreline Shared Universe focus on a superhero team called "The Champions", which are funded and geared by a Mega-Corp called "Stingray Industries" (with The Champions being (on the books) a sub-division of its security teams focused on dealing with super humans). The short story "Coreline: A Tale Of Two Maris" has the Commander of the Champions' Indianapolis Division discuss that two other superhero groups of the setting (the Avengers Infinity and the Justice League Unlimited) are also arguably "corporate-sponsored", being mostly funded and geared by fellow Mega-Corporations Stark Industries and Wayne Enterprises and having a history of dealing with issues with said sponsors (Avengers teams having done missions that (unknown to them at the time) were in the interest of Stark Industries and Justice League members having had to deal with Alternates of Bruce Wayne/Batman that went too far with their paranoia)... which, frankly, makes their looking down at The Champions because of their corporate roots a bit hypocritical, to say the least.
  • Incident Zero: When the Hero Commission exploits All Might's death in order to strengthen their control over Pro Heroes, those who don't want to be directly under their control have few options. Aside from resorting to vigilantism or retirement, their best bet is to seek independent funding from other sources... such as corporations.
  • Nymph and the Corrupted Miraculous: Since Lady Nymph is remaining hidden, various toy companies approach her chosen champions offering them merchandising deals, as they want to create toys and tie-ins based off their Champion personas.
  • In the Spider-Man fanfic The Spider, Glider a.k.a. Harry Osborn is sponsored by his father Norman Osborn and is OsCorp's own superhero of New York.
  • Stupor Heroics: Both Lori and Lynn are forced to do marketing as A-List Superheroes. Lori is particularly frustrated by that part of the job especially when it prevents her from enjoying the cocoa she loves.
  • In A Supe of a Man, Vought forces Superman to participate in various sponsorships like their other superheroes. Superman isn't happy about this.
  • Two Letters: One of the first indications that there's something questionable about the new Ladybug is that her uniform has sponsorship logos plastered across it.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Spider Man Across The Spiderverse Miles at one point attempted to be this when he endorsed a brand of baby powder. The blowback was bad enough that he had to apologize online.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Big Man Japan has ads and logos tattooed all over him. At one point he's forced to let a monster free from his chokehold because the watching advertisers complaining he was covering up their ad!
  • Used partly on Hancock. Ray was a marketing executive, and in one of Hancock's visits to his house saw a logo Ray made as part of a charity campaign he was doing (with little success). At the end of the movie, he makes a replica of it on the Moon so that everybody can see it. It was a good deed between friends rather than actual business, but you know that Ray would get a lot of business after that.
  • In Iron Man 3, James Rhodes/War Machine is given a patriotic paint job and rechristened as "Iron Patriot", which is said to have tested better in focus groups. Word of God is that the government specifically created Iron Patriot to cash in on the positive public perception of superheroes after the events of The Avengers (2012).
  • Captain Amazing from Mystery Men (see page image) wears a costume emblazoned with sponsors' logos. The film's plot is kicked off when Captain Amazing is informed that, without a good arch-nemesis, he's no longer as popular as he was in his heyday, and many of his sponsors are considering backing out. This is why he decides to get Casanova Frankenstein released. It doesn't go exactly as he planned.
  • RoboCop is a subversion on the superhero genre (much like Judge Dredd was) in that the hero defends the existing power structure, though he finally defies it in the original film's finale. RoboCop is actually a press stunt by Omni Consumer Products; the company, which already owns everything in Detroit, proposes a new law enforcement robot in order to get a foothold in law enforcement as well.

  • A variation in Corpies, in which the titular term is a derogatory name for PEERS (Privately Employed Emergency Response Supers) used by actual licensed Heroes. Unlike Heroes, PEERS are employed by corporations and typically feature logos of their sponsors on their uniforms. They are also not allowed to engage supervillains (except in self-defense) and are limited to rescue and disaster recovery work. Some PEERS teams work with cops, while others employ Hero liaisons. A liaison's job is to use his or her experience to determine if an emergency is caused by a Super or a Powered and to either keep the team away or confront the Super/Powered, while the team focused on rescue work.
  • Employed as a setting detail in Worm, where corporate-backed heroes exist as an viable but relatively unpopular career path for parahumans who don't want to join The Protectorate or take the risk of going it alone as an independent vigilante. During Leviathan's attack on Brockton Bay, two rival corporate-sponsored teams turn up alongside the government-sponsored defenders, being very careful to avoid being seen in each other's company despite the overwhelming danger of the situation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In keeping with the more adult themes of late-season Buffy the Vampire Slayer, its spinoff Angel was primarily concerned with how demon hunters cope with no parents or outside support structure (like the Watchers) to help them. As it turns out, not so much: the gang opened their own for-profit agency (with Angel dragging his heels on the whole 'invoice' thing), gradually upgrading their pokey office, and finally were co-opted by a vast, morally neutral corporation. A number of old acquaintances — Cordelia, Spike, Lindsey and even Andrew — pop up to deliver stinging rebukes about how Angel and co. are just glorified paper pushers.
  • Just like in the comics, in The Boys, the Super Team known as "the Seven" (plus a number of other Supes) are employed by Vought Industries. The Seven's HQ is at the same building as the Vought HQ. Vought has a sophisticated analytical division that predicts and locates high-profile crimes for the Seven to make an appearance (hopefully with cameras standing by). The Seven are required to wear costumes designed by Vought and to promote Vought-approved viewpoints depending on the demographics Vought targets. Most of the Seven are more concerned with their popularity (most notably on social media) and merchandising sales than with crime-fighting.
  • Dinosaurs: Earl Sinclair once gained superpowers and named his alter ego "Captain Impressive". Once Mr. Richfield found out, he invoked a clause in the work contract requiring him to use his powers in service of Wesayso Corporation. Earl became spokesperson for the company.
  • Out of all the heroes in Dogengers, Yamashiron is the more obvious example of this, who represents Yamashiro Gas Co. Ltd from Saga Prefecture. Same goes for Ohgaman, Ohga Pharmacy's company hero. The second season Nice Buddy followed that up with Great-Z/Great-2 representing Pizza Cooc, and the third season High School protagonist MAKO representing FUKUYA Mentaiko.
  • Kamen Rider Zero-One drives the hero's core premise by tying authorization to use the Zero-One Driver to also being the CEO of the company that made it, forcing the protagonist to take the executive job if he wants to also help people as a superhero. Or just "being the CEO", rather: it's eventually revealed that being the CEO of any company will do. Arc Villain Kamen Rider Thouser is sponsored by rival company ZAIA Enterprise, and unlike the more humble Zero-One, he wastes no opportunity to promote ZAIA's brand as part of his Engineered Heroics, up to the point that his finishers plaster the screen with copyright information.
  • The Power Rangers Operation Overdrive were brought together and equipped by Andrew Hartford, head of Hartford Industries. Though the Rangers have little to do with his business ventures - Andrew's an Adventurer Archaeologist on the side and needs Rangers to help deal with a mess of trouble he stirred up on one of his treasure hunts.
  • The aborted Wonder Woman 2011 reimagined the heroine as a sort of Superman/Batman hybrid; juggling her duties as CEO of Themyscira Industries with a lonely single life. The company funds its crime-fighting activities by shilling merch, including a busty Wonder Woman figurine (which Diana objects to). This idea was revived in Harley Quinn (2019) in which Themyscira becomes a tacky holiday resort.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones Pulse, the media, sports, and Bio-Augmentation Mega-Corp; funds agents known as Beacons who have some sort of show or sport or other spectator event, and then spend their downtime fighting crime or something. They're supposed to inspire the populace (and encourage future Pulse athletes) and make the corporation look good. Though it's also possible Pulse funds villains to give them someone to fight.
  • Mutants & Masterminds has this to a degree in the World of Freedom setting. Not only are there companies and heroes that do go this route, but the country of France actually requires heroes to have a sponsor. The reason France does so is that the sponsor is liable for any damage the superhero causes. As such while it's easy to get government sponsorship, corporations are more hesitant unless the hero in question isn't likely to cause any serious collateral damage they need to worry about. "Free agent" supers in France are considered illegal vigilantes. Naturally they don't try and enforce this law on any visiting foreign heroes, but they are strongly encouraged to leave matters happening in France to French heroes.
  • Benchmark in Sentinels of the Multiverse had his cybernetic augmentation sponsored by Revocorp. Since Revocorp are bad guys, they naturally put in an override to have him do their bidding rather than what he actually wanted to do. In his personal arc, he eventually broke away from Revocorp and became more heroic.
  • Venture City Stories is a semi-cyberpunk setting for the FATE system, where megacorps have figured out how to give people superpowers. The only legal superheroes are those sanctioned by their corporation to create good PR. While they are used against genuine criminals, their corporation's interest always comes first.

    Video Games 
  • Overwatch has Hana Song — better known as her handle/callsign "D.Va" — who's a play on this along with Propaganda Hero. She was conscripted into an elite force of mecha pilots based on skills she cultivated through professional gaming, and she's decked out with immense personal branding and sponsorship deals. She is explicitly backed by the Korean military, but based on the haphazard nature of her conscription (Korea was under attack by ever-evolving omnic hordes and couldn't afford to be picky), it seems they took advantage of her celebrity background to retain the support of corporate sponsors for financial and publicity purposes.

    Web Comics 
  • Explored in Evil Plan where the US government runs on a "hero economy" that sells merchandise and licensing of the heroes. In Chapter 17 after Amazingman is paralyzed he is taken in and given a cybernetic spine which he is charged crippling debt levels to repay and told that he must work off his debt within The Company by promoting his brand and selling his hero status for the profit of The Company.
  • Endorsement deals are an expected part of the job for any popular superhero in Heroine Chic. Protagonist Zoe brings up the point that teen hero Spinner wouldn't have as much success with advertisers as her mother, the retired hero Avalanche. If Avalanche were to return to superhero-ing, she could use the "working mother" angle to land lucrative advertising deals with car manufacturers, detergent makers, and cosmetic companies. (All this is fine with Spinner, who never showed enthusiasm for super heroics in the first place, and Avalanche, who is implied to have pushed her daughter to take up the family business to generate ad revenue.)
  • Downplayed in Sleepless Domain. Magical Girls are considered celebrities In-Universe, complete with managers, advertising deals, and merchandise. Sylvia of Team Alchemical is always focusing on ways to make more money, Team Forte doubles as a band, and Battle Couple Team Melty have a deal with an appliances company.
  • Most of the heroes in the Zodiac universe are this. The eponymous team is sponsored by the New Dawn corporation.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog has "Captain Hammer, corporate TOOL!" - though it's not entirely clear whether that means he's actually sponsored by corporations or just that Billy sees him as upholding a status quo that benefits corporations.

    Western Animation 
  • In DuckTales (2017) Gizmoduck is temporarily owned by the company Waddle in his first appearance.
  • Duffman, the corporate mascot for The Simpsons' Duff beer. His utility belt holds six cans of beer.
  • The Flash does this in the Justice League episode "Eclipsed", but Green Lantern scolds him upon hearing about it. After the episode, it is made an official part of the Justice League charter that members do not do this ... so they get the intern to do it.
    "Morbo says new job at Justice League is tireless job for tired old worker. Try [Insert Product Name Here]. [Insert Slogan Here]."
  • Powdered Toast Man from Ren & Stimpy.
  • The Flex Fighters in Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters are funded and sponsored by Rook Unlimited, a powerful company that owns most of Charter City. The organization uses its influence in the media to boost the reputation of the heroes. The Flex Fighters discover the company's owner, Jonathan Rook, was using them and the villains they fought for human experimentation and profit, with Rook trying to kill them once they became a liability. Once he fails at this, he then uses his company to turn the city against the heroes by painting them as violent criminals.

    Real Life 
  • As we see here on the other Wiki, this is fairly common with Japanese "Local Heroes". Many of them are actually the mascot of a corporation.
  • Corporate superhero mascots exist in many countries, but are usually limited to comics, if not just billboards.