A work of fiction that attracts the reader/viewer with the entourage of pulp adventures, superhero action, etc. in order to tell an entirely different story, which can be humorous and parodying the genre cliches, or darker and more serious in nature. For example, imagine that an Indiana Jones-style adventurer dies unexpectedly in the first part of the movie, and the rest of the story is about his loved ones coming to terms with his death? Or imagine that a Gotham-style megalopolis and a superhero defending it from organized crime is all in the head of a mental patient?
Be careful though, as the viewer may feel cheated if the work is not what they both expected and paid for.
- Watchmen could be considered an example of that. While it stars superheroes, there is a minimal amount of actual fighting, and the book mostly consists of people talking, character building flashbacks and protagonists unveiling a conspiracy thriller that doesn't even feature a typical supervillain - while there is a supervillain character, he dies halfway through. Instead, the villain is another superhero.
- Much of the Broken Base surrounding Brave can be attributed to this, with a side of Real Women Don't Wear Dresses. The early promotion for the movie suggested it was going to be very adventure-heavy, with Merida as a female action hero. The actual movie was more focused on her developing her relationship with her mother, disappointing people who were expecting an animated action movie.
- The Last Adventure starts as a lighthearted comedy adventure involving two men and an attractive young woman on a treasure hunt in The Congo. However, it suddenly takes a very different turn when the girl tragically dies; the rest of the story is about the two other characters mourning her, and one of the remaining two is also killed at the end of the movie.
- Birdman employs the aesthetics of a superhero movie, but is actually a Black Comedy/psychological drama about a former blockbuster actor attempting to start a career in theater.
- Death Of A Superhero by Anthony McCarten uses the plot about superhero Miracleman fighting mad doctor The Glove as a framing device for the story of a teenager dying from leukemia.
- Spec Ops: The Line starts off (and was marketed as) just another gung-ho modern military Third-Person Shooter in the vein of Call of Duty, but turns out to be a ugly and grim deconstruction of the genre, rife with PTSD, war crimes, and a nihilistic exploration of the hero complex.
- Likewise, Undertale looks like a very typical 8-bit RPG with the classical "boy gets lost in the world of monsters" plot... But the thing is, to get the best ending, you have to not kill monsters and instead befriend them, so monsters and humans eventually make peace. Otherwise, if you play it like a classical RPG and kill all the monsters for points, you get a bad ending where you become a monster.
- In Akrasia, you are trying to find your way out of a maze, collecting magic pills; if you run out of pills, the maze becomes dark and gloomy, and a creepy monster attacks you, reversing your direction keys. In reality, the game is a metaphor for drug addiction, and the point is not to collect pills; the exit only exists in the "dark" version of the maze (which is a metaphor for the "cold turkey" state), and if you spend too much time in the "bright and cheery" version, you will eventually die.
- Freakazoid! is all about this; it parodies and deconstructs the classical superhero story cliches, and stories often go in unexpected and anticlimactic directions. A particularly notable example is the Huntsman: each episode with him starts with an action-packed intro, but then it turns out that he's not needed because there's no crime in the city.
- Teen Titans Go! is a superhero show in which the superheroes don't do a lot of superheroics, mostly engaging in wacky hijinks that only occasionally involve fighting crime. This is a huge reason for the show's Broken Base, and gets Lampshaded time and again.
- The Powerpuff Girls was a straight-up superhero show about three cute kindergartners who brutally beat up supervillains. The final post-movie seasons strayed from that, but it was still very much a superhero cartoon. The 2016 reboot? Not so much. Taking from Teen Titans Go, it is a lighthearted cartoon with very little actual fighting. It focuses on the girls civilian lives rather than their superhero work. When they do fight, rarely are they depicted actually hitting their opponents (instead they use Hard Light attacks or punch but visibily don't actually come into contact with them). This decrease on fighting in exchange for characterization has turned off most fans of the original, and the creator himself.
- The feature length pilot for The Dreamstone was a fairly dark cartoon adventure revolved around the quest of the main hero, Rufus. Following this, the rest of the series steered the Sympathetic P.O.V. onto the Big Bad's minions, the Urpneys and their totally ineffectual attempts on the heroes, making it more a slapstick Villain Protagonist story with Rufus a fairly underplayed Hero Antagonist. Odd episodes tried to return to the original format, though it remained more mundane and villain-centric than the pilot.