Follow TV Tropes


Hero's First Rescue

Go To
You never stop at one.
A newly super-powered person sees people in danger, and realizes that he can do something to save them. He rushes to the scene and performs the daring rescue. It usually happens at the close of the First Act of a Super Hero's origin story. In the beginning of the Second Act, and sometimes even the next scene, the hero will have donned his signature costume.

The superhero version is a turning point, so it doesn't apply to rescue personnel performing their already chosen profession, like firefighters or police. Similarly, established superheroes doing this as a matter of course don't count. The heroic decision has to happen onscreen for it to be a part of this trope.

The danger can be any sort of natural disaster, accident or incident, but it's often a burning building; there will generally not be any archvillains yet. If it is a burning building, the magnitude of the primary hazards of conflagration, namely smoke inhalation and heat, are generally underplayed.

This is a subtrope of the Call to Adventure and Heroic Fire Rescue, and what often follows for the Super Heroes is an On Patrol Montage. If a character does this and is not a superhero, then they are showing their heroic nature via a Heroic Fire Rescue and belong there instead.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Death Note, a skeptical Light Yagami tests the titular notebook on a criminal holding the children in a nursery school hostage. When the criminal drops dead, and the children are freed, Light is shocked. He later tests the note for a second time on a thug harassing a woman outside a shop. Of course, after this, Light ditches the heroics and starts systematically killing criminals, becoming Kira.
  • Played straight in Shaman King, where Yoh smashes the water tanks on the roof of a burning restaurant with the help of Amidamaru.
  • Doraemon once gives Nobita Spider-Man-like powers. Cue a lady trapped in a burning building.
  • Slight variation in setting in Heroman. Joey first tests out the titular robot by rescuing a friend and her father from a car collision site.
  • Tiger & Bunny plays this straight with one tweak: instead of the burning offshore drilling platform inspiring Blue Rose to take up superheroics, it dissuades her from giving them up.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has the titular character becoming a Magical Girl to save a talking ferretnote  from a magical monster.
  • This trope gets played with a lot in My Hero Academia; naturally, since it's about kids training to become superheroes.
    • While he's not the one to actually perform the final rescue, Midoriya's moment happens in the second episode, when he rushes in to save Bakugo from a villain despite not having a quirk. It's this act of selfless heroism that convinces All Might to act in spite of his weakness, and convinces All Might to give his quirk to Midoriya.
      All Might: Young man... you, too, can become a hero.
      • Midoriya does get a more straightforward example in the fourth episode: when a giant robot appears during the U.A. entrance exam and Ochako is trapped beneath rubble, about to be run over, Midoriya activates One For All for the first time and destroys the robot with a single punch. This earns him enough Rescue Points that he passes the exam.
    • During the Internship Arc, flashbacks show that Kirishima failed to act in one of these moments, which is part of his motivation to become a hero in the present: he doesn't want it to happen again.
    • When we see Gentle Criminal's backstory during the Cultural Festival Arc, it turns out his misguided attempt at one of these moments caused both a pro hero and the person he was trying to save to be seriously injured. As a result, he was expelled from school and forced to pay reparations to the injured, in addition to paying a fine for using his quirk without a hero license. His loving parents decided to disown him and kick him out of the house afterwards. He ended up a broke, barely functioning nobody while his former classmates went on to become fairly well known pro heroes.
  • The first episode of One-Punch Man shows a flashback to Saitama's life: while walking home from a failed job interview, he first encountered a monstrous crab-man who was looking to kill a child who drew on his chest, and then the child himself. Despite being a normal person with no powers, Saitama is unable to walk away and let the kid die. So he challenges the crab-man and proceeds to rip its guts out of its eye socket with a necktie. That lights a fire in Saitama, and he subjects himself to three years of Training from Hell until he's become the strongest being in the universe. And he goes bald.

    Comic Books 
  • All Fall Down: Siphon performs one of these in the course of her duties... moments before she's arrested for Super-Manslaughter.
  • Batman: When Tim Drake first approached Batman and Nightwing about Bats requiring a partner to balance out his destructive tendencies in the wake of Jason Todd's death he had no intention or desire to put on the Robin suit himself and was planning on returning to his civilian life after convincing Bruce and Dick to reconcile. It was only when a desperate Alfred sent him to rescue Batman and Nightwing from the collapsed building Two-Face had trapped them in and gave him some of Jason's old Robin gear for protection that the idea of becoming Robin himself formulated for him.
  • Booster Gold: A variation occurs when Booster pulls out a elevator car full of people from a burning building, and because of the smoke no one can see who he is and everyone is wondering who had saved them. The decision is that Booster consciously decided not to go down and let them know who had saved them, without being guilted into it. A change from the beginning of the series.
  • Captain Atom: In a Christmas story, the Captain, newly resigned from the military where he was ordered to be a Mole in the Justice League, finds out about a burning warehouse full of homeless people. He intervenes to save the day and finds that he likes being a superhero for its own sake and resolves to continue as such on his own.
  • Ms. Marvel: In Ms. Marvel (2014), Kamala Khan got her polymorph powers after encountering some Terrigen Mist while walking home from a Wild Teen Party. After she awakens to her new abilities, she overhears the party's very drunk hosts, Zoe Zimmer and Josh Richardson. Josh thoughtlessly pushes Zoe off the dock, and Kamala springs into action to save her life. The rescue causes Kamala to realize that she's thrilled to help people, and starts on her path to becoming a superhero.
  • No Hero: Subversion, as the newest member of the Front Line, Joshua Carver, prevents a disabled plane from crashing into a building... then a couple of his fellow supers show up and let him know they killed the pilots and hurled the plane into the building so he'd have something to earn good publicity with.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: Miles Morales has only had his powers for a couple of days when he rescues a young girl and her puppy from a burning building...after which he freaks out, throws up, and declares he's going to leave superheroics to the actual Spider-Man. Of course, it doesn't last.
  • Watchmen: This happens when Daniel Dreiberg and Laurie Juspeczyk first don their costumes - Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II - after several years of not wearing them. Almost as soon as they do, they hear of a burning apartment building and take Dan's Owlship (Archie) out to rescue them.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Gargoyles Fan fiction virtual series, The Gargoyles Saga story, "Turncoat," the editors decided to create a definitive event that would turn the Manhattan Clan's public image around before the public antipathy would have to be ossified into permanent bigotry. Namely, there is a large hotel fire and the Clan helps out the Fire Department while the Quarrymen's bigoted attempts to interfere get exposed on national TV news.
  • Least Noticeable And Little Flappy: When Claire sees Little Flappy being attacked in midairby a big wyrm-like creature of Shadow, she first drives off the attacker with her love beam, then teleports over to the fallen flappy thing, grabs him with her multiple tongues and carries him back to Granny Pie to receive medical treatment. As the title of the story suggests, this deed is significant to Claire's future.
  • In Superman of 2499: The Great Confrontation, the first deed of the newest Superman is save a woman from her abusive husband and take her to a shelter. Later on, Katherine also saves a woman from getting beaten up by her partner, and that moment cements Kath's decision to become a hero.
  • In The Last Daughter, Taylor uses her powers for the first time to beat up several human traffickers attempting to kidnap her friend Emma.
  • Ultimate Spider-Woman: When Mary Jane Watson briefly stops wearing her Spider-Woman costume, concerned about the violence with which she attacks her enemies, she is confronted with a woman whose house is on fire and whose elderly mother is trapped on the second floor. Without thinking, Mary Jane uses her powers to save the woman, which makes her rethink her previous stance.
  • Subverted in crossover fanfiction Echoes of Yesterday. As soon as she arrives in Earth-Beth, Kara Danvers pulls Taylor Hebert out of the locker where she had been shoved into by three bullies. Most of people think of it as a new hero's debut, unaware that she's been heroing for three years in her own universe.
  • In Cinders and Ashes: the Chronicles of Kamen Rider Dante, Hoshi was already considering retiring within one chapter of becoming a Kamen Rider due to his fears and trauma. However, as he was in the process of going to Akihabara, he came across a battle between a cop and a thug and he intervened. The decision to remain a Kamen Rider doesn't get made during that battle, but rather in the events that followed that battle, as he was critically injured in the fight and passed out in the presence of someone who does get him to embrace his role.

    Film - Animation 

    Film - Live-Action 
  • Spider-Man Trilogy
    • Invoked in the first Spider-Man film: Green Goblin sets a tenement on fire to draw in Spider-Man, then disguises himself as an old lady to get Spidey to rescue him. He's smart enough to know that a hero can't deny an old lady in danger.
    • This trope is inverted in the second film. Peter (after losing his powers) rushes to the scene of a burning apartment building, and rescues a small girl (almost losing his life in the process). While he's being given oxygen afterwards, he overhears the firefighters conversing and saying that someone else got trapped on the top floor and died.
  • In The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter, seeing the Lizard's first rampage through New York, rescues a little boy from a burning car about to fall off a bridge. Notable in that the scene begins Peter's shift from a vigilante out to avenge Uncle Ben's death to an actual superhero.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger: Despite becoming a super-soldier, Steve winds up far from the front lines in a USO show and gets no respect from the "real" soldiers as a result. His turning point from dancing monkey to superhero comes when he decides to single-handedly liberate a whole company of POWs from a HYDRA base... and then submit himself to disciplinary action for going AWOL.
  • An aversion: In the movie Jumper, the teleporting protagonist passively watches a bunch of drowning people on TV before heading off to the nightclub.
  • The comedy film Hero At Large features a burning building rescue at the climax, but a robbery earlier in the film is the Burning Building Rescue.
  • Kick-Ass:
    • The first heroic act of Kick-Ass is saving a man from muggers while everyone else just watches.
    • Subverted in Kick-Ass and Red Mist first task as a duo as the titular character just wants to call the fire department instead of entering a burning building, only going in when Red Mist rushes in first. Also, everyone in the building is already dead, and for an entirely different reason. Finally, everyone in the building was there specifically to capture and kill Kick-Ass anyway.
  • David Dunn's battle with the Maintenance Man serves as his first heroic act in Unbreakable.
  • Set up by the Big Bad in Up, Up and Away! to capture a superhero. In fact, he uses his Well-Intentioned Extremist partner as a Damsel in Distress (against her will). This happens on Scott's 14th birthday, when a bunch of superheroes gather at the Marshalls' to celebrate not only the event but also Scott becoming a superhero. Except it's all a ruse by Scott, who is a Muggle Born of Mages and is afraid to disappoint everyone (the only one who knows is his grandfather, who sees right through the ruse). So when they see the report about a woman trapped in a burning building, one of their friends suggests that Scott make this his first rescue. Since Scott doesn't really have powers, he rides his bicycle to the site, runs past the cops and the firemen, and nearly dies along with the girl. His father flies in just in time to rescue them both after finding out the truth from his own father.
  • Superman: The Movie had him saving people from a variety of accidents at the beginning of the second act, beginning with his rescue of Lois Lane from a helicopter about to fall onto the street below.
  • Dima's first big heroic deed in Black Lightning (Chernaya Molniya) is to rescue a kid from a burning building. (Since his superpower is possession of a flying car, this involves literally driving into an upper floor of the building.) Like much else in Black Lightning it's handled exactly as if it were in a Spider-Man movie, down to the kid being returned to the terrified mother and a swell of word-of-mouth accounts about the mysterious hooded young hero in the flying black Soviet-era GAZ Volga.
  • At the beginning of Underdog, Shoeshine saves Molly and Polly from muggers.

  • In On a Pale Horse, the newly-appointed Incarnation of Death performs one of these to save a child's life.
  • In the Discworld novel Reaper Man, Death is retired (but still mostly invulnerable). When he sees a little girl trapped in a burning inn, he thinks to himself that while not interfering is normal for Death, "to Bill Door, he realized, it was so much horse elbows." He then runs into the burning building and protects the girl, despite a cask of boiling brandy exploding.
  • Kerowyn, the central character in By the Sword, starts her career as an adventurer and hired sword by rescuing her brother's fiancee. Unfortunately, part of the reason she embarks on her new life is that her actions embarrassed her brother and made everyone else uncomfortable, so she had to leave home. The fact a Bard made a song out of the event (a very popular song at that) causes no end of embarrassment for her.
  • In Gone, Sam runs into a burning apartment building to rescue a little girl. The girl dies anyway but it marks him as a hero and a leader in the strange new world for FAYZ, much to his chagrin.
  • Uprooted: After The Dragon is summoned to a neighboring province to deal with a rampaging chimera, Agnieszka sees a trail of beacon fires leading to her hometown of Dvernik calling for help. She has only known The Dragon was trying to teach her magic for a few weeks, as yet has no idea why the cantrips he is trying to pound into her head are so draining and feel so fundamentally wrong to her, and has no way to contact the mighty wizard even if he can afford to come back. So she grabs vials of the only three potions whose purposes she knows, climbs out a window on a rope made of conjured dresses she discarded (she has not learned how to operate the door), and manages enough of a show at the nearest town to requisition a sleigh. She actually manages rather well all things considered... until the wolf pack on apparent orders to infest her with The Corruption shows up.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Heroes: Variation where Claire, in the first episode, runs into a burning train.
  • Merlin Merlin yanking Arthur out of the path of an assassin's knife.
  • In the premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Mike Peterson's heroic debut was climbing up the side of a burning building to rescue a woman trapped in the top floor.
  • In the premiere of Supergirl (2015), Kara, who's previously tried to hide her powers, is forced to use them publicly to save a passenger plane that's about to crash.

    Web Comics 
  • Paula Carson gets her first taste of action when she fights off an intruder in her laboratory, which eventually leads to her becoming the titular superheroine Lady Spectra in Lady Spectra & Sparky.

    Web Original 
  • Stone Burners The first time Olivia comes across a thug mugging a woman in a shady part of town, she doesn't even hesitate before leaping to rescue her.
  • Whateley Universe:
    • The variation occurs with Phase in his origin novel "Ayla and the Late Trevor James Goodkind". He runs in to rescue his sister and ends up having to deal with an entire burning street and a flame-throwing supervillainess. He also finds out that having a supersuit with groin protection would be a really good idea for more than one reason.
    • As of "Ayla and the Mad Scientist"[1], this appears to be the backstory for Bladedancer's new roommate THE CRIMSON COMET!!!, who upon getting superpowers, put together her own costume, and at the first opportunity flew downtown to rescue hostages in a bank. She got yelled at enough by the police and her parents that she ended up at Superhero School Whateley Academy.
    • It is mentioned (by Phase, when discussing CeeCee) that first time heroes have a terrible record for making things worse, no matter how well-intentioned they were - there's a lot of potential for collateral damage and other mistakes.

    Western Animation 
  • The first act as a hero of the titular character in Ben 10 is stopping a forest fire (that he started by accident) with his first transformation. However, his first instance directly saving people actually happens near the end of first episode where he uses Diamondhead to save the campsite he's in from a giant robot that's looking for his Clingy MacGuffin.
  • The first episode of Danny Phantom has the main character struggling with his new ghost powers, wondering what on Earth he should do with 'em. After a short offscreen battle with the Ectopusses, Danny gets his first real chance to prove his worth as a hero by combating a Lethal Chef that was terrorizing his school. From then on, he Jumped at the Call.
  • This is Angel's first act of Heroism (that we see) in X-Men: Evolution. Interestingly, he doesn't rescue someone's kid from the fire, he rescues someone's paraplegic mother.
  • At the end of Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles, the Big Bad tries to destroy a train carrying arrested Gargoyles, only to provide a spectacular incident when the head hatemonger against that race is revealed in front of witnesses to be a murderous madman and the Gargoyles are true heroes who successfully stop the train, save hundreds of humans and turn their bad public image around for good.
  • Kim Possible: Her first rescue was because the rescuee typed the wrong website with his foot.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man begins a few months into Peter's superhero career, though so far he's mostly just stopped robberies; in the first episode he notes that Norman Osborn, currently being hunted by the Vulture, is the first "damsel" that he's rescued.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: As Clark is confiding in Lana about the weird things that have been happening to him as his powers begin to manifest, he hears a car going out of control, races to the scene at superhuman speed, and tears a door off a crashed van to rescue the occupants while remaining impervious to the surrounding flames.

Alternative Title(s): Burning Building Rescue, Entry Level Heroism