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Punch-Clock Hero

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"I didn't kill that Yoma to save you; I killed it because it's my job."
Teresa, Claymore

The Punch-Clock Hero isn't fighting for peace, revenge, or because it's the right thing to do. He's only going against the Big Bad because he has to. In some cases, he is destined to do so but refused the call, only to find out that You Can't Fight Fate. In other cases, he gets involved only because he has bills to pay.

This is usually what happens when a hero is True Neutral. Compare Heroic Neutral, where the heroic character wants to be left alone and only allies with a group (usually the heroes) when their isolation is threatened by an outside source. If the culture becomes toxic, the heroic character can become a Punch-Clock Villain. See also Byronic Hero.

This can be seen as a Sub-Trope of the Nominal Hero which doesn't do good out of heroic intentions with this case being for profit. When things really come to a head and profit goes against morality, a hero of this sort will likely either show their better nature and find something greater and worth fighting for, or prove how circumstantial their heroism was and how easily fate can turn them to evil.

Only in It for the Money is a Sub-Trope, as is Not in This for Your Revolution. Should not be confused with a hero smashing his alarm clock.

May overlap with I Was Just Passing Through. When the heroes take it a step further and actually cause the danger they're paid to neutralize, it becomes a Monster Protection Racket. Compare with Nominal Hero and Good Is Not Nice. Contrast Part-Time Hero, who is ready and willing to do heroic actions without payment - though they might not say no to money if offered - so long as they're allowed a break here and there to live a civilian life.


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    Anime & Manga 

  • Bleach:
    • Ichigo claims to be like this, only caring about protecting the people close to him. His track record, however, suggests otherwise. He never walks away from someone in need, and he usually considers it his duty to do whatever he can to stop the bad guys, shown in the Hueco Mundo arc where he wants to stop Aizen even after rescuing Orihime.
    • Also Mayuri Kurotsuchi. He doesn't really care about helping people. He just follows his orders and does what he can For Science!.
    • Kenpachi Zaraki is this too. He doesn't care about anyone except Yachiru. The only thing he wants to do is fight.
  • Broken Blade's Girge is one Psycho for Hire example.
    "I might start killing people because I feel like it again. That fine with you guys?"
  • The woman warriors of Claymore officially claim to be like this. It's not usually true, however.
  • The whole Cowboy Bebop crew, most of the time. Illustrated well during an early scene in the movie when a robber holds an old woman at gunpoint. Spike's reaction? "Well, that's a real shame. But, we're not cops and we're not from some charity organization. Sorry lady, we don't protect or serve. This is strictly business." (This distracts the robber — and enrages the hostage — sufficiently for him to get a clean shot off). Jet weakly protests "I know you don't mean that, Spike!", and whether or not the crew as a whole are good for the sake of goodness or just for the cash is left ambiguous throughout.
  • L and Near in Death Note seem to be this, although that information is mainly gleaned from a sequel manga chapter which may not even be canon and a spin-off novel by a different author. Near more so than L - while L will say that he is hunting Kira because of "justice", Near is doing it just because he is the one who do it.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, prior to bonding with Tanjiro, both Zenitsu and Inosuke had no heroic aspirations for becoming demon slayers; Zenitsu just wanted to honor his master for taking care of him, and Inosuke just wanted to fight demons for the sake of thrills. It is through later story developments that both of them experience personal growth and personal tragedies which get them very focused in killing demons for more heroic reasons: above all, to end all the suffering demons have inflicted.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • In Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super, Vegeta can be seen as an example of both a Punch-Clock Hero and a Nominal Hero. The reason why is because, throughout the DBZ and DBS series (in both the manga and the anime), Vegeta has a Heel–Face Turn as he transforms from a villain into somewhat of good guy, but he's not an All-Loving Hero like Goku and the rest of the Z Fighters. Vegeta only fights on the side of good because:
      • (1) he feels like he has to protect his pride, reputation, and ego as a self-proclaimed "strong and mighty warrior" and as "one of the best warriors in the universe" (as he would say in his own words);
      • (2) When he was a villain in the past, he was almost bested and almost nearly beaten by Goku, and even though the battle was decisively fought to a draw between the two of them, Goku still humiliated him and shattered his pride and ego, and after their initial first battle, Vegeta never really became a good guy or hero per se. He was just always forced into several situations where he had to fight on the side of the good guys to fight against way more powerful opponents who were way more evil, sadistic, and cruel than he was;
      • (3) his primary motivation for always wanting to become a stronger and more powerful warrior, and pushing past any limits that could stand in his way was just because he always wanted a rematch with Goku. However, every time an opportunity for a rematch presented itself, a way more powerful villain who was way more evil, sadistic, and cruel than any previous villain they had to face together in the past would show up (as mentioned above in #2), and logically he would have to team up with the good guys (Goku and the Z fighters) to help defeat those said villains.
      • Also, it could be said that he also became a hero and joined the side of good because once Vegeta got a taste of the settle-downed life from marrying Bulma, having Trunks as a son, and raising a family, he basically let some of the good traits of the good guys and his family rub off on him to where he softened his heart just enough to be a punch-clock hero so he could protect them if they ever faced any threats against them. However, this is all he cares about protecting is just his family alone; he doesn't necessarily care about protecting ALL innocent people and creatures if he doesn't have to. He only cares about just protecting his family, and often does not care what happens to anyone else if the other Z Warriors don't try to guilt trip him into being more sympathetic.
  • Downplayed in Fairy Tail. The titular guild does care about innocent lives and takes jobs like catching criminals and fighting evil monsters because they can't stand the injustice as much as for the pay or the chance for a good fight, but "saving lives" doesn't necessary mean they won't cause or care about causing a lot of damage in the process as clearly demonstrated by their nature as Destructive Saviors. Whenever the fate of the world hangs in the balance, Fairy Tail fights to save it just as much because it threatens their way of life, or because one of their True Companions was threatened in some way than just because it's the right thing to do. In fact, Natsu and his friends have gone on record saying they don't care if the entire world is their enemy, or if they themselves become evil; if it means protecting the guild, they'll take on anyone in their way.
  • Goblin Slayer:
    • Many adventurers pick quests that would earn them good money and fame. This results that many of the professionals only pick quests that not only pay well but would also improve their reputation. Due to this, low-level quests are mostly picked by beginners, by many of them die to their lack of experience. Goblin slaying quests are easy enough that beginners can still clear them, but they are also risky, and many of the professionals dismiss these quests because the payment is too low for its risk factor and doesn't increase their fame all at much. And since goblins are a recurring problem, a lot of villages are unable to help themselves against them. Goblin Slayer is the only professional who devotes himself to only goblin quests, due to his personal hatred against them. Since he witnessed firsthand how terrible they are, he has devoted all of his skills in killing goblins and nothing else. While he occasionally picks up quests when he needs some money, he ultimately doesn't care how much he's paid as long as he can kill goblins. However, Goblin Slayer doesn't care for any other quest that could threaten the world, simply by the logic that if he's not killing goblins, someone else might die because of goblins. It also should be pointed out that high-level quests involve much stronger and more threatening monsters than goblins could hope to become, so it's not really a bad thing that the other professionals are picking exclusively those quests.
    • When Goblin Slayer asks the entire guild to help him out to save his village from an upcoming goblin invasion, Spearman tells him that he should pay him for their service. Once Guild Girl promises them that everyone will get paid well, they all agree to help him, also because they are moved by Goblin Slayer's Out-of-Character Moment, so not all of them (including Spearman) aren't just in for the money.
  • Jujutsu Kaisen: Kento Nanami is only a Jujutsu sorcerer because risking your life fighting dangerous monsters and dealing with Satoru Gojo every day is only marginally less shitty than working a boring office job. Nanami is this trope in a literal sense, as he vowed to himself to work for no more than 8 hours. If he hits "overtime", he gets a drastic power boost, ensuring that work gets done then and there. Ultimately Downplayed in that while he treats saving Japan as a job, he does genuinely care about protecting his students and citizens from Curses.
  • When Terryman first appeared in Kinnikuman, he was charging money for defeating the monsters that threatened Japan. The Japanese government went along with it because the alternative was relying on Kin to do it. Terry got a swelled head, but after Kin gave him a slap for laughing at a child offering chump change to save his father, he changed his ways.
  • Some heroes in My Hero Academia are fighting for fame and money or revenge rather than justice. Those type of heroes are also the main targets of the Hero Killer Stain. Uraraka in particular notes that money is a big part of why she became a hero and feels embarrassed about it. It's pointed out that her real motive (she wants to support her working class parents) is pretty sympathetic, and that the opinion of a crazy serial killer isn't one that should be taken seriously.
    • This does get examined and, to an extent, deconstructed in the latter arcs of the manga; after the Paranormal Liberation War Arc and the massive amounts of damage done to Japan during and after it many, many of the less committed heroes quit the career in droves to find a safer line of work; only those genuinely dedicated to saving lives stayed on, including Uraraka AND heroes like Mount Lady.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi's Jack Rakan claims this. It's quite possibly true as well, since he doesn't seem to actually care about good and evil, he just does his own thing, which happens to be extorting people for lots of money for his help with their problems. Plus, fighting is fun!
  • One-Punch Man explores this trope:
    • Saitama is ostensibly just a hero as a hobby, something which sated his boredom before he became so strong he could defeat all his opponents in one punch. He also joined the Hero Association purely for the pay. However, he eventually shows little to no care for his ranking in the Hero Association, often willingly being a scapegoat when other Heroes mess up in order to preserve their reputations, and while the pay is nice, he was doing the hero thing on his own anyway, so joining the Association and getting paid for his efforts was simply a nice bonus.
    • There are some heroes in the Hero Association registry who call themselves heroes but who don't really act like heroes. This is particularly prevalent among S-Class heroes, most of whom are drunk with their own power, care more about competing with each other than helping people, or have some serious Knight Templar tendencies. One of those very heroes (Flashy Flash) outright states the Association chooses S-Class heroes not based on any "moral character", but on raw power that normal people just don't possess (and this is the main reason why the S-Class came into being in the first place, as these powerful heroes went largely unnoticed in the rankings compared to the rest). However - despite their arrogancy and rude behaviour, many of the heroes are still good people deep down that put their lives on the line to protect the innocent from monsters and criminals, sometimes experiencing tough lessons in life.
  • Ayumu Mikoshiba from Otasuke Miko Miko-chan doesn't want to take on the role of Miko-chan, mostly because she's a Magical Girl and he's a very effeminate guy. He's forced to, however, or else his family's shrine will close down from bankruptcy.
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt: Panty and Stocking only do their job of hunting Ghosts in order to acquire more Heaven Coins, which allow for passage between heaven and earth so as to continue their hedonistic existence of random sex with men and eating desserts.
  • Ratman features these in spades. In this world, most 'heroes' are sponsored by big-name companies for the sake of publicity, and fight using expensive suits of Powered Armor or other variations on Clothes Make the Superman. Some of the heroes are good people, others not so much. The best example of the latter would be Ankaiser, who once sabotaged the sprinkler system in a burning building full of innocent people, just so he would look more heroic once he caught the criminal that caused the fire. As the story progresses, all of the heroes, even Ankaiser, become more genuinely heroic.
  • Rebuild World: A given since it's Cyberpunk. The vast majority of the cast qualify, it's only Katsuya who has heroic aspirations... and he's a Satire of the Stock Shōnen Hero who serves as The Rival. Most of the cast are Private Military Contractors and Only in It for the Money a majority of the time, which includes the protagonist Akira whenever it's not a case of It's Personal. Despite how nice Elena and Sara seem, they still pull a highway robbery when asked for rescue by stranded hunters, for example. With Sheryl and her gang, it's about just surviving in a place where the weak are brutally weeded out.
  • Naofumi from The Rising of the Shield Hero is perfectly willing to help others... as long as he gets paid. He's far more flexible than expected, however, being willing to accept goods and services, and not demanding up-front payment when the prospective client clearly can't pay up on the spot. He's more of a traveling merchant/mercenary than an outright hero.
  • Rurouni Kenshin Saitou claims that he is this, stating he's only taking out Shishio because "he happens to be on the opposite side". While he is motivated by his personal justice, he's not always willing to help Kenshin and his group.
  • The titular character in Sailor Moon becomes this briefly in the 2nd season, until she realizes her lack of enthusiasm is causing her powers to suffer.
  • Tiger & Bunny is built around the idea of superheroes as corporate-sponsored celebrities, but at the beginning, Barnaby is the most blatant textbook example. The other heroes subvert this to certain degrees in that they genuinely want to help others. Even Barnaby has a deeper motive besides fame and fortune namely taking revenge on his parents' killer.
  • Masane Amaha in Witchblade starts as this, albeit not realizing the full scope of her decision. After about the halfway point, the horrifying truth that Because Destiny Says So kicks in, she jumps full force in being a full on hero to the point of Heroic Sacrifice.

    Comic Books 
  • Action Comics: The Hero Hotline employs heroes who want, or need, to get paid for their work. Some are more legitimate heroes who just work for the hotline to make ends meet and act as heroes even when they're not on the clock while others are meta-humans who needed a few bucks and put a costume together, like Diamondette who joined as a temp in order to pay for medical school.
  • At different times Booster Gold was a member of both the Superbuddies and the Conglomerate. This is not a coincidence; originally, being a corporate hero was his big hook.
  • The comic book Capes (a spinoff of Invincible) is about a company of mostly punch-clock superheroes.
  • Done in Damage Control with the superheroes who work for the company, usually as cleanup crew. Members include Speedball (as an intern in his civilian identity), Hercules (community service), Goliath, Monstro, and Visioneer.
  • The Flash:
    • Rather than maintain a secret identity and day job like his uncle, when Wally West became The Flash, he tried to work out a means to make it a day job, such as taking a paycheck from Justice League Europe or trying to charge for his heroics. Though initially this was portrayed selfishly, especially when he was being money-hungry, he was influenced by his friend Pied Piper, a die-hard socialist who championed equal rights, to find a pragmatic but selfless approach. Wally was given a modest living wage from the city as compensation for his efforts protecting it, which meant he could spend more time doing it, rather than splitting his time working a day job. Wally was portrayed as something of a Working Class Hero, as he didn't earn too much from his heroics beyond basic living costs, and his status of having an open identity meant that people felt comfortable coming to him personally for help.
    • During Messner-Loeb's run, this seemed to be a popular thread, as some of Wally's friends also got in on the 'heroics for hire' concept. The Kapitalist Kouriers, three Russian immigrants and Communist defectees with super-speed, they decided to embrace capitalist America by approaching their heroics like it was a start-up. Similarly, Captain Cold and Golden Glider, formerly supervillains, decided to reform after befriending Wally and used their skills as supervillains to set up a bounty hunting and recoveries business.
  • Luke Cage and Iron Fist, Heroes for Hire! Cage is so dedicated to his job that he once shook down Dr. Doom himself for just $200 owed to him. Throughout the various other incarnations of the team, the dynamic has shifted a little now and then - to the point that in the latest version, "for hire" means "available to do a favor for Misty Knight".
    • Luke by himself has always been money-motivated (particularly back in the Bronze Age), but he's not actually greedy. One reason that he's usually broke is that he's lavish with charity for his impoverished neighbors. Reed Richards once hired him onto the Fantastic Four to replace a depowered Thing and later revealed Cage donated almost all his earnings to charitable organizations.
  • Irredeemable: Local Black Lightning/Luke Cage Expy Volt was originally a superhero bounty hunter who would turn in supervillains and criminals for the reward money. When another superhero told him he shouldn't be performing heroics for money, he told them that his electromagnetic powers meant he couldn't go near electronics without destroying them, so it was basically impossible for him to hold down a civilian job.
  • The Post-Zero Hour Legion of Super-Heroes had the Workforce. Most of them eventually left to join the Legion, though.
  • The Power Company operates similarly to Capes, Inc, mentioned above. A disgraced corporate lawyer decides to form a team of superheroes to clients who can pay, which attracts people primarily interested in fame and money.
  • Paladin, a Marvel character usually found with Spider-Man and/or Silver Sable. Truly a mercenary, he's rarely willing to perform heroics unless there's profit involved. While Spidey often expresses disgust (privately) at such a policy, Paladin's attitude is, he does it to make a living. (And to his credit, he's almost always on the heroes' side, rather than against it.)
  • Roy Harper intends for him and Jason Todd to be "Vigilantes-For-Hire" on Red Hood/Arsenal. To this end he has set "Rent-A-Bat" a business venture that allows anyone to hire them for the right price. Suffice to say, Jason is less than thrilled by the idea.
  • Downplayed with Octopunch in Transformers: Shattered Glass. While he genuinely believes in the (heroic) Decepticon cause, he isn't motivated in peace-bringing and fighting for justice, unlike his comrades. For him, it's just a job, no more, no less.
  • The Sentry:
    • Intended to be a Deconstruction of Superman. He's so dispassionate that he responds to natural disasters by having a computer calculate who he rescues instead of deciding it himself. He explains that he can't decide who to save himself because he values everyone.
      "There's fifty things going on in this city every second of the day that the Sentry could do something about. And that's just in this city. A bank robbery in Queens is less or more important than a hurricane in Louisiana? How can I choose? I can't. I can't always be where I'm most needed."
    • To drive the point further one way to beat him is by hacking into said computer to tell him everything that's going on.
    • The Sentry's case is made even more complicated by the fact that, for every life he saves or every bit of good he does, bad things tend to happen.
  • Speaking of corporate heroes, Watchmen had Dollar Bill, who was a "costumed adventurer" hired by a bank to combat bank robbers during the Depression, as well as being the mascot of the bank. Hollis Mason mentions however that he was a friendly guy to be around in spite of his origins.
  • Super Temp in Wildguard, who's just doing this hero thing as a side job until his band gets their big break, man. It actually does.

    Films — Animation 
  • The entire plot of Megamind is kicked off because Metro Man has become this. After admitting to himself that he no longer enjoys being a superhero, he uses Megamind's latest evil scheme to fake his own death so he can find a new hobby.
  • The titular character of Shrek is like this initially. He doesn't go to defeat the dragon and save the princess out of heroism or duty, but because he cut a deal with Farquaad to move the ghetto for exiled magical creatures off his land.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Much like how the bad guy characters are just actors playing a role, their good guy counterparts are just doing their jobs. However, at the very least we know that Felix is heroic in real life, and it's likely that many of the other good guy characters are the same.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Kaffee's assistant Sam Weinberg from A Few Good Men loathes his clients Dawson and Downey, but still does his damnedest to help defend them in court because it's his job.
    Kaffee: You don't believe their story, do you? You think they ought to go to jail for the rest of their lives.
    Weinberg: I believe every word of their story, and I think they ought to go to jail for the rest of their lives.
  • Dance of the Dead: The Gravedigger tries to put down zombies emerging from their graves not necessarily out of heroism, but due to wanting to keep his job at the cemetery.
  • Ghostbusters are, well, an extermination (exorcism) company. They bust ghosts because there's a profit in it. It's only in the final act when they realize that they might need to save the world.
  • In House II: The Second Story, John Ratzenberger appears as Bill, an "electrician and adventurer" who carries a sword in his toolbox.
  • Insomnia: When murderer Walter Finch tries claim some spiritual connection with Detective Will Dormer, the cop replies, "You don't get it do you, Finch? You're my job. You're what I'm paid to do. You're about as mysterious to me as a blocked toilet is to a fucking plumber."
  • Most of the members of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are only in it because they've been promised a full pardon for their past crimes and misdeeds. Only Quatermain, who wants to prevent world war from corrupting his beloved Africa, and Tom Sawyer, who wants vengeance for the murder of his best friend, have other agendas.
  • The Mask only wants to have fun, no matter if someone gets hurt along the way, and will fight those who cause trouble to either The Mask and Stanley or the people they care about. (but not in the original comics, where the title mask seemingly makes anyone who wears it Ax-Crazy and ultraviolent)
  • In Mystery Men, Captain Amazing is definitely this, what with the corporate sponsorship and all.
  • Terminator: For the exact same reason that Terminators are normally Punch Clock Villains, Terminators reprogrammed by humans are also Punch Clock Heroes. They'll literally die for you (or kill those who try to harm you), because that's what their programming says to do. God help you if their programming runs the other way.
  • Played straight and for laughs (sometimes simultaneously) in Grosse Pointe Blank.
    Martin Blank: They all have husbands and wives and children and houses and dogs, and, you know, they've all made themselves a part of something and they can talk about what they do. What am I gonna say? "I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How've you been?"
  • G-Girl in My Super Ex-Girlfriend is a superhero, but not terribly heroic. She gives every appearance that her decision to save people and fight crime was made just because that's what's expected of people with superpowers.
  • Humorously in Star Trek: First Contact, the crew of the Enterprise learn that their icon, Zefram Cochrane, inventor and pilot of the first warpship, was this. When Riker is trying to explain the historical importance of the flight, Cochrane angrily states he doesn't care about ushering in a new era for humanity, in fact he hates flying (he'd rather take trains)! He built the Phoenix to make money.
  • Star Wars: Han Solo started out this way, though half the climax of the first movie was his overcoming this.
    "Look, I ain't in this for your revolution, and I'm not in it for you, princess. I expect to be well paid. I'm in it for the money."
  • Played for Laughs in Thor: Ragnarok, where Thor describes the Hulk as "a friend from work."
  • The Troll Hunter: While Hans is certainly a good man at heart, he makes it no secret that he hates his job. He takes no pleasure in what he does.

  • From A Song of Ice and Fire one of the few institutions of the Seven Kingdoms where those who serve in it aren't there for feudal ideas of loyalty, duty, land rights or because they screwed-up and have become banished is... The much-maligned, often neglected local city watch of King's Landing, the "gold cloaks". A militia/ police-force/ occasional politically active mercenary band, they are in it for 1) the pay packet and 2) because somebody has to keep the city functioning on a day-to-day basis; and, you can't ask petty lords and stuck-up knights to do their thankless job of manning the walls, doing the grunt-work and keeping the peace (although the Captain of the City Watch will often get knighted if they hold no other titles — good luck on it being more than a curtesy, mate). And, hiring mercenaries from outside the Crownlands is just a recipe for disaster (and the tradesmen and guilds who contribute the bulk of their funding wouldn't stand for it, anyway): local lads it is. They're certainly not squeaky clean: bribery and corruption is a way of life in Westeros, and they will follow the money, not the simply the orders of the Small Council of the Iron Throne (who technically doesn't actually employ them, anyway: although they certainly won't say no if their supposed organiser, the Master of Law or others like the Hand of the King and the Master of Coin coughs up what the guilds won't). Yet without them, King's Landing's roads and other trade links would grind to a halt or be knee-deep in revolts every thirty minutes. In fact, it could be argued that who actually controls the actions of the gold cloaks is the litmus test of how strong a regime either is or isn't. They generally won't side with a rival faction, unless their pay has been neglected or a much better, more solid offer has been made. And, anybody who doesn't make absolutely sure the capital's city guard is happy under their rule... gets what they flipping deserve.
  • Commissar Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) repeatedly pulls some truly heroic stunts despite being, well, himself, not because he wants to do it, but because he has. Either he doesn't want to ruin his reputation and lose all the perks it gives him, or he has learned in a hard way that meeting the danger is actually safer, or he might simply not give a credit where it is due. His editor, Inquisitor Amberley Vail, certainly leans to the third option.
  • The new Doctor Shade in "Cold Snap" by Kim Newman seriously resents the fact he's a Legacy Character, and that his dad's weird friends want him to save the world.
  • Discworld:
    • Rincewind, on the rare occasion where he has to do something to save the day. He just does it because he knows he will be dragged into it anyway or, more often, because it's going to kill/maim him and he's unable to run away. Even more frequently, running away causes him to be in the right spot at the right time to save the day. He'd much rather be locked in his room, safely examining boredom. Excitement chases him.
    • In The Last Hero, he even volunteers for a dangerous mission to save the world with the explanation that he'll probably stumble or be dragged into it anyway, and this way saves him the hassle. He still doesn't want to go, though. His companions agree with him, then put him on the mission.
    • He does have moments of genuine heroism, though, moments where he's shown to actually care about people - notably in Sourcery and the callback to it in Unseen Academicals, in which he chose to confront Coin the Sourcerer, ultimately saves him, and winds up running from monsters in the Dungeon Dimensions for his trouble.
  • The Dresden Files' Harry Dresden pretends to be this, but puts himself in harm's way a little too often for it to be credible. His friends call him out on it several times, and he even discusses it at one point.
    Harry: "I helped to do it and lived to walk away. But there was an unhappy ending."
    Thomas: "What?"
    Harry: "I didn't get paid. For either case. I make more money from flaming demon monkey crap. That's just wrong."
  • Harry Flashman, from the eponymous novel series by George MacDonald Fraser, started his career this way. He bought a British Army commission because it was a respectable, gentlemanly position that allowed plenty of time for racing horses and chasing women. He had no interest in fighting wars — in fact, it clashed with his cowardly character. After getting dragged into several of the period's "Little Wars" and realizing that trying to avoid battle never worked, he adjusted his MO and sought out low-risk assignments whenever a new war loomed. Sadly for him (but luckily for readers), this usually failed to keep him out of trouble.
  • The Nameless Bard from the Forgotten Realms Finder's Stone Trilogy. He initially falls in with the heroes by default in order to (a) escape from the villains who were holding him prisoner, (b) revenge himself on said villains, and (c) rescue his creation/daughter Alias. More generally, he doesn't mind helping people in need so long as it doesn't put him to great inconvenience, especially if furthers his real goals (fame and artistic immortality). But he is ultimately an amoral and highly narcissistic person who cares very little about matters of good versus evil. The heroes tend to forget this, given what a tremendous asset he is when he puts his mind to helping them. This is especially true for his erstwhile apprentice Olive, who idolizes him most of the time, only to be brutally reminded of his true nature whenever he decides that his own interests take priority over doing the right thing. He doesn't make a purely morally-based decision until the very end of the trilogy, when he chooses to risk his own life to destroy the evil god Moander.
  • Good Omens has Aziraphale, an actual angel, of all things. While he truly believes in Good, he's not much for the flaming sword of vengeance (he gave his away, anyway) or the smiting of the unrighteous, and he's shown to have decidedly unangelic traits, such as materialism (he is incredibly possessive of his books) and going on drinking binges with his best friend. In fact, his best friend is also his eternal and sworn Enemy — a demon who has more or less been his sole opposition for about six thousand years. Said demon's name is Crowley, who is, likewise, a Punch-Clock Villain as well as a Noble Demon. They continue to thwart each other's efforts at salvation/temptation to keep up appearances, but they also do each other's work occasionally, with Crowley, after making some people's lives just a bit more unpleasant, spreading the odd bit of goodness nearby (after all, he's already in the area) and Aziraphale doing the opposite by doing his usual angelic business, and then maybe tripping a poodle or something. For example, at one point Aziraphale accidentally smothered a pigeon up his sleeve during a botched magic show and it was Crowley who resurrected the poor bird!
  • Nero Wolfe rarely has a personal stake in the mysteries he investigates, and usually only gets involved because he's been offered a huge pay-check once he solves it. He also rigidly maintains his schedules and leisure time during a case (unless circumstances strictly compel him to forego doing so), refusing to discuss business matters during meals and keeping his scheduled four hours a day with his orchids regardless of whether he's in the middle of a tricky investigation. He does have a strict code of honor, however, and can on occasion be prodded into working for free if he feels the matter at hand requires it.
  • Sergey Lukyanenko's Night Watch (Series) quartet is full of a mixture of this and its direct opposite (people wanting to do something Good but not being allowed, because it'd let the other side do an equal amount of Evil...). However sometimes they manage to subvert it by working with evil on common goals. One minor example was about how a light mage was able to cure a group of children from a lethal illness with the help of a werewolf. First, a werewolf chose three children and bit them (making them werewolves and curing them in the process), then a light mage cured all the other children with magic. They both got away with it because the balance between dark and light stayed unchanged.
  • Second Apocalypse: All the various Scalpoi are mercenaries who venture into the northern wastelands to hunt sranc and turn in the scalps for the Holy Bounty. They don't care they're participating in the Great Ordeal or fighting for humanity's survival. They're unsavory vagabonds who are Only in It for the Money.
  • Harry Vincent in The Shadow pulp novels starts out as one — his life is saved by The Shadow and he's put up in cushy comfort in the swank Metropole Hotel on the condition that he work unceasingly for The Shadow as an agent. Originally, that is his whole reason for being on the side of good. However, he graduates to full hero, as he undergoes countless Distressed Dude moments that would have made people less morally committed quit long ago, lap of luxury or no.
  • Travis McGee takes on new cases when he needs the money, and spends the rest of his time taking his retirement "in installments." If you do harm to or take from, or both, one of Travis' friends, though, he will apply his skills and talents to getting payback, and salvage some coin, too, if possible.
  • Conrad Nomikos in This Immortal. Originally, he only agrees to be Myshtigo's guide because he's the Comissioner of Monuments, Arts and Archives and got called back from his long-time vacation to do so, and only ends up playing the hero because it's his job. It used to be different, though.
  • Most Witchers from The Witcher consider this a rather firm rule, partly because it keeps them True Neutral and therefore out of politics or causes. It's often the main charge levied against them by witch hunters and knights errant, who too often forget how easy it is to lay that charge when they themselves are sponsored and equipped by wealthy patrons and connections.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The A-Team television series specifically states in the Opening Narration that the team is for hire.
  • On Angel, Angel initially helps the helpless free of charge because he's The Atoner and because his needs are few. Cordelia needs money and wants him to charge clients. Doyle manages to sell Angel on the idea with the reasoning that people who pay will feel easier knowing that they don't have a debt to Angel hanging over their heads. Though it's based on what the client can afford, so he still helps penniless people for free.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike fits the bill in Season 4. Due to a behavior-modification chip implanted in his head, he's incapable of hurting humans, but he can hurt demons. In general, he helps out Buffy and the Scoobies either to sate his Blood Knight tendencies, or because they pay him for it.
  • Firefly's Jayne Cobb generally only fights the bad guys because, well, that's what The Captain is paying him to do. He was even a bad guy until Mal made him a better offer (his fair share and a room all to himself). Once he betrays Mal and the crew for money. Once Mal nearly kills him as a warning, he makes it clear that was his only chance. If Jayne ever pulls that again, he's dead. Simon does the same thing when Jayne tries to sell out River. They both know Jayne is useful, but can't be trusted unless he's afraid of them.
  • Get Smart
    • In an episode, Max joins a secret agent's strike in the middle of an assignment.
    • In the first few episodes there's actually a punch clock in the Chief's office for agents to punch in and out.
  • The cops in Homicide: Life on the Street treat investigating murders like a job and at times show a Lack of Empathy to the victims they're supposed to be avenging, although it's justified, as Giardello explains that if they didn't emotionally distance themselves from the job, they'd cross over the Despair Event Horizon very quickly.
  • Unlike the other Star Trek crews whose mission is to "boldly go where no man has gone before", the crew of the USS Voyager didn't even like each other and simply wanted to go home. They subvert this later on by becoming a true family and kicking the shit out of the bad guys they encounter, many times choosing to help the helpless rather than themselves.
  • Unlike his literary counterpart, the BBC's version of Sherlock Holmes is very much this trope. He really doesn't give two shakes about justice or the well-being of his clients: he only cares about solving puzzles, indulging his ego and staving off boredom. (Or so he claims; this is a character where the Alternate Character Interpretation is Word of God.)
    Sherlock: Don't make people into heroes, John. Heroes don't exist, and if they did I wouldn't be one of them.
  • Most of the cops in The Wire are basically this. Much of the police force doesn't truly care for the people of Baltimore or the crimes they're investigating, they show up, go through the motions, and if they solve or help solve a case, great. If they don't solve the case they shrug and figure that soon enough the person who committed the crime will wind up in a Chalk Outline. While cops that are better than average might show more skill in solving cases, that doesn't necessarily mean that they care or are more invested in the community, they're still in it for the pay and benefits. (And sometimes those better than average cops will complain about or badger the cops who actually do care or try to make things better.) The worst cops on the force are outright corrupt, brutal, and/or Obstructive Bureaucrats that will actively screw over the public, their subordinates, and even ignore mass murder for the sake of their careers. At one point, a rueful McNulty (who is one of those rare cops that cares, despite having plenty of his own issues) estimates there are fewer than ten detectives in the whole department who both care about the job and are capable of consistently solving cases.
  • The Night Of: People in the criminal justice system are shown to be just doing their jobs. Many of them are surly, tired, bored or checked out. All this stands in contrast to the people accused of crimes and their families, who are having their lives turned upside down. The trope is discussed in the series finale when a police officer proposes a show about a cop who "doesn't give a shit."
  • Just as their cinematic counterparts, the Terminators in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles are good (or evil) depending on their programming. In one episode, Cameron's programming gets reset to original and she immediately turns on John and Sarah.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The stereotypical Dungeons & Dragons party may believe abstractly in truth, honour, justice, protecting the innocent and so on, but the main reason they're actually going dungeon-diving is for loot, experience, and generally a cash reward when the villain running the dungeon is put to the sword. Even the most noble third edition paladin, who is obligated to be valorous and heroic, is still keeping a close eye out for financial reward, because that +2 holy avenger sword with which she can more efficiently fight the forces of evil isn't cheap.
  • Red Hand of Doom: The Shining Axes, a dwarf mercenary company numbering 200 strong, fits this trope. They will help in the Battle of Brindol but only for a price. To get them, you have to make sure Red Hand monsters don't steal the gold being sent as payment
  • Ryan Frost, AKA Absolute Zero, in Sentinels of the Multiverse originally took up superhero activity because he needed to pay for the high-tech refrigerated suit that would allow him to do something other than sit in a refrigerator all day bored out of skull. He didn't stay that way, becoming a genuinely committed and noble hero.

    Video Games 
  • The Ravens in Armored Core fall into this category, being mercenaries, profit means everything in a Crapsack World.
  • Assault Suits Valken:
  • Baldur's Gate: the main character could be this, depending on your dialogue choices and quest decisions. Some can be really explicit in that you can choose to openly say that you don't really care, despite all the intrigues, the mastermind villains going after you, the demigod-wannabes, the prophecies and whatever, forcing you to go for the greater goal rather than going your own way. Sometimes this borderlines with railroading though, such as in the second game, where you are forced to go after the Big Bad either to take revenge/get answers or to rescue your childhood friend, despite nothing initially preventing you from leaving the place altogether. However, by Throne of Bhaal, you can fully embrace the trope: you are here because destiny, fate, or simply the contingency of events led you to this point, despite what you felt or believed.
  • In the world of BioShock, the prototype Big Daddies were mentally conditioned to love their Little Sisters as if they were their own daughters. When it was discovered that these prototype Big Daddies tended to react badly to seeing their beloved daughters murdered, the later Big Daddies were altered to be Punch Clock Heroes, defending any Little Sisters they come across (violently, of course), but don't appear remotely upset if there's none around.
  • The Borderlands franchise has the Vault Hunters, the main playable characters who (despite saving Pandora from several attempts to take over the world) are mainly in it for that nice looking weapons cache they saw on the way in, the thrill of the kill, or the experience points and cash, but sometimes it's their definition of a Fun Saturday Night on Pandora
  • The Material Defender from the Descent games. Even in Descent 3 after the Red Acropolis people rescue him, he makes clear he's just in it for the money (and revenge on Dravis). That said, he does have some Pet the Dog moments such as saving hostages in the first two games and saving a trapped medical frigate full of sick and hurt people in the third game.
  • The Devil Hunters of the titular Devil May Cry shop are largely in it for the money, as evidenced by them having to wait for a client, or a customer's phone call and Trust Password before accepting the job. In 5, Dante is also delighted at the prospect of a "cash-upfront" offer. However, it's also implied they do a lot of pro-bono jobs for people in need who don't have the cash, or if enough risk is at stake from letting a demon run loose.
  • In Drakengard 3, Zero wants nothing more than to die, but the same Eldritch Abomination going around brainwashing everyone also forcibly resurrected her to serve as its lieutenant. It's made clear that this is the only time her goals align with humanity's: when Intoner prey aren't available, she gleefully murders and rapes people.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, this is sometimes a trait of members of the Fighters Guild, an organization of "warriors-for-hire". There have been several instances in the series of Fighters Guild members refusing a dangerous mission, though this isn't usually an option for the Player Character if he/she wants to advance in the Guild.
  • In Fable, the Player Character and other members of the Heroes Guild might have any kind of personal motivations, but the one consistent point is that they earn cold hard cash for completing contracts. Fable II reveals that, soon after firearms became widespread, the Guild was destroyed by commoners who'd gotten fed up with its disregard for their well-being.
  • Final Fantasy VII:
    • When the Turks (normally villains) corner Don Corneo, the reason they worked with the heroes in order to get him is "Because it's our job".
    • Depending on your opinion of how "heroic" AVALANCHE is, Cloud himself was this during the Mako reactor raids at the beginning of the game, constantly telling Barret that he only cared about getting paid rather than the worsening condition of the planet Shinra Electric was causing. The only reason he stepped up to be a legitimate hero at first is because Sephiroth entered the picture.
  • Fire Emblem
    • The series usually has one recruitable character per game whose only motivation is money, usually starting out as an enemy but making it perfectly clear that they'll do a Heel–Face Turn in exchange for a significant amount of gold. In order, there's Beowolf (who lends his name to the community-defined archetype), Hugh, Farina, Rennac, and Volke (twice). These characters range from "good person at heart, but extremely greedy" (Farina) to "will take on nearly any job, no matter how unsavory, as long as the price is right" (Volke).
    • Volke also offers his help at a low price the second time around, not because he feels like he owes the heroes or because he cares about justice or anything, but because he especially dislikes one of the guys on the enemy side.
    • Also Rennac can be hog-tied, gagged, and dragged kicking and screaming into joining your group without money if L'Arachel is the one to speak to him.
    • Path of Radiance: the Greil Mercenaries pick-and-choose "good" battles (e.g. attacking bandits who are trying to sack a town), but they are still mercenaries. At one point they are close to switching allegiances to a nation that is invading theirs, but are attacked on sight before they can make any negotiations.
    • Shez, the protagonist of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, is the Sole Survivor of a mercenary group wiped out by the Ashen Demon. As such, Shez is a mercenary through-and-through at the start of the story, taking work wherever they can get and killing whoever they're sent against (with some exceptions as reputable mercs do have a code of honor, such as not killing regular people who can't fight, and not betraying their client should their opponent offer to pay them more). They freely admit that they're Only in It for the Money and it's only after getting to know the Lords for years that they start believing in fighting for something bigger than themselves.
  • Sterling Granger from In the 1st Degree qualifies as this. He is a prosecutor prosecuting a man charged with murder and grand theft. There are hints dropped that he has a life outside of his job and that he has at least a working relationship with Inspector Looper and at least one member of the press.
  • Mass Effect:
  • The gist of Zero's awesome "No More Holding Back" Speech/Shut Up, Hannibal! at the end of Mega Man Zero 4.
    "I never cared about justice, and I don't recall ever calling myself a hero... I have always only fought for the people I believe in. I won't hesitate... If an enemy appears in front of me, I will destroy it!"
  • Metal Gear: Solid Snake fights the good fight at first because he believes in his cause. Unfortunately, with each successive Evil Plan, Man Behind the Man and Because the Patriots Say So, his cynicism gets worse. In the first game, he's respectful of his opponents and their ideals. In the fourth game, after defeating enemies that were literally brainwashed into committing atrocities and being told their tragic backstories, he dismisses them as just excuses. He's only fighting because he has a mission, and ultimately cares very little for anything beyond the completion of that mission and his own personal revenge.
  • MadWorld's Jack Cayman doesn't give a crap about anything but his own vendettas. At the end, rather than go through legal channels, he breaks his CODEC and leaves his Mission Control behind just so he can kill the Man Behind the Man.
    Jack: I don't save people. I kill them.
  • In Project × Zone, Reiji Arisu says outright, "This is how I put bread on the table. I won't lose".
  • Rayman is portrayed like this in his first game; after the narrator cries, "RAYMAN TO THE RESCUE!", Rayman is then shown lounging at a beach. He then lazily gives out a thumbs-up, saying, "No problem."
  • Parodied with Rodrigo, the main character of neo/Rockstar Games title Rent-a-Hero, who is a member of a guild of professional heroes. Rodrigo's speciality as hero for hire is saving princesses, which is unfortunately the helper level for heroes in game.
  • Dan Danger and EVO, Heroes for Hire from Space Station Silicon Valley. The only people able to save the world from a rogue space station, not to mention a steal for a mere 200 credz.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: This is Vector the Crocodile's typical motivation in the series: His detective agency gets very few customers despite him having considerable sleuthing talent. It forces him to find anything that can even remotely earn him money to make ends meet, whether it's traveling to another planet or competing in hoverboard races. He just happens to always find himself against whoever the villain of that game may be. He's more noble than your typical example, however. He won't get involved with anything dirty or illegal, no matter how much it pays, and he is known to help people who need it for free, such as finding lost children.
  • You know Splinter Cell's Sam Fisher is one when he remembers that he forgot to do the laundry in Chaos Theory. He's a soldier with a mission, and he'll do it. On the other hand, by the time of Conviction, he still has a mission, but it's one he's given himself... and he's much more dangerous for it.
  • Touhou Project: It's... uncommon for the heroines to have noble reasons for resolving incidents. Reimu does it because it's her job. Marisa is motivated primarily by a mixture of curiosity and greed. Sakuya only gets involved if something is inconveniencing her boss. Sanae is ultimately looking to spread faith in her gods (and the franchise considers religion to be fundamentally the same as a business).
  • Valkyria Chronicles:


    Web Original 
  • Himei, the main character of Sailor Nothing, started out as an Ascended Fangirl who Jumped at the Call, but eventually turned into a punch-clock hero as she came to hate her job of fighting evil and did it only because she had to.
  • In The Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast, the Troubleshooter is always happy to save the day when some computer software goes haywire and threatens Sparks Nevada, but never bothers helping out in other life-threatening situations and even leaves Nevada and his friends stranded on one occasion.
    "Gotta get this saloon back to her default address and go where requisition forms take me. But if you survive, I hope you take a survey of my performance."
  • The Protectors of the Plot Continuum primarily kill and fight forms of badfic because it's their job to do so. Individual agents can retire if they want to, in theory, but most never do so.
  • Acquisitions Incorporated: The party is structured as corporation and its primary goal is acquiring wealth. This so happens to often involve doing heroic deeds. Most of the time.
  • The Huntsmen and Huntresses of RWBY are essentially for-hire monster-slayers; there are bounty boards where Huntsmen can browse for one-off jobs, and just as many are contracted out indefinitely to act as security for small settlements or civilian transportation. While Team RWBY and their allies all got into the career for the sake of helping others, or more personal reasons, many are acknowledged as just looking for a good payday.

    Western Animation 
  • Looney Tunes: The most literal example is also one of the oldest of these: Sam the Sheepdog and Ralph the Wolf are the stars in several classic Chuck Jones cartoon shorts for Warner Brothers, starting 1953. From 9 to 5, Ralph tries ever-more-outlandish schemes to catch a sheep, and Sam thwarts Ralph with minimal effort and maximum punishment. But as soon as that 5 o'clock whistle blows, the two punch out and walk home together, ready to do it all over again tomorrow. Oh, and the lunch breaks! That's right, they have lunch together. (Except when Ralph tried to impersonate a sheepdog and take over Sam's shift.) When Sam and Ralph's shift ends, another sheepdog and wolf's shift starts. Once, the whistle blew while Ralph was in the middle of getting a pummeling. They immediately stopped, clocked out, went home, the next guys clocked in, took the exact same positions Sam and Ralph ended off in, and resumed the pummeling.
  • Sam the Sheepdog resumed his Looney Tunes role in a Taz-Mania episode where Taz was the one trying to steal sheep (Taz was a temp, subbing in for an apparently-too badly injured Ralph). In consideration for it being Taz's first day at the job, Sam gave him an edge.
  • The Mask: The Mask: The Mask, as always, only wants to do dancing, have fun and mess about. The reason that he fights supervillains is because they have done something minor to him personally, which gets him to go after them. However, he does have standards, along with being a polite and well-mannered gentleman who will do his job as a superhero... as long as a Mad Monkey movie marathon isn't playing.
  • Jenny Wakeman of My Life as a Teenage Robot was designed to be a teenage superhero robot that fights evil. However, upon deciding that she'd rather hang out with human teens, she becomes an example of this trope.
  • Autocat punches the time clock on a regular basis in the Motormouse And Autocat segment of The Cattanooga Cats series.
  • In the Huckleberry Hound cartoon "Two Corny Crows," Huck and the crows Iggy and Ziggy go through the motions of farmer-vs.-corn-thieves, bookended by the idea that it's their paying job to do so. We don't see a time clock, but there is a quitting-time steam whistle.
  • Kim Possible once ran afoul of Team Impossible, a team of three mercs who were upset that Kim has been cutting into their bottom line by doing heroics for free. In fact, another episode showed that Kim actually got her start in heroics when someone in need of saving attempted to contact Team Impossible but, due to being trapped in a Laser Hallway and having to type with his feet, mistyped their website address and ended up at Kim's babysitting website instead, so she technically has been poaching their clients from day one. After Kim proves herself the superior hero, she convinces them to disband their operation and join Global Justice instead.
  • Evil Con Carne: Cod Commando and the guys at SPORK. The soldiers trying to capture Hector in the pilot are a bigger example. They interrupt a battle because it's lunch break and it gives Ghasty enough time to build a mechanical body that allows Hector to defeat them once they come back from lunch break.
  • In Justice League Unlimited, Booster Gold started off as this, wanting to become rich and famous because he was unsuccessful in the 25th century where he came from.
  • Like the original film, The Real Ghostbusters always made sure to remind viewers this was not a team of vigilante superheroes protecting the world from supernatural menaces, but businessmen doing a job that just happens to involve the supernatural.
    Egon: We'll have to charge you for four [captured ghosts].
    Client: But I was only authorized to purchase one removal.
    Peter: One removal is fine — you just pick the one you want removed, and we'll put the other three back.
  • The Secret Saturdays: When Doyle first offers to start helping his sister fight evil, he says that he'll still require fair value for his services and a place to sleep.


Video Example(s):


Ralph Wolf & Sam Sheepdog

Ralph & Sam have a punch-clock relationship with each other (even involving an actual clock). While Ralph will often steal sheep & Sam will pound him for it, outside of work they have a very strong friendship going, eating lunch & living in the same house together.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (33 votes)

Example of:

Main / PunchClockVillain

Media sources: