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Scrap Heap Hero

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Sometimes when a hero has a Heroic BSoD the retirement is longer than ten minutes. Maybe the hero failed altogether or fell victim to their own personal demons. Sometimes the hero has just grown old. Whatever the reason for it, the hero has been at best forgotten and is perhaps even actively despised or ridiculed, a has-been or even worse a never-was. Sometimes, though, things happen, and like it or not the Scrap Heap Hero rises first from the ashes and then to the occasion, showing everybody just what they once did or could have done had things gone differently.

Do not confuse with The Scrappy, although both tropes might overlap during the period when the hero's down and out. Nearly always results in He's Back!. Could overlap with Retired Badass, compare with Let's Get Dangerous!. When a group of Scrap Heap Heroes reform, it's Putting the Band Back Together.


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    Comic Books 
  • Nite Owl from Watchmen fulfills this trope when he returns to active crimefighting.
  • Iron Man after he came back from being The Alcoholic and Crazy Homeless Person. It was a long process that even had him using a modified version of his very first armor, and in one instance, a makeshift costume with a few pieces of his unfinished Silver Centurion armor, earning the name "Spare-Parts Man" from Hawkeye.
  • Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Returns is retired, developing alcoholism, and possibly a Death Seeker. He's been away from crime-fighting for so long, the younger generation doesn't think he ever existed, despite the supervillains being known to exist. He averts this trope when after seeing the injustice in Gotham City, he quits alcoholism and dons the cape and cowl once more to bring justice back to the City.
  • Bruce Wayne again in Batman '66 Meets Wonder Woman '77 when Diana finds out that Bruce retired after the Joker learned of his secret identity, attacked Wayne Manor and caused the elder Alfred to have a heart attack, leading Bruce to beat the Joker a lot more viciously. While it's left ambiguous if Bruce literally beat the Joker to death or he had a fatal accident, but Bruce is so shaken by what he did, he hung up the cowl for years until Wonder Woman reappeared.
  • Astro City has Steeljack, a former felon and super-villain who just wants to stay out of trouble and make an honest living, despite the checkered past and the troubles around him.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Sam Wilson in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, aka the Falcon. When introduced, he's retired from active duty due to PTSD stemming from the horrific loss of his flying partner. But he proves himself to be A Friend in Need to Steve and puts his wings back on for the first time when it's clear his help is needed.
  • Batman in The Dark Knight Rises. Batman was so shaken up by the events of The Dark Knight that he retired... for EIGHT YEARS! The general public also doesn't remember him fondly because they blame him for the crimes of Two-Face. It takes the threat of Bane to finally get him to snap out of his Heroic BSoD and come back to action.
  • Herbie in Herbie: Fully Loaded, a literal example, saved from the salvage yard, his previous racing career seemingly forgotten, his new owner less than thrilled by the vehicle circumstances have forced on her, then she gets in a race and after a few false starts while Herbie gets the kinks out of its system the car goes to show that there's plenty of life left in the silly-looking race car yet, winning the race and his owner's heart once she realizes what she has.
  • Russell Casse from Independence Day, an alcoholic ex-military pilot turned cropduster and UFO crazy, had zero respect from his son and even less from his neighbors. Still managed to join in the attack on the Mothership and after a few initial miscues manages to save the President, would have shot the missile that took down the ship if the firing mechanism hadn't failed - instead sacrificed himself by flying his plane directly into the main weapon and turned the course of the war.
  • Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi. After reaching Ideal Hero status in Return of the Jedi, Luke makes the critical mistake of considering the murder of his nephew Kylo Ren. This drives Kylo to the dark side, and by proxy the genocide of the new Jedi order. Luke naturally enters a Heroic BSoD... but for almost the rest of his life! Only at the VERY end of his life does he finally stand up to Kylo and make a Heroic Sacrifice to save the Resistance.
  • Lee (played by Robert Vaughn) in The Magnificent Seven (1960): he starts as a sunsetting gunfighter, who lives hiding from his numerous enemies, fearing the bullet faster than his own which will eventually kill him. He hides even during the first confrontation with Calvera. But, during the climax, he faces his demons and saves a group of farmers, dispatching quickly a bunch of bandits and showing that he really is a hell of a gunfighter. After this, his posture and expression seem to show that he has regained the courage of his old days (and, in a twist of irony, he is then immediately killed by a random bullet).
  • MonsterVerse:
    • Mark Russell starts Godzilla: King of the Monsters as a bitter recluse at a cabin, having quit his job at Monarch, fallen into depression and abandoned his family after his son died amid Godzilla and the MUTOs' battle in the first movie. Over the course of the film, he lets his hatred of Godzilla over his son's death go, and he makes the first steps to reconciling with his remaining child, who ends the film sure to go into his custody after her mother has been killed by Ghidorah. Godzilla vs. Kong shows that Mark has taken up active work at Monarch again, but the trope is somewhat deconstructed, as he accomplishes nothing in his new role across the entire film except for unwittingly aiding the progression of the human villains' plot, which leads to Mechagodzilla devastating Hong Kong.
    • Dr. Nathan Lind in Godzilla vs. Kong has quit Monarch after several people including his brother died due to miscalculations when he attempted to launch them into the Hollow Earth, and he's been furthermore laughed out of the scientific community and left languishing in a dead-end job in a university basement when the film starts. He's convinced to rejoin Monarch, and he succeeds at accessing the Hollow Earth while helping Kong where he failed before, giving him closure and enabling him to take up his old work again.
  • Raleigh Becket in Pacific Rim is an ex-Jaeger pilot who left the program after he lost his co-pilot and older brother Yancy in the same battle that destroyed their Jaeger. While other pilots have died in combat or been reassigned he's the only pilot to ever resign and is working on the Alaskan portion of the Anti-Kaiju wall when Pentecost approaches him. His Jaeger Gypsy Danger is a more literal case being a wrecked Humongous Mecha which is literally pulled from the scrap heap among other decommissioned Jaegers.
  • Jake Pentecost, the protagonist of the sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising, is the estranged son of Stacker Pentecost. Once a promising Jaeger cadet, his father's critical nature and favoritism of his adopted sister Mako led him to run away and turn to a life of scavenging and thievery. He is under arrest for being involved with an illegal Jaeger when Mako extends him the offer to become a Pilot and instructor in exchange for making sure he does not go to jail.
  • John Rambo is pulled out of prison to save the day at the beginning of Rambo: First Blood Part II.

  • Jack Random of the Death Stalker universe became famous for leading a less-than-successful rebellion against the Empire, but escaped from several traps. He was eventually betrayed, captured, and tortured by the Empire. After he regained his freedom, Jack ended up a janitor working under an abusive boss on Mistworld. Then Owen came with a new chance to fight against the Empire, and the Eternal Rebel woke up.
  • The main character (The Coyote) and several others in In Hero Years, I'm Dead by Michael Stackpole. It's pretty much a major theme of the book.
  • Sam Vimes of the Discworld is introduced in Guards! Guards! as an alcoholic, hopeless officer of a decrepit and meaningless Night Watch. Starting with that novel, the Watch and Vimes both start to clean up their act, until Ankh-Morpork suddenly has an exemplary City Watch headed by a Sir Samuel Vimes, one of the richest and highest-ranking nobles in the city who still works the streets as a policeman, is internationally known as a man of complete integrity, is one of about two people considered so important the Assassins' Guild refuses to take commissions on him (he kept embarrassingly beating their agents anyway to the point they send assassins-in-training against him to teach the assassins humility), and once arrested two warring armies for disturbing the peace. Even so, Vimes is still basically the same cynical but lawful and good bastard as in the beginning.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Jack Killian from Midnight Caller was a cop until he accidentally shot his partner Rusty. After that, he quit the force and "climbed into a bottle" for six months and only started to get his life together again after Devon hired him to work for KJCM.

    Video Games 
  • Several companions from the Fallout series are this.
    • Cassidy was an adventurer who developed a heart condition and became a barkeeper. His daughter was a hard-drinking caravan merchant who had her caravan destroyed. Raul was a vaquero turned mechanic. All three prove to be competent fighters when you recruit them and the latter can be inspired to go back to his vaquero ways.
    • ED-E in Fallout: New Vegas is a literal example; it's a broken robot that can be restored to working condition, at which point it joins the player as a companion.
  • Solid Snake in the first Metal Gear Solid is a washed-up alcoholic retired veteran living alone in Alaska following the events of the previous game, until he is forced out of retirement to prevent another nuclear holocaust.

    Western Animation 
  • Early in Adventure Time, Finn's personal hero and inspiration for heroism, Billy, is in this state. Although renowned for many impressive and heroic deeds and defeating all sort of villains (including the Lich) Billy has long since become utterly disillusioned with heroism and fighting evil, having come to believe that it's pointless and that more villains and evil will just arise to replace the old ones. When Finn first encounters Billy, the half-giant is an elderly recluse living as a hermit in a cave. Finn and Billy rub off on each other a bit; Billy tries to get Finn to think of more than just fighting and of non-violently doing good in his community, while Finn inspires Billy to take up heroism and battle evil again.