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Super Dickery

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*GASP* How can this be?!

Innocent Bystander: Superman — don't just sit there! Stop that thing before it wrecks Metropolis!
Superman: [smiling] That's just what I'm waiting for it to do!
— Cover of ''Superman'' #246

For the Trope Namer website, go here.

It's a widespread tactic in serial fiction: show a teaser portraying the normally upright hero acting in an evil and despicable manner, causing the audience to wonder what the heck's going on and then, hopefully, to read/watch/listen to the thing you're advertising.

You look at the cover to the newest issue of your favorite comic, and what do you see? The Super Hero, apparently killing his sidekick and Love Interest! Or, On the Next episode of your favorite prime-time TV series, the main character goes bad, selling his team out to the Big Bad and shooting the Plucky Comic Relief in the face!

So you read or watch the installment in question, and find out It Makes Sense in Context. The hero, or someone in the supporting cast, was a Reverse Mole, a Secret Test of Character, Not Himself, Really Not Himself, putting on a show, or had learned that if Jimmy had gotten what he wanted for Christmas, it would have resulted in the destruction of every known universe simultaneously. It is also entirely possible that it was an "imaginary story" or in some way All Just a Dream. And many comic books flat-out ignore elements on the cover. For television, Manipulative Editing might also splice together two unrelated scenes for the promo, and it turns out the hero was being a dick to someone who actually deserved it. And now you're down a quarter. You should have known that Covers Always Lie and you can Never Trust a Trailer, but you were pulled in... by Superdickery.


Warning: Silver Age comics did have a tendency to induce Comedic Sociopathy in characters, alongside the strange plot devices and twists. This means that even if Superman wasn't as evil as the cover made him sound, the reader might still have to say "what a dick!" at the end of the story.

Doesn't really work with Anti Heroes.

The reason for this trope, however, isn't the writer's intent. During the Silver Age, the covers were designed first, and the writers had to work around that cover that had been drawn without a story.

Compare with Clickbait Gag, an In-Universe use of one of Superdickery's web equivalents, Clickbait.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • One episode of Rune Soldier Louie opens with Louie digging a deep hole in the middle of the rain, right next to a dead-looking Merrill. After a flashback, it's revealed that Merrill isn't dead, just really tired, and Louie is helping her in a paranoid, night-long, shenanigan-filled attempt to hide a gigantic jar full of gold.
  • At the end of one episode of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, Hermit Purple tells Joseph that Kakyoin is a traitor working for Dio, followed by a shot of Kakyoin staring menacingly at Jojo. In the next episode, it turns out that this Kakyoin was actually the Villain of the Week's Stand, Yellow Temperance, disguised as Kakyoin.

    Comic Books 
  • Way, way, way overdone in the Silver Age Superman comics, to the point where Supes seemed more like some kind of sadist for putting his friends through these situations, even if they were fake. If you look at enough of them, you start to realize that, for many of them, there is no possible situation that could explain what you're seeing. Other than utter lunacy, of course, because this is the SILVER AGE!
    • Interestingly, the first instance of Super Dickery was in Superman's first issue. The cover of his Action Comics debut shows him smashing a car to pieces for no apparent reason as the car's occupants flee in terror. You have to read the comic itself to learn that it's a criminal's getaway car he's destroying. This actually makes sense, given that Siegel and Shuster's original story, Reign of the Superman, is more ambivalent about a super-being coexisting with normals.
    • It's not just Superman who had this happen to him, either. There were plenty of covers involving Jimmy Olsen or Batman giving away the secret identity of/imprisoning/refusing to help/killing Superman.
    • One peculiar but common thread through these comics is that Superman spends most of his time ensuring that nobody else has powers like his. If a reason is even given for this, it's because The World Is Not Ready. Superman has clearly decided he is the only arbiter of truth, justice, and various national ways.
    • Lois Lane is being blackmailed, and what's Supes' response? Impersonate her blackmailer because he simply must know her terrible secret. This leads to a bit of actual story-within-a-story Super Dickery, as "her" secret actually turned out to be footage of Superman killing a bunch of people... whom further footage reveals to be evil aliens in disguise, for that "What Measure Is a Non-Human?" bit of okay-but-you're-still-kind-of-a-dick. And Lois herself for being willing to keep what she thought was murder a secret.
    • All too often, though, the torment of another character by Superman (often someone he's supposed to be friends or loved ones with) really does occur, and for no apparent constructive reason at all. In one silver age comic, Superman puts Lois Lane (You know? The love of his life?) through an embarrassing and gut-wrenching physical transformation (namely massive weight-gain) without her permission, allegedly to keep an assassin from recognizing her and killing her. Of course, even supposing that reason held any water at all, that still doesn't excuse how Superman pretends not to recognize Lois immediately after the transformation, and even out-and-out insults her appearance. Keep in mind that this is the Trope Codifier for the Flying Brick saying this.
      Superman: (While carrying fat!Lois) Pardon my saying so, Miss... but you're quite a load! *Puff* The girl I most often fly with is slender... Lois Lane!
    • While many Silver and Golden Age stories had Superman being a dick, many had his friends being dicks to him- Lois Lane (and Lana Lang, when he was Superboy) constantly tried to prove that Clark was Superman, on the assumption that he would have to marry her once she did! He also had to constantly save them from the danger that they put themselves in recklessly. The latter was also a problem with Jimmy Olsen. So it was really a mutual thing. About the only regular character who wasn't a dick was Perry White, despite his gruff behavior.
    • Bizarrely, the whole prove-his-identity-to-get-him-to-marry-me bit seems to have been valid for Superman. A comic in which he went back in time to get away from Lois and Lana had him meet another girl who — surprise — came to the same conclusion and tried to get his secret identity. She never tells Superman that this is her plan, but when he gets back to the present and finds out that she's become fat, he expresses relief that he didn't end up having to marry her. Perhaps Superman is subject to the True Name effect?
    • In Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #76, Perry forces the other members of the Daily Planet to go on a death march.
    • The cover that provides the page image? Superman overheard an oracle saying that Superman would destroy "his son" on the 17th, so he tries to drive Jimmy away before that happens. After he succeeds, he explains the truth to Jimmy - only to learn that the oracle meant an artificial sun he'd created long ago - and cancelled adoptions can't be renewed. Plus, he kind of destroyed his "son" anyway by doing all that to Jimmy.
    • The covers do tend to exaggerate the apparent dickery. For example, on the cover of Action Comics #258, the Man of Steel banishes Supergirl off the planet, his rationale being, "I'm sorry to end your career, but you're a failure as Supergirl! I must exile you to another world!" In the actual story, it's far pettier — he exiles her to an asteroid for just one year only because she revealed her existence to Krypto the Superdog. Yeah, that'll end her career. note 
    • Some of the covers flat-out lied. "The Miracle of Thirsty Thursday"'s cover shows Metropolis citizens dying of thirst whilst Superman stands before a gushing fire hydrant and explicitly denies water to everyone. Of course, a thoughtful reader may assume that the clarifying context is that the water is in some way contaminated and that Superman is protecting them. In this case, however, the "context" is that the cover is a lie: in the actual story, citizens of Metropolis are affected by a serum that creates an aversion to water, and Superman has to come up with a means to make them drink.
    • Another aspect of comic books during that age was that the audience was primarily children 6-12, and many of the stories would feature incidents that would speak to them - such as being punished via spanking. To an adult's eyes, it would seem... bizarre (and kinky in some cases), but to a child, it would be a real threat, as would being made fat, losing a parental figure, and so on.
    • Perhaps even more important, many of these covers were made by people not otherwise involved in writing the books, after which point the writers would make up a story attempting to justify it (or blatantly ignoring it!) as best they could.
    • This tactic didn't go away anytime near the Bronze Age or the Modern Age either. The cover for the 1991 annual of The Adventures of Superman showed Supes and Maxima making out in a graveyard, with Maxima seated on the tombstone of Lois Lane, Superman's dead pregnant wife! The actual story inside, apart from taking place in an Alternate Universe, is also far more tasteful and poignant, showing how Lois' death during pregnancy sends Superman into a Heroic BSoD that leads him to abandon Earth, then get attacked by hostile aliens and rescued by Maxima, and thereafter how even amidst Almeracian political intrigue she comforts him through his mourning, grows as a person through Superman's influence and eventually becomes his Second Love.
    • Used in All-Star Superman, which is a 2000s continuation of the Silver Age comics. Issue four is called "The Superman/Olsen War!", and its cover depicts Superman trying to kill his best pal. He's under the influence of Black Kryptonite.
    • Interestingly, one of the most bizarre examples of these is an aversion. There's a cover that shows Jimmy Olsen commanding a group of bikers to take down Superman. The context: that scene happens exactly as depicted on the cover. The mystery of the story is 1) why is there a group of young people in a Lost World and 2) why is Jimmy Olsen turning against Superman?
    • Eventually, this got so bad that often, they would put "Not a dream! Not a hoax! Not an imaginary story!" on the cover. This became something of a Running Gag.
    • In the first cover of the storyline Krypton No More, Supergirl smashes the Bottle City of Kandor, apparently killing seven million Kryptonians. In context, she is destroying a fake to prove her cousin that Krypton never was real. WHY? Because Superman is having a nervous breakdown, and the Kandorians convince Kara that the best way to solve her cousin's mental issues is lying to him and making him believe his life is a lie. So it was not Kara who was being an asshole. It was Superman and Supergirl's entire remaining race who were being assholes to both cousins through their bizarre ideas of therapy.
  • The Goddamn Batman from All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder is probably the ultimate inversion. He's right up there with Silver Age Supes in being an asshole, if not even more (thanks to Frank Miller's patented Darker and Edgier style). The covers portray him like his regular counterpart: taking in Dick Grayson after his parents are murdered and raising him to help him cope with his grief. But in the actual story, he doesn't just offer the twelve-year-old Dick Grayson, age twelve, the chance to train to avenge his parents - he outright kidnaps the boy for kicks (complete with Dick getting his Face on a Milk Carton, as we see in a panel later). And his idea of teaching the 12-year-old boy to toughen up? Leave him to fend for himself in the dark corners of the Batcave and deny him food - going so far as to tell him to catch some rats and eat them if he ever goes hungry. And he even lashes out at Alfred caring for the kid and feeding him properly! In fact, the entire story is messed up from top to bottom, and Bats' behavior is just the beginning.
  • One Astro City story, "Shining Armor," was a Deconstruction of Lois Lane's own brand of dickery. An Expy Lois Lane (Irene Merriweather) tries to prove herself worthy of an Expy Superman (Atomicus) by exposing his secret identity, but when she finally succeeds, he just gets pissed and leaves Earth forever. It turns out he never wanted to play that game with her but was too afraid to admit it. But just to reiterate so that the gravity of the situation can sink in: Irene was so insane about discovering Atomicus' secret identity that he, the greatest hero of the Atomic age, left the freaking planet forever. To wander aimlessly through space. Forever. That is how insufferable she was. What's more is that in her initial inquiries into his identity, word started spreading and Adam Peterson's house was blown up by the local mafia. She saw no connection to this and kept trying to prove he was Atomicus.
    • The same story subverts it from Atomicus' side: Atomicus' attempts to preserve his secret identity and dissuade Irene from digging into it leaves Irene humiliated at best and severely traumatizes her at worst—one instance involves making Irene think she had almost killed her coworkers—Irene even accuses him of messing with her for his sick amusement in their final conversation. However, Atomicus wasn't doing this to be deliberately malicious. As Irene notes in the present day, since Atomicus had only been recently created, he didn't have the life experience to understand that he was being hurtful to Irene.
    • There was also a brief mention in another story of a situation that would seem rather familiar; Supersonic, after an adventure that temporarily gave him 16 exact doubles, took his Lois-type girlfriend Caroleen to a dance as Supersonic and had one of his doubles come as his secret identity of Dale Enright. He did this just to mess with Caroleen for no reason.
  • A cliffhanger ending in one issue of the City of Heroes comic book (yes, a comic book based on an MMORPG based on comic books), the Badass Normal of the super-team depicted in the book was shown killing the team's leader in the last panel. The catch? He planned to have the man returned to life as soon as possible and only killed him to appease the one person who could restore the powers of the rest of the team.
  • Another on-panel version - the original introduction of the Skrulls had the Fantastic Four doing criminal acts, from the minor to the not very minor (like knocking over an oil rig). Soon after, it's - surprise - really the Skrulls causing trouble.
  • The various incarnations of the Legion of Super-Heroes, particularly in their secret character tests for Superboy and Supergirl, and in their periodic tryouts for new members.
    • The Legion actually started with Super Dickery before moving on to actual heroics. It was several years before stories about the Legion fighting villains and being heroes outnumbered the stories of them being jerks to Superboy.
    • "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" by Geoff Johns had a handful of people they rejected from the team being so devastated they turn homicidal and take over the Earth. Oops. Of course, it also explained that the real reason they were rejected was for being dangerously unstable.
    • Then there was that time they turned down a guy who wanted to join, so he decided to become the greatest villain of all and he succeeded.note 
  • This trope was frequently used the other way around in the British comic The Beano with Dennis the Menace shockingly becoming good. Of course, it didn't last.
  • X-Men:
    • Can be done on-panel: In the "Torn" Story Arc of Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men, a depowered Cyclops was casually gunning down villains and talking about it as if completely unconcerned. (This after the previous issue's Wham Episode ending of him shooting Emma Frost.) Turns out he's not crazy: he's the only one who's figured out that they're psychic projections created by a villain to move her Evil Plan along.
    • Inverted in Wolverine #70. The cover shows him fighting with his Rogues Gallery and losing but in the comic he handles them quite easily because they are his friends and he was fooled by Mysterio.
    • One issue featured Wolvie standing over an eviscerated Kitty Pryde. Wolverine was actually Mystique in disguise, and Kitty was an android; Mystique was just practicing. There's a similar moment on the cover of Uncanny X-Men #276 where Wolverine is standing over a downed Professor X with his claws popped out. In the issue, that's because "Professor X" is really a Skrull in disguise.
    • One has Professor X piloting a "Psi-ber Sentinel," gleefully laughing as he tries to mow down the X-Men. In the actual story, it's revealed to be even more Blatant Lies than most of these scenes. Nothing of the sort happens; not a clone, not brainwashing. In fact, the prof was a prisoner, and his psychic energy was being drained to run the robot, which had been sent by actual bad guys. And you'd think that if they really wanted people to buy the comic, they'd have simply mentioned on the cover that Deadpool was in the issue, a fact that was actually not advertised.
    • And another, from Uncanny X-Men issue #100 - the previous issue ended with the All-New X-Men, in the middle of a rescue operation, coming face to face with the original X-Men, with Professor X telling the originals to destroy them. The cover of issue 100 has the Professor standing between them telling the teams to fight. Turns out the original X-Men are cunningly disguised Sentinels.
  • Spider-Man had at least one run-in with this when a comic opened with him robbing a bank. He was actually taking a bomb meant to destroy the safe out of it.
    • Done again in Ultimate Spider-Man, where one issue starts with Spider-Man bursting into a bank with an unconscious cop in one hand and declaring that the bank is being robbed by none other than Spider-Man. It's quickly revealed that this is not Peter Parker/Spider-Man, but an impostor copying his motif.
    • Done yet again in the PlayStation Spider-Man video game, which opens to Spidey stealing some technology, and it is not subverted by the fact that the person he's stealing from is Doctor Octopus, reformed or not. Later revealed, of course, to be Mysterio, stealing the tech for none other than Doctor Octopus himself.
      • More of an in-universe example, though, since the cinematic also shows Peter Parker taking pictures there.
      • Complete with him saying to himself "Wait a minute, I thought I was Spider-Man."
      • And later it's revealed that Mysterio worked for Octopus, who planned the whole thing in order to frame Spidey to accomplish his Evil Plan without being disturbed.
    • And, as with the ur-example of Superman's first comic cover, the first cover for Spider-Man was supposed to be ambiguous as to whether he was saving the man or kidnapping him.
  • In issue #11 of The Simpsons comic book, Ned Flanders gets lost during a camping trip, and when he comes back, he acts like a criminal, doing such things as robbing a bank and using a slingshot to knock Bart off his skateboard on the cover. It's not really him - it's a clone manufactured by Kang, Kodos, and Sideshow Bob. Prior to that, the issue begins with Ned angrily yelling at Maude that she's "ruined everything". Turns out she forgot to bring marshmallows on a camping trip, and he's irritated about it.
  • Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • The cover to issue #28 depicts Sonic having just beaten up the other Freedom Fighters and being commanded by Robotnik to finish them off. However, the apparent dickery here is kind of made not that suspenseful by the fact that this was printing the second half of a two-part, and therefore if you read the previous issue, then you know that Sonic is just suffering amnesia and thinks he's on Robotnik's side.
    • Issue #203, has Bunnie pinning Sonic under her foot and preparing to blast him with her arm cannon, complete with the caption "Bunnie Gone Bad?!". Actually reading it reveals the Iron Queen, being a techno-mage, has taken control of her cybernetic limbs and is forcing her to fight the others. They did the same thing next issue with Monkey Khan, though, like the above example, it's not at all suspenseful if you've read the previous issue. It has almost the same explanation as Bunnie's.
      • That doesn't stop Antoine (Bunnie's husband) from attacking Khan meaningfully, since apparently Khan knew of the Iron Queen's abilities—and specifically, his own liability towards her powers—beforehand, and never told anybody else so they could prepare for it. Then again, coming close to becoming a widower would do that to any respectable husband, and Antoine is long removed from his days as a Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey at that point.
    • Issue #217 inverts this - on the cover, we see Sonic drowning in oil, and Bunnie rushing to help him. Not only does this never happen in the story, but on the first page, Bunnie and Sonic are in the middle of an all-out battle in the middle of an oil refinery; the issue-long flashback that shows how they got to this point reveals that neither one was being forced, and they're fighting over largely ideological differences.
    • Issue #59 is another inversion. Earlier in the series, Sonic visited an odd dimension where two men named Horizont-al and Verti-cal lived and comically harassed Sonic. The cover of the issue in question shows them wrestling over a Sega Saturn controller while Sonic and Tails watch from behind the monitor, suggesting another light-hearted romp in their wacky world. The actual story is much more tragic, as Robotnik's doings back in the Endgame arc caused a mutation of their zone, twisting them into nightmarish mechanical monsters who only live to fight (so while the cover is not deceiving you, the events of the story are far more disturbing). While Sonic and Tails are in their zone, they claim them as pawns and put their own unending battle on hold to let Sonic and Tails battle each other on their behalf. At the end of the story Sonic and Tails free themselves from Horizont-al and Verti-cal's control but are unable to convince the two to stop their feuding, leaving them alone in their zone to fight forevermore.
    • The cover of issue 256 suggests a confrontation with Dr. Eggman. To say that doesn't happen doesn't even begin to tell the story.
    • #24 opens with Sonic and all of the other Freedom Fighters attacking the citizen of Knothole Village in petty ways. It's really Evil Sonic and his own band of Freedom Fighters (who fight against freedom) from an alternate universe, hoping to ruin the reputation of their counterparts.
  • In Elementals, Bill Willingham makes a point about how the silver-age Superman spent all his time saving Jimmy Olsen from dropping packages and preventing Perry White from tripping over his shoelaces, while on the other side of the world thousands died of famine and poverty.
  • An issue of Batman and Robin shows Robin preparing to decapitate Batman with a giant sword. The issue is even called "Batman vs. Robin." And it does happen! In one panel. Then Robin freaks out and fights off the mind-control that his mother had put him under.
  • This trope in Silver Age Superman covers is given an amusing nod in Masterpiece Comics, a parody book that has famous literary works in the style of comic strips and comic books. The retelling of The Stranger has Superman standing in for Mersault, and the novel is told through a series of what look like Silver Age Covers. Thus, the dickish things Mersault does in the book are a close (if exaggerated) parallel to the kind of things Superman would be shown doing on the cover.
  • Sleepwalker did this in-story at the end of one issue. A mob of bizarre alien "mindspawn" who all strongly resemble Sleepwalker are invading New York City and killing the innocent bystanders. The issue ends with Sleepwalker seemingly destroying and absorbing Rick Sheridan's mind, with the final caption asking if Sleepwalker is a Supervillain. It's later revealed that Sleepwalker actually absorbed Rick's mind in a special weapon to protect him from being killed by the mindspawn, who really were going to kill him. Sleepwalker knew that if he tried to fight the mindspawn, Rick could have gotten hurt in the crossfire. This way, he could both keep Rick's mind safe and ingratiate himself with the mindspawn, which allows him to free their human prisoners.
  • Richie Rich, usually a nice kid, sometimes flaunts his ludicrous fortune in the search of a bad, money-related pun or the apparent envy of bypassers on the covers. He shapes everything in the shape of a dollar sign; replaces workers with robots or genetically modifies animals to be made out of gems, gold, gem-encrusted gold, money or at the very least, speckled with dollar signs. Occupy Richie Rich portrays him as bullying the working class with his sheer fortune.
  • The cover to Captain America #153 shows Cap beating up on a black man, as The Falcon attempts to stop him. We soon learn that the "Captain America" on the cover isn't the real deal, but rather the 1950s Cap, who went insane due to a faulty version of the Super-Soldier Serum being used on him.
  • A JLA storyline had Adam Strange kidnapping the League and putting them to work as slaves for the aliens rebuilding his planet, apparently driven insane by the death of his wife. At the end of the first half, J'onn J'onzz joins forces with him. It's all a ruse to confuse the invaders.
  • One cover of The Brave and the Bold features the original Teen Titans beating the living crap out of Batman. In the actual story, only two of the Titans "beat up" Batman, and that's because they're undercover with a group of criminals and Batman is intentionally letting them "work him over" so they can maintain their cover.
  • Issue 3 of Original Sin ends with Bucky Barnes stranding Moon Knight and Gamora in space, confronting Nick Fury and brutally killing and decapitating him. Then Issue 4 comes around and we find out that Bucky realized they were being played and went hunting down their benefactor... the real Nick Fury - the Fury he killed was a Life Model Decoy.
  • The Italian comic book Diabolik does it once in a while. And the readers are forced to take them seriously, as once in a while they actually do it (from the very third issue: its title is "The Arrest of Diabolik", and that's exactly what happens).
    • The best example for this series is the ninth issue, "The Train of Death", in which Diabolik's reaction to his lover and accomplice Eva Kant getting arrested appears to be kidnapping a gorgeous woman to brainwash her into becoming his new lover and accomplice. Turns out he had realized he couldn't break Eva out during her trial and making appear he had dumped her was the only way to convince the judge to not give her the death sentence and put together a plan to break her out. Still believable because, at the time, Diabolik had not been yet established as completely in love with Eva and unable to harm her.
    • Another example is "Wedding in Black": after being wounded when a wedding she was attending was bombed, Altea begged her fiance Ginko to marry her then and there, they do, and after Altea is hospitalized Ginko goes to another house and kisses a woman there. The following panel reveals that "Ginko" was actually a disguised Diabolik (the real one having been kidnapped the previous night) and the woman an equally disguised Eva.
  • An interesting one was done in Ultimate Fantastic Four, which shows Magneto standing over the broken and beaten bodies of the titular heroes. Doesn't seem like Superdickery at first glance since Ultimate Magneto is sociopathic mass murderer, but the comic reveals that this is actually the Magneto of an alternate universe who is, like his mainstream 616 counterpart, more of a Noble Demon Anti-Hero Depending on the Writer. Turns out the Fantastic Four team he was defeating (though this scene does not actually happen in the comic) were their undead Evil Twins from the Marvel Zombies universe, so this was really a heroic Magneto defeating a group of very, very evil villains.
  • The cover of an issue of Excalibur showed guest-star Psylocke kicking her brother Captain Britain in the face! In actuality, they were sparring and came to the conclusion that their powers—his physical prowess and her telepathy—were evenly matched. It was actually a rather touching scene since the twins were catching up after not seeing each other for several months.
  • In Super Sons, Issue #14 has Damian standing over a prone Jon's body with a sword while declaring that Superboy is now dead. None of this happens in the story and Damian actually snaps the sword depicted on the cover in half.
  • Sensation Comics had a number of covers show Wonder Woman unnecessarily petty and unkind, usually to Steve Trevor. They're generally an exaggeration of the plot or an outright lie inspired by an element of the story. Examples include surprising Steve with a bunch of identical duplicates and telling him to figure out which one she is on #96, or ruining a magic show on #69.

    Fan Works 
  • Chapter 6 of Hop To It opens with Rabbit seemingly siding with an akuma named Cottontail after she kidnaps Alya, before cutting back a few hours to give it some context.
  • Chapter 9 of Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku! ends with a reference to this in the author's notes.
    "Join us next time when Midoriya adopts Bakugou as his son and spends weeks emotionally abusing him!"

    Films — Animation 
  • In Superman vs. the Elite, the Elite, a group of merciless antiheroes, decide to take on Superman for 'endangering innocent people' by not being as violent as they are, and they apparently kill him... At which point he decides to play by their rules, and easily and gleefully kill most of them and reduces their leader, Manchester Black, to tears and on his knees, while not caring about the collateral damage. Then the whole world stopped trembling in fear when Superman revealed he was just showing the world exactly how scary he would be if he started being judge, jury, and executioner as the Elite tried to be, and that he didn't kill anyone (the Elite are still alive but Brought Down to Normal and Superman's robots saved the people who were apparently killed by the collateral damage).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • One of the first trailers in the 199 Hero movie of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger depicts the Rangers fighting against the previous Sentai teams, highlighted by the fact that even the narration declares confusion over what's going on. The battle did make it into the movie, but the heroes were actually fighting against puppets animated by the Big Bad from the Gokaigers' Ranger Keys.
    • Kamen Rider X Super Sentai Superhero Taisen features two separate Legions of Doom, a reformed Dai Shocker and the all-new Dai Zangyack. Both are staffed by villains from both franchises... and headed by two heroes, Kamen Rider Decade and Gokai Red. Okay, Decade used to be a villain, but promo material says he only reformed Dai Shocker after the Sentai villains invaded the Rider universe. It turns out a massive gambit by the two heroes to get the villains to bring their super-weapons out into the open so they and the other heroes (whom they faked killing while really sending them to a pocket dimension for safety) could destroy them.
      • Later followed with Heisei Rider Vs Showa Rider Kamen Rider Wars Featuring Super Sentai, where the two generations of Riders are seemingly killing each other over their differing philosophies and for the right to battle the Badan Empire. Initially, the in-fighting turns out to be for the exact same reason as in Super Hero Taisen (just replace "a pocket dimension" with "the Helheim Forest") but after the villains are defeated, the Showa Riders (who prioritize defeating evil first) reveal that their beef with the Heisei Riders is legitimate, since they feel that the Heisei kids' are "soft" for prioritizing the protection of civilians and blame their emotional attachment to their dead friends for allowing Badan to return as an army of the dead.
    • Apparently this is law for Gokaiger movies. In Go-Busters vs Gokaiger, (whose name isn't an example - team-ups are always named "[current team] vs [returning team]" even though it's not really accurate) we have trailers of the Gokaigers dressed in a more traditionally piratical manner than usual and attacking the Go-Busters. Needless to say, they're still not really bad guys, and they still fight alongside the other heroes.
      • And again with the Kyoryuger vs Go-Busters movie, which is being advertised with images of the Kyoryugers in black outfits swearing to destroy the dinosaurs — which are the Kyoryugers' allies and partners normally. As it turns out, the villains have brainwashed them in the second act.
  • One of the promotional posters for Man of Steel shows Superman in handcuffs being led away by soldiers. It turns out he just turned himself in to the military so he could gain their trust. Apparently, he can't completely escape this trope, even in these modern times.
  • One teaser for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice consists entirely of a context-free scene where Superman flies down into an underground bunker to unmask an imprisoned Batman, with a row of loyal black-clad soldiers kneeling before Superman as he walks in. While Superman is definitely something of an Anti-Hero in Dawn of Justice's precursor film, Man of Steel, it's highly unlikely that he would actually recruit armed minions and keep his enemies chained up in a bunker. An interview makes it clear that it's from a Nightmare Sequence Bruce Wayne has.
  • In The Lone Ranger, at the beginning of the film, a scene depicts The Lone Ranger and Tonto are seen robbing a bank. By the end of the movie when we come full round to this scene. They're robbing the bank because it has explosives in it so they can take down the big bad.
  • The first trailer of Captain Marvel shows one scene of the titular superheroine punching an old lady in the face. Comic book fans knew that the old lady is a Skrull which eventually makes more sense in the second trailer where the old woman growls, drop-kicks Carol, and acrobatically maneuvers her way through the train before Carol rams her face-first into a metal pole, denting it.
  • Some trailers and promotional material for The Rise of Skywalker showed Rey as a Sith Lord, having fallen to The Dark Side. In the film proper, this is a nightmare sequence depicting a Bad Future, and we later find out it technically isn't even Rey in this vision: it's Palpatine hijacking her body.

  • At the start of Persuader, Jack Reacher, our hero appears to shoot a cop, steal a car and kidnap a child. After you're completely hooked, it turns out there's a good explanation.
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible has several examples of heroes acting dickishly out of arrogance, sanctimoniousness, self-righteousness or insecurity. In CoreFire's case, it's shown as the inevitable result of allowing too much hero worship to go to your head.
  • The ninth volume of Accel World has a preview picture of a scene in which Kuroyukihime, as Black Lotus, announces her intention to kill Haruyuki's duel avatar, Silver Crownote  after calling him to a meeting on the Unlimited Neural Field. When the novel gets to that scene, Haruyuki initially is horrified by the idea that Kuroyukhime betrayed him and lured him into a trap, until he realizes that Black Vise is impersonating Black Lotus, having waited to ambush him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted (rather brilliantly) in Season 7 of 24. The preview trailers suggested that Tony Almeida was the culprit of the terrorist attacks: and at first it is revealed that Tony is working a deep cover agent, but later it turns out he is one of the bad guys. And then he has his own agenda in the end, which was just, though his means were well over the deep end.
  • A promotional clip for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "The Magical Place" shows Agent May telling Agent Hand that Skye was of no use on the plane. Because Agent May knew that Agent Hand and the other extra agents on the Bus would interfere with Skye as she did her part in the mission, and she wanted Skye to do her part unhindered.
  • Done a few times with Angel, with the additional attraction that there was no guarantee he wouldn't do the awful things hinted at, thanks to his "bad side" Angelus. In season 5 he infiltrates the Circle of The Black Thorn, even killing Drogyn to prove his loyalty. His friends are convinced his new position has taken him to the Dark Side.
    • Played straight in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where Angelus allies himself with Faith to lure Buffy into a trap. When Faith has Buffy completely at her mercy, it turns out that...
      Faith: What can I say? I'm the world's best actor.
      Angel: Second best.
  • Most episodes of Breaking Bad started with a Flash Forward that lacked any context and usually consisted of lots of close-ups that made it difficult to discern what was actually going on. Season 2 had most episodes start with increasingly longer sections of the same scene that didn't actually come to happen until the very end of that season's last episode. In almost all cases, the scene either meant something entirely different in context, or it was actually just a minor thing that wasn't really a major event for the characters.
  • Chuck:
    • One of the subplots of the first season involved Chuck's animosity towards his ex-Stamford University roommate Bryce Larkin (played by Matt Bomer, who would go on to voice Superman himself, amusingly enough), who framed Chuck for selling test answers to the other students in order to get him expelled. It turns out that Bryce did this in order to keep Chuck from being forcefully recruited into the CIA, as he felt Chuck was too good a person to be mixed up in their shadiness, didn't want his life to be risked, and deserved a chance to live his own life.
    • Much later in the third season, an episode opens with Chuck chasing a man and killing him in cold blood. The man was The Mole and was going to attempt to kill Chuck, and as it turns out, Chuck didn't even kill him - Casey did.
  • One On the Next segment for CSI: Miami made it look like Walter was about to be shot by another member of the team. The shooter was actually firing at a booby trap set by the perp, to destroy it before it could kill Walter.
  • Doctor Who Cliffhangers:
    • An inverted (and partially straight) example at the second Cliffhanger in "The Power of the Daleks", with a rather friendly, obedient Dalek constantly screaming "I-AM-YOUR-SERVANT" at the humans. The Doctor, meanwhile, rants and raves to the humans that the Daleks' only function is to exterminate people.
    • The next-to-last cliffhanger in "The Evil of the Daleks" is a fairly complicated subversion which becomes an inversion. It starts with Jamie ranting at the Doctor for his callous, dispassionate attitude and saying he was quitting as the Doctor doesn't even seem to care about the people who died as a result of his plan. The Doctor attempts to justify himself, but Jamie asks him whose side he's on, and then three Daleks appear, following the Doctor, as if answering Jamie's question. The Doctor tells Jamie that the Daleks are his friends now, in a Wham Line-like tone that one would expect would lead into a cliffhanger. Except the scene then continues a few more seconds while the Doctor explains that they were Daleks he'd given a Morality Chip to. The actual cliffhanger becomes a Dalek giving Jamie a ride, while Jamie yells excitedly about the Daleks turning good!
    • "The Deadly Assassin": In Part 1, the Doctor experiences a vision of the Time Lord president being assassinated. Arriving on Gallifrey, he's determined to prevent this from happening. He heads to the balcony overlooking the room where the murder is to take place so that he will be able to see what's going on, and finds a gun lying there. The Doctor picks up the gun, sights along with it, and fires. The president falls over, dead! Cut to credits! In Part 2, as is standard in Doctor Who, we see the last minute or so of the previous episode over again — only this time an extra shot is inserted that wasn't there before: that of a person in the crowd below holding a gun. It all becomes clear: the Doctor was trying to shoot at the assassin below, but his gun had been tampered with so that he would be unable to hit the assassin. The fact that he figures that out and convinces the investigating officer goes a long way towards clearing his name.
    • In "The Invasion of Time", the Doctor returns to Gallifrey to claim his post as the Lord President. He starts acting out of character and becomes abrasive, moody and power mad. At the end of one episode in the story, he's seen laughing evilly as he helps a group of evil aliens take over Gallifrey. Of course, it was all part of an elaborate plan to defeat said aliens, but he can't tell anyone that because the aliens can monitor his thoughts. None of this stops the Doctor from obviously enjoying a chance to freak out people he dislikes by playing The Caligula.
      Castellan: Is there anything else I can get you, sir?
      The Doctor: Yes. A jelly baby. My right-hand pocket.
      Castellan: What color would you prefer, sir?
      The Doctor: Orange.
      Castellan: [nervously] There doesn't appear to be an orange one.
      The Doctor: [suddenly grabbing the Castellan's arm] One grows tired of jelly babies, Castellan.
      Castellan: Indeed one does, sir.
      The Doctor: One grows tired of almost everything, Castellan.
      Castellan: Indeed, sir.
      The Doctor: Except power.
    • "Day of the Moon" does this with recently-introduced character Canton Delaware. For the first several scenes, we are mystified as to why he is going around killing the main characters, but the situation becomes clear after a point.
    • "The Name of the Doctor" ended with the Eleventh Doctor talking about an incarnation of himself that did unspeakably terrible things, leading some to assume he was an evil incarnation of the Doctor. When we actually meet that Doctor, he's actually just as virtuous as any of the others, if grumpy and ready to engage in some Dirty Business.
    • "The Magician's Apprentice" ends with the Twelfth Doctor pushed to the Despair Event Horizon by Clara, Missy, and the TARDIS' extermination and thus ready to kill Davros — as a young boy. Even before the second part, "The Witch's Familiar", aired, virtually the entire fanbase knew this was going to turn out to be more than it initially appeared, and the cliffhanger was how it would be so.
  • In the promo for season 3, episode 4 of Downton Abbey, there's a shot of Branson crying with Lord Grantham loudly scolding him on "abandoning a pregnant woman [Sybil] in a land that's not her own, while you run for it!" and the descriptions for the new episode were full of stuff about "Sybil's loyalty being tested to the limit." It gave every impression of making viewers think that Sybil and Branson, one of the most popular couples on the show, might be headed to a break-up or at least some major tension. Instead, what happened was: Sybil was totally on-board with Branson's decision to escape Ireland to Downton and on her way after him.
  • Trailers for the final episodes of the first season of The Flash (2014) showed Eddie Thawne shooting two cops. The episode in question had Everyman as the antagonist.
  • Glee loves doing this in their previews. One of the most egregious ones was for the second episode of season two, where Finn is shown telling a happy Quinn "I'd be lying if I said I didn't still have feelings for you" followed by a shot of a tearful Rachel looking on. What really happened: Finn followed that statement by reassuring Quinn of his devotion to Rachel, and Quinn was only coming on to Finn in the first place as part of a deal she struck with Rachel to reassure her of Finn's loyalty. There was also the absolutely ridiculous hype when the creators announced a beloved character would die in the episode "Funeral," and the speculations included countless popular, major characters only for it to turn out to be Jean Sylvester, Sue's sister with Down Syndrome, a guest character who had only appeared in six episodes in two seasons.
  • Season 3 of Heroes features many instances of dickery by the heroes. However, other than Hiro stabbing Ando (which turned out to be an elaborate hoax by the two of them to fool the bad guys), most of it was actually real.
    • This is mainly because Season 3 started out with the Volume "Villains", which attempted to reboot the show (which was slipping in the ratings after the last season) by claiming any of the heroes could become a villain by the end of the season. Ironically, the end result was a number of pointless heel face turns and unnecessary deaths that actually made it less popular than last season.
  • This is sort of a version of this trope: The House season 6 finale begins with House sitting in a bathroom, opening a bottle of Vicodin, and we're all, "WHAT, WHY DAT VICODIN?!". The narration then goes back to the beginning of the day. In the very end of the episode, the situation is pretty much what it looked like in the opening of the episode, but Cuddy shows up, having broken up with Lucas, and wants to try a relationship with House, just preventing him from taking the pill.
  • Can any Merlin fan forget Merlin's brutal assassination attempts on Arthur? And his somewhat aroused expression just before, after, and heck during these attempts?
    • The (more than usual, at least) UST is easily explained — if Merlin is contemplating killing Arthur, his eyes will be naturally drawn to his heart... and who can blame him if he gets distracted by that chest?
  • Painkiller Jane has done this at least twice. Once, it was a Shapeshifter's con, the other time it turned out to be All Just a Dream.
  • RuPaul's Drag Race loves this trope. One of the Season 5 promos showed Alaska—one of the mellower contestants that season—yelling "I WILL WHOOP YOUR FUCKING ASS!" at somebody. It turned out she (and the others) were playfully acting. And in the "After the commercial break" clips, the show likes to Accentuate the Negative of the judges' critiques, even taking positive comments out of context, like a judge saying "Your look reminded me of a savage beast," followed by a shocked or frowning queen, when the actual line was praise and directed at someone else.
  • An episode of Sanctuary opened with Will killing Magnus by cutting off the air to her compartment of the sub. He actually does kill her, then the episode goes back in time to explain why including his debating with her about it. He then works very hard to bring her back after the bug infecting her has left.
    • Happens again in the teaser of "Veritas" with Will finding out that Helen apparently killed the Big Guy turns out it was all a Batman Gambit to flush out a bad guy.
  • Given the massive amounts of mind-altering powers and chemicals that showed up in early Smallville, this trope quickly wore itself thin, with Lana kissing Clark, Jon going nuts, etc. However, even once that wore out, they continued to claim that the next episode would have Lex finally turn to evil. The scenes they showed were antihero actions out of context, or else Lex under, you guessed it, mind-altering powers and/or chemicals.
  • An episode of Stargate Atlantis which featured Teyla impersonating a Wraith queen came with commercials trying very hard to imply she'd gone off the reservation and wanted to wipe out the Atlantis crew. The episode itself contains not even the hint that this is a possibility, and her "Destroy that ship!" lines from the commercials were directed at another Wraith hive.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series did this with the episode called "The Enterprise Incident". Kirk, seemingly against Starfleet orders, invades Romulan space and gets the Enterprise captured. Spock then betrays the ship by siding with the Romulans and testifies that Kirk has gone insane from the pressures of command, before killing Kirk in self-defense. This all turns out to be a plan set up by Starfleet to allow Kirk and Spock to steal a Romulan cloaking device while providing Starfleet with plausible deniability should the deal go south.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • In the Voyager episode "Worst Case Scenario", the Maquis stage a mutiny and Torres joins them, but it turns out to be a holodeck simulation that Tuvok created to counter a possible rebellion from the Maquis crew that had joined Voyager's crew. The two crews integrated so well that he decided to delete the program, but Torres discovered the program and the crew are playing it in the belief it's ordinary holodeck entertainment. Then the program a villain snuck into the simulation kicks in...
    • In "Living Witness", the episode starts with Janeway declaring that "violence is the Starfleet way", and Voyager participating in an alien civil war, oppressively putting down a rebel faction. This turns out to be a simulation created by a museum curator many years in the future, painting Voyager's crew in a negative light. When a back-up of the holographic Doctor is discovered, the Doctor helps the curator sort out what really happened. A simple clue besides the crew being out of character in the intro? During the battle, all their systems hold and they break through everything thrown at them with ease. In any Star Trek battle, something's wrong if consoles aren't exploding!
  • A fourth-season episode of Star Trek: Enterprise opens with Archer and Hoshi in a blazing argument where she berates him for every little thing wrong on the ship and he suggests that she can take a shuttlepod out if she's unhappy, also, she's putting on weight. Then she grins and calls the last bit a nice touch—she's helping him rehearse for the arrival of the Tellarites, whose species Hat is constantly arguing and insulting whomever they're talking to.
  • Supernatural has used this multiple times. The first and most shocking being when the teaser featured a woman being tied up and tortured by a sadistic captor, the police storm the place only to reveal... it's Dean! Turns out it wasn't, they were tracking a shapeshifter who assumed Dean's form. Another shapeshifter version happens in "Slash Fiction", where the brothers are shown robbing a bank, herding the staff into a safe and machine-gunning them to death. Turns out it's a plot to frame Sam and Dean.
    • Of course, when the same series has characters using their superpowers as a cruel joke this way (such as constantly beaming gay porn into a bully's head), the shocks have to get stranger.
    • The fact that the brothers sometimes do end up in a Black and Gray Morality situation, or play the role of Villain Protagonist, makes the teaser fake-outs somewhat more effective. Sometimes the teaser or intro scene is exactly what it seems, and the Monster of the Week actually is innocent of actual wrongdoing (and killed by the Winchesters anyway).
  • Super Sentai:
    • In Shuriken Sentai Ninninger, one episode ends with Starninger approaching the Ninningers' grandfather, declaring "I'm here to kill you", and attacking with his Cool Sword, which leads into the next episode where the Ninningers hunt him down. Except it turns out Starninger is actually Grandpa's #1 fan and was told "If you can defeat me, I'll train you in the Ninja arts" when they met in America. It didn't help matters that Grandpa was only pretending to be hurt, which the heroes didn't learn until his son called his bluff by saying "There's nothing else we can do, we have to take Dad to the hospital."
    • One episode of Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger begins with the Zyurangers attacking a helpless city. It's quickly revealed that these are actually some of Bandora's Golem Soldiers (plus the Monster of the Week) in disguise. When Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers adapted the episode for its first season as "A Bad Reflection on You" they averted this, making it clear that the false Rangers were evil duplicates from the very beginning. (To the audience, that is. We got to see the false Rangers first impersonate the real Rangers in civilian form to vandalize the school and get them detention, so there would be no interference when they went out to ruin the Rangers' reputation by attacking civilians in morphed form.)
  • Done at least once in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Dress the friendly neighborhood Terminator up in a way to evoke memories of the T-1000 and stick that sucker in the trailer, and your fanbase starts wondering if she hasn't gone bonkers. She actually did get damaged enough to revert to her "kill John Connor" programming in the Season 2 premiere, with the threat of it happening again hanging over the rest of the season.
  • Parodied in the end-of-episode On the Next sequence at the end of A Touch of Cloth Part III. We see Asap holding another member of the team hostage with a gun to their head. Another teammate tells him to stop because it's 'out of character'. It should also be noted that the On the Next sequences always flat-out lie about what's in the next part, and Part III's sequence breaks the record for bizarre stuff happening, as it also features giant spaceships and angry ghost women.
  • The Wild Wild West: In "The Night of the Turncoat", a mysterious villain sets Jim up in various situations that are meant to make him look bad (like hiring a man to play a priest claiming Jim attacked him). Jim’s dickish response to his confused boss and partner make things worse until he’s finally fired by Richmond and punches out Artemus. However, after the first commercial break, we learn that all the good guys had the villain’s plan (to alienate Jim from the Secret Service so the agent would work for him) figured out from the beginning and staged Jim’s break-up from the government and Artemus so he can be a Fake Defector and see what he's up to. Similarly "The Night of the Skulls" which opens with Jim shooting Artemus dead. After the credits, we find out it was all staged to find the person who's recently been kidnapping murderers.
  • The X-Files: "Bad Blood" opened in a forest at night with a terrified chubby guy being pursued and ultimately killed by a tall man in a dark suit... who is then revealed to be Mulder, with Scully running behind trying to stop him. Cue one of the funniest How We Got Here, "Rashomon"-Style plots ever filmed.

  • Taken to parodic extremes in the Season 2 finale of Nebulous, which opens with the Professor calmly confirming to the computer his murder of all of his coworkers. The flashback eventually reveals that the coworkers he murdered were robot duplicates created as part of an alien reality show in an exact duplicate of his headquarters in another dimension.
    Nebulous: Cause of death, Gemini?
    Gemini: They were all killed by you, Professor.
    Nebulous: Exactly, my computerised compadre. They're dead, and I killed them.
    Gemini: Do you feel any remorse?
    Nebulous: Of course not. I had no choice. Of course, when I arrived for work this morning I hadn't planned to brutally murder my workmates, but I'm nothing if not flexible.

    Video Games 
  • Used in trailers for Devil May Cry 4, in which Dante, usually a wiseguy at worst, was seen bursting in on some sort of church-esque place and shooting a prominent priest-like person in the forehead. Turns out the shootee, Sanctus, was the Big Bad. It also has Nero, the protagonist for most of the game, uttering the line, "Now I know...this arm was made for sending guys like you back to Hell!" apparently directed at Dante, but actually, in the game itself, to Sanctus during the final battle.
  • Trailers for Fire Emblem Awakening focus on Chrom and a mysterious masked individual claiming to be Marth fighting, making it seems like the Masked Marth would be an antagonist. In the game itself, this fight is a Combat by Champion tournament, and Masked Marth is not only entirely heroic but is out to protect Chrom at all costs. Because she is his Kid from the Future.
    • Another example is the game's Premonition chapter, which is something of a Double Subversion. It shows the Avatar being possessed by the Big Bad and killing Chrom. Obviously that's taken out of context, right? The truth is more complicated. That was a vision of the events leading to the Bad Future, and they unfolded exactly like that in that timeline. But this knowledge allows the Avatar to plan ahead, and when the moment comes in the current timeline, the Avatar, Chrom and Basillio work together to fake Chrom's death and the Avatar's Face–Heel Turn.
  • Trailers and the opening movie for Fire Emblem: Shadows of Valentia show a quick shot of the pacifistic priestess protagonist Celica drawing her sword in a scream-inducing rage, which is completely opposite her usual, calmly determined character. Late in the game reveals that Celica lost her soul to the Big Bad, and this Celica is actually just her body as a vessel being used to kill the other hero, Alm.
  • In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Shepherd tries to get Price to back off raiding the nuclear submarine, saying that he's too far off the deep end and wanting a plan of revenge. You go through with the mission, believing Price will stop the missile. He doesn't. Cue about five minutes of 'HINT IT'S OBVIOUSLY GOING TO HIT NORTH AMERICA', complete with nuclear blast seen from two points of view - but he was just utilizing the EMP blast to give the Americans a fighting chance, not wipe it off the map.
  • This is the plot hook for Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World (a.k.a. Tales of Symphonia: Knight of Ratatosk), with the star of the previous game Lloyd Irving apparently having headed the murder of an entire town of people and prompting the quest of the new hero, Emil. It wasn't Lloyd, just someone dressed as him.
  • Used in Splinter Cell: Conviction. The game opens in flash forward in which Sam meets Anna Grímsdóttir, his closest ally, in the White House while it is under attack. She proceeds to shoot him in the shoulder, appearing to betray him. The scene is revisited throughout the game, revealing more each time, including dialogue that suggests she really has turned. At the end of the game, it's revealed it was only a ploy to get Sam close to the Big Bad without immediately endangering the hostage president.
  • Every single case in Ace Attorney opens with a very misleading scene. The only exceptions are the first two cases in the first and fifth games and the first case of the second game, which are Reverse Whodunnit. Both of these are intentional: the first case to make it seem plausible for your client to be implicated in the murder, and the second to reassure you that your clients are almost always innocent.
    • The opening sequence of case 5 of Ace Attorney Investigations is arranged to strongly imply that Kay will set fire to a building. She doesn't.
    • In the first game, at the start of case 4, a similar sequence plays out, making it seem as though Edgeworth was the murderer. He was actually framed.
  • Chrono Cross starts with a dream sequence in which we see the protagonist, Serge, killing one of his friends. Later in the game, we get to actually see the scene come true, but it turns out that one of the villains had managed to switch bodies with Serge.
  • Kirby's Adventure (NES) has King Dedede stealing the Star Rod and breaking it into seven pieces to hide all over Dreamland. Kirby tracks down the pieces of the MacGuffin, only to learn that Dedede stole the Rod to keep it from Nightmare who corrupted the Fountain of Dreams and to protect Dreamland. But he doesn't explain this to Kirby very well though it doesn't help that Dedede was bathing in the Fountain of Dreams when Kirby arrived making him look especially guilty.
  • Promo material for Puella Magi Madoka Magica Portable includes a frame of Homura slapping Madoka. It's a Get Ahold Of Yourself Man moment from the bizarro-comedy-bonus-route, and Homura follows it up by telling Madoka how clumsy, slow and adorable she is.
  • The intro of Mega Man 5, has resident drifter and brother to the title character Proto Man become a villain who kidnaps Dr. Light. Near the end of the game, it turns out he was impersonated by Dark Man who works for Dr. Wily, who becomes the primary antagonist again.
  • Bayonetta tends to treat Luka and especially Enzo like garbage. But she really does like Luka because he treated her lovingly when she was a little girl named Cereza.
    • In Luka's case it's this trope interspersed with her flirting with him. In one of the early chapters, she's generally trolling him. While calling him "my little Cheshire puss". Cereza had a patchwork cat doll that she called Cheshire.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us, the whole game. The intro/cover trailers give the vibe that Superman has become a Fallen Hero and led the world into a dictatorship, with nearly every other hero gone bad. When you play the game, you find out that Supes becomes like this in one Alternate Universe, there's still a 'default' DC universe where he and the other heroes are still 100% good and they eventually fix things.
  • Siren: Blood Curse - Chapter 3 ends with a scene where Saiga, the only armed, living person seen thus far, shooting Sam, one of the other playable characters, for what appears to be no reason. Then cut to the recap of the chapter at the start of the next one, and it suddenly turns out Saiga's target was a shibito sneaking up on Sam that clearly wasn't there the first time around.
  • In the Third Super Robot Wars Z: Jigoku-hen, promotional trailers show the events of Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack happening; while CCA has been in Super Robot Wars since the very beginning, it had special meaning here since in the first SRW Z, Char (as Quattro Bajeena) saw a vision of his future self acting that way and was so horrified that he swore to never let it happen. It turns out that Char was only a Fake Defector, using the CCA Colony Drop as part of a plan to repair the dimensional damage that had been occurring throughout the Z series. Unfortunately, his Expy Full Frontal drops the asteroid anyway because he actually does want to wreck Earth — but thankfully Char had a backup plan that manages to save the day.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty:
      • The Plant chapter opens with us being told that the leader of the terrorists is Solid Snake! ...when Pliskin, who is clearly interested in destroying the terrorists himself, shows up 15 minutes later.
      • There's even some retroactive Superdickery in-game when we see a montage of clips from the Tanker chapter that gives the impression that Snake sunk the Tanker. However, the player has likely already played the Tanker chapter and would know Ocelot was actually responsible. (Early releases of the game chose whether you'd get to play Tanker-Plant or just the Plant segment based on whether you knew the story of the previous game; newcomers may have ended up with a strange interpretation of the story.)
      • After Emma's death, Snake suddenly corners Raiden, insists on taking the MacGuffin, indicates his allegiance is actually with the Patriot agent Mr. X, and, when Raiden accuses him of changing sides, says, "change sides? I don't recall saying I was on yours", before leaving Raiden to be captured by Solidus's forces. There is then an act break where the player is asked to SAVE. Players who take a break and come back will not even get to the end of the (admittedly, lengthy) third-act intro cutscene before Olga explains Snake had to do it to get Raiden in there, and he's waiting a couple of rooms ahead with all of Raiden's things. Even Raiden doesn't seem surprised.
    • Trailers for Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes drew attention to the scene where Snake strangles Chico, a thirteen-year-old boy who was an ally in the previous game. In context, Chico freaks out about Snake trying to rescue him, begins screaming at the top of his voice, and Snake is forced to render him unconscious to stop him from blowing his cover.
    • One trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain showed a clip of two identical twelve-year-olds resembling Liquid and Solid Snake preparing to attack, with narration mentioning "Les Enfants Terribles", the clone project they were part of. In the actual game, while the child who looks like a young Liquid is a young Liquid, the other child is Tretij Rebenok (a young Psycho Mantis) using his powers to adopt Liquid's appearance. The idea of fighting a young Solid Snake may have sold a few games, but Liquid and Psycho Mantis being antagonists is certainly not new to the franchise.
  • Team Fortress 2 mercilessly parodies this trope in Blood Brothers. In a loud cover blurb: "We've promised it before! It has never actually happened! Now, after 306 scene-setting issues, we're doing it! Not a dream! Not a hoax! Not an imaginary story! NOT THIS TIME! Finally... Hercules and The Alamo will fight!*" Then, tucked away in the corner: "*Racism, in this socially conscious alternate universe team-up!"
  • In the opening FMV of Final Fantasy X-2, Rikku and new character Paine infiltrate Luca Stadium where Yuna is throwing a concert. They proceed to assault several guards until they hitch a ride to reach Yuna, which triggers a Boss Battle against her. It isn't revealed until Rikku and Paine chase her to the docks that Yuna is actually an impostor (although the voice is a dead giveaway) and the real Yuna would later arrive at the docks to assist Rikku and Paine.
  • The prologue mission of Resident Evil 6 is a Flash Forward that features a seriously injured Leon and Helena staring down Ada Wong in a helicopter and fleeing as she shoots at them. When you actually get to that part late in Leon's campaign, Ada's instead actually firing at the infected around them in a Big Damn Heroes moment. It was done to make the Ada doppelganger, actually the Big Bad Carla Radames, seem like Ada had genuinely pulled a Face–Heel Turn.

    Web Comics 
  • Parodied in Allen the Alien in a Poorly Drawn Allen strip. On the cover of a comic book, a superhero says "I'll rape your babies, and murder you, and spoil The Mousetrap." In tiny font, *He's really doing this to help him.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • The series pulled one off and made it absolutely terrifying; Commissioner Gordon goes into all-out war against Batman for the death of Barbara Gordon. It's all Barbara's nightmare.
    • Another episode has Batman under the influence of a toxin made by Scarecrow that removes all sense of fear, which naturally includes his fear of taking a life. It makes him a lot more reckless and aggressive and he nearly crosses the line before Robin stops him.
    • An episode of the related webseries Gotham Girls ended with Batgirl kicking (an admittedly dickish) Commissioner Gordon off a roof and into the Bat-Signal. Turns out it was a robot Gordon and she knew it.
  • The Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Runaway" opens with Katara apparently turning Toph in to the authorities, self-righteously claiming that "You brought this on yourself". Then the episode flashes back a few days to show the two characters at odds, with Katara becoming increasingly annoyed with Toph's use of scams and con tricks to make money... until ultimately Katara decides to take part in a scam herself in an attempt to prove that she isn't purely a goody-goody, and pretends to turn Toph in — as we saw — for the reward. However, the scam goes horribly wrong and Toph and Katara end up captured for real, although they break out before the episode ends.
    • There's also the Grand Finale, where Zuko suddenly attacks Aang because he thought the rest of the group was wasting time hanging around on the beach when the comet was coming in a couple days.
  • Not to break with tradition, for the Grand Finale of Superman: The Animated Series, the opening shows the conquest of an alien planet by Superman, in the name of Darkseid. He's not doing it willingly, but it's exactly what it looks like after a little brainwashing. Humanity's trust in Superman, and superheroes in general after this lesson in what would happen if one went rogue, is not rebuilt in a day, as we will see in Justice League.
  • Justice League:
    • There's the opening where Superman kills Lex Luthor, who is the president of the United States, and proclaims he doesn't want to be a hero anymore. It was the Jumping Off the Slippery Slope moment of an Alternate Universe Superman who became a tyrant as a consequence.
    • Supergirl herself demonstrates supreme Superdickery in the cold open for "Fearful Symmetry", gleefully destroying everything in her path, and proving that Evil Is Cool, in her pursuit of a terrified civilian. It's actually a dream triggered by psychic echoes of memories of her Evil Twin clone Galatea.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man episode "Opening Night" has a particularly bizarre "usually Reasonable Authority Figure-to-hero" example: The opening shows Norman Osborn, Captain Stacy, and J. Jonah Jameson locking Spidey in a high-security jail cell. The very first scene of the actual episode shows... he's there willingly, and this is just to test the security as a favor (of course, Jonah's still a dick about it).
  • The Ben 10: Alien Force episode "Above and Beyond" features the Plumbers' Helpers, who need to go to a space station to save Max, who's being attacked by an apparently psychotic Ben. The entire thing turns out to just be a test to see if they qualify for Plumbers Academy. Still turns out pretty creepy.
  • Gargoyles:
    • The episode "Revelations'' begins with what looks like Matt Bluestone having betrayed Goliath. However, it was all just a plan to expose the Illuminati.
    • Elisa gets it when she suddenly starts acting more irritable and violent until she quits the force to join the mob. Of course, she's really undercover the whole time.
  • Young Justice:
    • The episode "Image" opens with Batman, Green Arrow and Black Canary watching a recording of Black Canary and Superboy sparring and starting to kiss passionately. After the title credits it turns out it's actually Miss Martian taking on Black Canary's image, with Superboy fully aware of it too. The real Black Canary wasn't happy to learn about it.
    • A second season episode shows Aqualad skewering Artemis on one of his blades, after which a frantic Nightwing attempts CPR before Superboy announces that he can't hear her heartbeat. At the end, it's revealed that the whole thing was a Batman Gambit set up by Nightwing, Artemis, Kid Flash, and Aqualad in order to help Aqualad's cover as The Mole.
    • Superboy's introduction has him beating the crap out of Aqualad, Robin, and Kid Flash after they free him. Aqualad realizes that he was psychically forced to do so.
    • The Expanded Universe comics showcase the very start of the process Supes took to finally accept Conner as a "brother" which involved being a Stalker Without a Crush and following him around as Clark Kent, witnessing his deeds personally.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold:
    • The season 3 opener, "Clash of the Superheroes!", is essentially a half-hour Shout-Out to the Super Dickery website. Superman, affected by Red Kryptonite, re-enacts many of the classic covers (including the page image), while references are made to Lois' endless attempts to trick Supes into marriage and Jimmy's attempts to learn his identity. At one point, Jimmy even says "Superman's turned into such a di-" before Lois butts in with "-different person".
    • Batman himself has his own Super Dickery case in "Death Race to Oblivion!" When various heroes and villains are gathered by Mongul to race against his champion, and any of them getting heart's desire if they win, Batman coldly attempts to beat everyone in the race even sacrificing his own fellow heroes. At one point Catwoman's car flies off of a cliff while Batman has no reaction or even tries to save his on/off love interest, cold... Turns out he and Green Arrow are secretly working together to take Mongul out with Green Arrow intentionally losing the race.
  • In the Beast Wars episode "Double Jeopardy," Rattrap apparently betrays the Maximals to save his own skin. It turns out to be an act set up between him and Optimus to figure out how the Predacons were always aware of their plans. Part of the plan was for Optimus and Rattrap to "argue" about Rattrap's loyalty.
  • Green Lantern: The Animated Series shows how to do this trope right. After being well-established as a good, if a little reckless, Green Lantern, Sinestro randomly starts attacking Hal and Kilowog. As he's a villain in the comics, it's not too hard to buy this as his Face–Heel Turn. It's not. He's being possessed by an alien criminal.
  • As per its vicious parody format, many superhero skits in Robot Chicken are like this.
  • The Adventure Time episode "Root Beer Guy" has heroes Finn and Jake kidnapping Princess Bubblegum, with Root Beer Guy as the only witness. He's been working on a detective novel for years and decides to solve the crime himself. The Banana Guards don't believe him when he reports seeing Finn and Jake about to dump PB's body and only come when he tells them he has gone out boating after 8 pm. It turns out that Princess Bubblegum enlisted Finn and Jake's help to test the new security system, intentionally leaving evidence for the guards to find.

Alternative Title(s): Publicity Derailment


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