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Superhero Paradox

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Vision: In the eight years since Mr. Stark announced himself as Iron Man, the number of known enhanced persons has grown exponentially. And during the same period, a number of potentially world-ending events has risen at a commensurate rate.
Steve: Are you saying it's our fault?
Vision: I'm saying there may be a causality. Our very strength invites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict... breeds catastrophe.

Superheroes try to protect the world, but in the long term, they seem to make the world more dangerous.

They fight crime, but the city never becomes a nicer place. They defeat supervillains, but wreck a whole neighborhood while battling. They have a frightening tendency to attract villains to their location (or even create new ones). For some reason, the members of this Rogues Gallery never die, never stay in prison once sent there, and never stop trying to beat the hero, endangering more people with each attempt.

Elements of this include:

But on a deeper level, the real cause of all this is an omnipotent cabal of extra-dimensional beings whose sole objective is to keep the hero fighting: the authors and readers of the series. These sick, twisted folk have spawned every single threat to the superhero's world, all for the sake of their own amusement and profit.

To wit: as long as the hero's comic books continue to sell, the company will continue to write them. And since most superhero comics are based around the Fight Against Evil, continued production of the comics necessitates the continued existence of Evil to be fought. And as subsequent installments try to outdo their predecessors, the threats grow worse over time: The Cape starts off by saving the City of Adventure from mobsters and bank robbers; but after a hundred issues, he's fighting planet-destroying aliens, would-be world-conquerors and mass-murdering lunatics. And of course, those aliens and conquerors and lunatics themselves become popular among fans, meaning that they can't be killed off, retire from supervillainy, or otherwise cease activity without a loss in sales.

Pretty much every Long Runner superhero franchise has experienced this issue to some degree; consequently a number of them have discussed it in-universe. Rarely, if ever, is the idea that the villains could be responsible for their own actions addressed. And of course, all it takes is one Outside-Context Problem whose appearance the hero obviously did not provoke to debunk the complaint: once the hero's presence has been directly responsible for Earth not getting eaten by the local Galactus expy, then the statement "We'd be better off if you'd never shown up!" becomes ridiculous. Constant superpowered battle is bad, but planetary annihilation is worse.note  Even if superheroes are acquitted of causing these dangers, they may still get accused of influencing the populace into Holding Out for a Hero.

In many cases there is a Meta Origin, Mass Super-Empowering Event or an implied Magnetic Plot Device working alongside this theory. This is one of the reasons why The World Is Always Doomed.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Until Goku's adventures began, there weren't that many villains causing trouble on Earth, at least not on a planetary scale. In fact, from the switch to Z onward, many of the villains that target Earth do so because of or in connection to Goku: the Saiyans show up to check on their Tyke Bomb, Frieza wants revenge for his defeat on Namek, and Cell and the rest of the androids are created by Dr. Gero to avenge the Red Ribbon Army. This trope is one of Goku's reasons for refusing to be resurrected after his Heroic Sacrifice in the Cell Games.
    • Double Subversion with Pilaf. Goku has thwarted his plans to conquer the world time and again. However, Pilaf's final plan ends up freeing King Piccolo, who proves to be a worse threat than all of Goku's previous enemies put together.
    • And speaking of Kami - a great portion of villains in Dragon Ball (as well as Vegeta and Nappa in DBZ) engage in schemes to obtain the magical wish-granting balls that he created. If there were no balls, Pilaf's, for example, ambitions to conquer the world would be just regular squabbles of mortal kingdoms.
    • It's subverted with Babidi, Dabura, and Buu who have no connections at all with the heroes and the heroes would have been extremely unprepared if the other threats to Earth didn't happen. Although, one of the supposed heroes did make the situation worse.
    • It is also subverted on a universal scale. Although the Earth itself may have been better off without Goku or the Nameless Namekian, if they weren't around, Frieza would still be alive terrorizing the universe along with the remaining Saiyans. And Buu would still exist, waiting to be awakened one day and destroy the universe. Also, who's to say that neither Frieza or the Saiyans wouldn't one day go to Namek and use their Dragon Balls or go to Earth to sell it?
  • Sailor Moon:
    • It is often the Senshi themselves whose energy is needed by villains to fulfill their plans. In the original anime, Galaxia comes to Earth exclusively to harvest the Senshi's Star seeds and awakens Nehellenia to lure Saturn out of hiding.
    • The last chapter in the manga has a minion of the villain accusing the Senshi of causing the universe to generate bigger and badder villains.
    • However, this is ultimately averted in all its points:
      • While some villains come to Earth specifically because they need the Senshi's energy for their plans, the Senshi, without exception, are Awakened because of the villains. In particular, Minako initially refused to become Sailor Venus until she stumbled into her first youma and spends her entire solo series considering to retire; the Death Busters, who do need Sailor Moon's energy, are a problem only because the Outer Senshi didn't Awaken in time to wipe them out before they got entrenched; and Sailor Saturn is Awakened directly by the Death Busters' actions (and, in the manga, makes her comeback due the Dead Moon Circus' arrival).
      • They're also extremely effective: the supervillains are ultimately taken down (either redeemed or outright killed); and it's a plot point that, back when she went by Sailor V, Sailor Venus single-handedly wiped out all crime from Shiba Koen district and was branching out in the rest of Minato Ward (and by all crime we mean all crime: she's shown stopping simple bullies more than once, and a police report mentions specifically she solved all cases from money counterfeiters to panty thieves), with the manga showing she's still making regular patrols alongside Sailor Moon.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, once Touma Kamijou made his presence known, several members of the Magic Side target him and his home Academy City, seeing the existence of his Imagine Breaker as an offense to God. Etzali, the Mitsuki Unabara imposter, even angrily tells Touma that if he had never shown up, his friends would have never been endangered. After Touma helped end World War III, the organization GREMLIN was formed to counter him, willing to do things like attempt a Colony Drop that would trigger a second Ice Age just to kill him. Subverted in that many of these enemies had been in operation long before Touma showed upnote  and had already been planning to attack Academy City; Touma just provided a scapegoat. Also, without Touma, many of them would have succeeded.
  • Negative Hero And General Of The Demon Kings Army: The titular hero lost her parents very young, and because since evil monsters kept attacking the village to get at her, the villagers murdered her parents. By the time she's old enough to be sent against the demon general (after an upbringing implied to be anything but kind or well-meaning), she's just there to beg him to kill her so she can finally be reunited with her family. He's so utterly confused (and sympathetic) he gets her to stay as assistant librarian.
  • My Hero Academia: Zigzagged. The introduction of superpowers or "quirks" into the world resulted in superpowered individuals exploiting their gifts to commit crimes. Superheroes and Superhero Agencies emerged as a means of responding to this new threat, but over the years the title of Superhero became one of prestige and celebrity. This clearly tarnished much of the noble veneer of the role of 'hero' and inspired new villains with both sympathetic and less-sympathic motives to either emerge in response to the corruption or exploit the corruption for their own agenda.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: This happens with Batman so often that we might as well have called this the Batman Paradox. Batman's greatest success is breaking the mob's hold on Gotham and its government, but the question of whether it's his fault that a Rogues Gallery of costumed freaks has risen in their place is always there, waiting to be asked.
    • Noted in The Long Halloween, as seen on the Quotes page.
    • In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, a psychologist claims Batman's Rogues Gallery are the real victims — that Batman's actions were somehow responsible for their mental instability and criminal behavior. He's partly right, as The Joker had given up supervillainy after Batman retired — then resumed his villainy after the Bat's return. Then the psychologist declares the Joker rehabilitated, and then gets killed by him. That said, the only reason Batman came back in the first place was because Gotham (and as The Dark Knight Strikes Again shows, the entire planet) had degraded from Crapsack World to a full-blown Dystopia, so probably subverted.
    • In the Penguin Triumphant graphic novel, a psychologist postulates that Batman is like a lightning rod for supervillains. But she argues that this is a good thing, pointing out what happens to buildings that don't have lightning rods. Essentially she argues that the villains concentrate on Batman rather than doing even worse damage to Gotham.
    • This is directly referenced in Superman's story of Batman's death in Whatever Happened to The Caped Crusader?:
      Superman: I told him, "They've made a treaty. All of them. If I take you back to Gotham, they'll kill you. They won't stop until you're dead." He smiled that scary smile. He said, "And while they're trying to kill me, they aren't killing innocents. Now take me home."
    • Although Batman is often accused of this, when you start examining his rogues you see that he actually had less involvement in his villain's origins than most other superheroes. Two-Face was a dual personality anyway, and is often associated more with Bruce Wayne than Batman. Also, his disfigurement is due to a mob trial, not Batman. Poison Ivy usually isn't even in Gotham when she's transformed, Harley Quinn is made by the Joker, Killer Croc is just insane, the Ventriloquist is another split personality, Solomon Grundy had nothing to do with Batman, The Penguin, Victor Zsasz, and Ra's Al-Ghul were all criminals beforehand. Really, the only rogues who can really be traced directly to Batman are The Riddler, Bane, Hush, and possibly the Joker, but who really knows about him? And if we accept the original Joker origin story at face value, he, too, was a pre-existing criminal gang leader who ran afoul of Batman (and accidentally became a supervillain thereby). Riddler, Bane, and Hush were already evil long before they fought Batman.
    • The Wayne Foundation is a philanthropic organization that attempts to address the underlying conditions that lead to crime in Gotham.
    • In Batman and Robin Adventures # 4, the Penguin frees all the birds at the zoo, causing collateral damage that is not covered by Hero Insurance... but was worth it... because those caged birds are free! When Batman confronts him, the Penguin genially throws this in his face:
      The Penguin: Oh it’s true, I forgot that you believe it's yours!
    • Defied in the "Wrath" debut storyline of the New 52's Detective Comics. The point is made that while yes, Batman's presence has caused the emergence of many Super Villains, he also stopped the corruption of the Gotham Police Department, which gave people hope in, in the very least, their own police force.
    • In general, how much each rogue was "inspired" by Batman tends to vary depending on continuity - and even different writers' interpretations in the same continuity (the Neil Gaiman origin for Poison Ivy, for instance, had her become a supervillain because of her crush on Batman). The one rogue who consistently blows the whole "Batman creates/worsens his enemies!" theory to pieces is Ra's, who was a Diabolical Mastermind planning an Apocalypse How decades if not centuries before Bruce Wayne was even born. Indeed, his fixation on Batman as a Worthy Opponent probably defangs him to an extent, since it often causes him to tip his hand more frequently than he would otherwise.
    • The is a major plot point in Detective Comics (Rebirth); the Victim Syndicate are a gang of former Innocent Bystanders who were mutated in some way by being caught in a superhero battle, and have decided it's all Batman's fault, and they're going to make the rest of the city see him as the threat he is. Spoiler quits the Bat-Family because she begins to agree with their beliefs, if not their methods.
  • Birds of Prey: In one issue, Huntress stops a villain named Carface. The police aren't thrilled with her presence, even when she mentions that she stopped the bad guy threatening the city. The cops state that the crime rate was low until the heroes showed up and vigilantes are just "trouble magnets".
  • The Boys: This is the point of the comic. Superheroes continually make grievous mistakes that cost the lives of hundreds of innocents, but their PR means they never need to improve from them. Corporations hoard the superheroes and enable their incompetence to fuel their profits. As the series progresses it becomes clear that all unchecked and unregulated supers are effectively ticking time bombs speeding each other up. And even the main counterpoint of this argument - that villains will always be a threat whether superheroes choose to continue their crusade or back down - is quickly debunked when the completely-normal protagonist is the one to end him, proving that humanity needs any kind of strength but superheroes.
  • Civil War: This is the main theme of the series. The New Warriors, a band of untrained irresponsible teenagers with superpowers, attacked Nitro to film a reality show. Nitro blows up like an atomic bomb, taking the city of Stamford with him. The fact that the last thing the cameraman filmed live was the kids in the school next to Nitro, caught at Ground Zero, did not help. A huge anti-superhero hysteria ensues, and the Congress sanctions a law forcing all superhumans to register with S.H.I.E.L.D. Iron Man supports the law, Captain America resists it with a guerrilla group, but surrenders when he realized that Iron Man has a point.
  • Disney Mouse and Duck Comics: The superhero stories sometime tackle this:
    • This plot point usually appears in non-PKNA Paperinik stories: some supervillains were born specifically to defeat Paperinik (in particular, the criminals of Duckburg created a fake superhero named Pap-Man to get Paperinik pensioned, and the "Super Anti Heroes" series had a Mad Scientist create a new supervillain every time specifically to defeat Paperinik), he himself admitted that some of his interventions caused enormous collateral damage, and in some occasions Daisy became reckless because she knew Paperinik would save her (at least in stories where Daisy doesn't have a superhero alter ego herself and barely tolerates Paperinik). On the flip side, there's the reason the criminals created supervillains specifically to deal with Paperinik: he's extremely good at dealing with criminals (at least four stories depict him arresting every single criminal in Duckburgnote , and the Pap-Man one had him visiting outsider criminals in their own homes to warn them away), and without him Duckburg would be in much worse condition.
    • Even Paperinik New Adventures tackled the problem from time to time-namely, the Evronians sent Trauma to Duckburg specifically to kill him, and in one of the summer specials supervillains from the rest of the United States went to Duckburg just to challenge him.
    • It's rarer in Super Goof stories, but once in a while a supervillain comes to Mouseton or is made specifically to defeat him. The most notable example is Megatop, a superpowered robot that Emil Eagle brings to Mouseton (apparently: he actually made it himself) specifically to destroy Super Goof. The same stories also present a more positive side, because as long as the villains are busy with Super Goof they aren't trying to conquer the world (in the Megatop story, one of Emil's underlings asks the other why their boss can't just build an army of Megatops and Take Over the World with those and the other reminds him that question annoys Emil, hinting at Emil being just too fixated with Super Goof to do the pragmatic thing).
  • The Flash: In one issue during Wally West's time in the role, Captain Cold notes much the same thing about Barry Allen - that he made it all a game to the Rogues, and thus prevented them from doing a lot more than they otherwise could have because they were so fixated on him. Cold's attitude shifts when Barry comes back. He notes that the Rogues had Wally convinced it was all something of a game for years - he'd stop their crimes, but he'd also work with them against worse threats or during their various attempts to go straight. Barry, a cop, always treated the Rogues like what they are: dangerous criminals.
  • Gold Digger: Lampshaded and subverted, as once the comic had been running for years, it was becoming increasingly clear that Earth in the Gold Digger universe was a huge Fantasy Kitchen Sink, and that the public seemed aware of it. This begged the question, why amidst all this weirdness are there no superheroes? The answer is that there used to be. However, it eventually became clear to the cape n' spandex set that their high-profile adventures were attracting more superbaddies out of the woodwork, most specifically to challenge them. Their solution was to form Agency Zero, a Men in Black-type organization of supers who still fight supernormal threats, but do it as quietly and anonymously as possible. They've found it works, as after a few rounds of Laser-Guided Amnesia convinces most would-be villains that their plots have just been failing on their own, they simply give up.
  • The Incredible Hulk: The Hulk brought this up in World War Hulk: Gamma Corps, while talking down the team sent to kill him. He mentioned that the greatest threats Earth had ever faced, namely Dormammu, Galactus, and Ultron, had nothing to do with him. Dormammu was usually chasing Doctor Strange, Reed Richards had actually brought Galactus back to life so he could keep eating planets, and Ant-Man had built Ultron. Comparatively, the threat the Hulk posed at his worst and the threat his whole Rogues Gallery posed to the world combined didn't add up to the threat posed by a single one of those guys. Though it's worth noting that at least in Galactus' case, his existence is necessary for the universe to function properly.
  • Kingdom Come: The new batch of Nineties Antiheroes kill off all of the old supervillains and then proceed to tear up the world fighting each other because there aren't any more supervillains to fight.
  • Ms. Marvel: Kamala Khan deals with this a bit during her post Secret Wars run. A number of citizens comment that Ms. Marvel's activities have led to problems and 'crazy New York sh*t' to come to Jersey City. However, what isn't noted is that a lot of the problems Ms. Marvel fights do not originate in direct response to her: The Inventor was already there, and the Inhuman and Hydra villains were either created at the same time she was, or were long-existent. While a few incidents were caused by her presence, many of the issues the people are upset about would have been a thing regardless of if she had or hadn't taken up the mantle. Heck, many of the issues the (right wing) citizens put at her feet originate from Loki, who, while he did come to the city after she took up the mantle, was sent in response to the Inventor's actions, not Kamala's.
  • Spider-Man: J. Michael Straczynski posits this theory during The Amazing Spider-Man (J. Michael Straczynski) as the reason why Spidey has so many enemies with Animal Motifs — he is being assaulted by jealous pretenders who subconsciously realize that his power comes directly from its source. Magic is confusing.
    • J. Jonah Jameson had been claiming Spider-Man was an example of this for years before that whole storyline. This is actually true in the case of Mysterio, since he wanted to take out a superhero to become famous and picked Spider-Man since he thought he was weak and inexperienced. Jameson himself also helped create the Scorpion and the Spider-Slayers specifically to capture Spider-Man.
    • Interestingly, this was actually defied in The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #50. The famous "Spider-Man No More" story where Peter quits being Spider-Man due to thinking he never has enough time and that he is nothing but a menace to the world. But because Spiderman had his costume publicly revealed, The Kingpin begins his takeover of New York, making things tangibly worse for the city with daylight robberies and the police overwhelmed. So Spider-Man was essential to keep crime in check, no matter how many villains might arise while he's around.
    • This is actually invoked in Marvel Knights Spider-Man, where Spidey learns (from Mac Gargan of all people) that many of the villains who confront heroes on a regular basis, were actually created by organizations (mostly associated with white collar crime) as a way of distracting superheroes from noticing the crimes committed by these people and organizations.
  • Superman: While Superman is a magnet for criminals and alien powerhouses, it's worth noting that the "normal" human Jimmy Olsen is not harmless. Marvel's Rick Jones is an even more blatant counterpart. Superman is an interesting case, as (at least in current continuity) most of his biggest enemies were entrenched long before he arrived on the scene (Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Darkseid, Zod, Intergang) or created to dick with him personally (Bizarro, Metallo). Also the ones that already were there (the aforementioned Darkseid and Mongul come to mind, along many, many others) took interest in Earth because of Superman.
    • Lex Luthor, of all people, subverted this. In the Silver Age, Lex told Superman that if not for him then he would rule the planet. In the modern age, Superman left for a year, and when he came back, he told Lex that Lex had a year without Superman, and spent all of it preparing to fight Superman when Supes returned.
    • The "Camelot Falls" arc has Arion argue the world is supposed to go through periods of prosperity and catastrophe in an inevitable cycle. Society gets knocked back to the dark ages to build itself back up again. By thwarting supervillains that would endanger the world, superheroes like Superman are only encouraging the rise of a villain powerful enough to defeat them and the resulting catastrophe that will be brought about will be one humanity would not survive. His argument is also predicated on Clark being an alien element in Earth's ecosystem, throwing off its natural destiny.
  • Watchmen:
    • The presence of costumed vigilantes (particularly the genuinely superpowered Dr. Manhattan) tips the Cold War balance of power enough to bring the world to the brink of nuclear war. But if you look closely, the superpowers seem to be patching things up by the time Ozymandias pulls off his plan, implying that they didn't do as much harm as they caused - until someone was dumb enough to try to clean up after them; what'll happen when the cover-up inevitably tumbles apart?
    • And on a smaller scale, their existence causes a police strike in New York across the country, which in turn encourages rioting and looting, and requires an act of Congress to rectify (outlawing vigilantes).
    • Supervillains are specified to be regular criminals who started wearing costumes because the heroes were doing it but the costumed criminal fad died down after a few years.
    • In the Doomsday Clock sequel, people have noticed that the majority of metahumans are American and didn't appear until Superman became active so conspiracy theorists think the U.S. government created most metahumans after studying Superman's D.N.A.
  • What If?: One issue has the wife and sons of Frank Castle killed in the crossfire of a superhero vs. supervillains fight. His solution? Kill the Marvel Universe.
  • X-Men:
    • When mutants were defenseless, they weren't a big target. Once the X-Men came around and started defending mutants, anti-mutant crime exploded. William Stryker, The Sentinel Project, and even some aspects of Weapon X probably wouldn't be nearly so strong in-universe if not for humans (unreasonably) feeling threatened by the X-Men, whom some in-universe view as a private mutant army. Even the Brotherhood has seemingly grown more powerful in backlash against the X-Men. And one could go on for ages about all the alien threats brought to Earth as a result of the X-Men.
    • One X-Man villain is even cunning enough to take advantage of this. Cameron Hodge has the first five X-Men form X-Factor, which is supposed to be a mutant neutralization group, but secretly finds mutants and trains them. The amount of good X-Factor did (a lot) was far outweighed by the amount of anti-mutant hysteria they stirred up.
    • On the other hand, it could be argued that anti-mutant paranoia started exploding when Magneto first attempted to hijack nuclear weapons with which to blackmail all of Earth — which was in Uncanny X-Men #1.
      • Actually, the sentient bacteria Sublime was using his psychic powers to stir up anti-mutant perspectives, given that mutants were immune to his powers and therefore, a threat to his domination of all living creatures. He even manipulated Stryker and started the Weapon X program.

    Fan Works 
  • Inverted and subverted in Drunkard's Walk II by Robert M. Schroeck, when Corrupt Corporate Executive Big Bad Quincy of the anime Bubblegum Crisis reveals that he is a superhero fan who built himself up into a Lex Luthor-style supervillain in order to force the universe to spawn real superheroes to oppose him. It worked.
  • In chapter 48 of Child of the Storm, McGonagall observes that the heroes are coming back, with a new Golden Age of heroism like the Greek Myths... but the heroes have to have something to fight. So the monsters are coming back too.
    • Steve refutes this in chapter 80, stating that the Avengers are a response to a growing problem rather than the cause of it, comparing them to firefighters. It's hinted that to an extent, they're both right.
  • Discussed in Connecting the Dots, a Justice League-Teen Titans-Naruto Crossover: The reason Batman doesn't want Wonder Woman's help in Gotham is because she attracts supervillains and suchlike by acting like a hero, flying around, showing herself and thus being a challenge for every villain wannabe.
  • This is brought up in A Dark Knight over Sin City in keeping with the cynical nature of work. It's made explicit that Batman showing up in Gotham led to the creation of supervillains and once he goes to Sin City, things get more dangerous there as well.
  • In Consequences of Unoriginality, Emeris is put under a curse where he basically becomes the most powerful being in Equestria, dwarfing even Princess Celestia and Luna. In exchange, evil monsters and disasters regularly spawn and threaten the land, and he's the only one powerful enough to deal with them. This causes him no end of grief, but he dutifully defends the land. When the curse gets broken, several citizens angrily blame him for everything, but Princess Celestia understands that this is in no way Emeris' fault, as he never asked to be cursed.
  • Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: Asuka started out her super-heroine career fighting robbers and thugs. Shortly after she was fighting terrorists and super-villains as Brainiac or the Parasite. Then Apokolips' New Gods and the time-travelling Legion of Superheroes came along. And THEN she started using her super-powers to fight giant alien monsters and Eldritch Abominations.
  • Last Child of Krypton: Superman’s existence and activities became public right when the Angel War started. Shortly after, Gendo had super-villains on his payroll.
  • A RWBY Zanpakuto: Aizen claims that he exists because the Hogyoku granted Urahara's wish for a rival and Worthy Opponent hundreds of years ago. Urahara has a Heroic BSoD at the thought that he's the reason why this monster was brought upon the worlds.
  • Discussed in Young Justice: Darkness Falls, as Superman points out that there probably wouldn't be a Joker or Cheetah if they hadn't gotten involved. Aquaman points out that they're probably more part of a general battle between the establishment and those wishing to subvert it.
  • In Carol Danvers fanfiction A Prize for Three Empires, it is pointed out that the presence of the original Captain Marvel was the reason that Cape Canaveral was targeted by all kind of villains.
    This began a series of events which lasted for about a year and threw her into contact with Lawson and Captain Marvel over and over again. Cape Canaveral was targeted by aliens, monsters, rampaging androids, even the Sub-Mariner and Iron Man, with Captain Marvel the apparent reason they were there, and Carol just trying to help General Bridges keep the thing from falling apart.
  • Showa & Vampire had an unintentional example of this. The goal of the villains is to capture its heroes and exploit their amazingly strong powers. It didn't seem to occur to the writers that makes it the heroes' fault that their school becomes a magnet for villains by being there. Not helping is how the heroes only defend themselves when attacked, and aren't offsetting all the villains they attract by actually battling villains who are up to something that's not related to capturing them. note 
  • How the Light Gets In both averts this and plays it straight. The Flash revitalized Central City, making it safer, happier, and even cleaner. Green Arrow however has turned Star City into a dying city, the economy has been in the toilet ever since the Undertaking (though corruption and greed, pre The Hood, lowered it first), hospitals have long wait times, there's constant violence, traffic delays due to construction and clean up crews, and schools have to have "vigilante drills" on top of active shooter drills. Dean however, notes the real problem isn't that Oliver attracts supervillains, but that he consistently fails to stop them before they cause death and destruction.
    "See, when you can't stop the bad guys before they kill off entire neighborhoods, your failure sends a message. One that basically just says: Hey, evildoers, this city's open for business because it's protector is a giant bozo."
  • In the Marvel Universe fanfic FIRE! (DarkMark), Red Skull believes that, as long as there is a Captain America, there will always be a Red Skull. Sick of their eternal struggle, he decides to kill himself and take Cap with him.
    Red Skull: Do you not see the role Fate has assigned to us? When each of us was gone, slumbering away for two decades, our parts were not unfilled. Understudies took your costume, your identity, and a substitute shield. And was it long before a new Red Skull arose, this time created by the Russians, who learned the advantage of having such a symbol of their own? Then the ersatz Captains fell, and with him, the ersatz Skull, for which he may be grateful. If I had located him, the death I would have given him even Hell would shudder to imagine. With no Captain America, there was no need of a Red Skull.
    And then, you returned, thawed from a block of ice. You resumed your crusade against the enemies of a new era. But what of myself? Less than two years after your resurrection, I rose as well. We resumed business, Captain. And what a business it was.
  • Funeral for a Flash: Villains in the Midwest flock to Central City because that's the Flash's hometown (and because he is friendlier and nicer than other heroes).
  • The Legendary Spider Man: It wouldn't be a superhero story without something like this being discussed. While Spider-Man fighting crime did drive some criminals to rise in response to his challenge, there were enough entrenched powers in the world that in a way, the rise of Superheroes was a boon to the world. As with their rise, groups like The Ten Rings, AIM, HYDRA, Fisk's crime ring and even international/national criminals like The Foreigner and Crime Master were taken down for the first time. Providing respite and lessening the overall crime levels compared to before. Ganke even talks about having quiet days where the spiders don't HAVE to patrol at all.

    Films — Animated 
  • Inverted in Big Hero 6; the titular team is created with the objective of stopping Yokai.
  • Implied in The Incredibles: Once Super Heroes are outlawed, all supervillains disappear, too (except for one particularly obsessive fanboy...). According to the tie-in comic, and implied by the movie itself, the super-villains more or less were all imprisoned or forcibly depowered by the government. Though a few more did manage to lie low...
  • In The LEGO Batman Movie, all of the Batman continuities are canon, meaning Batman has been fighting crime in Gotham for nearly 80 years. Barbara Gordon, succeeding the position of police commissioner after her father James, states this directly in her opening speech, declaring it's time Gotham try for Boring, but Practical methods to actually improve the city. Said methods include statistics, compassion, and turning Batman into a cop, all of which Batman himself finds very unexciting.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy deals with this head on:
    • It begins at the end of Batman Begins, when Gordon wonders aloud about what the criminals will do to keep up with Batman being on the side of the police, and then mentions this weird new hitter going around who uses a playing card as his signature. Then, in The Dark Knight, escalation is the main theme. The cops and organized crime were locked in a stalemate. Then Batman came and tipped the scales, and the existing criminal element didn't stand a chance against him. The Joker is explicitly named as crime's response to the Batman, a monster that didn't — couldn't — exist before Batman did. Nobody's very pleased with the thought.
    • At the same time, the series also provides a strong argument for Batman's necessity. In Batman Begins, the League of Shadows intended to completely destroy Gotham, and had been planning to do so long before Batman came on the scene. Without Batman, they would have surely succeeded. Gotham City with the Joker, and the new age of supervillainy he heralds, is undeniably bad, and Batman caused it. But without Batman, there wouldn't be a Gotham City to terrorize.
    • The third movie goes both ways: the events of the previous movie lead to all the criminals being arrested and Bruce Wayne to retire as Batman became an outlaw. Then arrives Bane and a reformed League of Shadows, forcing Bruce to take the cowl back. And again, if he didn't come back in the end there wouldn't be a Gotham.
  • In Batman (1989), Jack Napier killed Batman's parents, creating Batman. Decades later, Batman knocks Jack into the vat of acid, creating his arch-nemesis, the Joker. This dynamic was passed on to Batman: The Animated Series and the DCAU, which is somewhat of a Spiritual Successor to the film. In Batman's defence, Napier was already a murderous mobster, who was in a shootout with the police when he was knocked into the vat of acid.
  • The Batman (2022): While in Arkham, the Riddler reveals to Batman that his crusade was inspired by the latter's Terror Hero tactics - in fact, he even erroneously believes the two to be on the same side. Batman calls him out on this, but after Batman unmasks one of the Riddler's followers, the mook tells him "I'm vengeance", which causes Batman to realize just what he was inspiring, and that he needs to change his approach and become a Hope Bringer.
  • In the fictional "Under the Hood" documentary made for the Watchmen film, Moloch talks about how the arrival of super-villains was a reaction to the rise in costumed adventurers. He ominously comments that he's waiting for the arrival of Dr. Manhattan's nemesis... Which directly contradicts what Hollis Mason says in both the book and the film. In the Watchmen universe, costumed criminals came first (wearing disguises meant they couldn't be recognized), and crime fighters started wearing costumes to "finish what the law couldn't".
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • This happens so frequently in the MCU that later movies begin using it as a plot point. Supervillains that owe their existence or threat level to the heroes in some way or another include Iron Monger,note  the Abomination,note  Whiplash,note  the (fake) Mandarin,note  Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch,note  Ultron,note  Yellowjacket,note  the Vulture,note  Killmonger,note  Ghost,note  Mysterio,note  the Power Broker,note  the "Sinister Six",note  Arthur Harrow,note  the Department of Damage Control,note  the Intelligencia,note  and Namor.note 
    • Invoked by Thor in The Avengers. According to him, when S.H.I.E.L.D. activated the Tesseract to create weapons capable of defending themselves from Asgardian-level threats, they ironically sent the message to everyone in the galaxy that the Earth is ready for "a higher form of war." Nick Fury, in turn, cites Thor himself and his arrival on Earth in New Mexico as an example of this trope and the reason S.H.I.E.L.D. was escalating in the first place, since Thor's fight with the Destroyer showed everyone that Earth is "hopelessly, hilariously outgunned" by pretty much every alien race out there. And as Thor's own films and Guardians of the Galaxy show, he's not wrong.
    • This is a major plot point in Captain America: Civil War. After the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron (where Tony and Bruce created Ultron, a Killer Robot that wipes out a country and nearly takes the rest of the world with it), the governments of the world craft the Sokovia Accords to control the Avengers, with the logic that the heroes are beginning to cause more problems than they actually end up solving. The Vision even argues in favor of the Accords by pointing out that Earth has seen a massive upswing in both superheroes and supervillains in the years since the original Iron Man movie. And just to drive the point home, the villain is another one that was created as a direct result of the Avengers' actions: Zemo lost his home and family to Ultron and he swore revenge against the "heroes" who created him and then didn't even stick around to help clean up the wreckage afterward. However, there's also the counterpoint that for three of the four examples given of Avengers causing collateral damage (The Avengers (2012), Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the incident in Lagos at the beginning of the film), the incidents were not sparked by any of the heroes and they in fact blunted the potential harm the villains could inflict.
    • The two that seem to be the most free from this trope are Captain America and Thor.
      • In Captain America: The First Avenger, HYDRA and the Red Skull came first and Captain America was created in direct response to them (though one could argue that even this isn't entirely an exception, as HYDRA would never have become a threat of such magnitude if Odin, one of the good guys, hadn't hidden the Tesseract on Earth in the first place). In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the villain is HYDRA, having been reformed within S.H.I.E.L.D. while Captain America was presumed deceased, and Bucky's Brainwashed and Crazy status can only be tangentially tied to Cap and was done while Cap was on ice.
      • Thor tends to be the response to the villains - Thor had Loki, who was specifically out to get Thor and only put Earth in danger because Odin sent him there, the second film's villains were threats from before Thor's time and the whole universe was at risk, and the third was again before Thor's time and was only a danger due to Odin's death releasing her from being sealed.
    • Played with in Ant-Man, in which the villain was created largely because the previous incarnation of the hero had retired from super-heroics, then mentored him. Even quitting the superhero shtick isn't an escape from this trope, apparently.
    • Also played with in the Spider-Man-movies: Peter Parker got his power when both superheroes and supervillains were already an existing thing in the MCU. Both villains he fights in Homecoming and Far From Home were directly or indirectly motivated by the existence of superheroes, namely Iron Man. However, Spider-Man himself hasn't to do anything with their creation and in turn was himself inspired to fight them by their action, making the paradox a both-sided variation - while superheroes do attract the rise of supervillains, supervillains in turn do attract new superheroes too.
    • Of course, the big aversion here is Thanos, who wasn't effected by heroes at all, and chose to go kill half the universe on his own volition rather than being inspired by any of the heroes. While many of the infinity stones did fall into the hands of heroes, their having them was hardly an invitation for Thanos to go after them. In a way, Thanos is the proof of concept that the universe NEEDS heroes as they came closer to stopping him than the many planets or intergalactic organizations ever got.
  • Surprisingly Averted in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man Trilogy: While the superpowered villains Spidey fights in that movie came after Peter got bitten by the spider and became an active crimefighter, Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus and Sandmannote  were created completly independent from Spider-Man and would be there even if Spider-Man didn't exist - without having someone to stop them. While Eddie Brock and Harry Osborn are directly motivated by Spider-Man, the Venom-symbionte would have come to Earth anyway and would probably have infected someone else and Harry was in to take revenge for his supervillain father, so Peter's real role in creating is debatable.
  • Transformers Film Series:
    • Specifically cited by the new Secretary of Defense in Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen. In this case, because the Autobots have been killing Decepticons they find on Earth, they don't even have the excuse most such characters do. The Secretary of Defense suggested the Decepticons could only be on Earth to fight the Autobots, and asked whether they would leave if told. This complaint is muted with Optimus' suggesting that there is a risk in assuming that to be the case.
      Optimus: Freedom is your right. If you make that request, we will honor it. But... what if we leave, and you're wrong?
    • In the first movie, this is inverted. The Decepticons are on Earth first, seeking Megatron, who was seeking the AllSpark. The only Autobot on Earth was Bumblebee, who was keeping a low profile. The other Autobots arrive to stop the Decepticons.
    • Subverted once and for all in the third movie- the Autobots actually are forced to leave by the government thanks to threats by the Decepticons...who promptly blow up the Autobots' space ship with a missile as they are leaving the planet, killing them all (not really, of course). The 'Cons then attack the city of Chicago and start to massacre everyone, and use the city as a base to summon the ruins of Cybertron with the goal of enslaving the human race and using them as slave labor to rebuild it. Though the Autobots being kicked out was partly prompted by one of them turning out to be a traitor, it is also revealed that the Decepticons had secretly been on Earth since the 1960's, so Optimus and co. had even less to do with their presence on Earth than they thought before.
    • And yet this revelation doesn't stop some elements of the government from hunting down all remaining Autobots in the fourth movie. This is also a subversion though as while it originally appears that rogue elements in the government are taking the Transformers down because they are a threat (though it is made clear that the President and others are left in the dark), the motive of the main villain behind them is pure greed- the Autobots are harvested for parts and their technology refurbished for private use.
  • Part of the Ghostbusters (1984) montage chronicling their success is a Larry King segment on them, mentioning the possibility that they were the very cause of the paranormal activity they combated. It could have been more an accusation that they were con-artists faking the incidents rather than that they were attracting ghosts. This is clearly wrong, as they invented the ghostbusting job before the paranormal activity was rising, and do such an excellent job that by the beginning of the sequel they are jobless.
  • In Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass became the first costumed hero, which inspired others to become heroes, but also inspired others to become costumed villains. Near the end of Kick-Ass 2, the Motherfucker taunts Kick-Ass about how he created all the villains.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Supernatural, monsters, vengeful gods, and other beings have always existed, long before hunters. Even though the Winchesters had a hand in causing it, the biblical apocalypse (or the little of it we saw) could even be excused as being fated. However, that's only arc that was fated. The unleashing of the high demons in hell (season 3), the monster armies (season 6), the vengeful new "god" (season 6, 7), and the leviathans (season 7) were all directly caused by the Winchester's actions. For good measure, some Timey-Wimey Ball and loose lips even enabled Azazel to set all the fated stuff in motion.
  • An interesting version exists in Dexter. In the first episode, Dexter mentions how low the homicide solve rate is in Miami. Obviously, this would attract the criminal element into Miami and logically increase the numbers of murderers who Dexter can then target. Why is the solve rate so low? Probably due to the guy who keeps killing murderers before they are caught. By the time of later seasons, Dexter pretty blatantly tampers with evidence in order to make sure the serial killers stay off the radar so he can kill them. The police are usually good enough to catch onto them anyway, and sometimes Dexter has to tamper with evidence like this because he himself left evidence at the scene. Either way, he started actively sabotaging murder investigations from within, instead of only killing ones who definitely got away.
  • Arrowverse:
    • Discussed in Arrow. Early in Season 2, Laurel comments about how there were no "earthquake machines and copycat archers" in Starling City before the Arrow first appeared. In the Season 3 premiere, the new Vertigo taunts the Arrow by suggesting that his existence gives fuel to the 'Vertigo' legacy.
      • For the most part, its averted in the case of Merlyn, Deadshot, China White and numerous other villains like them whose operations in Starling City and elsewhere have nothing to do with the Arrow; but played straight with villains like Deathstroke, Huntress, Cupid etc. whose origins the Arrow is responsible for in some way or the other.
    • Generally averted in the first season of The Flash (2014). The large majority of metahumans were created at the same time by the particle accelerator explosion, heroic and villainous alike, so one didn't cause the other. Played straight in every season thereafter, as Barry and his friends always do something in the season finales that lead to another mess to clean up the following season.
      • Even the first season is a complicated instance, since Big Bad the Reverse-Flash is a time-traveler. The particle accelerator originally went off in 2020. Centuries later, Eobard Thawne was somehow inspired by the existence of the original Flash to become his Evil Counterpart. Thawne then travels back in time to harass the original Flash, eventually getting trapped in the year 2000 without his powers. In order to get them back, he has to re-create the Flash; he takes the place of the accelerator's inventor Harrison Wells, gets the accelerator up and running years ahead of schedule, and mentors Barry in his powers. So, without a Stable Time Loop to simplify things, the Flash leads to the Reverse-Flash leads to the Flash leads to ow my head hurts...
      • Played straight in the second season. Thanks to the Flash futzing with time travel in the first season finale, wormholes to an Alternate Universe opened up thanks to a time paradox and now Central City has to deal with their supervillains as well as its own.
      • The third season seemed to mirror the second - the Flash again messed with time, creating an Alternate Timeline (named "Flashpoint") that indirectly led to more supervillains even after he (almost) put things back the way they were - but wound up playing it straight in a different way: the Big Bad, Savitar, is an evil "time remnant" (Timey-Wimey Ball-created clone) of Barry; which could not have been created if Barry wasn't the heroic Flash first. He also claims that Flashpoint led to his creation, but it's possible that it would have happened anyway considering that the direct cause creating Savitar seems to be Savitar himself, attempting to stabilize a time loop.
      • Flashpoint didn't create Savitar, it merely weakened the Speed Force enough to allow Savitar to project into our dimension.
      • Subverted in Season 4. The team brought Barry back from exile in the Speed Force (and the need for exile was itself a consequence of the fight against Savitar), which caused a portal to open up and expose a busload of people to its energies, creating yet another batch of supervillains to deal with. However, as the season goes on it's explained that this season's Big Bad, the Thinker, was actually the one responsible. He gained his powers in the original accelerator explosion and is a Manipulative Bastard who has been working behind the scenes ever since. He arranged for specific people to all be on the same bus at the same time, and manipulated Team Flash to open the portal right when all those people would be present to gain powers from it.
      • It's discovered early in Season 5 that the season's Big Bad and some of the other villains are the result of Nora altering the timeline during the Season 4 finale. The altered trajectory of the satellite debris has created meta-objects and turned a different man into Cicada.
    • This gets discussed the first time that Arrow and The Flash cross over, as Diggle is uncomfortable with all the weirdness the Flash crew deals with. Cisco points out that a bunch of both teams' weirdness was in play independently of the heroes, and suggests an inversion that Fate or God or something was making sure heroes were there to deal with it. The next season drives home the fact that the particle accelerator was merely the latest in a long line of super-weirdness, as it debuts Vixen (whose heroine's powers are mystical) and Legends of Tomorrow (which involves both ancient immortals and time travel).
    • Captain Cold played it straight in The Flash, as he was already a criminal but has upped his game because he enjoys the challenge the Flash provides - but then it's zigzagged since the Flash has dared him to carry out his heists nonlethally, reducing his overall threat level. Ultimately inverted; as with the Flash's encouragement he eventually becomes an Anti-Hero in Legends of Tomorrow.
    • Invoked during the "Invasion!" crossover. The Dominators believe metahumans are a menace, and specifically cite the Flash single-handedly creating the alternate Flashpoint timeline as the tipping point that motivates them to invade Earth and wipe out all current and potential metahumans. Also, at one point, the Badass Normal vigilante Wild Dog angrily says that bad guys with superpowers didn't start showing up until people like Flash did. When Wild Dog meets Supergirl and learns she is an alien, he accuses her of attracting the Dominators (though he's incorrect because Supergirl is from another dimension and Flash summoned her to help stop the Dominators). Additionally, the Dominators visited Earth before, during the original appearance of metahumans, like the Justice Society of America (a mix of Badass Normals [e.g. Commander Steel], metahumans [e.g. Obsidian], and people with mystical powers [e.g. the first Vixen]).
    • The fourth season of Legends of Tomorrow is a direct result of the Legends' actions to stop the Season 3 Big Bad Mallus. Apparently, Mallus wasn't the only thing that got out when the Legends allowed him to manifest physically in order to defeat him. A whole slew of magical creatures have escaped and are wreaking havoc across the timeline. This time, they need Constantine's help in stopping them.
    • Claimed for property damage in Supergirl (2015), with Maxwell Lord (who, admittedly, is a very Unreliable Narrator) saying that they have risen dramatically in Metropolis since Superman's arrival, and arguing that National City does not need the Metropolis problem. The actual villains are a bit more complicated — they do seem to be on Earth as an indirect result of Kara, but it was completely unrelated to her actual superheroing (they just followed her pod out of the Phantom Zone once it got loose and headed for Earth again — twelve years before she even decided to be a superhero). It was instead the villains' escalating actions that triggered Kara making her superheroing entrance. On the other hand, Project Cadmus has started to create supervillains in direct opposition to Superman and Supergirl. Also, White Martians arriving to Earth tend to follow J'onn J'onzz, the last Green Martian or M'gann M'orzz, a repentant White Martian. Played straight in Season 4, as Agent Liberty was created by his life gradually being ruined by all the alien stuff (previously, he was a firm supporter of alien rights), and Mercy Graves continues the work Lex started.
  • Averted in Gotham. Unlike most portrayals of Batman where he starts out his career fighting regular criminals and corruption then builds up his Rogue's Gallery of supervillains, the show has the supervillains arriving well before: the Penguin is already a crime boss, Zsasz is a mob enforcer/serial killer, Edward Nygma has already gone nuts and is becoming the Riddler, and at least one character hinted to become the Joker is already an axe-crazy murderer. In the show's universe, it appears it will be the existence of the villains that will create the need for the Dark Knight.
  • Power Rangers:
    • One could argue that the franchise has this as a recurring problem, though the trope overall is zigzagged. For over 26 years now, different teams of Rangers have battled various villains, and somehow, no matter how old or recent the threats were, they always manage to arise or come to Earth during a very limited period of time.
    • This was especially apparent during the Mighty Morphin days; while the original team was formed in response to Rita's escape from her prison, their repeated victories over her kept attracting new villains to Earth (Lord Zedd, Rito, Master Vile). Then again, starting after Power Rangers in Space, every villain faced has eventually been destroyed or redeemed, so while there's a wide range of threats in a concentrated period of time, the Power Rangers themselves have been pretty effective in destroying one ancient evil/galactic conqueror per year. It also helps that said villains arrived whilst underestimating Earth and the Power Rangers, so the argument can be made that the Rangers weren't even on their radar until actually losing to them. In the case of Divatox, her grand plan just so happened to involve unleashing an Eldritch Abomination on Earth and the wizard whose powers she needs to do it with escaped there. She hadn't even heard of the Rangers, and even tried to call Rita for advice.
    • This trope could frankly be averted given the implication of how active so much of the evil forces from the Zordon Era were in the greater universe, such that Earth's peacefulness is an outright anomaly, one that said villains wish to rectify. Without the Rangers, Earth would've been doomed to follow the rest of the universe, and any of Zordon's agents across the universe would have fallen sooner or later.
    • Within an individual series, this is usually averted by having the villains show up first and the Rangers recruited to stop them.
    • This is noted in the beginning of Power Rangers Beast Morphers as Mayor Daniels is not happy that Morph-X is being used, since Morph-X is derived from the Morphin' Grid and quite a few villains have made plays for the powers. Indeed, this threat is why Grid Battleforce creates their Power Rangers team in the first place.
  • Lampshaded by Deke in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when they're trying to get him to rejoin S.H.I.E.L.D. and go on a mission to, surprise surprise, save the world again:
    Deke: You know, you guys are like... you're like doomsday magnets that's just attracting all this negative energy, and it's because you're vibrations are off! You know, I got a shaman. He could probably help you out with some of this stuff. I had this lower-back pain and—
    Mack: Stop. Please, just... stop.
  • [Invoked in The Boys (2019). As opposed to the comic continuity, the Super Serum Compound V is much more secret and restricted, leading to a far lower metahuman population with no costumed supervillains whatsoever. To remedy this for the sake of his own vanity, Homelander began handing out Compound V to terrorist organizations around the world while badgering Vought's marketing team to call them supervillains as opposed to "super terrorists".
  • The Umbrella Academy (2019) has a few examples of this. Reginald Hargreeves, in his apparent attempts to safeguard the world and prevent the apocalypse, actually causes the apocalypse, by abusing the Academy members, suppressing Vanya's powers, and humiliating Harold Jenkins. As for the Hargreeves, their attempts to prevent the apocalypse also fail, leading to multiple apocalypses.
  • Discussed in Kamen Rider Build. Sento Kiryu originally became Build to protect people from attacks by a Nebulous Evil Organisation. The problem is that his Build Driver makes for a very effective weapon, which leads to The Government trying to employ him to be their Super-Soldier and several rival governments stealing his research in order to make Kamen Riders of their own.
  • Doctor Who: In "Asylum of the Daleks" it's suggested that the constant defeats inflicted on the Daleks by the Doctor have only spurred them to lift their own game in response.
    Dalek: We have grown stronger in fear of you.
  • The Guardians of Justice asks what happens when a world-protecting all-powerful super-successful superhero eventually dies - and the answer is not pretty. There's also Dark Heroes who, while intending to protect the world from greater threats, become oppressive dictators who corrupt everyone.

    Video Games 
  • Invoked in Batman: Arkham City, as Big Bad Hugo Strange taunts Batman with the idea that Gotham would be less of a hellhole if he wasn't around. A lot of his Evil Plan focuses on the idea of fixing that.
  • Season 2 of Batman: The Telltale Series ends with Alfred bringing up this trope, arguing that Batman/Bruce Wayne is responsible for the creation of Two-Face, Lady Arkham and the Joker, and the game tries to hammer this home by having the villains' personalities and actions affected by the player's choices. It culminates in Alfred leaving Bruce unless he agrees to stop being Batman.
  • This is suggested to be partly why Overwatch fell apart in the game's backstory. After Overwatch ended the Omnic Crisis and saved the world everybody loved them... until people realized that all the normal supervillains were still running around and causing trouble despite all the work Overwatch did. A sort-of in-universe Hype Backlash began to set in as people had expected Overwatch to fix everything and started to resent the organization. It finally exploded when footage leaked of Overwatch's Black Ops division using their heroic credibility to get away with assassinations, sabotage, and mad science, effectively 'creating' some of the villains they were 'supposed' to kill. Protests demanded they shut down the Black Ops division; the Black Ops division publicly declined with their guns, the official Overwatch team was forced to fight them, and the survivors of both teams were arrested or forced into hiding. Unfortunately, the threats did not go away with them, which is what ultimately prompts Winston to put the organization back together.
  • The primary argument that J. Jonah Jameson gives in his opposition of Spider-Man in Spider-Man (PS4) is this, arguing that Spider-Man was the first masked Differently Powered Individual to appear in New York before various super-villains and unorthodox street gangs began surfacing. Half the time he is a Know-Nothing Know-It-All that uses Spider-Man as a scapegoat (especially considering that he was partially responsible for the Scorpion but refuses to take responsibility), but a few instances show that the Jerkass Has a Point, including the number of villains Peter seems to know personally (Mr. Negative and Doctor Octopus being two examples), the Evil Power Vacuum Fisk's arrest brings about, and Spider-Man's general habit of escalating problems.
  • Dragon Quest XI starts out generally following a Chosen One narrative — except that people have noticed that the monsters arrived at about the same time the Chosen One did. As such, the player character is widely considered a beacon drawing the monsters to him. At best, he's a Hero with Bad Publicity; at worst, some very powerful people are hunting him down on the grounds that they can stop the monsters from appearing if they kill him. The Big Bad is intentionally spreading the idea in order to impede the Luminary's mission.
  • Baldur's Gate: if the main character is good, thus implying heroic intentions by the player: he/she defeats his/her half-brother Sarevok, both of them being children of the god of murder Bhaal, thus becoming the Hero of Baldur's Gate. He/she is then challenged by Caelar Argent, who needs some drops of his/her divine blood for an ambitious task which ultimately turns into an epic challenge against an otherworldy mastermind. After solving this adventure, he/she attracts the interest of the evil archwizard Irenicus, who wants to steal his/her divine soul to get an immense power to achieve his goals. During the struggle against Irenicus, the protagonist is also involved with dangerous vampires, dragons and demons all aware of his heritage, trying to exploit or kill him/her. After defeating Irenicus and whatever came in between, the protagonist is now enough powerful to become a threat for the Five, his/her other siblings who are trying to resurrect Bhaal and serve as his lieutenants. In the process, war and massacres rage on the realms, because the Children of Bhaal are gathering armies to fulfill their goals (and the protagonist is blamed too although unguilty). While dealing with them and their hidden mastermind, the protagonist is now under observations by extraplanar entities and the gods themselves who have interest in his/her fate. During this, he or she is also questioned about his awareness of the escalation in challenges and of how becoming more powerful also attracts greater disasters. Ultimately, one of the possible ending choices is becoming a true god, in that case the epilogue states that the protagonist becomes a power of the planes, with new battles and enemies to fight where no mortal could. And all of this canonically in just a little more than a year of work, after leaving for the first time Candlekeep as a fragile level 1 adventurer. Like going to college as someone who always lived in town without external contacts, passing exams of increasing difficulty from "draw a circle" to "failure will erase your soul", and then after the first academic year being offered to become a god or turn down the offer.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night: Part of the main character Shirou Emiya's angst is the realization that his desire to be a hero is also paradoxically a desire for a villain to exist so that people will be in danger so he can rescue them. It's gleefully lampshaded at the beginning by Kotomine, when Shirou is horrified that such a thing as the Holy Grail War exists, Kotomine tells him "Rejoice. For now you have a chance to be the hero you've always wanted to be."

  • Defied in Grrl Power, as Maxima intentionally goads the supervillain community into going after her... because as a military colonel, she knows that an unknown super-threat is magnitudes more dangerous than a rampaging one - especially if they're wailing on the tankiest tank in human history.
  • In Killroy And Tina, Tina's budding career as a superhero gets put on hold, and Brandon points out that at least they won't have to deal with the "Metropolis Effect":
    Brandon: It's kind of hard to explain. It's the irony of a hero who attracts danger. ...Take Superman! Before Supes came to town, the worst crime Metropolis had was wife beaters, thugs, and the occasional mob bosses. Nowadays, Metropolis gets a weekly visit from some overbeast with a unibrow and a tiny dick, thrashing the city just to stand toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel. Indirectly, all of Metropolis' major disasters have been caused by Supes. In the end, Metropolis was probably better off without a crime fighter.
  • Dinosaur Comics applies this trope to Sherlock Holmes in this strip.

    Web Original 
  • Worm: It is eventually revealed that in Eidolon's extreme desire to be a hero and have a Worthy Opponent, his powers subconsciously created the Endbringers. When he finds out, he completely freaks out and allows Scion to kill him. Unfortunately, this doesn't make the Endbringers disappear, they just begin behaving erratically.

    Web Videos 
  • Bishop Barron's Batman review is largely about the inability for superheroes to stop evil. Within the context of The Dark Knight, the Bishop makes the point that the violence of the Joker feeds off the violence of Batman and Harvey Dent. The only way to escape this constant reflection of violence is to avoid "fighting [evil] on its own terms," in the passive, Heroic Sacrifice that created the Crucified Hero Shot.
  • The Youtube personality who goes by the name of Comics by Perch has a video called "The Squadron Supreme and when superheroes did interfere" which addresses this issue, as well as how it was approached in a story-line of Squadron Supreme by Mark Gruenwald.
  • The Isle of Rangoon: This is why Linkara won't help the Rangoons get rid of the Masked Malefactor; once they do that, stronger, more dangerous villains are just gonna start coming out of the woodwork. Better they just enjoy the easy stuff while they can. Linkara's speaking from experience; after fighting Mechakara, Lord Vyce, and The Entity, he wishes he could go back to just fighting Dr. Insano.
  • Ironically, the Atop the Fourth Wall episode 15 Things Wrong With Marvel's Civil War Comic has Linkara deconstruct this viewpoint. Since The World Is Always Doomed, it's more common that Villains Act, Heroes React. Also, since supervillains — the kind of people who actually start the death and destruction— can't be taken down by ordinary people, superheroes know that With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility, and they actually feel guilty about bad stuff happening.
    Linkara: Disregard anything your parents ever said about "It not mattering who started it". If that was true, no one would be allowed to defend themselves or others.

    Western Animation 
  • Most incarnations of Transformers have this to an extent, since the Decepticons are usually depicted as following the Autobots to Earth. The series Transformers: Animated is the most blatant example, since in this one the Autobots are pretty much seen by Detroit as superheroes. They're also frequently shown rebuilding the city after Decepticon attacks out of guilt for being the partial cause. Also they are construction workers/engineers, so it's also a Justified Trope.
    • That being said, in many continuities, including Animated, it's the Decepticons who start the war. Usually it comes down to Megatron's ego refusing to accept peace or a place below Optimus.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • Lampshaded when the Monster of the Week explains that it's no fun to threaten a city if there aren't heroes to defend it; the more powerful the hero who defeats you, the more bragging rights you get. The only reason the monsters attack Townsville so regularly is to fight the Powerpuff Girls. Ironically, The Movie reveals that The Professor created them to help the then-lawless, rampantly crime-ridden town.
    • The girls also aren't welcome in other cities due to collateral damage: When they moved to the town of Citysville, they destroyed a bridge to stop some robbers. Rather than congratulate them on saving the day, the mayor scolded them for destroying the bridge, because the transit delay and repairs will cost more than the robbers actually stole.
    • There's also an episode which addresses the third point of this trope. The girls find the citizens are far too dependent on them, and refuse to help anymore so the normal people can defend themselves against a lawyer-friendly stand-in for Godzilla.
    • On the other hand, there was an episode in which the girls are put under a strict curfew so that they can get enough sleep. The many supervillains of Townsville quickly take advantage of their absence and are only stopped by a loophole in the curfew: Daylight Savings Time.
    • Averted in general as most of the girls Rogues Gallery (with the expection of Mojo Jojo, who was created at the same time as them, The Rowdyruff Boys, who were created by Mojo, and Princess, who specifically has a grude against them for not letting her be a Powerpuff Girl but is such a Spoiled Brat it's likely she was already evil anyway) was both already present and already evil before they were born. The movie makes it very clear why Townsville needs The Powerpuff Girls.
  • Also lampshaded in the Futurama episode "Less Than Hero", where Fry, Leela, and Bender become superheroes; Leela mentions the collateral damage (and possible lawsuits spawned from it) as the number one reason to have a Secret Identity. Subverted later in that episode: after fighting off a villain trying to steal a priceless gem from a museum, its curator thanks them and states the price of the gem is a little higher than the cost to repair the museum.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man:
    • Spidey (or ESU labs, which also created him) is responsible for the creation of almost every villain he fights. Examples include Venom (since it was him pissing off Brock that made him angry enough to bond with the symbiote), Shocker (who was employed by the Big Man to "squash the bug?"), Rhino and Sandman (who were created by the Big Man to distract Spidey), Kraven the Hunter (who came to New York to hunt Spider-Man), Electro (who was pushed over the edge by Spidey unfairly attacking him), and Molten Man, who was blackmailed into attacking Spidey.
    • Pretty much lampshaded by J. Jonah Jameson in one episode. In his typical monologuing about why Spider-Man is evil, he brings up the fact that Spidey's appearance was followed by that of tons of costumed villains.
    • On the other hand, the Green Goblin, easily the worst of any of his enemies, more or less created himself, and then went on to accidentally create Doctor Octopus by way of a failed assassination attempt (which was just the Goblin covering up the link between the Big Man and Norman Osborn, though granted said link was strengthened by the appearance of Spider-Man). Also most of these guys were villains already, Spidey just prompted the Big Man (a pre-established and dominant crime lord) to give them powers, which in the case of Shocker already existed. The Vulture (who has a vendetta against Norman Osborn), Chameleon (an established freelance spy), the Tinkerer (another freelancer), and to a lesser extent Mysterio (who was "inspired" by Spidey in his own way) also count as aversions.
  • Mentioned in the Darker and Edgier period of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Donatello worried that they might be "part of the problem" because most of the Shredder's schemes are or have become dedicated to killing them rather than world domination.
  • DC Animated Universe:
    • Batman: The Animated Series:
      • In the episode "Trial", the new DA of Gotham City wants to arrest Batman, until she and Batman are captured in Arkham Asylum by the villains and Batman is put on trial by them for this trope. The ultimate conclusion, incidentally, is that in the DCEU, this trope works both ways. While Batman may have inspired most of his foes to use the gimmicks they do, many would be out there causing mayhem regardless. (The villains even agree — "And since we are all so nasty, rotten and depraved, we're going to waste you anyway!") That mayhem, incidentally, was what created Batman.
      • Interestingly enough, various villains attack Batman's Secret Identity: Kyodai Ken wants revenge on Bruce Wayne in "Night of the Ninja". Roland Dagget hires Clayface to get rid of Bruce Wayne in "Feet of Clay: Part 1", while Mr. Freeze wants to destroy Bruce Wayne's life in "Cold Comfort". Robin lampshades that Lock-Up is a case of Create Your Own Villain for the Wayne Foundation in his eponymous episode. Mask of the Phantasm has Salvatore Valestra wanting to hire the Joker to kill Batman and Sleazy Politician Councilman Arthur Reeves orders the police to chase the Batman with lethal force.
      • Despite its highly episodic nature, the first two seasons chronicle the Story Arc of the fall of traditional crime and the rise of supervillains in Gotham City. When the series begins, the Joker and the Penguin are the only active supervillains (we see almost everyone else's Start of Darkness, and Ra's Al-Ghul only comes to Gotham to meet the Batman). Corrupt Corporate Executive Roland Dagget runs the city, along with Rupert Thorne and Arnold Stromwell, traditional gangsters. Over the course of the series, Dagget gradually loses his fortune as legal fees and criminal charges catch up to him, and Thorne and Stromwell have their operations systematically taken apart as new, colorful villains appear in the scene. This comes to a head in "Batgirl Returns", when Dagget is arrested, and "Shadow of the Bat", in which Thorne himself is arrested after another of his criminal operations is busted and it is revealed that Two-Face has been taking control of Gotham's mob behind the scenes. By the time of The New Batman Adventures, almost all criminal activities are the work of costumed and themed supervillains. Then we see Jack Ryder claiming on his show that Batman created the Joker seven years ago...
    • Explored a little in Justice League Unlimited where Shadow Thief is portrayed as the Enemy Without of Hawkman's nature. Carter Hall wanted to be a hero, so his darker impulses manifested as a villain for him to fight. The moment Shadow Thief revealed this, Carter destroyed him. On the other hand, JLU actually did allow the heroes to have genuine, long-term victories. In the final season, Gorilla Grodd points out that the good guys, working together in the League, are so good at fighting crime that the supervillains can't operate individually anymore. And considering how the Grand Finale leaves over half the villains dead or ascended to a higher plane, it's not much of a stretch to say that the remaining villains' days are numbered. But there's a new batch of bad guys by the time of Batman Beyond...
    • Batman Beyond: It's not until Terry becomes Batman that we get genuine super-villains again like Blight, Big Time, Shriek, Spellbinder, Stalker, and Willy Watt — many of whom Batman had a hand in creating, while others were already operational, and hit a bat-shaped wall when they came to Gotham. The Royal Flush Gang even explicitly returned to Gotham because Batman had, as the gang has a history with the Bruce Batman and wanted to settle things with the new one. On the other hand Terry also has a tendency to see his villains (and a couple of Bruce's) get shut down. Permanently. Terry freely acknowledges that he created Blight (or at least that he caused his transformation, Powers was a criminal already) — and he's perfectly okay with that, as Blight ordered his father's death. Gotham was also hardly at peace: the gangs and corporate crime created the Terry Batman, who in turn led to super-vilains.
  • The Batman:
    • Chief Rojas just will not stop bringing this up. The creators of the show state as much, by saying that Batman's work defeating organized crime in Gotham has opened the door for supervillains. The "heroes are ineffective" aspect is averted in the first episode where it's stated that Gotham is now the most crime-free city in the country.
    • The vigilante Rumor also points this out, claiming that Batman drew the supervillains to him, "like moths to a flame", to the point where he can barely contain them.
  • Stated outright in The Venture Bros.. Evidently, the villains like the "arch" (as in -enemy) system, in which each is matched with a nemesis. Break up the system and you're just going to have a bunch of pissed-off guys with death rays, and that wouldn't be good for anyone.
  • Played straight in Young Justice (2010) where it's established that the Justice League are so good at their job that Vandal Savage forms a sophisticated Legion of Doom stand-in known as The Light which consists of himself and a cadre of other Diabolical Masterminds using the bulk of Earth-based super villains as their minions. They are so successful that many of the "victories" the heroes pull off are revealed to have been Xanatos Gambits that actually served the interests of the Light, and for most of season 1 the heroes don't know that the Light even exists.
    • On the other hand, subsequent seasons have shown that Savage was technically the first Meta to arise, and his desires for power and destruction ended up creating just as many heroic people (like Nabu and the Atlanteans) as he caused disasters. And while the Light is always scheming to turn earth into a galactic superpower, this was in part a response to the Alien Invasion of Darkseid, and trying to find a way to hold him off in the future. In a way, the heroes are the ones who needed to escalate in response to the villains, as they were perfectly happy to just serve in a humble capacity, but Vandal's plans made them the stopgap to keep earth safe from those who get drawn in thanks to the scheming.
  • Axe Cop: One episode reveals that Axe Cop killed 7000 bad guys in one night, and by the end of the episode it turns out that there are no bad guys left anywhere in the world. Baby Man asks if there are any bad aliens in the universe, at which point Axe Cop wishes for every alien to be a bad guy so he can have something to do.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes references this in part from Maria Hill being the most prominent thinker. There are some examples from the show proper which show this, such as Wonder Man, Ultron, Kang as a borderline example or Red Hulk. However, for the most part, the Avengers in this show were thrust into a world at chaos, with villains like Loki releasing supervillains on the world as part of his gambit to take over Asgard, and most of the evil forces being active long before the Avengers ever formed. In fact, the Avengers manage to make things better on several occasions, by putting an end to long entrenched organizations like HYDRA or stopping long held wars like the Kree-Skrull war.
  • Ben 10 did this a bit. Rojo only became a full-fledged supervillain because Vilgax needed someone to take down Ben. Ben's usage of Ghostfreak is what allowed him to escape from the Omnitrix. Kevin didn't go insane until he absorbed Ben's Omnitrix. Malware and Khyber showed up because they wanted information about the Omnitrix. The Megawhats were only released because Ben thought it would be funny to dick around and ignore the signs. Captain Nemesis became a villain because he was jealous of Ben. Psyphon only hates Ben because Ben took down Vilgax.
  • Subverted in Danny Phantom: the villainous ghosts began to appear after Danny Fenton gained his ghost powers but it’s later revealed that the first ghosts Danny ever fought were actually henchmen of his evil counterpart Vlad, who was already a ghost well before Danny became one himself, if not before Danny was born.
  • Ghostbusters:
    • This happens again in the The Real Ghostbusters animated series; one episode begins where Egon announces the Ghostbusters are out of work....because they have eradicated all paranormal activity in New York. Their solution? Rebrand themselves as the Crimebusters and clean up New York's criminal underworld. Turns out they are even better at that because by the end of the episode New York is crime free and they are once again unemployed...fortunately, right as they realize that, the ghosts have come back.
    • Something similar happens in the first episode of the sequel series Extreme Ghostbusters. The Ghostbusters have long since split up because there were no more ghosts in New York City. Unfortunately, some construction workers accidentally unleashed a powerful evil spirit, forcing Egon to gather a new generation of Ghostbusters to beat it. After it's been defeated, they think things will go back to normal, right? Unfortunately, that episode's villain wasn't the only ghost released, providing an explanation for the resurgence of ghosts in the series.
  • In Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters, half of the rogues gallery results from Stretch Monster's machinations in creating supervillains to confront the Flex Fighters. Multi-Farious was also a result from the same accident that gave the heroic trio their superpowers. Villains like The Gentleman and Mechanica also emerge due to the Flex Fighters's conflict against Stretch Monster. The only foes that have nothing to do with the main trio are Stretch Monster himself, the Tech Men, Anastasia, and Dr. Mindscape.
  • Discussed in The Legend of Korra, where Korra realizes that for every wrong the Avatar sets right, she creates ripples in reality that bring about new villains and disasters for her to fight (to boot, by De Powering, then losing track of Yakone, Avatar Aang's indirectly created both villains of the first Korra season, the season two mess was the handiwork of the original Avatar Wan, while seasons three and four's antagonists are both a result of Korra leaving the spirit portals open in season two). While this initially causes her to lose faith in her destiny, her mentor Tenzin encourages her to view it from the angle that it is the Avatar's destiny to continuously rebalance the world, in other words, to learn from the past and to adapt to the global changes, moving into the future.
  • In Star vs. the Forces of Evil, the episode preceding the series finale features Star questioning whether magic is even a good thing, or if it creates more problems than it solves. In the finale proper Star decides to destroy all of the magic, since it seems more trouble than it's worth.
  • In Big Hero 6: The Series, Chief Diego Cruz of the San Fransokyo Police Department firmly believes this, saying that Big Hero 6's presence in the city has attracted supervillains, and he intends to stop this by putting the team away.
    • However, this is untrue, as most of the villains that Big Hero 6 fought were criminals before they faced the team, or became villains on their own accord. Big Hero 6 is actually helping the city in keeping control of them, as the team's scientific knowledge and equipment allows them to combat against the supervillains that Cruz's police force are unable to handle on their own.
    • It's eventually revealed that Cruz suffered childhood trauma in seeing his father die at the hands of a villain when a past superhero was too late. So really, Cruz's hatred stems from one personal experience, and while certainly traumatic, he's too prideful to let go of his prejudice.
  • Subverted in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, where at first the sudden and repeated appearances of villains who Princess Celestia and her Royal Guards couldn't hope to handle on their own only started up after a group of six ponies armed with artifacts fueled by The Power of Friendship showed up and took down Nightmare Moon. Then in the Season 5 finale a villain manipulates time to remove Twilight and her friends from the equation, resulting in repeated Bad Futures where all these villains still showed up right on time and one always inevitably defeated Celestia and either took over or destroyed Equestria — turns out the timing was just incredibly lucky.
  • Defied in Miraculous Ladybug. In the origin story, Hawk Moth attempts to turn Paris against Ladybug and Cat Noir by accusing them of being responsible for his attacks. Ladybug flatly turns it around by firmly declaring that he's the villain, not them, and the events of said origin story make it clear that neither hero gained their powers or were even aware there were powers to gain until after Hawk Moth fired the first shot by turning Ivan into Stoneheart, motivated by nothing but his own personal benefit.