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The Collector

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"The collector comes
The collector buys
And the kids who wait get a rude surprise
It isn't for the joy of the toys, expect
The collector to be there…
Just to collect!"
Al McWhiggin, "The Collector" from the Toy Story 2: Sing-Along cassette

This page is about the trope. For the 1967 movie, go here. For the 2009 movie, go here. For the Canadian TV series, go here. For the 1963 novel by John Fowles or the film based on it, go here. For The Owl House character, go here.

One of the characters runs afoul of the Collector of the Strange, who decides to add them to his collection. Usually this is seen in Speculative Fiction: the collector is an alien, often of the sufficiently advanced variety, and the collection is only revealed at the end in a Twist Ending. But he could just as easily be a slaver or an obsessed lunatic in a present or past setting. He's prone to saying "It Must Be Mine!" and "If I Can't Have You…, no one can!"

Where the horror of being added to a collection is not the point of a Twist Ending, then the remaining cast members mobilize to rescue the kidnapped individual — and usually free all the other "specimens" in the collection in the process.

A variation sometimes seen in children's shows has the collector stealing the character's unusual/unique pet. Vulnerable to Interrogation by Vandalism. If they have somewhat altruistic motives, their "collection" will be a comfortable Fantastic Nature Reserve. Of course, it may just be a Gilded Cage... Compare Living Doll Collector and Living Museum Exhibit.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In One Piece, Giolla/Jora is a Mad Artist who turns people, usually combatants she defeats, into works of art she keeps at her residence once they're dead as part of her "permanent collection."
    • And then we have Big Mom, who collects strange creatures and uses the power of one of her sons to trap them in books forever, the victims are alive by the way.
  • In Pokémon 2000, the villain targets the three legendary birds Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres in order to force the legendary Lugia out of hiding, so he could have them all in his collection. Of course, the real problem for the heroes wasn't just that he was merely collecting, it was that his attempt disturbed the balance between the three birds which led to global weather chaos.
  • Mikogami Hayato from Sekirei, who aggressively pursues any Sekirei that catches his fancy in an effort to grow his collection. His behavior is very much like a Pokemon master, even declaring that he wants one because it's a rare fire-type!
  • Noah in the Soul Eater manga collects things he find interesting by sucking them into a Tome of Eldritch Lore.
  • In Space☆Dandy, Ukuleleman says that he collects "smiles." What he means by this is playing Magic Music from his ukulele to his victims, causing them to uncontrollably smile and laugh which eventually petrifies them, then puts their bodies in his backyard. When Space Dandy takes a visit to Ukuleleman's mansion, he discovers at least fifty victims, including both of Dandy's friends. Due to Ukuleleman's Blue-and-Orange Morality though, he doesn't see anything wrong with what he does, and he only really gets upset if anyone removes anything from his collection.
  • More than one Shinma from Vampire Princess Miyu capture and collect people.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX has a minor character named Giese Hunt, a self-stylized Duel Spirit hunter after Johan's prized (and - until Episode 130, nonexistent) Rainbow Dragon Duel Spirit to add to his collection of trophies, even capturing his Sapphire Pegasus Duel Spirit as bait. Not surprisingly, this fixation stemmed from a childhood trauma where he was the victim of Duel Spirit theft.

    Comic Books 
  • While Brainiac's origins vary, his goal is always to collect a piece of every civilization on all worlds. Since the 1990's, this has usually been followed by an attempt to then destroy the rest of that civilization.
  • Larfleeze, the ONLY Orange Lantern in Green Lantern comics has this as his defining character trait. He's powered by greed itself and will not be sated until every single treasure in existence is his and the "other" Orange Lanterns are constructs of his ring, with their personalities powered by the souls of victims he's collected.
  • In 2007, an alien villain named The Auctioneer captured Superman and several dozen other heroes. Guess what he planned to do with them?
  • Galactus's ship was found to contain mementos from the planets he devours, fragments of the various civilizations lost.
  • Kate ran into one of these in Hellboy while trying to find an alchemical guide that would let them rebuild Roger the Homunculus. He would only give it to them if Abe became his prisoner. Kate ended up freeing the demon The Collector had enslaved and it killed him.
  • The Marvel Universe has an Elder of the Universe known as The Collector, whose mania for collecting is so strong it makes him immortal. (Or maybe he took up collecting to keep himself from going mad because he was immortal. After doing it for billions of years, it's often hard for even him to remember.) He's tried to collect The Avengers and other heroes more than once, but he's got more than one Artifact of Doom in his collection that you wouldn't want anywhere else: he's got better means of protecting them than some entire worlds have, and he's going to keep them just to have them rather than actually try using them. There's a reason why in Thor: The Dark World, he's the only one Thor trusts with The Aether.
  • At the height of his madness, Kraven the Hunter's son Alyosha kidnapped animal-themed superhumans (including Bushmaster, Gargoyle, Tiger Shark, Kangaroo, Aragorn, Vulture, Mongoose, Man-Bull, Dragon Man, Swarm, Mandrill, Grizzly, Frog-Man, and Rhino) and kept them in a "zoo", until it was sabotaged by The Punisher.)
  • Robin (1993): The Curator has an odd version of this shtick. Eye contact with him turns the victim to stone until the next sunrise, so his "exhibits" are temporary but he still likes to build them out of as many people as possible (with a preference for those who are "interesting") and walk among his collection of "art".
  • In Sillage #2, Enshu Atsukau wants to add Nävis to his "collection".
  • One issue of Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) had the main cast kidnapped by Car-Heem, an alien collector from the planet Weet ("Car-Heem of Weet"...get it?).
  • Tom Strong was once captured and imprisoned in a comic book with other "science-heroes" by Horatio Hogg, Collector of Champions.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1 #106: Tooroo , a giant alien, tries to collect Diana for his significant other Rikkaa who has a charm bracelet decorated with "souvenirs" from other planets.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Garfield strip, Jon finds a box that Garfield is saving:
    Jon: It's full of mailman hats!
    Garfield (grinning) I'm collecting them.
    Jon: What happened to the mailmen?
    Garfield (surprised) They've escaped!!

    Fan Works 
  • The Caretaker in Rocketship Voyager sends out his K'zon Space Pirates and Hirogen hunters to seize sentient species and unique technology, with the prize exhibits displayed in his personal archive, and demands a Terran female in payment for allowing Voyager to use his Portal Network to return to Earth. He's actually a front man for the Psiborg Collective, who use the Caretaker to secretly add species and technology to their Hive Mind.

    Film — Animated 
  • Toy Story 2 is about Woody getting "kidnapped" by a collector who wants to sell him to a museum in Japan. Woody is actually a toy, though.
  • Done in the xxxHOLiC film, A Midsummer Night's Dream when Yuuko gets an invitation stating that her 'collection' is not complete. She brings Watanuki and Doumeki along with her into a mansion where there are several other collectors that collect rare things. It later turns out that the person that invited them there is a collector that collects collectors who collect unusual things. He keeps both their souls and their collections in individual rooms. He started because someone who was close to him collected something, and asked him to start a collection too.

    Film — Live Action 

  • Chronicles of the Kencyrath: Prince Ozymardien is the cousin of King Sellik XXI. He gets the wealth and prestige of royalty with none of the responsibilities of it, so he just lives in the city of Tai-tastigon being incredibly wealthy and collecting stuff.
    Cleppetty: He collects things. Jewels, furs, ivory, people. Last year, for example, he took to wife the most beautiful virgin in the Eastern Lands—and rumor has it he's kept her just as received, in a collection like his, you understand, there's no place for a damaged article.
    Jame: How frustrating for her.
    Cleppetty: As you say, but the point is this: if you dance particularly well before him, he's liable to collect you.
  • John Fowles' 1963 novel The Collector features a psychologically unstable butterfly collector "collecting" a young woman he has seen around town, and keeping her in his cellar. It was also adapted into a film.
  • The title character in Roald Dahl's short story "The Landlady" is implied to be a homicidal one of these.
  • In The Last Unicorn, King Haggard is obsessed with owning every unicorn in existence and used the Red Bull to drive them into the sea.
  • Maburaho has Shino Akai, a ghost collector. Her stated goal is to make a certain ghost actually main character Kazuki, who became a ghost after giving his life to heal Yuna a part of her collection.
  • In the Nightside novels by Simon R. Green there is a character who is called "The Collector." He has unique items from the past, the future, and alternate time-lines. He is also fairly paranoid about other collectors stealing from his collection. He once went so far as to store his collection on the Moon. Didn't stop John Taylor from accessing it, though.
  • Pale: Lawrence T. Bristow is a collector of Aware: individuals who have been exposed to the supernatural but have not learned to use magic, often afflicted with supernatural affects (which they may or may not be aware of). Rather than bother with kidnapping, he prefers to simply offer them low rent in an apartment complex he owns, which allows him to fit them into a massive magical diagram. He often trades lowered rent with individual tenants to undertake various tasks for him; as the Aware are not bound by magical rules like most magical practitioners this can make them surprisingly deadly.
  • In the first Percy Jackson and the Olympians book, the heroes visit Medusa's garden-statue store. Guess how she makes the statues.
  • The Trafalmadorians in Slaughterhouse-Five kidnap the main character, take him to their planet, and display him in a zoo. Lessons about free will and predestination are learned.
  • In the Strange Matter series, the villain of the first Strange Forces novel was named The Collector. He possessed a collection of supernatural horrors from all parts of the world that he used to attack Fairfield from Fairchild Manor.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Criminal Minds:
  • Doctor Who:
    • A variation on this in "The Space Museum".
    • It also turns up in the Expanded Universe novel "The Last Dodo" featuring a museum dedicated to endangered species throughout the universe with a curator quite interested in a certain Last of His Kind Time Lord.
    • An example from the new series turns up in "Dalek", in which the eponymous Dalek is the prize specimen in Henry van Statten's museum of alien artefacts. Upon realizing what the Doctor is, van Statten tries to collect him as well.
  • The US government is this according to Eerie, Indiana: especially an agency named the Bureau of the Lost steals things (and keeps them) in order to force people to buy new stuff.
  • Farscape: Zhaan is captured by a plant collector.
  • Frontier Circus: A mild example is Duke Felix Otway in "The Race". He specialises in finding people whose talents he admires, and the manipulating them into joining his entourage, and making it effectively impossible for them to ever leave his service.
  • Logan's Run: In "The Collectors", the Kasorlans travel from planet to planet and abduct two specimens belonging to the dominant species in order to determine whether the relevant planet is suitable for invasion at a later date.
  • In the Masters of Horror episode "Cigarette Burns", the millionaire collector Bellinger collects various films depicting extreme acts. He's also keeping a mutilated angelic creature locked up in his gallery as part of his collection of La Fin Absolue du Monde.
  • In an episode of Night Gallery, a gangster seeking safety from his many enemies ends up under the "care" of a retired doctor who collects rarities, and promises the gangster a safe, long and comfortable life — as part of the doctor's collection.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Most Toys", Data is kidnapped by Kivas Fajo to add to his collection of unique objects. At the time, everyone (including Data) thought that Lore, the only other sentient android in the known world, was dead.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • "People Are Alike All Over" ends with apprehensive astronaut Conrad finding that the house the seemingly-kind aliens have built for him is actually a cage in a zoo exhibit.
    • In "Stopover in a Quiet Town", a married couple wake up in a small, deserted town, only to find out at the end that they are toys in a giant alien's playset.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Stranger in Possum Meadows", Scout was sent to Earth to collect specimens of numerous life forms, including a deer and a dog, for his people to study. Danny Wilkins is chosen as the human specimen and is briefly placed in cryostasis aboard Scout's ship. However, he is soon freed as Scout's thoughts turn to his own family and how he would feel if something happened to one of them.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In the mythos, some Beholders collect statues of interesting-looking characters to decorate their lairs.
    • A lot of medusas have done this too, but many in later editions are much smarter, avoiding keeping the petrified remains of their victims as trophies; if potential victims come into their lairs and see such things, what's the first assumption they're going to make about who the lair belongs to?
  • The vampire Luthor Harkon in Warhammer Fantasy Battles collects dead sailors (as zombie pirates in his fleet) and Mayincatec artefacts in a hope to get his magical powers back. He is also utterly insane.
  • Trazyn the Infinite, a Necron Overlord in Warhammer 40,000, has this as his particular quirk, with an entire planet dedicated to collecting and preserving artifacts, vehicles and living beings for pleasure and posterity. Notable exhibits include an ossified Enslaver husk, a gigantic man in baroque power armor and the severed head of Sebastian Thor, one of the Imperium's most beloved saints.

    Video Games 
  • Darkest Dungeon has the roaming boss the Collector, who wanders the estate to collect the heads and souls of your fallen heroes. He keeps them under his yellow cloak, and can and will use them to defend himself should the player encounter him.
  • Hollow Knight has a boss outright called the Collector, who's responsible for all the captured grubs found across Hallownest and has many other captured specimens (alive or not) within its tower. If the player loses to it they'll find their shade captured as well upon respawning.
  • The main antagonist from the first LittleBigPlanet, appropriately named The Collector, goes around the various levels kidnapping major characters in the background.
  • Pâquerette Down the Bunburrows: Pâquerette has an unhealthy obsession with getting the bunnies and getting every crossbreed of bunnies. When she senses cat hair in one of the cages she feels repulsed.
  • The entire plot of Mass Effect 2 revolves around fighting an enemy known as the "Collectors," who are named for their tendency to "collect" samples of unusual and unique biological specimens for genetic experiments. They are abducting human colonies, are actually working with the true villains of the series, the Reapers, and are repurposed Protheans from the last time the Reapers invaded. In the end Shepard's own crew is abducted, and the final part of his/her mission is a rescue op to bring them back. Unlike many of the other examples on this page, their goal is not to display their victims, but to dissolve them into their genetic components and build a new Reaper from human goo.
    Joker: (on Thane) Oh, another dangerous alien aboard, Commander. Thanks. Why can't you collect coins or commemorative plates or something?
  • Sirius in Mega Man Star Force 3 who collects planets and stars with a black hole.
  • Conroy Bumpus in Sam & Max Hit the Road does a Villain Song about being one of these.
  • Cyrille Le Paradox, the Big Bad in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. He is introduced as a wealthy museum owner who collects historical artifacts via time travel and plans to steal the Cooper clan's canes throughout history to form his own collection to achieve revenge on them.
  • Admiral ZEX, in Star Control II, who owns a "menagerie" of creatures that he personally finds fascinating. Unfortunately, among the creatures he finds fascinating are humans and other sentient life forms.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Otome game Nameless has Eri, who unknowingly collects sentient dolls. Due to plot circumstances, they become much more animated!

    Western Animation 
  • In what may be the strangest example ever, Ringo Starr from the cartoon The Beatles. In the episode "Ticket to Ride", the others are revealing their hobbies (painting, science, etc.), and it turns out that Ringo likes to kidnap women and put them in bird cages ("bird" being Liverpool slang for "girl"). Fortunately, he's really bad at it; he's only managed to trap one girl, and she escapes during the course of the episode.
  • One villain from Bonkers, a toon that collected other toons, was actually called "The Collector". Only it turns out he wasn't actually a toon. He was a crazy human who thought he was a toon. He remained in denial even after his mask was torn off, screaming "I'm a toon! I'm a toon!" It was incredibly creepy.
  • The Buzz Lightyear of Star Command episode "A Zoo Out There" features the Chlorms, who regard every other species as "lesser beings", kidnapping members of the Galactic Senate (and eventually Team Lightyear) to put in their zoo.
  • In the Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers episode "Three Men And A Booby" — stop that snickering, unless it's because of the Three Men and a Baby reference — an obsessed egg collector collects a booby egg. The mother booby enlists the Rangers' help in reuniting the egg with her. They end up hatching his entire collection.
  • Danny Phantom had a Villain of the Week, Skulker, who collected various kinds of ghosts, and wanted a half-ghost for his collection.
  • Spoofed in the Futurama episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before," where a Sufficiently Advanced Alien is the galaxy's biggest Star Trek fan (actually second biggest, after Fry), and kidnaps the cast of the show.
  • D.N. Amy from Kim Possible is an obsessive collector of Cuddle Buddy animal dolls, which plays a part in her Mad Scientist theme of creating animal hybrids. She eventually makes Rufus and Steve Barkin into one giant living Cuddle Buddy for her collection.
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness: General Tsin in "The Most Dangerous Po", who capturing the most dangerous villains in China and imprisoning them as his personal collection. Also an example of Hunting the Most Dangerous Game and The Jailer.
  • ¡Mucha Lucha!, "The Collector" features an alien trying to collect masked wrestlers.
  • The Owl House has Collectors, which are mysterious cosmic beings who like to observe all living things, and then, as the name implies, collect them so that they can be preserved for all eternity. If the life-forms don’t give in, then they just destroy their planets. The show features one particular Collector, simply called “The Collector”, who is young member of their species. The Collector doesn’t seem to know many other members of their species, so they aren’t fully aware of what they like to do. They view other life forms as their playmates, and in their own, strange way, seem to care about their playmates deep down.
  • Big Mitch, the Evil Poacher from Phineas and Ferb.
  • Popeye Meets the Man Who Hated Laughter is about a man trying to end laughter by imprisoning the characters from the Sunday funnies.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): The episode "Collect Her" finds our titular heroines being captured by Lenny Baxter, a comic book geek who has collected every piece of Powerpuff Girls merchandise in existence and, desperate for more, has decided to add the Girls themselves to his collection. He is defeated when the townsfolk track him down and torture their whereabouts out of him by removing his valuable toys from the boxes.
  • An Anti-Villain called The Collector appears in the episode "The Brooklyn Triangle" of The Real Ghostbusters. He has been "collecting" random things for 10,000 years trying to find the key to escape, as he was an ancient Ghostbuster imprisoned by a demon. When he finally finds it, he escapes and returns everything back to Earth.
  • In the Rick and Morty episode "Morty's Mind Blowers", Rick and Morty are shown to have been captive in a menagerie, and escaped by replacing themselves with unwitting doubles in a parody of Contact.
  • Parodied in a Halloween episode of The Simpsons, wherein the Comic Book Guy kidnaps his favorite celebrities, including Tom Baker, Matt Groening, and Lucy Lawless, and encases them in mylar bags. The villainous alias he chooses really is The Collector.
  • As in the films, General Grievous repeatedly mentions his collection in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
  • Superman: The Animated Series:
    • The two-parter "The Main Man" featured both Superman, the last surviving Kryptonian, and Lobo, the last surviving Czarnian, being captured by an alien called The Preserver, who kept a menagerie of such creatures (he even had a dodo among them).
    • Brainiac, who ensures that his collected data is one of a kind by destroying the planet he got it from.
  • In the Sushi Pack episode "Collect 'Em All," The Collector captures the Sushi Pack to add to his collection, but gives them one chance to win their freedom in a remote controlled car race.
  • The episode "Freebird" from Tangled: The Series had a couple collecting birds by tempting people into drinking tea from their magic tea pot so they could turn themselves into birds and enjoy the freedom of it. After the person had had their fun and returned for the antidote, they would be put in a cage until they succumbed to The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body.
  • Safari Joe in ThunderCats (1985) was a guy who was the equivalent of an Egomaniac Hunter for such a setting, and as racist as any example of that Trope. Deciding to try to hunt the Thundercats simply for the thrill, he didn't even see them as sentient, even when they spoke to them. (Or if he did, he just didn't care.) What made him dangerous was that he was savvy, and had a robotic assistant named Mule who could analyze his prey beforehand and figure out the best way to prepare. Unfortunately for him, Lion-O was too hard to analyze, and the villain found himself seriously Out-Gambitted against him.