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"Captain Cold... Captain Boomerang... they probably would have gone for it if I was a captain."
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There is a definite prejudice in Superhero comics towards using force rather than reason to sort things out. As a result, a fighting man with a military-sounding background gets more respect than a thinking man with a doctorate or a medical qualification. This is probably an inheritance from the early days of comics, where the patriotic World War II setting made military good guys obvious. The rank of "Captain" probably became common as, in the Army, it is low-ranking enough to be approachable and avoid the inevitable moral ambiguity of the most senior ranks, but high enough to deserve some respect.

The upshot of this is that characters whose names begin with "Captain" are almost always good, unless explicitly subverting this or a Nazi. (In the case of a Nazi, or in the case of German officers from many other periods, the correct title Hauptmann could occur.note  If the Nazi Captain is referred to as Kapitän we might have a research mistake, since Kapitän exclusively refers to the navy (Kriegsmarine) and merchant marine. Another trap for the unwary is referring to an SS officer of this rank as Hauptmann when he would in fact be a Hauptsturmführer.)

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"Commander" carries similar connotations to "Captain." As a naval rank, it's a likely designation for commanding officers in Space Navies.

Not necessarily The Captain; in fact, The Good Captain is rarely seen leading anyone, despite his rank.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Captain America: Good. Was briefly "Nomad" and later "The Captain" before Nextwave's version, but went back to America. Still good. Was actually a Captain in the US Army before getting frozen and being listed as MIA.
  • Captain Atom: Good, but occasionally falls into Knight Templar; led to the accidental destruction of Kansas in Kingdom Come. Note that he originally actually had the rank of Captain in the Air Force, but was later promoted to Major.
  • Captain Britain: Good.
  • Captain Canuck: Satirical but good.
  • Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! — Captain Carrot: Also good.
  • Captain Comet: Good.
  • Captain Marvel (Marvel Universe. Multiple Incarnations): Good, although the Genis-Vell incarnation was a Knight Templar and completely off his rocker.
    • Currently Carol Danvers: Good. Was actually a Major in the US Air Force, meaning she outranks Captain America.
  • Captain Nazi: A hero of his nation, but as his nation was Nazi Germany, evil.
  • Captain Rectitude was not actually a made-up example. Bad. Also badly dressed.
  • Dynamo5: The titular Captain Dynamo — Good.
  • Empowered: Capitan Rivet: Good, and one of the few Superhomies who at least tries to avoid openly laughing at Empowered.
  • Enemies of The Flash:
    • Captain Cold: Evil.
    • Captain Boomerang: Evil.
    • The above two led to a Lampshade Hanging in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Flash and Substance," where they teamed up, and the Trickster laments that they never bought into his ideas, saying, "Maybe if I were a captain they'd listen to me."
  • Jack Staff: Kapitan Krieg is a Third Reich Super Soldier, but more of a German patriot than a Nazi and hence a Noble Demon / Worthy Opponent.
  • New England Comics: Captain Liberty — Employed as a hero by the US government. Purposely given a name that would make people assume she's a man.
  • The Captain of Nextwave: Grand mockery of this trope.
    • HIS NAME IS THE CAPTAIN!!!
  • Hauptmann Deutschland, Marvel Comics' German equivalent to Captain America. Good. Despite this name directly translating to "Captain Germany," when issues featuring him were licensed and translated in Germany, they changed his name to Freiheitskämpfer ("freedom fighter") to avoid any implications of Nazism. Later on he was renamed Vormund ("legal guardian") in America.
  • Captain Jan Haring from Jommeke: Good.
  • Captain Oliepul from Nero: Good.
  • Captain Skæg from Rasmus Klump: Kindhearted.
  • Shazam!: Captain Marvel (The DCU. Currently known as Shazam!): Good.
  • Captain Haddock from Tintin: Good.
  • Captain Wal Rus from Tom Poes: Good, but grouchy.
  • Watchmen: Captain Metropolis — Good... but bigoted.
  • Mad Magazine's Captain Klutz (a Don Martin creation), who is good but goofy and got his name and position purely by accident.
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    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Commander Lyle Rourke is a subversion of this, and a good one too. There are a couple hints in his dialogue that he's not what he seems, but overall he does a good job faking the audience out and setting up the reveal.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame's Captain Phoebus — the one from the Disney adaptation. The original was kind of a jerk.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • A Brother's Price: Captain Raven Tern. Good.
  • Discworld's Captain Carrot: Good.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea's Captain Nemo: It varies, depending on the interpretation used in the film/story in question.
  • Treasure Island's Captain Smollett: Somewhat reprehensible (except when played by Kermit the Frog), but basically good. Captain Silver: Ostensibly the villain, but far more affable.
  • Aubrey-Maturin: Captain Jack Aubrey - Good Dude, Badass.
  • Captain Horatio Hornblower - Good. Hornblower's sidekick eventually becomes Captain William Bush - also good. In fact even the 'evil' Captain Sawyer was really a figure of pity due to his increasing insanity, and had been good until he cracked from the stress of war.
  • Moby-Dick's Captain Ahab - Antihero or Villain.
  • Captain Underpants: Good, but dumb.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events's Captain Widdershins: good.
  • Island in the Sea of Time's Captain Marian Alston: Badass lesbian samurai. Obviously good.
  • Destroyermen: Plenty of good and bad examples over the long series. Captain Matthew Reddy starts out as a lieutenant commander, but eventually get promoted to full captain, and only after much pleading from everyone. He refuses promotion to admiral, but still becomes commander-in-chief of the First Fleet, while also retaining command of his destroyer USS Walker. The most obvious example of an evil captain is Hisashi Kurokawa, the captain of the battlecruiser Amagi, although he later becomes "General of the Sea" (the Grik don't have admirals). There are also army and marine captains in some novels.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blackadder'':
  • Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future — Captain Power: Good.
  • Doctor Who and Torchwood:
    • Captain Jack Harkness — starts out a bit dodgy, but turns good once he meets the Doctor. note 
    • Captain John Hart — Captain Jack's Evil Counterpart.
  • Firefly's Captain Malcolm Reynolds: Tries to be a Jerkass. But underneath it all....
  • Star Trek: The Original Series's Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise. Good.
    • Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise-D and E. Good.
    • Captain Johnathan Archer of the Enterprise. Good.
      • Captain Jonathan Archer of the ISS Enterprise. Evil.
      • Even the good Archer made some questionable choices, such as committing outright piracy against a ship in distress.
    • Commander Benjamin Sisko of Deep Space Nine. Good.
    • Captain Kathryn Janeway of the USS Voyager. Good. Noticing a pattern yet?
    • Mirror Captain Gabriel Lorca of the USS Discovery. Morally ambiguous until The Reveal, where he turns out to be Evil All Along. When Chris Pike takes command in season 2, the contrast couldn't be more stark. In season 3, Saru finally loses the "acting" prefix after Burnham passes on command and starts wearing a uniform with a gold trim. This also makes him the first hero ship captain in Trek who isn't human or Vulcan. He's also new at this and tries to learn from other captains he meets, such as Pike and even Admiral Vance.
    • Captain Carol Freeman of the USS Cerritos in Star Trek: Lower Decks. And Captain William T. Riker of the USS Titan, of course.
    • The Klingons are the only other power in the galaxy that actually use the rank Captain, and they're also much more frequently allies to the heroes than the Romulans, Cardassians, Dominion, etc. Beta canon has Captain Klag of the IKS Gorkon, whom Riker befriended aboard the IKS Pagh. He finally got his own command (a new Chancellor-class cruiser) after becoming the Sole Survivor, losing an arm, and killing a dozen Jem'Hadar single-handedly (pun intended). In one novel the Gorkon even fights side-by-side with the Enterprise-E.

  • Babylon 5:
    • Captain Sheridan — Good, though with a wicked destiny complex.
    • In Season 5, Captain Lochley — Good, but much more ambiguous due to her being an unknown to the rest of the crew and obviously keeping secrets about her past. It is revealed that she is Captain Sheridan's ex-wife.
    • Crusade Captain Gideon — Good, but definitely keeping secrets from his crew.
  • Captain Kangaroo: Good.
  • Lost's Captain Gault: Good, after some uncertainty. He opposes Keamy's plans and helps Sayid.
  • Lampshaded in Top Gear (UK) by James "Captain Slow" May (Good, compared to his cohorts).
  • Chuck's "Captain Awesome" Devon Woodcomb - Awesome.
  • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger's Captain Marvelous - Good by means of being Goukai Red.
  • Classic Battlestar Galactica's Captain Apollo
  • Discussed in the Big Bang Theory. Sheldon assigns the rank to himself when taking Paintball too seriously as it's a high a rank as one could have but still be in the field rather than doing paperwork back at base. Of course he doesn't match the approachablity part of the trope.
  • Captain Dylan Hunt of the Andromeda Ascendant and Captain Beka Valentine of the Eureka Maru. Both good.
  • seaQuest DSV: Captain Nathan Bridger of the titular submarine. In season 3 gets replaced by Captain Oliver Hudson. The latter is more militant but still good. The former used to be more militant but got cured of that by his son being MIA.

    Puppet Shows 

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue's Captain Butch Flowers: Good, and disturbingly nice towards his men- until it turns out he was actually Evil All Along and his kindness was an act. (No word on whether his captaincy was faked too.)

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

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