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Police Are Useless / Comic Books

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  • In Batgirl Year One, Barbara Gordon goes to a Police Ball, and they are attacked by Killer Moth. Hundreds of cops against a guy with a glue gun and less than half a dozen thugs; and the only ones who do anything are the Teen Genius bibliotecary with five-inch heels and Bruce Wayne dressed as a harlequin. Police can't be more useless!
  • Averted in an early Captain America story when the Sentinel of Liberty is trying to stop a number of destructive Sleeper robots. He decides he can't stop them on his own and races to a military base and they take little persuasion to help the superhero fight the machines.
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  • The Runaways' first approach to discovering their parents are supervillains is to call the cops. Alex's explanation that their parents are all supervillains does not get them much aid. Part of this may be the extent of influence their parents have. Alex is also deliberately making their story sound insane.
  • In superhero comics, police officers and security guards are rarely more than an annoyance for even the lowest-level supervillain. There are occasional subversions, however, when they save the hero's life or capture the criminal before the hero does.
    • One such example is the Metropolis Police Department Special Crimes Unit, which was organized to oppose supervillains as best they can. More importantly, they got their own mini-series to show that they are very good at their work. Mirrored in Superman: The Animated Series where Dan Turpin saves Superman or stalls the villain long enough for Superman to catch his breath and recover. The SCU gets to fight off alien invaders while Superman prevents natural disasters they are causing, and Turpin squeezes in a Heroic Sacrifice to rescue Superman from their leader.
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    • The Gotham City Police Department also got their own ongoing series that highlights the difficulty of being a cop in a city full of costumed whackjobs. In the first story arc, they need Batman's help to apprehend Mr. Freeze, but run down the new Firebug on their own after he murders a girl who discovers his Secret Identity. Being Gotham, especially in the early years of Batman's career, it wasn't so much "Police are Useless" as "Police are Corrupt or Too Scared To Be Useful". Perhaps best illustrated in Kingdom Come where the Metropolis PD apprehends the Joker after he's released poison gas in the Daily Planet, before Superman.
      • In a more general sense, this trope is averted more in Batman, where the GCPD or at least Gordon and co are important allies of the Bat, than it is in most superhero comics where it's played straight.
      • However, Gotham City is considered this in-universe; at least once, Gordon has mentioned that he cannot get work as a cop outside of Gotham, because if you're not from Gotham, you don't understand what the city goes through on a regular basis; all they see is a man who needs a lot of help from a loon dressed up in a special costume but who has no powers.
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    • Another subversion occurred as far back as the 1960s in an early Spider-Man comic, where Spider-Man tracked down the crime boss known as the Big Man and captured most of his gang for the police but the Big Man gets away. Thinking that the Big Man is his boss, J. Jonah Jameson, Peter Parker returns to the Daily Bugle in hopes of helping the police catch him. It turns out, though, that Peter was wrong, and the police managed to track down the real Big Man, who was in fact reporter Frederick Foswell.
    • In Spider-Man comics not only are the police largely useless but they also attack Spider-Man on an almost constant basis, because of Spider-Man being falsely accused of a crime. Thus, the police would try to capture Spider-Man for several issues, sometimes even going to ridiculous lengths. Naturally, Spider-Man would be cleared of the crime, only to be falsely accused of something else a few issues afterwards.
    • Played with when Otto Octavius became the Superior Spider-Man as in the early going, Otto would call the cops for backup before attacking a villain's lair. Stuck in Otto's mind, Peter Parker would muse on how he never considered that. Of course, as the series goes on, Otto's arrogance makes him assume he knows better than the cops, which bites him big time in the climax.
    • Lampshaded in The Unbelievable Gwenpool where the titular character Gwen is from the real world and lays out that the reason why there are so many villains and heroes is because this trope is in play.
  • Averted in Starman. The O'Dares, a family of policemen (and woman), regularly help Jack because his father saved their father. They start by capturing the Mist while Jack fights the Mist's son and keep up that track record throughout the series. Jack & his father consider them friends and celebrate Christmas with them.
  • Elk's Run looks like a case of this at first, and the initial two policemen sent to investigate don't survive very long. However, it's a major plot point that Conservation of Ninjutsu does not apply to the cops—if reinforcements come, everything's over.
  • Powers is about averting, subverting, playing straight, and generally deconstructing and reconstructing this trope in a world of supers. Powered people aren't allowed to be cops, and the main characters work in a super-homicide department trying to catch and police people who can kill other supers. They're fairly effective most of the time, but other times they get completely stonewalled by politics, lawyers, most supers' celebrity and wealth, and the general difficulty of figuring out means, motive, and opportunity when powers and larger-than-life personalities come into play. If an actual fight breaks out they're often in trouble without a friendly super anywhere nearby.
  • Belgian Comics: This is a staple in nearly all the comic strips made in Belgium, where dumb, vain and power-mad policemen are always arresting the wrong suspects, forcing the protagonists to slow down their cars when they are speeding behind criminals or chicken away when real danger is about.
    • Tintin: Thompson and Thomson are two bumbling police inspectors who try to arrest Tintin throughout most of the early albums and are easily fooled and tricked by everyone.
    • Quick and Flupke: Agent 15, a Manchild, who is pretty stupid.
    • Piet Pienter en Bert Bibber: Commissaris Knobbel in particular always arrests the wrong people, releases the villains and tries to credit himself for all the work other people do. He's not alone, though, all policemen in this series keep causing more trouble than actually helping our heroes.
    • Suske en Wiske: Another comic in which policemen aren't particularly helpful in solving crimes and usually obstruct the heroes from arresting the real criminals.
    • Urbanus: René and Modest are two incompetent policemen who just want to beat up everyone they meet.
    • Agent 212: Agent 212.
    • De Kiekeboes: Inspecteur Sapperdeboere, who usually is more interested in food than solving cases.
  • Tom Poes: Officer Bulle Bas, who constantly suspects Bommel to be guilty of any crime that takes place in Rommeldam.
  • The Archie Mega Man comics surprisingly subvert this, as the police are shown to be fairly competent under normal circumstances; it's just that bleeding-edge killer robots are a threat that they're not exactly equipped to handle.
  • Fully justified in the case of one of the Law Machines in Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire - New Hong Kong has no laws. If there are no laws, it's impossible to enforce them.
    • That said, it's subverted at the end of the Teleporter arc - the Teleporter's solution to the problem of an entire planet in peril is not to teleport each person off it individually. It's to teleport the entire planet to a different orbit. One which happens to be in a system which has laws against the exact activities that X-Tel was doing in order to get Godot to play nicely with them. And the Teleporter then teleports the space station that the X-Tel executive in question is on at the time to the same system.
  • Subverted in the My Boyfriend Is a Monster volume "Wrapped Up In You", when two police officers investigate a break-in at the museum. They are correct in interrogating the protagonist and her friend, as both were involved. Later, when it becomes clear that magic is real and being used to harm others, the same officers help the lead, including one having to unexpectedly take the wheel when the heroine is magically blinded. The reason they don't help out for the climax is because the car is magically crashed, incapacitating them.
  • The Black Knight: At the start of the Black Knight's rampage through Duckburg, a police officer shows up to take the Black Knight in. The indestructible suit just dissolves the cuffs, and he mocks the officer by dissolving his police cruiser.
  • Judge Dredd generally goes for the overworked/understaffed approach. What crimes a Judge responds to do get handled, it's just that there are so many crimes and so few Judges that a large number of crimes are not responded to, and that's not counting all the ones that don't even get reported.
  • All-New Ultimates: Lana is supposed to be free on parole, and not use her powers, but she can go as far as to join a superhero group with no problem. She said that his parole officer is either dumb as dirt or doesn't care.

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