Follow TV Tropes

Following

Police Are Useless / Comic Books

Go To

  • 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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.
    • Advertisement:
    • 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.
      • Simon Dark takes place almost entirely in the Gotham Village neighborhood. The only cop who shows up for anything in the Village without shooting bystanders or just keeping their blinders up is Detective Tom Kirk, and while he's far from useless he also reports to the guy who revived him rather than his superiors on multiple occasions, covers up criminal activity and beats the hell out of suspects. It's sort of understandable he's gone zombie cowboy cop though, as he quite justifiably does not trust the rest of the GCPD and he's basically bulletproof and hiding what he is and his own murder from the department.
    • Advertisement:
    • 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.
    • That applies to a lesser extent in a Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider Man issue where Spider-Man is suspected of a Felony Murder in a burglary and Peter gets to the scene of the crime as a reporter for The Daily Globe that he was legitimately working for at that time.. The police note that Spider-Man has been framed for murder before and find evidence of The Prowler was there instead. Unfortunately, the police also find Peter's improvised backpack made of webbing that Peter neglected to hide adequately on the roof, and now has to deal with the situation that the police now have evidence that Spider-Man was in the area that night, making him a legitimate suspect and Peter is no position to explain it.
    • 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.
  • Zigzagged in Superman Smashes the Klan. William Henderson is a black police detective who calmly and professionally does his job and rushes to help the Lees after the Klan tries to set their house on fire. But when Tommy is kidnapped, Roberta bangs on a police car window to get help from the old white officer inside, only for the officer to brush her off and complain about how Asian-Americans get things without having to work for 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.
  • Police don't seem to exist in Empowered. Several times, Ninjette has to fight off serious attempts to kidnap and/or murder her, in a public park, and even though the fights go on for some time, no police appear.
  • In the Disney Mouse and Duck Comics the police isn't useless, just outmatched by many of the situations they find themselves in:
    • Whenever the Phantom Blot shows up or Pete gets enough time to build himself up, the police has to rely on Mickey, as they're simply too formidable. That said, Mouseton has a pretty low crime rate, and the police has explicitely become better at its job with the addition of Rock Sassi (who, while quite the ditz, is just plain unstoppable once the criminals are identified), with the occasional success even against Pete after he has build himself up a decent base.
    • In Duckburg the police explicitly relies a lot on help from Paperinik (Donald's superhero/antihero alter ego). It had not always been the case, but rather an unintended consequence of Paperinik being so efficient at stopping criminals that the city has slashed their funding and they don't have enough manpower anymore, to the point that one story where Paperinik had apparently lost his touch had the chief openly declare that they'll stop the expected crime wave simply by hiring more officers and get back to their old efficiency.
      • In Paperinik New Adventures Paperinik's reputation takes many hits, resulting in the police getting back their funds-and being able to match two large gangs armed with energy weapons.
    • Usually Subverted by the military, as whenever they show up they put up quite the fight against their opponents (to the point the Evronian Empire doesn't dare to invade Earth without sabotaging them first, as they'd suffer enormous losses without a guarantee of victory). That said, the trope was played straight four times:
      • In one occasion, Phantom Blot had created a device allowing him to control and command water on a large scale, and threatened to use it to turn the water around Calisota into ice and freeze the city. A carrier group turned up to stop him... And was overwhelmed by a horde of ice monsters attacking from below, with any damage they caused to his iceberg base being repaired by the coastal waters.
      • In the PKNA reboot the world militaries proved completely ineffective when the Evronians launched an all-out attack... Because Evronian shape-shifters had infiltrated every single base and sabotaged their weapons.
      • In the Paperinik New Era story "Might and Power" we see that in the Bad Future a small remnant of Evronians had overran Earth in a month. Said victory is implied to be the result of being caught completely by surprise, as when Paperinik manages to get out a warning in the normal timeline it's the world's collective militaries to crush the Evronians before they can build up according to plan, with only a single small ship managing to escape.
      • Again in Paperinik New Era, the US Army is powerless when Moldrock takes over Duckburg. Then again, Moldrock is a Physical God that would later mop the floor with the entire military of the planet Corona, and the US Army wasn't willing to resort to nukes up until Paperinik too had failed
Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report