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Series / Who Wants to Be a Superhero?

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Stan Lee and the cast of Season 2
"Today, I am a wiener. Not a winner."
Major Victory, Who Wants to be a Superhero

Who Wants to Be a Superhero? is a reality show hosted by Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man, the original X-Men, The Incredible Hulk and the Fantastic Four. Contestants dress up as comic book superheroes of their own invention.

Each week, Lee challenges the contestants to represent what "superheroes are all about." The twist is that almost every challenge has a second Secret Test of Character that will be obvious to the viewer. Each episode, one or more of the superheroes deemed the least deserving is eliminated. The grand prize for the winning superhero is to have his or her character star in a Dark Horse Comics comic book written by Lee. They also have a cameo appearance in an original movie to be aired on Sci Fi Channel; whether or not this can be considered a reward is debatable.

A UK version aired on CBBC in early 2009. Instead of adults, the contestants were children. The programme was hosted by CBBC presenters Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes while Stan Lee merely contacted the heroes through a television set to give them their missions and later give a debriefing. The premise is basically the same mentioned as in the above paragraphs. The prize for the winner is to go to Hollywood and be turned into a comic book hero by Stan Lee. Unlike the American version they did not appear in their own TV movie, and the winner's comic was not sold in the shops.

The two winners of the two American competitions are Matthew "Feedback" Atherton (Season 1) and Jarrett "The Defuser" Crippen (Season 2). The winner of the UK version was Karl "H2O Man" Harris.

This series provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Misnaming:
    • In the UK version, presenter Mark got called "Mike" a couple of times.
    • The character "Lemuria" has nothing to do with lemurs, or the mythical lost land of Lemuria. She was supposed to be called Lumeria.
  • Alliterative Name: Levity's secret identity was Tobias Trost.
  • Anti-Villain: The Dark Enforcer could be seen as a Type 1. Even though he was a menacing supervillain and held a grudge against his former teammates, he still worked for Stan Lee (referring to him as "boss"), didn't hurt the superheroes' family and friends when he "interviewed" them, and gave himself up once the remaining three heroes stopped him from blowing up Universal Park.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Pretty much everyone, Feedback especially.
  • Atrocious Alias: Having a hero name like Basura? In Tagalog (and in Spanish), it means rubbish/trash. She knew what the word meant and chose it because her costume was actually made from things she found in the trash.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The giant clone of Stan Lee, which is created by stealing electricity or something. As one IMDb poster put it, "Oh no, a giant old man is on the loose! Somebody head him off at the county buffet!"
  • Badass Normal: The Defuser's concept, and appropriately, he usually winds up leading. (It helps that he's a police officer in real life.) Also, when you get down to it, all the contestants are Badass Normals. Or at least they want to be.
  • Back for the Finale:
    • At the end of the season, several of the heroes come back to congratulate the winner on their victory. Special note goes to the first season's villain, Dark Enforcer, who shows up at the end to congratulate Feedback in his old Iron Enforcer outfit as if to signify that he's turned back to good.
    • In the UK version, in the penultimate episode, all of the depowered superheroes came back for a special party to find out which of the final three superheroes had won the contest.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Dark, in both Season 2 and the UK spinoff season.
  • Big "NO!": In the UK version, Dolphin Girl, on realising she has given away her real name and other personal details to the reporters and that Dr. Dark is likely to have heard it.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Lumeria, in the episodes leading up to her elimination, started behaving in her talking head interviews and in the lair less like a superhero and more like a stereotypical reality show contestant, getting into arguments with Fat Momma, talking about how she's in this to win and won't let anyone get in her way, and being the only contestant confirmed to have recommended themselves for elimination for purely cynical reasons. Ironically, despite the nature of the show, she was not eliminated for this behavior, but rather simply for being the only contestant to fail a challenge. She was also voted on the show, rather than being hand-picked by Stan Lee.
  • Blown Across the Room: Dr. Dark's defeat at the end of Season 2 has the Defuser, Hyperstrike, and Hygena send him flying through a door with a combined blast. Of course it was a stage fight, but that doesn't take away from the awesome.
  • Bootstrapped Leitmotif: Inverted. A slow, dramatic reprise of Feedback's Leitmotif was used to underscore Feedback's incredible feat of successfully bonding with a convicted murderer and hugging him, and since then it's been used repeatedly in different situations even when Feedback isn't even present, including in Season 2 where Feedback isn't even a contestant.
  • Bound and Gagged: The pet shop owner in episode five of the UK version. Sam and Mark get the same treatment a number of episodes later.
  • Brain Bleach: Dr. Dark is implied to need this after having his evil clone of Stan Lee order Hygena to sing and dance. It's so amazingly awkward that all Dr. Dark can say is "Okay, Evil Stan... let's... never do that again."
  • Broken Aesop:
    • An episode of the UK version has Sam and Mark remind the viewers that superheroes should never accept rewards for their deeds, to the extent that Dolphin Girl was powered down because for accepting a pound coin as a reward. One episode later, Nine Lives receives a reward (immunity from the power down). A couple of the superheroes were not happy.
    • Some people think Ty'Veculus got a raw deal, since he is famously called out for dishonesty when he pretended to like an intentionally badly-designed new costume Stan gave him, and yet later he is eliminated because he was honest about who he felt should be eliminated rather than lying by offering himself up.
  • Butt-Monkey: An unintentional example with Ty'Veculus. The poor guy just cannot catch a break.
  • By-the-Book Cop: The Defuser, the winner of Season 2 in the US, was this for the most part. A case of Truth in Television, since he was a police officer in Real Life.
  • The Cameo: Feedback, the winner of the USA version's season 1, shows up in the first episode of Season 2 to tell the new contestants that they have made it into the show. He also makes a cameo in the Sci-Fi original Mega Snake, something that the commercials for that movie made sure to play up despite him only having two minutes of screen time (though he does successfully drive the Mega Snake off and save an entire crowd of people.
  • Catchphrase: Most of the contestants in the UK version had one, though Nine Lives's was probably the most memorable - it was his "theme song".
    Five, six, seven, eight, Nine Lives! Nine Lives! Nine Lives!
    • It was later parodied by Dr. Dark after he got hold of his secret identity file.
      Five, six, seven, eight, NO LIVES!
    • Ty'Veculus had the particularly hammy, "By the source of light, I am Ty'Veculus!" However, this was arguably one of the best that the series ever offered.
    • You want hammy? Try Major Victory. "Be a winner, not a wiener."
  • Captain Ersatz: Mr. Mitzvah, in Season 2, originally entered as Peaceman, a character he'd invented and previously used as part of his charity work. When he learned he'd have to sign away the copyright to the character to be part of the show, he came up with the Mr. Mitzvah persona instead, which is pretty much just Peaceman with a goofier costume.
  • Captain Obvious: "Meet Monkey Woman. She is a woman who sounds like a monkey!"
  • Chest Insignia: Major Victory, Levity and Nitro G, among others.
  • Civvie Spandex: The Defuser wears a tactical vest over his costume.
  • Code Name: Part and parcel of the superhero schtick.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: The contestants get held to an extremely high standard, especially as Stan starts running out of people to eliminate.
  • Conscience Makes You Go Back: In the first episode of Season 1, the heroes face a "race to the finish" challenge, but there's a crying little girl right in front of the finish line. Cell Phone Girl sees the child sobbing, runs past her toward the goal...then stops, turns around, and goes back over to help her. This is actually the right decision, as the whole thing was a secret test, and saving the girl was the actual goal of the challenge.
  • Cool Old Guy: Stan Lee himself.
  • Determinator: Oh, so many, but to pick one for each season...
    • Season 1 had Monkey Woman. In episode 2, the heroes had to cross a yard to the back door of a house with two attack dogs pulling them away. Three candidates rushed the door and made it in under thirty seconds. Five others try, but quickly cry uncle (literally - that was the safe word). Monkey Woman, however — she fights the dogs back and forth across the lawn for nine minutes and forty-two seconds to finally, successfully make the door.
    • Season 2 had Hygena, a hero who is just a little compulsive about cleaning, having to dive into several messy challenges one after another. You can see her on the verge of freaking out several times — but each time she fights it down, and often takes a position of leadership to power through it. She ended the season as the only contestant who never voluntarily gave up on a challenge.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: This bites Creature in the ass twice, though it doesn't get her eliminated. The first time was when Rotiart recorded her openly flirting with every attractive male contestant (particularly Iron Enforcer), which caused Stan Lee to question her motives for joining the competition, and the second was when an attractive male cafe worker easily manipulated her into exposing her secret identity (others were manipulated by their attractive servers, but she was the one most blatantly taken with hers).
  • Ditzy Genius: Ms. Limelight Claims to have gotten straight As all through high school and college.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Played for Drama in the "Eliminate Someone" challenge in Season 1. Stan tasks the superheroes to nominate someone to be eliminated. Ostensibly, the "right" solution is for each contestant to nominate themself as a Heroic Sacrifice, but Fat Momma and Ty'Veculus fail by naming someone else—Feedback and Lumeria, respectively. But while Ty'Veculus's criticisms of Lumeria come across as mean-spirited, Fat Momma (who only chooses someone after being strong-armed into it) ultimately picks Feedback because she sees that the competition is extremely Serious Business to him, and fears that he might genuinely get hurt if he continues to pour himself entirely into every aspect of the show. Stan Lee recognizes that even though Fat Momma didn't meet the rule he had set, her decision is based on compassion and concern rather than improving her own chances at winning, and getting the answer wrong for a sincerely well-meaning reason is enough to keep her from getting axed.
  • Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help: Enforced by Stan Lee as part of the Secret Test of Character for the challenges. Stan praised contestants who stopped what they were doing to help innocent bystanders, such as a lost girl crying for her mother.
  • Elimination Catchphrase: "*contestant's name*, turn in your costume."
  • Face–Heel Turn: Iron/Dark Enforcer, after it was pointed out to him by Stan himself that he'd make a much better supervillain than he made a superhero.
  • Fanservice: Most of the superheroines and their self-made costumes were at least reasonably titillating, and many were downright stripperific - Monkey Woman and Creature in season one are good examples, and Creature at least seemed to visibly appreciate Iron Enforcer's costume. But perhaps the best example is an unnamed applicant who we see rejected in the first episode who "for distraction purposes" fights topless.
  • Fat and Proud: This is Fat Momma's whole gimmick—she's not ashamed of her size and, in the penultimate episode, wins a challenge of getting schoolchildren to vote for their favorite hero by offering a speech about how it's OK to be different. Earlier, it's revealed that this wasn't always the case—she tried numerous diets and exercises programs while in college—and Stan calls her out for the double standard.
  • Flanderization: Parthenon in Season 2 started out as Straight Gay, like Levity from Season 1; but a few episodes in, he began to act ridiculously Camp Gay and remained that way for the rest of the show.
  • Friend to All Children: Easily one of Fat Momma's greatest traits. She's one of the few to stop and help the little girl in the first challenge and won by a landslide in the elementary school challenge due to her heartwarming speech about being yourself.
  • Fun Personified:
    • Major Victory, who deliberately played his role over the top.
    • Also Hyper-Strike from Season 2, with his exaggerated Dragon Ball Z-esque moves. It helped that he was actually a stuntman, so he was actually doing flips and high kicks. Excellent!
  • Genki Girl: Cell Phone Girl and Creature in Season 1 and Ms. Limelight in Season 2.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • Several nice cases. In Season 1, Lemuria passes the self-nomination challenge and smugly tells the cameraman later that "Stan will have to try a lot harder to outsmart me like that." (See Tempting Fate below.) In Season 2, Hygena is the only one to consider that Dr. Dark is lying when he implies that one of the heroes is a spy (as indeed he was).
    • Feedback, being an Ascended Fanboy who had grown up reading Marvel Comics, managed to win most of his challenges (and ultimately, the season) by being this. He treated the scenario seriously and acted as if he were a real superhero all the way through, which meant he was exactly the sort of person Stan was looking for.
  • Giant Spider: Episode 12 of the UK version featured one.
  • Green Aesop:
    • In the UK version, S.G.W.'s mission - his initials stand for Stop Global Warming. To an extent, H2O Man who stressed over the merits of water in the penultimate episode whilst filming his promo video.
    • Creature in Season 1 of the US version was also about being eco-friendly.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Secret Test of Character for the challenge that eliminated Ty'Veculus in season 1 is based in this. Stan gives the heroes the chance to pick one of their fellow heroes to eliminate and then give the reason why. The correct answer is for the heroes to nominate themselves to be eliminated, not their fellow contestants, which all but two of them seem to realize. In the end, Ty'Veculus is eliminated instead of Fat Momma, because his criticism of Lemuria comes across as harsh; Fat Momma's nomination of Feedback, on the other hand, was made out of genuine concern, because she felt he was taking the show too seriously and she didn't want him to get hurt.
  • Hero with an F in Good: Iron Enforcer. Lampshaded:
    Stan: You make a lousy superhero. But you'd make a great supervillain.
  • Hidden Depths: With Major Victory, this became apparent almost immediately; despite his first foray into superheroism being incredibly hammy and goofy, he was one of the few people to actually pass the first Secret Test of Character. Seeing him go from his ridiculous silly run to genuine (though still hammy) heroism is almost jarring.
  • Hidden Purpose Test:
    • The contestants were told they had to secretly change into their costumes and make their way through a busy park to a particular spot within a time limit. Along the way they passed a young girl who was crying. The contestants who stopped to help her, blowing their time limit, were the ones who passed.
    • There was also a test where they were asked to nominate a contestant to be eliminated and explain their reasoning. All but one recommended themselves, as they'd got to know each other a little by now. (And a couple realised the point of the question.) The odd one out recommended another player he really liked, but had noticed struggling with some of the challenges.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Since this is a reality TV show that promotes superheroic behavior, rather than backstabbing "winner takes all" tactics, every contestant who was eliminated was legitimately eliminated due to having a failing of some kind or a major-screw up. The only exceptions were Rotiart (who wasn't a real contestant and in fact part of a challenge, thus having to leave of his own free will once his role was over) and Fat Momma (for whom no explanation for her elimination was given):
    • Levity was eliminated due to his own greed getting the better of him, signing onto this show just to profit off toys made of his character.
    • Nitro G, while not the only one to pass up the little girl looking for her mother, was the only one to fail the first part of the challenge, by changing into his superhero costume in public rather than look for someplace inconspicuous first.
    • Cell Phone Girl was eliminated out of cowardice, since she quit a challenge in 4 seconds (she had a headache, but this apparently did not impact Stan Lee's decision).
    • The Iron Enforcer was eliminated for acting like a jerk, rather than like the superhero Stan Lee was seeking. This is a bit of a subversion, however, because Stan liked the guy so much that instead of sending him home, he made him the Dark Enforcer instead.
    • Monkey Woman was eliminated because Stan Lee found out she'd lied to him about her profession, and she gave away her secret identity to a civilian right off the bat, as opposed to the other contestants who either had to be cajoled into it (or, in two cases, refused to give out their secret identities altogether).
    • Ty'Veculus was eliminated for trying to throw Lemuria under the bus to save his own skin. (Fat Momma also tried to eliminate Feedback, but this wasn't held against her because she did it for Feedback's own well-being, reasoning that he took the competition so seriously that staying in it for much longer could have emotionally destroyed him, and Stan felt that reasoning was superheroic enough to pass the test.)
    • Creature was eliminated for breaking the law on television (by jaywalking) and thus setting a bad example as a superhero.
    • Lemuria was eliminated because she was the only contestant (out of the remaining four) not to win the "dangerous inmate" challenge.
    • Major Victory was eliminated because his Large Ham behavior came across as too much of a "parody of a superhero," rather than the way an actual superhero would behave.
  • Hypocrite:
    • In the costume upgrade episode for season 1, Ty'Veculus was criticized by Stan for not being up front about not being totally happy with his new look. In season 2, however, Hyper-Strike was very open about his dislike for Stan's upgrades, and was subsequently criticized for not being open to change. However, this is possibly justified in that Stan said he appreciated Hyper-Strike's honesty, and the issue he took with him was that he kept on sulking and pouting about it afterward.
    • A bigger example would be in a later season 1 episode, in which the contestants needed to say whom they would personally eliminate if the choice was up to them. Ty'Veculus was completely honest that he felt Lumeria should be eliminated, rather than saying that he should be eliminated while not sincerely meaning it. And yet his honesty gets him eliminated since the challenge was about self-sacrifice, even if that self-sacrifice was a lie.
    • Fat Momma catches a police officer in this, pointing out that he's writing a parking ticket for someone while he himself is parked in a place he shouldn't be.
    • In another Fat Momma example, the first "Dark Enforcer" challenge has the villain contacting people from the heroes' lives to share embarrassing secrets about them (like the cleanly Feedback's wife telling the heroes that he is a slob at home, or Major Victory's past as a go-go dancer). Fat Momma's sisters reveal that she was not always Fat and Proud, and went on many diets and exercise programs to lose weight when younger. This puts her up for elimination, as it seems to undercut her whole heroic persona.
  • Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: As noted above, Creature got in trouble for this, because she was jaywalking and thus breaking the law on live television, setting a bad example. Stan is always watching!
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mr. Mitzvah in Season 2, who, despite acting like a rude, antisocial bigshot with a serious case of Never My Fault, still uses his immense wealth to make regular donations to help poor children.
  • Jerkass: Mindset from the second US season. Aside from insulting Ms. Limelight, he deliberately failed a challenge by refusing to spell words the (incorrect) way the villain wanted them spelled, getting his teammates stung by bees in the process.
    • According to Mindset, at least in the second case, he was refusing to play by Bee Sting's twisted rules and banking on that being the secret challenge of the day. (On this show, stranger things have happened.) But it turned out it wasn't, and he was reprimanded for putting himself above his teammates, who had no say in his choice even though it affected all of them, and they were understandably not pleased.
    • The Iron/Dark Enforcer from the first season. He often very abrasive and acts like he's above all the other contestants, regularly criticizing them (particularly Fat Momma). He's apparently a lot nicer in real life.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Despite being a jerkass, Mindset's reasons for unintentionally sabotaging his team in the spelling bee were actually correct in a sense. What the heroes were expected to do (and did) accomplished absolutely nothing heroic. They got themselves kidnapped, pandered to their captor's demands that 2+2 = 5 until she let them go, and then she got away scot-free. Had Mindset been alone in that challenge and not endangered any of his teammates, his decision to suffer the bees rather than compromise the integrity of the English language would unarguably have been the truly heroic and brave choice.
  • Large Ham: Pretty much everyone, Stan Lee included. EXCELSIOR! indeed.
    • Deconstructed in one unusual case, where it caused someone to be eliminated. After managing to make it to the final three contestants (along with Fat Momma and Feedback), Stan Lee finally decided to eliminate Major Victory because Major Victory's behavior had been too consistently over-the-top, and Stan Lee didn't want a "parody" of a superhero to win the contest.
  • Leitmotif: Each of the contestants gets one.
  • Majorly Awesome: Major Victory, who was originally Captain Victory until Stan Lee changed it, saying that Major sounded better. It was also possibly due to legal reasons since someone has already made a Captain Victory.
  • Most Common Superpower: The comic book versions of the superheroes tend to be more muscular (for males) or have bigger breasts (for females) than the real-life counterparts. Subverted with Fat Momma, whose comic book cover showed her as a hulking powerhouse.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The editors sometimes go crazy with the special effects.
  • Never My Fault: Mr. Mitzvah had this problem. He was up for elimination three times in a row (with the third strike getting him out), and each time, rather than tell Stan why he ought to allow him to stay, he justified the reason for which he'd been put up for elimination.
  • '90s Anti-Hero: Iron Enforcer, which got him eliminated. Stan is looking for something closer to The Paragon, which is why he feels Iron Enforcer, a character whose schtick is about killing his enemies, would make for a terrible superhero, but a great villain.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Mindset accuses Ms. Limelight of this in season 2 episode 2, and she does not react well at all.
  • Older Than They Look: In the UK version, Santh and S.G.W. are 20 and 360 years old respectively (well, their characters are).
  • Only in It for the Money: The first contestant eliminated in the first season of the US version, Levity, got cut after admitting he'd joined the show with hopes of marketing the hell out of his character. Stan wasn't thrilled to have someone sign on out of sheer greed and tossed him out. Ironically, Levity claimed in the interview following his elimination that Stan had misread and misrepresented his reason for being there, as he actually had a political agenda of wanting to give kids exposure to a homosexual superhero and prove that such a hero could be a role model and successful superhero just as much as heterosexual superheroes.
  • The Paragon: The kind of superhero Stan Lee is ultimately seeking. This is probably why some contestants were eliminated despite having the potential to be interesting comic book superheroes on their own merits.
  • Quote Mine: Regarding Mindset's behavior towards Ms. Limelight, the "Last time on..." segment for the subsequent episode made him sound way worse than he really was, by making it sound like he flat-out told Ms. Limelight that she was dumb; in reality, that quote was taken from part of a sentence where he said he didn't think she was dumb, that he thought she was smarter than she was letting on, and that it was just Obfuscating Stupidity on her part.
  • Race Against the Clock: Many of the challenges involved this. However, the very first example was a subversion, because stopping to help a little girl look for her mother would not help anyone beat the clock, but it was the right move. After all, does a superhero care more about winning a contest by racing against the clock in hopes of glory, or actually helping people who need them?
  • Reality TV: The series was a reality show on the Sci-Fi/Syfy channel for its first two seasons, and on the CBBC for the kids' spinoff.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Aside from Monkey Girl, who simply ran past the crying child waving her staff happily, those who ignored the child, focusing on the timer instead, had good reason to fail the Secret Test of Character. There was no mention of why there was a countdown clock. Many of Marvel's comics had the villain set up an explosive device with a timer, and a hero who stopped to help a lost child, rather than deal with the countdown, would have actually put the child, him/herself, and untold numbers of others in danger from the risk of whatever the explosive's payload is.
  • Rousseau Was Right: This is arguably the entire theme of the series, or the very least the trick to figuring out the "secret" part of the various Secret Tests of Character described below. In any of the scenarios that Stan Lee devised as contests, the right thing to do was help others (even if it meant ostensibly doing worse on the given challenge), support the other members of the team even though they were the competition, and generally be as selfless as possible.
  • Scarf of Asskicking: Hyperstrike had one. It was absent from his new costume until he seemed to add his old scarf to his new costume between scenes. Good thing too, because it wound up saving the day when he and the other heroes were trapped inside of a metal storage unit.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: "Rotiart backward is... traitor!" Interestingly, Rotiart wasn't actually a "traitor" in the villainous sense, but in the sense that he was a plant of Stan Lee's and not a real contestant. Why? Because Rotiart's job was to have conversations with all the contestants at the beginning to weed out people who were in the contest for selfish reasons... like Levity, for example, who was then eliminated for wanting to use the contest to promote his own toy merchandise. Apparently, people really do fall for Sdrawkcab Names in real life, even when it's spelled out for them right across his chubby chest.
  • Secret Identity: It's one of the basic rules of the show that the contestants are never to break character by "revealing their secret identity" to the public (that is, giving their real name or admitting they're contestants in a show or — in the UK version — giving away their hometown). Breaking this rule may be cause for elimination; in fact, this, along with her having lied about her real-life occupation, got first-season contestant Monkey Woman eliminated without even the usual chance to defend her actions to Stan.
    • It wasn't so much the fact that she gave it away, as most of the others had, as well; it was that she gave it away voluntarily, and as part of introducing herself to the contact.
    Monkey Woman: (on hidden camera) I'm Monkey Woman, a.k.a. Mary.
  • Secret Test of Character: The show might have been called "Secret Test of Character: The Series," because nearly every challenge had one hidden in it. Justified, because Stan Lee was completely serious about looking for a super hero, not just someone who could follow his instructions in hopes of winning glory and fame; he pointed out that while it was impossible to judge someone's non-existent superpowers, he could determine a person's motives and inherent kindness based on this sort of test. The secret tests of characters were all related to whether or not the contestants could actually act heroically in the face of temptation, difficulty, etc. To give just a few:
    • In the first episode of the first season, the heroes were tasked with pulling a Secret Identity Change Trick somewhere in public, then racing to a goal line, with the instruction that whoever got the fastest time would be the winner. However, the producers planted a little girl crying that she'd lost her mother right before the finish line; the real test was to see who would stop and help the girl, even if it meant getting a longer time.
    • One first-season episode had the contestants helping an old woman who'd locked herself out of her house by crossing her backyard...which was full of large angry dogs. The heroes donned protective gear to get across, and while the challenge was ostensibly about who could do so fastest, Stan gave special praise (and immunity from elimination) to those who took a long time, but refused to give up—it was actually a test of perseverance.
    • In another first-season episode, Stan told the group that they had to pick someone to nominate for elimination. Nearly everyone immediately figured out that the "trick" was to nominate themselves, with Lumeria giving a rather Smug Snake boast to the confessional camera bragging that she expected better from Stan. She was eliminated in the next episode.
    • By the second season, the producers realized that the contestants were getting Genre Savvy and that they'd have to up the ante on the Secret Tests. As such, the heroes were just as likely to be wrong about the "real" test as they were the right one. For example, in one challenge, the heroes were split into teams and had to pass a "Spelling Bee" hosted by bee-themed villain Bee Sting. Because she was obsessed with her insects of choice, the heroes were expected to spell out the word "B-E-E" in the place of every "B" that appeared in her game. The contestant Mindset incorrectly deduced that the actual challenge was to show courage and conviction by not listening to her rules and instead spelling the words correctly...unfortunately, failure to comply with Bee Sting's demand led to her releasing actual bees into the booths where the teams were standing. Mindset refused to give up his assumption and kept getting more bees thrown into the booth, which led to his elimination.
  • Serious Business:
    • Stan Lee, while mostly acting like the Cool Old Guy we all know and love, is very serious about finding a superhero, and when the contestants don't live up to his standards, his look of disapproval is not pretty.
    • Being a superhero was this for Feedback: He grew up idolizing Stan Lee's comic book heroes and wanted to be just like them, so while on the show, he rigidly stuck to his superhero persona and followed the "rules" of being a superhero as he'd learned from the comics. In the "Nominate Someone To Go Home" challenge, Fat Momma, after initially refusing to pick anyone, chose Feedback very reluctantly because she feared that he was taking the game too seriously and might have a terrible reaction to losing. Though she was put up for elimination for not nominating herself, Stan acknowledged that she didn't select Feedback maliciously and thus showed kindness, which saved her from leaving.
  • Shout-Out: In the final battle against Dr. Dark, Hyperstrike does a Kamehameha attack while shouting "HY-PER, HY-PERRR BLAAAAAST!"
  • Smug Snake: Dr. Dark is intentionally played as this. He talks in a raspy voice and spends his screen time boasting about how evil and brilliant he is. Then when his big plan in the second season fails, he confronts the superheroes personally and gets beaten up in a fight that lasts about a minute and a half.
  • Special Guest: The UK version featured Danni Harmer (known for playing Tracy Beaker), Best Of Friends presenters Abs and Rani, Prank Patrol presenter Barney Harwood and one of the presenters of Newsround. And a Season 2 episode of the US version featured Rob Van Dam making an appearance to give the contestants kickboxing lessons.
  • Spell My Name With An S: Lumeria spelled out her name in her audition - Lum- as in light, seeing as her powers are light-based. That didn't stop the show from spelling it "Lemuria", implying lemur powers.
  • Take a Third Option: Fat Momma tries to do this in the "Elimination Vote" challenge by refusing to participate. Unfortunately, it's subverted when Stan says that she has to choose.
  • Team Dad: In Season 2, eventual winner The Defuser took on this role to some contestants, most notably Whip-Snap and Ms. Limelight.
  • Tempting Fate: After passing the self-sacrifice challenge, Lumeria said, "Stan's gonna have to do a lot more than that to outsmart me." And Stan did just that. By the end of the next episode, Lumeria is eliminated for not completing her part of the convict challenge (sitting on the convict's lap for 10 seconds).
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Iron Enforcer was constantly criticized for having a BFG as his power, which he explicitly stated on day one that he'd use to kill his enemies. The second-season contestants caught on and explicitly declared their abilities to be non-lethal.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Ms. Limelight. Her greatest moment was when, during the course of the season, Stan pointedly asked her what kind of powers she had. She stood there and went "Umm..." for a good five minutes because she'd evidently never given the background of her character any thought.
    • There's also Nitro G from the first season in the USA. One of the first challenges required the heroes to find a place to change into their costume in the middle of a public park and then Race Against the Clock to a predetermined point. While most of the heroes failed the real test — a Secret Test of Character (i.e. noticing a lost child and then stopping to help her) — Nitro G was the only one who failed the first part of the challenge... by stripping down to his skivvies and changing into his costume in an open field in broad daylight!
    • Mindset yelled at the "supervillain", refusing to play her game, her way, when he, and his fellow contestants, were trapped in bullet-proof glass cases being filled with dangerous insects at the "supervillain's" whim. If this wasn't a TV show, he and his fellow contestants could well have died.
  • Tranquil Fury: Outside of scolding the contestants for partying at the beginning of season 1, whenever Stan Lee is disappointed in the contestants, he gives them a very cold disapproving frown. It's rather unnerving because he's usually such a jolly old guy.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Stan Lee will tell an eliminated contestant to turn in their costume. They are then required to take off various pieces of their costume, such as wristbands or the like, and put them into a trash can before leaving.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Whip-Snap kept her inhaler in her costume's bra piece at all times in case her asthma acted up (which it inevitably did).
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Of all the contestants on the show, none are as underdeveloped as Levity, due to being eliminated in the first twenty minutes of the first episode. Most people would probably forget he was in the show at all if not for the fact that he remained in the opening credits for the rest of the first season's run.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Feedback was eventually chosen as the winner when the final challenge was just between him and Fat Momma. No reason or explanation was given as to why Fat Momma won second place and Feedback was chosen as the winner, but Fat Momma took it graciously despite the lack of given explanation.
  • What the Hell, Player?: Stan really lays on the guilt for the contestants in episode 1 of season 2 when all of them failed to notice the lost dog. "For all I know," he said, "that dog's still there!", which was followed by the sounds of a dog barking.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Contestants frequently get to deal with any phobias they have, whether it be tight places, roller coasters, insects, or, yes, snakes. One memorable example is Lumeria from Season 1, who was terrified of high places and broke down in tears when one of the tests included them.
    • The snakes example was for Parthenon, who got penalized (though not eliminated) for letting out a girly scream when he accidentally touched one.
  • Wrench Wench: Creature works as an auto mechanic in real life.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Several contestants tried to employ tried-and-true "reality show" backstabbing tactics, failing to realize that the show was serious about looking for a superhero. And heroes aren't selfish, lying, backstabbing reality-show creatures. (Usually.)
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Mr. Mitzvah turned this trope up to 11. His catch phrase? "L'chaim! To life!"