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  • Both Marvel and DC Comics live by this trope. The late-great Stan Lee referred to this as "the illusion of change". The basic idea is to make it seem as if things were changing in the life of a character… but, in point of fact, have them remain exactly the same. They've really put themselves into a Catch-22 situation, they can change things around and kill off characters and whatnot, but killing popular characters will cause an uproar among fans; if they pursue their current strategy of keeping things the way they are, then people get to come on this wiki and put them here in this trope for not changing anything.
  • Batman
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    • The Riddler reformed in 2006 and became a private detective. Not only is he good at it and indulges his obsession a bit, but it changed him morally for the better. Of course, a few years later, a severe head injury sent him right back to his villainous ways.
    • Another Batman foe: Poor Harvey Dent is a victim of this. No matter how many times his face and sanity are restored, soon he is driven back to his (half)disfigured face and insanity, even in some out-of-mainstream-continuity stories, like Batman: Black and White. In an Alternate Future from Frank Miller's limited series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, only his face is restored, not his sanity. From Bad to Worse: His good side vanished, leaving him all "normal" outside and all monstrous inside.
    • Grant Morrison acknowledged this in his run, where Bruce was temporarily "killed off" during Final Crisis and Batman R.I.P., leading to Dick Grayson becoming the new Batman. Morrison has flat out stated that he knew there was no way in hell DC and Warner Bros. would ever let him permanently replace Batman, so he purposefully structured the story in such a way that left the door open for Bruce's return. He also admitted that he killed off Bruce's son Damian for similar reasons, since having a kid clashes too heavily with Batman's iconic "brooding loner" image. Damian has since come back, however. (It helps that he's even more of a brooding loner than Bruce.)
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    • The Barbara Gordon incarnation of Batgirl eventually had this happen. In the well-acclaimed graphic novel The Killing Joke, she was shot in the spine by The Joker, rendering her permanently paralyzed. Barbara then took on the persona of Oracle, working behind the scenes to aid the Bat-Family with her hacking skills and computer expertise, during which she became an inspiration and idol for many real life disabled readers, and led the Birds of Prey. Also, during that time there were two different Batgirls: Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown, who became fan-favorites in their own right. But after the 2011 reboot New 52, Barbara was back on her legs as Batgirl, despite spending almost exactly half her publication history as Oracle.
      • Averted concerning her long-time ally and love interest, Dick Grayson, the original Robin, after he became Nightwing. As he was succeeded by several others in the role of Robin, most prominently Tim Drake, as well as the general census that the Nightwing identity is much more badass, interesting, dramatic, and sexy than the Robin identity, the idea of him returning to being Robin is incredibly unlikely to ever happen. This, of course, causes some resentment for those who were fans of Oracle, as its seen as unfair that Barbara isn't allowed to outgrow her identity as Batgirl, but Dick returning to being Robin is unlikely to happen, with many seeing it as a Double Standard.
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    • There are stories where Jim Gordon is removed from the post of Commissioner only to end up back in the post. While naturally some of these are the result of ongoing subplots such as the early stuff with Hamilton Hillnote  and the Batman comics between Knightfall (including Prodigal) and Contagionnote , others are done after other stories.

      Officer Down saw Gordon resign after getting shot (though the decision was based more on his age and the fact he missed his second wife, Sarah Essen, than the fact that his shooter seemed to get away with it). That was the status quo for five years until Face the Face, part of the One Year Later Time Skip of Infinite Crisis, which saw Gordon return to the role of Police Commissioner, (as well as Harvey Bullock return to the force after being forced out by Gordon's successor Michael Akins when he got wind that Bullock sold out Gordon's shooter to the mob and Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face after his face was fixed in Batman: Hush). Despite his name being cleared, Gordon wasn't reinstated in the end of Batman Eternal and even wonders what he'll do now, a Sequel Hook to Superheavy, where he becomes Batman after Bruce's presumed death in Batman: Endgame. Superheavy not only ends with Bruce once again as Batman, but Maggie Sawyer, who'd become Commissioner during the final issues of Eternal, returning to the MCU and Gordon being reappointed Commissioner.
    • The course of Superheavy and DC Rebirth would also see the events of Eternal and Endgame undone as Alfred gains a new hand after the Joker cuts it off in Endgame and Bruce regain control of Wayne Enterprises, Wayne Manor, and his fortune after losing them in Eternal.
  • One of the most obvious and dramatic examples is Guy Gardner, who lost his power ring after it was destroyed by Parallax. Guy went on to get a full rework, including new powers, a new look, a new supporting cast and a new job. This lasted for several years—about a year and a half of which was actually in his own ongoing monthly—until Geoff Johns wrote Green Lantern Rebirth, which snapped him back to his '80s status quo without any real explanation. While he may be back to being a Green Lantern, his character is not what it was in the 80s and 90s as he's changed over time. Gardner isn't the dumb obnoxious jerk he used to be, though his attitude is somewhat similar. Instead he's simply a jerk with an attitude on the surface, showing far more depth of character and loyalty beneath, particularly with Kyle Rayner. And that awful bowl haircut is gone too.
  • X-Men
    • Charles Xavier was introduced as an invalid who uses a wheelchair. Several times during the comic's run, Xavier has regained the use of his legs. It's only a matter of time until something reverses this situation, either undoing whatever allowed his legs to heal or sustaining a new injury.
    • Marvel seems to think the concept of the X-Men doesn't work if mutants aren't feared and hated by everybody, so any progress they make is inevitably undone. Grant Morrison's run had mutants gaining some acceptance among the younger generations and developing their own culture. Then House of M comes along and the mutant race is reduced to around 200 survivors. And then comes Avengers vs. X-Men, where thanks to the actions of Cyclops and the Phoenix Five, mutants are once again repopulated. In a strange twist though, mutants are more accepted now, especially by leftwing college students (similar to how LGBT rights tend to be a sticking point for this crowd in real life) after Cyclops' actions, both during the decimated time and as a Phoenix avatar where, in the former, he did a lot to gain good press for mutants as well as reminding people how powerful the X-Men are and unwise it is to attack them, and in the latter, used his godlike power to better humanity and solve many third-world problems. But, government handling has now intensified with the renewed risk of omnipowerful mutants wrecking havoc, Police Brutality has became more common, and mutants who can't defend themselves and live in hostile areas are in serious risk. In general, things have gotten better but still have a long way to go, which is a reality for real life minorities.
    • Speaking of X-Men, Rogue possesses the power to absorb the psyche and powers of those she touches. When she was first introduced, these powers were uncontrollable and this fact was often a source of angst for her. Her powers would frequently change and she would even occasionally lose them, only to have them inevitably return as uncontrollable as ever. Then, after nearly thirty years of publications, Rogue finally gained control over her powers during Messiah Complex with help from Professor Xavier. However, come 2014 and Uncanny Avengers, Rogue has once again lost control over her powers and has permanently absorbed Wonder Man's power and psyche, essentially reverting her to how she was when she was first introduced. She even goes on a crazed rant about how she'd been through the whole ordeal already and commented that she couldn't even stand the thought of having to do it again. Having Wonder Man in her head probably didn't help either.
    • Grant Morrison created the villain John Sublime as meta commentary on this trope. Mutants are a natural threat to him, so he intentionally manipulates events to keep them in a constant state of cyclical fighting so they can't band together and stop him.
    • Sabretooth is the newest case. He was inverted into a good guy during AXIS and decides to follow Logan's example by finding his own Wolverine. The first book he was in got cancelled due to SecretWars, then he went to Bunn's Uncanny X-Men. He joins the team & continues his quest for redemption while developing budding relationship with Monet St. Croix, whom he was very protective of. His inversion showed signs of slipping & he struggles to fight the reversion. Not wanting to be a monster again, he vows to become something different if he can not stay inverted. He also uses helping Monet as motivation, who was cursed by her brother and became a vampire. He eventually ran away with her at the end of the series. Cue Resurr Xion, and all of this has been ignored. His struggles with not wanting to be a monster haven't come up, and his entire relationship with Monet was dropped without any explanation. He's back to wanting to kill stuff in Weapon X, with Logan & Warpath keep watch on him and being ready to kill him should he lose it, but trying to keep him sated by looking for monsters & villains he can fight. The Claws of A Killer mini also shows he's back wanting to kill Wolverine when he hears that he may be alive again. The end of Weapon X (2017) sees him driven insane in hell and returned to an almost-feral state, all semblance of positive character growth rendered completely null.
  • The cyclical nature of comics was lampshaded in an issue of New Avengers, where Wonder Man points out that the entire Civil War crossover was utterly pointless since everything (more or less) went back to normal within just a few short years.
  • Kingdom Come lampshades this. Wonder Woman's entire purpose was to come to America and bring an end to warfare across the globe. The problem of course is, thanks to this and Reed Richards Is Useless, she'll never be allowed to make any real progress in this mission. Thus, we cut to a few decades later and find that she's been exiled by her fellow Amazons precisely because she hadn't made any headway in solving this problem.
  • A good example would be costumes. Most heroes and villains have gone through numerous costume changes, but usually return to their original, iconic outfit, if for no other reason than branding. This obviously doesn't extend to film and TV adaptations, since most superhero costumes are altered for live-action due to practical reasons.
  • Fantastic Four
    • The Fantastic Four are one of the few comic teams where the members change uniforms and actually stick with the new duds. (Except one case where Sue once tried a Stripperiffic outfit that exposed her cleavage and midriff; it just wasn't her, and surprisingly, the fans knew it. She got rid of it quickly.)
    • Poor Benjamin Grimm will always be The Thing. Reed Richards' various attempts to find a cure to his condition will never work, or if so always be reversed. This is lampshaded in Marvel 1602 where Reed Richards, theorizing that stories are laws of the universe, states that a cure for Benjamin wouldn't last long since he's much more interesting the way he is.
    • Averted in the Ultimate Marvel universe, following the end of Ultimate Fantastic Four. Ben Grimm does in fact manage to shake his rock-like form, and gain all-new powers which include the ability to switch between his regular human form and his rock form.
    • In Fantastic Four #403-405, the team visits an Aztec temple discovered by archaeologist Ken Robeson. The abandoned temple can harness cosmic rays which may have killed off the original tribe. The Thing visits the temple and is briefly turned into human form. The technology is never used for this purpose again, and by #416 it is said to have been dismantled to help fight Onslaught.
    • Not only can Doctor Doom never be killed for real, but he'll never lose control over Latveria for too long, since him being King and Dictator is a very important part of the character's concept. Is there such a thing as Joker Diplomatic Immunity? Also, his face will never get better, though this seems to be a conscious decision on his part so that he'll always have a permanent reminder of Reed's "crimes" against him.
  • Spider-Man. Oh Galactus, Spider-Man. Marvel is dead-set on dragging him back to a single guy living with his Aunt May and working minimum wage at the Daily Bugle, no matter how many Ass Pulls or Voodoo Sharks it takes. See The Clone Saga and One More Day.
    • Speaking of Spider-Man... As of the Spider-Island arc, his current girlfriend dumped him, the psychic block preventing people from learning his secret identity is gone, and he and MJ have decided to rekindle their relationship. It also gave Spider-Girl back her powers, which she had lost a few years ago, and Eddie Brock is no longer Anti-Venom.
    • Spider-Man has also gained new abilities at several times over the years (such as poisonous stingers from his forearms and organic webbing like in the movies). He once grew four extra arms in a failed attempt to remove his powers (he was probably glad that was temporary). He always loses these quickly enough and reverts to his original Stan Lee / Steve Ditko powerset.
    • Spider-Man seems to have gained two distinct Status Quos: He's either a single young adult living either alone, with his aunt, or a close friend, or he's married/in a committed relationship with Mary Jane Watson who he lives with, and appears to be growing up. This is the result of two parties Running the Asylum; in the former case, people who grew up with single young Spidey and/or cling onto him as a means to cling onto their own young adulthood, and so insist on keeping him this way, and in the latter case, people who grew up with Spidey when he was dating Mary Jane who, thanks to being the Ensemble Dark Horse, became a Fan-Preferred Couple with him, and so they make it canon and have them settle down since that's the logical path for a relationship to go, and likely similar to how the writer is currently. Because of this, Mary Jane has repeatedly been Put on a Bus, often via a means to try and ensure that she doesn't come back (such as killing her off or Derailing her), but every time this happens she always comes back (usually because whatever prompted her to leave, she gets over and reunites with Peter because ultimately, they both love each other too much). This is similar with any prominent relationship in mainstream comics; Superman and Lois Lane, Batman and Catwoman, Green Arrow and Black Canary, Henry Pym and The Wasp, Iron Man and Pepper Potts, Hawkeye and Mockingbird, and many, many others are pretty much stuck in an endless cycle of being broken up by writers who prefer them single and reunited by those who prefer them together. Because of this, fans of either persuasion should be able to rest easy, because sooner or later, they're going to be the way they want them. For a while. (In practice, of course, whichever set of fans is currently not being served call loudly for the Reset Button to be pushed now.)
    • Exactly where Venom sits on the moral compass is entirely based on whatever the writer wants to do with him, but while he usually lands somewhere in the Anti-Hero quadrant the symbiote has changed hands so often it's hard to keep track. Eddie Brock became Anti-Venom after abandoning the symbiote because its bloodlust grew too powerful for even him to control, going through a Faith–Heel Turn leading up to his new identity and seeing all symbiotes as diseases to be purged. But after giving up the identity, he wound up bonded to another symbiote, Toxin, whom Flash Thompson (who was the new Venom at the time) pointed out he had gotten rather buddy-buddy with. When the two parted ways, Eddie told Flash that when - not if - he lost control of Venom, Eddie would turn up to put him out of his misery. Jumping ahead a few years, Eddie spontaneously turned up after both had been separated from their respective symbiotes to retrieve his old one, referring to it as his "beloved" and promptly becoming Venom again. And that's not even getting into how the symbiote itself and it's characterization has jumped all over the place, with a total purge of its dark side taking place in Guardians of the Galaxy to help introduce new readers who had never known Venom was ever a villain only to undo it under a villainous Sucksessor Lee Price a year or two later.
  • Batman/Spider-Man villains thrive on this policy. The Joker especially, who has a trope named after him. He can kill and destroy as many lives as he wants, and all Bats does is punch him a few times and send him back to an easily escapable prison/asylum. He'll always be there to menace the Bat, and the ramifications of this continual (and destructive) cycle have now pretty much became a core aspect of their dynamic.
  • Similar to Ben Grimm's situation further above, poor Bruce Banner will always be the Hulk. He will never find a permanent cure, and because of that, he and Betty Ross will most likely always be Star-Crossed Lovers. Things might have changed with Betty Ross becoming the Red She-Hulk, but she permanently lost her powers.
  • This was predicted by Kieron Gillen concerning Loki; he would eventually go back to his usual self after Gillen had him reverted to childhood with about half his memories, practically worshiping The Mighty Thor. Much of the impact of the arc was not from wondering if the change would stick, but on the possible effects once things reverted to Status Quo. As writer of the Thor title (renamed Journey into Mystery thanks to the focus on Loki, rather than Thor), he indicated that Loki turning evil again WAS NOT a foregone conclusion, as Thor destroyed the Ragnarok cycle which contained the writings that decreed the destinies of the Asgardians, enabling all of them to Screw Destiny, Loki included, but in the end, Loki's villainous side returned. The writer says he chose to end the story with Loki's return to evil because he knew that if he didn't, someone else would come along and do it anyway. And at least if Loki fell from grace under his pen, he could do it in a suitably emotional manner. "So-and-so IS NOT a foregone conclusion" has been said numerous times (see Joe Quesada talking about the Spider-Man identity reveal, saying "it won't just be undone by magic a year later." So take any promise of permanence with a gigantic grain of salt.
    • HOWEVER, this was ultimately subverted in the end. Loki's adventures were continued in Gillen's Young Avengers run, with them now developing a massive Guilt Complex over his villainous' side returning, ultimately revealing that Loki's dark side hadn't returned; rather, their mind and memories had been restored but they retained the morality of their young self, and after they were restored to an older form (if albeit still younger than traditional, being now a 20s-something), they're now having a solid go at a Heel–Face Turn in Loki: Agent of Asgard, with a big focus on how they're attempting to Screw Destiny, with their future self, who had inevitably returned to villainy, playing the role of the Big Bad.
  • The Archie Comics Love Showdown storyline promised that Archie would chose either Betty or Veronica once and for all. The four part story ends with him choosing Third-Option Love Interest, but was followed up with a special that reset the situation back to normal.
  • In Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, the Eggman that Sonic's been fighting is from another universe. When Sonic told Zonic the Zone Cop about this in #197, he didn't care, because "Sonic Prime has to fight a Robotnik."
  • Les Légendaires is probably the only case where this trope is played straight and averted at the same time: the heroes' main goal is to break the curse that turned everyone on their world into children, for the length of the story, they are not allowed to succeed, or there would no longer be any main plot. On the other hand, the characters and their universe do go through changes. Except for Book 5 and 6, none of the change are ever removed. The most notable time this trope is defied is the Anathos Cycle, which involves the main characters are savagely scarred and crippled, their leader becomes a villain then dying, their Arch-Enemy losing his Joker Immunity to be finally Killed Off for Real, the protagonists getting new powers and looks, and, finally, getting their reputation reestablished. All those change are permanent, and there were no Reset Button.
  • Cyborg, like the Hulk and the Thing, frequently falls victim to this. Anytime he regains his normal human appearance (or at least gets a sleeker, less monstrous form), it's always undone within a few years.
  • Frequently used in The Beano and similar comics (The Beezer, Whizzer and Chips, The Dandy) when a strip ends with a major change to the characters occurring there is often a Note From Ed acting as a Reset Button saying the character will be back to normal by next week.
  • Lampshaded in one Nodwick strip in Dragon, in which Nodwick has been bouncing back and forth in time trying to save the universe from the Unnamable, and has taken several levels in badass as a result, becoming a mutliclassed wizard-cleric-fighter. The strip ends with Artax reassuring Yeagar that once the Unnamable's been dealt with they can wipe his brain, because having him be better than them at everything is just embarrassing.
  • Iznogoud: Whatever happens to Iznogoud — even being blasted into orbit — he's back safe and sound in the next story. The album "The Returns of Iznogoud" adds via Retcon epilogues to many of the "bad endings" of past stories, explaining how Iznogoud each time manages to return to the normal status quo, with some exceptions; some of these epilogues have him trying to escape the bad situation and ending in a worse situation. For example, Iznogoud escapes the complex maze only to end up in the inescapable dungeons. Iznogoud has been there before (in a much older story) but doesn't remember the way out. While there he meets an older incarnation of himself, still searching for the way out after all these years.
  • Morbius the Living Vampire will always be a living vampire. Despite being cured of his pseudo-vampirism several times over the years, sooner or later he's always reverted back. He was once killed and brought back as an undead being, but, true to his name, ended up going back to 'living' about a year later. He's also worn several costumes over the years, including a leather outfit in his first solo series, but eventually always goes back to his signature outfit, the one he was introduced in.
  • Captain America has often handed his shield and title to other people. John Walker, Bucky Barnes, and Sam Wilson, respectively because Steve had became disenhearted with the role, was thought to be dead, or had been Brought Down to Normal. Each of those has eventually end(ed) with them stepping down and handing the title back in order to return to their own personal identity. Almost subverted with Bucky, though, as Steve had believed that being Captain America was a good thing for Bucky, and when he returned, he opted to take a promotion to becoming the new top-dog of SHIELD, making him something of a general to the superhero populace, rather than the field leader of the Avengers. This, largely, was thanks to fan reaction towards Bucky!Cap being so overwhelmingly positive that many fans didn't want Steve to come back to the role. In the end, he only returned to the role as it was in order to coincide with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
    • Sam Wilson became the official Captain America in Captain America: Sam Wilson. In Nick Spencer's Captain America, Steve Rogers returned to normal and subsequently shared the identity with Sam for a while, with both men using the Captain America name. This lasted until Secret Empire and Generations, which ended with Sam giving the shield back to Steve and returning to his original Falcon identity.
  • This was actually lampshaded in the final issue of U.S.Avengers as Sunspot, despite having bought out AIM and turned it into a force of good, noted there were always small pockets of the evil version ready to rise up and take their place.
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