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The Worf Effect / Comic Books

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  • In general this tends to happen a lot to whoever the primary Super-Strong, Nigh Invulnerable guy on a hero team is, such as the Thing, Colossus, etc.
  • Generally, this trope is often combined with C-List Fodder when introducing new superheroes. One way of immediately establishing some 'street cred' for a rookie hero is to have him or her defeat a couple of obscure C- and D-list villains.
  • Nightcrawler of the X-Men and The Flash of the Justice League begin at least half of the team fights they're in by getting backhanded into unconsciousness (they do much better when fighting solo). The reason for this is (1) due to their powers (teleportation and Super Speed, respectively) they're usually the first one to reach the villain, (2) the sooner they get taken out, the less time the reader has to think about how each could kill almost anyone before their opponent even knew they were in a fight, and (3) it demonstrates that the villain has reflexes akin to precognition just to be able to lay a glove on them...in theory. You see it enough times, it starts to look like they just 'port/run right into villains' outstretched fists.
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Marvel Universe

  • Apocalypse is perhaps the Big Bad most frequently hit by this. He has the power and reputation to stand in the same category as Marvel's biggest bads but is the "youngest" among them (in terms of creation, not in-story age) and thus 9 out of 10 times is the character Marvel looks to when they need to have a truly big villain take a dive for some reason. Black Bolt, Onslaught, Kang the Conquerer and an evil alternate Professor X have all made a whipping boy of the Eternal One to greater or lesser degrees, but the crowning example for Apocalypse and this trope is the 1992 X-Cutioner's Song crossover, which features upstart villain Stryfe effortlessly flinging around Big Blue with his telekinesis in a total Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Ares was supposed to combine the viciousness of Wolverine, power level approaching Thor or Hercules with being a military genius all the while being praised and feared as a massive threat. Instead he tended to serve as either someone to show how powerful a new villain was so Sentry could take care of it or was needed for a fight scene that Sentry was too powerful for. He would then lose said fight scene. This culminated in Siege, where he was ineffective against The Sentry to show how dark the character had become. Trying to remember any victories he might have had against any meaningful opponents is much more difficult than all the losses he has had. He gets his ass kicked in his own mini and needs his daddy Zeus to bail him out. Interestingly, this record is pretty accurate to the actual mythological Ares, who was regularly humiliated in battle despite being the god of war (his sister Athena is historically the god of strategic warfare, while Ares is historically the god of Attack! Attack! Attack!-style warfare).
  • The Avengers have had several characters serve this role over the years.
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    • Wonder Man is often joked to be this. Despite supposedly being as tough as Thor or Sentry he has a very poor record at winning fights, often only serving to make someone else look good. Thor, arguably the most powerful Avenger and one of the most powerful heroes, sometimes suffers from this to establish a new threat as being a real danger. Ares also served this to a point whenever Sentry wasn't around.
    • Thor got this treatment by most of the Phoenix Five in Avengers vs. X-Men.
    • In Thor's own series Odin is frequently the victim of this trope. Being the God among Gods, whenever Asgard is under threat by the villain of the week either Odin has to be incapacitated prior (in which case he usually gets better and wipes the villain out with a wave of his hand at the last minute) or get his ass handed to him to show just how powerful the villain is before Thor wipes the floor with them.
  • Captain America was another popular go-to guy to get the beat-down in a new or relaunched title; to a lesser extent the rest of his fellow Avengers, too.
  • In the pages of Fantastic Four, the Thing is often at the receiving end of a beatdown anytime a new bad guy shows up. Thing is often the measuring stick for the most elite strongmen in the Marvel universe as well. If you're stronger than him, you're considered at the top of the strongman food chain.
  • Likewise, Doctor Doom occasionally suffers this, whether from Dazzler and other new heroes, or to show how tough a new villain is (e.g. Millar's promise of a "Master of Doom"). Thank Kirby for Doombots, eh?
    • Speaking of Fantastic Four and Mark Millar, in the first story arc of his run on the comic, newly introduced characters accidentally cause a super-powered robot to get loose with the goal of destroying all weapons in the world (that includes soldiers, police officers, etc). Sue, Johnny, and Ben (Reed being AWOL at the time) are summoned to the Arctic where the robot-makers were based, asking where their backup from SHIELD is. It's reported said backup, composed of 40 of SHIELD's 'heaviest hitters', arrived eight minutes ago. Cue a following two page spread of a pile of beaten superheroes, all Worfed for the sake of the book's focus team.note 
  • Galactus sometimes gets this when the writers want to show how tough a new cosmic menace is. He got smacked down by the Beyonder and Doctor Doom in Secret Wars, and Krona in JLA/Avengers killed him and constructed a fortress out of his corpse. Tenebrous and Aegis take him out in Annihilation for Thanos. Part of this probably comes from having such an easy Worf Had the Flu excuse — his power, unlike that of, say, the Celestials, diminishes when he's hungry, so if anyone is skeptical about one of his defeats they can just say he hadn't fed in a while.
  • There is also a group that serves this effect: The Illuminati (a secret society composed by Iron Man, Reed Richards, Namor, Charles Xavier, Black Bolt and Doctor Strange). They are supposed to exchange information so they can coordinate their respective teams and prevent the great crisis. Still, when each new crisis begins (Civil War, Secret Invasion, Avengers vs. X-Men), the Illuminati have a secret meeting where they decide that there is nothing they can do.
  • Omega Red is one of the most recognizable members of Wolverine's rogue's gallery and one of the most badass villains produced by the 90s, but even he is not immune to this trope. The first time he fell prey to it was in the pages of Cable, where he was used as a Bait-and-Switch Boss by the Acolytes, defeated by them off-panel, and shown as their unconscious captive. Fair enough, the Acolytes were being groomed as the Evil Counterpart team to the X-Men at the time... now fast forward twenty years or so to 2016's X Men 92. Though technically an alternate reality counterpart, this Omega Red is absolutely dominated by the book's Starter Villain, Alpha Red, and X-Man Rogue even says "Anyone who can do that to Omega Red ain't someone I wanna face without the whole team!", making it clear Red's sole purpose for being included in that book was for the purposes of this trope.
  • The S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarriers, which seem to get knocked out of the sky on an impressive basis. Eventually an angry Maria Hill lampshaded it.
    Maria Hill: I've had the same car since I was sixteen. The same car, and never had a problem with it. This thing seems to fall out of the sky every other Thursday!
    • S.H.I.E.L.D. in general. They often show up just to provide some corpses before the actual superheroes show up to defeat the bad guys.
    • Ditto S.W.O.R.D., S.H.I.E.L.D.'s cosmic equivalent. They're supposed to be Earth's first line against cosmic threats, and yet alien villains still make it to Earth with alarming regularity. When S.W.O.R.D. gets involved, it's usually just so that the bad guys can kill some generic soldiers or destroy the Peak, the organization's base.
  • The Sentry He was based on the Silver-Age Superman, more powerful than anyone, so mighty that he made the comics universe and the real world forget he had ever existed because he was so almighty that the mere memory of him would risk destroying the world. Then he didn't quite take off, so he started getting lunched by everybody. Up to and including the Golden-Age Human Torch.
    • Taken to a ridiculous point in Dark Avengers - during first ten issues Sentry was killed THREE TIMES. Once by Morgan le Fay, once by his wife with his teammate's gun, and once by Molecule Man. He kept getting better.
    • Early in his career when he was still being pushed, Sentry was the beneficiary rather than the recipient of this trope, worfing the likes of Carnage and later Ares to establish his power beyond simple Informed Ability.
  • The Silver Surfer is one of the most powerful beings alive. He has thrown energy blasts that have staggered Galactus, a man in a crazy hat who eats planets. He has taken hits from said man in crazy hat and lived. He's taken hits that would liquefy Earth and given them right back. This is why whenever a new cosmic menace is introduced, generally the very first thing that happens is someone pitches Silver Surfer in through a window.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Eric Larsen had Dr. Octopus deliver a severe smackdown to the Hulk during the "Revenge of the Sinister Six" storyarc. In the story, "Doc Ock" was given extremely powerful adamantium limbs which made him far more dangerous. Hulk writer Peter David accused Larsen of a making a personal attack when he wrote that story and responded with a story written for the sole purpose of mocking Dr. Octopus. Larsen explained that it made sense to use the Hulk for the purpose of this very trope.
    • The 1997 "Hobgoblin Lives" miniseries was created to give original Hobgoblin Roderick Kingsley a large dose of this to re-establish his villain cred after years and years of Villain Decay (and Kingsley largely at this point being a weasel who relied on dupes and stand-ins to do his dirty work). For about a decade, the Hobgoblin identity had been owned by Jason Macendale (aka the Hobgoblin most non-comic readers are familiar with thanks to his excellent adaptational counterpart in Spider-Man: The Animated Series), and despite a long string of failures in the comics Macendale had steadily been amassing power for himself. So along comes Kingsley during one of Macendale's stints in jail to walk in, manhandle him (somehow, despite Macendale being leagues stronger than Kingsley) and unceremoniously kill him after pronouncing him an Inadequate Inheritor. It worked, too, as Kingsley was instantly re-establish as the Hobgoblin and to this day remains the most popular Hobgoblin among readers. He was even given Joker Immunity after being killed off by the Phil Urich Hobgoblin.
  • Spider-Verse has been pretty bad with this, having the Inheritors essentially wipe out anyone and anything that gets in their way. They've romped the Fantastic Five, The New Warriors, the Spider-Friends, a city's worth of Beastmen, a Spider-Man with the Enigma Force, even friggin' Leopardon!
  • This was the reason Squirrel Girl became so popular; she defeated Doctor Doom with a Zerg Rush of squirrels in her (obscure) first appearance and defeating insanely powerful characters became her shtick. This no longer applies in more recent canon, since Word of God holds that she's a Master of All.
  • In the run of Thunderbolts started by Andy Diggle, Headsman's tendency to get beaten up or otherwise neutralized even though he's the largest and most intimidating member of the team is, rather refreshingly, noticed by the rest of the team. He's constantly razzed by teammates Paladin and Ant-Man, employer Norman Osborn regards him only with barely repressed disdain...once he suggested he get on his flying disc to deal with an airborne threat, only to be shot down with "Please, I've never seen you on that thing for more than 30 seconds."
  • Ultimate Thor from The Ultimates has over the years often played this role. Several sentences or an issue would be built up to establish how badass he is only for him to get taken out in about two panels. For every high showing he has there are three or more low ones.
  • This trope might as well be called the Vision Effect, since this has always happened to The Avengers' Vision since about the 80's. Prior to that, he was often shilled as the Avengers' greatest powerhouse, and had a lot of day-saving moments; however, he since got taken advantage of for being an android and thus destructible, so he is far more likely now to be torn apart or have his phasing tricks turn out to be useless.
  • The Wrecking Crew now exist entirely for this purpose. They have an ounce of credibility from being old Thor villains with incredible strength and mystically powered construction weapons, but adamantly yelling that you've fought Thor doesn't mean much when you can be taken down by low-power heroes like Spider-Woman. Spider-Man once joked that everyone seems to beat them up sooner or later; subsequent encounters with the Runaways and The Punisher of all people have showed he's probably right.
    • Some writers have played with this, however... The team shares energy from a single pool. If the leader simply kept all the power for himself he would be a serious threat, but if nothing else the rest of the crew are True Companions, and he's not willing to leave even one of them depowered even if the power boost would make everyone else an actual threat.
  • To an end, despite (or perhaps because of) his badassery, a good half of the numerous, seemingly omnipresent cameos Wolverine makes in various issues involve him being beaten within an inch of his life and thrown through something. Fortunately, his Healing Factor fixes him up in a split, allowing him to move to the next. A really hardcore badass kills an alternate reality Wolverine - whom no-one will ever miss - without blinking, thereby proving his badassness without causing complications. Hyperion in Exiles vaporized a Wolverine, and Thanos' goons in New Avengers #24 killed the entire X-Men (including Wolverine) off-panel. The most outrageous example happened in Superior Spider-Man #33, in which Karn, one of the Inheritors (re: Morlun and his family), who flash-fries Wolverine down to his adamantium skeleton. Spider-Man remarked "I don't know who he is, but he just killed Logan which I didn't think was possible!"
    • The most notable examples for Wolverine is Gambit. Short after he joined the team, he got a chance at fighting (and winning) against Wolverine in the Danger Room in order to show "how badass the new guy is".
    • Parodied on Newgrounds here. "Ow! ...Bub." (Made even sillier by his stereotypical Canadian accent.)
    • Wolverine and Magneto have a weird back-and-forth history of doing this to each other, most famously in Fatal Attractions where Magneto ripped all the adamantium from Wolverine's body. On Wolvie's end, he's gotten to improbably shish-kebab Magneto in Eve of Destruction and outright beheaded him in Planet X (though that one was quickly retconned, so make of it what you will).
    • Though it's difficult to remember it these days, this was actually Wolverine's original role. It wasn't until The Dark Phoenix Saga that Wolverine's status as a badass was actually established as being real rather than just an informed trait and he started winning fights instead of just getting tossed around like a hairy, Canadian volleyball.
    • Wolverine is regularly beaten up by Deadpool - or Deadpool is beaten up by Wolverine, as they pull the Worf Effect on each other. Deadpool treats it as something of a game, which frustrates the more serious Wolverine to no end.
  • In fact Deadpool, like Wolverine, is something of a go-to if you really want to show that somebody is super-tough or really dangerous. He's a highly skilled Professional Killer and Jerkass with a Heart of Gold, so the character will not look like a bad guy for fighting him, but his fighting skills, while top-notch, have human limitations; it's his healing factor that sets him apart. Nothing can kill him permanently though, so if you want to show the new guy is a snazzy martial artist, a deadly-weapons user, or a ruthless killer, go worf Deadpool, because the more you worf him, the stronger he becomes.
  • Rogue often fills this role for X-Men, especially in the animated series.
    • Name a fight that Gladiator, Superman Substitute and leader of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, has actually won. Now for each of those, name five other fights he's lost. Seriously, Cannonball? Justified to some degree in that Gladiator's power is fueled by his ego, which means his strength can vary a lot from day to day.
    • Similar to Gladiator is Exodus, an immortal psychic mutant who at one point was described on-panel as the most powerful mutant on Earth. Originally intended to be the heir of Magneto, Status Quo Is God doomed him to spending the past decade mostly jobbing to various X-Men to make them look better at his expense. He suffered it twice during Messiah Complex and later had it inflicted on him by Brian Bendis in the name of pumping up his Generic Doomsday Villain Matthew Malloy. Bendis swore that last one killed Exodus, but since we're talking about a guy who was up and on his feet a few minutes after having all his organs shredded, the general consensus was that a simple Neck Snap wouldn't keep him down long. The whole affair ended up being made moot when Malloy was RetGonned out of existence, but just two years later Exodus was back to jobbing in the pages of Bunn's Uncanny X-Men (2015). Sigh...
    • In the very short span of time that Danger served as a member of the X-Men she was busted open by Ms. Marvel (Moonstone) and Emplate to establish how powerful they are. And knocked out by Selene's T-O virus. It was almost a mercy when she resigned from the team, as it forced the writers to find new and more creative ways to express the menace of their villains.
    • The Juggernaut plays this role from time to time. In fact, one of Marvel's biggest storylines got started just because Scott Lobdell decided it would be cool to have Juggernaut mysteriously tossed through the sky, able to speak just one word: "Onslaught". (Lobdell hadn't even decided who Onslaught would be yet!)
    • If writers want to show that a telepath, Eldritch Abomination, or Cosmic Entity has REALLY powerful mental abilities, they have the character curbstomp Charles Xavier in a mental battle. Since most every telepath in the Marvel universe has gone up against him at some point, this happens a lot, to the point where Xavier's status as one of/the most powerful telepath on Earth becomes more of an Informed Ability.
  • X-23 and Rockslide in New X-Men (and other appearances after the series end) they get stuck with this as they are the strongest and scariest team members...who are practically immortal. Rockslide has been blown up twice BEFORE his power became not dying to physical harm. And X-23 is just like Wolverine.
    • Incidentally, during New X-Men, the original X-Men cast ALL SUCK. If the students are around every move and strategy and power of the older cast is instantly wrong. In "Quest for Magik" the X-Men are all captured and held in an energy field unable to help and during "Messiah Complex" the X-Men have to hand over the fight to the students due to it being something Sinister's mooks didn't plan on.
    • Laura gets this particularly hard in Avengers Arena. Between her Healing Factor and its secondary effects (heightened senses, reflexes, etc) and Training from Hell by the Facility, she's easily the most dangerous and best-prepared to survive of the teens kidnapped by Arcade for his Murder World. And yet it still doesn't prevent her from having her ass completely handed to her by Apex during the group's first attempt to bring her down after her Face–Heel Turn. Especially egregious considering it's established (in the same series, no less) that Laura automatically sizes up everyone in a room and formulates the best plan for killing everyone in it the second she steps inside, and in this case, her "best plan" would make Leeroy Jenkins proud. The audience outcry was so heated that Hopeless himself attempted to rationalize it in the following issue's letter columns, but rather than Worf Had the Flu, his reasoning just made it a bigger case of Idiot Ball.
      • She gets it again in The Black Vortex crossover: After Beast uses the Black Vortex, Laura tries to destroy it to prevent anyone else from succumbing. Beast effortlessly swats her aside to demonstrate just how much more powerful (Hank ordinarily not being a real threat to her) and Ax-Crazy the Vortex makes its hosts. She's then put down in an attack by J'Son which didn't even knock the rest of the team unconscious, yet Laura is in a coma and her healing factor isn't working properly in the next chapter.
  • Iron Man tends to get hit by this, for similar reasons to Wolverine (he's well-known, he's powerful enough for it to be impressive but not so powerful for it to be stupid, the fact that he can just rebuild his armor means that he can suffer massive damage without killing him), but a particular one is his "Buster" armors. After their unveiling, and the initial hype of "Oh, my god, Iron Man built an armor to defeat Hulk/Thor/Phoenix/Galactus/the Celestials!", their inevitable fate is for the person they were designed to defeat to promptly rip them limb from limb.

The DCU

  • Batman
    • Batman has been used this way at least twice. When Green Arrow and Green Lantern came back from the dead, they both established that they were the real deal in short order by socking the Goddamn Batman square in the jaw. In GA's case, it was implied to be both a gimme for Bats' shoddy treatment and another way of testing whether it was Ollie or an impersonator. The GL case, though, was actually a Shout-Out to Bats dropping Guy Gardner like a sack of potatoes in the JLI book.
    • One of the first things Prometheus (an Evil Counterpart to Batman) did was defeat him in a fight, to show off how awesome his ability to download the skills of other heroes was. Uniquely, this particular event has stuck; the only times Batman has been able to defeat Prometheus is when he messed with his skill-uploading helmet somehow.
    • Batman himself is an enormous beneficiary of this, due to being perhaps the patron saint for writers Running the Asylum over at DC. Entire minis (such as the quasi-infamous JLA: Act of God) have been written basically for no other reason than to give Batman a venue to gleefully kick around anyone who pisses him off. He's defeated more powerful opponents so often, and with such regularity, that "Batman with prep time" has become a meme in fandom circles. Wonder Woman currently stands as the sole big-name hero who has not been worfed by him over the years. Obviously, Popularity Power overlaps a good deal here.
    • Killer Moth is a rare example of this trope where being Worfed has painted the character's entire depiction. In his original appearances he was a Knight of Cerebus Evil Counterpart in running for the title of Batman's archenemy. He wielded all sorts of deadly gadgets, had just as many combat skills as Batman, and even had his own private army that he used in his Moriarty-esque schemes. Than one day the comics introduced Batgirl. The writers wanted to establish her as a badass and worthy member of the Batfamily so they decided to do so by showing her beating the deadly Killer Moth in a fight. This backfired as getting beaten by a rookie on her first night out as a superhero caused reader opinion of Moth to sink like a stone. Nobody could take him seriously anymore, in-universe or out. Thus Moth's characterization was changed forever; he was no longer the terrifying opposite of Batman, but instead the pitiable Butt-Monkey of Batman's Rogues Gallery. Of course, his notoriously goofy outfit didn't really harm the latter interpretation.
    • The villain Hush plays with this trope in his second storyline, the aptly-named Hush Returns. The Riddler, terrified of Hush's wrath after betraying him to Batman, makes a deal with The Joker. Hush comes after the Joker for getting between him and Nygma... and promptly gets curb-stomped by the Joker and his thugs. Realizing he can't take the Joker alone, Hush recruits himself a henchman — none other than the aforementioned Prometheus (later retconned into the real Prometheus's protégé). With Prometheus's help Hush euthanizes Joker's entire gang and beats Joker himself black and blue (the Joker gets his revenge in a later scheme involving trained pigeons).
  • Green Lantern:
    • Kyle Rayner has this going for him at times. During the Green Lantern: Rebirth story, he spent most of having the tar beaten out of him by Sinestro, until he's rescued by Green Arrow and later Hal Jordan. He does eventually land the finishing blow on Sinestro, but only while aiding Hal during their duel. In the Sinestro Corps War miniseries, Kyle has a chance to fight Sinestro again and prove himself, now with an enormous power boost courtesy of Ion, but his attacks just bounce and shatter harmlessly off Sinestro and he's easily curb-stomped and has the Ion entity ripped out of him. Both times he's used only to establish Sinestro as a major threat.
    • The Green Lanterns that aren't the main characters tend to get beaten by the score rather easily most of the time just to show off how incredibly powerful a villain is, this being especially bad with ones that don't have names. It's rather odd that these people possess what is repeatedly stated to be the most powerful weapon in the universe and yet still get mowed down by the dozens or even hundreds as easily as garden variety Mooks.
  • Whenever he's in the Justice League, Ridiculously Human Android Red Tornado is notorious for always getting demolished to show off a villain's power. The main reason for this is that the bad guy can tear Red apart and the team can just repair him later.
    • Same goes for Cyborg of the Teen Titans.
      • Lampshaded in-universe. Cyborg eventually builds Reddy a new body made of self-replicating nanites, explicitly stating that he wanted to find a way to stop him from constantly being destroyed.
    • Subverted in one instance; An enemy tears apart Red Tornado, only for it to turn out that the writer for once remembered Reddy's robot body is a shell containing his real self—a wind elemental. The elemental, now freed, beats the crap out of his surprised enemy.
  • Lady Shiva. Supposedly the top-tier martial artist in the entire DCU, but after her run in The Question and as Batman's trainer in Knightfall, anytime she shows up is to prove how powerful someone else is.
  • A curious case is Magog in Justice Society of America, a Canon Immigrant from Kingdom Come. He's supposed to be a meta with power on par with Superman, Alan Scott, and Power Girl. In practice? He usually ends up either jobbing to whoever the villain of the day is or falling prey to someone with mind control. He's already been whammied by Gorilla Grodd, Miasma, and the Brain Trust - all in a single year. And then Max Lord made the fourth time the charm and killed him to boot.
  • The Martian Manhunter is a frequent victim of this. On-paper, the character is a walking One-Man JLA, having more powers than the rest of the team combined. Unfortunately for him, the rest of the team's members tend to be more popular than him, especially the Trinity, so when the time comes to draw straws to get kicked around by the new Big Bad invariably J'onn draws the short straw. He is regularly rendered comatose by scanning the mind of any Big Bad (you'd think that after seeing "the greatest evil in the universe" some dozen times he would at least learn to stop looking into people's minds), he has physically been worfed by street-level baddies like Prometheus, and in Final Crisis he was even used as a Sacrificial Lion to fulfill Tonight, Someone Dies.
    • This even extends to his adaptation in Justice League, where his phasing ability was almost REGULARLY made useless by various electroshock defenses. Needless to say, people no longer saw it as a big deal.
    • The New 52 put this trope to work for J'onn rather than against him for a change, having that universe's incarnation of him deal an absolutely crushing defeat to Despero, a psychic juggernaut of a villain who is probably the top telepathic threat in the DCU.
    • J'onn is such a frequent-flier Worf recipient that he even lampshades it during the Blackest Night story:
      Black Lantern Martian Manhunter: [while thrashing The Flash and Green Lantern] I'm as powerful as Superman. Why does everyone forget that?
  • In the DC-published Mortal Kombat X comics, longtime MK Badass Goro is offered up at the altar of this trope in order to build up Shao Kahn's self-appointed successor Kotal. Goro is not outright killed, but does lose all four of his arms to the usurper.
  • The Royal Flush Gang are more or less the Alternate Company Equivalent to the Wrecking Crew in terms of this, and for about the same reason: their distinctive theme makes them instantly recognizable and easy to drop into any story without much explanation, and their level of power is high enough to battle most heroes and low enough to then lose to them. At times, they've even been hired to battle up-and-coming heroes and get their asses kicked.
  • In Salvation Run (which was basically a story where DC Comics' government agencies tried to do away with the issue of cardboard prisons by teleporting as many super villains to a distant planet without a way back), the villains organize into two groups. Teen Titans villain Psimon attempts to take control and suggest building their own society, only for the Joker to beat him to death with a rock. To put this in context, Psimon has very powerful telepathic AND telekinetic abilities, while Joker is more or less a normal man, and Joker kills him effortlessly. Made even worse by the fact that Joker doesn't ambush him or anything: he first beans Psimon with a smaller thrown rock (which just seems to hurt a lot, not stun or disable Psimon) and then runs up to him with a bigger rock in his hand before he bashes Psimon across the cranium and then proceeds with his murder. Popularity Power to the max.
    • The above is just one example, as Salvation Run in practice is more or less a 7-issue celebration of this trope. Martian Manhunter suffers yet another of his many worfings here, as the villains promptly Zerg Rush him after he is exposed and he just stands there and lets them instead of taking to the sky, or breaking out his telekinesis, or doing any of the dozens of things the character could have done in the situation. He's promptly shoved in a flaming cage and kept near-death for the rest of the storyline. Most of the other cases are Evil vs. Evil matchups, but a particular shout-out needs to be made for the very ugly handling of Monsieur Mallah and the Brain, DC's first confirmed gay villains (and among their first confirmed gay characters period). The duo are savagely murdered in a Curb-Stomp Battle by Gorilla Grodd, who expresses a suspicious level of disgust at the mere suggestion of teaming up with them.
  • In big DC events, The Spectre tends to stay out of the "mortal affairs" but when he does interfere, he tends to get taken out pretty quickly. Seeing as how if he could affect the Big Bad, he could turn them to dust just by looking at them, it's kind of necessary. During the aforementioned Final Crisis the Spectre was effortlessly manhandled by Darkseid's new Mouth of Sauron Libra, with Libra boasting that he was "unique in the universe" and that the Spectre had no power over him. A truly impressive showing... or at least it would have been, if Libra hadn't been unceremoniously one-shotted a few issues later by Lex Luthor.
  • Superboy:
    • Kon-El. God damn it the poor kid gets the crap kicked out of him when he's not a main character in book, and at times even if he is.
    • In Superman Ending Battle he gets the crap kicked out of him by the Atomic Skull, whose powers seem to be being a moderately strong robot, some atomic fire shooting powers, and having his head on fire. Strangely enough however, it's not to show off how strong Superman is, it's to show how badass his father is; who shoots the Atomic Skull in the back of his head hurting him badly enough to be distracted until Superman could show up and toss him into space or something. That's right, Kon-El, Superboy was taken out by a villain who was defeated by a badass farmer with a simple shotgun.
  • Supergirl: When the Girl of Steel fights Bizarrogirl, her counterpart is definitely a match for her. Later, both girls happen upon a godship's spawn which Bizarrogirl attacks right away. Her punch does nothing, and the critter merely tail-whips Bizarrogirl across Bizarro Metropolis.
  • Superman:
    • As shown in the main page image, Superman himself is sometimes tossed around just to show how powerful the new baddie is.
    • Villain Doomsday. Following his impressive feat of killing Superman, the poor thing has had nowhere to go but down. Now he's brought out whenever a new Kryptonian shows up to point out how two Supermen are better (or scarier) than one.
    • They avoided this at first. In their first rematch, Superman's powers had increased and he was still out of his element needing help to win and facing near paralysis from fear (the story starts with Superman having nightmares about Doomsday, one of the very few times that he has actually been visibly scared of a villain for what they could do to him as opposed to what they could do to others), using a time travel device to chuck Doomsday to the end of time.
    • The second time required the entire League (and this time it was the A-list big seven) and all they could do is contain Doomsday in a transporter loop, being continually dematerialized between three transporters to keep him from cohering. It was only 10 years later, after the team that created Doomsday had left, that he started to suffer Villain Decay. Even they at first used Doomsday respectfully, making him the ultimate weapon against a new threat. It was only after he developed intelligence (because people were beating him through smarts) that he became vulnerable to being intimidated.
  • In Underworld Unleashed, new Big Bad on the block Neron displayed his badass credentials by effortlessly inflicting a Neck Snap on Mongul, a guy who had previously held his own in personal combat with the likes of Superman and Wonder Woman.

Other

  • If The Authority was better known than Star Trek, this trope would be called "The Midnighter Effect". Midnighter is essentially a Captain Ersatz of Batman with Wolverine's personality, and canonically the scariest and most dangerous badass in the WildStorm universe, yet he gets jobbed out in every single story arc just to demonstrate how much of a threat that arc's villain is.
    • In Captain Atom: Armageddon, it isn't Midnighter who is used this way to show how utterly outclassed everyone in the Wildstorm universe is when compared to Captain Atom, it's Apollo, Wildstorm's Superman Substitute. Midnighter doesn't even count as a threat to Atom, and is casually (and entertainingly) dismissed offhand.
    • In the rebooted Stormwatch, Apollo seems to have taken this role from Midnighter in a big way. In issue 7 he gets taken out twice, once at the beginning, then just as the issue is ending, as the bad guy they had (with difficulty) managed to capture escapes, taking Apollo with it. This is not new territory for him, however. In the Authority, he kind of has a habit of rushing into battle, and if he either has to expend all his stored energy and he passes out as a result, or is knocked across the room, you know the bad guy is tough.
  • In Gold Digger Stripe Gia, despite being one of the stronger good guys post-upgrade, has this happen to him all the time. Ironically back when he was a Badass Normal he did a lot better.
  • Halo: Escalation: While the Didact was already established as a huge threat in Halo 4, the comic ups the ante by having him single-handedly and brutally killing the entirety of Black Team, four Spartan-II soldiers in the same class as the Master Chief. It doesn't even bother showing the actual fight.
  • Manute from Sin City is normally an unstoppable villain, unless Frank Miller decides to make one of the heroes (Marv, Wallace, or Miho) look badass.
  • The Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog series did this a lot to Bunnie Rabbot, the strongest member of the Freedom Fighters. If she wasn't beaten to a pulp by the villain of the storyline (for example, Mecha Sonic, the roboticized Sonic), then she's getting her robotic limbs taken over and used against her.
    • If you really wanna know how bad things'll get, apply The Worf Effect on Sonic. Issue 175 is the best example of this as Eggman beats the hedgehog to a pulp, then gladly goes on to turn Knothole into a massive crater.
    • Shadow the Hedgehog of all people is mostly this with Knuckles a close second, Shadow one of the most ultimate badasses in the franchise and Sonic's equal, gets his ass handed to him and beat up the most in a battle by himself, and he is usually saved by others like Sonic and other team mates often requiring help to win. Knuckles used to have chaos powers and was the avatar of god in Mobius. Then he got his powers taken away from him, and like Shadow needs help to beat even weak fighters like Fang and Snively. He lost to Snively in a battle with Sonic and Tails.
    • A non-villainous example applies to Tails after he loses a Tournament Round to the newly introduced Honey the Cat. Although Honey is not evil, her interactions with Tails is noticeably more bossy and condescending, at least in comparison to her time with Amy and Sonic. Tails's loss to her also noticeably hurts his self-esteem, to the point where Sonic tries to cheer him up.
  • In Star Trek: Countdown, the prequel comic to the 2009 movie, we see Worf again, 10 years after Nemesis and now a Klingon general. He gets impaled through the chest by Nero, but fortunately he was Only Mostly Dead.
  • Transformers:
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Shattered Grid happily applies the Worf Effect onto just about any Ranger team it can get its mitts on. By the end of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (Boom! Studios) #26, the Time Force and Samurai teams are down to single members, promotional material reveals that the Zeo team all fall and the cover to MMPR #29 seems to imply that the only whole teams surviving at that point are the RPM and SPD teams as only Kira, Kendall, Andross and TJ are the only ones shown from their respective teams (Dino Thunder, Dino Charge and In Space).

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