Follow TV Tropes


You Have Failed Me / Comic Books

Go To

  • The current trope image is from Lady Death by Avatar/Boundless showing the Death Queen arbitrarily executing one of her minions by blowing up his head for allowing the rebels to escape. She makes an habit out of killing her men whenever they disappoint her.
  • First played straight and then later there's a subversion in the first Robin miniseries. The villain of the piece kills two of his Mooks with his bare hands for failing him, then promotes a Dragon Lady named Lynx to the position of head Mook. When she inevitably fails as well, he ponders over the dilemma of leaving her unpunished and having to kill a woman. He then hands her to his Dragon for a "not too dire, but memorable" punishment. Which, to the Dragon, meant putting out her eye.
  • Advertisement:
  • This is also done in Welcome Back, Frank, Garth Ennis's opening The Punisher mini-series. Ma Gnucci, after having her arms and legs torn off by a polar bear in the NY Zoo, berates her Mooks for failing to catch Castle and then orders one of them executed for asking her how she's feeling. The guy she orders to do it protests, so she orders him executed as well. She goes through about three underlings before she finds someone willing to shoot the previous executees.
  • It's impossible to count how many gang mooks working for The Kingpin have gone into his office to report failure and never came out alive. For a specific example, one of the better variations on this trope in recent years was the Tangled Web of Spider-Man issue #4, "Severance Package", in which the Kingpin deals with an underling who botches an illegal arms job. The story is especially chilling because it's told from the point of view of the underling, who knows full well that he's about to die but refuses to run away, despite having a wife and children. Impressed by the man accepting his fate, the Kingpin kills him but does grant the underling's final favor, to allow his family to live.
  • Advertisement:
  • In early issues of Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, Robotnik often did this to robots who messed up. Likewise, Eggman shows aspects of this from time to time.
  • The Joker has an interesting variation: You have succeeded admirably... But I'm bored. Working for Joker is like Russian Roulette. With bullets in all 6 chambers. And two guns. And the bullets are dipped in poison. And you don't get to spin the barrel. According to one writer, that same chaotic nature also means Joker might shower you in cash for doing something like tipping a chair over. This is presented as the only reason anyone would be stupid enough to work for the Joker: it's Russian Roulette mixed with traditional roulette.
  • Doctor Doom. Mostly with his robotic henchmen, though.
    • In one instance during a battle with the Fantastic 4, his head scientist had a flamethrower and the flames were getting dangerously close to a priceless painting he obtained, so he shot him with the gun the scientist built for him. He also kills that henchman's vengeful brother (also a henchman) who tried to trick Doom into a device that would kill him.
    • Advertisement:
    • Doom's tendency towards this was parodied in The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, where the backstory of the Doom portrait involves him doing this to a random painter because he doesn't like how the commission turned out (and because Doom accidentally said some... unfortunate things while drunk in front of the guy). Since the guy is a decently well-known painter it causes his works to posthumously skyrocket in value.
  • Runaways
    • Near the end of volume one, the Pride's main mole in the police, Lieutenant Flores, tries to capture the kids without telling the Pride in advance. The ensuing fight destroys the Hostel, nearly gets all his men killed and, more importantly to The Pride, endangers their children. His bosses are there when his men find him.
    Flores: I thought I was dead.
    Geoffrey Wilder: And for once, you were right. *shotgun*
    • Ironically this ends up being the fate of the Pride themselves; after the team ruins their Evil Plan, the Gibborim get fed up with their pathetic failures and behavior and kill them all.
  • Completely subverted in Hourman. When a villain who presides over a hellish slave camp learns that one of the mooks screwed up, he finds the underling cowering in fear, certain that he's about to be killed for his failure. Instead, the villain pats him on the back, tells him to believe in himself, and gives him a couple of bucks to go buy himself a snack. It turns out their entire evil organization uses a series of self-help seminars as a front, and so they have a policy of only using positive reinforcement with the henchmen. And it works.
  • Subverted and played straight in Mandrake. The evil organization "8" has a strict policy to kill anyone who fails; however, so many have been defeated by Mandrake that they no longer kill those that fail against him because of the enormous losses it would mean.
  • In the Marvel Universe, HYDRA has this as their standard policy. In fact, in the years when the organization was in disarray without the overall control of Baron Von Strucker, the various factions seemed to spend more time killing each other after each defeat than achieving anything.
  • Darkseid sometimes kills people who fail him — he has to keep up appearances — but since he uses his Omega Beams, he usually just resurrects them later when he needs them again.
  • From Asterix and the Black Gold: Dubbelosix, a Druid spying for the Romans, has to get the secret of magic potion and stop our heroes from procuring an ingredient. Asterix, however, outgambits him, and Dubbelosix and his superior both end up sentenced to death in the arena, covered in BEES!
  • While a competent and highly skilled agent, Count Dooku's Dark Side Adept Asajj Ventress was prone to failure because she specifically targeted Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, who were out of her league. After spending months healing from a particularly brutal loss at Anakin's hands, Ventress is found by Obi-Wan and immediately attacks him, moving far from her master's side across a battlefield. With the Republic forces closing in and Ventress too far away, Dooku comments that she had failed him too many times and orders her shot. She survives, though.
  • Transformers:
    • Shockwave, as portrayed in most comics, is the ultimate aversion of this trope. Motivated by logic and reason, and utterly aware of the dwindling numbers available to the Decepticons (in a race that cannot reproduce without the Matrix), Shockwave hates to let soldiers go to waste. He can and will harshly reprimand failure (as he does with Frenzy in "Mind Games"), but doesn't ever kill them. Insomuch, that after usurping leadership from Megatron, then soundly beating the ex-leader — he leaves Megatron alive and makes him swear loyalty to him, not fearing from any retribution. Perhaps the best example, though, is in DW comics "The War Within - Ages of Wrath", where Rumble and Frenzy have seemingly caused an explosion that destroyed most of his work in his lab, Shockwave only questions the two and then sends them away to get back to work... In leaving, Rumble and Frenzy even remark that had this happened with Megatron, he would have ripped them apart in anger.
    • Shockwave even gives failed minions time to explain themselves — and accepts logical reasoning. When Megatron — his subordinate at the time — led a suicidal attack on the Ark, resulting in the deaths/capture of many Decepticons, Shockwave prepares to promptly execute him. But after Megatron points out that Shockwave made a bigger blunder by allowing the Autobots to steal the secrets of Combiner technology, Shockwave not only accepts his excuse, but relinquishes Decepticon leadership back to Megatron!
    • In another situation, after Soundwave let Buster Witwicky, whom he was ordered to capture, go away free despite him having the upper hand, Shockwave comes to the conclusion that Soundwave is either a traitor, or defective, and has outlived his usefulness. But when Soundwave explains Buster's mind needs to re-unite with Optimus so the Decepticons can tap into its secrets, Shockwave accepts this without question.
  • Les Légendaires:
    • Cruelly double-subverted by Darkhell in Les Légendaires: Origines, when one of his generals fails to bring him back Princess Jadina for the second time. Darkhell grasps him and raises him above a pit of lava. The general begs him for mercy, and the following scene ensues:
      Darkhell: I sometimes happen to give a second chance...
      General: T-Thanks, master...
      Darkhell: ...Never a third one. (let him fall to his death)
    • A even more horrifying double-subversion happens in the Anathos Cycle to Dark-Jadina. After bitting the dust against the real Jadina, they go to Anathos and beg him for mercy. Anathos states he forgives them... and then he blows their head off.
  • Parodied in Adventure Time: Banana Guard Academy, where the villainous Compulord can be relied upon to lose his temper with his minions and order them all to kill themselves every ninety-three minutes precisely.
  • Averted with General Grievous of all people in Star Wars: Kanan. He doesn't Kill Coburn Sear for failing to kill the Jedi, he doesn't even berate him or injure him for his failure. .
  • Black Moon Chronicles: Lucifer makes his displeasure at Haazheel Thorn's failure to give him the world on a platter known quite emphatically: he eats his soul like it was a piece of candy.
  • Judge Dredd: Zigzagged in "No Future". When the Dark Judges accidentally wind up on the wrong planet due to a teleporter mishap, Judge Death sneers "You failed me, Mortis!" and proceeds to strangle his fellow Dark Judge until the latter can offer an explanation in apology. Since both master and minion in this scenario are actually zombies and thus immortal, it's not really clear what this would have accomplished beyond Death just trying to vent his anger.
  • In Blake and Mortimer:
    • Damdu to Olrik. "Guards! Seize this traitor and tie him to the first rocket to launch!"
    • Olrik himself doesn't tolerate failure and get rid of anyone who doesn't deliver the goods.
  • In "Guess Who's About to Die!", a Mad Scientist's attempt to clone Supergirl results in six dwarf-sized copies. He sends them out to kill Supergirl but they fail, causing his enraged boss crush his skull.
    Drake: Th-The Chairman! Then it... It, ah... Is her— er... SHE?!
    Chairman: Supergirl! Who you swore to me would die before before she could return here and interfere again! You realize what this means, Drake? Not only have your clones failed— our entire operation has veen put in dire jeopardy!
    Drake: I... Ah, I...
    Chairman: Say nothing! You failed me... And that I will not tolerate! You were given a chance— and one is all I will allow!
  • In Batman arc Night of the Owls, a few of the resurrected Talons have this in their backstory—whether out of sloppiness,note  "misguided honor,"note  or failing to do a job properly, they were retired early. Often, part of the issue featuring them focuses on their attempts to atone for their mistakes, perceived or otherwise.
  • Empress: Morax executes Chief Bozz with his bare hands when he fails to capture Emporia and the children.
  • Star Trek: Early Voyages: In "The Flat, Gold Forever", Commander Kaaj is about to kill Kir after he loses track of the shuttlecraft Icarus containing Captain Pike. However, Virka tells Kaaj that Kolj gave Kir the wrong coordinates and Kolj is therefore the one to blame. Kaaj then shoots Kolj dead with his disruptor. Virka did this so that Kir would be in her debt.
  • Wonder Woman: Circe has on at least one occasion cooked and eaten one of her Bestiamorphs when they failed an assignment. Her Bestiamorphs are humans, mostly men, who she has transformed into creatures to do her bidding usually without their consent.
  • Bone: After the Hooded One botches the ritual to free him by hunting down the wrong sacrifice, the most recent in a string of screw-ups, the Lord Of Locusts responds by stripping her powers away and utterly eviscerating her. Since the Lord is a powerful Necromancer, he simply revives the Hooded One once it’s clear he still needs her for the time being, but he warns that there will not be anymore second chances and keeps her on a shorter leash for the rest of the story.


Example of: