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Mar 24th 2013 at 11:33:29 AM •••

Removing all the examples which do not make clear that the villain took the hostages in order to lure the superhero out. If you're familiar with a work on this list and it actually does fit that criteria, please clarify the example and return it to the page.

Anime and Manga

  • Tantei Opera Milky Holmes twists this brilliantly in the finale, in which Master Thief Arsene kidnaps her own alter ego.
  • A variation occurs in Astro City, where the secret identity of a small country town hero occasionally saves people while in his civilian guise. The visiting big city girl can't believe how blind everyone is in the small town, given how incredibly obvious the hero's secret identity is. Nobody seems to believe her whenever she points it out. The twist is that for everyone in the town, it is an open secret; they just don't out the guy out of respect for him.
    • See also Irene Merriweather constantly putting coworker Adam Peterson in peril in an attempt to prove he's really Atomicus. When Atomicus actually saves him once, she figures that's the end of it... until she sees a TV report of Atomicus showing off his newly discovered ability to create atomic duplicates. She then stops screwing around, tears his shirt open to reveal the Atomicus suit, and drives him away from Earth forever. Goddammit, Irene.
  • In the final issue of the Spider-Man/Human Torch: I'm With Stupid miniseries, Johnny is going to speak at Midtown High (where Peter Parker teaches), just as some thugs take the auditorium hostage. Innocent by-standers at risk keeps Johnny in check, but Peter is also in the room when things go down. With no choice, Peter has slyly reveal his secret identity to Johnny (this being before One More Day). The naturally chagrined Torch fakes a sneeze and causes his powers to blind everybody in the room - giving Peter time to sneak out and suit up. After Spider-Man webslings back in, the two heroes take care of the thugs.
  • In Death Note, Light deliberately invokes this to make it look like he isn't Kira to the man following him.
  • In Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok, Loki makes a game of it at one point; letting Yamino solve the mystery of where he is, and amusing himself by playing the role of Creepy Child to the hilt with his captors.
  • One of the DVD extras for Code Geass had a bank robbery involving a couple of idiots. These unfortunate fools robbed the very same bank that Lelouch, Suzaku, and Kallen were visiting at the time. Things did not end well for the robbers.
    • It also happens when Euphemia is kidnapped along a bunch of students.
  • Couldn't have missed from Beelzebub, a mostly parody of the genre. Four self-proclaimed pretty damn good robbers end up in the store with a guy chosen by Satan's kid himself, a kid that can spur out lighting and other nasties if upset and his nanny of sorts, that can summon dragons and other goodies from the Underworld. They're actually about to be put in charge of taking care of the kid, until Oga decides they're too weak and swiftly disposes of them.


  • The Long Halloween had a variant where Poison Ivy was hired by mobsters to mind-control Bruce Wayne into going along with a money laundering scheme; since this was early in his career, there was no Robin, but thankfully Selina Kyle caught on to Bruce's odd behavior and saved the day as Catwoman.
  • Inverted in Justice League International. Bruce Wayne was attending a charity in a French museum, and a pair of villains try to steal the money. But Wayne was not captured by the villains: he was protected by the highly efficient security of the museum. But, surrounded of security cops, he can not leave to change clothes and fight with the villains. Fortunately, the Crimson Fox also has a billonarie secret identity, and was in the museum as well.
  • In a comic book version of the animated series universe, Bruce Wayne is taken hostage on a charity cruise by Poison Ivy and her overgrown plant henchmen. To escape, Bruce Wayne makes a "foolish" attack at the villains and is immediately swatted overboard, where he is free to swim to cover and become Batman.
    • That happened in the cartoon too, they just later put it in the comic... Or vice versa.
  • Subverted in The Sword of Azrael, in which Bruce spends the miniseries captured, and is rescued by Azrael.
    • Though the kidnappers had nothing against Batman or Robin specifically, a variation of this trope showed up in a recent Robin comic wherein Tim Drake got himself kidnapped on purpose in order to save the other kids who'd been grabbed.
  • And of course, Intergang has more than once attempted to kidnap or kill that muckraking, bribe-proof, irritating Intrepid Reporter Clark Kent.
    • Also in All Star Superman Clark Kent is interviewing Lex Luthor in prison and must improvise surreptitious ways of saving Lex's life and the lives of the guards during a superhuman prison riot.
  • Minor example - in Black Canary, a villain uses the Black Canary's name while committing a crime, intending to frame the hero. To set up suspicion on "the Canary", she orders a black orchid to be delivered to the home of her intended victim. The shop she ordered it from was run by one Dinah Drake.
  • In Irredeemable, Max Damage finds out the Plutonian's secret identity from his old ex-girlfriend. After a moment of shock, he flips out, ranting about all the times he had him hostage without knowing it.


  • In Mystery Men, Lance Hunt AKA Captain Amazing is kidnapped by his arch-nemesis, who knows exactly who he is. Everyone else doesn't, and thus expects the Captain to come to his rescue.
  • In The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne just barely manages to not be part of the hostages as he has just walked out of the room when the Joker comes in and takes the fundraiser party hostage. Though this time, the Joker is looking for Harvey Dent, and Wayne manages to knock Dent out and hide him before ducking into his panic room/back-up bat-cave and come back to the party as Batman. It also helps that Bruce knew the Joker was coming.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce returns to Gotham after escaping the hellhole prison to stop Bane, but he doesn't have any of his equipment handy. Bruce lets himself be captured by Bane's men in order to get to Fox who can get him to his backup batsuit. Bane's men know that they've captured Bruce Wayne, but Bane obviously failed to tell all of his soldiers that Bruce was also Batman...

Live-Action TV

  • In Batman:
    • Bruce Wayne is held hostage. He breaks out, dons the bat-suit, does hero stuff, breaks back in, dons civilian clothes, does hostage stuff, breaks out, dons the bat-suit... you get the picture. More often, if Bruce was in the villains' custody or otherwise occupied, either Robin would show up alone and claim Batman was elsewhere (once he pretended to call Batman on his portable Bat-transmitter), or Alfred would don a spare Batsuit and either speak through a voice modulator or lip-synch as Bruce threw his voice. Batman eventually creates dehydrated batsuit tablets so that all he needs in order to become Batman after being taken prisoner is to ask for a glass of water.
    • Batgirl was introduced in an episode where the Penguin kidnapped Barbara Gordon and planned to marry her.
  • The Adventures of Superman
    • Clark, Jimmy and Lois are being held in a jail cell. In a blatant example of Luckily, My Powers Will Protect Me, Clark says Superman could melt the lock with heat vision. When Jimmy points out Superman could break through the wall, Clark mutters to himself, "Trouble is, too many people would see him break through the wall."
    • There was another such episode where Clark and Lois are tied up in a room with... some sort of amnesia gas. Clark simply Supermans out, knowing that his transformation will be forgotten due to the gas.
  • Lois And Clark.
    • In the pilot, Clark explains he broke through his chains via a "weak link", and then claims the "force of the blast" enabled him, Lois and Jimmy to Outrun the Fireball.
    • There was in fact a straight version of this trope in Lois And Clark where the Daily Planet is held hostage by the villains and Clark has to find a way to save the day without being noticed. One part of it included Clark deflecting with his hand a bullet headed straight for a coworker's chest, fired at close range. Cue Jack (the coworker) examining his shirt perplexed and partially in shock, while Clark casually tries to pretend it's obvious that the bullet "missed". (By the end of the episode, it was hinted that Jack had figured out Clark's secret identity. Unfortunately, his character was written out of the show a few episodes later, so the series never got to explore that dynamic.)
    • In on episode, an old classmate of Lois' was using a shrinking solution on the spouses of people who spurned her in high school and, naturally, Clark got a dose and (eventually) shrunk to roughly three inches tall. He had to try and save the other spouses without appearing to them as Superman because obviously, the villains knew Clark was supposed to be tiny, but would have put two and two together if they spotted a tiny Superman. At one point he put on a Barbie-sized scuba suit to pass himself off as a completely different tiny superhero, but this didn't actually work.
  • 24 inverted the trope in season 5, when a group of terrorists inadvertently took their own Dragon hostage, and nearly executed him as well.
  • An early episode of Highlander The Series played in a building where a group of terrorists took everyone hostage, including Duncan Macleod. Naturally he was the first one that was "killed" as an example and for the rest of the episode he was trying to rescue the hostages without being seen to avoid the question how he could survive a shot to the head.
  • Done in an episode of Chuck, however the whole thing was a set up by Fulcrum.
  • Somewhat subverted in "The Bank Shot Job" episode of Leverage. While the villains weren't looking for the heroes (and didn't know they were there), it was otherwise played entirely straight.
  • Person of Interest: In "Bury the Lede", Reese can't do anything overtly Reese-ish to protect the latest number because she's an investigative reporter who, as a side-gig, is putting together an expose on the mysterious Badass in a Nice Suit.

Video Games

  • In Rainbow Six, some terrorists try to hijack an airliner that happens to have three badass special forces/spies on board. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Batman: Arkham City starts off this way, with Bruce Wayne arrested on trumped-up charges and thrown into the titular prison. Hugo Strange, the one bad guy who knows Batman's secret identity, tells him, "It was far easier to capture Bruce Wayne than it was to capture Batman."

Web Original

  • The New York Metropolitan Museum was invaded by gunmen during the presentation of a new exhibit. Both Achilles and Bungie of the Global Guardians were in attendance in their secret identities. It didn't go well for the gunmen.

Western Animation

  • Batman: The Animated Series also used this trope. A ninja with a grudge against Bruce holds him hostage alongside a reporter who already knew that Bruce Wayne had trained for years alongside the very same ninja. He then demands Bruce fight him, meaning he had to fight just good enough to stay on his feet. If he fought too skilled or too amateurish, it would either arouse suspicion or get the hostage killed. Luckily, Robin arrives to cover the reporter's vision of the fight, and Bruce can then fight without holding back.
    • Subverted in Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero. Dick and Barbara are at an upscale party when the title villain crashes it and tries to kidnap Barbara. Dick doesn't bother hiding at all and tries to stop him (and gets brutally beat down by 2 polar bears in the process). Barbara eventually allows herself to be taken in order to save the other guests. It still doesn't stop Dick, who proceeds to take someone's motorcycle and give chase.
      • Not just take the guy's motorcycle. Dick tosses the guy the keys to his Corvette. That's more than fair trade.
      • This trope also applies to Barbara after being taken to Freeze's lair. Of the 18 people in Gotham who could have saved his wife, Freeze had the misfortune of choosing the one who was both the Commissioner's daughter and Batgirl.
      • The trope also applies on a meta level to Subzero: Not only do the characters have to be careful about revealing their identity, but (given where the movie falls in BTAS continuity) the creators needed to be vague about whether Bruce and Dick knew Barbara's Secret Identity.
    • Bruce Wayne is kidnapped by Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, who use mind control lipstick to have him buy them a shopping spree for Christmas; when Bruce starts to snap out of it, Harley chases him with a pucker and Bruce, in avoiding her, falls down an elevator shaft to his "death." The girls are distraught for all of five seconds, before acknowledging they were going to kill him later anyway. Meanwhile, Bruce turns into Batman and captures the duo.
    • An early episode of BTAS had Batman investigating homeless/poor disappearances in Gotham. Going undercover as a poor man, he gets kidnapped by the wrong-doers (who are using their victims as forced labor in a mine). Wouldn't be quite so bad (he was in disguise, of course), but a blow to the head gave him amnesia. It takes a traumatic internment in a small box in the hellish heat of the desert for him to relive the death of his parents and regain his memories. Then Alfred tracks him down and Batman gets to dismantling the entire operation.
  • In Batman Beyond, Inque takes a innocent bystander hostage when she is chased by Terry and threatens to kill him. Unfortunately for her, the bystander turns out to be Superman in civillian disguise.
  • The Batman has Bruce Wayne being held hostage by The Penguin. He's rescued by Batgirl. In this case, however, Bruce Wayne was suffering from amnesia and thus didn't know he was actually Batman.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, as Clark Kent, he uncovered evidence that a man facing execution for murder is innocent. While Kent was trying to get the information to the authorities, a car bomb planted by the real killer detonated, "killing" Kent and destroying the evidence. Superman then faced a dilemma: how to bring the evidence forward without anyone asking how he could possibly know it. In a clever subversion, the real killer is eventually apprehended, and makes the connection that Clark Kent is Superman, right as the lever on the execution machine is thrown.
    • Furthermore, at one point, Superman realizes that saving the innocent man's life is more important than keeping his identity a secret, and so prepares to go to the Governor as Clark Kent but ready to reveal himself should he need to prove how he survived the car bomb. Of course, further plot developments make this unnecessary.
    • In a twist on the trope, Clark is thrown off a cliff, but before he can strip to his super-skivvies and pretend to save himself he's rescued by... Superman? Hang on... turns out it was Bizzaro!Superman, though the incident would make getting 4 from 2 and 2 a bit more tricky in the future.
  • This happens to Virgil in Static Shock at one point, a group of his villains believing correctly that he's Static. Gear comes in and saves him while tricking the villains that he's not Static, however.

Nov 5th 2011 at 2:40:49 PM •••

This is only for cases where the villain doesn't know "Bruce Wayne" is "Batman", right? Cause remember that old cartoon, "Turbo Teen", where a guy can turn into a red car? There was once an episode where a villain held the boy prisoner, trying to force him to admit his secret identity. His friends then save his identity by driving up with another car that has a cardboard-cutout of Turbo-teen stuck to it, making the villain think the real superhero is out there.

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