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Superman: How can you work for these people? Do you know what they are?
Dr. Hamilton: Power brokers, politicians, criminals and black ops mercenaries, with one thing in common besides: They're humanity's last hope against your kind.
Superman: What are you talking about? Humanity doesn't need protection from us!
Dr. Hamilton: I used to believe that. I thought you were a guardian angel, come to answer our prayers. But Lucifer was an angel too, wasn't he?

Justice League Unlimited — "Question Authority"

This trope describes any organization of ordinary humans, good or evil, whose mission is to combat people and entities posessing superhuman powers.

Is a kid who can teleport at will going into your bank vaults and taking all your stuff? Is a crazy man in mismatched clothing eating citizens and causing general havoc in large cities? Is yet another telekinetic serial killer running around stealing people's brains? Who You Gonna Call?

Is a group of mutants learning and teaching at a unique school? Is a superhero family living a normal, peaceful life, contributing to their community? Is yet another young child discovering their powers, requiring them to be stolen and experimented on? Who You Gonna Call?

The Cape Busters are normal humans whose job it is to battle against superhumans. Their effectiveness and morality ranges considerably from setting to setting. They can be anything from upstanding law enforcement types, to amoral covert government Black Ops ruthlessly enforcing the Super Registration Act, to genocidal Knights Templar attempting to exterminate all Supers. Likewise, they can be Badass Normals who manage to hold their own against Supers with effective technology and superior tactics, or they can be a laughably ineffective Redshirt Army that end up Dying Like Animals.

The Cape Busters can be the main characters of a story, or (if the main characters are Supers themselves) anything from a relatively ineffective secondary supporting organization, to the primary antagonists.

Unlike Mutant Draft Board, the Cape Busters are primarily composed of mundane, non-powered humans, rather than being an organization of government Supers attempting to assimilate all other Supers. The Cape Busters may or may not employ one or two super-powered individuals themselves, but the vast majority of the organization's forces lacks any superpowers (other than assault rifles).

Typically the result of What Measure Is a Non Super.

See also Mage Killer, for the anti-magic (rather than anti-superpower) version.

Examples of Cape Busters include:

Anime and Manga

  • Bubblegum Crisis had the AD Police (a special police branch focused on robot and cyborg-related crime), who fell squarely into the "Redshirt Army cannon fodder" role, even in their own spin-off series.
  • The Public Security Bureau from Darker than Black, especially the Foreign Affairs Section 4 that Kirihara leads, whose job it is to deal with Contractor-related crime. Since the Contractors themselves are a public secret, so is this role of the PBS. The UN itself is another example of this trope, head of a vast conspiracy of several Cape Busters and Mutant Draft Board across the globe.
  • A Certain Magical Index has "Antiskill", a group of people dedicated to keeping order in a town full of espers. Antiskill members have no powers, just modern armor, plastic shields and automatic weapons. They are considered superior to Judgement, a group composed primarily of espers, probably because these espers are children and adults try to avoid putting them in too much danger.
  • The Japan branch of the witch-hunting organization of Witch Hunter Robin. All the agents are supposed to have some sort of witch power, however only Robin's pyrokinesis is explicitly shown.
  • The Anti-Demon Corps from the final arc of Devilman, ordinary grunts in Powered Armor who hunt down both the genuinely evil demons as well as the heroic Devilmen, for the sake of keeping humanity on top of the food chain by any means necessary.
  • The Hellsing Organization of the eponymous series clearly fits into this category. Despite deploying more exotic means of combating the Undead, good ol' military men with bulletproof vests and automatic rifles make up the bulk of the organization.
  • The anti-Kira Taskforces in Death Note, if only because they're built to target a specific person/power.
  • If having a giant robot counts as a super power, then Ben Barberry and his anti-MS squad from Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO count. They fight Zakus with little more than bazookas and guided missiles and they actually end up destroying several mobile suits, though they eventually lose. Barberry had a surprisingly high MS Kill count before the Gundam had even been built.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam 00 had the Union setting up the Overflags and equipping them with customized Flag mobile suits to take down Gundams. They even managed to capture one during a cooperative operation with the other superpowers... for a few minutes, anyway.
      • For that matter, the HRL built the Tieren Taozi for the same purpose. And it was mostly effective until the inception of the GN-X which is kinda conflicting in this regard: it was made to combat Gundams but the reason it could do that is because it used an inferior version of the very same GN Drive technology that made Gundams nigh-invincible to conventional mobile suits so far. By the second season, every single Mook has the tech and A-LAWS like to pass themselves off as this trope. In truth, the Gundams usually mow them like grass; the real Cape Busters of the second season are the Innovators and they don't miss a single chance to lord it over everyone. That is, whenever the good guys don't happen to have the 0-Raiser nearby.

Comic Books

  • The B.P.R.D. from Hellboy and of course B.P.R.D. are a government organization founded to combat supernatural threats to national security. However, although most of the organization is made up of mundane human Red Shirts, most stories focus on the BPRD's handful of occult-magic-wielding or downright non-human members, including the titular demon "Hellboy". The Red Shirts later take a level in badass, killing whole armies of Frogs (the same ones that Hellboy had a hard time with in volume 1) with ease: sadly, it's not enough when the Frogs now have mechs from the first age of Man.
  • The Mandalorians (aka Boba Fett's people) in the Star Wars Expanded Universe are basically a Proud Warrior Race of mercenaries, although a decent chunk of their job description involved battling Jedi using their Swiss Army Weapon suits.
    • And oftentimes losing to them. They really need to improve on that.
  • The Marvel Universe has a lot of groups like this. Some are mostly focused on a single, extremely powerful super (e.g. the Hulkbusters), some are essentially government-sanctioned hate groups/extermination squads (e.g. Zero Tolerance), and some are general homeland security organizations who (due to how common powers seem to be in the Marvel universe) simply end up spending most of their time dealing with Super-related crime (e.g. SHIELD).
    • Most notably, during the Civil War arc, when SHIELD's primary mission was to hunt down heroes who refused to comply with the Superhuman Registration Act. SHIELD agents were then given the derogatory nickname "Cape Killers".
      • This was at first a derogatory nickname, but has since been adopted (especially under Norman Osborn's HAMMER organization) as their official designation. They operate as a SWAT-esque subdivision of regular agents, backing up any government-backed metahuman operatives (Thunderbolts, now the Dark Avengers) when confronting non-registered metahumans or metahuman criminals (which SHIELD/HAMMER never seemed to see any distinction between).
    • The Sentinels are giant robots built by the government to identify and kill mutants.
    • Code: B.L.U.E. is a Deconstruction of the Cape Busters; they're just a bunch of NYPD cops, each with their own quirks and flaws, who just happen to fight gods and monsters. And win.
    • In a more humorous vein, in 1989, the female members of the Uncanny X-Men faced off against the "M-Squad" (Expys for the Ghostbusters), a group of purported mutant hunters who ended up being catastrophically inept at their mission (which was actually just to catch Jubilee because she had pissed off a mall guard).
    • The five original X-Men masqueraded as a Cape Buster squad that rounded up mutants under the name X-Factor for a few years (Beast wasn't furry at the time, and Angel wore a large metal backpack over his wings). The idea was that anti-mutant bigots would call them in rather than taking matters into their own hands when they discovered their neighbor was a mutant, and X-Factor would whisk the mutants away to give them a safe place where they could learn to use their powers, while claiming to have killed or imprisoned the mutant. They gave it up when they realized they were doing more harm than good (the whole thing was the idea of a "friend" of Angel's who secretly hated mutants).
  • The Wildstorm universe had two versions of Stormwatch along these lines: Team Achilles and the PHD (Post-Human Division), although each had a few superhuman members. The former were an entirely military unit and occasionally used high-tech equipment, while the latter were street-level operatives with a wide range of specialties.
    • Members of Team Achilles actually comment when the ratio of superhumans to normal humans in the team gets too skewed.
  • Superman has the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit, a heroic version of this trope (Redshirt Army variation). Gotham's Police Department has also had to deal with a few rogue capes in its day, but most of Batman's Rogues Gallery is relatively Badass Normal in their power conceptions.
    • Metropolis SCU has since been replaced by the Science Police (who directly fight supervillains and monsters) and Metropolis Metacrimes Division (who clean up after the Science Police).
  • When Lex Luthor was president, one of the only good things he did was form the Human Defense Corps, sadly they only were in a Miniseries (which was Made of Win) the last issue was then invading Hell and winning.
    • The HDC has since been made part of General Lane's Project 7734, along with the K-Squad, a Cape Busters squad specifically aimed at ending "the Kryptonian threat" (ie, killing Superman and all his people).
      • The K-Squad appeared previously in a rather more reasonable context. Superman was mind controlled and they showed up to contain him while the Justice League tried to stop the person who had control of him. Their leader mentioned that deploying them cost millions of dollars for every minute they were active due to the incredible expense of weapons capable of stopping Superman.
    • One series featured a team made by Amanda Waller equipped with Kryptonite weapons. She made the questionable decision to fill it with people who had psychological problems and a personal grudge against Superman. They also had a Kryptonite Doomsday as the ultimate anti-Superman weapon.
  • One of Garth Ennis' first jobs for Marvel was the "What If?" comic Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe. Instead of mobsters, Frank Castle's family is killed in the crossfire of a brawl between superheroes and supervillains, and he reacts violently. A Secret Society of similar survivors and casualties of super-powered violence use their immense wealth and influence to keep Castle out of jail and killing all the supers he can. He kills them all, then himself.
    • The main protagonists of Ennis' The Boys are a CIA-affiliated group of Cape Killers.
  • ThugBoy, Empowered's boyfriend, used to belong to a group dedicated to destroying capes, both villains and "heroes".
  • E.A.G.L.E. troops in Astro City are normally called in for support and cleanup after super-hero incidents. During the "Confession" story arc, however, they became Cape Busters when directed by the mayor to enforce the Super Registration Act. It turned out to be all part of a plot by shape-shifting aliens to neutralize the supers ahead of a planetary invasion.


  • The Paladins in Jumper use all sorts of fun gadgets to trap and kill the Jumpers.
  • The military in X-Men: The Last Stand (2008) is eventually equipped with "cure weapons", firearms and indirect fire weapons that contain a serum which disables mutant powers on contact. Or does it? They even manufacture plastic and glass versions of the weapons to fight Magneto. As appropriate for the themes of the movie, the serum permanently disables mutant powers and its use as a weapon is highly controversial.


  • The hazekillers in Mistborn are ordinary soldiers trained specifically to fight Allomancers.
  • Those Who Walk In Darkness has the "villainous" type of cape busters used as Villain Protagonists. This overlaps to a surprising degree with Noble Bigot with a Badge, and to a more predictable degree with He Who Fights Monsters.
  • Laura Anne Gilman's Retriever novels have the Silence; a secret society out to protect the normal people from the Cosa Nostra.
  • In the first book of the shared-anthology series Wild Cards, when the Four Aces are testifying before the HUAC Committee, soldiers are waiting outside with poison gas to prevent any superheroic antics.
  • In Wearing the Cape, the Department of Superhuman Affairs is the federal agency tasked with assessing superhuman threats to national security and assisting local authorities who can't deal with their superhuman problems. The DSA, with ties to the Secret Service, FBI, and US Marshals Service, and run by former US President Kayle—the man who created it—has a shadowy reputation and is every conspiracy theorist's Holy Grail.

Live Action TV

  • Volume 4 of Heroes has a special Black Ops unit of the Department of Homeland Security, dubbed "Nathan's Nazis" and led by an evil Jack Bauer Captain Ersatz called The Hunter, as the main threat to the Heroes. The fact that The Hunter and several of his men were willing to False Flag a nuclear suicide bombing in D.C. and blame it on Supers to create a credible justification for their actions firmly shows which side of the moral line they're on.
    • And previous volumes featured Primatech Paper, or The Company, a much more morally gray group composed of both supers and Badass Normals. They were devoted to upholding The Masquerade, keeping tabs on all Differently Powered Individuals, and making sure that the dangerous/psychotic ones were contained. They were villainous in Volume 1 but made a kind of collective Heel Face Turn afterwards.
  • The organization in Painkiller Jane is dedicated to finding and "chipping" (basically power-castrating) all Neuros (humans with superpowers derived from evolved brains), even non-hostile civilian Neuros who've never used their powers in a harmful manner. The main character, Jane, also has a superpower (a Healing Factor), but she's not technically a Neuro (she lacks the gene), which is the only reason she's tolerated.
  • NTAC in The 4400 was tasked with dealing with the assorted problems caused by the sudden integration of 4400 super-empowered individuals into normal society.
  • In Mutant X, the main enemy in Season 1 was the GSA (Genetic Security Agency), a biotech firm's Private Military Contractor tasked with recapturing all the firm's escaped Mutant refugees. Their ranks mostly comprised of non-powered stormtroopers, although they semi-regularly fielded one or two Superpowered Mooks (who were typically flash-frozen at the end of each episode by Bad Boss Mason Eckhart for failing him for the last time).
  • The Syfy program Warehouse 13 is basically The SCP Foundation (see below) the series set in Indiana Jones' huge-ass warehouse. The only operatives are a pair of tough but bewildered government agents and their eccentric supervisor.
  • Smallville has Luthorcorp's "Level 3/ Project 33.1", an ongoing effort to produce Super Soldiers to defend humanity from Meteor Freaks and aliens (And incidentally to help Lex secure his power base).
    • Season 9 introduced Checkmate who wanted all the metahumans either dead or under the control of the US government. Season 10 introduced the Smallville version of Deathstroke the Terminator, who was an army colonel who wanted to use the Vigilante Registration Act as a justification to capture and experiment on metahumans.
  • In Highlander, the Hunters are a group of rogue Watchers who, instead of observing the immortals, stalk them and kill them, up to and including ignoring the rules of engagement followed by all immortals (most notably Hunters will kill on holy ground).

Tabletop Games

  • The Old World of Darkness has the Society Of Leopold, the modern incarnation of the Spanish Inquisition who are fanatically devoted to wiping out all vampires. Due to the vast power difference between vampires and Muggles (both in terms of social influence and individual strength), they're more of an annoyance than a credible threat, although that's small comfort if you're a low-powered vampire being chased through the sewers by a bunch of Society hunters.
  • The default Mutants and Masterminds setting, Freedom City, has the non-powered S.T.A.R.S police division, who deal with rogue metahumans.
  • Several organizations in the Imperium of Man in Warhammer 40,000 fill this role. Of particular note is the Inquisition, whose three main branches are exclusively devoted to identifying and eliminating aliens, daemons, and heretics.
  • There are several organizations like this in the Champions Universe. UNTIL, the United Nations Tribunal on International Law, has taken this role since the game's first edition. PRIMUS and SAT (Special American Tactics) were added in other editions as American-only anti-supervillain organizations. The Millennium City sourcebook added MARS teams to the Millennium City police department; these are basically SWAT teams that specialize in supervillain crime.

Video Games

  • The titular organization in First Encounter Assault Recon is a small group of U.S. soldiers dedicated to combating paranormal threats to national security. However, the F.E.A.R. organization actually plays very little role in the game, as they prove laughably ineffective against both Fettel's army of clone soldiers and the apocalyptically-powerful psychic ghost Alma. The game's main focus is the player character, the super-powered Point Man (who has Super Reflexes and turns out to be not so much a member of F.E.A.R. and more like a personality-less engineered weapon that was loaned to them just a few days ago).
    • In the first briefing you get, one of your coworkers responds to the report of psychic clones by saying "No wonder no one takes us seriously!".
  • Given that City of Heroes is an MMORPG centered around superheroes, there are quite a few such organizations.
    • The Malta Group is a villainous organization of Badass Normals employing SWAT tactics with some advanced technology in order to oppress all meta-humans the world over. They were formed by people who were angry when their "Might for Right" act was ruled unconstitutional.
    • Longbow, the enforcement arm of the United Nations-sponsored organization Freedom Corps, has teams of specially-trained and equipped anti-superpowered teams called "Nullifiers." This is not a perfect example, however: though Longbow's rank-and-file are made up of humans with guns and body armor, they are usually led by mutants, psychics, and other super-powered soldiers.
    • Even Arachnos, the Big Bad's organization, uses their Crab and Bane Spider units to defend their villainous projects from meddling heroes and ambitious villains looking for a piece of the action.
  • The Tyger Mercs in Batman: Arkham City where trained specifically to take down Batman. Doesn't stop him from easily kicking their butts.
  • Infamous 2 gives us the Milita, a bunch of Fantastic Racism Trigger Happy mooks that wish to keep their city clean of any Conduits.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • The eponymous organization of Gemini Division exists to take down SiMS.
  • The SCP Foundation deals with and keeps imprisoned many strange people, but enough about the staff: Their charges include a massively telepathic teen, a shape-shifter who is 30 times better than you (and anyone/thing else), and possibly Lilith, Cain and Abel themselves (Lilith is Lilith but maddeningly mum about her exact relationship to Cain and Abel; Cain is a gentle man who happens to have the same biologically corrosive power as Wither while Abel is a Blood Knight with Type IV Immortality).
    • A better example is the Global Occult Coalition, whose purpose is simply to hunt down and kill any "paranatural" individuals.
  • The Whateley Universe had the Dragonslayers, a group which shot to fame when they put down a mutant rager who had killed dozens of people and done a whole lot of damage to the city of Darwin. The Dragonslayers had pretty much retired until they mixed it up with the Lamplighter when said super"hero" decided to pick on a bunch of teenagers. They seem to have been replaced by the Knights of Purity, a bunch of baselines in powered armour who hate mutants.
    • Making sure that mutants don't become a menace to baseline humanity is precisely what the much-maligned Mutant Commission Office is technically all about. In practice, they tend to fall into the 'covert black ops' category while doing their best to keep looking officially legitimate because they're an international organisation that needs government permission in order to be able to legally operate in a given country at all. Thus far, they do have that permission in a lot of countries (with a couple of small nations ruled by supervillains as the main exceptions), and their presence in the US in particular is certainly felt.
  • Dangerous Lunatics, a furry original story by Alex Reynard, features such an agency with a really insidious approach: Convince the world that the supers are crazy, get the supers while they're still young, and put them in institutions to warehouse the supers out of sight until they can be quietly disposed of. The approach works because the supers in the story often have other problems, i.e. an immortal with a Healing Factor discovers the ability through repeated suicide attempts, another constantly wakes up from nightmares, one with extreme durability uses his power by constantly getting into fights, etc. Cursed with Awesome and Blessed with Suck apply here.
  • No Gods, No Capes, No Masters are a political organization that wants to outright ban on superhero activity in DC Nation. Other activist organizations and civil libertarians are also shown in Nationverse to be uneasy about "capes." Nationverse's talk radio stations are usually very savagely critical of the "capes", and at least one celebrity doctor has made a small fortune doing armchair psychoanalysis of active heroes and villains, making utterly no distinction between them.
  • Legion of Nothing has Syndicate L, a shadowy organization opposed to supers and destined to do appear more and more often, with cooler and cooler anti-hero weaponry.
  • The Global Guardians PBEM Universe features both Checkmate in the United States and the Longsword program in France. Both groups are highly-trained normal soldiers using very high-tech weaponry and low-grade Powered Armor.
  • In Fine Structures, the government finally decides that Powers are too dangerous and start working on killing them when they're alone. The first one is killed by bolting him to a ceiling in a room with light fixtures on the floor. When he wakes up he thinks he's upside-down, and tries to break out by flying through the ceiling. This plunges him straight into the Earth's superheated core.
    • After a few years of this, the government discovers how to artificially create Powers. This is necessary because of the Powers' accelerated reaction speeds, but the artificial Powers still can't quite keep up with the faster ones. Trusted soldiers are given the upgrade and assigned to the Cape Busters squads. The first chapter that describes a Power-versus-Government fight is appropriately called, "Capekiller". The soldiers use sniper rifles with supersonic armor-piercing rounds, diamond-tipped hypodermic needles, and sticky bombs.

Western Animation

  • Gotham City's orange-uniformed SWAT officers in Batman: The Animated Series. Their effectiveness varies.
  • The U.S. government's anti-superhuman organization, Cadmus, became the primary enemies for a decent-sized portion of Justice League Unlimited's run, until it turned out they were really being controlled by Lex Luthor/Brainiac.
  • Danny Phantom had the Guys in White, a laughably ill-informed and ineffective pair of government-sponsored paranormal investigators whose main role was to get beaten up by the ghost of the week so Danny and/or his ghostbusting family could come in later to save the day. That was until they Took a Level in Badass and became a serious threat to Danny.
  • Disney's Gargoyles added a group of these in it's last season. The thinly-veiled KKK knockoff known as the Quarrymen had the sole purpose of eliminating all gargoyles at any cost.
  • The Swat Kats were, when you ultimately boiled it down, two mechanics in a Super Prototype jet who held down a second job dogfighting the assorted homicidal mutant freaks that would regularly attack their city.
  • The main foes in Wolverine and the X-Men are a government-sanctioned, anti-mutant military force known as the Mutant Response Division (MRD, aka 'the Mardies.')
  • Syndrome from The Incredibles is a villainous version. The Omnidroid may be just an Omnicidal Maniac, but the zero field is clearly designed against supers.
  • The ARC Troopers in the 2003 version of Star Wars: Clone Wars were a borderline case of this. They were genetically engineered super-soldiers who, using squad tactics (and heavy supporting firepower and air support), were able to at least hold their own against General Grevious to rescue a group of wounded Jedi knights. Although they were super-soldiers, against Force-users like the Jedi Knights or the Sith, even their genetic augments wouldn't be enough to qualify them as supers in their own rights.
  • Providence from Generator Rex counts, as the sole reason for its formation was to combat the threat of Evos and related problems stemming from the series' ongoing Mass Super-Empowering Event.
  • In Ben 10, the Forever Knights are a secret society/paramilitary dedicated to keeping Earth devoid of alien lifeforms. Given most aliens in The Verse have superpowers, they certainly qualify.
  • MECH from Transformers Prime arguably functions as a villainous version of this trope. Though they started out as simply a terrorist syndicate with a lust for advanced technology, as soon as they encountered Cybertronians for the first time, they immediately began tailoring their tactics toward specifically combating the robots. They make use of EMP-like weapons to instantly incapacitate Transformers, giving them a chance to slice them open and gain knowledge of how they work. This culminated in the creation of their very own Transformer, Nemesis Prime, whom they promptly put to work fighting the Autobots.
  • This is the goal of the Equalists in The Legend of Korra, though they are fighting against benders rather than supers. Though, considering that benders are born with said ability, it makes them clser to this than Mage Killers