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The Hero has done a pretty good job of screwing up the Big Bad's plan. The Big Bad's Mooks have proved less than useless in trying to stop the hero. So the Big Bad decided to bring in some professionals to get the job done right. He brings in the best Professional Killers in the world. Enter the Carnival Of Killers.
A Carnival Of Killers occurs when a villain either hires the best assassins from around the world and sends them after the hero, or offers an open bounty on the hero's head that attracts a variety of assassins. A typical Carnival Of Killers will involve a large collection of assassins with radically different styles (e.g. a Cold Sniper, a Knife Nut, a Mad Bomber, etc). Sometimes one of the assassins will decide the best way to win the bounty is to take out the competition before taking out the hero.
Anime and Manga
- Happens twice in Black Lagoon, once in response to the Vampire Twins, and once in response to Greenback Jane. In the second example, one of the episodes of the arc is even called "The Roanapur Freakshow Circus". (It sums up a lot about Black Lagoon when you point out that several of the characters involved then end up working with the heroes in the "Baile de la Muerte" arc.)
- It sums up more when you realize that two of the characters defending the target during the second carnival participated in the first.
- The second half of the anime Trigun is about Vash trying to stay alive while keeping the 12 Gung Ho Guns at bay as they come at him.
- The many and various groups and individuals trying to kill Bambi and retrieve the stolen child in Bambi And Her Pink Gun, which include a gang of smuggling truckers in rigs bigger than most battleships, a powerful mafia family, a posse of biker cowboys, a cyborg luchadore, and psychopathic rock star Gabba King
- The Seven Warlords of the Sea in One Piece, to a degree as not all are antagonistic towards Luffy. CP9 probably counts as a straighter example, and they're actual assassins as opposed to the Warlords...
- Happens in the Yorknew City Arc of Hunter X Hunter. After the Phantom Brigade has proven to be too much for the Mafia to handle alone, by killing their Praetorian Guard, the Elders call in the most famous assassins in the world to finish them of, including Killua's father and grandfather
- Frequently ended up on the wrong end of Oogami Itto's sword in Lone Wolf and Cub. Hired by the Yagyu clan, until the situation got desperate enough that they revealed themselves to wear this mantle as well.
- In Until Death Do Us Part, one of these was called against Mamoru by Edge Turus. Notable in that the "target" then spread the word that he'd be in a certain location at a specific time, and when they gathered there, took out the assassins all at once.
- An early arc in The Punisher: War Zone had the New York mob hiring the seven best assassins in the world to hunt down the Punisher. Such things are something of an occupational hazard for The Punisher.
- One of the Batman Versus Predator mini-series had this running as B plot. An open bounty on Batman brought a variety of hitmen to Gotham to attempt to collect.
- In the "6 Gun War" arc in Jonah Hex, Quentin Turnbull recruits a variety of assassins from around the world to bring him Jonah's head, including an Irish boxer, a Persian assassin, a Masai lion-hunter, and a Mexican Dual-Wielding machetes.
- These groups get sent after the Secret Six all the time. In fact, the roster of the Six themselves read as a veritable carnival of killers:
Deadshot: World class marksman with a death wish.
- Red Robin (DCU) introduces the Council of Spiders, a spider-themed carnival of killers that decides to take on another carnival of killers, the League of Assassins.
- Hawkeye was subject to one of these in Avengers Spotlight #24-25 when Crossfire put a bounty on his arm.
- In Teen Titans Annual #2, a mob boss hires one to protect him from the Vigilante and kill the Titans. It included Scorcher, Spear, Bazooka, Tanker, Slasher and Cheshire (the only one to survive/catch on and make subsequent appearances.)
- In the 14th issue of Daredevil, after word spreads about Ka-Zar's vibranium medallion, a motley crew of "agents from every nation and killers without a nation", in addition to the Plunderer and the police, all start gunning for Ka-Zar and Daredevil.
- In the Sin City tale, Hell and Back, the protagonist deals with one assassin after another. All of the assassins belonged to the same guild, however.
- Also done in the first story. Marv has to deal with a SWAT team, two hitmen, a cannibal Serial Killer, and a group of federal agents all asigned to take him down.
- In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Dreyfus demands that Clouseau be killed or he will destroy the world. Several nations send assassins to kill Clouseau at Oktoberfest in Munich, only for the assassins to wind up killing each other by accident.
- In another Pink Panther movie, the main villain's henchman hired a whole Carnival of Killers. When the Big Bad saw them he said "are these the men you have hired to kill Clouseau?" The henchmen replied he had hired these men to kill Mr. Chang. The Carnival of Killers had been hired merely to test the skills of the real killer they were sending after Clouseau . . .
- Handled very well in Smokin Aces. Not so much in its Shameless Cash-In Sequel.
- The finale of The Last Dragon, where Bruce Leroy (yes, that's not a typo) fights off everyone from a wrestler with a white Mohawk to an acid bath murderer...
- The Superposse in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
- Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead - the reason our protagonists are dead is because they know they can't survive long against a Carnival Of Killers sent by Christopher Walken.
- The bounty hunters in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
- The lineup of killers sent to kill Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Running Man includes a homicidal hockey player, a chainsaw-wielding biker, an opera-singing lightning-man and a pyromaniac with a jetpack.
- Inspector Gadget 2.
- The Three Stooges face one in The Outlaws Is Coming.
- The mercenaries sent by Skeletor in the live action Masters of the Universe
- Austin Powers: Among the various killers hired by Dr Evil are an Asian man using his shoe to kill people named Random Task and a vaguely Middle-Eastern man who angers Dr Evil but will just not die.
- The Hassansins in the Prince of Persia the Sands of Time who comprise of; a man that controls snakes, a man that shoots darts, a guy with two deadly whips and finally a guy that throws explosives.
- The eponymous characters in Slashers, which include Chainsaw Charlie, Preacherman, Doctor Ripper, Pirate Pete, Slasho the Clown and... Switchblade Sam.
- The Red Triangle Circus Gang in Batman Returns is about as literal as this trope can possibly get. True to their name, they are indeed ex-circus performers and continue to dress as clowns, acrobats, and various other circus people while serving as the Penguin's shock troops. More to the point of this trope, they function as a sort of highly anarchic guerrilla fighting force with just about every weapon known to man: machine guns, rocket launchers, ninja weapons, various incendiary devices, and (in the Nintendo spin-off video game and various other adaptations) swords, knives, and pitchforks.
- Pretty-boy gangster Dorian Tyrell promises $50,000 to whoever can kill the title character in The Mask (no mean feat, since the green-faced creature is practically immortal).
- In Flag of Iron, an old Shaw Brothers kung fu film, the main character is hunted by the Ten Killers of the Underworld. One of the killers is The Accountant who uses a weaponized abacus. Another is a Hitman with a Heart who ends up aiding the hero.
- In the Roger Zelazny book Roadmarks the antagonist declares a "Black Decade" on the protagonist, legally permitting ten attempts to kill him. Agents may be employed... and so ten highly skilled assassins/hunters have been hired from the entire range of Earth's histories (including alternate pasts and futures). This includes an assassin robot, a genetically enhanced and cybernetic super soldier, and a martial arts master.
- In Matthew Reilly's Scarecrow, Majectic-12 sets a bounty on the 15 people who could possibly foil their plan. Various groups respond, including Professional Bounty Hunters, Mercenaries, AWOL Military Units, Corrupt Corporate Executives...
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Tywin Lannister employs a carnival of killers for "foraging" missions, which is essentially sending armed men to plunder and murder the enemy's peasants. His troupe includes a mercenary gang nicknamed the Bloody Mummers, which is almost literally a carnival of killers, right down to a Killer Clown.
- The Destroyer: The Last Alchemist had an interesting variation of this. The Dragon as part of his backstory, participated in an open contract on a crimelord. After he killed the target, he was given a job as the personal assassin of the Big Bad who had placed the contract simply to find a suitable person for the position. The trope appeared in a few other books in the series as well.
- This is what happens in No Country for Old Men after Moss steals the money. He has numerous Mexican mooks, Professional Killer Carson Wells, and Psycho for Hire Anton Chigurh after him.
- At least Once A Season on Buffy the Vampire Slayer}}. For example, in season 2:
Dalton: Uh, yes, but... The Order of Taraka, I mean... isn't that overkill?
- In "Homecoming", the Carnival Of Killers is combined with Hunting the Most Dangerous Game.
- A nice subversion is in the episode "Angel," where the Master hires the Three, three apparently badass vampires to take down Buffy. In their first encounter with her, she manages to barely escape...and the Master, incensed that they failed, has Darla kill all of the Three, making their scenes a total of two. They weren't the real threat of the episode; that happened to be Darla herself.
- Max faces one in the Get Smart episode "Someone Down Here Hates Me" when KAOS puts a $250,000 on his head (and later ups it to $500,000).
- In the Amazing Extraordinary Friends episode "Quality Time", Renfield hires the 'world's greatest super assassins' (the Invisible Ninja, Captain Tardy, Geyser Girl and the Easter Bunny) to eliminate the Friends.
- Inverted in the "Black Seal" episode of Blackadder when the protagonist assembles a team of the biggest bastards in all of England (including himself, naturally) to carry out a fiendish plan.
- There was an episode of the 80s Bret Maverick TV series where an authur who writes westerns hires a Carnival of Killers to take out professional gambler Bret Maverick, so he'd have an ending to his latest book that's more exciting than "And he retired with a saloon and a cattle ranch."
- White Collar had one of the protagonists calling on a carnival of killers, when Mozzie places a six million dollar bounty on Keller who killed one of their friends and was threatening them.
- Sherlock: In "The Reichenbach Fall", a group of international assassins appear around Sherlock, although initially they appear to be keeping Holmes alive. Ultimately, it is revealed they have been hired by Moriarty to kill Holmes' friends if Holmes refuses to kill himself.
- In his final appearance in the Dick Tracy strip, 'Big Boy' Caprice created an open contract: an offer of one million dollars to anyone who killed Tracy. This led to multiple attempts on Tracy's life. (New writer Max Allan Collins used this storyline to kill off Moon Maid, Creator's Pet of the series; killed by a car bomb meant for Tracy.)
- Vince McMahon issued a contract on D-Gneration X (Shawn Michaels and Triple H) in the summer of 2006 when DX was running amok on Monday Night Raw. Both Chris Masters and Eugene (who, being a babyface, didn't bear DX any ill will but just liked the idea of getting a reward) failed to collect, so Vince enlisted the help of Cuban businessman Armando Alejandro Estrada, who actually succeeded for a time in getting Triple H sent to jail after framing him for having smuggled Cuban cigars into the country.
- A staple of Suda51 console games; You play as one of these in Killer 7, and fight your way to the top of a different group in No More Heroes.
- In Knights of the Old Republic Knights of the Old Republic II, the gangster Goto hires dozens of bounty hunters to bring in the Player Character. Goto wants you alive, but the people he hired don't pay attention to that part so much.
- Team Fortress 2 consists of a team of these being pitted against another team of them.
- To wit:
- A Bostonian Fragile Speedster with a penchant for baseball.
- An Ax Crazy, not-quite Grizzled Veteran of World War II.
- A Pyromaniac of indeterminate gender and origin.
- A black, Scottish cyclopean demolitions expert who can swing a mean sword.
- A large Russian man with a love for massive chainguns.
- A Texan Gadgeteer Genius.
- A sadistic German doctor.
- An Australian sniper who uses an ancient martial art.
- A French espionage agent with a variety of cloaking watches.
- To wit:
- A constant theme in the first Baldur's Gate game is a never-ending stream of bounty hunters and assassins attacking the protagonist. Unusual in that the protagonist didn't do anything to screw the Big Bad's plans; all the assassination attempts are caused just by him or her existing.
- Subverted in Dragon Age. Arl Howe approached the Crows about assassinating the Grey Wardens. But it's considered in poor taste to go after members of that order, and only one man wanted the contract. Once he makes his attempt, no more assassins bother the Warden. Until the end, anyway. But they're not really after the Wardens at this point. They're after the assassin who failed to kill the Warden.
- In the Extraterrestrial Mob Assassins storyline in Get Medieval, Mafia boss Broat hires a trio of these.
- Dead Winter: One of the main characters, Monday, is involved in one of these as a subplot.
- From the Global Guardians PBEM Universe. A Syndicate boss put out a $1,000,000 bounty on the head of Nineties Anti-Hero Strafe, and a fifteen-man Carnival of Killers took up the challenge. After the smoke had cleared, the six surviving killers decided to stick together as a "business cooperative" they named "The League of Assassins", with the body of Strafe as their first advertisement.
- At the end of The Venture Brothers' third season, Jean-Claude LeTueur, Russel "Go-Fish" Sturgeon, and Herr Trigger are hired to track and kill Brock.
- All of them manipulated by Molotov Cocktease into getting killed by Brock so that her Black Hearts assassins agency would be the only game in town for high profile assassination jobs.
- This was common enough in Samurai Jack that eventually an entire episode is told from the perspective of the disparate group of bounty hunters searching for Jack. Another example is the endless progression of hunters facing Jack head-on in "Jack and Mad Jack" (most notably, "Crazy Round Man" and Huntor).
- Also the various groups that tried to catch Danny Phantom after Vlad put out a bounty on him, including the Guys in White and the Extreme Ghostbreakers.
- On The Boondocks, Gin Rummy tells the tale of Bushido Brown fending off a group of these hired by the beef industry to take out Oprah Winfrey, including pastiches of Walker, Texas Ranger and Billy Jack.
Gin Rummy: Apparently only one guy actually managed to get his hand on Oprah's door, they say Bushido Brown kept that hand.
- The Young Justice episode "Infiltrator" dealt with the heroes protecting a scientist from a group of assassins.