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And this is why. [1]

Badass Normal heroes are defined as such because they live in a Shared Universe of Mages, Superhumans, Super-Inventors, Human Aliens and everything in between. This gives the writers plenty of opportunity to develop their heroes in contrast to their superpowered neighbours, while at the same time being able to focus on the very mundane issues taking place in the hero's own backyard.

The hero can learn to become a part of the enhanced reality of his not-so-Badass Normal colleagues, and even fight alongside them without any apparent difference in crime fighting ability. However, it's much more difficult the other way around: most of the time, the Applied Phlebotinum-wielding heroes simply don't fit into the everyday world of a regular Joe. Even though they could probably help the hero fix every daily problem (health troubles, car troubles, tax troubles, love troubles) in a heartbeat, it would make for a pretty dull storyline. And often, this is avoided by simply keeping the demi-Gods of comic continuity out of the less talented heroes' homes altogether.

Superman Stays Out of Gotham occurs when a hero lives in a sprawling verse full of tremendously powerful allies and fantastical elements (and regularly crosses over with them) that could completely up-end their mundane struggles and headaches, were it not for the fact that the fantastical elements never show up in relation to the story's real life issues. If the hero is so thoroughly associated with a common everyday problem, characteristic or element that solving it would damage their franchise, it simply won't be solved — even if the hero's superpowered friend could fix it at once. More often than not, the problem is so integral to their own works that the reader accepts it. Any Crossover team-ups between the heroes will usually Hand Wave away the possibility of the Phlebotinum-based hero making any substantial impact in the Badass Normal hero's livelihood.

It's not strictly limited to Badass Normals either; some heroes endure heaps of abuse just for being a superhero that can metastasize into Super Registration Acts and other anti-superhero hindrances that never end up on the radar of their colleagues.

Common in works starring the Anti-Hero. The plots and characters within their own works take place in their own hometown with its own tone and rules for the genre of acceptable morality and realistic plot resolutions. This leads to quite a bit of Fridge Logic when Green Rocks-based innovations that would work under any other circumstances that have been used numerous times are proposed but they just won't work for that specific hero, resulting in a Broken Aesop.

A more recent, but less-common Double Subversion is when the hero calls upon his pantheon of super-allies for help in solving some intractable problem that they may or may not have solved before, only to get back a unanimous "There is nothing we can do" response.

A sub trope of Reed Richards Is Useless. Compare This Looks Like a Job For Aquaman, Fantastic Aesop, Status Quo Is God, Plot Technology, The Only One, and Law of Conservation of Normality. For this as a learning/interaction trope, see Die or Fly or Sink or Swim Mentor.


Comic Books

  • Batman's hometown of Gotham City is the Trope Namer. The Dark Knight himself is the poster child for the down-to-Earth superhero: an ordinary man who relies on "mundane means": training, smarts, a scary costume and pure determination to get the job done; he just wouldn't be Batman if he gained superpowers or called upon superpowered allies as a Deus Ex Machina to solve the pervasive risks of being a superhero. In-Universe, he comes across as being paranoid and mistrustful of metahuman heroes and Applied Phlebotinum in general and his attitude towards other heroes so much as entering the city uninvited is an unequivocal boot to the glutes.
    • At least part of the reason for this, aside from Batman being so territorial (read: a Control Freak), is that powerhouses like Superman attract powerful rogues. Batman can't handle those and would like it if his colleagues could keep them out of Gotham.
    • Lampshaded in the first JLA Classified story, which revealed the Batcave has a "sci-fi closet" full of rayguns, teleporters and antigrav discs. He just hates using it. By Grant Morrison, naturally.
    • Batman has built Powered Armor and acquired powers (like a Green Lantern Ring in the Elseworlds story Batman: In Darkest Knight), which his human allies wield in spades, none of which ever lasts in his case. As Batman is only one hair away from being as nuts as his Rogues Gallery, having a bit of extra power in hand is generally portrayed as the corrupting influence to push him over the edge to Well-Intentioned Extremist.
    • By comparison, Batman has used Powered Armor in stories that take place in the future (The Dark Knight Returns, Batman Beyond) where his armor is a contemporary innovation. The Batman Beyond armor was over 20 years old and thus dated (but still effective) by the time Terry McGinnis took up the role.
    • Gotham's status as a hellhole, Arkham Asylum as a Cardboard Prison and the existence of Joker Immunity have all been Lampshaded/Hand Waved as due in part to a supernatural curse, which Batman's magical allies (Zatanna, Spectre) do not seem to know about, let alone consider removing.
    • Likewise, it is frequently established as the most nightmarish city on Earth, a metropolitan hellhole with a ridiculously high violent crime rate overrun by murderous pychotics like The Joker who terrify even the superpowered rogues of other cities, yet Supes and the rest of the demigodic heroes who could easily clean up the place and overpower pretty much all of those homicidal lunatics in seconds barely do any meaningful crime fighting when they visit. They actually show up quite frequently- they don't really "stay out of Gotham"; it's just that on those occasions they tend to talk with Batman more than they actually help him out.
      • During the early Silver Age of the late fifties and early sixties, Gotham was depicted as a pleasant place to live, relatively free of crime, with law-enforcement methods that were admired and studied by cities all over the world — expressly because of the presence of Batman. That's right: Batman was at his most effective in the deepest depths of his Dork Age.
    • It doesn't necessarily work both ways, though: during The Death of Superman series, Batman patrolled Metropolis in the days during and after Superman's funeral. He even played by Superman's rules.
    • During the No Man's Land Bat Family Crossover, the government features a literal version when it cuts Gotham off from the rest of the USA and enacts legislation to prevent anyone (normal or superhero) from going in or out even to assist. This proves remarkably effective given how many superheroes are aliens, not Lawful Neutral, or for whatever reason shouldn't care at all about the ruling:
      • Superman travels to Gotham to deliver supplies and help set up a power plant to provide heat during the winter. The plan falls apart leading to Batman explaining how the city has changed and Superman realizes he's not up to the task of fixing Gotham and leaves. Similarly, the Huntress in a JLA storyline points out the League's refusal to assist Gotham and Superman replies her presence is the League's presence.
      • In the above case, Superman does return to No Man's Land... but only as Clark Kent. He still seeks to help, but as a normal man doing things like growing gardens for food. He even dirties up his appearance to make it look like he's been there all along, but Batman points out that his disguise is Paper Thin (no one in Gotham has smelled like soap in months).
      • In the League's own book, it was shown that, during "No Man's Land", they were keeping a slew of opportunists (Kobra's organization, evil Atlanteans, assorted alien armadas, etc.) from seizing Gotham for their own. This neatly balanced Superman Stays Out of Gotham with Brainiac Is Kept Out Of Gotham.
      • Jim Gordon revealed during the crossover that he cannot get a job in any police department outside of Gotham as no one wants a cop who needs an "Urban legend" to do his policing for him, which Batman is considered despite being a known member of the JLA and living in a universe with other cities that have local superheroes (he mentions Keystone City by name).
        • The Keystone example is especially curious given they have been shown, in multiple storylines, to be nearly useless at dealing with the Rogues without the Flash around.
        • Of course! They're the Keystone Kops!
    • When Barbara Gordon, formerly Batgirl until The Joker put a bullet in her spine, was rescued from the fridge and turned into the information-broker superhero Oracle, she became one of the DCU's most capable heroes and an iconic figure of an effective disabled person yet still hasn't regained the use of her legs despite the loads of superpowers, magic & technology the DCU has to offer. In-universe, Barbara has justified refusing offers to insta-heal her spine as not wanting special treatment for being a superhero that a regular citizen wouldn't have access to.
      • One offer came from Amanda Waller. Not trusting 'The Wall' is just logical. And using magic in the DCU? It's just -begging- for trouble.
      • As of the New52 reboot, her back is fixed and she's back to being Batgirl, although she does have doubts about being given a cure that the average person doesn't have access to.
    • A black and white Batman back up story has him calling in Superman as a glorified ambulance when a woman falls down with heart damage. Naturally the Big Blue Cheese gets in a pissy mood but can't do much about it with the badly injured woman right there.
    • Another thing to consider about why the other DC heroes don't come along to chip in and help Batman out is that they usually have their own fish to fry at the same time — at the same time that Batman's, say, dealing with the Joker's latest escape attempt in Gotham, Superman's usually dealing with some scheme that Lex Luthor's got going in Metropolis, and so forth.
  • Superman and Batman have both mentioned of having a noted dislike for operating in each other's respective cities. Superman hates working in Gotham because it's so dark and dingy, not to mention most of the buildings are lined with lead, blocking his X-ray vision, making him less effective than he could be. Batman hates working in Metropolis because everything is so brightly lit, making it difficult to hide and the buildings are further spaced apart preventing him from scaling them easily.
    • This was discussed in an issue of Superman/Batman, where it's explained that whenever Batman has business in Metropolis, Superman insists on keeping watch on Gotham City. And the Dark Knight always makes sure to return the favor for Supes. Anyhow, Superman notes that Commissioner Gordon is always seems happy to see him. Furthermore, they two have noted in the same issue that crime and trouble come in very different shapes in their two respective cities; with Gotham City, it's mostly about psychos like Joker, Zsasz, Firefly, Two-Face, and the rest robbing banks or blowing stuff up. Metropolis, on the other hand, is mainly endangered by the "sci-fi monsters rampaging down 2nd Avenue," or something to that effect.
  • John Byrne addressed this in the third issue his Superman reboot: Batman tells Supes that "Defending a planet and cleaning up a city are two very different things... Gotham City isn't your turf. It requires a different approach."
  • The Punisher: he really doesn't get along well with the rest of the Marvel heroes: he's a Vigilante Man who lives in a Darker and Edgier world and kills criminals in a universe full of superheroes who hold Thou Shalt Not Kill as an ethical absolute. In non-Punisher stories, any hero that runs into the Punisher contends he's a murderer like any other and tries to apprehend him (it never works). Within his own Black and Grey comic, Frank Castle is the hero (or Anti-Hero) and his victims run the gamut of unrepentant mobsters, psychopaths and hired killers but no hero ever takes the initiative to come down to Hell's Kitchen to apprehend him for racking up such a high body count.
    • Out-of-universe, this is because most writers of Punisher books prefer Badass Normal Anti-Heroes instead of the traditional superhero, making them look inefficient, if not treating them as outright non-existent.
    • There was at least one story where superheroes tried to neutralize him (Wolverine would have been happy to kill him, but Daredevil and Spider-Man were against it). This being The Punisher, he takes them all out (non-lethally).
    • Averted in recent years with Castle being split into the Darker and Edgier MAX imprint in which only a few Badass Normal Marvel characters appear, such as Nick Fury or Kingpin or Bullseye, quite different from their mainstream counterparts, and he takes on contemporary criminals (terrorists, sex slavers). Mainstream Punisher tries to replace Captain America, killed alien invaders, wears a costume based on Venom symbiote, fights The Hood and his supervillains with stolen weapons of various superheroes and gets killed by Wolverine's son to be resurrected as Frankenstein-esque monster to aid Morbius the Living Vampire, Man-Thing, Living Mummy and Werewolf by Night in their fight against Nazi Zombies.
    • In an odd example, Batman beats up The Punisher for 20 minutes in JLA-Avengers.
      • Also often averted during the nineties. Back then The Punisher was one of Marvel's cash cows along with Spider-Man and Wolverine, and as such he had quite a few crossovers. Surprisingly, most heroes were either okay with him, or at least willing to put aside their dislike to work with him. The stories tended to focus on both character's intent to save innocent lives first and foremost. But in one particular instance, Castle was recorded shooting a corrupt psycho cop on TV, which led to the police and a few other heroes to try to apprehend him. Captain America tried to reason with him. Spider-Man just stomped his ass flat.
      • Since Punisher operates in Hell's Kitchen he often has meetings with Daredevil. One of those encounters ended with DD chained up to a pole with Punisher giving a Hannibal Lecture on how his way is the right way and he doesn't even want DD to try it.
  • Spider-Man: One More Day had a forced double subversion: the eponymous web-slinger ask numerous heroes for help in healing Aunt May's gunshot wound, to which the various heroes responded with a collective "There is nothing we can do." The X-Men in particular had an Omega-level mutant with Healing Hands at the time who had healed far worse injuries, including someone having their heart torn out of their chest. Spidey is forced to make a Deal with the Devil to heal Aunt May in exchange for erasing his marriage from history.
    • It should be noted that the people who said there was nothing they could do specified that the problem wasn't curing the wound, but May's AGE. She was old, and her body was failing under her - and even Elixir with his magic hands can't do anything to stave off old age.
  • Most heroes in the Marvel Universe are based in New York City, so they can't be accused of "staying out of Gotham". Yet although it is the base and home of The Avengers, Doctor Strange, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men and various other immensely powerful superhumans and superteams, it's usually left up to Spider-Man, Daredevil and various other "street-level" heroes to sort out the city's superhuman crime wave. While they do cross over more frequently than DC's heroes, and Rogues Gallery Transplant is a little more common, it's amazing how many times Doctor Octopus or the Rhino can go on a rampage or normal crooks can rob a bank and end up running into Spider-Man instead of, say, The Thing, or even a Badass Normal like Captain America. Even considering that they are often on adventures to another country or battling aliens in a different dimension, you'd think that with how easily the Web Slinger and others come across serious criminal activities they should run into this kind of thing every other day. It could be argued that Spider-Man is the main adversary for New York's crime because he is always on duty, 24/7. New York is the other heroes' main base, but they take time off, get fringe benefits, and are often off fighting threats on a larger scale. Spider-Man, and to a lesser extent Daredevil, are the heroes charged with guarding New York itself.
    • Another possible explanation is that these events do happen with some regularity, they just aren't covered on camera as the Thing punching out muggers isn't interesting enough to show very often.
    • Even when the FF and the Avengers aren't actively busy, they have to be ready to deal with threats that arise. If they concerned themselves with crime they might not be able to respond instantly to world-level threats. It's even more extreme for Doctor Strange, whose Rogues Gallery treats Apocalypse How as a to-do list.
  • X-Men: Non-mutant heroes with superpowers function side by side among mutant superheroes who face discrimination from humans who fear them because they have superpowers. The anti-mutant regulations include high-profile government-sponsored elements such as Mutant Registration Acts and mutant-hunting Sentinels, which the rest of the heroes have to know about, as The Avengers were once forced to fire their mutant members as a result of increasing public scrutiny and used a fleet of Sentinels in a major battle against Kang, the Conqueror. Despite not being anti-mutant racists themselves, all the heroes who got their powers through other means (and therefore are exempted from the Fantastic Racism and government scrutiny) have decided the plight of mutants is Somebody Else's Problem.
    • X-Men works both ways too. When evil Pro-Mutants force like Magneto threatens the world, it's the job of Mutants like the X-Men, and specific anti-mutant forces to stop him. Magneto rarely ever has Thor or Doctor Strange coming down on him, unless he's done something specific to drag them into the story (beside his usual Kill All Humans spiel).
    • The Civil War storyline mended the hypocrisy, subjecting all superheroes to a Super Human Registration Act. In a twist, the X-Men declared the whole thing not their problem (specifically citing how the non-mutants never bothered to interfere with Mutant Registration Act(s)).
    • Similarly, other large-scale threats to mutantkind exist in the X-Books alone. The Legacy Virus was meant to stay active until they found a cure for AIDS but it became a Plot Tumor when the writers had no clear answer for why scientific geniuses like Reed Richards or Hank Pym couldn't find a cure.
    • Beast reaches out to nine of Marvel's Mad Scientist supervillains for help in solving the "Decimation" that Brought Down to Normal most of Earth's mutants. They all just laugh in his face.
    • A trend that comes and goes Depending on the Writer, and one that at present has "come", is that Marvels superheroes will act like jerkasses in X-Men comics and the X-Men will act like jerk asses in other Marvel comics, yet they will never be portrayed as jerkish (or that jerkish, anyway) in their own stories. Witness Reed Richards getting pissed at the X-Men for summoning the giant metal bullet that trapped Kitty Pride back from space (long story), basically a long overdue rescue attempt aimed at saving a member of their extended family, albeit with some (averted) danger to the Earth. Never mind that Reed himself would go to equally insane lengths to save one of his friends or family, that he frequently messes about with stuff that potentially puts the Earth in far greater danger (sometimes for his own curiosity), or that he didn't even give Cyclops the chance to explain that it wasn't even them doing it (Magneto had decided he owed them a favour).
    • When Magneto took over New York during Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men he explained that he had tricked the Avengers and the Fantastic Four in to leaving on a wild goose chase. That does not explain why none of New York's other heroes who weren't associated with any of those groups did not try to help the X-Men. While Magneto may be a few power levels above them, there is no way Spider-Man, Daredevil or Luke Cage would have stood by and watched while Magneto sent New Yorkers in to gas chambers.
    • One story did it's best to explain why Magneto is usually the X-Men's problem. Immediately after the Legacy Virus is cured, Magneto sets about gathering mutants from all over the world and organizes them into an army on Genosha in preparation for his latest attack on the rest of the world. Questioned by news reporters on why the Avengers haven't moved in to stop him, Captain America explains that, because the Avengers are a government-sponsored team and Magneto is legally recognised as the ruler of Genosha, they can't move in until he actually does something (of course, he subsequently attacked Professor X in his home, kidnapped him and put him on display in the centre of his city, which seems like the kind of thing the Avengers would respond to). At the same time, Israel's main superhero (Sabra) says that she would be willing to strike him pre-emptively.
    • In the non-canon Universe X comic, one character hypothesises that the more powerful evil forces in the Marvel Universe- for instance, Hell Lords like Mephisto, and other demons and dark gods- actually go out of their way to manipulate characters and events to sabotage human-mutant relations, with the explicit aim of stopping them banding together more often and kicking their collective asses. This is quite a clever justification, even if it wouldn't explain everything (as demons can't affect Free Will), but it has yet to cross over into the mainstream stories.
    • The Avengers vs. X-Men Crossover averts this with a vengeance. The Phoenix Force is returning to Earth, and while the Phoenix was always an X-Men problem in the past, this time the Avengers have caught wind of it. Their disagreement on how to handle the incredibly powerful cosmic entity that could potentially save mutantkind or destroy the Earth is the main conflict of the event.
  • This problem is very much averted in the Ultimate Marvel universe. They have a separate crossover series which is acknowledged to mostly be canon, and there was an arc called Ultimatum which affected ALL of their superheroes. Furthermore, there are frequently villain crossovers, and other heroes making guest appearances.
    • Particularly notable in Ultimate Spider-Man: There is an issue of where Spidey shows up to stop the Rhino and discovers that Iron Man has already taken care of it. To name but a few other occasions: The Fantastic Four show up to help Spider-Man face off against SHIELD during the Clone Saga; Nick Fury always has his back when Norman Osborn turns into the Green Goblin; he briefly dates Kitty Pryde; the X-Men show up to help him take care of a reckless teenage mutant; Daredevil recruits him to a superhero team to take down the Kingpin; he has teamed up with the Ultimates before; The Human Torch is a close friend and briefly attends his high school; Etcetera.
  • Black Panther: Like Batman, he works alone. During the "Enemy of the State" arc, T'Challa must sort out on his own a conspiracy by the American government to take over his homeland of Wakanda. When his former comrades The Avengers offer their help, he flat-out refuses it, stating that assisting him would be equivalent to turning on the American government and they weren't ready for the consequences, even though the Avengers have tussled with their government sponsors and came out on top before.
  • DC Comics is split into two barely-related worlds. Dark and magical characters such as Constantine, Swamp Thing, the Endless, and Lucifer interact with each other but rarely cross over with mainstream superhero characters.
    • As of 2011 John Constantine and Swamp Thing are interacting with regular DC characters, thanks to the Brightest Day crossover.
      • And now, thanks to the Flashpoint event, the Wildstorm, Vertigo, and main DC universes have all been fused together.
      • In this deal Constantine isn't too different from Marvel's Punisher in that while a younger version appears in the mainstream DCU leading the Justice League Dark (a team made up of supernatural types), there still exists a Vertigo version of Constantine that deals with more mature subject matters and ages in real time over in his solo title Hellblazer.
  • SeanBaby Lampshades this on his JLA page, in which Superman could do everything if he wanted to.
    • Not that he hasn't tried. There have been a few stories where Superman tried to save everyone and do everything, usually with the aesop that he can't do everything alone, or that it's just not worth sacrificing his social life to save a few cats stuck in trees.
  • In John Ostrander's writing of the Spectre, his human host (Jim Coorigan) asks Father Cramer why the Spectre never responded to the murder of Coastal City. Father Cramer suggested that the Spectre was designed by God only to respond to certain cries for vengeance.


  • Justified in the Naruto/Justice League crossover, Connecting the Dots. Batman insists that any superheroes in Gotham operate under his rules, and stay out of the public eye. When Wonder Woman engages in a very public battle with Sakura and Rock Lee, this later draws the Cheetah, who had gained some new abilities, to Gotham. Batman explains that she was drawn there by Wonder Woman's public presence in the city, and uses Metropolis's Superman-induced villain infestation as a justification for why he insists that supers in Gotham operate under his rules.
  • In Chapter 14 the Doctor Who/Justice League crossover, A Dalek Lantern, Tim Drake tells this to Metaltron (a Dalek wielding a Red Lantern Ring). Metaltron doesn't care. He has work to do in Gotham that involves a legitimate threat to the safety of Earth.
    • Another, "Fear Itself", shows that Superman coming to Gotham causes the criminals to fear Batman less, hampering his productivity and aura of fear.
  • Avengers of Steel provides a truly hilarious version of this as it's a Fusion Fic between Man of Steel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the Kryptonians invade, everyone asks where Thor is. He shows up in Chapter 17, explaining that the Nine Realms have collapsed into chaos with the Bifrost's destruction and he's been busy fighting a war to restore order.
  • The Many Dates of Danny Fenton, and all its various spin-offs and sequels, is a Mega Crossover that features many heavyhitting heroes (including Superman himself) but usually justifies this trope on the basis that: all the different villain powers are Outside Context Villains to most other heroes (i.e: Superman isn't much use against an Intangible Man), some powers won't work against some villains (ghost powers are similar enough to Necrofriggians and Ectonurties that Vilgax's technology can counter them), some heroes can't cut it against heavy hitters (Kim Possible has skill but she can't fight Darkseid), or that certain cities need their specialized heroes to counter specific problems (the very reason that Danny and Ben 10 give for why they can't help out the other very much). But whatever the case, every single one of them will be out of town or incapacitated in some way when the Disasteroid starts falling towards Earth. The Danny and Alex spin-off has several reporters outright ask the President why the Avengers, Justice League, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Teen Titans (all of whom could easily destroy the asteroid) can't lend help and all of them just happen to be off-world at the time.
    • Averted with all the Kid Heroes in Danny and Kitty, Ben rallying them all to fight off the Highbreed invasion, but justified with the Avengers and Justice League whom the Highbreed deliberately led astray to prevent their interference.
    • Or there's the case of Deadpool. Powerful as he is, everyone hates him so much that they want to stay as far away from him as possible, refusing to call on his aid. And even if he does show up, as Deadpool, he's too unreliable to be properly counted on.
  • Inverted in Day of the Broken Fang, a prequel to The Elements of Harmony and the Savior of Worlds. While COBRA can fight G.I. Joe on equal footing, Cobra Commander is very aware that they're small potatoes compared to the Autobots and Decepticons, who, as the fic demonstrates, can destroy all of COBRA with ease, and ordered his troops to run away whenever they saw a robot in disguise.
  • Harry Potter and the Invincible Technomage has the perfect explanation for this trope. The power of A-List heroes, such as the Mighty Thor, is best served fighting off A-List villains, like Doctor Doom. And while Thor could certainly defeat all the lower-tier villains, that sort of thing is best left to lower-tier heroes, such as leaving Spider-Man to fight off Paste-Pot Pete, so Thor can keep his focus on the world ending threats.
  • Most Miraculous Ladybug crossovers justify this on the basis of Ladybug's World-Healing Wave fixing everything or the fear that an A-list superhero might be Akumatized.
  • In There Was Once An Avenger From Krypton, Gwen Tennyson justifies any absence of the Avengers by pointing out one irrefutable fact: The Avengers can't be everywhere at once. There's a lot of weird shit in the world and they don't even have ten members. If someone chooses to attack anywhere but New York, the Avengers really can't be counted on for a quick response.


  • None of the X-Men seem interested in rescuing the New Mutants. Even if all the others are unavailable or uninterested, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead should still show up since: A)This is heavily implied to be the same facility that captured Russell Collins, and B)One of the New Mutants is Colossus' own sister.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Man of Steel ran into trouble retroactively justifying this. Batman, as shown in the sequel, was there but couldn't do anything to help, Flash was more than likely too scared to intervene, and Aquaman was living in a remote corner of Iceland at the time so he likely didn't even hear about it until it was over. Where Wonder Woman was has yet to be revealed.
    • Averted in Batman v Superman. Superman operates on a global scale. Metropolis is just where his apartment is. Clark Kent even goes to Gotham for some investigative journalism.
    • Despite the title, Justice League. The Green Lanterns defended Earth during the first invasion but their absence in the present day is never addressed.
    • He may have been an Aloof Ally to the League, but it's still somewhat odd that Aquaman doesn't call on the Leaguers to help fight against Orn's invasion, especially as he seems to want to show the Atlanteans that the surface world is just as good as their city. In fairness, it's not like the League can operate that effectively underwater but it's still somewhat bizarre that neither Batman or Superman are interested in the warships suddenly appearing on the ocean's surface.
    • Justified in Shazam. The movie has an Extremely Short Timespan and Billy spent most of it goofing off. He defeats Sivana a few hours after meeting him. Though he may have reached out and met Superman afterwards, there wasn't really a lot of time to contact him before the plot was wrapped up, plus he was going through some powerful emotional issues and was established as not being the biggest superhero fan so it's likely that he never even thought about it. Likewise, the short timespan might have prevented other heroes from hearing about the crisis and responding fast enough.
    • During Birds of Prey, none of her fellow Suicide Squad teammates (namely, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang and Killer Croc) show up to help Harley fight Black Mask. It's even more confusing since Deadshot and Killer Croc are Gotham-based villains. And Batman himself never shows up to stop the Enemy Civil War.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • If Thor is on Earth, it's because so is something alien. By and large, he sticks to space heroics and defending Asgardian territories.
    • Phase 1 justifies it. Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor all took place at the same time, preventing any hero from helping the other.
    • Starting in Phase 2, the general explanation seems to be that most films take place over an Extremely Short Timespan, a few days at the most, and the hero doesn't have time to wait for all their friends before going to confront the threat.
    • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Nick Fury, Sam, Steve and Natasha simply cannot contact the rest of the Avengers and ask them for help because HYDRA has pretty much taken over S.H.I.E.L.D.
    • In Doctor Strange, Wong says that the Masters of the Mystic Arts handle the magical threats to the world while the Avengers deal with the physical ones. True to form, no Avengers shows up during the Battle of Hong Kong. Also didn't help that time literally rewound, giving the battle an Extremely Short Timespan that no one could have reasonably responded to in time.
    • In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter feels that the weapons gang is an Avengers level threat but Tony disagrees, instead calling the FBI to handle it.
    • Captain Marvel never properly explains why Fury didn't call Captain Marvel when Loki attacked New York, or when HYDRA threatened Earth with Project Insight, or when Ultron attacked Sokovia.
    • Discussed in Spider-Man: Far From Home where Peter, feeling out of his depth, asks Fury to call Captain Marvel (whose name Peter is not allowed to invoke), Thor (who is off-world), or Doctor Strange (who is unavailable). Justified in The Stinger with The Reveal that "Nick Fury" is actually Talos who has literally no idea how to justify this and is simply dodging the question whichever way he can. He even says that he doesn't know where the Avengers are.

Live Action TV

  • On The X-Files, all those demons and vampires and mutants running around would have been really useful for the Earth Home Team when the Alien Colonization finally hit.
  • Any of those various godlike alien species that Kirk (from Star Trek: The Original Series) and Picard (from Star Trek: The Next Generation) were always running into could have been a very big help once the Dominion invaded. Granted, most of them were amoral or actively malign...
    • Likewise, one has to question where the Enterprise (i.e: the flagship) was during the Dominion war. Reasons have ranged from it being largely on diplomatic missions to it simply fighting on other fronts.
    • In the first season of Star Trek: Discovery, it's stated that most Constitution-class vessels are so far away from the front lines that the sheer amount of time it would take them to get back means it's best to just leave them where they are.
  • Doctor Who runs into this rather frequently as well. There are other advanced species besides the Doctor who could be of help to Earth, but this seems to have happened once in the 50-year history. Several mercenary forces would probably gladly sign up with Earth for the right consideration, but there's never any mention of an offer being solicited. The Sontarans in particular would love to mix it up with the Daleks after being left out of the Time War. However, only one Sontaran (that was demoted to a nurse as punishment) joins the Doctor's army in "A Good Man Goes to War". In that same episode though, an army of Silurians that owe a debt to the Doctor takes command of Demon's Run.
    • Averted with "The Pandorica Opens." When all of reality is at risk of never having existed, every race of baddies were willing to band together to stop the threat, the Daleks included. It didn't help in this case though, since the problem was the TARDIS, which they intended to solve by locking up The Doctor, when someone else was in control.
    • After two series of deconstructing the way the Doctor operates and showing just how hated he's become amongst certain people, the Series 6 finale reveals that millions upon millions of individuals wished to answer River's distress beacon and prevent the Doctor's (unknown to River, faked) death in 2011 Lake Silencio.
    • In Torchwood: Children of Earth, this is played harrowingly straight, except that it's The Doctor from Doctor Who who stays away. After learning that the government is willing to give up children to the aliens, Gwen posits that the reason the Doctor doesn't do more to help Earth is that sometimes the Doctor is too disgusted by humans. However, this is just Gwen speculating — the Doctor has been known to just not know Earth is in danger, since he's definitely not omniscient. Word of God is that the Doctor never appeared on Torchwood because Torchwood is very much not aimed at children and his presence might encourage them to watch it.
    • Though the Doctor occasionally showed up in The Sarah Jane Adventures, by and large, Sarah was left to handle everything (though it's suggested in a few episodes that the threats that Sarah faces are much lower than the Doctor's). Likewise, Captain Jack and his team never show up to help. This is given a lampshade in "The Stolen Earth" where Sarah says that she's staying away from Torchwood on account of Doesn't Like Guns.
    • The Doctor accuses the Time Lords of this in "The War Games", noting that they could be doing so much for the galaxy with their great power. Their response is a disinterested "...And?" Hey, just because someone can help doesn't mean that they want to.
  • Buffy is not allowed in Los Angeles. Not because she's too powerful, but because Angel kicked her out after she tried to kill Faith rather than allow him to try and redeem her. They would not reconcile until after Joyce's death.
    • There's also the fact that Buffy can't stay away from Sunnydale for too long (she doesn't go to LA after they reconcile), mostly because all of those demons trying to open the Hellmouth or get one of those Artifact of Doom hidden around the town. If the beginning of Season 6 is any indication, Buffy's presence is what's keeping the demons under control.
  • The Arrowverse is sort of hit and miss with this outside the Crisis Crossovers:
    • In terms of The Flash and Arrow, the two heroes' cities have different dynamics that don't fit well with the other. For example, the Central City Police Department can handle most of the threats that Oliver fights on their own, in addition to being far less tolerant of vigilantes than Starling City, and Central City actively needs Barry there to fight the supervillains while Oliver generally struggles to fight against metas.
      • This is stretched beyond believability at one point in Arrow where everything was falling apart for Oliver and he was willing to recruit some very morally questionable types but never even considered calling Barry.
      • Averted in the Season 1 finale of The Flash where Oliver shows up to help.
    • The simple reason that Superman does not frequent National City in Supergirl is that Kara asked him not to. She's trying to build up her reputation and it would do her no favours if she constantly ran to Superman for help each time. Season 2 offers another reason: If Superman is in National City, then who is defending Metropolis?
      • Taken to ridiculous lengths in Season 3 where no one thinks to call Superman despite the Worldkillers being on the rampage. Properly justified in Season 4 where Superman tells Kara that he's planning to retire to Argo City given that he and Lois are expecting. That said, he leaves the door open enough that he might come back one day. Lex Luthor's whole motive in Season 4 is to make sure that this trope lasts forever by blowing up Argo.
      • Likewise, after being given breaching technology in mid-Season 2, Kara never thought to call upon Team Arrow or Team Flash for help. It's justified in Season 3 (Kara alone is stronger than all of Team Arrow, Team Flash, and the Legends. If she can't beat Reign, then the metahumans will just be in the way) and Season 4 (where human heroes would only aggravate the anti-alien climate). Why she didn't call for their help during Season 2's Alien Invasion, given that that's the exact circumstance for which Flash previously called on her for help, is not explained.
      • In Season 5's "It's a Super Life", Supergirl is seemingly the only hero on Earth. The reason given seems to be either that the "It's a Wonderful Plot" dynamic has returned the action to Earth-38 or that a Supergirl level threat has likely left the other heroes as a slurry.
    • The Batwoman segment of Elseworlds has Kate outright kick Barry and Oliver, Oliver especially, out of Gotham and tell them not to come back. Being freaked out by Gotham, Barry is only too happy to oblige.
    • Legends of Tomorrow is usually pretty good about this on two counts: They're time travelling and often not in the same time zone as their friends, and they're trying to leave a small footprint. Having the Flash in 1814 would probably cause some temporal headaches. In Season 2 however, when facing off against a Legion of Doom made up of Oliver and Barry's enemies, calling the two is suddenly not an option. Repeated ten episodes later where no one considers calling on Barry's expertise with regards to Reverse-Flash.
    • Black Lightning originally had the excuse of being in an unconnected Alternate Universe but following the Cosmic Retcon that created a Merged Reality, he doesn't appear to think that a metahuman invasion is reason enough to call his new friends. Even Lex Luthor, now a Villain with Good Publicity, doesn't appear interested in using this to push his agenda.

Video Games

  • The Spider-Man games for the original Play Station have appearances by several NYC-based heroes in the cutscenes to express their sympathy at his frame-up but who are of no help at all. Daredevil leaves to "spread the word" about his innocence right before the NYPD swoops down to arrest the wallcrawler. Spidey naturally refuses The Punisher's' offer of help knowing his penchant for bloody murder.
    • Averted in past and later games, where Spidey has had a surprisingly large number of allies. The 4-player arcade game featured Namor, Hawkeye and the Black Cat as the other three playable characters. His first Game Boy game featured the X-Men. In Maximum Carnage and Seperation Anxiety, Venom was an optinal playable character while several hero icons popped up throughout both games, summoning characters like Captain America, Firestar, Daredevil and more in order to help the player. Finally, Web of Shadows has Wolverine, Luke Cage and Moon Knight as summonable allies who feature largely in the plot.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum justifies it, by having the Joker specifically announce that if he sees anyone in a cape besides Batman on the grounds, he's going to detonate the bombs he has scattered around the city.
    • There's a subtle hint in the game that Batman is a greater threat to the mooks than someone like Superman. One of the mooks mentions moving to Metropolis, guarded by the Man Of Steel himself, as a favourable career move.
      • The Big Blue Boyscout has enough power to take down a mook without actually hurting them. He typically smirks at them while they try to shoot him for whatever reason, then vandalizes a streetlight or something to tie them up with. Mooks actually have a chance of HURTING Batman if he doesn't take them seriously, and so he has to take them out as quickly and efficiently as he can... this usually involves a LOT of pain.
    • Arkham City, not so much. In fact, Robin's brief appearance is just to be told off by Batman, so Gotham is saved by Batman and Catwoman despite the fact that the Justice League would have been all over it even without Bruce calling for help at the start of act 5.
  • On the subject of videogames, the Batman-related games among the Lego adaptation games broke this trend: while the first Lego Batman played this trope straight by featuring only Gotham characters, the announced sequel, the aptly titled Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes makes it quite clear it's going to avert the trope hard by having, well, the rest of the DCU joining in.


  • Parodied in this Treading Ground strip
  • A huge mish-mash of tropes includes a sci-fi organization with teleporters and rayguns chasing down Osama Bin Laden. Or so they thought. Their hearts were in the right place. 'Osama' didn't even have one.
  • The Gerosha Chronicles has its heroes often very geographically defined. Only Extirpon likes to regularly Walk the Earth. Though he rarely interferes with what any of the other heroes is doing. He targets the kinds of villains typically seen on CSI: Miami, and leaves battling the Hebbleskin Gang to Ciem and her friends. He'll lend a hand to Pilltar against terrorists with an EMP device, but Pilltar and Strawberry on on their own to defend Iowa from a cannibal cult. Ciem and Emeraldon rarely leave the northern Kentucky and southern Indiana greater area. Navyrope has only his disciple Tiffany for help in Oklahoma City. Mapacha never leaves Miami, and the Gray Champion rarely leaves Boston. It takes the Abolition plot arc to get them out of their hometowns.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Present but not addressed in Iron Man: Armored Adventures - while Black Panther is preoccupied with his own country and corruption within, no other heroes have an excuse for not helping out. Despite operating in New York City, where most of Marvel's heroes reside, no one else shows up when a giant unstoppable robot rampages through town or the Living Laser holds Earth itself hostage or a Chinese mob's infighting threatens civilians. Even SHIELD doesn't do a whole lot initially, though they get better by the end of season one.
    • This makes a certain kind of sense since Tony, his friends and T'Challa are all teenagers in this continuity: other superheroes may not even exist yet or are just starting to show up. The Incredible Hulk and Rick Jones (also a teen) appeared in "Uncontrollable" while they were on the run from the government and A.I.M. and couldn't stick around. Since some characters are aged down (Tony and his Nakama, Justin Hammer) for the series while others stay the same (most of the villains, Nick Fury and named SHIELD agents), Peter Parker, for example, may either be the same age as Tony or still attending grade school while Matt Murdock could be a practicing attorney or one of their classmates. The series as a whole has a "Year One" feel to it.
  • The Teen Titans never even mention their adult counterparts; at least not by name. Even when the fate of the world is at stake, and every teen-aged hero on Earth has been captured except for half-a-dozen C-list Titans, no one thinks to let Superman know what's happening. This despite the presence of characters like Robin, Aqualad and Speedy.
    • The League wasn't even mentioned when Trigon made a successful planet-side takeover. Neither were the Titans East. There's Die or Fly, and then there's this.
    • Batman is the only "adult" superhero that actually appears, or is even made reference to, but it's in one of the cartoon-based comics. The main heroes of the DC Universe do show up more often in the comics that the show was based off of.
  • While this was averted in the series finale of Justice League Unlimited and justified against Brainthor, the series premiere of Justice League had a team of seven taking on a planetary invasion. At least with the Thanagarian invasion, future Unlimited league members like Vigilante were stated to be fighting offscreen or imprisoned because of it.
  • In "Knight Time", an episode of Superman: The Animated Series, this is subverted when Superman DOES go into Gotham to investigate Batman's disappearance with Robin's help (and disguised as Batman): it's shown Braniac got to Batman while he was Bruce Wayne. Leading to "Batman" confronting Brainiac (The Mad Hatter vouched the tech involved was not "of human origin"). One priceless scene in the episode is "Batman" able to overcome the best efforts of Bane and Riddler with brute force.

 Riddler: (shocked at how "Batman" snapped his metal restraints) NO! It's Not Possible!

Robin: He's been working out.

  • "Girl's Night Out," an episode of The New Batman Adventures, gender-flips as well as subverts it when Livewire escapes to Gotham (and runs into Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy). In response, Supergirl must team up with Batgirl to stop the trio.
  • Thanks to a crossover, one has to wonder why the Avengers don't show up whenever things get too hairy in Phineas and Ferb.
  • Justified in Rick and Morty. Regardless of Rick's intelligence, he's unreliable, boorish, sadistic, and overall just a Jerkass so the Vindicators don't want to call him.
  • Justified in Young Justice. The Team is supposed to be covert ops, going where the very public League can't, and they want to prove to their adult counterparts that they don't need to be constantly bailed out of trouble, giving them very little incentive to call on the Justice League.
  1. (The picture comes from College Humor's "The Dark Knight Meets Superman" video. Superman's holding the Joker, Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent, thus preventing the entire plot of The Dark Knight about a quarter of the way into the film. Oddly enough, Dent becomes Two-Face anyway later on in the clip).