Comic Clichés, Part III: Battles, Death and Violence

Fight scenes involving two super-strong opponents will incorporate every physical aspect of the setting. For instance, a fight in the middle of New York City will see the two opponents using lampposts as clubs, buses as battering rams, entire buildings as cudgels, etc.

In every instance in which a villain destroys an entire building to swat a hero, it will be made clear at some point during the battle that the building was abandoned and completely uninhabited. At least once during the rampage, the hero will make it clear that luring the villain to an area with lots of condemned buildings was his/her plan all along, and not just dumb luck. (A joke about saving the city millions in demolition fees is optional.)

Every city has an abandoned warehouse district stocked full of conveniently condemned buildings for heroes and villains to destroy and/or hide out in.

Battles between superhumans that take place in the middle of densely populated areas will never actually endanger human life except at narratively convenient moments for the villain to realize the hero’s greatest weakness is how much he/she cares for “normal” humans.

In those rare instances when an innocent bystander is actually endangered by the battle, the hero will always have time to save him/her before resuming the battle.


All fights that take place near the edge of a building, canyon, bridge or other high place will result in one or several of the participants falling from a great height. If the fall occurs over a body of water, the hero will not be able to locate the villain’s body, X-ray vision and other super-sensory powers notwithstanding.

Villains always survive long plunges and it will be left to the villain to explain in a future issue how he/she survived the fall.

No matter how intense the middle of a fistfight might be, the hero will always have time to exchange witty repartee with his fighting cohorts, or to flash back to an incident that inspires him/her to fight on.

In battles where the hero is martial-arts master, he will always be forced to fight dozens of faceless opponents. These opponents will then attack him one at a time, none of them even thinking of ganging up on the hero or attacking until the previous bad guy has been defeated.

Battles involving evil ninjas will never, ever leave any evidence that a battle took place in that spot. Even in the most crowded cities on Earth, no civilian will ever witness ninjas making their way to the big battle scene or limping away in defeat afterwards.

Female heroes fight female villains. In those cases where female heroes or villains have to fight male opponents, one of two things will occur: (i) the man will show reluctance to hit a woman, even if she can go toe-to-toe with Superman or (ii) she will use judo kicks, karate chops or fancy lassoing instead of fists to subdue her male opponent.

In any battle featuring a relatively puny but plucky superhero and a massively powerful villain, the hero will defy all logic and find the one way to defeat his/her opponent.

Because heroes have a plethora of evil opponents to choose from, it’s only natural that they forget minor details about each villain… such as, say, their primary powers and abilities. Thus, in the heat of battle a hero is apt to utter such phrases as “Ouch! I forgot how powerful he is!” or “Uhh! I forgot that he could [fill in the power here]…”

If a hero is soundly defeated by a villain the first time they meet, then the hero will summon the courage and strength needed to win the second round.

After the first round, the hero will make a wild deduction about the nature of the villain’s powers and, without any way to test it, will whip up a handy gadget/spell/potion that will counteract the villain’s power exactly as planned.

If a hero lies bloody and bruised at the villain’s feet, and the villain is getting ready to apply the coup de grace, the hero will then say: “One last chance… must (gasp!) summon up my last ounce of power… got to give it everything I’ve got.” The hero will then punch the villain, which catches him/her off guard and gives the hero a chance to catch his/her second wind.

Whenever two heroes cross paths, a fight based on a simple misunderstanding will inevitably ensue before they team up to defeat the villain. If the two heroes appear in a Marvel comic, the likelihood of this happening increases by a factor of 10.

In any instance where a group of heroes fight a group of villains (or another group of heroes in some misunderstanding), each hero will instinctively pair off with an opponent possessing roughly the same power and strength levels as themselves (“I, Grasshopper Man, will fight the Human Butterfly while you, Gigantor, will face with the Blue Behemoth!”).

Villains never die. Period.

Except when they’re so irretrievably lame that no one will miss them.

Same goes for heroes.

Stories advertised as “the final showdown!” or a “battle to the death!” can be safely presumed to be neither.

The term “anti-hero” is applied to any character whose actions would be considered unacceptable if they were performed by the villains. But since he/she is one of the “good guys,” it’s perfectly okay to kill and maim without presumption of innocence, due process or any of those annoying things that law enforcement officials have to deal with in real life.

Heroes who get into fights with criminals every night will never have any problems explaining their bruises, abrasions, contusions, concussions, wounds, burns, infections, bites and scratches to their co-workers, loved ones, and close friends.

No hero or major supporting character will die before getting the chance to make a long, heartfelt speech in the arms of someone who cares. Death will conveniently hold off until a particularly heartfelt message or a major secret is expressed.


If any close family member, mother/father figure, or other important person in the hero’s life should happen to die in his/her arms, the dying person will be allowed a short deathbed speech in which he/she will confess knowledge of the hero’s double identity all along.

Even non-superpowered heroes who are little more than highly trained athletes will shrug off anything short of several blows to the head, while a simple blow to the head is all that is required to knock a villain’s underling or a common street criminal unconscious.

Heroes and villains have incredible recuperative powers. Injuries and battles that would take normal people months to recover from will take only a good night’s rest to heal.

In any scene displaying a badly beaten hero in a hospital, there will be no evidence of blood on the bandages.

Villains with guns never aim for the head, or for parts of the hero’s body that are not covered by protective clothing (e.g., Batman’s lower face).

When falling from a great height, being caught by someone on the ground whose skin is hard enough to deflect bullets — even someone who is literally composed of metal or stone — is somehow preferable to just hitting the ground.


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