The Web's Largest Collection of Cliches, Euphemisms, Sayings & Figures of Speech
Super-strength: character has superhuman strength.
Invulnerable: The character is mostly or totally invulnerable. Tough skin is okay to a point, although Thor pushes it WAY too far. Regeneration is okay. But a personal force field is a bit of a cop-out.
Shooting energy from hands: especially when it's non-descript generic energy that can knock down a wall but doesn't kill anyone or electrocute anyone or start any fires in-and-of itself. Or give people cancer. And yes, kinetic energy is a cop-out. The last straw was: Bishop.
Wisecracking during fight: The common superpower of the under-30 crowd... in an era when almost everyone is under 30. Made famous by: Spidey.
Reporter girlfriend: The superhero has a reporter girlfriend. She is often modern and liberated (updated from the "I wish Machoid Man would marry me, sigh"), yet somehow she can't take care of herself and needs to be rescued. She gets into trouble constantly as if she had some sort of deathwish. Most of us are too intelligent to fall for the "anonymous source who has a scoop for you, but come alone" gambit, but not she! She's always the one who, while hiding, continues to listen in on the supervillain's plot long after the rest of us would have high-tailed it for the exit to phone the cops. Forget Jimmy Olsen, Superman should have given LOIS the signal watch!
The Strong Guy: All teams must have a Strong Guy. Made famous, obviously, by Peter David.
The Negaduck Law: The hero has, probably in another dimension, an arch nemesis who is his exact opposite. He is evil, with a stylish costume of the opposite color scheme, and is evil, tyrranical, and cruel. And yet, he is a straight white man (or duck) who looks identical and whose powers work in exactly the same way etc.
Curse of the Triple J: The character has someone, a detective or a reporter, etc, who feels that the character's vigilante actions are actually worse than the terrorists and supervillains the character fights. A: At some point, the hero will save this person's life, and they will become such fervent supporters of the hero that it will be nauseating. B: Even if the hero saves the life of this person, saves his or her spouse, son, daughter, baby, house, apartment building, business, homework, dog, cat, lover, any or all of the above, it will only inspire deeper hatred towards the hero.
Death of girlfriend: The comedy-relief sidekick will almost never die, but the loving girlfriend may be killed.
Final Speech: Dying characters are allowed/obligated to give a final speech. Maybe they have 'em written in advance by professional speech writers.
How To Drive A Spider Nutty: When, after many, many years, a person who has known the hero for a long time, when said hero has gone to great effort, and lost blood, sweat, tears and bile in order to keep his or her secret identity a secret from this person, this person reveals that they knew the whole damn time. Extra Spider Insanity points may be earned if this comes as a part of a Final Speech.
Back from the Dead: Character comes back from the dead. Cross-Reference with See The Body.
See The Body: The law that says that a character is never dead unless you saw the body, took it home, inspected it, did an autopsy, burned it, scattered the ashes from a plane, and even then you can be only about 89 percent sure.
Water Isn't ANYONE'S Kryptonite Rule: UNBREAKABLE to the contrary, if you're a real superhero, falling into the water will never, ever kill you. You can fall out of a plane and into the ocean from 400 feet up and live. Crossreference, however, with the Relative Atmosphere Law.
The Trial: after some time and a career that involves citizen's arrests without Miranda Rights, fighting criminals across county, state, national, and solar system boundaries, and all sorts of other vagaries and loopholes, the hero is put on trial for doing something that no reader has any moral qualms about whatsoever. Made famous by: Barry Allen. Interesting that Wally West went through the Civil Court version of this cliche when he was sued for failing to save an innocent bystander. You think there would be a superhero exception written into every Good Samaritan/Failure to Rescue laws in the DCU, but no such luck.
Courtdoom: The same as above, only the judge and jury and witnesses are made up of the characters' greatest enemies.
The Woman/Girl in the Shower for No Reason: soap/steam/water always cover the naughty bits, but it's still soft core porn, if one's honest about it. The Last Straw: Gen 13.
Bootstrap Rule: African American characters are always from a lower-middle to poor background. We have no African American Bruce Waynes in comic books, no millionaire playboys of color, no Lex Luthors running multi-national companies, for instance.
Relative Atmosphere Law: When you open a door or window in an airplane, it is fairly likely that this won't suck you or anything else out. You're often lucky if it so much as blows loose papers around.
Bruce's Law: Won't carry a gun/use fatal force "Because I am a hero".
Glass Jaw Theorem: It's not that hard to knock the average human out with one punch.
Jean's Law: In Marvel, a female superhero will have wimpy distance powers that provide an excuse from being thrown into the heart of battle. The exception that makes the rule: She-Hulk. It figures that she's most often been played for comedy.
"What's the Matter, Lady, Can't You Afford A Damn Bra?": D-Cups that stay firm under all conditions. Have their implants turned to rock?!? (Park says: "And yet you seem surprised that they all have access to either telekinesis, magic, or warping the laws of probability") (Barb says: I think it's just part of their mutant powers... you notice they all get their powers at puberty... perhaps it's no coincidence.)
Darkest Hour: The hero has crisis of faith only to be told by close friend to suck it up because the world needs him so much. If only real-life acute depression could be solved with a friend telling you, "Snap out of it!"
10-Year Anachronisms: Caused by folding time resulting in stupid details of flashback stories. Hairstyle, dress, fashions are stupid. Also complicates rebooting infinitely.
Simultaneous Recovery Syndrome: If you knock out a whole group of people, they will all wake up at around the same time, even if each was knocked out in a different way.
Who Watches The Night Watchmen: If you are a night watchman or other nighttime security guard, you will eventually be killed, UNLESS you happen to luck into a Lab Accident.
Rip Torn: Even if a woman is a superhero, her clothes will get ripped... this is not as true for a man.
Ollie's Skill Level: when GA (or indeed any archer hero) shoots someone in an arm or leg, he never hits bone or artery... he's/they're just that good.
Garth's Exception: you never see anyone reading a book, in comics, except those written by Garth Ennis (although they aren't neccesarily reading what that character WOULD be reading, really...).
Slaves of the Tyrants: Set up: the superhero group of your choice is taken to another world and forced to become slaves. Last Straw: Mark Waid sends the JLA to Rann.
Sufferin' Rao: Even though we never see a superhero's or superheroine's spiritual practices IN PRACTICE, they still inevitably curse/swear with the gods of their cultures. For instance, did Kryptonians believe in reincarnation? Why does a boy raised in the heartland shout out the god of a dead planet when he's startled?
Sons of Computo: the computer that develops a personality and decides to take over. Last seen in: The Matrix
Fickle Public: at some point in everyone's hero career, something inevitably happens to make the public forget everything good they ever did. The public usually turns back the other way pretty quickly, however.
Ivy's Law: Villainess starts her career just to get closer to you. However, it never really works: instead of a date at the Hard Rock: Keystone City, she ends up in jail. Someone in the superhero world needs to write: Villainesses Who Love Superheroes Too Much---talk about your unavailable men. You have to wonder if these women come from dysfunctional families or have father issues or WHAT...
Undressing the Heroine: girl or woman is kidnapped and she wakes up someone's changed her clothes... inevitably into something sexier.
Superman's Pal, Stinky: The child that no one likes who gets to meet the superhero/help the superhero.
The Aladdin Gambit: hero's girlfriend/whatever is tricked by villain to give something away of importance or bring something into the house that harms the hero.
Clunky Exposition Syndrome: "Do you mean to say, Lobster Man, that while you were tied up over that vat of butter, which is the only substance against which your powers are useless, that Iron Chef, your arch-enemy ever since you both went to Tom Landry Junior High back in Infinitessimalville, Indiana, escaped with the fabulous Baseball Diamond, the world's largest gemstone, by using your reporter girlfriend Katie Krishna as a hostage, thus escaping Lt. Dumas, who's a bit of a bumbler but is in charge while Inspector O'Shaughnessy is in the hospital due to that giant advertising egg timer prop falling on him?" "That's exactly what I'm saying, Mussel Lad."
Fairy Tales starring members of a superhero team. Now, this was cute when Kitty Pryde did it over at the X-Men in Kittys Fairytale, but it was a cliche even back then.
The team stars in a film noir, a Western, a spy film, a Seventh Seal, Sixth Sense or a Star Wars type story. My God, at least star your superhero team in an original film genre. For instance, The X-Men starring in a restoration comedy. Gen13 in kabuki theatre. The Authority in All Quiet on The Western Front. Anything other than what weve already seen.
Starring your hero/team in Its A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol.
Ripping off Rashomon. You may not have seen the film, but youve seen it ripped off to death. Whenever you see a story told from several points of view, with the heroes arguing and saying, No, this is how it REALLY happened, youre seeing a Rashomon rip off. The saddest thing is that its been ripped off so many times, the author probably has no idea that the source material came from Akira Kurosawa.
Characters from movies/cartoons showing up in a comic. How many very unfunny Pokemon type spoofs/characters showed up in comics after that show became popular, for instance?
Two superheroes dating, only to have their evening invaded by supervillains. If youre in your secret identity duds and you still attract supervillains, you must be sending out come here supervillain pheromones or your writer is stretching coincidence too far.
Ex-girlfriends of a superhero get together and compare notes on their superhero ex-boyfriend. Notice that ex-boyfriends of superheroines never do this. This is because the (almost always) male authors of these stories probably think women just sit around talking about men all day.
The old friend weve never heard of before and will never hear of again storyline: This friend shows up and either has a drug problem, some case involving his family that only the superhero can help with, some movie of the week social problem, etc. Often, this friend is brought in just so the comic can preach to us not to discriminate, to be tolerant, or that beating up on someone because of his race, creed, color, or affectional orientation is wrong. Now, indeed, this is a social good---discrimination is bad, tolerance is good. But, god, there must be a better way to introduce these concepts than the old friend cliche. At least have the friend stay around and become a major supporting character after that. Or, have it be a person thats been in the comic for awhile. Doiby Dickles coming out of the closet, anyone?
The reporter that does a feature story on a superhero, only to have his/her respect for the hero raise about 1000 percent by the storys end. These stories are always written as newspaper or magazine stories, which is funny, as they never READ like a legit newspaper or magazine feature.
The DA/Policeperson who thinks the hero is a vigilante that must be stamped out---in spite of the fact the city would be in utter chaos but for that hero. The lawyers in these stories are so dogmatic and wrong-headed--and so stupid--that you wonder how many times they had to take the bar exam to pass. The person opposing the superhero, in the end, either ends up respecting him or doubly hating him, in spite of evidence that shows that the hero is all thats keeping the city from total anarchy.
A long-time nemesis kidnapping the alter-ego of the superhero and issuing a challenge that the hero must show up and save the alter-ego or the alter-ego gets it. Of course, the alter-ego IS the superhero, but cant save himself without revealing that he is Blowhard Man or whatever.
First meetings of superheroes and/or their alter-egos that happen BEFORE the actual first meeting of the superheroes. Superman comics do this all the time. Theres one, for instance, where he meets Lois Lane when he was young Clark Kent, but somehow forgets about the incident until that particular story, as apparently Lois did, too. One wonders how these two got to be crack reporters if they have such crappy memories.
The guy who is best buddies with the secret identity of the superhero, but hates the superhero himself---or vice versa (liking the hero but not his alter-ego). This is the male version of the Lois Lane/Lana Lang syndrome of being close to Superman but never QUITE twigging on to his resemblance to Clark Kent.
Meeting future selves or alternative versions of oneself. DC and Marvel are equally guilty of this, so both must share the blame.
Meeting dead relatives through time travel.
Being the only survivor of a planet---but for some relatives, a dog, a cat, a horse, a tiny bottled town, a supervillain or three, and...
Suing a superhero for negligence in a rescue attempt. If there are superheroes in your fictional world, there probably also are laws that exempt superheroes from being sued under negligent rescue laws, just like the government is mostly exempt from law suits.
Please, no more retelling of origins or the hero going back to relive his origin in some way.
No more helpless girlfriends that are constantly kidnapped, please. Ladies, if you are going to date a superhero, get some mace, tear gas, pepper spray, a gun, or something else to protect you. How much simpler your life will be if you do---unless you actively enjoy getting kidnapped, tied up, and gagged by supervillains.
No more sexy villainesses that go up against the superhero and end up falling in lust/in love with him.
The lab accident that gives a hero superpowers. Most lab accidents only give a person a burn or some sort of radiation related disease. Park is saying something in the next room about Marvel's Doctor Demonicus as seen in Marvel's Godzilla #4 but I'm not listening to him.
The Villain that is the exact replica of yourself, either in terms of actual costume (ahem, Reverse Flash) or psychological problems (Two-Face? The Joker? Lex Luthor?)
No more girlfriend/sexy supervillain cat fights, unless the superhero has some type of fetish and both women are consenting adults, into that sort of a thing.
No more imaginary stories with imaginary futures with imaginary wives and imaginary children. If a superhero wants a wife and kids, let him go to therapy to get over his fears of commitment.
No more offspring gone bad, nor any more prophecies about that bad kid killing you. That gambit stunk in Starman, for instance. Park's talking in the next room about how someone stole it to put it on TV recently but I'm not listening because the writers of that show constantly steal from comic books anyhow.
The mystery as a present or a cover for a surprise party. Dont you think a superhero must get tired of being a superhero? When it comes to his birthday, dont you think he just wants to relax and open a few brewskis with his pals, without having to go through a mystery first? What gets me is that his mostly superpowered friends who cook up such things think hell ENJOY it, when hes probably sick unto death of it.
Best friend superheroes that are made to fight each other. This cliche stretches co-incidence way too much.
Simians---talking or non. Some people love em. God knows why. Park's saying something in the next room about Big Julie but I'm not listening.
Best friends of a superhero that due to a tragedy of some type become the heros worst enemy.
Powers that get messed up or cant conquer magic.
Pixies, nixies, gnomes, or other cute magical beings that have no other purpose in life than to either bug you or hero-worship you. Youd think that magical beings would have more interesting things to do than to hang about with non-magical superheroes.
Crime investigators that tell their kids not to play detective.
Commitment-phobe heroes that wont commit to the female sex object in their lives because shell be put in danger, but dont think to disassociate themselves from their families, too. You mean healthy young Mary Jane is in MORE danger from a supervillain than I got old from all the stress in my lfe Aunt May?
People that have known all along you were a superhero, but dont actually sit down and tell you they know. They just play this big, dysfunctional I know nothing lie. Then, one day, you decide to tell this person about your double life and that person says, Oh, I knew that all along. How maddening! All those times when you twisted yourself up in a knot to hide it from this person and it wasnt even a real secret.
Superheroes that are either media darlings or hated by the media. Wouldnt you like to see a superhero thats just kind of taken for granted in his world? Yeah, he or she saves the world, but only gets a little news story on page six or whatever instead of a banner headline on page one.
Dead or murdered characters that arent really dead. Death faking in all forms. The Huck and Tom funeral where the character thought dead comes in to everyones surprise and relief.
Injuries that take one issue to heal and never cause scars. You know what I mean. The injury is serious enough to be a cliff-hanger and the next issue, the character is back in action, with no need of an operation or physical therapy or anything. Unless you are Superman (or a variation thereof) or Wolverine, if you get hurt, youre going to the hospital and staying there until you recover.
Significant others who have careers in the newsmedia or crime investigating. Date yourself a nice doctor or a web designer or a wait person or a marine or a school teacher or fire fighter...
Bad habits that take one issue to stop.
Agonizing too much over a bad habit until thats all an author can think of writing about the character.
Superheroes and superheroines that have obvious chemistry but dont become couples---we just keep playing with the concept, though. Two words: Oracle and Nightwing. There is nothing stopping this romance, unless someone has the mistaken idea that physically challenged people cannot have full, happy lives---including fulfilling sexual relationships.
Villains that hate and obsess over a superhero. Wouldnt it be fun to have a villain that says, No, Im just killing you because I want to stay out of jail. Nothing personal, old chap. and shoots the superhero dead?
Bald is bad---unless youre wheelchair-bound.
People who wont believe in magic or superheroes or aliens or whatever, in spite of overwhelming experiential evidence in favor of the proposition.
Superheroes that are aliens and believe in the gods of those worlds---but we never find out what the tenets of these alien religions are.
A dead planet that apparently had no popular culture or literature or sports, even when it was alive. For instance, what did Kryptonians DO on Saturdays nights? What was the Martian Manhunters favorite sports team on Mars?
The kid that finds the injured superhero. How many times as a kid did this happen to you? Youre playing baseball and while running to catch the ball, you find Superduperman lying there, injured and needing your help?
Superheroes that are either physically or psychologically turned into babies, often leaving the junior members of the team to be the adults.
The Pied Piper syndrome: A bunch of kids are duped into doing evil things by listening to supervillain that acts as the childrens friend.
The person that seems to be betraying the team, but isnt. Variation one: its part of the teams plan to dupe the supervillain. Variation two: the evidence is circumstance or is a frame.
The former baddie that joins the team but isnt trusted.
Stretching Guy/Gal - Elongating the body, absorbing blows, squishing through tiny openings
Zapping Guy/Gal - Can attack at a distance with some stupid kind of burst of energy or stuff or something
Sticking/Trapping Guy - Making enemy unable to move or fight; could be spewing adhesive goo, ice, or fast-setting gelatin; or it could involve substances too vile to mention and too horrible to contemplate.
All-Purpose Gimmick - Making anything you need out of your stuff (the utility of said creations depending upon the roll v. Cliche and the difficulty estimated by the GameMaster for said creations).
Runs Fast Guy/Gal - Running fast, doing loop-the-loops over the walls and ceiling, doing things so fast people cant see you do them, wearing out sneakers, getting speeding tickets on foot
Swimming Guy/Gal - Moving through water, not drowning, getting laughed at by one's superheroic peers who have powers that actually serve some purpose
Flying Guy/Gal - moving in 3 dimensions, never having to fall down if you dont want to, coming in through windows instead of doors, peeking in windows way up from the ground
Giant Guy/Gal - standing really tall all the time; lifting, breaking, and throwing big things, looming over stuff, noticing signs that say "minimum height to attack Tokyo"
On-Fire Guy/Gal - Covering self with flames, causing other things to burn, not getting burned by normal fires, looking all weird while covered with fire
Growing Guy/Gal - like Giant Guy/Gal, only you can turn it off; growing to large sizes, returning to normal sizes, not losing one's clothing in the process
Big Goon - picking things up, throwing them, breaking them, beating people up, breaking through walls, smashing brand new BMWs because their alarms went off
Part-Time Goon - like goon, but has to turn on or off (the advantage of not being a full-time goon includes being able to fit in a car and not send children screaming in terror; disadvantages include lack of goon benefits while goon is off).
Strong Guy/Gal - as Big Goon, but doesnt make you bigger or funny looking
Invisible Guy/Gal - hiding in plain sight; sneaking into movies; evading papparazzi; eluding unwanted visits from the landlord about that overdue rent
Intangible Guy/Gal - walking through solid objects, passing through narrow openings, always having a job when the carnival passes through town
Shape Changing Guy/Gal - changing from one thing to another thing, then back to the original thing, or to a third thing entirely
Shrinking Guy/Gal - becoming small, escaping from non-airtight containers, getting too small to see, passing through keyholes, using bugs as horses and straight pins as rapiers
Armored Guy/Gal - looks weird, hard to wound, cant go to the bathroom without a set of wrenches
Robot - looking weird, being able to eat with jumper cables, healing wounds with WD-40, duct tape, new batteries, and an extension cord; eating Thanksgiving dinner by plugging an extension cord into the wall
Android - looking weird, not needing to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom; sulking about one's own inhumanity
Cyborg - looking weird, being able to use electronic surplus for first aid, shaving one half of your face and polishing the other
Alien - looking weird, talking funny, eating funny foods, knowing funny languages, laughing at things that make the puny humans cry
Freak/Monster/Thingus - looking weird, talking funny, not necessarily belonging to any particular species, having an uncanny immunity to venereal disease, paternity suits, and marriage
Invulnerible Guy/Gal - never getting killed by violence (can still get knocked down or knocked out or just knocked silly, though) and never dying due to stupid stuff like drowning, poisoning, asphyxiation
Immortal - living way too long; remembering stuff that happened in the last Ice Age; not requiring an explanation about seeming young after appearing in comics for 60 years
Werewolf - howling, jumping, clawing, self-pity trips based on the phase of the moon, tearing up your clothes, relieving oneself in public
Teleporting Guy/Gal - going from here to there without ever being between; coming back the same way
Dimensional Travel Guy/Gal - transporting self and others to stupid places where the laws of physics don't work right or where John Wilkes Booth became President; finding carbon copies of superheroes for the originals to fight in a big "misunderstanding"
Time Travel Guy/Gal - Transporting self and others in both directions of the calendar (difficulty will increase with distance travelled and amount transported); doing well in the stock market with no particular background; knowing the outcome of the Superbowl early on
Controls Weather Guy/Gal - making rain and winds annoy other people; providing slow, sleet, rain, or hail as the occasion demands; never worrying about the weather when setting off to the golf course or fishing hole
Controls Animals Guy/Gal - improbably summoning animals to do one's bidding (the rareness of the animal, the numbers required, and the absurdity of the desired task all increase the difficulty)
Controls Insects Guy/Gal - improbably summoning swarms of insects to do one's bidding (the rareness of the insects, the numbers required, and the absurdity of the desired task all increase the difficulty)
Many Body Guy/Gal - splitting into more than one body, sleeping at home and showing up at work at the same time, having odd options in the budoir, occupying more than one place at a time (more places increase the difficulty)
Idol to Millions - summons swarms of ravening fans (said swarms increasing in intensity and virulence with the level of the Cliche), getting on TV or seated in restaurants
Cool Costume - looking cooler than the ordinary, unimaginative dolts around you; having a rofessional and photogenic appearance while beating the living snot out of a busload of Evil Boy Scouts; serving as a fashion template for the horribly drab and square heroes one knows.
Rich - having large sums of cash to summon on demand (for bills, bribes, fines, or just stuff); showing off to the envious morons that accompany one just precisely what makes you matter and them not.
Hotrodder/Ambulance Driver/Airline Pilot/Bus Driver/Rickshaw Driver - coming up with the Gooberwagon/Plane/Sub as appropriate, the mobility of said vehicle depending upon the dice roll versus the difficulty posited by the Referee.
Gun-Toting Fool - like Zapper, but requiring some device that someone else can take away (any old stupid thing: an overpowered flashlight, a can of shaving cream, a .90 caliber revolver)
Leader Guy/Gal - commanding; liaising with authority figures; making decisions and stuff; finding scapegoats to take the rap for one's own dreadful decision
Escape Artist - breaking out of jail when someone decides to investigate all that @#$% property damage, escaping from the villains evil deathtrap, impressing dumb supers of the alternate sex at parties, sneaking out of HQ to evade those relentless bill collectors.
Thief/Dip/Pickpocket - stealing the key to those @#$% handcuffs, picking pockets, never having to pay for Life Savers if you don't want to, relieving others of small items they didn't really need or deserve anyway
William Shatner - hamming it up, ad-libbing on talkshows (and upstaging the boring host), selling crap in commercials, dramatic pauses, and all the things that make Bill a necessary part of every form of Risus game.
Errol Flynn - hamming it up, looking gorgeous, flirting with females (of almost any age), drinking to excess, swinging on ropes, yelling Tally Ho!, fighting up and down stairs, grimacing manfully. Doesnt necessarily provide any particular ability to fight well, but helps a lot in Posing contests and going home with the Babes.
Richard Nixon - growing whiskers seconds after shaving, looking sinister even when up to nothing particularly devious, self-pity trips (a type of exceptionally dramatic Oratory), a strange ability to recover from political suicide, and a general non-Shatnerlike and non-Flynnlike personality.
Clint Eastwood - scowling, squinting, scowling some more, squinting because it hurts to scowl so much, pulling really cool poses while carrying a .44 Mag with a 24 barrel.
Paragon of Virtue - giving really really long speeches about whatever lame pet morality strikes him that day (useful in Outtalking combat), boring the bodily fluids out of anyone unfortunate enough to witness one of your "pep talks"
Sardonic Evil Orator - good for trashing the pollyannaish moralistic spew from blind cretins who fail to recognize that the destiny of the universe will carry it no other place than underneath the grinding terror of your invincible heel! Useful in Outtalking combat; also, a necessary part of interpersonal relations in today's complicated world.
Sidekick - discovering secret hidouts by having villains kidnap you to them; remaining helpless while awaiting the latest rescue; admiring some moron in leotards and a cape against the better judgment of your families and peers.