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Named after the common scenario found in the adventures of the Dark Knight Detective, this is the short two-to-three page Cold Open sequence that opens a super-hero comic, depicting the vigilante engaging in some crime-fighting on Bit Part Badguys.
Typically, this is a bank-robbery or a mugging, usually unrelated to the plot-at-large, meant to illustrate the crime-fighting abilities of our hero, and often giving him the chance to brood about whatever is/will be bothering him for the extent of the issue. It can also help offset The Worf Effect by showing that the hero is competent before having him beaten by the serious threat later in the story. The opening titles for the TV series Batman the Animated Series also used this trope, as does Batman the Brave And The Bold.
In a practical sense, it allows for a reasonable amount of action in an issue that may be very talky, especially if it's the start of a Story Arc. Speaking of story arcs, plot-driven series sometimes devote entire episodes/issues/chapters at the beginning to Exposition of the heroes' powers and routine assignments, as well as any kind of Applied Phlebotinum, before said plot takes over. If nothing really exciting happens and we are instead treated to normal life at the beginning before It Got Worse, it overlaps with Day in the Life.
Sometimes involves Luckily, My Powers Will Protect Me.
Anime and Manga
- An anime example would be Kaitou Saint Tail, who occasionally opens stealing a priceless artifact and getting away, leaving her "victim" to cry out without thinking about how hard he worked to steal it in the first place and being heard by her detective pursuers.
- Cowboy Bebop:The Movie opens with bounty hunters Spike and Jet apprehending a few criminals robbing a liquor store.
- The series did this (at least) once, too, with a plane hijacking.
- Elfen Lied.
- Chrono Crusade kicks off with Rosette and Chrono doing an exorcism job in a haunted ship... So the audience understands that in this 'verse "exorcism" involves less use of holy symbols and more use of guns.
- The opening chapters/first few episodes of Soul Eater have the main casts carrying out a typical mission in both the Cold Opening and the episode (Soul and Maka succeed at gaining a soul, Black Star and Tsubaki fail due to BS' egomania and Kid fails because of his Super OCD, then in the episode Maka and Soul fail because they succeed, BS and Tsubaki fail because Blackstar's really a Jerk with a Heart of Gold and Kid succeeds despite his OCD but does so much collateral damage he has to give the souls up).
- Although this is because the artist was hired to do a couple one-shot stories, which eventually took off and became the series proper.
- Claymore is like this: the first chapters/episodes depict Clare going about the usual yoma-slaying business (until her first almost-Awakening).
- Fullmetal Alchemist (at least, the first anime) opens with the Elric brothers on a normal mission, where they explain the principles of alchemy, before the Backstory is explained and the prime plot kicks in.
- Then again the first episode of Brotherhood could be seen as such.
- Grenadier spends the first episodes expositioning the series' world, such as the structure of the Empire and the position of gunslingers in it.
- The first couple of episodes of Trinity Blood don't do anything for the story except introduce some of the main characters and establishing the conflict between The Church and the vampires.
- Darker Than Black opens with one of these and also serves to introduce the concept of Contractors, when a man who can defy gravity at the price of breaking his own fingers is subdued, interrogated and killed by a black-coated person with a white mask. The masked man is the protagonist, although the show doesn't tell us until the end of the two-episode arc (which contains a lot of Expospeak).
- Tiger and Bunny, which is a show about comic book-styled superheroes, opens with the entire main cast having turns at trying to catch a group of escaping bank robbers.
- Summer Wars has, in Kenjis long voyage with Natsuki at the beginning of the film, several scenes with King Kazam kicking all kinds of ass as a then background event or action opener that turns out to have shown off how capable the user of King Kazma is when we find out who he is, making this some kind of Batman Cold Open.
- Batman #608 (the first part of the "Hush" arc) has a particularly cool version, depicting Batman (with Crazy Prepared Badass Normal stats turned Up to Eleven) sneaking around a shipyard and taking down four of Killer Croc's thugs in rapid succession to save a small boy who happens to be heir to an enormous fortune.
- Batman does this all the time, hence the trope name.
- Ultimate Spider-Man combines this with Arc Welding: one plot deals with the "Big Bad" sending a group of Mercenaries to bring Spiderman to him so he can find out how Spiderman knows about all the attempts on his company and why he's been helping to stop them. Spidey has no idea what the guy is talking about, until he shows footage of several Batman Cold Opens from previous issues.
- When Johnny Saturnis first seen in Johnny Saturn No.1, he is putting the beat down on a gang of thugs called the Charlie Blockers or C Blockers. This battle is little more than foreplay before the first Johnny Saturn / Utopian confrontation.
- Deadpool and later Cable & Deadpool did this quite often: the books often opened with a splash page of the title character engaged in a spectacular fight against a considerably large group of Mooks while making absolutely random remarks.
- Bookhunter opens with Agent Bay leading a SWAT team to apprehend a "freelance censor".
- The Punisher engages in this quite a lot. Being The Punisher, it seldomly ends well.
- The first issue of Phil Foglio's Stanley and His Monster mini-series is pretty much a standalone plot of the kind that the old ongoing series did a lot. Then, on the second-last page, the real plot of the mini-series begins.
- The Sin City miniseries "A Dame To Kill For" opens with the main character spying on an Abusive Boyfriend (he's a PI) and having to save his mistress from getting killed. This is the main character's introduction and has nothing to do with the main story.
- James Bond movies, typically, although they often do have some relation to the main plot of the movie.
- The first movie to open like this, From Russia with Love, is a subversion: the man who appears to be Bond is actually a mook dressed up as Bond for Grant to kill to demonstrate his assassination abilities, making basically a villains' Danger Room Cold Open.
- The pre-title sequence of Goldfinger plays this straight, and is arguably the finest example of this in the series.
- Die Another Day subverts this heavily, opening with Bond on a mission in North Korea...which he actually fails. He ends up getting captured and spends a year and a half in a torture camp before his superiors can spring him.
- The opening of The World Is Not Enough plays with this as its Cold Open is almost fifteen minutes long and ties directly into the main plot without even a time jump between the two. The whole thing causes a bizarre sort of Cold Open Fatigue that makes you question why, save for tradition, there needed to be one at all.
- The opening of For Your Eyes Only has Bond attacked by a bald man stroking a cat, who he drops into an industrial smokestack. It doesn't directly relate to the plot, though it ties into an important theme in the film: do we really have the right to avenge our lost loved ones?
- In Seven Samurai, we're introduced to Kambei as he rescues a boy being held hostage in a barn. The trope was a custom of Japanese swordfilms called "chambara," though this film was probably the western world's first introduction to the trope.
- In a direct Homage to the above, The Magnificent Seven features Chris and Vin escorting the hearse of a halfbreed to the local cemetery when the rest of the town is dead-set against him being buried in their graveyard.
- Django follows this pattern.
- The second live-action Guyver movie uses this trope.
- Blown Away has Jimmy Dove demonstrating his bomb-defusing badassary skills on a not-related-to-main-plot bomb.
- The mid-80s Pierce Brosnan film Livewire does exactly the same thing with its bomb-defusing protagonist.
- Wild Wild West spends a good twenty minutes in an opening saloon scene where both West and Gordon fail to catch Disc One Final Boss Bloodbath McGrath.
- Indiana Jones, especially his attempt at retrieving the golden idol at the start of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the flashbacks of The Last Crusade.
- UHF parodies the opening of the former, and, in doing so, is an example of the trope.
- The Dark Knight had one with Scarecrow.
- A better (Though villainous) example might be the bank heist at the beginning, as it's (largely) unrelated to The Joker's larger schemes over the rest of the movie, but are used to show the audience how devious, manipulative and ruthless he is.
- Batman (1989) had one too, after the opening credits. It introduced the audience to Batman in action, as he attacked two small-time muggers on the rooftops.
- District 13 actually has one of these about twenty minutes into the movie to introduce the second hero, a supercop. The cop has a huge martial arts brawl in an illegal casino to establish his badass credentials before he gets fit into the main plot.
- In Streets of Fire, the hero is introduced by beating up some local toughs who are breaking up his sister's diner.
- Pretty much any late 80s/early 90s B-martial arts or action film will introduce the hero in a bar by having a couple of drunk, usually pool-playing rednecks, get in his face despite his desire to be left alone (or alternatively, they harass an attractive waitress or try to rob the place). Whereupon he easily trounces them.
- All the Dirty Harry movies have a scene in the beginning where Harry stops a crime unrelated to the main plot. In the first one, it was a bank robbery, Magnum Force it was a plane hijacking,The Enforcer it was a liquor store holdup. A diner was being robbed in Sudden Impact and in The Dead Pool it was mob hitmen out to kill him.
- The beginning of For A Few Dollars More shows two bounty hunters, Colonel Mortimer and Manco separately tracking and killing wanted criminals and collecting their bounties.
- Film/everlyHillsCop starts with Axel Foley undercover trying to bust a cigarette smuggling operation and turns into a big chase with him hanging from the back of a speeding semi and dozens of police cars.
- Minority Report starts off with Pre-Crime going off after a double murder foreseen by the Pre-Cogs. It really lacks impact into the story afterwards with the exception of telling the audience that Pre-Crime fundamentally works by avoiding the homicides.
- The Expendables show them rescuing a group of hostages from African pirates, just to show how good they are at what they do.
- Inception not only uses this trope but also introduces us to a major character of the film as being the target.
- The first few minutes of The Marine show John Cena (or, rather, a character played by him) fighting terrorists (or at least terrorist sympathizers) in a Middle Eastern country. This cold opening actually serves two purposes: 1) establishing John Triton as a Badass and 2) showing him disobeying a direct (although unreasonable) order from his commander, thus justifying his being discharged from the service and sent home to the United States, where the real plot takes place.
- While Sneakers technically opens with a scene from the main character's past, the next scene is very much this trope.
- In the Line of Fire begins with an introductory scene of Frank busting some counterfeiters while undercover, which has no relation to the rest of the movie. It also acts as a Shown Their Work scene for the writers to demonstrate that they're aware the Secret Service still has a few functions other than protecting the President.
- The investigation of Old Man McGinty in Mystery Team.
- Except for the first book, each installment of the Seekers of Truth series starts this way.
- Artemis Fowl novels will often open this way, especially when bringing Holly Short into the story. One example: Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony starts off with Holly tracking a smuggler, though in true Artemis Fowl fashion it ends up becoming a Chekhov's Gun.
- Simon R. Green starts off many of his novels like this, particularly in his Nightside and Hawk & Fisher series.
- Feet of Clay introduces both Carrot and Angua with one of these
Live Action TV
- Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer frequently start with Buffy killing a random vampire on patrol.
- The "opening gambits" of MacGyver--especially for the first few episodes--had little to do with the rest of the plot, and were often directed by a separate team. This particular style of opening was important in the pilot, as it was our first glimpse of MacGyver in action. A good portion of the episode was devoted to this gambit: Mac scaled a sheer cliff, disarmed a missile, and made an impromptu rescue, all while his internal monologue brought us up to speed, via a series of somewhere between home-spun and down right corny analogies about hockey, riding horses or people he knows.
- Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad frequently opened in the middle of a battle with a monster-of-the-week sort of construct, which sometimes led to the villains immediately coming up with a new plan (and the true monster for this episode) to avenge the thwarting of the old one.
- A few Power Rangers series have been known to do this:
- Power Rangers Zeo has at least two. The first has Adam being pursused by 4 "ninjas" who are later revield to be the other Rangers. The second has the Gold Ranger protcting the team from a group of Cogs.
- Power Rangers Time Force uses this extensively to make use of Stock Footage that they couldn't use any other way.
- The premier of Power Rangers Dino Thunder has Tommy escaping from an exploding island before anything else in the season.
- Power Rangers RPM likes to do this, often starting in the middle of a megazord battle before moving on to the plot o' the episode, which is usually unrelated. The main purpose is pretty much to emphasize just how much of a war of attrition is going on, and how relentless the machines are.
- Also, to get the merchandising for the giant robots out of the way as soon as possible, so they don't have to interrupt the plotty action scenes with stock
- Also, to get the merchandising for the giant robots out of the way as soon as possible, so they don't have to interrupt the plotty action scenes with stock
- The series opener of The Wire begins this way. Detective Jimmy McNulty is introduced while investigating the murder of a guy named Snotboogie. The little episode makes a statement about the America Dream, a major theme of the series, but the Snotboogie murder itself has nothing to do with the plot of the rest of the season.
- In Deadwood, Seth Bullock is introduced as he faces down a Montana lynch mob and executes a prisoner on the porch of his Sheriff's office. Immediately afterward, he retires from his post and departs for Deadwood, starting the show proper.
- Joss Whedon shows have a tendency to be feature these as a result of Executive Meddling - Firefly was due to start with a double length origins episode, featuring the arrival of River Tam, Simon and Book. Instead, a train heist episode was adjusted to become a first episode, in order to show the normal hijinks of the Firefly crew on a job. The prequel story was later shown out of order without warning, causing mild temporary confusion for some viewers. Later, Dollhouse was also subject to some meddling, and the first five episodes were 'Imprint of the Week' style standalone stories, before any kind of Story Arc kicked in.
- The entire first day of Tex Murphy - Under a Killing Moon. Also serves as an introduction to most of the regular characters.
- The first stage of X-Men 2: Clone Wars on Sega Genesis. Literally a Cold Open, too; you are dropped right into the stage with a random character the instant you power on the console, and only see the title screen once you've beaten the stage. Plus, it's snowing.
- The first Modern Warfare game has a tutorial, followed by a mission on freighter (ending with an epic Videogame Set Piece) related to the main plot (It helps set up Al-Asad having the nuke later on), then the credits play over a Black Mesa Commute.
- Similarly, Modern Warfare 2 starts with a tutorial, then a typical middle-eastern urban warfare mission that's completely unrelated to the plot (except that it seems to occur on the tail end of the war that begins in the first game), and then "No Russian" is where the game's plot really starts.
- Super Mario RPG, the first Paper Mario, and all the Mario and Luigi games had Mario fighting Bowser in some form (and in one of them... Bowser wins).
- Mirrors Edge starts the Prologue off with Faith delivering a package, setting her own job as Parkour "courier" in-universe. That really only serves to explain why she has the flexibility, speed and energy of a monkey overdosed in Redbull before she goes off to clear her sister's name.
- Breath of Fire 2 begins with a normal day in Ryu's childhood (It Got Worse). After a timeskip, Ryu and Bow are shown taking on a normal job (It Got Worse).
- Acrobat plays it straight and made into a hot closing with Magnum and a villain in issue 4.
- The online version of Order of the Stick begins with the party effortlessly trouncing a bunch of random goblins before the game system is updated. It was later revised in the print version to begin earlier, with a voice-over about the Order and their goals.
- Batman, naturally including several in the DCAU series
- As stated above, Batman the Animated Series used this as its opening sequence.
- In particular, this is done in an unusual way in Batman: The Brave And The Bold where we see one short adventure before the credits, often unconnected to the main story, with a different villain and partner. There are still occasions in the main story as well, where Batman will meet his team up during or just after defeating a minor villain.
- Recently, though, the cold opens have had their own ongoing story, where one of Batman's past partners encounters Starro, and gets mind controlled by him, no doubt building up to a grand finale down the road.
- The Spectacular Spider-Man often begins this way, with Spider-Man mid-battle with criminals.
- About half the episodes of The Real Ghostbusters begin with the Ghostbusters in the middle of busting one or more ghosts. You can pretty much count on these ghosts to have nothing to do with the main plot, and they are often the same ghosts used in crowd scenes or cold opens in other episodes, since the animators worked from a small pool of stock ghosts. But every so often they do figure in to the main plot later in the episode when they're released from the containment unit by the ghost-of-the-week or phenomenon-of-the-week.
- Danny Phantom episode "13" had this with the hero combating various animal ghosts in the beginning. He ends up losing thanks to the Monster of the Week's bad luck shadow.
- The Life and Times of Juniper Lee had this kind of Cold Opening in its early episodes.
- The Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode "Gadget Goes Hawaiian" opens with the Rangers already in dire peril, having to defend themselves against a giant octopus while being tied up. It is not explained how they got into this situation, and this is not that episode's actual case either.
- A common occurrence on Kim Possible, although the "action" teasers would occasionally have exposition about Kim's personal subplot as a lead in.
- The Veggie Tales video LarryBoy and the Rumor Weed uses one of these, with LarryBoy catching a thief who's been stealing kids' milk money. It ends with LarryBoy inadvertently creating the Villain of the Week.
- Episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles focusing on super-hero guest-stars would often open this way, replacing the show's usual In Medias Res teasers.
- The first episode of Justice League Unlimited began with Green Arrow foiling a supermarket robbery before being beamed up to the JL Watchtower and asked to join the all new expanded Justice League.
- Doctor Light in introduced to the Teen Titans in this manner, only to be immediately traumatised for the rest of the series by Raven.
- The first handful of episodes of Generator Rex begin this way, showcasing Rex's EVO-defeating chops.
- Exists in the original but mostly cut out from the first episode of Darkwing Duck, where the widely broadcast version only shows him turning in the criminals.
- Most episodes of the Men in Black Animated Adaptation had one of these, though it sometimes lead into the main plot.
- Avengers Earths Mightiest Heroes has some of these. For instance, "Some Assembly Required" (which takes place almost immediately after the Avengers' founding) begins with the team confronting Mandrill after a bank robbery.