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A masked adventurer's costume is one of those things nobody really thinks about. Should it have a cape, or no cape? Should it be thick and armored to protect you from harm, or flexible and lightweight to allow maneuverability? What sort of mask should it have? Do bright colors make you more of a target than dark ones? All of these were things I had to consider.
Hollis Mason, from his autobiography Under the Hood, Watchmen

We all know this type of guy. He wears an unusual outfit and shows up to fight villains or monsters. He's probably got a Secret Identity and a mild-mannered alter ego to keep his private and crimefighting life separate.

Sounds like a Superhero, right? He probably will get called that, too. But in this case he hasn't got any superpowers. He's probably an expert fighter, sure, and he may have all sorts of gadgets or other unusual advantages, but there's nothing more superhuman about him than perhaps unrealistically good human skills or abilities. (Being good at it isn't a requirement, though... just highly preferable for survival.) So he's a Costumed Nonsuper Hero.

If the setting has proper superheroes or other individuals with powers and the non-super can keep up with them, then the character is a Badass Normal as well. Don't confuse the two tropes, though; Badass Normal is about having no powers but matching those who do, this is about having no powers and wearing a costume. So, for example:

  • The Phantom is a Costumed Nonsuper Hero but not Badass Normal, because while there is some magic in his world, there are no powered superheroes in his stories to compare to.
  • Ajax does without powers in a setting filled with divine influences, but obviously isn't a costumed crimefighter, so he's Badass Normal but not Costumed Nonsuper Hero.
  • Batman is both, working alongside Superheroes and fighting Supervillains.

The character is probably Super Weight Class 1 (unpowered but formidable), although they could be lower if they're just, you know, bad at what they do. They tend towards being The Cowl.

The actual type of costume varies, but may involve Cool Mask, Coat, Hat, Mask, Badass Longcoat, Superheroes Wear Tights and/or Superheroes Wear Capes. Due to the nature of the trope, tropes about superheroes wearing stuff usually apply here too.

The trope is not about villains, at least not traditional ones (no Joker), but the character doesn't need to be "genuinely" heroic. As long as someone, even if just the character themselves, sees them as fulfilling the "costumed hero" role, that suffices. An Anti-Hero or Knight Templar could qualify.

Contrast with Clothes Make the Superman, where the character becomes powered when wearing the costume.

Examples of Costumed Nonsuper Hero include:


  • Batman
  • The Phantom. Even his "civilian" attire -- long coat, shades and hat on top of his bodysuit -- practically counts as a costume of this sort, and since he has no proper civilian identity, it really is more a disguise than his superhero outfit is.
  • In Watchmen, all the costumed crimefighters are ordinary people -- except for Dr. Manhattan, who's on another level altogether.
  • Zorro
  • The Question.
  • The Spirit. He only wore a mask as a concession to the editor, who felt audiences wouldn't buy a crimefighter who didn't wear a costume.
  • Superduck/Paperinik, the costumed hero alter ego of Donald Duck, who's popular in European Disney comics. He's basically the Batman of Duckburg: he has no powers, he fights crime in a costume, few people know he's actually Donald, and he uses all sorts of gadgets developed by Gyro Gearloose. The stories where Donald appears in this guise seem to be in a whole different continuity from all others, as his becoming a Badass with a Secret Identity would have huge ramifications for his character.
  • Kick-Ass: Kick-Ass himself (though not particularly skilled), Hit-Girl and Big Daddy.
  • Super with Rainn Wilson and Defendor were built on the same premise, but got overshadowed by the more mainstream Kick-Ass.
  • Darkwing Duck
  • The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh:
    • Winnie-the-Pooh becomes one of these in the Show Within a Show in the episode "Paw and Order", appearing to fight Nasty Jack and his gang of horse thieves (as in, they're horses) as "the Masked Bear". Eeyore, too, gets a mask as the "faithful steed".
    • In "The Masked Offender", Tigger is inspired to try to be one by stories about "the Masked Avenger", though as you can see from the episode title, he doesn't quite get the name right.
  • Real Life: There are about 300 registered superheroes in the United States. Presumaly, they don't have powers.
  • In City of Heroes, Manticore. Also, any Player Character can be this if the player so chooses (typically involving taking the Natural origin and powers that are less-obviously super).
  • The Green Hornet
  • The "Techno" class in Super Munchkin.
  • The Punisher
  • At the end of Tiger and Bunny Kotetsu decides that he's going to be one of these once his powers run out completely.
  • Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle (but not Dan Garret or Jaime Reyes).
  • Also from Charlton Comics, Judomaster and Peacemaker.
  • Brigand of the Whateley Universe. While considered in-universe to be a supervillain, he's an anti-hero who fights crime by stopping and exposing corporate crime, in his efforts to track down the monsters who long ago forced him to kill his own father.
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