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Posters hanging on every second wall, always in the same design:
- A big fat "WANTED" headline on top
- A picture of the outlaw or gang that is wanted
- The reward in dollars
- Optional: For which crime they're wanted.
- Can sometimes have "Dead or Alive" as the bottom line.
- Comedic versions may add "(Preferably Dead)"
So pervasive that it doesn't just appear in westerns. In modern settings, they're almost exclusively seen in post offices.
One common idea is for a character to see his poster and do one of a few things:
- Try to hide it.
- Admire it.
- Comment on the reward (pride at how high it is or anger at it being too low).
- Draw something on the poster to make the face look different from the real one, like a moustache. Bonus points if someone then captures an unrelated third party who just happens to look like the altered drawing.
Even more bonus points if, after seeing his own face on a Wanted poster, the outlaw stands next to (or in front of) the poster and adopts a pose exactly like the picture on the poster (deliberately or not).
See also Facial Composite Failure.
Anime & Manga
- Luffy and the crew have these in One Piece. Wanted Posters are sometime thought to work like Power Levels in One Piece (the value actually correlates to how much the World Government views those particular people as threats to their power), and some double as gags, like the orignal ugly poster of Sanji (the authorities didn't have a photograph of him, so they did a sketch based on descriptions--and then started chasing after a guy who looked like the sketch) and the 50-Berry reward for Chopper (considered the crew's "pet" by the authorities), who might actually be one of the strongest members of the crew.
- A few more One Piece examples are linked to in Spell My Name with an "S".
- Vash in Trigun appears on one, with a bounty of $$60,000,000,000--that's sixty billion double dollars.
- In Makai Senki Disgaea, there is a bounty of 10,000,000 Hell on Laharl's head.
Laharl: Ten millions?
Etna: (faking it, as she's the one responsible) Amazing! That's my prince!
Laharl: That's all they think my life is worth? (angrily destroys the poster)
- One of the popular advertisement stills for Lupin III is a wanted poster for the four members (well, three members and one on/off member) of the gang. It is, in fact, the picture on the series's page.
- In Black Lagoon, one-shot villain Masahiro Takenaka is shown to have a wanted poster at Japanese police stations, for his actions in the Japanese Red Army Faction.
- As a foreshadowing of later events, an early episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood has one scene showing a row of wanted posters of people who committed crimes against the State Military -- they are sketches of Yoki, Scar, and Greed. Yoki's is interesting in that Brotherhood cut out the incident from the manga and first anime where he was defeated by the Elrics, and he's instead only introduced once he's on the run.
- There's one warning about the famous Gentleman Thief Phoenix in Honey Honey no Suteki na Bouken, apparently in Japanese in the middle of Austria. The warning is also only useful to the Princess, because he's after her ring, the Smile of the Amazon. Apparently everyone in back alleys need to know, too.
- Often used in Lucky Luke for gags, especially with the Daltons. Notably in Daisy Town, the posters of the brothers are shown throughout their childhood and teens until adulthood, with the reward money for their capture steadily increasing -- except for Averell Dalton, which keeps being $7.
- Wanted posters for Tintin can be seen in The Blue Lotus and for Tintin and Haddock in The Red Sea Sharks.
- The Man With No Name uses one to lampshade the fact that the comic's Blondie looks nothing like Clint Eastwood, with a character commenting on "these new Wanted posters which show how he's changed his appearance".
- In Mandatory Retirement, Wedge is teased about getting marriage proposals in the mail. His friend says it's because he looks handsome on the wanted posters, and Wedge says they just want the reward.
- In one Knights of the Dinner Table story, Bob and Dave are annoyed at the low prices on their Cattlepunk characters' heads, and start committing increasingly outrageous crimes to rectify the situation. This backfires when the rewards get so big that Brian and Sara decide to turn them in and collect.
- The covers of all issues of Bad Guys, a Gargoyles spin off, features wanted posters of the characters.
- Runaways has a cover featuring the main characters on a wanted poster.
- This infamous and endlessly homaged X-Men cover (X-Men #141).
- In a gag of the Dutch comic Gilles de Geus, robber Gilles has to get into the city to get groceries, but wanted posters of him are hanging all around the city gate. He goes to great lenghts to get into the city while avoid getting recognized, but all results fail. Fortunately for him, by the time he gives up and the guards at the gate finally manage to compare the picture on the poster with his face, an unnamed person has already vandalised the poster so the guards don't recognize Gilles and allow him entrance to the city.
Films -- Animation
- Shrek gets a few of these in the first film.
- Disney's Robin Hood has this.
- The Simpsons Movie uses the "capture a third party" variant.
- So did the Soviet cartoon adaptation of Cipollino.
- The FBI sends these around in Beavis and Butthead Do America; people keep recognizing them and calling the cops, but the kids are so stupidly unpredictable that they keep walking right out of the dragnet.
- Pictured: Tangled has Flynn's Wanted Posters, which they never get his nose right.
- The Rescuers Down Under: A wanted poster of Mcleach can be seen shortly before he makes his debute.
Films -- Live-Action
- In For a Few Dollars More, the first villain we see added two zeros on his own wanted poster, claiming it wasn't anywhere near enough.
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly features a wanted post for Tuco (the Ugly) emblazoned with a humorously anachronistic high-res photograph of the outlaw.
- In one movie, Harpo Marx has a copy of his wanted poster ("Wanted for Jaywalking") attached to the inside of his coat.
- In Shanghai Noon, Chon Wang and Roy O'Bannon find wanted posters for themselves. Roy is annoyed on how much is offered for Chon Wang, as he's just a "sidekick", and Chon is annoyed as the poster calls him the "The Shanghai Kid", and he's not from Shanghai.
- In Wrongfully Accused, the hero, Ryan Harrison, comes across his own Wanted poster in a fishing shop. He quickly scribbles a ridiculously long beard, an oversized pair of glasses and a comically small bowlerhat on it. Shorty after, the sheriff arrests a man with a long beard, wearing an oversized pair of glasses and a comically small bowlerhat.
- In The Good, the Bad, the Weird, the Good, a Bounty Hunter checks out wanted posters early in the film, and there's a scene where the Weird complains about the relatively low bounty on his head. Gets an interesting call back in The Stinger during the credits showing that the Bad was Killed Off for Real, as his poster is crossed out and taken down. The Weird gets a new poster with a much higher bounty, in light of his crimes during the film and revealed status as a Retired Monster. He's then briefly shown traveling on the road and having made a cool Evil Costume Switch.
- In Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure, Billy the Kid hits on a couple of girls by showing them his wanted poster.
- In L: Change the World, after Maki runs away the bio-terrorist group ringleader, K, goes on TV and declares Maki to be a medical patient with a deadly virus who must be detained at all costs. This, along with the wanted posters plastered absolutely everywhere, makes it very difficult for Maki and the others to move--especially since K is an acclaimed scientist, so no one doubts the story.
- The Three Stooges had variants of this in some of their shorts:
Wanted for Vagrancy
Reward: 50 Cents Each
3 for a Dollar
- In The Goat, Buster Keaton spots a huge wall-sized Wanted poster of himself, and disguises it by pinning a woman's fur on it as a moustache.
- The moving one of Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
- A Running Gag in the Belgariad and The Malloreon is Silk appearing on wanted posters. He generally reacts with disdain, though he has occasionally felt flattered by high reward offers. Beldin also gets this treatment in Mallorea courtesy of Urvon, a disciple of Torak that he has a long-standing vendetta against -- involving a smoking hot hook and the latter's guts.
- Honorable Mention: One of Dom Jolly's Trigger Happy TV pranks was to get a random passerby to do something embarrassing for him, and then walk away, leaving them on (hidden) camera looking confused. He'd do it standing under a giant billboard with a picture of himself, and the words "Don't Trust This Man".
- One will occasionally turn up in Kung Fu: Caine is wanted by the Chinese government for killing the Emperor's Nephew. "$10,000 Alive, $5,000 Dead." A likeness of Caine is drawn on the posters, along with drawings of his forearm tatoos/brands.
- Commonly show up in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, as the Evil Empire has put out a bounty for the crew. The reward on each member goes up every few episodes -- Butt Monkey Don Dogoier always has the lowest amount. And during the end of the run, the reward for capturing Marvelous skyrockets to a crazy amount. How? How does UNLIMITED REWARD sound? They've pissed off the Empire when that bounty went up.
- Wanted: Dead Or Alive by Bon Jovi.
- The video for Michael Jackson's "Bad" shows a wanted poster of someone wanted for sacriledge. Oh, and being BAD.
- Mick Foley had a variation made for his Cactus Jack begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting t-shirts. Someone had scratched the 'alive' part out of the Wanted: Dead or Alive bit.
- The famous "Great Cookie Thief" sketch on Sesame Street also involves the "defaced poster" variant.
- The Muppet Show segment "Bear on Patrol" always had these pinned on the wall of the police station, featuring members of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.
- The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny opens with a wanted poster for Fatty, Begbick and Trinity Moses.
- Guybrush gets his very own in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, which is continually updated as your list of crimes keeps growing. Altering it is part of solving a puzzle.
- Also, a clever use of it in the game Zack and Wiki: it's shown as a sort of ranking screen, as you do great acts of piracy/solve puzzles, the bounty goes up, and the fidelity of the sketch on the poster increases, starting from wildly inaccurate (not to mention looking like a six-year-old drew them) and ending at a dead ringer, then going on to photographs of increasing clarity.
- Tales (series) games like to do this, oddly. Tales of Symphonia has them scattered around Sylvarant, portraying a rather odd description of Lloyd.
- In World of Warcraft, wanted posters act as questgivers, and the quests usually involve killing a boss and bringing something from them to an NPC as proof of their death.
- Having a bounty on your head is apparently something of a status symbol for Skies of Arcadia's Air Pirates. At one point you see a poster that clearly has the viewpoint character on it, but no-one acknowledges this.
- Sundown Kid in Live a Live. He actually put the bounty on his own head so someone would take his life.
- Assassin's Creed 2 has these pop up whenever you start performing evil (or impressive) acts. Ezio can then tear them down to become anonymous again (as well as by bribing town criers and killing bad-mouthing politicians in broad daylight.)
- Bowser is on one of these in Mario Party 1, as long as Western Land in Mario Party 2, complete with cowboy hat and pistol, under the name 'Bowser the Brash'.
- Mario (or actually a doppelganger) is wanted for graffiti in Super Mario Sunshine, and these are found all over Delfino Plaza. You can spray them and coins pop out.
- In the canceled Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans, Thrall learns about Grom Hellscream by finding a wanted poster for him in Durnholde.
- In Spelunky, "Wanted" posters appear in shops a level after you commit a crime to a shopkeeper. When you're declared innocent (don't kill shopkeeper nor steal from him for another few levels), they disappear.
- A Staple of the Metal Saga series.
- Gun.Smoke shows a wanted poster before each round, though the relevant text is displayed beside it rather than on it.
- The Bard occasionally finds wanted posters of himself in The Bards Tale. Incredulously, he somehow has the gall to sell them back somewhere, because they're worth money just like any other collectible.
- Red Dead Redemption has wanted posters indicating bounties that the player can claim.
- In the arcade version of Double Dragon, wanted posters of the game's bosses can be seen in Mission 1 and Mission 3. The award for Machine Gun Willy, the final boss, is $100,000, ten times more than the other bosses (who are only worth $10,000 each).
- Fey Winds, here.
- Order of the Stick, here. In the prequel book On the Origin of PCs, Haley uses her Wanted poster as a list of qualifications when Roy recruits her.
- VG Cats, Leo Leonardo is wanted dead or alive with a reward of 90,000,000 dollars.
- The Christian Humber Reloaded webcomic adaptation has one for Adolf Hitler, whom Vash kills to get money to buy a sword. Later on, there's another modern-style one for Vash himself.
- Several are seen in this page of The KAMics
- Avatar: The Last Airbender has about six of them (Aang, Jeong Jeong, Chey, the Blue Spirit, Iroh and Zuko). Oddly, they never made one for any of Aang's friends.
- Toph got one for her antics in "The Runaway". She couldn't see it, of course, but she keeps it anyway.
- The Looney Tunes short Drip-Along Daffy has villain Nasty Canasta standing in front of his own wanted poster, then stepping away from it in a memorable reveal.
- In the Wartime Cartoon Confusions of a Nutzy Spy, one of the wanted posters is of a pin-up girl with no crime alleged, but a note attached saying "and you ain't kiddin', brother!" and signed "U.S. Army."
- The Donald Duck cartoon Donald's Crime has him trying to tear away his wanted poster, but reveals another poster underneath with a higher price on his head. Donald keeps tearing off until the zeros go past the poster and into infinity.
- Kim Possible has a few of these for its villains, though they keep the details sketchy for some reason.
- The Mr. Bean series once had this, with a Criminal Doppelganger involved. Here's the image.
- Appears in the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "A Bird In The Hoof", after Princess Celestia's pet bird Philomena goes missing. Since Philomena doesn't want to be caught (long story), she sneaks around drawing mustaches on the posters.
- Megas XLR: The episode "Universal Remote" starts with the Monster of the Week, Skalgar, seeing his own wanted poster and being outraged at the low reward that is offered for him.
- Variant: For the second Iraq war, the US Military issued a deck of cards with 52 mini-wanted posters for various Iraqi baddies.