Bruce Wayne Held Hostage

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Batman would love to help, but he's a little tied up at the moment...

A group of bad guys with a bone to pick have rounded up a group of Innocent Bystanders as hostages and deliver a cold ultimatum:

"Either Captain Hero shows up to settle the score with us or these people get it! He has 15 minutes!"

There's only one problem - through complete luck (or lack of it), Our hero is one of the hostages, he's just present in his "civilian" identity.

Now he must find a way to rescue the hostages, bring the bad guys down, and prevent anyone present, good or bad, from putting 2 and 2 together and figuring out that he and his alter ego are the same person.

Compare Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard and Badass in Distress.

Examples of Bruce Wayne Held Hostage include:

Anime & Manga

  • Tantei Opera Milky Holmes twists this brilliantly in the finale, in which Master Thief Arsene kidnaps her own alter ego.
  • The first season of Sailor Moon had Zoisite trap Mamoru, and Usagi by accident, in a building and chased them with intent to kill as a trap for Tuxedo Kamen; Usagi, not filled in on all the details, thinks he's after her and Mamoru is the innocent hostage. She ends up revealing her identity to both of them.
    • The third season had Usagi's brooch stolen and herself kidnapped by Kaolinite on suspicion of being Sailor Moon... until Minako arrives as "Sailor Moon" via the disguise pen.
  • In Death Note, Light deliberately invokes this to make it look like he isn't Kira to the man following him.
  • In Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok, Loki makes a game of it at one point; letting Yamino solve the mystery of where he is, and amusing himself by playing the role of Creepy Child to the hilt with his captors.
  • One of the DVD extras for Code Geass had a bank robbery involving a couple of idiots. These unfortunate fools robbed the very same bank that Lelouch, Suzaku, and Kallen were visiting at the time. Things did not end well for the robbers.
    • It also happens when Euphemia is kidnapped along a bunch of students.
  • A curious inversion happens in Moldiver, during the episode with the space shuttle. Machinegal tries to steal the shuttle and takes the crowd hostage, and dares Moldiver to stop him. This is because he thinks Moldiver is in the crowd - specifically an old student of his and a close friend of Hiroshi named Kaoru Misaki, who looks just like you'd think Moldiver would look without a suit. Except he's not Moldiver, Hiroshi just modeled its physique after him because he wanted to look buff. So the villain, the poor guy's date, and the crowd want him to transform and try to save the day, while he tries to convince everyone he's not the superhero.
  • Couldn't have missed from Beelzebub, a mostly parody of the genre. Four self-proclaimed pretty damn good robbers end up in the store with a guy chosen by Satan's kid himself, a kid that can spur out lighting and other nasties if upset and his nanny of sorts, that can summon dragons and other goodies from the Underworld. They're actually about to be put in charge of taking care of the kid, until Oga decides they're too weak and swiftly disposes of them.

Comic Books

  • The Long Halloween had a variant where Poison Ivy was hired by mobsters to mind-control Bruce Wayne into going along with a money laundering scheme; since this was early in his career, there was no Robin, but thankfully Selina Kyle caught on to Bruce's odd behavior and saved the day as Catwoman.
  • In a comic book version of the animated series universe, Bruce Wayne is taken hostage on a charity cruise by Poison Ivy and her overgrown plant henchmen. To escape, Bruce Wayne makes a "foolish" attack at the villains and is immediately swatted overboard, where he is free to swim to cover and become Batman.
    • That happened in the cartoon too, they just later put it in the comic... Or vice versa.
  • Subverted in The Sword of Azrael, in which Bruce spends the miniseries captured, and is rescued by Azrael.
    • Though the kidnappers had nothing against Batman or Robin specifically, a variation of this trope showed up in a recent Robin comic wherein Tim Drake got himself kidnapped on purpose in order to save the other kids who'd been grabbed.
  • Batgirl's first appearance in Detective Comics #359 is her saving Bruce Wayne from being kidnapped.
  • This was forever happening to Peter Parker in the Spider-Man series.
    • There was a very interesting variation to that in the '90s animated series. The Sinister Six (more or less) kidnap Aunt May, and order Peter to deliver Spidey into an obvious trap, because "obviously you know how to contact him". Problem is, he's temporarily depowered by some mutations in his spider powers. He puts on the suit anyway, goes to the location and actually gives a somewhat good fight. Eventually the villains beat him and unmask him, but they assume it's just Peter Parker pretending to be Spider-Man, hence his not putting up as much of a fight as expected. They then release both on the basis that Peter wouldn't have tried such a foolish stunt had he the means to contact Spider-Man. This was based on an early Dr. Octopus storyline from the comics where Peter was weakened by the flu.
    • That comics incident received a great Continuity Nod when Spider-Man made his identity public. (For a week or two in-story. It was retconned, of course. Look up One More Day, or better yet, don't.) In addition to dealing with all the people in Peter Parker's life he had deceived, Doctor Octopus comes out of hiding to attack him at work. Octavius was enraged to learn that all those years ago he had Spider-Man in his grasp and threw him away because he couldn't believe the nemesis who kept on beating him up and humiliating him was a nebbish high school student.
    • In the early 2000s, one of the Spider-Man newspaper comic strip storylines featured a villain called the Chameleon, who could change his face to look like anyone else's. After failing to capture the Chameleon at a fancy party, Spider-man goes back into the party dressed as Peter Parker...and the Chameleon automatically takes on Peter's form.
  • A variation occurs in Astro City, where the secret identity of a small country town hero occasionally saves people while in his civilian guise. The visiting big city girl can't believe how blind everyone is in the small town, given how incredibly obvious the hero's secret identity is. Nobody seems to believe her whenever she points it out. The twist is that for everyone in the town, it is an open secret; they just don't out the guy out of respect for him.
    • See also Irene Merriweather constantly putting coworker Adam Peterson in peril in an attempt to prove he's really Atomicus. When Atomicus actually saves him once, she figures that's the end of it... until she sees a TV report of Atomicus showing off his newly discovered ability to create atomic duplicates. She then stops screwing around, tears his shirt open to reveal the Atomicus suit, and drives him away from Earth forever. Goddammit, Irene.
  • In the final issue of the Spider-Man/Human Torch: I'm With Stupid miniseries, Johnny is going to speak at Midtown High (where Peter Parker teaches), just as some thugs take the auditorium hostage. Innocent by-standers at risk keeps Johnny in check, but Peter is also in the room when things go down. With no choice, Peter has slyly reveal his secret identity to Johnny (this being before One More Day). The naturally chagrined Torch fakes a sneeze and causes his powers to blind everybody in the room - giving Peter time to sneak out and suit up. After Spider-Man webslings back in, the two heroes take care of the thugs.
  • A Daredevil villain once tried to stop Foggy Nelson from running for DA... by holding poor, blind, helpless Matt Murdock hostage.
  • And of course, Intergang has more than once attempted to kidnap or kill that muckraking, bribe-proof, irritating Intrepid Reporter Clark Kent.
    • Also in All-Star Superman Clark Kent is interviewing Lex Luthor in prison and must improvise surreptitious ways of saving Lex's life and the lives of the guards during a superhuman prison riot.
  • Minor example - in Black Canary, a villain uses the Black Canary's name while committing a crime, intending to frame the hero. To set up suspicion on "the Canary", she orders a black orchid to be delivered to the home of her intended victim. The shop she ordered it from was run by one Diana Drake.
  • A variation occurred in a Silver Age Superman story. During an attempted heist at a museum, some goons take a bystander hostage and force Superman to help them. Only the "Superman" they have is a lookalike in a Superman costume on his way to his son's school, and the "hostage" is Clark Kent, who they grabbed before he could change clothes. The real Superman ends up having to use his powers to covertly make his kidnappers believe the fake one is the real deal until he can get him safely away.


  • Subverted in Batman Forever - when Two-Face threatens to detonate a bomb at a circus, killing everyone there unless Batman shows up, Bruce is willing to reveal himself. He stands up and yells "I'm Batman," but no one can hear him because everyone is screaming in panic. He then tries to push his way down and either stop the bomb or give himself up in his civilian identity.
    • Two-Face actually points out that he wouldn't be surprised if Batman is in the wealthy and well-to-do audience.
  • In Batman: The Movie, as Catwoman lured Bruce Wayne into a trap designed to force Batman to save him.
  • In Mystery Men, Lance Hunt AKA Captain Amazing is kidnapped by his arch-nemesis, who knows exactly who he is. Everyone else doesn't, and thus expects the Captain to come to his rescue.
  • Averted in the Green Hornet film with Seth Rogen. In a move which seems unusually thoughtful for Rogen, Rogen has included a scene where Britt Reid specifically states that he will pretend to operate as a criminal for profit, so that his enemies will never think of taking innocent people as hostages or attacking innocent people to get his attention.
    • Played almost straight in one of the radio dramas. "Straight" in that Britt had to don the Hornet's mask and trenchcoat, pretend he was cutting in on the kidnapping of Britt Reid, then (after gassing all the crooks) ditch the Hornet disguise and have Kato tie him back up so no one would suspect. "Almost" in that the crooks weren't trying to lure the Hornet in—the ringleader of the gang had a grudge against Britt (not the Hornet), the kidnapping was for payback.
    • Another near miss example, occurred on the TV show. A group of mobsters wanted Britt Reid kidnapped so they could intimidate him into calling off his newspaper's reports on their activities, as well as to extort a ransom for him. Of course, since as the Green Hornet, Reid pretended to operate as a criminal for profit, he appeared to these criminals as the Green Hornet and agreed to abduct Reid for them. The mobsters, of course, revealed to him the location of their base where they wanted him to deliver Reid. Reid had Kato drive the Black Beauty to this location and dump him out of it (obviously in his civilian guise). Kato then used the Black Beauty's weapons to assault the mobsters and played a previously made recording of Reid speaking in character as the Green Hornet, claiming he now wanted half of the ransom. Reid used the diversion, as planned, to contact the police, who came and arrested the mobsters. Again, the mobsters had a grudge against Britt, not the Hornet, or at least not until after he demanded half the ransom money.
  • In The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne just barely manages to not be part of the hostages as he has just walked out of the room when the Joker comes in and takes the fundraiser party hostage. Though this time, the Joker is looking for Harvey Dent, and Wayne manages to knock Dent out and hide him before ducking into his panic room/back-up bat-cave and come back to the party as Batman.
    • It also helps that Bruce knew the Joker was coming.

Live-Action TV

  • In the Adam West television series, Bruce Wayne is held hostage. He breaks out, dons the bat-suit, does hero stuff, breaks back in, dons civilian clothes, does hostage stuff, breaks out, dons the bat-suit... you get the picture.
    • More often, if Bruce was in the villains' custody or otherwise occupied, either Robin would show up alone and claim Batman was elsewhere (once he pretended to call Batman on his portable Bat-transmitter), or Alfred would don a spare Batsuit and either speak through a voice modulator or lip-synch as Bruce threw his voice.
      • Batman eventually creates dehydrated batsuit tablets so that all he needs in order to become Batman after being taken prisoner is to ask for a glass of water.
      • Batgirl was introduced in an episode where the Penguin kidnapped Barbara Gordon and planned to marry her.
      • In an inversion, King Tut once kidnapped and ransomed Batman for one million dollars. Which he would only accept from Bruce Wayne.
  • In an episode of George Reeves' The Adventures of Superman Clark, Jimmy and Lois are being held in a jail cell. In a blatant example of Luckily, My Powers Will Protect Me, Clark says Superman could melt the lock with heat vision, and when Jimmy points out Superman could break through the wall mutters to himself "Trouble is, too many people would see him break through the wall."
    • There was another such episode where Clark and Lois are tied up in a room with... some sort of amnesia gas. Clark simply Supermans out, knowing that his transformation will be forgotten due to the gas.
    • Similar situations often happened in Lois and Clark. In the pilot, Clark explains he broke through his chains via a "weak link", and then claims the "force of the blast" enabled him, Lois and Jimmy to Outrun the Fireball.
    • There was in fact a straight version of this trope in Lois and Clark where the Daily Planet is held hostage by the villains and Clark has to find a way to save the day without being noticed. One part of it included Clark deflecting with his hand a bullet headed straight for a coworker's chest, fired at close range. Cue Jack (the coworker) examining his shirt perplexed and partially in shock, while Clark casually tries to pretend it's obvious that the bullet "missed". (By the end of the episode, it was hinted that Jack had figured out Clark's secret identity. Unfortunately, his character was written out of the show a few episodes later, so the series never got to explore that dynamic.)
      • In on episode, an old classmate of Lois' was using a shrinking solution on the spouses of people who spurned her in high school and, naturally, Clark got a dose and (eventually) shrunk to roughly three inches tall. He had to try and save the other spouses without appearing to them as Superman because obviously, the villains knew Clark was supposed to be tiny, but would have put two and two together if they spotted a tiny Superman. At one point he put on a Barbie-sized scuba suit to pass himself off as a completely different tiny superhero, but this didn't actually work.
  • 24 inverted the trope in season 5, when a group of terrorists inadvertently took their own Dragon hostage, and nearly executed him as well.
  • An early episode of Highlander the Series played in a building where a group of terrorists took everyone hostage, including Duncan Macleod. Naturally he was the first one that was "killed" as an example and for the rest of the episode he was trying to rescue the hostages without being seen to avoid the question how he could survive a shot to the head.
    • Too bad for him the execution was televised to the police via closed-circuit camera as proof the terrorists were serious. This was never explored further in the series, though whether that is due to writer-amnesia or the fact that they dropped the police and reporter plot threads after the first season isn't certain.
  • Done in an episode of Chuck, however the whole thing was a Xanatos Gambit set up by Fulcrum.
  • Somewhat subverted in "The Bank Shot Job" episode of Leverage. While the villains weren't looking for the heroes (and didn't know they were there), it was otherwise played entirely straight.
    • Not quite straight: the "villains" responsible for the hostage situation interrupted the heroes as they were about to rob the other villain, leading to a cross between this trope and Mugging the Monster.
  • Happened in an episode of Burn Notice, though these hostage takers weren't interested in the heroes. Michael was talking to a client at a private bank when he was interrupted by Agent Bly, Michael and Bly were both blackmailing the other. As it turns out the stalker that the client was worried about was really the leader of a gang of bank robbers. Unfortunately for him, he failed to consider what would occur if he held an ex-spy and a spy hunter hostage.
  • Unlike Michael Westen, Richard Castle isn't much of a fighter. He is, however, extremely good at putting facts together and thinking on his feet, skills which help him greatly when, in "Cops & Robbers", he's held hostage during a bank robbery, with Beckett on the outside.
  • In a first-season episode of The Equalizer, the main character (a Badass Grandpa ex-spy turned Vigilante Man) is attending a wedding when terrorists fleeing a botched assassination take the entire party hostage. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Happened a few times on Smallville, usually because Clark didn't want to reveal his secret or because there was kryptonite nearby.
    • Also played with in the episode Mortal. Clark Kent and his family are held hostage by three Meteor Freaks, who know Clark has superpowers, and wants him to use his superpowers to help them, or they'll kill the Kents. Except what they don't know is that Clark has been Brought Down to Normal. So instead of saving the day while still hiding the fact he has superpowers, he's got to save the day by pretending to have superpowers.


  • In Rainbow Six, some terrorists try to hijack an airliner that happens to have three badass special forces/spies on board. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Batman: Arkham City starts off this way, with Bruce Wayne arrested on trumped-up charges and thrown into the titular prison. Hugo Strange, the one bad guy who knows Batman's secret identity, tells him, "It was far easier to capture Bruce Wayne than it was to capture Batman."

Web Originals

  • The New York Metropolitan Museum was invaded by gunmen during the presentation of a new exhibit. Both Achilles and Bungie of the Global Guardians were in attendance in their secret identities. It didn't go well for the gunmen.

Western Animation

  • Batman the Animated Series also used this trope. A ninja with a grudge against Bruce holds him hostage alongside a reporter who already knew that Bruce Wayne had trained for years alongside the very same ninja. He then demands Bruce fight him, meaning he had to fight just good enough to stay on his feet. If he fought too skilled or too amateurish, it would either arouse suspicion or get the hostage killed. Luckily, Robin arrives to cover the reporter's vision of the fight, and Bruce can then fight without holding back.
    • Subverted in Batman and Mister Freeze Sub Zero. Dick and Barbara are at an upscale party when the title villain crashes it and attempts to kidnap Barbara. Dick doesn't bother hiding at all and tries to stop him (and gets brutally beat down by 2 polar bears in the process). Barbara eventually allows herself to be taken in order to save the other guests. It still doesn't stop Dick, who proceeds to take someone's motorcycle and give chase.
      • Not just take the guy's motorcycle. Dick tosses the guy the keys to his Corvette. That's more than fair trade.
      • This trope also applies to Barbara after being taken to Freeze's lair. Of the 18 people in Gotham who could have saved his wife, Freeze had the misfortune of choosing the one who was both the Commissioner's daughter and Batgirl.
      • The trope also applies on a meta level to Subzero: Not only do the characters have to be careful about revealing their identity, but (given where the movie falls in BTAS continuity) the creators needed to be vague about whether Bruce and Dick knew Barbara's Secret Identity.
    • Bruce Wayne is kidnapped by Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, who use mind control lipstick to have him buy them a shopping spree for Christmas; when Bruce starts to snap out of it, Harley chases him with a pucker and Bruce, in avoiding her, falls down an elevator shaft to his "death." The girls are distraught for all of five seconds, before acknowledging they were going to kill him later anyway. Meanwhile, Bruce turns into Batman and captures the duo.
    • An early episode of BTAS had Batman investigating homeless/poor disappearances in Gotham. Going undercover as a poor man, he gets kidnapped by the wrong-doers (who are using their victims as forced labor in a mine). Wouldn't be quite so bad (he was in disguise, of course), but a blow to the head gave him amnesia. It takes Alfred tracking him down to restore his memory and prompt Batman into action.
  • In Batman Beyond, Inque takes a innocent bystander hostage when she is chased by Terry and threatens to kill him. Unfortunately for her, the bystander turns out to be Superman in civillian disguise.
  • In Batman the Brave And The Bold, Batman does it to himself. A Tap on the Head has him thinking he's actually the gangster he's posing as, and he puts the Birds of Prey in a Death Trap, demanding that Batman come and fight him, or else.
  • The Batman has Bruce Wayne being held hostage by The Penguin. He's rescued by Batgirl. In this case, however, Bruce Wayne was suffering from amnesia and thus didn't know he was actually Batman.
  • An Alvin and The Chipmunks episode parodying Batman even had this. The Jokester (Alvin) kidnaps Brice Wayne (Simon) and Nicki Nale (Brittany) and threatens to kill them unless Batmunk brings him the toy he's been trying to steal. Fortunately, loyal butler Happy (Theodore) takes on the role himself for this.
  • The same thing happened to Drake Mallard in Darkwing Duck. He managed to pull it off by moving very quickly from the bank he was held hostage in to where he had a spare costume. Then the villain, Tuskerninni, and the law started arguing over whether hostage Drake had to be let go before hero Darkwing surrendered or vice versa ...
  • In the rebooted He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Prince Adam is kidnapped by Skeletor to serve as bait for He-Man. Obviously, it's a long wait until a robotic stand-in for He-Man cobbled together by Man-At-Arms shows up to complete the ruse.
    • A similar plot occurred in an episode of the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, in which Prince Adam was frozen in Phlebotinum along with other hostages by someone who wanted He-Man's help. Orko, the comic bundle of rags, was the only one available to float in with a sword and declare in a magically altered voice that he was He-Man and would only help if one hostage was freed as a show of faith.
    • The old series also had an episode with him being kidnapped, with a robotic He-Man used in the rescue.
  • In Superman the Animated Series, as Clark Kent, he uncovered evidence that a man facing execution for murder is innocent. While Kent was trying to get the information to the authorities, a car bomb planted by the real killer detonated, "killing" Kent and destroying the evidence. Superman then faced a dilemma: how to bring the evidence forward without anyone asking how he could possibly know it. In a clever subversion, the real killer is eventually apprehended, and makes the connection that Clark Kent is Superman, right as the lever on the execution machine is thrown.
    • Furthermore, at one point, Superman realizes that saving the innocent man's life is more important than keeping his identity a secret, and so prepares to go to the Governor as Clark Kent but ready to reveal himself should he need to prove how he survived the car bomb. Of course, further plot developments make this unnecessary.
  • In the one episode of the animated TV series The Mask, the villains take several people at the mall hostage, including Stanley. Stanley is forced to read out the threat on TV. He overemphasizes the fact that they need the help of the Mask, to give his dog the hint that it needs to bring him the mask.
  • This happens to Virgil in Static Shock at one point, a group of his villains believing correctly that he's Static. Gear comes in and saves him while tricking the villains that he's not Static, however.