Story-Breaker Team-Up

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
And then everybody that survived had a hearty chuckle!
"Any time there's a crossover in, say, Comic Books there's a risk that one team or hero will overshadow the other, questioning the competence or effectiveness of the other."

Who doesn't love character team-ups? Be it in comic books, cartoons, literature, TV or other media, putting two heroes (or villains!) together can make for exciting stories. However, care should go into this "matchmaking", since not every team up is thematically appropriate or compatible power-wise. If the creative teams go ahead with the team up anyway (the pull of Wolverine Publicity and Money, Dear Boy are strong), the result is a Story Breaker Team-Up.

This can happen due to a few different (sometimes overlapping) factors. Firstly is premise. If the characters are from different ends of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, either one will have to tough it out as an "inserted" character in the other's verse (suffering the equivalent of morality whiplash) or they'll have to risk meeting in morality neutral ground and hope the Grey and Grey Morality based story is of good quality.

The above can get complicated if one hero (like the Punisher above) routinely deals with his "Rogues Gallery" by killing them on sight, while the other firmly refuses to kill or doesn't even fight at all (like Archie Comics above). If the relative pacifist has favor, the militant hero will be severely nerfed; whereas if the militant one is shown right, it may risk invalidating the other's morals or making them seem irrelevant.

Similarly, another potential problem is their relative power. If one is vastly more powerful, the other will become The Load, so one or both character may have to undergo Power Creep, Power Seep to avoid one being made irrelevant while the other becomes a god. This doesn't just happen when there's a wide difference on the scale of a character with the Superpower Lottery and a Muggle teaming up; even a simple power like one way Telepathy can cripple a crossover. Imagine how Murder on the Orient Express (or any other detective story) would go if Poirot was teamed up with a Telepath.

Another factor is the seriousness of the setting and the temperament of the character. Teaming up a highly Genre Savvy character, or competent person from a world where everything is Like Reality Unless Noted, with a Genre Blind one in a cliche bound world won't end well, nor would the reverse be kind. In a similar vein, putting a stand up comedian in a show about international politics or similar won't usually go over well but oddly, the reverse probably isn't the case.

Last but not least is the content of the featured series. If you've got a series Rated "M" for Money teaming up with a far less violent series, the former will most likely be bowdlerised for the crossover so as to not clash aesthetically and/or upset the owners of the less violent series.

Because of these issues, avoiding this trope may require that Superman Stays Out of Gotham for no adequately explained reason.

Examples of Story-Breaker Team-Up include:

Comic Books

Fan Fiction

  • Various Gundam Seed and Mobile Suit Gundam 00 crossover has this as PLAGUE, considering the later's incarnation of eponymous Gundams is plain Game Breaker compared to the former. Common joke amongst those crossovers are Setsuna complaining that G-Project unit doesn't deserve the title of Gundam.
  • A few Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfics make jokes about how Dragon Ball characters take out the angels with ease.
    • This is actually very common in Dragon Ball crossover fics. While the Dragon Ball universe is not the most powerful by any means, many inexperienced fanfic writers would cross it over with fiction that was significently weaker. This was most common in the nineties, as the really well-known animes (Ranma ½, Sailor Moon, Neon Genesis Evangelion) were leagues beneath the Dragon Ball universe, while universes that could compete with or even dominate Dragon Ball (Tenchi Muyo!, Saint Seiya, Marvel Comics) were unknown or underutilised.
      • On a similar note is an old DBZ fanfic where the Briefs family is targeted by a serial killer. Yes, a normal human serial killer. It's not BAD, but the author would need enough handwaves to fly to get it to work fully, and he only does several.
  • The Pretty Cure Fan Fic Features, due to crossing over a ton of stories on varying points of the Scale, tend to do this. If Perfume Preppy is in a feature with a bunch of casts from series that are as child-friendly as the source material, no mention will be made of its various Family Unfriendly Deaths and rather disgusting moments like Ashley's cannibalistic mass murder spree. If Heavy Metal is in there too, since it's even less child-friendly, the other fics in the pile will be made Darker and Edgier.
  • A Dark Knight Over Sin City has a mild example. Batman and his rogues operate on a slightly different level than the Sin City characters. The anti-heroes and villains in Sin City still serve important roles in the plot but when it comes to, say, explaining Scarecrow's weapons or Joker's toxin, they resort to Buffy-Speak.
  • While on it, between 2003 and 2007 there were many crossovers between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter. While many of them were very well written, they were extremely prone to this trope, in both directions: If early seasons of BTVS were depicted, then a team of one physical fighter (Buffy), one slow (and then weak) witch (Willow) and two Badass Normal's (Giles/Xander) could not realy make a difference against all Death Eaters, with their apparation, direct magic etc. By contrast, if BTVS was depicted post S7, then there was the simple fact that all Death Eaters combined could not match the power of Willow, not even taking hundreds of slayers, Giles, and rest into account.

Live Action TV

  • Jack Black on Community, as a parody of Remember the New Guy?, turned into this. He upsets the group dynamic with his weird schtick eventually forcing Jeff to drag him out of the Study Room kicking and screaming.
  • The Samurai Sentai Shinkenger story arc of Kamen Rider Decade. Since Kamen Riders do not deal with giant monsters on a regular basis whereas Super Sentai does and the crossover occurs in a Kamen Rider show, the arc was written to feature an original Monster of the Week who became an anomaly of sorts thanks to the intrusion of Decade's cast and thus could not grow unlike his brethren.
  • Parodied on an episode of That Mitchell and Webb Look, with the superhero team of BMX Bandit and Angel Summoner. BMX Bandit can ride a BMX really well, while Angel Summoner can summon and control a horde of invisible celestial superbeings. Oddly, BMX Bandit feels he doesn't add much to the team.

Tabletop Games

  • The players can cause this in any given table role playing game, almost all of which begin with a team-up of brand new characters. The GM can deal with conflicting power levels by enforcing balance. The players may come to the table with different assumptions about what the genre's conventions are. They may play characters with vastly different ethical stances that simply can't reconcile. They may come with vastly different levels of knowledge of the rules of the game and different tolerances for bending those rules. They may be the only Loony in a group which quickly tires of their antics or the only Real Man when everyone else is in deep immersion gaming. Preventing these differences both in and out of character from becoming a Story-Breaker Team-Up is important for making sure everyone has fun. The obvious example is from Dungeons and Dragons, with its infamous trope-naming Lawful Stupid, Chaotic Stupid, and Stupid Evil characters.

Video Games

  • Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe solves this in one sense while being disadvantaged by it in another. The difference in powers between Mortal Kombat and DCU characters is explained by mentioning that the universe merging directly affects the abilities of everyone involve, as well as spreading a Hate Plague in order for Let's You and Him Fight to ensue. However, DC's treatment of their intellectual properties meant that the Mortal Kombat side had to temporarily lose its extreme blood and gore... which, unfortunately for that series, is its entire selling point, period.
  • To a minor extent, Super Smash Bros.. Brawl and Snake. An M-rated character battles heroes who are perfectly OK for the entire family? Wave goodbye to his realistic firearms. He gets to keep explosive arms, though.
  • While Banpresto usually handles this trope quite well, Super Robot Wars has had a few offenders in the past. What immediately comes to mind is Super Robot Wars Judgment, where the plot of Gundam Seed is handled the exact same way despite the crossover drastically altering the circumstances. The most Egregious case is Mu La Flaga's Heroic Sacrifice, even though the various Super Robots in the player's group could have easily tanked the positron cannon.
    • The first appearances of a series tend to stick closer to canon. Later ones get more wiggling room. Compare SEED's appearance in Super Robot Wars W: Mu lives. And so do a lot of other SEED characters.

Web Comics


Green Lantern: What's the plan, Clark?
Superman: The plan is that I will solve everything, by myself, because I'm an invincible, immortal alien with unlimited power. If there's anything bad, I'll just pick it up and throw it into the sun.


Web Original

Western Animation

  • One episode of Batman the Brave And The Bold had this trope inverted, Batman is transported to 1880s England, where he "teams up" with Sherlock Holmes and outclasses him in most ways. While Sherlock is no slouch (and discovers and reaches the villain's hideout before Batman), Batman fights better, can make Bat Deductions with less information, and can handle the clearly supernatural Gentleman Ghost while Holmes is made a victim.
    • Although the fact that Holmes beat Batman at anything speaks volumes, as Batman has both more experience with supernatural phenomena, and information, knowledge and training from over a century ahead of Sherlock's time.
    • And again with "The Super-Batman of Planet X!", where Batman is stranded on a strange, alien planet and teams up with the local near-identical Batman to foil crime. Then it turns out that thanks to the planet's atmosphere Batman becomes a Flying Brick, much to the local Batman-X's chagrin. That is, until the commonly occurring mineral Quartz renders him worse than powerless and allows Batman-X to save the day.
  • The New Scooby Doo Movies in which Mystery, Inc. teamed with people like Batman, The Addams Family and The Three Stooges.
  • Batman the Brave And The Bold had a crossover with Scooby Doo that managed to fix the story breaker. How, you ask? Reality Warper Bat-Mite gives Batman, Robin, and the villains the ability to fight (since this was based off of the 60s cartoon, he couldn't even throw a punch). Then he gives it to Shaggy and Scooby, too. Ass-kicking ensues.
  • Robot Chicken uses this effect intentionally in many of its sketches. As the series page puts it:

Most sketches involve "mashups", a collision of two pop-cultural items (one innocent, and the other "mature") degenerating into chaos, like Mario and Luigi travelling to Vice City, Beavis and Butthead joining the Teen Titans, the Scooby Doo team encountering Jason Vorhees, or The Smurfs doing their version of the movie Se7en (Yes, all of these, even the last one, are actual sketches from the show).