Super Zeroes

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
To be fair, most superheroes just wear tights.

"Faster than a doughnut! Stronger than cardboard!"
Description for Wario-Man, Wario Ware Touched.

Many people feel that the Superhero is an inherently silly concept. And certainly, many of the genre's conventions—such as the use of strange, skintight costumes—might look silly in Real Life. However, within their own setting, superheroes are usually accepted and admired.

Most of the time.

Certain characters are so obtuse that even other superheroes view them as—well, dumb. Some people tend to use the derisive name "Super Zeroes" for these.

Most of these characters are intentionally created to be that way. Others end up that way due to later Alternate Character Interpretation. Their purpose is mostly to serve as Comic Relief, although they can be used in other ways.

There are several types of "super zeroes". There's the character who might actually make a good superhero... if he had anything resembling useful powers or skills. Often their powers will also be (or make them) bizarre or disgusting in appearance. Real heroes will try to dissuade them from fighting crime, but usually they insist on trying anyway, getting themselves (and others) in danger. They usually end up scolded by other heroes and retiring after causing a particularly bad mess, though other times they continue being a thorn on an established hero's side, especially by trying to become that hero's Sidekick. Often they inspire pity in fans, and might even become an Ensemble Darkhorse. In such a case, they might actually get better with time, evolving into true heroes. DC Comics's Legion Of Substitute Heroes is an example of this type.

Then there's the character who does possess great powers—but happens to personally be such an idiot—or even insane—that he causes trouble anyway. They might even be considered dangerous sometimes. An example would be Marvel's Impossible Man, who can transform into anything and even the Fantastic Four couldn't beat him—but he had the personality of a hyperactive child!

Of course, some characters are both stupid and helpless, just to drive home how wrong it its for them to even attempt to be a hero.

Super Zeroes usually (but not always) look pretty ridiculous too—either their costumes are poorly designed, or they themselves lack the kind of body that makes spandex-wearing superheroes look good. Or both. They are usually the result of a Geek trying to live up his heroic ideals.

A common cliche is to feature a story where the "Zero" ends up saving the day despite (or precisely because of) his absurd abilities. Another one is where a proud villain refuses to fight the "hero" for considering him an unworthy foe. If the 'zero beats him anyway, his shame is even greater.

Yet another cliche, though a rarer one, is where the zero gets mistaken for a competent hero by a clueless person. This either ends disastrously, or the zero actually succeeds for once—but with none of his friends at hand to see it happen.

Note that superheroes featured in humorous cartoons or comics do not really fit this trope, as every other character in those is also silly to some degree (though they might think that the superhero characters are dumber than they are.)

Note also that this trope applies to many supervillains, especially a Harmless Villain.

Not to be confused with My Hero Zero.

Compare Blessed with Suck. Contrast Super Loser, who are characters who gain superpowers... but none of the cool you'd expect comes with the package.

Examples of Super Zeroes include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Majestic Twelve from Gash Bell. They actually do have some pretty cool powers, but they're never seen to do anything particularly useful unless you count Big Boing being funny.
  • Radar Man from Paranoia Agent is a tragic subversion.
  • Mister Satan from Dragonball Z is a variation; he's not a superhero, but the series stresses how the main characters all outclass him(up to and including a six-year-old kid and his own daughter). And he does get the plot about saving the day against Buu.
  • Suppaman from Doctor Slump.
  • Kinnikuman started out as one. He got better.

Comic Books

  • The Inferior Five from The DCU, who were forced to become heroes by their Stage Parents. Team leader Merryman comes from a long line of Badass Normals, but is a weakling and a fatalist. The Blimp shares his father's ability to fly but didn't inherit his super speed, giving him the ability to fly about as fast as he can walk, and as he's rather fat, that's not very fast. Awkwardman has incredible strength and can survive indefinitely underwater, but is so clumsy he's more a danger to friend than foe. Dumb Bunny is even more powerful than Awkwardman but is so lacking in intelligence she's usually even less helpful. Finally, the White Feather is an ace marksman and glamour photographer... when he's alone, at least; Whenever he even thinks someone else might be around, his skills go to crap and his cowardly streak emerges. When trouble arrives, Police Chief Geronimo will call them on the Lukewarm Line and they'll be there to make it worse; they never fail to fail.
  • Indy comic book character Lethargic Lad.
  • The Legion of Substitute Heroes from The DCU consists of this, all of them being rejects from The Legion Of Super-Heroes. Considering that the Legion of Superheroes contains people like Matter Eater Lad, this is saying something.
    • Then there's the Legion of Substitute Heroes Auxiliary, made of those "not yet ready for membership in the Substitute Legion". So far, the only members of this group have been Antennae Lad (who picks up radio signals, not all of them from this universe or time period) and Double Header (whose power is that he has two heads and will eventually split into two full people. His heads hate each other.)
  • The Great Lakes Avengers X-Men Champions Initiative from Marvel Universe. Most of the members have incredibly lame powers, like Mr. Immortal (immortal but has no other superpowers or any real combat training), Big Bertha (supermodel who can turn into a super-strong but incredibly obese version of herself), Doorman (who can become a living hole in any wall), and Squirrel Girl (talks to squirrels).
  • Aquaman and Blue Beetle are examples of perfectly good superheroes who gained a reputation as losers with time.
    • When your own sidekick turns out to be a cooler hero than you are, that's a bad sign.
  • The self proclaimed Spider-Man Revenge Squad, otherwise known as the Legion of Losers.
    • Mind you, one of them was the Spot, who is often considered a loser but had the ability to create portals that could take him anywhere, which is a pretty dangerous power if he ever figured out how not to be an idiot.
      • Which he did in Amazing Spider-Man #589, where he managed to fight Spider-Man to a stand-still.
  • Another Marvel team, The League of Losers, made up of heroes not killed off by the bigbad because their comics were not successful enough for him to know about them. Then again, this is probably more of a subversion, since the "losers" in question were in fact perfectly competent heroes in their own right. What they lacked was Popularity Power, not actual power.
    • NFL Superpro is notable in this regard: He was too lame to even be a member of the Legion of Losers. Well, okay, it was actually a copyright dispute (since the character was co-owned by the NFL and all).
  • The Fabulous Frog-Man, sometime-ally of Spider-Man. A pudgy, idealistic young man wearing the super frog suit that originally belonged to his father (the villainous Leap-Frog), he has yet to succeed in his mission to stop crime... on purpose, at least.
    • In the same vein, there was the Spectacular Spider-Kid (now the Steel Spider), a pudgy preteen genius who wears a Spider-Man costume under his (functional) Dr. Octopus work-a-like tentacles.
    • In Amazing Spider-Man #247, The Toad, Frog-Man, and The Spectacular Spider-Kid were all vying to become Spider-Man's partner, much to his consternation. In the end the three Super Zeroes form their own super-team, the Misfits.
  • The Killer Moth was defeated by Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) on her first outing.
  • The First American, a notably useless and stupid costumed hero created by Alan Moore for his America's Best Comics imprint. As The Other Wiki says, "Given his incompetence, he demonstrates below average physical abilities."
    • Which is to say, he can perform multiple backflips in rapid succession and knows how to pop a bad guy in the face—he's just really bad at it.
  • The bumbling idiot Bob Phantom from DC's short lived Impact Comics line.
  • Section 8 from Hitman. The names say it all: Sixpack, Bueno Excellente, the Defenestrator, Dogwelder, Friendly Fire, Jean de Baton-Baton, Phlegmgem and Shakes. There's a reason their team is named after the clause for leaving the Army due to insanity.
    • Dogwelder deserves special mention. Garth Ennis and his friends were in a bar one night and decided to come up with the worst possible superhero. Dogwelder was the first suggestion, and nobody could top it.
    • Well, Bueno Excellente (whose name was inspired by the Spanish subtitles in a PORN FILM, I kid you not) and who owns the "power of perversion" can be pretty scary in fact. Given The Main Man himself once was the victim of his indignities, and chose to leave rather than kill him...
    • All FF needs to do is aim at one of his allies when there's an enemy between them...
  • DC's Kid Devil was a straight up super zero way back when he first appeared and tried to become Blue Devil's sidekick. Although being incredibly smart enough at the age of 12 to create a powersuit, he lacked experience and tended to get into trouble (he was pudgy too, like some examples mentioned). Even after being upgraded to a real devil and joining the Teen Titans, it still took him some time to grow out of his super zero reputation, and his issues over his competence and confidence was a major part of his character arc. Kid Devil's super zero status had more or less ended by he changed his codename to Red Devil.
  • Marshal Law features Sorry, the Nearly Man. He was nearly a superhero, you know. A pudgy, fearful moron whose only power is having a short prehensile tail... He starts out as one of the few "heroes" Marshal Law tolerates, primarily because at least Sorry knows he never actually helps anyone. Eventually, though, he becomes a twisted serial killer after being driven mad by his obsession with superheroes.
  • The Golden Age Red Tornado can be considered a subversion. While her costume design (long underwear "tights", saucepan "helmet" and blanket "cape") are obviously intended as a joke, within the context of her original appearances in Sheldon Meyer's Scribbly, she was a very competent Badass Normal hero(ine), highly effective against the street-level racketeers and hoodlums that were her usual opponents. Indeed, a latter-day Justice Society of America adventure has none less than Wonder Woman declaring her "a true Amazon."
  • While the vast majority of (contemporary) heroes from The Tick (animation) comics have elements of this, special mention must be made of Hand Grenade Man.
    • "Super-powers? Bah! Who needs 'em? I've got a hand grenade!"
  • Batman villain Catman. When he was created, he was a campy male version of Catwoman played for laughs. His incompetence led to him becoming a washed up drunkard Post-Crisis. It was a major embarrassment to the newest ultra-villain team up that was trying to recruit all the world's villains that he refused. By this point though, he'd become a Badass Normal living with a pride of lions.
  • In-universe, Empowered is seen as this by the public at large, despite having several major victories to her credit.
  • When Garth Ennis is the writer, all superheroes are like this due to his unending dislike of superhero comics. Even Superman, the one superhero he likes, isn't completely immune.
  • Ambush Bug lives and breathes this. Considering he might as well be the Ur Example for Meta Guys...
  • Mind-Grabber Kid (who is in his 30s) is The DCU's premiere super-zero. His only real accomplishment is mildly annoying the Justice League by trying to discredit them due to his jealousy. After that, he's been showing up at superhero fan conventions and doing little else of note. He was one of Booster Gold's pallbearers in 52, though, among such other luminaries as Beefeater, Odd-Man, and the Blimp.
  • Hindsight Lad of the New Warriors starts out like this, takes a brief (not entirely inexplicable) turn for the competent, then ends up outing all his former teammates online during the Civil War.
  • At one point, Doom Patrol member Fever ran into the Purple Purposeless, a superhero who has made it his mission to refuse help to anyone in need. His origin involves serving in Vietnam and receiving hay fever from Agent Orange exposure.


"We're not your classic superheroes. We're not the favorites. We're the other guys. We're the guys nobody ever bets on."


  • The Pharaoh from Soon I Will Be Invincible is a dumb and unambitious supervillain who is constantly mocked for his cheesy costume and lack of knowledge of topics relating to his supposed origin. However, if he put his mind to it he could be one of the most dangerous villains in the world, as his magic hammer makes him completely invincible.
  • Wild Cards' bumbling hippie Captain Trips often seems this way—until he calls one of his "friends" out to play.
    • The Projectionist was very much one of these, to the point of calling himself a "deuce," in reference to superheroes being called "Aces." This was back when he was a throwaway character; later on he Took a Level in Badass, changing his name to Mr. Nobody.

Live Action TV

  • Making up such superheroes is a regular game on the American version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?.
  • The old Mexican series El Chapulin Colorado. With his honking horn of justice.
  • Many of the characters on No Heroics, but especially Alex.
  • Seriously, Batman of the '60s TV show, which has become a sort of non-canon Dork Age for the deadly serious comic books and movies of today. He may be just a Badass Normal, but in truth, Batman's superpower is to have the single greatest example of Camp ever and still be taken seriously enough to help kick off The Dark Age of Comic Books.
  • In the live-action version of The Tick (animation): Arthur (even more so than in the comic or cartoon); Fishboy, Lost Prince of Atlantis; Friendly Fire (not to be confused with the one from The DCU); Tiny Man (kicked out of the League of Super Heroes for not being tiny enough); and Metcalf. Metcalf deserves special mention: like Arthur, he was a DIY superhero, who bought himself a suit and a jetpack. He then got himself curbstomped (literally, according to the pilot), and now needs a machine to poop. Also, arguably Batmanuel, although that one is very much YMMV.
  • One episode of All That featured the L.A.M.O.S., a group of superheroes all residing in this trope. There's a guy who can shoot lasers from his fingers...that have the intensity of laser pointers, an old guy (whose power is being old), and a toddler (whose power is to toddle).
    • Also from the show, one episode featured a mayor auditioning for superheroes for her city only to find a series of this. The one exception was a Flying Brick who was almost chosen were it not for the fact that he's called "Superty-Duper Man". At the end, she decides to just do the job herself and proceeds to put on a cape and fly through the roof.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look features "Angel Summoner and the BMX Bandit"... no points for guessing which one of the pair falls into right this trope.

New Media

  • Zeroes, NBC's parody of its own Heroes show, is all about hero wannabes with utterly useless talents, who manage only to creep each other out.

Newspaper Comics

Tabletop Games

  • The parody RPG Stuper Powers allows you to play a superhero with any of nearly a hundred ridiculous powers, from the weird but useful, like acid blood or the power to channel the strength (and poor command of English) of Swedish pro-wrestler and B-Movie actor Tor Johnson, to the merely weird, like the power to make any band play "Freebird" or the power to turn things plaid.
    • Also the Fridge Squick power that is (are?) prehensile nipples. Weird and creepy when you first hear about it, more and more disturbing the more you think of it...

Video Games

  • Wario-Man from Wario Ware and Super Smash Bros.. Already Played for Laughs in all versions, it comes more under this in Touched where after a rather silly theme song, flying an inch off the ground and what not, he tries to stop a train and fails miserably (A Twinkle in the Sky). Heck, it's even called "Super Zero" in game!
    • And now the top example of this on the page, in DIY Showcase, he has to open jammed toilet doors for people and fly about an inch off the ground. see here
    • Though somewhat subverted/averted in Super Smash Bros. Brawl where he is a legitimate Final Smash for Wario, with massively increased power and speed, invulnerability, Elemental Powers and what have you.
  • Superhero League of Hoboken uses this as a premise, featuring the likes of The Crimson Tape (power to create org charts), Tropical Oil Man (raises cholesterol of his opponents), Captain Excitement (puts enemies to sleep) and Mademoiselle Pepperoni (clairvoyance into closed pizza boxes).
    • Subverted in that they actually put those powers to good use: several can be used in combat (putting enemies to sleep or raising their cholesterol levels into the health hazard range, for example) or have beneficial uses outside of combat (Mademoiselle Pepperoni can easily determine of the pizza box contains anything of value or if it's a trap, and Treader Man's ability to tread water really well will open up additional areas). Several quests can only be dealt with by a particular hero. ("A warehouse full of genetically engineered super-spicy jalapeño peppers? This looks like a job for The Iron Tummy!") In fact, there's only one hero whose power is completely useless. And that is Crimson Tape, the main character.
  • Fallout 3 has The AntAgonizer and The Mechanist, two crazy losers who are constantly battling with each other. While the former is hardly anything to worry about since her power is the ability to control Goddamned Bats in a society where everyone is armed to some extent, the latter is a skilled engineer capable of making Mecha-Mooks that are a bit more troublesome to deal with.
  • Battle Golfer Yui: Wonder Man Dibot is an idiotic superhero who works for Black Hazard. He even blabs out his weakness and tries hitting on Yui. He's perceptive enough to point out that Yui's caddy is Ran in disguise and is smart enough to give Yui a hint for the code to the reading room's door.

Web Comics

  • Captain Fist from Girly.
  • Inertia Man (and Rhetorical Question Man).
  • Illumina of Sidekick Girl. She can float and glow, but she looks the part and in her Verse, that's what matters. Her boyfriend, Malestrom, is just as bad.
    • But when Val takes over her body via Freaky Friday Flip, she shows what Illumina's powers can do in the hands of someone competent. (i.e. Use her floating powers as a "feather fall" spell and glow bright enough to stun a crowd of mooks into helplessness.)
  • PS238 is largely a subversion—no matter what powers a meta-prodigy has, the school tries to find some useful way to employ those powers, and they largely succeed.
    • A possible case of this trope being played straight appeared in an early strip, when a mother was trying to pick out a costume for her superpowered son, who turned out to have the ability to animate balloon animals.
  • Literally, the Amazing Super Zeroes (unfortunately, no longer updating). A new team of second-rate superheroes is selected on a reality TV show.
  • Channel Ate has a few of these show up from time to time.

Web Originals

Western Animation

  • Powdered Toast Man from Ren and Stimpy
  • Captain Hero from Drawn Together
  • Ratman, from one of the Justice Friends shorts on Dexter's Laboratory.
  • The Fairly OddParents: Catman
  • Darkwing Duck. Both underpowered and underbrained (most of the time). Justified in that the cartoon is a parody of the superhero genre.
    • Darkwing Duck is only underpowered when badly written (but unlucky often). However, even by the standards of this series, there's Comet Guy. He's won the Superpower Lottery, but with those brains it only makes him more dangerously useless. Everyone else on his planet turns out to be the same, except of course Ordinary Guy.
    • And then there's the mutants from the episode Mutantcy on the Bouncy. The Rubber Chicken was essentially made of stretchy rubber, which is a pretty useful power and is used to defeat the nearly unstoppable villain of the episode by flinging him away like a slingshot, but is in the hands of someone too neurotic to properly use them. The others include a newscaster capable of displaying cold symptoms at will, a cashier with glue powers, and a secretary with the power to turn himself into a banana. The fact that all of them minus the Rubber Chicken get taken out of the final battle within about two seconds (And by themselves, no less.) should say something.
  • Syndrome, the villain in The Incredibles started as one, but became a dangerous villain later on.
  • Voltar, Doktor Frogg and the Red Menace from The League of Super Evil are all villainous Super Zeroes.
  • Killer Moth is a Super Zero villain in The Batman.
  • Likewise, the Toilenator from Codename: Kids Next Door.
    • Subverted a few times, when he snaps and makes it apparent that he can stomp colons just as well as wiping them.
  • The Action League from the Action League NOW segments on KaBlam!!
  • LeBlanc of Teen Titans lasted all of five seconds. That certainly didn't stop his boasting in prison.
    • In the same episode, Control Freak is angry at "not being on the list" of villains to watch out for (even the Puppet King got on it!) But he's most certainly not a super zero!
      • The Other Heroes Beast Boy managed to find in "Titans Together" seemed to be these, but they managed to win anyway.
  • The Mighty Heroes all seem to fit this bill, always winding up tangled up in a big mess.
  • The Wild CATS had a resident Super Zero in the form of Voodoo, whose ability to spot people possessed by the evil aliens was actually pretty useful, but countered by her lack of the most basic combat skills. She was such a load that she was briefly kicked off the team before a convenient Plot Tailored to the Party reminded everyone that they needed her.
  • Booster Gold was treated like one both in Justice League and Batman the Brave And The Bold.
  • Arthur from The Tick (animation) seems to fit this trope, although this is more evident in the Live Action, as noted above. Also, there was a super team called the "Civic-Minded Five", who definitely fit, particularly The Carpeted Man, and another the "Decency Squad", especially Johnny Polite. Also: Caped Chameleon; Fishbor, Lost Prince of Atlantis; Human Bullet; Captain Lemming, and a number of others.
    • The Decency Squad was apparently formidable...back in the 1940's. Now they're a bunch of mostly washed up Old Superheroes stuck in a retirement home. It's a good thing their Arch Enemy has aged just as badly as them and is only slightly more effective.
    • Also the Batman Expy Fledermaus, who spends most of his time making failed passes at superheroines.
  • A Powerpuff Girls episode with this title has the girls decide to portray the superheroes in their favorite comics. Blossom becomes Liberty Belle but as she now drives the Freedom Mobile, she gets stuck in traffic. Bubble becomes Harmony Bunny who attacks the monster by placing stickers on him. Buttercup as Mange won't do anything because of the sunlight. The monster eventually gets fed up and tells them to lose the identities.
    • Another episode had a legendary supervillain group come out of retirement, and the girls convincing the heroes who opposed them to do likewise and save the day. The problem being that they're just a bunch of geriatric old men (which is why they got involved in the first place; Blossom refused to attack the elderly villains), and the hero and ex-sidekick spend most of the time arguing with each other. The whole affair ends with all the old characters in the hospital, and everyone glaring Blossom for her part.
  • On South Park, Cartman as "the Coon." He is quickly showed up by Mysterion, and eventually becomes a much more effective villain, even though he still calls himself a hero as he does it.