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Comic Book Movies Don't Use Codenames

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Steven Ulysses Perhero finally got a role in the newest blockbuster film! Finally, the mainstream audience can be introduced to the awesomeness that is Grass Man!

...Except no one ever calls him that.

Throughout the movie, he's just "Steven Ulysses". We get all of one scene where he hints at casual drug use in college, saying his roommates used to call him "The Grass Man" with a snicker. Afterwards, they never use that name again, even when he gets the ability to control plants. Heck, even the end credits refer to the character as "Steven". What the heck just happened?

Simple: "Grass Man" is a name that the general audience might have a hard time taking seriously, and the producers knew it. Sure, that's what he's been called for forty years in comics, but there are very poignant reasons why people still have a hard time disassociating comic books with Campiness. Forty years ago, "Grass Man" might have been perfectly feasible for a character that can control plants, but nowadays, there's almost no way to use that name around the uninitiated without invoking a snort and a snicker. Hell, even a potentially "cool" name like "The Sabre" or "Dark Wolf" might seem a little too superheroic, especially if you're going to be calling someone by that name the whole movie. And on the villain side, it probably wouldn't make sense for someone to go through a traumatic experience and immediately start calling themselves "Dr. Destructo".

However, because the producers don't want to completely alienate the comic fans which supported the character to begin with, they add a little Shout-Out just to appease them. "Grass Man" was definitely in the movie, even if that wasn't officially his name. However, sometimes this trope gets taken Up to Eleven and the superhero name is never used at all.

Note: Aversions must be notable. If we try to name every superhero film/media that averts this, we'll be reading this all day.

Examples of Comic Book Movies Don't Use Codenames include:


  • Several examples from the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In The Incredible Hulk, "The Abomination" aka Emil Blonsky goes by his given name and there is only an offhand referrence to that title once, by Samuel Sterns, who quickly points out to Blonsky that he didn't call him an abomination but rather, might turn into one if further experiments were used. Lampshaded in the Marvel short "The Consultant", in which the name Abomination is brought up but Agt. Coulson says "[The security council] really don't like when you call him that."
      • Averted by The Hulk, who is called "Hulk" four times. The first time comes after the Culver University fight, where some college students refer to him as a "big hulk". Later, the military guys chasing the transformed Blonsky through New York mistakenly report that "the Hulk is in the street." Blonsky explicitly uses that name after the Hulk shows up for the final battle and the Hulk himself uses his patented "HULK SMASH!" at the end of the fight.
      • In The Avengers, Bruce Banner notably takes pains not to call his alter-ego "the Hulk", preferring to call him "the other guy" instead. The one time he does say Hulk, he immediately corrects himself. But no one else has the same qualms.
    • Iron Man himself doesn't get called that name until the end of the first film and it's only used once or twice in the following films where he appears, usually in reference to the suit (i.e. "the Iron Man weapon").
      • In Iron Man 2, Natasha Romanov's handle of "Black Widow" never comes up, and the words "War Machine" are only used as an offhanded insult from Tony to James Rhodes. "Black Widow" is used later on in The Avengers, but only once.
      • As for the villains, Obidiah Stane is never called "Iron Monger", although he briefly says the word in reference to Stark Industries' role as a weapon manufacturer. Meanwhile, there's Anton Vanko: a Composite Character of two villains named "Crimson Dynamo" and "Whiplash". He gets called neither in the second film.
    • Inverted in Thor, as the character once had a civilian identity in the comics, but the movies don't bother. So "Thor" is used all throughout the movie, while the name "Dr. Donald Blake" is the one that only gets a few token mentions.
    • In Captain America: The First Avenger, the eponymous hero only has the name Captain America as a stage name but once he makes the transition to war hero, all of the characters call him Steve with a few exceptions (once by Bucky, once by Cap himself, and the other time by the Red Skull). Though, unlike in the original Golden Age comics, Cap does officially have the rank of "Captain", and we've got various characters referring to him by that rank, usually either just "Captain" or "Captain Rogers" and it's hard to know if they're using his stage name or military rank.
      • Johann Schmidt gets called "The Red Skull" (by Hitler, no less) one time as an insult, much to his annoyance. For the rest of the movie, only his real name is used.
      • Technically, this is also true of Montgomery Falsworth, aka "Union Jack", the British counterpart to Captain America. However, Falsworth is not a costumed hero in this movie so there would be no reason to say the name at all.
    • In The Avengers, Clint Barton is only called by his codename of "Hawkeye" once or twice. During his prior cameo in Thor it wasn't used at all.
    • The same concept can be applied to the MacGuffin of Captain America and The Avengers. In the movies, it's called the Tesseract. They never use its comic book name, the "Cosmic Cube".
  • During the live action film adaptation of Casshern, the titular hero only refers to himself as "Casshern" once, and it isn't even near the climax of the movie.
  • The original Hulk movie also hardly used the term "hulk", the characters preferring to call him Bruce Banner. His father was never a supervillain so he never had a codename to begin with.
  • The Fantastic Four movies, (including the Roger Cormen one) rarely mention the codenames of the heroes and never refer to Victor Von Doom as Doctor Doom. This is actually in keeping with the nature of the original series since none of the characters had a Secret Identity.
    • Which is funny, seeing how "Doctor Doom" would be a perfectly sensible thing to call a person with a doctor's degree, whose last name is "Doom".
      • Interestingly, in some of the dubs his line "Call me Doom" is changed to "Call me Doctor Doom". The Brazilian one, for example.
    • It also addresses the inherent Fridge Logic with Ben Grimm's codename, calling him "The Thing" is seen as unnecessarily cruel.
  • In the Spider Man film series, the name Spider-Man was used regularly but his villains weren't so lucky:
    • An entire scene was dedicated to naming Doctor Octopus, only for him to mostly go by his real name or the nickname "Doc Ock" for most of the movie.
    • Venom is known only by his real name, Eddie Brock, throughout all of Spider-Man 3. Similarly, Flint Marko is generally known by his real name for most of the film until a reporter calls him "the Sandman" during the final battle.
    • While Norman Osborn was called "Green Goblin" multiple times in the first movie, when it came time for his son Harry to adopt that persona, the name was never uttered. In fact, promotional material called him New Goblin, a name that was never used in the comics. The closest Harry comes to being known as the Green Goblin is when Peter mockingly calls him "Goblin Jr.". Harry himself strips most of the goblin styling out of the hardware going for basic armor and a hoverboard in place of the spiky hanglider.
  • This trope is played with all over the place in the X-Men series:
    • Cyclops' codename is mentioned but he mostly goes by Scott throughout all of the movies.
    • The name "Prof. X" is only used once, near the end of First Class, and Xavier brushes it off. This is after four films in which he uses his real name.
    • Jean Grey and Kitty Pryde never use codenames in the films. While their comic counterparts went through a few over the years, they usually go by their real names anyway (a rarity for superhero comics).
    • Mutants seem to adopt codenames as their "true names" as evidence when "Marie" changes her name to Rogue or when Magneto asks "John" what his real name is and he starts calling himself Pyro.
      • Of course, Magneto has no problem being called "Erik". Of course, the only people who call him that are Mystique and Xavier.
    • Wolverine goes by the name Logan almost exclusively and even mocks people with codenames. Stryker seems to be the only one who wants to call him Wolverine, which was more of a military-style Code Name.
    • The Blob never gets called by that name. The best we get is a Lampshade Hanging where he mistakes Logan's "bub" for that name, and sees it as an insult.
    • "Bobby" has no codename in the first movie, introduces himself to Wolverine as Iceman in the second film, and is then called Bobby throughout the rest of the series until a brief moment in which Pyro picks a fight.
    • "Pete" is never called Colossus (or Piotr for that matter). Oddly enough, Wolverine calls him Tin-Man as a joke.
    • The name Nightcrawler is only mentioned when "Kurt" expounds about his time in the circus.
    • Angel (Warren) and Beast (Hank) never use codenames in X-Men: The Last Stand. Hank does eventually use the name towards the end of First Class, however.
    • Darwin from First Class is actually a nickname which happens to fit his powers, and his real name (Armando) is never referenced.
    • It gets a bit tricky with Angel (the First Class member as opposed to the one mentioned above); in the comics, her code name is Tempest, and Angel is her real name, but in the movie she explicitly states that Angel is a stage name.
    • Lady Deathstrike is never used. Her real name (Yuriko) is only mentioned in passing.
    • Codenames are something of a plot point in First Class; it's shown that the concept of a "true name" began with the first group of students Xavier introduced. However, for the most part, it's used in playful jest and doesn't become serious until Magneto insists upon being called by that name at the very end of the film. Other than that, the codenames are used as Mythology Gags or Futureshadowing.
    • The members of the Brotherhood seem to go mostly by their codenames with the odd exception of Magneto who wants mutants to go by their "real names". He refers to himself as Magneto at the end of First Class and it is brought up in the first flick but he has no problem being called Erik by Mystique and Xavier, and as they're whom he he has the most meaningful dialogue with, we hear "Erik" much more than we hear "Magneto."
  • Averted and played straight in The Dark Knight Saga. Batman and Ra's al Ghul are commonly referred to as such. Oddly enough, in the comics, Ra's al Ghul is a real name but in the movie it's a false identity. Nobody knows the Joker as anything else, but Scarecrow and Two-Face mostly go by their real names. Jonathan Crane briefly calls himself Scarecrow while under the effects of his own gas and in Two-Face's case, it's referring to an old nickname of Harvey Dent's.
    • Ra's Al Ghul isn't a real name in the comics; it means "The Demon's Head", the Demon being the name of his international terrorist organization (the League of Assassins / Shadows is just one branch of it). It's also the name of a constellation of stars. His true name is something he has forgotten after having lived for so many centuries. In the movie its not clear whats going on, but its possible that in this case it really is his real name, and Ducard is the alias, unless the Nolan films are treating Ra's Al Ghul as a Legacy Character, a title given to whoever happens to be head of the League at that time. The 3rd movie may or may not clear that up.
  • Kamen Rider the First and The Next, Darker and Edgier modernized retellings of the original series and V3, never use the name "Kamen Rider"; Takeshi Hongo and Hayato Ichimonji are called Hopper 1 and 2 respectively, while Shiro Kazami is simply called V3 (which, in the movie's universe, stands for Version 3).
  • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance never refers to Carrigan's character as Blackout, which was his name in the comics.

Non-film examples: Edit

Script Edit

  • In the 1989 Watchmen script by Sam Hamm, all the superheroes in the Cold Opening are referred to with codenames except Adrian Veidt (A.K.A. Ozymandias). In the main action, when Nite Owl and the Silk Spectre come back into superhero action, they are still respectively named Dreiberg and Laurie in descriptive actions and dialogue headers. The name Ozymandias goes unused.


Comics Edit

  • When introduced, the Ultimate Marvel version of Emma Frost did not use the "White Queen" cognomen.
  • In Nextwave, none of the members use their code names except for The Captain, and that's only because nobody knows his real name.
  • The Runaways started off with some code names, but dropped them almost immediately, except for one who insisted on being called "Princess Powerful." Just as well, their code names sucked.
    • Well, the dinosaur is still called Old Lace. Her owner, Gertie, originally called herself Arsenic.

Literature Edit

  • Discussed in-universe in Stationery Voyagers, especially after Ted and Yonber try to sell Voyager-themed merchandise behind everyone's backs. Pinkella finds the "Stellar-Ella" dolls to be quite offensive, and nobody but Ted and Yonber dare call her by that name. The others are given names like "the Red Voyager," making them sound like Power Rangers. Naturally, as the Voyagers are diplomats and not true superheroes, they find it quite offensive. The only characters that seem to prefer going by their nicknames are the Mechanical Pencils, who are usually named after the model of mechie that their S-chips are inserted into. Consto, upon gaining the semi-transparent Cybomec body, went entirely by Cybomec the entire time afterward except by Neone, who insisted on calling him "Consto." Likewise, Ribando became "Cy" to his friends after gaining the opaque Cybomec body. Technitel is hardly known at all by his real name, neither is the Down-Pen known as Tempest. And while "Crimson Owl" may be Laura and Vaneesa's proper titles under the Crimson Owl protection, only Astrabolo insists on ever actually calling them that.
  • The Comprehensive Gerosha Ciem: Vigilante Centipede has a different take on things than the Ciem Webcomic Series.
    • Candi has to actually tell the reporter that "Ciem" sounds like a good abbreviation for "ciempies." But other than instances where there is no choice but to call her by that name, most characters take pains in the books to avoid ever using the word "Ciem" at all. And in spite the costume looking better than ever, Candi seems determined to accomplish as many things outside of it as possible in the books; having never fully embraced it to the degree she does in the webcomics.
    • Likewise, Jeral Cormier is only routinely referred to as "Botan the Plant-Man" by the media. Those who know him will almost never use the name; calling him Jeral all the time. Some strangers know him as "Derrick of the Dandelions," and prefer that over calling him Botan.
    • After learning about the AI backvisor that was controlling Jeraime, Candi always insists on distinguishing between Jeraime and "Musaran" with the latter referring to the AI.
    • Dolly is only called the Earwig by Ploribus/Darius, at least until the Ciem Tomorrow timeline. Even when rescuing Candi, nobody wants to address her by the "Earwig" name. She's just Dolly to everyone else.
    • Jack has the codename of "Jackrabbit" because of his jumping ability, but has no real way to conceal his identity. So the nickname proves to be useless and everyone calls him Jack anyway.
    • Inverted with the Chinese spies, whose real names were not revealed until they were published to the wiki in 2011. Black Rat, Tin Dragon, Teal Hog, and Stung Hornet are known almost exclusively by their codenames, even to each other. Possibly justified in that they're spies.

Live Action TV Edit

  • In The Incredible Hulk TV series, Jack McGee is the only one who ever calls Hulk Hulk. Most everyone else refers to him either as something synonymous to "that green monster", or as "David" if they know that it's really David Banner under there.
  • In Smallville, Clark Kent is never referred to as Superman, though the word is mentioned multiple times in reference to Friedrich Nietzsche. The traditional "Superman Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster" message appears in the intro.
    • Because of its Prequel state, most characters aren't referred to by codenames, as the incidents that led to them adopting these names haven't happened yet. Green Arrow is the first to do so, and we'd known him for more than a full season when he started using it.
    • Slade Wilson gets a Marvel movie-style codename treatment: as a General Ripper and not a supervillain, "Deathstroke the Terminator" is never uttered. However, after coming back from a should-have-been-fatal injury, he said that "the reaper can swing his sickle at me, but I'm beyond death's stroke now." Also, because the Teen Titans cartoon version is so well-known, way more people are on a First-Name Basis with him than you'd expect with a general. He is pretty much just called Slade.
    • It takes a weird turn when Clark finally becomes a full time but covert crime fighter and is dubbed "The Blur" which is used frequently even by him.
  • The Heisei-era Kamen Rider series vary in this respect, asserting the autonomy of their own universes from each other (at least until Decade screwed with their timelines and the subsequent team-ups), with only a handful of series actually calling their warriors "Riders:"
    • Kuuga was frequently referred to as yongo (No. 4), in reference to his being the fourth "unknown being" the police force encounters, lumped with the villainous Grongi. (In fact, one of his modes is Unknown Lifeform No. 2; Growing Form and Mighty Form aren't known to be the same guy by the authorities at first.)
    • Agito, a loose sequel to Kuuga, has its hero initially confused to be a returning Kuuga/Yongo/No. 4, and was unique in the respect that a handful of chosen people implanted by the Seed of Light can become Agito themselves. So Agito is not so much a unique warrior of justice than a step in human evolution.
    • Faiz was never referred to as a Rider, and neither were the similarly-themed Kaixa and Delta systems and their users. When Kaixa first appears, the side-characters are surprised to see "another Faiz," not "another Rider." The series being a really ambiguous world as it is, with these systems created by the more-megalomaniac elements of the Orphenoch race (here again, another step into human evolution), it probably fits.
    • Hibiki and his fellow warriors are precisely called "Oni", never "Riders." This being an adaptation of another independent Ishinomori series (Ongeki Hibiki) reworked as a Kamen Rider series, it is the source of contention among the KR fandom.
    • Kamen Rider Den-O also rarely, if ever, uses the term outside crossovers.
    • Kiva (and for that matter, Saga and Dark Kiva), were considered as "armors" to be worn by the villainous Fangire leaders/kings when their Fangire forms are not enough. And for that matter, the secondary Rider (the IXA system) was never called that as well. The "IXA System" was referred to, but not "Kamen Rider Ixa" as a name. "Kamen Rider" itself was rarely heard - when Ixa's first seen user says "My Rider System is much stronger than his," this may be the only time. Kiva did have the same head writer as Kamen Rider Faiz.
    • OOO, being similarly-tied in Phlebotinum to his enemies (the Greeed and their Yummies), was never actually called a Rider in-show (aside from the Commemorative episode), with it being originally the power of an "evil king" and all. However, Birth is known as Kamen Rider Birth.
    • More recent series have played with how the name "Kamen Rider" comes to be. In Kamen Rider Fourze, Goth Tomoko was aware of past Riders as an urban legend, and so applied it to Fourze ("rider" never comes up when the suit's being explained to the hero at first.) and later Meteor. In Kamen Rider OOO, Kougami seems to know about Riders, so Birth is "Kamen Rider Birth" (it's even in the suit's instruction manual!) but OOO is only called a Rider during crossovers. In Kamen Rider Double, the people of the city gave their hero the name Kamen Rider (past Rider knowledge, or due to their hero having a Cool Bike and wearing a helmet, making him obviously a 'masked rider?' Good question.) and never use the name Double. People in the know primarily use "Double." Shotaro and Philip have adopted the "Kamen Rider" title and are protective of it - initially it's just for them, but after meeting some others, they're willing to consider you a Rider if you uphold the ideal. Riders aren't just anyone in a shiny suit, they're heroes who fight "those who make the city cry." Villains with transformed states that happen to have bug-eyes and antennae are not Riders to them and they'll make that known right away.

Western Animation Edit

  • Due to Never Say "Die", DC villain Deathstroke went by his civilian name "Slade" throughout the animated Teen Titans series.
  • The Martian Manhunter is only called by that name once in all five seasons of Justice League, only being referred to as J'onn or "the Martian."
    • Though again, this may simply be keeping up with the comics, where the rest of the League has used his name almost solely for some time. Similarly, Wonder Woman is usually just "Diana" to the others, both in the comics and DCAU.
  • Usually averted in Avengers Earths Mightiest Heroes, but Crossfire only gets addressed as "Cross" or "William." Publicity materials refer to him by his codename.

Notable Aversions: Edit

  • Played with in the Hellboy movies. Hellboy's real demonic name is not known to him until towards the end of the first movie. He grew up with the name Hellboy and since his other name is tied with the destruction of all mankind and wasn't known until he was about 70, he kept it.
    • While on cases, the BPRD paranormal agents usually use names such as "Sparky" and "Blue". His is "Red".
    • It should also be noted that in Hellboy, demons have the whole "bound/released by their names" deal going on; going around calling himself Anung Un-Rama would be the equivalent of legally changing your name to your social security number.
    • His name is mentioned at the end of the second film by Princess Nuala, when her twin brother Nuada questions Hellboy's right to challenge him. Since Hellboy is really demonic royalty, he does have the right to challenge Nuada.
  • Averted in the Blade series. The audience learns that Blade's real name is Eric but it is rarely mentioned.
    • Ditto for Blade the Series. The only mentions are the flashback episodes to his childhood and when he meets his father, who will not call his only son "Blade".
  • Averted with Rorshach in Watchmen since no one knows his real identity until the mid-way point. Even then, he prefers the name Rorshach. Other characters oblidge since they never knew him by the name Walter Kovacs anyway. Also, Edward Blake is called by his real name, and his codename, The Comedian, interchanging it scene through scene. All the Minutemen are also called by their codenames only, just Hollis Mason (Nite Owl I) and Sally Jupiter (Silk Spectre I) being given their real names on the film. Nite Owl II and Ozymandias are called mostly by their real names, except on a couple of instances. Laurie got the worse, as she's not called neither by codename or last name.
  • In the original Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher Batman films, The Joker, Catwoman, The Riddler and Poison Ivy give themselves their names, while the Penguin, Two-Face and Mr. Freeze have had their names given to them sometime before the films begin.
    • With The Riddler, there's a scene dedicated to him thinking up a code name for himself.
    • This trope is justified for the Penguin in Batman Returns, as even he doesn't know his human name and is an urban legend to the public. When he reveals himself and discovers his true name (Oswald Cobblepot) he begins to use it and is known by both depending on who you talk to, only to angrily go back to Penguin after his Villainous Breakdown when Batman foils his scheme.
      • Actually, Batman believes he already knew who his parents were and just wanted to make a scene out of "discovering" their identity, in order to be granted private access to Gotham's public records. His real goal was to get a record of all the first born children of Gotham so he could murder them, but this goal was sidetracked when Shreck offers him the chance to be Mayor.
  • Ultimate X-Men goes to some trouble to justify why these kids should have codenames, beyond "because it's a basic trope of the genre". Apparently, these are their "mutant names", as distinct from the "homo sapiens names" their parents gave them.

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