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"Drill Arrow: This fits into the category of 'arrows that really don't need to be arrows.' There's precious little call for long-distance carpentry. Most people who need to make a birdhouse or a replica colonial rocking chair or something are pretty content to actually be next to the item they're drilling."

It seems that there is no end to the inventiveness of bowmen, especially in Superhero comics. If a character uses a bow as their main weapon, you can expect that their quiver will hold, at the very least explosive arrows, arrows which split into nets for capturing opponents, and knockout gas arrows. Furthermore, they will undoubtedly be masters of trick shots, hitting targets around corners or rebounding from behind.

While some other types of weapons get similar treatment (boomerangs and yoyos especially), the Trick Arrow is a trope in its own right that seems to appear anywhere there are bows and arrows. Doubly so if the characters are honor-bound not to kill, since there's very little bows are normally designed to do except shove sharp projectiles into bodies. Deconstructing the trope suggests that trick arrows are almost inevitable with superheroic archer characters. They are useful and straightforward starting points for superheroic characters for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that Robin Hood is a cultural icon in the English-speaking world. In addition, references for the poses and equipment are fairly easy to come by, as well as being readily identifiable by readers. And therein lies the problem: We Have Seen ALL Of This Before, at least with respect to plain vanilla archery. Hence, trick arrows to surprise the readers and to break up the tedium of writing/drawing ordinary pointy-arrow-work.

Characters who use boring old flaming arrows don't fall under this, unless the arrows are otherwise complex and/or unlikely. They may be pointless, but at least they're possible. A character who uses trick arrows is almost always capable of successfully pulling off a Multishot.

Contrast The Archer: simple and sane. Compare Trick Bullet.

Examples of Trick Arrow include:


Anime and Manga Edit

  • In Bleach Uryu at one pointed used an arrow that was also a chainsaw. A spiritual chainsaw sword.
  • Michelle in Read or Die uses paper arrows which can do pretty much anything (being a Paper Master) - the example that springs to mind was an arrow whose tip split in two, allowing it to wrap around the target (a book) and carry on with it securely held.
  • In a parody of the trope, Akane Tendo of Ranma 1/2 fame once loaded a traditional archery arrow (the kind used at schools, but with a piercing tip) with a sack of catnip, several times wider than the length of the arrow, and which was heavy enough to bend the arrow as she aimed it at a fast-moving, unpredictable, Cat-Fist Ranma. Amazingly, she hit her mark straight on (even though Cat-Ranma batted the arrow away with his paw.)
  • The Bow form of Signum's Laevatein in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha uses explosive arrows that are powerful enough to shatter a Humongous Mecha's Deflector Shields.
  • Himiko "Lady Poison" Kudo of GetBackers has trick perfumes, which can do anything from corrode metal to allow fire breath to Mind Control to... she's actually got hundreds of varieties, though she only carries seven at a time.

Comic Books Edit

  • Green Arrow in The DCU, probably the origin of the trope, as well as Arsenal/Red Arrow (formerly GA's Boy Sidekick, Speedy). Among others, they've used handcuff arrows, jiu-jitsu arrows, and boxing glove arrows.
    • At one point he adapted Doctor Mid-Nite's blackout bomb into an arrow.
    • He's been seen to use oxygen-mask arrows; particularly puzzling since they are never seen to be fired (that would be impractical), simply used as ordinary oxygen-masks... with the rest of the arrow sticking out of them.
    • During the early seventies, in the pages of JLA, he claimed -- apparently in all seriousness -- to have a nuclear warhead arrow. This was before GA went hippie, of course.
      • In his appearance along with Speedy in the DCAU, they both have quantum arrows, which seem to act as a really tiny nuke when fired at the same time.
    • Naturally, there was a Darker and Edgier Green Arrow series during the 90s where he started using, y'know, pointy arrows. That hurt people.
    • Lampshaded in JLA when the new Green Arrow (previously-unseen son of the original Green Arrow who died but came back later) has his regular pointed arrows destroyed by a supervillain and is forced to make do with his father's ridiculous trick arrows, pilfered from the trophy room.

 Net arrows! Boxing glove arrows! How about just one! Pointed! Arrow! Dad!

    • Three Words: Phantom Zone Arrow.
    • Best lampshading was probably when Ollie reached for a random arrow and found the Boxing Glove Arrow instead of what he wanted prompting him to refer to it as his "old nemesis". Complete with a hushed whisper of "We meet again" before hurrying to avoid letting Connor, his son and erstwhile replacement, see him use it.
    • He used a Kryptonite arrow in The Dark Knight Returns, with only one remaining arm, no less. (He pulled the string back with his teeth).
    • In "Green Arrow: Year One", Ollie is trapped on a deserted island and his only arrows are improvised and decidedly pointy. He just uses them for Only a Flesh Wound shots. Later on he gets an actual bow and arrows. At one point he can't get a non-lethal shot(underside of the bad guy's chin, which would punch straight into their brain), so he removes the head of his arrow.
    • This was lampshaded in a recent comic, with (paraphrased) 'One day I'll need an arrow I've never thought of.' He then shoots an arrow that creates a net that they can drop from a burning building into. 'But that day isn't today.'
    • Came up in a Morrison-era Justice League story. Second-generation Green Arrow Connor Hawke lost all of his normal arrows, and was forced to use classic trick arrows. Of course, it took him a while to figure out how to fire some of them...

 Connor: My father was either a genius or a madman.

 Etrigan:(incoherent gargling)

Batman: What the hell kind of-

Ollie: Fire extinquisher arrow.

Batman: I will never - ever - make fun of your trick arrows again.

    • Lampshaded in the recent DC Showcase: Green Arrow film. Ollie still used special arrows, but they were far more realistic and practical. For instance, his trademark boxing glove arrows were replaced with shafts fitted with rounded rubber arrowheads, which served the same function without looking quite as silly.
  • Hawkeye in the Marvel Universe... though once you discover just how varied his arsenal is, including acid, rocket, putty, explosive, bola, and suction arrows, you realize that most of the time he's in a jam it can be easily solved with one of them, but writers tend to not remember that... yeah.
    • One advantage that Hawkeye has is that he keeps the heads separate from the arrows. Those bandoliers he wears? The capsules along them contain the arrow heads, allowing him to change them in and out at will.
    • He seems to really like the exploding heads though.
  • Parodied by Legion of Super-Heroes minor villain Ze Tongue, who had - you guessed it - trick tongues.
  • Various minor Marvel Comics villains have their own special gimmick weapons that have varying special effects. The Ringer uses large, hula hoop-sized rings, Boomerang throws special gimmick boomerangs (like the "razorang" and "gasarang"), and Oddball throws specially made juggling balls. Oddball's brother and Death Throws teammate Tenpin uses gimmicked bowling pins, as well; the other Death Throws just used relatively normal stuff (Ringleader stuck with razor sharp rings, Knicknack used various heavy objects, and Bombshell simply had bombs).
    • Boomerang has a DC comics equivalent in Captain Boomerang, who even has boomerangs that explode. Surely if it's going to explode, you don't want it to return to you?
      • Traditional hunting boomerangs don't return! Only the sport/competition ones do, because, ya know, who wants to go running after the bloody things to get them back?
    • Aside from Captain Boomerang, DC has comparatively few villainous users of trick weaponry; you have to dig fairly deep to find the next most notable one, an obscure Green Lantern villain called Javelin who used gimmicked javelins. And there was that one time Signalman became the Blue Bowman, as well.
  • Several trick arrows are shown in Treefoot's workshop in Thorgal. They are pretty down to earth though; harpooned, whistling, stunning (with a ball wrapped in some cloth instead of the point), crescent-shaped and saddleshaped, an inverted crescent on a broadpoint, supposedly for cutting ropes. In the same book Kris de Valnor uses an crescent arrow to cut off a man's hand.
  • Yondu from the original Guardians of the Galaxy has sound-sensitive arrows that he can control by whistling.
  • The Street Angel in Astro City used to use gimmicked throwing rings ("halos") before he turned Darker and Edgier, after which he used halos made of high impact ceramics with a steel core. This fact drives one character into virtual catatonia; the only person who calls himself an angel in Astro City hits people in the mouth with his steel-cored halo.
    • Quarrel is a more straight forward example of the 'archer with trick arrows' archetype in Astro City.
  • Batman has occasionally been depicted as using trick Batarangs when the situation calls for it. Batman Returns had him use a programmable Batarang to knock out a large group of Mooks, while a Choose Your Own Adventure-style book featuring the Caped Crusader had him using a "Flash-Batarang" (which emitted a bright flash of light when it was thrown, blinding the Joker in the process) and a "Sprinkler-Batarang" (which sprayed fire retardant to extinguish a fire started by the Riddler) in different storylines.
  • Shaft from Rob Liefeld's Youngblood plays with the trope. His arrows are the standard pointy variety, but he has a trick bow that doesn't require a string. During Alan Moore's run on Youngblood, Golden Age hero Waxman tried to get Shaft to consider using trick arrows, using as examples several old-school archer heroes. Not one of which had survived the experience.
    • "A a trick bow that doesn't require a string"?! Is that Rob's excuse?
  • Blackhawk fought a one-shot villain called the Shaft whose gimmick was trick arrows.

Film Edit

  • Conan the Barbarian: Thulsa Doom has snake arrows. He uses one to kill Valeria as Conan's party are making their getaway with the Princess, and he tries to use one on the Princess as well, only to be stopped by Subotai, who stops the arrow with his shield.
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights has Robin using a Patriot Arrow. As in Patriot Missile.
  • In Army of Darkness, as part of a last stand against the Deadites, Ash teaches the wise men in the middle ages how to make gunpowder, which leads to them creating exploding arrows. Not only that, but they don't explode on impact - bowmen have to light the fuse, wait about twenty seconds for the fuse to burn down, and then fire.
  • John Rambo
    • Parodied as Jimbo in an issue of Green Arrow.
    • Also parodied in Hot Shots 2 with the chicken arrow. That's a live chicken - or, at least, it was when it was fired.
  • As with his comic counterpart, Hawkeye of The Avengers use these to devastating effect. Mostly he sticks with normal broadheads and explosive arrows, but he also has some that hack computers, melt steel, or act as a grappling hook.

Literature Edit

  • Yeoman, the Badass Normal archer of the Wild Cards universe, has homemade explosive arrows, but makes sure to point out that they are shorter ranged and less accurate than his normal arrows due to their weight and poor balance.
  • In Garth Nix's Superior Saturday, there is a sentient RAT with a bow that shot arrows with a glass tip containing Nothing.When I say Nothing, basically nothingness that acts like acid,eating away until the target ceases to exist. Ouch.
  • In The Dragon on the Border, Daffydd creates an armor-piercing arrow, designed to pierce armor, go through an empty space, and then pierce an additional layer of armor, as opposed to piercing armor and wounding the person wearing it like a normal arrow. Because the enemy of this book, the Hollow Men, are effectively animated suits of armor with no body inside, this enables him to kill three opponents in a single shot, with the arrow going through the first target to hit the target behind him. The arrows are never used in later books, as the design isn't very good at wounding flesh and blood enemies.
  • In Codex Alera, Bernard is seen using arrows coated with rock salt (which hurts wind furies) against some wild wind furies and later shoots High Lord Kalarus out of the sky with one. In the last book, he upgrades to exploding arrows.
  • In Mockingjay, Katniss gets some exploding arrows.

Live Action TV Edit

  • The Dukes of Hazzard had dynamite arrows, which were often fired from a moving car.
  • The Adam West Batman series had Art Carney as "The Archer," (with henchfolks Maid Marilyn and Crier Tuck), who had (among other things) arrows with a 90° bend in them that went around corners.
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The arrows from Kimberly's Power Bow make an explosion when they hit, and can home in on an enemy.

Mythology Edit

  • Some recent tellings of the Robin Hood legends.
  • The astras from Hindu Mythology are every trick arrow, ever, taken Up to Eleven. Natural disasters and instant death are some of the milder effects.
  • Hercules used the blood of the hydra to make poison arrows. Eventually his own death indirectly resulted from this, suggesting that, morally, the use of such weapons was frowned on in the ancient world.

Tabletop Games Edit

  • Dungeons and Dragons has, over the years, introduced scores of different magic arrows. At least they've got A Wizard Did It to back them up.
    • Not to mention the fact that "Ranger", one of the lead characters of the animated series, has a magic bow that seems to be only slightly less versatile than a certain piece of jewelry.
    • D&D's third edition also saw the Arcane Archer prestige class, with the ability to put spell effects into arrows and create a few other trick arrows on the spot once per day each.
    • The 4th edition Ranger is an archery fanatic, surpassing previous incarnations. While not using trick arrows per se, the nature of the powers certainly has much the same effect. Notable effects include arrows splitting into two shots mid-flight, knocking enemies back several squares, or outright stunning or dazing opponents. Of course, pretty much every other class can also knock back, stun, or daze opponents, without using arrows.
      • The later added Seeker embodies this trope even more – a member of that class can shoot things such vines or fairies.
    • The 1E Oriental Adventures supplement had several non-damaging arrows, including the "frog crotch" (cuts rope) and "humming bulb" (whistles loudly in flight).
      • Which are all real-world arrow.
  • Unlike the healing arrow. Which was invented to heal front rank fighters. Most of the time it'd heal more damage than it did.
  • Exalted's Siderials have two charms to do this. The first allows them to fire anything shorter then their arm as an arrow, the second transforms arrows in flight into such things as glass, boulders, enough grain to feed a person, snow, or raw life force.
    • Solars similarly have an Archery Charm that allows them to infuse their arrows with purified Solar Essence, leading to a number of effects ranging from a burning mandala of Essence that detonates on collision to hot steaming death for the undead.
  • Some editions of Warhammer Fantasy takes a page from Conan's book and gives the Tomb Kings snake arrows.
  • Rifts has magic and/or high-tech explosive arrows in just about every setting, for those who cannot or will not use laser rifles like everyone else.
  • GURPS 4th edition Imbluements system, when applied to archery, allows an archer to do pretty much anything with arrows, be it disintegrating swords, paralyzing enemies, or shooting a cone of destruction.
    • In Low-Tech including humming bulb, flight (super long range), cutting and "fire cage".
  • Multiple characters in the Champions universe, including Crossbow (a hero) and Rainbow Archer (a villain).

Video Games Edit

  • Garrett in the Thief series has a wide arsenal of magic arrows to use, most notably the water arrow used for dousing torches at long range. The first game is Unwinnable without them.
  • The Western-themed video game Gun had dynamite arrows.
  • The "Trick Arrow" powerset in City of Heroes includes, among others, Glue Arrow, Poison Gas Arrow, Oil Slick Arrow, and Electromagnetic Pulse Arrow.
    • Similarly, Blasters get access to the Archery power set, which allows for flaming arrows and stunning quarrels.
    • Did we mention the Oil made by the Oil Slick Arrow can catch on fire?
    • And then there's Canon character Manticore: millionaire playboy, Badass Normal, and perpetual snarker. Oh, yes, he uses Trick Arrows as well. Teleporting trick arrows.
      • This is achieved through hacking into the city's Emergency Teleportation Network.
        • Meh, he probably owns it.
  • Likewise Champions Online has the Archery powerset which combines trick arrows (Sonic Arrow, Taser Arrow, Explosive Arrow) with trick shooting (Multiple arrows shot at once, Storm of Arrows, and Focused Shot can be upgraded to go through several targets in one shot).
  • Ninja Gaiden's Xbox remake had armour-piercing arrows. Oh, and the "standard" explosive varieties too.
    • It should be pointed out that the armour-piercing arrows were not technically "arrows" as such. Rather, they were the cores of Armour-Piercing Fin-Stabalized Discarding Sabot rounds for tank cannons.
  • Fable had a spell which split one arrow into three; they then Roboteched their way to the target.
  • The Medievil games featured a fairly normal longbow weapon (which came in flaming and "magic" varieties), plus a crossbow whose bolts would ricochet off walls at any angle until they reached their maximum flight time and disappeared. Medievil 2 even had a flame crossbow which was basically the same, but it fired flaming bolts. Funnily enough, you get the crossbow before the longbow.
  • The Redneck Rampage video game had dynamite arrows, and a... peculiar... variant in which the arrow was stuck up the bottom of a chicken. Upon launching it, the whole thing would fly to the target and explode with a loud shriek and a puff of feathers.
    • The chicken-butt arrow amounted to a guided rocket. The chicken would home in on the nearest enemy.
  • Resident Evil Code: Veronica has arrows coated with nitroglycerin.
  • The Amazon of Diablo II has an entire skill-tab dedicated to these, including arrows that explode, arrows that freeze everything, arrows that split into multiple smaller arrows, and of course the Guided Arrow.
  • Bioshock 's crossbow, which, along with firing steel bolts, could fire both incendiary bolts, and bolts which themselves fired deadly electric tripwires.
  • Unreal Tournament's sanctioned mod Chaos UT introduced a crossbow which could fire exploding arrows or poisoned arrows in addition to the regular pointy kind.
    • The Chaos Unreal 2: Evolution mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 upgraded both the bolt selection, to include flaming arrows, and the crossbow itself, allowing it to be "charged up" to make regular pointy bolts more useful (they could head-shot unlike the other kinds and when charged would fly further and faster, dealing proportionately more damage as well). It could also fire up to five bolts simultaneously, another staple of trick-shooters.
  • In Fate/stay night, one of Servant Archer's favourite tricks is to make sword arrows: He can create a sword and transform it into a slimmer, aerodynamic shape, which he then fires from his long bow as an arrow. This has various effects, depending on the nature of the sword: In the Visual Novel he uses one that explodes by overloading it with mana.
  • Link in The Legend of Zelda has used silver arrows, fire arrows, ice arrows, bomb arrows, and light arrows.
  • The Hunter class in World of Warcraft has numerous different "shots" (they can be used with guns as well as bows but othervice fit the trope), including several variants of poison shots (scorpid sting, viper sting, wyvern sting etc.), magic-damage-dealing arcane shot, a shot that dazes the enemy and the aimed shot, which reduces healing. There's also 'Freezing Arrow' which lays a freezing trap where it lands, and Explosive Shot.
    • The former of which will be replaced by a new shot in Cataclysm that allows the hunter to shoot any trap in his arsenal (a total of five, though some share cooldowns).
  • Raven from Tales of Vesperia's arrows do everything from laying explosives to healing. His bow can even be used as a double-bladed sword, since it's got sharp edges.
      • And while we're on the subject of the Tales series, Woodrow Kelvin from the Tales of Destiny remake has a very interesting move called Bassaiga. He sets up his bow so that it looks like he's going to shoot his enemy, but then he pulls his sword out at the last moment and slashes them. How's that for a Trick Arrow?
  • Heroes of Might and Magic 4 features several different kinds of arrows that add special effects to ranged attacks, including the Arrow of Stunning (stuns enemies), Arrow of Slaying (does extra damage to the most powerful creatures like dragons), Poison Arrow (poisons enemies), Silk Arrow (restrains fliers) or the Flame Arrow (Area of Effect damage).
    • Heroes of Might and Magic 5: The Rangers racial ability is largely based around this. Imbue Arrow lets him put any offensive spell on his arrows, who deal more damage by default if they hit one of his chosen favored enemies. For extra fun, he can fire arrows that will hit any enemy stack of favored enemies for full damage each.
  • Standard ammo for the crossbow in Strife? Electric arrows.
  • While not arrows per se, Mass Effect 2 features different kinds of bullets. There are armor-piercing, explosive, incendiary, and freezing bullets to name some examples.
    • The oddest of the bunch is Jack's Warp Ammo, which essentially consists of bullets empowered by her brain (or yours, if you choose it as your bonus power) to do more damage to pretty much everything.
    • To be fair, mass effect fields are easily incorporated in a lot of technology without the need of a biotic generating them. They probably stuck an eezo core inside the bullet. Although, considering the usual bullets in the Mass Effect universe are just tiny (sandgrain-sized) pieces of metal that are produced at need by being shavings from a metal block inside the gun, it'd be hard to put anything IN them, so direct empowerment by the shooter is more likely.
  • The many kinds of arrows in Final Fantasy XII.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has a wide variety of types of arrows (though they're all the pointy kind). In addition, some arrows are enchanted with one or more magic effects. One of the more novel such enchantments is the Light effect, which causes the target and surroundings to glow brightly for a while. Can be very useful in dark caves.
  • Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath has the main character use a crossbow that fires critters that have various different effects, such as baiting the enemies towards them via Trash Talk, a skunk that serves as a stink bomb, bats that serve as explosives and others.
  • Fallout 3 has the Dart Gun, which is essentially a crossbow that fires pre-war throwing darts... dipped in radscorpion venom. While it does extremely little real damage, the poison immediately cripples the target's arms and legs, drastically reducing both their aim and mobility. Good if you want to move in for a melee kill, or just take the opportunity to run away.
  • In Planescape: Torment, Nordom's crossbows usually shoot regular, pointy bolts, but you can find and/or buy all sorts of variations (and even tell the crossbows to make some specific types themselves), such as acid-filled sponge bolts, bolts containing insane wind spirits in the tips, cubic bolts incorporating the essence of order, frog-crotch bolts, and the ever-popular "Rule-Of-Three" pyramid bolts that separate into three bolts.
  • In addition to normal, pointy arrows, Dungeons of Dredmor features a number of increasingly improbable ammunition. In particular: nuclear warhead arrows, and arrows that fire an Eldritch Abomination.

Web Comic Edit

Web Original Edit

  • Darkhood in Interviewing Leather is a Badass Normal, probably based on Green Arrow. So obviously he has a bunch of different arrows like taser arrows, grappling arrows and even *gasp* normal arrows.

Western Animation Edit

  • Green Arrow is a recurring character in the Justice League cartoon from Unlimited onwards, and naturally gets to show off his collection of trick arrows. Huntress, by contrast, prefers "the pointy kind that go right through you."
    • GA: (freeing himself from ice) "And Black Canary said a buzzsaw arrows was self-indulgent."
  • The Angry Archer from Transformers Animated. (He's basically a villainous version of Green Arrow, though he's also a homage to staff member Aaron Archer and a fan of Robin Hood.)
  • Aladdin: the Series: the Galafems use magic arrows that can change into anything (water, rope, etc.) with a thought.
  • Speedy from Teen Titans, who is an ex-sidekick of Green Arrow. In one episode, unable to use his trick arrows or bow, he uses nearby vehicles and supplies to make a giant bow, firing himself as a trick arrow to defuse Control Freak's threat.
  • Lady Jaye from G.I. Joe used Trick Javelins.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender's Yu-Yan Archers used net arrows, and arrows with tow lines for rappelling and stuff. The one in the Rough Rhinos used flaming arrows, which I realize isn't that surprising since, y'know, Fire Nation and all, but he was notable for equipping his bow with a pilot light for arrows.
  • In Darkwing Duck, Gosalyn's hero identity was Quiverwing Quack. Among her trick arrows were glue arrows, boxing glove arrows, and at least one pencil sharpener arrow.
  • In the 1970s Filmation Flash Gordon, the Arborians used ice arrows as their weapon of choice. Interestingly, there was never any indication that this was anything less than lethal (no Harmless Freezing here), it was simply a way to avoid the ugly messiness of a conventional arrow. Though the ice arrows did turn out to be very handy for putting out fires.
  • Green Arrow, Artemis, and Red Arrow all use trick arrows as their primary weapons in Young Justice. In addition, Artemis uses trick bolts for the compact crossbow she carries while in her civilian gear.
  • In Wakfu, pretty much all of the Cra race has these.

Real Life Edit

  • Mongols and other Eurasian nomadic people had many specialized arrow heads (and occasionally arrows). Some were designed to whistle (both to communicate with troops and to scare the enemy), some for hunting, some to pierce armor, short range arrows, long range arrows, barbed arrow heads, (allegedly) poisoned ones, even some that aren't even pointed (for stunning people). Iranians had a two pronged arrow for hunting, while Turks had a really small arrow for use with a wooden guide that would essentially turn a regular composite bow into a crossbow. So quite clearly, Truth in Television (just not in the way they show it).
  • The Japanese developed arrowheads that whistle and cut rope.
  • A South-American tribe once made arrows for detaching feathers from bird mid-flight, while leaving the bird relative unharmed.
  • In ancient Persia, returning arrows were known, and have been reconstructed and used. They're light, and have very short range, and are strictly for showing off the fletcher's and archer's skill, but they do indeed return.
  • There's a tutorial for making explosive arrows or crossbow bolts in The Anarchist's Cookbook (look it up if you really want to know), albeit both Awesome but Impractical and highly dangerous.