Does this Superhero Trope have a name yet?

So I recently got around to watching the first couple episodes of Arrow on Netflix and I noticed that some plot elements looked familiar:

  • A less-than-heroic wealthy American playboy disappears for 5-7 years somewhere in East Asia
  • Though presumed dead by friends and family, he’s actually embarking on a spiritual journey of self-discovery while mastering incredible new skills from a mysterious mentor
  • Said playboy realizes the error of his former ways and returns to his city and uses those newfound skills to fight crime as a masked vigilante superhero

This was also the starting point for both 2005’s Batman Begins and 1994’s The Shadow, so I was wondering:

  1. What other superheroes went this route? (Tony Stark almost qualifies but the movie adaptation changed his abduction site to Afghanistan and made Dr. Yinsen into a surgeon rather than an engineering mentor.) Is it common enough to have its own name yet?
  2. Do would-be-superhero-playboys from East Asia train in the deepest parts of the American Midwest to master the mystical art of shooting stuff with guns?

Tatsuya Nakadai’s character from Yojimbo springs to mind, except that he was a bad guy.


The Himalayas and other Far East mountain ranges are positively packed to the gills with Buddhist villages full of wise monks who will teach weary Western travelers — especially the old Mighty Whitey — to cast off ego, become one with the universe and attain true enlightenment. Also, to punch through people’s heads

Found it by researching Batman Begins.


Good find!

Damn you, @jerwin! I nearly spent five hours because of your quote from TVTropes. There really should be a rule against linking to it. Maybe ask everyone to put the link under a spoiler.


Dr. Strange.

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Well found!

I went via The Shadow and, while wasting an hour reading tropes, never stumbled across that one!

I was thinking of Beatrix Kiddo, in Kill Bill-- but that only serves to highlight the missing “playboy goes on a quest” aspect of this trope. And that’s an important aspect.

The ancient Asian art of “gun,” which teaches that even the largest attacker can be disabled by an explosive head wound.


The problem is that most of these stories are narcissistic teen fantasies where the kid doesn’t have to study (much) he’s just amazingly gifted in ways that other stupid people never appreciated.

they know their audience.


Training montage: 2 panels
Trying to figure out what animal to dress up as: 4 panels

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Separating the truth from the fiction tends to be difficult.

Another problem is that this is, to an extent, true. People in general do act - as individuals and societies - against their best interests all of the time. So-called “outsiders” can see this because they haven’t been socialized into the routines people take for granted. Hardly anybody is willing to be the voluntary alien and offer a cultural anthropologist’s assessment of their own culture. But petulant brats tend to lack both the cultural and self awareness to benefit from this perspective. That Westerners tend to romanticize messianism and oppression doesn’t help any to clarify this.

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The traditional martial arts revenge movie involves a student whose family or sensei is killed, but he’s never a playboy.

The Green Hornet has Kato, but the Green Hornet never went to Asia, did he?

Tibet, Superhero Tourist Destination of the World

… Over at Charlton Comics, Peter Morisi’s Thunderbolt returned from his Tibetan adventures with the standard superhero package. Since Alan Moore’s Watchmen were borrowed from Charlton characters, twenty years later his Ozymandias not only “traveled on, through China and Tibet, gathering martial wisdom” but was “transformed” by “a ball of hashish I was given in Tibet” and next things he’s “Adopting Ramses the Second’s Greek name.” Even the 21st century Batman, as retooled in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, hops over to the Himalayas to learn his chops from yet another monkish mentor. And you’ll never guess where director Josh Trank sends his teen superhuman for the closing shot of the 2012 Chronicle.

You are a genius because you agree with me.

Magnus, Robot Fighter trained from childhood on the martial art of cyborg ass kicking, but never had a playboy phase.

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