Note: I'm not sure if this really works as a single trope or it it should be split into two separate tropes (e.g. "Best of the Best" and "Worst of the Best"), but I can't think of a specific reason not to lump them together.
Needs a Better Name
This trope covers characters who are part of a group known for something and are either the best or worst in said group at it. The group in question can be anything from a Gang of Hats
or Weird Trade Union
all the way up to an entire Planet of Hats
. The "something" is generally whatever the focus of the plot is.
Members of the group who are the best at it will be described as the best of the best
. Incompetent members will have an air of "I may be a bad X, but I'm still an X!", and prove it by still outdoing anyone outside the group.
Oddly enough, heroes have a fairly even chance of being either one of those (especially if the rest of the group are the antagonists). Heroes who are less talented will often make up for it in other ways. Often because other members of the group suffer from Crippling Overspecialisation
of have a bad case of When All You Have Is a Hammer
). Heroes who are paragons will often face overwhelming odds to maintain drama (e.g. they might be the only member of the Dance Battler
Corps who're groovy enough to take on the might of the Disco Demons) and serve to emphasise the threat that their antagonist poses.
Villains have less even odds. Competent villains are far more common (natch
) and tend to be the Big Bad
(if the group's evil) and/or a case of The Paragon Always Rebels
(if the group's good or neutral). Relatively less competent villains are rarer and tend to be used to build up the overall group as a threat
(e.g. "You may have out-danced me! But I am but the weakest of the Disco Demons!
Compare Muggle Born of Mages
for when a member of a group lacks any talent for what they're known for at all (not generally this trope, since it requires some
competence although there's some overlap) and Klingon Scientists Get No Respect
for when members of a group pursue something they aren't
know for. Supertrope to Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond
(which covers cases of "less competent" characters who have ended up in worlds with much lower standards).