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->''"And was this fellow, Oz, a powerful dinh? A baron? Perhaps a king?"\\
Again, the three of them exchanged a glance from which Roland was excluded. "That's complicated," Jake said. "He was sort of a humbug--"\\
"A bumhug? What's that?"\\
"Humbug," Jake said, laughing. "A faker. All talk, no action."''
-->-- ''Franchise/TheDarkTower: Literature/WizardAndGlass''

After infiltrating the [[SupervillainLair fortress of evil]], fighting off hordes of {{Mooks}}, successfully navigating the DeathCourse and laying the almighty smackdown on TheDragon, you finally reach the EvilSorcerer's inner sanctum. You charge in, ready to face the ManBehindTheMan and kick some ass...

Wait a second, since when was Baron Von Ruthless a [[NonActionBigBad bedridden feeble old man with leukemia]]? And why does he have a [[ClarkesThirdLaw dry ice machine?]]

Sometimes the BigBad is disappointingly small. Sometimes the UltimateEvil is far less ultimate than you were led to believe. Sometimes TheManBehindTheMan is just the The Man Behind The Curtain: a villain who falls depressingly short of their own hype. More deserving of a slap across the face than a pummeling (but even that might kill them), they are not even a remotely credible threat to the heroes. You want to hate them, but all you can muster up is pity.

If this happens in a serious story, expect the audience to be ticked when they find out the long-awaited big fight is going to be really one-sided, if it happens at all. Of course, really crafty Men Behind The Curtain make sure that the hero is [[YouCanBarelyStand significantly weakened]] by the time they get to him, either through exhaustion from fighting everyone before him or doing something very sneaky and underhanded to him before the fight begins. Then again, there may well be TruthInTelevision [[JustifiedTrope Justification]] for this; after all, a commander without an army is effectively useless. Of course, TropesAreNotBad; in a cynical-realistic show with AnyoneCanDie and RealityEnsues in full force, it would be jarring if the enemy is thoroughly outmatched but still poses a threat in person.

AnticlimaxBoss is a VideoGame-specific subtrope. For the inverse of this trope, see FluffyTheTerrible. Contrast with VillainDecay and AuthorityEqualsAsskicking. May use the FakeSpecialAttack. Has surprisingly little to do with CurtainCamouflage or the DramaticCurtainToss, though some examples may have those as well.

'''By this trope's very nature, all examples will be SPOILERS. You have been warned.'''
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!!Examples

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime]]
* In the ''Anime/CowboyBebop'' episode "Brain Scratch," the mysterious and sinister Dr. Londes turns out to be an internet persona created by a paralyzed and semi-comatose teenaged boy in a hospital.
* While his PeoplePuppets are incredibly powerful, and he is capable of [[PersonOfMassDestruction unbelievably terrifying deeds]] by proxy, Nagato, AKA [[Manga/{{Naruto}} Pain]] turns out to be...a withered near-skeleton of a man incapable of standing ''upright or moving on his own'' and constantly at death's door.
* In ''Anime/AfroSamurai'' (manga only), Afro has murdered his way through the ranks of those who either covet his Number 2 headband or are protecting the current Number One, only to find that his target [[spoiler: died long ago]].
** This happened in the game version as well, but ended in such a way in that there was a still a satisfying FinalBoss fight.
* In ''Anime/TurnAGundam'', Queen Diana and her supporters refer often to her EvilChancellor, Agrippa Maintainer, and his scheming in lunar politics while she's away. They return to find that he's put the Moon under martial law and wants to oust her for supposedly reawakening the Moonrace's latent [[HumansAreWarriors warlike instincts]]... but he's also a SmugSnake who's using the BloodKnight Ghingnham faction as his muscle, and Gym Ghingnham is running rings around him. Then he gets killed by Midgard, his own agent.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Comic Books]]
* Yellow Claw in ''AgentsOfAtlas'' turns out to just be a feeble, dying old man whose schemes turned out to be just a desperate publicity stunt to advance the career of his chosen heir.
* In "The Hard Goodbye", the first ''SinCity'' story, Marv kills his way through hitmen, gangsters, a police death squad and a silent and deadly farm boy cannibal killer to get to the man behind the murder of Goldie...who turns out to be a really little old man who isn't nearly as imposing as his fearsome reputation as a Cardinal would lead one to believe. The big bad cowers and dies screaming as Marv exacts his revenge on him.
* The infamous Adversary in Vertigo Comics' ''{{Fables}}'' turns out to be...[[spoiler: Geppetto]], still as happy and kindly as ever, but turned megalomaniacal after he was requested to help overthrow and replace one too many evil dictators with wooden stand-ins from his magic grove (the same one he [[spoiler: carved Pinocchio out of]]). While he's gathered quite a gaggle of evil Fables under his thrall, without his authority and his magic wood, he's actually quite pathetic.
* [[{{Shazam}} Mr. Mind]]: The head of the Monster Society of Evil turns out to be an intelligent bespectacled worm. Not a big worm, or even a [[PsychicPowers mind controlling worm]] (that's [[{{Retcon}} retconned in later]]) but a normal sized green worm. ''With glasses''. Kids must have laughed...
** The retcon makes him terrifyingly powerful. His normal form is telepathic and telekinetic, while his [[OneWingedAngel evolved form]] eats entire universes.
* Early on in the ''{{Deadpool}} Corps'' series, the Deadpools have to stop The Awareness, a cosmic entity resembling a giant cloud that is feeding on the minds of entire alien species and making them its slaves. [[spoiler:Actually, the real Awareness is a pretty pathetic-looking little alien, the huge nebula being nothing more than a shroud. Once the Deadpools make it past his minions and his traps, he is easily dispatched.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* TropeNamer: Film/TheWizardOfOz, in that the titular "wizard" is only a BadassNormal, minus the {{Badass}}. Doubly so considering the firey hologram avatar he was giving out.
-->'''Oz:''' PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!
** Though, uncaracteristically for this trope, he is not really a villain.
* In ''Film/{{Equilibrium}}'', Brandt is [[spoiler:initially]] depicted as a competent foe able to keep Preston on the ropes during a practice spar. [[spoiler:When they fight for real, however, he dies in three of Preston's invisibly-fast strokes before he can even move to defend himself. Subverted immediately afterwards: BigBad [=DuPont=], who appears to be a harmless bureaucrat, proves competent enough in GunKata himself to fight Preston in single combat pistol-against-pistol, and lasts longer than all the previous well-armed mooks combined.]]
* Subverted in ''Film/{{Ultraviolet}}'', also directed by Kurt Wimmer, where Vice-Cardinal Ferdinand Daxus also initially seems doomed to a quick defeat but proves an able combatant against Violet, who has thus far been virtually unstoppable.
* Halfway through Creator/MNightShyamalan's ''Film/TheVillage'', we discover that Those We Do Not Speak Of, the bogeymen who hold the entire village in fear, are [[spoiler:merely a ruse by the elders to keep the people in line. This is subverted when Ivy is let in on the secret and is attacked by one of these creatures anyway. And then ''that'' is subverted when we (but not Ivy) see that the creature was actually the town's AxCrazy man in a costume.]]
* Jigsaw from the ''Film/{{Saw}}'' series has a reputation as a dangerous murderer, but is revealed to be a fairly weak man with brain cancer, only able to operate because of his [[TheChessmaster manipulative skill]].
* Done literally in ''[[TenThousandBC 10,000 B.C.]]'' - we only see the man in question for the briefest of moments, but it's long enough to confirm that not only is he not a god, but he's a pasty old white guy.
* The [[Film/{{Batman}} 1989 version of Batman]]. When Batman finally confronts the Joker at the top of the Church he beats the everloving shit out of him with no trouble. It's only when Batman attempts to save the Joker from dying that there's trouble. Contrast this with [[Film/TheDarkKnight the 2008 Joker/Batfight]] where even though the outcome is largely the same, the Joker still gets a few good pipe shots in.
* In ''CrankHighVoltage'', Poon Dong, the man who stole Chellios' heart (and whom narrative convention would suggest is the BigBad) is the legendary leader of the Chinese Triads, played by David Carradine. About 2/3rds of the way through the film he's revealed to be a wizened DirtyOldMan who has about 2 minutes of screen-time and is promptly and anticlimactically lured to his death by two odious comic relief characters. The film's real "BigBad" is a completely unrelated, entirely different character who seemingly comes out of nowhere in the final reel.
* ''Franchise/StarWars: Film/ReturnOfTheJedi'' subverts this -- we're meant to think of the Emperor this way, as being unbelievably sinister despite being totally helpless and weak, right up until he suddenly unleashes the Force Lightning. The Emperor seems set up to be Yoda's opposite. Physically unimposing, but near God-like powers when he actually chose to use them. One of the Star Wars RPG books speculated that a no holds barred Jedi duel between Yoda and The Emperor could devastate a planet. [[Film/RevengeOfTheSith The actual fight]] only thrashed a building, but was nevertheless awesome.
* In ''Film/IronMan3'', [[spoiler:The Mandarin turns out to simply be a figure fabricated by Aldrich Killian, with the man himself simply an actor playing a role in exchange for a comfortable lifestyle.]] However, the ''[[Film/MarvelOneShots All Hail The King]]'' short film reveals that [[spoiler:there is indeed a ''real'' Mandarin affiliated with the Ten Rings organization of the first film who intends to kill Trevor Slattery for taking his name.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* The trope title and the page quote both refer to [[Literature/TheWonderfulWizardOfOz Oz, the Great and Terrible]], who, [[ItWasHisSled as everyone now knows]], proved to be neither. While in the film his disguise was a fiery hologram, in the book he changed disguises every day. (A giant head, a beautiful woman, a dragon, and a fireball.) In the sequels, though, he does become a bona fide wizard.
* Malkariss, ruler of the subterranean kingdom from the ''{{Literature/Redwall}}'' novel ''Mattimeo''. He spends his life inside a giant carving of a polecat that amplifies his voice. He's really so old that he's practically helpless [[HoistByHisOwnPetard when his own slaves attack him]].
* Randall Flagg, Mordred Deschain, and the Crimson King from ''Franchise/TheDarkTower''. Creator/StephenKing even foreshadows this in the quote at the top of this page, which occurs right before a scene in which Flagg reenacts the exposing of The Wizard of Oz.
** Flagg and the Crimson King are two cases where The Man Behind The Curtain overlaps with VillainDecay. In previous novels like ''TheStand'' and ''Literature/{{Insomnia}}'', they were presented as competent and terrifying, but Creator/StephenKing subsequently changed his mind about the nature of evil and set these villains up to be exposed as humbugs in the final volume of ''The Dark Tower.''
* The Franchise/StarTrek novel ''Kahless'' is, essentially, a "demythologization" of the Klingon legends about the titular character. When Kahless finally confronts his traditional enemy, the tyrant Molor, he discovers that Molor is not an invincible warrior--just a dying old man.
* Mr. Foreclosure, the villain of ''The War Between The Pitiful Teachers and the Splendid Kids'', is [[spoiler:an ant. Not even a giant ant]].
* In ''[[Literature/ProtectorOfTheSmall Lady Knight]]'' by TamoraPierce, Blayce is called "The Nothing Man", because that's what he is: [[SquishyWizard a short, weak, fidgety, acne-ridden slimeball]]. Given that he's a serial child murderer and necromancer who invented the horrific killing devices that plague the Tortallan front (as well as brutalizing the local population), Kel is disgruntled to find that he's so unimpressive and easy to kill once she takes care of his [[TheDragon Dragon]].
* Werner von Aargau in Creator/TimPowers' ''Literature/TheStressOfHerRegard''. His contract with the nephilim - having one of them physically implanted in his body to link their species with humanity - has kept him alive for the last several hundred years, but didn't stop him from aging. He is now spliced into the fabric of a building in such a way that he cannot be killed without TakingYouWithMe.
* The demon Quetzovercoatl in Creator/TerryPratchett's ''Discworld/{{Eric}}''. The NightmareFuel demon who's the basis of an entire warlike religion turns out to be all of six inches tall. To add insult to injury, he's killed seconds after appearing on earth.
* The Authority in ''Literature/HisDarkMaterials'' is revealed to be a frail, old and hopelessly senile angel sealed inside an almost indestructible crystal cage by his servants to keep him alive. He's even lost the ability to speak, but seems happy when the protagonists unwittingly kill him without even realizing who he is.
* ''Literature/MalazanBookOfTheFallen'': When Adjunct Tavore Paran meets the Whirlwind Leader Sha'ik in a duel on which the whole destiny of the Whirlwind rebellion, the battle is... short. Sha'ik has left Felisin to her own feeble powers, and she is [[{{Anticlimax}} ruthlessly killed in a few blows]].
* Cronal from the ''Franchise/StarWarsExpandedUniverse'' is a subversion -- he hides behind holograms and body doubles to disguise the fact that physically he's a frail old man on life-support, but he's such a powerful darksider that he doesn't ''need'' a working body to pose a threat.
%%* [[spoiler:The Tooth Fairy]] in ''Discworld/{{Hogfather}}'', although it's not precisely villainous.
* In Creator/BarbaraHambly's novel ''Literature/TheLadiesOfMandrigyn'', the whole world fears Altiokis the Wizard King, shadowy ruler of a mighty empire, the greatest wizard the world has ever known, immortal, invincible... [[spoiler:It turns out he's a third-rate magician who captured [[EldritchAbomination something]] by luck in his youth; by some combination of his own cretinous nature and the mind-corroding effects of the alien power, he's become a vicious, dull-witted, infantile glutton who whiles away the centuries indulging his base appetites.]]
* In Jeff Somers's cyberpunk novel ''The Electric Church'', the leader of the eponymous Church (which offers "salvation through immortality" by means of cyborg conversion) is [[spoiler:a digitized consciousness in a box (though his personal avatars, the Cardinals, are very formidable)]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Live Action TV]]
* In the fourth season Halloween episode of ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'', "Fear Itself", Buffy and company must fight their way through a haunted house where the decorations have been brought to life as monsters by the influence of Gaknar, a primordial fear demon. When the demon itself is brought forth, it is so tiny that a fearsome-looking picture of it shown earlier proves to be actual size. There's an {{Aesop}} -- the standard "The only thing to fear is fear itself" moral, hence the title.
* ''Series/{{Lost}}'''s Jacob, who runs the Others from a secret cabin and can apparently only speak to Ben, is such a straight execution of this trope that the episode in which Jacob first appears is in fact titled "The Man Behind the Curtain."
** Subverted: There was no man behind the curtain - Ben never spoke with Jacob, who doesn't really live in the cabin. Whoever Locke heard, it wasn't Jacob...and he wasn't in charge. The actual Jacob appears only two seasons later.
** It turns out it was actually Jacob's brother, who is actually the Black Smoke, which means it's subverted to hell and back as it's therefore the Unkillable Monster behind the curtain. Just to rub salt in it, the image that Locke sees in that chair is actually a vision of his dead self, a reference to the Monster plotting Locke's death. Jacob did use to live in that cabin, and the Monster is old and manipulative enough to really be in charge, in a sense, even if nobody realizes it.
* ''Series/{{Star Trek|The Original Series}}''' Balock, from the episode "The Corbomite Maneuver," has the appearance of a human child. When he communicates with other ships via the viewscreen, he uses an intimidating puppet.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Video Games]]
* ''VideoGame/TheFeebleFiles'' adventure game has one of these, although it's not a person who you'd know about before you reached the final "dungeon." [[spoiler: The CEO of Omnicorp, the man behind the Omnibrain, the ultimate source of all the torment in the galaxy is a senile old guy who was actually asleep for the last several centuries while a strategy game AI ran things for him. He dies instantly when a frustrated Feeble punches him in the face.]]
* Bob the goldfish in the ''VideoGame/EarthwormJim'' series.
* Emperor Murod in the original ''{{Summoner}}'', despite being served by legitimately intimidating and nasty lackeys and being responsible for actions of gross evil... is just a feeble old man. On top of this, he's an AnticlimaxBoss, even ''after'' pulling a OneWingedAngel out of nowhere.
* Subverted in ''AdvanceWars - Dual Strike'' with CO Von Bolt, a feeble old man. But since all of the actual combat is between replacable mooks, and Von Bolt is a strategic genius with a devastating CO Power, he's still pretty threatening.
* ''VideoGame/NoMoreHeroes2DesperateStruggle'' is all about Travis fighting his way to the man responsible for the murder of Bishop, Jasper Batt Jr. By the time you reach him, he reveals himself as a tiny, weak, buck-teethed man who is only capable of fighting you with his rocket-racecar-desk and robotic bats.
** Though this is subverted rather gloriously as after he is first beaten he pumps himself full of steroids transforming into the hulking Batt-man. And if you can beat that, he somehow bloats up ''to the size of a blimp'' to crush Travis.
* In ''VideoGame/DarkenedSkye'', the BigBad EvilOverlord Lord Necroth is widely known and feared as "He Whose Face Must Not be Glimpsed". It turns out that Necroth is really an inch-high maggot using a giant megaphone to communicate with his followers. Skye even has to use a shrinking spell to enter Necroth's throne room to confront him. Skye even remarks "He Whose Face Must Not be Glimpsed. That's because he's too small to see! You're Lord Necroth? You're nothing more than a pathetic little..." Despite being The Man Behind The Curtain, Necroth is not an AnticlimaxBoss, as he does put up a reasonable fight (since the heroine is ''also'' only an inch high at that point). Possibly a ShoutOut to [[{{Shazam}} Mr. Mind]], above.
* In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'', The Man Behind The Curtain, Yu Yevon, is described in the third act to be the controller of Sin. This feat gives the impression that his power must be immense, yet he is revealed in the final battle to be nothing more than an insect. A spectral insect, but an insect nonetheless.
** Most of his feats were done in ages past, and he's degenerated so much he's really quite defenseless on his own. In his prime, however, he was likely the greatest summoner the world has ever known and created TWO Epic Level Summons with his skills. At the same time. He's also the father of Yunalesca, another contender for being the greatest summoner since she created the Final Aeons, another Epic Level Summon AND she knows how to make more of them if need be. After 1000 Years of Epicness, it seems to have finally decayed Yu Yevon utterly.
* [[spoiler: [[Franchise/ResidentEvil Ozwell E. Spencer]]]] is one of the original founders of the [[MegaCorp Umbrella Corporation.]] His company has been producing every strain of TheVirus under the sun, and executives, especially the founders have a tendency to go OneWingedAngel as soon as the hero shows up. [[spoiler: When we meet Spencer, he's a terrified, feeble old man who is on life support 24 hours a day. [[CutsceneBoss Who gets killed by Wesker before we even get to fight him.]]]]
** Subverted in that [[spoiler: Wesker is still terrified of him due to the mental conditioning he received as a child.]] In a rare Double subversion of this trope, [[spoiler: [[ExplainingYourPowerToTheEnemy the moment Wesker finds out about the mental conditioning, it no longer affects him, and he kills Spencer with his bare hands.]]]]
* The Collector in ''VideoGame/LittleBigPlanet'' (not to be confused with ''[[Franchise/MassEffect those]]'' Collectors) spends the entire game one step ahead of the player, hiding in the background and snatching away various objects and [=NPCs=] with a giant robot and an EvilLaugh. Once you've finally chased him to his bunker and defeated his robot, however, [[spoiler: he turns out to be a tiny little guy - smaller than Sackboy, even - and all he really wanted was some friends. Needless to say, he's immediately forgiven, and everything ends on a happy note. What kind of game did you think this was?]]
* Parodied in one of the joke endings of SilentHill2, where it is revealed that the unseen entity jerking James around and forcing him to relieve the most painful memories of his life is...[[spoiler: [[TheDogWasTheMastermind a shiba inu dog]]]]. Roll credits!
* ''VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas'' has Mr. House, the enigmatic genius who controls the Vegas Strip with his army of robots, who nobody has ever met in person and is rumored to be the oldest political force in the Mojave Wasteland. He turns out to be [[spoiler: a shriveled, almost-mummified 261-year-old Howard Hughes {{Expy}} sealed in an iron lung, who dies of multiple viral infections if you so much as open the case he's shut in.]]
** The "Old World Blues" DLC has Dr. Mobius. In his introduction, he comes off as a psychotic MadScientist bent on destroying the Think Tanks with his intelligence-draining Robo-Scorpions. When you finally meet him, [[spoiler:he's a cripplingly senile junkie and a kindly, grandfather-like brain who relies on drugs to gather up the aggression to broadcast said message and whose plans are focused on keeping the Think Tank in Big MT so that they don't the world outside their personal testing facility.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
* Played with in [[http://drmcninja.com/page.php?pageNum=8&issue=7 this]] ''Webcomic/TheAdventuresOfDrMcNinja'' guest comic.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Apparently there's a species of spider that does this--a tiny spider makes an effigy of a giant spider to scare off predators. [[http://www.cracked.com/article_20493_the-5-most-impressively-convoluted-traps-set-by-animals.html]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Western Animation ]]
* Mad Mod in ''WesternAnimation/TeenTitans'' turns out to be a feeble old man running a simulator. The version they were going after was actually a hologram.
** Subverted by Brother Blood, who looks like a frail old man relying on personal charisma and MindControl powers to make himself seem dangerous- and then Cyborg gets into a fistfight with him, and he turns out to be one of the most dangerous hand-to-hand combatants in the show.
* Mr. Big in ''WesternAnimation/RockyAndBullwinkle'' always cast an enormous shadow because of a flashlight he always kept with him, but ended up being one or two inches tall, and can be picked up with two fingers. It is later revealed, in his last appearance, that not only is his shadow effective enough that he can take over the moon with it, he is still strong enough to beat up a full-sized person.
* In an alternative ending of ''WesternAnimation/TheNightmareBeforeChristmas'', Oogie Boogie ended up being [[MadScientist Dr. Finklestein]], who was trying to teach Sally a lesson and was [[GreenEyedMonster jealous]] that she chose Jack over him.
** As it was, Boogie turned out to be ... practically a MindHive collected of thousands of little bugs, who when they were split apart could only squeal "My bugs! My bugs!" over and over.
* In [[WesternAnimation/{{Ben10}} Ben 10: Secret of the Omnitrix]], Ben and company confront the creator of the Omnitrix, a giant alien with a booming voice. It turns out to be a biosuit. Azmuth is tiny.
[[/folder]]

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