Lana Lang in the original DCU continuity wasn't even half as badass as she comes off in Smallville. Even at her best, she was the outspoken Daily Planet Editor who was a vocal supporter of an aged Batman. In Smallville Lana is apparently a kickass martial artist, skilled hacker, and master tactician whose skill could apparently rival that of renowned, albeit younger, Chess Master Lex Luthor, much to his chagrin and respect.
In the comics Lex Luthor's fighting abilities vary, but typically he isn't much of a physical threat (intellectually is another matter) without his warsuit. On Smallville he was a deadly martial artist who once battled Green Arrow to a draw in a Gun Kata duel.
Lionel Luthor, Lex's Abusive Dad, is usually little more than an alcoholic brute. Smallville made him the prototypical Lex, a grandiose Corrupt Corporate Executive and master manipulator, as well as a top-tier Badass Normal. Said one Internet reviewer "even in a show with meteor freaks and aliens, Lionel always managed to feel like the most powerful person in the room."
In A Song of Ice and Fire, Eddard Stark is a capable general, but is not particularly large or strong. Word of God states that Ned is a pretty average fighter and never as good as his bigger, stronger brother was. In the show, the badasses Jaime Lannister and Barristan Selmy both speak very highly of Ned's skills as a fighter. When Ned and Jaime duel, Ned matches the famous swordsman blow for blow and might be getting the better of the exchange before they're interrupted. Littlefinger also calls Ned "an even more impressive specimen" than his late brother Brandon.
In the books, Shae is a shallow prostitute that does little more than sleep with men and tell them what they want to hear. In the TV series she has way more attitude, seems to care genuinely for Tyrion and takes on a protective role over Sansa to the point of threatening another woman that was going to rat on her with a knife. She also carries the same knife while the city is under siege and says that she is ready to use it on any enemy soldier that tries to rape her.
In the books, Ygritte is just another spearwife wildling in terms of her combat abilities. In the show, she's a precision archer who's considered one of the deadliest members of the raiding party.
Ramsay Snow in the books normally hunts down defenseless women with a pack of dogs, and his most impressive martial feat was killing an elderly knight who thought they were allies until he cut off the man's arm. His father notes that he fights like he was chopping meat, with the strong implication that he'd be killed by any skilled opponent. In the show he's shown to relish battle and charges into a fight shirtless against armed and armored ironborn, emerging unharmed.
In the books, Brienne has a very awkward and insecure personality, while in the show she's far more confident and bossy. In the books, she's a skilled swordfighter, but tends to just barely survive her encounters. She's on the losing side of her fight with Loras before she tackles him, and only manages to defeat Jaime because of his emaciated condition. In the show, she defeats both Loras and Jaime rather handily and even defeats Sandor Clegane in both swordfighting and brawling.
In the novels, Stannis Baratheon may not be a slouch, but he prefers to lead as a general instead of at the front like his brother Robert. Not so in the show, where he leads the storm of King's Landing personally.
In the books, Alliser Thorne is never seen fighting and is implied to be a bit of a Small Name, Big Ego. In the show, he takes control of the Wall's defenses during Mance's siege, delivers a Rousing Speech, and fights expertly before receiving a wound and being dragged away by his men.
Daenerys shows complete immunity to heat and flame, unlike in the novels where the pyre was a one-time thing (and even then her hair is burnt off). For instance, when she first mounts Drogon in the books, she's left hairless with burns on her hands.
While still a certifiable badass in the novels, Robb is described as a lesser swordsman (though a better jouster) than Jon and protected by an ample bodyguard including Theon. In the show, Jon and Theon both consider him The Ace and the bodyguard is left mostly implied. His first execution also requires only a single stroke with a longsword instead of several even with a proper axe as in the books.
Arya is a talented archer in the show, whereas in the book she laments that she has no such skill and can't even bend Anguy's longbow.
Jojen claims Bran's ability to enter the mind of another human is Beyond the Impossible in "The Rains of Castamere". In the books, the skinchanger Varamyr not only shows that it's possible (though extremely taboo) but fails in a way that implies Bran only succeeded because his target was simple-minded.
Sam shows notable bravery in "The Watchers on the Wall" by soothing Pyp's jangled nerves and killing a Thenn, whereas in the books he's not present for the battle and (though he has improved) largely remains a timid coward who freezes up at the first sign of danger.
In the books, the Sons of the Harpy are secondary antagonists restricted to nighttime cloak-and-dagger assassination, but the show plays them as primary antagonists capable of overwhelming a cohort of Unsullied in broad daylight using knives with little resistance except from named characters.
In the books, giants stand 10-12 feet high and are more Sasquatch than human, with limited vision and almost no technology. In the show, they're closer to 18 feet, able to stomp human-sized wights flat, and intelligent enough to wear clothes and use complex technology like bows and saddlery.
Jaime manages to defeat a Dornish knight in "Sons of the Harpy" and holds his own against Obara Sand in "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken", while at the equivalent point in the books he continues to get his ass handed to him by a sparring partner who is hardly a gifted swordsman. Of course, in the books he compensates by becoming a badass general and negotiator.
Xaro Xhoan Daxos is an effeminate, melodramatic Non-Action Guy merchant in the books, but a burly man whose first reaction to danger is to reach for his sword in the show.
In the books, Tycho Nestoris is an obliging clerk sent to offer Stannis funding after Cersei arrogantly defaults on the realm's debt. In the show, he appears to be CEO of the entire Iron Bank and throws Stealth Insults in Stannis' face for coming to him as a supplicant.
In a series that typically keeps most characters similar to the originals, Kat from Power Rangers S.P.D. is shown to be a better and more competent fighter than her counterpart in Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger. Unlike her counterpart, Kat does battle a group of mooks unmorphed, and generally is presented a lot more serious and determined. (This even continues into the episode where Swan/Kat gets a one-shot Ranger morph. Perhaps the only differences between the two versions of that episode: Kat fights the Mecha-Mooks unmorphed for quite some time; Swan morphs the moment they appear. Kat gets to do Judgment Time; Swan doesn't.) Also, Ben-G, who had had a beef with sentai Doggie for capturing him earlier, is now a general of the invaders who nearly wiped out Doggie's planet in the backstory, and gets a two-parter as Doggie tries to overcome his Heroic B.S.O.D. and avenge his world.
A minor version with the Fear Cats and Tyzonn in Power Rangers Operation Overdrive (Minor because it's confined to one battle.) While the Fear Cats school the Overdrive Rangers as badly as the Questers did the Boukengers, there's one difference: The Overdrive Rangers have some vehicles in their arsenal the Boukengers don't, and the Questers' power source interferes with the Boukengers' suits so badly they could barely stand, let alone fight, making the Sixth Ranger with the new power source the only one who could fight at all in his debut episode, while this plot point was left out of Power Rangers. This means where the Questers beat up on highly compromised Rangers who could barely stand, the Fear Cats were pounding the daylights out of Rangers who were fighting at 100% potential and breaking out things like flying bikes with laser cannons and the Mini-Mecha that once took out two monsters at once without breaking a sweat. It also means Tyzonn, the Sixth Ranger, must be very powerful, able to take them on singlehandedly and force them to retreat. Of course, Boukenger has the starting five get the upgraded power source and fighting the Questers became much more doable; this was not explained in Power Rangers but it's not unusual in either series - in any superhero series, really - for villains and heroes to be much more powerful when they debut, and the Fear Cats were still pretty tough, so nobody much said "wait a second, these guys were handing them their asses when they first showed up but now they're... handing them their asses a bit less!"
Agatha Cackle and her cronies in The Worst Witch were quite easily defeated by Mildred casting a spell to turn them into snails. In the TV series they manage to outwit her and reach the school, even succeeding in turning Miss Cackle into a frog. They return in the season 1 finale with another plan that comes quite close to succeeding.
Miss Cackle and Miss Hardbroom in the books were merely just the girls' teachers with little mention of their powers. In the TV series they are very powerful witches and demonstrate great power. Miss Cackle is able to freeze Agatha and her cronies effortlessly while Miss Hardbroom is able to stop a powerful magical blizzard that would have covered the entire world.
Elementary: While the Watson of this series is less physically capable than the Watson of the books, being a surgeon rather than an army doctor, her intellectual capabilities are enhanced. In the books, Holmes is the one who brings down Moriarty. In "Heroine", Watson is the one who figures out that Moriarty is in love with Sherlock and launches the plan to capture her.
Done once in a while in the Granada adaptations of Sherlock Holmes. For example, in "The Lady Frances Carfax", Watson chases down and shoots the villain at the climax (in the original the villain got away), and in "The Solitary Cyclist", we get to see Holmes and Woodley's fistfight rather than just hearing Holmes mention it.
Irene Adler just wanted to be left alone with her new husband in the books. Here, she's a dominatrix who pawns Sherlock, knocks him out, makes Moriarty rage and brings the British government, Royal Family and the nation itself to its knees. Almost.
Mary Morstan is a former CIA assassin who kicked ass while being pregnant at the time. Not a smart move to mess with her. Doesn't help that she shot Sherlock.
In the comic, Lori would often fumble with her gun, and Carl saved her on more than one occasion. In the show, she is making headshots at night without panicking.
Maggie Greene went from an emotionally fragile girl from the comic to an emotionally strong and assertive in the show. Not only that, but the series also made her the most competent Action Girl of the group until Michonne joins in season 3. And if you take into account that Michonne is bad with guns, Maggie is still the group's ace female marksman. Not that Maggie is bad at melee either.
Good Eats often painted Louis Pasteur, father of bacteriology, as a heroic historical figure (as his discoveries led to improvements in food safety). One episode, "Milk Made", definitely fits the trope, as it features him taking down a Food Police helicopter with a flamethrower.note Looks like the Food Police got...pasteurized. (YEEAAAAAHHHHHHH!)
In Arrow, this is done to the titular Arrow himself, Oliver Queen, at least in terms of his capabilities in hand-to-hand combat. While Ollie in the comics was never a bad fighter per say, he couldn't hold a candle to the much deadlier hand-to-hand combatants of the DCU (such as Batman or Lady Shiva) and instead relied more on his Trick Arrows and expert marksmenship. In the show, Oliver regularly goes up against expert fighters and, due to a limited number of arrows and lack of tricks, he tends to spend more time during fights smacking people with his fists and bow rather then shooting them. This comes to a head in Season 3 where Ra's Al-Ghul considers him a Worthy Opponent after coming back to life from their first duel and tries to make him his heir before Ollie manages to kill him at the end of the season.
In the comics and most adaptations (such as the Batman: Arkham Series), Victor Zsasz is just a serial killer who relies mainly on ambush tactics and fear, but who's not very tough in a straight fight. In here, he's the most feared mob hitman who can throw down with the best of them.
While the Penguin has always been one of the most formidable villains, he is usually depicted in a comedic manner. This Oswald Cobblepot is substantially more serious and dangerous than most past incarnations, is more willing to kill, and is a Magnificent Bastard to boot.
In both Batman Begins and the story arc "Wrath Child", flashbacks to the night the Waynes died had Gillian Loeb, the corrupt police commissioner from Batman: Year One, as a captain at the time. Here, he's already commissioner.
Every other version of the Batman story has Bruce's parents being simply there to get killed in front of him and instill his hatred of crime. This time, Thomas is revealed to have been well on his way to becoming a crime fighter himself when he was killed, and it's clear that Bruce's transformation into Batman will be built on what he started. This seems to be inspired by the comic's story "Flashpoint", which presented an alternate universe in which Thomas became Batman.
In the Star Trek franchise, the genetically engineered superhuman augments of the late 20th century (as personified by Khan) have gotten increasingly badass in each progressive series (due largely to progressively better special effects budgets). In the original Star Trek Khan "had the strength of five men", but Kirk could still hold his own against him in a fistfight by being a Combat Pragmatist. The young Augments in Enterprise could dodge disruptor bolts, punch Klingons across the room, and even resist stun shots from a phaser. Finally, Khan in Star Trek into Darkness is a One-Man Army who wipes out an entire Klingon platoon pretty much single-handedly while dual-wielding a phaser rifle and what looks like a vehicle-mounted beam weapon, turns the other cheek and lets Kirk beat on him to absolutely no effect, and shrugs off phaser stun shots and even the Vulcan neck pinch.