Adaptational Badass
Guess the people behind Namco × Capcom didn't dig the original.

"I'm not really into this fighting stuff unless it's in a courtroom. ...Oh, and with words!"
Phoenix Wright, playable fighter in Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3 note 

There are characters in the media who are known, simply put, for being less-than-dangerous. They might even be a Non-Action Guy, or The Chick, or the The Load, or at least a Damsel in Distress. When danger rears its head, the character generally beats feet and lets their tougher friends deal with the problem.

But then, for some unexplainable reason, when the work is being adapted into another type of media, the character is made a bona fide Badass. The reasons for this are myriad. Regardless of the whys, there are three things to consider with such a change:

At its core this causes a significant dissonance with those familiar with the original character. It is not about a change in personality (Martial Pacifist to Blood Knight), method of fighting (defensive Simple Staff to offensive BFS) or battlefield intelligence (Dumb Muscle to Genius Bruiser), but in terms of how relevant they are in a fight. The key is how they are able to navigate through the story. Consider as a result of Power Creep, Power Seep that Superman himself has varied from simply "above human" in strength to near godlike, but he has always been Superman.

As the name suggests, this is based on different interpretations between adaptations. Took a Level in Badass is the same concept except treated as Character Development in the same continuity. When this is done to a real-life person, then it's Historical Badass Upgrade. For a sister trope specializing in female characters, see Xenafication. The inverse of this trope is Adaptational Wimp.

Example subpages:

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    Comic Books 
  • The Mighty Thor:
  • Fables:
    • The talking wolf of Red Riding Hood becomes a reformed half-god terror, Snow White is a master strategist and diplomat, The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a psychotic ally to an Eldritch Abomination, and a kindly woodworker is the puppeteer of a multi-planetary empire. In their case they got hit with the good side of Clap Your Hands If You Believe; because many humans remember and tell their story they get more powerful.
    • Mowgli is an international spy who can fight wolves with his bare hands and win. In this case, though, his awesomeness compared to the original may be mostly due to the fact that we're seeing a grown-up version.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Amy has always been a fairly realistic character for her age. You don't expect her to be badass or whatnot, she's just a girl who's in love with Sonic. In Sonic the Comic however she's quite The Lancer to Sonic. She's far more lethal than any other version of her to date, and sports some Improbable Aiming Skills. Reflected in the games where, while still much more humble and goofy than in the comics, she is a Badass Normal whose Piko Piko Hammer makes her a key powerhouse in certain titles.
    • Antoine D'Coolette of Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog series. In the Sonic SatAM series, he was a Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey who tend to let out a Girly Scream now and then and was pretty much The Load. This changed when issue 46 came out and he ended up dating Cyborg Bunnie Rabbot. By this point, he started growing braver and braver, becoming a competent swordsman, being tough enough to survive over a year in an Alternate Universe, slugging Evil Sonic unknowingly at one point and impressing his dying father enough that he gave his blessings for him and Bunnie to be married. Then he goes and nearly gets killed saving Prince Elias and his family.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW):
    • The short In the Interim... from Issue #4 features Epic battle-damaged, trident-wielding Spike riding Celestia in the middle of the fight against the giant Cockatrice attack. And he ends up saving everyone! A far cry from the Butt Monkey who usually sits out on most of the mane six's adventures. Issue 7 in the main story has this to Spike as well.
    • Issue 8 does this to the citizens of Ponyville. Usually in the show, the best they can do is panic while the mane six deal with whatever problem falls upon Ponyville. With the mane six gone and the Princesses rallying them, however, they're able to keep the Nightmare Forces at bay.
  • While H.P. Lovecraft's original Deep Ones were described as "degenerate fish-frogs" who have trouble moving around on land and are only a threat due to sheer numbers and relationship with bigger eldritch critters, Alan Moore's Neonomicon treats us to a seven-foot armored-skinned man-coelacanth with the physique of a bodybuilder who can pull down wrought iron gates and fight an entire SWAT team to a standstill single-handed.
  • Transformers:
    • The Transformers (IDW):
      • The original Sweeps were just mooks and often ended up as Ineffectual Sympathetic Villains; here, they are still Mooks who go down en masse, but they're a lot more deadly, storming Kimia and killing most of the crew, even tearing one bot apart with their teeth.
      • Wheelie goes from the the robot equivalent of a ten-year-old with a slingshot to a skilled tracker, marksman, and survivalist. (Though this is closer to what his Tech Specs suggested he should have been in the first place, "a barbaric little savage who managed to stay alive by cunning, stealth, and fearlessness")
    • The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers:
      • While Overlord was always powerful, even back in Masterforce, here he's established as one of the most powerful cons period, having brought destruction to countless worlds.
      • Black Shadow, also on the Phase-Sixer list, went from a one-off merc with a silly gimmick in Transformers Victory to a guy with a deathcount rated in the low billions.
    • The Transformers: Robots in Disguise has this with Devastator, who was the biggest con to fall victim to The Worf Effect, even in his debut episode. In this series, he Took a Level in Badass, rampages through the city unopposed, and easily tears Superion in half. In the Dreamwave continuity he couldn't even land a hit on Superion, and only won because of the seekers.
    • Hellbat debuts as one in Drift: Empire of Stone. Originally Hellbat toed the line between Dirty Coward and Butt Monkey, one of his most notable acts being that he engaged in a gunfight, and hid behind a rock begging for his life and shooting randomly until he killed the guy. Now Hellbat's more serious and threatening. Tired of the war, he's been killing Autobots and Decepticons all to power a stone army which he intends to use to kill as many things as he can.
    • Superion get's a dose of this in The Transformers: Combiner Wars along with taking a level in badass. After Devastator tore him apart, he's rebuilt and upgraded by Wheeljack and the Enigma of Combination. He fights Menasor similar to how he did in the cartoon, but there it was one of the few times a Decepticon triumphed over their Autobot counterpart, and Superion needed Omega Supreme to win. Here, Superion demonstrates a number of new tricks and beats Menasor easily.
    • The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye has done this with a few members of the Lost Light crew. Rewind, while still tiny, is a walking database with vast knowledge, Chromedome is a gifted "mnemosurgeon" capable of mind-reading and even mind-control, Skids is a "super learner" who can pick up new skills almost immediately, Brainstorm is so brilliant he can create paradox-proof time travel, and Tailgate has become a mutant "outlier" with super strength. None of them had these abilities in previous depictions.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW): The original cartoon has Bebop and Rocksteady be completely idiotic, ineffective and useless. In this comic they are still a pair of morons, who also happen to be violent murderers (even before they are mutated), strong, and bulletproof. One issue showcases how it took a total of ten fighters with varied skills and weaponry to fight them, and they still couldn't actually defeat the duo, opting instead for slowing them down long enough to make a clean getaway.
  • Willie Lumpkin went from a senior citizen mailman in the main Marvel Universe to a Colonel Badass in Ultimate Fantastic Four.
  • As if Pope Francis isn't considered badass enough, in the The Wizard of Id comic strip seen here, he takes his reputation up a notch.
  • Donald Duck took a level in badass back in the 60's in the Italian Disney comics, when he stumbled upon the suit and equipment of an old-time gentleman thief/vigilante, and used it to create his own secret identity of Paperinik. At first he just used it to get even with Uncle Scrooge and other people who crossed him, but pretty soon he started working as a superhero, keeping the streets of Duckburg safe at night. Then he took another level when he got his own series and was suddenly fighting alien invasions, mad scientists, and major disasters on a regular basis in Paperinik New Adventures.


    Religion and Mythology 
  • Ares from Greek Mythology. Originally, he was portrayed as a bully who could only win against unaided mortals, got his butt kicked by anything supernatural, and was casually dismissed by fellow gods Zeus and Athena. Then the Romans came around and identified him with their god Mars, making him the patron god of Rome, second in importance only to Jupiter (the Roman version of Zeus), an ideal soldier, and an all-around badass. This might make him the Ur-Example. In many modern adaptations, Ares is usually portrayed more in the style of Rome's Mars in order to make him an imposing and threatening character. And since those modern adaptations often have Athena retain Greek role as Always Someone Better to Ares, she has to become even more badass than in the source material in order to keep pace.
  • Satan tends to get upgraded from a fallen angel whose defeat is a given from day one and whose antics on earth are basically a bully picking on the teacher's pets to a full-blown God of Evil only kept from creating Hell on Earth by the forces of light remaining ever vigilant.
  • Heather Dale's version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The song that was originally about Gawain's failure, became a story of how perfect he was.
  • In a way, medieval dragons. Early medieval dragons were typically small to medium monsters that were easily bested by any warriors who came to kill them, even with fire breath and flight. Over time, however, dragons became huge, monstrous killing machines (and borderline Animalistic Abominations) that rampaged through villages, terrorized, kidnapped and devoured people and took extremely powerful heroes to subdue them. Averted with most other dragon myths, like the ones in Asia and Ancient Greece, which were powerful creatures from the start.

  • Within Temptation has a song called "A Gothic Christmas" which uses this for laughs. Santa starts wearing black and slays dragons while Rudolph changes his name to "Ragnagord" and becomes an Evil Overlord.


    Web Original 

  • In 2007, the CGSociety (for Creative Digital Artists) held a contest to create images and pieces using Greg Bear's book Eon as a reference point. The winning trailer was titled "Worlds Within Worlds". In it, the frant breaks a soldier's neck. In the book, frants are actually rather peaceful (they're useful due to their Hive Mind), and there's no danger at the moment in the book that the trailer portrays.

Alternative Title(s): Badass By Adaptation, Took A Level In Badass By Adaptation