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->'''Harry:''' You've sort of made up for it tonight. Getting the sword. Finishing off the Horcrux. Saving my life.\\
'''Ron:''' That makes me sound a lot cooler than I was.\\
'''Harry:''' Stuff like that always sounds cooler than it really was. I've been trying to tell you that for years.
-->-- ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheDeathlyHallows''

A Badass On Paper is a character who, despite having honestly accomplished wild achievements and incredible victories, defies high expectations and is instead quite the loser.

As unbelievable as it is, they did actually earn the achievements they're famous for and quite often the viewers actually see them do it.
The question of how they did it can be answered in different ways. It could be [[AccidentalHero luck]], the hero could have specific [[BunnyEarsLawyer talent]] that continuously saves the day or an ability to make his flaws work for him. Often the answer to DudeWheresMyRespect because frankly, achievements or not, these guys just donít seem to deserve it. In short, the character has a '''reputation''' of being a straight badass, but upon meeting the character in person, they're actually a HiddenBadass.

Can be considered a sister trope to WartsAndAll, where the hero is as badass as the stories say but doesn't live up to the pure and virtuous image that people have of them.

Compare with ExpectingSomeoneTaller in which the character is still badass but just doesn't fit the expected image, CrouchingMoronHiddenBadass where the character is mostly a moron but when the time is right to unleash their inner badass, and CowardlyLion where a character is badass in spite of their otherwise cowardly and timid personality.

Contrast with FeetOfClay and MilesGloriosus where the character turns out to be incompetent and was, in fact, lying about most (if not all) of the things that they are famous for.

Not to be confused with the BadassBureaucrat or PaperMaster, both of whom are badasses ''with'' paper.


[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* Jacuzzi Splot from ''LightNovel/{{Baccano}}''. He's the leader of a gang of bootleggers, destroyed 18 Russo Family speakeasies in a single night, survived the Pussyfoot Train incident including fighting unarmed with a single, tiny bomb against someone with a flamethrower, stood up to [[AxCrazy Ladd Russo]], willingly almost fought [[ShowyInvincibleHero Claire]], sacrificed himself to protect someone from being harmed, and has a sword tattoo on his face. He's also a timid shrinking violet who cries all the time, not the least bit physically intimidating, has no special skills, and one of the nicest characters in the entire cast. Even when he's shown robbing a mob-run store, shooting with his tommy-gun left and right he's bawling his eyes out.
* Comedically applied in ''Manga/CromartieHighSchool'' when the guys were trying to decide who was the most badass. (They don't just duke it out- they ''never'' just duke it out.) One of the guys had a reputation based entirely on guys being too scared of him to try him out. (Their 'jury' was out as to whether that was impressive or not by the time the plot moved on). On top of that, the person who was dubbed the school district's number one boss was none other than our LawfulGood pacifist protagonist Kamiyama (though, it was mostly because he was the only one who got the question right in a quiz).
* [[Anime/LegendOfGalacticHeroes Yang Wenli's]] enemies fear him for his legendary martial victories despite overwhelming odds against him, his superiors are so terrified that he could take over the country they often actively ''handicap'' him, and a good deal of his subordinates actually would support him as a dictator - but he's actually one of the [[NiceGuy nicest, least intimidating guys]] you could ever wish to meet - a gentle and humble man with a few [[CharacterTics eccentric habits]], poor combat skills, and absolutely zero aspirations besides early retirement.
* ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'': Shinji Ikari, both in the TV series and in the fandom. It's undeniable he defeated more alien enemies each with the potential to end the world by itself than anyone, risking his life several times in the process. On the other hand, his psychological issues, not to mention the plainly nasty things that happen to him prevent him from getting any respect.
* [[{{Manga/Trigun}} Vash The Stampede]], AKA [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast The Humanoid Typhoon]]. A legendary force of destruction, leaving nothing but rubble in his wake and sporting the world's highest bounty (60 billion double dollars). Then you meet him... a goofy, spiky-haired nitwit, with a great love of donuts. Most of the destruction comes from the many, many, ''many'' people constantly trying to kill him. ''[[BewareTheNiceOnes Most]]'' [[PersonOfMassDestruction of it]]. [[spoiler: That said, much of the act is ObfuscatingStupidity. Piss him off enough, and you learn firsthand where the page picture on GlowingEyesOfDoom came from.]]
* In ''Manga/FairyTail'', Lucy Heartfilia often gets asked about her huge list of achievements (often she takes out much more experienced mages, or ones tailor-made to fight her), but she is a pretty normal girl in person, not an especially great fighter, and has only an average amount of magic. She's even the ButtMonkey of the group, and she often [[HeroicSelfDeprecation denies the more ludicrous claims]] (in her defense, the claims are usually very exaggerated). That said, she ''did'' do a lot of impressive things, not the least of which is gathering 3/4 of the Ecliptic Zodiac to work for her and express personal loyalty (not the same thing).
* Yukiteru Amano of ''Manga/FutureDiary'' is the first to off another diary owner, making him a prime candidate for winning the Survival Game in the eyes of both [[{{God}} Deus ex Machina]] and the other players. He subsequently kills two other diary owners later on ''and'' his Random Diary is one of the most versatile of any of the Future Diaries in-game. Not bad for a CowardlyLion ActionSurvivor who cries TearsOfFear almost OnceAnEpisode. [[spoiler: Later on, he TookALevelInBadass, thus subverting the trope]].
* ''Manga/OnePiece:''
** Monkey D. Luffy is a world-class pirate with a bounty of 500 million berries. His list of feats include defeating three of the powerful pirates known as the Seven Warlords of the Sea, declaring war on the World Government and, in the process, destroying the government base Enies Lobby, punching out a Celestial Dragon, a nobleman whose response to being offended is to sic a Marine admiral on the offender, becoming the first man to ever break ''into'' [[TheAlcatraz Impel Down]] and causing its first ever mass-breakout when, previously, only one other person had gotten out ''ever'', and then entering the War of the Best at Marine HQ and causing havoc on the battlefield. He's also incredibly friendly, cheerful, and, to be quite honest, [[IdiotHero a dumbass]].
** Buggy the Clown is an early villain who admittedly TookALevelInBadass... but not as much as others in-universe ''think'' he took. A lot of his reputation is from being a member of Gold Roger's crew like Shanks, one of the top pirates in the world... where they were both cabin boys. A lot of his power post time skip comes from the fact that he commands a crew of badasses, not that he is one himself, becoing a noticeable aversion to AsskickingEqualsAuthority for the series.
* Mister Satan from ''Anime/DragonBallZ'' has performed the [[FlashStep After Image Technique]], pulled 4 tour buses, and legitimately won the World Martial Arts Tournament many, ''many'' times. While this ''is'' impressive for a human, even the weakest Z fighters are capable of far more, [[OvershadowedByAwesome making him seem like an ant in comparison.]]
* Over the course of ''Manga/MissKobayashisDragonMaid'', Kobayashi has safely handled a weapon that {{Mind Rape}}s anyone that touches it, made a violent dragon her personal servant, talked down beings infinitely more powerful than her, and aced a high ranking mage exam. Despite this, she is a completely ordinary computer programmer with no special abilities or magical power to speak of.

* ''ComicBook/SquirrelGirl''. She's an adorable little brunette who can talk to squirrels. Who has a tail. She's also defeated Dr. Doom ''and'' Iron Man. Summed up in a line from one of the examples on her page: Each new issue answers one question: how many overpowered super villains can Squirrel Girl defeat?
* ''ComicBook/{{Rat-Man}}'' is a superhero whose achievements include defeating [[HeroKiller an apparently invincible robot designed to kill superheroes]], a [[Anime/DragonballZ Goku]] {{Expy}} and [[EldritchAbomination the Shadow]]. He's also too stupid to operate a car's seatbelt.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* ''Fanfic/MassEffectHumanRevolution'''s take on Conrad Verner is this. He's set up an independent mercenary network across the galaxy that the Big Three haven't been able to quash, destroyed the spaceship of a psychotic mercenary, and overcomes an artificially-induced NoWarpingZone so easily he thought it was just a glitch in the FTL drive. And then you actually meet the chump, who in person is no more impressive than his canon self.

* Marlin in ''WesternAnimation/FindingNemo''. He gets through most of his adventures by gumption, desperation, and sheer dumb luck, but [[GossipEvolution as his exploits are recounted over and over]] he starts to sound more and more badass. By the time the stories get to Nemo, his father is a PapaWolf who has battled sharks and fought off jellyfish.
* ''Film/SuicideSquad2016'' assembles a team of criminals for the express purpose of providing a defense against metahumans. Captain Boomerang is chosen for the crew because he's an ordinary man who tangled with a metahuman and lived to tell about it. Impressive? Except, that metahuman was ComicBook/TheFlash, who does not kill, and Boomerang was laid flat in about the time it took him to realize he wasn't alone anymore.

* For a lot of the series, ''Literature/HarryPotter'' views himself as one of these. The event that made him famous happened when he was a baby and when, in ''Order of the Phoenix,'' he gets asked to teach a Defense Against the Dark Arts club, he argues that all his other achievements have been either through luck or from getting a lot of help. He begins to grow out of this in the seventh book, as he is now the one taking the fight to Voldemort, and his previous experiences fighting against the Dark Arts help him realize what has to be done.
** There's also Gilderoy Lockhart, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor in ''[[Literature/HarryPotterAndTheChamberOfSecrets Chamber of Secrets]]''. He's a renowned celebrity, famed for fearlessly facing ferocious foes and other threats and always coming out unscathed, but it's immediately apparent that Lockhart is all talk and no action, which shouldn't be if he actually achieved all those feats. It turns out close to the end that not only is Lockhart not as badass as he seems to be, he's actually a complete fraud: the only skill he really has is [[LaserGuidedAmnesia Memory Charms]], which he's used to find and interview wizards and witches who ''actually'' did those things and then wipe out their memories and claim that he did them himself. His incompetence [[LaserGuidedKarma comes back to bite him]] when he tries to do the same to Harry and Ron but the spell backfires and he loses his own memories.
* Rincewind is the worst wizard the Literature/{{Discworld}} has ever known. His hat is the only thing about him that says "wizzard," and ''that's'' misspelled. With no magic talent to speak of and a survival instinct heightened by his smartness, his usual response to a situation is to run like hell, and he's gotten ''very'' good at running over the years. He's also [[DidYouJustPunchOutCthulhu thrown down]] with [[EldritchAbomination eldritch horrors,]] challenged a [[EnfantTerrible childlike demigod]] with nothing but [[ImprobableWeaponUser a half-brick in a sock,]] and saved the entire Discworld. ''Several times.'' Arguably, he's gotten being the RightManInTheWrongPlace down to a ''science.''
* Literature/CiaphasCain claims that all his achievements were down to luck or the result of him trying to save his own skin ([[HumbleHero if you're willing to take his word for it, of course]]). Make no mistake though, the fact that he's a genuine badass is indisputable. He's fit, very well trained in marksmanship and swordplay, and knows the ins and outs of manipulating people to a T. In the TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}} universe, however, this is basically the [[CrapsackWorld bare minimum of what is required]]. The debate is over his attitude (modest hero or lucky coward) and how much more of a badass he may be. The fact that he likes to point out how he plays the HumbleHero card to improve his in-universe reputation doesn't help.
* While he ''is'' an honest to gods badass, Harry Dresden from ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'' is transformed into the literal [[TheDreaded Dreaded]] for those only reading his rap sheet without knowing the details.
** And don't think he doesn't know it, too. In Turn Coat, he is [[spoiler:ordered to be arrested, and is outnumbered by five hardened wardens as well as three members of the Senior Council, i.e. the strongest wizards in the world]]. When they approach extremely carefully, he realizes:
--->They were dealing with [[FamedInStory something far more dangerous than me]], [[HurtingHero Harry Dresden]], whose battered old Volkswagon was currently in the city impound. They were dealing with the [[TheDarkSide potential dark lord nightmare warlock]] they'd been busy fearing [[ThouShaltNotKill since I turned sixteen]]. They were dealing with the wizard who had faced the [[EvilSorcerer Heirs of Kemmler]] riding a [[CrazyAwesome zombie dinosaur]], and emerged victorious from a fight that had flattened [[MagicKnight Morgan]] and [[FullContactMagic Captain Luccio]] before they had even reached it. They were dealing with the man who had [[RefugeInAudacity dropped a challenge to the entire Senior Council]], and who had then [[GodzillaThreshold actually showed,]] apparently willing to fight - on the shores of an [[EldritchLocation entirely too creepy island]] in the middle of a freshwater sea.
* Much like the Dresden example above, Kvothe in the ''Literature/TheNameOfTheWind'' is badass and does some very impressive things but the legends are even more insane. By the second book, however, he's living up to the legends in truth.
* Lancelot (yes, ''[[Myth/KingArthur that]]'' [[Myth/KingArthur Lancelot]]) from ''Literature/TheWarlordChronicles'' has a major case of this. According to the protagonist, Lancelot is a self-absorbed narcissist whose greatest skill is not showing up until the battle is nearly over, getting a cloak torn or putting a little mud on his face, then paying bards an inordinate amount to spread the tales of his heroics far and wide. This crosses over to full blown FakeUltimateHero by the second book, and then goes into [[spoiler:VillainWithGoodPublicity when he starts actively trying to overthrow Arthur.]] Keep in mind however that Lancelot is the narrator's [[TheRival hated rival]], and the narrator does admit to [[UnreliableNarrator bending the truth of the story on a few occasions]]...
* ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'': Imagine if you will Sam [[TheMagnificent the Slayer]], sworn brother of the Night's Watch, the only living man to have killed an [[TheFairFolk Other]], one of the legendary ice demons that are proof against all known weapons and have the power to raise the dead and command giant spiders among gods know what other dark sorcery. Chances are you just imagined someone distinctly different from fat, bumbling exiled-lordling Samwell Tarly, who really ''did'' kill an Other through a combination of suicidal desperation and lucking into having one of their only known [[KryptoniteFactor weaknesses]] (which was ''not'' known until he lucked into finding it) close at hand.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Seth in the ''Series/DoctorWho'' serial "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS17E5TheHornsOfNimon The Horns of Nimon]]".
-->'''Seth:''' I don't want to be a hero. I've never wanted to be. It's just that I've chanced to be around when things have happened.
** And then, after they've defeated the BigBad and he and his people return to his planet, the Doctor makes this comment:
--->'''Doctor:''' Poor old Seth.
--->'''Romana:''' Poor old Seth?
--->'''Doctor:''' Yes. Well, just imagine the legends Teka's going to build up around him. He'll have to spend the rest of his life trying to live up to them. It's terrible.
* By the fourth season of ''Series/{{Farscape}}'', the crew of Moya have become legendary pirates painted as the unequivocal victors of conflicts they really only barely survived (and in [[DeathIsCheap some]] [[AnyoneCanDie cases]] didn't.)
* Although the protagonist of ''Series/{{Galavant}}'' used to be a [[LivingLegend bona fide badass]], at the start of the show he's spent more than a year in deep depression and doing nothing but DrowningMySorrows, which has left him out of shape and incapable of carrying out heroic deeds as he once did. The first few episodes have several occasions where he essentially coasts by on his old reputation, but after that point, he is forced to start regaining his old form.
* Don Dogoier AKA Gokai Green from Series/KaizokuSentaiGokaiger. Someone who's [[NeckSnap cracked necks]], [[WrestlerInAllOfUs uses wrestling moves untransformed professionally]], and ran into battle while shooting a {{BFG}} doesn't usually [[LovableCoward run away from fights or hide behind whatever he can find.]]
* In the [[Recap/StarTrekDeepSpaceNineS02E01TheHomecoming Season 2 opener]] of Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine, we meet Li Nalas, who is revered all across Bajor as one of the great heroes of the resistance, especially known for a mission where he snuck in and assassinated a particularly cruel Cardassian leader. As it turns out, two of them just happened to run into each other in the woods as the Cardassian leader was taking a bath in a lake - he just walked out of the water in his underwear and Li Nalas shot him. The story [[UrbanLegends kept getting exaggerated]] as it spread.
* ''Series/ElChapulinColorado'' is lauded InUniverse to be a competent hero that, no matter the issue, he can save the day. Only the second part is true, as most of the time he saves the day by complete chance, or because the enemy sees the error of his ways.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''VideoGame/MonkeyIsland'': Guybrush Threepwood Mighty Pirate[[TradeSnark ô]] is probably one of the biggest examples of this. It would take too long to list everything that a guy that looks like a flooring inspector and has only the ability to hold his breath for ten minutes as talent has managed to achieve in the space of five games.
** Gets played with in ''VideoGame/TalesOfMonkeyIsland'' when he meets a fan of his exploits. She starts off as a normal fangirl who, despite to catch him to collect a bounty on him, still asks him to sign a picture of him. When she actually sees him in usual Guybrush trial and error action, she throws the photo away in disgust. However, he slowly regains her respect when he proves that while he may not be a conventional pirate, his ways work.
* Roger Wilco of the ''VideoGame/SpaceQuest'' series is up there with Guybrush Threepwood. A bumbling, lazy, not-particularly competent janitor who only survived the opening shots of the Saurien onslaught in the first game was by sleeping on the job in the closet. Over the course of the games, he saves the planet Xenon, defeats Vorhaul twice, saves Those Two Guys From Andromeda, puts an end to the pukoid threat, and saves countless lives. And yet, if you walked up to him, you'd quickly realize he's still a bumbling, lazy, not-particularly competent janitor.
** Who is prone to [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWbDlRbNpow&feature=relmfu tasting any inanimate object]] (and probably a few animate ones) he can find with his tongue.
-->'''Roger:''' Blegh! That was a bitter section. I don't think I want to lick the road around here anymore!
* In ''VideoGame/DawnOfTheDragons'', the player character is a relatively ordinary person who accomplishes his/her increasingly long list of heroic deeds with a lot of bravery, luck, and help from his/her TrueCompanions. The general populace starts to see him/her as a LivingLegend on par with the expy of ''Hercules'' while the antagonistic dragons come to ''fear'' him/her. His/her closest companions are more realistic but still place him/her in very high regard. Being elevated like this is a little unnerving for the dragonrider.
* {{Inverted|Trope}} by Sans from ''VideoGame/{{Undertale}}''. His description says that he only has [[OneHitPointWonder 1 HP, 1 DEF,]] [[ScratchDamage 1 ATK]] and is the easiest enemy in the entire game. [[spoiler:What the description doesn't tell you is that he's also the WorldsBestWarrior, that his attacks bypass your MercyInvincibility and that he deals 1 HP damage ''per frame'', so that's [[DeathByAThousandCuts 30 HP damage per second]], not counting the stacking [[DamageOverTime Karmic Retribution]] effect he applies with every hit. Sans is also a bona fide CombatPragmatist compared to the other monsters: he will take the first turn away from you, open with [[AlphaStrike his strongest attack]], interrupt his opening monologue mid-sentence to get the drop on you, attack you during ''your turn'', and actually ''dodge'' your attacks. Halfway through his fight, he'll offer you the chance to spare him, and if you take it, well, prepare to '''[[ISurrenderSuckers get]] [[OneHitKill dunked]] [[KarmicDeath on]]'''.]]

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''WebComic/TheInexplicableAdventuresOfBob'' Bob has saved the world or helped save it multiple times. He even got a Medal of Honor once. He works in a little newsstand and gets complaints from his customers for missing work too often.
* ''Webomic/{{Sinfest}}'': Slick and Squigly -- One is a poet who has survived and escaped Hell multiple times as well written at least one poem so good that it makes most woman go weak at the knees. The other is skilled at parkour and is able to achieve flight through narcotics alone. Both deal with beings like God, Satan, Jesus and Buddha on a regular basis... and neither one of them has the respect of anyone in the comic, reader included.
* ''Webcomic/EightBitTheater'': Red Mage is regularly belittled and easily defeated by every villain they face. His plans are laughably bad and he normally ends up inside a monster, facing various horrors. Over the course of the comic, he has [[spoiler: cast every spell in the world simultaneously, killed a dragon from the inside, trapped the Fiend of Fire in a handbag long enough for it to be destroyed, and single-handedly killed the apocalypse-toting Krakenoid after his skeleton was removed. ]]
** Black Mage may also count. He is the universe's chew toy and is the most likely to experience pages of torture with no resistance. It is acknowledged once that he has the apocalyptic power of three wizards, [[spoiler:he took over hell at one point, vaporized the Fiend of Earth, controlled the Temple of Fiends with his mind, drained the evil from five of the vilest creatures ever to exist (including himself), and had the ability to cast a doomsday-triggering spell right from the beginning of the comic. Regardless, he is rarely played up as a badass.]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In ''Series/{{Noob}}'', a long-standing MistakenForBadass situation eventually lead one of the game's worst players to [[spoiler:drive one of the most feared Player Killers off the game]]. The player in question gets no special credit in the first place due to most people knowing he's pretty much TheFool, but the feat is quite the [[AchievementsInIgnorance achievement in ignorance]].
* Pretty much every protagonist from ''LetsPlay/TwitchPlaysPokemon''. Each of them collects all eight badges from their region (16 for the Johto characters and 20 for the fan-made region characters) and defeat the Elite Four and Champion, they all defeat some form of crime syndicate, and some have even traveled to other dimensions and realities. They also get lost inside one-room buildings, black out to weak 'mons and can struggle for hours to pass trivial obstacles.
* Taken all too literally in the case of Jaune Arc in ''WebAnimation/{{RWBY}}'', whose desire to be a Huntsman so that he can live up to his family's tradition of protecting people leads to him apply for Beacon Academy with ''forged'' credentials. In fact, he's never attended ''any'' of the basic Huntsman prep schools, meaning he has no knowledge of anything about how to be a Huntsman. Zigzagged in that he does have a surprising amount of potential and, with some special training from Pyrrha, manages to start catching up with unusual speed. Even though he is unquestionably the weakest member of [[FunWithAcronyms Team JNPR]], he manages to be surprisingly badass as the series goes on.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/XiaolinShowdown'': A villainous example with Jack Spicer. In the span of three seasons he has built countless robotic armies, a time machine, a Shen Gong Wu detector, a shapeshifter, highly impressive AI, is responsible for the release of Wuya thus causing the Wu to start revealing themselves and in the future, without Omi, he would be the ruler of the whole world. Not bad for a guy who lives with his parents. He also had the best track record against the heroes out of anyone who has challenged them, having claimed several victories whereas any other villain is lucky to have one or two.
** It's worth noting that when Jack got a hold of Chase Young's (legendary evil guy, extremely powerful) army of big cats, Omi tried to return them to Chase, primarily because he thought that was better from a tactical perspective. Jack used them to rob the Xiaolin Warriors of their Shen Gong Wu, whereas Chase felt he was too powerful in his own right to need them.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'', Sidney [=Debris=], a gangster wannabe, manages to frustrate Batman's attempts to catch him by being a bumbler. Then, during the tussle, Batman supposedly falls to his death. Within hours, the word's gotten out that he's [[RedBaron "The Man Who Killed The Bat"]]. It's technically true, but the title is loaded language: in truth, it was all based on pure luck. Now, because AsskickingEqualsAuthority, every criminal in Gotham wants to take him out to prove they're tougher. (The Joker wants him dead because [[TheOnlyOneAllowedToDefeatYou he took away his chance to kill Batman.]]) However, through Batman's (offscreen) help, Sidney not only survives, but his legend grows because of the crooks he "beat". The story ends with him going to prison with all sorts of VillainCred: when he arrives in prison he's lauded as The Man Who ''Almost'' Killed the Bat (which is true), and the one who helped make the Joker look foolish (which is again true). It's Batman himself who points this out to make him feel better.