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Fake Ultimate Hero
Everyone can blow up mountains. But it takes a Badass Normal to keep the press at bay.

"In the half-dozen years since my arrival, I'd been temporarily seconded to units assigned, among other things, to assault fixed positions, clear out a space hulk, and run recon deep behind enemy lines. And every time I'd made it back alive, due in no small part to my natural talent for diving for cover and waiting for the noise to stop, the general staff had patted me on the head, given me another commendation, and tried to find an even more inventive way of getting me killed."

A character touted as a brave and mighty warrior, despite it being complete hogwash. The best this character can manage is to be the Unknown Rival, although the viewers are totally aware it's no contest, and oftentimes, he has Feet of Clay.

Sometimes this character is just duplicitous, but is allowed to claim the title to keep the Masquerade going for the greater good. Sometimes, he's simply in the right place at the right time. Sometimes, rumor ran away with scraps of information, and his efforts to correct it lead only to a reputation for modesty.

An All-Loving Hero, of course, has no problem with them taking the credit, though the Naďve Newcomer may be shocked to find him not everything the legend says he is.

The false attribution can occur on-stage, with the Fake Ultimate Hero getting credit for what has happened, generally over the actual character who did it, or off-stage, where the characters learn the truth (often the hard way) but the true heroes of those incidents are not characters.

The "false hero" who tries to claim the reward of the hero is a stock character of the Fairy Tale. After the Engagement Challenge, he shows up with the dragon's head or threatens the princess until she agrees to support his claim. A frequent problem for him is that while he has the heads, the hero cut their tongues out first. Others steal what he won on his quest. (Not all false heroes are the Fake Ultimate Hero, though, such as Cinderella's stepsisters.)

A recently popular variant seems to be to have this individual as a semi-sympathetic protagonist who will usually acknowledge himself that he's not all he's made out to be. Sometimes, however, their actions will make you wonder if they're just putting themselves down a little too much... And sometimes they'll even end up becoming a Real Ultimate Hero, though not always in the conventional way.

Compare Glory Hound, Accidental Hero. Not to be confused with Decoy Protagonist. Miles Gloriosus is when this guy has absolutely nothing to back his stories up. Engineered Heroism is when someone tries to be this guy by causing the disasters in the first place. Subtrope of Paper Tiger.

May overlap with Nominal Hero if the character's intentions aren't heroic either.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Mr. Satan ("Hercule") from Dragon Ball Z holds this honor and is shown in the image at the top of this page. He is frequently credited as stronger than any other professional fighter, although this usually does not bother any of the main characters despite their world-saving ventures being unrecognized. However, a few characters are not above blackmailing him about the secret... Of course, he is the strongest normal human who doesn't know how to use ki when he first appears, and the good guys in fact would rather stay out of the spot-light, so it suits them just fine. When push comes to shove however, Mr. Satan is actually a rather decent and kind-hearted man who genuinely cares about people and wants to help them. He at least has the heart of a hero, if nothing else.
    • This is actually exploited in the fight against Kid Buu, where he manages to use his Fake Ultimate Hero status to convince practically every human on Earth to contribute their energy to a Combined Energy Attack, pretty much saving the universe by doing so. Sometimes PR and the ability to work a crowd can come in handy.
    • Even before that, he risked his life by running through a field of ki attacks to get #16's head to Gohan, which precipitated his ascension to SSJ2 and had managed to rehabilitate Fat Buu, an act which got Piccolo to declare that he was worthy of the title of Earth's champion. Granted, the latter didn't stick, but it was incredibly impressive nonetheless, and Fat Buu's intervention is the only reason that Goku got the time needed to charge up his Genki Dama.
    • Plus after Kid Buu was finally defeated, Mr Satan managed to keep Fat Buu, who stayed loyal to Mr. Satan thereafter. That's right, Mr. Satan controls the fourth strongest character in the franchise.
    • He surpasses the feat in Dragon Ball GT, where he convinces most of the world's population that the planet is going to blow up and that everyone needs to evacuate to another one. Pan notes that her Grandpa Satan could be a great hero if he'd just stop lying.
    • It is made quite clear that he is a genuinely talented martial artist (he won the Tenkaichi Budokai fairly in the years Goku and company did not attend), and does have a level of strength that is genuinely superhuman; he just happens to live in a universe where even the mid-level Mooks can punch mountains apart.
    • Weirdly enough, Mr. Satan is one of the very few characters on the show to have not died once. The whole planet is blown up by Buu, but he is spared because he befriended Buu in a previous incarnation and apparently he still has a soft spot for him. It also helped that Goku was closer to him than his own family when he got the hell out of dodge, too.
  • In Bleach there's the TV personality Don Kanonji, a self-proclaimed exorcist. While he can see ghosts and has some degree of spiritual powers (being roughly on par with Ichigo when they met), he doesn't really know how to deal with them. (In fact in his first appearance it actually causes an incredibly self-centered ghost to become a Hollow.) Forms a group of junior-varsity "superheroes" to protect the protagonist's hometown when they leave. Naturally, it's the kids who do all the work. Unlike some, he is more likable in that he states that he does his actions in part to be an inspiring role model for children (hence standing his ground against the Hollow and even freeing a trapped Ichigo), and genuinely wants to make the world a better place.
    • There is also the fact that he stands up to Aizen, who is in his second to most recent form, realizing how powerful Aizen is, in order to protect Tatsuki and Michiru. He even tries to thwack Aizen with his staff.
    • Another case is new antagonist Tsukishima, where due to his Fullbring abilities, he manipulated Chad and Orihime's memories so that they believe that he was the one who rescued Rukia and defeated Aizen instead of Ichigo.
  • Sena Kobayakawa, the so called Eyeshield 21, the "Ultimate Ace Runningback of Notre Dame Academy...." Well, he's surprisingly good at his position, and it can creep the enemy out, so it's fine.
    • A better example is Haruto Sakuraba, a mediocre receiver who is hailed as the ace of Ojou (the second best school in Tokyo) due to his good looks, and modeling contract. During the match with Deimon, Sena accidently injures Sakuraba forcing Sakuraba to question his path in life. He eventually shaves his hair, bulks up, and becomes one of the best wide receivers in the country due to his height.
    • There's also Kiminari Harao of the Taiyou Sphinx, a mediocre quarterback who would flounder if not constantly protected by the mammoth Pyramid Line, yet who has no problem getting all the glory for his team's success.
    • Not to mention the fact that the Devil Bats freakishly small team means that most of the players are on the field all the time, regardless of their speciality.
  • Recently in One Piece, Buggy the Clown has become a Fake Ultimate Villain after the revelation of facts about his past make all the lower level members of the group he's with idolize him, while everyone else wonders how he could be so weak and cowardly when he was a member of Gold Roger's crew. He uses this to his advantange and quells a potential mutiny against Luffy, Jinbei, Crocodile and Mr. 1 and rallies them to fight with them at Marine HQ while he will be the one to kill Whitebeard in the war. Naturally, they cheer in excitement. He manages to accidentally create such an image for himself that he becomes one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea over the course of the time-skip.
    • Cover stories reveal that Usopp has gained this status in Skypeia, having a theme park "Rubber Band Land" named due to his tall tales with a statue of him not unlike the one of the Shandians national hero at the entrance.
    • Double Subverted with Usopp in the Dressrosa arc. He and Robin are kidnapped by the Tontatta tribe, and he tells them that he's a descendant of their legendary hero, Montblanc Noland. The dwarfs subsequently have him lead a very daring mission to liberate the country by knocking out Sugar, a Devil Fruit user who was singlehandedly responsible for keeping the country in the hands of the Big Bad. The dwarves are caught and horribly defeated, and Robin falls prey to Sugar's powers. Usopp, meanwhile, tries to run away, while the dwarfs call out for him, maintaining their faith in their "hero" even as Sugar and her bodyguard Trébol, one of the Big Bad's three top henchmen, tell them that he wasn't their hero, and start kicking them while they're down. THAT is what makes Usopp decide to return, to tell them that the henchmen were telling the truth, and he reveals who he really is. But then he reveals that they had changed his mind; dying a noble death was much cooler than living as a coward, which is why he begins to fight.
      • Double Subverted AGAIN a short while after that. Usopp, being cheered on silently by the cursed toys and audibly by the Tontatta, loses horribly to Trebol, and is force-fed the pill that the Tontatta planned to use to knock her unconscious. But when that happens, Usopp makes a face so horrifying that Sugar passes out from fear…which has the same result that the Tontatta hoped for. And with Sugar's power broken, all of the ones that she had cursed, many of whom are very powerful fighters, revert back to normal and hail a horribly injured Usopp as their savior. So, double subverted again: he stands up for them, loses easily and horribly, but still succeeds, making himself their real Ultimate Hero.
      • And then Doflamingo gives him the highest bounty in his "death game," referring to him as "God" Usoland.
  • Almost every single episode of Detective Conan (Case Closed in English) features this, as Conan's deductions are revealed in the voice of the unconscious Kogoro Mouri (Richard Moore), building the man's reputation as a detective (despite the fact that Mouri is a mediocre detective at best).
    • Well, if you WANT to get technical, Mouri/Moore DOES eventually gain some competence in the detective field in later seasons, as he's later shown able to piece much of the case together but cannot solve it due to lacking hard evidence. Conan's crime solving, mainly comes from hunches and correct guesses regarding suspects, whereas Moore's method involves mostly evidence and little to no Gut.
    • He's quite skilled at Judo and displays almost a frightening level of skill as a detective when the life of his daughter and/or Conan hangs in the balance. He at least has the potential to be a real hero, if he weren't such a slacker most of the time.
    • Sonoko Suzuki/Serena Sebastian also gets a bit of this treatment as well due to the fact that she's the most common person Conan knocks out and solves cases through when Kogoro/Richard is unavailable. As a result she's come to be thought of as a Genius Ditz in spite of the fact that she doesn't even have a fraction of Kogoro/Richard's deductive skills, let alone Conan's.
  • In Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro, Yako pretends to be a genius child prodigy detective in order to draw peoples attention away from Neuro, who acts as her assistant but is actually the one solving the crimes.
    • She however possesses an incredible amount of empathy (something a demon totally lacks), and the more the story goes on, the more They Fight Crime together.
  • In So Ra No Wo To, Klaus is a simple courier who has been promoted to Major simply because of time served. However, he shares a name and looks similar to the legendary tankman Desert Wolf Klaus, so Kureha, upon meeting him, thought he was that legendary hero, and was so enthusiastic about that no one had the heart to tell her the truth. She does find out eventually, but doesn't mind since in the meantime he has become an actual hero by saving her from drowing in a river.
  • The protagonist of Mx0 Taiga is this to his school. They think that he has greatest magic power that anyone can get and defeated the strongest teacher. The reality is he has no magic at all just brawling, quick thinking, really good at talking people down, tough as nails, and he will never give up. He still is at an extreme disadvantage in any fight so his first "strategies" are to hide, run, or let/trick his friends into fighting for him. He does get Anti-Magic a little bit into the story line, but he is never as powerful or as competent as his friends, rivals, and fellow students believe him to be.
  • Haruka from Minami-ke was once known as a legendary banchou. We see in a flashback that she was called such by classmates who thought it sounded cool, and it quickly snowballed to containing stories of her badassery, and by that point Haruka's friends said that it was too much trouble to correct people when they ask about the legendary banchou, Haruka Minami. Although we get hints from that very same flashback that at least half of those rumors are actually true, added to her... heavy-handed ways of dealing with certain problems, one has to wonder if there is some truth to the legend.
  • Kitano, from Angel Densetsu is a Fake Ultimate Villain but a Real Hero too. Unfortunately his in-universe bad PR makes him an hero only to a very few people, or to Delinquents.
  • Mr. Legend from Tiger & Bunny was a legitimate hero for most of his career, but became a Fake Ultimate Hero when he started losing his powers. The network staged crimes and disasters for Mr. Legend to foil since he was their most popular Hero.
  • Windaria Played straight in the original version and inverted in the re-scripted version. In the re-scripted version Alan is called a hero and a savior for rebuilding Windaria, and he is responsible for it, but Alan himself never saw himself as such because of his guilt.
  • In Ubel Blatt, all of the Seven Heroes are fake heroes. A few of them have started to believe their own lies too. Ironically, the only one who feels guilty about this and tries to be a Reasonable Authority Figure to atone for it is the guy who came up with the scheme in the first place.
  • Cowboy Bebop has one-shot character Cowboy Andy who has apparently built himself up a certifiable reputation as a famed bounty hunter despite the Bebop crew having never heard of him before, and in Spike's case particularly gets on his nerves due to most of the other characters noting how similar they are. The difference is while he does have all of Spike's recklessness, he has absolutely none of the skills or intuition to back it up. He repeatedly mistakes other people for the terrorist everyone is hunting for in the episode including Spike twice, and near the end of the episode when said terrorist manages to trap both him and Spike, Andy immediately cracks under the pressure while Spike manages to keep his cool and look for a way out.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX had a fake ultimate villain in Abidos the Third. Abidos was an ancient pharaoh known as a legendary, unbeatable duelist. The bad guys resurrect him and send him against the heroes. The heroes are scared, but Judai bravely faces him. Judai quickly gains the upper hand and points out that while Abidos has some skill and some powerful cards, he's rather underwhelming. Abidos thinks it over and is mortified to realize that he was only undefeated because everybody always threw their matches, fearing he would punish them if he lost. They continue the duel and Judai ultimately wins. Abidos is happy that he finally had a duel against someone fighting for real and departs peacefully to the afterlife.
  • Played with Kamina in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. While really a passionate hero who wants to liberate humanity, they flat out admit that they weren't able to accomplish anything without Simon and in the end, died way before the final battle. However, it was thanks to their courage and belief that the heroes prevailed in the end and Kamina was that inspirational for the heroes even beyond his death.

    Comic Books 
  • The British anthology comic Victor gave us Cadman - The Front-line Coward; most of the stuff he was famous for was actually done by his aide, Tom Smith, the only one who knew his true self. Cadman threatens Tom to keep him from revealing this.
  • The DC Comics character Booster Gold originally played this straight. His origin story is of a disgraced football player from the future who steals a flight ring and a super suit from a museum, then travels back to the modern day with a reprogrammed tour guide robot full of old news data about disasters and the like. Though he does prove himself to be a true hero early in his career, later writers end up portraying him as a self-serving, fame-obsessed laughingstock that all of the big name heroes (save for Wonder Woman and Superman) treat like crap, even when he does stuff like facing Doomsday by himself, in order to buy Superman and his fellow JLA time to regroup.
    • The current Booster Gold series takes this to a new extreme, as far as Booster being forced to throw away any and all chances of becoming a well-respected hero in order to be Rip Hunter's personal slave/super-hero, leading the guy into full-fledge Butt Monkey territory, with elements of Mildred Pierce tossed in as far as Rip revealing to Booster that Booster must forever be known as a coward and a loser of a hero, so that his son (Rip) can reap the full credit and fame of of all of Booster's work protecting the time stream. This on top of Rip purposely lying to Booster about "fixing" past tragedies, like saving Blue Beetle's life and preventing the Joker from crippling Batgirl. It doesn't, of course.
      • The worst part is that Rip actually has good reasons for making sure Booster's reputation remains in the mud. If time traveling villains realized that Booster was actually competent they would kill him in his crib. Rip is able to avoid this because his true identity as Booster's future son is a closely guarded secret.
  • The self-praising braggart Volstagg, of the Warriors Three from Marvel Comics. For a time, his cowardice was his best weapon. The tree he was hiding in would break, dropping his not-inconsiderable bulk onto a roaming bad guy. Or the room he 'recons' (hides in) holds the Infinity+1 Sword needed to send the demon back home. Turned upside down in that he becomes a regular hero. Canon that he was 'Home Alone' in the city of Asgard and pretty much kicked an invading army out all by himself.
  • Mariah Antillarea from The Amory Wars may count, she was thought to be "The Messiah" the true Messiah is Claudio
  • Arcadio, from Groo The Wanderer.
  • In a Transformers Animated comic, has a Glory Hound superhero called The Wraith, a super hero in Detroit. Who merely uses holograms to scare villains to submission, but when the Autobots accidentally exposed his secret, his popularity quickly declines. He then resorted to framing Bumblebee to be a hero again, but winds up being caught by the Autobots.
  • The Marvel Family once had to deal with an old man named Dudley, who took on the moniker 'Uncle Marvel'- he wasn't anyone's uncle, nor was given powers by Shazam, but the kids liked him so much that they played along with his act. When asked to actually use his supposed powers, Dudley would claim that his 'Shazambago' was acting up as an excuse for not demonstrating. In spite of that, Dudley did defeat Black Adam, tricking him into saying "Shazam" by purposely mispronouncing it. ("It's pronounced SHAZAM, you idiot!")
  • A 2-part Darkwing Duck comic that was run in the Disney Adventures magazine featured Darkwing being shown up by a new team of super-heroes. However, their leader (Mr. Wonderful, a Mr. Fantastic Captain Ersatz) was in league with Darkwing's arch-enemy Steelbeak and the rest of his team were Unwitting Pawns who weren't as powerful as they initially believed.

     Fairy Tales 
  • In "The Two Brothers", after the huntsman kills the dragon, marshall cuts his head off while he sleeps. His Talking Animals restore him, and when he goes to the city with the animals, the princess identifies him, and since he has the tongues of the dragon, he can prove the marshall a liar.
  • In "The Three Dogs", the hero killed the dragon and promised to return within a year to marry the princess, but a coachman made her promise to say that he had killed the dragon. The hero proved himself with his dogs and the teeth of the dragon.
  • In "The Merchant", the hero, killing the dragon, had to throw the heads far apart to keep them from rejoining the body, but a peasant collected them and claimed to have killed the dragon. The princess recognizes his dog, and he can produce the tongues to prove his claim.
  • In "The Golden Bird", after the youngest prince found the Golden Bird, the Golden Horse, and the maiden from the Golden Castle on The Quest, his envious brothers shove him down a well, steal these things, and present them to their father. The maiden promised not to tell, but the fox saves the prince, and when he comes to the castle, all three of them cheer up, alerting his father to the truth.
  • In "The Brown Bear of the Green Glen", the brothers set on the hero and leave him for dead, stealing the magical water he had brought back and giving it to their father. When the princess from the land he had gotten it from comes, she can identify who actually got it.
  • In "The Water of Life", after the youngest prince got the water of life, his brothers steal it and replace it with salt water. The king believes that they saved him and the youngest son tried to kill him, and so he tries to have the youngest murdered. However, when people come seeking the hero, the king realizes that it was the youngest; fortunately, the servant he ordered to do it had disobeyed.

    Fanfiction 
  • In Make a Wish Harry, who was traveling under a disguise and the name "Mr. Black," acquired a reputation as some kind of badass super-Auror/an ex-Dark Lord working toward redemption/the Grim Reaper due to a string of lucky coincidences (lucky for him, unlucky for the Death Eaters and other assorted bad guys), being in the right place at the right time, severely misinterpreted offhand comments and the occasional incidence of honest heroism - such as rescuing a friend from Egyptian bandits or fighting (and killing, albeit accidentally) Fenrir Greyback. When he finally found out about his alias' grossly inflated reputation Fred and George considered the whole mess as "pranking the world."
  • The Misadventures of Darius Davion star the eponymous hero and cousin of Hanse Davion, well known as exemplar of the Federated Suns military. Except of course that he's nothing of the kind: he's just very good at covering up his cowardice, womanizing and treachery. Amongst the feats attributed to him by the fanfiction are: convincing Yorinaga Kurita that he was too pathetic to soil his sword with; accidentally smothering First Prince Ian Davion, starting the foodfight at Hanse Davion and Melissa Steiner's wedding and possibly fathering Sun-Tzu Liao.
  • Sasuke Uchiha, HERO OF KONOHA is a very deliberate re-write of Naruto in imitation of the Ciaphas Cain novels, with an older Haruno Sakura providing editorial commentary on the memoirs of the titular Sasuke Uchiha.
  • Kyoshi Rising; While in Omashu, the title character encounters a man who claims to be the Avatar. Kyoshi, the real Avatar, objects to his claims, and the two fight a duel over who is right. Kyoshi trashes him without breaking a sweat.

    Films — Animated 
  • Used in Balto by the villain. Steel, a literal glory hound, goes on in the movie's first half about how he'll get a bunch of medicine to save all the children... only to get lost in a blizzard, then rescued by the real hero. Steel goes back to try to take all the glory, but only one character doesn't fall for it. Steel then tries to kill the half-wolf, not caring in the slightest how many lives the medicine will save if he can't take the credit. At the end, Balto arrives in triumph and all the dogs realize what a foul liar Steele is.
  • The animated film Shark Tale is about a fish who is hailed as a "shark slayer" (the film's original title) after the shark chasing him is killed by a wayward anchor and he takes all the credit.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • "The Guy", from the third part of Spy Kids. He doesn't even last five minutes.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes deconstruction Without A Clue, Holmes himself is this. It turns out that Holmes doesn't really exist, he's just an actor hired by Watson to play the part of Holmes, which Watson made up because he felt that the character would sell better than if he simply wrote about himself solving the crimes.
  • In the 1999 movie Ravenous, Lt. Boyd is promoted to Captain after his actions during a battle during the Mexican American War. He managed to take a Mexican stronghold single-handedly, by surprise... because he froze with fear and played dead as the rest of his troop died around him, and his supposedly dead body was piled with the rest of the corpses inside the fort after the battle. His superior officer was very aware of this fact, and states that he should be executed for dereliction of duty and desertion, but it would be bad for morale if a "war hero" were to be executed. They instead promote him but assign him to the worst post in the military, the dysfunctional Fort Spencer. (Not a spoiler - it's the first scene of the movie.)
  • There's a level of this in The Gods Must Be Crazy, where the confident tour guide tries to take credit for the clumsy hero's actions.
  • Senator Stoddard (portrayed by Jimmy Stewart) as the title character in the John Ford classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. He didn't.
  • In Mystery Men, Captain Amazing really is a strong fighter with an arsenal of impressive technology, but he's such a Glory Hound that he conspires to release a dangerous supervillain just so he can fight him and get the press to sing his praises again. It doesn't quite work out though...
  • In Hero, Andy Garcia plays a Nice Guy who gives a ride (in the car he calls home) to a total Jerkass played by Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman leaves Garcia with a story - about a plane crashing in front of his car, reluctantly rescuing a bunch of people and losing half of a very nice pair of shoes - and the other shoe. Hoffman winds up in jail, and Garcia winds up with the credit. He finally becomes wracked with guilt because of all the undeserved adulation, and ultimately resolves to confess in a suicide note before leaping to his death. Hoffman risks his life to blackmail Garcia into tearing up the note, going back inside, accepting the credit, and keeping up all the "do-gooder" stuff, which Hoffman realizes is Garcia's natural role in life, in contrast with Hoffman's card-carrying Jerkass.
    • Hoffman does reveal the truth to his son, who believes him. And so does Hoffman's ex-wife, who tells their son it is typical of his father to come through when it really matters if at no other time.
  • Marshal Zane Cooper in Maverick. As it turns out, he's not even a real Marshal. He's just bluffing about his supposed "legendary reputation", on the assumption that no one will want to look stupid by calling him on it.
  • The Waterboy: Red Beaulieu's success as a college football coach is due to his stealing Coach Klein's playbook years ago to pass off as his own.
  • In Never Cry Werewolf, Loren calls on Redd, a celebrity big game hunter, to help deal with a werewolf problem, but he reveals he's really just an actor and a coward. While Loren is disappointed and proves to be the more competent werewolf hunter, Redd eventually decides to do the right thing and manages to help out.
  • Ace Hanlon in The Quick and the Dead, whose claims would make him the greatest gunslinger in the west. Herod correctly identifies him as nothing but "a bladder full of hot air", which he proceeds to puncture. With lead.

    Literature 
  • The Discworld series
    • This happens to cowardly non-magical wizard Rincewind in Interesting Times, due to exaggerated tales of his deeds told by his sidekick from previous adventures, Twoflower (while Rincewind did perform many of the "heroic" deeds attributed to him, they attribute to him a much higher level of competence and ability than he actually had, and neglect to mention the fact he was scared out of his gourd the whole time, and mostly got by on luck alone). Like Ciaphas Cain, Rincewind is horrified by the attention, because his admirers quickly expect him to perform incredibly dangerous deeds to save their country.

      In the same book, his contemporaries at the Unseen University have a much more realistic idea of Rincewind's disposition, but he ends up being chosen as the man for the job anyway for two reasons: First, the word "Wizzard" on his hat is spelled the right way (compared to other solutions they were seeking for the riddle of the identity of the "Great Wizzard"), and second, Ridcully finds the common thread in Rincewind's experiences, i.e. none of it ever actually kills him.
    • Also in Discworld, Sergeant Jack Jackrum makes it clear that almost all of the heroics that the higher-ranking officers in the Borogravian Army are known for are actually his exploits, shirking the credit because he likes being exactly where he is. Even more complicated by the fact that all of the said officers are women, including Jackrum him(her?)self, disguised as men. They all believed they were alone in their charade, leading to the rather embarrassing climax where she outs all of them in front of each other.
    • And in The Wee Free Men, the Baron's son Roland gets the credit for rescuing Tiffany Aching from The Fair Folk, when of course it was the other way around. He's very embarrassed and apologetic about this, it's just that no one will believe some cheesemaking peasant had to rescue a noble no matter what he says.
  • Dragaera: Vlad Taltos manages to come across as a hero, despite the fact that he gets dragged kicking and screaming into most every one of his adventures
  • Harry Potter:
    • Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, who never does the amazing things he is credited for but takes credit for them by using the only magic he is good at: erasing memories.
    • Harry sees himself a bit like this, because the incident that made him famous was actually his mother's doing and everything else he has been able to do he attributes to luck (though Hermione points out that he's the best in their year at Defense Against the Dark Arts, which he is). Unfortunately, in the same book many people think that he is mad because he is saying Voldemort is back.
  • Lancelot in Bernard Cornwell's The Warlord Chronicles series is a total coward, and ultimately a villain, whose heroic reputation is the result of his hiring minstrels and bards to sing songs about his heroism, smoothly taking the credit for the work of others. These lies even survive his Karmic Death.
  • Nimrod Pennyroyal in the Mortal Engines series rewrote the story recounted in Predators Gold, placing himself as the hero. In this way very similar to Lockhart. His lies were eventually uncovered, so that in The Darkling Plain when he really did do something worthy of recognition, and wrote a factual account, no-one was willing to publish his book.
  • Harry Flashman practically defines this trope (indeed, was the primary influence on Commissar Cain, among others).
  • Invoked in John Moore's Slay and Rescue when a fellow accuses professional hero Prince Charming of doing as Cornwell's Lancelot does. Subverted because a) by this point in the story, the reader knows Charming is a genuine Badass, and b) he proves it by asking the other guy to shoot an apple off Charming's head, William-Tell-style.
    The eyes caught a flash of lamplight on steel, the memory retained a blurred impression of fluidly shifting muscles, and Prince Charming's sword neatly cleaved the speeding bolt in midair, the two halves of the wooden arrow separating and piercing the apple a quarter inch apart.
  • In Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures novels, the protagonist Skeeve is one of these. It's less by design and more because the rumors of the genuinely impressive things he was involved in tend to leave out a) the other people who were there b) the fact that there was a lot more con artistry than vast magical power involved.
  • Fernand Mondego a/k/a the Count de Morcerf in The Count of Monte Cristo. Practically everything he values — his wife, his military commission, his vast fortune, his title — he earned by screwing someone else over.
  • David Gemmell based most of his stories around this trope and it's inversion. Many of his protagonists become legendary figures despite that they did not actually do the heroic deeds they are credited with or if they did those actions, they were for the wrong reasons. Others are truly heroic but are never credited because of politics, racism or because of their past history.
    • In Morningstar Jace Mace is a thief and a conman. When he robs some tax collectors, he tells them that they were robbed by Morningstar (to buy himself time to get out of the country). The story spreads and he is considered a rebel leader fighting the occupying army. As the story progresses he keeps playing the role in order to survive and slowly becomes the person in the legend. In the end due to some magical time travel he assumes the identity of the other legendary figure in the nation's history (ie he is both King Arthur and Robin Hood)
    • Subverted in the person of Druss since he is in fact exactly what the legends about him say and more.
  • Comrade Ogilvy in George Orwell's 1984. Supposedly he sacrificed his life for Oceania but, in fact, he never existed and was only invented by the main character Winston Smith.
  • In Keith Laumer's Retief stories, Jame Retief has been the true hero behind numerous Fake Ultimate Heroes. Many of the stories begin with a historical passage written by the Diplomatic Corps about the Diplomatic Corps about how some important diplomat, by following the honored traditions of the Corps, was able to achieve some major diplomatic accomplishment. In truth, every single one of these accomplishments was really pulled off by Retief in his position as a junior assistant to said diplomat by ignoring standard diplomatic protocol in favor of doing something that might actually work. The people who officially got the credit generally either caused the problem, made it worse, or did nothing of substance.
  • A Mark Twain short story, Luck is about a priest in Britain who, out of pity, took aside and instructed the weakest trainee in the military. The priest never expected him to actually get accepted into the military, except he did, because a test of asking him questions (noted to be hard questions) he was given questions that were easy or ones the priest specifically gave him the answer to. Afterward, he continued to climb through the ranks of the military using 100% blind luck, such as getting lost and blindly leading his troop over a hill and just happening to find a camping French troop and attacking them off-guard. By the time of the story's present, he is extremely well-respected and high-ranking in the military despite every one of his achievements being done through nothing but luck.
  • This is the central theme of The Lost Fleet series. John "Black Jack" Geary was a Commander in the Alliance Fleet who just happened to be present at an ambush by the Syndicate Worlds. He stays behind to allow the rest of the fleet to escape, and then jumps into an escape pod as his ship is blowing up around him. A malfunction causes his pod to lay undiscovered for 100 years. He awakes to discover that the war he saw the beginning of is still raging, and he's lauded as the greatest hero in the history of the Alliance. Geary spends a lot of time in the books trying to convince people that he's not the hero they think he is.
  • Zig-Zagged with Warhammer 40,000's Commissar Ciaphas Cain. He's known as the HERO OF THE IMPERIUM, but in his memoirs (the novels are framed as such), he points out that in reality he only acts heroic for the masses and spends most of his time making things comfortable and as safe as possible for himself or fleeing in terror and mostly saves the day by pure accident. His In-Universe editor — one of the people who actually saw through his acting — points out that he is a skilled and inspirational leader and also brave when he has to, although blessed with the good/bad luck of being constantly thrown into bad situations (and his inflated reputation means he often has to go into the Jaws of Hell to maintain his reputation). The author even admits to not knowing whether Cain is really a cowardly scoundrel or just doesn't give himself enough credit, but suspects it's a bit of both.
  • E. T. A. Hoffmann's "Little Zaches, Great Zinnober" is all this trope. An ugly, short and stupid boy s given a gift by a thoughtless fairy, making everything good and wise done in his presence being attributed to him. Also, everyone else has to suffer being accused of his numerous blunders.

     Live Action TV  
  • Kind of used in season five of Angel. Although it is clear to the audience he is fake, Lindsey, calling himself Doyle, representing himself to Spike as a servant of the Powers That Be. Although this is just a manipulation, Spike does see himself as a hero and does help the helpless in this way.
    • Another take on this trope with season five is Spike the Fake Hero in the Shanshu prophecy. Inside the show, Spike has an equal chance of being the real subject of the prophecy, but seriously, the show is called Angel.
      • Then again, that makes Spike more disposable and thus perhaps a better candidate to get the "reward" of becoming human.
  • Monk:
    • In "Mr. Monk and the Daredevil," the neurotic Harold Krenshaw appears to be the daredevil "Frisco Fly". Monk finds that his cousin Joey dropped Harold into the role after the real Frisco Fly died in a car accident that Joey stumbled on. Joey stole the gear, burned the car to destroy the evidence, then knocked Harold out at a parking garage, dragged him up to the roof of a 24 story building, and left him to slip and fall to his death (which failed as Harold hit an awning to break his fall). Afterwards, Joey makes a second attempt by taking Harold to the hospital roof, marching him across the landing pad at gunpoint, and is about to push him to his death when Monk and Natalie show up and stop him.
    • In "Mr. Monk and the Other Detective", the completely incompetent private eye Marty Eels is suddenly better than Monk at solving a jewelry store robbery and double homicide. Monk finds out that Marty's mother overheard the culprits' conversation and told him all the important details so he could get the credit for solving the crime.
  • Lucius Lavin from Stargate Atlantis set himself up as the hero on a backward planet through the clever use of a personal shield in the aptly-named episode "Irresponsible". He went to the extreme of employing "attackers" so that he could save the village from them. Despite the fact that the Atlantis team had ample reason to just shoot him on sight, they let him go again. Most of the audience doesn't quite understand why.
  • This is the entire premise of the Remington Steele series.
  • Black Adder had a rare example of a Fake Ultimate Hero who really was brave and dashing and always won. Lord Flashheart (who appeared as an Elizabethan swashbuckler in season 2 and a dashing flying ace in season 4) was handsome, bold, admired by all, adored by the ladies, and laughed in the face of danger. He was also an arrogant prat who boasted constantly, lied, sucked up to his superiors, patronised his admirers, and treated women as sex objects. And the only reason he always won was because he was an underhanded bastard who cheated and played dirty.
  • One early story arc in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine featured Li Nalas, the greatest hero of the Bajoran resistance. He had chased down Gul Zarale, an infamous Cardassian war criminal, and then killed him, inspiring Bajoran rebels all across the world with his bravery. His return was expected to unite Bajor under him. Only it's a massive exaggeration. Li Nalas was scouting when he accidentally fell into a lake some Cardassian was bathing in, and shot him in his underwear before the man could get his own gun. Only afterward did he realize it was the Cardassian War Criminal Gul Zarale, and the story spread and got slightly changed as it went on until it didn't remotely resemble what he actually did. Li Nalas hated that he was regarded as a hero and considered himself a massive fake, to the point that when he dies quite heroically his last words are to express relief at being "off the hook" for needing to live up to his supposedly undeserved reputation.
  • Joxer from Xena: Warrior Princess was this to a T. He bragged and paraded around as if he were the king of all he could see until the Monster of the Week showed up, at which time he ran away like a little girl and let Lucy Lawless do her thing.
    • Joxer had his moments. Especially sacrificing his life to give Xena and Gabrielle some precious time to save the day after they came back from the dead.
  • Robin Hood on Maid Marian and Her Merry Men was mistaken for being the leader of the merry men, even though it was Marian.

    Tabletop Games 

    Theater 

     Video Games  
  • Massimo from Mega Man X: Command Mission is someone who wound up in this position unintentionally when he took over the armor and position of the original Steel Massimo after he was captured by the Rebellion Army. He develops into a true hero and inheritor to the name over the course of the game. Fittingly, the name of the chapter he joins is called "The Paper Hero".
  • Captain Qwark from the Ratchet & Clank video games fits this trope perfectly. Beloved as a hero by all the galaxy and initially idolized by Ratchet, Qwark turns out to be a selfish, cowardly, self-promoting Jerk Ass who switches loyalties (or plays both sides) whenever it's convenient. Despite all of this, he remains a mostly sympathetic character due to his sheer incompetence.
    • And his Big Damn Heroes moment in the third game.
    • This has changed in later iterations though. He actually helps in A Crack in Time... though that doesn't stop him trying to take all Ratchet's credit. He becomes a playable character in All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault, turning him into a true hero in his own right.
  • Sir Daniel Fortesque in MediEvil. He spends most of the game taking guff from the heroes in the Hall of Heroes and the gargoyles about how he talked his reputation up, only to die instantly when the real war started. It was his second-in-command who actually carried on and achieved the victory.
  • Wild ARMs 5 has Nightburn, the hardest Bad Ass to walk the Earth Filgaia. Except he's a propaganda tool of the bad guys, and never did any of the stuff he's famous for.
  • In Tak and the Power of Juju, everyone thinks Lok is the mighty warrior from the Pupanunu's prophecy, and you go through the first part of the game trying to rescue him. As it turns out, Tak is the one destined to take out the Big Bad.
    • Mostly because Tak fulfills the signs the prophecy says will mark the chosen hero because it's the only way he can revive Lok. Some prophecies would settle for a simple unlikely hero, rather than full irony.
  • In the Soviet campaign of Command & Conquer Red Alert 2 the character General Vladimir is a womanizing slob who is touted to be a great "Hero of the Soviet Union" and is constantly given all the credit for your character's successes whenever you and he work together during a campaign. Ironically he catches on to the fact that the Evil Chancellor Yuri wants to kill the Premier and take over the Soviet Union long before you do. You kill him on Yuri's orders, but then discover he was right and revolt against Yuri yourself.
    • General Krukov of Red Alert 3 is similar, giving the player a lot of crap while taking credit for any of your successes. When he works with the Allies he arrives late and with limited reinforcements, stating that you should have done all the work yourself by the time he arrived.
    • The (in)famous Soviet sniper Natasha is the stuff of legend—literally—to the point where there's considerable debate over her very existence. The fact that she exists as a trainable unit only serves to increase the probability that "Natasha" is more than one woman.
  • Every Paper Mario game seems to have one of these. The original had the stereotypically British, pith helmet-wearing explorer Kolorado, who insisted that it was he who led Mario onto his multiple discoveries, not the other way around. The Thousand-Year Door had the stereotypically Spanish, feather hat-wearing Flavio, a prissy millionaire who told stories of his own bravery while constantly proving himself to be a coward. Super Paper Mario has Flint Cragley, the host of a nature documentary who portrays himself as the ultimate macho-man on his show, whereas in reality he depends on his camera crew (and, inevitably, on Mario) to get him out of even the smallest scrape.
    • Thousand-Year Door also has Rawk Hawk, the champion of the Glitz Pit. He trash-talks Mario, cheats in your championship bout against him, attributes Mario's victory to luck, and... is defeated by Bowser, who is himself pretty much a Joke Character in this game, in one attack.
      • Rawk Hawk is a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass though; he's the chapter's penultimate boss and pulls some mean tricks, most notably jumping to the ceiling, out of the reach of most attacks. (He'd be considered a heel wrestler, if one were to use real-life terms to describe him.) Furthermore, he's the toughest single enemy you'll have faced to that point (even your previous opponent, the Koopinator, who has a higher defense and a spiked helmet, has a significant and easily exploitable weakness).
    • In Thousand-Year Door the player can encounter Luigi as an NPC in Rogueport between collecting Crystal Stars numerous times throughout the game, and each time he'll tell Mario long rambling stories about adventures he's been on while Mario's been on his, which often sound eerily similar to Mario's adventures. Talking to whatever partner he has at the time will usually reveal that Luigi is either greatly exaggerating his exploits or sometimes making the whole thing up.
  • In Chrono Trigger, a young boy named Tata finds the Hero Medal and is hailed as hero. He eventually outs himself and gives it to your party, admitting that he had just picked it up off the ground and just ran with being called a hero, though later in a New Game+ you can have an ending where Tata storms Magus' castle, only to face...Chrono, Lucca, and Marle, who laugh at him.
  • Pierre from Chrono Cross is a cowardly weakling who insists that he's really the ultimate hero. While nobody takes him seriously on this claim, he is the only person who can equip the Hero's Blade, the Hero's Shield, or the Hero Medal, which hints that there's a lot more to him than meets the eye.
  • Copy-X from Mega Man Zero thinks himself a better hero than both the original and Zero. Makes for better satisfaction when the latter beats him, twice.
    Zero: I just remembered something... He was not as naive as you are. That's what made him a hero.
    • And the original X was already pretty naive and trusting. Although that might have changed in 100 years.
    • For the most part, X more or less got that killing everything would only make matters worse. The seventh game shows what being clueless in the other direction looks like.
    • And let us not forget the title character, who is an utterly glorious subversion. A fake? Of sorts, but Zero is still very much the legendary hero and it shows. Weil never figured as much out and paid for it.
  • Final Fantasy gives us Gilgamesh, mightiest swordsman in Ivalice, traverser of many worlds, seeker of Legendary blades, slayer of heroes, insists he knows what he's doing... except he's an incompetent trash-talking buffoon, all his legendary swords are fakes, and he ends up fleeing from the heroes after getting his ass soundly kicked in every game he's been featured in. This was especially evident in Final Fantasy V, when his Big Bad Boss Exdeath was so embarassed by his performance he tosses him into the void.
  • In Disgaea 3, Almaz claims to be a great hero, even though he pretty much just made the title up. This follows him throughout the whole game, as Mao keeps calling him "Fake-Hero".
    • Prior to that in Disgaea2, Axel served as one during his stint as a "Dark Hero"; an actor who participates in various staged acts of evil for the sake of gaining popularity, but ended up losing the job when he refused to play along with the act of abandoning one of his adopted siblings. However, he became so deluded as a result of all the glory he had received that he still typically acts as though he's as awesome of a guy as he was made out to be in all of his subsequent appearances.
  • In World of Warcraft Cataclysm goblin leader is introduced as Trade Prince Maldy but judging by the fact that he's a level 11 elite and a Jerkass who sold his own cartel into slavery, its unlikely he'll still be the leader by the end of the starting zone.
    • In the earlier expansion, Burning Crusade, Illidan managed to get the Fake Ultimate Villain treatment. The game cover, trailer, and most of the in-game quests painted Illidan as the primary threat of the expansion. Ultimately he was beat in the first content patch; the real ultimate villain of the cycle, Kil'jaeden, appeared two patches later.
  • Carmelita Fox in the Sly Cooper games is a competent police officer, however all of her headline making arrests are the result of either Sly Cooper taking the bad guy out first, or Sly and Carmelita teaming up outright.
    • There are two villains (Muggshot and General Tsao) she took out on her own. And while she did have help, she is personally responsible for delivering the final blow to three of the Big Bads in the series.
  • Dragon Quest games revel in this trope. Just about every single one features a total faker that takes all the credit for your party's hard work (Prince Charmles in Dragon Quest VIII, Ragley in Dragon Quest VII, and so forth). Though how their efforts fare differs from game to game.
  • Lars Halford from Brütal Legend is a rare example of a Fake Ultimate Hero who was genuinely heroic, brave and selfless, determined to fight for the good of humanity 'til his last breath. The trouble is, his leadership skills consisted mainly of giving Rousing Speeches and looking good with a sword (not to mention being completely incapable of organizing the logistics of an army). That, of course, is why he needs... a roadie.
  • In Batman: Arkham City Warden Sharpe, who is Axe Crazy and would love to kill all of the inmates has taken credit for the Joker's defeat in the first game, which leads to him being elected as mayor.
  • One of the possible requirements in 100WorldStory's Dragon Slayer board is to find a legendary dragon slayer. Once presented to the king, he may randomly blurt out that he was just pretending to be a hero and run off apologizing, costing you gold and experience!
  • Gordon Freeman of Half-Life is sort-of this trope, as many of the things attributed to his messianic / demonic reputation are either accidents or blatantly false. While true that he can probably make a tank implode by staring at it hard enough, he spends most of his time running away from the people trying to kill him (indeed running and hiding are valuable tactics in many parts of the games). While true that he killed the Nihilanth and freed the Vortigaunts, it was an (epically failed) attempt to reverse the Resonance Cascade and he didn't even know the Vortigaunts were slaves in the first place. While true that he infiltrated and destroyed Nova Prospekt, the former was only possible because a Vortigaunt basically gave him an army of Big Creepy-Crawlies and the latter was due to a Teleporter Accident. And while he destroyed the Citadel, annihilating the Combine base of operations and preventing any chance of reinforcement, that was another accident caused by preventing Breen from escaping.
    • However, this may put him more under Accidental Hero, specially at first; later he takes so many levels in badass...
      • Gordon Freeman doesn't actually take any levels in badass, because the Half Life games don't have any levelling up mechanic. He does get better weapons though.
  • Susano in Ōkami, who outwardly gloried in his reputation as a hero because of his heroic ancestor Nagi — deep down he hated the burden and wanted to prove the legend false. Unfortunately for him, it wasn't, and his girlfriend Kushi nearly paid the price for his cowardice. However, he does ultimately manage to step up...
    • When he actually does start defeating great foes (because Ammy uses the Celestial Brush to cut them down), he eventually realizes what's going on and gets pissed that he's not doing it himself. A rare example of a Fake Ultimate Hero who despises being fake.
  • Johnny Cage from the Mortal Kombat series is a perfect example of a Fake Ultimate Hero. Especially in Mortal Kombat 9; he mocks the other combatants, constantly sings his own praises, and claims he is the one who will win the Mortal Kombat tournament and save Earthrealm. Even the game itself initially sets him up as the main protagonist. He then proceeds to get his ass kicked early on in the story, and becomes nothing more than a background character for the rest of the game, playing second-fiddle to the true hero: Liu Kang (or Raiden, depending on your interpretation of 'true hero').
  • In Dragon Nest, David has, through sheer word of mouth, managed to create a reputation for himself as the greatest hero of all time. He is utterly bombastic at all times, and when you finally meet him he keeps trying to take credit for all the awesome things you do. He even calls himself ULTIMATE HERO DAVID, as a Fake Ultimate Hero is often wont to do. He is no more than an annoyance until he starts spreading negative rumors about the player.
  • Sir Prancelott of Scufflewick from Drakensang. To make him even more annoying is the fact that he totally denies the facts against him and treat you with condiscendence if you point out his flaws (or simply ignores you.)
  • The Thalmor in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. In addition to having a racial superiority complex up to and past Nazi levels, they claim that they are the ones that stopped the Oblivion Crisis (not-so-subtly exiling and discrediting anyone that says different) in order to come to power. They also managed to get two Khajiit vassal states after Tamriel's moons (which the Khajiit hold sacred) temporarily disappear, and when they come back the Thalmor suddenly appear and claim that they brought them back (it's suspected that they themselves made the moons disappear).
  • Pyrrhon in Kid Icarus: Uprising plays this to a T, being a stereotypical superhero type fighting against an alien invasion before he then takes control of the alien mother-computer to become even more powerful.
  • Cole Phelps in L.A. Noire. On the surface he's a distinguished former lieutenant in the marines who earned a Silver Star for services to his country during WWII. In reality he was only an average leader, distrusted by many of his men and got quite a few of them killed through poor decision making, and his Silver Star was 'earned' by cowering during a battle while the rest of his squadmates were wiped out; his Commanding Officer recommended him for a medal because he falsely assumed that his survival was a result of him being a badass.
  • Zachary Hale Comstock of Bioshock Infinite goes so far as to build a "Hall of Heroes" to document his heroics at the Battle of Wounded Knee. Captain Cornelius Slate claims that Comstock wasn't even at the battle and is taking credit for the sacrifices of real soldiers, including the protagonist Booker DeWitt (whom Slate does remember being there). Slate is wrong; Zachary Comstock and Booker DeWitt are revealed to be alternate universe versions of the same person who diverged at a point after 1890, meaning that Comstock was there. The trope is still played straight, though, as Comstock/DeWitt was not the valiant hero that the Hall of Heroes claims him to have been.
  • Iji has Assassin Asha, who may be more of a "Fake Ultimate Villain" but carries the same spirit of this trope. Although he's the leader of the Elite Komato Assassin corps and quite a decent fighter in his own right, he is really full of himself. He loses his second fight with the titular heroine entirely due to his pride and arrogance, and if she skips the second boss battle with him altogether, he becomes the laughing stock of the Assassins and kills himself.
  • A somewhat downplayed version of this trope shows itself in Flynn Schifo, from Tales of Vesperia. While far from incompetent, he does end up getting all of the credit for most of Yuri's actions, which also results in two increases in his rank over the course of the game. Unusually for this trope, he's fully aware of his status as this. He doesn't like it one bit, and it greatly annoys him that Yuri doesn't seem to care that he doesn't get any of the credit he deserves.
  • Metal Gear: Zigzagged with Big Boss. According to Guns of the Patriots, the Patriots actually exaggerated much of his reputation as the world's greatest soldier to cement his status as their icon, though the feats Big Boss pulls off in the prequels, especially Peace Walker, leaves it ambiguous just how much of his reputation is a lie.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • Captain Hammer from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a Jerk Ass variant of this. Sure, he's a genuine Super Hero, but he's also a smug, nasty, patronizing, self-centered Jerk Jock deconstruction of The Cape who is hinted to generally do more damage than his C-list enemies.
    • Also, the eponymous Dr. Horrible can count as a Fake Ultimate Villain at the end when he takes credit for Penny's death to join the Evil League of Evil when it was really an accident caused by the aforementioned Captain Hammer.
  • Mario is like this on The Toad Show, always acting like a hero but honestly a failure. [1]
  • Barry "The Blender" Henderson from I Am Fighter. He even explicitly states in the first episode that "I've only ever actually been in one fight, and unfortunately I was defeated. They say...fighting turns bones into flint. Not me, my bone had to get a fucking metal rod put up it."
    • Subverted in the sixth episode, however, where it turns out he's actually pretty strong. He knocks out a huge, rotund, bearded (and pigtailed) man named "Brutus" with a single punch.
    • Also subverted in that it turns out his ridiculous pressure point techniques - The Nagasaki Shit-Pant the Hiroshima Pain Bomb and the Toyota Boke-Boke - actually work. They just take a while to kick in because his training partner, Ivel Sukuov is Polish, and therefore "a sub-human retard" who "doesn't really have enough brain power to process that pain."

    Western Animation 
  • Force and Shockwave in Iron Man: Armored Adventures, when they aren't actively staging their heroics, take credit they aren't due. In this case, it's not so much narcissism as it is a gambit by Stane to discredit Iron Man.
  • Zapp Brannigan from Futurama shows himself in every appearance to be an arrogant, cowardly, ineffectual philanderer. And yet every time, by the end of the episode, he ends up looking like Earth's greatest hero, usually because of something that the Planet Express crew did and he took credit for.
    • Or worse, he gets good credit for doing utterly horrible things, like defeating kill-bots by sending waves of soldiers until the robots reached their max kill count (which was shown in a deleted scene to be 999,999 each). It wasn't even like he secretly did this or anything. He was openly bragging about it in the first episode we see him in.
      Zapp: Whatever the problem is, rest assured that I will send wave after wave of my men to help you solve it. Right men?!
      Random Guy: You suck!
  • Captain Good, a Cape participant from Yogi's Space Race, is secretly a disguised Phantom Phink (an Expy of Dick Dastardly - IN SPACE).
  • The children's television series Kim Possible has TV extreme-stunt star Adrena Lynn. "How does she do it!?" Answer: she fakes it.
  • The flamboyant Flint from Ōban Star-Racers is the track favourite on his homeworld of Alwas, and, along with his gunner, Marcel, is believed by everyone there to be unbeatable. However, when Molly actually races him, she quickly learns his true secret to success: the judges fix races for him by deploying traps that only affect the challenger. When trying to play fair fails, Molly decides to goad Flint into proving his "skills" by flying into the traps; he promptly crashes.
  • The Boondocks episode "The Legend of Catcher Freeman" reveals through a Rashomon that Catcher Freeman was basically this. He wasn't a mighty Memetic Badass who led a slave rebellion (Robert's version) or a Psychopathic Manchild who was used as a hound to hunt slaves (Ruckus' version). Huey learns from the internet that he was merely a Dirty Coward who decided to stick with the rebels after he accidentally shot his own master/father, who he was about to sell his script to for his freedom. Naturally Robert and Ruckus choose to ignore this.
  • In The Fairly Oddparents special Wishology, Turbo Thunder spends a good deal of the trilogy telling everyone he's The Chosen One. Of course, his actions in Part II prove he's anything but because he slept through when he was needed.
  • Duck Dodgers is this to the Martian Queen, but notably to no one else.
  • Inspector Gadget:
    • Cyborg or no, Inspector Gadget couldn't detective his way out of a paper bag, but Penny just sits back and lets him take all the credit. He's so clueless that he not only doesn't even realize that he's not the hero, he often doesn't even realize who the villain is, if he even notices the villain at all! In the Christmas Special, he failed to notice that "Santa Claus" was actually Dr. Claw, and that he'd rigged Santa's workshop full of deathtraps, which Gadget ALSO failed to notice.
    • Gadget then went on to believe that the REAL Santa Claus, locked in a prison that Gadget also ends up in, was a MAD Agent.
    • Gadget never noticed that Claw was in the area, even when he was in the car right next to him, shaking his fist at him!
  • The Simpsons.
    • Lisa exposes the historical hero Jebediah Springfield as a fiendish pirate, but covers it up because the legend means so much to the people of her town.
    • In "Homer Defined" Homer briefly becomes one when he saves Springfield from a nuclear explosion. People assume he did it by some sort of brilliant technical know-how, when it was really dumb luck. In the end everyone discovers that Homer succeeded despite idiocy, but he is happy because he didn't like being the Fake Ultimate Hero.
  • In Robotech, ep. 68, Colonel Jonathan Wolfe is a legendary war hero who's beloved by all, most recently for keeping a city safe against all odds (In fact, perhaps the only safe place on the planet). In reality, he leads his own men into deathtraps from which (usually) only he survives, in exchange for phlebotinum and safety.
  • An interesting version in Avatar: The Last Airbender. When Zuko returns to the Fire Nation he is held as a hero for killing the Avatar- something which the Fire Nation considers heroic. In reality, his sister Azula let him take credit for this deed just in case the Avatar shows up anyway.
  • Parodied in South Park with Captain Hindsight. Everyone praises him for his "heroic deeds" but he doesn't actually do anything, all he ever does is tell people things what they could've done to prevent disasters.
  • In Recess episode "The Shiner", TJ arrives to school with a black eye from an embarrassing accident. His friends thought he fought bullies which lead to a school-wide gossip thinking he's a hero. TJ is unable to confess until the end of the episode, so he confirms he's a hero.
  • Major Man from The Powerpuff Girls appeared and stole the spotlight from the girls by solving a bunch of problems before the girls could. The end of the episode reveals that he set up all of the problems he fixed. It's revealed when the girls get a Kaiju to "attack" the city, where he admits that he can't solve any problems he didn't set up.
  • The short-lived Disney cartoon The Schnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show used a similar plot for its Pith Possum segment, mixing in Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. The title character gets upstaged by a new hero called Super Water Buffalo, only he was actually a villain using his "heroics" to secretly steal from the people he was "saving". When exposed, Pith proceeds to deliver him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode 'The Man Who Killed Batman', smalltime mob underling Sidney becomes instantly famous in Gotham's underworld when it looks like he fought off Batman and pushed him into a gas explosion, becoming, well, the Man Who Killed Batman. While 'Sid the Squid' enjoys the attention first, it goes south when he has to contend with thugs picking fights because Ass Kicking Equals Authority, and an irate Joker who's upset someone else killed Batman. Even going to Rupert Thorne for help proves no good, as Thorne believes Sidney was "playing dumb" and is trying to take over his operations. In the end, it turns out Batman survived and tailed Sid to collar Rupert. Sid goes to jail for his part in the mob, but finds satisfaction at being hailed as The Man Who Almost Killed Batman and Made a Fool of The Joker.
  • Mal Duncan in Young Justice intentionally invokes this when trying to distract Despero, who had already wiped the floor with his super powered teammates. He succeeds in distracting him long enough for his teammates to rally and take Despero down.
  • Gravity Falls was said to have been founded by classic noble pioneer Nathaniel Northwest. As we learn in "Irrational Treasure", the real founder of Gravity Falls was eccentric former president Quentin Trembley, who found it by falling into the valley on a horse; his existence was erased by the U.S. government who declared Northwest, who was really a "waste shoveling village idiot", the town's founder.
  • Everybody thinks Hong Kong Phooey is the greatest hero who ever lived. Nobody seems to notice that he's an idiot and his sidekick Spot does most of the work.
  • Earthworm Jim combines this with an Infinity+1 Sword to make the Sword Of Righteousness, a centuries-old Living Weapon who claims to be able to make Jim the greatest hero of all time. While he can cut holes in the fabric of time among other powers, it's eventually revealed that nobody who's wielded him has ever actually won a fight.

    Real Life 
  • Jonathan Wild, the celebrated "Thief-Taker General" of 1720s London, who displayed an uncanny knack for finding stolen goods, primarily because his own gang had stolen them in the first place.
  • A common criticism of Tim Tebow (currently of the New York Jets) as quarterback of the Denver Broncos. He managed to get a couple fourth quarter comebacks and a winning streak, including a win against the heavily-favored Pittsburgh Steelers during the playoffs... but his play as a quarterback, specifically his throw, is atrocious. It's caused his critics to claim that his comebacks were only comebacks due to his teammates' help. History seems to be repeating itself, as Jets Nation is clamoring to have Tebow replace floundering starter Mark Sanchez.
    • Possibly Inverted: Everyone who knows anything about American Football knows that he's an awful Quarterback "mechanically" and that he relies heavily on his teammates. That said, regardless of his personal play level, his value as a "Hero" is more often centered on his status as a Determinator, his ability to be a Type III/IV The Leader, and for somehow being able to invoke Miracle Rally.
  • Happened to Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao, at least in the West. During their life they were respected internationally, especially among leftists and third world revolutionaries, as political and economic visionaries. Stalin in particular was praised for defeating the Nazis during World War II. However, after their deaths, new information released portrayed them in a different light, as absolute dictators who amassed an unnecessarily and high death toll (in the tens of millions) to achieve their goals. Despite this, these two still have their supporters in their home countries, who argued that the high death tolls are justified in their end result of bringing stability to their countries previously ravaged by civil war and revolutions.
    • The Kim dyntasty of North Korea; all NK media will portray the Kims as divine beings adored across the world, but pretty much everyone outside the NK, even among their major backers in China, treat them as jokes and a leftover from the Cold War. The only reason that they still exist is because of the fact that they house THE largest military organization on earth, to to mention that an influx of starving refugees from North Korea would have devastating impacts on their richer Southern neighbor.
  • Cyclist Lance Armstrong, who broke a record winning the Tour de France seven times, was exposed as being a complete fraud who used doping through a large network in which several other cyclists were involved.
  • British TV presenter Jimmy Savile was widely praised during his lifetime as a popular TV host and a man who raised millions for charity. One year after his death he was exposed for being a sex offender and child molester. Worst of all, the rumors were known, but those who knew about it remained silent out of fear.
  • Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa were credited as heroes whom saved the sport of professional baseball after the huge strike in the early 90s almost killed the sport in America. By the mid 90s they both posted back-to-back home run hitting seasons, which brought lots of fans back to the ballpark. It later got revealed that both men were using steroids to achieve their dominate home run hitting stats, which lead to the scandal of the so-called 'Steroid Culture' in baseball, that was first revealed by another Fake Ultimate Hero, Jose Canseco, in a tell-all book where he named many players that would eventually get caught. Since then, many so called baseball heroes have been exposed as steroid cheats and fell from grace, with only a few of them being Karma Houdini's.
  • There are many professional boxers whom seem like they were unstoppable and had many fans on the bandwagon, until they faced a true challenger for the first time and got exposed as either ordinary or completely amateurish. Perhaps the biggest example of this was with the boxing career of Naseem 'The Prince' Hamed. Hamed became the hero of European boxing in the 90s with his extravagant entrances before fights and knockout victories afterwards. Given that he was a featherweight fighter with seemingly dangerous punching power also added to his fame since featherweights weren't known to have power. He became undisputed champion of the featherweight division, which was mostly filled with average to bad boxers at the time, but his string of multiple knockout victories and title defenses added to his fame, landing him big endorsement deals in Europe which made him richer than most famous boxers. However, it all came to an end when he faced his first true challenger in Marco Antonio Barrera who was a celebrated world class boxer in the lightweight division; and a boxer Hamed had been calling out for years. When the fight finally happened, Barrera exposed Hamed as a fighter who lacked the basic fundamentals of boxing and only got by with weak competition and his punching power. He completely humiliated Hamed by the time the fight was over. Hamed left the sport afterwards never to return. However, he's ultimately a sympathetic example of the Fake Ultimate Hero, as he's still praised to this day for bringing excitement back into the sport of boxing, when it seemed like it was fading away and dying as a sport. And he's still looked at as a boxing legend in many parts of Europe for his innovated ring entrances.


The DreadedFame and Reputation TropesFamous Ancestor
Fairy GodmotherFairy Tale TropesFallen-on-Hard-Times Job
Face of a ThugStock CharactersFarmer's Daughter
Fake RabiesInfauxmation DeskFake Weakness
Face of a ThugPaper TigerBig Bad Wannabe
Empty Piles of ClothingImageSource/Anime & MangaThe Hero Dies

alternative title(s): False Ace
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