When a character is primarily a Nerd (or possibly Geek), but still manages to pull off feats of Action Heroism, then they are a Nerd Action Hero. Sometimes this is the result of Character Development, where the character starts out as a Nerd but over time develops heroic skills. In other cases the character is a Hidden Badass. Sometimes a Nerd Action Hero may be paired with an Action Girl, and aforementioned Character Development may occur as a result of their interaction. There is an overlap with Badass Bookworm, but many of those are Badass first and bookworm only as a bonus. There can also be an overlap with Science Hero, but a Nerd Action Hero tends to do more ordinary Action Hero things (shooting, fighting, jumping, etc.) when the action starts. For characters who generally take Guile Hero or The Smart Guy roles to the point where viewers might even forget they're devastatingly effective at getting physical, they might have Minored In Ass Kicking.
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- Yomiko Readman of Read or Die.
- Throughout the Haruhi Suzumiya series, due to all the strange things that happen to Kyon, he develops into this. However, after a while, he leaves things to Yuki. After the Disappearance (Vanishment) movie, though, Kyon has the ability to bargain with aliens that have godlike powers.
- Ishida Uryuu from Bleach.
- Izuku Midoriya from My Hero Academia.
- The main protagonist in The Librarian starts out as an overage student who doesn't know when it's time to stop accumulating degrees and get a job instead—quite nerdy. Then he gets a job which requires him to be the hero.
- Indiana Jones would probably appear as this to one of his students or neighbors, as college professor = nerd, but since we in the audience mostly get to see him in the field he probably doesn't qualify.
- His father, though, is a more traditional archaeologist and not suited for the antics that Indiana finds himself in. He still manages a few brilliant feats.
- Milo Thatch in Atlantis The Lost Empire starts out as an out-and-out nerd, but mans up and leads the final assault on the bad guys.
- All the main characters from The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu qualify, but top marks must go to Paul, who leads the bad guys away to save the two remaining heroes, gets knocked out, backflips out a window, and then runs across the desert with two broken arms, before asking for some dynamite be shoved down his pants so he doesn't feel left out.
- In Broken Arrow (1996) Terry attacks one of Deakins's henchmen who she assumes is just a computer nerd, but finds out the hard way that he's a former Navy SEAL. Not enough is revealed about him to put him firmly in either this or the Badass Bookworm camp.
- Neal Stephenson is fond of these:
- Cryptonomicon: Randy Waterhouse spends most of the book as a pretty ordinary computer programmer, even though the fact that much of his company's business is in the Philippines brings some travel. At the end however, he gets thrown in prison for a while, develops some Badass, and comes out as a fully-capable action hero just in time for the Final Battle.
- Snow Crash: Hiro Protagonist is a programmer who in real life is pretty close to broke (after having failed his pizza delivery job) and lives in a self-storage facility, although he also own a pretty large chunk of prime real-estate in cyberspace (think IP address block) on account of having been one of the guys who created it. As it happens, he is also the greatest swordfighter in the world (though he mostly gets to demonstrate it in cyberspace) and turns out to be good at other acts of Action Heroism as well.
- Zodiac: Sangamon Taylor is an analytical chemist who spends most of his time (most of the words in the book, anyway) looking for traces of compounds with covalent chlorine (and other toxins), and talking to people about these issues. He also engages in a lot of spy-like activities (covert intelligence gathering, sabotage, misdirection, etc.) before the action gets really hot.
- Professor William Race of Temple by Matthew Reilly definitely qualifies.
- Although in his own narration, Harry Dresden portrays himself as a hardboiled detective, narration from his friends in side stories reveals he's really more this trope. Karrin Murphy in particular makes note of how things like his height can be either "awkward" or "imposing" and his pop-culture knowledge can come off as clever quips or like a fact-checking nerd. She figures that being the kid who grew too tall before he got coordination is what made him such a stalwart defender of the weak: he's a Bully Hunter at heart.
- Sourcery has Nijel, a weedy kid who's taking a Correspondence Course in heroism (of the barbarian variety) and ends up being pretty good at it. Good enough to run off with Conina, daughter of the Disc's most famous hero.
Live Action TV
- Chuck is a textbook example. Complete with Action Girl girlfriend.
- Daniel Jackson of Stargate SG-1 eventually developed into this.
- As did Rodney McKay of Stargate Atlantis, who started out ejecting the clip from his gun while attempting to fire it to carrying and effectively wielding a P-90 and acting just as physically competent as Sheppard, the Lt. Colonel team leader.
- Harry Sullivan of Doctor Who is mostly an awkwardly old-fashioned ex-public school medical doctor, although with a military past. He is, however, mostly useful in his stories when he and the Doctor sneak up on two aliens and punch them in the back of the neck, and other such feats. (He was originally supposed to be a Badass Bookworm to compliment a frail and elderly Doctor but Tom Baker was unexpectedly cast instead, and Cast Speciation forced Harry into focusing primarily on his old-fashioned doctor traits while still providing backup for the Doctor in action scenes.)
- Scott Wolter of America Unearthed fame is often described as a "real-life Indiana Jones", he's a Forensic Geologist investigating archeological mysteries.
- Wesley's character development across Angel tracks his development from pure book nerd to wannabe badass to actual badass...who is still happiest when buried in books.
- Ernie Eaglebeak of The Spellcasting Series. He's got an atomic dragon and a sea monster on his tally, plus, you know, saving the world a few times.
- Filia from Skullgirls.
- Gordon Freeman from the Half-Life series. He's a theoretical physicist who, in the course of an experiment, accidentally opens a portal through which aliens start pouring out, devastating the laboratory he's stuck in. He quickly becomes an Action Survivor, fighting his way through the aliens and the human military sent there as a cover-up operation.
- John from Homestuck is quite the geek through and through (mostly about terrible movies, but also generally) and is generally something of The Fool, but as the comic evolves, he manages some pretty damn badass stuff.
- The Angry Video Game Nerd may be a stereotypical geek, but when he has to deal with entities that threaten his life, he sure knows how to use a light gun.
- Jericho of the Whateley Universe is Black and Nerdy. He's an inventor at Whateley Academy. He's working on power armor designed to help firemen and emergency medical technicians in combat areas. But he's also on a training team with Eldritch, Diamondback and Razorback. This training team is widely felt to be the scariest team on campus.