Nerd in Evil's Helmet

This villain comes across as really imposing. And he probably (but not necessarily) has real power to back it up. However, he's really nerdy underneath.

He's hiding it, or trying to hide it, behind a tough fašade. So it's a big surprise when he's revealed for the nerd he is. This surprise can come to other characters, the audience or both.

The classical fašade to hide behind is a literal helmet. But it can be something else.

Note that being a nerd does not equal being a wimp. However, the villain might exploit such stereotypes and pull a Wounded Gazelle Gambit or similar after his nerdy side has been revealed, even if he actually is a Badass.

See also Cool Helmet. Contrast Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. Compare and contrast Evil Is Sexy. Can be the same kind of dissonance as Villains Out Shopping.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Major in Hellsing has been described by the mangaka as an "otaku", and he is a stereotypical fat, bespectacled geek. Despite being absolutely obsessed by and in love with war, he's a terrible fighter - at one point he opens fire on a minion who failed at point-blank range with at least five guns attached to his chair... and misses.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Incredibles: Syndrome starts out as a superhero fanboy, then ascends to supervillain after being (sort of) rejected by his idol. Syndrome is more of an inversion — Evil in a Nerds' Helmet. He is clearly a Psychopathic Manchild with a serious Lack of Empathy who even murders children without batting an eyelid, and there is little to indicate that, beneath it all, he was all that much different when he was a kid (eg. he doesn't seem to notice or care when one of his stunts nearly causes a train crash). Most important and scarily, though, Syndrome thinks he is the hero, when he actually just a very, very bad case of Heroism Addict and is willing to kill dozens of heroes and endanger thousands of lives because he is a Glory Hound.
  • Vector from Despicable Me.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Dark Helmet in Spaceballs. The surprise comes to the audience only, since his staff already knew him (and was used to pretending they don't know he's playing with dolls).
  • Ogre in the Revenge of the Nerds series is revealed to be this at the end of the second movie. Then, at the end of the third film, Stan (who led the Jerk Jock fraternity in the first film) does a Face-Heel Turn and reveals that he is a closet nerd, too, dropping the evil scheme he was bullied into trying.

  • In Neil Gaiman's American Gods, the "technology kid" acts tough, and does a lot of things which should be intimidating, but are so clearly rehearsed other characters can see it and find it kind of pitiful.
  • Transformers Cybertron: The textstory "Force of Habit" had Hardtop, top Decepticon sniper, and comic book collector. He collects comics from Earth and other organic planets. While he insists on calling them Graphic Novels, he's quite open about his habits, and quite particular about not letting them get damaged. At the end of the story, all the Cons are marooned on a planet waiting for rescue, Hardtop lets all of the other Decepticons read his comics, but continues to insist that they be careful with them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer season six, the trio desperately tried to be this trope. Sometimes they pulled it off for a little while in the eyes of various characters, but never the audience. Well, Warren came close, insofar as he was the only one who was actually evil, being a genuine Manipulative Bastard who Does Not Like Women and actually kills one of the hero characters whilst putting Buffy in the hospital, even though that earned him a painful death. Though since he Came Back Wrong in the sequel comics, he's even worse than before. Unfortunately for him, he's still a Smug Snake Big Bad Wannabe, and the fact that he's a total bastard makes him far less likeable, but not much scarier.
  • Arcane, revealed to be Clyde Randolph in the Dollhouse episode "The Attic".
  • Luke Rattigan from the Doctor Who episodes "The Sontaran Stratagem" and "The Poison Sky" is a self-proclaimed Teen Genius who considers himself smarter than everyone else... but he's actually just a pathetic douchebag. Until his Heroic Sacrifice, that is.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • General Tarquin in The Order of the Stick. The surprise came to the readers as well as the characters. Despite being a ruthless tyrant and Chessmaster, he's also just as drama-obsessed as his do-gooder, Cloudcuckoolander son Elan. Given the nature of the world they live in, that only makes him more dangerous.
  • Dark Smoke Puncher from The Adventures of Dr. McNinja. After seeing how his parents practically disowned his older brother for pursuing a medical degree, Sean McNinja took on a wannabe-gangsta persona and his current name to hide his intelligence and interest in robotics.
  • Krakow Brings us Kia's father. An intimidating man in a red cloak with glowing red eyes and horns. Under the hood, he's a standard businessman and Bumbling Dad with glasses, and horns.
  • Homestuck: Both Vriska Serket and Eridan Ampora are dedicated FLARPers — though in Alternia, mutually advantageous teammwork in Fatal Live Action Roleplaying leads to the both of them racking up a pretty impressive death count.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The first episodes of Bonkers deal with the Collector, a toon with a creepy mishmash appearance. He collects other toons by sealing them in plastic with a device called "the Laminator". However, when his glove is ripped off, it turns out he has five fingers instead of four, and when his mask comes off afterward, he is fully outed as a geeky-looking human.
  • Played with in an episode of Garfield and Friends has the Masked Mauler, a pro wrestler so bloodthirsty that nobody will wrestle him because he never follows the scripts. When he roped Jon into a match against him, Garfield saved Jon by discovering that the Masked Mauler was allergic to cat hair, making him sneeze so hard that his mask flew off, revealing his "nerdy" face. But he doesn't act like a nerd, so...
  • Dark Vegan on Johnny Test comes off as a parody of this.
  • Elmer Fudd in Whats Opera Doc, wearing a magic helmet instead of his usual hunter cap.
  • An episode of Cow and Chicken had this. The new bully in town turned out to be a wimpy kid in an inflatable suit. (Along with everyone else.)
  • Similar to the Cow and Chicken example, one episode of Johnny Bravo has Johnny accidentally replacing the captain of a Star Trek-esque ship, where he ends up encountering and making an enemy of a hulking, menacing galactic warlord, who facially resembles Carl, and is implied to be some sort of genetic ancestor to said character. When Johnny meets him in battle on a nearby planet, the warlord removes his armor... and is revealed to be just as weak and wimpy as his earthly descendant underneath.
  • Two instances in My Life as a Teenage Robot, in "This Time with Feeling", Jenny battles a knockoff named Himcules voiced by Bruce Campbell who also happened to be a sexist Politically Incorrect Villain that grew stronger from others' pain. After beating the robot to a pulp (because she had installed a robot nerve system that was accidentally switched to feeling excruciating pain), Jenny switches to "tickle" and reduces Himcules to a "90-pound weakling" when Jenny and the town's laughter drain his power. In "Ear No Evil", Jenny (who had enormously large robotic ears installed to impress a group of Rich Bitches but only caused her intense humiliation) battles the "Lancer", a large imposing knight who steals everything in the city. After destroying his armor and weapons, Lancer is revealed to be a tiny elf-like man with ears comically larger than Jenny's.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • Prince Zuko is genuinely good-looking and a true badass, and he's skilled at fighting, giving orders, and anything that doesn't involve casual social interaction. But sit down and have a conversation with the guy and you'll discover his adorkable side pretty quickly.
    • Similarly, his sister Azula is a frighteningly competent Manipulative Bastard, but when she tries to act normal, she fails spectacularly.
  • South Park
  • Xanatos from Gargoyles has shades of this one.
    • Under normal circumstances he's a suave, composed, Affably Evil Magnificent Bastard. When his plans call for him to act like the stereotypical Card-Carrying Villain, however, he'll show a much nerdier side as well. Quoth Xanatos after helping bring the Frankenstein's Monster-esque Coldstone to life.
    Xanatos: "It's alive, ALIVE! You know, I Always Wanted to Say That."
    • The whole reason he's involved in the plot is because he believed a magical story he read in a thousand-year-old book. Of course he's a nerd at heart.
  • Obligatory example from The Simpsons: in "Treehouse of Horror X", the second segment takes this trope to its logical extreme by having Comic Book Guy turn into a literal superhero-comicbook-esque supervillain, The Collector, whose main gimmick is based on collecting people.