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->''"Perhaps you'll laugh, but I know him better than most, and this is the truth: Littlefinger is one of the most dangerous men in Westeros."''
-->-- '''Varys''', ''Series/GameOfThrones''

Okay, so you have a villain, and, for whatever reason, either because they're {{harmless|Villain}} or {{ineffectual|SympatheticVillain}} or both, you do not take them seriously. You might [[UnknownRival not even think about them]] at all. They might have a lame gimmick, or a weird name, or maybe they just do not stand out among the {{Mooks}}. They are not exactly on your radar. Even if you do remember them, you think they are either a nobody or a total joke.

Then along comes a life changing event (and an editorial decision) when they will just not stand for it anymore. Some of them just... snap. Others put themselves through TrainingFromHell. Either way the villain [[TookALevelInBadass reinvents themselves from the bottom up]], into someone who is not only able to [[TeamRocketWins show the heroes]] exactly why they are called their enemy, but often even become the BigBad or TheManBehindTheMan. This is when a villain decides to become their ''own'' SortingAlgorithmOfEvil, or at least be recognized as more dangerous.

Should they fail to do the former, they will become a BigBadWannabe. Often the result of a DarkerAndEdgier reinvention of a franchise.

These can become [[KnightOfCerebus Knights of Cerebuses]].

Compare DeadSerious, FromNobodyToNightmare, BewareTheSillyOnes. {{Breakout Villain}}s are prone to becoming Not So Harmless. Contrast VillainDecay and BoisterousWeakling. When applied to minor heroes instead of minor villains, it's LetsGetDangerous. See also TeamRocketWins. If it is later revealed that the villain always was that vile and/or dangerous, but the heroes or audience where misled into dismissing or liking them, see BaitTheDog.

Not to be confused with TheNotSoHarmlessPunishment.

Possible inherent spoilers ahoy, so read at your own risk.



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* ''Anime/{{Pokemon}}'': Team Rocket, the bumbling IneffectualSympatheticVillain buffoons who stalked a ten-year-old for 13 years, had an occasional genuinely good plan that is foiled only due to [[{{Determinator}} Ash's sheer determination]], and were [[RedemptionPromotion extremely competent as good guys]]. But in ''Pokemon: Best Wishes'' they are [[TookALevelInBadass taking about a thousand levels in badass]]. Now they take orders from [[BigBad Giovanni]], try not to go after random Pokémon, and if they're "blasting off again" they're escaping using {{Jet Pack}}s. As of the ''XY'' series, they are back to their old bumbling selves, though still retain a more formidable streak compared to early on. During the ''Sun and Moon'' series, Jessie's Mimikyu, in spite of it's diminutive appearance, is seemingly being set up as a rival for ''Pikachu'', with both of their first battles ending in a stalemate. In the episode James catches Mareanie, they go on to ''actually win a battle against Ash fair and square''.
* ''Anime/CodeGeass'':
** Prince Schneizel. He seems very passive early on, and is actively supportive of Euphemia's idea of the Special Administrative Zone in Japan. It's only near the end that we begin to see just how far he'll go to accomplish his goals, and just how little of a conscience he has.
** Nina Einstein has this trope covered pretty well in her own right. Who would've thought that [[spoiler:her handiwork killed more people in about ten seconds than ''any'' of the other characters killed? All series? Put together? Times a hundred? ''At least''?]] Way to earn [[MeaningfulName that last name]]. [[http://insovietbritannia.comoj.com/codegeass/oops.html "Oops"]] doesn't even begin to cover it.
* Goyan from ''Anime/FutariWaPrettyCureSplashStar'' is a fat guy with a pinecone on his head whose main purpose is to be annoyed by the QuirkyMinibossSquad in front of the BigBad. [[spoiler:Then he destroys the world.]]
* Klein from ''Anime/FreshPrettyCure'' is shown to be a little, elderly man serving as a secretary for the BigBad Moebius. [[spoiler:Then he [[ScaledUp transforms into a large humanoid lizard]] with enourmous strength and high speed and is pretty much more powerful than Northa in her monstrous plant form, giving the heroines a hell of an asskicking. And then both of them fuse together to become an even more powerful being]].
* Ogura Bunta of ''Anime/SamuraiChamploo'', who played the lackey to HarmlessVillain and DirtyCoward Nagamitsu to facilitate his search for vengeance against Jin.
* Lithuania in ''Webcomic/AxisPowersHetalia'' is a small country in Europe with a KickTheDog history that resulted in him being seen as the number one [[TheWoobie woobie]] on the show. Then the strip/episodes concerning the Battle of Tannenberg shows that he can [[TookALevelInBadass take a level in badass]] and make even Prussia swallow his ego.
* Etemon from ''Anime/DigimonAdventure'' is a LargeHam showboater with a fondness for rock and roll. (The dub takes this a step further by giving him a voice and speech-style like Music/ElvisPresley.) That said, he's also a Perfect-level[[note]]called "Ultimate-level" in the dub[[/note]] Digimon, leagues more powerful than the previous antagonist Devimon, and before Agumon becomes [=MetalGreymon=], he pounds the heroes silly in each encounter. His debut alone marks him as this type of villain, as he's shown to be a goofy-looking guy capable of destroying an entire village with a single attack while also de-powering the heroes and he has got a network that allows him to observe the entire continent Server. The only reason he never manages to kill the children and their Digimon is because of a series of very bad luck rather than incompetence. He's also one of the few enemies to come back from the dead and [[TookALevelInBadass take a level in badass]] to become [=MetalEtemon=]…all while rocking' it out. And despite the main villain of the Dark Masters' second part is Pinocchimon, it's [=MetalEtemon=] who kills an ally.
* [[LaughablyEvil Archnemon and Mummymon]] are basically the ''Anime/DigimonAdventure02's'' version of [[Anime/{{Pokemon}} Team Rocket's Musashi and Koujirou]], yet they are not as harmless as their goofiness would let on. Since both of them are Perfect-level Digimon, the heroes' Digimon are only able to fight them when they Jogress Evolve, but if they are any level below the duo, both will definitively dominate them. Archnemon is still capable of creating Dark Tower Digimon and is practically the mother of TheJuggernaut [=BlackWarGreymon=] (who she can't control) and it is shown that her mere presence is enough to make Dark Towers prevent Digimon from evolving. They also manage to build Dark Towers across the entire Real World, resulting Digimon to travel to the Real World who are all causing havoc. While that plan is ultimately foiled in the end thanks to a NextTierPowerUp, both of them carry out their boss's other plan and kidnap children in Tokyo while the heroes are busy fighting Digimon outside Japan. When they show up with all those children, Ken is stuck with a SadisticChoice: a) either he stays with his friends and ignores the threats of the two villainous parties, b) he goes with Demon whose minions have shown to be rather unimpressive except for Skullsatamon, or c) go with Archnemon and Mummymon who appear less serious than Demon, but have an established evil history and have actual hostages.
* Impmon was a pest to the ''Anime/DigimonTamers'' cast instead of a villain, throwing fire balls and scaring their Digimon away. No one saw him as anything more than a nuisance. Then he [[spoiler:became Beelzebumon, stabbed an ally to death, and defeated the heroes one after another before losing to Dukemon/Gallantmon (whom he would have beaten had Guardromon not interfered). Eventually, he did a HeelFaceTurn and [[RedemptionPromotion became even more badass]]]].
* ''Franchise/DragonBall'':
** ''Anime/DragonBallGT''.
*** Ryan Xing Long/[[DubNameChange Haze Shenron]] is the weakest of the Shadow Dragons, and is seen as a weak klutz and a loud mouth, plus he can't transform or increase his strength. However, as the fight carried on, Pan and Goku realized that he was still a threat, the pollution he spread was weakening them, making them tire out and easier for him to fight. He then tries to throw them into the polluted lake, hoping to drown them and dissolve their bodies.
*** Qi Xing Long/[[DubNameChange Naturon Shenron]] initially appears to be a clown (a goofy looking giant mole to be exact) who is more interested in digging holes rather than fighting, but it turns out to be a case of ObfuscatingStupidity: as soon as he absorbs Pan, he shows his true colors and starts using Pan's powers to blow up numerous buildings and kill several innocents ForTheEvulz. If he hadn't fallen for Goku's WoundedGazelleGambit in the end, he could very well have won.
** The Red Ribbon Army in the original ''Manga/{{Dragonball}}'', while capable of threatening Goku and his friends on occasion were mostly pushovers even to a young Goku[[labelnote:Note]]the only member they had that was capable of fighting Goku head-on was [[WakeUpCallBoss General Blue]][[/labelnote]] , and absolutely nothing compared to the later threats in both ''Dragon Ball'' and ''Anime/DragonBallZ''. Then along came the Red Ribbon cyborgs/androids in ''DBZ'' who were an order of magnitude more powerful than even Super Saiyans, and who exterminated all but one of the protagonists in an alternate future. Then there is Cell who was also part of the Red Ribbon Cyborg project.
** Sorbet from ''Film/DragonBallZResurrectionF'' after Pilaf rightfully tells Mai and Shu that they shouldn't trust him, they think because he's no bigger than they are they'll be able to take him down easily, he sees through their plan and shoots their weapons out of their hands with his ring, he then tells them not to take him lightly because of his size, later his ring's beam is able to pierce Goku's heart while he is distracted in Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan form.
* [[spoiler:Fuku-chan]] in ''Manga/MermaidMelodyPichiPichiPitch'', also TheManBehindTheMan. To add insult to injury, he's the SmallAnnoyingCreature.
* ''LightNovel/{{Slayers}}'':
** Hellmaster Fibrizo. The first impression of him is just that of a young boy, and a ''little girl'' in the manga. This impression fades quickly upon the revelation that he is one of the most powerful Mazoku Lords, a fact he proves by effortlessly killing the previous BigBad Chaos Dragon Gaav, another Mazoku Lord. He plays merry hell with the protagonists as the rest of the season's BigBad, and they are nearly helpless against him. It takes [[spoiler:a literal DeusExMachina to take him down for good]].
** In season 2 there's an unnamed Mazoku that looks like a giant tribal mask with arms and legs. The only thing Lina can think of is how stupid he looks, and he seems to get quickly dispatched almost immediately after appearing. He comes back later, though, and proves to be a surprisingly tough nut to crack, mostly because he can summon several smaller masks that do an excellent job of protecting him from Lina's magic (doesn't help when Lina decides to Dragon Slave the entire building, though).
* An arc in ''LightNovel/KyouranKazokuNikki'' introduces Gouyokuou. In the episode he is introduced, he seems to be a hilariously FishOutOfWater alien looking for the woman he loves and so weak that Kyoka is able to punch him into the air with ease. Then it's revealed that he is so powerful, if even one of his PowerLimiter rods is removed, he can level a city with no effort. If all of them are removed, it's EarthShatteringKaboom time. The end of the second episode of his arc hints at a darker side of his personality; a StalkerWithACrush willing to use his world destroying powers to get the woman he wants.
* Kyuutarou Ooba from ''Anime/{{Kemonozume}}'' spends most of the show as a harmless if somewhat eccentric bureaucrat before revealing himself as the show's primary antagonist, a criminal mastermind, and a hyper-wealthy, nihilistic psychopath who masturbates with a girl's dismembered arms and markets a medicine that makes people eat each other. He's also revealed to have grafted monster arms onto himself that give his round little body incredible strength, and intentionally mutates himself to the point where he's just a constantly shifting mountain of flesh by the series's final episode - one that delivers monologues on the futility of existence, natch.
* Pesci from ''Manga/JoJosBizarreAdventure Part 5'' starts off as an incredibly weird-looking, cowardly sidekick to the more competent Prosciutto and has a seemingly weak [[FightingSpirit Stand-ability]] as well. Upon Prosciutto's defeat however he suddenly gains new resolve, comes up with [[HeartIsAnAwesomePower lethal new ways to use his Stand]] and ends up becoming one of the most dangerous foes the gang faces during the part.
* ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'':
** Kabuto Yakushi, who comes off as an amiable and somewhat less-than-competent fellow (flunking the Chūnin Exams seven times, no less!). Before long, both his affiliations and his abilities prove far more sinister.
** Tobi. Introduced to be nothing more than comic relief until [[spoiler:he turns out to Madara Uchiha, a legendary DiabolicalMastermind who is insanely resilient, MadeOfAir, and [[{{Teleportation}} can teleport himself and anything he touches to anywhere]],]] with his "good boy" act presumably to [[spoiler:hide the fact that he was the real power behind Akatsuki]]. Even after it's revealed that he's [[spoiler:actually ''Obito'' Uchiha,]] it doesn't keep him from holding his own against [[spoiler:Killer B, Naruto, Kakashi, and Might Guy, four of the strongest ninja in the world, all at the same time until his intangibility's weakness is found out]].
* ''Manga/OnePiece'':
** Foxy the Silver Fox. Foxy's a flashy, fame-hogging, pigheaded fool. He's pudgy, strange looking, and needs his crew to constantly buff his ego or he'll sink into depression. Oh, and he's also got a really powerful Devil Fruit ability that allows him to get the drop on anyone and pound them into oblivion before they know what's hit them. To be more specific about Foxy, his ability slows everything down to the point of almost stopping it in place. Furthermore, whatever hits they recieve while they're slowed down will be delayed until the fruit's effects wear off, causing all those attacks to hit ''all at once''. Thanks to this ability, low blows and cheap shots, he was able to beat the living daylights out of Luffy, and even came close to actually defeating him a few times. Unfortunately for him, he was HoistByHisOwnPetard when Luffy used a mirror shard to reflect his ability back at him.
** Buggy and Mr. 3 found out this the hard way that Impel Down's Vice-Warden Hannyabal is Not So Harmless despite not having a Devil Fruit or the reputation of his fearsome boss, Warden Magellan. The funny thing is he was going to ''allow'' them to get past him so his boss will get in trouble, but they had to go ahead with their [[strike:suicidal]] [[strike:idiotic]] [[strike:somewhat predictable]] otherwise ingenious plan of taking him out, only to face an asskicking for it.
** Gin. When first introduced, the combination of nearly dying of starvation and his still being shell-shocked from his encounter with Hawkeye Mihawk left him seeming rather pathetic. Near the end, we get TheReveal that Gin is actually [[BigBad Don Krieg's]] right hand guy, and he promptly takes down the heavily armored Pearl with one shot and then hands Sanji his ass. Not only that, it's implied that Gin is actually ''stronger'' than Krieg, and is only [[TheDragon second-in-command]] because he's been too loyal to make a move against his boss.
** [[spoiler:The workers of Water 7, including a bartender named Blueno, a stern and hot-tempered secretary named Kalifa, a happy-go lucky shipwright (as well as a possible [[SixthRanger new crew mate]]), and finally the aloof Rob Lucci.]] Too bad all of them were actually undercover agents for a powerful assassination force for the government, proceeded to beat the crap of the Straw Hats and are total BloodKnight fighters.
** Wanze. When Sanji, Usopp, and Franky meet him on the Sea Train, he offers them noodles from his nose, and has an equally wacky face to match. The three heroes immediately proceed to blow him off and try going to the next car to confront the actual Big Bads, only for Wanze to get serious and do everything in his power to stop them. He ''is'' an agent of Cipher Pol after all, and he later shows that most of his various silly expressions and quirks are actually just acts to mislead his opponents. While his main power is still ''making noodles from his nose'', he manages to use it to great effect and even overpowers the strongest of the three, Sanji. Too bad he picked the wrong opponent for a one-on-one fight, as he's ultimately HoistByHisOwnPetard as Sanji is a chef, and him using food as his weapon allows Sanji to use techniques he usually reserves for cooking and not fighting. As Sanji gets the upper hand, Wanze takes his danger progression UpToEleven by throwing a poison knife at Sanji at relatively close range, though he ultimately misses and is defeated.
* Due to the semi-serious nature of its first half, followed by the seriousness of the second half, ''[[Anime/MobileSuitGundamZZ Gundam ZZ]]'' does this to a few people. In the case of Chara, it was mainly her playing the {{Fanservice}} card with that whip. With Mashimar Cero though, the somewhat-bumbling but honorable and idealistic Neo Zeon officer returns as a brutal and cruel officer that oversees a ColonyDrop. In the first half Glemmy Toto is a joke character in a joke squadron led by a joke commander, but by the end he's revealed himself as [[spoiler:a clone of Gihren Zabi, the franchise's original BigBad]], and set himself up as a rival to BigBad Haman Khan, sparking a devastating EnemyCivilWar in the process and unleashing [[SendInTheClones an army of clones]].
* ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'':
** Yammy Llargo, rampaging idiot and Decima Espada zig-zags with this trope. At first it seems he's incredibly weak, [[spoiler:he reveals that he's actually the Cero Espada and technically above ''Starrk''. And he still gets his ass kicked]]. Then he reveals that he's not at full power, and he powers up. [[spoiler:And he still gets his ass kicked.]] Adding insult to injury, [[spoiler:[[BloodKnight Kenpachi]] called their fight "boring"]].
** Dordonii is initially shown as a somewhat eccentric and comedic villain until he reveals to Ichigo that he used to be an Espada and proceeds to beat the shit out of him.
** Apacci, Mila-Rose and Sung-Sun, Harribel's three elite Fracción, count as well. They seemingly do nothing but [[TeethClenchedTeamwork argue with each other, very nearly coming to blows]], which constantly leaves them open for attack. Next thing you know, they use their powers to create a giant chimera named Ayon, which [[CurbStompBattle utterly destroys]] ''four'' Vice-Captain Shinigami. [[BadassGrandpa Captain-Commander Yamamoto-Genryuusai]] himself had to personally get involved in that ordeal.
** Sternritter [[BrilliantButLazy Askin Nakk Le Vaar]] comes across as a cowardly, ineffectual fighter with no real offensive powers when compared to his fellow members of the Wandenreich, yet not only is he chosen to be among Yhwach's [[PraetorianGuard Elite Guard]] when invading the Soul King's Palace, his power is revealed to be one of the [[PoisonousPerson most]] [[AdaptiveAbility broken]] [[NighInvulnerability abilities]] among their numbers. As a result, he manages to catch both Nimaiya of the Zero Squad and Grimmjow off-guard, defeats Ichigo after his most recent TookALevelInBadass, smashes Yoruichi and her brother Yuushirou into paste without mercy, and gets the better of [[TheChessmaster Kisuke Urahara]], {{lampshad|eHanging}}ing that he's been completely underestimated until it was too late.
* Florsheim in ''Manga/TentaiSenshiSunred'' is presented as being an organization of nice guys, average Joes and all around friendly people despite the fact that they're monsters. They constantly lose to Sunred and are seen as nothing more than a joke. When a new villain group steps in, Sunred directs them to [[EvilerThanThou fight Florsheim first]] and they get beaten immediately. There's a reason Florsheim's held their territory for so long.
* [[spoiler:Miyo Takano]] from ''VisualNovel/HigurashiWhenTheyCry''. [[spoiler:Sure, she was awfully suspicious in season 1 and 2 but…Wow.]] However, that person has an [[FreudianExcuse excuse]].
* ''Manga/YuYuHakusho'':
** Shorin appears somewhat unimpressive to his opponents and having power levels only barely above what he needs to pass (although the opponent he defeated in the first round was even weaker). He turns out to be the demon Rando, who killed 99 martial arts masters after [[PowerCopying stealing their techniques]], and Yusuke only realizes this by process of elimination - he keeps up the facade until he manages to [[TheWorfEffect shrink and defeat Kuwabara]] using a technique he stole.
** Zig-zagged with Onji in the Dark Tournament. He sports some moves in Team Uratogi's quarter-final match, but next to his teammates, he looks like a normal, friendly old man. Then he effortlessly beats Kuwabara, and reveals himself to be the one who gave his members their powerful Items of Darkness. [[spoiler:Then he reveals himself as [[VillainousHarlequin "The Beautiful Demon Fighter Suzuki"]]...and [[CurbStompBattle gets thrashed by Genkai]].]]
** Elder Toguro. He is thought to be helpless without his younger brother, until he volunteers to fight in a three-on-one match in the Dark Tournament and wins without so much as a scratch on him. In addition, he could have easily killed Kuwabara had he not chosen to MindRape him first by [[spoiler:revealing that his friends had not told him that Genkai was dead, and then disrespecting her memory]].
* ''Manga/DeathNote'': Although he's frightening to look at, it is easy to underestimate Ryuk. VillainProtagonist Light seems a lot worse, and with his addiction to apples and other humorous qualities, Ryuk tends to come across as PluckyComicRelief and Light's [[TheKidWithTheLeash "pet"]]. Then comes the ending of the series [[spoiler:where Ryuk fulfills his early promise that he will one day write Light's name in his notebook, and casually kills Light, who has just had a pathetic VillainousBreakdown]]. Truly, Light, like the audience, forgot that he was dealing with a ''death god''.
* Toshiya from ''Manga/TheWorldIsMine'' starts out as [[ChaoticEvil Mon's]] weak-willed bitch, even wearing a [[VillainousCrossdresser female disguise]] and pretending to be Mon's girlfriend in public. Things begin to change after they're [[spoiler killed by "Hakumadon"]] and Mon can't stand to kill. In addition to becoming the primary murderer of the two, he's also considerably more tech- and social-savvy than WildChild Mon and he becomes increasingly vicious and [[ManipulativeBastard manipulative]] as the story goes on.
* Kurotowa in the ''Manga/NausicaaOfTheValleyOfTheWind'' manga pulls the switch from "harmless" to "one to watch out for" in record time, going from appearing to be arrogant, toadying buffoon to effortlessly deflecting an assassination attempt in the space of his first appearance. And then, in his second appearance, he took control of a corvette and piloted it like an expert, even using the smoke from downed craft to cover his approach. It's even more jarring if you watched the anime first, as there all he manages is one of the most half-assed, pathetic BigBadWannabe attempts ever.
* In ''Manga/KeroKeroChime'', Oroboros initially appears to be a pathetic gag villain who, at best, is destined for a hilarious failure of a BigBadWannabe. Then he turns out to be the real BigBad, banishes everyone to another world, and only narrowly fails to pull off his evil scheme.
* In ''Manga/MahouSenseiNegima'', Kurt Godel manages to pull this off in the space of a single chapter. He's introduced as ManipulativeBastard and ConsummateLiar with a lot of political power, but he has to be accompanied by a massive number of bodyguards because he's so frail. Then [[spoiler:he kicks Negi's ass with [[SingleStrokeBattle one attack]], even though Negi is ''made of lightning''. Turns out that he's a master swordsman, and traveled with Ala Rubra in his youth. Oops]].
* ''Manga/MakenKi'': Otohime Yamato initially comes across as comically inept, due to her cowardice. At least, that's what she lets her enemies think. But her [[MeatPuppet "Dollhouse" ability]] proves otherwise, since it allows her to take control of their bodies and, if she chooses, she can break them ''[[http://readpanda.net/Maken-ki/11/22/ with extremely minimal effort.]]'' Plus, she proved cunning enough [[http://readpanda.net/Maken-ki/69/21/ to set a trap]] for someone [[http://readpanda.net/Maken-ki/69/22/ as skilled as Yuuka,]] who's a full-fledged {{ninja}}. Who's laughing now?
* ''Anime/{{Bakugan}}'' has Rabeeder. She's a Hybrid Bakugan and servant of Naga. Compared to the other gate keepers, she and her sister are quite ditzy and silly and seems like a pushover when the heroes first meet her, challenging the heroes to... a race? In fact she's harmless and hits on the main character. Total joke, right? Nope. When Rabeeder arrives on earth, Alice, while inexperienced at fighting on her own, volunteers to go after her under the impression that she is weak and with a little help seems to be doing fine. But then Rabeeder overhears that her sister had been defeated. Believing her sister to be KIA, she goes on a [[UnstoppableRage total rampage]] where she flings around the [[TheDragon up-until-that-point's main and secondary antagonists' Bakugan]] like rag dolls and is unstoppable. She is only stopped by a lucky break when she discovers her sister isn't dead. The two reunite and Rabeeder calms down. [[RoaringRampageOfRevenge But if she hadn't...]]
** Averted in the same episode, when Alpha Hydranoid one-shotted her, leaving her begging for a quick death (being [[TakenForGranite nearly petrified]] is why he didn't do this to begin with).
* ''Anime/SonicX'': Eggman alternates between being highly competent and [[VillainDecay not competent at all]], so much so that it comes as quite a surprise for some when he talked [[SuperpoweredEvilSide Dark Sonic]] out of a RoaringRampageOfRevenge, while his even more harmless robot buddies ''held off'' a Metarex leader. In earlier episodes at least, Eggman was actually genuinely formidable against most human forces and the majority of the main protagonists. It is only against [[InvincibleHero Sonic]] that he falls in a flash (and he did give him a run for his money a few odd times). He also seems to [[LaserGuidedKarma become incredibly more competent]] whenever he forced to [[EnemyMine team up with Sonic]].
* ''Franchise/YuGiOh'':
** Otaki/[[DubNameChange Crump]], TheDarkChick of ''Anime/YuGiOh'''s Big Five is a joke in his first appearance. His obsession with penguins makes him rather ludicrous, and he ultimately loses a match against Anzu/[[DubNameChange Téa]], one of the hero's cheerleaders. He returns a few episodes later, and alongside the rest of the Big 5, engages [[TheHero Yugi]] and [[TheLancer Jounouchi]] in a team duel--where he performs exceptionally well, using his Deck Master ability to power up Oshita's/[[DubNameChange Ganzley's]] WATER monsters, and maintaining control of the duel for the Big Five. It's not until the Big 5 move away from playing WATER creatures that he's forced to yield to Ooka/[[DubNameChange Johnson]], and in terms of overall performance he's just behind [[TheDragon Daimon]]/[[DubNameChange Lector]]. Justified by the fact that Otaki doesn't lack dueling skill, but does suffer from a near crippling obsession with penguins--left to his own devices he'll select a deck full of low-Level Penguin cards who can't accomplish much, but when given the rest of the Big Five's cards to play with, he can realize his full potential.
** In ''Anime/YuGiOh5Ds''' second season, [[spoiler:Carly Nagisa]] is an unsuccessful, clumsy [[spoiler:reporter]] that seems to never be able to do her job and always end up in bad (but funny) situations. Then she turns out being one of the Dark Signers that will bring forth the end of the world as we know it. Oh whoooops.
** Girag from ''Anime/YuGiOhZexal'' serves as the vanguard to an alien invasion, whose goal is to destroy Astral's home world. His attempts to defeat the heroes involves creating a series of [[MonsterOfTheWeek Villains of the Week]], with him looking less impressive with each one. While here, he lives in a broom closet and is oddly fond of pop idols. Then his best friend Alito gets hurt and, VillainousValour in full effect, he shows himself to be a strong duelist, and given the context worthy of respect. He then gets even more sympathetic when we learn his backstory... [[spoiler:and then the full power of the Barians were released, and he killed a couple of minor characters]].
* Tetsuo in ''Manga/{{Akira}}'' especially in flashback scenes from Kaneda's memories. He seems incompetent as a member of a biker gang who barely pulls his own weight and has to be saved by his best friend on several occasions. Then he gets superpowers.
* ''Manga/BlackButler'':
** Ciel's goofy, incompetent staff weren't hired for their talents as servants (Sebastian's contract requires he be able to take care of everything himself anyway) [[spoiler:but for their talents in defending the manor; the clumsy maid Mei-rin is a devastatingly skilled sniper, the groundskeeper Finny has superhuman strength, and the cook Baldo is an ex-soldier]].
** It also turns out that [[spoiler:Ciel's fiancée Elizabeth, one of the only normal people he knows and the only child in the series that acts like one,]] is an extremely badass swordswoman who has been merely acting like a harmless little girl because [[spoiler:she was afraid Ciel wouldn't like her otherwise]].
** [[spoiler:The Undertaker, after seeming to be a quirky information broker for so long,]] turns out to be a renegade Shinigami who kicked off a small-scale ZombieApocalypse ForTheEvulz, and goes on to effortlessly wipe the floor with Grelle, Ronald, and Sebastian at the same time.
* Eda qualifies as one in ''Manga/BlackLagoon'', though she hasn't revealed exactly how far this goes. As example, during Greenback Jane arc, the usually happy-go-lucky Eda [[spoiler:gets serious for once when one American gangster identified her as a CIA agent, and [[HeKnowsTooMuch shut his mouth for his trouble]]]].
** It could be argued VillainProtagonist Rock is becoming this trope. Just because he won't shoot you like everyone else in Roanapur will doesn't mean he's not dangerous...
* ''Manga/{{Holyland}}'': Chapter 159 revealed that King, who appeared to be just a drug trafficking boss reliant on his two MMA fighter bodyguards, [[spoiler:is quite skilled in Shorinji Kenpo and even managed to strike fear in Shougo's heart]].
* ''Manga/{{Toriko}}'': Uumen Umeda, the weird guy with the five-o-clock shadow and the funny hair, looks like he's just the PointyHairedBoss for part of IGO. [[spoiler:He's a mole for NEO, and once he gets the order, he ''carves up most of IGO's senior staff''.]]
* [[BigBad Ukyo]] from ''Anime/SamuraiSeven'' initially seems like a childish fop, who's only dangerous because of his daddy's men and money. [[spoiler:Then, with nothing but [[PragmaticVillainy an understanding of how to appear good]], (gained from being raised as a farmer), he kills the current emperor, rebuilds the Nobuseri into his personal playthings, and sets out to conquer the world--[[VillainWithGoodPublicity all under the guise of a benevolent ruler.]]]]
* Early on in the Faudo arc of ''Manga/ZatchBell'', during the heroes' infiltration of the eponymous sleeping giant monster, they run into a strange creature named Unko Tin Tin growing out of the wall of Faudo's esophagus. He asks them [[OnlySmartPeopleMayPass a bunch of easy riddles]] and then lets them by without incident. They thereafter forget about him... until Faudo wakes up and he grows legs and starts coming after them. Turns out he's actually an extremely skilled fighter, and it ultimately required a HeroicSacrifice by Wonrei, a character who'd been in the cast from nearly the beginning, to take him down.
* ''Animation/GuardianFairyMichel'' has the Black Hammer Gang. They're comedic, and almost seem like they're going to end up in IneffectualSympatheticVillain territory... until it turns out they're not that ineffectual. Even the trailer points out that Salome will lie, cheat, and steal to get her way, and might succeed. Some episodes' plots are kicked off because of an early-episode victory by the Black Hammers, and sometimes they do get away with a treasure.
* ''Anime/AkameGaKill'' is a dark series with many gray based characters, but out of them all, Seryu seemed to be the most harmless of the villains the Night Raid had to fight against. She is given a tragic backstory, which explains her obsession with justice and helping the innocent. When she unknowingly meets a member of the Night Raid, both of them are friendly and get along. And it seems like she is being used by The Empire as a lab rat and is in over her head. But nothing can be further from the truth. As the series goes along, Seryu is revealed to be an AxCrazy psychopath who [[BlackAndWhiteInsanity believes anyone who opposes the Empire is "evil" and must die]]. [[HeroKiller She kills Sheele]] and is shown enjoying every minute of it, and her weapon, which is a little dog that can transform into all kinds of powerful guns, is one of the most deadly weapons on the show. Lampshaded by Mine who calls Seryu out on her blood lust before their epic battle where she defeats her to avenge Sheele's death...and even then, Seryu would have [[TakingYouWithMe killed her with her final suicide bomb]] had Tatsumi not gotten her out of the blast radius in time.
** Later on the series introduces Dorothea of Wild Hunt, who at first seems to be the typical EvilGenius, the scientist that stays in the lab and doesn't stand a chance in combat, much like Doctor Stylish of the Jaegers. Then, when she [[DragonAscendant finally gets her chance]] courtesy of her leader and the [[BigBad Prime Minister's]] son Syura getting axed off, she does more damage than he ever did when their group was at full strength. She destroys entire revolutionary camps, with only Izou and a monstrous Cosmina (which, combined with herself, are only half of Wild Hunt's original manpower), and when Night Raid appears, her CrazyPrepared tactics gives them a tough fight and she nearly kills [[LightningBruiser Leone]] in one-on-one combat.
* In ''Manga/TokyoGhoul'', this occurs more than once.
** Naki initially seems to simply be a comical PsychopathicManchild, crying over the death of his beloved "Big Bro" [[TortureTechnician Yamori]] and or spawning memes with misheard or mispronounced words. He turns out to be strong enough to become TheRival to Tsukiyama, and manages to seriously wound Akira in battle. By the time of the sequel, he's been promoted to the higher ranks of Aogiri, and commands a sizable force of {{Mooks}} that are completely devoted to him.
** Nimura Furuta, the bumbling and cowardly sidekick of EvilCripple Shiki Kijima. His primary skills are apparently doing paperwork for his superior, and serving as TheBait during operations. [[spoiler:Then he drops the bumbling act, swiftly killing two of his comrades ''and'' [[LadyOfWar Matsumae]]. Afterwards, he beats himself up to convincingly play the "sole survivor" of a massacre, and uses the chaos to leak vital information to Aogiri. Furuta is actually a TykeBomb working for '''V''', and has spent the last several years infiltrating various organizations and sowing chaos everywhere he goes. He's also Souta, the member of the Clowns Gang that dropped the steel beams on Rize and caused Kaneki's transformation into a HalfHumanHybrid. It isn't clear where his true loyalties lie, or what his real goals are.....but he gleefully plays the harmless fool while playing for all the teams.]]
* Goblins in ''Manga/GoblinSlayer''. It is indicated early on that, while they are dangerous in large numbers, they have the size and strength of a small child, and are typically fodder for experienced adventurers. However, for a party of four inexperienced adventurers, a nest of goblins turn out to be a terrifying force that easily overwhelms them exactly because they failed to take the threat they represented seriously.
* Charlotte the Dessert Witch, from episode 3 of ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica'', seems to be a complete and utter non-threat. She looks like a plush doll, and not even the [[CreepyDoll creepy kind]], and Mami utterly annihilates both her and her minions. [[spoiler:And then the witch enters her [[MoreTeethThanTheOsmondFamily second form]]. And [[OffWithHerHead off goes poor Mami's head]]]]. [[EstablishingSeriesMoment Sets the tone of the series pretty nicely, really.]]
* Uzu Sanageyama from ''Anime/KillLaKill'' is hardly harmless to start with, and gives Ryuko a run for her money the first time they fight. However, she figures out a way to shut off his [[SuperSenses super sight]] and defeats him. When he challenges her to a rematch, she is confident that she can easily defeat him again using the same tactic. But the Uzu she faces this time is different in a blood-chilling way. His laid-back cockiness is replaced by a grim and rather terrifying {{determinat|or}}ion, and it is revealed that [[spoiler:he has '''sewn his eyes shut''' and trained his other senses to such an extent that he is basically impossible to approach from any angle. [[CurbStompBattle Ryuko never gets a single hit on him]], and the only reason she even gets away with her life is because Uzu's [[ClothesMakeTheSuperman Goku Uniform]] overheats and fails]]. The sheer contrast with their previous battle and Uzu's earlier attitude makes this one of the most striking moments in the whole series.
** Then there's Ragyo, Satsuki's mother. She is the GreaterScopeVillain of the series, but the audience does not see her personally doing much, aside from [[FashionVictimVillain wearing ridiculous outfits]] and [[AbusiveParents molesting her daughter]], so it appears that she may be of the [[NonActionBigBad non-action type]]. And then [[spoiler:Satsuki rebels against her and decapitates her easily]]. The end? Hoo boy, '''no'''. [[spoiler:She [[PullingThemselvesTogether survives]] and dishes out the CurbStompBattle of her life to Satsuki, {{Mind Control}}s Ryuko, generally causes what is likely the DarkestHour of the series and secures for herself the position of the new BigBad.]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Jigsaw in ''ComicBook/ThePunisher'' comics, though it took him several tries to actually reach serious villain status -- indeed, what finally pushed him over the top was the ability to survive meeting the Punisher that many times. It's been explained that Frank considers Jigsaw a bane on the Underworld more than innocents. He gets to kill people by proxy letting the lunatic go.
* ''Franchise/TheFlash'':
** The Top seems like a silly dude with a spinning top gimmick and a stupid suit, until he gets his mind back and turns into a genuinely terrifying villain. The fact that he was given actual superpowers and thus posed a more realistic threat to the Flash may have helped. Even before that he engineered his own resurrection and then came within an ace of becoming President of the United States. The Top has always been smarter than you'd think.
** The Rogues in general are this; more than once they have been underestimated by both heroes and {{supervillain}}s alike. But in ''Rogues Revenge'' you can clearly see that just because EvenEvilHasStandards does not mean that they are not a serious threat. Captain Cold has no problem ordering the death of his own father, and not ten minutes before killed some young Gotham punk who tried to take on his name. Heat Wave is a full-blown pyromaniac. Weather Wizard exploded a man from the inside using a tornado. Trickster [[ComicBook/UnderworldUnleashed once]] [[DidYouJustScamCthulhu out-tricked the devil himself]]. As Flash himself has pointed out in the past, the Rogues aren't just a bunch of villains who each have their own sometimes silly-seeming gimmicks. They're Central City's version of ''the Mafia'' with their own sometimes silly-seeming gimmicks.
* ''Franchise/{{Batman}}'':
** ''ComicBook/TheLongHalloween'' and ''ComicBook/DarkVictory'' both do this for Calendar Man. Once a campy gag villain who committed relatively harmless crimes while dressing up in costumes based on specific days, his internment at Arkham changed him into a creepy, white-clad inmate who'd mastered the [[BreakThemByTalking Breaking Speech]], already knew the answers to the mystery Batman's trying to solve, and later manipulated a rehabilitated character back into madness. Unfortunately, the change didn't stick.
** Later, in the ''[[ComicBook/BatmanHush Hush]]'' story arc, [[spoiler:The Riddler]], bitter that he's fallen so far in Gotham's criminal hierarchy, decides to team up with the new psycho on the block and puts Batman through the wringer. He figures out Batman's secret identity. The only thing that stops him from completely destroying Batman is that he has the answer to the ultimate riddle, and it's no good if everyone knows the answer. Thankfully for Batman, he eventually got hit in the skull with a mace and received a case of EasyAmnesia.
--->'''[[spoiler:Riddler]]:''' "I used to be a somebody in this town. Now, everybody has a gimmick. I was going to show them all. And I did."
** [[ComicBook/TheRiddler Riddler]] turns to Not So Harmless in the Creator/PeterMilligan tale "Dark Knight, Dark City". For the first chapter, you think he's the same old Riddler, leaving clues to pointless crimes. Then he nearly kills a security guard... then a baby... then he ''blows up a minion's throat''... That's about the time one of Riddler's minions outright tells him, "You're starting to make the Joker look positively sensible.", after commenting to another that he's looking positively less stable than ever before. Then you find out that the crimes aren't the point, they're just a way of manipulating Batman into a FateWorseThanDeath. It eventually turns out that the increased level of evil is due to DemonicPossession.
** In ''Batman'' #251, after 20 years of campy, oversized set pieces and pies in the face and bloodless bank robberies, ComicBook/TheJoker goes after some of his old henchmen who ratted him out. Audiences are expecting sneezing powder or filling their house with balloons, as Joker hands the first henchman a cigar, he thinks of how "classic Joker" it is. The old [[ExplosiveCigar exploding cigar]]. Except the explosive in this one is nitroglycerin, and when the henchman lights it, waiting for a little "pop", it blows up his head and most of the room. Joker's back.
** The ''Joker's Asylum II: Harley Quinn'' one-shot. Rival mobsters, cops and so on know that Harley is a fairly harmless character, whose WeaponOfChoice is a big comedy mallet. But they're standing between her and Mr J on ''Valentine's Day'', which means she's not kidding around anymore.
* ''Franchise/GIJoe'':
** The [[ComicBook/GIJoeARealAmericanHeroMarvel Marvel comic]] ignored the cartoon's Cobra-La origin of Cobra Commander, with writer Creator/LarryHama instead characterizing him as an ex-hippie used car salesman who wants to TakeOverTheWorld. Initially, the character never strayed very far from the cartoon's GeneralFailure persona, though he eventually evolved into a VillainBall, and a halfway-competent BigBad, costing the Joes billions of dollars in equipment and a squad of team members (though this was actually due to [[PoorCommunicationKills lieutenants misunderstanding his orders]]). The character's final turn into a full {{villain|s}} occurred in issue #131 (December 1992) when, [[FailureIsTheOnlyOption after numerous tries]], Cobra located and attacked the Joe team's ElaborateUndergroundBase. After readying the second wave of the attack, the following conversation takes place.
-->'''Viper:''' This is too easy, Commander. Something has to go wrong.\\
'''Cobra Commander:''' I won't stand for negativity in the ranks. ''(shoots Viper)'' You wait and see. Well, it's too late for you, but the rest of you, you just wait and see.
** In ''WesternAnimation/GIJoeResolute'' he goes into massive rants about how he was really faking his GeneralFailure schtick, in a hope it would make his {{mooks}} less likely to blindly follow orders and become smarter. This is just after he killed a [[TheStarscream traitorous subordinate]], and then killed 10 million people.
* The Abomination has often been regarded as an evil knockoff of [[ComicBook/IncredibleHulk the Hulk]] and little more, a DumbMuscle bad guy who's not dumb ''enough'' to be as entertaining as his heroic foe. Still, this guy's "crowning moment of evil" was poisoning ComicBook/BettyRoss with his own radioactive blood; at first everyone thought it killed her, but she should be so lucky, it turned her into Red She-Hulk. (Seriously, think about it, ComicBook/NormanOsborn may be a monster, but has he ''ever'' even ''considered'' force-feeding Mary Jane the Goblin Formula? Such an act is pretty evil when one considers the implications.)
* ''Franchise/GreenLantern'':
** Black Hand was once a pathetic joke with a weapon that was dependent on stealing energy from Green Lantern's ring and a gimmick of committing crimes based on famous folk sayings. Then he found out he's destined to be the [[TheAntichrist Antichrist]] leader of an [[ZombieApocalypse army of zombie supervillains]].
** Larfleeze seems like just a wacky loon who never does anything beyond stealing anything that looks shiny to him. He's also the only member of the Orange Lanterns. Sounds harmless enough right? Except being the sole Orange Lantern also means he's the sole wielder of the Orange Light's power, making him ''[[AlmightyIdiot one of the most powerful ring wielders in the universe]]''. And he's not just a loon, he's dangerously mentally unstable and has [[HairTriggerTemper an explosive temper]]; he tends to respond to attempts to steal his precious loot with utterly psychotic bouts of violence. He's the only Orange Lantern because ''he killed all the others to get their stuff''. The Green Lantern Corps are rightfully careful when dealing with him.
* Though he wasn't completely harmless before, Doctor Destiny was always a traditional silver age villain, using dream powers to mess with gravity and create chaos while not really killing anyone. Cut to The 24 Hours story in ''ComicBook/TheSandman'' #6.
* ''ComicBook/{{Invincible}}'' villains have a tendency to do this, most notably Doc Seismic and the Lizard League. Both of them were jokes on their first appearance and Not So Harmless At All after that. Doc Seismic is a MadScientist with a glass jaw, but can still do a ton of damage with his inventions and clever planning until he's restrained. The Lizard League are a bunch of {{Animal Themed Superbeing}}s who don't pose any threat to Invincible... but then, neither does almost anyone else on Earth. They can still do a lot of damage when Invincible is unavailable.
* The Intelligencia from ''ComicBook/FallOfTheHulks''. The team is made of ComicBook/{{MODOK}}, Leader, Wizard, Red Ghost, and Mad Thinker. Together they have become a pretty deadly force. How deadly, you ask? They managed to [[OutGambitted out gambit]] ''Doctor freakin' Doom''.
* ''Franchise/SpiderMan'':
** ''ComicBook/BrandNewDay'' recasts C- and D-list loser villains into competent and credible threats. The Spot comes back as a vengeful psychopath who slowly drives his prey insane by stalking him, while the White Rabbit is an AxCrazy drug dealer who's willing to commit mass murder to collect the money she's owed. This also applies to classic Lee-Ditko-Romita villains like Electro, the Shocker, and the Rhino, who have all been rehabilitated from the VillainDecay they've suffered.
** [[MasterOfIllusion Mysterio]], with his silly costume and somewhat weak 'powers' often comes off as something of a joke, but every now and then he pulls off something big, like [[spoiler:driving Daredevil so insane he almost murders an infant]], [[spoiler:using a robotic avatar to muck around in the ComicBook/UltimateMarvel universe, including killing their version of the Kingpin]], and perhaps his biggest (if unofficial because of it happening in a glorified WhatIf) [[ComicBook/OldManLogan deed]]: being the one to [[spoiler:destroy the X-Men to the last man, using Wolverine as a catspaw and assassin]]. Oddly enough, none of these actually happened to his main enemy Spider-Man, which suggests that perhaps ol' Fishbowl Head should go find himself a new arch-enemy (though it's worth noting that Mysterio disguised himself as a psychiatrist and nearly drove Spider-Man insane in one of his earliest appearances).
* The ComicBook/IronMan villain the Living Laser was such a joke, everyone (even other villains) called him "the Living Loser". Eventually, however, his abilities were amplified by Count Nefaria, and even though this was temporary, it eventually turned him into a being of photons, making him far more dangerous and a true threat.
* There once was a low-level biomage named Fleshmaster in ''Comicbook/{{Empowered}}''. After being humiliated by his peers, he finally dared to use his powers on himself, and returned as [[spoiler:the new superhero dWARf!. But since he was still being pissed off, he cooked up a really BigBad-worthy scheme. Which was about killing all his peers at the same place where they once had humiliated them, the Capeys Awards]].
* Catman has received this treatment in spades, courtesy of Creator/GailSimone in ''ComicBook/SecretSix''. Essentially, he went from a fat slob with a cat gimmick to a sociopathic, lion-pride-leading, muscly badass somewhere in the Sahara with his insignia carved into his chest (by his own hand!) and a pair of razor claws.
* Doctor Light was an incompetent villain for a long time. In ''ComicBook/IdentityCrisis'' it was revealed that the League wiped his mind and deliberately turned him into a joke after he raped ComicBook/ElongatedMan's wife. He recovered, and takes on the Titans. All of them.
* Yellow Bastard of ''ComicBook/SinCity'' fame had this moment in his eponymous story. He was believed to have been comatose and missing a hand (among [[GroinAttack other body parts]]) and was no longer a threat. He comes back as a yellow, disfigured freak bent on revenge.
--> '''Yellow Bastard:''' Recognize me, Hartigan? Huh? Do ya? Recognize my voice, you piece of shit cop? I look different but I bet you can recognize my voice!
* In a lot of the Marvel/DC crossovers, the BadassNormal characters of one universe would always be looked down upon by the living god characters of the other. One particular example: Franchise/SpiderMan is following ComicBook/{{Carnage}} as he's being transported to a prison across the country; along the way it passes through [[Franchise/{{Batman}} Gotham City]], and Bats is ''very'' displeased with having the wall-crawler on his turf. However, Cassidy figures out a way to escape and goes bloody crazy at a time that the Joker also happens to be active, and rather unintentionally the heroes end up switching their villains. Carnage laughs off the Bat until he's taken down with [[CrazyPrepared expert planning,]] and Spider-Man really, really doesn't seem to perceive Joker as a physical threat, but Joker just won't ''stop'', and dances happily across the MoralEventHorizon numerous times. After realizing just how similar he really is to Cassidy, down to hallucinating Joker's smile as Carnage's symbiot-grin, he [[BewareTheNiceOnes almost beats Joker to death]] before Batman gets him to stop. Really, through the whole thing, nobody took anyone else seriously before the ass-kicking started except Batman.
* Baby Face Finlayson from ''Comicbook/TheBeano'' was a harmless villain in his early appearances in the 70s and 80s but he became not so harmless in Kev F Sutherland's strips in the 2000s where the character reached almost BigBad status.
* The Condiment King in Franchise/TheDCU. A CanonImmigrant from ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'', the Condiment King is usually treated as a throwaway, joke villain but in ''Robin'' #171 (April 2008), (after Poison Ivy had given him some tips on mixing spices in Arkham) Robin observes that the villain is potentially dangerous (he had just attempted to detonate a mustard gas bomb inside a mall, and his condiment guns could cause anaphylactic shock), but his ludicrous nature prevents the justice department taking him seriously.
* ComicBook/{{Supergirl}}'s villain Reactron. In his first [[ComicBook/Supergirl2005 Post-Crisis]] attack on her, Supergirl disposes of him quickly and notes that for a guy with near limitless power, Reactron isn't thinking very big, or using his powers very intelligently. Then he gets modified and given a new Kryptonite-powered armor in the beginning of ''ComicBook/NewKrypton'', and proceeds to nearly killing Kara Zor-El several times, as well as murdering her parents and her whole race.
* Franchise/{{Superman}} story ''ComicBook/WhateverHappenedToTheManOfTomorrow'' provides several examples:
** The final enemy Superman faces is [[spoiler:Mr. Mxyzptlk, who has gotten bored of playing pranks and decided to be truly evil]]. An interesting subversion in that he's only harmless by choice, and when he goes for it he becomes a threat so nightmarish that [[spoiler:Superman of all people is forced to break his non-killing code]].
** Prankster, Toyman and Bizarro go from harmless nuisances to murderous monsters. Bizarro in particular stands out, destroying the Bizarro World and then decimating Metropolis.
* Creator/MarkWaid's run on ''ComicBook/{{Daredevil}}'' has been doing this with Jester. For years, he was nothing more than a C-list Joker knockoff that no one took seriously, in-universe or out. Now he is a diabolical mastermind with a love of chaos and a need to make Matt's life hell. Culminated with him cheerfully crossing the MoralEventHorizon when he [[spoiler:makes Foggy Nelson hang himself just to spite Matt]].
* ''ComicBook/AvengersArena'' takes Arcade and makes him a genuine threat. By the end of the series, [[spoiler:half the kids in Murderworld are dead, and he [[KarmaHoudini has escaped without punishment]]]]. Zig-zagged in the aftermath in that nobody else on the super-villain or superhero community still respects him (it is explicitly pointed out that his grand scheme to "become a threat" is a blatant InUniverse rip-off of ''Literature/BattleRoyale'' by them (Arcade also said it was so, but he saw it as 'inspiration') and that in order for it to work out as well as it did, he had to go after ''[[PickOnSomeoneYourOwnSize teenagers]]'' (so the ones who are not disgusted in an "EvenEvilHasStandards" fashion mock him because they think that he went after "easy" targets)), and so he spends his appearances afterwards whining about still not being respected before the teenagers that survived find him and give him the most humiliating vengeance they can devise.
* The mastermind behind the grand plan to finally bring Batman and Gotham to its knees in ''ComicBook/BatmanEternal'' is none other than [[spoiler:Cluemaster]], who [[ExploitedTrope exploited]] his status as being C-rank fodder in order to pull the strings from the background, knowing Batman would never suspect so much destruction from an amateur. Though he gets [[spoiler:[[HijackedByGanon hijacked by Lincoln March]]]], his plan still nearly destroyed Gotham.
* In ''ComicBook/DoctorWhoFourDoctors'', the Voord, one of the show's most memetically notorious unimpressive monster species, become a genuine universe-level threat thanks to teaming up with [[spoiler:an evil alternate version of the Twelfth Doctor]].
* This is turning into a trend in the Titan ''Doctor Who'' crossover events, as in ''ComicBook/DoctorWhoSupremacyOfTheCybermen'' [[spoiler:the previously-ineffectual incarnation of Rassilon from "Hell Bent"]] teamed up with the Cybermen to [[spoiler:try to destroy the universe and recreate it with himself as its creator God]], and only failed because they [[TheStarscream inevitably tried to stab him in the back]].
* ''ComicBook/DoctorWhoTheLostDimension'' takes it to self-parodic extremes in the Fourth Doctor issue, in which due to the multiversal collapse the Doctor and Romana II have to deal with incursions into the main universe by more-powerful alternate universe versions of notorious unimpressive monsters [[Recap/DoctorWhoS6E1TheDominators the Quarks]], [[Recap/DoctorWhoS6E4TheKrotons the Krotons]], and [[Recap/DoctorWhoS9E1DayOfTheDaleks the Ogrons]], all of whom have become their universes' dominant cultures due to, the Doctor theorises, neither he nor the Daleks existing in them.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* In ''Manga/SailorMoon'', Mimete is usually quite ineffective especially in the anime. But in ''WebComic/GS260'' she actually creates a growth serum, grows into a giant using said serum, destroyed Fort Hampton where she was working and kidnapped Colonel Ricther and is now being held by her and her boyfriend.
* The Anti-SOS Brigade usually function as comic relief in ''FanFic/YouGotHaruhiRolled''. Not so once [[spoiler:Emiri joins them, giving them the strength to defeat the SOS Brigade and kill all of Kyon's friends.]]
* The protagonist is actually a sympathetic, though highly reluctant, interrogator in the ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' fic "[[http://www.fimfiction.net/story/119688/1/you-obey/the-interrogation You Obey.]]" When it comes down to it, it is frightening just how brutally effective he is at getting the information he wants.
* In ''FanFic/{{Xenophilia}}'' and [[RecursiveFanfiction its spin-offs]], Honeydew amounts to little more than a loud nuisance to Lero and his herd. ''Then'' comes Fanfic/DividedRainbow, where we see Honeydew throw her lot in with a sadistic band of criminals...
* The Legion of Doom in ''Fanfic/ChallengeOfTheSuperfriendsTheEnd''. After years of being a laughable band of losers, they encounter an EldritchAbomination known as The Benefactor, who turns them into tormented, horrific things with the power to doom worlds.
* Despite their small size and low level, the Kurisarimon and [=DarkScubamon=] from the ''FanFic/TamersForeverSeries'' are vicious and numerous digimon whose predatory and opportunistic natures make them a threat even to Mega level Digimon.
* ''FanFic/MegaManReawakened'':
** Glyde's Birdbots are cute and goofy, and aren't dangerous in small groups, but in large numbers they manage to capture Megaman.
** Quentin Emerald may be a hypocritical madman, but in Arc 4 he had Robert on the ropes and would have killed him if not for Protoman.
* ''FanFic/MegaManDefenderOfTheHumanRace'' has this in a big way with Dr. Wily. With most of his crazy plots from the show carried over, and how he had a tendency to foil his own schemes, Wily was generally seen as a foolish, if evil, old man by the readership. Even given his villainous breakdowns, rants, and increasingly dangerous plots, he didn't threaten the characters personally much post episode 4... until the episode 10 epilogue, where [[spoiler:he personally and mercilessly tortures [=ProtoMan=] in cold blood. It ends with [=ProtoMan=] begging him to stop]].
* In the My Little Pony/Dresden Files crossover ''Fanfic/TheDresdenFillies'', the true mastermind of the whole affair is [[spoiler:Novel Notion. This nervous, easily cowed pony goes on to activate a spell that sacrifices the ''entire Order Triune'' to summon a demon. Then he holds the family of the Mane 6 hostage.]]
* In ''VideoGame/PokemonRejuvenation'', [[AnIcePerson An]][[KnightTemplar gie]]'s [[TheDragon right hand-woman]], Cera, seems much less intimidating than her boss, as she acts quite AffablyEvil even while her boss is in the middle of a VillainousBreakdown. After Angie was defeated and turned into a HumanPopsicle at the end of Version 5, most people assumed Cera wasn't coming back. Then came [[WhamEpisode Version 6]], in which it's revealed that Cera can teleport to any location where one of Angie's fliers is, she has limited RealityWarper powers, and is dead-set on freeing her master. [[spoiler:''[[FromBadToWorse Then]]'' she watches two of her companions die brutal deaths, [[MaddenIntoMisanthropy goes crazy]], and ''[[HijackingCthulhu manages to successfully capture]]'' '''''[[OlympusMons A FRIGGIN' GROUDON.]]''''']] The kicker? [[spoiler:It's heavily implied by the ending of Version 7 that '''[[OhCrap she's freed Angie!]]''']]
* In ''Fanfic/PersonaEG'', Sunset Shimmer seems like just a regular bully. She targets Twilight and anyone close to her because Twilight is going to beat Sunset for valedictorian. In all of Sunset's appearances early on she just smugly taunts Twilight while her goons take embarrassing pictures and videos of her. After ZIT spends months fighting shadows and Eris in Zodiac, Sunset seems like just an annoyance to them and they can deal with her the same as any bully, by ignoring her. This is quickly proven wrong though, when Sunset [[spoiler:sneaks into the dorm one night and ''[[DoubleStandardRapeFemaleOnMale rapes Flash]]'' while he is asleep. Then, not even a month later it is discovered that Sunset ''does'' know about Zodiac and what ZIT is doing because she is [[BigBad Mephistopheles]], Eris' boss and the one responsible for everything that ZIT has been put through up to that point.]]

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* Zigzag, the grand vizier, in ''WesternAnimation/TheThiefAndTheCobbler'' seemed, at first, a SmallNameBigEgo who spun RhymesOnADime. Then he stole the golden balls protecting the city, giving them to BigBad and EvilOverlord One-Eye. One-Eye is unappreciative, and has him thrown to the alligators. Zigzag ''tames'' them, going on to tell One-Eye "''One'' mistake will suffice! ''Don't treat me lightly'' '''''twice!'''''"
* ''Disney/TheLionKing'': Shenzi, Ed, and Banzai at first seem like Wile E. Coyote-esque villains who always fail every time, but at the end of the film, they all show their true dangerous selves when they [[spoiler:kill Scar]].
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Megamind}}'':
** The eponymous VillainProtagonist, a super-intelligent GadgeteerGenius and MadScientist. He seems harmless because he always gets defeated by that FlyingBrick, Metro Man. But then he [[spoiler:apparently]] finally kills Metro Man with a KillSat. {{Deconstructed|Trope}} unusually as he fully expected Metro Man to foil the plan easily and send him back to jail just like every other time, the success was caused by a fluke that wasn't part of his plan, and he doesn't know what to do with himself afterward and quickly comes to miss the routine of repeatedly being foiled by Metro Man. [[spoiler:Then it's {{subverted|Trope}} as it turns out Metro Man was just FakingTheDead and Megamind never stood a chance against him after all. ''Then'', it ends up somewhere between a DoubleSubversion of this and an example of LetsGetDangerous, as after his HeelFaceTurn he does manage to defeat [[FromNobodyToNightmare Titan]].]]
* Disney's ''Disney/BeautyAndTheBeast'' has the villain Gaston, who starts out as just a vain, preening buffoon, certainly malicious, but more ridiculous than anything else. Then he incites a riot and leads a lynch mob against The Beast, and very nearly kills him.
* ''WesternAnimation/Cars2'':
** Grem and Acer, a pair of bumbling villains who appear to be based on two of the worst cars ever made. But then we see them kill Rod "Torque" Redline...
** The first film has Chick Hicks, who is constantly losing to his rival Strip "The King" Weathers, and during the climax he almost ''killed'' the King!
* ''Disney/TheJungleBook'':
** Shere Khan, the BigBad, in spite of his occasional hammy and whimsical nature, is actually an evil bloodthirsty tiger bent on killing any human that's still in his jungle, especially the mancub he sees as Mowgli. In the sequel, [[KnightofCerebus he drops the hammy and whimsical aspect altogether.]]
** Kaa is much more of a flamboyant bumbler than Khan, but still there are few in the jungle immune to those hypnotic eyes. Even in the sequel, where his ButtMonkey role is upped quite a notch, he was a mere second from devouring Shanti.
* ''Disney/WreckItRalph'''s King Candy. At first glance, this CGI Mad Hatter knockoff seems as harmless as a sugar cube... [[spoiler:Then comes TheReveal, where he shows ''everyone'' - viewers and characters alike - how "harmless" he really is.]]
* ''Disney's Disney/RobinHood'':
** Prince John. Snivelling, childish, cowardly momma's boy? Check. Ruthless, greedy, amoral tyrant with a vindictive streak two miles wide? Check.
** The Sheriff of Nottingham is dim-witted and despite his size is easily manhandled by Little John and Lady Kluck. At the end of the movie, however, he completely snaps and comes after Robin with a torch, burning down the castle, and coming closer to killing Robin than anyone else in the film.
* ''Disney/TheGreatMouseDetective'': Ratigan's henchman Fidget seems to be the usual bumbling minion, but turns out to actually be quite competent and even scary if the first scene is any indication.
* ''Disney/TheAristocats'': Edgar. He's rather bumbling and somewhat of a IneffectualSympatheticVillain, he still clearly has evil intentions. Sure he doesn't kill the cats but he tries to take them away from their owner by dumping them in the countryside (with some speculations that he was going to ''throw them in the river'') and then ship them to Timbuktu.
* Kent Mansley from ''WesternAnimation/TheIronGiant''. He's initially portrayed as an incompetent, neurotic bureaucrat who's in way over his head. And he is. But he's also a cruel, sadistic government agent with enough power to make a little boy's life hell. And all these traits, combined with his ever-growing paranoia, leads him to put an entire town of innocent people (and himself) in jeopardy.
* Dave from ''WesternAnimation/PenguinsOfMadagascar'' is a goofball but startlingly competent and ruthless, with rather savvy handling of his minions. Even his plan to take away the penguins' cuteness was a tall order [[TheNotSoHarmlessPunishment Not-So-Harmless Punishment]], since he planned on it's doing so resulting in every last remainder of the species getting wiped out by terrified humans.

[[folder:Films -- Live Action]]
* ''Film/MenInBlack'': Defied when Jay is being tested and they hit the firing range; he ignores the military officers shooting all the alien targets and fires one shot... at the target depicting a small, human girl. When asked why "Tiffany" had to die, Jay completely dismantled the alien's apparently threatening appearances as doing harmless activities and notes the books on advanced physics the girl was carrying, books ''way'' too advanced for a kid her age, concluding that she's there to cause some trouble.
* Yuen Wah's character in ''Film/EasternCondors'' at first seemed like a comic relief villain (mostly due to his weird laugh), but turned out to be an incredibly intense martial artist at the end of the movie.
* ''Film/TheDarkKnightSaga'':
** In ''Film/TheDarkKnight'', both Batman and the mob are shown dismissing ComicBook/TheJoker out of hand. The mob considers Batman their more pressing problem, while Batman (somewhat hypocritically) rationalizes that he's just one man, and so can't possibly be more dangerous than the mob. He ends up destroying quite a bit of the city, [[EvilerThanThou driving the last nail into the mob's coffin]] [[NearVillainVictory and almost doing the same for Batman]], and [[TheCorrupter drives Harvey Dent to madness.]]
** In ''Film/TheDarkKnightRises'', Batman, who has been out of action for roughly eight years, gets back in the batsuit, and is able to hunt down and capture several League of Shadow members who were trying to escape a bank robbery. The primary villain Bane manages to get away. Batman dismisses Bane as just another one of Ra's al Ghul's flunkies. When Bruce and Alfred review tapes of Bane's assault on the bank, Bruce brushes away Alfred's assessment of Bane's combat abilities, stating that he'll simply "fight harder". He teams up with Catwoman to go underground and take out Bane, only to be outsmarted by Bane and lured into a trap. [[NoHoldsBarredBeatdown Forced to fight Bane one-on-one, Batman learns just how "harmless" Bane is.]]
* In ''Film/{{Blindness}}'', The King Of Ward 3 is shown to be an obnoxious punk who simply disrespects the protagonists and loudly makes an ass of himself. Then he manages to find a gun, and becomes the most powerful tyrant in the place.
* In the ''Film/KillBill'' movies, Budd is the only member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad to be down-on-his luck and there is some lip service paid to his lack of fighting ability. Bill has no doubt the Bride would be too much for him, Elle has a long list of insults for him, and the Bride herself seems overly confident when going after him. Despite this, [[spoiler:he is the only member who defeats and captures the Bride, since he's a Combat Pragmatist]].
* ''Film/HocusPocus'': [[DumbBlonde Sarah]] starts out as a [[TheDitz ditzy]], childlike ButtMonkey to her sister Winnifred, until it's revealed she has the power to lure victims to her by song. She then has a scene in which she creepily flies over Salem chanting [[SignatureSong "Come Little Children"]] and every child in Salem starts mindlessly walking toward the sisters' house, where the sisters mean to drain their life force. Moreover, Sarah Jessica Parker's delivery of her character's lines may make them funny, but really listen to what she is saying and try to say she doesn't sound like a [[PsychopathicManchild Psychopathic Womanchild]].
-->'''Sarah''' (''on a child'') Ooh! Put him on a hook and [[GettingCrapPastTheRadar let me play with him]].
* The Riddler in ''Film/BatmanForever'' may have been a LargeHam, but all things considered, he managed to figure out who Batman was on his own and launched an assault on Wayne Manor that completely destroyed the Batcave and left Bruce for dead. If not for his need to utterly screw with Bruce serving as his downfall, the Riddler came the closest to killing Batman far beyond what any of the other villains in the pre-Nolan films achieved, not counting the amount of damage he inflicted alongside Two-Face and his successful gambit to play the people of Gotham City for saps with his Box devices.
* Chris D'Amico/The Motherfucker in ''Film/KickAss2'' is quite incompetent and LaughablyEvil... until he [[spoiler:has the Colonel killed]]. He then starts crossing the MoralEventHorizon ''repeatedly''.
* ''Franchise/StarWars'':
** By the time ''Film/ReturnOfTheJedi'' rolls around, the audience knows the Emperor is extremely evil. The movie itself then shows him to be terrifying intelligent and cunning, but he still looks like a frail and harmless old man who needs Vader to do the fighting. Then he starts blasting Luke with Force Lightning, effortlessly defeating him and showing everyone all how deadly he really is. As Yoda had said earlier in the film: "Do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor."
** Similarly in ''Film/RevengeOfTheSith'', the audience now knows just how dangerous Darth Sidious is in planning and using the Force, but he still doesn't exactly seem like a physically-inclined fighter. This movie then shows he is also a MasterSwordsman, [[spoiler:taking out three Jedi Masters in ten seconds]].
* ''Film/TheBigHit'': For the first part of the film, Cisco is an obnoxious but pretty comedic foil for Melvin. Yet when mob boss Paris compels him to hunt down Keiko's kidnappers, Cisco has little problem switching into genuine bad guy mode when he sells out and kills his former associates in the scheme.
* ''Film/HomeAlone'': Harry usually seems to be just as bumbling as his partner Marv, however, in the first film, he actually manages to gain information by impersonating a police officer. At the climax of the first two films, Harry and Marv manage to catch Kevin. In the first film, Harry was going to bite Kevin's fingers off. In the second film, [[spoiler:he was going to shoot him in the face]].
* In ''Film/TheManFromUNCLE2015'', Alexander Vinciguerra was initially written off as a playboy who does nothing but pursue his hobbies and flirt with other women while his wife Victoria did most of the work. But he is a BadAssDriver and uses those skills to take on both Solo and Kuryakin at the same time.

* ''Literature/APracticalGuideToEvil'' has a few examples:
** [[EvilUncle Kairos]] [[EnfantTerrible Theodosian]], [[TheEmperor Tyrant]] [[TheCaligula of Helike]]. At first he just looks like some kind of insane RoyalBrat in the mold of a Joffrey Baratheon. It takes him less than a chapter to show how he earned his name. And, he keeps his foot on the accelerator. [[spoiler: His cackling font of ostentatiously Classic Evil is quite deliberately hiding a metric tonne of meta-awareness under all that ham. For starters, he's actively using his appearance of being "just another nutso Tyrant" to hide the extent of what he's capable of not just from the [[FiveBadBand Calamities]], but the Wandering Bard as well. Every hard-core, very nasty trick he's pulled has been a shell game used to attain goals beyond the obvious ones, yet others have been slow to realize this thanks to the show he makes of juggling obvious villain balls.]]
** [[HeroAntagonist Almorava of Smyrna]], [[TheBard The Wandering Bard]]. An Ashuran [[HeroAntagonist hero]] who joins The Lone Swordsman's party before the rebellion begins in southern Callow. Ridiculously dressed, constantly throwing back enough alcohol to kill a herd of livestock and a less-than-competent musician and singer, The Bard at first appears to be little more than comic relief. The jury's still out on how much of her silliness is an act, but there's certainly more to Almorava of Smyrna than meets the eye. She has the GenreSavvy that is the hallmark of her profession, with an understanding of the workings of fate rivaled only by [[MagnificentBastard the]] [[TheChessmaster Black]] [[TheBlackKnight Knight]]. She has a tendency to appear (literally) whenever anything particularly plot-relevant is going on; no matter how much violence is directed her way she always manages to escape just in time; she seems to know intimate details of events she should be far too young to have witnessed and if nothing else, her liver must be superhuman. [[spoiler: The epilogue of Book 2 reveals that The Wandering Bard is actually some kind of body-hopping immortal entity that has lived since long before elves arrived on Calernia. The precise nature of this entity is still mysterious but it seems to always exist as a storytelling-based Name and although it switches bodies and identities it retains all of it's memories. It's also apparently scary enough to bully the [[OurElvesAreBetter Forever King]]. At the conclusion of Book 2 Almorava of Smyrna dies (apparently of alcohol poisoning) and the name passes on to a new host named Aoede of Nicae.]]
** Akua Sahelian, The Heiress [[spoiler:(later gains the Name of The Diabolist)]]. Despite being a bit of a SmugSnake and tending towards BondVillainStupidity, she's just powerful and clever enough to become a massive threat later in the story, [[spoiler:engineering a magical plague to raise a massive army of undead and [[OurDemonsAreDifferent devils]] in a bid to conquer [[TheEmpire Praes]] and return her homeland to its long tradition of [[EvilisHammy old]]-[[StupidEvil fashioned]] [[BondVillainStupidity villainy.]] ]]
* In ''Literature/TheZombieKnight'', [[spoiler:Parson Miles]]. While everyone knows how powerful he is most think he is a buffoon more concerned with ice cream than strategy. Even his seemingly massive failures have long-term repercussions that seem to be exactly what he wanted them to be.
* In the last ''Francise/StarWars'' ''Literature/NewJediOrder'' novel ''The Unifying Force'', the true BigBad of the series is revealed. It's not the RecurringBoss Nom Anor, nor is it EvilOverlord Shimrra. It's [[spoiler:Onimi, the weak-looking and disfigured court jester]]. The events that [[spoiler:disfigured]] him also made him the only Force user among the Yuuzhan Vong, giving [[spoiler:Onimi]] the ability to [[spoiler:rule from behind [[DiscOneFinalBoss Shimrra]] through MindControl]]. In the FinalBattle, [[spoiler:Onimi]] also reveals the ability to produce deadly toxins, giving Jacen Solo a run for his money.
* ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'': This series takes a positive delight in showing how godsdamned ''dangerous'' "harmless" can turn out to be.
** Take ''A Storm of Swords'', for instance. If your first thoughts upon completing the book aren't, "''Holy crap! [[spoiler:Littlefinger]] is a psycho!''", then you should seriously consider re-reading. The reader always knew he was a traitorous bastard, but he had a [[UnluckyChildhoodFriend sympathetic backstory]] and was one of the most [[AffablyEvil genuinely likeable]] characters in the series. But seriously, who knew he would go [[MoralEventHorizon that far?]] It gets worse in ''A Dance with Dragons'', despite not appearing in this book. [[spoiler:He forced a 11 year old girl, Jeyne Poole, into prostitution and then married her to a serial killer.]]
*** This is even for characters within the books. Because of his house's low status, he's seen as ambitious but barely anything to lose sleep over. [[spoiler:Then he instigates a devastating CivilWar that tears Westeros apart, using the chaos it causes to become one of the most powerful men in the nation.]]
** Also, [[spoiler:Walder Frey]], who started out as not so much a character as the punchline to a decades-spanning running joke. Then a certain infamous event occurs which turns him into [[ZeroPercentApprovalRating one of the few villains who has no defenders, either among the other characters or among the fans.]]
** [[spoiler:Joffrey]] may count at the end of ''A Game of Thrones''. Presented throughout the book as a spoiled brat, it isn't until [[spoiler:King Robert dies, leaving him in power]] that he starts to show his true colors.
** As of ''A Dance with Dragons'', [[spoiler:Varys]]. Throughout the series he's been portrayed as an enigmatic figure but not someone especially dangerous (at least compared to the likes of the ruthless Tywin or the brutal Gregor). [[spoiler:Then he bludgeons Pycelle to death, shoots Kevan with a crossbow, reveals his true grand plans for Westeros to the dying man, and sends his gang of child assassins to finish him off.]]
** The [[ProudWarriorRaceGuy Ironborn]] as a whole act as one to the rest of Westeros. Even after Balon Greyjoy rebels against the throne for a ''second time'', he's considered the least dangerous of the Five Kings, conquering only the poorest parts of the North.[[spoiler:Then he dies, and his brother Euron uses the chaos of the civil war to swarm over the wealthiest lands and towns of the western coast. And send his younger brother east to capture ''dragons''.]]
** From a certain point of view, we got this from the first book: a young, inexperienced, exiled princess from a widely discredited, foreign regime from cultural backwater who wouldn't even count in the line of succession as she has an older brother? Just add luck and dragons to get a continental-sized headache... if you are an Essosi noble dependent on the status quo of slave economics for your existence.
* ''Literature/SkulduggeryPleasant'': Vaurien Scapegrace is introduced in the second book and quite clearly intended as a comic relief character, proclaiming to make murder in to an art form despite never having successfully killed anyone, showing little skill with fighting and no apparent magic. [[spoiler:Scapegrace never manages to become a major villain, and in the fourth book he actually gets killed by his own boss....who then reanimates him, turning him into a zombie. Vaurien maintains his status as a comic relief character, but nevertheless manages to kill ''dozens'' of mortals, creating a small zombie horde and temporarily providing a serious threat to the heroes]].
* ''Literature/HarryPotter'':
** [[spoiler:Pettigrew/Wormtail]]. All accounts of his past portray him as a simpering incompetent little coward who hid in the shadow of more powerful friends. While this is mostly true, he's far from harmless. [[spoiler:When he's revealed to be the one who really betrayed the Potters it's also shown that he killed about a dozen people with a single spell to cover his escape]]. He also managed to overpower a Ministry official (admittedly a somewhat scatterbrained one) that happened to know information that Voldemort could use. Then he [[spoiler:killed Cedric on Voldemort's orders, with a wand that wasn't his]]. He may be the least competent of Voldemort's Death Eaters, but he's still a Death Eater to the core. And EVERYONE seems to forget he became an Animagus at 15; sure he had a ton of help, but isn't that a slight hint he might be more powerful than expected?
** Draco Malfoy. For the first five books he's just a whiny, snarky, envious bully, and even then he's of little threat to the main heroes, other than through his father's connections. But in book 6 he's [[spoiler:tasked with assassinating Dumbledore]]. This doesn't make him more powerful, but sheer desperation turns him into a loose cannon and drives him to ever greater extremities, and he doesn't care if innocent people get hurt in his attempts. He ends up [[spoiler:very nearly killing two people (Katie Bell and Ron Weasley)]] AND [[spoiler:sneaking a gang of Death Eaters into the allegedly impenetrable Hogwarts]].
** Gilderoy Lockhart at first seems like nothing more than a pompous SmallNameBigEgo, but later reveals himself to be a dangerous villain in his own right because his CripplingOverspecialization just happens to be [[spoiler:LaserGuidedAmnesia]].
* The clown "Magnifico Giganticus" in Creator/IsaacAsimov's ''Literature/FoundationAndEmpire'' is a pathetic, misshapen sad sack who is rescued by the main characters and travels with them, until we find out [[spoiler:he is the BigBad of the novel, the mutant conqueror known as "The Mule."]] Although the readers start to suspect something when he kills a roomful of bad guys with a ''song''.
* ''Literature/ThePillarsOfTheEarth'': Yeah, see that idiotic, envious kid named William Hamleigh? Got made a fool of, butt of a lot of marriage jokes, and he lusts after a girl he'll never... Oh shit did he ''[[MoralEventHorizon just rape Aliena!]]'' It all goes downhill from there, too...
* In ''Literature/CounselorsAndKings'' [[spoiler:Dhamari]] is introduced as a middle-aged wizard of unremarkable talents and unassuming nature significant only because he was once married to one protagonist's mother. [[spoiler:He's actually one of the trilogy's main villains who's been helping half of the BigBadDuumvirate with her schemes ever since they were apprentices together, and while he's no more magically talented than he looks and is too petty to be a true Chessmaster, he's got more than his fair share of low cunning and ChronicBackstabbingDisorder.]]
* ''Literature/HonorHarrington'' presents us with [[spoiler:Mesa]], a small, horribly corrupt star nation run by a coalition of {{Mega Corp}}s, being responsible for a wide variety of atrocities in the name of [[ScrewTheRulesIHaveMoney the bottom line]]. Despite the fact that they are effectively untouchable due to being wrapped in a tangled web of backroom political deals and blackmail of various powerful officials across the galaxy, they are considered largely a minor sideshow given the fact that the People's Republic of Haven and the Star Kingdom of Manticore are fighting the largest interstellar war in the history of mankind. [[spoiler:And then the Mesans launch their surprise attack on the Manticoran and Grayson homeworlds, smashing industrial infrastructure and causing millions of deaths, all with no warning.]]
* The ''Franchise/StarTrekExpandedUniverse'' novel ''Kahless'' does this with the legendary Klingon tyrant Molor. Indeed, at the beginning of the story, Molor is a powerful and imposing warlord carving out an empire on Qo'noS with Kahless as his loyal lieutenant. Then Kahless is forced to do the honorable thing and kills Molor's son in a duel for insubordination. After that, Kahless, Morath, and a few others are forced to flee. Eventually, Kahless (with Morath's help) forges LaResistance and storms Molor's capital city. Kahless and Morath confront Molor in his throne room... only to see a feeble man made of skin and bones, suffering from the same plague as many of his subjects. Seeing this helpless guy, Kahless drops his guard, only for Molor to throw a dagger at him. Morath throws himself in front of the dagger, while Kahless beheads the tyrant. Interestingly, this means that Kahless II is, in fact, the clone of Morath and not Kahless.
* ''Literature/{{Safehold}}'': Vicar Allayn Maigwair is repeatedly remarked as the least intelligent among the antagonists known as the Group of Four. His actions, such as wasting time and resources building ships that had been outclassed by the protagonists and a certain uselessness in political matters, confirm this. Yet, it is ''his'' idea to engage in subterfuge intended to make the Empire of Charis think they were sending their newly built fleet to one location when they had a separate target. Even with their near omnipotent spying capabilities, this trick catches the Charisian leadership entirely flat-footed. Later, in the sixth book ''Midst Toil and Tribulation'' when given a hand in commanding ''army'' forces, as opposed to naval ones, he proves to be a very competent military leader and launches one of Safehold's most successful army campaigns ever.
* In some ''Literature/RainbowMagic'' books the goblins can be this, like when they successfully prevented Kirsty from getting Sophie's sapphire.
* At the very end of the second book in ''Literature/MistbornTheOriginalTrilogy'', the heroes discover how to MindControl the monstrous koloss, and from then on they use hordes of dominated koloss as shock troops in conquering various rebel factions. Until, at one particularly crucial moment, the series' BigBad steals back all the koloss, and blocks the Flaw by which the heroes had been controlling them. All of a sudden, the heroes are faced with an army of supernaturally strong and tough enemies, every one of which they have to kill.
* Shere Khan in ''Literature/TheJungleBook'', more noticeable than the Disney film. He has a lame leg and is considered something of an narcissistic fool. He is still a great hulking tiger and actually shows something of a manipulative streak towards the wolves.
* In the ''Literature/EighthDoctorAdventures'' novel ''Alien Bodies'', by Lawrence Miles, a Dalek spaceship arrives as a new villain faction, terrifying everyone. Then it turns out that the ship was hijacked and [[TheWorfEffect all the Daleks killed]] by a group of Krotons, who previously appeared in one Troughton-era TV story and were remembered in fandom as among the show's all-time most laughable lame monsters. It is then revealed for the rest of the novel just how much they TookALevelInBadass.
* In the ''Literature/DoctorWhoNewAdventures'', the Monk, who was quite comical in his two TV series appearances, reinvented himself as the horrifyingly-effective BigBad of a major story arc.
* ''Everybody'' mocks Kallor as a bullying braggart in the ''Literature/MalazanBookOfTheFallen''. Right up until [[spoiler:he joins forces with the Crippled God and performs an epic backstab on Caladan Brood's forces.]] Then in ''Literature/TollTheHounds'' he approaches near HeroKiller status.
* In the military sci-fi epic ''Literature/{{Victoria}}'', the LadyLand Azania and its female soldiers are on the receiving end of [[SnarkKnight even more than the usual amount]] of sarcasm and condescension from the [[LicensedSexist avowedly anti-feminist]] hero, John Rumford, who [[StayInTheKitchen does not believe that women can fight]]. This verdict then at first appears justified, when their inexperienced air force underperforms despite superior technology. However, on the ground the Azanians actually prove to be Rumford's most dangerous enemies throughout the story, and the only ones who manage to outmaneuver his unit in the field.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'':
** Warren and the other Nerds of Doom. At first, they're kind of silly with their arguments over ''Franchise/StarTrek'' and the best actor to play Film/JamesBond, and their kinda weird attempts to challenge Buffy in ways that, really, were nothing compared to five seasons of big bads and various monsters of the week. Warren stops being funny when he tries to rape his ex via mind control and kills her when she tries to escape, and near the end of the season [[spoiler:he shoots Buffy and murders Tara Maclay]]. Then one of the other nerds, Andrew, kills Jonathan, proving himself not just a source of comic relief.
** The Mayor. At first he seems like a self-serving politician tapping into supernatural powers for personal gain. Then it turns out he commands a small army of vampires and plans to become a pureblood demon. Oh, and he's also invulnerable; not just {{Nigh Invulnerab|ility}}le, ''invulnerable''.
** This becomes Spike's hat in Season 4. Buffy and company get used to thinking of him as harmless thanks to the [[RestrainingBolt chip implanted in his head that prevents him from physically attacking any humans]], but he occasionally shows them that he could still cause them problems or even get them all killed, even if he can't attack them directly.
*** When Faith wakes up from her coma and plans to go on a rampage against the group, Giles and Xander run into Spike, and because he's lived with them, fought demons together with them a few times, and generally been unable to harm them, they make the mistake of assuming he'll be an ally. They ask him if he's heard anything about Faith, and Spike feigns concern, which makes them fill him in on the whole Faith situation (as Spike has never seen or heard of Faith before) complete with a physical description and the fact that she's looking for vengeance against the group. With this information in hand, Spike announces that he's going to find the rogue Slayer so he can tell her where they are so he can watch as Faith kills them. And thanks to their assumption that he's harmless, he even has a rough description of the person he should be looking for.
--->'''Spike:''' What do you need?\\
'''Xander:''' Her. Dark hair, [raises a hand to about Faith's height] ye tall, name of Faith, criminally insane.\\
'''Spike:''' Is this bird after you?\\
'''Xander:''' In a ''bad'' way, yeah.\\
'''Spike:''' Tell you what I'll do then: head out, find this girl, tell her exactly where all of you are, then watch as she kills you. [''Spike smiles at Xander and Giles, then sighs in annoyance at their shocked expressions''] Can anyone in your damn little Scooby club at least try to remember that I ''hate'' you all. Just 'cause I can't do the damage myself doesn't stop me from aiming a loose cannon your way.
*** Near the end of Season 4, he manipulates the existing tensions within Buffy's friends and successfully gets them to turn against one another.
** When Harmony shows up in Season 5 with her own pack of vampires, the heroes can't take her seriously. Unfortunately, in the midst of taunting her, Dawn mistakenly invites her into her house, and we are reminded that while Harmony may be incompetent, she is still a vampire. Indeed, the minute she finds out that Harmony has minions, Buffy laughs her ass off, but quickly changes her tune when she discovers that Dawn invited Harmony in, gathering a small arsenal of weapons and stakes. Then in season 8 she kills a Slayer with her own stake on national television ''and'' convinces the public that vampires are the good guys and [[VanHelsingHateCrimes Slayers are the bad guys]], sending the US Military after them. All this from the seemingly brainless vampire that Buffy and Angel repeatedly refused to kill because they didn't see her as much of a threat.
* ''Series/{{Angel}}'' plays with this in regards to Daniel Holtz, a vampire hunter desiring revenge on Angel and Darla for destroying his life. Angel and Darla were always afraid of him but still didn't think of him as that much of a threat. When Holtz reappears in the present day, Angel and Darla realize just how dangerous he really is.
* ''Series/GameOfThrones'': Cersei Lannister. After about six seasons of being sidelined, outmaneuvered, and humiliated by the other players of the Game, Cersei snaps and has all of her rivals in King's Landing wiped out with wildfire before usurping the Iron Throne as Queen. She is directly responsible for killing as many or more major characters than anyone else has over all six seasons.
* Mirror Hoshi on ''Series/StarTrekEnterprise''. At the start of the two-part episode, she is the captain's sex-bunny and background character in all the plotting and conspiring; as it ends she has just [[spoiler:made herself Empress]].
* In ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'', in "Changing Face of Evil", the Dominion allies with the Breen, a race that can only live in the cold, and was previously known only as pirates and slavers, and are best known among fans for wearing a copy of Princess Leia's bounty hunter disguise from ''Film/ReturnOfTheJedi'', so the first reaction was "WTF? Is the Dominion going to make an alliance with [[TheScrappy the Kazon]] next?". Then the Breen [[spoiler:attack Earth]] and ''then'' they [[spoiler:whip out the energy draining gun, pwning 300 ships at once and endangering all others]].
* ''Series/PowerRangersLostGalaxy'': Becoming Not So Harmless was what Trakeena's whole character is about. At first, she's Big Bad Scorpius' spoiled daughter, and spends most of the time whining or backstabbing the villains who do know what they're doing in order to rise in the ranks. Eventually, she leaves, eventually meets up with an old ally of her dad, and gets some combat training. The real fun begins when TheStarscream, Deviot, arranges Scorpius' death and succeeds. Trakeena returns to take his place... and the new, badder Trakeena is worse than her dad ever was. She starts out as a competent and more proactive Big Bad, and gets more and more driven (and insane) until finally reaching unimaginable heights of evil.
* ''Series/PowerRangersNinjaStorm'': In Lothor's very first appearance, and during a [[spoiler:time-travel journey back to his days as a man]], he was formidable, but he seemed very bumbling/ineffective throughout the season, lamenting how his plots always failed and his soldiers were being destroyed...[[spoiler:until the finale, where he revealed that he was filling up the Abyss of Evil with dead soldiers in order to cause all hell to break loose on Earth. To this end, he willingly employed a [[TheStarscream backstabber]] and [[ThanatosGambit allowed himself to be destroyed]] to lead the charge of bad guys.]]
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** The Daleks are a meta-example. While they were always a threat and other characters rarely reacted with anything but terror, their numerous appearances over the original series' [[LongRunners twenty-six year run]] heavily diluted any fear to be had from the motorised pepper pots. Thus the new series episode "Dalek" was written with the sole intention of showing a new generation that the Daleks were Not So Harmless, with a single imprisoned, crippled, powerless Dalek killing hundreds of people effortlessly.
*** On a lesser scale with the Daleks in First Doctor stories. In their third story "The Chase" they had the potential to become really dangerous when they acquire time travel and pursue the Doctor. However they come across as quite laughable here, one Dalek struggling over a simple math problem, falling over, and getting beaten by Funhouse robots. In their next appearances, "The Daleks Master Plan" and its teaser episode "Mission to the Unknown" they come very close to conquering the Solar System and other Galaxies, and two companions die during the story.
** In the classic series, there was TheMaster's appearance in ''[[DepartmentOfRedundancyDepartment The Deadly Assassin]]''. While never exactly ''harmless'', his appearance here (after a lengthy hiatus) portrayed him less of a FriendlyEnemy and more a ruthless OmnicidalManiac, happy to tear the universe apart to save his own skin. In his next appearance though his main plan is stopped he [[TheBadGuyWins ends up getting a new body]] by [[GrandTheftMe taking over]] a rather nice character. In the story after that he goes on a killing spree and causes the 4th Doctor's death.
** This was the intention with the Cybermen in "Earthshock", after their poorly-received last appearance 7 years ago. The Cybermen come close to destroying the Earth and cause the death of one of the Doctor's companions, Adric, causing a case of AlasPoorScrappy.
** Every time the Cybermen show up in a New Who finale, they are never the most dangerous threat. The Cybermen in "The Doctor Falls" on the other hand, take over the BigBad role from The Master and [[spoiler: get closer to killing the Doctor than any of the other recurring villains.]].
* The Ferengi on ''Franchise/StarTrek'' are an interesting example, since they were originally created to be a serious threat. When this fizzled, they were retooled into a sort of PluckyComicRelief... but every so often, an episode will be released that reminds the viewer that the Ferengi are Not So Harmless after all.
* Tom Zarek and Gaeta in ''Series/{{Battlestar Galactica|2003}}''. Tom spends most of the series as a placeholder for vice president or opposition, and Gaeta watching the radar. They eventually lead a coup against Adama and Roslin.
* One episode of ''Series/NUMB3RS'' has a pair of polite bank robbers. They walk in, request the money, say thank you, and walk out. They are even polite enough to hold doors open for people. Really harmless robbers with a cutesy nickname, or so people think until Charlie predicted their target and Don and a team tries to arrest them. That is when they demonstrated that not having needed to call for backup is not the same as not having backup, and not having needed to use violence is not the same as being unwilling to use violence. Turns out they are ex-special forces working to a deeper plan and perfectly happy to use assault rifles, car bombs, and expertly knife a janitor that gets in the way -- just hadn't needed to before.
* Marlo Stanfield's first appearance in ''Series/TheWire'' is very unassuming (blink and you'll miss it). Furthermore the Barksdales and everyone else initially dismisses him as just a small time dealer of no consequence. Fast forward a year and [[DisposingOfABody many row houses later...]]
* ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'': [[MagnificentBastard Crowley]] was never a harmless villain, but because he spent a lot of his screen time [[EnemyMine teaming up with the heroes]] and being deliciously [[DeadpanSnarker snarky]] and [[EvilIsCool cool]], most fans forgot that he was... y'know, evil. Then Season 8 rolled around, [[YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness Crowley had no reason to buddy up to the Winchesters anymore]], and promptly skipped right over the MoralEventHorizon in- and out-of-universe.
%%** The Trickster's third appearance.
* ''Series/StargateSG1'''s Lucian Alliance gained a reputation as being a bumbling band of smugglers whose M.O. roughly came down to spreading evil space corn throughout the galaxy. When they make their reappearance in ''Series/StargateUniverse'', they do so replacing the goofball routine with a new "ruthless band of badasses" one. In the pilot they have several Ha'taks give trouble to the ''General Hammond'', a ''Daedalus''-class battlecruiser upgraded with Asgard technology (including those plasma beams that can slice through ''Ori'' shields like they're made of paper). The Ha'taks themselves were for a number of seasons considered nothing more than a joke. And why not? The Lucian Alliance are not the Goa'uld, they're human (most of them) and have as much ingenuity as Earth-bound humans.
* Percy, the BigBad of ''Series/{{Nikita}}'', started out seemingly ineffectual, always being OutGambitted by Nikita at every turn. However, as the series goes on, he becomes worse and worse, and as the penultimate episode of season 1 shows, he is also a MagnificentBastard. Check out his description on that page for details.
* [[SmugSnake Vern]], [[LonersAreFreaks Psycho Loner]] and BigBadWannabe of ''Series/DarkOracle'' spent a season-and-a-half being treated as a joke by the main characters, who had far bigger problems to deal with in the form of their {{Evil Twin}}s Blaze and Violet. Then in rapid succession Vern, finds and reads the comic book that shows Blaze and Violet's world, steals an amulet from [[TheMentor Doyle]] and attempts to kill Doyle, Lance and Cally with it, absorbs some of the amulet's magic so that even after losing it he remains a threat, and frees previous BigBad [[EvilSorcerer Omen]] from the comic, eventually helping him trap Lance in the comic, and loosing [[TheDragon Blaze]] in the process. Unfortunately for him, Blaze being on the loose means that Vern is again overshadowed, and ultimately [[spoiler:has to pull a HeelFaceTurn when he realises Blaze is going to turn on him]].
* Dr. Maki from ''Series/KamenRiderOOO'' started out as a creepy emotionless scientist with a MorallyAmbiguousDoctorate and a weird fixation on the CreepyDoll he carried around on his arm. While he was genuinely unsettling at first, the way he [[NotSoStoic flipped out]] whenever he lost his doll gradually turned him into a joke. Then he [[TraumaInducedAmnesia fully recovers the memories]] surrounding his sister's death [[note]] which [[FreudianExcuse traumatized him as a child]], leading to his doll and general lack of emotion [[/note]]: [[spoiler:''he'' killed her, in a fit of jealousy, and looking back on the event, he decides ''he was right to do so'']]. Cue him joining up with the [[MonsterOfTheWeek Greeed]], obtaining the [[ArtifactOfDoom Purple Core Medals]], [[spoiler:transforming into a Greeed himself, hijacking BigBad status from Kazari ([[EvilerThanThou directly killing him in the process]]), and coming within inches of destroying the planet]].
* ''Series/{{Justified}}'':
** When we first meet [[spoiler:Sammy Tonin]] he's not taken seriously by anyone, [[spoiler:he wears custom-made suits that are all the wrong size and is basically seen by everyone as nothing more than his father's messenger boy, but in "Ghosts", when his father is driven into hiding, he swiftly takes over the family business, turns his only rival's men against their boss and, after a moment considering whether to take Raylan at his word, has said rival riddled with bullets]]. The following season, he suffers a VillainousBreakdown and spends his time [[spoiler:using chainsaws to torture people]].
** Dewey Crowe is the show's resident ButtMonkey and gets no respect from the other criminals or law enforcement. However, season 3 reveals that when desperate he can be extremely violent and dangerous though still incredibly dumb. In season 5 he [[spoiler:murders a man]].
** Dickie Bennett is a SmugSnake par excellence who is probably the least threatening of the Bennett crime family both physically and mentally. However, he's shown time and time again he's a vicious little scumbag and that if you turn your back on him, be prepared for him to shoot you dead without remorse. [[spoiler:Just ask Raylan's mom Helen]].
* Doctor Clayton Forrester from ''Series/MysteryScienceTheater3000''. While normally he's just a [[LargeHam hammy]] HarmlessVillain, he was very close to succeeding in driving the protagonists insane and ruling the world with ''Film/ManosTheHandsOfFate'', ''Film/HerculesAgainstTheMoonMen'', ''Film/MonsterAGoGo'', ''Film/TheCastleOfFuManchu'', and ''Film/RedZoneCuba''. His successor [[InTheBlood (and mother)]] Pearl Forrester also came close with ''Film/{{Hobgoblins}}'' and ''Film/InvasionOfTheNeptuneMen''.
* ''Series/{{Community}}'':
** At the start of the series, Chang's really more of a nuisance than a villain, and for most of the first three seasons he's such a pathetic antagonist that one feels sorry for him despite his {{Jerkass}}ery. Then at the end of Season 3, he gets DrunkWithPower after being made a security guard and [[spoiler:manages to take over the college after kidnapping the Dean, and afterwards he [[LethallyStupid nearly burns down the school with all the students still inside it]]]].
** Mr. Radd in "Regional Holiday Music" is introduced as an annoyingly cheerful, mildly creepy fellow who wants to get the study group to fill in for the Glee club. As with many of the show's plots, the joke is that Greendale is such a CloudCuckooLand that students there would treat something so minor like a life-or-death situation. Then Mr. Radd lets slip that [[spoiler:he murdered the original Glee club]].
* The Count from ''Series/YoungDracula'' is often made fun of in-universe and generally regarded as a washed-up has-been who can barely even take down livestock. Every now and then, however, he'll make reference to the fact that in his heyday, he was Vlad the Impaler, killer of thousands and one of the most horrifically ruthless dictators ever to walk the face of the earth.
* ''Series/TheFlash2014'': Season 3's first two episodes gives us Edward Clariss, The Rival. He's a speedster obsessed with being the fastest... except he was not faster than Barry in the slightest. Furthermore, after seeing Barry defeat Zoom and his experiences with the Reverse-Flash, The Rival felt nothing more than a lackluster villain who lacked what made either of them personal with Barry. However, he ends up stabbing [[spoiler:Flashpoint!Wally]] in the back and creates three tornadoes in an attempt to destroy Central City, thus reminding the viewer that no matter how unimpressive The Rival was compared to Reverse-Flash and Zoom, he is still a metahuman with dangerous powers that he intends to use to harm people.

* Voltaire's "When You're Evil" is a cheerful showtune with a singer who's cartoonishly pure Evil-with-an-E.
-->''I'm the fly in your soup\\
I'm the pebble in your shoe\\
I'm the pea beneath your bed\\
I'm a bump on every head''
::It takes about three verses to realize that he's serious.
-->''... Lord Beelzebub\\
Has never seen a soldier quite like me\\
Not only does his job, but does it happily.\\
I'm a dagger in your back\\
An extra turn upon the rack\\
I'm the quivering of your heart\\
A stabbing pain, a sudden start.''
* Alberich in Wagner's ''Theatre/DerRingDesNibelungen'' stats off as a harmless [[ExtravertedNerd lovesick dwarf]]. Foiled in his amorous attempts, he steals the Rheingold and becomes [[FromNobodyToNightmare absolute ruler]] of the Dwarves. And that's just the beginning...

[[folder:Myths & Religion]]
* Loki of Myth/NorseMythology. Most of the tales starring Loki cast him as a harmless trickster. He gets into amusing antics with Thor, cheats Dwarves with a [[MeaninglessVillainVictory meaningless victory]], helps the Norse gods swindle a giant by seducing his horse (giving birth to Sleipnir in the process), and cuts off Sif's (Thor's wife) hair as a prank. Oh, and he also fathers three of the most dangerous beings in the mythos; one becomes the ruler of (and namesake) of the underworld, one becomes a sea serpent big enough to encircle the world, and the third becomes the [[CanisMajor biggest wolf ever]]. But Loki only ''really'' gets nasty when he finds out that he's destined to suffer a horrific fate at the hands of the other gods, and decides that he might as well ''earn'' it. He does so by killing Baldur and ensuring that he ''stayed'' dead. Then when Ragnarok arrives, he breaks free of his imprisonment, leads an army of the damned, and kills the bridge guardian of the gods, Heimdallr (though he dies as well), doing his part to seal the Norse gods' defeat.
* Coyote, in Navajo mythology, is never really a trickster god, but varies between AttentionDeficitOohShiny and EldritchAbomination. Early on, he mostly just [[WhatDoesThisButtonDo messes up First Man's work]] and [[HorribleJudgeOfCharacter gets tricked by blackbirds]], the Navajo's ''real'' trickster-figures. Later, though, Coyote [[MyDeathIsJustTheBeginning lets himself be murdered...four times...resurrecting himself each time]], thus becoming the only Navajo supernatural who can use [[BlackMagic Corpse Poison]] without having gotten it from First Man. Then his wife, [[MeaningfulName Woman Who Becomes a Bear]], invents {{s|hapeshifting}}kinwalking (and to the Navajo, ''all'' skinwalkers are diabolically evil).

[[folder:Pro Wrestling]]
* The infamous "You will not look past me" rant from Wrestling/ChrisJericho to [[Wrestling/DwayneJohnson The Rock]] in the buildup to ''Royal Rumble 2002''. Everyone assumed Rock would beat Jericho for the belt and go on to the Wrestling/WrestleMania main event. Nope. Nor did Wrestling/StoneColdSteveAustin the following month.
* A really bizarre case of this was [[Wrestling/LisaMarieVaron Victoria]], who first appeared on television as a happy ho who liked to dance but became a sadistic psychopath with Wrestling/StevieRichards wrapped around her little finger with no explanation or foreshadowing whatsoever. Her entire career from that point on is unexplained shifts between fun loving ex-ho and deranged loon, with very few exceptions(She once purposefully tried to make herself crazy in hopes it would help her beat Wrestling/MickieJames)
* Wrestling/ChrisHero and Necro Butcher first appeared at Wrestling/RingOfHonor events as hecklers who were frequently removed from the premises by security. Little did anyone know that this was the beginning of a feud, one that would be considered a contender for greatest in ROH history, as it would progress to Hero having ([[Wrestling/KevinSteen nearly]])the entire Wrestling/{{CZW}} locker room behind him and Wrestling/ClaudioCastagnoli defecting from ROH to join them in their attempt to destroy the company. Even after the CZW incursions were put to an end The Kings Of Wrestling continued to cause trouble in ROH for years to come.
* This was the whole basis of the 2009 feud between Wrestling/JohnCena and Wrestling/TheMiz. Cena is the top star on ''Wrestling/WWERaw'', and once Miz was traded to the brand he instantly started calling him out. The feud played out for months with the idea that Cena was much more focused on his other feud with Wrestling/TheBigShow and couldn't be bothered to care about Miz running his mouth -- as things went on and Miz began to do such things as attack him and Big Show alike any time he could, Cena began to take him more and more seriously. Then [[FanonDisContinuity their match at The Bash didn't happen, honest,]] but in a showdown on Raw Miz put up a losing effort but dominated Cena through the entire match and showed that he was just as able to hang with Cena as Big Show is. Miz eventually became a long-running WWE champion. However he suffered BadassDecay shortly thereafter and was relegated to the midcard once more; his title run mentioned only to boost the credibility of whomever was beating him up that week. While The Miz still seems to be playing this trope hard, he ultimately had his Championship reclaimed by Cena, albeit only to have it snatched by...
* Wrestling/AlbertoDelRio. Much like The Miz, his "Juan Bradshaw Layfield" is incredibly narcissistic and [[DirtyCoward will frequently balk from a match]]. When riled enough, however, he is disturbingly ferocious. Cena labelled Del Rio pathetic for cashing in his Money In The Bank match on a champ post match (never mind that pretty much ''everybody'' who wins the Money In The Bank uses it that way) and swiped it back; a few nasty beatdowns later, Del Rio won it ''again''.
* The dancing Cloudcuckoolander Pinkie Sanchez proved how not harmless he was during Wrestling/{{Chikara}}'s eight season when he successfully impersonated Worker Ant to win the Torneo Cibernetico and join Die Bruderschaft des Kreuzes.
* Another example involving the BDK was [[Wrestling/HunterJohnston Delirious]], who wasn't even a villain until Wrestling/UltraMantisBlack mind controlled him with [[ArtifactOfDoom The Eye Of Tyr]]. It was assumed by a repentant [=UltraMantis=] that simply removing Delirious of this control would solve all problems but instead Delirious wanted revenge, first against Black, and then against society in general, leading him to join what seemed to be an end of the world cult.
* A good chunk of Wrestling/TheNexus became a lot more dangerous after they formed their group. Wrestling/JustinGabriel began wearing black trunks and delivering stares of death before a 450 splash, [[Wrestling/{{Ryback}} Skip Sheffield]] became a lot more vicious in the ring. And Michael Tarver...well, actually became awesome, especially after the booking on NXT Season 1 did everything to make you think he wasn't.
* Marty "The Moth" Martinez first appeared on ''Wrestling/LuchaUnderground'' as a chubby, goofy, CloudCuckoolander fanboy convinced he was a descendant of the Aztec tribes, and was treated as a JokeCharacter by everyone (and for the entire first season he was just a {{Jobber}}, although he did at least show himself as a pretty proficient wrestler). Then at the end of Season 1 he actually ''kidnapped'' his recurring opponent [[ActionGirl Sexy Star]] and held her captive for over half a year, showing himself to be [[AxCrazy completely insane]] and [[SurpriseCreepy actually kinda scary]].
-->'''Marty:''' You thought I was ''[[WhosLaughingNow amusing?!]]''

* AudioPlay/BigFinishDoctorWho gives this to a couple of notorious joke villains from the TV show, like other expanded universe canons.
** In "Seasons of Fear" the villains are given a major [[TheReveal reveal]] as the [[spoiler:[[ALoadOfBull Nimons]]]]. They were the monsters in the poorly-thought of story [[spoiler:"The Horns of Nimon", where their costumes were a laughable SpecialEffectFailure]]. However in a sound-only medium the [[spoiler:Nimon]] are a credible threat, coming very close to conquering Earth and it is shown that if they succeeded they would have conquered many other worlds and become the masters of time.
** The Meddling Monk was a rather comedic villain on his two appearances in the TV series. In Big Finish he shows himself to be dangerous, helping the Ice Warriors in a plan to kill 300,000 Martian colonists and in Lucie Miller/To the Death he helps the Daleks invade Earth again.

* In sports, the "Wounded Tiger" and "Ewing" theories both assert that a team known for one or two star players is more likely to thrive when said star(s) are not playing. The point being that opposing teams will write them off as they would a wounded tiger, not realizing that a wounded tiger is a very dangerous creature. So for instance, when Deron Williams is nursing an injury, either watch out for the New Jersey Nets or prepare to be baffled and ashamed in defeat; the wounded tiger is on the prowl. Similarly, after [=LeBron=] James and Shaquille O'Neal left them in the summer, the now-starless Cleveland Cavaliers opened the 2010-2011 season... by beating last season's runner-up squad, the Boston Celtics. This was both an incredible upset and a slap in the face to [=LeBron=], whose Miami Heat had lost to the Celtics the day before, and Shaq, who now played for the Celtics. And shortly after breaking a record-setting losing streak, the "Cleveland Cadavers" showed they were still alive... by beating the previous year's ''champions'', the LA Lakers. And about a month later, ''they beat the Heat''.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'':
** In the ''TabletopGame/ForgottenRealms'', Cyric, while undeniably evil, was always considered a minor threat at best because he's so freaking [[AxCrazy insane]] that most of his plans fall through. Then, in 4th edition, he orchestrates the death of Helm, ''personally'' murders Mystra (possibly for [[KilledOffForReal good]] this time), ''and'' unleashes the devastating Spell Plague, all without breaking a sweat. ''Wow''.
** In the first ''TabletopGame/{{Pathfinder}}'' adventure, ''Burnt Offerings'', the players fend off an attack from goblins that act like pyromaniac 5th-graders who injure themselves as often as their opponents. But weeks after the raid, they discover a goblin who ran and hid under a house, where he slowly went mad from hunger and isolation and ''killed and ate a man who tried to stop him doing the same to his child''. A definite case of MoodWhiplash.
** Kobolds started out as cowardly little dog-lizard things and were even more cannon fodder than goblins...then came Tucker's Kobolds, and in ''TabletopGame/{{Pathfinder}}'' they came back as WeakButSkilled tactical geniuses that could utterly slaughter a party of adventurers without even directly fighting them.
** "The Bandits of Bunglewood" from ''Dungeon Adventures 51'' seems to be inspired by Tucker's Kobolds. The eponymous Bandits are kobolds who have gotten more training than the typical ones, and investigating their misdeeds is difficult, because nobody is willing to admit they were beaten up and robbed by mere kobolds. As a result, their actions around the town the module takes place are clouded by stories of orcs, lycanthropes, trolls, and other "respectable" monsters.
** ''Any'' monster can be amped up to a potential TotalPartyKill in the hands of a KillerGameMaster, or one looking for the ultimate challenge for his players.
* ''TabletopGame/NewWorldOfDarkness'':
** Humans are slow, feeble, ignorant, nearly powerless, and only an actual danger to supernaturals in significant numbers. Until the supernaturals find themselves facing [[TabletopGame/HunterTheVigil the exceptions]], who are ''very'' capable of fighting the supernaturals on their own turf and winning, by means as diverse as Task Force: VALKYRIE's [[PlasmaCannon plasma cannons and bullets]] that phase into the spirit realm and harm incorporeal entities, to the Malleus Maleficarum's habit of calling down the literal wrath of God, to an insanely brave and fiendishly clever group of everyday men and women who have gotten fed up with the things that go bump in the night and broken out whatever weapons or tools that are handy. To put it another way: most supernatural effects have damage, targeting, and so on that scale with "power" dots (gnosis, etc) plus stat dots plus "skill" dots (sphere ranks, renowns, etc) and occasionally some miscellaneous dots from a third pool. Until players hit the 'epic' point where their supernatural power is over 5, vanilla mortals use the vital stat + skill points + specialties system, which scales in exactly the same way, meaning that statistically a 0 [=XP=] mortal specialist using her specialty can likely do things that are more powerful than the supernatural players. A skilled DM refrains from pointing this out until the party has decided to take a shortcut through an active SWAT site to reach their "real" opponents or something similar. Then HilarityEnsues, up to and including a TotalPartyKill.
** In fan-supplement ''TabletopGame/PrincessTheHopeful'', the ''[[BigBad All-Consuming Darkness]]'', of all things, used to be this to the Princesses. Back when the Kingdom existed, they were treated as a nuisance the Nobles had a duty to take care of, and were routinely [[CurbStompBattle curb-stomped]]. Then the Hopefuls grew self-righteous and suffered infighting, giving minions of the Darkness enough time to actually fester and come up with a plan. Once that was done, they completely obliterated the Kingdom, [[SealedGoodInACan trapping most servants of the Light in the Dreamlands]]. Nowadays, they are by far the side with the upper hand.
* ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'':
** The Imperial Guard are generally portrayed as the Imperium's trillions strong RedshirtArmy. A popular joke in the fandom goes "what do you call a lasgun (the Imperial guard's main weapon) with a laser sight? Double-barreled." But as ''TabletopGame/BlackCrusade'' reminds us, "The [[SuperSoldier Legionnaire]] that scoffs at a lasgun has not charged across an open field against a hundred of them."
** [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Abbadon The Despoiler]] is nominally the setting's BigBad (or at least the biggest bad short of a [[GodOfEvil Chaos God]]), but despite being trumpeted as the man who could succeed in finally toppling Terra, the fandom had problems taking him seriously because his twelve Black Crusades were either dismal failures or somewhat redeemed by having one of his plans out of many come to fruition. Then came the Eye of Terror event, and when it was over, Abaddon's 13th Black Crusade had ransacked Cadia, establishing a solid beachhead on the fortress-world that stood between the forces of Chaos and the rest of the galaxy. Later supplements did more to rebuild his reputation, explaining that the previous Black Crusades weren't attempts to conquer the galaxy, but to achieve certain goals which Abaddon met. The Fall of Cadia event took this even further by having Abbadon [[spoiler:blow the whole planet to kingdom come despite the efforts of the Imperium, Eldar, Dark Eldar and Necrons, with the added detail that the Imperium is effectively broken in half]].
** Perturabo, Primarch of the Iron Warriors. Before the Horus Heresy, the Iron Warriors legion got repeatedly shit on and disrespected, being treated as semi-expendable workhorses and given all the most brutal garrison and siege duties without being recognised for their contributions to the final victory or even really being thanked. When Horus turned traitor, the Iron Warriors followed; they gleefully dismantled the Imperial defences during the Siege of Terra and wrecked much of the Imperial Palace, and then nearly massacred their rivals the Imperial Fists. Now they're one of the most ruthless and terrifying Chaos Space Marine legions in the entire galaxy, valuing nothing beyond their hatred and their means of expressing it. Even Chaos itself is just another weapon in their IndustrializedEvil approach to fighting war.
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Rifts}}'', the Power Leeches introduced in ''Psyscape'' start out tiny and relatively weak, but have unlimited growth potential, frightening if assaulted by a friendly unlimited-ammo Cosmo-Knight or Machine Person.
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Nightbane}}'', the Dream Ghouls introduced in ''Between the Shadows:'' are weakest of all the dreamthings, but unlike the others they can receive an upgrade from absorbing PPE and it is not explicitly a 1-time thing, allowing them potentially unlimited upgrades in size and attributes.
* Out of all the Ancient Ones in ''TabletopGame/ArkhamHorror'', Azathoth the "Idiot Sultan" could be considered to be the most harmless one, since anything he does while he's still asleep is to make it ''harder'' for his cultists to wake him up. The catch is that, when any of the other Ancient Ones wakes up, you get a final chance to stop them [[DidYouJustPunchOutCthulhu via boss fight]]. But if ''Azatoth'' wakes up, you don't get the chance, as [[TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt he destroys the entire world]] [[RocksFallEveryoneDies with his first and only attack]].

* In ''Theatre/JuliusCaesar'' the conspirators against Caesar consider Marc Antony no threat, saying, "He can do no more than Caesar's arm when Caesar's head is cut off". They're so unafraid of him that Brutus lets him speak at Caesar's funeral! Whatever speech he can make will pale in comparison to the unparalleled generosity of letting him speak at all, right?! [[spoiler:Friends, Romans, Countrymen!]] The audience is privy to a bit of foreshadowing regarding Marc Antony's forthcoming badassness with this line:
-->'''Marc Antony''': ...And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge, with Ate by his side come hot from hell, shall in these confines with a monarch's voice [[StockQuotes cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war]].
* In ''Theatre/PokemonLive'', Jessie, James, and Meowth are this. Despite their zero-win track record and seeing ''themselves'' as incompetent, Jessie and James manage to capture both Pikachu and Ash. Delia also takes their threat very seriously, worrying that they may have hurt Ash and knowing that they answer directly to Giovanni.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoSanAndreas'': While OG Loc at first appears to be an idiot who is ridiculed for their friends, even too harmless to consider him a "villain", this is immediately inverted when he send CJ to commit several atrocities: kidnap and kill Madd Dogg's manager and his girlfriend and killing all the security of Madd Dogg to steal his rhyme book. It gets worse when he becomes famous off of Madd Dogg's stolen lyrics, nearly driving Madd Dogg to suicide!
* Garland, of the original ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyI''. Wussy first boss of a knight that you'd probably forget about once you reach the final dungeon, where he turns out to be the BigBad.
* Borghen in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyII'' comes at the end of a dungeon after a tough boss, having decided that if the Emperor is certainly going to [[YouHaveFailedMe have him killed for his failures]], he's going to take the party down with him. [[ZeroEffortBoss That doesn't go so well]]...until he triggers a [[IndyEscape boulder trap]] just before his dies, [[spoiler:forcing Josef to make a HeroicSacrifice to save the others]].
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVI'': Kefka, to a certain extent. Comically-loony jester sidekick of the real villain? [[EvilLaugh Uwa, ha ha]]. '''[[OmnicidalManiac W]][[StrawNihilist R]][[BigBad O]][[MonsterClown N]][[OneWingedAngel G]][[AxCrazy !]]'''
* Kefka again in ''VideoGame/DissidiaFinalFantasy''. Due to the way that universe is built up, when a character dies, s/he will simply be resurrected again, though of at expense of the memories of his/her previous life. All through the 13th resurrection circle, Kefka is trying, with the help of [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyIII the Cloud of Darkness]], to get Terra Branford to join their side. Again. See, she actually WAS on their side in the 12th circle, but due to Kefka being neglectful she pulled a HighHeelFaceTurn... So, why does the Cloud of Darkness not call Kefka out on it being his fault? And why does she act like she had never seen Terra before? Well, because during the 12th circle she tipped the heroes off on how to stop the invasion of [[{{Mooks}} Manikins]], beings that can nullify the resurrection process, and Kefka did not like that... so he killed her. The gibbering PsychopathicManchild, Kefka, pulled a YouHaveFailedMe on the AnthropomorphicPersonification [[HumanoidAbomination of the realm of nothingness]]. [[note]] To put that into further perspective; not even the Onion Knight, the Cloud of Darkness' fated nemesis, could kill her in his main storyline.[[/note]]
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIX'': Remember Zorn and Thorn, the annoying jester twins whose asses you handed to them in Disc 2? [[FusionDance They're not twins.]] The resulting monster spams the more harmful status ailments (Virus and Venom) while also bombarding you with powerful black magic (notably Bio... [[FromBadToWorse which also inflicts Poison!]]), making for a surprisingly challenging - and satisfying - ClimaxBoss. [[note]]Particularly when one factors in that your dedicated BlackMage runs off before the fight, and your more offensive-based Summoner is currently mute and has a high chance of failing to cast her spells.[[/note]]
* ''VideoGame/DevilMayCry3DantesAwakening'' gives us Jester, goofy [[MonsterClown clown demon]] who shows up randomly to annoy Dante and give him advice on how to proceed. Then you have to fight him as a boss and that ends up being funny due to Jester's [[AffablyEvil personality]], but during TheReveal [[spoiler:you find out he's Arkham's Devil Trigger and has been manipulating Dante, Vergil, and Lady in a EvilPlan to open the portal to the demon world, give him the sealed power of Sparda, and generally bring HellOnEarth]].
* [[MakingASplash Alex]] of ''VideoGame/GoldenSun'' fame is little more of a SmugSnake in the first game, whereas his companions always throw themselves into the thick of combat and are more than willing to risk their lives to achieve their dream of restoring Alchemy to the world. Then the sequel rolls around and in the first five minutes he ''{{curb stomp|Battle}}s'' the same elite soldiers that Saturos and Menardi did a game ago before nonchalantly responding to their threat of backup by asking if they thought even ''a hundred'' of their soldiers would be enough to stop him. He then reveals true colours as a MagnificentBastard, employing tactics such as hiring [[spoiler:replacements for his old companions]] in order to intimidate [[AntiHero Felix]] into lighting the remaining beacons. He then ([[WildMassGuessing presumably]]) steals [[TheHero Isaac's]] ship so he can [[spoiler:be there when the Golden Sun forms over Mt. Aleph after all four Elemental Lighthouse beacons are lit so that [[AGodAmI he can obtain absolute power and]] {{Immortality}}]].
* ''VideoGame/TheKingOfFighters '97'' has the New Faces Team. At first they appear to be just some punk kids (or whatever kind of band they had) with upbeat attitudes and realistic fighting styles. Supplemental materials suggest that they hate Iori and may have punked the '94 Sports Team, but otherwise they're pretty normal. Then it is revealed that all three of them are villains from the Orochi bloodline, and they display highly powerful elemental abilities in their new forms. And then one of them becomes Orochi himself, and you're suddenly fighting a world-destroying god. A world destroying god who was originally ''Chris'', the Team's FragileSpeedster.
* Handsome Jack, from ''VideoGame/{{Borderlands 2}}'', is recognized as being a major threat to Pandora, but for much of the game, he tries (and fails) to kill you and your friends while [[EvilIsPetty acting like a dick at every turn]]. [[spoiler:Then his daughter Angel dies, and he goes on to murder Roland and kidnap Lilith.]] Once he puts his mind to it, he becomes dangerous.
** Even before this, he reveals himself as more dangerous than expected when [[spoiler:he explodes Bloodwing's head after her boss fight and even before ''that'', when the Hyperion-brand energy core you just installed deactivates Sanctuary's defenses]].
* ''VideoGame/PaperMario'':
** Jr. Troopa is a baby koopa fresh from the nest (with most of his egg's shell still on him) and a comic relief RecurringBoss who can actually be a real hassle to beat at many stages of the game.
** The Koopa Bros., as well, are treated as complete losers but prove formidable in the actual fight with them. That's teamwork for you.
** [[Characters/SuperMarioBrosBowser Bowser]] in ''Paper Mario''. Although he's extremely dumb (he'll believe Peach if she tells him Mario hates healing items), he possesses the Star Rod which makes him a god, and he actually manages to defeat Mario at the start of the game.
** Dimentio in ''VideoGame/SuperPaperMario'' seems to be at first a jester-like character, light-hearted and playful. Later, as his [[TheChessmaster true]] [[TakeOverTheWorld intentions unfold]], his true menace becomes apparent.
* Gruntilda from ''VideoGame/BanjoKazooie'' and its sequels tends to come across as [[HarmlessVillain rather goofy with her constant rhyming and her funny lines.]] Even when battling her, she still makes weird, rhyming comments. She also reveals some mean magic skills and a surprisingly good aim. Every battle with Gruntilda is a multi-phase marathon where she will pull out all the stops to defeat you. And, just in case you had any doubts, she kicks off her return in ''Banjo-Tooie'' by destroying the grey Jinjos' house, zombifying the king of the Jinjos, destroying ''Banjo's'' house, and ''killing Bottles''.
* Porky from ''VideoGame/{{Earthbound}}.'' He starts out as Ness's friend, and after he [[FaceHeelTurn turns]], he's still just a harmless nuisance. By the end of the game, though, he's BigBad Giygas's right hand-man. There's a reason his theme song for your final battle against him is [[FanNickname fan-nicknamed]] "Porky Means Business!" (the Japanese fan-nickname translates roughly to "Cease to Exist", referring to what Porky wants Ness and his friends to do.) [[spoiler:In ''VideoGame/{{Mother 3}}'', he's a full-on BigBad himself. Who manages to take over the world.]]
* ''Franchise/KingdomHearts'':
** ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsII'' has Demyx. When he's first seen, he acts like a clumsy coward, running away and stumbling everywhere. His in-game profile even calls him a joke. However, when accused of being a truly emotionless being, he ditches the act. Suddenly he's leaping around all over the battlefield and using his sitar to unleash a huge barrel of watery whoopass on Sora and company. Many players were [[ThatOneBoss unpleasantly surprised]], to say the least.
** ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsCoded'' has Pete of all people. Taking full command of the Bug Blox glitches that infest the datascape, he gains a lot of power, going from the incompetent and minor threat he normally is to a genuine and terrifying threat to Data-Sora. For example, he takes full advantage of the fact that Donald and Goofy are going to try and protect Data-Sora and uses that fact to trap the two and nearly kills them as a result.
** In ''VideoGame/KingdomHearts3DDreamDropDistance'', Captain Pete of Country of the Musketeers is significantly more competent than his "normal" (and inept) incarnation, nearly succeeding in his coup of Queen Minnie due to his own cunning. He only fails because Sora and Riku show up and help Mickey, Donald, and Goofy.
** While TheHeartless aren't exactly ''harmless'', being creatures that exist AsLongAsThereIsEvil and being a world-destroying force in [[VideoGame/KingdomHeartsI the original game]], it's easy to forget that when Sora is literally killing them by the ''thousands'' with little trouble. Then comes the Secret Episode of ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsBirthBySleep'' where [[spoiler:Aqua is trapped in the Realm of Darkness. Suddenly TheUsualAdversaries are actually dangerous, to the point where even [[TheGoomba Shadows]] can kill you in a few hits]]. To drive the point home, [[spoiler:the player isn't facing the [[AdorableEvilMinion cute, cartoony]] Emblem Heartless here; no, you're pitted against Purebloods, the original, far more terrifying variety of Heartless, culminating in a boss fight against a monstrous AnimalisticAbomination that's one of the largest Heartless bosses in the series]].
** The Shadow Heartless are normally TheGoomba. In ''0.2 A Fragmentary Passage'' we learn what happens [[WolfpackBoss when they team up.]] The Demon Tower is a large number of Shadows combining their power and serves as a competent boss twice. The FinalBoss of the storyline is the Demon Tide; an even larger number of Shadows surrounding an orb of dark energy and takes the combined strength of Aqua and Mickey to take down [[spoiler:and it still has enough strength to cause one of the cruellest [[HopeSpot Hope Spots]] in the series]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Dragonfable}}''. Nythera starts off as a somewhat bratty and powerless apprentice to Warlic, the greatest mage in the world. She's pretty blatant about wanting Warlic to give her her powers back, and insinuates that she'll take his powers if he doesn't. This is all played for laughs at first. Then she kills Warlic and steals his powers and issues a challenge to all of the Elemental Lords at once, which drives them to attack your town. To add insult to injury, she even thanks you, since she used the potions YOU helped her to make to finish off Warlic. NiceJobBreakingItHero. Later in the quest line, [[spoiler:when she faces the Elemental Avatars, the player gets the chance to control her. ''Her basic attack'' consists of several hits that do hundreds of damage ''each''. Due to the way the battles work, it's still a HopelessBossFight, but ''damn'']].
* Deathroy from ''VideoGame/BlueDragon''. What appears to be an annoying sidekick turns out to [[spoiler:have been the BigBad all along. In fact, he's the BigBad that killed all of the Not-Really-The-Big-Bad's people]].
* ''VideoGame/ChronoTrigger'':
** Dalton is best known for BreakingTheFourthWall when inappropriate music is playing, getting sucked into a portal when the TrickBoss he tried to summon fails to appear, and generally being an [[SmugSnake incompetent]] [[LargeHam ham]]. Then you meet him in a bonus dungeon in the DS version, where he mentions his plan to [[spoiler:build an army in Porre and try to take over Guardia]]. Nothing to worry about, right? According to the backstory of ''VideoGame/ChronoCross'', [[spoiler:Porre's rebellion succeeds, and the kingdom of Guardia falls]].
** You have the opportunity to fight [[TerribleTrio Ozzie, Flea, and Slash]] again during an optional side-quest. At this point, [[VillainForgotToLevelGrind you're stronger than Flea or Slash could ever hope to be]], while Ozzie, per the norm, does nothing but run away and set ineffectual traps. Then you fight them all together, and they counter any attack with combination techs that range from "nasty" to "devastating." (depending on who you attack) Suddenly, they don't seem so wimpy anymore.
* ''VideoGame/ChronoCross'' gives you Solt and Peppor. Two bumbling minions that are often ''weaker'' than the regular encounters but are often accompanied with a powerful enemy (Karsh and Ketchup). Then [[spoiler:they find out that Karsh is possibly Dario's murder]] and ''they get serious'' for once. During this battle they are quite stronger, have combination attacks and use powerful innate boosted elements like ''Earthquake'' to wreck your party.
* ''Franchise/{{Halo}}'' has Guilty Spark. Sure, he originally seemed like a rather annoying sidekick in ''VideoGame/HaloCombatEvolved'', until you realize ''he was leading you into destroying all life in the galaxy''. When Master Chief and Cortana refuse to activate Halo, Spark tells the Sentinels to "Save his head... dispose of the rest.". At the end of ''VideoGame/{{Halo 3}}'', after doing little more than float, blabber on, and occasionally send Sentinels to kill whatever, he [[spoiler:kills Johnson and actually kicks Master Chief and Arbiter's asses in a case of CutscenePowerToTheMax. Sure, he becomes an AnticlimaxBoss as soon as you realize Johnson's [[{{BFG}} Spartan Laser]] to be the tool to end his whining, but until then he was putting down some serious hurt]].
* The EnsembleDarkhorse of ''VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiSuperstarSaga'', Fawful, poses very little threat when he fights the heroes at the end of the game, and refers to himself as "Fawful, who is just a toady!" Then, after spending the next game in the series plotting his revenge in the sewers beneath Peach's castle, he returns as the BigBad of ''VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiBowsersInsideStory.''
* Bowser has a kind of character arc in the ''Mario and Luigi'' series where this happens. He starts off in ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiSuperstarSaga Superstar Saga]]'' as a {{Harmless|Villain}} {{Ineffectual Sympathetic|Villain}} ButtMonkey before becoming a slightly better threat in ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiPartnersInTime Partners in Time]]'' but still minor compared to the true villains - the Shroobs. In ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiBowsersInsideStory Bowser's Inside Story]]'', he is a VillainProtagonist who, with help from the Mario Bros., is capable of beating Fawful and the Dark Star. ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiDreamTeam Dream Team]]'' makes him a true and credible threat after teaming up with [[BigBad Antasma]] [[spoiler:and becomes the true main antagonist and final boss with reality warping powers thanks to a MacGuffin]], which sets the stage for ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiPaperJam Paper Jam]]'' where he is the main antagonist (along with his paper counterpart) for the whole game and about as threatening as he is in the main Mario games.
* ''[[Website/GaiaOnline zOMG!]]'':
** The beginning introduces [[http://s.cdn.gaiaonline.com/images/publishing/manga/984135245/79fbabdba68a795400a895424d9f3aaf.jpg Frank.]] Who's a cute little nerdy boy? You's a cute little nerdy boy, oh yes you are! [[spoiler:He's the second-in-command of a group of {{mad scientist}}s who are ''destroying the world'' ForScience.]]
** The [[KillerRabbit Fluff enemies]]. You get used to crushing these guys with minimal effort in the first two areas... and then the Zen Gardens introduces suicidal Cherry Fluffs that gang up on you and then ''explode'' for massive damage. Later areas include Fluffs that sink you in quicksand as well.
* Rider in ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'' spent the first route having even Shirou calling her weak and in the second route she got killed offscreen by a normal, non magus human. Fierce. But then she shows up in HF and ''starts turning people into stone by looking at them.'' (Surprise! She's [[spoiler:Medusa]]!) Oh and then she makes a [[spoiler:HeelFaceTurn (sort of...) so this overlaps with LetsGetDangerous]]. Her physical capabilities were significantly impaired in the first two routes [[spoiler:due to temporarily being in the service of Shinji, who has no magic power of his own and can't reinforce her with mana. When her true master, Sakura, takes her back, her skills SKYROCKET]].
* ''VideoGame/PunchOut'':
** You wouldn't imagine that Glass Joe, the shining example of a WarmUpBoss, could ever put up a fight. When he returns for a rematch in the Wii game's Title Defense mode, however, he's equipped himself with a helmet that deflects all jabs, and has added a surprisingly effective fake-out punch to his arsenal. As a result, he often ends up defeating players who were able to defeat Mr. Sandman, ''the Champion and FinalBoss''.
** In the NES version, Don Flameco. The first time you fight him, he's a BreatherBoss about as difficult as Glass Joe, standing in place when hit, and showboating with his dances too much to launch an effective offense. The second time you fight him you'll probably be expecting more of the same only for you to land your first punch... and find him dancing around dodging your attacks like crazy. And he doesn't screw around when he attacks anymore, making his offense fast, hard to predict, and giving the player little respite..... oh crap.
** King Hippo can be this for some players, being a fat stupid looking guy from a Tonga like country called "Hippo Island". He gapes like a hippo and looking at him you'd think he's slow and easy to hit.... he isn't. Remember, [[GeniusBonus hippos are among the most dangerous animals on Earth]].
** Your own cuddly, overweight, chocolate bar chomping manager boxes you in a downloadable spin-off game. Know that Star Punch that lays waste to your foes? This guy ''invented'' that move. Granted, he's no villain, but [[SchmuckBait try punching that chocolate bar out of his hand and see how well he takes it]].
* The Rebel Alliance in ''VideoGame/StarWarsBattlefront'' gets this from the members of the 501st Stormtrooper Legion. A member of the 501st talks about the Rebels, mentioning that the stormies had treated them like disobedient children, but were repaid for their tolerance with treachery on an unimaginable scale. The "treachery" in question was Luke destroying the ''Death Star'', so sympathy for their anger is difficult.
* ''VideoGame/GhostbustersTheVideoGame'' subverts this. ObstructiveBureaucrat Walter Peck is back... [[spoiler:but hints start getting dropped partway through that he's actually the BigBad, and his obnoxious bumbling obstruction is a cover for his nefarious motives. In the end, it turns out he ''is'' just an obnoxious Obstructive Bureaucrat, and the real BigBad is the ghost of Ivo Shandor -- and Peck's not even the one who was possessed by him, it was the mayor.]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Xenogears}}'':
** Miang is introduced as the unassuming girlfriend of Ramsus. Much later, it is revealed that [[spoiler:she is the BigBad, the human form of the creator "god," and has existed for 10000 years via [[BodySurf body surfing]]. It also doesn't hurt that the battle against her gear is one of the hardest in the game]].
** From the same game: Krelian. He's presented as an antagonist from the beginning, so he's never exactly "harmless," but at first he seems pretty insignificant compared to Grahf, the Gazel Ministry, and Id. [[spoiler:Turns out he's a [[TheChessmaster Chessmaster]] MagnificentBastard who's been manipulating everyone of consequence for the last five centuries. In the end HE WINS.]]
* ''Franchise/{{Pokemon}}'':
** [[VideoGame/PokemonDiamondAndPearl Team Galactic]]. Just another goofy Team Evil capable of only doing mainly ineffectual things like hijacking windmills, stealing honey, and trying to beat you at Pokémon matches? Sure, you might think that, until they ''bomb one of Sinnoh's Sacred Lakes'', kidnap all of the sacred sprites, and begin summoning one-to-two Pokémon capable of ''undoing the world''.
** In the same vein, [[VideoGame/PokemonXAndY Team Flare]]. So they're just fashion-obsessed villains that want to make money by stealing fossils and Pokéballs? Sure, until the part where they try to [[spoiler:''commit mass genocide'' via FantasticNuke as an [[KnightTemplar utterly insane measure to secure limited resources for all]] (and by "all" we mean Team Flare). Said nuke is powered by draining the life from and killing thousands of Pokémon and possibly the nearby trainers on Route 10, which is also meant to make the group not only the sole survivors of their global holocaust, but immortal superhumans]].
--> '''Team Flare Grunt:''' [[spoiler:Only Team Flare is [[Music/TheBeeGees stayin' alive, stayin' alive.]]]]
** Miror B. The poster boy for DiscoDan in [[DarkerAndEdgier dark and edgy Orre]] loves dancing with his Ludicolo, more so than his actual job as a Cipher Admin. The same guy who ''moonwalks around Pyrite Town'' in mockery of the police, distributes Shadow Pokémon to unsuspecting competitors at the Pyrite Colosseum, orchestrated Rui's kidnapping because she can differentiate Shadow Pokémon from regular Pokémon, and has Mayor Duking wrapped around his finger because he ''holds the mayor's Plusle hostage.'' He's the ''nicest'' Admin in all of Cipher. In the sequel, he's the proud "owner" of a Shadow Dragonite, probably the strongest Shadow 'mon in the game next to Lugia.
* [[ReluctantMadScientist Dr. Doppler]] of ''VideoGame/MegaManX3'' evokes this at least when it comes to physical power. Every other scientist ever in the series has hopped behind the controls of a HumongousMecha to deal with Mega Man, while Doppler [[TheGlovesComeOff just tosses off his labcoat]] and battles X all by himself. He isn't an easy fight either; Doppler has surprsingly powerful attacks and is bit of a PuzzleBoss as he can regenerate his health if you attack him at the wrong time.
* ''VideoGame/MegaManX4'':
** [[MeaningfulName Double]], a rookie Hunter that was assigned to be the title character's MissionControl. Obese, clumsy, incompetent, and not-too-bright, so what's so meaningful about his name? [[spoiler:He's [[BigBad Sigma]]'s [[TheMole mole]], assigned to throw X off Sigma's tracks, AxCrazy, and is capable of annihilating a dozen Hunters on his own.]]
** X himself gets this in ''Maverick Hunter X.'' Sigma is the most powerful Reploid in service, Vile is as deadly as he is reckless, and his unit is the best the Hunters had before they rebelled. X is scoffed at for being a low-rank TechnicalPacifist. Then the "weak little B-Class Hunter" blows through Sigma's lieutenants, fortress guardians, and his dog before his showdown with Sigma. Oh, and his creator? Dr. Light, the guy who created the original ''VideoGame/MegaMan,'' himself an example of Not So Harmless.
* Speaking of, Dr. Wily falls under this. In ''VideoGame/MegaManAndBass'', one of his creations, King, ''chopped Proto Man in half''. In ''VideoGame/MegaMan9'', he managed to con the world into thinking Dr. Light was after world domination, getting the good doctor arrested. And in ''VideoGame/MegaMan10'', [[spoiler:if not for Roll, he would've won]]. And this is just in the Classic series. In the ''X'' series, he is responsible for TheVirus that causes much of the conflict. Plus, it's hinted that [[BackFromTheDead he may still be alive]]...
* ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'':
** Nazrin is a pathetic Stage 1 mid-boss and boss, with easy to dodge horizontal patterns, but she shows up later as the Stage 5 mid-boss and absolutely murders you with curvy and splitting lasers.
** Kogasa Tatara shows up as a Stage 2 mid-boss and boss, and proclaims that her main goal is to scare and/or surprise people. Her patterns were also fairly easy to dodge, and people made fun of her when the demo was released; she returns in the full version as the Extra Stage midboss, and with difficult spellcards that make it hard for many to reach the relatively easy Extra Boss with decent resources. [[BrickJoke Surprise!]]
** Cirno was originally she was just a Stage 2 boss, and later a far from notable minor playable character amongst other minor playable characters. Then she got her own story route in ''Hisoutensoku'', pitting her against a PhysicalGod and a PersonOfMassDestruction. ''Then'' she got her own game in which she manages to put up a decent fight against '''Marisa''', one of the most feared beings in Gensokyo. [[SmallNameBigEgo The strongest fairy]] is still not a severe threat compared to others, but she has accomplished much.
** Clownpiece in ''Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom''. Ridiculous name aside, she is a [[RedShirt fairy]] (actually a lampad from Hell, but still), like most of her kind she is a [[ThePrankster prankster]] (with a side of insanity), and she wears [[WearingAFlagOnYourHead one of the silliest costumes a Touhou character has ever worn]], which is really saying something. She is also a stage 5 boss, which ranks her below only the FinalBoss and the BonusBoss. What's more, she is [[ThatOneBoss beyond any doubt one of the hardest stage 5 bosses in the series]], with many fans finding her harder to beat than the bosses that come after her, making her the most brutal and infuriating fight in a game that has a nasty DifficultySpike compared to previous Touhou games in the first place, and by extension one of the hardest bosses in a series already known for its unforgivable BulletHell. And her signature power? Driving people insane, [[AxCrazy possibly violently]], with a side order of PowerBornOfMadness, which is exactly as nasty a combination as it sounds. [[TheFourthWallWillNotProtectYou Well, trying to get through that frustrating boss battle of hers, you'll probably go crazy too.]]
* Dino Piranha, the first boss of ''VideoGame/SuperMarioGalaxy'', is definitely one of the easiest bosses in the game, but when you run into him in the second-to-last level before fighting [[BigBad Bowser,]] he's now [[IncendiaryExponent on fire]] and therefore much difficult to kill.
* Joshua in ''VideoGame/TheWorldEndsWithYou'' is incredibly hard to fight with, until you get him floating. Then he can shoot very powerful [[FanNickname Jesus]] [[WaveMotionGun Beams]], [[spoiler:and he's actually TheChessmaster for the game]].
* Shrowdy von Kiefer, villain of ''VideoGame/AVampyreStory'', is black magic incarnate. This means he has every negative trait you can think of--[[PsychopathicManchild childishness, selfishness, a complete lack of dignity]], [[OedipusComplex an obsession with his mother]], [[TortureTechnician a fondness for torture]], [[IfICantHaveYou the capacity to coldly kill someone he claims to be in love with]] . . .
* ''VideoGame/ChocobosDungeon 2'' has several examples. One is that enemies can actually kill each other to level up and become much stronger. Another is the cute vampire mage kid who dies in one hit from most attacks but can cast a spell that takes you down a whole level. The biggest example, though, is when [[spoiler:the weakest enemy in the game gets access to a wish-granting crystal and wishes to become powerful enough to be the bully instead of the bullied, thus becoming the BigBad]].
* In ''VideoGame/SaintsRow2'', in the beginning Maero, the leader of the Stilwater Brotherhood, sees the Boss as a "washed-up gangbanger" and for this reason offers him/her only 20% of his shipment and by extension, 20% of Stilwater. And after the Boss angrily turns him down, he barely does anything in response, still seeing him/her and the Saints as a nuisance. Then the Boss permanently burns his face with radioactive waste, then s/he kills his girlfriend and has his best friend crippled. After that he devotes all energy to killing the Boss and destroying the Saints.
* Dr "Eggman" Robotnik plays into this manner in the later ''Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog'' games. He's even more clownish and bumbling as ever, however his plans are more stable, and manage to take Sonic by surprise a few times. Even his ''super form'' gets neutralized by one of the doctor's machines after taking him too lightly. But the moment that really takes the cake was ''VideoGame/SonicForces'', where he once again attempted to TakeOverTheWorld... '''and actually''' '''''[[TheBadGuyWins succeeded]]!'''''
* Father Karras from ''VideoGame/{{Thief}} 2'', especially considering your last threat was [[spoiler:a god]] and he has a silly, high-pitched, slurred voice. He can't be too much of a threat, right? [[spoiler:Then he sics the entire police force on you, is the head of a major religion that has access to advanced tech for this age (seemingly half of which he invented himself), is a pretty clever [[TheChessmaster Chessmaster]], kidnaps people to be turned into mindless robots, and his ultimate plan, if successful, will ''kill everyone in The City''.]]
* ''VideoGame/SuikodenV'''s Lord Barrows is an over the top SmugSnake and FatIdiot. Initially, the only threat he seems to pose is that allying with him makes other potential allies reluctant to join you. It later turns out that he's far more devious than he lets on. [[spoiler:He masterminded the uprising at Lordlake as part of a power grab, which means that a large part of the game's conflict is his fault. Finally, he comes close to forcing the Prince to ally with a foreign army as part of a plan to betray Falena to that army's country.]]
* ''VideoGame/AliceMadnessReturns'''s Dr. Bumby. He's set as an mildly antagonistic hypnotherapist apparently dedicated to helping Alice and the other orphans in his care forget their past traumas; apart from being inconsiderate and rude, he doesn't seem to be genuine villain material. Then you learn that [[spoiler:he started the fire that killed Alice's family- in order to cover up his rape of Lizzie, Alice's sister.]] And it doesn't stop there: [[spoiler:the hypnotherapy he practises is designed to break down the patients' minds and reduce them to {{empty shell}}s that can be pimped out to wealthy clients. In Alice's case, he wants to make sure she never remembers the fire or the part he played in it by destroying Wonderland and taking her mind with it; as such, his Wonderland persona is none other than the Dollmaker, the BigBad behind the Train currently destroying the world]].
* Lord Zur in ''VideoGame/GuardianHeroes'' spends most of the game as a {{Harmless|Villain}} SissyVillain, except on one ending path where he absorbs Valgar's abilities to morph into Super Zur, giving him new powers and vampire-like wings.
* If you ask Hayes about the Spathi in ''VideoGame/StarControl II'', he will warn you not to underestimate them. They may be utter cowards, they may be humorous, and they may look silly... but their Eluders are some of the toughest ships in the game and can be very difficult to take down. The Spathi may avoid combat at all costs, but if they're forced into it, they're really good at it.
* ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'':
** Individually, Murlocs aren't much of a threat. They're about two feet tall aquatic humanoids of limited intelligence. However they are rarely found individually. They are usually in large social groups and will come to the defense of one another, and almost always flee at low health; returning with several more. They are extremely deadly at low levels where several quests require killing them. Many a new player has made the mistake of laughing at the little fish man with the incoherent grumbling growling noise. Then that player finds themselves facing a dozen or more and is overwhelmed quickly. Murlocs were finally patched in the ''Cataclysm'' expansion to be easier to kill and not summon as much help, but they can still overwhelm an unlucky or unprepared player.
** Deathwing's attack on Stormwind was probably ''intended'' to be this, a way to showcase him as a major threat who could do serious damage to the Alliance and the Horde after the previous expansion's antagonist, the Lich King, was called a Saturday morning cartoon villain by the fanbase one to many times. But this attack happens almost entirely offscreen, is barely mentioned after the fact, didn't kill anyone important, and has never been given any (canon) reasoning as to why he chose Stormwind and only took out the park when he apparently could have leveled the entire city.
* In ''{{VideoGame/Fallout 3}}'', the Capital Wasteland largely considers the Enclave to be a joke, since their only presence outside the borders of their base is a looping radio broadcast of PatrioticFervor. Most people you talk to assume that the Enclave is either an automated pre-War broadcasting system or some crazy old man in a bunker somewhere. Turns out, [[BadassArmy not so much]]...
* The Scout from ''VideoGame/TeamFortress2'' seems to have been designed like this. In the previous ''Team Fortress'' games, Scouts were a borderline JokeCharacter, existing to capture the flag and very little else while the other classes do the actual fighting. ''Team Fortress 2'' [[BrattyHalfPint makes the new Scout's character model even smaller and gives him a big smack-talking mouth]]. It also gave him the deadliest shotgun in the game as his primary weapon and a speedy double-jump to make him nearly untouchable. Competitive teams adore competent Scouts for being perhaps the deadliest single class in the game.
* The [[QuirkyMinibossSquad Leader's Force]] from ''VideoGame/BraveFencerMusashi'' are played for laughs the moment they enter the scene, with Ben's [[TooDumbToLive crippling stupidity]], Ed's stuttering which he ''even writes in his letters'', and Topo's AlphaBitch-ness. Then you face them in TheVeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon and they're amongst the most difficult bosses in the game.
* Papyrus in ''VideoGame/{{Undertale}}'' is a goofy IneffectualSympatheticVillain who repeatedly tries and fails to halt the player's progress with puzzles, and ultimately ends up growing fond of his prey, though this doesn't stop him from ultimately confronting you himself. Said fight starts off almost pathetically easy, with all of his projectiles travelling along the ground and being almost effortless to dodge, and even his secret Blue Attack is easy to get through since his brother Sans tells you how to avoid getting hurt by it beforehand. [[spoiler:Then it turns out that what Sans ''didn't'' tell you is that said Blue Attack also causes your soul to be affected by gravity, and now you have to dodge all these ground-based projectiles like your typical platformer, while the patterns get more and more complex and challenging.]] It is hinted that he is even stronger than that, and if you stop a [[VillainProtagonist No Mercy route]] by sparing him, his dialogue afterwards heavily suggests that [[spoiler:his '''real''' "special attack" involves [[WaveMotionGun Gaster Blasters]].]]
** Zigzagged with Undyne, who first appears as an inversion more than anything, going from a genuinely terrifying, threatening and [[{{Determinator}} inexorable]] BlackKnight to... basically an [[LargeHam over-the-top]] HotBlooded anime character. While not ''harmless'' by any means, it's hard to take her seriously after that. However, on a No Mercy route, Undyne will remind you that being basically an anime hero has its perks. [[spoiler:Like the obligatory HeroicSecondWind [[{{Determinator}} in the face of impossible odds]] [[TheLastDance and certain death]]. Like being able to harness the ToxicPhlebotinum that no one else but the [[VillainProtagonist villain]] can use. Like the TransformationSequence. Meet Undyne the Undying, [[ThatOneBoss the second hardest boss fight]] in the game.]]
* ''Videogame/{{Uncharted}}4'': Rafe is a {{Know Nothing Know It All}} who was competing against the Drake brothers in finding the lost treasure of Henry Avery. Then in the climax, [[spoiler:he turns out to be a very good fencer and actually came closer to killing Nate than anyone else in the game]].
* ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamAsylum'' is widely regarded to have turned the Riddler into this after his goofy presence in ''Film/BatmanForever''.
* ''VideoGame/RuneScape'': The finale of the Void Knight quest series, widely considered one of the hardest quests in the game, reveals that the mastermind planning to unleash a horde of {{Eldritch Abomination}}s on Gielinor is none other than Professor Melville Grayzag, a crazy summoner who'd previously been the comic-relief bad guy of the extremely old, extremely easy quest "Imp Catcher." Several players actually managed to call this before TheReveal, owing to the fact that the first quest in the Void series has "Imp Catcher" as a prerequisite despite otherwise having nothing to do with it.
** In the years and sequel quests since "Defender of Varrock", Zemouregal suffered so much VillainDecay that it's a genuine shock to see him ruling over the ruins of "New" Varrock in "Dimension of Disaster". Even better? Varrock had already been destroyed, and all the townspeople killed, by Delrith, the demon from the ''tutorial'' quest "Demon Slayer". One Not-So-Harmless Villain conquered the city ''from another Not-So-Harmless Villain''.
* ''VideoGame/TalesOfTheAbyss'' has Dist the Reaper. Or ''[[InsistentTerminology Rose]]'' as he prefers. He's a SissyVillain who gets picked on by the TokenEvilTeammate [[TheGadfly Jade]], has no respect from even his allies (who see him in-universe as TheScrappy), and generally is just so ridiculous no one takes his seriously. This is mainly because ''Jade'' is tormenting him; for all his eccentricities, he's a ''genius'' inventor, having made all the fon machines being used by the villains, and ultimately he nearly [[spoiler:stops them from being able to save the world from the miasma in the third act by massacring the replicas of the Tower of Rem with a massive fon machine]].
* ''Franchise/MassEffect:'' A backstory one. In ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'', the Patriarch, an old krogan warlord and former ruler of Omega, mentions that when [[TheDon Aria T'Loak]] first came to [[WretchedHive Omega]], he thought she was just another asari dancer. After crushing multiple organs and breaking many bones, Aria has spent centuries ruling over Omega and reigning as one of the most powerful crimelords in the Terminus Systems.
* ''VideoGame/MetalGearRisingRevengeance'': When [[BigBad Senator Armstrong]] is first seen, it's assumed that he's a (admittedly huge) bespectacled, suit-wearing politician who is only a danger to Raiden when piloting Metal Gear Excelsus. Once Excelsus is destroyed, he proves this assertion [[ActionPolitician wrong]] with '''[[ThatOneBoss extreme prejudice]]'''.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'':
** The lich sorcerer Xykon is an extreme example. His humorous dialogue and status as a CardCarryingVillain along with the fact that he rarely fights directly (in anything but an instant win) lead many people to believe he was much less serious or at least genuinely malevolent than he really is. Then he's pushed into exerting himself... As Redcloak puts it: "I know he seems funny and charming, but believe me, when you see for yourself the depths to which he'll sink, you will never sleep well again."
** Qarr the imp is a definite case of playing with a trope. The first we saw of Qarr was an ominous red and black speech bubble speaking from just off panel during a CliffHanger. Fans went into a flurry of speculation about this mysterious new being, but nobody expected it to be [[TheImp a tiny imp]] with virtually no power of its own and who wasn't even all that bright. However, Qarr's attempts to convince Vaarsuvius into a DealWithTheDevil drew the attention of the IFCC, a trio of powerful evil beings bent on creating enough chaos, confusion and disorder so that they can move ahead with their own attempt to seize [[EldritchAbomination The Snarl's]] Gate. Qarr is now working with them, and as a result after starting out as something of an inversion, Qarr is now much more dangerous than he ever was in his previous position.
** General Tarquin ([[spoiler:Elan's father]]) initially comes across as an AffablyEvil NobleDemon type of villain, combined with the same goofy sense of dramatic conventions we've come to know from [[spoiler:Elan]]. While he can be funny and charming, not unlike Xykon, he is frighteningly competent and ''not'' someone you want to piss off.
** Nale spent ''almost a decade'' (in real-world time) as the epitome of a SmugSnake and BigBadWannabe whose ComplexityAddiction results in every plan he puts into action ending in failure. Then he [[spoiler:casually kills the centuries-old vampire cleric Malack, revealing that he'd been waiting for the right opportunity to do so since he was 9 years old... then confesses the whole thing to his father (the Tarquin mentioned above), completely underestimating him and allowing him to pull off one of these himself when he murders his son in cold blood. A "scared old man protecting his rut" indeed]].
* ''Webcomic/EightBitTheater'':
** Black Mage, one of the VillainProtagonist main characters, spends almost all the saga doing nothing but things that are deletrious to himself in his efforts to kill everyone on the planet, starting with his teammates. Thief actually states that he would stop BM if anything BM did would hurt anyone more than himself. And then, towards the end [[spoiler:he calmly takes out all 4 fiends (perhaps the most powerful and certainly the most evil creatures on the planet) AND the other 3 members of the Light Warriors (all also ridiculously powerful- a warrior who can block anything and kill anything that bleeds, a ninja who can dodge anything, including ethereal energies, and a mimic who can cast every spell the universe has ever seen) with simple ease. Course, then Sarda appears and reverts everything]].
** Garland is shown to be utterly incompetent as a villain- he simply has no idea how to hurt anyone, and for that matter really doesn't want to. His Dark Warriors consist of a dark elf who would be exceptionally useful if he had his swords (which were stolen by the Light Warriors and which take him almost the entire story to get back), and who is utterly useless without them; a pirate who can't read, write, do anything nautical, or really anything useful; and a goth vampire who is obsessed with roleplaying and spends his time writing poetry. When they tire of his inept leadership, though, we get a sight of the real Garland; he offers to cater the meeting they have about getting rid of him; when Drizz'l, the dark elf, asks him why he would cater a meeting specifically designed to screw him over, he delivers a TheReasonYouSuckSpeech stating how useless the other Dark Warriors are, and informs him that all the food is spiked with amnesia peppers, and that everyone will forget the whole idea in an hour or so. It was also shown that he could summon giant monsters (although not controlling them) and took part in killing the Yeti the Dark Warrior met.
** Hilariously averted with the cultists; after their first plan to destroy the universe ends terribly at the hands of the Light Warriors, they come back a few hundred strips later seeming much more competent; they see through Black Mage's disguise like a window, lock of the rest of the Light Warriors, and actually set up the summoning ritual for the monster that will end the universe. It seems like a massive threat to the universe and the Light Warriors. [[spoiler:Then Black Mage kills them all with his knives in a few seconds and summons the monster, who immediately dies to Red Mage (by accident, no less).]]
* Webcomic/{{Walkyverse}}:
** The Head Alien is a tiny purple guy with a flair for the over-dramatic whose preferred method of torture involves ''Theatre/TheSoundOfMusic''. And then you find out it's his EvilPlan that's driving the entire strip, and that he's a lot more competent than he seems at first. Remember all those BrainwashedAndCrazy friends you had to kill? Yeah, he set that up years in advance.
** And then there's Galasso, and ''especially'' Faz in ''Webcomic/{{Shortpacked}}!'', and possibly the Head Alien ''again''.
* ''Webcomic/SluggyFreelance'':
** For most, Dr. Schlock was more or less a good guy, though he would sometimes betray the good guys on account of being a coward. It never mattered much, though, since his one skill (creating inflatable technology) can be neutralized quite easily (by anything with a sharp edge). Then he actually manages a hostile takeover of Hereti Corp, one of the series' main {{Big Bad}}s, orders the assassination of several FBI agents to cover his tracks, and states, "If we're going to 'take over the world' we're going to do it ''right''."
** The Dimension of Pain. A bunch of incompetent demons, falling over themselves, scared of bunnies, and used as ''entertainment'' when they invade on Halloween, and the whole ''Meanwhile, in the Dimension of Pain...'' spinoff. Then, in the ''That Which Redeems'' arc, they become serious, powerful villains. They even [[spoiler:kill a dimension's Zoe.]]
* ''Webcomic/EmergencyExit'': The villains seem quite harmless, more annoying than anything else. Until one of them [[spoiler:rips off Karl's face]].
* ''Webcomic/YetAnotherFantasyGamerComic'' usually portrays Lewie the Lich as a HarmlessVillain. When called upon, however, he points out an important fact about liches: no matter how silly they seem, you only get to be one by being ''very'' powerful.
* ''Webcomic/DeadOfSummer'':
** Alan Stone falls under this. While not physically imposing [[spoiler:at first]], he beats the tar out of a sympathetic character, and is revealed to have SinisterSurveillance almost everywhere, which lets him know a great deal of secrets. A crossing of the MoralEventHorizon later and it's hard to remember that he seemed wimpy at first.
** [[spoiler:[[Music/TheProtomen Doug Fetterman]]]] and his lackeys fall under this too. His two henchmen don't even get names, all three are portrayed as {{Large Ham}}s, and you figure they're no match for the good guys... [[spoiler:Then they assault Commander with a swarm of insects, fry KILROY'S brain and reformat him into a time bomb, and reveal that Panther is apparently [[HeelFaceTurn working for them]]. As Panther kills Dr. Light, [[EyeScream ripping out his eyes]]. And then you realize the extent of Fetterman's {{plan}}]].
* ''Webcomic/SomethingPositive'': [[spoiler:That Crazy Blue Thing. Second comic on [[http://www.somethingpositive.net/sp01192010.shtml this page.]]]]
* ''Webcomic/GirlGenius'':
** Zola goes from being an IneffectualSympatheticVillain who constantly [[http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20090727 needs to be rescued by the heroes]] to [[http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20100712 faking out]] the BigBad (yes, the BigBad is one of the heroes; ItMakesSenseInContext).
** Gil himself was viewed as mostly harmless by many of his father's minions. [[http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20071126 Then he]] [[http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20071203 dealt with it.]]
** Wooster seemed like a borderline comic-relief henchman who'd be scared into serving Gil instead of [[spoiler:his British spymasters]]. [[http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20100827 Then this happened.]]
* ''Webcomic/{{Collar 6}}'': Butterfly is an extreme example of this. She went from simply being a {{Jerkass}} in her [[http://collar6.com/2009/expensive-toys-10 early appearances]] to sheer horror in [[https://web.archive.org/web/20111114122106/http://collar6.com/archive/collar-6-121 this strip]].
* ''Webcomic/{{Monster Lands}}'': Marcus Rila has no fighting skills and his attempts at cheating are entirely ineffective until he manages to push Othera off a cliff.
* ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'':
** Okay, nobody considered KnifeNut [[EvilChancellor Archagent]] Jack Noir to be ''harmless'', but then he [[spoiler:ascended to BigBad status, killed off the previous Big Bads, massacred a huge army from both Kingdoms and wrecked two planets]].
** Another example is [[FantasticRacism Troll Racist]] Eridan Ampora. After spending most of Act Five failing at genocide and wallowing in [[RunningGag exaggerated emotional theatrics]], [[spoiler:he decides that his best chance of survival after everything goes to hell is to [[FaceHeelTurn side with]] [[BigBad Jack]]. When Sollux and Feferi try to stop him, he knocks the first one out and ''[[MoralEventHorizon kills]]'' [[KillTheCutie the latter]]]]. Then, when Kanaya tries to stop him, he [[spoiler:destroys the Matriorb, thereby destroying the last hope the trolls as a race had of surviving, then ''blasts a hole through her stomach'']].
** While Eridan had his issues, no one ever suspected that [[spoiler:Gamzee, upon becoming sober from his sopor slime,]] would attempt to kill everyone on the station as a show of his inherent superiority.
** Courtyard Droll would like to remind you that he's Clubs Deuce's alternate by [[spoiler:blowing up Jade to death]]. His post-scratch self does the same by [[spoiler:murdering Jake's dreamself in his sleep]], although he does feel a little bad about it.
** And undyingUmbrage. It was easy enough to write off his verbal aggression and death threats as non-serious - Dirk seemed to, after all. It got even easier in one conversation when uu hilariously demanded that Dirk draw porn for him...of people holding hands and reciting poems to one another, uu all the while acting as though normal human romantic behaviour was the most terrible of all weird fetishes, cementing him as a not-so-heroic ComedicSociopath. And then [[spoiler:he kills Calliope's dreamself. And is star of a flash in which he starts his session off by prototyping ''a whole planet'' in his kernelsprite]]. And he eventually grows up to become [[spoiler:the BigBad Lord English, the most powerful and evil character in the story]].
* ''Webcomic/ZebraGirl'': Lord Incubus. That little skull-headed demon Jack released from the book that wanted to take over the world, only to get flushed down a dimensional portal shaped like a toilet? Yeah, he's back. And he's genuinely frightening this time.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Act III of ''WebVideo/DoctorHorriblesSingAlongBlog'', when the titular IneffectualSympatheticVillain takes off the kid gloves and decides to MurderTheHypotenuse in response to [[SmugSuper Captain Hammer's]] merciless taunting over the theft of his would-be girlfriend Penny. Subverted when, even with all the provocation in the world and his ArchEnemy helpless before him, he can't bring himself to pull the trigger. DoubleSubversion when Hammer turns the tables and the malfunctioning DeathRay explodes, handing Dr. Horrible the victory anyway.
* ''Literature/WhateleyUniverse'' has Hekate. While she has a reputation as someone never to cross, she's not particularly successful most of the time and usually sticks to playing TheDragon to Don Sebastiano. [[spoiler:And then it's revealed that the events that led Skybolt and Cavalier to become sex-slaves to the Alphas were her doing, using magic straight out of the Franchise/CthulhuMythos. She came perilously close to making Fey into her mind-slave, and actually killed Jade, who got better.]] Sebastiano spent most of his career riding off the reputation her magic brought him, and looks a lot less competent when the truth comes out. He's a rapist thug, but she's on a whole different level of villainy from him.
* /tg/'s Drew the Lich, an incompetent, CardCarryingVillain [[MinionWithAnFInEvil who can't even get the "villain" part right]] (his phylactery is a Skeletor figurine). Never forget about the ''lich'' part, or [[http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive/3144112/ this may happen]]. [[http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive/4750158/ And don't let him plot against you]] [[TryingToCatchMeFightingDirty "Whoever said I would act Lawfully?"]] after all!
* In ''Machinima/DeusExMachina'', [[spoiler:Patrick]] is obviously going to be a villain from the moment you see him, but from his nerdy voice and attitude, he doesn't seem very threatening. [[spoiler:Then he gets mindraped by the covenant and dons his supersuit before weakening the earth's defenses to the point that the covenant can easily break through and kill us all WHILE killing off Michael, John's only friend, and making every single attempt to save the world meaningless before throwing him into a pit with two berserkers.]] Even PLAGUE didn't cross the horizon this much.
* ''Roleplay/SurvivalOfTheFittest'' has Jimmy Brennan, who started out as a MilesGloriosus type who ran around the forest screaming and [[BringMyBrownPants pissing his pants]] in the first thread he appeared in, and bragging about being a badass in the next. For the most part, his antics are fun in a CrossesTheLineTwice sort of way, up until he [[spoiler:beats resident JerkJock Philip Ward to death with a branch]].
* ''Machinima/RedVsBlue'':
** [[AIIsACrapShoot Omega]] from the original series is an unusual example, as the viewer doesn't learn of his Not So Harmless moment until after he's been [[spoiler:absorbed by the [[BigBad Meta]], taking him permanently out of the picture]]. Despite being the BigBad for the show's first five seasons, Omega/O'Malley was always far too cartoonish and [[LargeHam hammy]] to be taken seriously, being more a parody of the BigBad archetype. Then, in the beginning of ''Reconstruction'', a shell-shocked Red soldier named Walter explained to Command over what went down after the Blues at Valhalla scavenged Tex's crashed pelican (see the ending to the Blood Gulch Chronicles). Walter's rather detailed description of an ominous 'infection' to the Blues and Reds, on top of how the Blues massacred one another, made Omega seem much more threatening as an antagonist than his previous incarnation ever did. And THEN we learn that he and Gamma were put in charge of [[spoiler:torturing the Alpha until its mind disintegrated by trapping it in nightmare situations it couldn't escape from]], transforming Omega from a DastardlyWhiplash into a genuine monster.
** The Meta/[[spoiler:Agent Maine]] gets this in ''Revelation'', being reduced to comic relief for most of the series. Then in the climax he [[spoiler:fights Tex mostly by himself (Wash helped a little), ''stabs her in the face with a giant spike and then gets his powers back'']]. At that point he's back to his usual KnightOfCerebus status.
* The BigBad mastermind of ''Website/GaiaOnline''s deicide storyline? [[spoiler:Don Kuro, the [[ReallySevenHundredYearsOld perpetually]] five-years-old dark elf mob boss]], about whom all we'd known previously was that he [[OneOfUs likes going to anime conventions]] ([[NoFourthWall Gaia conventions, even]]), has an [[CoolBigSis awesome big sister]], is a huge MommasBoy, and owes Devin favors ([[ShipSinking not that kind]]).
* ''WebVideo/TheNostalgiaCritic''
** The Nostalgia Critic is a pathetic, miserable, useless waste of space... but he rigged WebVideo/{{Kickassia}} with dynamite just in case anyone wanted to take his finally-gained power away.
** For all his [[LargeHam hamminess]], getting easily trashed in a fight, and inability to spell his own name, Terl from ''WebVideo/ToBoldlyFlee'' counts as this. Most of his plans (imprisoning the Critic in his house, kidnapping Cinema Snob so the Executor can turn him to the dark side, and duping the crew into disabling their weapons) actually work, and he would have finished them off for good in the finale if not for [[spoiler:Linkara's BigDamnHeroes moment]]. And even though it didn't technically work the way he wanted, he's managed to survive (through clones) longer than the Critic's, uh, [[AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence mortal existence]], so technically he's achieved his goal.
* Cancrelax from ''WebVideo/FranceFive'' is a simpering little toady who's only dangerous because he [[MakeMyMonsterGrow makes a destroyed monster big]]. Then in the fifth episode, he changes into a buff form and lets the heroes see [[WolverineClaws those claws of his]] aren't just for show.
* ''Wiki/SCPFoundation'': Of all the groups that the Foundation has to combat constantly, including a MadArtist coalition with access to reality-warping, a MegaCorp that sells ungodly artifacts to the highest bidder, [[DeusEstMachina machine-god]] cultists, and their [[TheUnfettered Unfettered, more violent rival organization]], a church that resembles a sillier version of the ChurchOfHappyology crossed with NewAge beliefs doesn't sound that bad. [[spoiler:But then you get to read about their bible-slash-self-help book, Star Signals, and how an uncontained outbreak of copies of this book brought them closer than any of these other organizations to [[RealityWarper rewriting the world into an unrecognizable mess]], and realize that they're just as dangerous as any of the aforementioned groups.]]
** SCP-387 is a bunch of sentient, self-assembling Legos that enjoy being played with and playing with other Legos, and assimilate Lego products added to their toybox. Aside from somehow giving children highly detailed knowledge of WMD construction, they don't harm anyone, and were even approved for recreational use by Foundation personnel. One time, someone left a pile of Micro Blok imitation toys in the room... [[BewareTheNiceOnes [DATA EXPUNGED] ensued]].
--->''Jesus [[PrecisionFStrike fucking]] Christ!'' - Dr. Arch
* In the LetsPlay/HatFilms ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoV'' series, Ross designs a course named [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQimSruLZxc "Mil-Truck Massacre"]]. The premise is relatively simple- steal a military truck, escape the three-star security (which is not that difficult, for reference) and drive the truck back to an extraction point. As it turns out, the cops, who are armed with just handguns and not well armoured, might individually be useless, but Ross has their respawn rates set so high that they are essentially able to ZergRush anyone in the truck and kill them instantly. This forces the trio to angrily ally with one another as they get increasingly frustrated, [[spoiler:yet they still fail]].
* When Vanilla Ice is first seen in ''WebVideo/VaguelyRecallingJoJo'', he doing a goofy pose in a spirit picture with DIO. During Joseph's scrying in episode 7 of Jotaro's Journey, he is struggling with a card game. When the heroes explore DIO's mansion, Vanilla Ice kills [[spoiler:Avdol and Iggy]] in cold blood.
* Hailey Solomanari of ''Podcast/KakosIndustries'' becomes this more and more over time. At first she seems like an UncannyValleyGirl at best with her silly personality, cute voice, and her strange ability to discentegtste human bodies through making love with them. This could even be passed up as her being naive until she received her ADayInTheLimelight episode and gleefully informs the listeners about the people she's maimed and killed when given just a small taste of power. Even the two main [[CorruptCorporateExecutive evil executives]] grow terrified of her.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'':
** Xin Fu and Master Yu, the two goons hired to bring Toph back for her parents, seem harmless and not very intelligent at first, but are shown to be relatively competent earthbenders if given their chance to shine, and did in fact even manage to briefly capture their quarry at one point... [[spoiler:until she invents Metalbending just in the nick of time to kick their asses ''all by herself.'']]
** Princess Azula was this to Long Feng specifically. When they decided to partner up to pull of a coup to bring down Ba Sing Se, Azula deliberately makes him think that she is a somewhat intelligent young girl who is way over her head. When he decides to betray her, as she knew he would, [[MagnificentBastard she turns his own men against him and reveals to him just how cunning and ruthless she really is.]]
* The SequelSeries ''WesternAnimation/TheLegendOfKorra'', has Desna and Eska, who at first seem to be nothing more than CreepyTwins used for comic relief. Then comes "The Peacekeepers", where they both fight Korra to a standstill and may have even beaten her if not for a dark spirit intervening. They continue to be big threats for the rest of the season until their HeelFaceTurn.
* Cobra Commander may seem like a complete idiot, but remember that he is a notorious international terrorist with an army at his side. If not for the [[BigDamnHeroes GI Joe team]], he likely would have won in the first episode. This is {{lampshade|Hanging}}d in the DarkerAndEdgier ''WesternAnimation/GIJoeResolute'' in which he explains that he only acted stupidly and cowardly so that his troops will know how not to behave.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheVentureBrothers'':
** The Monarch is thought of as a HarmlessVillain... until he starts killing people with poison darts and elaborate {{deathtrap}}s. This appears to be situational. Against Dr. Venture and Brock Samson? HarmlessVillain. Against ''anyone else''? The man is ''actually kind of scary''. Compare his banter with Venture(roughly paraphrasing: "At least I've driven you mad [[EvilLaugh HAHAHA]]") to what he says to the Moppets: (again, roughly paraphrasing: "I will feed your bodies to the dogs if you don't move NOW").
** This also applies to The Monarch's henchmen. Put them up against Brock Samson, OSI, or the minions of other supervillains, and they come off as bumbling, incompetent losers. Turn them loose on {{Muggles}} and {{Innocent Bystander}}s on the other hand... [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tz4PdpfI7zY and they're a terrifying group of well-armed killers]], albeit still not truly competent, per se.
** And Dr. Girlfriend's Murderous Moppets/the Pupa Twins, Tim-Tom and Kevin. Yeah, they're unshaven dwarfs dressed like 19th century schoolboys, but they're also deadly hand to hand combatants. Specifically, both of them are {{Knife Nut}}s. They also plot against the Monarch and his henchmen for awhile.
** Sgt. Hatred seemed too AffablyEvil, treating Dr. Venture very cordially after being assigned as his new {{archenemy}}. Then he shot Doc in the stomach without provocation. They were rubber bullets, yeah, but that's just his way of "keeping it lively," which just makes it ''way'' worse. He is also a pedophile (A recovering one, but he has trouble controlling his urges).
** In season 4 [[spoiler:21, previously an incompetent (yet GenreSavvy) henchman, has [[TookALevelInBadass taken a huge level in badass]] and has become not only by far the most competent and dangerous of The Monarch's henchman, but also the most mentally imbalanced as well. This is all because of the loss of his best (and perhaps only) friend, 24]].
** ''The Venture Bros'' in general applies this to all villains. The justification is that the villains we see are sanctioned by the Guild of Calamitous Intent, which places strict regulations on arching. OSI, the world police force, tolerates the Guild simply because they have restrictions for their members and the alternative is letting a bunch of pissed-off madmen with exotic weapons, powers, and costumes run around aimlessly.
* While ''WesternAnimation/DarkwingDuck's'' no-nonsense, death-penalty toting KnightTemplar future self of [[FutureMeScaresMe Darkwarrior Duck]] will ''never'' be mistaken for harmless, there is a brief point where this is invoked. In a scene cut from the broadcast version, Gosalyn [[IKnowYoureInThereSomewhereFight attempts to appeal to Darkwarrior]] when he pulls his signature, and decidedly non-lethal, gas gun on her. She calls his bluff, when he reveals that he hasn't used a gas gun in years, and that the weapon he's aiming ''point-blank, at her face'' is a freaking '''missile launcher'''.
* Stan, Xander Crews' aging, overweight, and constantly exasperated assistant on ''WesternAnimation/FriskyDingo''. After Xander went missing, he had him declared dead (calmly explaining such when Crews called him before hanging up and [[WhosLaughingNow laughing]]), took over the Crews corporation and, with it, the Crews fortune and Xander's identity as the superhero Awesome X, and his command over the PoweredArmor wearing X-Tacles.
* Zet from ''WesternAnimation/MagiNation''. Seeming at first to be a HarmlessVillain as one of a TerribleTrio-style set of ThoseTwoBadGuys (and the eternal ButtMonkey of his DumbMuscle superior Korg), Zet turned out to be not only a peerless mastermind once he was finally rid of Korg, but is universally considered the hardest boss in the game, having more health than the final boss himself and the ability to act twice in one turn.
* ''WesternAnimation/SonicSatAM'':
** Ixis Naugus was on his way to becoming this (along with Snively), but {{cancellation}} and the Franchise/PowerRangers [[ScrewedByTheNetwork got in the way]]. The writers stated that if the series continued, Ixis Nagus would have replaced Robotnik as the BigBad.
** The show's 3rd season plans would also have played with this for Snively, Robotnik's downtrodden lackey, who would take over briefly as BigBad. Though supposedly leaving his mark for a brief while, the Freedom Fighters would eventually begin to overpower him, pressuring him to release Naugus who would begin his aforementioned domination. Even in what of the series was made, Snively showed odd occasions of competence and came ''this'' close to conquering Knothole.
* ''WesternAnimation/ThePowerpuffGirls'':
** Mojo Jojo often appears harmless due to the Powerpuff Girls overpowering him, but in reality he's done alot of things that proves he's competent and not a joke. Such things would include Mass Murder, slandering, turning the whole world into dogs and creating a supervillain ape army, but he also defeated a Giant Overlord that not even the Girls stood a chance against. And he has actually ''defeated'' the Girls.
** The Gangrene Gang tends to be a GoldfishPoopGang most of the time, although some stories make them actual threats at least for a while. In one story, they gain superpowers and "turn Townsville topsy-turvy" until the powers wear off. In another, they start committing clever robberies under Sedusa's tutoring. Unfortunately for Sedusa, they sell her out once [[YouhaveOutlivedYourUsefulness she tosses them aside]].
** The Amoebe Boys are always the {{Butt Monkey}}s of the show, only doing minor crimes that don't make sense at all; yet the fact that they are living germs can make them one of the biggest threats of the show when they don't actually mean to be. Their worst act was that they caught a cold [[ItMakesSenseInContext after staying up all night standing in front of a "Keep Off The Grass" sign]] which got mixed with their [=DNA=] and created a virus that spreads infecting all of Townsville to near-death. The Girls[[note]]who were also suffering from the disease[[/note]] were forced to find the Amoebe Boys and bring them to the lab to have the cure extracted. They also split themselves into an army after being inspired from a peeled orange they took, and raided the army to steal more oranges which caused everyone in Townsville to have scurvey.
* Franchise/DCAnimatedUniverse:
** When the first cross-over between ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'' and ''WesternAnimation/SupermanTheAnimatedSeries'' started, Batman fought Lex and won quite effortlessly when Superman thought he couldn't handle him. And then Superman, who had absolutely dismissed The Joker as goofy-looking nobody, is then nearly defeated by the psycho (and he nearly kills Comicbook/LoisLane and a few hundred other people while pinning Superman down).
** From an evil point of view, Lex has dismissed Joker himself because he can't handle his 'mere mortal' in Gotham. [[EvilerThanThou By the end the Joker completely outdoes him, nearly destroying everything he loves and nearly killing him.]]
** Joker's silly, manic, love struck sidekick Harley Quinn actually managed to defeat Batman. She would have actually murdered him, if not for the timely [[TheOnlyOneAllowedToDefeatYou intervention of the Joker, himself]].
** In ''WesternAnimation/JusticeLeague'' John Dee/Dr. Destiny went from sadsack prison inmate to dream-invading psychopath very quickly, though the clear impression is given that he was always that person. After he escaped from prison, Green Lantern wasn't at all concerned because Dee was "a nobody". Batman then reminds him [[Literature/TheOdyssey the Cyclops considered Ulysses "a nobody" and lost its eye.]] The second version of Dee was probably inspired by his really, really creepy, almost squicky depiction in the first run of Creator/NeilGaiman's ''ComicBook/TheSandman''. He also shows elements in this incarnation, where he starts out an atrophied, behind the times insomniac whose carjacking attempt only succeeded because the victim was being nice. Then he killed the driver (after patiently listening to her life story), recovered his ArtifactOfDoom, and drove the entire world mad.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Metalocalypse}}'':
** Charles Foster Ofdensen goes 19 episodes before anyone even says his name; he's the annoying, nasal-voiced nerd lawyer who serves as a voice of reason to the otherwise stupid and possibly insane metal band. And then we find out that he's actually been a badass all along, and the villains of the series consider him a bigger obstacle in the way of Dethklok's destruction than Dethklok itself. He seems to actively hide his ruthlessness from Dethklok, and has been known on at least three occasions to lie to them about what he does to people who threaten them, or his own position with the band. In one of the season 2 deleted scenes [[spoiler:he's seen him telling the boys what happened to potential management usurper Melmord Fjordslorn: "Turns out he was a pedophile. What a weirdo." The truth? Ofdensen fought him to the death for the right to manage the band and won]].
** Dr. Rockso, the Rock 'n Roll Clown. [[CatchPhrase He does cocaine]]. No, really. The overweight, coked-up clown dressed in [[FanDisservice not nearly enough fabric]] with a brightly colored wig and facepaint is a dangerous, dangerous man willing to do whatever it takes to get just a little more of that sweet blow.
* Blokk in ''WesternAnimation/ShadowRaiders'', a brute-force driven dimwit who extremely quickly suffers VillainDecay and hardly seems a big deal. But then Planet Rock redeploys its main weapons somewhere else, and Blokk leads a ''hideously'' destructive attack and kills the planet's ruler in one-on-one combat. And when the small kids of the show defeat him ''again'', he finally snaps and spends the last episode on a vicious killspree that nearly ''wipes out the planet''.
* ''WesternAnimation/XiaolinShowdown'': Teenage wanna-be villain Jack Spicer, who underwent VillainDecay almost the moment he was introduced in the pilot, and quickly became a one-man GoldfishPoopGang. At least, until the penultimate episode, when a BadFuture shows that, in a timeline where the heroes weren't around to constantly thwart him, he'd defeated all the major villains who were taken more seriously than him, conquered the world, and rechristened himself the Emperor of Darkness. [[BigBad Hannibal Roy Bean]] even lampshades it in his first appearance by telling Jack that he would have no problems becoming the worst villain ever, if he ever learned to conquer his fears.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Gargoyles}}''' Owen Burnett at first merely seems like an uptight man Friday for David Xanatos-- but not only does he quickly prove to be an extremely competent badass in his own right, he is in fact [[spoiler:Puck, an immortal [[TheTrickster trickster]] with vast magical powers]].
* ''WesternAnimation/TransformersAnimated'': When Starscream made a bunch of clones, they all set to bickering, and their personalities really affected how they fought (Skywarp was too much of a DirtyCoward, and [[BadLiar Ramjet]] and [[SmallNameBigEgo Thundercracker]] spent too much time talking). [[DeadpanSnarker Slipstream]] and [[ProfessionalButtKisser Sunstorm]], however were more effective, taking Bulkhead and Prowl down respectively.
* ''Franchise/TheTransformers'':
** The Decepticons from the original ''WesternAnimation/TransformersGenerationOne'' cartoon were originally portrayed as goofy, incompetent villains who constantly lost to the Autobots every single time throughout the first two seasons, but from ''WesternAnimation/TransformersTheMovie'' onwards, they actually began killing almost half the original Autobot cast! (out-of-universe, this was actually done by the writers [[MerchandiseDriven just so they can make room for new characters, both 'Bot and 'Con alike)]] The third and final season, as with the Japanese sequels, actually portrayed all of the 'Cons as true villains.
** Even in early seasons, there were a fair number of times the Decepticons outsmarted or overpowered the Autobots and were mere seconds away from victory. Megatron, despite his infamy as a GeneralFailure is also pretty cunning at times and often succeeds in sabotaging the Autobots attempts to finally take them out (e.g. he instantly reversed around Mirage's attempt to turn them and the Insecticons against each other and also managed to steal or outmatch some of Wheeljack's gadgets such as the Immobilizer and the Dominator Disc).
* ''WesternAnimation/DannyPhantom'': The Box Ghost was a minor incompetent villain, only posing a serious threat to Danny when he was first starting out. He was so pathetic that Skulker used him for ''bait''. He continues to be this for the rest of the series, except for one episode where he managed to steal ''Pandora's Box'', allowing him to release the world's worst evils while at the same time being filled with the Box's energy. To say nothing of his FutureBadass-self in ''WesternAnimation/TheUltimateEnemy'' alternate timeline.
-->'''The Box Ghost''': ''[[IronicEcho Beware.]]''
* ''WesternAnimation/KimPossible'':
** Dr. Drakken is a buffoon and a classic HarmlessVillain most of the time, but most of his schemes ''nearly'' work aside from some fatal flaw that destroys them. ''WesternAnimation/KimPossibleMovieSoTheDrama'' saw him [[NearVillainVictory succeed on a grander scale]], and showed how dangerous he ''can'' be when he finally learns from his past mistakes. In the second finale, he underwent a plant mutation that at first made it look like he was [[OneWingedAngel turning into a monster]], giving him powerful, destructive vines that he used to crush the [[TripodTerror alien walkers]], earning him his very first victory.
** Shego is mostly the muscle who fights Kim and is too lazy to actually take over the world herself, but in ''A Sitch in Time'' she comes up with and pulls off a successful plan to take over the world.
* Lucius on ''WesternAnimation/JimmyTwoShoes'' is usually the posterboy for TheDevilIsALoser. However, according to WordOfGod, he has powers that can allow him to ''remake the planet to his will!'' The sole reason he doesn't is because he wants to prove to everyone he doesn't need to.
* ''WesternAnimation/DoraTheExplorer'': Though not shown often from the present day one, Swiper the Fox, of all people, sometimes has shades of this. His BadFuture self reveals the only reason Dora can stop him is he's just polite enough to listen to her "Swiper no swiping" trick. When he ended up on the Naughty List on Christmas, he stops listening at all. The result is he becomes so successful and steals so much stuff the future Dora angrily tells the present Swiper there's nothing left to swipe and he's single handedly ruined everyone's Christmas since that day. Then when the past Swiper tries the "Swiper no swiping" trick on his future self, future Swiper simply laughs at him and says it doesn't work anymore before stealing said item anyway. Good thing Swiper is polite, huh?
* ''WesternAnimation/PhineasAndFerb'' shows that Doofenshmirtz can be scarily dangerous at times. [[InMediasRes "Remains of the Platypus"]] shows that if given the time to actually focus, he could develop a truly dangerous inator, like that episode's Vaporizinator. ''WesternAnimation/PhineasAndFerbTheMovieAcrossThe2ndDimension'' has an AlternateUniverse version of Doofenshmirtz who is way more evil and dangerous.
** However, none of the above are compared to that of Aloyse von Roddenstein, who have proven to be far more vile and dangerous than anyone else in the series, as he plans to send the entire Earth into a new Ice Age that would threaten the entire world population in ''Recap/PhineasAndFerbSaveSummer''. [[spoiler:[[EvenEvilHasStandards Even Doof himself openly objects to this]].]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TheDreamstone'':
** The Urpneys are blundering idiots who even the heroes described as being "tiresome". However despite their haplessness, they did on several occasions manage to outsmart or capture the heroes and actually succeeded in bringing the Dreamstone to Zordrak multiple times over. It was merely stopping the heroes from stealing it back they had problems with. In some cases the heroes are left genuinely outmatched until [[TheFool dumb luck intervenes]]. "The Spidermobile" is a defining example; Sgt. Blob and his men [[CurbstompBattle decimate the entire Land of Dreams]] in Urpgor's new (literal) SpiderTank and take the stone with ease. They even remain undefeated, it is ''Zordrak'' that ends up losing it to the heroes.
** While not really a HarmlessVillain himself, Zordrak's intents originally seemed to be little more than keeping the Dreamstone away from the Noops so [[PokeThePoodle he could spread nightmares]], making the war between the two sides for a rather mundane cause. In "A Day Out" he reveals a new motive; to corrupt the stone's power to use as his own and become "LORD OF THE UNIVERSE!!!", making the stakes from the Urpneys trying to steal it for him a ''lot'' higher for the Noops.
* ''WesternAnimation/AladdinTheSeries'':
** Abis Mal is mostly by far the least threatening of Aladdin's RoguesGallery, but there are times when he's managed to not only get the upper hand, but come dangerously close to winning. In "Forget Me Lots" [[spoiler:he took advantage of Jasmine's amnesia in order to brainwash her into a fanatically loyal, nigh-unstoppable [[OneManArmy One Woman Army.]]]] "Some Enchanted Genie" had him in control of a genie. He wished that she'd crush them like bugs, but when pointed out she can't kill, he instead wished for them to be turned into bugs, so he could do the crushing. Someone else had to wish he didn't wish that.
** There's also Mechanicles. [[spoiler:Like Abis Mal, his one episode, "I Never Mechanism I Didn't Like", where he's a major threat involves brainwashing. Unlike Abis Mal, however, he doesn't brainwash just Jasmine, but ''everyone in Agrabah except Aladdin and Genie''.]]
* Dr Robotnik of ''WesternAnimation/AdventuresOfSonicTheHedgehog'' is largely considered far more incompetent than most other incarnations of the doctor, however he has been shown to be pretty clever several times over and many of his inventions, as goofy as they are, are very elaborate or at least work as he intended.
* Shredder of the ''WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles1987'' cartoon is similarly considered a heavy downgrade from his fearsome alternate counterparts, but he still possesses combat skills that usually only Master Splinter can rival, and his schemes, though cartoony, range anywhere from pitiful to [[BewareTheSillyOnes potentially deadly]]. Following the DarkerAndEdgier reboot in later seasons, he has [[DemotedToExtra a minor]], but more fearsome role.
-->'''Shredder:''' [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcDea8n66So I never bluff...]]
** In ''WesternAnimation/TurtlesForever'', Shredder's two henchmen, Bebop and Rocksteady, also count. Do they manage to beat the Turtles at their own game? No, but [[spoiler:they are the ones who ultimately kill [[WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles2003 2003 Shredder]] so that has to count for something]].
*** And if it doesn't, how about [[http://oyster.ignimgs.com/wordpress/stg.ign.com/2015/03/death-of-donatello-2.png damn near killing Donatello]]?
** In a meta sense, the Shredder gets less and less harmless with every incarnation. The original is dead in one issue. The '87 cartoon version, as described above, has his moments, but spends most of his time arguing with Krang as if they were married. The Movie version was a deadly combatant, but got angry and unfocused easily, leading to his defeats. Then came the 2k3 version, a thousand-year-old alien who took the myth of a demon and used it to control the criminal underworld into modern day, and was a fierce enough combatant to cripple the turtles ON-SCREEN.
* ''Franchise/{{Ben 10}}'':
** Dr Animo is a stereotypical MadScientist mostly considered a joke (though he was Ben's third most dangerous enemy in the original series, but considering the ones before him were [[ArchEnemy Vil]][[EvilOverlord gax]] and [[EvilCounterpart Kevin]] [[EnfantTerrible 11]], that makes him the least impressive of the three). In the ''[[WesternAnimation/Ben10AlienForce Alien Force]]'' episode "Voided", however, ended up in the Null Void where he became a ruthless dictator by controlling the giant aliens that guard the dimension, and almost created a portal to invade Earth. He does however returns to being a joke once he is sent back to Earth.
** The [[MugglePower Forever Knights]], while creepy and threatening in the Original Series and earlier ''Alien Force'' episodes, were gradually turned into a joke over the course of ''Alien Force'' and ''Ultimate Alien'', to the point that, in one episode, Gwen (who is usually the [[OnlySaneMan Only Sane Woman]] of the group) considered Ben supporting his girlfriend in a tennis match was a priority over preventing them to take over the world. Comes season 2 of ''Ultimate Alien'', their original leader [[KnightTemplar Sir George]] comes back, ends their EnemyCivilWar and turns them into a much more competent group with hight-tech weapons that actually [[HeroKiller succeed in killing a recurring character]].
** Vilgax's sidekick [[TheDragon Psyphon]] was passive for most of his screen time, usually contenting himself with being a messenger, advisor, scientist and lackey. After Vilgax is apparently killed in the finale of ''Alien Force'', he goes on a AvengingTheVillain moment against Ben. Turns out he is skilled enough to handle ''[[SuperMode Ultimate]] [[LightningBruiser Spider-Monkey]]'' in a hand-to-hand fight. ''Omniverse'' takes it even further by giving him a more threatening appearance, a gang of underground alien criminals, and making him a near match for Ben and Rook. Of course, being ''Omniverse'', he [[VillainDecay is gradually turned into a bigger joke than he ever was to begin with as the shows goes on.]]
** Minor villain [[SnakePeople Ssserpent]] was first introduced as a SmugSnake ([[{{Pun}} literally]]) villain who got {{curb stomp|Battle}}d by Ben in his first two appearances. When he shows up for the third time, he turns out to have learned from his previous defeats, and proves smart enough to anticipate which form Ben is about to use and set a trap instead of fighting him directly. He almost succeeds in killing off Ben.
** Malware, big time. The guy is first introduced at the beginning of ''WesternAnimation/Ben10Omniverse'', where he is quickly sent to retreat by Ben in the BatmanColdOpen. We then get a WholeEpisodeFlashback that reveals his origin, including the fact that he ''murdered'' people of his own kind to feed himself, but still seems to have him stick as a minor villain. And ''THEN'' [[spoiler:''Of Predator And Prey'' reveals that he was the BigBad all along and [[TheManBehindTheMan the one who hired]] [[KnightOfCerebus Khyber]]; the reason he was defeated so easily at the beginning of the show was because he already got what he wanted in the fight and just needed to leave. Hell, when Ben encounters him for the first time in five years in ''Malefactor'', he's genuinely ''frightened'' by him, a task few villains in the franchise have succeeded in]].
** The [[AliensAreBastards Incurseans]] were introduced in ''Alien Force'' as rather generic alien invaders with a frog-like appearance, who appeared almost exclusively for comedy (with their first episode being the only exception). In season 3 of ''Omniverse'', they are promoted to BigBad level baddies, and [[TheBadGuyWins actually manage to take over Earth through sheer military brute force for a short time]]. Ben almost loses it when he realizes he is losing to what he always considered C-List villains.
* ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'':
** In the episode "Owl's Well That Ends Well", Spike tries his hand at Snidely Whiplash villainy and is about as dangerous as an adorable baby dragon can be. That is to say, not very dangerous or effective at all. Cue "Secret Of My Excess", and a quirk in dragon biology which causes them to grow when they indulge their greed turns little Spike into a powerful monster that nearly demolishes Ponyville.
** Trixie was little more than an obnoxious jerk in her first appearance, tripping up our heroes when they booed her, then getting her house smashed when she couldn't match her boasts. Then comes her return, [[FromNobodyToNightmare and now Trixie's sporting a magical amulet that lets her match Twilight's more impressive feats of magic, and a nasty attitude willing to use it]] [[spoiler:[[DrunkOnTheDarkSide as a result of it corrupting her mind]]]]. She becomes powerful enough to effortlessly overpower ''Twilight''.
** The Flim Flam Brothers are normally just a pair of annoying con artists who always run away when their schemes are foiled. In "The Cutie Re-Mark Part 2", an alternate timeline reveals they conquered Equestria, somehow defeating the Princesses and the other villains to turn Equestria into an industrialized, PollutedWasteland with the forests cleared away.
*** Even moreso, as Twilight noted, each AlternateTimeline she visited was worse than the last, and this one was ''after'' she was in the one where '''''[[RealityWarper Discord]]''''' was ruling Equestria.
* Gramma Stuffum from ''WesternAnimation/CodenameKidsNextDoor'': At first, she seemed like a goofy recurring villain (even if still a threat). Then came "Operation: F.O.O.D.F.I.T.E.", which was basically just one big epic fight between her and Sector V to the music of GWAR songs.
* In the two-part ''WesternAnimation/WordGirl'' episode ''A World Without Wordgirl'', the titular hero, tired of missing her birthday party due to stopping villains, wishes she never was [=WordGirl=]. When her wish comes true, she finds herself in [[{{Egopolis}} Chucktopia]], later learning that, [[ForWantOfANail without Wordgirl to constantly stop him]] Chuck managed to become a successful villain and took over the city, forcing all the other villains to work for him.
* [[EvilTeacher Denzel Crocker]] from ''WesternAnimation/TheFairlyOddParents'' is probably the most incompetent villain on the show, but he did successfully manage to take over the world in ''WesternAnimation/AbraCatastrophe'', and managed to capture Cosmo and Wanda in another.
* ''WesternAnimation/AdventureTime'':
** The Earl of Lemongrab initially appears to be an annoying, harmless jerk. The ''second'' time he appears, however, he's deliberately torturing people with weapons including a sword that shoots sonic blasts, and an electrical torture chamber. However, it's hard to tell whether he's genuinely evil, or just [[SanitySlippage COMPLETELY BATSHIT CRAZY]].
** The Ice King is usually played as a demented old fool, but being a tall order comedic sociopath, he is dangerous at times. In one instance, he manages to overpower Finn and is about to make the final blow, but then [[VillainsOutShopping remembers he didn't visit him to fight and holds off]]. He also proved useful under benevolent purposes, helping Finn defeat the Lich. The most overt example of this in the series happens in "Princess Monster Wife", in which in his first major appearance after "Holly Jolly Secrets" revealed his tragic past and made the audience feel sorry for him, he chopped bits off several women to make himself a wife. "Finn the Human" showed that his crown is powerful enough to freeze the planet for centuries on end and it would overpower a normal person's mind into doing just that in a matter of minutes. The only reason the Ice King remains mostly harmless is [[FightingFromTheInside a tiny remnant of his original personality is still resisting it]].
* ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'':
** Eric Cartman. Most of the time, he's just a fat, racist bully, but he's ''fed a teenager his own parents in the form of chili, nearly started a second holocaust and'' '''''controlled Cthulhu''''' ''to destroy all who he hates.''
** Sheila Broflovski. Her [[MoralGuardians moral crusades]] were usually PlayedForLaughs, but in TheMovie she [[spoiler:singlehandedly starts a literal war with Canada, initiates a Canadian holocaust and (indirectly) causes the apocalypse]].
** Herbert Garrison. When first elected into office it seems that people were simply overreacting on horrible he would be as president with the only things he has done was get rid of six immigrants and has yet to complete his wall he promised. Later on however, its been revealed that he's been raping foreign diplomats and his own staff to death. And that's not even getting to the fact that he also [[spoiler: nuked Canada, killing millions of people there]].
* In his first several appearances, [[spoiler:Barry]] from ''WesternAnimation/{{Archer}}'' is an antagonist, but a fairly harmless one (Archer beats the bejeezus out of him in at least half of their encounters). Then the [[WeCanRebuildHim KGB gets ahold of him]], and suddenly he's [[NighInvulnerability a lot less easy to mess with]].
* ''WesternAnimation/AdventuresOfTheGummiBears'': Duke Igthorn is as much as LargeHam as any other Disney villain, and as typically successful as any other Saturday morning cartoon villain. However, several times over the course of the series he's truly endangered Dunwyn through his schemes, and in the series finale actually ''conquers'' the kingdom, losing at the end of the finale notwithstanding. It's also clear that if it hadn't been for the Gummi Bears, he would have taken over Dunwin a long time ago. Even if most people now believe that the Gummi Bears only are fairy-tale characters, they remain a threat to Duke Igthorn, that the king's knights only can dream of being. And there's also one episode, where he blows up a tower and could have killed Princess Calla (she even was unconscious for a while). So yes, Duke Igthorn sure had his dangerous moments.
** There is also the fact that his minions are for the most part a bunch of Ogres three times his size and could probably crush him like a gnat if they so wished. NONE OF THEM dare to betray their master. What kind of ''normal'' human can pull off that sort of feat?
* Killgore of ''WesternAnimation/MyLifeAsATeenageRobot'' gets this treatment. He wants to get credibility as a villain, but since he's just a [[AnimateInanimateObject living windup toy]] and considered cute by many, no one can really take him seriously. However, when push comes to shove, he's capable of accomplishing anything, including rebuilding Armageddroid, a rogue HumongousMecha created by Dr. Wakeman that nearly killed Jenny in their first battle, to prove he's a legitimate threat.
* ''WesternAnimation/LooneyTunes'' character WesternAnimation/ElmerFudd is a real dunce and less a villain than a mere punching bag for WesternAnimation/BugsBunny, whom he invariably hunts. And then came one of the most epic Looney Tunes cartoons ever, ''WesternAnimation/WhatsOperaDoc'', where Elmer shows Bugs how "harmless" he really is… Elmer stands as the only villain to actually ''defeat'' Bugs in the classic shorts, and more than once. He gets an arguably even ''more'' awesome victory in "Rabbit Rampage", when he somehow manages to ''become the cartoonist'' and uses this power to spend the entire short tormenting Bugs ([[LaserGuidedKarma the same thing Bugs did to Daffy in an earlier, more famous short.]])
** Perhaps the series' oddest move was evolving WesternAnimation/DaffyDuck into one for WesternAnimation/SpeedyGonzales. Similar to the above examples, Daffy was still rather bumbling and comical, however he was often portrayed as Speedy's most competent foe compared to the rest of his completely ineffective RoguesGallery, often putting Speedy and his friends in much more dire circumstances (e.g. enslaving them or depriving them of water) and downplaying the former's ComicallyInvincibleHero streak.
* Li'l Gideon Gleeful in ''WesternAnimation/GravityFalls'' seems like just a fraudster who thinks he's [[EntitledToHaveYou entitled to have Mabel]], but [[EnfantTerrible he quickly turns dangerous]] when he thinks Dipper is trying to interfere in their relationship. It's also revealed [[spoiler:he has a journal like Dipper's, and knows about a secret at the Mystery Shack]].
* Cute, lazy, and more than a little bit childish, ''WesterAnimation/SheRaPrincessOfPower'''s Imp may seem like little more than the BigBad's pet, but he's a highly competent spy and a very creative mischief maker who has caused plenty of trouble for the Rebellion.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Spawn}}'': This especially comes up in the AnimatedAdaptation, when Spawn dismisses and threatens the seemingly harmless Clown one time too many. Clown smirks and says "you don't know who you're dealing with... but it's time you found out," and proceeds to change into his true, OneWingedAngel form to give Spawn the CurbStompBattle of his life, all while lecturing him on his role in the coming apocalypse.
* As with any portrayal of UsefulNotes/KingJohnOfEngland, ''WesternAnimation/IvanhoeTheKingsKnight'' features the then prince as seemingly harmless only to show himself to be able to use a sword with deadly skill.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'': The first time Sideshow Bob went to jail, it was simply for framing Krusty the Klown for robbery. In most of his major appearances afterwards, he plans to murder people (usually Bart Simpson, after the first two times he got Bob arrested).
* Lord Hater of ''WesternAnimation/WanderOverYonder'' is a PsychopathicManChild who is obsessed with being the ''GREATEST IN ALL THE GALAXY!!'' While his inability to do anything about Wander has made him a laughingstock, he's still a skeleton with super strength and lightning powers, and before he met Wander had actually built up a pretty fearsome empire. When Hater goes into an UnstoppableRage, even the normally fearless Wander knows to keep away.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheAmazingWorldOfGumball'' turned [[WoobieDestroyerOfWorlds minor character Rob]] into a villain towards the end of Season 3. He begins his first villainous outing in Season 4's "The Nemesis" where his attempts to get revenge of Gumball and Darwin backfire on him [[WesternAnimation/WileECoyoteAndTheRoadRunner Wile E. Coyote]]-style and [[UnknownRival aren't even noticed]] until Gumball and Darwin take pity on him and try to [[CreateYourOwnVillain build up his confidence and make him a bigger threat]]. So he resolves to [[BigDamPlot blow up the town dam]] [[EpicFail only to find out it doesn't have one]]. [[spoiler:Then things get more serious with his [[UnexpectedCharacter surprise appearance]] in "The Bus", in which, through {{manipulati|veBastard}}ng [[UnwittingPawn others]], he [[TheManBehindTheMan secretly masterminds]] the theft of [[BriefcaseFullOfMoney a million dollars]] which results in a high-speed police chase, [[WouldHurtAChild a legitimate bomb scare aboard a packed school bus]], and a fight with Gumball atop an airplane wing. [[NearVillainVictory And he almost gets away with it!]] And if that wasn't enough, come “The Disaster” and “The Rerun”, he tires of being a villain, drops most of the clichés forced upon him and becomes hell bent on destroying Gumball's life, breaking up his family and banishing him to [[EldritchLocation the Void]] with a reality-changing TV remote. Were it not for a literal ResetButton and a change of heart after Gumball tries to SaveTheVillain, he would have succeeded.]]
* Ludo from ''WesternAnimation/StarVsTheForcesOfEvil'' regularly jumps between this and IneffectualSympatheticVillain. He spent Season 1 as a bumbling little fool hopelessly trying to steal Star's wand. The second season has him graduate to this trope by [[spoiler:finding a wand of his own (which is suspiciously made from the hand of the seemingly deceased Toffee), learning to master its power, and gaining command of an army of rats. At the beginning of the third season, he's even [[spoiler:destroyed the spell-book and gained control of Mewni]]. However, every other character still treats him as little more than a nuisance and he ultimately discovers that [[spoiler:he's just been used as a pawn and MeatPuppet by Toffee for the past several months]], which doesn't help his InferioritySuperiorityComplex.
* Olaf from ''WesternAnimation/{{Kaeloo}}'' wishes to TakeOverTheWorld and cover it with ice, but he [[HarmlessVillain never scares anybody or does anything that actually harms them]], so they just make fun of him. At least, until [[spoiler:the season 2 finale, where he kidnaps Quack Quack to use his powers to power up a machine that created snow, and [[HarmlessFreezing freezes Kaeloo and Mr. Cat alive]] and puts them in PeopleJars]].
* ''WesternAnimation/StevenUniverse'':
** Peridot plays with this as her very first appearance carried a lot of threat with the first reveal of an unknown enemy out there with its sights set on earth. In her first direct interaction with the group, however, she's shown to be rather immature and a bit pathetic. Despite this, she does consistently prove to be a problem until she begins her HeelFaceTurn.
** The Ruby Squad are mostly comprised of {{Harmless Villain}}s (Leggy, Navy) or {{Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain}}s (Doc, Army) and Eyeball. When they first appear they're easily fooled by the Crystal gems and act like gullible children, with Eyeball mostly just growling and giving everyone dirty looks. "Back to the Moon" reveals that she's a veteran of the Gem war and is much more violent and unhinged than her comrades as she tries to murder Steven while trapped in space.
** Navy looks like a bubbly fool even by Ruby standards, and in "Room for Ruby" she wants to join the Crystal Gems, acting all sugary and lovey-dopey toward Steven and Earth...then she drops the act and reveals herself as a [[MagnificentBastard Magnificent Bitch]] that tricked Steven that whole time, playing on his naivety and the image of the Rubies as cute idiots, stealing the spaceship back and getting revenge over the Crystal Gems fooling them before. All without never [[DissonantSerenity dropping her cheerful adorable smile]].
-->'''Navy''': I could have done that, but then I would have never got to see your face when you were tricked...BY YOUR FAVORITE LITTLE RUBY!
* ''WesternAnimation/TeenTitans'': In both of his first two appearances, Dr. Light gets taken out in the teaser, before the main episode's plot begins. In fairness, he never counts on Raven's darkside taking over and terrifying him. In Season 5's episode "Kole", we see that without Trigon's influence on his daughter, Dr. Light is more of a challenge, nearly defeating the Titans in the process.