Villain Cred

Whether you consider it short for villain credentials or villain credibility, it's a measure both of how much respect a villain gets among his fellow rogues and of how credible a threat the do-gooders and the authorities consider said villain to be. It's earned through successful completion of bold, daring and devious deeds; in other words, nothing so pedestrian as robbing bank or holding up a liquor store will suffice. It can also be lost in a heartbeat if one runs afoul of meddling kids and their talking dog.

A specific villainous version of a Karma Meter. Often a major motivation factor for a Card-Carrying Villain or Noble Demon.

A supertrope to Arson, Murder, and Admiration, a more comedic take on the concept. Contrast Unintentionally Notorious Crime, where a villain gets too much cred. Do not confuse with Villain Respect, which is directed at heroes.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • In One Piece, a pirate's bounty is often used as a rough estimate of how dangerous they are, and bounties are often discussed as though they were Power Levels. Pirates with high bounties will use them for bragging rights and to recruit crew members who want to work for the toughest pirate on the seas.

    Comic Books 
  • One Silver Age The Flash story has the Mirror Master get upset that he's only ranked as the third most successful criminal in the prison newspaper, so he breaks out to commit more crimes in the hope of raising his standing.
  • A Silver Age Batman story has the Joker and Clayface commit crimes using each other's M.O.s so that each can claim the title of Public Enemy #1.
    • The same basic gimmick was used in Poison Ivy's debut story in the 1960s, where she arranges the capture of three other female criminals — Public Enemy numbers 1, 2, and 3 — so that she can step forward and take credit for various previously unsolved crimes.
    • And used again in a story in the 1970s where rumors of Batman's murder sweep through the underworld, prompting the villains to assemble a Joker Jury of their own to evaluate the Villain Cred of the various supervillains (ranging from The Joker to Lex Luthor to Catwoman) claiming to be Batman's killer.
    • In the Signalman's origin, he was a small-time crook who arrived in Gotham and attempted to form a gang only to be told he needed to build a reputation first. He adopted the costumed identity of the Signalman and used signal clues to taunt Batman in attempt to build up his rep.

  • An anti-hero example comes from the Steven Seagal film Above the Law. After being informed that he's now number four on the FBI's Most Wanted list, Nico quips that he wanted to be number one.
  • In the third Riddick movie, the mercs are impressed with Riddick's balls when he suddenly appears out in the open, walking toward their camp for a pow-wow. The trope is lampshaded by Riddick to Vaako in the Directors Cut.
    Riddick: They say you lost your nerve, Vaako, after that big swing and a miss.
    Vaako: Is that what they say?
    Riddick: Now what are you gonna do to get that cred back? What's the big play? Something splashy.
  • In Demolition Man, the Big Bad Simon Phoenix tries to unfreeze a cryo-prison full of psychotic murderers. When he hears that Jeffrey Dahmer is among the convicts, he joyfully expresses admiration for the guy.
  • Death Warrant: The killer known only as "the Sandman" is a renowned figure in the prison due to his love for killing cops. When he's first brought to the prison, the other cons give him a huge ovation.
  • Half Baked: Parodied when the newly-imprisoned Kenny complains that he's "not getting the respect a cop-killer deserves." While he did technically kill a member of the police force, that member was a diabetic horse that he accidentally killed by feeding it too many sweets.
  • Daredevil: After Daredevil narrowly defeats the Kingpin and then leaves him for the police, Kingpin threatens to tell everyone his secret identity. Daredevil stops him by pointing out his cred will go down the drain once everyone finds out he got beaten by a blind man.

  • Artemis Fowl: the second book has two Mafiya goons discussing Artemis Fowl Jr., one grumbling that the kid has an Interpol listing and he doesn't.
    Thirteen years old and with an active file? I am thirty-seven, and still no Interpol file.

    Live Action Television 
  • A consistent element through Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. The Watcher's Council records the exploits of demons and vampires, and the underworld community in general seems to have pretty good word of mouth. Angelus had particularly good cred, something Angel occasionally traded off of. Even the Master held Angelus in high regard, intending to appoint him as The Dragon. The Mayor was keen to have Angelus on his team, as well. At one point Darla and Drusilla managed to attract a group of demons to serve them simply by introducing themselves (and de-earing one person who'd never heard of them). Spike had a particularly good reputation for having killed two slayers despite being barely two hundred - or 126, or a vampire for 120 years. Several enemies come to town specifically because killing a Slayer would be good for their reputation. Wolfram & Hart is another example. Even Sahjhan is familiar with the firm's reputation, being as it exists in other dimensions, as well.
    Nostoyev: Used to be quite the terror back in the day. Haven't heard much of you lately, though.
    Angel: Haven't heard much of you, ever.
  • In the Masters of Horror episode "Pick Me Up", two rival serial killers called Walker and Wheeler pick off the passengers of a bus crew that they come across in the northwest. They both despise each other for their respective kill steals and treading on the other's "territory", but are also quite impressed by the other's ingenuity and brutality. Walker in particular prizes Wheeler on decapitating one of his victims with a baggage compartment door.


    Web Original 
  • In Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog, Dr. Horrible's primary goal through Act I and Act II is to earn enough cred to get into the Evil League of Evil. He eventually succeeds...but at a horrible price.
  • Discussed in Worm as a sort of metaphorical 'shield'; after all, if you're just that terrifying nobody will start a fight in the first place, essentially giving you a free victory. Grue is the one who first talks about this, but it's eventually embraced by Skitter.

    Western Animation 
  • Kim Possible learns that her Evil Counterpart Shego used to be part of a superhero team, and uses that to blackmail her into helping her defeat this week's villain:
    Kim: Because if you don't help, I'll tell the the world you used to be a good guy.
    Shego: You wouldn't!
    Kim: I've got a website, and I'm not afraid to use it.
    Shego: Ugh, my evil reputation would be shot!
  • Phineas and Ferb: After much evil perpetrated around the Tri-State Area, Dr. Doofenschmirtz rescues one kitten from a tree, and risks the complete loss of his evil-genius status.
    • His worst Christmas is also his best because it was the first Christmas bad enough to make him hate the holiday. Before that he was unable to summon up more than a passionate, burning indifference — not enough motivation to try to ruin it, as a good villain should.
  • One Darkwing Duck episode is all about Nega Duck learning he lost his Public Enemy #1 spot to Dr. Slug. This prompts him to start a massive crime spree to reclaim his throne.
  • In one episode of The Powerpuff Girls, a Monster of the Week claims that many of the monsters who attack Townsville go there just for a chance to fight the girls, because it's a good way to build up villain cred.
  • Young Justice'': Sportsmaster is obsessed with this in to the point where he's willing to betray his former bosses and ally with his hated daughter just to restore it because Aqualad killed his heroine daughter Artemis without him being involved. When it turns out she's alive and it was all a trick to help Aqualad in his deep cover mission, Sportsmaster accepts the cred loss to help keep their cover, because he'd rather see his former bosses punished for allowing it to happen in the first place.
  • The Batman: The Animated Series "The Man Who Killed Batman" provides us with one-time character Sid 'The Squid', a small time crook who wished to gain some cred as a big shot... And succeeded when he got in a scuffle with Batman and, completely by accident, apparently killed him. Then it's Deconstructed. As the real life saying goes, "when you're king of the hill, everyone else wants to knock you off". First, he becomes a target for another crook looking to earn cred for himself by taking down the guy who killed Batman. Then, he's kidnapped by The Joker, who tries to kill Sid for depriving him of the chance to kill Batman himself. Finally, when he goes to Rupert Thorne for help in getting away, Thorne decides that he's putting on an act as part of an attempt to take over Thorne's drug racket. After all, if someone is tough enough bring down the Caped Crusader himself then why wouldn't Thorne see him as a rival? Of course, Batman was alive after all, letting people think he was dead and keeping Sid alive through these misadventures in order to follow him and find out who was running the crime ring. In the end, Sid did get some prison cred as the man who nearly killed Batman and then proceeded to make fools of the Joker and Thorne.