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Adaptational Badass

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Guess the people behind Namco × Capcom didn't dig the original.

"I'm not really into this fighting stuff unless it's in a courtroom. ...Oh, and with words!"
Phoenix Wright, playable fighter in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 note 

There are characters in the media who are known, simply put, for being less-than-dangerous. They might even be a Non-Action Guy, or The Chick, or The Load, or at least a Damsel in Distress. When danger rears its head, the character generally beats feet and lets their tougher friends deal with the problem.

But then, for some unexplainable reason, when the work is being adapted into another type of media, the character is made a bona fide badass. The reasons for this are myriad. Regardless of the whys, there are four things to consider with such a change:

  • Sometimes a character is defined by being a Non-Action Guy, that their usefulness to the story is their intelligence, peacekeeping among teammates or being a Friend to All Living Things. When making such a character become violent in any form, a side effect is that they appear and act brutish as a trade-off, causing Character Derailment.
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  • On the other hand, the character may have become a Damsel Scrappy whose only job was to get captured by the bad guys and give a Damsel in Distress for the hero to rescue. Making them competent in a fight and no longer The Load can also result in a more preferred version of the character. In fact there are many examples of such a change becoming a Ret-Canon to the original character.
  • In some cases (especially video games) this is the result of someone who's a non combatant in their own series appearing in a setting where fighting skill of some kind is required, overlapping with Power Creep, Power Seep. These types of characters are the kind most likely to use tropes such as I Know Madden Kombat, Martial Arts and Crafts, and Fighting Clown.
  • Occasionally, this trope can even apply to characters who are reasonably badass and skilled in their original incarnations but in future incarnations, become even more powerful and dangerous to the point they resemble either Invincible Heroes or Invincible Villains. A character who was originally skilled and dangerous in his original incarnation but wasn't totally unbeatable has his feats and victories elevated to even greater degrees in a future incarnations can also fall under this category.

At its core this causes a significant dissonance with those familiar with the original character. It is not about a change in personality (Martial Pacifist to Blood Knight), method of fighting (defensive Simple Staff to offensive BFS) or battlefield intelligence (Dumb Muscle to Genius Bruiser), but in terms of how relevant they are in a fight. The key is how they are able to navigate through the story. Consider as a result of Power Creep, Power Seep that Superman himself has varied from simply "above human" in strength to near godlike, but he has always been Superman.

As the name suggests, this is based on different interpretations between adaptations. Took a Level in Badass is the same concept except treated as Character Development in the same continuity.

When this is done to a real-life person, then it's Historical Badass Upgrade. For a sister trope specializing in female characters, see Xenafication. The inverse of this trope is Adaptational Wimp.

Example subpages:

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    Comic Books 
  • The Mighty Thor:
  • Fables:
    • The talking wolf of Red Riding Hood becomes a reformed half-god terror, Snow White is a master strategist and diplomat, The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a psychotic ally to an Eldritch Abomination, and a kindly woodworker is the puppeteer of a multi-planetary empire. In their case they got hit with the good side of Clap Your Hands If You Believe; because many humans remember and tell their story they get more powerful.
    • Mowgli is an international spy who can fight wolves with his bare hands and win. In this case, though, his awesomeness compared to the original may be mostly due to the fact that we're seeing a grown-up version.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Amy has always been a fairly realistic character for her age. You don't expect her to be badass or whatnot, she's just a girl who's in love with Sonic. In Sonic the Comic however she's quite The Lancer to Sonic. She's far more lethal than any other version of her to date, and sports some Improbable Aiming Skills. Reflected in the games where, while still much more humble and goofy than in the comics, she is a Badass Normal whose Piko Piko Hammer makes her a key powerhouse in certain titles.
    • Antoine D'Coolette of Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog series. In the Sonic Sat AM series, he was a Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey who tend to let out a Girly Scream now and then and was pretty much The Load. This changed when issue 46 came out and he ended up dating Cyborg Bunnie Rabbot. By this point, he started growing braver and braver, becoming a competent swordsman, being tough enough to survive over a year in an Alternate Universe, slugging Evil Sonic unknowingly at one point and impressing his dying father enough that he gave his blessings for him and Bunnie to be married. Then he goes and nearly gets killed saving Prince Elias and his family.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW):
    • The short In the Interim... from Issue #4 features Epic battle-damaged, trident-wielding Spike riding Celestia in the middle of the fight against the giant Cockatrice attack. And he ends up saving everyone! A far cry from the Butt-Monkey who usually sits out on most of the mane six's adventures. Issue 7 in the main story has this to Spike as well.
    • Issue 8 does this to the citizens of Ponyville. Usually in the show, the best they can do is panic while the mane six deal with whatever problem falls upon Ponyville. With the mane six gone and the Princesses rallying them, however, they're able to keep the Nightmare Forces at bay.
  • While H. P. Lovecraft's original Deep Ones were described as "degenerate fish-frogs" who have trouble moving around on land and are only a threat due to sheer numbers and relationship with bigger eldritch critters, Alan Moore's Neonomicon treats us to a seven-foot armored-skinned man-coelacanth with the physique of a bodybuilder who can pull down wrought iron gates and fight an entire SWAT team to a standstill single-handed.
  • Transformers:
    • The Transformers (IDW):
      • The original Sweeps were just mooks and often ended up as Ineffectual Sympathetic Villains; here, they are still Mooks who go down en masse, but they're a lot more deadly, storming Kimia and killing most of the crew, even tearing one bot apart with their teeth.
      • Wheelie goes from the the robot equivalent of a ten-year-old with a slingshot to a skilled tracker, marksman, and survivalist. (Though this is closer to what his Tech Specs suggested he should have been in the first place, "a barbaric little savage who managed to stay alive by cunning, stealth, and fearlessness")
    • The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers:
      • While Overlord was always powerful, even back in Masterforce, here he's established as one of the most powerful cons period, having brought destruction to countless worlds.
      • Black Shadow, also on the Phase-Sixer list, went from a one-off merc with a silly gimmick in Transformers Victory to a guy with a deathcount rated in the low billions.
    • The Transformers: Robots in Disguise has this with Devastator, who was the biggest con to fall victim to The Worf Effect, even in his debut episode. In this series, he Took a Level in Badass, rampages through the city unopposed, and easily tears Superion in half. In the Dreamwave continuity he couldn't even land a hit on Superion, and only won because of the seekers. In IDW continuity, it's the other way around, with Devastator only getting taken down during Combiner Wars by the combined (pun unintended) efforts of Superion and Defensor.
      • For most of IDW continuity, Devastator was the only functional combiner either side had, and as such tended to be a dominating force on the battlefield.
    • Hellbat debuts as one in Drift: Empire of Stone. Originally Hellbat toed the line between Dirty Coward and Butt-Monkey, one of his most notable acts being that he engaged in a gunfight, and hid behind a rock begging for his life and shooting randomly until he killed the guy. Now Hellbat's more serious and threatening. Tired of the war, he's been killing Autobots and Decepticons all to power a stone army which he intends to use to kill as many things as he can.
    • Superion gets a dose of this in The Transformers: Combiner Wars along with taking a level in badass. After Devastator tore him apart, he's rebuilt and upgraded by Wheeljack and the Enigma of Combination. He fights Menasor similar to how he did in the cartoon, but there it was one of the few times a Decepticon triumphed over their Autobot counterpart, and Superion needed Omega Supreme to win. Here, Superion demonstrates a number of new tricks and beats Menasor easily.
    • The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye has done this with a few members of the Lost Light crew. Rewind, while still tiny, is a walking database with vast knowledge, Chromedome is a gifted "mnemosurgeon" capable of mind-reading and even mind-control, Skids is a "super learner" who can pick up new skills almost immediately, Brainstorm is so brilliant he can create paradox-proof time travel, and Tailgate has become a mutant "outlier" with super strength. None of them had these abilities in previous depictions.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW): The original cartoon has Bebop and Rocksteady be completely idiotic, ineffective and useless. In this comic they are still a pair of morons, who also happen to be violent murderers (even before they are mutated), strong, and bulletproof. One issue showcases how it took a total of ten fighters with varied skills and weaponry to fight them, and they still couldn't actually defeat the duo, opting instead for slowing them down long enough to make a clean getaway.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
  • As if Pope Francis isn't considered badass enough, in the The Wizard of Id comic strip seen here, he takes his reputation up a notch.
  • Donald Duck took a level in badass back in the 60's in the Italian Disney comics, when he stumbled upon the suit and equipment of an old-time gentleman thief/vigilante, and used it to create his own secret identity of Paperinik. At first he just used it to get even with Uncle Scrooge and other people who crossed him, but pretty soon he started working as a superhero, keeping the streets of Duckburg safe at night. Then he took another level when he got his own series and was suddenly fighting alien invasions, mad scientists, and major disasters on a regular basis in Paperinik New Adventures.
  • While Mercy Graves in Superman: The Animated Series was already a Dark Action Girl, she was also a normal, street-smart woman that Luthor picked up off the streets to make his bodyguard. When she immigrated from the DC Animated Universe to the comics, she was imagined as an Amazon.
  • Wonder Woman: Despite being an god, Ares in Greek Mythology had a tendency of getting jobbed and defeated by mortals on regular basis, was something of a spoiled crybaby manchild and regarded as a Dumb Muscle. This was because he was the embodiment of bloodthirsty and violent war, and the Ancient Greeks generally preferred Athena who represented strategic aspect of war. In the DC comics, he is not only smarter and more dangerous, but also a figure analoguous with the Devil who derived his power from human conflict and came very close of becoming all-powerful in his introductory arc when he nearly triggered World War III, but he stepped away when he realized that if mankind was destroyed, nobody would be left to fight wars and he'd cause his own undoing. He instead focused on plotting minor conflicts to keep his power sustained and would later go on and overthrow Hades and become God of the Underworld too.
  • EVERYONE in Scooby Apocalypse. Even Scooby, Shaggy and Scrappy Doo gain many levels as they try to survive this apocalypse.
  • The Conan the Barbarian comics by different publishers gave this treatment to different characters:
    • Zenobia in The Hour of the Dragon was just a concubine that was unable to fight, but made up for it with being smart, capable and resourceful. In the Marvel-branded Conan the King comics, she is revealed to have been trained in martial arts by her father, who was a soldier that expected a boy, and displayed her skills to convince her husband to let her accompany him in his adventures when he told her to stay back.
    • Natala from Xuthal of the Dusk downplays this trope; she was originally a one-dimensional, easily frightened Damsel in Distress that had to be saved from the jealous love rival Thalis and the Monster of the Week respectively. The Dark Horse comics give her a head-strong personality and barbed tongue, on top of making her more fearless. Unlike Zenobia, she lacks any fighting skills whatsoever though.
    • Thoth-Amon, surprisingly enough. He spends most of the novel he appears in a vulnerable state and isn't quite an enemy to Conan, more like a Villain of Another Story. The comics on the other hand make him far more dangerous, give him a more ruthless personality and definitely portray him as an Arch-Enemy towards Conan.
  • Princess Toadstool/Peach of all characters got this in Super Mario Adventures. The normally prim-and-proper Damsel in Distress has been transformed here into a full-on heroic asskicker on par with Mario himself. There is even a section where Mario gets kidnapped, and Toadstool has to rescue him.
  • Whilst Claire, Steve and Chris were already zombie-killing badasses in Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, they upgrade into full-blown Shonen anime protagonist territory in the comic adaptation. Full-fledged Gun Fu antics and crazy stunts become the norm, with Chris in particular killing a Hunter with one punch, beating a Bandersnatch to death with his bare hands, killing the Gulp Worm by letting himself be swallowed by it before blasting a way out with his shotgun and then tossing a grenade into the hole after himself, and riding a giant spider whilst stabbing it to death with his knife.
  • Watson and Holmes: Dr. Watson in this version was a soldier in Afghanistan before he took his job as a doctor in an inner-city clinic.


  • Within Temptation has a song called "A Gothic Christmas" which uses this for laughs. Santa starts wearing black and slays dragons while Rudolph changes his name to "Ragnagord" and becomes an Evil Overlord.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Ares from Greek Mythology. Originally, he was portrayed as a bully who could only win against unaided mortals, got his butt kicked by anything supernatural, and was casually dismissed by fellow gods Zeus and Athena. Then the Romans came around and identified him with their god Mars, making him the patron god of Rome, second in importance only to Jupiter (the Roman version of Zeus), an ideal soldier, and an all-around badass. This might make him the Ur-Example. In many modern adaptations, Ares is usually portrayed more in the style of Rome's Mars in order to make him an imposing and threatening character. And since those modern adaptations often have Athena retain Greek role as Always Someone Better to Ares, she has to become even more badass than in the source material in order to keep pace.
  • Satan tends to get upgraded from a fallen angel whose defeat is a given from day one and whose antics on earth are basically a bully picking on the teacher's pets to a full-blown God of Evil only kept from creating Hell on Earth by the forces of light remaining ever vigilant.
  • Heather Dale's version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The song that was originally about Gawain's failure, became a story of how perfect he was.

  • In A Christmas Carol and most adaptations, Scrooge is terrified at Jacob Marley's appearance and warning. In Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, after his initial shock he's unfazed by his theatrics, gives a speech dressing him down, and kicks him out of his room with his words alone.

  • Beast Wars: Uprising:
    • Rage, a one-off cutesy jellyfish from a Beast Wars Neo manga, is reinvented as a warlord who seized control of a city. During the Grand Finale, she fights alongside her own troops.
    • The Vehicons. In Beast Machines, they were brainless mooks who exploded if they were so much as sneezed on, their main strength being sheer numbers. Here, they're The Virus, capable of directly turning other Cybertronians into more Vehicons, destroying their Sparks in the process. Not for nothing is their rampage labelled the Vehicon Apocalypse.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In the character's source series, Atop the Fourth Wall's The Entity (aka Missingno) is mildly creepy if you start applying Fridge Logic, somewhere between useful and annoying if you don't, and is nigh-universally pathetic in battle to the point of usually being incapable of victory. Now, he's a horror that makes other monsters look friendly and harmless, and reduces entire worlds to nothingness. According to Word of God, every other glitch Pokemon is just a different form of this version of Missingno.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • Mr. Popo was never exactly useless; he even gave Goku a run for his money in the original series, but he never did much beyond that and eventually suffered the same fate as the other non-saiyan characters (and even most of the Out of Focus character were stronger than him). His Abridged incarnation, on the other hand, is a Creepy Good Humanoid Abomination and Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant who is implied to be the most powerful being in the universe, with the only reason he doesn't kill all the villains himself being that he's just too lazy or too stoned. Notably, the abridged version of the Garlic Jr. arc has him devour Garlic Jr. and all of his henchmen, defeating them with one move when they attack the lookout, whereas in the source material he could only stand and watch in horror.
    • Tien is a lot braver and more intimidating in Season 3, with all of his interactions with Vegeta having him making fun of the Prince's shortcomings without any fear of retribution, and was very eager to face off against Android 20 in a fight, which intimidated the latter so much that he backed down. The kicker is when he attacks Semi-Perfect Cell all by himself; instead of a Desperation Attack to stall him and buy precious seconds for Android 18 to escape like in the original, here he's sick of sitting on the sidelines while the more powerful characters do everything themselves, intent on proving he's still a warrior even if it means going out in a blaze of glory, with 18's escape being an afterthought. All set to Counterattack from Shadow of the Colossus.
    Cell: Oh my god! It's Tien! What, was Krillin busy? [Tien prepares an attack] Come on buddy, you can't be serious. With your power level? You're no Android. You're no Namekian. And you're certainly no Super Saiyan. You're just human.
    Tien: Yeah. Well you know what?! F**k power levels! F**ck Super Saiyans! AND F**K! YOU! SHIN! KIKOOOHOOOOOO!
    Cell: Oh, that's adoraSHIIIIIIIT!
    • And unlike the original, this incident is never forgotten by Cell to the point that he shows a lot of enmity with Tienshinhan when he is respectful with everyone else. And Tien is more than happy to mock him for it.
    • Unlike in the original version, Piccolo in Cooler 2 is far stronger than Goku and Vegeta, wiping out an entire group of Metal-Coolers in a single blast.note 
  • CollegeHumor's Dora The Explorer And The Destiny Medallion is a three part parody miniseries which re-imagines Dora the Explorer as a straight action movie.
  • In Death Note: The Abridged Series (kpts4tv), Raye Penber is now so impressive that Even the Guys Want Him. He's also Near's hitman and a Shinigami.
  • In Final Fantasy Relay, Edward of all characters helps Cecil win the 6 fights in Fabul and killed the Mom Bomb's Gray Bombs in 1 shot (along with Rydia).
  • In Pokémon Apokélypse, being a parody of darker and edgier works, everyone becomes awesome, especially Team Rocket.
  • Gundam Fighter has it with their entirety of Gundam casts, especially girls that are harmless.
  • Constable Frozen: Olaf from Frozen. Seriously.
  • Pokemon Crystal Kaizo is a super-hard Pokemon romhack that makes every wild Pokemon, trainer, and especially bosses, into badasses. Team Rocket especially, as they turn from a generic bad guy organization with laughable com-mon rosters to a army of criminals with powerful stolen Pokemon, capable of locking down Goldenrod, to the point that the player needs to fly to get in, blocking the path to the department store, and they heavily guard stairs and doors. They almost block off the path to the underground as well.
  • Sword Art Online Abridged removes or alters Asuna's Damsel in Distress moments to keep in line with her... grayer characterization. She isn't inexplicably afraid of her clingy, creepy bodyguard Kuradeel in Episode 8, she's manipulating Kirito into dueling him on her behalf to teach Kuradeel a lesson and avoid the embarrassment of a guild leader having to discipline a subordinate. And in Episode 9, she doesn't fall victim to an I Surrender, Suckers attempt, she curb-stomps an enemy and coldly executes him herself.
  • Rachel freaking Garrett in To Boldly Go... A Starfleet Quest. Granted, that's partially because she only had one episode (Yesterday's Enterprise) of Star Trek: The Next Generation to work with — and she was injured! — but To Boldly Go leaves little doubt that her eventual command of the Enterprise-C is no fluke.

Alternative Title(s): Badass By Adaptation, Took A Level In Badass By Adaptation