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"I know what it means to be a hero, Commander. And trust me - you are no hero."
Robin, to Commander Uehara, Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo
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You might be thinking, "What are you talking about?" or "How does that even make sense?", which is very reasonable. It does sound like an oxymoron doesn't it? Everybody knows what a hero is, and everybody loves a hero. In fact, a hero, by definition, is a good guy, the one who saves the innocent from the forces of evil, showing children of all ages what a hero does for them, encouraging them to not live in fear, to one day stand up tall and become the next hero everybody looks up to for protection. All of that is nothing an evil villain would do, right?

Here's the thing. There are professions that people almost instantly identify with heroism: police officers, soldiers, park rangers, doctors, presidents and the like, viewing them as the kind of humans that they would want their kids to grow up to be, so they can live successful and promising lives and still be seen as heroes (no powers recommended).

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But that is not always the case.

Sometimes, the bad guy comes in the form of a familiar friendly face, one that people are meant to see without any worry and think that they are safe, until they get a closer look.

This is what happens when Nominal Hero meets Villain with Good Publicity: a definite bad guy works as a cop or even a so called "firefighter", and, despite their actions, whether due to ignorance on The Government's part, or the fact that they simply didn't get fired or resign yet, or haven't been caught yet, still qualify as such. In short, a bad guy with a "good guy" job.

Unfortunately, this allows them to do their evil behind the scenes, disgracing the name of the position they wear, and either people don't notice, or they can't do anything about it. It is during these times that people wait for and cheer when a true hero, of whatever size, comes to the rescue, demonstrating how a hero REALLY does it, the right way.

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An extreme example of Fake Ultimate Hero.

May or may not overlap with Pragmatic Villainy or Noble Demon, as they might actually do their job accordingly every now and then, but the reasons for them are less likely because Even Evil Has Standards, and more to just maintain the facade.

Compare Designated Hero, Villain with Good Publicity, Fake Ultimate Hero and Hero Antagonist.

Contrast Hidden Heart of Gold and A "True" Hero.

Not to be confused with Villain Protagonist.

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Death Note: Light Yagami. He has good publicity and has influenced hundreds of people who sincerely believe in his justice. Unfortunately, he is also a narcissistic sociopath with a Hair-Trigger Temper who would be more than willing to kill innocents, FBI agents, lovers and even relatives.
  • One Piece: Many of the Marines note  in the Navy, would, in real life, not be considered good role models for sea lovers and young naval cadets, to say the least, even if their job is to arrest pirates; they sometimes act no better than pirates. The same goes for those who run the superprison Impel Down. But to really put it into perspective, take a look at Admiral Akainu, who's a Blood Knight in a sailor's cap with no regard for anybody's life, including Coby's; then there's the fact that, after a vicious duel with another marine, he is now Fleet Admiral, the head honcho for the entire navy. Though his evilness is still second to the Five Elder Stars, the guys in charge of the entire World Government, who can, will and have, destroyed entire nations for the "crime" of a small number of their citizens figuring out how to read a dead language, in order to keep some secret about the government's past from getting out.
  • A variant occurs in the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX episode, where the name possibly originates: when Judai/Jaden became Drunk on the Dark Side, the evil that affected him also affected his deck, turning his Elemental HEROes into, literally, Evil HEROes, basically the same Elemental HEROes, now with darker and deadlier appearances and powers. in the dub, Axel even expresses shock that "two good guys equal one bad guy", which in a nutshell, is what Judai does to summon them.
  • In The Seven Deadly Sins, while there are a few in the Holy Knights who are heroic and there are those that see the group as a whole as such, many of its members are evil.
  • Momonga the Dark Hero in Overlord (2012) is hailed as the greatest warrior adventurer in the vicinity of the city of E-Rantel, and possibly the whole Re-Estize kingdom, rivaling warrior-captain Gazef Stronoff in power and virtue... And it's all a lie, as he's actually Ainz Ooal Gown, Elder Lich and Evil Sorcerous Overlord of the Great Tomb of Nazarick, who's using the alias as a convenient way to gather intel on the New World, garner glory and public trust, getting people to owe him one, and stretch his legs, all without attracting too much attention towards his true self.
  • The Lovely Angels in Dirty Pair are considered heroic in their own reality (and their constant claim that "It's not our fault!" is readily believed) despite the fact that they've committed planet-wide genocide multiple times. (The series Crosses the Line Twice rather often.)

    Comic Books 
  • Most of the superheroes in The Boys are anything but heroes. The most notable are The Seven (who are twisted parodies of the Justice League), who are all a bunch of self-centered hedonistic assholes. The Boys themselves are not actually saints, either.
  • The Upward Path from Runaways were a gang of religious bigots and strike-breakers (as in, people who beat up workers who attempted to go on strike) who professed to be heroes upholding law and order.
  • The Alliance from The Red Ten are an expy of the Justice League. In reality, barring two members, they were a bunch of murderers, a liar, a pedophile and a junkie.
  • A kind of recurring opponents in Italian superhero Disney Mouse and Duck Comics are villains that try and neutralize Duckburg or Mouseton's defenders by acting as superheroes themselves and outperforming the real deal until they retire:
    • Paperinik (Donald's superhero alter ego) is a frequent victim of this scheme, with the most notable being Pap-Man, a Batman-like figure that would arrest the criminals because they were his accomplices and convinced the mayor of Duckburg to rent Paperinik to a country village before he broke his accomplices out and they sacked the city. Paperinik eventually dealt with him with a wrench to the head the moment he had dropped his gadgets, and, not being a saint himself, sent part of the loot away as charity to give Duckburg a lesson.
    • Super Goof (that is, Goofy with Superman's powers) once dealt with Megatop, a Superman-like hero sponsored by Emil Eagle that got him to retire through sheer annoyance. Not knowing he had already obtained the desired result, Emil had Megatop challenge Super Goof to a fight that ended with Megatop revealed as a robot and forcefully dismantled.
  • Dark Avengers: The very premise was a team of supervillains acting as the Avengers, with many of them taking up the identities of their heroic counterparts: Norman Osborn as the Iron Patriot, a blend between Captain America and Iron Man; Venom (Mac Gargan) using the symbiote to masquerade as Black Suit Spider-Man; Moonstone as Ms. Marvel; Bullseye as Hawkeye; Daken as Wolverine; Marvel Boy as Captain Marvel; Ares; and the Sentry.
  • Wonder Woman (2006): Circe steals Diana, Donna and Cassie's powers using a magic spell and then takes a spin as the new Wonder Woman. While she does actually save many lives her focus is on helping women and she brutally murders any men who try to stop her. Diana is annoyed that the press reaction to this is mixed given what a pariah she became for killing a single murderer as a last resort, while there are people approving of Circe's methods.

    Fan Works 
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: It's theorized in the setting guide that this is why Corona's fall into madness left such a deep and lasting scar on pony psychology. When the very one whom you trust to protect you from the monsters herself becomes the greatest monster of them all, what hope remains?

    Film 
  • In Avatar, Colonel Miles Quaritch and the miners are, admittedly, doing their job: whatever the CEO of RDA on Pandora orders them to do, which is protecting prospectors from the hostile wildlife and the occasionally hostile Navi; but, said CEO couldn't care less about a bunch of 'blue monkeys', only using diplomacy to avoid a political controversy, and is clearly more interested in his precious Unobtainium, and the soldiers show a little too much pleasure in gunning down alien wildlife and indigenous people trying to protect their homes (with Quaritch hinting personal reasons for attacking the Navi).
  • While Alex from A Clockwork Orange is no angel himself, the fact that The Government would be willing to use nausea-enducing Pavlov related torture, basically stripping free will from the brain, on any human being makes you wonder if there are any real heroes left in the future world.
    • How about the revelation that, in his absence, Alex's own "droogs" have somehow become cops, cops that hold no second thought on nearly drowning a comrade that they abandoned to the authorities in the first place, and getting away with it.
  • The main protagonist of The Crow: Salvation, Alex, was framed for the murder of his girlfriend, and executed for it, by her true killers: a group of cops who apparently rape and murder for kicks on a regular basis.
  • Another Karma Houdini example is Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, who psychologically tortures patients at a mental hospital, who are in no way dangerous, to the point of preventing any opportunity to watch a baseball game, and becoming annoyed when they find a slight way around that, and driving one of her patients to suicide; all while looking like a normal nurse doing her job in public eyes.
  • A more comedic example would be Ron Fox, from Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. As a Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, his job is to protect the United States from any perceived threat from a foreign country. Unfortunately, he's so neurotic and bigoted, he pretty much views anyone who isn't white or Catholic as a potential threat, and is convinced beyond reasoning that Harold and Kumar are in-league with Al Qaeda and North Korea, simply because of their ethnicity.
  • Armano Salazar from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a pirate hunter whose goal is to "purify" the seas by ridding them of piracy forever. Even in a series where the pirates are the protagonists such a job would be a heroic one, as unlike the East India Trading Company from the earlier films the motive behind it isn't just a simple "destroy the competition" one. However, Salazar himself is so cruelly obsessed with revenge and driven by such an irrational hatred of all pirates that he's clearly an evil piece of work even before he became an undead monster, as he regards pirates as less than human and won't even show mercy to defeated foes. It's not even made clear if his "kill everyone in his path to get to the pirates" mentality is the result of spending a cursed suffering decade trapped in the Devil's Triangle or if that's always how he acted.

     Live Action TV 
  • In Kamen Rider Drive, Captain Mitsuhide Nira is an unpleasant bully who enjoys mocking the protagonist and his team (who are a group of Bunny Ears Lawyers). It's later learnt that to reach his current rank he often took shortcuts and even committed murder. There's also the little fact that he was aware of the Roidmudes (the cybernetic villains of the story), and had been working for one for years.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Defied in EMLL with El Santo. Back when Tarzán López was the main tecnico, Santo was supposed to be one of the opposing rudos. In this case, the inherent contradiction of an evil Saint was one fans didn't buy, and Santo became the most popular tecnico of his time and quite possibly of all time. EMLL later had a straight example in the malicious Dr. Wagner, however.
  • Big Bubba Rogers, an evil security guard bought with the money of Jim Cornette's mother. Later became known as Big Boss Man, an evil prison correctional officer.
  • Brother Love, an evil televangelist who professed to love everyone, including you, and educated viewers about the good news and values of loving each other. But as he'd be quick to remind you, just because he loved you did not necessarily mean he liked you. He'd often use his position as a preacher to justify the misdeeds of several miscreants and sometimes even actively aid them in their misdoings.
  • Back when Vince Jr. was giving every other wrestler a second job, Jacques Rougeau Jr. was saddled with The Mountie gimmick and feuded with Big Boss Man, who had underwent a Heel–Face Turn and became a "good" lawman foil. This proved so offensive the real Royal Canadian Mounted Police sent out cease and desist letters.
  • AAA is rather infamous allowing evil to thrive in the ranks of those meekest of creatures, the lucha libre referee. Other lucha feds such as CMLL have also used this to a lesser extent but AAA is the place where men like Hijo del Tirantes are not only known by name but still trusted to do their jobs after years to decades of proving unfit for them.
  • Border Control is a recurring pro wrestling example, with All Pro Wrestling perhaps getting the most mileage out of it, usually in the form of wrestlers who work for AAA such as Brian Cage or Oliver John not seeing the irony in trying to keep the Mexicans out, but special mention to the USWA Tag Team, who operated in Tennessee where there was no border in need of patrolling(indeed, lack of talent from outside the state in its later years ended up doing USWA in)
  • Invoked when Kodo Fuyuki took over FMW with Team No Respect, took Hayabusa's mask and put it on Mr. Gannosuke. Fuyuki's reasoning was that Hayabusa was a super hero, which he did not want in his promotion, but rather than simply get rid of Hayabusa he wanted to ruin Hayabusa's reputation.
  • CM Punk, an evil straight edge activist. He also lead The Second City Saints, which consisted of Ace Steel, Colt Cabana and Lucy Furr. While they weren't supposed to be literal saints, they were followers of the Ring of Honor code, or at least claimed to be. For Punk in particular his Knight Templar cult Straight Edge Society took this trope to its logical conclusion as he set out to use his television time to "save" the masses.
  • Simon Dean, an evil infomercial salesmen waging war against obesity in the United States. His "Simon System" did work as advertised, for the most part, the problems being his ware was just other people's products with his name sellotaped over their brand, and Dean himself wasn't even dedicated to his own fitness message, having a strange aversion to walking. The Simon System's biggest selling point was Maven's physique, which Maven already had before he started using it. In short, Dean was a fraud.
  • Someone associated with TNA continued to send wrestlers, some of whom were admittedly Ax-Crazy like Abyss and Daffney, to Dr Stevie after it became pretty clear that contrary to his word he did not have his patient's best interests at heart.(Daffney's case he thought the best therapy to her violent thoughts was giving her a way to enact them on people she didn't like and in Abyss's case he came to the conclusion the man could not be saved and must be destroyed)
  • Pepper Parks is kind of like combining the anti drug activism of CM Punk with healthy living message of Simon Dean, while never delving into the cult levels of the former and lacking the self serving fraud of the latter. If you think that makes the health guru a good person, there are many a CZW fan who will disagree with you. He cares about what other people do with their bodies but has absolutely no problem mutilating them himself.
  • CZW also had Drew Gulak, an evil public relations manager who was concerned with correcting the Combat Zone's Garbage Wrestler, Lowest Common Denominator, No Budget, Wretched Hive reputation. While this at first seemed like a well meaning, if misguided effort, time made it clear Gulak cared first and foremost about taking over, with the PR campaign about making himself look like something greater than the overlord of a low class wasteland. And he'd destroy anyone, be it their reputation or their physical body, be they with, against or indifferent to him, to take control.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Imperium of Man: Sure they fight aliens and demonic entities, but many of them tend to be as ruthless and evil to the humans they are meant to protect and help as the threats they fight against. Everyday millions of people die from the Imperium's own actions just as much as they get killed by all the other threats out there.
  • Chronicles of Darkness:
    • Beast: The Primordial literally has these as the primary antagonists; the titual Beasts of this game are Necessarily Evil and representing Humanity's fear as a meant to learn and grow, while their counterparts, Heroes, are supposed to keep them in check when they go too far and help humanity grow without resorting to such drastic methods. By the time the game takes place, however, Heroes have suffered a massive case of Motive Decay, and most of them have devolved into sociopathic Knight Templars obsessed with slaying Beasts and with no concern for collateral damages.
    • Hunter: The Vigil: While primarily about humans taking harms to fight the various monsters of the game who prey on mankind in the dark, the game makes a major point of showing that just because you fight monsters doesn't, in fact, makes you the good guy:
      • the Ashwood Abbey are a bunch of depraved bored rich people and aristocrats who essentially use What Measure Is a Non-Human? as an excuse to freely fulfill all their depraved fantasies with monsters, including murder, torture, and rape. Even others hunters generally look down to them as a bunch of sickos.
      • the Cheiron Group are Corrupt Corporate Executives and Mad Scientists with little regard for human rights and extreme Bad Boss tendencies who capture supernaturals so they can dissect them and make medical products out of their organs. Which, by the way, they aren't doing out of kindness; they are Only in It for the Money.
      • The Cainite Heresy are a Cult of fanatics with a very unhealthy obsession for vampires (who they see as the responsible for all the bad things in the world) and who have very little care for collateral damages.
      • The Promethean Conspiracy are a league of Green Eyed Monsters who are kidnapping Mages so they can sacrifically kill them and steal their powers.
      • fan-made supplement Hunter: The Vigil – Dark and Light has the Magisters of Economie, a Hunter Conspiracy of rich benevolent businessmen with magical powers who fight to protect humanity from the many monsters in the setting. They also happen to get their powers from a really disturbing source: they are kidnapping Princesses (the one type of supernatural in this setting to be unambiguously good) to trap them inside a Lotus-Eater Machine through a Rite and steal their abilities, essentially keeping their Comatose body as a batteries. They are also using this Rite to brainwash regular humans into their slaves, since they believe in The Evils of Free Will. Oh, and the way they acquired this Rite? By bargaining with the Wardens, beings who happens to literally be agents of the Darkness.

    Video Games 
  • BlazBlue: Yuuki Terumi was the Token Evil Teammate among the Six Heroes, and with a good reason. He's the creator of the Black Beast, the monster that destroyed most of humanity. Since the heroes needed Terumi's usefulness to fight the Black Beast, Nine used Mind Control on him to make him fight alongside the others. The defeat of the Black Beast earned them the title of Six Heroes, even though Terumi was still evil through and through. He eventually would betray them soon enough and became the franchise's Big Bad. It's pretty much the reason why Terumi is referred to as a "dark hero".
  • Caim from Drakengard is one. He's heroically fighting to save his Cosmic Keystone sister and defend his country from an evil empire, but he's only doing so because he's a bloodthirsty psychopath who loves killing as many people as he can on the battlefield.
  • Several games in the Disgaea feature antagonists like this, fitting with the protagonists being literal Noble Demons.
  • Fate/stay night: Saber Alter is a version of Saber who has been corrupted into a ruthless and cynical tyrant by Aŋra Mainiiu's black ooze. However, in an interview Kinoko Nasu and Gen Urobuchi have stated that she's not an outright villain, but a dark hero.
  • Your character is still officially a Hero in Fable I even if they end up on the evil end of the Karma Meter, with the Heroes' Guild not only still allowing them entry, but allowing them access to quests that allow them to continue more evil deeds!
    • This trope ends up getting deconstructed in Fable II's backstory. Turns out the citizens of Albion did not care for Heroes being able to just casually take on evil quests from the Heroes' Guild without taking consideration of the people they were supposed to protect. All that talk of the old Guildmaster giving Heroes freedom to choose? Apparently that freedom isn't extended to normal people. Once guns were invented they quickly armed themselves and attacked the Guild, destroying it and killing everyone inside.
  • In Golden Sun: The Lost Age it's revealed that Saturos and Menardi, the villains of the first game, were actually on a quest to save not only their home town but also the entire world. The key thing that keeps them firmly as villains even when this is revealed is that they're such Dog-Kicking Card Carrying Villains who gleefully do needlessly evil or cruel things things for no reason other than For the Evulz or because it amused them. Even the Elder of Prox, who sent them on their journey, is completely understanding of Issac and his allies for killing them and even implies the only reason he sent them is because they were the two most powerful warriors Prox had to offer and they were the only ones who could reasonably pull it off.

    Webcomics 
  • Black Mage from 8-Bit Theater, to almost absurd degrees. He's a member of the Light Warriors and (technically) helps to bring an end to the world ending threat, but those are the limits to his status as a hero. He has comitted murder, genocide, traumatized children, sacrificed to dark gods, and betrayed his allies numerous times. And he doesn't even try to hide it, though some people still see him as a Warrior of Light. And his allies, the amoral power-seeker, the greed-fuelled scoundrel, and the genuinely noble moron who can't pick up on any of this, are ultimately not much better.
  • Most of the bosses from the various Metal Gear series who appear in The Last Days Of Fox Hound are this, being groups of bloodthirsty batshit-crazy maniacs with weird powers who the government basically throws at a threat and hopes it goes away. Pretty much the only who aren't are Octopus, only by virtue of never actually having killed anyone and even he remarks how he's still indirectly responsible for hundreds of deaths merely by association, and Wolf who manages to be fairly nice in spite of her profession.


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