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Fake Ultimate Hero

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Mark Satan, the Badass Normal who defeated a Cyborg Conqueror from the Future. The part where the real heroes …um, did the actual defeating work didn't make the airwaves, sadly.
"In the half-dozen years since my arrival, I'd been temporarily seconded to units assigned, among other things, to assault fixed positions, clear out a space hulk, and run recon deep behind enemy lines. And every time I'd made it back alive, due in no small part to my natural talent for diving for cover and waiting for the noise to stop, the general staff had patted me on the head, given me another commendation, and tried to find an even more inventive way of getting me killed."

A character touted as a brave and mighty warrior, despite it being complete hogwash. The best this character can manage is to be the Unknown Rival, although the viewers are totally aware it's no contest, and oftentimes, he has Feet of Clay.

Sometimes this character is just duplicitous, but is allowed to claim the title to keep the Masquerade going for the greater good. Sometimes, he's simply in the right place at the right time. Sometimes, rumor ran away with scraps of information, and his efforts to correct it lead only to a reputation for modesty. And sometimes, he is a downright Villain with Good Publicity who does nasty things to keep up his hero image.

An All-Loving Hero, of course, has no problem with them taking the credit, though the Naïve Newcomer may be shocked to find him not everything the legend says he is.

The false attribution can occur on-stage, with the Fake Ultimate Hero getting credit for what has happened, generally over the actual character who did it, or off-stage, where the characters learn the truth (often the hard way) but the true heroes of those incidents are not characters.

The "false hero" who tries to claim the reward of the hero is a stock character of the Fairy Tale. After the Engagement Challenge, he shows up with the dragon's head or threatens the princess until she agrees to support his claim. A frequent problem for him is that while he has the heads, the hero cut their tongues out first. Others steal what he won on his quest.

A variant is to present this individual as a semi-sympathetic protagonist who will usually acknowledge himself that he's not all he's made out to be. Sometimes, however, their actions will make you wonder if they're just putting themselves down a little too much... And sometimes they'll even end up becoming a Real Ultimate Hero, though not always in the conventional way.

Compare Glory Hound, Accidental Hero. Not to be confused with Decoy Protagonist. Miles Gloriosus is when this guy has absolutely nothing to back his stories up, while Badass on Paper is when this guy actually did do the deeds he's credited with, but the reality falls short of his reputation. Engineered Heroics is when someone tries to be this guy by causing the disasters in the first place. It is a subtrope of Paper Tiger.

May overlap with Nominal Hero if the character's intentions aren't heroic either.

Compare and contrast Big Bad Wannabe (aka Fake Ultimate Villain), Fake Ultimate Mook (a seemingly menacing, but very weak Mook) and Propaganda Hero (where the Fake Ultimate Hero becomes a symbol). Contrast Self-Made Myth.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Mr. Satan ("Hercule") is frequently credited as stronger than any other professional fighter, although this usually does not bother any of the main characters despite their world-saving ventures being unrecognized. However, a few characters are not above blackmailing him about the secret... Of course, he is the strongest normal human besides Yajirobe who doesn't know how to use Ki Manipulation when he first appears, and the good guys, in fact, would rather stay out of the spotlight, so it suits them just fine. When push comes to shove however, Mr. Satan is actually a rather decent and kind-hearted man who genuinely cares about people and wants to help them. He at least has the heart of a hero, if nothing else.
      • This is exploited in the fight against Kid Buu, where he manages to use his Fake Ultimate Hero status to convince every human on Earth to contribute their energy to a Combined Energy Attack, saving the universe by doing so. Sometimes PR and the ability to work a crowd can come in handy.
      • Even before that, he risked his life by running through a field of ki attacks to get Android 16's head to Gohan, which precipitated his ascension to SS2 and had managed to rehabilitate Fat Buu, an act which got Piccolo to declare that he was worthy of the title of Earth's champion. Granted, the latter didn't stick, but it was incredibly impressive nonetheless, and Fat Buu's intervention is the only reason that Goku got the time needed to charge up his Spirit Bomb.
      • Plus after Kid Buu was finally defeated, Mr. Satan managed to keep Fat Buu, who stayed loyal to Mr. Satan thereafter. That's right, Mr. Satan controls one of the strongest people in the universe.
      • He surpasses the feat in Dragon Ball GT, where he convinces most of the world's population that the planet is going to blow up and that everyone needs to evacuate to another one. Pan notes that her Grandpa Satan could be a great hero if he'd just stop lying.
      • Taken to new levels in Dragon Ball Super. Not only does he tells the world that he defeated Beerus and ascended to godhood, his fake hero status has spread across the universe. Aliens gave him a medal for "defeating" the God of Destruction. In Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, it's revealed that the Red Ribbon Army is still active and they're the only ones outside the Z-Fighters' circle who know the truth about Cell's death, but they're still convinced he's Obfuscating Stupidity because it makes more sense than the truth being he just happens to be friends with demigods.
      • It is made quite clear that he is a genuinely talented martial artist (he won the Tenkaichi Budokai fairly in the years Goku and company did not attend), and does have a level of strength that is genuinely superhuman; he just happens to live in a universe where even the mid-level Mooks can punch mountains apart.
      • Weirdly enough, Mr. Satan is one of the very few characters on the show to have not died once. When Super Buu unleashes his Human Extinction Attack (which does exactly what you think it does), he didn't target Mr. Satan with it due to having fat Buu's memories of him. And when the Earth is eventually destroyed by Kid Buu, Goku saves Mr. Satan at the last minute. This actually makes him the only human to have never died, with the exception of Uranai Baba (who can travel to the afterlife at will, so she doesn't really count). His luck runs out by Dragon Ball Super, where he, along with most of the supporting cast, is killed by Frieza destroying the Earth. Though Whis rewinds time shortly afterward, meaning it technically never happened.
      • Amusingly enough, in Dragon Ball Xenoverse, Mr. Satan teaches the player one of the most useful skills in the game: "The Savior Has Come", which pulls AI opponents off your allies and has them focus on you. Considering the sheer number of missions in the game where you have to protect woefully-poor AI allies, this ability is practically required.
      • Considering that all his victories are thanks to him exploiting his fame and connections in the world or genuine intelligence, all of which is only possible by keeping up the charade of being the world's most powerful fighter, a generous person could even describe him as a Guile Hero rather than a mere fake. At the end of the day, when the push comes Mr. Satan is always up to his task and to throw himself at the line of fire to help his family and friends; he simply understands he is completely outclassed by the people he surrounds himself with and stays out of the way.
    • Dragon Ball Super also introduces Monaka, an alien touted by Beerus throughout the Universe 6 arc as being the strongest being he ever faced off against. Not only is all the hype surrounding him a complete lie, but he's not even strong by normal human standards like Mr. Satan, and spends most of the Universe 6 arc unconscious from fear at witnessing everyone else's power, which is passed off as him being in deep concentration. Beerus just uses him as motivation for Goku to improve himself with the knowledge that there's Always Someone Better. Ironically, Monaka ends up winning the Universe 6 tournament when his opponent Hit, who had just defeated both Vegeta and Goku, realizes how weak Monaka actually is and promptly throws the fight, both out of respect for Goku and contempt for his employer Champa.
    • Gotenks is an interesting example. While he is genuinely strong, his cavalier attitude and unwillingness to take his opponents seriously results in him being rather ineffectual against the villains. It's because of this that the Z-Fighters decide not to include him on Universe 7's team in the Tournament of Power.
  • Kitano, from Angel Densetsu is a Fake Ultimate Villain but a Real Hero too. Unfortunately, his in-universe bad PR makes him a hero only to a very few people, or to Delinquents.
  • Bleach:
    • There's the TV personality Don Kanonji, a self-proclaimed exorcist. While he can see ghosts and has some degree of spiritual powers (being roughly on par with Ichigo when they met), he doesn't really know how to deal with them (In fact in his first appearance he actually causes an incredibly self-centered ghost to become a Hollow). Forms a group of junior-varsity "superheroes" to protect the protagonist's hometown when they leave. Naturally, it's the kids who do all the work. Unlike some, he is more likable in that he states that he does his actions in part to be an inspiring role model for children (hence standing his ground against the Hollow and even freeing a trapped Ichigo), and genuinely wants to make the world a better place. He proves that in spades when in later arc he stands up to Aizen, despite knowing full well he was doomed, in order to try and buy Tatsuki and Michiru time to run away.
    • Another case is Tsukishima, where due to his Fullbring abilities, he manipulated Chad and Orihime's memories so that they believe that he was the one who rescued Rukia and defeated Aizen instead of Ichigo.
  • Berserk has the Holy Iron Chain Knights, which is, for the most part, a whole organization of this. They're treated as some of the most sacred warriors working for the Church and viewed with awe by the people, and being a member is something to be proud of... but, as it turns out, the Knights are so prestigious that they're basically never expected to see actual combat. Most of its members are just scions of various noble houses who bought their commissions and knighthoods, and use it as a way to get military service under their belt. If they were actually put in real danger, it might put those noble families in a tizzy when their heirs die in battle, so their duties are pretty much 95% ceremonial. Farnese, their leader, is a Jeanne d'Archétype who had never been in an actual fight and was explicitly only a member because the Knights traditionally have a female leader. The only two competent members at their introduction are Azan and Serpico (respectively, the only genuine believer in their ranks, and Farnese's personal bodyguard). Eventually, Farnese joins Gut's group after being humbled and Took a Level in Badass while aiming to be a real hero.
  • Cowboy Bebop has one-shot character Cowboy Andy who has apparently built himself up a certifiable reputation as a famed bounty hunter despite the Bebop crew having never heard of him before, and in Spike's case particularly gets on his nerves due to most of the other characters noting how similar they are. The difference is while he does have all of Spike's recklessness, he has absolutely none of the skills or intuition to back it up. He repeatedly mistakes other people for the terrorist everyone is hunting for in the episode including Spike twice, and near the end of the episode when said terrorist manages to trap both him and Spike, Andy immediately cracks under the pressure while Spike manages to keep his cool and look for a way out. Rather than learning his lesson, Andy decides to keep being a bounty hunter but reinvent his persona as a samurai.
  • Case Closed:
    • Many episodes feature this, as Conan's deductions are revealed in the voice of the unconscious Kogoro Mouri, building the man's reputation as a detective (despite the fact that Mouri is a mediocre detective at best).
      • Well, if you WANT to get technical, Mouri/Moore DOES eventually gain some competence in the detective field in later seasons, as he's later shown able to piece much of the case together but cannot solve it due to lacking hard evidence. Conan's crime-solving mainly comes from hunches and correct guesses regarding suspects, whereas Moore's method involves mostly evidence and little to no Gut.
      • He's quite skilled at Judo and displays almost a frightening level of skill as a detective when the life of his daughter and/or Conan hangs in the balance. He at least has the potential to be a real hero, if he weren't such a slacker most of the time.
    • Sonoko Suzuki also gets a bit of this treatment as well due to the fact that she's the most common person Conan knocks out and solves cases through when Kogoro is unavailable. As a result, she's come to be thought of as a Genius Ditz in spite of the fact that she doesn't even have a fraction of Kogoro's deductive skills, let alone Conan's.
    • Idem the detective Yamamura that, unlike other police officers in the series, is a complete idiot who can't do anything right. His reputation grows after Conan knocks him out to solve a case, which gives him more assignments and probably led to his promotion to Inspector.
  • Sena Kobayakawa, the so-called Eyeshield 21, the "Ultimate Ace Runningback of Notre Dame Academy...." Well, he's surprisingly good at his position, and it can creep the enemy out, so it's fine.
    • A better example is Haruto Sakuraba, a mediocre receiver who is hailed as the ace of Ojou (the second-best school in Tokyo) due to his good looks and modeling contract. During the match with Deimon, Sena accidentally injures Sakuraba forcing Sakuraba to question his path in life. He eventually shaves his hair, bulks up, and becomes one of the best wide receivers in the country due to his height.
    • There's also Kiminari Harao of the Taiyou Sphinx, a mediocre quarterback who would flounder if not constantly protected by the mammoth Pyramid Line, yet who has no problem getting all the glory for his team's success.
    • Not to mention the fact that the "Devil Bats" freakishly small team means that most of the players are on the field all the time, regardless of their specialty.
  • Frieren: Beyond Journey's End: Subverted with Stark. When Frieren and Fern meet him, he's hailed as the warrior that rid a village of a dragon when he stood between it and a mother and her child and stared down the dragon who just ran away from him. When Frieren pokes him about it, Stark reveals he was terrified and never even killed a monster, he just froze in front of the dragon who just up and left for no fault of his own, and he had been living from the thankfulness of the villagers for three years because he's too embarrassed by it to come clean about it. However, it turns out that for all his cowardice, Stark is a naturally extremely powerful warrior, and the dragon had run away because it realized it was outmatched. When Frieren forces him to face the dragon, he kills it with a single hit of his axe.
  • In Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro, this is invoked as Yako pretends to be a genius child prodigy detective in order to draw people's attention away from Neuro, who acts as her assistant but is actually the one solving the crimes. As a demon, Neuro cannot be the one to get the spotlight, so he needs a patsy/victim/chew toy to be his face. This isn't to say Yako is useless. She possesses an incredible amount of empathy (something a demon totally lacks), and the more the story goes on, the more they solve crimes together.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory Aiguille Delaz. He is the fake ultimate hero for his fleet and Anavel Gato. Basically, he ran from battle 3 years ago in A Baoa Qu and took half the fleet with him, retconning his way in his autobiography(the beginning scene of the anime) stating he only left because Kycilia killed Gihren, which he had no way of knowing at the time. Delaz took Gato in just because he needs more protection when running away. Gato somehow idolized Delaz as a hero. Delaz did that when Gato's true idol/hero, Dozle Zabi, just died protecting his men, including Gato, helped a lot, but makes one wonder why Gato did not think of the differences between the two.
  • Korean Web Toon Hello Hellper: Adonis, the prettiest and seemingly most dangerous member of Killberos, is actually a weakling who was mistaken for a legendary fighter and used it to escape bullying. Killberos' late leader Gwangnam, who is implied to be the person whom Adonis "impersonated", helped him by preserving the charade by coincidentally(?) dressing like Adonis (a hip kid from the big city of Seoul) and thrashing a violent gang; also helping him was the tradition that the person who moves and talks the least is the most dangerous. Gwangnam told Adonis that he doesn't care who or what he really is but he should eventually find other friends he can trust.
  • The protagonist of Mx0 Taiga is this to his school. They think that he has the greatest magic power that anyone can get and defeated the strongest teacher. The reality is he has no magic at all just brawling, quick thinking, really good at talking people down, tough as nails, and he will never give up. He still is at an extreme disadvantage in any fight so his first "strategies" are to hide, run, or let/trick his friends into fighting for him. He does get Anti-Magic a little bit into the storyline, but he is never as powerful or as competent as his friends, rivals, and fellow students believe him to be.
  • Haruka from Minami-ke was once known as a legendary banchou. We see in a flashback that she was called such by classmates who thought it sounded cool, and it quickly snowballed to containing stories of her badassery, and by that point, Haruka's friends said that it was too much trouble to correct people when they ask about the legendary banchou, Haruka Minami. Although we get hints from that very same flashback that at least half of those rumors are actually true, added to her... heavy-handed ways of dealing with certain problems, one has to wonder if there is some truth to the legend.
  • My Hero Academia Zig-Zags this trope with All Might, the #1 Hero and Symbol of Peace. He absolutely is a true hero and is strong enough to outmatch all other candidates for his position by a long shot, but he's not as invincible as everyone thinks he is, and by the start of the series his ability to actually do hero things is declining because of a nasty wound he suffered. He admits that he's not nearly as invincible as people think he is, but part of his image is being the hero who never loses and who everyone can believe in. And his strength isn't naturally his. He was really Quirkless, but was granted the use of a unique transferable Quirk called One for All.
  • One Piece:
    • Buggy the Clown has become a Fake Ultimate Villain after the revelation of facts about his past make all the lower-level members of the group he's with idolize him, while everyone else wonders how he could be so weak and cowardly when he was a member of Gol D. Roger's crew. He uses this to his advantage and quells a potential mutiny against Luffy, Jimbei, Crocodile and Mr. 1 and rallies them to fight with them at Marine HQ while he will be the one to kill Whitebeard in the war. Naturally, they cheer in excitement. He manages to accidentally create such an image for himself that he becomes one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea over the course of the time-skip, and eventually fails upward to become one of the Four Emperors of the Sea after a series of misconceptions leads the World Government to think he founded the Marine-hunting Cross Guild organization and has Crocodile and Mihawk as his underlings when it was really the other way around. While initially offended at being perceived as minions, Crocodile and Mihawk decide it's actually better for them to use Buggy as their figurehead.
    • Usopp is another recurring example:
      • Cover stories reveal that he has gained this status in Skypiea, having a theme park "Rubber Band Land" named due to his tall tales with a statue of him not unlike the one of the Shandians national hero at the entrance.
      • Double Subversion in the Dressrosa arc. He and Robin are kidnapped by the Tontatta tribe, and he tells them that he's a descendant of their legendary hero, Montblanc Noland. The dwarfs subsequently have him lead a very daring mission to liberate the country by knocking out Sugar, a Devil Fruit user who was singlehandedly responsible for keeping the country in the hands of the Big Bad. The dwarves are caught and horribly defeated, and Robin falls prey to Sugar's powers. Usopp, meanwhile, tries to run away, while the dwarfs call out for him, maintaining their faith in their "hero" even as Sugar and her bodyguard Trébol, one of the Big Bad's three top henchmen, tell them that he wasn't their hero, and start kicking them while they're down. THAT is what makes Usopp decide to return, to tell them that the henchmen were telling the truth, and he reveals who he really is. But then he reveals that they had changed his mind; dying a noble death was much cooler than living as a coward, which is why he begins to fight.
      • Double Subversion AGAIN a short while after that. Usopp, being cheered on silently by the cursed toys and audibly by the Tontatta, loses horribly to Trebol and is force-fed the pill that the Tontatta planned to use to knock Sugar unconscious. But when that happens, Usopp makes a face so horrifying that Sugar passes out from fear…which has the same result that the Tontatta hoped for. And with Sugar's power broken, all of the ones that she had cursed, many of whom are very powerful fighters, revert back to normal and hail a horribly injured Usopp as their savior. So, double subverted again: he stands up for them, loses easily and horribly, but still succeeds, making himself their real Ultimate Hero.
      • And then Doflamingo gives him the highest bounty in his "death game," referring to him as "God" Usopp. And in the aftermath of the Dressrosa arc, Usopp gets his first legitimate World Government bounty under his real name (previously his masked alter ego "Sogeking" had received a bounty), a whopping 200 million belly.
  • In One-Punch Man, King, the S-class rank 7 hero and supposedly the World's Strongest Man, actually qualifies. He's the one who took credit for all of Saitama's superhero deeds (from the very first chapter with Vaccineman and even before that) since he happened to be the only man in the vicinity and his intimidating appearance made everyone assume he's strong. However, he's portrayed sympathetically; he was simply Mistaken for Badass and now has to rely on his reputation to save people through Victory Through Intimidation.
  • Retired Heroes: Two random adventurers pretend to be two of the heroes who saved the world... to Chris and Saliy, who actually know the heroes they're pretending to be. Given a more sympathetic take than usual, as they just wanted to help people, but needed name recognition to be taken seriously.
  • Seven Heavenly Virtues: The eponymous celestial envoys are allegedly the strongest in Heaven, embodying the best in mankind. In reality, the majority are incompetent and ironically struggle to uphold their titular Virtues:
    • Uriel (Patience) has a short temper according to her own profile and doesn’t have the patience to pause and reconsider her actions due to how stubbornly she sticks to them, even if they inconvenience her or others.
    • Raphael (Temperance) struggles with a sweet tooth and obsesses over dieting.
    • Sandalphon (Diligence) takes long naps and breaks.
    • Metatron (Charity) is prone to forcing her care on people and has a Split Personality that actually enjoys seeing people in pain.
    • Sariel (Kindness) spoils others and is over-indulgent.
    • Gabriel (Chastity) wears a very skimpy outfit and justified it via Doublethink (“Lust is an evil feeling that must be purged from the soul!” “You must wear your uniform, even if it’s incredibly skimpy, because that is part of your job!”).
    • Michael (Faith) lost her faith in humanity even thinking of destroying it for a moment. She quickly backpedaled, though.
  • In Sound of the Sky, Klaus is a simple courier who has been promoted to Major simply because of time served. However, he shares a name and looks similar to the legendary tankman Desert Wolf Klaus, so Kureha, upon meeting him, thought he was that legendary hero and was so enthusiastic about that no one had the heart to tell her the truth. She does find out eventually, but doesn't mind since in the meantime he has become an actual hero by saving her from drowning in a river.
  • Played with Kamina in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. While really a passionate hero who wants to liberate humanity, they flat out admit that they weren't able to accomplish anything without Simon and in the end, died way before the final battle. However, it was thanks to their courage and belief that the heroes prevailed in the end and Kamina was that inspirational for the heroes even beyond his death.
  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime:
    • Rimuru doesn't want to let it be known that he was the one who defeated the Orc Lord who evolved into an Orc Disaster, because while humanity might breathe easy knowing that a budding Demon Lord was put down, the fact that another monster did it might put everyone on edge of an even bigger threat. Thus, when a party of humans comes to confirm what happened, he proposes to them a plan to spread the story that the Orc Lord was put down by one of them, a man named Youm, and that Rimuru and his people helped him. They do train up and equip Youm and his party to make sure that they can look the part, and it helps that historically previous Orc Lords and budding Orc Disasters had in fact been defeated by human heroes, so it wasn't too much of a stretch to believe from an outsider's perspective.
    • Honjou "Lightspeed" Masayuki is hailed as not just a Hero, but the Hero, having achieved a string of incredible feats and deeds to his name despite being suddenly summoned to this world only about a year ago. He's earned fame throughout the western nations to the point that he's amassed a strong following among the people and leads a team of adventurers. However, while Masayuki does possess one of the strongest Unique Skills in the world outright called The Chosen One, the man himself is only at best an average fighter and constantly over his head. The reason he's gotten his fame is that he's Born Lucky and [Chosen One] is a potent combination of Charm Person, Perception Filter, and Super-Empowering, meaning that people are naturally compelled to think and interpret his actions in the most flattering/awe-inspiring light no matter what the leaps in logic, while any "attack" he actually lands hits really hard. Anyone he defeats (unless they're undead) becomes compelled to aid or join his side, and the Skill's Super-Empowering ensures anyone that's his "ally" receives the power boost aspect while the Perception Filter makes everyone attribute the victories of his team to that of Masayuki himself, boosting his renown further (his team honestly doesn't mind, as just being with him is beneficial enough and they actually like him). He's won whole battle tournaments by outright talking them into giving up (which everyone interprets as him offering them the easy way out). Masayuki himself is a Deconstruction; however, as he never wanted to be randomly summoned into this world and is constantly afraid that the day will come when his luck just won't hold out. Any attempt to explain this to most people will simply result in them thinking he's being modest, and he can't turn the Skill off. He remains a Hero continuing the fight because he's scared of what the crowd would do if he ever backed down and learned the truth, afraid that the warriors he's bested would be dishonored for life if they realized what a weakling he really is, and wanting to do good but unable to believe it's by his own worth, not his Skill. Ironically, he's actually an incomplete Reincarnation of Emperor Rudra, a legendary Hero who had the favor of True Dragon Veldanava, is The Rival of Guy Crimson, and is the lover of True Dragon Velgrynd.
  • Mr. Legend from Tiger & Bunny was a legitimate hero for most of his career, but became a Fake Ultimate Hero when he started losing his powers. The network staged crimes and disasters for Mr. Legend to foil since he was their most popular Hero.
  • In Übel Blatt, all of the Seven Heroes are fake heroes. A few of them have started to believe their own lies too. Ironically, the only one who feels guilty about this and tries to be a Reasonable Authority Figure to atone for it is the guy who came up with the scheme in the first place.
  • Windaria: Played straight in the original version and inverted in the re-scripted version. In the re-scripted version Alan is called a hero and a savior for rebuilding Windaria, and he is responsible for it, but Alan himself never saw himself as such because of his guilt.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Yugi himself of the original could count. He's thought to be the one who won the Duelist Kingdom/Battle City crowns by the public. This was in fact Atem, and Yugi develops a complex that he needs to measure up to him. By the end of the series he does and becomes a legitimately good duelist and more courageous as a person.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX had a fake ultimate villain in Abidos the Third. Abidos was an ancient pharaoh known as a legendary, unbeatable duelist. The bad guys resurrect him and send him against the heroes. The heroes are scared, but Judai bravely faces him. Judai quickly gains the upper hand and points out that while Abidos has some skill and some powerful cards, he's rather underwhelming. Abidos thinks it over and is mortified to realize that he was only undefeated because everybody always threw their matches, fearing he would punish them if he lost. They continue the duel and Judai ultimately wins. Abidos is happy that he finally had a duel against someone fighting for real and departs peacefully to the afterlife.

    Comic Books 
  • The mini-series The American Way has in 1962, the U.S. defended by the Civil Defense Corps, a team of super-humans, including an alien. They're shown fighting in a city against an alien attack with an ad man watching in awe. Brought on by his old friends, the Kennedys, the man is stunned to learn the CDC is a massive fraud. Most have no powers, the "alien" is a guy in a costume and the whole thing was started to give the U.S. a push in a "superhuman arms race" and help public morale. While their stopping street crime and natural disasters are real, every "alien invasion" and "super-villain attack" is carefully planned out to have a minimum of property damage and no civilian deaths.
    • The comic kicks in when, during a fake "fight," Old Glory suffers a heart attack (from years of smoking) and dies, a seeming "casualty" of the fight. And when the adman decides to bring in a "colored" hero, many in the team are against it in brutal ways.
  • In Astro City, Queenslaw pretended to be selfless superheroes so they could steal from the criminals they captured.
  • Played for Drama in Luke Cage Noir. Luke Cage is known in his neighborhood as 'Power Man', and no one dares cross him because he once took two bullets to the chest and didn't flinch. It's only in the last issue that he reveals the truth: The bullets had hit a bible that was on his chest, and that was why he survived. Luke ends up living up to his fame by managing to tank two bullets for real with sheer Heroic Willpower, but then keels over and dies. His body falls off into the water and vanishes, ensuring the legend of Power Man lives on.
  • The British anthology comic Victor gave us Cadman - The Front-line Coward; most of the stuff he was famous for was actually done by his aide Tom Smith, the only one who knew his true self. Cadman threatens Tom to keep him from revealing this.
  • The DC Comics character Booster Gold originally played this straight. His origin story is of a disgraced football player from the future who steals a flight ring and a super-suit from a museum, then travels back to the modern-day with a reprogrammed tour guide robot full of old news data about disasters and the like. Though he does prove himself to be a true hero early in his career, later writers end up portraying him as a self-serving, fame-obsessed laughingstock that all of the big-name heroes (save for Wonder Woman and Superman) treat like crap, even when he does stuff like facing Doomsday by himself, in order to buy Superman and his fellow JLA time to regroup.
    • The current Booster Gold series takes this to a new extreme, as far as Booster being forced to throw away any and all chances of becoming a well-respected hero in order to be Rip Hunter's personal slave/super-hero, leading the guy into full-fledged Butt-Monkey territory, with elements of Mildred Pierce tossed in as far as Rip revealing to Booster that Booster must forever be known as a coward and a loser of a hero so that his son (Rip) can reap the full credit and fame from all of Booster's work protecting the time stream. This on top of Rip purposely lying to Booster about "fixing" past tragedies, like saving Blue Beetle's life and preventing the Joker from crippling Batgirl. It doesn't, of course.
      • The worst part is that Rip actually has good reasons for making sure Booster's reputation remains in the mud. If time-traveling villains realized that Booster was actually competent they would kill him in his crib. Rip is able to avoid this because his true identity as Booster's future son is a closely guarded secret.
  • A dark example from Top 10. The Sentinel Seven are regarded as a fantastic super-team, extending from just seven to several more and the Young Sentinels helping out. But during a case, the cops note how all the Sentinel missions take place in space, and the films of them are suspiciously staged. They also discover many of the "threats" the Sentinels fought either don't exist or overblown (a "fierce alien armada" are a race that just discovered the wheel). The dark truth: The Sentinels are a massive pedophile ring with the Young Sentinels a "grooming" operation. The entire squad is soon on the streets rounding the Sentinels up.
  • The self-praising braggart Volstagg, of the Warriors Three from Marvel Comics. For a time, his cowardice was his best weapon. The tree he was hiding in would break, dropping his not-inconsiderable bulk onto a roaming bad guy. Or the room he 'recons' (hides in) holds the Infinity +1 Sword needed to send the demon back home. Turned upside down in that he becomes a regular hero. Canon that he was 'Home Alone' in the city of Asgard and pretty much kicked an invading army out all by himself. And then when Volstagg hit the Despair Event Horizon after failing to save a group of orphan children, he claimed the Ultimate Marvel version of Mjolnir for himself and declared that he would now be a brutal Anti-Hero version of his old friend Thor.
  • Mariah Antillarea from The Amory Wars may count, she was thought to be "The Messiah" the true Messiah is Claudio.
  • In a Transformers: Animated comic, has a Glory Hound superhero called The Wraith, a superhero in Detroit. Who merely uses holograms to scare villains to submission, but when the Autobots accidentally exposed his secret, his popularity quickly declines. He then resorted to framing Bumblebee to be a hero again but winds up being caught by the Autobots.
  • The Marvel Family once had to deal with an old man named Dudley, who took on the moniker 'Uncle Marvel'- he wasn't anyone's uncle, nor was given powers by Shazam, but the kids liked him so much that they played along with his act. When asked to actually use his supposed powers, Dudley would claim that his 'Shazambago' was acting up as an excuse for not demonstrating. In spite of that, Dudley did defeat Black Adam, tricking him into saying "Shazam" by purposely mispronouncing it. ("It's pronounced SHAZAM, you idiot!")
  • A 2-part Darkwing Duck comic that appeared in Disney Adventures featured Darkwing being shown up by a new team of superheroes. However, their leader (Mr. Wonderful, a Mr. Fantastic Captain Ersatz) was in league with Darkwing's arch-enemy Steelbeak and the rest of his team were Unwitting Pawns who weren't as powerful as they initially believed.
  • Trevor Beauregard, Pinkerton detective, loves exaggerating his accomplishments to his kid brother in the French comic Cotton Kid. Said kid brother is the actual hero of the series. In this instance, even the actual protagonist buys into the Fake Ultimate Hero's hype.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In "The Two Brothers", after the huntsman kills the dragon, the marshal cuts his head off while he sleeps and then claims the reward for himself. His Talking Animals restore him, and when he goes to the city with the animals, the princess identifies him, and since he has the tongues of the dragon, he can prove the marshal a liar.
  • Similarly in "The Three Princes and their Beasts", where the prince had gotten tokens from the princess. He was able to prove himself after his brothers betrayed him.
  • In "The Three Dogs", the hero killed the dragon and promised to return within a year to marry the princess, but a coachman made her promise to say that he had killed the dragon. The hero proved himself with his dogs and the teeth of the dragon.
  • In "The Merchant", the hero, killing the dragon, had to throw the heads far apart to keep them from rejoining the body, but a peasant collected them and claimed to have killed the dragon. The princess recognizes his dog, and he can produce the tongues to prove his claim.
  • In "The Golden Bird", after the youngest prince found the Golden Bird, the Golden Horse, and the maiden from the Golden Castle on The Quest, his envious brothers shove him down a well, steal these things, and present them to their father. The maiden promised not to tell, but the fox saves the prince, and when he comes to the castle, all three of them cheer up, alerting his father to the truth.
  • In "The Brown Bear of the Green Glen", the brothers set on the hero and leave him for dead, stealing the magical water he had brought back and giving it to their father. When the princess from the land he had gotten it from comes, she can identify who actually got it.
  • In "The Water of Life", after the youngest prince got the water of life, his brothers steal it and replace it with salt water. The king believes that they saved him and the youngest son tried to kill him, and so he tries to have the youngest murdered. However, when people come seeking the hero, the king realizes that it was the youngest; fortunately, the servant he ordered to do it had disobeyed.
  • In "The King of England and his Three Sons", the youngest son and actual hero is identified by the princess whose land the golden apples grew in.

    Fan Works 
  • Ages of Shadow has Maximus Domino, a Warrior Monk who has trained for decades to be the World's Strongest Man, so that he can be the one to defeat Jade/Yade Khan. However, while his first scene does demonstrate how powerful he is, Jade herself is still far beyond him, and their "fight" is just her Trolling him by pretending he's actually hurting her, only to reveal she's completely fine. And then she effortlessly kills him.
  • This is deconstructed in The Boys: Real Justice. The Seven get away with being corrupt phonies due to being coddled by an all-powerful corporation with a stranglehold on the media and having little competition. But once the Justice League and their Rogues Gallery show up and offer the Seven real competition, and the media no longer covers up their bad behavior, they go down hard in battle and the public eye.
  • Chasing Dragons: Apparently Ser Harry Flash gains an impressive reputation as on of the great knights of his time, due to all the major events he keeps finding himself on the winning side of. And according to the autobiographical Flash Papers, he doesn't deserve it at all due to the fact that it's all dumb luck, and he knows it.
  • Fates Collide: Edmond Dantes claims that he was once imprisoned and tortured, and his rage at his injustice fuels his strength. While he is rather powerful, Cleopatra reveals he had a normal life and made up that story to give himself more street cred.
  • In Hiccup the Useless, Stoick tries to paint Snotlout as the hero of Berk and slayer of the Red Death as a Red Herring for Chief Mogadon in case he decides that he tries to "collect the Dragon Conqueror".
  • Kyoshi Rising; While in Omashu, the title character encounters a man who claims to be the Avatar. Kyoshi, the real Avatar, objects to his claims, and the two fight a duel over who is right. Kyoshi trashes him without breaking a sweat.
  • In The Magician's Mantle, Trixie aims to become this by stealing the identity of Mare-Do-Well. It later evolves into a case of Becoming the Boast.
  • In Make a Wish, Harry Potter, who was traveling while disguised under the alias "Mr. Black," acquired a reputation as some kind of badass super-Auror/an ex-Dark Lord working toward redemption/the Grim Reaper due to a string of lucky coincidences (lucky for him, unlucky for the Death Eaters and other assorted bad guys), being in the right place at the right time, severely misinterpreted offhand comments and the occasional incidence of honest heroism - such as rescuing a friend from Egyptian bandits or fighting (and killing, albeit accidentally) Fenrir Greyback. When he finally found out about his alias' grossly inflated reputation, Fred and George considered the whole mess as "pranking the world".
  • The Misadventures of Darius Davion star the eponymous hero and cousin of Hanse Davion, well known as exemplar of the Federated Suns military. Except of course that he's nothing of the kind: he's just very good at covering up his cowardice, womanizing, and treachery. Amongst the feats attributed to him by the fanfiction are: convincing Yorinaga Kurita that he was too pathetic to soil his sword with; accidentally smothering First Prince Ian Davion, starting the food fight at Hanse Davion and Melissa Steiner's wedding, and possibly fathering Sun-Tzu Liao.
  • In the Pony POV Series, there's an absolutely monstrous version of this in General-Admiral Makarov, the Big Bad of the Shining Armor Arc. Makarov is a Parody Sue Played for Drama instead of laughs, and desires nothing more than to make the world one big story with him as the hero, and plans to gain the means to make it so. He does this by demonizing his victims and casting them as "the villain" to his hero, being willing to commit multiple genocides in order to accomplish this fear.
  • Sasuke Uchiha, HERO OF KONOHA is a very deliberate re-write of Naruto in imitation of the Ciaphas Cain novels, with an older Haruno Sakura providing editorial commentary on the memoirs of the titular Sasuke Uchiha.
  • In A Thin Veneer, William Clark is presented as a hero who gave his life to save civilians but in reality, he died trying to save his own life and the government just let the illusion stand to give the public something to rally around.
  • Vow of Nudity: During the prequel story starring Haara's mother, the last character to join her party is The Vanquisher, a 7-ft tall warrior with a massive greatsword and a bottomless supply of arrogant boasts. He instantly takes on the largest threat in the vicinity, the orcs' bloodthirsty troll, who proceeds to tear him limb from limb.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Angry Birds Movie has Mighty Eagle, who is the only bird in the Angry Birds franchise who can fly. Red used to look up to him in his childhood until he met him. As it turns out, he chooses not to fly or do much of anything out of cowardice, but but still thinks very highly of himself anyway. At the end of the movie, he hogs all the glory and gets an awesome statue anyway. This is a bit of Truth in Television, as real-life eagles tend to rely on other animals to kill their prey for them, so they can swoop in at the last second and steal it.
  • Shark Tale: A tiny fish named Oscar is hailed as a "shark slayer" after the shark chasing him is killed by a wayward anchor and he takes all the credit. But he soon comes to realize that his great white lie may have serious consequences.
  • Chicken Run:
    • Rocky Rhodes, who lands in the Tweedy's chicken farm is kept hidden from the circus on the condition that he teaches the other chickens how to fly, a deal which he hesitantly agrees to, Specially since he couldn't escape with an injured wing. For the most part, he's happy to relish the attention of being a young rooster on a farm full of hens, and espousing the whole "injured wandering hero" routine. After the farmers buy a chicken pot pie machine, Ginger, the leader of the hens tells them the farmers want to kill them all, and after seeing them so devastated, Rocky organizes a dance party to cheer them up, where he finds out his wing is healed. After he and Ginger escape from, and sabotage, the pie machine, he promises the hens he'll teach them to fly. The following day, Ginger discovers Rocky ran away, likely because of his secret, that he can't fly, but that his circus act consisted of him being shot out of a cannon, was about to be discovered.
    • Fowler, the elderly rooster continually boasts about his service in the Royal Air Force (R.A.F.) and is even the inspiration to build the "crate" that would fly them out of the farm. When it's time to fly, Ginger asks him why he's sitting in a seat to pedal the "crate," instead of the cockpit, only for him to say he doesn't know how to fly an aircraft. When she asks him about his service in the R.A.F., he says he and his unit were the mascots, since obviously chickens weren't allowed to operate complex aircraft. She then gives him a Rousing Speech, and Fowler proudly climbs onto the cockpit, flying the hens to freedom.
  • Steele of Balto. He supposedly excels at his job, given all the praise he gets. But all Steele ever amounts to on-screen is being an overrated blowhard and dirty cheater. When the going gets tough, he can't back up any of his talk. Even his musher clues in early that Steele may not really be all he's cracked up to be (although his phrasing implies that he's simply starting to lose his edge, as opposed to his talents being overblown).
  • Downplayed in The Land Before Time VI: The Secret of Saurus Rock. While the legends about 'The Lone Dinosaur' are obviously exaggerated, and he does end up needing help from Littlefoot's grandpa in the end to defeat the Sharptooth, he is capable of holding his own.
  • Played with in Raya and the Last Dragon. Sisu, the eponymous last dragon, is remembered by the people of Kumandra as the great hero who single-handedly defeated the Drunn, but in fact her older siblings created the magic gem at the cost of turning themselves into stone and she just used it, she compares herself to the kid on the group project who didn't do any work but still got the same grade as everyone else. Unlike other examples she isn't a Jerkass, if anything she's far too nice; and isn't a Glory Hound either, in fact when Raya wakes her up from her slumber she's horrified that humanity has forgotten her siblings and their sacrifice. It's also shown that, while she wasn't the sole hero, she was an important part of saving the world and doesn't recognise her own contribution and is selling herself short. As Raya points out, her siblings chose her to wield the gem for a reason.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Fastest Gun Alive: Downplayed and done sympathetically. George is proud to show off his gunslinging skills and give the impression that he's a Retired Badass, but it turns out that while his father taught him the quick draw art, he's never been in a gunfight or killed a man before.
  • "The Guy", from the Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. He's gonna show Juni, Carmen, and co. all about how to beat That One Level. He doesn't even last five minutes.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes deconstruction Without a Clue, Holmes himself (or his actor) is this. It turns out that Holmes doesn't really exist, he's just an actor hired by Watson to play the part of Holmes, which Watson made up because he felt that a potential employer at the time wouldn't like it if they heard he had a hobby of solving crimes.
  • In Ravenous (1999), Lt. Boyd is promoted to Captain after his actions during a battle during the Mexican American War. He managed to take a Mexican stronghold single-handedly, by surprise... because he froze with fear and played dead as the rest of his troop died around him, and his supposedly dead body was piled with the rest of the corpses inside the fort after the battle. His superior officer was very aware of this fact and states that he should be executed for dereliction of duty and desertion, but it would be bad for morale if a "war hero" were to be executed. They instead promote him but assign him to the worst post in the military, the dysfunctional Fort Spencer. (Not a spoiler - it's the first scene of the movie.)
  • The first scene of Dances with Wolves. Costner's character (Dunbar) tries to commit suicide in the midst of a stalemate during a battle. When most of the Confederate soldiers "spend" their shots at Dunbar, the Union forces quickly advance while the Confederates are trying to reload. While the field soldiers hail him as a hero, Dunbar's superior officers realize the truth and decide to transfer him as far away from the battlefield as possible....... which is just fine with Dunbar.
  • There's a level of this in The Gods Must Be Crazy, where the confident tour guide tries to take credit for the clumsy hero's actions.
  • Senator Stoddard (portrayed by Jimmy Stewart) as the title character in the John Ford classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. He didn't.
  • In Mystery Men, Captain Amazing really is a superbly effective crimefighter with an arsenal of impressive technology, but he's such a Glory Hound that he conspires to release a dangerous supervillain just so he can fight him and get the press to sing his praises again. It doesn't quite work out though...
  • In Hero (1992), John Bubber is a homeless veteran who gives a ride to Bernie LaPlante, a Jerkass petty crook who had reluctantly rescued a bunch of people from a crashed plane, and insists that he doesn't want any publicity. Bubber ends up taking credit for the rescue, and, being both charismatic and a genuinely Nice Guy, quickly becomes a beloved celebrity for his actions. He becomes racked with guilt over his lies and intends to confess everything in a suicide note when LaPlante shows up and demands that he keep on playing the role because he's good at it. LaPlante does reveal the truth to his son, who believes him. And so does LaPlante's ex-wife, who tells their son it is typical of his father to come through when it really matters if at no other time.
  • Marshal Zane Cooper in Maverick. As it turns out, he's not even a real Marshal. He's just bluffing about his supposed "legendary reputation", on the assumption that no one will want to look stupid by calling him on it.
  • The Waterboy: Red Beaulieu's success as a college football coach is due to his stealing Coach Klein's playbook years ago to pass off as his own.
  • In Never Cry Werewolf, Loren calls on Redd, a celebrity big game hunter, to help deal with a werewolf problem, but he reveals he's really just an actor and a coward. While Loren is disappointed and proves to be the more competent werewolf hunter, Redd eventually decides to do the right thing and manages to help out.
  • Ace Hanlon in The Quick and the Dead, whose claims would make him the greatest gunslinger in the west. Herod correctly identifies him as nothing but "a bladder full of hot air", which he proceeds to puncture. With lead.
  • Sniper: Miller is unable to take the shot when his helicopter is attacked by Panamanian rebels, but the dying door gunner accidentally shoots a rebel from an incredible distance, and Miller is credited as an expert marksman. In fact, he's very much out of his element in the Panamanian jungle because he only has experience with urban SWAT.
  • Jack Sparrow shows shades of this in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. While he is a pretty effective Guile Hero, Elizabeth finds out firsthand that his greatest exploit to date- his daring escape from being marooned as a young man- was complete hogwash, and he was actually rescued by rum runners three days into the marooning (after consuming quite a lot of their rum, no less). The escape nevertheless played into his self-styled legendary persona, even when he was still left with no ship or crew and three-quarters of the ocean out to get him it gave him a very different and more fearsome reputation than his actual status as The Trickster and The Drunken Sailor fully deserves.
  • The entire plot of Galaxy Quest. A race of hyper-advanced aliens pick up transmissions of a Star Trek-style television show and, due to not understanding the concept of fiction, mistake it for “historical documents”. They proceed to recruit the cast of said show for aid, thinking they’re actually their characters, forcing the actors to try and be heroes for real despite having no idea what they’re doing.
  • Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home. He lied about his background and faked the Elementals' attacks on major cities using illusion technology and drones he and his accomplices invented in order to make himself look like a hero and become the new Iron Man. After Spider-Man defeats him, his status as a fraud is still unknown to the general public, and he even goes so far as to use his dying breaths to frame Spider-Man as his murderer and reveal Peter's identity to the world.
  • In The Batman (2022), the current mayor and many other officials rose to power off a sting operation which took down Salvatore Maroni, the biggest drug bust in Gotham history. The Riddler digs into the situation to reveal the bust was actually planned by Carmine Falcone, Maroni's rival, to seize control of the mob. Falcone not only controls the city government as a result, but the actual drug ring never stopped operating and now works for him.

  • The Flashman series is an early (1960s) example that could function as the trope namer, given that the entire thrust of the series is a complete scoundrel succeeding as a hero, all for reasons that are decidedly non-heroic.
  • The Discworld series:
    • Interesting Times:
      • This happens to cowardly non-magical wizard Rincewind, due to exaggerated tales of his deeds told by his sidekick from previous adventures, Twoflower (while Rincewind did perform many of the "heroic" deeds attributed to him, they attribute to him a much higher level of competence and ability than he actually had, and neglect to mention the fact he was scared out of his gourd the whole time, and mostly got by on luck alone). Like Ciaphas Cain, Rincewind is horrified by the attention, because his admirers quickly expect him to perform incredibly dangerous deeds to save their country.
      • His contemporaries at the Unseen University have a much more realistic idea of Rincewind's disposition, but he ends up being chosen as the man for the job anyway for two reasons: First, the word "Wizzard" on his hat is spelled the right way (compared to other solutions they were seeking for the riddle of the identity of the "Great Wizzard"), and second, Ridcully finds the common thread in Rincewind's experiences, i.e. none of it ever actually kills him.
    • Sergeant Jack Jackrum makes it clear that almost all of the heroics that the higher-ranking officers in the Borogravian Army are known for are actually his exploits, shirking the credit because he likes being exactly where he is. Even more complicated by the fact that all of the said officers are women, including Jackrum him(her?)self, disguised as men. They all believed they were alone in their charade, leading to the rather embarrassing climax where she outs all of them in front of each other.
    • In The Wee Free Men, the Baron's son Roland gets the credit for rescuing Tiffany Aching from The Fair Folk, when of course it was the other way around. He's very embarrassed and apologetic about this, it's just that no one will believe some cheesemaking peasant had to rescue a noble no matter what he says.
    • Subverted in Thief of Time with Lu-Tze. At first, it looks like he's this trope because his legendary victories are just due to mundane acts, and he lets his young apprentice Lobsang do all the hard work of fighting. Turns out Lu-Tze just believes in not doing things the hard way when there's an easy way, and he has plenty of genuine ability for when it's needed.
  • Dragaera: Vlad Taltos manages to come across as a hero, despite the fact that he gets dragged kicking and screaming into almost every one of his adventures
  • Harry Potter:
    • Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. All the amazing feats he'd reputably done in his entire career were really done by other witches and wizards whom he'd only interviewed well afterwards, but he stole credit for them using the only magic he's any good at: erasing memories.
    • Harry sees himself a bit like this because the incident that made him famous was actually his mother's doing and everything else he has been able to do he attributes to luck (though Hermione points out that he's the best in their year at Defense Against the Dark Arts, which he is). Unfortunately, in the same book, many people think that he is mad because he is saying Voldemort is back.
  • Lancelot in Bernard Cornwell's The Warlord Chronicles series is a total coward, and ultimately a villain, whose heroic reputation is the result of his hiring minstrels and bards to sing songs about his heroism, smoothly taking the credit for the work of others. These lies even survive his Karmic Death.
  • Nimrod Pennyroyal in the Mortal Engines series rewrote the story recounted in Predators Gold, placing himself as the hero. In this way very similar to Lockhart. His lies were eventually uncovered, so that in The Darkling Plain when he really did do something worthy of recognition and wrote a factual account, no one was willing to publish his book.
  • Invoked in John Moore's Slay and Rescue when a fellow accuses professional hero Prince Charming of hyping his own PR without doing the actual work. Subverted because a) by this point in the story, the reader knows Charming is a genuine badass, and b) he proves it by asking the other guy to shoot an apple off Charming's head, William-Tell-style.
    The eyes caught a flash of lamplight on steel, the memory retained a blurred impression of fluidly shifting muscles, and Prince Charming's sword neatly cleaved the speeding bolt in midair, the two halves of the wooden arrow separating and piercing the apple a quarter-inch apart.
  • In Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures novels, the protagonist Skeeve is one of these. It's less by design and more because the rumors of the genuinely impressive things he was involved in tend to leave out a) the other people who were there, and b) the fact that there was a lot more con artistry than vast magical power involved.
  • Fernand Mondego a/k/a the Count de Morcerf in The Count of Monte Cristo. Everything he values — his wife, his military commission, his vast fortune, his title — he earned by screwing someone else over.
  • David Gemmell based most of his stories around this trope and its inversion. Many of his protagonists become legendary figures despite that they did not actually do the heroic deeds they are credited with or if they did those actions, they were for the wrong reasons. Others are truly heroic but are never credited because of politics, racism or because of their past history.
    • In Morningstar Jace Mace is a thief and a conman. When he robs some tax collectors, he tells them that they were robbed by Morningstar (to buy himself time to get out of the country). The story spreads and he is considered a rebel leader fighting the occupying army. As the story progresses he keeps playing the role in order to survive and slowly becomes the person in the legend. In the end, due to some magical time travel, he assumes the identity of the other legendary figure in the nation's history (ie he is both King Arthur and Robin Hood)
    • Subverted in the person of Druss since he is in fact exactly what the legends about him say and more.
  • Comrade Ogilvy in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Supposedly he was a daring and patriotic soldier who sacrificed his life for Oceania but, in fact, he never existed and was only a figment of propaganda invented by the main character Winston Smith.
  • In Keith Laumer's Retief stories, Jame Retief has been the true hero behind numerous Fake Ultimate Heroes. Many of the stories begin with a historical passage written by the Diplomatic Corps about how some important diplomat, by following the honored traditions of the Corps, was able to achieve some major diplomatic accomplishment. In truth, every single one of these accomplishments was really pulled off by Retief in his position as a junior assistant to said diplomat by ignoring standard diplomatic protocol in favor of doing something that might actually work. The people who officially got the credit generally either caused the problem, made it worse, or did nothing of substance. A notable accomplishment is when Retief actually goes out and talks to the sand-dwelling, heat-loving, horseshoe crabish-looking natives of a desert planet, who are happy to give the human colonists free access to all the oases on the planet and set up a trade agreement, as long as the humans stay away from the (very undesirable to humans) areas the natives have their underground burrow-cities and other necessities in. Retief's superior thought that, since the natives didn't look human, they weren't sentient, and was fine with them being exterminated like the animals he thought they were.
  • In Ravens Shadow by Anthony Ryan, Vaelin frequently encounters figures with grandiose titles like "The Hope of the Empire", "Trueblade", “Shield of the Isles”, etc., who are considered predestined saviours or mighty warriors among their people, and yet fail to put up any real fight.
    • "The Hope" is a particular example. He was the supposedly Gods-anointed heir to a continent-spanning empire, was universally beloved, and considered one of the greatest men alive. Everyone who actually knew him, or saw him in action, however, agrees that he had no business being on a battlefield, and if Vaelin hadn't killed him, somebody else would have.
    • Ironically, because of these easy victories, Vaelin sees himself as something like this. He's a good fighter but by the standards of the elite order of Warrior Monks he grew up in, his skills are at best on the high end of average, and in fact, he's actually one of the worst at mounted combat. He's considered special because of his leadership ability, not his martial prowess. His notoriety is built largely on the reputation of his father (who he hates and hasn't seen since he was a child) and beating other men who had inflated reputations, and he's bemused by how in awe everyone is of him killing people who could barely hold a sword.
  • In Spy School Erica's father Alexander has a reputation as a highly respected spy but is actually a hapless buffoon who's always Stealing the Credit (it's eventually implied that he does this to live up to his Living Legend father's high expectations). He isn't completely useless, but his biggest real asset is that he's The Social Expert.
  • A Mark Twain short story, Luck is about a priest in Britain who, out of pity, took aside and instructed the weakest trainee in the military. The priest never expected him to actually get accepted into the military, except he did, because a test of asking him questions (noted to be hard questions) he was given questions that were easy or ones the priest specifically gave him the answer to. Afterward, he continued to climb through the ranks of the military using 100% blind luck, such as getting lost and blindly leading his troop over a hill and just happening to find a camping French troop and attacking them off-guard. By the time of the story's present, he is extremely well-respected and high-ranking in the military despite every one of his achievements being done through nothing but luck.
  • This is the central theme of The Lost Fleet series. John "Black Jack" Geary was a Commander in the Alliance Fleet who just happened to be present at an ambush by the Syndicate Worlds. He stays behind to allow the rest of the fleet to escape and then jumps into an escape pod as his ship is blowing up around him. A malfunction causes his pod to lay undiscovered for 100 years. He awakes to discover that the war he saw the beginning of is still raging, and he's lauded as the greatest hero in the history of the Alliance. Geary spends a lot of time in the books trying to convince people that he's not the hero they think he is. He's a better man than the myth they created.
  • Zig-Zagged with Warhammer 40,000's Commissar Ciaphas Cain. He's known as the HERO OF THE IMPERIUM, but in his memoirs (the novels are framed as such), he claims that in reality he only acts heroic for the masses and spends most of his time making things comfortable and as safe as possible for himself or fleeing in terror and mostly saves the day by pure accident. His In-Universe editor — one of the people who actually saw through his acting — points out that he is a skilled and inspirational leader and also brave when he has to, although blessed with the good/bad luck of being constantly thrown into bad situations (and his inflated reputation means he often has to go into the Jaws of Hell to maintain his reputation). The author even admits to not knowing whether Cain is really a cowardly scoundrel or just doesn't give himself enough credit, but suspects it's a bit of both. Motives and details aside, he actually did all the heroic deeds attributed to him, although in many cases. It's only in his very first story where he gets handed credit for a victory when he was really just running away and saved the day by accident when he stumbled into the enemy flanking force, in the others he just tries and fails to choose the safest assignments before saving the day where he does end up. A great example is the one that built his in-universe reputation; he was running like hell to escape an ambush and completely by accident stumbled on the enemy leader. He then proceeded to hand the Ork Warboss a hilariously one-sided beatdown in a fair duel, and with their leader (and all the likely successors) dead the entire planetary invasion fell apart. A final complicating factor is that some of his feats are only possible because his aide is a walking Anti-Magic zone — so no, he doesn't avoid having his brain fried by eldritch monsters just by willpower and faith like the stories claim.
  • E. T. A. Hoffmann's "Little Zaches, Great Zinnober" is all this trope. An ugly, short and stupid boy is given a gift by a thoughtless fairy, making everything good and wise done in his presence being attributed to him. Also, everyone else has to suffer being accused of his numerous blunders.
  • Metternich from BALADA:A Symphony of Eternity keeps trying to avoid battle, ends up in the most deadly fight, somehow manages to dodge death until victory, thus he's an acclaimed hero who gets shoved into even more dangerous battles.
    • The way his military career starts summarizes the character perfectly and deserves mention, by the man himself: "And that my readers, is how my inglorious career began, with poisoned drinks, crazy luck, a lot of pain, and my personal favorite stupidity and the eternal question of why such a combination exists and what it has against good and honest folk and me of course."

    Live-Action TV 
  • The short-lived Adventure Inc has the team checking out murders connected to the discovery of a ship sunk by the Germans in 1945. Over 900 people died, only a handful of survivors and just one still alive who became a heroine and respected in high society who talks of her sailor husband among the victims. Judson eventually discovers that the reason the woman survived was she knew the U-Boat was coming. She was a German spy whose entire marriage was a fraud to get info on the ship carrying both munitions and a shipment of gold. When her husband found out, she killed him and put his body into a vault which is salvaged. In a chase, the van carrying the vault goes into the bay with the woman drowned. It also turns out her granddaughter knew all along but kept quiet as she loved the fame of being related to this "heroic survivor." Notably, the end of the episode shows the woman could have reached the surface...except that somehow, her leg was held down by her husband's skeleton...
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In season four, Jeffrey Mace is introduced as the new head of S.H.I.E.L.D., who gained fame when he used his Inhuman Super-Strength to save a woman during a bombing. He initially keeps S.H.I.E.L.D.'s continued existence secret while everything is being sorted out, but he eventually brings it back into the light again ahead of schedule to take advantage of some good publicity. However, during a mission, Mace is wounded by a normal bullet while trying to get a case holding a drug. It turns out he's not actually an Inhuman and has no powers at all. The President and General Talbot decided to take advantage of his excellent publicity to use him as the face of the agency, with a Super Serum to give him short bursts of super strength. Mace didn't even actually save the woman during the bombing; she didn't even need saving, he just tripped and fell over her while trying to flee for his own life, and someone randomly snapped a picture at the exact right moment to make it look like he was holding up a collapsing wall, which wasn't actually collapsing. However, Mace really is a good man. He tried to tell people what really happened, but when it was clear they weren't listening, he decided to roll with it and use his reputation to do some good and advance Inhuman rights. When the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. found out about the lies, he was even willing to come clean to the press, but Coulson decides that Mace is a hero regardless due to his willingness to risk his life to help others, and lets him stay on as the public face of the organization while Coulson handles things behind the scenes.
    • This becomes a massive Tear Jerker when Mace, along with Coulson, May, and Fitz, are put into the Framework, a virtual reality that removes the biggest regret in each of their lives and adjusts history accordingly, resulting in an alternate timeline where HYDRA successfully took over the world. It's clear that Mace's regret is that he wasn't a real Inhuman, so in the Framework, he is an Inhuman and leader of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Resistance against HYDRA. He also gets to commit the fake act of heroism that made him famous but this time for real, using his super strength to save his team and some high school kids from a collapsing building, costing him his own life, which also kills him in the real world since Your Mind Makes It Real.
  • Kind of used in season five of Angel. Although it is clear to the audience that he is fake, Lindsey, calling himself Doyle, representing himself to Spike as a servant of the Powers That Be. Although this is just a manipulation, Spike does see himself as a hero and does help the helpless in this way.
    • Another take on this trope with season five is Spike the Fake Hero in the Shanshu prophecy. Inside the show, Spike has an equal chance of being the real subject of the prophecy, but seriously, the show is called Angel.
      • Then again, that makes Spike more disposable and thus perhaps a better candidate to get the "reward" of becoming human.
  • Black Adder had a rare example of a Fake Ultimate Hero who really was brave and dashing and always won. Lord Flashheart (who appeared as an Elizabethan swashbuckler in season 2 and a dashing flying ace in season 4) was handsome, bold, admired by all, adored by the ladies, and laughed in the face of danger. He was also an arrogant prat who boasted constantly, lied, sucked up to his superiors, patronised his admirers, and treated women as sex objects. And the only reason he always won was that he was an underhanded bastard who cheated and played dirty.
    • Captain Blackadder from series four earned his reputation fighting colonial wars, of which a prerequisite was "...that the enemy under no circumstances be allowed to have guns", and earned a Distinguished Service Order saving Field Marshal Haig from ten thousand Watusi warriors armed with sharpened slices of mango. None of his previous experience left him with any idea of how to handle half a million heavily armed Germans, so when the series begins, he's mostly looking for a way to not get horribly killed while keeping his reputation somewhat intact.
  • The Boys (2019):
  • On Knight Squad, the team meet Sir Swayze, who wins them over with his cool style of teaching. He boasts of being the sole survivor of a Mummy Invasion and the kids like him more than stern teacher Sir Gareth. Gareth warns them that he expelled Swayze for taking shortcuts and that his home nation "will make anyone a knight" but they ignore him. To prove their worth, the team awaken a mummy only to find it has mystical powers. They race to Swayze for help and his reaction is to immediately start packing. It turns out the only reason he survived that invasion was that he ran off and let the mummies eat his unicorn. He set up this "school" just to get back at Gareth by stealing his students and is a massive fraud. Gareth ends up saving the gang who apologize for falling for Swayze's act.
  • Done deliberately on Legends of Tomorrow. At the end of season 4, the Legends save the world and season 5 opens with them as full-fledged media celebrities. The team realizes the huge attention is preventing them from doing their job of protecting the time-stream properly. So they "expose" themselves as frauds who faked all their time-travel adventures so they can be real heroes in secret.
  • On a fifth season episode of Lost Girl Bo tries to find out who is trying to kill Musashi, a legendary warrior who has been hailed by generations of his family for winning a major battle and is about to ascend to the head of the clan. Bo finds out the person behind it is Tomoe, Musashi's sister. It turns out she was the hero who won the battle and when people assume Musashi (the elder son) did it, she let them out of honor, unaware her brother would turn into a major arrogant jerk who now believes the lie himself. She's trying to "save" him as if he tries to ascend as a fraud, he'll be cursed into a demon form. Bo and Tamsin end up proving to the clan how Tomoe was the true hero and Musashi is forced to spend his days working a menial job at the clan's restaurant to pay back all the money he spent wildly when he was the "hero."
  • Robin Hood on Maid Marian and Her Merry Men was mistaken for being the leader of the merry men, even though it was Marian.
  • The comedy Maximum Choppage has Simon Chan returning to his hometown of Cabramatta, Sydney to find it's overwhelmed by druglords and hoodlums working for a corrupt developer. His mother immediately brags that Simon will clean up the neighborhood as he's spent the last three years training to be a martial arts master in China. But Simon confesses to friends Egg and Petal that he's actually been attending art school in Melbourne and doesn't know the first thing about martial arts. The duo thus tries to help Simon bluff punks into thinking he's a badass when any actual "victory" in a fight is pure luck.
  • Monk:
    • In "Mr. Monk and the Daredevil," the neurotic Harold Krenshaw appears to be the daredevil "Frisco Fly". Monk finds that his cousin Joey dropped Harold into the role after the real Frisco Fly died in a car accident that Joey stumbled on. Joey stole the gear, burned the car to destroy the evidence, then knocked Harold out at a parking garage, dragged him up to the roof of a 24 story building, and left him to slip and fall to his death (which failed as Harold hit an awning to break his fall). Afterwards, Joey makes a second attempt by taking Harold to the hospital roof, marching him across the landing pad at gunpoint, and is about to push him to his death when Monk and Natalie show up and stop him.
    • In "Mr. Monk and the Other Detective", the completely incompetent private eye Marty Eels is suddenly better than Monk at solving a jewelry store robbery and double homicide. Monk finds out that Marty's mother overheard the culprits' conversation and told him all the important details so he could get the credit for solving the crime.
  • A historical version in Outlander as Claire (a 1946 nurse thrust back to 1743 Scotland) wants to stop the Jacobite Uprising. She and husband Jaime hope to convince Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) of stopping the uprising, Claire having heard stories of the man as a smart, inspirational and wise ruler. She soon discovers the real Charles is an arrogant drunkard who so believes in his "holy destiny" to rule that he ignores the advice of others and starts this doomed uprising. And while the various clans end up slaughtered, Charles ends up escaping abroad and future generations hailing him as a heroic icon, which Claire finds disgusting when she comes back to the 20th century.
    Claire: They took a fool and made him into a hero.
  • Pixelface: In "Mega Gino", the famous gaming character Mega Gino visits the console and everyone is excited to meet him and take part in his well-known Mini Games. However, Claireparker finds out that he is not as good at gaming as he makes out, and she soon finds herself having to try and outwit him.
  • In the season 2 finale of Sherlock, Moriarty's plan is to make everyone believe that Sherlock is the true mastermind behind all the crimes he "solves."
  • Space: Above and Beyond: The Angry Angels squadron in the pilot is touted as the best in the Marine Corps. They're completely butchered in the first major battle with the Chigs. It's possibly justified however: humanity is said to have not seen any actual wars in many years and learns a few things fighting that battle that allow the rookies of the 58th Reconnaissance Squadron (the protagonists) to do much better in their own first outing. Also, much later in "The Angriest Angel", their Sole Survivor Col. T.C. McQueen goes head-to-head against a Chig Ace Pilot and wins despite the inner ear injury he took in the pilot.
  • Lucius Lavin from Stargate Atlantis set himself up as the hero on a backward planet through the clever use of a personal shield in the aptly-named episode "Irresponsible". He went to the extreme of employing "attackers" so that he could save the village from them. Despite the fact that the Atlantis team had ample reason to just shoot him on sight, they let him go again. Most of the audience doesn't quite understand why.
  • One early story arc in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine featured Li Nalas, the greatest hero of the Bajoran resistance. He had chased down Gul Zarale, an infamous Cardassian war criminal, and then killed him, inspiring Bajoran rebels all across the world with his bravery. His return was expected to unite Bajor under him. Only it's a massive exaggeration. Li Nalas was scouting when he accidentally fell into a lake some Cardassian was bathing in and shot him in his underwear before the man could get his own gun. Only afterward did he realize it was the Cardassian war criminal Gul Zarale, and the story spread and got slightly changed as it went on until it didn't remotely resemble what he actually did. Li Nalas hated that he was regarded as a hero and considered himself a massive fake, to the point that when he dies quite heroically his last words are to express relief at being "off the hook" for needing to live up to his supposedly undeserved reputation.
  • Subverted in The Terror. Commander James Fitzjames is a cheerfully egotistical Glory Hound who happily talks up his own war stories and compares himself to Horatio Nelson (an enormous overstep for an inexperienced commander), who gets noticeably uncomfortable while insisting that it doesn’t matter how another sailor joined the expedition, only how he handles it once he’s there. When he later confesses that every brave thing he’s ever done was a vain cry for attention due to being an unwanted bastard child and that he gained his own position on the expedition as a reward for covering up a potential scandal involving an admiral’s son, it seems he is a deeply regretful example of this trope- but his rival turned best friend Captain Crozier assures him he’s comported himself with genuine bravery nonetheless. Sure enough, he later calmly fires rockets directly at a rampaging polar bear monster, conceals his terminal illness in order to haul alongside the other men for as long as he can, and offers his body as an emergency food source for the rest of the men as his last conscious action before dying, so they won’t have to resort to cannibalizing an unwilling party member instead. Fitzjames may think he’s a fake hero, but in his desperation not to be he becomes the real deal.
  • Played with but then ends up subverted in the Thunder in Paradise episode “Queen of Hearts.” Edward is to be honored by the Queen for how, in World War II, he was the one man on a decoy vessel meant to lure German subs and ended up ramming into one to sink it. Spencer is struck by how Edward is going out of his way to try not to be honored like messing up a meeting with the Queen’s agent. Edward finally confesses it’s because “I’m a fraud.” Thinking it was a suicide mission, Edward got “dead drunk” on the ship’s rum and passed out behind an iron bulkhead after accidentally loosening the anchor to spare himself any damage. He says he can’t possibly accept an honor for such an action. But at the end of the episode, Spencer shows the report from the German commander of the time that confirms Edward did pass out…after spending two hours holding off the enemy ship, running back and forth between deck gun and bridge in a pattern the Germans couldn't figure out before he rammed them. Edward is astonished he can’t remember any of this but grateful to realize he really did earn the medal.
  • The premise of V.I.P. is Valerie Irons was just a girl from a hot dog stand asked out on a red carpet event by a handsome actor. When a stalker attacked, the cowardly actor hid behind Val, who took the guy down with a lucky punch. To save face, the actor claimed Valerie was a highly-trained bodyguard. A real bodyguard agency (having just lost their boss) talked her into being their figurehead for business. Thus, the series has the team going about various adventures with Val (good-hearted but still a Valley Girl) the one credited with all the work.
  • Joxer from Xena: Warrior Princess was this to a T. He bragged and paraded around as if he were the king of all he could see until the Monster of the Week showed up, at which time he ran away like a little girl and let Lucy Lawless do her thing. Joxer did occasionally live up to his ego, such as sacrificing his life to give Xena and Gabrielle some precious time to save the day after they came back from the dead.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Super Wrong claims to be a great hero in Kaiju Big Battel, but he's really just a trouble maker who happens to have funky dance moves. After his "splinter faction" of heroes fails, he goes back to the real fighters for protection.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Desus in Exalted was a First Age Solar who used powerful mind control powers to make everyone in the world (including himself) believe that he was one of the greatest and noblest Exalted warriors of his era. In reality, he was a cowardly, backstabbing Jerkass who committed horrific acts of physical, mental, and sexual abuse on a routine basis against anyone unlucky enough to be in his path.
  • Due to Gameplay and Story Segregation coupled with Games Workshop and their tendency to hype up new releases over old ones to sell more models, numerous examples exist in Warhammer 40,000. Suffice it to say that if you just read the codex and its claims of what models 'should' do, you would find yourself with an army of Fake Ultimate Heroes at your disposal going up against your opponent's army of Elite Mooks.
    • In older codices, for example, Tau Commander Farsight was supposed to be an absolute monster, capable of taking on hordes of orks single-handedly in melee combat. In gameplay, he hit hard but swung wide most of the time, and his real strength was having a large number of Humongous Mecha to carry with him, but they were still surprisingly fragile and prone to getting torn to pieces before doing anything useful.
    • The Pyrovore is supposedly the scourge of bunkers and defenses everywhere, and is lauded in the codex as being responsible for the fall of worlds due to its enormous flamethrower overwhelming defenders. In practice, it's the worst unit in the game. It's such an embarrassment that it's only shown up in the fiction once, where it blew itself up. Later editions improved it to the level of "fine".
    • The Sanguinor supposedly single-handedly killed a massive Bloodthirster and is ostensibly the reincarnation of the Blood Angel's dead Primarch, who was essentially a god among men. And while he is certainly scary in melee, he is actually something of a Lethal Joke Character due to the ease with which he can be sniped by various cheap cannon fodder
    • Abbadon the Despoiler gets this for those ascribing to the villain-centered morality that is playing for Chaos. Even in the Lore he was, until very recently, a Fake Ultimate Hero. While the whole Imperium feared him and the 13 Black Crusades he wrought on them, none of said crusades actually managed to even get a foothold in imperial space. Further, every single one failed at their stated goals, and his latest crusade was ostensibly being fended off by Cadian Guardsmen. Games Workshop 's continued championing of his "terrifying" nature has given him something of a Creator's Pet reputation because of this, particularly since he is the only Chaos Champion who had been rewarded for his failures. This was finally resolved by making the "failed" crusades a case of Exactly What I Aimed At, with his actual targets being a network of forgotten anti-chaos defenses. When the 13th crusade finally destroyed Cadia (the final lynchpin of the network) all hell broke loose on a galactic scale.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has the "Fake Hero" card, which resembles this trope (both in name and in effect). The card text reads "Special Summon 1 "Elemental HERO" monster from your hand. That monster cannot attack, and returns to the hand during the End Phase."


    Video Games 
  • Absinthia: Freya appears to be the savior of Katti Town who drives off Lilith. In reality, she's in cahoots with Lilith so that she can play hero while the latter gets to satisfy her boredom.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man X: Command Mission: Massimo is someone who wound up in this position unintentionally when he took over the armor and position of the original Steel Massimo after he was captured by the Rebellion Army. He develops into a true hero and inheritor to the name over the course of the game. Fittingly, the name of the chapter he joins is called "The Paper Hero".
    • Mega Man Zero: Copy-X thinks himself a better hero than both the original and Zero. Makes for better satisfaction when the latter beats him, twice.
      Zero: I just remembered something... He was not as naive as you are. That's what made him a hero.
      • Mega Man Zero 3 provides a subversion with the revelation that Zero is actually in a copy body, with The Dragon Omega not only being housed in Zero's original body but having a personality more in line with the single-minded engine of destruction Wily meant him to be. Weil taunts Zero about being nothing but a pale imitation of Omega, and the revelation even causes him to suffer an existential crisis, but ultimately Zero shows real badassery and comes out on top.
  • Captain Qwark from the Ratchet & Clank series fits this trope perfectly. Beloved as a hero by all the galaxy and initially idolized by Ratchet, Qwark turns out to be a selfish, cowardly, self-promoting Jerkass who switches loyalties (or plays both sides) whenever it's convenient. Despite all of this, he remains a mostly sympathetic character due to his sheer incompetence. This has changed in later iterations though. He actually helps in A Crack in Time... though that doesn't stop him trying to take all Ratchet's credit. He becomes a playable character in All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault, turning him into a true hero in his own right. The reboot of the first game even makes him more heroic and less cowardly to match his characterization in the later games.
  • Sir Daniel Fortesque in MediEvil, who died due to being this. He spends most of the game taking guff from the real heroes in the Hall of Heroes (the afterlife for heroes) and the gargoyles about how he talked his reputation up in Gallowmere during his life, only to both die instantly and be the first casualty when the real war started, with the king concocting a noble Heroic Sacrifice for Daniel to save face after falling for such a charlatan. It was his second-in-command who actually carried on and achieved the victory. Fortunately, the game also gives Fortesque a chance to actually earn his reputation in undeath.
  • Wild ARMs 5 has Nightburn, the hardest badass to walk Filgaia. Except he's a propaganda tool of the bad guys, and never did any of the stuff he's famous for.
  • In Tak and the Power of Juju, everyone thinks Lok is the mighty warrior from the Pupanunu's prophecy, and you go through the first part of the game trying to rescue him. As it turns out, Tak is the one destined to take out the Big Bad.
    • Mostly because Tak fulfills the signs the prophecy says will mark the chosen hero because it's the only way he can revive Lok. Some prophecies would settle for a simple unlikely hero, rather than full irony.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series:
    • In the Soviet campaign of Red Alert 2, the character General Vladimir is an incompetent womanizing slob who is touted to be a great "Hero of the Soviet Union" and is constantly given all the credit for your character's successes whenever you and he work together during a campaign. Ironically, he catches on to the fact that the Evil Chancellor Yuri wants to kill the Premier and take over the Soviet Union long before you do. You kill him on Yuri's orders, but then discover he was right and revolt against Yuri yourself.
    • General Krukov of Red Alert 3 is similar, giving the player a lot of crap while taking credit for any of your successes. When he works with the Allies he arrives late and with limited reinforcements, stating that you should have done all the work yourself by the time he arrived.
    • The (in)famous Soviet sniper Natasha is the stuff of legend — literally — to the point where there's considerable debate over her very existence. The fact that she exists as a trainable unit only serves to increase the probability that "Natasha" is more than one woman.
  • Every Paper Mario game seems to have one of these. The original had the stereotypically British, pith helmet-wearing explorer Kolorado, who insisted that it was he who led Mario onto his multiple discoveries, not the other way around. The Thousand-Year Door had the stereotypically Spanish, feather hat-wearing Flavio, a prissy millionaire who told stories of his own bravery while constantly proving himself to be a coward. Super Paper Mario has Flint Cragley, the host of a nature documentary who portrays himself as the ultimate macho-man on his show, whereas in reality, he depends on his camera crew (and, inevitably, on Mario) to get him out of even the smallest scrape. All three of these characters also meet up with Mario in the fifth chapter of their respective games, making it clear this is a Once per Episode affair.
    • The Thousand-Year Door also has Rawk Hawk, the champion of the Glitz Pit. He trash-talks Mario, cheats in your championship bout against him, attributes Mario's victory to luck, and... is defeated by Bowser, who is himself pretty much a Joke Character in this game, in one attack.
      • Rawk Hawk is a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass though; he's the chapter's penultimate boss and pulls some mean tricks, most notably jumping to the ceiling, out of the reach of most attacks. (He'd be considered a heel wrestler if one were to use real-life terms to describe him.) Furthermore, he's the toughest single enemy you'll have faced to that point (even your previous opponent, the Koopinator, who has a higher defense and a spiked helmet, has a significant and easily exploitable weakness).
    • In The Thousand-Year Door, the player can encounter Luigi as an NPC in Rogueport between collecting Crystal Stars numerous times throughout the game, and each time he'll tell Mario long rambling stories about adventures he's been on while Mario's been on his, which often sound eerily similar to Mario's adventures. Talking to whatever partner he has at the time will usually reveal that Luigi is either greatly exaggerating his exploits or sometimes making the whole thing up. There's also an in-universe author creating a series about his adventures with even more embellishments.
  • In Chrono Trigger, a young boy named Tata finds the Hero Medal and is hailed as a hero. He eventually outs himself and gives it to your party, admitting that he had just picked it up off the ground and just ran with being called a hero, though later in a New Game Plus you can have an ending where Tata storms Magus' castle, only to face... Chrono, Lucca, and Marle, who laugh at him.
  • Pierre from Chrono Cross is a cowardly weakling who insists that he's really the ultimate hero. While nobody takes him seriously on this claim, he is the only person who can equip the Hero's Blade, the Hero's Shield, or the Hero Medal, which hints that there's a lot more to him than meets the eye.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Gilgamesh, mightiest swordsman in Ivalice, traverser of many worlds, seeker of Legendary blades, slayer of heroes, insists he knows what he's doing... except he's an incompetent trash-talking buffoon, all his legendary swords are fakes, and he ends up fleeing from the heroes after getting his ass soundly kicked in every game he's been featured in. This was especially evident in Final Fantasy V when his Big Bad Boss Exdeath was so embarrassed by his performance he tosses him into the void. He gives a good account of himself in Final Fantasy VIII (after Seifer kills Odin), most of the time — then again, his final battle in Final Fantasy V is a Moment of Awesome on its own.
    • Final Fantasy XIV introduces Gentleman Inspector Hildibrand Maximillian Manderville, agent of inquiry, master detective! According to him, the Warrior of Light is both a fan and a worthy assistant. To be totally fair, he is heroic, but his inflated sense of self-importance gets him into case after case where he has to be rescued by either the Warrior or just plain luck. It's appropriate that he often gets paired up with Gilgamesh.
    • Final Fantasy VII has main character Cloud Strife, who doesn't even realize that he's one. Due to past trauma, he's mixed up his own memories with the deeds of his late best friend Zack, thus believing that he's a former member of the elite SOLDIER unit when in reality, he was just a rank-and-file Shinra grunt, the only special thing about him having been an unwilling guinea pig for Hojo that resulted in him getting Super-Strength similar to your average SOLDIER.
  • Genshin Impact has the Raiden Shogun, or rather Ei. This is a downplayed example and mostly played for laughs. During the Inazuma section of Genius Invocation Card game Tournament, Ei manages to make it all the way to the semi-finals. Though it was noted that a major part of it is because her opponents were noticeably too afraid to challenge her seriously. The only match she won legitimately was against someone from Fontaine. Reason being that she is their ruling god, and the second being that only until very recently, she had always left the ruling of Inazuma to her puppet. One who rules with an iron fist. While they greatly revere her, they also fear her greatly. Much like Abidos the Third from ''Yu-Gi-Oh! GX' (See anime/manga above) they fear her punishing them should they win, and thus many threw their matches.
  • Disgaea:
    • In Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, Axel served as one during his stint as a "Dark Hero"; an actor who participates in various staged acts of evil for the sake of gaining popularity, but ended up losing the job when he refused to play along with the act of abandoning one of his adopted siblings. However, he became so deluded as a result of all the glory he had received that he still typically acts as though he's as awesome of a guy as he was made out to be in all of his subsequent appearances.
    • In Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, Almaz claims to be a great hero, even though he pretty much just made the title up. This follows him throughout the whole game, as Mao keeps calling him "Fake-Hero". He eventually becomes a real one, as Mao himself would attest.
    • Zeroken of Disgaea 5 also makes some boisterous claims to his status as Overlord and apprentice to the Great Demon Fist, Goldion. In reality, he's just a Lost patsy who was assigned as Goldion's medic, patching him up only to see the Lost torture him, and eventually learning some of his techniques, and even when he ran away after seeing Goldion being brainwashed into Bloodis, he only fought weaker opponents instead of refining his skills. The party's intervention, especially via Killia, is what makes him eventually start living up to his claims.
  • In World of Warcraft Cataclysm, the player character's goblin is of course the real hero, but Trade Prince Gallywix takes advantage of Deathwing's arrival to extort every citizen of Kezan, sells you and all your friends into slavery, then tries to convince everyone it was all your fault and that he was somehow the hero for "saving" everyone. It's not until you kick his ass that he agrees to be slightly less of a Jerkass and joins The Horde. Unfortunately, he's still your leader.
    • In the earlier expansion, Burning Crusade, Illidan managed to get the Fake Ultimate Villain treatment. The game cover, trailer, and most of the in-game quests painted Illidan as the primary threat of the expansion. Ultimately he was beaten in the first content patch; the real ultimate villain of the cycle, Kil'jaeden, appeared two patches later.
  • Carmelita Fox in the Sly Cooper games is a competent police officer, however all of her headline-making arrests are the result of either Sly Cooper taking the bad guy out first, or Sly and Carmelita teaming up outright. There are two villains (Muggshot and General Tsao) she took out on her own. And while she did have help, she is personally responsible for delivering the final blow to three of the Big Bads in the series.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • Just about every single game features a total faker that takes all the credit for your party's hard work (Prince Charmles in Dragon Quest VIII, Ragley in Dragon Quest VII, Fairs in Dragon Quest XI and so forth). Though how their efforts fare differs from game to game.
    • Dragon Quest V: Prince Wilbur is a rare sympathetic example: the Queen works hard over the timeskip to build up Wilbur's reputation and is thus seen as the clear candidate to take the throne after the king's death. However, these claims are all baseless and Wilbur is a completely talentless ruler, though he redeems himself due to clearly not wanting any part of the scheme whatsoever.
  • Lars Halford from Brütal Legend is a rare example of a Fake Ultimate Hero who is genuinely heroic, brave and selfless, determined to fight for the good of humanity 'til his last breath. The trouble is, his leadership skills consist mainly of giving Rousing Speeches and looking good with a sword. While he's a decent fighter and is so charismatic people he has just met will gladly crawl through Hell for him, he has no head whatsoever for strategy or logistics and his tactical skills are... not quite as bad, but still less than stellar. That, of course, is why he needs... a roadie.
  • Batman: Arkham Series:
    • In Batman: Arkham City Warden Sharpe, who is Ax-Crazy and would love to kill all of the inmates has taken credit for the Joker's defeat in the first game, which leads to him being elected as mayor.
    • The Electrocutioner in Batman: Arkham Origins is a Fake Ultimate Villain. One of the assassins hired by Black Mask to kill Batman (among which includes professional killers like Deathstroke and League of Assassins member Shiva, as well as Bane, who goes on to become The Heavy of the game) he's played up as the first serious boss of the game (not counting Killer Croc, who appears in the opening stage of the game), engaging in some Evil Gloating to a cheering crowd of Mooks, only for the fight to consist of the player hitting the attack button once for Batman to dropkick him in the face and knock him out cold. Afterwards, one of the mook conversations the player can listen in on has them realizing that Electrocutioner is just some punk with electric gloves and not really the dangerous assassin he was played up as.
  • One of the possible requirements in 100WorldStory's Dragon Slayer board is to find a legendary dragon slayer. Once presented to the king, he may randomly blurt out that he was just pretending to be a hero and run off apologizing, costing you gold and experience!
  • Gordon Freeman of Half-Life is sort of this trope, as many of the things attributed to his messianic / demonic reputation are either accidents or blatantly false. While true that he can probably make a tank implode by staring at it hard enough, he spends most of his time running away from the people trying to kill him (indeed running and hiding are valuable tactics in many parts of the games). While true that he killed the Nihilanth and freed the Vortigaunts, it was an (epically failed) attempt to reverse the Resonance Cascade and he didn't even know the Vortigaunts were slaves in the first place. While true that he infiltrated and destroyed Nova Prospekt, the former was only possible because a Vortigaunt basically gave him an army of Big Creepy-Crawlies and the latter was due to a Teleporter Accident. And while he destroyed the Citadel, annihilating the Combine base of operations and preventing any chance of reinforcement, that was another accident caused by preventing Breen from escaping.
  • Susano in Ōkami, who outwardly gloried in his reputation as a hero because of his heroic ancestor Nagi — deep down he hated the burden and wanted to prove the legend false. Unfortunately for him, it wasn't, and his girlfriend Kushi nearly paid the price for his cowardice. However, he does ultimately manage to step up...
    • When he actually does start defeating great foes (because Ammy uses the Celestial Brush to cut them down), he eventually realizes what's going on and gets pissed that he's not doing it himself. A rare example of a Fake Ultimate Hero who despises being fake.
  • Johnny Cage from the Mortal Kombat series is a perfect example of a Fake Ultimate Hero. Especially in Mortal Kombat 9; he mocks the other combatants, constantly sings his own praises, and claims he is the one who will win the Mortal Kombat tournament and save Earthrealm. Even the game itself initially sets him up as the main protagonist. He then proceeds to get his ass kicked early on in the story, and becomes nothing more than a background character for the rest of the game, playing second-fiddle to the true hero: Liu Kang (or Raiden, depending on your interpretation of 'true hero'). Though debatable; Johnny IS one of the best fighters in the world; one does not survive the slaughter that is Mortal Kombat 9 or get invited to the Mortal Kombat tournament for no reason.
    • In Mortal Kombat X, the direct sequel, it's a different story. Johnny was one of the very few survivors of Mortal Kombat 9, and the experience has changed him. He's still quite the showboat, but he does competently back up his bravado with both his own skills and his charisma does wonders for Earthrealm's status among the other realms, earning Kotal Kahn's respect as champion of Earthrealm.
  • In Dragon Nest, David has, through sheer word of mouth, managed to create a reputation for himself as the greatest hero of all time. He is utterly bombastic at all times, and when you finally meet him he keeps trying to take credit for all the awesome things you do. He even calls himself ULTIMATE HERO DAVID, as a Fake Ultimate Hero is often wont to do. He is no more than an annoyance until he starts spreading negative rumors about the player.
  • Sir Prancelott of Scufflewick from Drakensang. To make him even more annoying is the fact that he totally denies the facts against him and treats you with condescendence if you point out his flaws (or simply ignores you.)
  • The Thalmor in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. In addition to having a racial superiority complex up to and past Nazi levels, they claim that they are the ones that stopped the Oblivion Crisis (not-so-subtly exiling and discrediting anyone that says different) in order to come to power. They also managed to get two Khajiit vassal states after Tamriel's moons (which the Khajiit hold sacred) temporarily disappear, and when they come back the Thalmor suddenly appear and claim that they brought them back (it's suspected that they themselves made the moons disappear).
  • Pyrrhon in Kid Icarus: Uprising plays this to a T, being a stereotypical superhero type fighting against an alien invasion before he then takes control of the alien mother-computer to become even more powerful.
  • Cole Phelps in L.A. Noire. On the surface, he's a distinguished former lieutenant in the marines who earned a Silver Star for services to his country during WWII. In reality, he was only an average leader at best, distrusted by many of his men and got quite a few of them killed through poor decision making, and his Silver Star was 'earned' by cowering during a battle while the rest of his squadmates were wiped out; his Commanding Officer recommended him for a medal because he falsely assumed that his survival was a result of him being a badass.
  • Zachary Hale Comstock of BioShock Infinite goes so far as to build a "Hall of Heroes" to document his heroics at the Battle of Wounded Knee. Captain Cornelius Slate claims that Comstock wasn't even at the battle and is taking credit for the sacrifices of real soldiers, including the protagonist Booker DeWitt (whom Slate does remember being there). Slate is wrong; Zachary Comstock and Booker DeWitt are revealed to be alternate universe versions of the same person who diverged at a point after 1890, meaning that Comstock was there. The trope is still played straight, though, as Comstock/DeWitt was not the valiant hero that the Hall of Heroes claims him to have been.
  • Iji has Assassin Asha, who may be more of a "Fake Ultimate Villain" but carries the same spirit of this trope. Although he's the leader of the Elite Komato Assassin corps and quite a decent fighter in his own right, he is really full of himself. He loses his second fight with the titular heroine entirely due to his pride and arrogance, and if she skips the second boss battle with him altogether, he becomes the laughing stock of the Assassins and kills himself.
  • A downplayed version of this trope shows itself in Flynn Schifo, from Tales of Vesperia. While far from incompetent, he does end up (reluctantly) taking the credit for almost all of Yuri's actions, which results in two increases in his military rank over the course of the game. Unusually for this trope, he's fully aware of his status as this. He doesn't like it one bit, and it greatly annoys him that Yuri doesn't seem to care that he rarely gets any of the credit he deserves.
  • Metal Gear: Zigzagged with Big Boss. According to Guns of the Patriots, the Patriots actually exaggerated much of his reputation as the world's greatest soldier to cement his status as their icon, though the feats Big Boss pulls off in the prequels, especially Peace Walker, leaves it ambiguous just how much of his reputation is a lie. The Phantom Pain elaborates somewhat on this, revealing that Big Boss created a Body Double, Venom Snake, to both further his reputation and act as a decoy for his enemies - Venom's own feats were attributed to the identity of Big Boss, so how many of Big Boss' accomplishments are his own and how many are Venom's is unclear.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction has Kaibaman, who's really Roland. He's unbeatable in his stage show, but when he runs into the Rare Hunter and really duels, you have to bail him out.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, your first sidequest for the "Kings" minor faction is to investigate a bodyguard-for-hire named Orris who seems to be a little too successful. Despite charging double what the other bodyguards charge, he gets a lot of repeat business and customers are said to never hire anyone else once they've tried him. To investigate, you pretend you're an ordinary person and you hire Orris to be your bodyguard. As he escorts you through Freeside, he seemingly comes across four thugs and proceeds to seemingly shoot them dead, "proving" his worth as a bodyguard. If you have an Intelligence score of 6 or higher, however, you can point out that Orris fired three shots, but four thugs went down. Alternatively, if you have a Medicine score of 30 or higher, you can investigate the bodies and discover that the thugs aren't really dead. It turns out Orris hired people in advance to pretend to be thugs for Orris to fight, thus artificially drumming up bodyguard business for Orris.
    • The player can also be inclined to Double Tap the "bodies". Surprisingly there won't be much repercussion from the rest of the city (kind of a given for this location, however), and while the EXP reward won't be as satisfactory as the other means, the material ones will more than make up for it.
  • In Makai Kingdom, the reason Zetta was so powerful was that Salome fed him her mana without his knowledge. When he learns the truth, he bitterly calls himself a "fake overlord".
  • Persona 5:
    • All the cases that Goro Akechi "solved" to become a Great Detective, every mystery that helped win him fame? He was the true perpetrator behind each of them, brainwashing unwitting "culprits" so he could sweep in and solve their crimes. It's downplayed in that despite this revelation, he's still genuinely intelligent enough to act as The Smart Guy in situations he didn't orchestrate, to the point of earning his predecessor Naoto's respect in Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth.
    • Hifumi Togo, the Star Confidant of the same game, is also an example, as her mother has been fixing her matches to help increase her fame. Unlike Akechi, Hifumi wasn't in on any of this and didn't learn until late in her Confidant, and was more along the lines of an Unwitting Pawn for her mother.
  • Palawa Joko in Guild Wars 2 force-feeds propaganda to its people, who live isolated from the rest of the world in the Domain of Vabbi, about how he gave the gift of magic to mortals (that was given to them by the human gods), how he defeated Turai Ossa, a very well-known hero of the past (he lost this battle and was imprisoned for centuries as a result), how he killed Abaddon, God of Secrets, and absorbed his power (Abaddon was killed by the Sun Spears and one of them, Kormir, volunteered to absorb his power and became the benevolent and very popular Goddess of Truth) and even how he singlehandedly killed Zaithan face-to-face and defeated his Risen army (the Player Character did it, definitely not singlehandedly and it was a hell of a struggle just to get to fighting him). A historian of the Durmand Priory is absolutely baffled to see these lies taught in Vabbian academies as historical facts.
  • At the climax of the main story of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II and throughout all of III, Rean Schwarzer gets stuck with the national hero title, Ashen Chevalier, throughout The Empire. While he does have genuine accomplishments and people do see that he is skilled enough, it's clear that in a World of Badass, his accomplishments aren't even close to national hero levels. Played with in that he knows this and resents it but keeps on going with it to help reduce civilian casualties.
  • BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm has GmasterRED, a party member from the prequel who has taken credit for most of Catie’s heroic deeds in that game. The In-Game Novel adaptations cast him as the main character, and eventually force Catie out of the narrative entirely while elevating Gmaster to ridiculous Parody Sue levels. In the True Ending’s "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, it’s revealed that he's somehow managed to pull the same stunt again, despite not even being there this time.
  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 has Roland de Ronceval, the very first boss fought in the game who is credited with having defeated Dracula. In reality, the latter crushed him and his army but disappeared in the aftermath which led the Brotherhood of Light to believe Roland sacrificed himself to destroy him and exalting him as a champion with several statues being built in his honor. Unlike other examples of this trope, this isn't Roland's own fault as he never tried to claim personal glory and genuinely wanted to save the world, but ended up being credited for something he didn't do.
  • Artorias the Abysswalker in Dark Souls downplays this trope. He genuinely was a great hero, a veteran of the war against the ancient dragons and greatest of the four knights of Gwyn (all of which are certified badasses), but the Artorias of the Abyss DLC reveals that he didn't actually contain the Abyss in Oolacile. Not for lack of trying, mind you, but the Abyss corrupted him and his job had to be finished by a nameless undead from the future- the player. Artorias's Abyss-corrupted husk is fought as a boss during the DLC.
  • Fire Emblem: Thracia 776's prior installment featured the character of Shannan: prince of Isaach, scion of Od, master of the Astra technique, wielder of the sacred blade Balmung, and one of the best swordsmen alive. Thracia itself introduces Shannam, who is a whole other story: he's basically a conman who coincidentally bears a passing resemblance to Shannan and can use a sword somewhat passably. In gameplay terms, he's a near-complete Joke Character, with the lowest possible stats for a character in his class and his only skill makes him better at buying things. At one point, a myrmidon in the army asks him to teach her the Astra technique, to which he responds by trying to bullshit an answer about how she'll learn it "when the swiftness of your body becomes one with the sharpness of your mind." It works.
  • Zote of Hollow Knight touts himself as being a mighty warrior, wielding a nail he proudly calls "Life Ender" (which is made of wood). In reality, he's a bumbling fool who gets himself into many dangerous and deadly situations. Later in the game, he appears as a "boss"... which cannot deal any damage whatsoever to your character. At two points in the game you are capable of leaving him to die. If you do save him, he eventually makes his way to Dirtmouth where Bretta unfortunately falls for his lies completely. If you visit her dreamworld, you can fight him as an actually functional boss.
  • In Skullgirls, the wrestler Beowulf’s claim to fame is defeating and killing the powerful Gigan wrestler Grendel. It turns out that the producers of the fight secretly drugged Grendel in order to rig the fight in Beowulf’s favor, with the intent of using the fight as propaganda. Beowulf is horrified when he learns this and later gets a fair rematch with Grendel’s spirit and proves he would’ve won anyway.
  • In the Choice of Games game Heroes of Myth, you, the protagonist, are this trope. Some years ago, you were recruited by a descendant of a famously evil wizard who got tired of being looked at like a timebomb—so she cooked up a con to dramatically fake her own death, recruiting a ragtag crew to gin up a fake prophecy and "defeat" her during a staged final battle. She got a new life, the rest of you got fame and fortune...and then the events of your fake prophecy start happening for real.
  • Red Dead Redemption II: Jim 'Boy' Calloway, the legendary gunslinger, is currently a washed-up alcoholic who exaggerates his great deeds. The joke here being that he really does have all the skill his stories imply and could've easily become one of the greatest legends of the Wild West, but he's such a Dirty Coward that he keeps retreating from fights he could actually win.
  • In the Galaxy Angel gameverse, Milfeulle Sakuraba is often touted as her piloting academy's most promising recruit, having the the highest scores on the simulations. In reality, her amazing luck was as significant a factor as her actual skill (much to the dismay of Ranpha, who was trying to compete with her for the top spot). She's eventually surpassed by Chitose, who manages to do so through pure skill.


    Web Original 
  • Captain Hammer from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a Jerkass variant of this. Sure, he's a genuine Super Hero, but he's also a smug, nasty, patronizing, self-centered Jerk Jock deconstruction of The Cape who is hinted to generally do more damage than his C-list enemies.
    • Also, the eponymous Dr. Horrible can count as a Fake Ultimate Villain at the end when he takes credit for Penny's death to join the Evil League of Evil when it was really an accident caused by the aforementioned Captain Hammer.
  • Mario is like this on The Toad Show, always acting like a hero but honestly a failure. [1]
  • Barry "The Blender" Henderson from I Am Fighter. He even explicitly states in the first episode that "I've only ever actually been in one fight, and unfortunately I was defeated. They say...fighting turns bones into flint. Not me, my bone had to get a fucking metal rod put up it."
    • Subverted in the sixth episode, however, where it turns out he's actually pretty strong. He knocks out a huge, rotund, bearded (and pigtailed) man named "Brutus" with a single punch.
    • Also subverted in that it turns out his ridiculous pressure point techniques - The Nagasaki Shit-Pant the Hiroshima Pain Bomb and the Toyota Boke-Boke - actually work. They just take a while to kick in because his training partner, Ivel Sukuov is Polish, and therefore "a sub-human retard" who "doesn't really have enough brainpower to process that pain."
  • One short from the people behind If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device focuses on Ciaphas Cain mentioned above. He ends up having a breakdown about yet another victory he bumbled into by accident, though notably even after dropping the facade, he's mostly concerned about what happens to the others when he fails. The short ends with Marneus Calgar, leader of the Ultramarines, commiserating about being "a piece of shit."

    Western Animation 
  • An interesting version in Avatar: The Last Airbender. When Zuko returns to the Fire Nation he is held as a hero for killing the Avatar- something which the Fire Nation considers heroic. In reality, his sister Azula let him take credit for this deed just in case the Avatar shows up anyway.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode 'The Man Who Killed Batman', small-time mob underling Sidney becomes instantly famous in Gotham's underworld when it looks like he fought off Batman and pushed him into a gas explosion, becoming, well, the Man Who Killed Batman. While 'Sid the Squid' enjoys the attention at first, it goes south when he has to contend with thugs picking fights because Asskicking Leads to Leadership, and an irate Joker who's upset someone else killed Batman. Even going to Rupert Thorne for help proves no good, as Thorne believes Sidney was "playing dumb" and is trying to take over his operations. In the end, it turns out Batman survived and tailed Sid to collar Rupert. Sid goes to jail for his part in the mob but finds satisfaction at being hailed as The Man Who Almost Killed Batman and Made a Fool of The Joker.
  • The Boondocks:
    • "The Story of Catcher Freeman" reveals through three different versions of the tale that Catcher Freeman was basically this. He wasn't a mighty Memetic Badass who led a slave rebellion (Robert's version) or a Psychopathic Manchild who was used like a hound to hunt runaway slaves (Ruckus' version). Huey learns from the Internet that he was merely Tobias Lynchwater: A house slave that appeared in both stories as a background character and an opportunistic Dirty Coward who decided to side with the rebels after he accidentally shot their master, who he was about to sell a (movie) script to in-exchange for selling out the rebels to earn his freedom and an endorsement; along with earning his respect. Naturally, Robert and Ruckus both choose to reject this revelation.
    • This trope gets invoked in "It's Goin' Down". Ed Wuncler I, Ed Wuncler III, and Gin Rummy planned to use a bomb in an attempt to murder a security guard named Dan Stuckey. Although Dan is really just a fat and stupid jerkass, Ed I was going to fabricate a cover story that Stuckey was a heroic martyr killed by terrorism, and then create a lucrative media franchise to profit from all this.
  • A village visited in Conan the Adventurer was actually using a Fake Ultimate Villain to protect itself using stage magic. The gambit was so good Conan actually tried to save the village from what he thought was an evil sorcerer who'd kidnapped a woman (in reality the magician's daughter). Unfortunately, Rsth-Amon, hearing tell of a potential rival, came to challenge the man. With Conan's help they used the illusions to not only fool Rath-Amon but nearly caused him to give up the black ring. Unfortunately, the next time the village is visited, reality has ensued with Rath-Amon having returned in Conan's absence to discover the ruse for himself.
  • Duck Dodgers is this to the Martian Queen, but notably to no one else. Though he is capable, he's just too stupid to handle it.
  • Earthworm Jim combines this with an Infinity +1 Sword to make the Sword of Righteousness, a centuries-old Living Weapon who claims to be able to make Jim the greatest hero of all time. While he can cut holes in the fabric of time, among other powers, it's eventually revealed that nobody who's wielded him has ever actually won a fight.
  • The Fairly OddParents!:
    • In an early episode, after Timmy wished Chompy free, Vicky came to get him and gave him a wedgie for the fun of it. As he stumbled around, he accidentally knocked her over onto Chompy's pen. When the Mayor and security guards arrive, they assume Vicky is a goatnapper that Timmy caught. He's hailed as a hero, which he likes until the guilt gets to him.
    • In Wishology, Turbo Thunder spends a good deal of the trilogy telling everyone he's The Chosen One over Timmy Turner. Of course, his actions in Part II prove he's anything but a real hero because as revealed in Part III, he was seeking revenge against The Darkness (the Big Bad of the trilogy) for taking his parents and destroying his home planet, and after managing to become the original chosen one, Turbo Thunder waited for so long that he ended up sleeping through when he was needed.
  • Zapp Brannigan from Futurama shows himself in every appearance to be an arrogant, cowardly, ineffectual philanderer. And yet every time, by the end of the episode, he ends up looking like Earth's greatest hero, usually because of something that the Planet Express crew did and he took credit for.
    • Or worse, he gets good credit for doing utterly horrible things, like defeating kill-bots by sending waves of soldiers until the robots reached their max kill count (which was shown in a deleted scene to be 999,999 each). It wasn't even like he secretly did this or anything. He was openly bragging about it in the first episode we see him in.
      Zapp: Whatever the problem is, rest assured that I will send wave after wave of my men to help you solve it. Right men?!
      Random Guy: You suck!
  • Generator Rex: Hunter Cain is an anti-EVO vigilante who turns public opinion against Rex by being "better" at getting rid of EVOs. In reality, he butts in on Rex's fights and blows up the EVOs before Rex can cure them, killing whoever or whatever was unfortunate enough to mutate. Once he's sure the public will cheer him on for killing Rex, he clones an EVO and releases the clones into the city to "prove the futility of Providence" by confronting Rex as he attempted to help the militia Cain had gathered fight the EVOs he created; stating that his men will die to make him look good. Unfortunately for Cain, a newscaster catches him bragging about this while fighting Rex, letting the public see Cain for who he really is. And after Rex shuts down the EVO clones do his men leave Cain entirely as he's hauled off to a Providence prison.
  • Glitch Techs: Downplayed, as Mitch Williams is legitimately talented and can easily fight Miko Kubota on equal terms. His ranking at the top of the local Glitch Techs is repeatedly shown to be heavily based on cheating, killstealing, and undercutting his rivals however, not to mention how he's far from the heroic archetype he would like you to think he is.
  • Gravity Falls was said to have been founded by classic noble pioneer Nathaniel Northwest. As we learn in "Irrational Treasure", the real founder of Gravity Falls was eccentric former president Quentin Trembley, who found it by falling into the valley on a horse; his existence was erased by the U.S. government who declared Northwest, who was really a "waste shoveling village idiot", the town's founder. Season 2 implies that even that supposed truth was a lie in itself as Nathaniel is revealed to have been a rather cunning and monstrous scoundrel, counter to what the government thought of him.
  • The Steam Lantern from Green Lantern: The Animated Series is an unintentional example as while he didn't actually defeat the Anti-Monitor and ended up taking the credit for what Nigel Thortonberry did, he's deeply ashamed of the fact he's gotten this far on a victory that wasn't even his. But his battles against the tyranny of Duke Nigel end up making him a subverted example.
  • Everybody thinks Hong Kong Phooey is the greatest hero who ever lived. Nobody seems to notice that he's an idiot and his sidekick Spot does most of the work. Whenever Spot defeats the bad guy while Hong Kong Phooey was busy ineffectually flailing around, he would look up and remark, "Wow, I moved so fast, even I didn't see myself do it".
  • Inspector Gadget: Cyborg or no, Inspector Gadget couldn't detective his way out of a paper bag, but Penny just sits back and lets him take all the credit. He's so clueless that he not only doesn't even realize that he's not the hero, he often doesn't even realize who the villain is, if he even notices the villain at all! In the Christmas Special, he failed to notice that "Santa Claus" was actually Dr. Claw, and that he'd rigged Santa's workshop full of deathtraps, which Gadget ALSO failed to notice. Amazingly, Claw himself somehow buys into the idea that Gadget is his arch-enemy who ruins his schemes, never noticing how Penny is real brains.
  • Force and Shockwave in Iron Man: Armored Adventures, when they aren't actively staging their heroics, take credit they aren't due. In this case, it's not so much narcissism as it is a gambit by Stane to discredit Iron Man.
  • Kim Possible has TV extreme-stunt star Adrena Lynn. "How does she do it!?" Answer: she fakes it.
  • The flamboyant Flint from Ōban Star-Racers is the track favourite on his homeworld of Alwas, and, along with his gunner, Marcel, is believed by everyone there to be unbeatable. However, when Molly actually races him, she quickly learns his true secret to success: the judges fix races for him by deploying traps that only affect the challenger. When trying to play fair fails, Molly decides to goad Flint into proving his "skills" by flying into the traps; he promptly crashes.
  • The Oh Yeah! Cartoons shorts The Dan Danger Show starred an adventurer hero with his own TV show who had a reputation of being a courageous badass, but in real life was a complete coward who would panic if a butterfly so much as landed on his shoulder.
  • Chip Damage from OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes is one of the most powerful heroes around, an inspiration to millions and a mighty member of POINT... or at least, that’s what the public is led to believe. In reality, Chip Damage is a mindless robot created by Doctor Greyman to be a figurehead for POINT that could give people hope after one of the group’s founding members, Laserblast, was presumed killed in action. To make things worse, the leader of POINT, Foxtail, is a corrupt Super Supremacist who’s using Chip to push her ideals and enforce the law in the most ruthless manner possible.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls (1998), Major Man from the episode "Major Competition" appears to be a far more effective hero than the titular trio at first, always showing up to save the day before they can. The girls get suspicious and start to spy on him, and find him doing things like bribing some thugs to rob a bank and kicking a dog into a busy road so that he can stop traffic and save it when he think's nobody's watching. He's finally exposed as a fraud when a Kaiju attacks the city and he's unable to stop it. When the girls show up to save the city (and him), he sheepishly admits that he deliberately set up crises because he wanted the fame of being a superhero.
  • First played straight but then subverted on Pound Puppies (1980s). When a ghost seems to attack the pound, Whopper calls in Biff Barker, star of a TV show who hunts ghosts. Barker is really an arrogant actor and as soon as he sees the ghost, he turns tail and runs like a coward, breaking Whopper's heart. But when he finds out the "ghost" is part of a plot to capture the puppies, Barker sucks it up and becomes a hero for real to save them.
  • The Quack Pack episode "Hit the Road, Backwater Jack" had the titular character being an alleged adventurer hero who wrote books about his exploits and was idolized by Dewey. It's eventually revealed that he's a coward who made up all his adventures, though he manages to become a genuine hero in the end and Dewey's brothers Huey and Louie even keep Backwater Jack's true nature a secret so as not to shatter their brother's perception of him.
  • In Recess episode "The Shiner", TJ arrives at school with a black eye from an embarrassing accident. His friends thought he fought bullies which led to a school-wide gossip thinking he's a hero. TJ is unable to confess until the end of the episode, so he confirms he's a hero.
  • In Robotech, ep. 68, Colonel Jonathan Wolfe is a legendary war hero who's beloved by all, most recently for keeping a city safe against all odds (In fact, perhaps the only safe place on the planet). In reality, he leads his own men into deathtraps from which (usually) only he survives, in exchange for phlebotinum and safety. The Expanded Universe elaborates, showing that he really was a hero once, but eventually broke.
  • "Da Samurai" from Samurai Jack is reasonably skilled, able to take out a few robots on his own, but his overinflated ego causes him to act more like a bully in his dealings with the villagers, and he acts like he's the greatest fighter to have ever lived. When Jack wanders into town, Da Samurai goes out of his way to antagonize him into a fight, despite knowing about Jack's adventures and the enemies he has fought. Jack runs him through a rough Humiliation Conga, after which Da Samurai is more than eager to try and be a better, more respectable person. Season 5 shows he realized he wasn't hero material and retired to become a bartender instead, though he still reminisces fondly of his "glory" days.
  • The short-lived Disney cartoon The Shnookums & Meat Funny Cartoon Show used a similar plot for its Pith Possum segment, mixing in Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. The title character gets upstaged by a new hero called Super Water Buffalo, only he was actually a villain using his "heroics" to secretly steal from the people he was "saving". When exposed, Pith proceeds to deliver him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Lisa exposes the historical hero Jebediah Springfield as a fiendish pirate who tried to assassinate George Washington, but covers it up because the legend means so much to the people of her town.
    • In "Homer Defined" Homer briefly becomes one when he saves Springfield from a nuclear explosion. People assume he did it by some sort of brilliant technical know-how when it was really dumb luck. In the end, everyone discovers that Homer succeeded despite idiocy, but he is happy because he didn't like being the Fake Ultimate Hero.
  • Parodied in South Park with Captain Hindsight. Everyone praises him for his "heroic deeds" but he doesn't actually do anything; all he ever does is tell people things that they could've done to prevent disasters.
  • An extreme example occurs in Steven Universe: throughout the series, Rose Quartz was viewed as a saintly hero who led a courageous rebellion against the forces of Pink Diamond in order to save the Earth. But in Season 5, it is revealed that Rose Quartz actually was Pink Diamond in disguise all along, who created this identity and rebellion in order to escape the responsibility of colonizing (thus destroying) Earth, a responsibility she herself had begged for but came to regret after she fell in love with the planet and the human beings who lived there.
  • The King of Sling in Slugterra. It turns out that everyone in his home cavern knows his tales of glory are exaggerated, but they don't care because they are so entertaining.
  • In The Venture Bros., the public remembers and reveres Dr. Jonas Venture, Sr. as a brilliant scientist and a heroic adventurer. As the series progresses, it's revealed that Jonas was actually a Psychopathic Manchild who conducted unethical experiments and then abandoned them whenever he lost interest in them, leaving those involved to fend for themselves, on top of being an emotionally Abusive Parent to his son Rusty. Later on, he obtains full Villain with Good Publicity status when it's revealed that he not only blackmailed his best friend The Blue Morpho into being his attack dog (after sleeping with his wife under the guise of "fertility treatments" and fathering The Monarch), but resurrected him as his cyborg slave before attempting a Grand Theft Me on what little of him remained in the present once it's discovered that Jonas was a Brain in a Jar all this time.
  • Wander over Yonder:
    • "The Hero" introduces Brad Starlight, a blonde, barrel-chested macho guy who enlists Wander and Sylvia as his sidekicks in his quest to rescue the beautiful Princess Demurra from the evil King Drakor. Not only does Starlight quickly prove himself incompetent at the whole "hero" business, it turns out Demurra is willingly getting hitched to King Drakor, who isn't such a bad guy after all, and Brad is the real bad guy trying to claim Demurra as his bride... because he's outright delusional and believes himself to be in a traditional fairy tale with himself as the hero.
    • In "The Big Job", Wander and Sylvia join up with a group of seemingly badass soldiers called "The Insurgent Generals", who are fighting against Lord Hater and are on an important mission to ruin Lord Hater's hot tub. It's revealed that for all their tough talk, the Generals are way too scared of Hater to even dare to do anything worse than that — much less actually fight him directly!
  • Captain Good, a Cape participant from Yogi's Space Race, is secretly a disguised Phantom Phink (an Expy of Dick Dastardly - IN SPACE).
  • Mal Duncan in Young Justice (2010) intentionally invokes this when trying to distract Despero, who had already wiped the floor with his super-powered teammates. He succeeds in distracting him long enough for his teammates to rally and take Despero down.

Alternative Title(s): False Ace


Coleman Trebor death

This guy was on the Council btw.

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