How can you make a Badass character even more badass? Easy; make him lose an eye, or have her get paralyzed from the waist down, or give them some disease from which there is no cure. Finally, do not use the Reset Button to remove it. "What?!" you say, "My character must stay injured/handicapped?" Simply, yes.
In Real Life, we know how hard it is to accomplish death-defying feats in perfect health and condition, so anybody that does it with a handicap instantly earns our respect. Imagine how much more awesome that shoot-out is going to be when the audience finds out The Hero is blind. Imagine the buzz your character will get when they win the judo competition with just one good leg.
Handicapped? Perhaps... Disabled? Far from it!
It is important that your character's conquest of their physical challenge makes sense; not properly explaining their ability to continue to function, let alone on the badass level, will result in audience confusion, or worse, your character becoming a Sympathetic Sue.
For the sake of the story, a restrained dose of Applied Phlebotinum is allowed to explain or aid the character's ability to overcome the handicap. This technological or otherwise nonstandard aid cannot completely cure or nullify the effects of the injury, though — that would kill the point of the character triumphing over the handicap. Thus, The Six Million Dollar Man wouldn't count. On the other hand, if the helping device has drawbacks that constantly remind the character of their issue, that's cool. For example, in Star Wars, Darth Vader's life support suit enables him to kick ass despite his extensive and debilitating injuries, but it's clunky and outdated by the standards of The 'Verse. Vader can't survive without it, and he still has to endure the constant pain of his old injuries (along with the incessant Vader Breath from that noisy respirator).
Some writers will go for extra points by showing how an injury unlocked the character's true potential by causing them to discover some heretofore unrealized skill or ability or learning a new one. A Training Montage might be in order to show how the character learned to overcome the handicap. If a person has powers because they are disabled, then that's a Disability Superpower. The Deaf Composer may go through a similar process regarding their chosen craft.
Mental challenges, such as autism spectrum disorder and PTSD, count as well. Old age doesn't (although it often overlaps with this trope), as that's already covered by tropes like Never Mess with Granny and Old Master.
This trope is commonly seen among fictional pirates. These attributes seem to be cases of Follow the Leader: the Seadog Peg Leg originated with Long John Silver of Treasure Island,note the Hook Hand with Captain Hook of Peter Pan, and the Eyepatch of Power well, that might have come from Real Life Arab pirate Rahmah ibn Jabir al-Jalahimah, but it might also come from something that has nothing to do with disabilities. Some people have speculated that sailors wore eyepatches to keep one eye in the dark, so when they went into the darkness below deck, they'd have one eye accustomed to the darkness, and they'd just switch the patch to the other eye.
Specific subtropes include Blind Weaponmaster, Blind Seer, and Deaf Composer. The Blind Black Guy usually fits this trope (and is usually based at least partially on Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder). In the case of a villainous Handicapped Badass, like the aforementioned Vader, Silver, and Hook, this trope will also overlap with Evil Cripple.
This trope is often seen in Real Life among people who don't accept the Dream-Crushing Handicap as the final word. Of course, not everyone wants to follow this trope and be "inspirational". Instead, they'd rather go about their lives, maybe with (God forbid) a few accommodations. On the bright side, at least it isn't vomit-inducing pity. Compare Pregnant Badass. On the more intelligent side, compare Genius Cripple, and if both of these tropes overlap with each other, you'll get Genius Bruiser.
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- Live-Action TV
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- Western Animation
- Real Life
- Dr. Plain from Dick Tracy was one of the most ruthless (and frighteningly sane) murderers Tracy ever fought, despite missing an arm.
- Leslie Fish's "The Cripple's Shield Wall" (last verse is in quotes). Yes, all of them are based on actual Society for Creative Anachronism fighters.
- The Who's "Pinball Wizard";
"That deaf dumb and blind kid, sure plays a mean pinball."
- In Marty Robbins' "Ballad Of Bill Thaxton" the titular character is revealed to have a handicap which actually assists him in defeating his opponent.
- Rick Allen of Def Leppard, who kept playing the drums after losing an arm.
- Soul legend Curtis Mayfield was left quadriplegic in 1990 when a lighting rig fell on him before a festival show. He never sang live again, but in 1997 he released another album, New World Order, in which he recorded his vocals lying on his back, often one line at a time, in order to get enough oxygen to his lungs. He died of complications of his condition in 1999.
- Robert Wyatt was paralysed from the waist down by an alcohol-induced accident in his youth, but had a long career. He performed his cover of The Monkees' I'm a Believer on UK music show Top of the Pops in his wheelchair, using it to dance as best he could, something which was contentious at the time.
- Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe. He suffers from a degenerative condition, ankylosing spondylitis, that wreaked havoc with his spine (causing him to lose 3 inches in height from his youth) and his hips (so much that he needed one surgically replaced in 2004).
- Joni Mitchell's unusual guitar tunings, which she dubbed "Joni's Weird Chords," came about as the result of weakness in her fingers cause by polio making it necessary to adjust the tunings so she could play comfortably.
- Jeff Becerra, frontman of Death Metal pioneers Possessed, was shot by a mugger and left paralyzed from the waist down shortly after the band broke up. That didn't stop him from reforming the band in 2007, though it took another twelve years for them to actually release new material. While he can no longer play bass due to being unable to operate effects pedals, he can still churn out impressive Harsh Vocals.
- Norse Mythology:
- Odin has one eye — and sees everything. He traded away the other one, and the recipient can now see everything too.
- Tyr sacrificed his dominant right hand and remained the deadliest swordsman in Norse mythology.
- In some versions Heimdall is this as well. He made the same trade as Odin, except he gave up an ear. He's the sole watchman of Asgard, with sight second only to Odin, and unmatched hearing in his remaining ear. And at Ragnarok, he fights Loki to the death.
- Osiris from Egyptian Mythology is dead and his penis has been eaten by a crocodile. This doesn't stop him from being one of the strongest gods, or from siring a son.
- Samson, blinded and shaven of his magic hair, brings down a temple on the heads of his enemies.
- In Welsh legends about King Arthur (possibly the oldest stratum of the Arthurian legend) Bedwyr, better known as Sir Bedivere, is one-handed, but wields a spear to great effect.
- Nuada, king of the tuatha de danaan in Celtic Mythology was a major badass before and after losing his arm (which also meant losing his right as king, since no handicapped man may rule the tuatha). He later got it replaced by an arm of lifelike silver by Dian Cecht.
- The Fomorians, some of which only had one arm, one leg, and one eye.
- Hephaestus, god of the forge from Classical Mythology, was crippled when Zeus or Hera (Depending on the Writer) hurled him off Olympus as a child (again, the reason for this varies depending on the writer). He is also a mechanical genius, and he's created super-gadgets and Humongous Mecha. He also built two clockwork maidens out of gold and silver to help him walk, due to his handicap.
- The Aztec deity Tezcatlipoca got his left foot bitten off by an Eldritch Abomination of a crocodile while he and Quetzalcoatl were creating the world. It didn't slow him down in the slightest.
- Sedna, sea-goddess of the Inuit, was thrown from her father's boat and had her fingers chopped off when she tried to cling to it. Her severed digits became the seals and whales upon which traditional Arctic natives have long depended for survival, and the loss didn't stop Sedna from becoming divine ruler of the sea and all that lives there.
- In 2nd Samuel chapter 5 from The Bible, when David and his men set their sights on conquering Jerusalem, the Jebusites resist with a boast that "even the blind and the lame will turn you away. This didn't work for the Jebusites, as David and his men succeeded in conquering the city, and as a curse, "the blind and the lame" are not allowed to enter into God's house — a curse that endured into the day of Jesus' earthly ministry and that of the early church.
- The Adventure Zone: Balance: Merle loses both his arm and his left eye, but still manages to be fairly badass.
- Retired wrestler Kurt Angle legitimately won gold medals for wrestling at the 1996 Summer Olympics WITH A BROKEN FREAKIN' NECK!
- Tenille Dashwood has fought the autoimmune disease psoriasis since she was fourteen years old.
- Hardcore Legend Mick Foley is missing his right ear after a match with Vader in 1994. He didn't retire until 2012.
- Roman Reigns has been battling leukemia since he was twenty-two years old.
- Parodied in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Scientists have discovered cures for everything and doctors are out of a job - but everyone finds this universal perfect health rather boring. Then they realise that "nothing turned, say, a slightly talented composer into a towering genius faster than the problem of approaching deafness". So the medical profession is resurrected to provide artificial injuries, diseases, and disabilities to boost people's performance - "you always overcompensate for your disabilities."
- From Dino Attack RPG, a number of characters continue to fight on the front lines despite their handicaps.
- Greybeard has a Hook Hand in place of his left hand and became half-blind after his right eye was horribly scarred. Taken a step further in the alternate ending December 21, 2010, in which he was also missing his right leg.
- After becoming paralyzed from the waist down, Rex was forced to remain in a wheelchair for the remainder of the war.
- Hotwire lost his left leg and had to make do with a mere peg leg.
- While Shannon Grimton might not be on the battlefield like Rex or Hotwire, her Super Wheelchair comes with lasers, rocket launchers, and More Dakka so she could easily defend herself against Mutant Dinos.
- The Werewolf: The Forsaken splatbook "Tribes of the Moon" talks about the legend of a Blood Talon called Boneless Harald, who was born with deformed legs. After his first change, he bulked up his arms, got a huge sword, and rode into battle on a litter. Whenever the guys carrying it got killed, he wolfed out and dragged himself around by his arms, ripping chunks out with his teeth.
- The Second Edition of Blue Rose introduces a new order of heroes to the Kingdom of Aldis: The Quiet Knights. When you keep losing adventurers to the seductive song of a siren, who better to send against it than a deaf warrior? Gorgons keep petrifying your soldiers? Send blind Knights to fight them.
- Many games have a character creation system where taking one or more hindrances on a character gives the player more points to allocate into stats, abilities, or whatever. Naturally, the greater the hindrance, the more points are given. The highest points are usually disabilities (blindness, deafness, lost limb(s), etc.).
- Justin Xiang Allard in the BattleTech universe lost his right hand early in the first book of the Warrior trilogy. Everyone believed he would never pilot a 'Mech again, but after a prosthetic with a neural link replacing his hand, he would go on to be one of the best Mechwarriors in the Inner Sphere and the Spy Master for the Capellan Confederation (and The Mole for the Federated Suns). He would then go on to become the Spy Master for the Federated Suns until his assassination ordered by his insane sister-in-law, Chancellor Romano Liao of the Capellan Confederation.
- Sentinels of the Multiverse has Expatriette, who is a remarkably skilled markswoman despite having had only one eye since she was twelve, and Blind Weaponmaster Mr. Fixer, whose aura-vision mostly makes up for being blind since birth but is occasionally vulnerable to stuff that screws with it, such as the malign presence of the Chairman during a fight.
- Richard (the one who would become Richard III), in Henry VI part 3. He's got a humpback, a weak arm, and one leg's shorter than the other, but he is frankly amazing in battle, and he matches Young Clifford blow for blow when they duel.
- The old man in Cirque du Soleil's Varekai, in a moment of Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass, manages to fight off multiple assailants. With his crutches. In the entire fight sequence, his crippled feet never even touch the ground.
- The eponymous hero from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Götz von Berlichingen was a German knight who had lost his right hand, and had it replaced by an iron prosthetic which allowed him to fight with a sword. The play also features Franz von Sickingen, another knight and an ally of Götz (in the play, his brother-in-law) who had only one leg.
- Ace Attorney:
- Wheelchair-bound Acro. Badass enough to nearly get away with murder.
- Godot, who, despite having to spend, it seems, half his life getting medical checks and being blind without his visor (even with it, he can't see the color red on a white background) still manages to retrain as a prosecutor mere weeks after getting out of a nearly-lethal coma, then form an elaborate plan to defeat a murder attempt partially carried out by the dead. Then, despite the fact that he should be too much of an emotional wreck to do so after taking a sword-slash to the face before killing his dead lover's mother and spending a night on a snowy mountain top, manages to comfort his victim's terrified young niece, then prosecute the subsequent murder case and, well... generally be Godot.
- One case has Phoenix serve as the defense attorney on a trial while suffering from amnesia from a blow to the head and having no idea what's even going on.
- Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors has Snake. Although blind, his other senses are so good that you wouldn't even notice this unless he told you. He even mentions that if you tried to attack him, it would be unlikely that you would win. He manages to hold back Ace after being shot 6 times in the "Safe" ending.
- Venom, member of the rival guild Axis of Anarchy in The Guild. Total badass.
- Happy Tree Friends: The Mole has been depicted as one in "Mole in the City". Likewise, Handy has managed to build 3 houses, two of such by himself.
- Cortez from The Leet World is the best shooter in the house, despite being near-blind. Instead, he uses his acute hearing to track targets and was the only housemate able to land a hit when a HAXed-up Ahmad went into Flash Step mode.
- Whateley Universe:
- Blind inventor Jericho. He once stopped two power armor-clad mercenary assassins. When he was without his armor.
- Kludge is paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair. It hasn't stopped her from being on a super-team at Whateley Academy. And she's a front-liner.
- Stephen Hawking and, in a way, Darth Vader, in Epic Rap Battles of History. Which makes it rather fitting that they wind up working together.
- In Dead West, the Porcelain Doctor has a very bad limp, and when he overexerts himself, he needs not only his cane but Gervas' help to move around. This doesn't stop him from turning every skirmish into a Curb-Stomp Battle if he decides to Let's Get Dangerous!. He can even do it without his Psychic Powers! Mind you, he was an accomplished fighter before his injury, and his brother doesn't exactly believe Disabled Means Helpless, so this should be the expected outcome. Most of the people he meets make the mistake of underestimating him, simply because of the cane.
- Neighborhood Wars:
- Doki may be crippled with cerebral palsy but she'll make you look like this and, for a bonus, a decent while before that, she stopped a girl wielding an army of the undead and seemed to be pretty bent on killing her and that was for harming her sister.
- Albeit a lesser extent, Lace maybe blind but she doesn't take shit from anyone.
- Antoinette is able to pilot a biplane and shoot up the roof of someone's house with near-deadly accuracy and the thing is with that is that she's legally blind and has awful vision.
- Subverted with the Invalid Commandos in Ball Grill Police. Like The Cavalry, they arrive from the woods to aid the policemen against Uncle Sam but are unable to do anything, as they are, well, invalids.
- Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72: George Wallace, of all people. He turns his own paralysis into a sign that he understands the troubles of the common man, and shakes off his segregationist past. He is even able to goad Spiro Agnew into insulting his paralysis to make an impassioned plea. All of which help him become president in 1976. Unfortunately, the stress of the presidency takes a huge toll on his already fragile health, and he decides not to seek re-election. However, in the sequel he eventually recovers his health, becomes a powerful opponent of the tyranny of Donald Rumsfeld and returns to the governorship of Alabama.