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Heroic Wannabe

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"The truth, Walker, is that you're here because you wanted to feel like something you're not. A hero."
Col. John Konrad, to Walker and the player, Spec Ops: The Line

A specific form of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism and the Wide-Eyed Idealist. A Heroic Wannabe is a person so intent on the idea of becoming a hero that they're willing to do just about anything, and they tend not to think about what being a "hero" really means or what you have to do to become one. Darker cases may suffer from Black and White Insanity, or more seriously from being a Heroism Addict.


Very prone to becoming a Tragic Hero and often have a Spirit Advisor or Cool Old Guy as an advisor trying to warn them of the reality — not that the Heroic Wannabe will ever stop long enough to think about what they've been told. Is about equally played straight (usually as buildup to something bad or a Break the Cutie moment) or the character is used as Plucky Comic Relief in an otherwise serious show. Also, inevitably, prone to the Wannabe Diss, from just about everyone else involved in the work in question.

Compare The Chosen Wannabe, Never Be a Hero.

See The Gunfighter Wannabe, Super Zeroes, and Young Gun for Western-flavored variants of this character and the Kid Samurai for the Eastern.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Sayaka Miki in Puella Magi Madoka Magica once she becomes a magical girl (even dressed in a costume with a cape) sees herself as a hero, saving Mitakihara from witches and their familiars. Until it goes horribly downward with her once she realizes what she really is and what transpired from her not-so-selfless wish, confesses she's been stupid as she is driven to despair, and ultimately becomes a witch.
  • Utena Tenjou from Revolutionary Girl Utena desires to become the saintly Prince who saved her as a child, and most of the series deals with deconstructing, subverting, and arguably playing straight this concept as Utena is essentially sent through Hell and back, and that's before we find out that her memories of her encounter with the Prince are anything but fully accurate.
  • Leopold Scorpse from Scrapped Princess, who follows the heroine out of equal parts sense of chivalry and growing feelings for her.
  • Katsushiro from Samurai 7 — character notes even say that he was supposed to look like his equipment had never been in a real fight before. Kikuchiyo from the same series is similar, though more in a Plucky Comic Relief sense.
  • America from Axis Powers Hetalia is this. However, before WWII, he doesn't sport this attitude.
  • Magical Circle Guru-Guru gives us two examples. First is main character Nike's father, who dreamed of being a Hero but was forced to give it up due to there being no evil to be Heroic at. He therefore raises Nike to become a Hero and, when evil does return, sends him out to battle it. The second example is Gale, who appears nearly Once an Episode, faces the current crisis claiming himself the 'True Hero,' only to get beaten down and/or humiliated immediately after.
  • Interestingly, it's strongly implied that Lelouch Lamperouge of Code Geass is this, as indicated by several in- and out-of-universe factors. For example, he's a fan of Tokusatsu and Word of God says that his voice actorsnote  were chosen in order to show that Lelouch is trying very hard to be something that he's not.
  • Attack on Titan deconstructs this with several characters, showing the dangers of getting caught up in trying to be a hero.
    • Reiner Braun is greatly admired by his comrades for his strong sense of duty and tendency to put the needs of others before his own. He repeatedly puts himself at risk to save others, leading Connie to wonder if he's always been the sort to volunteer for the most dangerous tasks. Childhood friend Bertolt darkly notes it's always been one of his worst habits, confusing the others. In truth, Reiner was a troubled child that was raised believing that becoming a "hero" would reunite his broken family and save his people. Unlike the other children in the Warrior Program, he genuinely believed in the propaganda and thought exterminating the humans living within the Walls would make him a hero. When he realized everything was a lie, he began a downward spiral that would eventually lead to him going insane from guilt. After being exposed as the Armored Titan and essentially losing everything, he becomes a jaded Shell-Shocked Veteran desperate to prevent his younger cousin from repeating his mistakes.
    • Krista Lenz's traumatic past leads to her Stepford Smiler tendencies, and desire to be seen as a "good" person by others. This results in her essentially looking for a way to die as a "hero", so that people would praise her. When a comrade collapsed in the snow during a training exercise, she tried in vain to drag him back to the base camp. Ymir ended up calling her out for her behavior, pointing out that Krista hadn't asked for help in carrying their half-dead comrade and was fully prepared to get them all killed as long as people would end up praising her sacrifice.
  • Franken Fran has an extremely disturbing example, even by this series' standards. One of the Sentinels literally gets a high from pursuing vengeance, so whenever he gets in a fight he arranges for the maximum amount of collateral damage. Then he swears to the dead that he will avenge them, and starts off anew.
  • In My Hero Academia, registered superheroes get government funding, and successful superheroes get admiration from the public. Thus, there are a lot of people who take crime-fighting as a job for the money and/or publicity, with varying levels of competence. This attitude is so prevalent that a Hero Killer, Stain, has appeared seeking out superheroes with such vain motivations to kill them and has racked up a pretty high body count.
  • Suppaman from Dr. Slump. Despite claiming that he is the "Champion of Justice", he is a petty Jerkass that's more than willing to get revenge on people that supposedly wronged him.

    Comic Books 
  • The aptly named superhero fanboy "Wannabe" in Seth Green's Freshmen, who was the only student out of the dorms when the Applied Phlebotinum exploded and gave all of his classmates superpowers.
  • Similarly, the heroine Wannabe from Todd Nuack's Wildguard had no powers (but wasn't about to tell anybody) and was desperate to be a real superhero.
  • In All Fall Down, several spring up after The Fall to fill the void of the ex-superheroes. They are permanently discouraged by The Ghoul.
  • In Six-Gun Gorilla, the Gorilla accuses Blue-3425, an ex-librarian turned living video camera, of trying to spin the situation he's in so that he's the protagonist of one of the stories only people like him remember:
    Gorilla: You ain't a @#$%in' savior. And you ain't important on account'a your intentions, or your desires, or bein' in the midst'a the damn action. You're lookin' in the wrong direction.
  • Kick-Ass spawns a costumed superhero craze, so no wonder people start dressing up like him. The fact that he is a superhero wannabe himself adds to the hilarity.
  • Overdrive in Superior Foes of Spider-Man is an odd example. He's not just not a hero, he's a fully-fledged villain, albeit one who tends to fanboy over superheroes in the middle of fights. But he's a villain who hasn't given up on his original plan to be a superhero, and points out the Heel–Face Turn path to The Avengers worked for people like Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch.

     Fan Fic 

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Mr. Furious in Mystery Men cultivates an anti-hero persona; he rests his laurels on an exaggerated story where he lifted a city bus (he pushed it while the driver accelerated), and tries to lend himself mystery with false names like "Phoenix Dark," "Phoenix Dirk," "Phoenix Dark Dirk," and "Dirk Steel" before finally admitting his name is actually Roy. Subverted in that when faced with an actual crisis, he actually does become superhumanly strong and agile when angered.
  • The Dark Knight opens with a group of Batman-wannabes trying to bust a mob deal, but get in over their heads within a few moments. The real Batman rescues and chastises them for trying to do Batman's job without Batman's training, experience, or equipment. In a Too Dumb to Live fashion, one of them is later captured and killed by the Joker.
  • The main character (and arguably his sidekick, Boltie) of Super is this. He dons the identity of Crimson Bolt to take revenge on the criminal who stole his wife, and cope with the emotional trauma that it caused. His crime-fighting intentions are genuine, but he is by no means a traditional heroic figure.

  • Older Than Steam: Don Quixote's was obsessed with becoming a knight (to the point of fighting windmills because he thinks they're giants).
  • Malicia from the young adult Discworld book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is a bit too Genre Savvy for her own good, and tries to cast herself as the Feisty Young Amateur Investigator who Saves The Day and Keith the piper as the comedy relief, when it's Maurice and the rats who are the real stars of the book.
    • And much earlier in the series, the cast of Sourcery included Nijel the self-proclaimed Barbarian Hero: a grocer's scrawny kid who was learning the art of "heroing" from a mail-order pamphlet, Inne Juste 7 Dayes I wille make You a Barbearian Hero!.
  • Billy and the Alphas of The Dresden Files are somewhere between this, Ascended Fanboys and Girls and Jumped at the Call, as while they are basically a college D&D group, they became a pack of werewolves who are surprisingly good at what they do.
  • Taran of The Chronicles of Prydain starts out as this status, but over the course of the books Character Development takes hold.
    • And by the time he becomes a real hero he no longer believes in them.
  • Sharpe: Poor Ben Perkins. He's made a Chosen Man, ignores the advice of an older and wiser man to turn it down, and ends up murdered by a traitor from his own side.
  • In Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly, shiny-eyed Gareth loved heroic ballads and dreamed of great deeds... but he met his hero and other participants of the feat.
    "Poison?" Such foulness clearly pierced him to the heart. "Harpoons? Not a sword at all?"
    Jenny shook her head, not knowing whether to feel amusement at the boy's disappointed expression, exasperation at the way he spoke of what had been for her and hundreds of others a time of sleepless, nightmare horror, or only a kind of elder-sisterly compassion for the naivete that would consider taking a three-foot steel blade against twenty-five feet of spiked and flaming death.
  • Tamora Pierce's Alanna is shown to have some elements of this when she first sets out to become a knight in Song of the Lioness, but it's not much followed up on.
  • DeGuiche in Cyrano DeBergerac, a cowardly, selfish, petty man who wishes to be just like his comrade Cyrano.
  • The title character from Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim. Unfortunately, the universe he lives in is not nearly as idealistic, and it is in part due to his own character that he ends up a Posthumous Character.
  • Par Ohmsford from The Heritage of Shannara desperately wants to be a hero, and is thrilled when he's given the chance to become one. However, unlike his cousin Wren, who is a capable Action Girl, or his uncle Walker, who has significant magic at his disposal and has lived alone in the wild for years, Par has never been anything other than a storyteller. Even his Master of Illusion powers don't help him much at first, he requires far more assistance than he thinks he does, and even after he gains Reality Warper abilities, he's captured and has to be rescued.

    Live Action TV 
  • Arrow: Laurel wants to be a badass vigilante like her sister Sara, ex-boyfriend Oliver and his Team Arrow companions, but lacks the skills - and often the logical thinking - to manage it. Her Season 3 arc is her trying to hit the streets and save people to "let out the anger inside of her" only to get beaten up or saved by others. Oliver and Team Arrow aren't shy about telling her to back off, especially as they keep having to bail her out of trouble when they have other issues to deal with.
  • Jason from True Blood. He's constantly striving find some way to become a hero, but he tries to find short-cuts too often to be more than a wannabe.
  • Billie from Charmed. She even turns evil, but then turns right back once she realizes it involves killing something other than demons.
  • Joxer from Xena: Warrior Princess, who ends up making a Heroic Sacrifice to save Gabrielle.
  • Captain Freedom (played by Dennis Dugan) from Hill Street Blues, a homeless man with a penchant for justice who provided several Pet the Dog moments for the precinct's gruff detective, Mick Belker.
  • Kamen Rider Taiga (of Kamen Rider Ryuki) kills his mentor and his best friend, all to fulfill his delusional wish of becoming a hero.
  • When Tim Kring was showing his wife the character ideas for his new show Heroes, she noticed that none of the Heroes enjoyed having their powers and that it was somewhat depressing. Thus, Hiro (get it?) Nakamura was born — as the personification of this trope.
  • Boone from Lost is a particularly sad example. From his first scene in the pilot (giving CPR to Rose), he's constantly trying to be a hero....and failing miserably. he does the CPR all wrong and Jack has to save Rose. He fails to save Joanna from drowning, almost drowns himself, and has to be rescued by Jack. He stands guard but falls asleep, allowing Ethan to kill Scott. Taken to the most tragic extreme, he climbs into the beechcraft in an attempt to radio the outside world, only for the plane to plummet off of a cliff, during which he sustains fatal injuries and eventually dies.
  • An intern on Grimm is eventually outed as a hero-worshipper of the main character, Nick. He pretends to be a Grimm himself, believing that all Wesen must die and murdering two Wesen before Nick captures him. He is revealed to be a Wesen himself.
  • Flynn from Power Rangers RPM in his childhood was a lover of comic books and wanted to help people. He went a little overboard - failing at being a cop (he tried to arrest the mayor's son), a fireman (caused water damage trying to save an old lady's goldfish) and in the Peace Corp (led a rebellion with the indigenous people). Unlike most examples, he actually gets to become a hero.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Most of Nikki Roxx's more embarrassing or horrific defeats were half The Worf Effect and half this trope. She is a big strong wrestler but nowhere near as big or strong as she thinks she is, as seen in various runs such as All Pro, LLF and SHIMMER but none more apparent than TNA, where her efforts to be helpful lead to the The Beautiful People, who eventually ended Roxxi's TNA career.
  • Phoenix, a bully out to rid pro wrestling of "all the plastic excuses for women" so she can then focus on "all the worthless men", who wants to be looked up to by "all the little girls". Like a true bully and unlike a hero, she tends to freakout in the face of opponents she knows can hurt her (MsChif, Boogeyman)
  • The unifying trait of the Lucha Family, most obvious with Leva Bates, who styles herself a superhero and feels the need to stop members of the locker room she knows have bad intentions but in a more subtle way, both Los Ben Dejos(Jay Rios and Eddie Cruz) think of themselves as motivational role models whose job is to elevate the spirits of the audience and locker room, which often sees them suffer indignities. Mia Yim meanwhile is another example of a wrestler who is big and strong but not quite to the extent she thinks she is.
  • Alberto Del Rio's gimmick after turning heel in the process of defeating Dolph Ziggler. He thinks of himself as a hero to the Latino people, but as Ricardo Rodriguez points out, Del Rio doesn't do much that is actually heroic. He was also matched up against Rob Van Dam, who was a baby face variety(unless you consider jobbing heroism).

    Video Games 
  • Groose from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword thinks he's The Chosen One, mostly trying to be a hero for the Standard Hero Reward and the glory that such a thing entails. When Groose learns that he's not the Hero of Legend, he doesn't react well at first. But, thanks to some character development, he decides that he'll help Link become the hero that will save the world instead. Thus, Groose ends up becoming heroic only when he decided he didn't need to be a hero.
  • Hyrule Warriors has Linkle, a more idealistic example. A cuccoo farmer who believes herself to be the reincarnation of the legendary hero thanks to her grandmother saying so and giving her a mysterious compass. When she hears Hyrule Castle has been attacked, she takes this as a personal Call to Adventure and races off to go be a hero. The trope gets played with in that while her No Sense of Direction means she never catches up with the main conflict and her lack of common sense worries everyone she encounters, she learns to take care of herself and actually helps clean up a few of the A-plot's messes when the main party had bigger fish to fry. She'll never be the legend she thinks she is, but she's heroic all the same.
  • In a much more twisted example, Quincy Sharp from Batman: Arkham Asylum. He has deluded himself into believing that he is Gotham City's true savior and that he is the only one who can make it better. Naturally, Batman has to rescue him.
  • A big theme in Crisis Core where Sephiroth inspired desire to be heroes in Zack, Cloud and Genesis. Most the game centers around their bumpy road towards achieving this.
  • Shingo Yabuki from The King of Fighters series idolizes Kyo Kusanagi, to the point of mimicking his moves and speech. He's training to be as good as Kyo, and is convince that he, too, can "shoot fire."
  • Persona:
    • In Persona 2: Innocent Sin, there's a young girl who's convinced that she's the reincarnation of the Mayan warrior Ixquic and ends up being used by the bad guys as she tries to be a great heroine. It eventually leads to her being trapped in a burning building. Poor thing. Thankfully, she survives the experience and pulls herself back to reality again, deciding to become a manga artist instead.
    • In Persona 3, most of Junpei Iori's motivation to help SEES is based on his desire to be a genuine hero. This desire causes him to rush into dire situations without any forethought, become intensely jealous of the Main Character for his role as The Captain of the group, and even reveal his Secret Identity to a girl to gain recognition (a move that later backfires horribly). He eventually grows out of it, though, and by the time of "The Answer", he is arguably the most level-headed member of the party.
  • Duran from Avalon Code desperately wants to be a hero, but his cowardice prevents him from doing much of anything, leaving it up to Yumil (or Tia) to use the Book of Prophecy to inspire him.
  • Almaz in-game title in Disgaea 3 is "Wannabe Hero" which pretty much says it all. Then Mao breaks the Fourth Wall to steal his title. Almaz is a downplayed example as he lacks the skill of a true hero (he decided to try to defeat the Overlord at level 5), but not the heart. His interactions with Mao ends up changing both of them for the better, and in the normal ending this ends up derailing the Big Bad's plans and elevates Almaz to the title of true hero.
  • Conrad Verner from Mass Effect. He's Commander Shepard's number 1 fanboy, but hasn't got the brains to recognize that he's not anywhere near skilled enough to follow his/her example and become a Spectre. It's up to the Commander to keep him from getting himself killed. Or not.
  • BioWare did it again with poor foolish King Cailan of Dragon Age: Origins, who walks straight into a trap set by his Treacherous Advisor Loghain at Ostagar due to his desire to be a hero like in the legends he loves and dies when Loghain turns his back on him and leaves him and every Grey Warden with him to die at the hands of the Darkspawn.
  • Luke fon Fabre from Tales of the Abyss. All it takes is Van telling him that he'll be a hero to get him to completely ignore everything everyone else in the group tells him (even his long-time best friend and the one who practically raised him, Guy), split off from them when they're in a city infected by dangerous miasma, and then unleash a power he can't control when Van tells him to, resulting in the destruction of Akzeriuth and the deaths of hundreds of people. So basically, he goes from a Heroic Wannabe to Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! all in one go. Yeesh.
  • Emiya Shirou from Fate/stay night wants to be a "Hero of Justice", following in his foster father's footsteps. Pretty much everyone around him tries to warn him of just what a bad idea this is, but it becomes the most pronounced with Rin and Archer in the Unlimited Blade Works route. In Archer's timeline, he took every opportunity he found to act as a hero, sacrificing everything else for the sake of others. His obsession led to him being ostracized and eventually killed as a scapegoat. Even when he died alone he didn't regret following his dream, but his existence as a Counter-Guardian changed that.
  • Capt. Martin Walker in Spec Ops: The Line. Throughout the game, he tries to do what is right - without fully considering the consequences. After he uses white phosphorus on a civilian camp, he refuses to acknowledge that it was his fault. And it breaks him.
  • At the start of Dhux's Scar, a man named Dario assaults the titular character, a cursed angel that's just vaporized a woman and her son. He gets his hands blown off and his head pulped for his troubles.
  • Handsome Jack, the Big Bad of Borderlands 2, is utterly convinced he's the hero who's going to use the power of the Vault to conquer and tame Pandora. Unfortunately, he's also convinced that he's justified in doing all sorts of horrible things to his employees (who are expendable), the people of Pandora (who are all "bandit scum" in his eyes), and anyone who gets in his way (like the Vault Hunters and the Crimson Raiders).
  • Illidan Stormrage from Warcraft grew up being told he had a great destiny because he was born with rare golden eyes. Being told that all his life fed his ego and much of his personality revolves around how he has to be the one to save the day and get the girl, though he grows to resent his twin brother Malfurion for being the one to actually do that in the War of the Ancients. Eventually he became a Well-Intentioned Extremist and Unscrupulous Hero branded as a villain by those around him. Best summed up in a quote of his in World of Warcraft's Well of Eternity dungeon:
    Illidan: I will be the savior of our people! I WILL FULFILL MY DESTINY!
  • Khamsin from Metal Gear Rising is the only member of the Winds of Destruction to have actually heroic intentions (liberating Abkhazia), and actually could be a hero if he could only work on his complete lack of social skills and get a brain in his skull. He's a lot like a certain depiction of Zangief in that he works for the "Winds of Destruction" and doesn't realize he's working for the bad guys.
  • Copy X from Mega Man Zero is utterly convinced that he is the heroic savior of humanity and that the Resistance is filled with Maverick Reploids trying to ruin that. While his actions have resulted in humanity's comfort in the current energy crisis in the Crapsack World, it's come at the cost of him branding innocent Reploids for being Maverick on flimsy excuses and "retiring" them by the hundreds to conserve energy. It never seems to occur to him that trying to research new energy sources instead of genociding sentient beings would be a much more heroic thing to do, and those who try to call him out get branded as Mavericks too. Because how could a "perfect" copy of the great X ''ever'' be wrong, you ask?

  • In Dungeons and Denizens, we have Sir Percival von Fluffypants. To him, the "hard parts" of heroism involve posing and having perfect hair. He uses his guards to do any fighting (not that it makes any difference, as his parents bribed the monsters ahead of time to go easy on him). He meets his well-deserved end when he trashes the room of a pre-adolescent Gothic Lolita - who happens to be a powerful necromancer with a cruel streak. Percy ends up being sent home in small disposable baggies.
  • Chris in Errant Story. Unfortunately for him, in this webcomic you actually have to be seriously dangerous to be a main character.
  • Anthony, of The Players Guide To SISU, is desperately struggling to be seen as a full-fledged hero, but hasn't made it yet. Possibly because of his elf obsession.
  • Dave Strider of Homestuck exhibits some Heroic Wannabe traits— he's expressed a fixation on becoming a "hero" and seems to be willing to sacrifice anything to save his friends. Except the former isn't true— Dave's childhood Training from Hell inflicted by his older brother ruined the concept of heroism for him. Dave doesn't want to fight, get hurt, see blood, or hear metal noises, but the narrative keeps forcing him to adopt a "reluctant hero" role.

    Web Original 
  • Miles Luna in Ten Little Roosters believes himself to be the hero of the bit and does show some heroic tendencies, such as trying to find a way to escape the studio and trying to find and stop the killer. He even goes so far as to don Lindsay's Ruby Rose costume with the belief that thinking like her will help.

     Western Animation  
  • In the episode "Cyborg the Barbarian" from Teen Titans, the antagonist is a barbarian named Krall who conspires with a witch to send an army of slug-like monsters to attack his people so he can defeat them and become a hero. However, the creatures prove too strong for Krall, so he asks the witch for strength to defeat them and she brings Cyborg from the future. When Cyborg finally learns of Krall's treachery and confronts him, he begs the witch for the power to defeat Cyborg and is turned into a larger version of the slug-creatures. He then attacks his people a final time, now commanding the monsters.
    Krall: I may have failed you as a hero, but I will triumph as your conqueror!
  • Moomintroll of The Moomins. He tries to be the hero so very, very hard.
  • Billy Billions of Ben 10: Omniverse decides to create his own hero team in order to compete with Ben. It barely lasts more than a week before the teammates tear each other apart.
  • Catman from The Fairly Oddparents.
  • On South Park, the members of Coon and Friends manage to do some good deeds in their superhero identities, but are no match for Cthulu, with the exception of actual superheroes Mysterion/Kenny and Mint-Berry Crunch/Bradley. The Coon/Cartman is a darker example: self-aggrandizing at best, his attempts at "heroics" easily dissolve into wanton acts of evil because, as Mysterion puts it, he can't tell the difference between "good" and "good for him."
    • Especially considering that, up until Cthulu shows up, The Coon's "heroic" acts consist almost entirely of ruining other superheroes so that he'll be the only one around.
  • Danger Mouse: The opening of the episode "There's A Penfold In My Suit" has Penfold putting on one of DM's jumpsuits under the delusion it will make him as heroic as DM.