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Lord Error-Prone

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Don Quijote would have been fine if he'd been born 2 centuries earlier—trust him to reincarnate 3 centuries later.
Various images from the series "Don Quixote in the 20th Century" by Pedro de Rojas (ca. 1905)
"Real heroes don't need plans!"
Lebreau describes the mentality of Snow Villiers, Final Fantasy XIII

Bob is on a noble crusade. He talks big and believes all his own hype. In his mind, he is a great and noble hero. However, to everyone else (except maybe a loyal Sidekick or newbie) Bob is a buffoon with a head full of ideas about how heroing should be but no real experience. Meet Lord Error-Prone.

This character is a Knight in Shining Armor or Knight Templar whose ineptitude and lack of common sense makes him more of a nuisance rather than a real threat to whatever he is fighting against. Which is probably good, given his fanatical mindset.

Possessing extremely poor judgment, Lord Error-Prone can often be seen rushing to attack opponents he has no chance of defeating (pretty much all of them), oppressing minorities/static objects (surely servants of evil!) and punishing hardened criminal scum such as jaywalkers and litterers. Often bizarrely Genre Savvy, but this generally backfires (because This Is Reality) — extreme cases may simply be Genre Savvy for the wrong genre.

If he does manage to accomplish something good, it's usually through sheer luck rather than skill. If he gets lucky enough times to actually get people to believe in him, he may become a Fake Ultimate Hero. If he's very lucky, he may have a Hypercompetent Sidekick watching his back.

If Lord Error-Prone is meant to be a sympathetic character, he is often portrayed as a well-meaning, but clueless Wide-Eyed Idealist. Otherwise, he is a laughable excuse for a knight at best and a pathetic hypocrite or bully at worst.

Usually played for laughs, but there is something disturbing when one thinks about what might happen if such a character had any real influence.

Don Quixote is perhaps the Trope Maker, and most characters of this type will end up fighting windmills as a Shout-Out.

See Failure Knight. Compare General Failure, Miles Gloriosus, and Modern Major General. Lord Error-Prone is a knight who errs, but should not be confused with a Knight Errant.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Amelia Wil Tesla Seillune from Slayers is an example of the sympathetic type (although she does have moments of competence). To a lesser extent, so is her father, Prince Phil. He talks and looks funny, but acts more as Reluctant Warrior or Knight in Shining Armor. Amelia performed pratfalls until it became a Running Gag. He preaches to the ghosts and they heed him, she has a "Have You Tried Not Being a Monster?" speech even Gourry saw as absurd. In charges without checking what force they face they're about equal, but given how much even top spells fall short, it's not that bad. We just see his better moments rarely because he has much less time on screen. Of course, whenever these two in a line of sight of each other, silliness increases on both sides.
  • Tatewaki Kuno from Ranma ½ comes from wealthy samurai stock, and speaks in flowery poetic text. He is always easily defeated by most of the other characters, but is always supremely confident and arrogant. He is too stupid to notice that Ranma is a Gender Bender, and not two separate people. He's actually seen him transform right in front of him numerous times.
  • Shuutaro Mendo from Urusei Yatsura, possibly Kuno's literary ancestor, is much the same. He's incredibly wealthy, carries a sword everywhere he goes, and generally acts the cool sophisticate, an act for which the local girls fawn over him in adoration. Scratch the gloss, however, and he's really no better than Lovable Sex Maniac Ataru Moroboshi himself. In fact, he's debatably worse, given that he's utterly afraid of the dark, claustrophobic, and a Dirty Coward, while Ataru is capable of insane acts of bravery and determination.
  • Leo from Scrapped Princess.
  • An episode of the Kirby anime features a guest character who is pretty much an Expy of (and Shout-Out to) Don Quixote, replacing chivalric novels with comic books and cartoons. He ends up being treated sympathetically, especially because he's a senile old man whose delusions are pretty much his will to live. And then he helps Kirby fight a windmill monster.
  • America in Hetalia: Axis Powers is always loudly declaring that he's "The Hero" but in reality he's rather clueless and he only annoys the other countries. In fanfiction, this translates to him being anything from a hopeless idiot obsessed with superheroes to a genuinely well-intentioned but incompetent idealist.
  • Darker than Black's Gai Kurosawa (not his real name; he chose it to sound cool) likes to think he's a gritty, badass gumshoe P.I. in the style of a Raymond Chandler novel, that he was kicked out of the police force for thinking outside the box, and his Perpetual Poverty is all part of the romance of his lifestyle. In actuality, his hardships are a result of being a pretty piss-poor investigator who jumps to whatever conclusion seems the most dramatic, and the only connection he has to what's really going on is proximity.
  • Bleach has the incredibly annoying psychic Don Kan'onji, whose ego knows no bounds. A television personality rather than any actual nobility, he turns out in his first appearance to be just enough not a fake that he's been turning ghosts into hollows industriously, thinking he's exorcising them.
  • The sisters Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu from Koihime†Musou.
  • In Ramen Fighter Miki, shopkeeper Akihiko Jumped at the Call to find Toshiyuki believing himself the Red Ranger and his friends part of a Sentai Show, but he fails to ask for the description of Toshiyuki, lost time asking other children for him, and when he believes he's found him, he attacks an Angry Guard Dog that seems to menace a child (that dog never wanted to attack the child and Curb Stomp battles Akihiko). Also, the dog really is Toshiyuki.

    Comic Books 
  • Groo the Wanderer: This is a regular occurrence for the barbarian protagonist, usually when he finds a new cause to "champion".
  • Elrod of Melvinbone from Cerebus the Aardvark is a parody of both Elric and Foghorn Leghorn. Despite seeing himself as a heroic crusader, he's a monumentally stupid Cloudcuckoolander who comes across as somewhat less competent than his avian counterpart.

    Films — Animated 
  • Syndrome in The Incredibles when he's trying to be a superhero. The people in the city are curious, but they ultimately confuse him with other heroes and do not seemed all that impressed with his shoddy displays of heroism.
  • Toy Story
    • Buzz was this for a good part of Toy Story, though Woody hurls most of the insults this way. It's even lampshaded in the sequel when an exasperated Buzz, faced with his other self's antics, mutters to himself "Tell me I wasn't this deluded..."
    • The Utility Belt Buzz Lightyear figure in Toy Story 2, who has the same identity crisis as the original Buzz. This time, instead of being impressed and curious, the other toys get quickly tired of the schenangians.
    • And in Toy Story 3 original Buzz again, now used as a gulag guard by the evil daycare cabal. Apparently being returned to factory settings causes you to imprint on the first bossy people you talk to, if you're a military type. Although his acrobatics are freaking awesome.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Sir Didymus from Labyrinth is one of the sympathetic variety.
  • In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, there's a scene where Lancelot charges a castle to rescue a trapped princess (or so he thinks — the person in question is neither trapped nor a princess). To the blares of triumphant music, he heroically storms through its halls and towers, cutting down the "princess'" foul captors... or, more accurately, the hapless members of the castle's staff and wedding guests who happen to be nearby. He even takes a detour into the courtyard to slaughter the dancers. And even after he understands the real situation and befriends the king, he almost does it a second time before being stopped.

  • Don Quixote is the Ur-Example here, and most of the windmill-jousting and chivalry-claiming that comes after is derivative — the rest is a Shout-Out.
  • Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell from the novel Good Omens.
  • Eyck of Denesle, the paladin/knight errant from one of A. Sapkowski's The Witcher stories.
  • Obvious mention goes to Lord Rust from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. All nobles were like this to a lesser or greater extent, but Lord Rust stands out as by far the worst offender.
    • This is nothing new either — in Night Watch, the only difference between Rust 30 years ago and Rust now is a mustache. And Sybil tells Sam (from experience, presumably) that describing him as an "inbred streak of piss" is perfectly accurate, and that to comply with Fred Colon's suggestion about what to do with the badge, Rust would need a hammer.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • High Lord Weiramon, one of the most powerful nobles in his country. In battle he's forever almost getting the entire army wiped out with suicidal cavalry charges. In conversation he's forever offending all the people he's supposed to work with. And in politics he never notices that he's only getting important jobs to keep him too busy to hatch plans of his own. But his ability to consistently fail in the way that does as much damage to the cause as possible, and his near-miraculous ability to keep surviving suicidal cavalry charges unscathed (right down to his immaculately waxed beard) seem a little too neat, leading many fans to suspect that this Lord Error-Prone may actually be one of the most fiendishly cunning villains in the series. They were right. Sort of right. Fans believed him to be one of the Forsaken (magic users high on the Sorting Algorithm of Evil), but it turned out that he was just a mook that was doing his damnedest to screw up Rand's plans.
    • Another example is Abdel Omerna, the "official" spymaster of the Children of the Light: he's very good at collecting gossip and rumors and believes everything he hears (the opposite of what a good spy should do, according to the Lord Captain Commander), and he's not even aware of the fact that he's only there to divert attention from the actual spymaster. In that case, the cruel twist is that Omerna murders his boss precisely because the Lord Captain Commander doesn't rashly act on the dumb rumors that Omerna collects.
  • Prince Rhun from Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain series. Though not overly proud, he is certainly foolish and bumbling enough for two, and a Wide-Eyed Idealist to boot. Taran loathes him at first, not least because he is a potential husband for Princess Eilonwy. He finally does something right in The High King, when he helps the heroes win a battle by using trickery to fool the enemy soldiers into thinking he was leading a huge number of reinforcements (given how chaotic the battle was, along with the presence of a lot of magical smoke, the enemy soldiers panicked and fell out of formation before realizing the bluff). Sadly, the ruse also cost him his life.
  • The demon-hunter Quigley in Robert Lynn Asprin's Another Fine Myth.
  • Sir Michael Sevenson from Hilari Bell's Knight and Rogue Series, has moments of this. For example, in the first book he accepts a commission to rescue a Damsel in Distress who's being kept in a tower against her will... only to discover, after the lady is long gone, that she was being kept in the tower to await trial for killing her husband. Oops...
  • Sooni from Tales of MU is one of the more villainous examples.
  • Prince Therandil, Cimorene's erstwhile fiance in Dealing with Dragons, definitely qualifies. Most notable, of course, are his bumbling attempts to "rescue" Cimorene from Kazul, but his accidental release of a djinn that wants to kill them both is a contributing factor too.
  • In Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series, most books have some variant of these. The odds are about 50/50 that Sharpe will kill them eventually.
  • Flashman has a few of these, most notably Lord Cardigan, Lord Lucan, and Lord Raglan, the men responsible for the Charge of the Light Brigade.
  • Tim Diamond, in the Diamond Brothers books by Anthony Horowitz, genuinely believes he's a brilliant detective, despite the fact all his cases are solved by his younger brother, Nick.
  • Ignatius J. Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces suits this trope down to a T, with the exception of a single character believing him to be successful. The only two characters that "believe in him" only support him so that he'll cause a disaster that would be beneficial to them.
  • Sir Pellinore from T. H. White's The Once and Future King. He's basically harmless, though; his entire life is subsumed in (unsuccessfully) pursuing the Questing Beast.
    • It does become serious later, when he accidentally kills King Lot in a duel, prompting Lot's sons to kill him in revenge. It takes a lot of coaxing from King Arthur to talk Pellinore's last surviving son into not killing Lot's sons in retribution.
  • Sulla from the Ciaphas Cain series isn't actually a bad soldier — she becomes one of the Imperial Guard's most famous generals later in her career, and her troops have high morale and confidence in her — but Cain sees her as this trope, because her enthusiasm clashes rather badly with his "Stay as far out of the fighting as possible" sensibilities. He never realized it, but she was actually modeling her entire approach after how she perceived him.
    • Plus, she's got a preachy, Purple Prose-laden writing style that seems deliberately crafted to annoy the reader.
  • Brother Verber from Arly Hanks: a correspondence-course preacher who periodically becomes convinced he's the one thing standing between his town and Satan, so gets drunk on sacramental wine and heads out to do battle. Hilarity Ensues... assuming he doesn't get distracted by the porn he "researches" so he'll know what he's up against.
  • Hank of Hank the Cowdog faces imaginary threats almost as often as he faces legitimate ones. There's even a sequence where he and his sidekick, Drover, confuse a thunderstorm with an enemy invasion. Of course the fact that he has gone toe-to-toe with actually dangerous enemies gives him a little more credit than most.
  • In the prologue of Shadows of Self, Lord Waxillium Ladrian has shades of this. He's still a bit clueless about how life in the Roughs actually works, and how widespread a successful criminal's influence can be. Fortunately, he has his impressive Allomancy and Feruchemy powers to help him out of tight spots, Awesomeness by Analysis, and a smattering of Crazy Enough to Work going for him. Not to mention, pretty much literally being looked after by an Angel of God. Notably, he grows out of this very quickly, becoming one of the most competent, respected, and feared lawmen of the day.
  • The Marvellous Land of Snergs: Sir Percival introduces himself as a knight in shining armor on a grand crusade to fight and/or slay rival knights, wicked men, dragons and monsters for his beloved's sake, who promised to say some unspecified words to him if he committed some undetermined number of knightly deeds. It doesn't occur to him that nobody wants to meet his challenge because they regard him as a big coward who wears an oversized, cumbersome armor, and is too clueless to realize "his" lady was clearly looking for an excuse to get him off her back.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Group Captain Rodney Crittendon from Hogan's Heroes, so incompetent that Hogan feels the best place for him to serve the Allied war effort is in a German prisoner of war camp. Just not Stalag 13.
  • Inspector Sledge Hammer from the cop drama spoof Sledge Hammer!, who resorts to over-the-top brutal methods for the smallest of crimes (like tying a speeder to the hood of his car as an ornament), and using lethal force at the drop of a hat while at the same time having the common sense of a slightly moldy fairy cake. There's the time he blew up an entire building with a rocket launcher to get the sniper on the roof (though at least he asked whether it'd been evacuated first), and the incident that provoked this exchange:
    Sledge Hammer: The two men then pointed their shotguns at the clerk, so I took out my magnum and shot and killed them both. I then bought some eggs, and milk, and some of those little cocktail weenies.
    Reporter: Inspector, was what you did in the store absolutely necessary?
    Sledge Hammer: Oh yes, I had almost no groceries at all.
  • Stephen Colbert (the character, not the actor) of The Colbert Report. The only thing more profound than his logical fallacies and delusions of righteousness is his ego. To quote the man himself: "This country 'tis of me, sweet man of liberty."
  • "Captain Eureka" on Eureka, whose ineptitude comes from him recycling old defective products that were thrown out by Global Dynamics. As Carter points out, the guy's more likely to hurt anyone or himself than anything else.

    Video Games 
  • Anomen from Baldur's Gate II — a paladin-wannabe who can't even get his class right (he is a warrior/cleric rather than an actual paladin). However, he can prove to be a capable party member (especially if you need a Holy Hand Grenade), and if you do his quests right he eventually matures a bit (reflected by an in-game boost to his Wisdom stat and a noticeable change in his formerly insufferable personality).
  • Steiner from Final Fantasy IX, particularly on the first disc.
    • Though it should be noted, his main failings were his misplaced loyalty and the fact that his rival's biggest strength was cunning. He also undergoes a lot of Character Development over the course of the game and eventually makes even with Zidane, realizes his queen's misdeeds and finds true love. All of that helps him become much more competent.
  • Snow from Final Fantasy XIII. Him and NORA do save lives during the Purge, but his reckless bravado and belief that heroes don't need plans ends up costing several resistance fighters their lives, including Hope's mother. Even after his Character Development, with Snow himself lampshading making a plan, he still causes massive chaos when the party returns to Cocoon... because he forgot to cover his :'Cie brand. Though even if he had, the people would've descended into chaos anyway due to later events.
  • In Oblivion, Viranus Donton, the son of the Fighters Guild Master, Vilena, is an incredibly enthusiastic fighter, but also incredibly unskilled in combat, in part because his mother coddles him and won't let him fight after his brother's death. In fact, he's probably the worst follower NPC in the entire game. During one quest, the player is asked to "show him the ropes" by escorting him on a fairly pedestrian monster-slaying expedition. However, it is incredibly easy for him to die (or at least be knocked unconscious due to his essential status), as he charges any enemies recklessly, no matter how strong they are, and doesn't run away when he's in danger of dying.
    • Farwil Indarys is an even more blatant example — he heads an order of knights that mainly serve to bolster his ego, and tends to give a lot of ridiculous speeches that invariably end with "Huzzah!". He also has the same tendency to blindly charge into enemies as the above example, though in fairness that's simply how all follower NPCs are programmed to act. Much more irritating in that he's not considered essential (and therefore killable), but letting him die screws you out of some decent quest rewards.
      • The easiest method of keeping Farwil alive is to leave him behind. NPCs only fight when they're in the same area as you; leaving one behind a loading screen keeps them safe from everything ever, and unlike other NPCs Farwil can be saved without meeting him again as he's in the Oblivion Gate, which will throw him out when you close it.
      • Just to note, NPCs actually have a relatively complicated procedure for determining whether to run or fight based on their level, the opponent's level, their health, and their own aggression. So, while Farwil and Viranus are artificially stupid, they were designed to be that way.
  • Princess L'Arachel of Rausten, from Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, combines this with Genki Girl and Well, Excuse Me, Princess!. Unlike others, she does learn how to fight properly and gets better.
  • Dan Hibiki. He got kicked out of the dojo he was training at for his vengeful motives and thus created his own style, Saikyo (Strongest), which is anything but, yet Dan foolhardily believes himself to be Number 1 no matter how often or hard he gets his ass handed to him by the other, more competent fighters.
  • This is essentially Yuan Shao's depiction in Dynasty Warriors, particularly at the Battle of Guan Du.
    • It's worth noting that Yuan never had any major failures until he went up against Cao Cao, indisputably one of the greatest generals of his time. Anyone not similarly brilliant is going to come away from that not looking too good.
  • Baron Praxis is an example of an error-prone lord who's a threat to everyone.
  • Conrad Verner, Shepard's number one fan, from Mass Effect. In the first game, he attempts to convince Shepard to make him a member of the Spectres, an elite space peacekeeping group. (It doesn't work.) If Shepard manages to convince him that it would be a bad idea, he gets it and backs off...until the second game, where you find him at a bar on Illium, wearing a replica of Shepard's default armor in an attempt to be "truly extreme." (It still doesn't work.) If Shepard doesn't manage to get him to stop in either game, he ends up getting himself killed. The way in which he fits this trope is perhaps best exemplified in this exchange:
    Shepard: Conrad, do you have any military training?
    Conrad: I'm out saving the galaxy! I don't have time for training!
  • King Cailan of Dragon Age: Origins, at least in the view of Lord Loghain. While he admits to the king's prowess with a sword, he's utterly dismayed with the man's choice of bravado and "a battle to tell stories about" rather than tactical strategy. While he did have a point to a certain degree (lining the first platoon of your army up *outside* the giant stone fortress walls is usually not suggested) his methods of showing his disapproval were... Questionable, at best.
    • To explain, Loghain pulled his reinforcements out instead of trying to save the king when the battle was going badly. Everyone else saw this as betrayal, but he and his men insist it was declining an act of suicide. Cailan wouldn't have even been on the front line if he had listened to Logain earlier.
    • It's worth noting that Loghain distrusts the Wardens as well (viewing them as Orlesian spies, which if one looks at Warden/Chantry/Orlais history... isn't entirely unfounded). He does view them as capable — even offering encouraging words to Wardens of certain races/genders — but not necessary. This, however, shouldn't be taken to mean he was planning on ditching them at the first possible opportunity. The real error prone is just that, he didn't view them as necessary and thought them in league with Orlais despite claiming neutrality. He wasn't informed of details like the Joining, the dreams, or how a Warden must sacrifice themselves to permanently end a Blight (usually). And while he did have an escape plan in mind for Ostagar and didn't want Cailan to be a Glory Hound on the front lines, any decent general plans for that. So he wouldn't have ditched the Wardens just because of his distrust. Really, Ostagar was not something one can say was just Loghain's fault. Everyone there takes a piece of the pie.
  • Ratchet & Clank:
    • Captain Qwark thinks he's such a badass that the universe wouldn't last a second without him. In reality, Captain Qwark has never done anything competent.
    • Perhaps rather worryingly, while Qwark does exemplify this trope in later games, Qwark in the first game is a cunning and psychotic henchman to the real Big Bad who tricks the heroes into multiple death traps before engaging in a full out space battle. In the second game he overruns an entire galaxy with deadly mutants so he could use their defeat to clear his name. He's still dumb, but seems to be purely using his hero status for fame rather than out of sincerity.
    • Downplayed in Ratchet & Clank (2016). While he lacks intelligence, his physical skills are not similarly lacking, as his boss fight against Ratchet is genuinely challenging, and he pulls an, albeit ineffectual, Heel–Face Turn by the end.
  • Daerred and his adventuring party in Neverwinter Nights 2. As long as you don't lie to them, they bumble their way through all the dangers and make a return, alive and well, in Storm of Zehir.
  • Here Dark Souls's Siegmeyer of Catarina sits, in quite a collection of pickles. A somewhat foolhardy knight who journeyed to the incredibly dangerous land of Lordran on a whim, you usually encounter him after he's managed to get himself into yet another jam. Though he is usually content to just stand around and not get in your way and happily rewards you for your help, it is possible for him to make one mistake too many and end up Hollow.
    • It's actually more complicated than that. It is exactly by saving him all the time that he loses faith in his own skills and his self-esteem plummets, which is the only thing keeping an Undead from going full Hollow.
    • His successor Siegward in Dark Souls III is similarly prone to getting into trouble, although he is at least a capable fighter when he's not having his armour stolen or failing to figure out an elevator or getting locked in prison.
  • Emperor Kanbei in the first Advance Wars absolutely reeked of this trope, often combining it with Didn't Think This Through. A prime example is in his third mission, where, after getting trounced by the player in the previous mission due to his lack of bases with which to reinforce his troops, he decides to snag himself a base of his own... on the middle of an island with no way off. Hell, the whole reason you even end up fighting him in the first place is because your army needed to pass through his country, and he immediately jumped to the conclusion that you were trying to invade instead. Thankfully, this pretty much evaporates come the second game: while still prone to Honor Before Reason, he's overall a much more competent leader.

  • Sir Balin in Arthur, King of Time and Space, per his portrayal in Le Morte d'Arthur. Among his blunders are killing one of Arthur's relatives (Balin was trying to defend Arthur's claim to the throne against an unidentified knight who claimed his family had claim the throne, not realizing the knight's heraldry was Arthur's), and misinterpreting a remark from Arthur to round up all the male children born in May of that year to prevent a prophecy leading to Arthur's death (Arthur proposed it to Merlin as a sarcastic hypothetical, but Balin overheard the wrong part of it and thought it was a genuine order).
  • Othar Tryggvassen — Gentleman Adventurer! from Girl Genius is a textbook case — at least in regards to the main characters. He is competent, but nowhere close to Agatha or Baron Wulfenbach, both of whom he has antagonized at one point or another.
    • Add insult to injury that he seems to be more or less impervious to harm, having been hit in the head with an oversized wrench that would likely kill most people and thrown out of an airship well over the needed height for terminal velocity on three different occasions.
    • To his credit, he is smarter than he initially seems, although that's not much of a challenge. To quote Agatha, "How can a person so dumb be so smart?!"
    • To further complicate his record, he's (quasi-justly) famous as a hero, and is also a competent Serial Killer with a cause. Batshit crazy and determined to wipe mad scientists from the earth.
  • Sir Muir in Harkovast while brave and skilled at fighting, often falls under this trope as he is very easily confused and distracted both in and out of combat.
  • Largo in MegaTokyo.
    • Largo is an interesting example - he spent his entire life in America chasing zombies and monsters that didn't exist, only to travel to Japan where things like zombie invasions were normal parts of life. His error-prone nature came in with him failing to realize that the government organized when those events happened, so him trying to single-handedly take them on just got him in trouble with the law for disrupting the process.
  • Tyler Dawn in morphE.

    Web Original 
  • Happens more often than one would think in Survival of the Fittest, usually with a character who tries to be a hero and ends up getting either himself, someone he was trying to protect, or both of them killed. Sidney Crosby (yes, the hockey player) is the most famous example so far
    • An excellent example in v4 would be Aaron Hughes. He decided right off the bat that he was going to start an escape group. Thing is, though, it's pretty obvious he isn't a good leader, as characters often point out flaws in his plans. Not only that, but he also shows signs of being a Manipulative Bastard, to the point where some handlers call him "the true villain of v4".
  • Stalwart, at Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe. He even has power armor he's built himself, and a robotic horse which constantly malfunctions.
    • And off the school grounds, in Boston, you have the Lamplighter — basically a Green Lantern expy who's not really quite living in the same 21st century America as everybody else and who the city's police would probably be happier to do without but can't really do much about either.
  • In Tales Out of Tallis Rien manages to thwart the bad guys' plans mostly by accident.

    Western Animation 
  • Spaceship captain Zapp Brannigan from Futurama, a loutish incompetent bumbling arrogant warmongering fool who believes himself to be sexy, competent, admired, indispensable etc.
  • Lord Pain from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. Also the titular Reaper, who tries so very hard to be scary but usually ends up being eaten/mutilated/disintegrated by the Monster of the Week.
  • Every "heroic" character played by Daffy Duck: Robin Hood Daffy; Dripalong Daffy; Stupor Duck; Doorlock Holmes; Duck Twacy; The Scarlet Pumpernickel; Sgt. Joe Monday; Boston Quackie; and, most famously, Duck Dodgers. Many of these feature Porky Pig as a Hypercompetent Sidekick.
    • Might actually be the source of this trope's name. Duck Dodgers played a character called "Lord Error Prone" (which was partly a parody of Robin Hood Daffy) in the Cartoon Network series.
    • Likewise, the similar characters played by Plucky Duck in Tiny Toon Adventures.
    • And, of course, Daffy's descendant Danger Duck in Loonatics Unleashed.
  • Hong Kong Phooey, the "Number One Super-Guy" who can't even go into his disguise cabinet to change without incident.
  • Subverted slightly by Lord Bravery, of Freakazoid! fame, who seems to be aware that he's this sort of character, but plays it out the best he can anyway.
  • DuckTales (1987): Gizmo Duck has a rather capable mechanical suit of armor and he's a quick thinker. Unfortunately all of his plans are absurd overkill and have drawbacks he never thought of because he went too far.
  • Inspector Gadget. Believes his own hype (and everyone else does, too), but in reality couldn't deduce his way out of a wet paper bag, or figure that the criminals surrounding him wearing the logo of his archenemy might in fact be enemies. (He gets a pass on not recognising his dog in disguise, since no-one else there can.)
    • However, he becomes scarily competent on the rare occasions when he becomes fully aware of the situation, which is usually when he realizes his niece Penny is in real danger.
  • Invader Zim is a villainous version of this trope. Thinks he's the most badass Irken warrior there ever was. Couldn't be farther from the truth.
  • Captain Peter "Wrongway" Peachfuzz from Rocky and Bullwinkle. He's so consistently wrong that a tribe of island natives use him as a weather predictor—by expecting the opposite of his weather predictions.
  • Sir Roderick in Gawayn, whose heart is undoubtedly in the right place. Now if only he knew where his brain was.
    • The Duke also, all of his plans tend to be foiled by the Questers with ease, or they backfire on him in the end.
  • Another villainous example is Voltar of the League of Super Evil. He thinks he's the world's greatest evil tyrant, but in fact he's the epitome of the Harmless Villain.
  • Similar to him is Plankton in SpongeBob SquarePants. He constantly boasts that he is an evil genius but his own plans always fall apart on him.
    • SpongeBob himself is often one, his attempts at being helpful causing more chaos instead. This is most visible on the episode "Hall Monitor", where his misguided tactics have the police labeling him a maniac, whom SpongeBob then tries to track down.

    Real Life 
  • Jack Thompson, whose efforts at banning "demoralizing" video games earned him worldwide notoriety and resentment, as well as many harassment and professional misconduct lawsuits...
    • He was eventually permanently disbarred for his increasingly in(s)ane actions. Among other things, it turns out you probably shouldn't include gay porn in a deposition.
  • "Superheroes"
  • The Charge of the Light Brigade, an accidental suicide charge.
  • General George Armstrong Custer. Earned a record number of demerits during his time at military academy, won several Civil War engagements at great cost to his men (his only tactic was to charge), was court-martialed for going absent from his command and having deserters shot without trial, accused a close friend of President Grant of corruption without a scrap of evidence, and was regarded, by himself and others, as a great Indian fighter despite evidence to the contrary. He inspired fierce loyalty from some, and equally fierce loathing from others and still causes arguments today. Then there was that other thing...