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Starter Villain

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"So... Tremonius has fallen. A victim of the Master Chief's might. Do not fool yourself. He was not the best of the Banished. Not by any measure."
Escharum, Halo Infinite

A Subtrope of Arc Villain, the Starter Villain ranks the lowest on the Sorting Algorithm of Evil (the heroes have to start off fighting someone). They are the first true threat to the heroes, not just some common Mook who's there to let them show how badass they are. Expect even the weakest member of the heroic team to eventually become more powerful than them (that is, if they survive). The Starter Villain is not always associated with the intended Big Bad of the whole series, usually having a whole story arc to themself. If the overall antagonist is The Empire (possibly in a setting with some degree of Grey-and-Gray Morality), the Starter Villain might be some petty bureaucrat who, in getting The Hero to oppose them, makes The Empire oppose them (and vice-versa) on principle.

As writers can't always have the Starter Villain fighting the whole team at once, they'll sometimes have Mooks who are nearly always doomed to die. The villain may have a sliver of a chance to survive, but none of their henchmen will make it.

If the series is not based on a pre-existing work, and the writers are making it up as they go along, a Starter Villain can end up turning into a Breakout Villain if the fans and/or the writers end up liking them enough.

See also: Wake-Up Call Boss. Sometimes, these may be the Disc-One Final Boss. It's not uncommon for Starter Villains to be Token Motivational Nemeses as well. If they're in a Video Game, they may be the Warm-Up Boss. If the Starter Villain remains important to the plot, they're a case of Starter Villain Stays.



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    Fan Works 
  • Nedzu deliberately sets up the violent vigilante "King" as one in Mastermind: Rise of Anarchy, letting him 'secretly' operate as the violent vigilante so as to let Uraraka take him down and unmask him as Bakugou Katsuki, to further his goal of grooming of her to become a new Symbol of Peace.
  • Megami no Hanabira: Kaiwan is the first genuine threat the girls encounter, killing a Flock member right in front of Sara and one more offscreen earlier in the story. He even manages to take down one of their demons for the first time, and they ultimately defeat him through treachery rather than sheer force.
  • Luminosity: James and Victoria are the first intentional threat to Bella's life, and are killed fairly quickly via Summon Bigger Fish on the biggest vampires around.
  • White Devil of the Moon: Jadeite, whose attack on Kyouya's wedding is the first battle between the heroes and the villains.
  • Pony POV Series: In the side story "Gaiden: 7 Dreams/Nightmares", Film Critique (aka the Pegasus Despot) is this to Patch. He's the first antagonist in her quest for the Rainbow of Light shards, but while he manages to trick her into a defeat in their first fight, he goes down easily the second time, and compared to Basil and Grogar, isn't much of a threat. It's implied that the next villain she fought would have been more of a Big Bad, but sadly, the Doctor negated that adventure.
  • Azula Trilogy: Heart of Fire sets up General Azun as the Big Bad, but by the end of the story it's clear that his visions aren't hallucinations, and he really is being manipulated by a spirit (Zhan Zheng, the Spirit of War, actually), who abandons him at the end of the story, and moves on to use other pawns for the rest of the trilogy.
  • Friendship Is Aura has the dragon Razorfang, the self-proclaimed King of the Everfree, who challenges — and is defeated by — Lucario early on. He doesn't provide nearly as much of a threat as Chrysalis or Lord Tartarus.
  • The Prayer Warriors has a few.
    • Grover, Clarisse's rational study group and Annabeth in "The Evil Gods Part 1". They're killed off in fairly short order to prove the Prayer Warriors' power, until Percy Jackson is set up as the initial Arc Villain.
    • Wawa the Titan in "The Titans Strike Back". He's the first of the five Titans to be killed off.
    • Horus for the "Attack of the Sphinx" story, as the first of the Egyptian Gods William faces.
  • In Perfection Is Overrated, Hitomi is the first SUE the Himes fight against, although Mariko had been inadvertently killed by Miyu defeating Akane, and their memories had been wiped of her. The Himes fight against Hitomi unaware of her true nature or that there are others like her, which only becomes apparent after her defeat.
  • In The Captain of the Virtual Console, offshoots of the Thoughtless are fought in Chapter 2, and a fully-grown one in chapter 4.
  • Shadowchasers (Cyber Commander): The first Shadowkind seen is the ophidian Hebi-Na, and while her role in that fic isn't all too big, she plays a much bigger role in Shadowchasers: Power Primordial, where Ember starts to regard her as an Arch-Enemy. (However, she makes a Heel–Face Turn in a later work.)
  • Enter Ken Finlayson: Moloch the Death Raptor. He shows up half-way and is killed off in the second to last chapter in the first story in a series of fan fictions.
  • Risk It All: At the end of it all, Black Mask is just Ren's first villain and not an especially powerful one beyond his mob connections. Ren demolishes him in two hits, crippling Black Mask for the rest of his life. Ren even discusses this, saying that he traded Black Mask for a much grander enemy in his own family, as his grandparents were willing to attempt to murder his dad for the sake of politics.
  • Transcendence: Rah'zesh, the leader of the Hatecrest Naga. He's the first real threat that Ichigo is forced to tangle with on Azeroth, but he isn't particularly impressive. He has no magical abilities or special weapons. He's just a larger-than-average naga. Compared to later threats, he's little more than an Elite Mook.
  • Fractured Fates: Though not exactly a villain in the traditional sense, Azami Kurobe still acts as this, being the first blackened student.
  • The World is Filled with Monsters: Blightweaver the Giant Spider. It's a terrifying, seemingly unstoppable threat when it appears, but it's dealt with early into the story and it later becomes evident that it's only a part of much, much vaster stirrings, and far from the most dangerous thing out there in the wild.
  • Urabumi is this to Izuku in inFAMOUS Hero Academia, as she's the first super-villain he faces in his journey to become a hero, having been hired by All For One's hooded associate.
  • Fairy May Cry: The first arc in the first story has Vergil be this, with the amounts of defeats he hands to the Fairy Tail members establishing the kind of villains that they'll be facing in the story.
  • Hunters of Justice: Upon arriving on Earth following Remnant's destruction and spending time recuperating and training with the Justice League, Teams RWBY and JNPR's first major outing has them helping the Batman Family stop the Scarecrow from spreading his fear gas throughout Gotham, making him their first DC Super-Villain that they encounter.
  • The Ghost of Ochs: Monica's first opponent after returning to the Officers Academy is Raine, a carriage robber causing trouble in Ochs territory, and an accomplice to Monica's kidnapping plot. Raine only has a small squad of henchmen at her disposal, and after she is defeated, Edelgard opts to place her under arrest instead of killing her outright. She gets pushed to the background once "those who slither in the dark" begin making moves in the second story arc.
  • The Scary Cases of Scooby-Doo has the Moat Monster, an amphibious creature that seemingly intruded a haunted house attraction, but is actually Gill Beaman, as a ticket seller for said attraction). It's the first monster that the Mystery Inc. gang deals with in the narrative, and the one to fully get them out of retirement from mystery-solving.

    Films — Animation 
  • As the Big Bad of the first Ice Age movie, Soto is the first full-on villain the herd goes up against. His ambitions and danger level are fairly low - he only intends to kill a baby to get revenge against a human tribe - and any threat he poses is primarily because of his pack, with multiple villains outdoing him in terms of threat level; Rudy is far bigger and stronger, Captain Gutt has an entire pirate crew and ship and is a much stronger fighter, and Gavin tried to ensure the asteroid would wipe out every mammal on Earth.
  • Kung Fu Panda has an interesting variation with first film's Tai Lung, the first proper villain that Po faces in the entire franchise. He's already reached a high level of mastery by the time he's faced Po and the Furious Five and is more powerful and skilled than Shen, the sequel villain. However, threat level-wise, Shen is still greater than Tai Lung because he has an entire army, advanced weaponry, and more grand country-wide ambitions and Tai Lung is completely eclipsed by Kai from the third movie in both threat level and power. On the other hand, taking into consideration the different animated shows, Tai Lung would get utterly demolished by major arc villains like Ke-Pa, Jindiao, the White Bone Demon, Zuma with some Tianshang weapons, and a fully Tiangshang-empowered Sir Alfred whom not even Po was able to overcome after years of experience but is likely still far more dangerous and powerful compared to some of Po's regular Rogues Gallery like Fung, Hundun, Tong Fo, Temutai, Junjie, and Taotie, placing Tai Lung in that unique niche of being a Starter Villain who stays strong relative to the entire franchise since there are later villains who surpass him in power and threat level, but not every single later villain Po faces necessarily reaches his level either.
  • The Land Before Time: Sharptooth is the very first carnivorous dinosaur antagonist faced by Littlefoot and his gang in the first movie. But in comparison to future villains of the franchise, Sharptooth remains exceedingly dangerous and menacing compared to a later carnivore like Red Claw who got chased off by Littlefoot's gang throwing fruit at him. Even after the first movie, there aren't many other carnivorous villains who are able to match him, let alone surpass him, making Sharptooth a rare beginner antagonist in an animated film franchise where the Sorting Algorithm of Evil is inverted in his favor.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The leopard from 2001: A Space Odyssey is an odd example, as it never encounters the main hero of the story. It does, however, act as this to humanity; while not evil, it's the main threat to the tribe of apes destined to become humans at the start of the film. Then the Monolith teaches the apes how to make tools, and their next confrontation goes a lot differently.
  • Back to the Future Part II has Griff Tannen, Biff's grandson. Marty and Doc attempt to stop him from persuading Marty's future son to participate in a robbery; once Griff is out of the picture thanks to crashing into the courthouse, Biff takes over as Big Bad... three separate versions.
  • Excalibur has Uryens, who challenges King Arthur's claim because he is a bastard. After being defeated in battle, he knights Arthur and accepts him as King.
  • The Fast and the Furious series has Johnny Tran, a gang leader and Dom's main opponent in the first film.
  • The Godfather:
    • Sollozzo in Part I. Michael killing him marks the beginning of his Protagonist Journey to Villain.
    • Don Fanucci plays a similar role to Don Vito in Part II, though their confrontation happened prior to the events of the first film.
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom kicks off with Indy battling Lao Che.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade begins with Dr. Jones spending decades trying to recover a jeweled cross belonging to Coronado from a mysterious antique collector.
  • James Bond:
    • In Dr. No, the titular Dr. Julius No is the first main villain of the film series. His defeat kicks off Bond's long-standing rivalry with SPECTRE. However, it is Dr. No's henchman, Jones, who is the first antagonist Bond faces in the film, and by extension, the entire series up to Die Another Day.
    • In Thunderball, Bond has to kill SPECTRE agent Jacques Bouvar before even the opening credits roll.
    • And in GoldenEye he battles Soviet Colonel Arkady Ourumov, who later becomes a General and is shown to be the ally to the film's big bad Alec Trevelyan, the former 006 agent.
    • Bond fights the Cigar Girl during the first scenes in The World Is Not Enough.
    • An unnamed character (who bears a suspicious resemblance to former Big Bad Ernst Stavro Blofeld) in the prologue of For Your Eyes Only, who tries to kill Bond.
    • Dryden is the starter villain in Casino Royale (2006), as his death leads to Bond officially becoming a double-0 agent. Bond spends the rest of the film climbing the villain food chain, going from a hired gun, to Dimitrios, then Le Chiffre, and finally confronting Mr. White.
    • Spectre opens with Bond assassinating terrorist-for-hire Marco Sciarra following an eventful chase through Mexico City that climaxes in a fight aboard a moving helicopter. Sciarra has a good deal more plot influence than the average starter villain, however, as a signet ring taken from his body and testimony from his abused Trophy Wife lead Bond to the realization that all his previous enemies - Le Chiffre, Mr. White, Dominic Greene, Raoul Silva, and the Quantum organization as a whole - had served the same master: Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
    • In something of a change for Bond films, the Soviet hit team at the beginning of The Spy Who Loved Me actually has an impact on the main plot. The team leader of the team was the lover of Major Amasova, the Russian agent Bond works with during the film. She's not happy to find out James killed him.
  • Lethal Weapon:
    • Lethal Weapon (1987) has one each depending on the cut that both show Riggs' skill and his suicidal recklessness. In the theatrical release it's the drug dealers who set up shop at a Christmas tree farm; in the extended cut it's the school shooter.
    • The nameless flamethrower-toting man rocking out to Van Halen who Riggs and Murtaugh confront in the prologue to Lethal Weapon 4.
  • Butch Cavendish from The Lone Ranger (2013) is a notorious outlaw and cannibal. He is just working with his partner Latham Cole in a scheme to steal the silver-rich lands of the Comanche.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a knack for these, often introducing a minor villain who gets his ass beat by the hero before they move on to the real Big Bad.
  • In the context of the MonsterVerse, the MUTOs from Godzilla (2014) are definitely this. Both are killed by Godzilla during the film's climax and they're established as being non-unique when another cameos at the end of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), as well as being completely new characters of no real franchise signifiance. In contrast, the next film in the MonsterVerse features King Kong, a giant monster with an even longer history than Godzilla,note  and then King of the Monsters has Godzilla's longtime archnemesis King Ghidorah not only as the main antagonist but as an actively malicious villain rather than just being a skyscraper-sized animal doing what he does, and he "returns" in Godzilla vs. Kong as a half-dead consciousness in the body of Mechagodzilla and the real Big Bad of the film.
  • Pulgasari has the Governor, the one who is directly oppressing the inhabitants of the village who form the bulk of the good characters. In fact, the very moment after he is killed is when the film first introduces the true Big Bad, the King.
  • Matthew Patel from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is the first of the evil exes that Scott has to fight, and the only one whom Scott requires no special tricks to defeat.
  • Spider-Man:
  • Star Wars:
    • Grand Moff Tarkin for A New Hope is an interesting example. While he's the Big Bad of the film, in terms of the franchise as a whole, he's the first villain that the heroes face and defeat. Prequel works like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels and Rogue One and other expanded material later increased his appearances and prominence and have retroactively turned him into one of the top threats of the entire franchise.
    • In A New Hope, the Tusken Raiders and Greedo serve as seperate versions for different protagonists and highlight their differences. The Tusken Raiders attack the naïve Luke while he searches for R2-D2 in the Jundland Wastes and have to be scared off by Ben Kenobi. Greedo is a Bounty Hunter who tries to collect a price on Han's head, but the streetwise and cynical Han shoots Greedo from under the table.
    • The Wampa for The Empire Strikes Back
    • Jabba the Hutt for Return of the Jedi
    • The Prequel Trilogy (and thus the entire saga) has Viceroy Nute Gunray, who, in contrast to the galaxy-spanning ambitions of the Sith, is simply a cowardly Corrupt Corporate Executive blockading a single planet over a trade dispute. We know he's basically a puppet for the aforementioned Sith from fairly early on, though, and unlike a lot of Starter Villains actually sticks around for a while and continues being a valuable pawn until he finally outlives his usefulness.
    • Zam Wesell for Attack of the Clones. She kickstarts the plot of the film by bombing Senator Amidala's starship, but is captured by the heroes and silenced by Jango Fett in the film's opening minutes.
    • Shockingly, Dooku in Revenge of the Sith. Despite being the second strongest of the bad guys (third if you include Anakin/Vader), he is the first to go down and dies less than 15 minutes in, while Gunray, Grievous, the Separatists, and later the clones (and finally, if you include 'The Clone Wars', Maul) all last longer.
  • Taken has the stalker that Bryan saves singer Sheerah from. He has a minute of screentime, but it's enough to demonstrate Bryan's all-around badassery before the real plot kicks off.
  • The Janitor in Unbreakable is the first real threat David faces, and because he inadvertently exploits David's Kryptonite Factor, he nearly kills David. Killing him and saving the family that the Janitor was terrorizing is the first time David is hailed as a hero, and his mentor Elijah later points out that defeating him is just the first step in David's burgeoning career as a real life hero.
  • In Wild Wild West, Jim West is in pursuit of Bloodbath McGrath, the notorious Confederate who slaughtered the free Negro town of New Liberty. McGrath later reveals that he was just following the order of his superior, Arliss Loveless.

  • Lone Wolf: Vonotar the Traitor is the first named enemy that the fledgling Kai Lord Lone Wolf faces. It's Personal since Vonotar provided the information to the Darklords that made the massacre of the Kai possible. He is name-dropped in the first book, encountered in the second book where his only purpose is to fail against the Sommerswerd, and thrown into a prison dimension at the end of the third book after Lone Wolf hunts him down and captures him. Vonotar is never heard from again as Lone Wolf focuses on the Darklords until Book 11 when Lone Wolf is thrown into the same prison dimension. While Vonotar is more formidable than he was in the past, he still turns out to be little more than a speedbump to the mighty hero Lone Wolf has become.

  • Codex Alera: Atsurak the leader of a Marat barbarian horde. The novice spy races against time and an ex-mentor to Bring News Back to the local Legion's garrison before Atsurak can invade a valley in a rural part of Alera. The Farm Boy gets used as a pawn by another barbarian, an enemy of Atsurak (who himself is being used as a pawn by Lord Aquitaine). Five books later, Atsurak is an afterthought, all the Marat are allies to the Alerans and actually the least important faction in that alliance (well, apart from the fact that one of them is the First Lord's lover) and it's not just the valley that's at stake but all intelligent life in the world. If not for the fact that some Chessmasters from the first book are still around, the first book could be considered separate from the rest of the series.
  • David Copperfield: Mr. Murdstone is the antagonist for the first few chapters before yielding to more serious baddies like Uriah Heep.
  • Dragonlance:
    • The thuggish, cowardly hobgoblin Lord Toede, a mid-ranking minion of the Dragon Overlords. Though never a serious threat, he proved popular enough to get his own spin-off novel.
    • Also applies to his master, Lord Verminaard who served as the Big Bad for the first book.
  • Matilda: Mr Wormwood serves as the antagonist for the first few chapters before the Trunchbull is introduced.
  • New Jedi Order: The first book introduces Prefect Da'Gara and his Praetorite Vong forces, terrifying aliens from beyond the Rim bent on galactic conquest and possessing powers and weapons far beyond anything the galaxy has ever seen. They live precisely one book- it turns out the Praetorite Vong are only one (largely unimportant) political faction among the Yuuzhan Vong Empire and Da'Gara was just kickstarting the invasion to grab some glory for himself. His troops weren't even particularly well-trained by Vong standards, and the nightmarish Eldritch Abomination he had on a leash as his secret weapon was defective compared to others of its kind. Da'Gara's main purpose was to give the Galaxy a taste of its new threat before being killed off to make way for the real bad guys.
    • However, the same book also introduces Da'Gara's political ally Nom Anor, who not only survived, but would go on to continue making trouble for the Jedi and the New Republic all the way until the final book in the series. He outlives both the Big Bad and The Man Behind the Man (though not by long).
  • Chamdar, alias Asharak, from The Belgariad is an Evil Sorcerer and high-ranked priest in a Religion of Evil who killed The Hero's parents and follows him around for a while in the early part of the series making a general nuisance of himself but is killed spectacularly midway through the second of five books after goading The Hero into unlocking his powers. It is, however, eventually revealed that he was at least partially possessed by the Big Bad.
  • The Dresden Files: Evil Sorcerer Victor Sells is the first bad guy encountered in the series, and gives Harry a major challenge. However, compared to later villains he's small potatoes; he lacks actual training in the use of his magic like later evil wizards had, he was a normal human with no supernatural toughness (unlike the Denarians and most monsters), he had no real connection to the greater magical world, unlike the vampires and fae, and his being entirely self-taught and kinda Drunk on the Dark Side meant he made some serious rookie mistakes. Most of his threat came from siphoning power out of storms, which hampered his ability to act since he had to wait for them. From Harry's perspective his first villain was Evil Mentor Justin DuMorne, but Justin's been dead for years and the actual confrontation is never shown to the audience, Victor takes the role.
    • Unlike most Starter Villains, it turns out that Victor Sells was connected with the series' Big Bad (or at least, one of the Big Bads) the Black Council, or at least with the Red Court. Someone had to teach him that heart-exploding spell, after all....
  • Principal Chapman from Animorphs is the first named Human-Controller the kids encounter and the first five books focus on him rather closely. After that, though, he fades into the background as real threats such as Visser One and Tom make themselves known.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Draco Malfoy is one of the first wizards Harry meets (and the first one his own age), and his general unpleasantness shows how wizards can be as big of jerks as muggles. Dealing with him is a large part of the early books, but even though he repeatedly tries to take a level in badass, he never manages to be anywhere nearly as powerful or evil as the true villains of the piece.
    • In a way, Quirrell in the first book. Despite being possessed by Voldemort himself, he is fairly easy to defeat with The Power of Love, and it's even implied that Dumbledore set up their confrontation as a test for Harry and a warmup for what lay ahead of him.
  • Ishamael in The Wheel of Time is a subversion. He's the main villain of the first three books, calling himself "Ba'alzamon" and presenting himself as the Dark One, only to be killed off at the end of book three. Several books later, a guy called Moridin who has several of the same quirks shows up, and is gradually revealed to indeed be Ishamael reincarnated. Turns out he's the local version of The Antichrist and Rand's opposite number; it's implied that they're destined to eternally be reborn and fight each other across history. Moridin is actually one of the last villains to go down.
  • The Sword of Truth: Darken Rahl.
  • Inheritance Cycle: Eragon: Durza, the shade Eragon faces at the end of said first book. Its downplayed in that he was actually an incredible challenge, leaving Eragon with a crippling injury. But later foes are more challenging politcally or personal, forcing Eragon to learn new skills.
  • Brokenstar in Warrior Cats. Although some of his underlings do make it...
  • Ebenezer Rat in The Book of the Dun Cow is vicious and not afraid to kill, but the later Eldritch Abominations that Chauntecleer faces make him look positively tame. Ebenezer himself is killed by one of them.
  • A Mage's Power: The Cecri the main novices fight on their first mission is their first challenge as a team. On the monster ranking scale, these are C class monsters. The novices are clumsy, sloppy and come close to death. Basilard uses it as a learning experience to demonstrate what skills they need to develop to survive real battles. By the middle of the book, the novices are killing C+ class monsters by themselves.
  • Ms. Dodds and the Minotaur in Percy Jackson and the Olympians are the first monsters Percy fights as his introduction into the world of mythology, both coming in before the introduction of the series' main villains, Kronos and Luke Castellan.
  • In The Balanced Sword trilogy, Kyri Vantage sets out to get justice for the murder of her parents, and ends up thwarting a much larger scheme of which that was only a part. The ringleader of the group who murdered her parents, and also personally murders her older brother when his own investigation gets too close, is the main villain of the first book, and is defeated as its climax.
  • Redwall; Badrang the Tyrant, Big Bad of Martin the Warrior, is this for Martin's story as a whole, with the revolt against him serving as a warm up for Martin's eventual war with Tsarmina in Mossflower.
  • In Imaro, the first enemy the protagonist faces is the sorcerer N'tu-mwaa, who is notably less powerful and established than the brutal warlords and Eldritch Abominations Imaro goes on to fight. He is also only villain in the first book who isn't looking to destroy Imaro in particular - he's just looking to perform a ritual that requires the Human Sacrifice of an Illyassai warrior, and Imaro was the Illyassai warrior his henchmen happened to kidnap.
  • In the first book in the Griezelklas series by Tais Teng, the two vampire girls in the class want to make Meral the witch girl into another vampire and stalk her throughout the book. After their defeat, they're nothing more than an occasional nuisance for Meral throughout the rest of the series (or allies when circumstances force them to), as she faces off against bigger threats such as soul merchants working for the devil or Jerkass Gods.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms; the first major antagonist is Dong Zhuo, a tyrannical and obese warlord that forcibly makes himself Prime Minister and drives the rest of China to revolt with his cruel and corrupt actions. He's killed about a third of the way through the first volume, and his rival Cao Cao becomes the new big threat.
  • Reign of the Seven Spellblades: Vera Miligan, a fourth-year student interested in the pro-demihuman rights movement, turns out to be the primary antagonist of the first volume, having created the errant troll that attacked Katie at the school entrance ceremony in the process of Playing with Syringes to make demis more intelligent so human mages would respect them more. After Katie succeeds in teaching the troll to talk while trying to retrain it so it won't be euthanized, Vera kidnaps her to analyze her brain and figure out how she was able to do it, forcing Oliver and Nanao to battle Miligan. More than anything else, Miligan serves to establish the Blue-and-Orange Morality of the mage world writ large, and after surviving her defeat, she becomes a sort of Evil Mentor to Katie: appreciated for her assistance with various problems the protagonists face, but not trusted and not liked.
  • Shotgun Nun Vol. 2: The Wrath of God has Dr. Thomas Edwards, a snuff film producer who plans on torturing Sophia. In any normal book, he's clearly be the Big Bad. But here, he's a relatively minor villain Sister Eloise kills with little effort, and his death is what triggers the real main antagonist to target Eloise and Sophia.
  • Shen Qingqiu from The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System was this to Luo Binghe as his Sadist Teacher who abused him and condemned him to five years in the Endless Abyss, all of for which he was brutally tortured and killed by a vengeful Luo Binghe... or at least, that's what happened in the original webnovel series he was a character in. His role becomes a lot different in the actual main story when Shen Yuan, a reader of the series, transmigrates into his body and is very much intent on avoiding the original's horrible fate by ingratiating himself to Luo Binghe.

    Multiple Media 
    • Different sorts of Rahi are the introductory villains, both to the Toa Mata team (after they've forgotten their past) and the brand as a whole. They're mind controlled wildlife and a definite threat, but once the Toa collect the masks of power and free the Rahi by ridding them of their infected masks, they're mostly reduced to inconveniences. At the end of the first arc, it's not even the Toa but the Matoran who defeat most of them. Although some particular Rahi like the Manas still pose a threat afterwards.
    • In-universe, chronologically the Toa Mata's first major enemies were the Avohkah energy beings, though they've lost their memories of fighting them. In real life, the Avohkah were only mentioned in the franchise's 8th year in a flashback.
    • The Morbuzakh plant in the 2004 Metru Nui saga. It's the first challenge of the Toa Metru team, and ties into the true main villain's bigger plot. While the Morbuzakh arc was told in a pair of books, multiple comics and six mini CD games, it is overall so negligible to the main story that in the Animated Adaptation Legends of Metru Nui, the Morbuzakh only gets a few second long Continuity Cameo and is never mentioned in the dialogue.
    • In the 2009 Bara Magna saga, Mata Nui in his newly created body has to face a feral Vorox. He beats it with the help of Click, a beetle who can turn into a shield, but lets the Vorox go, only keeping the tail it's lost as a makeshift sword.

     Mythology and Religion 
  • Irish Mythology: Aillen The Burner is this for Fionn Mac Cumhaill. While Fionn's boyhood had him in various clashes with Clann Morna, brigands dire beasts and supernatural threats sent by his Gruesome Grandparent Tadg, the clash with Aillen marks a major milestone in Fionn's story. Fionn managing to defeat Aillen in battle marks the end of Fionn's boyhood, his time living on the run, and his rivalry with Clann Morna. And it begins Fionn's leadership of The Fianna in their golden age, and facing off with grand opponents both mortal and supernatural.

  • The Adventure Zone: Balance has The Black Spider, aka Magic Brian, a low-level wizard who initially seems to be an overarching villain, but who turns out to be a really small fry in the grand scheme of things.
  • The Magnus Archives has Jane Prentiss for Season 1, Jurgen Leitner for Season 2. Both are played up as significant threats to the Archives, but neither is of any real consequence in the larger picture, and both are quickly dispatched..

    Professional Wrestling 
  • ARSION gave Ayako Hamada one hell of a starter villain in head booker Aja Kong. In fact, the only reason she was likely the "starter villain" was because of the conflict of interest that came with being the head booker. Kong really started as Hamada's partner though, and it took Hamada a good two years before she could finally beat Kong, so you could call The Apache Sisters Mary and Faby, Rei Tamada and Hiromi Yagi a series of starter villains until Hamada was ready while Mariko Yoshida was for Arsion as a whole, being billed as the greatest female wrestler in Japan only to suffer The Worf Effect and set up Kong as the undisputed queen.
  • After The Natural Born Sinners broke up due to an injury, Steve Corino became the first major opponent for Homicide during his Ring of Honor singles run. Corino later returned and became the first threat to Homicide following his acquisition of the World Title from American Dragon. (starter villain twice over? Ouch!)
  • ECW had a heel stable called Da Baldiesnote  that often played this role. Da Baldies main purpose was to provide New Jack with bodies to hit with weapons, but they also often jobbed to face teams in tag matches to set up the faces for a showdown with a more important heel stable.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Champions: In the 4E Golden Age Champions book, the Doberman (a nutty dog-themed supervillian) was created to be one of these in-universe. He was an incompetent tomb robber, who ran through prayers to every deity he could think of after being trapped in an Egyptian pyramid and happened to pray to Anubis right before dying. Anubis brought the Doberman back to life and granted him immortality, in order for novice heroes to gain experience by defeating him.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Any single enemy with a challenge rating of two or three. Anything less would need a group to present a serious threat to even a level one party (assuming four players).
    • The introductory adventure in the D&D Basic set in the 1980's (which would likely be a Player's first experience with the game) featured a villain named Bargle the Infamous. While he was rather tame as far as villains go overall, and he did not appear in any other published work, his crime in the adventure - murdering the beautiful female cleric Aleena - left quite an impression and had the potential to make him the Player Characters' hated enemy. (Depending on just how far the DM was willing to expand the character.)
  • The villain of the first book in the award-winning Rise of the Rune Lords adventure path series published by Paizo (and later updated to their own Pathfinder system) is the only villain who doesn't either know about the Runelord of Greed or try to bring him back; her sin isn't even Greed, instead being Wrath. Only after defeating her can the party discover the machinations of Greed.
  • Baron Blade plays this role in Sentinels of the Multiverse, serving as the initial impetus for Legacy to unite Bunker, Absolute Zero, Tachyon and the Wraith to form the Freedom Five...while still being low-difficulty. In the digital version, he's the villain in the tutorial. Akash'bhuta plays a similar role for the Prime Wardens.

  • In The Mario Opera, the infamous first Goomba is the first challenge Mario faces, and jumping on it changes the power dynamics almost instantly.

    Visual Novels 
  • Most of the time in Ace Attorney, the games will outright show the player who the first killer is as a way of easing into the mechanics of the game, while making their contradictions easy to spot.
    • The first game's first culprit, Frank Sahwit, is more than happy to talk about things he should not know if he wasn't the killer, as well as blatantly obvious contradictions. To hammer this home, pressing someone in court is not an option that is suggested until the second case. Even the other first case villains aren't as obvious as this guy is. In addition, he turns out to be a mere burglar who killed the victim to hide his tracks, as opposed to the more personal and/or grandiose motivations of the later culprits.
    • Richard Wellington from Justice for All is just as bad. Just to make sure you really want to take him down, he's also dismissively insulting and an Upper-Class Twit.
    • Both times in the main series that the first killer isn't shown - Dahlia Hawthorne in the third game, Kristoph Gavin in the fourth - they turn out to be the game's Big Bad, with both of them being harder to expose than Sahwit and Wellington.
    • The prosecutor Winston Payne in the first four games, his brother Gaspen in Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justive and their ancestor Taketsuchi Auchi in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, also fulfill this role as Smug Snakes who serve as the prosecutor of each game’s first case.
    • The trope is played with and subverted with a few later games in the series; even though it's minor, a few of the starter villains have a hand in the game's central conflict.
      • Jacques Portsman's true motives aren't revealed until the end of the first Investigations game, where it's revealed he's part of The Syndicate.
      • Horace Knightley/Mannosuke Naito in Investigations 2 is the first case's killer, one of the few who isn’t known immediately, and the second case's Asshole Victim. The game's Big Bad turns out to be his friend, who orchestrated Knightley's death because he believed Knightley betrayed him.
      • In Dual Destinies, Ted Tonate killed Candice Arme but was not the one who blew up the courtroom - the Big Bad did that.
      • In Spirit of Justice, Pees'lubn Andistan'dhin is not only Pat Rohl's real murderer, as well as the one who serves to show just how messed up the Khura'inese legal system is, but also the one that actually got the Founder's Orb to the government, a plot point that becomes important in the final case.
      • In The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures, Jezaille Brett is found to be the first's case killer, but her motives were unknown. Then in the following game, it is revealed that she is an assassin working for the duology's Big Bad. Her regular duty was to kill criminals that escaped a guilty verdict to give Barok van Zieks, the prosecutor who went after said criminals, his "Reaper" reputation. Then she was sent to Japan to kill Dr. Wilson, as he had knowledge that the Big Bad wanted erased.
      • In The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve, the real killer, Raiten Memimemo, murdered Brett because she was going to be tried in a British consular court, where she would be exonerated. As a journalist, Raiten was upset with the apparent crooked dealings between Japan and the British Empire that allowed Brett to walk free.
  • Danganronpa tends to play with this.
    • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, the first killer of the franchise is Leon Kuwata. While it's debatable to what extent the Blackened count as villains, since they're all terrified kids manipulated by Monokuma, this person is the first obstacle Makoto faces, and their case has some fairly obvious weak points, as the crime wasn't premeditated; Leon only tried to kill Sayaka after she attacked him first (though not in self-defense, as he'd already broken Sayaka's wrist and caused her to flee into the shower room). Sayaka even wrote Leon's name on the wall in her own blood; he's the only culprit to be so blatantly connected to the crime scene (though to be fair to the cast for not initially noticing the clue, it's upside-down, mirrored, and in English, making it a lot less obvious to people who aren't native English speakers).
    • The first killer of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is Ultimate Cook Teruteru Hanamura, who is also a member of the Ultimate Despair, but he doesn’t remember this and it was Nagito Komaeda who manipulated him into killing the Ultimate Imposter.
    • In Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, the supposed leader of the Warriors of Hope, Masaru Daimon, is the Warmup Boss of Chapter 1.
    • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony plays with this more than any other installment - the first killer is not Kaede Akamatsu, the one who got executed - Rantaro’s real killer was the Big Bad Ultimate Cosplayer Tsumugi Shirogane, who isn’t exposed until the last chapter. The closest thing to an actual Starter Villain is the second murderer (who kills Ryoma), Ultimate Maid Kirumi Tojo.
  • Tsukihime:
    • Nrvnqsr Chaos in the Near Side routes. Once he is dispatched, Arcueid can concentrate on her main task of finding and defeating Roa.
    • Similarly, Yumizuka Satsuki in the Far Side routes, though an unusual example, since most of the plot is Psychological Horror - Sacchin is mainly there to ensure that we don't forget the series is Urban Fantasy, and aren't offended when the plot ends with stabbing.
    • In -A piece of blue glass moon- (a remake of the Near Side routes), Nrvnqsr is replaced by Vlov Arkhangel, who serves a similar role as an antagonistic threat the heroes face before dealing with Roa.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: First appearing in the Yellow Trailer recruiting men in the background, Roman Torchwick leads the robbery of a Dust shop The Heroine is at in the pilot episode; her fight with him introduces her, the show, and several characters, while setting up the future role of his boss, who is The Heavy. Fan popularity and voice-actor skill resulted in his role being extended beyond its original intention, making him the means by which the main characters are introduced to the Myth Arc. Once the Big Bad's plan kicks into high gear, Roman is killed off, although his sidekick, Neopolitan, returns to the show later on as part of the main villain cast.
  • The first real villain in Red vs. Blue is O'Malley the Card-Carrying Villain AI. He's Laughably Evil to a greater extent than most other villains, and his lack of resources mean that the Blood Gulch Crew can defeat him even before their collective level-ups in badass. Later seasons paint him as capable of posing a far greater threat than he did in Blood Gulch (possessing Caboose and Doc must have done a number on his mental faculties), but he never gets to show it outside of flashbacks as he's quickly collected by the Meta and subsequently killed off.

  • The cats of Scurry are the first major threat the mice face, particularly Wix and Pict. After the first three chapters, the main threat comes from Erebus and his wolf pack.
  • Invoked in Super Stupor, when Lady Diamondback tells Snowy Owl that she's not ready to face off against her and should go after lower-level criminals like drug dealers and crooked cops.
  • In Weak Hero, Jimmy Bae is the first antagonist to pose a serious threat to the heroes after the schoolyard bullies they'd been dealing with up until that point. He's also the first to have a personal connection to them, having faced off against two of them in the past. Despite that, he's only the lowest-ranking head of the Yeongdeungpo Union.
  • Girl Genius: While Agatha doesn't even start to accept that Dr. Beetle was a villain until after his death and he is killed before he can enact his plan involving her, his title as the "Tyrant of Beetleburg" gives some things away, and his attempt to kill her and subsequent death sets the entire plot in motion.
  • The Lysinda Vampires of Sluggy Freelance are the first major threat the gang faces, and kickstart the comic's slow slide into Cerebus Syndrome. While vampires do pop up now and again to menace the heroes, they're generally considered second-string villains compared to the likes of later threats like K'Z'K or Hereti Corp.

    Web Original 
  • The Crew of the Copper-Colored Cupids:
    • Within the series, Lord Thymon was the first foe taken on, on-screen, by the Department of Problem-Solving, in the appropriately-titled Lord Thymon and the Department of Problem-Solving. In his subsequent appearances, Thymon had become a good guy, so this was his one and only outing as an antagonist. Despite being a relatively low-risk mission within the story, it also had profound unforeseen consequences in future stories.
    • In-universe, the Gang of the Green Gorillas were stated to be among the first enemies the Crew as a whole had to face, back in the 1970s. Back in the present day, the Crew pretty firmly outclass the Gorillas who are more of a background comic relief than a threat. (Their bionically-augmented descendants the Detraxxi are perhaps another matter.)
  • How to Hero has an entry on this phenomenon titled "Starter Villains", direclty referencing the trope name.
  • Tails of the Space Gladiators has Dumoscos, a Smug Snake who manages to take out most of the "New Meat" gladiators and is the first gladiator the protagonists must face. Despite appearing as a huge threat, he's killed by David, Reeve, and Ralousha in their first fight, solely to establish that Anyone Can Die regardless of how intimidating they appear and that overconfidence can get even seasoned fighters killed.

    Western Animation  
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
      • Admiral Zhao. While Zuko showed up first, he is initially ineffective against the Gaang, while Zhao is a consistent threat to both the Gaang and Zuko for the entire first season. He's still too confident in his abilities, and is ultimately replaced by the far worse Princess Azula.
      • Prince Zuko is an example by himself. He was the first villain in the series and was often a threat in early Book One episodes; however, he only met the Gaang a few times by the end of the season and acted as more of a mini-boss during the finale. After that he has his own problems to worry about.
    • The Legend of Korra: Amon and the Equalists are the first threats Korra faces in her journey as the new Avatar. While a legitimately dangerous bloodbender with the power to remove one's bending, the stakes are far less compared to future adversaries Korra eventually faces in later seasons: UnaVaatu, Zaheer, and Kuvira.
  • Ben 10: Doctor Animo was the first proper villain Ben took on. He doesn't die, but in subsequent appearances, it's pretty clear that he's nowhere near as dangerous as other threats Ben has faced.
  • DC Animated Universe:
    • Batman: The Animated Series: The main villain of the two-part premiere episode was Canon Foreigner Red Claw, a terrorist leader. The villain of the pilot "On Leather Wings" was Man-Bat, a lesser member of the Rogues Gallery.
    • Superman: The Animated Series: The first threat Superman takes on is a group of terrorists hired by Lex Luthor to stage the theft of his latest invention, a robotic battle suit. What's especially noteworthy is that one of the terrorists, James Corben, would go on to become the supervillain Metallo.
    • Batman Beyond: Derek Powers, the Corrupt Corporate Executive, and his right-hand man Mr. Fixx, who kills Terry's father and prompts Terry to steal the Batsuit to get revenge. Powers lasts past his debut and is the Arc Villain of season 1, but never appears afterward.
    • Static Shock: Not only was Hotstreak the first Bang Baby Static had to face in the series, but was also Static's bully prior to the Big Bang. The main issue Static had when fighting in the first episode wasn't dealing with Hotstreak's Playing with Fire powers, but struggling to get over feeling powerless against his bully. Hotstreak does become a reoccuring villain, but is never as much of an overarching threat compared to future villains, such as Ebon.
    • Justice League: The Imperium, shapeshifting alien invaders and White Martian expies who drew the attention of the Justice League's founders and prompted them to team up.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
    • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003): Baxter Stockman and his Mouser robots. This has the effect of immediately setting the tone of the series, as in the original cartoon Baxter was a goofier Mad Scientist best known for being mutated into a fly, whereas now he's a legitimate threat even at the bottom of the villain hierarchy.
    • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): The Kraang serve as this for the turtles, being a reoccurring threat throughout the series (at least until they are taken down for good in Season 3), and are even directly responsible for the turtles and Splinter being mutated in the first place.
  • Exo Squad: The Pirate Clans in the Five-Episode Pilot, before the Neosapien wars break out. They eventually become the reluctant allies of the fleet.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door:
    • Mr. Wink and Mr. Fibb are the first villains Sector V ever faced, all the way back in the show's pilot. After their first appearance, they mostly worked under Mr. Boss.
    • In the series proper, Laura Limpin (and her alter-ego The Big Badolescent) is the first villain the Kids Next Door face. She's a little girl who is capable of Hulking Out, and she's right under the thumb of the Delightful Children from Down the Lane, the show's major recurring antagonists.
  • G.I. Joe: Renegades starts with the Joes tangling against Dr. Mindbender, a COBRA mad scientist with crazed mutants at his beck and call, but little in the way of power in the actual organization.
  • In the first episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man, Spidey takes on The Vulture and the Enforcers who, while upgraded from their original comic gimmick of lasso-wielding guy (Montana), short martial artist (Fancy Dan), and strong guy (Ox), weren't exactly going to make it into the Sinister Six as was.
    • Furthermore, the show was made up of a series of short (3-4 episode) arcs which each had their own plot and villain, while also advancing ongoing storylines. The Big Bad of the first mini-arc was the Lizard (who as noted under comics often gets this treatment).
  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series: While Dr. Connors wasn’t really a villain per say, under his persona, the Lizard, he becomes the first of Spider-Man’s Rogues Gallery he faced in the series.
  • Both X-Men: The Animated Series and Wolverine and the X-Men start with the team infiltrating a Mutant Response Division base, as a prelude to taking on the Sentinels. X-Men: Evolution starts with Toad infiltrating the Xavier Academy.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes depicts the team coming together to face the decidedly C-List Graviton, a departure from both the comics and movie version, where they start with a battle against Loki. Graviton is an Adaptational Badass who proves to be an immense threat in the first episode... but definitely never again, as the Avengers go on to face multiple bad Asgardians, cosmic level threats, and coalitions of A-list villains.
  • Nightmare Moon from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, although (supposedly) powerful, really only tries to mess with the ponies and slow them down rather than directly attack them. She basically exists as a training wheel villain for the Mane Six to forge a friendship over while fighting her. The episode ends with her cured and turned back into Princess Luna.
    • King Sombra is this in season nine, since he was the only villain Grogar (actually Discord in disguise) brought back who had all the power and ego from before (since the other villains suffered Villain Decay prior to that point). He is defeated without too much trouble and sets the stage for the Legion of Doom to attack later in the season. After some scheming and planning, the trio of Tirek, Chrysalis and Cozy Glow, after betraying Grogar/Discord, attack the ponies and lay waste over Equestria in the penultimate story and final two-parter of the show with a very cunning plan that almost works. The heroes needed the biggest ensemble of supporting, minor and background characters to assist them in winning what Twilight herself claimed was the last battle ever.
  • SheZow has the Pushy Pirate Posse, the first threat Guy Hamdon had to contend with as SheZow.
  • The Lunch Lady in Danny Phantom. She is Danny's first major opponent, forcing him to reach the limits of his powers (which he still had barely any control over), and is the first to be sucked into the Fenton Thermos.
  • Kremenski in Archer was a mole for the KGB who was lethally shot by Archer at the end of the first episode before Nikolai Jakov, the show's first true Big Bad, even appeared.
  • Steven Universe: The first half of season one is spent fighting standard Monster of the Week fare, with the premiere episode having the team face-off against a giant centipede-like creature. The episode is the first time Steven got involved with Gem activity, though it was another few episodes before he was actually taken on missions alongside them. As the show goes on, these monsters take a backseat to character drama, intergalactic threats, and the overall Myth Arc to the point where over thirty episodes can go by without a plot involving them to any degree.
    • The first actual villainous Gem (the Gem Monsters are essentially animals and Lapis Lazuli is an Anti-Villain) is Peridot, built up as a nearly robotic cold-hearted scientist who heralds Homeworld's potential return to Earth. And then she appears in the same episode as Jasper, and suddenly she's an overworked minion whose biggest talent is getting out of dodge when things go pear-shaped. She notably avoids the normal fate of starter villains by having a Heel–Face Turn and gaining a Redemption Promotion.
  • Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Black Knight, seemingly a suit of Animated Armor who kidnapped a historian, but in actuality, museum curator Mr. Rickles seeking to cover up his forgery scheme.
  • In DuckTales (2017), the first actual antagonist in the pilot episode is a Ghost Pirate named Captain Peghook that the triplets accidentally release, who seeks Scrooge McDuck's head. Scrooge defeats the ghost within minutes by giving him the head of a statue of him.
  • Gravity Falls: In the premiere episode "Tourist Trapped", the first creatures Dipper and Mabel face off against are a group of gnomes looking for a queen.
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: Mod Frog Jamack is the main antagonist for the first part of season 1.
  • The Owl House: The pilot episode introduces Warden Wrath, the fearsome keeper of the Conformatorium who tries to go out with Eda.
  • Depending on where it started, The Powerpuff Girls has at least three starter villains: the Amoeba Boys in Craig McCracken's student film with the Whoopass Girls, Fuzzy Lumpkins in the first What A Cartoon pilot, and Mojo Jojo in the series.
  • Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja: The Krakenstein is the first creation of McFist Industries sent out to destroy the Ninja and Randy's first fight in general. He only struggles with it due to initially not knowing that the ninja suit has weapons. Even then, the Krakenstein is only able to come close to victory with its coup de grace; sprouting a secret arm, a surprise which wouldn't work a second time. As soon as Randy pulls out his sword, the fight is over. To show how small of a threat the Krakenstein is and how much better Randy has gotten, it returns in Season 2 only to immediately get destroyed again in a Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Tangled: The Series: Lady Caine and her army were the first group of baddies whom Rapunzel and Eugene had to take down.
  • The Legend of Vox Machina started off with two episodes pitting the group against the dragon Brimscythe, who, while a credible threat, was taken out fairly fast in order to establish the characters and setting before introducing the main season antagonists, the much more threatening Briarwoods.
  • Teen Titans (2003): Chronologically wise before the Titans became a team in the Origins Episode "Go", the first enemies they faced were the Gordanians led by Trogaar, who trying to deliver Starfire to were she could live out the rest of her days as a slave.
  • Total Drama: Heather is the shows very first Big Bad who constantly proves herself to be A Lighter Shade of Black to all the later villain's.


Video Example(s):


Moebius D

The very first of the Moebius the party encounters, Moebius D's first actions on screen are him mortally wounding Vandham (later killing him) and killing Mwamba, Hackt and one of Eunie's past selves, showing how vile the Consuls/Moebius can be.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / EstablishingCharacterMoment

Media sources: