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Terror Hero

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The master at work.

"When that light hits the sky, it's not just a call. It's a warning. To them. Fear is a tool. They think I'm hiding in the shadows... but I am the shadows."
Bruce Wayne, The Batman (2022)

There is a common misconception that the use of fear and terror against one's enemies is a cowardly, evil method of fighting that no self-respecting hero should ever stoop to.

Not to these characters. To them, targeting a foe's psyche is every bit as valid a tactic as more direct methods. To do this, they prey upon a villain's fears, attempting to break them, thus making them easy prey. Often times, said character is either an Anti-Hero or someone who's a more clear-cut hero but isn't particularly nice, who uses these tactics as a way of turning fear on those who prey upon the fearful. Can be a very effective weapon for those with a no-kill code. Alternatively, a hero could just as easily exploit their frightening reputation as a means of scaring someone into submission. The terror hero typically tries to avoid direct combat unless no other options are present. In order to qualify, the use of fear and morale-breaking must be a standard tactic rather than something used once in a while.

There are several types of this kind of hero:

Compare Bad Powers, Good People. A common tactic when Dark Is Not Evil. Related to In-Universe Nightmare Fuel and Mook Horror Show for obvious reasons.

Compare and contrast with the Horrifying Hero, who is unquestionably terrifying to behold. The Terror Hero can be ordinary in appearance, but their tactics are frightening.

Compare the Guile Hero who uses trickery, cunning, and misdirection to defeat his foes. A Guile Hero may be clever enough to fake this sort of terror when a situation demands it.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Bleach, there's Captain Retsu Unohana. We're not shown why, but discord tends to simply break off when she is near, and a team of Arrancar once retreated when she showed up, the only time they have ever done so. In the databooks, she's listed as the third most powerful captain, but for whatever reason people fear her more than the two above her.
    • Said reasons have finally been revealed. She used to be a Blood Knight in her youth, as well as the first Kenpachi of Squad 11. Let's see what it brings.
    • Ichigo would seem to be Dreaded by the Quincies. Unlike the other shinigami, the Quincy can't steal his bankai, and his speed and power makes it so they can't properly use their abilities against him. In fact, as soon as their leader finds out that Ichigo has come to their base in Hueco Mundo, he decides that that's the best time to invade the Soul Society.
      • Subverted. The Quincies do respect his power, but their leader wants to recruit Ichigo into their ranks because of his Quincy heritage.
  • The Aureolus story arc in A Certain Magical Index ends this way. Upon realizing that Aureolus' true power is to change reality to fit his imagination, Touma begins to laugh maniacally and slowly walk toward the alchemist, even after having his arm torn off. His terrifying mannerisms cause Aureolus to think of him as an invincible monster, effectively turning his reality-bending powers against him.
  • In Dragon Ball Super, Jiren is a terrifying Intimidator: in his home universe his favored tactic to deal with groups of villains is to let them attack him with everything they got, take no damage from everything he lets them hit him with, and easily overpower their mightiest attack, causing the opponents to surrender as they realize the futility of opposing the mortal stronger than a God of Destruction. He tries the same tactic in the Tournament of Power, going after Goku and overpowering the Spirit Bomb, but as the result of a universe losing in the Tournament of Power would be annihilation of that universe, all he got was making himself a target.
  • In his backstory, Raoh intended to be a Dreaded Intimidator. The rest of the series portrays him as a plain villain and a tyrant, however.
    • Kenshiro is no stranger to this trope either. During the Jackal arc, Kenshiro, infuriated by Jackal's horrible atrocities (including the murders of Bat's adoptive brother Taki and adoptive mother Toyo), puts the fear into him by hunting him down like a mad dog, throwing his men into a Mook Horror Show that showcases just how utterly horrifying Hokuto Shinken can be.
  • Ban Midou from Get Backers can also make their opponents have hallucinations, however he usually uses this more as a distraction technique than as an offensive attack.
  • The titular hero from Goblin Slayer can be like this for his chosen foe, especially the smaller ones. Even with their tendency to swarm and gang up on hapless adventurers, GS has years of experience slaughtering ONLY goblins and thus can lead to a Curb-Stomp Battle, leaving any stragglers retreating in fear.
    • In Volume 1, his fight with The Goblin Lord begins much like this, with the Lord selfishly retreating as his horde gets slaughtered by a group of veterans adventurers, and then GS meets him in the woods, walking slowly up to him for a 1-on-1 fight, stating how the adventurers were just a big distraction while he destroyed the Goblin Lord's home base. Combined with the resounding defeat against the adventurers, the Goblin Lord is completely taken aback.
  • Zig-zagged with Alucard from Hellsing. He would be The Dreaded if he bothered showing off what he can do before his opponent started attacking him, but he much rather enjoys giving them a false sense of security before completely crushing them. That said, most of his opponents are still aware he's no pushover. It was played straight with the Ax-Crazy murderous vampire Rip Van Winkle however, who went from cheery sadistic glee to shitting bricks the moment she spotted him on his way to deal with her. This is mainly because it is heavily implied that she has encountered him and already had a taste of what he can do in the past, unlike most of his other opponents.
  • Hayate Yagami of the Lyrical Nanoha franchise has become The Dreaded after Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. It's bad enough that she's the "Living Lost Logia" who had fused with an infamous Artifact of Doom, but she's also the one who stopped the Saint's Cradle, which had threatened the very existence of the Administration Bureau. Demonstrated in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force when a group of Big Bad Wannabes with Anti-Magic planning to escape their captors immediately dropped all plans of doing so when they discovered that she was the commanding officer.
  • Naruto:
    • The Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze, was so powerful and feared that the shinobi of Iwagakure during the Third War were ordered to cut and run if he was so much as spotted anywhere near the battlefield.
    • Itachi Uchiha uses both Intimidation and Illusion, since he generally starts any fight off by using illusions to take out his opponents, then uses as much force as necessary to end the fight without killing anyone.
  • One Piece:
    • Monkey D. Luffy is slowly turning more and more into The Dreaded as his infamy and bounty increase over the course of the series.
    • Zoro has a combination of Intimidator and The Dreaded going for him. He can unleash a killing intent so potent that he can almost use it like Luffy's Haki.
  • In Rosario + Vampire, Inner Moka is decidedly this; when she steps onto the playing field, her opponents soon learn why they should fear her as she terrorizes them into knowing their place.
  • Ikki from Saint Seiya, his Phoenix Genma-Ken technique, allows him to make their opponents see a nightmarish illusion.
  • Kiri of The Severing Crime Edge becomes a Dreaded Intimidator by necessity — thanks to the power of the titular weapon. Between having inherited the blood of history's worst serial-killer Norman Greyland, and possessing the ability to magnify pain to the point where a shallow cut from his scissors feels like an amputated limb, he's capable of terrifying even other Authors — despite them supposedly being incapable of feeling fear. Which works well for his stated goal of keeping other Authors away from Iwai-chan... unless, of course, he's forced to resort to his Superpowered Evil Side and becomes possessed by Greyland's sadistic desires, crossing straight over into Horrifying Hero territory.
  • Vash the Stampede from Trigun is an Intimidator, acting like a gun-crazed psycho to scare villains into submission. It fits given his policy of Thou Shalt Not Kill. However, his default setting is Obfuscating Stupidity because there's a massive bounty on his head, and entire towns have torn themselves apart once the bounty hunters (professional or spur-of-the-moment) realized who he was. He'll play the Implacable Man if he has to, but he prefers to defuse bad situations via Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass, so nobody suspects that goofy donut-eating drifter is actually the Person of Mass Destruction supposedly responsible for annihilating July City.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Yugi Muto's Superpowered Evil Side is this to those who hurt Yugi or his friends — until he Took a Level in Kindness. He also calls out villains who do this to the innocent or people weaker than them, sometimes before turning their own tricks back on them.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: The Confessor, a Batman Expy who intimidates criminals with scary deep voices and persistent rumors of supernatural origins. During Astro City's equivalent of the Dark Age, other characters appeared, including the Blue Knight, the Street Angel, Hellhound, Stone Cold, and the Pale Horseman.
  • Avengers: The Initiative: Trauma is a Supernatural Illusionist. His powers produce whatever his foe most fears.
  • Batman:
    • Most versions of Batman since roughly the '80s can be considered the Trope Codifier for The Cowl and The Dreaded variations, especially given his quote about criminals being "a superstitious, cowardly lot". He is also very much an Intimidator — his favorite interrogation tactic is holding someone over the edge of a roof while he asks them questions, and he'll drop them if he has to prove his point (though he'll always catch them). Being feared is pretty much a necessity to Batman, as he faces off against overwhelming odds alone quite often, and very much relies on his foes being too scared to fight properly. And it works. Even many villains who don't fear Superman are terrified of The Bat.
      • There is also the matter that his Thou Shalt Not Kill creed is basically reliant on it. He needs to convince the people he's cornered that he will use any means to get them to talk, even threat of death, but never acts on it. If word got around that, for all his posturing, Batman would never kill anyone, then he'd probably be far less effective in getting information. When dealing with a criminal who's clued in that Batman never kills, he "corrects" them by claiming it's more a matter that he's never left any evidence when he kills somebody.
      • Also, Batman might not kill, but he's perfectly willing to break bones and knock people unconscious if he has to. So even if a criminal knows Batman won't kill them, he's still got a hundred different ways to hurt them. In any case, if Batman asks you a question, it's detrimental to your health not to answer. In Batman #423, You Shoulda Seen Him, he states this (very) explicitly:
      Batman: "... And I swear that if you harm that woman at all, I'll make you pay. I will break and twist things within you. You can't conceive of the pain I can cause. It's pain that will go on forever. You won't escape it... because I won't let you die!"
    • Near the end of his career as Robin, Tim Drake showed he had taken after his mentor in a way that gave Batgirl pause when he used a modified version of Scarecrow's fear toxin on a crowd of fighting gangs to subdue them. He lightens up a little bit as Red Robin after Bruce returns.
  • Blade: Blade has from time to time been presented as the Dreaded or the Boogeyman to vampires. Young vampires fear him, many of them won't even dare whisper his name or his other epithet: The Daywalker.
  • Daredevil: Daredevil. It all culminates when he beats up The Kingpin in public, proclaims himself the new ruler of Hell's Kitchen while unmasked, and proceeds to spend six weeks beating the crap out of every criminal who didn't flee. During the whole arc — this takeover was in the middle of Matt being exposed as Daredevil by the media — several people, including the reporter Ben Urich and Stilt-Man, say that the only reason his Rogues Gallery hasn't banded together to stop him is that they are that terrified. Oh, and the unmasked public proclamation above? No witnesses. It was in the middle of a crowded bar, but there are no witnesses. Daredevil has a Thou Shalt Not Kill policy. Think about that for a moment.
  • Deadman: When Deadman wants to, he can haunt people very well. Don't wanna wake up hanging out a window by your ankles or on the edge of a skyscraper? Then don't piss off Deadman
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
  • Ghost Rider: The Ghost Rider's powers are supernatural in nature and specifically meant to horrify and traumatize evildoers. His Penance Stare makes a criminal experience all the pain and suffering he's inflicted on the innocent: the worse you are, the more you are left a drooling vegetable by it. He is also horrifying to behold, what with his Flaming Skull for a head.
  • Harley Quinn: Harley has become this in the more recent books. She's more of an Anti-Hero than Anti-Villain at this point, and often does outright heroic deeds at the Police Chief's behest. People are still (rightfully) rather scared of her, as she's still a violent psycho, especially if someone threatens her friends or family.
  • The Incredible Hulk: The Hulk is treated as a level Alpha threat by military forces with missiles. Bruce Banner's gamma-powered alter ego has several personalities with varying levels of (conscious) intelligence, but even the Savage Hulk gets that he intimidates people and isn't above using it.
  • Moon Knight: Moon Knight is often considered Marvel's Alternate Company Equivalent of Batman, and while there are differences, he does take the "strikes fear in the hearts of criminals" aspect and run with it. Most notably he deliberately wears a stark white costume so the bad guys see him coming well in advance, where most criminals know he's going to be much rougher with them on average than say, Spider-Man or Daredevil would be.
  • New Mutants: Dani Moonstar refined and diversified her illusion-casting Psychic Powers over time; but until she was stripped of them outright her go-to offensive technique boiled down to digging the worst fears out of her enemies' hind-brain and make it reality for them until they crack or get beaten down physically while they cower.
  • The Punisher: Being just about the only hero with no use for Thou Shalt Not Kill, Frank uses his reputation as much as guns to aid in his never-ending quest to kill criminals. It's not that he spares them so they can be afraid, more that keeping targets paranoid and terrified tends to make them turn on each other.
    • The "Up is Down and Black is White" arc has a wannabe crimelord dig up the remains of Frank's family, record himself pissing on them, and then broadcast the video. As a result, Frank starts tearing through every criminal operation he knows of, leading to two lowlifes planning to hit a jewelry store think that in Frank's current state, they might not be Beneath Notice anymore and so they run before they get caught.
  • Spider-Man: Spider-Man is one of The Dreaded as well. Just seeing him can be enough to get a generic robber or mugger to surrender; in one instance several criminals were in a shootout with police but instantly surrendered when he swung over the street, even though he was on his way somewhere else and wasn't trying to intervene. Most of this is because, although Spidey isn't Marvel's most powerful or intimidating hero, he's much stronger than petty thugs and yet still spends a lot of his time dealing with them, as well as being the only major superhero who deals with the criminal underworld, plus having the reputation of going toe-to-toe with various crime lords such as Silvermane and the Kingpin, probably helped.
    • In-Universe, Spidey is also noted as being quite disturbing as a combination of his Wall Crawl powers and his costume; the inhuman ways he contorts his body, the mask's combination of frightfully large eyes and nothing else, and the bright "poisonous" looking colors all cause him to fall deep into the Uncanny Valley in the eyes of many people. That and while he's the Nice Guy most of the time cracking jokes with each fight. When he gets mad, he gets scary. Villains in New York City know that if Spidey stops quipping, they should be very afraid.
  • Spider-Woman: The Shroud invokes this intentionally as a violent vigilante.
  • Superman: Oddly enough, Superman can be this. He never tries to go out and scare people but he has the powers of a God. Usually he's only this to the bad guys and it's usually just when they run into him. Batman even tells this to Clark by saying that, because Clark tells everybody what he can do (fly faster than sound, see hundreds of miles away, strong enough to throw skyscrapers) he's essentially telling criminals everywhere that a demi-god in a cape who can find you no matter where you hide is watching out for them. Batman even states that he couldn't have done a better job intimidating criminals.
  • Venom: Eddie Brock, either as Anti-Venom, or as "Venom: Lethal Protector", thinks he's Dreaded, but is both a Cowl and an Intimidator, with his Lovecraftian Superpowers, monstrous appearance, and tendency to show up seemingly out of nowhere.
  • Watchmen:
    • Doctor Manhattan from was deployed to Vietnam and quickly ended the war, with North Vietnamese and Vietcong troops surrendering to him personally the moment he appeared on the battlefield.
    • Rorschach is even more. When Doctor Manhattan had to deal with a riot, the people argued with him. When Rorschach arrived at a riot, they stopped and left.

    Fan Works 
  • All For Luz: After her expenience at the Death Camp and having massed 10 Quirks with her Power Parasite ability, Luz aims to be this: A Symbol of Justice and Fear.
  • Child of the Storm uses the trope extensively, but also deconstructs it.
    • Doctor Strange routinely scares the living daylights out of everyone, partly because of his well-earned (and carefully constructed) reputation for omniscience and manipulating the hell out of everyone via mastery of time, precognition, and the Batman Gambit. This means that his very involvement is Paranoia Fuel, as no one quite knows whether they're acting because they want to, or if they're doing what he intends for them to do. Additionally, he's an extremely powerful wizard capable of duelling literally god-like dark lords into the ground and walking away (literally) whistling afterwards, and willing to commit casual genocide against a species of Always Chaotic Evil vampires — specifically, the Red Court because they might prove a minor obstacle in his master-plan to save the universe from Thanos. Even the gods of gods are scared of him, and for good reason. Unfortunately, this means that even the heroes tend to mistrust him.
    • The Avengers, as a group, serve as this to assorted supervillains and even some who technically aren't supervillains, despite the fact that they have rules of engagement (i.e. they try not to kill people where reasonably possible). This is because a) several of their members have no compunction whatsoever about killing when 'off-duty', b) they're nigh-unstoppable when acting in concert, c) as Victor von Doom points out, they have in the past taken part in deposing leaders they took a dislike to. Oh, and they're known to take threats to/attacks on those they see as their own extremely personally. While this is shown to be very useful at times, it is pointed out that the Big Bad Ensemble of the first book (HYDRA merged under Lucius Malfoy's command, along with the remaining Death Eaters), arose directly out of fear of the Avengers and what they might do. Likewise, fear of them is noted as part of Doctor Doom's motive for accruing power (and he's depicted as having a point), and part of the Red Room's resurgence in the sequel.
    • The White Council maintain a reputation as a ruthless organisation of Good Is Not Nice wandless wizards who will both protect the world from evil and kill you without a second thought if they deem you to be a threat. They do so specifically to intimidate other, less human-friendly, organisations from victimising humanity — which is part of why Doctor Strange flipping the bird to the lot of them when he swiped a young Wanda Maximoff from under their noses went down so poorly, as it severely dented their reputation, and thereby their ability to protect humanity.
    • Harry Potter unwillingly becomes the Intimidator in the sequel, after initially being seen by various powers as a curiosity/potential leverage on Thor (who was James Potter. Long story). This is partly because of his propensity to act as a Spanner in the Works to villainous plans, partly because of an uncanny knack for surviving and defeating things that should (and sometimes do) kill him, and partly because — in the sequel — he's an Apocalypse Maiden as a potential host of the Phoenix. On top of all that, by this point he's a fully fledged Person of Mass Destruction with, for a large chunk of the sequel, an unpredictable temper thanks to a horrible case of PTSD. This means he develops an ominous aura that terrifies even his fellow classmates who, even after he mellows out again, class him as Good Is Not Nice. He's not exactly happy about this, though he's not at all shy of exploiting it when he needs to.
  • Desperately Seeking Ranma: Yori is fond of shouting and can be mistaken for strategic nuclear weapons. Chou is more subtle but can still do a number on a miscreant's psyche. Azumi's disapproval tends to hover around liquid nitrogen, and at one point draws on her old hobby of reading Lovecraft when it comes to horrifying a suspect. And if you feel like you're bathing in liquid nitrogen when around Ms Aoyama, that means she's being FRIENDLY.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami initially develops a terrifying reputation by accident, but eventually makes use of it to keep her minions in line without violence. At one point she uses a combination of unconsciousness, synthetic blood, and fear magic to make her followers believe that she successfully tortured a Dark Mistress.
  • The Fox of Marseille: Years fighting off thugs, rapists, and drug dealers in Marseille have molded Rena Rouge into a terror-powered Anti-Hero, using both her terrifying illusions and brutal physical force to take down her enemies. This is a major source of conflict between her and the more cape-esque Ladybug when the former moves to Paris.
  • Hero Academia D×D has Zero. While far more heroic than in the source material, Bone Control combined with his costume makes him one of the scariest heroes in Japan.
  • In Medicated, Anne is very much capable of being this as her human form to the Frog Men is so strange that it can make a very good psychological weapon even before her physical attributes come into play.
  • The Doom Slayer in My Hero Academia: Unchained Predator quickly establishes himself as one of the most brutal Vigilantes in Japan due to the brutal tactics he utilizes against Villains. Ochako is mentally scarred for life after witnessing him tearing off Shigaraki's right arm with his bare hands, All Might is stunned by the Slayer's sheer brutality after having seen nothing like it in his long career, and the Slayer more or less traumatizes the rest of Class 1-A after tearing apart the Steel Sabers on I-Island.
  • The Night Unfurls: Kyril's fearsome reputation is one of the many weapons at his disposal to crush those sided with the treacherous, marauding Black Dogs. Demoralised prey make easy prey after all. Apart from doing the killing himself, he often travels to enemy territory personally so that any schemers would be forced to hasten their plans, hence increasing their chances of exposure.
  • The Roboutian Heresy: Konrad Curze and the Night Lords are still this, the same as in canon, but balance it out with a strict code of honor and deep respect for human life (though any other race is of course fair game). Rather than reveling in their crimes, they see it as Dirty Business that just needs to be done, often confessing their crimes to 'sin-eaters' who help them cope.
  • Midoriya Izuku in Yesterday Upon The Stair has a baby-eating smile that can apparently be pants-shittingly terrifying.

  • The Batman (2022) serves as a deconstruction of this modus operandi in relation to the titular character. While he is well on his way to becoming The Dreaded to the city's criminals, he has utterly failed to make a real difference because the city largely sees him as just another criminal. In an early scene, a man he saves begs Batman not to hurt him. Even worse, the Riddler took inspiration from Batman's actions and began a crusade of terrorism across the city, even considering Batman a partner in carrying out his vision. This causes Batman to have a Jerkass Realization that his fear tactics aren't enough; he needs to be a Hope Bringer as well.
  • This aspect gets turned against Batman by The Joker in The Dark Knight who begins pressuring Batman to break his only rule and proves that, while Batman's still a threat, he is more terrifying because he will break said rule with a smile on his face. Best said by Maroni who full-out stands up to Batman during the Bat's favored method of interrogation (see the Comics section).
    Maroni: No one's gonna tell you nothin'. They're wise to your act. You got rules. The Joker, he's got no rules. No one's gonna cross him to you.
    • This is deconstructed after Batman kills Harvey Dent. Batman realizes that someone like himself can never be a true hero so makes Harvey an Inspirational Martyr.
  • Inglorious Basterds: The Basterds' preferred tactic is to kill Nazis in such a brutal manner that any survivors give up out of fear.

  • This is one of Polgara's favorite tactics in The Belgariad. In one of the prequels, she explains that she reaches into her target's mind and shows them their biggest fears, and is quite amused when one of her targets turns out to fear her father, Belgarath. This, of course, is not entirely surprising since Belgarath is a Satan-figure in the Angarak faith (their God is the Big Bad of the first series) and has been for several thousand years, to the point where his reputation is more or less all that's keeping them from invading in their god's name, making him a firm member of The Dreaded.
  • Alaric Morgan finds himself as a known Deryni from childhood since his mother was also a courtier of King Donal Haldane's and known to have used her powers publicly at Donal's express command. Since he lacks the protection of the Masquerade, he cultivates a fearsome reputation as a Deryni mage as well as honing his fighting skills to a high level. Thus, he has psychological tools: a scary reputation for self-protection, a penchant for dressing in black as a visual cue and the occasional yet credible Blasé Boast to convince people to cooperate with him instead of attacking him. It doesn't always work, and he has less need to use this reputation as Kelson becomes more securely established on his throne.
  • On the Discworld
    • There is Lu-Tze, who usually avoids conflict by reminding people of "Rule One", to wit: "Never act incautiously when facing a small wrinkly bald smiling old man!" This causes some chagrin when he ventures to those parts of the Disc where Rule One is not known, but he is well capable of backing it up.
    • Then there is Granny Weatherwax, who the Trolls call "She Who Must Be Avoided". The Dwarfs have a similar name for her: "Go Around the Other Side of the Mountain." When her reputation fails, she resorts to hoodoo, or "headology" as she calls it, and if that's not enough, she is perfectly capable of clearing the field by magical means (or even just physical combat - she may be an old woman, but she's a tough and vicious one, and those sharpened steel pins in her big pointy hat aren't just for show).
    • Meanwhile in the Watch books, Ankh-Morpork criminals consider Sergeant Detritus to be this. Justified since he carries as a hand weapon a ballista that would put a bazooka to shame and has chronic trouble with Mister Safety Catch, and on top of this he has been known to nail drug dealers to the wall by their ears. Apparently small riots can be cleared by shouting that Detritus is on his way.
    • Also, Commander Sam Vimes. The criminal underworld is so afraid of him that when he leaves town on a diplomatic mission, the crime rate goes down. Why? Because if things fall apart while he's gone, when he gets back, he will not be pleased. "And when Sam Vimes is unhappy, he tends to spread it around with a big shovel." In Monstrous Regiment, the Borogravian troops talk about him in hushed tones, sharing wildly inflated rumours that make him out to be a superhuman monster.
      • His reputation is even more powerful among the Dwarfs, since in Thud he became host to a supernatural being of pure vengeance from Dwarf mythology. It left him when his Heroic Willpower allowed him to resist its influence, but some small part of it remains, and its symbol is visible as a scar on his wrist. The sight of it will make an uncooperative dwarf become helpful real fast.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden never meant to be one of these, but because he's an extremely powerful wizard, is extremely protective of his city, and has a tendency toward chronic heroism, especially when a woman is involved, most of the small-time supernatural threats steer clear of Chicago as a matter of course. This is especially clear in Ghost Story when, due to Harry's apparent death, the city is suddenly swarmed with competing beasties of varying strengths. Molly then invokes this trope, taking on the persona of the Rag Lady in order to try and scare the city straight, using Illusionist tactics mostly, though to particularly lethal ends whenever the Leanansidhe is helping by taking a shift as the Rag Lady.
    • The level of Dread Harry invokes increases in later books. The reader doesn't see it as much because many of the beings he's seen dealing with by the time his reputation grows enough are either powerful enough to be considered minor gods or just haven't realized who they're dealing with until he starts blowing things up. He's come across the stuff of nightmares a few times and seen them scream and run away just upon realizing who he was. Even the people on his side who don't know him personally tend to give him a wide berth (though this has something to do with the fact that it deserves a special mention whenever something is on fire and he didn't cause it).
      Harry Dresden: And then it hit me. They were dealing with something far more dangerous than me, Harry Dresden, whose battered old Volkswagen was currently in the city impound. They were dealing with the potential demonic dark lord nightmare warlock they'd been busy fearing since I turned sixteen. They were dealing with the wizard who had faced the Heirs of Kemmler riding a zombie dinosaur, and emerged victorious from a fight that had flattened Morgan and Captain Luccio before they had even reached it. They were dealing with a man who had dropped a challenge to the entire Senior Council, and who had then actually showed, apparently willing to fight — on the shores of an entirely too creepy island in the middle of a freshwater sea.
    • It should be noted that he himself sees himself as a bit of a Badass on Paper. While he has done all kinds of amazing feats, he did them while battered, bruised, exhausted, and usually with no idea whether it would actually work, and so his stories make him appear more terrifying than he actually is.
      • At one point he comes face-to-face with a blood-sucking, demonically-strong vampire assassin... which screams in terror and runs away.
      • Word of God says Harry is one of the few, if not the only, non-Knights Nicodemus, leader of those possessing fallen angels, has been around for roughly 2000 years, nigh-immortal human, fears. All because Harry realized that noose he wears, the noose that killed Judas and gives Nick his healing powers, is the only thing that can kill him by being strangled with it.
    • Just between Changes and Skin Game, Harry took out the entire Red Court of Vampires, including several beings like low-level gods in one go, came back from the dead, became the Winter Knight, punched an Eldritch Abomination in the face, led the Wild Hunt, repelled an Outsider invasion, out-manipulated Manipulative Bastard Nicodemus, and burgled Hades. (Though it's a bit more complicated than that). That's a lot of Dread.
    • In Battle Ground Harry soulgazes a kraken and realizes that it's terrified of him. By the end of the book, with the Council ejecting him from their Wardens and putting a suspended death sentence on him — because he killed some brain dead Renfields while rescuing innocents — he's decided to embrace the supernatural world's fear of him in order to use it to help others.
  • Dr. Coffin, a pulp Proto-Superhero based on Lon Chaney, used makeup effects and stagecraft to coerce criminals into confessions, often by convincing them their victims had returned from the grave to accuse them.
  • Bashar Miles Teg of the Dune series had such a Terror Hero reputation by the time of Heretics of Dune, that in at least one military situation all he had to do was arrive at the site of the potential battle. The opposing forces immediately sued for terms.
    Reputation is a beautiful weapon. It often spills less blood. -Miles Teg
  • Mack Bolan of The Executioner, back when he fought his one-man war against the Mafia used several of these techniques; his infamous blacksuit, using wiles to turn various factions against each other, overwhelming firepower, and his reputation.
  • Harry Potter: Friend and Mentor to Harry Potter, Dumbledore seems to be this to Voldemort and his followers, and with good reason. It is outright stated that Dumbledore is the only wizard that Voldemort ever feared, and during their duel, Voldemort ultimately fled rather than try to fight him any longer. Prior to this, when Dumbledore arrived in the Department of Mysteries, none of the Death Eaters even bothered to try and stop him. They just ran.
  • He Who Fights With Monsters: Jason's affliction spells and shadow teleportation make him perfectly suited to terrorizing his enemies. During a simulation match, he picks off his enemies one by one, strings up their corpses, mocks them loudly, and even throws in an Evil Laugh. He does not appreciate when the recording gets around the city.
  • David Weber explicitly invokes this in Honor Harrington novel Crown of Slaves. A group of people are discussing whether to follow Victor Cachat and his rather insane plans. They decide to do so because they see him as
    the true bearded one. The one you went with when the family's life or honor was at stake. The one who might die in the doing, to be sure, since fate was a fickle thing. But who would neither flinch, nor hesitate, nor cry out in pain or fear. Not ever. And who, even if he failed, would strike such terror in the family's enemies that they would never forget the penalty to be paid.
    • Reinforced, as after a short but extremely intense interrogation by Victor, one of the senior managers of the slave traders feels almost grateful to be turned over to a group of ex-slaves who are dedicated to killing him and his organization, as long as it gets him away from Victor.
  • Inheritance Cycle: Elva talked several enemy soldiers into insanity and suicide, simultaneously. This is despite the fact that she looks like she's 6 and is actually much younger.
  • Journey to Chaos: According to Kasile, part of Fairtheora's job description as Royal Sentinel is to scare everyone around him into obeying the law (i.e. her law). As an orc, in plate mail armor, who will readily dish out To the Pain, he succeeds.
    Eric: ''Your sentinel is scary."
    Kasile: "That's what I pay him for."
  • In the backstory of The Lord of the Rings there is Helm Hammerhand, the Rohirrim king after whom Helm's Deep is named. When said fortress was besieged, he would ride out at night and kill foes with his bare hands, and they were too terrified to gang up on him. One night he did not return and was found the next morning dead on his feet, frozen to death, surrounded by enemies still too scared to touch him.
  • In Myth Adventures novel Another Fine Myth, Aahz claims to be Dreaded when masquerading as a fellow demon hunter to the knight Quigley.
  • From the Nightside, there's Suzie Shooter aka Shotgun Suzie aka "Oh Christ, it's her! Run!" John Taylor also has this reputation, as befits a man with the power to find your greatest weakness and use it with extreme prejudice. There are also Jessica the Unbeliever (a girl that can simply wipe everybody out of existence by focusing her unbelief in reality that became part of new benevolent authorities), Razor Eddie aka the Punk God of the Straight Razor who fights for the side of good and his friends and say at some point that have to kill to maintain reputation and the Lord of Thorns, a supposed guardian of Nightside who lives in the most terrifying part of the Nightside undergrounds. Seriously, every major figure at the Nightside becomes terrifying even if for avoidance of unnecessary fights.
  • There's a reason why the werewolves of The Otherworld leave the Pack (the North American ruling werewolf pack) alone despite the fact that werewolves are, by and large, a bunch of testosterone-driven battle junkies who would love nothing more than to fight and maybe even beat the leader of the Pack. That reason is the photos circulating from the Pack showing that the fate of one would-be challenger: slow dismemberment, horror movie style. Battle junkies these werewolves may be, but no one wants to die like that. Mind you, the photos are real but what they don't show is that the victim, who was going to be killed in what essentially amounted to pragmatic self-defense anyway, was doped up to the gills and didn't suffer. So for the price of killing someone horribly but painlessly, the Pack bought themselves many years of peace from would-be challengers and having to kill them in the name of self-defense and order.
  • The Keldara from Paladin of Shadows are all Dreaded. In Unto the Breach, a Chechen leader notes that even the Spetznaz were only hated, not feared... but the Keldara are feared, and now even more so due to being trained by American special forces who are a double trouble of fear to the muj.
  • The Princess Bride: The whole concept of "The Dread Pirate Roberts" relies on this trope. The current Dread Pirate Roberts is usually quite nice and may not have killed anyone at all.
  • In The Shadow of Kyoshi, Kyoshi herself develops into this. Ultimately, she's a giant thug who doesn't do "subtle" or "diplomatic," and she eventually makes a virtue of that. If someone puts one toe out of line, she'll warn them very aggressively to knock it off, and if it happens again, they're dead meat. Ideally, the warning will keep her from having to kill.
  • A number of characters in Tolkien's Legendarium use The Dreaded variant of this, being so feared among their enemies that their mere presence in a battle is enough to cause orcs and lesser men to run for it. Túrin, for instance, owned a great helmet with a metal mask and a roaring dragon as its crest, and it's said that when he bore it in battle, no enemy would dare approach him. In general, a major part of battles in Tolkien is that they tend to be less about killing the enemy and more about breaking their will to fight.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: Aral Vorkosigan didn't earn his title as The Butcher of Komarr but he — and occasionally Miles — play with the sinister public perception to get things to go their way.
  • In the second book of The Witchlands, Merik briefly becomes one, as he embraces the moniker "Fury" the people have given him (because he looks like their god of justice) and terrorizes both the people he's hunting and those who'd otherwise try to stop him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the first season of Arrow, the Green Arrow relies pretty heavily on this, but falls more and more into straight heroism during Season 2.
  • The Anla'Shok of Babylon 5 fame were known to train their warriors to exploit Intimidation and Dread.
  • Buffy is this to the forces of evil in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. It helps that she's a Legacy Hero whose mantle has existed since around the Bronze Age. It also helps that she has a lot more staying power than the average Slayer, and personally takes down many big-name demons. Then she becomes the leader of an entire army of Slayers, and in the Series Finale she thwarts the Anthropomorphic Personification of evil.
  • In Burn Notice, Michael Westen's reputation makes him The Dreaded. In practice, he usually works as the Intimidator or the mean Warrior Therapist. One episode has him impersonating The Devil to a Hispanic gang with a nice red suit, a confident walk, and a few well-placed explosions and a friend with a sniper rifle.
  • In Doctor Who, the Doctor frequently exploits his reputation as The Dreaded as one of his typical Guile Hero tricks, although many of the bad guys are genuinely terrified of him.
    Elliot: Are you scared of [monsters]?
    The Doctor: No. They're scared of me!
    • The Eleventh Doctor in particular is Dreaded, as best shown in "The Eleventh Hour";
      The Doctor: Hello, I'm the Doctor. Basically... run!
    • The Eleventh Doctor and Rory pull off a mixture of Intimidation and Dread in "A Good Man Goes To War". Knowing that the Cybermen would ignore Rory's offer to leave in peace if they simply told him where the Silence are keeping Amy, the Doctor makes it clear that asking for his message was the wrong answer;
      Cyber-Controller: What is the Doctor's message?
      *The entire Cyberfleet explodes*
      Rory: Would you like me to repeat the question?
    • In the Big Finish Doctor Who audios, the Sixth Doctor deliberately created a reputation to stifle a violent race's development into warmongers. He decimates an army by offsetting charges in a cavern system underneath it and labels himself the Sandman. Centuries later whenever he decides to drop by and check on them, he still namechecks himself as the Sandman, and the 7-foot-tall near-cyborg lizard-like aliens cower in fear.
    • The speech the Doctor (whom the Daleks call "the Oncoming Storm") gives at Stonehenge exemplifies this:
      The Doctor: Hello, Stonehenge! Who takes the Pandorica takes the Universe! But, bad news everyone, 'cause guess who! Ha! Except, you lot, you're all whizzing about, it's really very distracting. Could you all just stay still a minute because I! AM! TALKING! (all ships stop) Now, the question for the hour is, "Who's got the Pandorica?" Answer: I do. Next question: "Who's coming to take it from me?" Come on, look at me! No plan, no backup, no weapons worth a damn, oh, and something else I don't have: anything to lose! So, if you're sitting up there in your silly little spaceships with all your silly little guns, and you've got any plans on taking the Pandorica tonight, just remember who's standing in your way! Remember every black day I ever stopped you, and then, and then, do the smart thing! (beat) Let somebody else try first.
    • Unfortunately, as the above episode and the entire background of River Song demonstrate, this reputation sometimes comes back to bite him — as River puts it, "you make them so afraid", pointing out that while the word 'Doctor', meaning 'healer and wise man' all across the universe comes from the Doctor himself, in some places, it's starting to mean 'mighty warrior'. This, in turn, inspires some very scary groups to do some very extreme things.
  • Standard operating procedure of The Equalizer.
  • Grimm: Nick Burkhardt didn't mean to be Dreaded, but all but the most dangerous Wesen (creatures) are terrified of Grimms, who historically hunted them. Nick isn't that happy that people keep responding to him like he's a serial killer, but eventually he starts to expect and sometimes exploit their panicked reactions. And then there's the time he responded to two Reapers trying to kill him by mailing back their severed heads.
  • Narcos: Colonel Carillo, the leader of the Colombian Search Bloc, instills fear among Escobar's minions by throwing people out of helicopters and shooting child spotters in cold blood. He's such a terrifying enemy that Pablo actually starts to have nightmares wherein Carillo executes his entire family in front of him.
  • After racking up a massive body count of demons, ghosts, and monsters over the course of the show, Sam and Dean of Supernatural have started to become Type 5, enough so that Dean in "Yellow Fever" was targeted by an illness which only affected people who use fear as a weapon.
    Demon Mook: What's so funny?
    Meg: Dean Winchester's behind you...

  • Red Panda Adventures: The Red Panda makes heavy use of this in his crimefighting, acting as The Cowl in the style of heroes like the Spirit or the Shadow. In the second episode, "Night Patrol" he explains to his still-rookie sidekick the Flying Squirrel, a.k.a. Kit Baxter, that their regular night patrols are done to instill a sense that they could be anywhere, anytime, acting as a deterrent even if they aren't or can't actually be present. This gets further delved into in "The Trojan Horse", in which a now more experienced Kit is mentoring John Archer as he stands in for the Red Panda. When John's attempt to bargain with criminals, offering them a walk so the heroes can concentrate on the people they're actually after, goes disastrously, Kit explains that much of it was precisely because the hoods weren't afraid of him.
    John: They must have known they couldn't win. Why did they fight?
    Kit: 'Cause they weren't scared of you. You walked in the door and made them a reasonable offer. You stood in the light and— and traded logic with them. Scaring the living bejeepers out of a room full of gunzels ain't such a bad superpower, you know.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Bong... Bong... Bong... When you hear that, when he's a face, you are about to experience this trope. Sometimes type 1, sometimes edges into type 4, even switched over into types 2 & 3 during his "American Badass" phase, but always, always Type 5... Ladies and gentlemen, The Undertaker.

  • The Shadow. The title crime-fighter deliberately terrified criminals before he (or someone else) caused their deaths.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Malu, an airbending character from the Avatar: The Last Airbender TCG, used Illusionist strategies to keep Fire Nation soldiers away from her mountain. She constantly attacked them and then disappeared suddenly, finally leading firebenders to believe their attacker to be the "ghost witch of the mountain".
  • This is the whole rationale of the Autumn Court from Changeling: The Lost. All types possible, but they tend to focus on supernatural methods primarily.
  • d20 Modern has the Frightful Presence feat, a basic aid to becoming the Cowl or Intimidator variant. It's easiest to get with levels in the Charismatic Hero class (and requires a high enough Charisma that you're probably going for Charismatic anyway). You get a bonus if you also have the Renown feat, making you The Dreaded type, too.
  • Any spell caster who specializes in illusions in Dungeons & Dragons can play as a terror hero with the right spells. Some rogue and ranger builds can allow for similar fear tactics (type 1), as well as frequent usage of intimidation.
    • While most would simply qualify as Lawful Evil, a good-aligned paladin of the Oath of Conquest from 5th edition would most likely be this trope. Their specialty is to inflict such crippling fear that they send foes scrambling, immobilize those nearby, and can actually terrify people to death from cumulative Psychic damage. How you'd actually justify being a good-aligned Oath of Conquest Paladin is a whole nother matter, though.
  • The nicer Abyssals and Infernals in Exalted tend to incline this way (the darker ones are still Terror, less Hero). Dark Messiah Style, the default Abyssal martial art, even has a Charm that lets you dismember someone to make their allies run away crying and vomiting, and Infernal Monster is if anything even messier and more destructive.
  • Pathfinder has several popular builds for melee-oriented classes like Barbarian and Fighter, who specialize in scaring their enemies senseless and handing their shivering asses back to them. This is because certain combinations of traits, feats, and class abilities make it excessively easy for these builds to pass ridiculous Intimidate skill checks and because fighting an enemy is mechanically easier when they're scared.
    • Yet, in the second edition, the ones who can pull it better are paladins. In one case, a champion of a deity of freedom made a deity of tirany KNEEL. For extra epic: The name of said paladin? ZOD.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse:
    • Wraith is a Batman Expy, so it's hardly surprising that she indulges in this sometimes. It's most obvious with the Iron Legacy version; in the digital game, Ermine nearly craps herself upon realising that the Wraith she's been tangling with so far has been the nice one.
    • Similarly-named Writhe is if anything creepier. The shadow cloak he's bonded with means he's no longer entirely fixed to a human body plan, allowing him to do things like sprout tentacles. His cards show him taking the Slaughterhouse Six apart, using tactics associated less with superheroes and more with xenomorphs.
      Writhe: You may hide in the darkness, but I speak its language.
    • Nightmist's status as a very powerful sorceress means that she gets lines about showing Blade Battalion members true terror in-between materialising behind people from her mist state.
    • Fanatic is a rare version not associated with shadows, darkness, or evil magic. Instead, she's a glorious, radiant angel, blazing with divine light... who sees part of her duty as striking fear into the hearts of the wicked. If the wicked are not shitting themselves eagerly enough, she will teach them fear. With flame and sword.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Salamanders chapter is one of the nicest out there, but they're fond of exploiting their borderline demonic appearance (uber dark skin plus glowing red eyes) to terrify rebels into submission.
    • All Space Marines are capable of terrorizing with their mere presence, but the Space Wolves get special mention for being a bunch of Space Vikings with slight werewolf tendencies when they get sufficiently furious. After their response to the Administratum's handling of the First War for Armageddon, even the Inquisition is wary of upsetting the Space Wolves.
    • The Primarch Konrad Curze (better known as the Night Haunter) began his life as a completely ruthless and murderous vigilante who used terror and violence to cow his homeworld Nostramo into submission. He's said to have had left corpses as an unrecognizable pulp from his bare fists, left heavily mutilated bodies nailed outside their homes, and had a high enough body count to clog sewer systems of the hive cities. The legion followed Curze's footsteps to the point that mere mention of the Night Lords made rebelling systems immediately comply with the Imperial rule, pay all outstanding tithes and execute everyone remotely linked to the uprising. Occasionally, the Night Lords would exterminate the population regardless. During the Horus Heresy, they went renegade, dropping the hero part of the trope.
    • The Raven Guard are stealth and infiltration specialists able to sneak up on enemies despite being power-armored giants. A successful campaign leaves their enemies huddled around light sources, mortally afraid of the dark. Those few that survive that is.
    • This is the hat of the Carcharodons, who are either an offshoot of the Raven Guard or loyalist Night Lords (a faction that went traitor 10,000 years earlier). What sets them apart from the other users of this trope is that they are The Dreaded to the Imperium of Man, who they work for. In-universe, little is known about them and they stay in deep space terrorizing threats as a form of forward defense — keeping things from getting to the Imperium in the first place. Death Watch notes that even other Space Marines find them creepy and aloof.
    • The Imperial Guard Elite choice special character, jungle fighter, and Memetic Badass Sly Marbo. As his name suggests, he's a walking Shout-Out to Rambo, with a dash of Solid Snake thrown in for flavour.
    • Harlequin Shadowseers specialize in sowing terror and confusion among enemy troops, which they achieve through both their innate psychic abilities and their creidann grenade launcher backpacks, whose projectiles create holograms that can be tailored to any purpose.

    Video Games 
  • The player characters of Ace Combat are Dreaded, due to the aversion of certain tropes; by the end of the game your allies and enemies know that you are the one who determines the outcome of the battle, and your enemies are properly terrified. There's also a bit of Intimidation going on, since you get that reputation by blowing up just about anything that gets in front of you, including other (formerly) notorious aces.
  • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag : Edward "Blackbeard" Thatch invokes this trope. He doesn't actually want to hurt anyone, so he develops an Ax-Crazy persona to intimidate targets of his piracy, causing them to surrender prior to the battle, and avoiding any conflict or bloodshed. Due to the real Blackbeard's ambiguous past, this may or may not be Truth in Television.
    Blackbeard: Caution's nothing without charisma! For if a man plays the Fool, then it's only Fools he'll persuade. But appear to be the Devil, and all men will submit.
    Edward Kenway: And would you be the Devil?
    Blackbeard: (puts on his hat with the lit fuses) For an audience... Aye. It's all a big show.
    *Blackbeard then walks to Stede Bonnet*
    Blackbeard: (while slowly looming over Bonnet) Give your quarry something to fear, some hellish thing from a fever'd dream, and men will drop to their knees, pleading for their Lord! Before aught else! Hrrrrhhh!!!!!
    Stede Bonnet: (pissing himself in fear) Oh God!
  • Baldur's Gate:
    • In Baldur's Gate II, explaining to stubborn thugs that you're the child of the god of murder and attacking you is a really bad idea usually does the trick, especially in the expansion when you're at your most powerful. Not always, though.
    • Baldur's Gate III has Intimidate as a skill, and if you're playing a heroic Dark Urge, you even get unique Intimidate options related to your bloodthirst. Fittingly, Durge is an even closer child of the god of murder than CHARNAME was.
  • Disgaea:
    • Sometime after Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, Adell became so terrifying that he ran nearly every demon out of Veldime.
    • Valvatorez from Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten had a mighty reputation as a Tyrant back in the day, and even though he's a lowly Prinny Instructor now, a number of enemies react with terror when they learn who he is. At first the implication seemed to be that he was a holy terror in the past, only becoming his more affable self in recent centuries, but a DLC reveals the truth; he was always like this, he just got away with it because "I'm strong."
  • The Doom Slayer, protagonist of Doom (2016) and Doom Eternal (and the original Doom games and Doom 64) manages to be this to the literal demons of Hell. If the demons sleep, he is certainly the stuff of their nightmares. For bonus points, he also scares the living crap out of most humans he meets as well, best demonstrated in the scene where he goes to Phobos in Eternal and every one of the UAC guys gives him a wide berth.
  • The Courier in Fallout: New Vegas can become The Dreaded through reputation with the various factions. However, the people who quickly become the most terrified of them are Benny and his henchmen, who last saw the Courier being shot twice in the head and buried in a shallow grave.
    Jessup: What the hell?! You're that courier Benny wasted back in Goodsprings?! You're supposed to be dead!
    The Courier: I got better.
    • The Terrifying Presence perk makes this even easier by giving additional dialog options for certain encounters which can send the enemy running or paralyze them with fear.
      Legion Assassin: Karl sends his regards.
      The Courier: Oh good, I could use a new head for my trophy spike.
      Legion Assassin: Aiiiiieee!!
    • One of the best options for the Courier if they go to meet Caesar himself, after sabotaging every one of his operations in the Mojave.
      Caesar: (lists everything you've done to undermine him) But you, of all people, dare to come here and stand before me, the mighty Caesar. What were you thinking?
      Courier: That I'd decorate this tent with your guts.
  • A few jobs in Final Fantasy fall into this category, but the Dark Knight in particular is the master of this, especially in games that have room to expand on the backstory, like Final Fantasy XIV. Warriors/Berserkers, Black Mages and sometimes Summoners can also fall into this category.
  • Jin Sakai becomes this in Ghost of Tsushima, becoming a Ninja in a time before the word "ninja" was even in the Japanese dictionary and taking the fight to the invading Mongols with ambush tactics, assassination, and deadly poisons to strike fear into the hearts of his foes. Particularly frightened foes can be insta-killed, and the "Ghost Stance" makes all enemies who see Jin collectively soil their armor in mortal terror while in effect.
  • This was promised as the lowest difficulty setting for vaporware parody fantasy FPS Hipesh-Grad. After seeing the hero enemies would drop the loot and run away.
  • The King of Fighters
  • Knight Bewitched 2: Despite his reputation as an assassin, Uno claims that he killed less than five people. This is because even five assassinations are enough to deter potential targets from committing any crime that would make them stand out.
  • This is a viable tactic in Mark of the Ninja since guards can enter a "panicked" state which makes them trigger happy, liable to fall off ledges, and prevents them from raising alarms. Mostly via Intimidation (you can hang dead enemies from lamp-posts to frighten any of their colleagues who see them, for example), although some of the equipment falls into Illusion (semi-mystical hallucinogenic darts, for example). The "terror" themed outfit turns you into The Dreaded (all corpses terrify enemies instead of making the sound the alarm).
  • Mass Effect:
    • Some of Shepard's meaner paragon actions use intimidation to bring villains in line. The paragon path in general tries to avoid the use of violence unless there is no other choice so an effective paragon character (especially in the sequel) needs to be a Terror Hero by default.
    • In the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, Shepard threatens Tela Vasir by pointing out that they sacrificed hundreds of human lives in order to save the Destiny Ascension and even unleashed the rachni on the Galaxy... so she seriously thinks she can threaten them by thinking they won't shoot a single hostage? What makes this declaration more worrying is that this actually comes from Paragon Shepard!note 
    • The Renegade path also gives plenty of opportunities to intimidate the bad guys into giving up. Specific to the above hostage situation with Tela Vasir, Renegade Shephard's threat might even be more to the point. They will remind Vasir that they left the Destiny Ascension out to dry against the Geth fleet without blinking, so they could bring the entire 5th Fleet to bear against specifically Sovereign, who was an immediate, existential threat to every space-faring species in the galaxy. They don't have much compunction about "prioritizing" lives in the clutch.
    • Shepard (Renegade and Paragon) moves into The Dreaded in the third game. The reaction of multiple Reapers upon discovering that Shepard is on the battlefield, is to immediately target their giant (actually-not-)laser cannon that was designed to cut Dreadnought-class ships in half, on the single tiny human that is currently charging at them, completely hellbent on killing them. And it still barely slows Shepard down.
      • During the end game, Harbinger himself leaves the space battle with all of the galaxy's fleets and plants himself next to the beam to ensure Shepard doesn't get there.
    • Samara also counts. She tells Shepard it's primarily why finding transportation isn't a problem for her. When potential threats find out she's on board, they give up immediately and avoid her ride altogether.
    • The end of the main storyline in the Citadel DLC actually has Paragon Shepard terrifying the piss out of the Big Bad after she's been captured. The Big Bad in question mocks Shepard's plea for her to cooperate, at which point Shepard points out that s/he's not trying to save him/herself. S/he is trying to save the Big Bad from what will happen if she tries to kill Shepard again. She gets the message loud and clear.
  • In a Hero Antagonist example in Mega Man Zero, Harpuia's mere presence in battle is enough to paralyze Resistance forces with fear or break their morale. Then again, given that they're a Red Shirt Army, that's not especially hard to do.
  • Although they still try (in vain) to kill her, Samus Aran from the Metroid series is this to the Space Pirates. And for good reason: she makes it a point to wipe them out wherever she goes, to point of leading an almost one-woman assault on their homeworld.
  • Pokémon:
    • Most Ghost-types, when owned by a good guy of course.
    • As well as any Pokémon with the ability Intimidate (Gyarados, Arcanine, Arbok, etc), which lowers the Attack stat of any opposing Pokémon that sees it enter battle.
    • Many Legendary Pokemon are treated with fear and dread by most people. Mewtwo was created to be the most powerful Pokemon in existance, but its violent tendencies grew until it destroyed the place where it was born; Darkrai causes nightmares wherever it goes; an entire town walled itself off for fear of what Kyurem might do to it at night; Giratina was cast out of the universe and written out of myth due to its violent nature; Necrozma constantly tries to take the light from the area around it, leading the people of Ultra Megalopolis to seal it away; the Ultra Beasts are outside context problems which are alien to anything in the normal world; and so on. Their reputations may be deserved, but they're still Pokemon, so you can catch them and use them to defeat your opponents.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Sith Warrior practically runs the entire list at some point. The Dark Side route with their love of Force Choke however place them as a firm Intimidator, while the Light Side route comes across as more Dreaded.
  • Tactics Ogre:
    • The PSP version has a class dedicated to this, the Terror Knight. They're an interesting mix between The Cowl and The Dreaded. They wear thick, heavy black-colored armor with oddly protruding spikes to inflict fear, and use a mix of dark magic spells to cripple their opponents and lower their resolve to fight. They do have the power to back it all up as well, but you can very much play the class without them hurting a fly.
    • The same class in the SFC/PSX version requires a character to kill 30 enemies personally in order to promote to it and is one of the strongest classes in the game. It always creates a passive terror aura that significantly weakens all nearby enemies and has the best defensive stats and heaviest equipment available. Its unit description states that the souls of the people it's killed create the aura of terror, though it's not clear whether the terror knight enslaves the souls of those it kills or whether they haunt their killer and he simply doesn't mind.
    • In both versions, and in multiple paths, the main character can be this. Narratively, his reputation at various points is strong enough that those he encounters either don't want to fight him or fight him but know they are likely to die trying. He can also promote to the above-mentioned terror knight class, and because this is only possible on the Chaos alignment route — which happens to also be the "good" route — he can be a true terror hero in combat as well. As well he should be, as a teenager he's killed trained soldiers with his own hands and led a highly successful insurgence, to say nothing of the kinds of strange company he could be keeping (hydras, dragons, gorgons, cyclopes, liches, undead, etc).
  • Team Fortress 2
    • The Pyro is revealed to be one in the "Meet the Pyro" promo video. Everyone, even his/her/its own team is terrified of the Pyro, and for good reason — the Pyro is an absolute lunatic perpetually surrounded by fire and death. In-game, the Pyro specializes in shock assaults that disrupt the enemy with fire and knock-back airblasts, sowing confusion and panic.
    • The Spy is a class literally fueled by paranoia. A substantial chunk of the metagame is based purely around the idea of a spy might be lurking nearby, and one good Spy can make the enemy spend more time watching their backs than attempting to fight.
  • The Tenno and their eponymous Warframes from Warframe are the Dreaded type of Terror Heroes. Equally regarded with a mixture of awe and pant-browning fear, each Warframe is a different flavour of Mook Horror Show One-Man Army of which very few in the Origin System can stand on equal or greater footing with (let alone the squads of 4 they often work in). However, for the downtrodden oppressed or threatened by any of the game's enemy factions: the Tenno are their protectors and saviours, preying on those who would prey upon the defenceless.
  • William Joseph "BJ" Blazkowicz from the Wolfenstein games, by virtue of being a One-Man Army. In Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, he earns the moniker "Terror Billy" from the Nazis.
  • The psionic soldiers of the XCOM series have an ability to decrease the alien invaders' morale which would ultimately cause them panic.

  • In Girl Genius, Agatha is a (mostly) accidental variant on The Dreaded: it's her family's legacy that everyone's scared of, with her being the descendant of a long and famous line of very powerful Mad Scientists. Sometimes she tries to reassure people that she's nowhere near as Ax-Crazy as most of her ancestors, but she also often finds that her family's reputation comes in very handy for motivating people, and when she needs to she can be quite intimidating in her own right.
  • One-Punch Man
    • Tatsumaki literally has the hero name 'Tornado of Terror', and she definitely deserves it, feeling no remorse about using her psychic powers to torture and butcher her enemies, and even to threaten her allies. Her younger sister, 'Blizzard of Hell' Fubuki, also qualifies.
    • King is a combination of The Dreaded and Intimidator: By the time in the series he's depicted on the battlefield, his reputation as the World's Strongest Man has become so well-known that most enemies flee at the sight of him and hearing the fearsome rumbling of his King Engine. He prefers to avoid violence whenever possible, so this is his go-to tactic. His secret is that he is weaker than the average human and has no fighting skill whatsoever. Rather, he is simply incredibly lucky, being near every cataclysm and powerful villain vanquished by forces unknown to the public, King receiving credit because he merely looks powerful and freezes with a stern, serious look on his face whenever he's terrified. The King Engine is his absurdly loud heartbeat due to him being very nervous. Ironically, however, by playing on his image to get villains to surrender, King has become a hero for real.

    Web Original 
  • In The Fate of Paul Twister, Aylwyn has gotten the reputation as The Dreaded variety of this trope. Turns out she's been cultivating the reputation deliberately, so she can frighten enemies into not fighting.
  • The fan-made Scary Marines, who are in some ways the loyalist equivalent of the Night Lords, but they rely less on savagery and more on being eight-foot-tall experts in subtle psychological warfare.
  • Skitter, of Worm, takes this as one of her main tactics, using calculated amounts of brutality to reinforce her reputation and avoid having to do further violence later. Her completely terrifying insect control powers play heavily into this strategy. When in the process of establishing her reputation, she uses the threat of Black Widow spider venom to terrify people into compliance.
    • Glory Girl also qualifies, as her power generates fear in her foes and respect in her allies, which she can increase or decrease as she likes. Combined with her Nigh-Invulnerability and penchant for going a little too far when her Berserk Button is pressed, and she is one of the most fearsome younger capes in the city. Shadow Stalker plays a more classic Cowl approach, though she is actually a dangerous sociopath.

    Western Animation 
  • Archer: For all his incompetence,Sterling Archer is known around the globe as the world's most dangerous spy and he lives up to it. A few opponents have been known to back down after realizing they're dealing with the infamous Duchess.
  • Played for Laughs in Animaniacs, where whoever the Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister) encountered in the episode would tend to be dang terrified of them by the end.
  • Ben 10:
  • Darkwing Duck is an affectionate parody of The Cowl. His ego makes him a joke — that is, until he says his catchphrase: "Let's Get Dangerous!!"
  • Jem has Stormer's brother and Aja's boyfriend Craig Phillips. When Craig finds out that Jetta hired some thugs to destroy Raya's home, he immediately barges in and demands Eric give an "anonymous donation" so they can cover the damages. When Eric refuses, Craig wraps a desk lamp tightly around Eric's neck until he complies. Later, he turns on the Misfits, and demands they treat his sister better than they do. By the end of it, all of them are quaking in fear of him, and do what he asks.
  • Justice League has Batman, but Justice Lord Batman shows what Batman could do if he became The Dreaded instead, treating All Crimes Are Equal as a means to deter other, more serious offenses.
    Batman: You grabbed power!
    Justice Lord Batman: And with that power, we've made a world where no 8-year-old boy will ever lose his parents because of some punk with a gun!
  • Raven from Teen Titans is very skilled at breaking people with scare tactics with her dark powers. After exposing him to the unholy terrors of her home, Dr. Light was so traumatized that in future encounters he will surrender at the very sight of Raven, Making her Dreaded for one person alone.
  • Brock Samson from The Venture Brothers is a solid Dreaded Intimidator. This exchange from the first episode pretty much sums him up.
    Number 24: Brock Samson got a hold of him, and—
    The Monarch: Samson! Oh, jeez, say no more. Poor little guy. He was this close to getting his wings, too.


Batman Begins

Batman introduces himself to the criminals of Gotham.

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5 (22 votes)

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Main / TerrorHero

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