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The Imp

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That giggling pipsqueak at the bottom,
not the Villainous Glutton who owns him.

"He's not a devil. He's more like... a pimple. He can't do anything on his own."
Danette, on Gig, Soul Nomad & the World Eaters

The Imp is tons of vices rolled into one, with the baggage that something about him totally destroys him as a threat: sheer laziness, apathy or just being very tiny. The Imp looks like he's trying too hard, intentionally or because of the designers. So whether or not they have delusions of grandeur, Imps just end up behaving very practically, wanting mostly to have fun and to wallow in their vices.

While commonly in a sidekick role to a stronger character, you often see imps with heroic characters as much as with villainous ones. Aside from heroes being less likely to beat on them, imps can function as the hero's "Bad Angel". But in this case, it mainly ends up showing off how decent and good-hearted the hero is, because he doesn't take the Imp's advice seriously.

Imps are the Weasel Mascot, Chaotic Neutral version. They can occasionally cause a great deal of havoc on their own, making them a Not-So-Harmless Villain, but usually whatever holds them back stops them from doing too much damage in the end. Frequently overlaps with the Snarky Nonhuman Sidekick. They are sometimes prone to Dark Is Not Evil. For portrayals of creatures actually called imps in-universe, see Our Imps Are Different.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon:
    • Digimon Adventure: DemiDevimon is a small, weak demon Digimon who serves as a stronger villain's lackey and proves to be quite the Manipulative Bastard. There are also bunch of Vilemon (Evilmon in the original) who work as Piedmon's Mooks in the final arc.
    • Digimon Tamers: Impmon starts this way, but eventually becomes something else. It's worth noting that Impmon is still a jerk even after his Heel–Face Turn. In an episode of the second arc, he greets Calumon with a kick on the butt just a little bit after getting over killing Leomon.
  • Gankutsuou has Peppo as an Imp to Albert, although she's not really malicious in part because she's in love with him, but just loves to screw with Albert's naiveté.
  • The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service: Kereellis, the hand puppet through which Yata the channeller talks to aliens, is a foul-mouthed yet curiously independent example.
  • Ninja Nonsense: Onsokumaru is a mild form of this, as there is nothing in that series remotely serious enough to be evil.
  • Soul Eater: The title character has a red, oni-like imp that plagues his mind and encourages him to use the Black Blood that runs in his veins, thus consuming him and his technician Maka into madness. Soul often ignores the Imp's suggestions for fear of being entirely overtaken by insanity.

    Comic Books 
  • Warlock (1967): Adam's sidekick Pip the Troll is a ball of petty vices that somehow still manages to come across as a good guy.
  • The DCU:
    • The Flash: Kilg%re is introduced as a serious threat, but before long they get bored of the Kill All Humans thing, and so become this. They briefly spend months possessing Wally's friend/future-Love Interest Linda Park under the guise of being the 300-year old spirit of an Irish bard, embarrassing her for fun while also trying to push the two together, and later saved Wally by super-charging his Healing Factor so he could recover from a bullet to the heart. All the while constantly trolling and insulting them.
    • There's a race of Reality Warpers from the Fifth Dimension who are called "imps" and typically fill this trope's role in-story, overlapping with the Great Gazoo.
  • Little Nemo in Slumberland: Flip, actually referred to as "that imp" in one strip. (However, the character known as "the Imp" is not this trope.)

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Aladdin: Iago is a villainous example in the initial movie, and a heroic example after his Heel–Face Turn in the sequel and subsequent TV series. (For his appearances in House of Mouse he tended to switch between being a good guy and a bad guy, depending on the episode, but he remained this trope throughout.)
  • Strange Magic: The Imp steals the love potion at the worst time possible and then runs around love potioning everything in the forest for seemingly no other reason than because it amuses him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: Salacious Crumb, the cackling monkey-lizard perched on Jabba the Hutt's tail. The novelization ups his annoyance factor by including a scene on the sail barge where he's aggravating an argument between two of Jabba's henchmen by repeating verbatim everything being said by one of them.

  • The Dresden Files: Harry has Bob, a spirit of intellect trapped in a skull. Now, it's been repeatedly noted that spirits of intellect can be very terrifying at the wrong times, but as far as Bob's concerned, in Harry's hands, he's pretty much just the helpful — if incredibly snarky — sidekick who also happens to have a thing for sex.
  • Galaxy of Fear: Yoda is actually called the Imp by the Children, and around most of the characters he follows this trope, seeming weird, cowardly, and harmless. For Tash and Zak, and later Hoole, he's more the Jedi Master.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Tyrion plays like a subversion. Although he is called "the Imp", loves his creature comforts, delights in debauchery, and constantly jibes others (and himself) with his acerbic wit, he is largely held back by the prejudice of those around him by virtue of his being a dwarf instead of holding himself back. Also, Tyrion proves himself perhaps the most dangerous of all the Lannister family, which is really saying something.
  • Whateley Universe: Imp, who, despite being a notorious and spectacular art thief and general nuisance to the heroic side, is relatively harmless, just wants to have fun and enjoy good art, and is only a supervillain because her mutation gave her a devilish-looking appearance.
  • Worm: The Imp is very much a subversion. Her ability is to be unseen, and forgotten, by anyone she's not interacting directly with — which renders her one of the more terrifying members of the Undersiders, even next to Skitter. She does have that childish streak and a desire for fun, though.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: Tyrion is even nicknamed "the Imp", and fits this trope to a tee.
    • Subverted: in the second season he is shown to be anything but ineffectual.
    • It's clear from the beginning that he's the only Lannister with any real moral decency, though Jaime seems to be slowly coming around after getting his hand chopped off. That's why he indulges in his vices, rather than being evil... although it's also clear his intelligence and the façade he exposes to the world make him someone unexpectedly efficient.
  • Good Omens (2019): Crowley is fairly tall, being played by David Tennant, and a main character rather than a sidekick, but he has this kind of personality. He is, in theory, a skilled demonic tempter of mortals - he was the original Serpent in the Garden of Eden - but several factors ensure that he's not nearly the threatening force of evil he could be. He understands modern human society much better than his demonic peers, but uses this knowledge to troll people on a mass scale by messing with infrastructure rather than corrupting individual souls one at a time - and his schemes of this nature, while successful at their original aim, often backfire and inconvenience him as much as the humans. Despite being a demon, he's more mischievous than sadistic and is depressed by actual atrocities. He'd rather enjoy life on Earth than promote the cosmic triumph of Hell, which eventually leads him to try to cancel the apocalypse. And he can be very snarky.
  • Once Upon a Time: Rumplestiltskin is often called this, either by Regina or another character who has befallen one of his 'deals'.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Q is an all-powerful Reality Warper from another dimension who constantly antagonizes and tests the Enterprise crew and the Federation as a whole, but only to teach them a lesson (as he feels they have gone complacent) and never goes too far when he knows his work is done for now.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Imps, of course, are just one example of how the creatures of myth and legend were sometimes written off as nuisances rather than genuine threats. Their main shortcoming besides their height is that they have zero impulse control, and so play pranks because of an obsessive compulsion. They're also traditionally said to exercise just enough restraint to play pranks that cause no real harm, although that can change very quickly if an imp happens to be put into a bad mood.
  • Amanojaku in Japanese folklore are a kind of Oni set on tempting humans into turning away from the path of righteousness, and they're quite willing to resort to acts of evil on their own... However, unlike their Oni bretheren, Amanojaku lack the physical strength to reliably overpower humans in a group and they are also not intelligent enough to form complex plans furthering their evil ideals. In fact, their Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad attitude even allowed the gods to talk them into dedicating their lives to getting owned by the gods — victory, of course, being a good thing, and thus something bad in their eyes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons has a few variants.
    • Imps, quasits, and pseudodragons are all potential results when a wizard casts about for a familiar. Pseudodragons are annoying but well-intentioned; the other two take on jobs as familiars in the hope of carrying their master's soul off to the Lower Planes. Until then, they supply aid as a lab assistant, gopher, and irritant.
    • Mephits are elemental creatures, not outsiders, but still maintain the "leering gargoyle" aesthetic. Not only is a mephit Mr. Vice Guy (with the specific vice varying by elemental type), they're also none too bright and suffer massive delusions of grandeur. In Planescape, mephits are most often summoned to be sent as gifts to people that the sender really doesn't like, with each type conveying a subtly different kind of insult.
    • In a more metaphorical sense, the entire race of kender. They're a lot like rats: they get into everything, eat your food, and steal whatever's not nailed down. Except kender can also talk, keeping up a constant patter of obliviously optimistic drivel — except when they start hurling insults at enemies the party can't handle. Neither the creator nor the kender themselves understand how anyone could find this aggravating.

  • SuperThings: Neon Blast/Kazoom Blast. An accidental creation of Professor K.'s, he was formed due to a machine that was so powerful, it could villainize every hero in Kaboom City, being destroyed. All the pent up Kazoom energy instead created Neon Blast. Neither hero nor villain, he only has one thing he wants to do: have fun for himself. Unfortunately, his level of "fun" equals "turning random children into superheroes and supervillains based on objects they're holding". His transformation into Kazoom Blast, due to grabbing onto pure Kazoom energy, only makes him more powerful, not deterring his goals of having fun whatsoever.

    Video Games 
  • Black & White: The "Evil Conscience" looks the part and encourages naughty behavior. It's usually seen squabbling with his angelic counterpart.
  • The Curse of Monkey Island: Murray has delusions of evil grandeur, which is somewhat undermined by the fact that he's only a skull.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The recurring character Skull Kid is frequently described as an imp. Skull Kid himself doesn't appear to actually be evil, but he is very mischievous and enjoys playing pranks on people... pranks that range from annoying them with music to getting them lost in the forest for all eternity. Overall, he's portrayed as innocent and childlike for the most part, except in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, where his pranks are far more mean-spirited, to the point of being downright apocalyptic. This is eventually revealed to be because he was possessed by the power of Majora's Mask. After the Mask is destroyed, Skull Kid reverts to his more playful, mischievous personality.
    • Midna from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a heroic example; a snarky little imp (but only cursed into that form, she's a Statuesque Stunner when returned to normal) with knowledge of the Twilight that is threatening to blanket Hyrule. She forces Link to accomplish her goals (despite the fact that she clearly has some powerful magic of her own), takes every opportunity to tease him and keeps saying that she's only helping him because she needs him. She later drops this characterization once Zelda gives her life force to save Midna from death.
  • Makai Kingdom: Overlord Zetta, the most powerful badass in the cosmos. All that power and cunning means little when he's a book who can't even defend himself.
  • Mortal Kombat: Johnny Cage has incredible martial arts skill, his own magical aura, and has even been the hero on more than one occasion, but he's far more preoccupied with fame and making movies than actually saving Earthrealm. Plenty of Kombatants, both villainous and heroic, make it a point to call him out on his childishness and inability to take things seriously. Apparently he does mature with age and tragedy though.
  • Overlord: Gnarl is a Card-Carrying Villain who often talks of praising evil and such, but since he's too old to go out on the field he's delegated to being the Evil Chancellor.
  • Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous: Suture, Areelu Vorlesh's Right-Hand Dretch and Igor. Areelu is a brilliant, amoral magical mad scientist supervillain, Suture is a pudgy Ugly Cute toddler-sized demon with a cockney accent who freely admits that he's unrepentantly evil but too weak to do anything about it.
  • Soul Nomad & the World Eaters: In the main plotline, Gig spends most of the game as this because he's stuck in the main character's head and needs permission to actually use any of his various powers. Alternate endings and plotlines let Gig shed this trope through Grand Theft Protagonist.
  • Untitled Goose Game: The Player Character is a Feathered Fiend remorselessly terrorizing an innocent English village For the Evulz. But the horrible goose is only a goose, in a game with no serious violence, and can't get up to anything worse than aggravating pranks, petty theft, and some slapstick Amusing Injuries.
  • Warcraft:
    • World of Warcraft: The first demon-types that warlocks can summon are Imps. They small, fragile, and whiny little things that cast fireballs, apply a few buffs to their masters, and make snarky jokes. Warlocks gain access to more impressive-looking demons as they level up, but imps remain fairly effective for certain purposes (they are the only demon with a ranged attack) and often continue to be used right up to the endgame, especially in dungeons where anything other than the tank that gets close to the boss is liable to die right quick.
    • Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft: Imps are stuck with relatively low health and damage, but have a total of four different kinds available. Options include imps that hurt your character and glorious minion of evil seriously named "Worthless Imp."

  • Kill Six Billion Demons: Cio, or by her full name Ciocie Cioelle Estrella von Maximus the Third, is a treacherous, cigar-chomping, compulsive liar devil who ends up aiding the main protagonist to wring a Protectorate out of her. Her specific subspecies of devil is even known as an imp. However, she has been much more dangerous in the past before she was depowered from Ebon Devil to Blue Devil, and holds some pretty expansive Hidden Depths.
  • Mob Psycho 100: Dimple is introduced as a powerful and serious threat, but after a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown at the (figurative) hands of our main character ends up reduced to a wispy, nonthreatening-looking form and becomes a Token Evil Teammate to Mob and his friends, with the supposed endgame of possessing Mob to gain his powers for himself. He sometimes tries to act as The Corruptor to Mob, but ultimately Mob's kind heart ends up pulling Dimple to the side of good much more than the opposite.
  • Nevermore: Ada is Annabel Lee's Beta Bitch who endlessly harasses the protagonist Lenore. She's also the least dangerous member of Annabel's posse. Annabel and Lenore are secretly allies, and Annabel uses Ada as a glorified hype man.
  • The Order of the Stick: Qarr the imp is a Not-So-Harmless Villain variant, but mostly because of who he knows rather than being a genuine threat in of himself.
  • Sam & Fuzzy: Fuzzy during the comic's first three arcs. He's even called 'imp' on occasion due to his size.

    Western Animation 
  • Angel Wars: A character named Que is called an imp in-universe, a spiritual entity that can be considered a demon, but isn't necessarily one. He has his moments where he helps the protagonists with gadgetry or useful information, but he also has moments where he helps demons.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Uncle Iroh plays this role during the first season. While Zuko is hell bent on catching Aang by any means necessary, Iroh's sole goal is to tag along and make sure his nephew doesn't get in too much trouble. Although he's reportedly a legendary general, nowadays he's remarkably lazy and disinterested in conflict, doing nothing more than eat, drink tea and play board games. However, he subverts this completely in later seasons. When he needs to be, he's not only a competent fighter, he's one of the most powerful Firebenders in the world. Also, he's firmly in the side of good, and he seeks to undo the wrongs his family (including him in his youth) perpetrated against the world.
  • Gargoyles: The imp Puck serves as this to no less than three villains (Demona, Oberon, and Xanatos in guise of Owen Burnette). All three are credible threats and Puck chose to ally himself with the third villain only because the other two were too serious and all he really wanted was to have fun. However, when he does cut loose on Oberon he actually manages to kick his ass for a short time, so he's a Not-So-Harmless Villain.
  • Imp: Imp. His "accomplishments" include coming up with the world's most evil ringtone.
  • Lilo & Stitch: Reuben (Experiment 625) (primarily in Lilo & Stitch: The Series and the Stitch! anime), who was supposedly as powerful as Stitch, but was so lazy he instead spent all of his time as sidekick to one of the villains, doing little more than making wisecracks and sandwiches.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: After his Heel–Face Turn and subsequent reestablishment of his personality, Discord becomes this type of character, just being taller than the standard. He's still the same Reality Warper as before and still quite mischievous, he keeps to his newfound sense of honor brought upon by his friendship with Fluttershy and mostly expresses his powers in order to taunt and mock characters or teach them roundabout lessons as a Trickster Mentor.
  • The Owl House: King is a doglike demon with a skull for a head who is constantly trying to establish himself as a despotic overlord of all he surveys. He had a selfish streak to him, and a horde of stuffed animals he refers to as his army of darkness. Thus far, however, people have found his attempts to rule more adorable than threatening. And even if his moral compass points a bit south of Good, he's still willing to help his friends when he's needed.
  • She-Ra: Princess of Power: Imp, despite having both the power and multiple opportunities to simply sneak in and assassinate the heroes, seems more content to simply eavesdrop and cause mischief, causing everyone but his "boss" nothing but grief. Despite this, he has proven to be a credible threat by framing Kowl for being a Horde spy. The fact that he has an overly inflated, yet still somewhat justifiable, ego when it comes to his accomplishments tends to add to the humor of his character.
  • The Smurfs (1981): A few characters called imps make appearances.
    • One is a treasure hunter who uses a pair of golden shoes to capture Smurfette in "Smurfette's Dancing Shoes".
    • One is a Snake Oil Salesman from "The Miracle Smurfer".
    • One is a humanoid being who was cursed to be in the form of an imp in "Smurf A Mile In My Shoes".
    • One is a constant admirer of Vanity Smurf in "Vanity's Closest Friend".
  • Wakfu: Grufon the minor Shushu qualifies as the harmless kind as long as he's sealed in a map... and the Not-So-Harmless Villain kind when he gets free and possesses an arachne in episode 13.
  • Xiaolin Showdown: Wuya is easily one of the most powerful (and evil) villains on the show, but since she's an intangible ghost for most of the first season and much of the second, she can't affect the physical world, rendering her completely harmless and dependent on her human partners until she is restored to a mortal form.