Whether you consider it short for villain credentials or villain credibility, it's a measure both of how much respect a villain gets among his fellow rogues and of how credible a threat the do-gooders and the authorities consider said villain to be. It's earned through successful completion of bold, daring and devious deeds; in other words, nothing so pedestrian as robbing bank or holding up a liquor store will suffice. It can also be lost in a heartbeat if one runs afoul of meddling kids and their talking dog.
A supertrope to Arson, Murder, and Admiration, a more comedic take on the concept. Compare Fame Through Infamy. Contrast Unintentionally Notorious Crime, where a villain gets too much cred. Do not confuse with Villain Respect, which is directed at heroes.
- Dragon Ball:
- In the original Dragon Ball series, Mercenary Tao has a reputation as a cold, ruthless assassin that he takes pride in; he goes so far as to refuse to pay a tailor for doing a week's worth of work on his uniform in three days purely because doing so would ruin said reputation.
- Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F: While's he's largely motivated by revenge, Frieza also invokes this trope while calling out what's left of his empire on how far they've fallen, pointing out that no one will take them seriously if they're too busy being terrified of Goku to actually do anything, especially when they beg him to just forget about Goku and focus on rebuilding the empire.
Frieza: How do you expect us to run an empire that strikes fear across the galaxies while we're cowering from a handful of Saiyan garbage?!
- EDENS ZERO: Oracion Seis Galactica member and feared criminal boss Drakken Joe takes his reputation as The Dreaded Loan Shark very seriously, as he sees it as insurance of his "clients" paying their owned dues on time knowing if they cross him they've got A Fate Worse Than Death lined up. He doesn't hesitate to kill a lackey not just because he lost to the main characters, who he views as a bunch of inexperienced and idealistic brats way in over their heads, but because said lackey name-dropped his relation to Drakken and his screw-up reflects on him.
- In One Piece, a pirate's bounty is often used as a rough estimate of how dangerous they are, and bounties are often discussed as though they were Power Levelsnote . Pirates with high bounties will use them for bragging rights and to recruit crew members who want to work for the toughest pirate on the seas. Pirates with Blood Knight tendencies often revel in increases in their bounties (since it shows recognition of how dangerous they are, and makes it more likely that strong Marines and/or bounty hunters will pursue them), while those more inclined to Pragmatic Villainy would prefer to stay under the radar, or if possible not draw a bounty at all, for exactly the same reason (but are often present as Dirty Cowards because of it).
- One Silver Age The Flash story has the Mirror Master get upset that he's only ranked as the third most successful criminal in the prison newspaper, so he breaks out to commit more crimes in the hope of raising his standing.
- A Silver Age Batman story has the Joker and Clayface commit crimes using each other's M.O.s so that each can claim the title of Public Enemy #1.
- The same basic gimmick was used in Poison Ivy's debut story in the 1960s, where she arranges the capture of three other female criminals — Public Enemy numbers 1, 2, and 3 — so that she can step forward and take credit for various previously unsolved crimes.
- And used again in a story in the 1970s where rumors of Batman's murder sweep through the underworld, prompting the villains to assemble a Joker Jury of their own to evaluate the Villain Cred of the various supervillains (ranging from The Joker to Lex Luthor to to The Riddler to Catwoman) claiming to be Batman's killer.
- In the Signalman's origin, he was a small-time crook who arrived in Gotham and attempted to form a gang only to be told he needed to build a reputation first. He adopted the costumed identity of the Signalman and used signal clues to taunt Batman in attempt to build up his rep.
- Killer Moth was briefly a very serious villain in the Silver Age, until he spectacularly lost his Villain Cred both in-universe and to readers by being comprehensively beaten by Barbara Gordon in her first ever outing as Batgirl.
- 2000 AD:
- In Heavy Metal Dredd, a wannabe criminal tries to make a name for himself by being the one person who's bad enough to kill Judge Dredd. Obviously, since this is Dredd we're talking about, this turns into an Epic Fail. Doesn't stop him from trying at least two more times with similar results.
- In Tales From The Black Museum, the serial killer Edward Bernardo is shown to have killed his family during Necropolis before sneaking into Justice Department HQ to attempt to kill Judge Death himself. Since Death is an immortal zombie, this obviously didn't work out, but he subsequently turned Bernardo into an undead serial killer because he appreciated the evil he found lurking in his mind.
- Roderick Kingsley, the original Hobgoblin, a Spider-Man foe came out of retirement to kill the fourth Hobgoblin, in part for being an embarrassment to the name Hobgoblin. He has since taken to establishing a business of establishing a costumed identity, gaining villain cred, and then licensing out the name to another villain; in fact when the sixth Hobgoblin killed his brother and took the mantle, Kingsley chose to let him live after being impressed by his moves and hammering out an agreement to be given a share of the proceeds from his crimes.
- Pony POV Series: After Gravity Falls ended, Discord (who has the ability to break the fourth wall) holds a funeral for Bill Cipher, saying he admired his ability to invoke chaos and deals with the devil.
- The Bridge: Queen Chrysalis decides she needs to do a Villain Team-Up to have any chance of defeating the heroes and considers her options. She sees Discord as stupid and Tirek as useless, but expresses admiration for King Sombra, citing his power and intelligence.
- In Instincts Of A Fearful Body, each core Red Lotus member becomes worried by Amon over the the course of the story as he demonstrates his powers.
- Fates Collide: Kirei Kotomine says he had admired Mercury Black's father Marcus for being such a notorious killer and was surprised to find out he was dead. Since Mercury hated his father, he is disgusted to hear him be praised.
- The New Adventures of Invader Zim: Ironically, given that he's actually a disguised Zim, the Tallest admit that Miz is pretty cool and impressive, despite the fact that he's preaching rebellion against them.
- An anti-hero example comes from the Steven Seagal film Above the Law (1988). After being informed that he's now number four on the FBI's Most Wanted list, Nico quips that he wanted to be number one.
- In the third Riddick movie, the mercs are impressed with Riddick's balls when he suddenly appears out in the open, walking toward their camp for a pow-wow. Becomes a Discussed Trope with Riddick to Vaako in the Directors Cut.
Riddick: They say you lost your nerve, Vaako, after that big swing and a miss.
Vaako: Is that what they say?
Riddick: Now what are you gonna do to get that cred back? What's the big play? Something splashy.
- In Demolition Man, the Big Bad Simon Phoenix tries to unfreeze a cryo-prison full of psychotic murderers. When he hears that Jeffrey Dahmer is among the convicts, he joyfully expresses admiration for the guy.
- Death Warrant: The Serial Killer known only as "The Sandman" is a renowned figure in the prison due to his love for killing cops. When he's first brought to the prison, the other cons give him a huge ovation.
- Half Baked: Parodied when the newly-imprisoned Kenny complains that he's "not getting the respect a cop-killer deserves." While he did technically kill a member of the police force, that member was a diabetic horse that he accidentally killed by feeding it too many sweets.
- Daredevil: After Daredevil narrowly defeats the Kingpin and then leaves him for the police, Kingpin threatens to tell everyone his secret identity. Daredevil stops him by pointing out his cred will go down the drain once everyone finds out he got beaten by a blind man.
- Running Scared (1986): Drug lord Julio Gonzalez is left furious by the loss of face that comes from the main character having his cadillac towed and then chasing him through his building in his underwear as the result of a raid. His way of recovering this lost prestige is to take a woman hostage and force them to toss their pants down the stairway before letting her go in order to publicly humiliate them as well.
- Discussed in Training Day. A trio of Mexican Gangbangers talk about Alonzo Harris: one of them considers Alonzo a "ruthless vato", but their leader Smiley disagrees; "he don't respect nada".
- Artemis Fowl: the second book has two Mafiya goons discussing Artemis Fowl Jr., one grumbling that the kid has an Interpol listing and he doesn't.
Thirteen years old and with an active file? I am thirty-seven, and still no Interpol file.
- In Interviewing Leather, the titular villainess describes two different types of crime she commits. To enhance her Villain Cred, she does loud flashy attacks in which she rants, breaks things, terrorizes the citizens, dares the local superheroes to try and stop her, etc. To pay the bills, she leads her henchmen in quiet efficient robberies that draw far less attention (unless something goes wrong).
- Dancing Aztecs:
- The reason that unaffiliated criminal Corella claims to be a mafia member is so that his business partners will think he's worthier of respect.
- Harlem gang boss Bad Death Jonesburg is practically doing a jig when he captures Frank and Floyd during their search for the statues and believes that their FBI agents and he's important enough to warrant Federal surveillance, something he wants no time in bragging about to his friends.
- In The Supervillainy Saga, Gary a.k.a Merciless: The Supervillain without MercyTM is constantly trying to increase his and running into the fact no one takes him seriously. This despite the fact he has a body count three figures long of other supervillains and has killed a number of '90s Anti-Hero types. Amusingly, he's genuinely surprised when villains avert it and assume he's using Obfuscating Stupidity to appear less dangerous than he is. He isn't. He's just an enormous dork.
- A consistent element through Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. The Watcher's Council records the exploits of demons and vampires, and the underworld community in general seems to have pretty good word of mouth. Angelus had particularly good cred, something Angel occasionally traded off of. Even the Master held Angelus in high regard, intending to appoint him as The Dragon. The Mayor was keen to have Angelus on his team, as well. At one point Darla and Drusilla managed to attract a group of demons to serve them simply by introducing themselves (and de-earing one person who'd never heard of them). Spike had a particularly good reputation for having killed two slayers despite being barely two hundred — or 126, or a vampire for 120 years. Several enemies come to town specifically because killing a Slayer would be good for their reputation. Wolfram & Hart is another example. Even Sahjhan is familiar with the firm's reputation, being as it exists in other dimensions, as well.
Nostoyev: Used to be quite the terror back in the day. Haven't heard much of you lately, though.
Angel: Haven't heard much of you, ever.
- In the Masters of Horror episode "Pick Me Up", two rival serial killers called Walker and Wheeler pick off the passengers of a bus crew that they come across in the northwest. They both despise each other for their respective kill steals and treading on the other's "territory", but are also quite impressed by the other's ingenuity and brutality. Walker in particular prizes Wheeler on decapitating one of his victims with a baggage compartment door.
- The Blake's 7 episode "City at the Edge of the World" features Colin Baker as Villain of the Week Bayban the Butcher, a homicidal psychopath who is the second most wanted man in the Federation and is upset that, as he sees it, some johnny-come-lately SJW revolutionary has "stolen" his rightful position.
- In one episode of Even Stevens, a prankster from another school who looks identical to Louis starts causing trouble, and Louis ends up getting blamed for it. However he's less upset about getting in trouble than the fact that he is being credited with the lookalike's amateurish and unimpressive pranks, thus ruining his reputation as a master prankster himself.
- One episode of Limitless has a mobster be talked into betraying his boss in exchange for the promise that he'll get to take his boss's place on the FBI's ten most wanted fugitives list. Brian's explanation for this is that the mob the two men belong too is becoming obsolete and that its members want that level of infamy in order to feel relevant before the end.
- Jim Gordon drags Professor Pyg by bringing up notorious villains such as Jerome Valeska, Fish Mooney, and Oswald Cobblepot, and their "staying power" in the minds of the citizens of Gotham. Compared to them, Gordon says, Pyg is nothing but a flash-in-the-pan second-rate wannabe.
- By the series finale, Jeremiah Valeska has earned this, with the Riddler flat-out calling him "a legend" and the entire GCPD being terrified of his return.
- Firefly: Crime boss and Torture Technician Adelai Niska puts immense value on his professional reputation as The Dreaded as well as a man of his word. Mal and the crew refusing to complete a job he gave them and even sending back the money he gave in advance is seen as an insult from his perspective (the fact they also diced his current right-hand henchman doesn't help matters either).
- Games Workshop games:
- Black Crusade: The Infamy characteristic, which is central to some of the game mechanics, is a combination of reputation among other humans and the favor of the Gods. While you can spend XP to get higher Infamy until you hit lower-midlevel (representing player characters leveraging their actions towards their reputation), Infamy is mostly rewarded by achieving something tangible, which increases your reputation and unholy favor. Optional rules state that if a character becomes too dependent on another with a higher Infamy score to get equipment or favors, he may risk lowering his own Infamy, with a lack of self-reliance being a sign of being an underling rather than a peer. Similarly, particularly Infamous characters can "overawe" less Infamous characters and keep them in their place (i.e. not trying to embarrass, coerce, or otherwise manipulate the more Infamous character).
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: The Old World Bestiary contains descriptions of major intelligent races and monsters found in the setting, accompanied by quotes from a variety of scholars, people with first-hand experience of them, and the beings themselves when they're intelligent. One recurring commentator is Rikkit'tik, a scholar from Clan Eshin, the Skaven clan specialized in assassinations, poisoning and general subterfuge. Most of his comments are terse instructions on how to dispatch the creature in question, but in the section on hobgoblins, a goblin breed notable for being a pack of treacherous, conniving sneaks who live to win their battles with poisoned knives in the dark, he says "I kind of like these green-things. They show... promise."
- Heroes Unlimited: This is a cultural expectation in Century Station. Supervillains are supposed to engage in big, flashy scores and fight superheroes; those who engage in more Pragmatic Villainy like liquor-store robberies are called "lowballers" and shunned by other villains.
- In the Evil Genius game, this is your genius' Notoriety, which increases as you sucessfully complete Acts of Infamy. It also riles up the good guys something fierce, so you have to strike a balancing act.
- If your karma rating is 'very evil' in Fallout 3, other evil characters will make impressed comments, give you supplies and caps to appease you, and give you special quest and dialogue options.
- In the videogame adaptation of The Godfather, you get "respect" points that make you more powerful. Acts that earn you respect range from helping shopkeepers and bribing police officers to murdering enemy gangsters and blowing up their safehouses.
- In the first two Saints Row games, Respect is earned by completing side jobs and spent to access story missions. Since Saints Row: The Third, it's become straightforward experience, unlocking access to character and gang upgrades.
- The Overlord series: Not only are you explicitly a villain, but you get ranked on how evil you are via Karma Meter.
- Liberal Crime Squad has Juice, which represents your street cred as a member of La Résistance and goes up as you slaughter hordes of soldiers, cops, and workers who refuse to join labor unions.
- Forget killing people, pulling feats such as hacking the CIA Supercomputer, being the lawyer who gets him a Not Guilty verdict on the charge of Treason he/she/xe got in the act, (or doing both) is both less risky and gives more street cred.
- Occurs in City of Villains, as the basic currency Infamy (corresponding to the heroic currency Influence and the Praetorian currency Information). You can even give it to other people, because you're increasing their reputation at the cost of your own due to "selling out."
- There was also a Villain tip mission that was explicitly about discovering that you were only number two on Nemesis' Threat List, and taking the fight to Nemesis just to be moved up to number one. (Shock Treatment, number three on that list, joins you in order to be raised up to number two)
- Demons from the Disgaea series tend to be rather concerned about their reputation for "evilness," but most of them aren't very good at it beyond things like not washing their hands or cutting class. This is probably for the best, since demons who are good at bad (e.g. Baal and Zenon) are kind of scary.
- Quantum Protocol: After the Aegis dungeon, Omega criticizes Corrupt Corporate Executive Victor for skimping on security camera costs, to which Victor responds that he needed to spend money on other hardware. Victor states that he'll only bother upgrading the cameras after Omega increases his funding. Despite being on the losing end of this deal, Omega compliments Victor for manipulating the former into giving the latter more money.
- In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Dr. Horrible's primary goal through Act I and Act II is to earn enough cred to get into the Evil League of Evil. He eventually succeeds...but at a horrible price.
- Discussed in Worm as a sort of metaphorical 'shield'; after all, if you're just that terrifying nobody will start a fight in the first place, essentially giving you a free victory. Grue is the one who first talks about this, but it's eventually embraced by Skitter.
- One fan theory as to Sleeper's power is that it simply makes everyone perceive him as an enourmous threat without actually giving him any dangerous abilities. His power never actually gets revealed, because everyone is too terrified of him to try and mess with him. This was Jossed by the author: Sleeper is every bit as powerful and dangerous as his reputation suggests.
- Kim Possible learns that her Evil Counterpart Shego used to be part of a superhero team, and uses that to blackmail her into helping her defeat this week's villain:
Kim: Because if you don't help, I'll tell the the world you used to be a good guy.
Shego: You wouldn't!
Kim: I've got a website, and I'm not afraid to use it.
Shego: Ugh, my evil reputation would be shot!
- Phineas and Ferb: After much evil perpetrated around the Tri-State Area, Dr. Doofenschmirtz rescues one kitten from a tree, and risks the complete loss of his evil-genius status.
- His worst Christmas is also his best because it was the first Christmas bad enough to make him hate the holiday. Before that he was unable to summon up more than a passionate, burning indifference — not enough motivation to try to ruin it, as a good villain should.
- One Darkwing Duck episode is all about Nega Duck learning he lost his Public Enemy #1 spot to Dr. Slug. This prompts him to start a massive crime spree to reclaim his throne.
- In one episode of The Powerpuff Girls, a Monster of the Week claims that many of the monsters who attack Townsville go there just for a chance to fight the girls, because it's a good way to build up villain cred.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: The episode "Jailbreak!" reveals that every criminal in Bikini Bottom looks up to Plankton; they outright describe him as "criminal royalty."
- Young Justice: Sportsmaster is obsessed with this in to the point where he's willing to betray his former bosses and ally with his hated daughter just to restore it because Aqualad killed his heroine daughter Artemis without him being involved. When it turns out she's alive and it was all a trick to help Aqualad in his deep cover mission, Sportsmaster accepts the cred loss to help keep their cover, because their success would be an even bigger blow to the Light than anything he could do by himself.
- The Batman: The Animated Series "The Man Who Killed Batman" provides us with one-time character Sid 'The Squid', a small time crook who wished to gain some cred as a big shot... And succeeded when he got in a scuffle with Batman and, completely by accident, apparently killed him. Then it's Deconstructed. As the real life saying goes, "when you're king of the hill, everyone else wants to knock you off". First, he becomes a target for another crook looking to earn cred for himself by taking down the guy who killed Batman. Then, he's kidnapped by The Joker, who tries to kill Sid for depriving him of the chance to kill Batman himself. Finally, he goes to Rupert Thorne for help in getting away from Gotham, but after Sid tells his story Thorne decides that there's no way Sid can be telling the truth, as surely nobody could survive such dangers through sheer dumb luck, so Thorne comes to the conclusion that Sid must be putting on an act as part of an attempt to take over Thorne's drug racket. After all, if someone is tough enough bring down the Caped Crusader himself then why wouldn't Thorne see him as a rival? Of course, Batman was alive after all, letting people think he was dead and keeping Sid alive through these misadventures in order to follow him and find out who was running the crime ring. In the end, Sid did get some prison cred as the man who nearly killed Batman and then proceeded to make fools of the Joker and Thorne.
- Wander over Yonder has the Galactic Villain Leaderboard, which ranks who are considered the most powerful, evil, and important villains in the galaxy. Lord Hater originally had the top slot, but lost it thanks to Wander, though his position fluctuates throughout the series and he eventually does make it back to the top five. When Lord Dominator shows up, she very quickly skyrockets to the top and remains there until the series finale.
- DuckTales (2017): Duckburg's villains generally have a "live and let live" policy of not rubbing shoulders with each other. However, there is one villain who they respect above all else: Magica Despell. Despite being inactive for 15 years before the show, and then only doing one big public display/battle afterwards, a majority of the Legion of Doom consider her Scrooge's greatest nemesis for her evilness, powers, and composure. Glomgold is the one exception since he wants to be seen as Scrooge's #1 enemy.