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Villain Protagonist

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Why ROOT for the empire when you can LEAD it?

"HBO has proven that we will follow for years and years some pretty reprehensible characters as long as they're fascinating."

An interesting twist on conventional storytelling: make the bad guy the main character.

Sometimes (but not always), this villainous main character will even get the Sympathetic P.O.V.. On the other hand, it is not necessary for a villain to be sympathetic for them to be this trope. They simply need to be a villain whose morally reprehensible actions (however well-intentioned) are in no way glossed over or justified within the context of the story. We are seeing the story from a villain's point of view.

A Villain Protagonist (especially in a comedy) is quite likely to go down in flames at the end. Whether this counts as a Downer Ending or not generally depends on how many dogs they kick along the way, how entertaining their Humiliation Conga or Karmic Death is or both. They may also do a Heel–Face Turn and become a Hero Protagonist (or at least an Anti-Villain). This doesn't necessarily mean they will lose or perform a Heel–Face Turn. In fact, their status as a main character just makes it more likely that the story will end with the villain winning than any other story would.


When this is done for one episode, it's a Villain Episode.

This trope very often overlaps with a Nominal Hero and/or Sociopathic Hero, and sometimes with the more extreme cases of an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist. Note that they do not necessarily have to be the Big Bad — a Villain Protagonist can, and often does, deal with cases where they are the victim of some other villain rather than the aggressor and try to survive like anyone else would, but in order to be considered a Sociopathic Hero or a Heroic Comedic Sociopath as well, their struggle has to protect other victims of their enemy; it doesn't matter if they care at all about them or if any good that comes out of it is purely coincidental. Actually, authors may find that it is easier to write a story where the antagonist makes the plot rather than the villain, which means that a villainous protagonist is often just as passive and reactive to other characters' actions as a more traditional heroic protagonist. In fact, it is rather rare for a Villain Protagonist to be the villain of a story, presumably because audiences still want to root for the protagonist. It can still easily result in Too Bleak, Stopped Caring if handled poorly, or if the Protagonist is too Villainous. If this is a comedy where empathy isn't important, however, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.


Very often leads to Misaimed Fandom. Do not confuse with the Anti-Hero, who lacks traditional heroic qualities and may have some unheroic ones, and may be more morally ambiguous, but is still ultimately on the side of good (although an Anti-Hero can end up becoming a Villain Protagonist if they end up crossing one too many lines). Also not to be confused with Byronic Hero, who is simply a deeply flawed person, heroic or not. Many Byronic Heroes tend to zone in and out of Villain Protagonist territory, though. If the main character is the villain to themselves in their own story, they are His Own Worst Enemy. If a heroic protagonist is revealed to be Evil All Along towards the end, this is The Killer in Me. If you get to see how a heroic protagonist gradually becomes evil over the course of the story, this is Protagonist Journey to Villain.

It is vanishingly rare for these characters to be a Complete Monster, as regardless of how much a bad dude a protagonist may be, the audience will generally still desire to have at least a degree of relatability and sympathy for them, although it has happened in very rare circumstances, often in stand-alone and experimental works. Very rarely, they might even show up in serialized series, which can lead to Too Bleak, Stopped Caring unless executed in a very careful fashion.

Contrast Hero Antagonist, both in terms of morality and role in the story. Compare and contrast Villain Antagonist and Hero Protagonist. Do not mix up with Vanilla Protagonist, unless this particular villain is meant to emphasize how evil the other villains in the main cast are.


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  • In the UK, there were CGI advertisements for Kellogg's Fruit Winders starring anthropomorphic fruits who made Fruit Winders by killing other anthropomorphic fruits.

    Audio Plays 

    Fan Works 
  • The Pony POV Series, being a POV series, does this on occasion. But the example that stands out is Princess Luna during her second POV. She starts out as a hero, but eventually performs a Face–Heel Turn due to her overpossessiveness of Pip. She gets into an argument with Celestia, resulting in her killing and bringing Pip back to life as an immortal undead so she can have him forever. When Celestia tries to convince her against making him immortal, she tries to murder her, killing a number of innocent ponies in the process. This leads to Celestia being a Hero Antagonist and fighting back to stop her now insane sister, ultimately killing her. It was All Just a Dream, but still!
    • A milder example, but one that shouldn't be overlooked regardless, is any of the chapters set in the Epilogue timeline. Being a Villain World where Discord won, it's to be expected that about 99% of the story is told from the POV of either Discord himself or the discorded Mane Six, who now serve as his Co-Dragons. At least until Twilight Tragedy performs a Heel–Face Turn, followed shortly there after by Liarjack. They then redeem Rarigreed and, much later, Traitor Dash and Angry Pie.
    • Queen Chrysalis' Origins Episode is entirely from her point of view, showing what a sociopath she was even from birth.
  • In the short story series Lex Luthor Triumphant Lex Luthor gives Lois Lane an interview 8 months after Superman vanished without a trace. Then it goes places.
  • Jade's Face–Heel Turn in Queen of All Oni is what kicks off the entire plot in the first place, and she gets more much more focus than the heroes trying to stop her (though the author's started to rectify that in the latest chapters).

    Films — Animation 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: House Lannister has gradually became the most prominent one in the story with Tyrion and Cersei ranking the first and the second in terms of speaking lines over the course of four seasons (and Jaime placing within the top 5), and despite the existence of its more sympathetic members, like Tyrion and Jaime, it still serves as the Big Bad of the families of Westeros, with even those characters technically supporting the villainous side. Until Tyrion's exile, anyway. Cersei Lannister is clearly the viewpoint character during the Faith in King's Landing storyline in Season 6.
    • In the penultimate finale of Season 8, Daenerys Targaryen has gone insane from a combination of the deaths of Missandei and the dragon Rhaegal, and also the revelation of Jon's true ancestry negating her claim to the Iron Throne. After she has put all of King's Landing to the torch, innocent and guilty alike, she has completely alienated her surviving allies and racked up a greater body count than Cersei, Joffrey or Aerys.
  • Oz, being set in a prison, naturally revolves around the inmates, many of whom are guilty of murder, rape, drug dealing, etc.
  • The Sopranos: Considering that well over half the cast is in the Mob, this trope was bound to pop up. Even the nicer ones have no problem with murder, drug trafficking, and other unsavory, illegal activities. And chances are, if you're not in the mob, you're a huge Jerkass who just doesn't happen to be as morally bankrupt.
  • The Shield: The entire Strike Team are guilty of numerous crimes, but particularly Vic Mackey and Shane Vendrell. The pilot episode drives the "bad cop" point home by having Vic shooting and killing a fellow cop, because Vic knew he was planning on ratting the Strike Team out to Internal Affairs.
  • Alan B'stard of The New Statesman. A corrupt politician abusing his power, all Played for Laughs.
  • Nancy Botwin and her Affably Evil associates from Weeds are drug dealers. Then again, almost every official and law officer is a corrupt hypocrite. She starts out in a Stepford Suburbia in a Crapsack World, and things go downhill from there.
  • Walter White of Breaking Bad slowly evolves toward this over the course of the first four seasons, especially under his "Heisenberg" alter-ego. Walter still remains an Anti-Hero, thus maintaining audience support, by always struggling against someone worse than him. By the fifth season, however, Walter has become a cold and cruel man, and his opposition is his own family, becoming the Big Bad in his own story, at least in the first half of the season. In the second half, he undergoes a Heel Realization and turns against Those Wacky Neo-Nazis he was working with up until then.
  • There are a few episodes of iCarly where even Freddie and Carly end up going against Sam when she does something bad. Example, starting a child labour sweatshop.
  • Sylar of Heroes. In the first season he's the Big Bad, but in the second and subsequent seasons he's a protagonist and goes through a Heel–Face Revolving Door, spending some portions as a hero and more portions as a villain.
  • To the extent that they are protagonists, rather than Echo, the staff of the Dollhouse is this. Although their villainy lessens over time, especially in season 2 as a Greater Evil is uncovered.
  • All male members of the Blake's 7 crew flirt with this, even Blake. In the finale of Season 2, it's made clear that he was fully willing to cause the deaths of millions of people (by computer failure) in order to take down the Federation.
  • Francis Urquhart in the BBC series House of Cards and its sequels To Play the King and The Final Cut. Urquhart is a Richard III-esque British MP who schemes his way up to being Prime Minister via various sneaky and some downright evil acts.
  • Frank Underwood in the House of Cards U.S. remake is a ruthless politician who will do anything for more power. In Shakespearean tradition, he frequently gives snide, sneering and self-satisfied asides to the audience, letting the viewer see inside his twisted mind. Also applies increasingly to his wife Claire as she gets more and more focus and power. They're both pretty damn evil, really.
  • Lex Luthor in Smallville. Although the show is supposed to be about Clark Kent, it focuses on Lex just as much and his descent into becoming the Arch-Enemy of Superman.
  • The Gang - yep, all of them - in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Don't hang out with those guys, or they'll crush your spirits and make you as vile as them.
  • Al Swearingen in the first season of Deadwood is a co-protagonist and the main villain, with Seth Bullock as the heroic co-protagonist. In the second and third season, the Hearst enterprises serve as the villain and Al becomes a more sympathetic Anti-Hero.
  • This is very often the case on Tales from the Crypt, where the protagonist is a murderer or some other sadistic criminal (who usually gets what's coming to him at the hands of someone who's even worse.) For instance, in "Surprise Party", the protagonist finds his father is going to donate a chunk of farmland and its ruined house to charity -so he kills him. When the son goes out to the farmhouse, he finds the reason it's ruined is his father burned it down years ago -with the attendees to a party still inside. Their ghosts can't take revenge on the father anymore...
  • Boardwalk Empire: By the end of the second season, nearly every major character qualifies. Hell, even the Hero Antagonist has turned into one.
  • Almost every episode of Columbo starts off from the villain's point-of-view as he or she carries out a supposedly perfect murder. In "Murder, a Self-Portrait", the viewer follows Mark Barsini as he realizes his first, now ex-, wife Louise has been seeing a therapist, and is planning on moving in with him. There's something that "never happened" that Mark doesn't want getting out, and Louise knows about it...
  • The Borgias: Rodrigo Borgia, also known as Pope Alexander Sextus, is this. He's Affably Evil, has four kids and an openly-known mistress, and has no problem with blackmail or bribery, and pimps his kids out to the highest bidder. Plus, there's all of the less-than-ethical executions he's considered, and the situations his children have had to endure—in what amounts to emotional abuse. His elder son, Cesare, is an even better example, what with the killing people, having a personal assassin as a best friend, and really loving his sister, though that's probably the least villainous part of his personality. If history has anything to say about it, he gets worse.
  • Sailor Moon: Sailor Moon herself is revealed to have been this all along toward the end of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. She's the Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds variety.
  • Harry Montebello in The Straits has been known to kill people by feeding them to a variety of exotic wildlife. This is because he takes the security of his drug-smuggling business and his family extremely seriously.
  • 24 has a couple: in the penultimate season there was Tony Almeida who actually eclipsed Jack for a good chunk of the season by working with a group of terrorists and actually is the first to plan out an attack on a subway station all so he could work his way up try and kill their leader, and in the final season both Allison Taylor who protects the masterminds behind a successful assassination attempt on a foreign government official and Jack Bauer himself who attempts to assassinate said masterminds even though his doing so starts indirectly putting innocent people in danger, so much so that he ultimately nearly stars a world war trying to kill the one in charge.
  • Scandal: Olivia Pope and her team start out as traditional protagonists, but that changes at the start of season 2. For starters, Olivia and Supreme Court Justice Verna shut down Quinn's trial to save Quinn. David Rosen is unhappy about that, and he decides to dig for answers about Quinn. It turns out that Olivia, Verna, Cyrus, Mellie, and Hollis are working together in some sort of conspiracy. Olivia had an affair with President Fitz for a long time, despite the fact that Fitz is still married to Mellie. Also, Olivia participated in rigging the election so that Fitz would become President. She also sabotaged David's efforts to find answers. When you put it together, you have a group of protagonists who are actually villains and not heroes.
  • The Americans plays with this trope. The protagonists are deep-cover KGB sleeper agents in the United States in 1981, so American audiences are expected to approach them as the "villains" of the show. Indeed, they do commit murder and many other ruthless crimes throughout the series. However, the show's drama hinges on the pair being sympathetic, primarily through their home life as a family. They are often shown to be similar to their American rivals, and they occasionally get forced into making difficult choices between duty to their nation and their own moral scruples.
  • Skins has Tony Stonem in Series 1, who is a manipulative, heartless bastard. He gets better.
  • Dexter: The main character is a serial killer who targets other murderers. Dexter is an Anti-Hero for most of the series, as although he is a murderer, the conflict comes from him opposing a more villainous Big Bad in each season. In the final season, however, Dexter's flaws finally catch up to him and he's portrayed as his own worst enemy, pushing him into becoming the villain of his own story.
  • Blackadder:
    • Edmund Blackadder is a greedy, self-centred arse who enjoys insulting those around him and will happily betray, abuse and mis-treat those around him, especially his inferiors. Frankly, if he wasn't played by Rowan Atkinson he'd be almost completely unlovable. Averted - albeit temporarily - in "Blackadder's Christmas Carol", and in the final minutes of the final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth.
    • Of the four main-series Blackadders, the most villainous is probably the one from "Blackadder the Third", who commits multiple murders, abuses his underlings, robs, swindles, lies, and even kicks a cat at one point. He's at least self-aware about it; when there's an ad for a "treacherous, malicious, unprincipled cad" to be King of Sardinia, Blackadder gives it due consideration.
  • Henry VIII on The Tudors is a chronically-backstabbing, Control Freak Narcissist with a Hair-Trigger Temper who spends four straight seasons abusing his family, murdering his rivals (and sometimes their innocent family members), and manipulating national policy to flatter his own vanity.
  • In both the original British and American versions of Shameless, Frank Gallagher is an alcoholic, lying, dishonest, violent, neglectful parent, but he's still the main character.
  • Early seasons of Sons of Anarchy paint Jax Teller as the more idealistic (though far from innocent) alternative to his violent, crooked stepfather Clay Morrow. But near the end of Season 4, that all changes. A series of tragedies in Jax's personal life cause him to be sidetracked onto a path of revenge, and he becomes increasingly violent, manipulative, and generally controlled by evil. The show attempts to portray him favorably by putting SAMCRO up against some of the worst criminals imaginable, but his efforts to defeat them always wind up causing him and his club more mental anguish. By the start of Season 7, it's apparent that Jax has become the villain of his own story.
  • House of Saddam chronicles the rise and fall of Iraq's infamous former dictator.
  • Discussed in the Hercules: The Legendary Journeys episode "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Hercules", where — behind the scenes — the lead actor Kevin Sorbo goes missing, forcing the writers to consider changing the show to account for Hercules' disappearance, and two of the staff members, a gun nut and an unhinged psychopath played by the actors who play Ares and Xena's nemesis Callisto, gleefully propose spinoff series about Ares and Callisto respectively.
  • Hitler: The Rise of Evil: To be expected in a biographical miniseries that focuses on Adolf Hitler. The main character is a racist demagogue who wants to institute a new dictatorial empire and annihilate the Jews.
  • Justified splits its screentime equally between U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens and Harlan County crime boss Boyd Crowder, the latter of whom, as a ruthless criminal trying to take control of the county, is a definite example of this.
  • The Vampire Diaries didn't start out this way, but as more of the Main Characters became vampires, and even "good" vampires like Stefan were revealed to have done horrific things, Villain protagonists became the norm. By the end of the third season, Elena admits that killing all the vampires in the world, including her friends, would actually be the right thing to do, and that trying to keep them alive, at the expense of who-knows-how-many people they'll go on to kill, makes her the bad guy. To which she adds, "Fine, I'll be the bad guy."
  • After a certain point in season 1 of Homeland and throughout season 2, the audience is aware of POW turned terrorist Nicholas Brody having ill intentions of which the intelligence agent protagonists are unaware, and the audience's sympathies are split between wanting to see them stop him and seeing if/how he can overcome various obstacles in his way. In season 5, a significant amount of the plot involves a new character, Allison, who is a Double Agent for Russia. The regular cast members essentially play a Hero Antagonist role in relation to her, as she plays them against each other and later on, attempts to evade discovery and capture.
  • Supernatural: By the end of Season 10, it's clear that Sam and Dean Winchester are the biggest threats currently out there, and only barely any better than the things they hunt, if at all.
  • Doctor Who: The three-part finale of Series 9 ("Face the Raven"/"Heaven Sent"/"Hell Bent") sees the Doctor undergo a Protagonist Journey to Villain when he experiences a horrifying Trauma Conga Line of betrayal, torture, and above all the death of his companion and sweetheart Clara Oswald. He thus spends most of "Hell Bent" as a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds ready to risk the safety of the universe on the Tragic Dream of saving her from the grave, but ultimately has a Heel Realization and with the help of Laser-Guided Karma returns to his best self.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has a Deconstruction. The protagonist Rebecca is not really a bad person, but she moved all the way to West Covina just to reunite with her ex-boyfriend, and has repeatedly done bizarre schemes to get together with him, even though he's with someone else. The ex-boyfriend's current girlfriend Valencia is portrayed as an Alpha Bitch who sees other women as "just jealous of her", but the show makes it on many occasions that Rebecca's actions to steal Josh away, however she may justify them to herself, are still wrong. Rebecca herself comes to think so, in her Heel Realization song "I'm The Villain In My Own Story".
  • Many Black Mirror protagonists are awful people who really need to be taught a lesson. In the show, Humans Are Bastards because they keep abusing technology. The biggest example is Robert Daly from "USS Callister", a creepy, self-entitled nerd who presides as an asshole god over a modded version of a video game he developed and subjects the sentient characters to torture to relieve his frustrations from work.
  • One series that really toys with this along with many other tropes is The League of Gentlemen which doesn't so much follow one central plot as much as seperate parallel storylines where most of the characters get their time in the limelight. And many of those easily fulfill this role as well in their part of the story. Examples include the xenophobic and murderous local shop owners Edward and Tubbs Tattsyrup who make a habit out of disposing the un-local elements, the verbally and physically abusive job-restart officer Pauline Campbell Jones and Geoff Tipps a volatile and immature man who envies and resents his supposed best friends and often threatens them with his gun.
  • Escape at Dannemora: The protagonists are two convicted murderers and the philandering prison employee who helps them escape.
  • On You (2018), the protagonist Joe is a Stalker with a Crush who is obsessed with a grad student named Beck and would do anything to be with her.
  • Taken: Three generations of the Crawford family, Owen, Eric and Mary, commit terrible crimes as part of their crusade to discover what the aliens are planning. Owen is a complete sociopath while Mary is highly erratic and unstable. Eric is not on quite the same level as his father and daughter. In "Maintenance", he tries to become a better man. In "God's Equation", he has reached the stage where he does not want any more deaths on his conscience.
  • On Mr. Robot, Angela slowly evolves into this by the third season. After spending two seasons trying to get justice for her mother's death and getting constantly looked down by others, Whiterose's brainwashing turns her into a cold, borderline sociopathic woman who is willing to get what she wants no matter at what cost, even go as far as to mind raping Elliot.
  • Gotham focuses as much on Oswald Cobblepot and his rise to power as it does on Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne, with conflicts usually shown from two perspectives - the GCPD's and Penguin's crime family. A writer for The Atlantic even argued that the series should be renamed The Penguin Show.
  • Trilogy of Terror: The segment "Julie" has Chad Morgan, a sexual predator who blackmails his English professor into dating him.
  • Zero Zero Zero: All three storylines are told from the perspective of drug runners, though their level of villainy varies dramatically.
  • Resident Alien is about an alien who crash-lands on Earth while trying to deposit and detonate a Doomsday Device in order to Kill All Humans. He still intends to complete this mission once he repairs his ship and recovers the device, even as he tries to blend in among the local population.
  • In WandaVision, Wanda is more of an Anti-Villain Protagonist, but she definitely fits. Regardless of how sympathetic her motives are, the fact is that she trapped hundreds of people inside the bubble and controlled their minds (even if the initial creation was an accident), gaslit Vision when he started to get suspicious and turned violent with anyone who even slightly challenged her comfort-reality.

See also the music page for Villain Song.

  • Great Big Sea's Harbour Lecou is narrated by a sailor seeking marital infidelity in a port away from his home & family.
  • The Irish traditional Whiskey In The Jar famously performed by The Pogues and The Dubliners follows the crimes and arrest of a highway-robbing drunkard.
  • Clockwork Quartet's 'The Watchmaker's Apprentice' is told from the perspective of a man who frames his boss for murder.
  • The narrator of the Wreckers song "Crazy People". There's a reason only crazy people fall in love with you, lady.
  • Pink, from Pink Floyd's The Wall. Though the album begins with a Start of Darkness and ends with a redemption of sorts.
  • The narrator of Warren Zevon's "Mr. Bad Example". He starts out stealing from a church fund for widows and orphans, and only gets worse. The Ax-Crazy "Excitable Boy" would be another example.
  • Hip-Hop artists like Jay-Z or 50 Cent were allegedly criminals before having music careers, and many of their songs deal with this topic from their perspective.
  • The viewpoint character of Voltaire's song "When You're Evil" is a Card-Carrying Villain. Also "Almost Human", and "The Chosen" and "Brains"... he kinda likes that one.
  • The Rake from The Decemberists' "The Rake's Song" sings, without so much as a hint of regret, about how he killed his three children in order to escape from the responsibilities of parenthood. It's quite good.
  • Nick Cave has a few songs about villain protagonists, most notably the entire album Murder Ballads.
  • The heavy metal band GWAR can be classified as this.
  • Then there's "Sympathy for the Devil" by The Rolling Stones, which as the title makes clear is narrated by Satan himself.
  • Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" is about a hero who travels to the future and witnesses The End of the World as We Know It, and when he travels back to the present, he is transformed into the title's villain who causes the future destruction in the first place.
  • All of Macabre's are told from the perspective of the most wicked killers in human history.
  • Peter Gabriel's songs "Intruder" and "Family Snapshot" are told from the perspectives of a burglar and Lee Harvey Oswald/Arthur Bremmer, respectively.
  • The Primus song "My Name Is Mud" is sung from the perspective of a man who murdered his friend and is burying the body.
  • Everything that happens in a Monster Magnet song happens with a fistful of pills. Protagonists run the gamut from garden-variety drug abusers/dealers to comic-book-style supervillains and demonic agents. There are a lot of bombs getting planted, and things might get a little rape-y. Notable are the infanticidal couple of "See You in Hell", the drug-addled character in "Tractor", and various personifications of evil in "Kiss of the Scorpion", "Atomic Clock", and "Bummer".
    I drove out to the Meadowlands to throw our baby away. —"See You in Hell"
    If you wanna spank your demons and make them pay, well baby, I'm your man of the hour —"Bummer"
    Got a knife in my back, got a hole in my arm, I'm driving a tractor on a drug farm —"Tractor"
  • "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen is sung by a condemned murderer who is only sorry he didn't get away with it. Maybe. At the very least, we know Beelzebub has a devil put aside for him. For him. For hiiiiiiiiiiiim.
  • The Beatles had a few examples: the title characters in John's "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill", Paul's "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and George's "Taxman" (the last one is also the viewpoint character), the persona in John's "Run for Your Life", and John's persona in the second half of "Happiness is a Warm Gun".
  • Ziltoid from the Ziltoid the Omniscient album by Devin Townsend is definitely this. He destroys earth, because he didn't like the coffee they presented him, follows the escaping humans to another planet, unsuccessfully attempts to destroy that one, then he asks the Planet Smasher to destroy another planet, which is populated by sentient being, just to lift his mood.
  • The Nirvana song "Polly" is sung from the point of view of a rapist who holds his victim captive and tortures her with razors and a blowtorch. It was based on a true story.
  • Many, many Vocaloid songs. Notable examples include Mothy-P's Story of Evil and the numerous "yandere" songs like "Luka's Love Disease," "Miku's Rotten Girl," and "Grotesque Romance."
  • "Behind Blue Eyes" by The Who is this with an Anti-Villain.
  • The narrators of Iron Maiden's "Sanctuary" (a man who killed a woman and is looking for a hideout), "Moonchild" (Lucifer himself), and "El Dorado" (a Corrupt Corporate Executive).
  • Metallica's "Jump in the Fire" is sung by the Devil.
  • Slayer's "Angel of Death," about Josef Mengele.
  • Iron Maiden has a few, such as "Run to the Hills" (the first half is sung by a Badass Native, then a Perspective Flip goes to a cavalryman gloating about destroying their tribes) and "El Dorado" (sung by a Corrupt Corporate Executive who cons people without any shame).
  • Elton John's "Ticking" has an initially unassuming protagonist going on to kill 14 people in a mass shooting before being gunned down by police.
  • The Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays" was written about Brenda Spencer, who killed two adults and injured nine children in a school shooting in San Diego in 1979.
  • U2's "Until the End of the World" is sung from the perspective of Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus Christ.
  • Within Temptation uses these most significantly in their "Unforgiving" album (and supplemental arc videos), which revolves around a vigilante serial killer cult recruited from the souls of the damned.
  • The Eagles' 1973 album Desperado tells the story of real-life wild west outlaws Bill Doolin and Bill Dalton.
  • The Kinks "Sunny Afternoon" is told from the prescriptive of a Rich Bastard who complains about "the tax man [taking] all [he's] got" (yet he still lives in a "stately home"), being unable to use his yacht and is an Alcoholic that is "cruel" to his girlfriend.
  • The main character from Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral starts off as someone who indulges heavily in sex and drugs to try to feel something, but crosses the Moral Event Horizon when he eventually rapes someone.
    • Several songs on Year Zero are also from the villains' perspectives. "God Given" and "Capital G" are from the viewpoints of the corrupt church and state respectively, "The Great Destroyer" is most likely the viewpoint of a character known as "The Angry Sniper," and the last half of "The Warning" has the disembodied hand in the sky known as The Presence threaten to destroy mankind if they don't change their ways.
  • The band, Fear Factory's, earlier albums were based on a continues storyline about a futuristic war between man and machine; machines being the villains. Many of their songs at the time had the machine leader giving it's commentary on wanting to wipe out the human race.
  • Barnacle Bill the Sailor from the Bawdy Song of the same name is occasionally depicted as this, especially in the more vulgar versions of the song. If the fair young maiden asks what will happen if her parents see him, he will answer that he will "kill your pa and fuck your ma". When asked about what will happen if he goes to jail, Barnacle Bill will brag that he will escape. At the very least, the cleaner versions of the song make it clear that Barnacle Bill is not a pleasant fellow.
  • The Talking Heads song "Psycho Killer" is sung from the point of view of the Son of Sam killer.
  • The song "Sex Dwarf" by Soft Cell is from the point of view of some kind of pimp or something, and has an oft-repeated line about "Luring disco dollies to a life of vice."
  • Blue Öyster Cult gives us the song ME262, which positively goes into rhapsodies about the World War II German jet fighter, and the joys of shooting down bombers for the Nazi regime.
    "ME262 Prince of Turbojets, Junkers Jumo 004, blasts from clustered R4M quartets in my snout, and see these English planes go burn..."
    • The cover of the album on which the single appears, "Secret Treaties", even features the band standing around the plane with the group's logo replacing the German markings on it.
    • Blue Öyster Cult does this a lot, really. Some other examples include "Career of Evil", "Then Came the Last Days of May", "Harvester of Eyes", and "Dr. Music".
    • Their Rock Opera Imaginos and Albert Bouchard's sequel Imaginos II: Bombs Over Germany follow the story of the flamboyantly amoral shapeshifter Desdinova.
  • Eminem's early music told the stories of Slim Shady, an Ax-Crazy, sexist, homophobic, drugged-up, Chaotic Stupid sociopath who leaves a trail of violence and wanton destruction wherever he goes.
  • "Strong" by Clamavi de Profundis tells the story of a Viking tribe who goes to invade a monastery, fully intending to kill everyone there, and loot all their gold.
  • The Police: in "Every Step You Take" the protagonist is very clearly meant to be a Stalker with a Crush, and Sting himself said the lyrics are meant to be very sinister. Despite all this, some people still say they find the song romantic.
  • "Caught" by Velvet Acid Christ is song from the point of view of a Serial Killer who mainly preys on children, especially little girls, who apparently leaves his victims "Eviscerated, with their tongues cut out", and brags about how evil and scary he is and how no one will catch him.
  • Nine Inch Nails: "Big Man With A Gun" is sung from the point of view of a Serial Rapist, and in one of the lines he talks about wanting to put a hole in someone's head "Just for the fuck of it.

    Mythology and Religion 


  • John Wilkes Booth is this in the 1865 prequel miniseries.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. While there's no question that he was an Anti-Hero from 1998 onward, it could be argued that he was basically this in 1997. Although the crowd was firmly on his side against the Hart Foundation, he acted like the same vicious heel he had always been - beating up on babyfaces, even the ones who helped him. When Mankind helped him in a handicap match, for example, he hugged him and then gave him a Stunner and told him he'd never work with a freak like him. When he was forced to relinquish the Intercontinental and Tag Team Titles thanks to his neck injury, he made a hitlist of the three main authority figures (lead announcer Jim Ross, Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter, and Vince McMahon) and made sure to beat them all up while mocking them for it the whole time. Mind you, they were all babyfaces and were looking out for his safety. Just 18 months earlier, that same type of storyline was used to get Vader over as a monster heel. Real Life Writes the Plot intervened to create a brilliant Heel–Face Turn against Bret Hart (who did a Face–Heel Turn in the same match), and Austin became the number one most popular guy in the golden era of wrestling.

  • Thomas in Old Harry's Game is the focus of most of the story lines he's in. He's also such a godawful person that Satan (himself an example of this trope) is shocked by how evil he is at times.
  • Ghost of True Capitalist Radio can be this at his worst. Usually, he is an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist with many Pet the Dog moments, but he occasionally lets his mean-spiritedness and bullying nature get the better of him.

  • Destroy the Godmodder: In Be the Godmodders, you played as godmodders, trashing the last safe haven left.
  • Dorf Quest's Beardbeard embodies this trope - cutting down forests, killing elves, attacking small children, and promoting Satan himself to godhood.
  • Eric from Mall Fight. Originally he was Heroic Neutral, a Type IV Anti Hero at worst, but in the latest canon he rules over a Wretched Hive, keeping dozens of slave girls and a former classmate he's obsessed with as his queen against her will. He still tries to do good and wants to be a hero, he just doesn't care about what anyone else wants.
  • The main character of Digimon World: Infamy is solely motivated by Revenge and killing the "heroes", not caring in the least bit about wiping out any number of random Digimon if it helps him achieve his goals.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Atmosfear's player characters include a shyster mummy, a serial-killer vampire, a bloodthirsty werewolf, an angry poltergeist, a vodou-spinning zombie, a vain gorgon, a pyromaniac witch or skeletal bandits trying to escape an even BIGGER asshole in the form of the Gatekeeper.
  • After two expansions to their Middle Earth CCG, Iron Crown Entertainment tried shaking things up by releasing a whole second basic set called "The Lidless Eye", casting the players as one of the nine Nazgul, working in the shadows to locate the Ringbearer and/or rally the monstrous races into an army. An interesting idea, but unfortunately, one which did nothing to stem fan complaints of "filler lore", and only ruffled more feathers by being largely incompatible with cards from the previous set.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Due to the Evil Versus Evil setting, every faction could be seen as a villain protagonist when they're being played. From war-crazed Ork swarms to Chaos demons to fascist, genocidal humans, no one group could be said to be "the good guys." The Craftworld Eldar, Tau Empire, and some sub-factions of the Imperium could probably get away with being called dark Anti Heroes, but everyone else (including the bulk of the Imperium) is firmly in Omnicidal Maniac territory to anyone outside of their faction... and even a lot of people within it.
    • That said, the Imperium's Villain Protagonist status is more evident in earlier editions of the game. As the game grew more popular and mainstream, since the Imperium was the de facto protagonist faction due to being the "Human Over-Faction", it got progressively Lighter and Softer to make it palatable.
  • The basic assumption when you play an Abyssal in Exalted. One chapter even has discussion about how to make the game more than one slaughterfest after another; they are that bad.
    • This is where you're assumed to start as a Green Sun Prince in 2e. Subverted, however, if you quickly catch on that the Yozis are (A) certifiably insane and (B) can't actually rope you in. You can become a Punch-Clock Villain looking for an escape, a Well-Intentioned Extremist Anti-Hero using a loose interpretation of your orders to push an ultimately productive agenda, or just a plain ol' Noble Demon who just wants to be left alone, before you slip the leash entirely. It's dropped in 3e and Essence, which see the Yozis letting you do your own thing without mandating any particular behavior, figuring you'll serve the Yozis' ends just by being yourself and disrupting Creation's established power structures as you go (and given you're among the most powerful of the Exalted, it's hard to say they're wrong...).
  • Many gamelines of the World of Darkness have the players as traditional "monsters", vampires, werewolves, mummies, etc. But there are a few where the player character actually has to be evil, Beast: The Primordial is one of those exceptions. Beasts have to inspire fear, often destructively, else their Soul runs rampant and does it anyway, with a chance of creating Heroes obsessed with slaying them. But even Beasts can feed their hunger without being destructive by watching other supernaturals feed.
  • Though not specific to any system in particular, it's very much the point to many campaigns. The "evil campaign" is often used to change things up where the PCs are the group of troublesome goblins, the terrorizing bandits or eclectic grouping of monsters. The goals tend to vary from pure destruction for the sake of destruction, sticking it to a certain group, actual goals of city/country/world domination or even a subversion of the genre.
  • By definition, Player Characters in Shadowrun are all criminals, and more often than not criminals performing not only illegal but also immoral acts on the behest of one Mega-Corp or Syndicate or another. Most game masters will pit the characters against opponents who are at least a little worse than they are.
  • While Empire of Satanis tries to explain it with a "master morality", the bottom line is that you are a demon who performs evil acts and torments humans so you can become a god and be even more evil.
  • Bloody Inn has the players act as members of a villainous family of innkeepers who compete to see who can murder and rob more guests without being caught by the authorities.
  • Legendary Encounters: Predator has a variant where the players play as Predators who are hunting humans for trophies.
  • The SavageWorlds setting Necessary Evil has the players make supervillain characters to combat an alien invasion.
  • The Pathfinder RPG has an Adventure Path called Hell's Vengeance where the whole point is to play evil characters serving Cheliax.
  • Trogdor!! The Board Game casts the players as the Keepers of Trogdor, who help the ferocious dragon Trogdor the Burninator and guide his actions as he rampages across the kingdom of Peasantry, burninating the countryside, the peasants, and the thatched-roof cottages.
  • Monopoly: The players are supposed to be this, as the goal of the game is not to simply make the most money, but to buy out everyone else or put them out of business. The game was meant to have a Capitalism Is Bad message. Unfortunately, this goes right over the heads of most modern day players.
  • The Delta Green adventure "Iconoclasts" has perhaps one of the more outstanding examples of this in tabletop games, with the first chapter of the multi-part adventure making the player characters for the scenario members of ISIS who are tasked with destroying "blasphemous" artifacts. This being Delta Green, the adventure is typically meant to end with a total party kill after the extremists damage the wrong jar and unleash a Mask of Nyarlathotep that takes the form of a flensing storm of shards of obsidian, with the other chapters focused on Delta Green picking up the wreckage.

  • Christopher Marlowe's plays:
    • Tamburlaine features as its protagonist a man who mutilates, kills, subjugates, and rapes at any opportunity he gets. He locks up the Ottoman Emperor in a cage and feeds him his wife; he kills one of his own sons for being unwilling to fight; he is driven around in a chariot drawn by deposed kings and emperors. In the end, he burns a Qur'an and dies suddenly.
    • The Jew of Malta goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that takes in a lot of innocent bystanders, including an entire convent full of nuns.
    • Doctor Faustus sells his soul to the devil for diabolical powers that he uses for selfish and often petty goals.
  • In the plays of William Shakespeare:
  • Medea from Greek Myth, at least as presented by Euripides in the play Medea. A straight reading of the facts of the myth makes Medea come across as an irredeemably evil multiple murderess (her victims included her younger brother and her sons), yet Euripides presents her as sympathetic, or at least understandable.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: The title character kills everyone who comes into his barbershop and has them baked into meat pies to get rid of the bodies. Mrs. Lovett fits the trope as well.
  • In Used Cars, the salesman protagonists lie, cheat, and steal from essentially everyone they meet.
  • Volpone is a greedy and lecherous con man; the play's main plot is about him faking being on the edge of death to trick people into giving him gifts in the hopes that he'd name them as his heir.
  • Arnolphe, from The School for Wives (L'école des femmes), is a clear example, although he is usually seen as sympathetic because all his plans are easily thwarted and his villainy stems mostly from his desire to have a loving wife who will not be unfaithful to him.
  • Don Giovanni is a lecherous noble who has had sex with over two thousand women before callously abandoning them. The opera begins with him trying to rape a woman, then killing her father when he defends her honor.
  • While most of the cast of Great Britain are morally ambiguous at best, the main character, Paige Britain, is most definitely a villain, being a worker at a tabloid paper, who rapidly becomes more corrupt and goes to greater ends to try and further her career. She eventually crosses the Moral Event Horizon by allowing a Page Seven model to starve to death so she can have the exclusive rights to her death story.
  • No Exit: All three main characters have well earned being condemned to Hell together. Ines is a self-proclaimed sadist who murdered her own cousin to get with his wife, Garcin is a narcissistic Dirty Coward who emotionally abused and cheated on his wife, and Estelle is an unhinged psychopath who drowned her own baby and drove her lover to suicide in order to cover up an affair.
  • Harry Bogen from I Can Get It For You Wholesale spends the entire musical lying, cheating, betraying and embezzling his way to success.
  • Roxie Hart, the protagonist of Chicago, is an unrepentant murderer who cheats her husband, shoots the man she cheated with after finding out he lied about being able to get her into show business, refuses to admit she did anything wrong, lies in order to gain press sympathy...and eventually gets off scot-free.

    Theme Parks 

    Visual Novels 
  • Atlach=Nacha, where the protagonist Hatsune is a humanitarian Giant Spider who lusts after tender young schoolgirls to replenish her energy and fight Hero Antagonist Shirogane, though she can be played as a Nominal Hero, and Shirogane himself is the true Big Bad who made her that way.
  • Beyond Eden's protagonist Alex Wake is essentially a younger, more emotionally broken Edmund Dantes who doesn't shy away from using rape and blackmail in revenge against those he sees as responsible for his sister's death. The entire VN revolves around uncovering what turned a moral and good child into such a man, and whether the targets of his (misguided) revenge could still get through to him and convince him of the possibility of atonement.
  • Servant Avenger from Fate/hollow ataraxia, originally the Greater-Scope Villain of the original story, is definitely a Villain Protagonist - he is supposed to be Evil Incarnate, after all. His soul itself is twisted and Always Chaotic Evil, and he actively pursues murder and rape to pass the time. This does not prevent him from becoming a character you can sympathise with, especially after the flashback to his horrific Start of Darkness and some very poignant conversations with other characters. Despite hating humanity, he still shoulders the responsibility that was forced onto him - to bear every sin ever committed and will be committed by a human and forever serve as a twisted 'champion' of humanity. The ending is complete with a Tear Jerking Heroic Sacrifice.
    "Even if humanity is worthless, the history that has been laid down until now has meaning.
    (...) It is not a sin to exist."
  • About halfway through Saya no Uta, it’s revealed that the protagonist Fuminori Sakisaka and female lead Saya are an insane, cannibalistic killer and an amoral Eldritch Abomination, respectively. Although Fuminori doesn't start out that way, only becoming evil if he chooses to stay with her at the first branching point and crosses the Moral Event Horizon, and they're both sympathetic.
  • Umineko: When They Cry loves to play with this trope, at least in-universe. Namely, in the 5th Arc, Battler become the Endless Sorcerer while a Mary Sue of Bernkastel's creation takes up the in-universe 'protagonist' role. (That is, has a reliable perspective.) In reality, though, no face heels or heel faces occur. The 'protagonist' role simply gets taken over by the two most evil characters in the series while they force the good guys into the 'antagonist' role.
  • A number of "dark" visual novels of the Hentai variety feature a protagonist who, from the beginning, intends nothing better than to rape and/or enslave as many targets as possible.
  • Towards the climax of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, it's revealed that all the quirky, but not exactly evil, students are actually dangerous terrorists put in a Lotus-Eater Machine in an attempt to be rehabilitated. In fact, Hajime Hinata, as his alter ego and Junko Enoshima's second-in-command, Izuru Kamukura, is responsible for not just the events of the game, but also the Tragedy that sparked the entire series. By the end, however, all the survivors choose to atone for their actions, and in-game most of them are decent people who don’t act villainously, with the exception of the various culprits.
  • Never 7 attempts to subvert traditional visual novel dating sim storytelling by placing the player in the shoes of the character who would typically be considered The Rival. Although Makoto begins the game as simply a lazy womanizer, over the course of the game he ends up assaulting a small dog, grooming a child to date him, lashing out in anger whenever events don't go his way, fantasizing about breaking all of the bones of a middle schooler, and even attacking fellow main characters who attempt to explain to him what's really been going on behind the scenes of the game.

    Web Animation 
  • The Annoying Orange: Orange is a Psychopathic Manchild who often laughs at the brutal deaths of the foods he comes across, makes his friends (especially Pear) the butt of jokes, obsesses over explosives, and makes sadistic jokes at others' expense. However, he is much nicer in the Cartoon Network series (not that it says much).
  • Counterspell: Black Mage and Bruiser are both bosses who were supposed to fight the heroes to the death only to run away and cause chaos outside of their zone.
  • The title character of Felix Colgrave's Double King is a strange little creature who spends the whole cartoon running around, killing other rulers and stealing their kingdoms, all so he can wear their crowns.
  • The main cast of Eddsworld counts, due to their violent, but affable behavior, but mostly Tom and Tord fall into this.
  • The title character of Father Tucker is a Pedophile Priest who has gotten away with his actions due to forcing his victims into keeping quiet by claiming they'll go to Hell if they squeal on him and none of the adults suspecting anything wrong.
  • GEOWeasel focuses on The Big Weas, whose goal is to take over the world, though he is not seen doing much to that end.
  • The webseries Gotham Girls stars four of Batman's most prominent supporting ladies. One of them is the vigilante superhero Batgirl... and the other three are jewel thief Catwoman, eco-terrorist Poison Ivy and supporting henchgirl Harley Quinn. Their shenanigans can be entertaining, but they never let up with the thievery and crime.
  • Happy Tree Friends:
    • While Lumpy is usually portrayed as well-meaning but extremely stupid, there are some episodes where he is instead portrayed as this, such as "We're Scrooged" where he murders Toothy for the sake of selling his body parts, "Banjo Frenzy" when he goes on a killing spree because nobody liked his song, and "All in Vein" when he's a vampire, and not the friendly kind.
    • Lifty and Shifty are the focus of most episodes where they appear. They also swindle and steal from the other characters on a regular basis, often knowingly killing the victim in the process.
    • While Splendid is usually just a Heroic Comedic Sociopath, he's this full-on in his one appearance in "Ka-Pow!" when he starts a fight with Splendont which destroys half the town and kills countless people just because Splendont wouldn't shake his hand.
    • While Flippy isn't a villain to start with (most of the time), his Superpowered Evil Side usually takes over midway through most episodes focusing on him.
  • Helluva Boss: Blitzo, Moxxie, Millie, and Loona are the main protagonists in this series. As demons working in an agency in Hell that specializes in assassination, they are far from good guys.
  • Llamas with Hats: Carl is an Axe-Crazy psychopath who slaughters crews ships, nukes cities, mutilates babies to steal their hands, and eventually goes on to end all life on Earth.
  • The Most Epic Story Ever Told in All of Human History: Ridiculously Epic, the Big Bad, takes center stage and is more or less the main protagonist of episodes 2 and 7, “Ten Steps to Saving the World that Totally Won’t Work” and “The Most Epic Supervillain Origin Story”, respectively. He is just as evil as usual during these episodes.
  • Mystery Skulls Animated: "Ghost" and "Freaking Out" feature the powerful vengeful ghost Lewis as a major focus; the former song is from his perspective, and the second part of the latter video is devoted mostly to him resolving to find Vivi and get Revenge on Arthur.
  • In the prequel segments of Red vs. Blue, the Freelancers fall in this category... but they're not portrayed as bad guys, just as guys being told the bad things they're doing are actually for good reasons.
  • Many Youtube Poop and GoAnimate protagonists will murder, rape, and do all kinds of horrific things for little to no reason.
  • In two shows created by Mark Cope and Carlos Moss: Mackenzie Zales from The Most Popular Girls in School and Dr. Havoc from Dr. Havoc's Diary. While the former often succeeds in her plans, the latter doesn't.

  • Life and Death while played for laughs, Steve takes his job as Death seriously and murders a lot of people as does his assistant Sally.
  • Bun Bun of Sluggy Freelance is a sociopathic, switchblade-wielding, possibly immortal madman (well, madrabbit) who cuts anything that annoys him, and he was actually the protagonist of a story arc.
  • In Zebra Girl, the eponymous character's transformation into a demon was initially Played for Laughs, but the long-running Cerebus Syndrome is turning her into a Villain Protagonist.
  • Arthur Yahtzee from Yahtzee Takes On The World (by Yahtzee) is a wannabe Evil Genius who's trying to take over the world.
  • Every character in Cry 'Havoc' bar Hati is greedy, violent, sadistic, or manipulative. The only defining characteristic the protagonists share is a sense of group loyalty (that may or may not be innate).
  • Dr. Kinesis, and in fact, most of the main characters in Evil Plan. The webcomic is about supervillains, so this trope applies heavily.
  • The stunningly mis-named Angel of The Good Witch, who has a Freudian Excuse, but long since went over the Moral Event Horizon.
  • Jared features three main characters who are all varying shades of evil; Jared, Mary and Lilac, as well as some with questionable motives; corrupt police officer Carl and Hat Cat. The good guy is not introduced until the last page of the first arc.
  • Second Empire has the Daleks of the Second Dalek Empire going against the slightly more evil First Dalek Empire.
  • Bad Guy High, which is about a school for wannabe supervillains.
  • The Vampire Cheerleaders were meant to come across as group of comedic sociopaths, but wound up being perceived as this trope instead, due to the severity of some of their actions. They officially became villains during the "Vampire Cheerleaders Must Die!" crossover which cast the Paranormal Mystery Squad as heroic antagonists, who were out to save Bakertown High from Lori and her Coven of vampires.
  • Heist! stars Geist, an Intangible Man master thief who makes the same mistake Icarus did.
  • The Grey-and-Grey Morality of Two Rooks complicates matters, but protagonist Dea O'Malley is a ruthless assassin working for a crime syndicate, and his opposite number, Serus Eden, is undeniably A Lighter Shade of Grey. But neither side is all that nice.
  • Voodoo Walrus ended their first year with a massive storyline focusing on baddies Mac and Shmeerm viciously taking down Big Bad Cyradwee and every last one of his underlings.
  • Minion Comics focuses on the lives of minions who sign up with an evil organization.
  • Goblins follows a band of goblins from a role-playing game, usually regarded as low-level adventurer fodder, leading you to expect it would be this. However, the goblins are actually pretty heroic. A couple of straight examples do occur in the series, though, particularly the character of K'Seliss. (K'Seliss is part of a party including a couple of more admirable characters, though; the truly evil characters in the setting are never really used as viewpoint characters.)
  • The eponymous characters of the Mega Crossover Roommates are Jareth the Goblin King, Erik, Javert, and Norrington.
  • Harry the Dagger is a fairly low-level example.
  • When She Was Bad focuses on Gail Swanson, a gang member who accidentally receives some superpowers meant for Amber Price, who is The Chosen One and also happens to be an Alpha Bitch who bullied her in high school. Rather than be a hero like Amber, Gail decides to use her powers to become a supervillain.
  • Asa and Rook of Hotblood!, who — when introduced to us, the audience — are hightailing it away from law inforcement. Rook notes he has a bounty of $800 on his head (a lot of money, for The Wild West).
  • Beyond The Veil is about a deposed Galactic Emperor resurrected in the stolen body of a hapless (female) explorer. Her plan to regain her throne seems to involve spreading misinformation and fear by unleashing a genetically engineered monster and a henchman who can't remember what order to Rape, Pillage, and Burn on a medieval planet.
  • True Villains is about a former Nominal Hero trying out the dark side of the alignment divide with a Card-Carrying Villain demon, an Ax-Crazy Necromancer, and a power-hungry mage. It doesn't take him too long to stop being put off by how fun his new boss finds villainy.
  • The main protagonist of Baskets of Guts is a three hundred years old lich, who wants to conquer the world with an army of undead. And though for the most of the story he may seem to be funny, reasonable and kind of passive, his intentions are genuine.
  • String Theory (2009) is about Dr. Schtein's descent into villainy.
  • Project Blackfire follows a group of bank robbers/supervillains turned mercenaries.
  • Really, were you expecting anything different from a webcomic named Nefarious? Crow is as delightfully evil as he was in his game.
  • Although the stakes in the real-life parts of Basic Instructions are not particularly high, the author, Scott Meyer, has said he views his Author Avatar as one of the comic's main villains, since Comic!Scott is an asshole to his fellow employees, his company's clients, his depressed best friend, the list goes on. That being said, Comic!Scott is still shown to be A Lighter Shade of Black than, for example, Mullet Boss.
    The Rant: I’ve said that I consider myself to be the villain of the comic, and the angry customer comics are a good example of why. All he wants is for my company to do the job he paid us to do, and all he gets is abuse.
  • Total Undead Drama: Storm is pretty much the lead and considered the villain of the story due to the fact he's the one that turns and leads the growing vampire coven. Starting with his turning of Sadie and Katie and things escalating when Courtney finds out and sets her sights on staking him.
  • UnOrdinary: John Doe is an heroic and kind high-school student at first, but as him and his best friend Seraphina get systematically bullied by the entire school, he eventually vows to beat all the elite students and destroy their hierarchy. He succeeds, but while those students learn from it and start working to improve their environment, John refuses to forgive them and begins to rule the school as a tyrant, actually thwarting the other students' efforts to end the bullying.
  • Your Throne: The protagonist is Lady Medea Solon who is an ambitious and murderous noble who desires the throne for herself and will go to ruthless aims to get it. Her being opposed by far worse opponents makes her A Lighter Shade of Black, however.
  • NonPack is a Mature Animal Story about Gangbangers struggling for power in a World of Funny Animals version of Puerto Rico. The protagonists, Los Satos, are a criminal gang of thieves and drug dealers. However, A Lighter Shade of Black is in full effect for them; they care for each other like a Family of Choicenote , and the other crooks they deal with are much worse than they are.

    Web Original 
  • A Practical Guide to Evil: Cat, the protagonist of the series is nominally aligned to Evil (capital E) in order to protect her kingdom from the abuses of Praes. Over time, however, she definitly commits enough atrocities to deserve being called a villain.
  • The Blogfic Soon, I will Rule The World! has one of these. He's a Lich who has come to our world to take it over. He hasn't really crossed the Moral Event Horizon yet, and he's decent to his minions, but does collect protection money from a substantial chunk of the city and did try (and fail) to hypnotize some orphans to mess with his nemesis. Though it is implied (Albeit barely, though the author says that more on that is planned) that he does have a Freudian Excuse.
  • Unlike most superhero-based Shared Universes, the Metaverse focuses primarily on the villains. And then, a lot of the heroes aren't all that heroic....
  • In Worm, not only is the protagonist a villain (well, sort of, at firstalthough she later becomes one for sort-of real) but most of the perspectives seen via Interludes are also villainous. Anti-villainy varies greatly.
  • Michael from The Salvation War. Though the humans are undoubtedly the real heroes of the story, Michael acts as our main viewpoint in Heaven, and has quite sympathetic motivations in wanting to limit the damage done to Heaven when the humans inevitably invade, even as he keeps crossing the Moral Event Horizon to accomplish this.
  • Whateley Universe:
    • The story "Mimeographic", featuring the supervillain Mimeo. He's not an amoral street thug. He's an amoral street thug with unstoppable superpowers.
    • Or "It's Good to be the Don", told from the viewpoint of Don Sebastiano.
    • Or the Jobe stories. Or "Razzle Dazzle", told by a supervillain who may have been, among other supervillains, the legendary Cerebrex. It's hard to be sure, since it clearly has an Unreliable Narrator.
  • Iriana from Ilivais X gradually becomes this. At first, she's mostly freaked out, having narrowly escaped from an eternity of servitude to an empire that half-unwittingly tortured her for more than half of her life. As such, she spends her first week or so taking respite, learning to use the eponymous robot, defending herself, getting in close with Mille, and generally being moderately suspicious but even pitiable at times. But soon she realizes the infinitely destructive power of her robot, and her grudge against the Aztecs and the world in general begins to surface. She begins antagonizing the empires far more adamantly for little reason aside from wanting them destroyed, manipulates and forces people into serving her (especially Mille), and shows an unwillingness to accept things that aren't in her control- and if that doesn't change, she deigns to erase it from existence.
  • Migraine has Ken Muntz, a seemingly typical American wanting to earn money to buy a new apartment. It's later revealed that he's a serial killer who kidnaps people, kills them, and sells their flesh on the Black Market so he can use said money to buy said apartment.
  • Psycho Gecko is a murderous, insane supervillain protagonist in the Web Serial Novel World Domination in Retrospect. Black Comedy and Bloody Hilarious violence abound.
  • SF Debris portrays Captain Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager in this way — a power-crazed, murderous sadist who is deliberately spreading chaos throughout the Delta Quadrant and has set up a Xanatos Gambit to gain control of the Alpha Quadrant.
  • In The Iron Teeth, Blacknail frequently murders and steals, and does not even comprehend why any action that doesn't further his or his master's interests might be morally wrong.
  • Deconstructed with Rast Racklyn from Tails of Fame. Rast turns to a life of crime in order to get famous, but the story shows that everything he does is horrific, absolutely nothing he does is justified, and he only cares about himself and his ego.
  • The version of Billy Mays featured in Nashmetal100's YouTube Poop videos is depicted as a downright Jerkass, being depicted as racist towards black people, Germans, and Mexicans in "The Billy Mays Dating Experience", constantly interrupting Anthony Sullivan's attempt to sell a product in at least two videos of his, and even going as far as to murder Vince Offer.
  • 30 Days in Spring: Ryan Rhodes, who has spent his life hurting others and goes on a killing spree when stranded deep in the woods.
  • Muschio in Dive Quest's goal is to "become the Devil" and has no qualms about burning down peaceful villages and assassinating his rivals to get his way.
    Muschio: When I was very young, I asked my mother what I would have grown up to be, if I were not the Prince. She told me, "Muschio. Whatever you desire, that you shall have tenfold. If you want to be a soldier, you will become a general. If you want to be a monk, you shall become pope." I wanted to be a villain. *Beat* And I do not intend to stop until I have become the Devil.
  • Whichever way you look at it in Farce of the Three Kingdoms. Liu Bei, the Designated Hero, is cowardly, hypocritical, and self-centered, and Zhuge Liang is arguably an irredeemable monster. Cao Cao is generally more likable, and frequently Pets The Dog, but he's definitely a paranoid, murderous tyrant. Sun Quan is A Lighter Shade of Grey, but he gets much less focus.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Gumball Watterson of The Amazing World of Gumball sometimes crosses the line from Jerk with a Heart of Gold to what can only be described as "dangerous psychopath Played for Laughs": In "The Saint" he spends the entire episode harassing Alan, making all his friends and his girlfriend hate him, and sells his parents into slavery just because it annoys him that Alan is so perfect. In "The Spoiler" he goes crazy trying to avoid hearing any spoilers about a movie he's going to watch, even knocking someone out with a shovel and eating another student alive. In "The Laziest", he and Darwin deliberately ruin Lazy Larry's life just so that he'll help them win a bet.
  • American Dad!.
    • Roger. He started out as a sympathetic, vaguely hedonistic alien, but over time he has established himself as a volatile, dangerous sociopath.
    • Stan also counts. Like Roger, he started out as more sympathetic albeit a little extreme. But as time went on, the lows he would stoop to in order to get his own way or hide his hypocrisies from the rest of his family turned him into this in about half the episodes of any given season. Episodes like "The Scarlett Getter", "Seizure Suit Stanny" and "Father's Daze" just to name a few are prime examples of him playing this trope 100% straight (and most of them are ones where he's supposed to be seen as the hero by the end!).
  • The antagonists of Aqua Teen Hunger Force range anywhere from Harmless Villains to Nightmare Fuel Station Attendants. Master Shake, however, is disgustingly heinous and completely unrepentant with every last action, his ability to repel empathy outweighed only by his ability to attract poetic justice.
  • The first season in Arcane is just as much about Jinx's downfall from a sweet and innocent young girl into an Ax-Crazy terrorist as it is about Vi. What's more, it's Jinx's actions that drive the plot: her messing with hextech crystals in episode 1 causes the explosion which gets Jayce's experiment exposed and sets enforcers on the undercity, her bomb in episode 3 kills her family, her stealing the Hexstone kicks off the conflict between Piltover and Zaun and her repeated actions keep it from being resolved, and in the final episode she kills Silco by accident and fires a hextech weapon at the Council, turning the cities' cold war hot and likely initiating weaponized hextech.
  • A weird in-universe example mixed with Deliberate Values Dissonance in an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Play Within A Show "The Boy In The Iceberg" stars actors playing the Gaang as protagonists, with Ozai as the main antagonist. As all the characters are exaggerated parodies of the "real" people, the play version of Aang is a Wide-Eyed Idealist with Incorruptible Pure Pureness, whereas Ozai is a flamboyant Card-Carrying Villain; however, at the end of the play, when Ozai brutally kills Aang, the audience gives it a standing ovation. Although the viewers know that Aang is The Hero and Ozai is a monster, due to a century of propaganda and cultural conditioning, as far as the Fire Nation rank and file is concerned, Aang is the play's Villain Protagonist, despite not actually committing any evil acts onstage.
  • One episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold parodies this trope by completely redoing the series as Joker: The Vile and the Villainous. The storyline was adapted from an issue of the seventies Joker comic. The episode uses the standard "Batman teams up with random DC superhero to stop the Villain of the Week" formula with Swapped Roles, in which the Joker teams up with fellow supervillain Weeper in order to stop Batman from building a machine that detects crime. Completing this Role Swap Plot are the police, who are depicted as Batman's Mooks and Batman even does his own heroic version of the Nothing Can Stop Us Now! speech.
  • Dan of Dan Vs., is short-tempered, paranoid, and violent, and each episode is about him seeking revenge for even the slight offense, real or imagined. It's somewhat muddled by the fact that most of the people he seeks revenge against turn out to deserve it, however.
  • Captain Hero from Drawn Together is a psychotic murder-rapist who wiped out the entire rest of his species out of spite. The entire cast qualifies for this, really, with the exceptions of Xandir, Foxxy, and sometimes Wooldoor.
  • Zordrak and the Urpneys of The Dreamstone usually act this, in that each episode starts and ends from their perspective and we generally spend more time following them than the heroes. Depending on the Writer however, Sympathetic P.O.V. is sometimes given to the actual heroes.
  • Eddy from Ed, Edd n Eddy, while not evil, is still a cynical con artist who will do every dirty trick in the book for money. Including stealing Christmas presents from children. He has his reasons, but still.
  • Stewie Griffin from Family Guy started out as this in early seasons (he still has his moments, but it's more general Comedic Sociopathy).
    • Peter Griffin has turned into this thanks to Flanderization, having gone from "well-meaning but incredibly dumb" to "unbelievably selfish and callous".
  • Killface of Frisky Dingo is a supervillain protagonist who built a doomsday device designed to launch Earth into the sun, and he's still way more sympathetic than Jerkass superhero Xander Crews.
  • Futurama: Bender is a greedy and amoral criminal who constantly lies, cheats, and steals from everyone. Although Bender really does like his best friend Fry, he is not above swindling him as well.
    • Professor Farnsworth is a mad scientist with no qualms building doomsday devices and using people for his experiments, lets crew after crew go on missions that result in their deaths.
  • Golan the Insatiable. The title character is a demigod from another dimension who has no problems with killing anyone and causing mayhem, but he's also a Large Ham who still wets the bed and tries to hang out with high schoolers and become homecoming king by pretending to be a teenager. The show's other main character, Dylan, is a young goth-looking girl who also finds joy in pain and misery, but also thinks turtles are cute, finds a molted Golan to be adorable, and deep down just wants her mom to be proud of her (though she doesn't like to admit it).
  • Hector Con Carne is the Card-Carrying Villain Protagonist of Evil Con Carne and the literal brains of a terrorist organisation that aspires to take over the world. Keyword aspires as they would also aspire to be James Bond-caliber villains but he is just not a very good one.)
  • Mandy of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy is so evil and ruthless that she makes Grim, the personification of death, look like a nice guy in comparison.
    • And so he ends up as a much more downplayed example than her, thanks to being passive and very Affably Evil to boot, unless he goes on a power-trip and starts siccing monsters on people for laughs, committing murder for profit or as a plan to get rid of Billy and Mandy.
  • Many episodes (but not all) of Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids center on horrible people who make life hell for others, children specifically.
  • Harley Quinn (2019): Harley breaking away from the Joker is presented as a woman standing up for herself and taking control of her own life back. However, Harley's ultimate goal is to be a super-villain, upstage the Legion of Doom, and generally cause the downfall of Gotham City, along with the rest of the world. Harley has a lot of personal victories and Character Development throughout the show, but she's still a bad person.
  • The third book of the anthology series Infinity Train follows Grace and Simon, who were introduced in the previous book as the leaders of the Apex, a cult of passengers that steals from and attacks the train's residences and strive on increasing the number on their hand, which reveals how much further away they are from solving the personal issues that brought them onto the train in the first place.
  • Reagan of Inside Job (2021) is a Mad Scientist working for The Illuminati as part of a company they run to oversee their conspiracies. Despite the wildly unethical nature of her work (such as plotting to Kill and Replace the President of the United States in the first episode) and her hints at a desire to Take Over the World, she's somewhat more down-to-earth than one would expect from someone in her position.
  • Zim of Invader Zim, an alien trying to Take Over the World. He is juxtaposed to Dib, a preteen paranormal investigator trying to stop him.
  • Task Force X are focused on during their mission to infiltrate Justice League headquarters and steal an invincible armor forged by the gods in the Justice League Unlimited episode named after them.
  • The titular League of Super Evil. Though calling them evil would be a bit of a misnomer.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • While Bugs Bunny was generally a sympathetic character, there have been several episodes where he became a straight up villain. Examples of this include Elmer's Candid Camera (he picks on Elmer unprovoked), "Elmers Pet Rabbit" (where he heckles Elmer for no justifiable reason), "Tortoise Beats Hare" and its follow ups "Tortoise Wins by a Hare" and "Rabbit Transit" (where Bugs is portrayed as an egomaniac who's willing to harm and cheat just to beat a turtlenote ), "Wabbit Twouble" (again, picking on Elmer unprovoked), "The Wacky Wabbit" (picking on an unprovoked Elmer again), "Buckaroo Bugs" (where he's a flat out thief and bully), and "Rebel Rabbit" (where he wreaks havoc on the US solely because the bounty for rabbits was so low, doing atrocities like filling up the grand canyon and sawing Florida off the mainland, breaking into congress during session and physically assaulting a senator, and by the end of the short gets so out of control that the military is called in to bring him down). Out of the shorts listed, "Buckaroo Bugs" is the only one where he's officially recognized as the villain.
    • Daffy Duck also had several bouts of this trope, such as "Daffy Duck in Hollywood" (where he causes trouble in a Hollywood studio for the heck of it) and "Boobs In The Woods" (where he heckles Porky Pig for the sake of causing trouble). This only intensified during his later meaner years where he evolved into a genuine villain, albeit still often with the primary spotlight (see above).
    • "Honey's Money" is the only Yosemite Sam short where Sam is the star, rather than playing antagonist to Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck.
    • Wile E. Coyote is the main character of the "Coyote and Road Runner" shorts, where we follow his constant failures at catching the Road Runner.
    • Chester and Spike as Villain Protagonists target Sylvester who is in one of his few "pure victim roles". The fact that Spike pays for his bullying ways by getting the snot beaten out of him by an escaped panther and ends up a Nervous Wreck and sucking up to Chester the same way that Chester was a sycophant who was abused by Spike makes for some hilariously ironic Laser-Guided Karma.
  • Clay Puppington is this in the third season of Moral Orel, which focuses more on him than the other two seasons. Several episodes showcase his Villainous Breakdown.
  • The Title Character of Mr. Pickles is a satanic dog who kills and tortures many people and has a number of human slaves. Since he still saves the day a number of times, he can be considered a mix of this and Nominal Hero.
  • Late in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Daring Do is revealed to be a Villain with Good Publicity when it's revealed that Ahuizotl is actually a guardian spirit assigned to protect the temples and treasures she steals and she's a thief capitalizing off of stealing from him and writing books that cast her as the hero. In her defense she's at least a good person who thought he was evil and his fierce behavior certainly didn't help sway that, but it's never-the-less brought up that if she shouldn't have just assumed he was the bad guy. The fact was even subtly Foreshadowed in an earlier episode when she prevents him from unleashing an 800 year heat wave on a valley: watch it again now and you'll notice all the native ponies who live in the valley are actively helping him accomplish it rather than being victimized by it.
  • Wolf from Nu, Pogodi! is one. Much like the Coyote from Chuck Jones' "Coyote and Roadrunner" shorts, the Wolf drives the plot... except that his entire raison d'etre is to eat the Rabbit, who more often than not is minding his own business.
  • When Phineas and Ferb started out, Dr. Doofenshmirtz started out as a standard cartoon villain. But as time went on, he became more and more sympathetic, idiotic, and hilarious, to the point where he and Perry the Platypus were becoming the real stars of the show, even more so than the titular characters.
  • The titular duo of Pinky and the Brain. One is a genius, the other's insane! To prove their mousy worth, they'll overthrow the Earth! However, the Brain genuinely believes the world will be better if he takes over, and Pinky doesn't even realize they are doing evil.
  • Cartman from South Park. He either serves as The Dragon for an even greater evil, or IS the Big Bad in most episodes. Occasionally though, he functions as a Nominal Hero and, on one and only one occasion, he had genuinely heroic intentions when he saved cats in Major Boobage.
  • Both Tom and Jerry can alternate between this role in any given theatrical short, a fact especially glaring if the former ends up being a Designated Villain and the latter turns into a Designated Hero.
  • Callie Maggotbone and Twayne Boneraper of Ugly Americans. As far as the series is concerned, demons from Hell aren't Always Chaotic Evil, but are incredibly apathetic towards all humans in general. Combined with varying degrees of outright psychopathy, and the eerie fact that they seem to be planning The End of the World as We Know It behind the scenes, it's a wonder the former is an Anti Anti Christ with standards, and the latter is an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain without a spine.
  • The Villainous shorts are centered around Black Hat, the wicked head of an evil company that produces inventions specifically meant to be used by villains. And that's not getting into the fact that he's the Greater-Scope Villain to ALL of Cartoon Network.
  • Wacky Races designated villain Dick Dastardly became this when he got his own show a year later. Always noted as being devious and despicable but saddled with three charges who rank from inept to chronic backstabber, Dastardly would often wonder (in one episode) "what's a nice guy like me doing in a cooped-up outfit like this?"
  • Woody Woodpecker went in and out of being this and an Anti-Hero in the original cartoons. Sometimes, he just goes about breaking the rules or causing trouble for the mere thrill of it or just out of ignorance, and is clearly shown to be a selfish glutton who will mow down or manipulate anyone who gets in the way of his food. On the other hand, he did occasionally star in a sympathetic light (i.e. "The Hollywood Matador") and by the late 40's his Anti-Hero traits were played up more by director Dick Lundy, especially when Buzz Buzzard entered the series. By the 50's, Woody veered between being a straight up hero, a villain and an anti-hero, and by the mid-50's both of the former traits were dropped altogether in favor of making Woody a straight up hero character.
  • Beavis And Butthead are two trouble-making delinquents and representatives of the decadence of their society whose idea of fun includes beating frogs and poodles to death with a baseball bat and committing wanton acts of violence and vandalism for their amusement (although they do it as often accidentally). And they are still downplayed examples because their mental deficiency prevents them from having a particularly developed understanding of evil and as a result they lean towards Chaotic Stupid more than anything. Couple that with the fact that they end up as stooges to more capable scumbags who treat them like garbage despite their admiration and worshipping and you get the cruelest five-year old-minded fourteen-year-old low-lives that one could ever meet.
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack zigzags with this as the main character Flapjack is one of the most thoughtful and compassionate characters in the series and is at his worst a Minion with an F in Evil. The other main character who is he is a minion to however, Captain K'nuckles is a most definitely seedy and unsavoury type who makes a career out of being a lowly thief, cheat and criminal and who will commit all sorts of crimes in order to satisfy his candy addiction. By far his lowest moment must have been when he knowingly almost killed a mermaid just because of his petty whims. Also despite genuinely caring for Flap he is a terrible guardian and often verbally mistreats him. He is pitiable enough however and just often unfairly victimised.
  • Chris McLean, the sadistic host of Total Drama ends up being the series' biggest villain. He doesn't care about the safety of the contestants or the interns, takes pleasure in seeing them suffering or ruining relationships and he doesn't even give Chef his salary. While all the seasons have a different Big Bad, Chris is the only one who plays the villain role in every season (excluding Ridonculous Race), especially the later ones.
  • Rick Sanchez from Rick and Morty qualifies. A sociopathic, alcoholic, Mad Scientist that frequently builds doomsday devices out of boredom or to take care of serious problems that he created. Said problems are often created because of the numerous enemies he's made throughout his misadventures across the Multiverse, which often end in a massive body count. A couple of episodes have also shown that Rick has no qualms with selling wepaons to shady characters, or to make a quick buck. Rick also has no issues with putting his family in mortal danger, with his grandson, Morty, frequently acting as an Unwitting Pawn in his schemes.
    • Among the worst offenses Rick has done include: forcing Morty to gun down law enforcement officials in the pilot episode; giving Morty a Love Potion without warning of the side effects, and after trying to repair the damage results in the end of the world, Rick takes Morty into a dimension where he managed to fix the situation, and take the place of those Rick and Morty that just happened to die recently; Ricks from multiple realities abandon their sons-in-law, Jerry, in planet designated a "Jerrys' daycare" and many of them have been abandoned there inadvertently (if their Rick and Morty died) or even purposefully; created a "Microverse" populated by sentient beings, whose sole reason to exist is to generate the electricity needed to run his car, after he tricked them into thinking he was an alien, destroying one of the said universes and threatening to destroy the other; encouraged Morty to witness a "Purge-like" carnival, which then results in Morty wantonly massacring a number of people; Slaughtered a superhero team to prove that he prizes the approval of the team's janitor; repeatedly erased memories from Morty's brain, both traumatic events, and memories that would put Rick in a negative light because of how he screwed up; revealing that he created the imaginary fantasy land that Beth remembers playing in (to keep her occupied while he worked on his inventions)note  along her murdered childhood friend. Upon entering, they discover that after decades of accidentally being left there, her friend went mad and became the de-facto incestuous-cannibalistic leader; indirectly destroying multiple planets in order to make a point about heists to Morty, massacring an alien civilization and sending them back to their Stone Age; cloning his daughter without her permission and sending one of them to space and not bothering to know who was who, which leads to said daughters disowning him.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer Simpson occasionally drifts into this territory, especially when Flanderization kicked in and his Jerkass tendancies got amped up. One particularly extreme early example is "Homer the Vigilante", where he becomes the leader of an incompetent Vigilante Militia that violently beats people for petty crimes and apparently plans on world domination.
    • In-universe example: Itchy from The Itchy & Scratchy Show, who's a mouse who brutally and sadistically murders the perfectly innocent Scratchy every episode.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, Plankton usually fills this role, mainly in episodes where he attempts to steal the Krabby Patty formula.
    • Depending on the episode, Mr. Krabs can occasionally be this in episodes focused on him, especially in the later seasons.
  • Chip 'n Dale also fill this role, for most of their appearances in the cartoon shorts. While Pluto, Donald, and even Mickey (to a lesser extent) were the main characters, the chipmunks often stole the spotlight from them. In their cartoons, the chipmunks go out to provoke them, at any cost possible. Even when they are usually never provoked.


Video Example(s):



The player takes control of a wisecracking, bloodthirsty, trigger-happy and perverted little grey alien named Cryptosporidium or as he's commonly called by Pox and others "Crypto". He is the protagonist of the Destroy All Humans! series and has appeared in every single entry. Crypto is a part of a race of aliens called the Furons, who all clone themselves due to their race's lack of genitalia. With Crypto himself being cloned at least 139 times. He is on a mission to invade and conquer Earth to harvest human brainstems, which contain Pure Furon DNA, in order to preserve his race from extinction due to Clone Degeneration.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / VillainProtagonist

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