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Took A Level In Badass / Comic Books

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"I'm sick of adventure — and peril!! I just want to live a normal life! I want to set up housekeeping as Mrs. Reed Richards — I want to be involved with super-markets — instead of super-villains!"
Sue Richards, Invisible Girl in the 1960s, Fantastic Four

"You're pathetic. One of the best minds on the planet and you waste it for years, doing magic tricks — then trying to best a man who'd never really harm you, despite your endless provocation. But that's the difference between my husband and me. He doesn't understand revenge. Me? I can't decide which of the many ways I can hurt you I'm going to use."
Sue Richards, Invisible Woman in the 2000s, Fantastic Four

  • Sue Storm/Invisible Woman from Fantastic Four is the poster girl of this trope. (Literally— See the top level page.). Originally the Invisible Girl, she was very meek, and her power was only personal invisibility. She was so useless (not many opportunities for stealth came along), the best her writers could say in response to constant fan outcry against The Load (even in-universe) was, "Sue pulls her own weight, even if you refuse to acknowledge her contributions only because she doesn't fight aggressively enough for you". It got so bad that a comic had them address the complaints in-universe. Her force field power was added (less than two years after her introduction), and she gradually became better and more versatile with it, especially under John Byrne. More dramatic was the shift from her original meek personality to her current confident one, which her new choice of codename signifies. These days, Doctor Doom himself considers her the strongest of the Fantastic Four. When she believes that the Super Skrull has abducted her child, The Thing has to remind her that it's the Fantastic Four and not the Fantastic One because she's already beating the tar out of the Super Skrull.
    • The main point where this became truly noticeable was, you guessed it, her name change. The reason for this was the culmination of quite a few arcs: after another time-traveling stint, her, Reed and their kid, Franklin, damn nearly ended up in the hands of Mephisto, and the arc immediately after had a Dr. Doom fallback destroy their entire home apartment building. The proceeding arc was the biggest reason: where the Psycho-Man kidnapped Sue and turned her into Malice, a Brainwashed and Crazy evil version of her using her force field powers with incredible strength, including substitutes of gravity crushing attacks and the ability to cut off a person's air supply with those powers. It took the rest of the FF with some assistance from Daredevil to snap her out of that, and when they went to capture the Psycho-Man, he ended up capturing them and subjecting Sue to incredibly traumatizing Mind Rape, where she believed that her incompetence caused the death of her family, which she retaliated by killing the Psycho-Man with his own mind-raping devices. At the very end of that arc, she replaced the "Girl" part with "Woman" to reflect on the fact that all those events killed the innocence in her.
  • Supergirl:
  • If one character from the Marvel Universe is more entitled to being the poster boy/girl for this trope than Susan, It's Richard "Nova: the Human Rocket" Rider. Nova spent most of his time being one or Marvel's poster boy for brash, reckless and inexperienced rookies trying to show off in front of the big leaguers and tending to get in the way. Then came Annihilation. And with it enough raw power to drive him insane without special training and mental shielding with help from the Nova Corps' Worldmind. And the Annihilation War itself had given Rider experience, a much more serious attitude after witnessing the horrors of the Annihilation wave, and a whole lot of respect after he managed to end the entire Annihilation War by ripping Annihilus inside-out in retaliation for what he did to the rest of the Nova Corps. Oh and immediately prior to that he managed to survive a massive omni-directional blast from an enraged Galactus at near point blank range. A blast which was so powerful it encompassed and destroyed more than 3 Solar Systems. Since then Steven Rogers has made him a member of the Secret Avengers, and Nova become the defacto commander-in-chief for any organized resistance against major interstellar conflicts, with even the biggest and baddest that space has to offer deferring to him. Needless to say, barring his Marvel Adventures counterpart (which put him in the Avengers), Richard was never portrayed as a childish attention grabbing wannabe ever again.
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  • Jean Grey is arguably just as good a candidate as Susan and Nova, and probably isn't considered such because everyone's forgotten that she started out much the same way as Susan, with limited telekinesis. As time went by, her telekinesis got stronger, she developed telepathy and began to become more powerful. The Chris Claremont got his hands on her, The Dark Phoenix Saga happened and even after her resurrection, Jean was an incredibly powerful psychic, only possibly exceeded by her 'children' Rachel Summers and Nate Grey, before dying (again) and becoming the White Phoenix of the Crown, capable of holding the entire universe in her hands. Even following her resurrection and loss of the Phoenix (or more accurately, telling it quite firmly to take a hike and leave her alone), she's still one of Marvel's most powerful psychics, going toe to toe with Cassandra Nova and being one of the very people even approximately in the same weight class as her son, Nate, when he's back at his full strength.
  • X-Man: Nate Grey began as pretty badass, with vast Psychic Powers thanks to his being created as a Living Weapon in the Age of Apocalypse reality to destroy Apocalypse. However, those powers weren't entirely reliable, and he was incredibly inexperienced with them. Despite this, he still effortlessly flattened Holocaust, and beat Apocalypse to a pulp, leaving him on a plate for Ao A!Magneto. When he hopped over to the mainstream reality, his powers were estimated as being equivalent to those of the Dark Phoenix and he lived in constant, justified, fear of accidentally rewriting reality in his sleep. As time went by, he got stronger and stronger, even though his powers were killing him and switching on and off at random, subconsciously resurrecting both Maddie Pryor and, briefly, Ao A!Gwen Stacy and finally, himself through sheer force of will. Then, he finally got the genetic flaw fixed and becoming powerful enough to treat the Multiverse as his personal step-ladder, step outside of time and take on the Dark Avengers and Dark X-Men minus the Sentry (who had disappeared after Nate confronted him about their apparent past together, having apparently teamed up to fight Galactus) while politely lecturing them on why their powers wouldn't work on him before apparently throwing the fight. Norman Osborn, a man known for underestimating his enemies if anything, considered him capable of going toe to toe with the Sentry.
    • When he later returned in Uncanny X-Men (2018), with his powers restored (and boosted), he effortlessly imprisoned Apocalypse and kept Magneto on a psychic leash, before casually mopping the floor with entire teams of X-Men (including his mother, mentioned above, Psylocke, Storm, and Iceman), crushing Legion in psychic combat in approximately five seconds, and later taking on all of the X-Men, plus Apocalypse and Magneto, while carrying on a conversation with Jean in his head, and then creating the Age of X-Man.
  • Joke character Hammerhead from Spider-Man got this treatment, as part of becoming The Dragon for Big Bad Mr. Negative. He got a reinforced skeleton (made out of canonical Nightmare Fuelnote ) and strength and durability upgrades including a Kevlar throat. The very first thing he does is utterly stomp Spidey. As Peter is lying on the floor with a dislocated jaw, he says "Why aren't you a joke anymore?"
    • Spider-Man writer Fred Van Lente has been doing this in general with a few F-list villains, taking them and making them into genuinely capable threats. The best example is the Spot, who is developed by Van Lente into a mute killer who's been driven insane by his being trapped in an alternate dimension and who can now only communicate by writing in his own incomprehensible language of dots. We also see just how legitimately terrifying the powers of even the lowliest super-villains can be. More recently, Van Lente has been writing background stories featuring some of the classic Lee/Ditko/Romita villains in the new Web of Spider-Man series that began in late 2009.
      • The Spot always had what should have been extremely dangerous abilities. He was just too stupid to use them effectively.
      • In their first encounter, the Spot beats Spider-Man badly. In their next encounter, Spidey knows what to expect and has the endurance to take his "only" normal human level hits until the Spot has used his powers too much and has given an open spot for him to attack. Thus he is only defeated by his overconfidence.
      • This predated Fred Van Lente's work. The first definitive example of the modern age of Spider-Man comics was Scorpion, formerly an incredibly dim C-List villain at best, becoming the new Venom and thus gaining not only knowledge and experience of how best to fight Spider-Man, but also getting a considerable physical boost despite already being physically (if not mentally) capable of going toe-to-toe with Spidey.
      • After a pretty successful stint as Venom (see Thunderbolts and Dark Avengers), he is back as the Scorpion in an even MORE powerful scorpion suit. Spidey still bests him, but he certainly has the powers to be a threat these days.
  • Spider-Man's writing team is making all his classic villains either take a level in badass or be replaced by stronger and more dangerous counterparts (Vulture, Rhino). Doctor Octopus took control over all of New York's technology with his last appearance, Chameleon (written by, already mentioned above, Fred Van Lente) returned to his original ways, becoming a perfect — and dangerous — impersonator and assassin. Electro can now turn into lightning and destroyed the Daily Bugle building, Sandman can make multiple copies of himself (some of them are murderous), Mysterio took control over the Mafia Maggia with his tricks. Not so classic White Rabbit has been turned from a complete joke into a dangerous drug dealer and crazy killer and together with the Spot and a bunch of C-List Fodder villains — Scorcher, Speed Demon, Bloodshed, Squid, Lightmaster, and Answer — almost destroyed Mr. Negative's criminal empire and defeated his immortal servants and Hammerhead (they lost only because Negative brainwashed Spider-Man and sent him to fight them).
    • During Peter David's run on Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man (shortly before One More Day), he put Betty Brant through this trope. The highlight has to be saving Flash and Spidey from Arrow using a shotgun with silver bullets (she's a Daily Bugle reporter).
  • Spider-Man is all about taking a level in badass. That's essentially what happened to Peter Parker from the very start!
    • And in Spider-Island, after losing his spider-sense and having to learn how to fight without it (Spider-Fu), it has returned and now Spider-Man is even more dangerous! Baddies beware.
    • He's done this multiple times over the course of his career as he has grown from a raw teen hero into a mature adult one. He's added tools, refined his webshooters, even gotten training from Captain America (who had pointed out to him that relying on instinct in a fight isn't always a good idea.)
  • Although never exactly weak, Norman Osborn went from being Spider-Man's enemy (who Spider-Man constantly defeated) the Green Goblin, to being the man who killed Gwen Stacy, to being the one behind The Clone Saga to taking over the entire Marvel Universe in Dark Reign.
  • Mary Jane Watson started off as just a flirtatious, free-spirited love interest for Spider-Man. As time went on, she became his main love interest, and was strong enough that she once beat one of his enemies up with a baseball bat and hardly ever gets captured; she seems well able to defend herself from villains and even rescued Spider-Man when she needed to.
  • Also, Spidey's one-time girlfriend Betty Brant. After the murder of her husband Ned Leeds, she went from one nervous breakdown to another, was brainwashed by a cult for a while, and in general, was a Damsel in Distress. Eventually, after a long absence from the comic, she came back packing heat and knowing martial arts, intent on finding answers to the reasons behind Ned's death. Even Spidey was shocked at the change she had underwent.
  • Grunge of the newly rebooted Gen¹³ series is a slightly different example. He starts out as your more-than-average nerd with genius IQ and photographic memory. And the first name... Percy. So he starts working out, hides his book smarts and his photographic memory, starts using his middle name, trains in martial arts and starts skateboarding. And turns into a stereotypical 'stupid' musclebound frat boy slacker by the start of the series when we first see him. And then he gets superpowers.
  • Storm from X-Men is an interesting example; she started off as a fairly strong Claremont Woman, but a bit unsure of herself. After some time with the team and a radical makeover in Japan, however, she became less an African Proper Lady and more of an ethnic Action Girl. She still used Spock Speak, however, and continues to do so to this day. Also, when it comes to her claustrophobia, finding herself in an enclosed space went from "instantly paralyzed by post-traumatic flashbacks to her parents' death" to "really uncomfortable, but the desire to get the hell out makes her all the more motivated to get the job done."
    • Kitty Pryde. Hints of her ability were dropped from day one, but few who read her of late would believe the Genki Teen Genius Tagalong Kid of a Damsel in Distress she once was... scratch that, the Character Development was well done enough that she remains wholly recognizable.
    • It happens with anyone from X-Men, perhaps due to the 'school' theme. When a character is first introduced, he or she will be able to use his or her power in its most basic, obvious form (shoot Eye Beams, make stuff fly around, etc.) but as they get better and better at using it, power and proficiency will increase, as well as the ability to make the Required Secondary Powers work for you. Next thing you know, the girl who can walk through walls is standing on air while threatening to make an intangible object tangible while inside your skull, or the guy who can make ice proves what a person who truly has control over water and temperature can do.note  If anyone's existed longer than ten years, you'll barely recognize them in their first appearances. Even Nightcrawler once had a much shorter range, ran out of energy for teleporting quicker, and taking passengers was an extremely dangerous and extremely agonizing strain.
  • In the Sonic the Hedgehog comic book (Archie version), Antoine D'Coolette used to oscillate between cowardly, uppity jerk and Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey. Then about 45 issues in, he fell in love with Bunnie Rabbot. He proceeded to grow a backbone, becoming a competent swordsman, leading up to his survival in the Anti-Mobius dimension (from which Anti-Sonic, below, came). One can actually track each time he takes up a level in badass over the series, up to his current level. Now he's a respected leader and fighter, and Bunnie's husband.
    • There were signs of Antoine's improvement were as early as Issue 23, which both had the first hints at romance between him and Bunnie, and Antoine both showing bravery and generally behaving a lot better. His capability in combat was already starting to be established by this time, as in the very next number, not only does he fight as well as Patch/Evil Antoine, who didn't have the cowardly personality, he also easily dispatches Boomer/Evil Rotor.
    Sonic: Remember your old yellow streak?
    Antoine: Oui. I recall it all too well.
    Sonic: Because I totally could bring it up right now.
    Antoine: I know.
    Sonic: I've got a list.
    Antoine: Stop eet.
    • Evil Sonic, Sonic's Evil Twin (duh), is nothing more than a minor pest, at best. He spends his time either playing underling for more powerful villains, or behaving like a glorified thug. However, when the new writer comes into the comic, Evil Sonic gets jacked up on chaos energy, gets a makeover, changes his name to "Scourge", and proceeds to kick his threat level up a notch. It doesn't stop there, however — after a few "inspiring" words from Sonic, he returns to his home dimension, applies himself, and conquers his own version of "Moebius" in a matter of DAYS.
    • Amy Rose went from a young, innocent Damsel in Distress in the Sonic CD issue to a mallet-swinging force to be reckoned with by the Sonic Adventure arc. While she was previously repeatedly rejected a Freedom Fighter status, she eventually proved herself after single-handedly turning the tide in a handful of battles and is now essentially in the same capability tier as Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles.
    • Thanks to the Super Genesis Wave from Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide, all the Freedom Fighters have taken levels of badass. Sonic has obtained his grinding skills and his Homing Attack, him and Tails can perform the tag-team Spin Attack from Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode II, Rotor's now a Genius Bruiser, capable of flinging Badniks with ease,, Antoine can now Spin Attack. With his sword and Sally has energy blades on her gloves. Bunnie? Well, she got back her mechanical limbs, something she lost prior. Even Big the Cat has gotten a real boost up, not only getting a Spin Attack of his own, but also being declared the strongest character in the series, stopping Silver Sonic in Spin Attack mode with his bare hands and tossing him away and lifting a car and tossing it away as if you were just tossing a chair pillow to the side.
  • Yorick in Y: The Last Man starts as an inept loser who's often beaten up by women (including his sister) but with the help of some traumatic incidents, and training by Agent 355, becomes more adept at defending himself. Subverted also in one scene when a non-action character suddenly whips out a sword in an apparent elevation to Badass, only to be easily defeated by the more experienced villain.
  • Lawrence Dobson from Firefly received a Level of Badass in the Serenity comic books.
  • In the Villains United and Secret Six comics, former Batman whipping boy Catman has graduated to a capable threat, fighting the Caped Crusader to a standstill in one issue.
    • Just to give you an idea how big the change was, the last time we saw Catman before Villains United was Archer's Quest where he was a fat slab doing grunt work for the Shade. First scene with him in Villains United has him, very fit, leading a pride of lions and telling the Secret Society of Super Villains where they could put their recruitment drive.
      • This is more a case of Rescued from the Scrappy Heap. When he first showed up in the Silver Age, Catman was a skilled fighter who took on Batman and nearly won. Later writers just made him more and more pathetic (the crowning example would be Green Lantern 80-Page Giant #1, in which he is captured by G'Nort. A ringless G'Nort).
  • Speaking of Batman villains, Black Mask was a D-list villain (Batman sent "Batgirl" (Huntress) to defeat him in No Man’s Land), then came "War Games"; at the end of that mini series, Black Mask became crime lord of Gotham City.
  • In the first issue of G.I. Joe: Cobra, we watch Chuckles gain Badass XP in a training sequence with Jinx.
    • Chuckles has always been badass in the comics. He has consistently been shown as a competent combatant, and as a veteran undercover agent he's one of the most skilled intelligence analysts and operation planners in G.I. Joe. On top of that is the undercover work itself, where his Nerves of Steel show best. The problem is that most people take one look at him, and decide he's a joke based purely on appearance.
  • In the Marvel Universe, Anthony Davis was a second-rate C-List Fodder supervillain known as the Ringer, who was humiliated by Spider-Man before being unceremoniously murdered along with 17 other supervillains by the villain-killing Scourge. A later retcon would reveal that Davis was Not Quite Dead when he was found by a group of agents from the technological terrorist group A.I.M., who were investigating the site of the massacre to steal the technology of the dead villains. He got better when A.I.M. turned him into a cyborg with advanced laser weapons and teleportation powers. Now calling himself Strikeback, Davis proved to be a much better fighter than he ever was as the Ringer, defeating the Vulture, Stegron, Boomerang and Swarm one after another when he reappeared in the Spider-Man comics.
  • The 1st volume of French comic Dungeon revolves around initially helpless and cowardly lead character Herbert the duck Taking a Level in Badass over and over again. By the end, he has a magic sword he's one Great Deed away from being able to wield, that, if touched by another, will turn him into one of its previous bearers to defend itself — unfortunately, not all of them are awesome, and it can be exploited by forcing him to cycle through forms too quickly to actually react — can't be killed by normal means because his heart was first removed, then eaten by a Bewmew — granting it a soul, and the now-sapient... blob-thingy now acts as his loyal servant and bodyguard in thanks — and is a master of the stick and the feather — since he's a duck and covered with feathers, this means he can dismember and eviscerate opponents completely unarmed.
  • An issue of Ambush Bug from the 1980s once listed a bunch of corny Silver Age characters that should never be mentioned again because they could not possibly work in modern comics. Grant Morrison has since made them all awesome.
  • In the Incredible Hulk book (the one written by Greg Pak), Bruce Banner took a level in Badass. Proving he's not as useless as people think he is.
    • For that matter, the members of the Intelligencia all took one. The members? Red Ghost, M.O.D.O.K., Leader, Mad Thinker, and Wizard. The fact that these guys (who apart from the Leader, have become jokes in recent times) have become credible threats and being able of capturing Doom, Black Panther, Hank Pym, Beast and Reed Richards is nothing short of impressive.
  • Seems to be standard for a character when they're managed by Geoff Johns. The revamping of throwaway Green Lantern villain Black Hand is a prime example, with his pivotal role in the Blackest Night series.
  • Ultimate Marvel
    • Ultimate X-Men
      • Before being captured by Weapon X, Nightcrawler was just a timid teenager that wet his pants. In just some months there he turned into a brutal soldier, killing several agents while trying to escape from the facility.
      • Storm leads how to control the wind enough to fly. But she still needs to learn how to land.
    • The Ultimates: The Defenders were introduced as mere delusional superhero wannabes with no powers. Later on they all get powers and become actual supervillains, with the exception of Valkyrie, who joins the Ultimates. Then she kicks the crap out of Venom and nearly cuts him in half with a sword and gives a few A-list villains like Magneto a run for their money.
  • In Final Crisis Aftermath: Run!, the Human Flame gets tired of being a joke villain and decides to take so many levels in badass that he will never have to run away again. He takes too many of them and ends as a monster so big, that he cannot move under his own weight.
    • More a subversion. The Human Flame desperately wants to be a badass, but as hero and villain alike both note, he's really just a selfish, dimwitted slob and most of the carnage he causes is out of stupidity, not real supervillainous skill. He probably kills more people by accident than some of Batman's rogues have on purpose.
  • Deconstructed by Brian Michael Bendis with The Hood: he was becoming more powerful and getting New Powers as the Plot Demands, but was also making the link between him and the source of his powers, Dormammu, stronger. When it was strong enough, the demon turned him into his slave.
  • The New Mutants/X-Factor/Excalibur/X-Men/X-Factor (again)/X-Force/X-Factor (for a third time) character Wolfsbane seems to have this intermittently, from killing someone and beating up Feral in the original X-Factor series to eating her father and clawing up Mortis' throat (with an accompanying SHRRIP! sound effect) in X-Force, and now she's been given some Asgardian powers to help her survive the Asgardian wolf baby in her stomach. She tends to veer wildly between taking this trope to heart and being The Woobie.
    • Fellow New Mutant member Cypher underwent some severe level-up after coming Back from the Dead. Originally, his mutant power was "read and understand any language", meaning he was simply an Omniglot when he died in the 80s. Revived in the 2000s, we learn that "language" includes "body language", meaning he can predict his opponents' moves and actually held off all his old teammates single-handedly. It also includes computer language, making him an imminently skilled hacker and programmer, as well as letting him "read" the structure of a building and discover the easiest way to destroy it.
      • Cypher could do the computer language thing prior to his death - but it's much more impressive now. Cypher just debuted a decade or so too early.
  • Quackerjack in the 2010 Darkwing Duck comic. In the actual series, he was a rather goofy, silly villain. Now he's blowing up buildings, ripping up robots for mentioning Negaduck, and generally taking control of the Fearsome Five Four.
    • In the same vein, you also have Gosalyn and Launchpad. At the end of the first storyline, Gosalyn has control of the Gizmoduck suit, becoming Gosmoduck, and Launchpad is given Quackwerks by Scrooge McDuck, giving him a literal army of robots at his disposal.
  • For a long time, the Purple Man was just another gaudily-dressed C-List Fodder villain who would turn up every 5 years or so to get his ass handed to him by Daredevil. Then the writers realized what a guy with his level of Mind Control powers could really do. Cue a year-long storyline, in which the Purple Man secretly took over a Fortune 500 company (whose chairman was the father of Daredevil's girlfriend), used its resources to wage a campaign against Daredevil, framed the chairman for his crimes (eventually driving him to suicide), broke up Daredevil's relationship, and mind controlled four of Daredevil's toughest enemies into trying to kill him all at once. A toned-down preview of what The Kingpin would later do in "Born Again." The Purple Man was never a joke in any Marvel book again.
  • Iron Man. Extremis. Which would be good enough on its own, but then he got the Bleeding Edge armor. And if I read what just happened in Invincible Iron Man correctly, he's just taken a whole other level by upgrading his armor with some dwarven/Asgardian magic.
    • Oh, you know, Iron Man's armor power doubles every 18 months. Look at Armor Wars. One chapter before last, the big bad easily beats him. Last chapter, he builds a new armor and easily beats the villain. Or look at the modular armor's debut (destroys a robot which previously defeated a dozen armors). But Iron Man stays at the same power level compared to Hulk or Thor.
  • Dick Grayson as Robin is about the only character seen as a bigger joke than Aquaman to the general public. He has come from far from being a Distressed Dude who Batman would constantly need to rescue. As Nightwing he’s generally a Supporting Leader whenever he appears outside his own series, this includes leading the Teen Titans, The Outsiders and the Justice League. He has even been Batman twice.
    • Jason Todd (Robin II), when he became the second Red Hood, deserves a mention as well.
    • Tim Drake (Robin III), started out with the least crimefighting applicable skills out of all the Robins prior to his training and leveled up by training with Lady Shiva to become a Hyper-Competent Sidekick. By the time he took on the identity of Red Robin when his former title was taken from him he was among the most dangerous and competent non-powered heroes in the DCU due to his analytical mind, connections and staff fighting skills.
  • X-Men villain Apocalypse debuted in an early X-Factor arc as a fairly generic mutant terrorist with inconsistent powers and an annoying tendency to refer to himself in the third person. He's also defeated pretty easily. Cut to X-Factor vol. 1 #18-19, the big man returns with a beefier physique, a more intimidating demeanor, and an elite mutant guard known as the Horsemen of Apocalypse. Add in some backstory and the creation of Archangel, and the rest is history.
  • Bucky Barnes - just compare his depictions before Brubaker's run on Cap to Brubaker's depiction of the character. Just how many levels of badass did Bucky take? He became Captain America.
  • DC crossover Underworld Unleashed Nero offers to grant wishes in exchange for souls and makes this deal available to the villains first. Many of them use this opportunity to take levels in badass. For example, Blockbuster, a big dumb guy, wished to be a Genius Bruiser and eventually ended up as the crimelord of Bludhaven in the Nightwing title years later.
  • For the last several years, DC has been trying awfully hard to shake the famous notion that Super Friends put forth about Aquaman that he's useless outside of his ability to talk to fish. A lot of his appearances try a bit too hard to show off what a rugged badass he is to the point that he may as well have a neon sign over his sign reading "Do you guys think I'm badass yet? Guys? Please?" Although comic book readers know that he's come a long way since his Super Friends incarnation, the mainstream was unfortunately yet to care or notice; you could still catch the stock "Aquaman is useless" joke from time to time. However, the outstanding success of the DCEU film adaptation of the character in 2018 has quelled much of that, embracing the quirkier elements of the character to win the public over at what a thrilling badass hero he is.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW): With a dose of Conservation of Ninjutsu; the rank-and-file changelings are a lot more competent this time around than they were in the show, especially in issue #2.
    • Issue #2 is the first time that the audience gets to see the changelings use something besides direct combat. They are much more dangerous outside of a melee, using indirect attacks to divide their enemies and turn them against each other, without them even realizing that the changelings are attacking them.
  • Several characters gradually become stronger over the events of Fleetway's Sonic the Comic. Amy is the most obvious example, with her transition from girly Damsel in Distress to a crack shot Adaptational Badass and second in command of the Freedom Fighters. Tails also undergoes development from whiny coward to active contributing member to the Freedom Fighters' efforts as well, most notably after Sonic gets stranded in the Special Zone. Additionally, Johnny Lightfoot and Porker Lewis start out as regular Mobian critters that are just there to be captured by Robotnik's forces, but formally join the team later in an active capacity.
  • Illyana Rasputin. Aka Magik I. Originally a normal six year old girl, she winds up ruling Limbo, which is for all intents and purposes a duplicate of Hell as a teenager. And that was in her backstory. One wonders how scary she could have been had she not been killed off in the mid-90s. And now shes back, more powerful, more manipulative and with much few morals.
  • Snow White, in Fables, certainly qualifies. She started out as a helpless, hunted girl, spent years as a sex slave for seven perverted dwarfs, and eventually became one of the most badass people in a comic full of them. The first indication that the times, they were a-changin' was when she learned swordplay from her husband...and went on a Roaring Rampageof Revenge against the dwarfs, nearly setting off a human-dwarf war.
  • The IDW continuity of Transformers had a number of characters take a few levels in their stories.
    • Shockwave, once a good-hearted but weak senator becomes one almost tragically when he is disfigured and his mind warped to become devoid of emotions, becoming the ruthlessly deadly cyclops we know and love.
    • Devastator combines this with Adaptational Badass. His debut in The Transformers: All Hail Megatron established him as powerful, but Omega Supreme took him down easily. After the Constructicons get an upgrade and Prowl is brought in to forcibly replace the deceased Scrapper Devastator is even more powerful than ever defeating Superion and going toe-to-toe with Monstructor who's own debut had him tear Omega apart.
    • Several Decepticons are upgraded in The Transformers: Robots in Disguise to make them bulkier and more powerful. Soundwave, Rumble and Ravage are some of the few along with the Constructicons. This is downplayed with Frenzy though, as while he's been given better armor and had his sonic scream upgraded, the atmosphere of Cybertron is thinner than earth so his main attack is less effective.
    • Superion even takes one in The Transformers: Combiner Wars. Whilst he was originally made by Megatron's hasty combiner experiments, and was powerful, but none too smart. Though he put up a good fight, Devastator wasted him. However, after extensive repairs by Wheeljack and the Enigma of Combination (as well as Alpha Bravo brought on to replace a severely damaged member and Powerglide joining the team to serve as a weapon), Superion returns to form. He's smarter and better armored, with his debut fight against Menasor ending in a smash victory.
  • Kick-Ass:
    • In Volume 1, Kick-Ass was absolutely pathetic in a fight. In Volume 2, he receives Training from Hell from Hit-Girl and learns how to actually fight. Heck, during his team-up with Doctor Gravity, he effortlessly beats the tar out of two hoods (something he couldn't do in the first issue of the series), and this is before Hit-Girl's training! In Volume 3, he holds his own against six thugs, two of whom were holding guns to his head at the start. Though he eventually loses, he points out his one mistake immediately after the fact, implying that he was capable of taking them on a good day.
    • Averted and lampshaded in Volume 2. Before killing Colonel Stars, Red Mist says he was going to travel the world and learn martial arts... until he remembered he was rich and could just pay other people to do his fighting for him. That and his trainers were swindling him, with a 'task' ripped off Batman Begins because it looked cool.
  • In Convergence Booster Gold #2, Booster Gold was dying due to leaving pieces of himself through time and Rip Hunter had an idea. He took Pre-Zero Hour! Blue Beetle, Pre-Flashpoint Michelle Carter and New 52 Booster Gold to Vanishing Point in an attempt to save the dying Booster. He had New 52 Booster take dying Booster into a secret room and leave him to be merged with the time stream. When he emerged he was the new Waverider. Booster, Waverider and Rip Hunter were then instrumental in saving and restoring the multiverse at the conclusion of Convergence.
  • In Violine, an early villain, Muller, falls to his apparent death in a crocodile filled death trap, loses both arms while fighting them off, and becomes the series' bigger bad after taking a level, becoming a near unstoppable menace.
  • Scrooge McDuck doesn't just gain one level during the course of his life in The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck - he gains twelve. In fact, he gets so badass that people all over the globe have heard of him and his exploits; in fact, he scares away Wyatt Earp, the legendary gunslinger, by simply standing beside him. Every Chapter has a third part in which the raw badassery of Scrooge shows just how he defeated his adversaries and became the richest duck in the world, including destroying an entire steamboat alone, unarmed, and while chained down. Never mock Scrooge's family.
  • Volstagg the Voluminous from Thor, one of the legendary Warriors Three, is an unusual case. Naturally just being a native of Asgard would make you badass by default, but Volstagg originally was the least badass Asgardian around. Despite his constant bragging of his prowess and his past exploits, he somehow managed to either avoid battle or get taken out by a mook in the first round. Essentially he became the Asgardian equivalent of Falstaff, more inclined to attack a leg of mutton than a foe of Asgard. You could often find him after a battle bragging about how great a strategic move his running away from the fight as usual really was. This lasted until Walt Simonson's run of the book, in which Volstagg was able to prove that, even if he was hugely obese and past his prime, he was still more than capable of dispatching any number of foes, especially if his family were endangered. Subsequent writers have continued this trend, transforming him from a joke character to one of Asgard's staunchest and most capable defenders. In his youth he was known as the Lion of Asgard and recognized as a great warrior, so this may be more a case of regaining some levels of badass.
  • At the beginning of the Paperinik New Adventures series, Paperinik finds that his usual kit of goofy weapons and tools are largely useless against an invading armada of inter-stellar aliens. When he stumbles on the 151st floor of Ducklair Tower, he finds that the resident AI, One, is more than willing to supply him with the necessary weapons and gear necessary to combat not only aliens, but also rogue time-travelers, high-level space-time anomalies, malevolent AIs, suicide terrorists... in short, his competence level goes up significantly.
  • Marvel Comics villain The Orb. Originally a petty thief with a gigantic eyeball for a head and a Z-list joke even by that era's standards. Come Original Sin, he ends up fusing with one of the Watcher's stolen eyes and with it, gains immeasurable power and knowledge. He shifts his agenda from petty theft to being a silent catalyst for chaos and anarchy, using his knowledge and powers to subliminally "nudge" people into performing their darker desires. He also becomes strong enough to take on both Dr. Strange (albeit a severely depowered Strange) and Baron Mordo (at full power) at the same time.
  • Although the process was aided by her gaining vampiric powers, Pearl Jones from American Vampire comes under this trope. After being victimized by a coven of "traditional" vampires, and turned into a vampire by Skinner Sweet on a whim, she goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against her tormentors, and becomes a Violently Protective Girlfriend to her chosen man, who is a retired Semper Fi/Marine and no pushover in his own right.


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