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From a Kid Sidekick wannabe to destroyer of Supers.

"Pol Pot was a history teacher and Hitler was a vegetarian painter, so... mass murderers come from the areas you least expect it. I don't know how the flip comes over, but it happens."

A Sub-Trope of Start of Darkness that involves a non-Badass normal taking Over Nine Thousand levels in badass, whether instantly or over the course of a story, thus becoming essentially nothing but a giant walking, talking bucket of Nightmare Fuel.

Through a series of unlikely coincidences, or through accidental or unknowing actions on the part of the Heroes themselves, or as a result of things which should never have happened — and in most alternate timelines don't happen, but just barely by the skin of their teeth, do happen — someone who might have stayed an insignificant nothing is transformed into a nightmare that grows and grows, absorbing the power to rend civilizations to dust and bring universes to their knees.

For some reason, it seems that From Nobody to Nightmare villains are always more powerful, terrifying, deadly, and threatening than your typical Diabolical Mastermind. This may owe itself to the shock value of the idea that anyone and anything could accidentally become the Big Bad; it's much more comforting to believe that only long years of Card Carrying Villainy could possibly breed that kind of person.

Compare the Diabolus Ex Nihilo. If the character was already a bad guy previously but never a serious one, it's Not So Harmless. Heroic versions may still find themselves wondering "Dude, Where's My Respect?". Frequently, the details of this process are uncovered in the villain's Start of Darkness.

Examples of From Nobody to Nightmare include:

Anime and Manga

  • Tetsuo from Akira. Originally a bike gang member, through a series of bizarre events he becomes an ultra-powerful telekinetic who morphs into a monstrosity worthy of the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • Kuroda was once a Unskilled but Strong samurai with a streak for killing. He then makes a deal with the Ayakashi and becomes the series' most memorable villain Kaguro.
  • Inuyasha Naraku. A bandit fails in his attempt to take over his band and ends up a crippled, burnt wreck of a man destined to live out the rest of his life in constant agony. But his Perverse Sexual Lust for Kikyo grows so strong he makes a contract with demons and is transformed into the Big Bad.
  • Dr. Hell from Mazinger Z started like an unwanted son born in a pauper, ordinary family was -psychologically and physically- abused by his mother, berated by his teachers and bullied by his classmates. Thirty years later he was designing Doomsday Devices for Hitler and experimenting with human beings in Auschwitz. Forty years later he was trying to Take Over the World and enslaving the humankind with an army of Humongous Mecha. And in Great Mazinger he was handed over the command of the entire army of Mykene Empire.
  • Niki from Urotsukidouji is a teenage loser with an improbably shitty life who becomes a super-powerful demon-man after making a Deal with the Devil of sorts.
  • Lucy in Elfen Lied was resigned to getting bullied by the other children at the orphanage for being a freak of nature. Then she got the power to turn a perfectly ordinary living room into a blender.
  • Death Note: Disaffected high school student Light Yagami and incompetent, unpopular corporate drone Kyosuke Higuchi each come across a simple notebook leading each to become notorious mass murderers and, in the case of one of them, GOD OF THE NEW WORLD
    • Yagami had a genius IQ, and that's what makes him a Badass when he gets the Death Note. Otherwise, as Ryuk said, he probably would have gone on a killing rampage and then turned insane. Instead, he turned insane and went on a carefully calculated and controlled murdering spree.
  • Hirose from Alive the Final Evolution. Originally just the The Hero's often ignored childhood friend, even after he gains super powers and does a Face Heel Turn he doesn't seem to be much more than the Big Bad's mind controlled pawn. Then he gets his hands on The Heart of Akuro, which frees him from the mind control and gives him godlike power, and he promptly decides to use it to kill everyone on Earth.
  • In Katekyo Hitman Reborn, Irie Shouichi manages, through rampant misuse of time travel, to accidentally turn a nobody named Byakuran into a Complete Monster capable of communicating with alternate realities, hell-bent on taking over the worlds... all of them.
  • In One Piece, both hero of the show Monkey D. Luffy and his Evil Counterpart Marshall D. Teach/Blackbeard have amassed great infamy in just under a year, from being some no-named rookie on the East Blue, the weakest sea in the world, to having a 300 Million dollar bounty, and pegged as a future threat with no end in sight for Luffy, and from being a random Giant Mook for Whitebeard's 2nd Division to killing a high-ranking commander and becoming one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, the World Government's group of Psycho for Hire pirates, by beating the man formerly in charge of him, and Luffy's Nigh Invulnerable brother for Blackbeard, also still growing too. The rest of the Eleven Supernovas, a group Luffy is sort-of part of with The Lancer Zoro, also counts as well.
    • Recently, It Got Worse on Blackbeard, who busted out the worst among the worst prisoners alive of Impel Down and stole Whitebeard's Quake Quake Fruit, and declared war on the entire world and everyone in it.
      • And at the end of the 2-year timeskip, we find out he's no longer part of the Seven Warlords... because in that time he's become Whitebeard's replacement among the Four Emperors, the mightiest pirates in the world, each of them powerful enough to make the Marines and the World Government crap their pants.
  • The Noah from D.Gray-man. All of them regular humans until their cursed lineage makes them spontaneously reincarnate into supernatural Omnicidal Maniacs.
  • Jellal Fernandez in Fairy Tail started out as a slave working under the oppression of a Religion of Evil. Watching his best friend and potential love interest be brutally tortured and being even more brutally tortured himself, along with subtle brainwashing by a false god, turned him into an incredibly powerful mage whose powers come directly from celestial objects (such as meteors, among other things). He also managed to pull off a perfect Evil Plan, and it was only by devouring Etherion that Natsu was able to summon the power to defeat him.
  • Tongpu aka Mad Pierrot from Cowboy Bebop was originally an average man who had volunteered for an experiment to become the ultimate super human, the resulting experiments drove him completely insane and he became a bulletproof, psychotic Serial Killer with the mind of a child.
  • The D-Reaper from Digimon Tamers. It began as an extremely simple computer program, designed to delete any other program that grew beyond its purpose. Then the Digital World came into being, and the Reaper decided that not only did the Digimon qualify, so did we. It also had an increase in power over its lifespan, going from ridiculously simple computer program to nigh-unstoppable, city-devouring Eldritch Abomination.
  • Suitengu, the Big Bad of Speed Grapher started out as a nice (possibly Spoiled Sweet) Japanese teenager who loved his little sister. Then, Evil Debt Collectors drove his parents to suicide, and he and his sister were taken as slaves- she was sold into prostitution and he was made into a Child Soldier immediately after some rich guy paid to rape him. After surviving a bunch of battles, he was badly injured, and some scientists decide to do a bit of Playing with Syringes and make him into a Person of Mass Destruction (he also gets a Bloodbath Villain Origin when he slaughters the soldiers who tried to cover up the experiment by killing him). After returning to Japan, within a period of about a decade, he goes from "some guy" to knowing (and knowing the dirt on) the most powerful people in Japanese society.
  • Kabuto Yakushi from Naruto started out as an experienced Genin (actually a spy for Orochimaru), he is currently the closest person to be Madara's equal.
  • Chirin no Suzu has Chirin, who starts out as a cute little lamb, grow up and become a ram who just looks demonic.
  • It turns out that Father, the Omnicidal Maniac Big Bad of the manga version of Fullmetal Alchemist, was originally a powerless, rather adorable-looking little Happy Fun Ball with an eye and a mouth; a tiny shadow piece of the ether brought into the physical world by a Xerxes alchemist.
  • The seemingly cute and harmless Misaki actually became an Eldritch Abomination threat to the multiverse in Tenchi Muyo!. The author had foreshadowed this but everyone had assumed he was joking until it actually happened.
  • Dragonball Z has Cell, who goes from a lab produced larvae to a human eating monster that targets multiple towns to a brute capable of destroying islands and finally a Physical God who is given a film about seven years after his death.
  • Hunter X Hunter has the Chimera Ants, initially a species of small insects that take on traits of the animals they eat; other than that, they're garden variety bugs. That's until a rare six foot tall specimen starts eating literally eating everything from animals to Nen users, creating an army of animal hybrids capable of fighting and overpowering the elite officials of the Hunter Organization. And her heir offspring eventually gets so strong, that he's the closest thing to a Physical God before a virus kill him off in order to prevent him from destroying humanity.
  • The very first villain to appear in The Big O, and one of the few to make a repeat appearance without being an outright Big Bad, is Beck - a no-name low-level crook who wound up working as a go-between and muscle for a secret conspiracy between a Mad Scientist and a Corrupt Corporate Executive. That is, until he betrayed them both and stole the Humongous Mecha they'd been developing in secret, and then proceeded to stomp through downtown in order to rob the Mint like an avaricious Godzilla. Between all the Humongous Mecha and Kaiju that the titular robot has fought throughout the series, Beck's record remains the best, returning to challenge Roger four times - arguably five if you count using his abilities to make the Big Bad and The Dragon's Bigs operational in time for the Grand Finale. And on top of that, he's responsible for releasing the most destructive weapon in the series when he tells Dorothy how to activate Big O's Final Stage . He's very hard to take seriously at ANY point, but really, you probably SHOULD...
    • A perhaps more conventional example is Schwarzvald - once upon a time, he was just an Intrepid Reporter, driven to discover the truth about the City of Amnesia while working on his great manuscript in a tiny, run-down apartment. Then his search for the truth drove him to explore the vast network of underground tunnels beneath the city, and what he found made him Go Mad From the Revelation. Next thing you know, he's reappeared covered in bandages, trying to teach people the 'meaning of fear', and generally acting like a combination of The Joker, Scarecrow, and a mummy. With a Humongous Mecha. Which can fly.

Comic Book

  • Dr. Hank Henshaw was basically a gag Expy of Dr. Reed Richards in a forgettable Superman comic in which a group of scientists become The Fantastic Four Expies - but don't survive the radiation. Well, Henshaw survives, and becomes the Cyborg Superman, one of Superman's most powerful enemies.
  • John Dee, aka Doctor Destiny, was a minor JLA villain who washed up and got locked away for years... until becoming a overnight global threat, leading to a showdown with the Lord of Dreams himself.
  • ... Which was inspired by what Alan Moore did in his Swamp Thing run with the Floronic Man, who realizes that control over the growth of plants can choke the world any time he wants.
  • Dr. Light. Turns out his harmless joke status was caused by an accidental magic lobotomy, and that his original personality was a lot more threatening and now that he's beaten the effects he's notably a lot more dangerous. Creepiest bit, as brought on by way of Retcon, is that for the years in between the League's been letting teenagers fight him without letting on how depraved he really is. His preference for rape has been so Flanderized to the point that many readers have begun to refer to him as 'Dr. Rape'.
  • Batman villains:
    • The Joker. Whether he was in fact a failing stand-up comedian or a two-bit criminal in the beginning, his One Bad Day turned him from Joe Blue Collar Average into a horrific, completely insane monstrosity that frightens other villains. Particularly interesting in that he never gained any actual superpowers (other than an incredible resistance or immunity to poisons and toxins), instead deciding it'd be really funny if he concentrated all his efforts to racking up a bodycount that'd make an Evil Overlord blush.
    • Killer Moth was incompetent and weak. Then he made a Deal with the Devil to become "feared," and Charaxes, a man-eating Human/Moth hybrid, was created.
    • Mr. Freeze was once a cryogenics scientist who just wanted to cure his wife's fatal disease. One nasty accident later and he becomes a vengeful, emotionless supervillain.
    • The Scarecrow started out as a lanky, bullied bookworm. Wanting to turn the tables, he began a lifelong study of the psychology of fear. Later on, he began experimenting with the physiology of fear, becoming a literal maker of Nightmare Fuel.
  • Flash villain Chunk suffered an accident that turned him into a walking Class X apocalypse waiting to happen. Thankfully, he pulled a Heel Face Turn when he realized he could use his "black hole" powers to make millions of dollars in waste disposal management and became one of the Flash's more stalwart friends.
  • IDW's Transformers comic, Megatron Origin details the origins of... Megatron. The evil warlord that has terrorized the Galaxy for countless eons... was once a miner earning dirt pay who got laid off, didn't take it lying down, and for that was framed for murder. Later issues reveal that he was also a staunch opposer of the current regime in Cybertron's government who was never able to get his message across because of his peaceful, nobody nature.
  • Black Hand was a C-list villain who stole energy from the Green Lantern and based his persona and crimes off of in-jokes and folk sayings. At one point he gave up supervillainy to run a porno theater. He then led the Black Lanterns, and was a primary antagonist in the DC Crisis Crossover, Blackest Night.
  • Captain America's Arch Enemy the Red Skull started his life as a poor starving orphan named Johann Schmidt. Growing up in post WWI Germany as a petty thief, he eventually landed a job as a bellhop in a classy hotel. One day, he was performing his duties as a bellhop when he happened to be in the same room as Hitler himself while the latter was berating an officer. After seeing Schmidt, Hitler exclaimed he could turn the bellhop into a better Nazi than the officer. He did, and that bellhop became what is quite possibly the most evil villain in all of Marvel Comics.
  • Speaking of Nazis, Max Eisenhardt was just a poor boy who had the terrible luck of being born into a Jewish family in Nazi Germany. After a truly tragic Start of Darkness that started in the Death Camps and ended in an America entrenched in racism, Max is no longer a boy but a very angry man who not long ago discovered he possesses incredible powers. He's also assumed a few aliases along the way; the latest one? Erik Magnus Lensherr, a.k.a. Magneto.
  • In Wanted, Wesley Gibson started out as a weak-willed and pacifistic individual and eventually becoming a Complete Monster with his father's Improbable Aiming Skills. This was all masterminded by his father, who hated how Wesley's mother raised him and wanted him to "man up" by embracing his supervillain heritage. Arguably the film version is a less evil variation, where Wesley just becomes a Badass rather than a mere Complete Monster.
  • One memorable twist in Larry Hama's run on the G.I. Joe comic book was revealing that the Cobra Commander was... a used car salesman driven to madness by personal loss and misfortune, who built his terrorist army through propaganda and the proceeds from Amway-style pyramid schemes.
  • Then there's Lex Luthor, who grew from a kid in Suicide Slum (or Smallville, depending on when you started reading Superman) to supergenius and probably the single most rich and powerful and corrupt businessman in the entire DC Universe.
  • Blackest Night reveals that the Entities, the embodiments of Hope, Compassion, Greed, Fear, Willpower, Love, and Rage, were originally the first lifeforms to feel those particular emotions. Parallax, the most monstrously evil of them all and the one responsible for Hal Jordan's Face Heel Turn which nearly wiped out the universe in Zero Hour... used to be an ordinary little bug.
    • Which also counts as Fridge Brilliance, as Parallax is the embodiment of Fear; what creature would be more likely to be afraid than an insignificant little bug?
  • When the Spot returns in Amazing Spider-Man #589, he has been driven insane after being trapped too long in his spotted dimension and starts killing mobsters for shooting his son. He uses his powers in surprisingly ruthless ways, makes Spider-Man punch himself in the face, and almost succeeds in killing a Russian mob boss. He only fails because Spidey talks him out of it.
  • The Leader was a janitor at a deserted army base.
  • Quite a few Spider-Man villains follow this, though averted with the Green Goblin who was a bad person before he became a super villain.
    • Doctor Octopus: "Timid Researcher"
    • Mysterio: Special effects expert.
    • Vulture: 70-year-old failed inventor.
    • Electro: Electrician.
    • Sandman: Small time thief.
    • The Kingpin: Bullied fat kid.
    • Venom: Mild-mannered reporter.
    • Shocker: Utter failure of a small-time crook.
    • The Jackal: Biology professor who fancied Gwen Stacy.
    • Green Goblin: There have been three villains with this name - an inventor and businessman, his son, a college student, and a psychiatrist. The third, however, did prove to be ineffectual.
    • The first Hobgoblin, a villain modeled after the Green Goblin, was a fashion designer. For a while, he had a mild-mannered reporter brainwashed to pose as the Hobgoblin as well. This trope was averted with the second Hobgoblin, however, who was a previous mercenary and supervillain Jack O' Lantern.
    • Carnage subverts this completely: Even before he got his symbiote, Cletus Kasady was a homicidal sociopath with (if we count the people he murdered as a kid) well over a DOZEN kills to his name.
  • Starro the Conqueror was just a normal little boy named Cobi. Then his planet was invaded by the Star Conquerors. The death of his older brother (which led to Cobi being possessed by the collective pain and rage of his people) granted Cobi Power Born of Madness, which he used to enslave the Star Conquerors. Cobi went from an innocent little boy to an insane Humanoid Abomination Mind Hive carrying the pain and hate of an entire race with complete mastery over a parasitic Hive Mind of Eldritch Abominations.
  • The ultimate Big Bad of the Cross Gen multiverse, Charon of the Negation Universe, was an ordinary archaeologist who had the good(bad?) luck of discovering Atlantis and its Ascension technology. When his comrade Apollyon activated it, they were both flung into the Negation Universe as partially ascended near omnipotent godlike beings. Charon became so powerful that the mere fragments of his madness which he expelled from himself became twisted Eldritch Abominations called the Lawbringers that are powerful enough to fight and kill The First and Sigil-Bearers.
  • In his first appearance in Captain Britain, Mad Jim Jaspers was a gimmicky Harmless Villain who ended up effortlessly trounced by the Captain and completely forgotten about. A few issues later, he reappears and unleashes his reality-warping powers, conquering first Earth then the entire universe, bending it to his twisted will and reducing its inhabitants to utter insanity. And Captain Britain is powerless to stop him.
  • The Human Flame from The DCU is a subversion. True, he started out a pathetic D-list villain that gained incredible power during his mini. The subversion is that, even with a huge power boost, he's still pathetic.
  • Abraham Pointe was a creepy nobody photographer stalking a waitress in a Las Vegas casino. Then he got possessed by the Predator, the Entity of Love, and became a superpowered stalker.
  • Eli Bard from X-Force is a fairly prominent example. From weak willed senator to vampiric monstrosity who not only commits mass murder but manages to overpower some other genuinely badass individuals.
  • Haazen from the Knights of the Old Republic Comic series.
  • Granny Goodness. From Lowly peasant to Darkseid's personal Torture Technician and leader of the Female Furies.
  • Scourge The Hedgehog from Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog is most definitely this. In his own words, he was an "evil knock-off" of Sonic, who was nothing but a minor annoyance. It was only when he became super-charged with energy from the Master Emerald that he became a Complete Monster - to the point where he actually took over his home planet just because he could. It's also implied that he's a Self-Made Orphan.
  • Razzia (aka Korbo the Red Shadow) in Les Légendaires. As a child, he was a far bookworm fascinated with adventures novels who didn't like fighting and requiered assistance from his younger Cool Big Sis Sheyla when bullied. Then his village got slaughtered, and the wrath caused him to grow up as a Conan-like warrior who slaughtered a one-thousand army of his own and eventually joined the Evil Sorcerer Darkhell as The Dragon, becoming famous as one of Darkhell's two deadliest henchmen (the other being his Dark Action Girl daughter Tenebris, who became Korbo's girlfriend). Fortunately, Razzia eventually had a Heel Face Turn and became a hero.
  • The Cirinist from Cerebus were originally a group of mothers who worked together to help their community. Over the course of the first 1/3 of the series they go from a creepy Monster of the Week to a major political party to an oppresive matriarchy and eventually the closest thing to a Big Bad the series has.
    • New Joanne was originally a writer for a religious magazine but by the end of the series she runs the opressive matriarchy that rules the world and is arguably worst than the Cirinists.
  • Vandal Savage was just an ordinary caveman before he found the meteor that gave him his powers. Had he not, he would of certainly died with no one ever remembering him. Instead he became one of the vilest, cruellest villains in the DC Universe. A man responsible for untold murders, multiple wars and was the first cannibal. And all because he was attracted to a bright light...

Fan Fiction


  • Godzilla's origins vary based on the film. but they all agree that he was some sort of reptile on a small island near Japan that was hit by nuclear fallout and turned into a colossal, radioactive killing machine.
  • Clu from the 1982 film Tron was Kevin Flynn's program best known for giving a narmtastic scream when his tank fails to reach the MCP. 28 years and a program rewrite later, the new Clu seizes control from his master and effectively places himself alongside Lotso and Judge Frollo as one of the most heinous Disney villains ever created.
    • The MCP from the original movie went from a simple chess program to a program designed to oversee the companies computer network and eventually plotted to take over the computer systems of both the Pentagon and the Kremlin.
  • The Nightmare On Elm Street sequel Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare attempts to humanize Freddy by showing him in flashbacks as a creepy young boy driven into bludgeoning a school hamster to death by taunting classmates, and then as a quiet, unassuming family man with an unhealthy obsession with serial killers, who actually becomes a serial killer himself for a vaguely sympathetic reason. That's all offered in contrast to the present day, where, after a Deal with the Devil made while he was dying, he's turned into a prophesied nightmare king who's left his hometown in ruins, its surviving inhabitants insane, and now has designs on the whole world. The disturbed but comparatively sympathetic man he used to be reappears briefly near the end of the film in what seems to be a Fighting From the Inside moment, but it's just as likely that it was a trick to briefly lull the heroes into letting their guard down.
  • In Star Wars, Anakin Skywalker started out as a slave on Tatooine. That's about as low as you can get in a galaxy far, far away. Through the will of the Force he was found and raised by the Jedi to be the Chosen One destined to destroy the Sith. Through the will of Palpatine he destroyed the Jedi first. And then he ruled the galaxy with an iron fist, as The Emperor's right hand man and destroyed an entire planet, culminating in him killing The Emperor with his own hands.
  • In Star Trek (2009 film), Nero was just an ordinary captain of a mining ship when his home planet was destroyed and he got sucked into an alternate timeline. In the past, his mining ship can outfight any other vessel, and he has the capability to destroy planets and alter the timeline.
  • There Will Be Blood. Though it occurs in a microcosm of a small mining community, the overarching theme of the whole film is this trope, happening in slow motion.
  • Happens to the nebbishy protagonist of Nine Seven Six Evil, a film whose main claim to fame is that it was the first film directed by Robert Englund.
  • The Crow is a heroic example, where a murdered goth-rocker is resurrected as a superpowerful avenging angel.
  • Sebastian Caine in Hollow Man is a Smug Snake, but when the invisibility experiment succeeds he seizes the chance to move on to molestation, rape and murder.
  • Hal Stewart from Megamind started off as a socially retarded cameraman with a creepy crush on Roxanne Ritchi, but obtained superpowers via Megamind and became the supervillain Titan, an Omnicidal Maniac who is willing to obliterate an entire city just because Roxanne won't give into his even more disturbing advances.
  • Batman Returns
    • The Penguin is a deformed former freak show dumpster baby who becomes a charismatic gang leader bent on dominating Gotham City.
    • Catwoman was a nebbishy secretary with no backbone and no personal life who gets murdered and resurrected as a sexy catburglar vigilante.
  • Benjamin Barker was a happy, ordinary London man, with just an exceptional talent at barbery. Then he was jailed on trumped up charges and sent away for ten years to Australia. He came back to find his wife had poisoned herself, and the man who did this to him had taken his daughter. Thus was born Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street.
  • Saw: John Kramer the Jigsaw Killer was once just a mild-mannered engineer. Then his wife miscarried their son, and shortly after that he found out he had incurable cancer. He then attempted to commit suicide, and when that failed, he decided to dedicate the rest of his life to "teaching" people to appreciate their lives. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • Buddy from The Incredibles was just an annoying little Fan Boy who refused to leave Mr. Incredible alone. Then he had one little misunderstanding with the hero. Next time we see him, he's become the supervillain Syndrome and has already murdered a large number of Supers. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
  • In Blindness, the King of Ward 3 is seen, early on in the movie, as just a normal bartender who works at the luxury hotel and chats to the girl with dark glasses. Next we see him he has become a monstrous antagonist.
  • In Chronicle, Andrew gets exposed to some weird artifact/mineral/thing and develops telekinetic powers. Over the course of the movie, he goes from nobody ( abused, bullied teenage outcast) pulling pranks and experimenting with his new found abilities, to nightmare ( psychotic with delusions of godhood).
  • The Assassination of Richard Nixon is based on the real life person Samuel Byck, whose sanity is being worn out from being a loser and feeling that he is ignored by society. Eventually he tries to hijack a plane with the intention of crashing it into the White House. His mission ultimately fails, but he ends up killing a number of innocent civilians in the process.


  • Sandman Slim was just a magician who found magic easier than most. Then his buddies sent him to hell.
  • Kierkan Rufo from The Cleric Quintet series set in the Forgotten Realms. In the first four books he's a pathetic fellow cleric of Deneir who goes through the Heel Face Revolving Door before settling on 'Heel' and condemned to a magically enforced exile by Cadderly. In the final novel, thanks to a meddling imp that was a Small Annoying Creature working for the previous Big Bad, Rufo becomes a hideously powerful vampiric embodiment of Chaos and the final Big Bad of the series.
  • At first, this Redwall fox is nothing but a sniveling little whelp and the son of Sela, coming to heal Cluny the Scourge. When he ends up encountering Asmodeus after his attempt at theft goes horribly wrong, the snake leaves the fox with a token of his regard. In the sequel, he is a brutal slaver who kidnaps children, gathers a bunch of vermin and promises them the sky, only to have them turn on each other so they'll kill each other off, leaving him the sole profiteer. Worse, an old rabbit heavily implies he's done this many times in the past. He becomes one of the main henchmen for Malkariss, yet he is shown able and willing to turn on Malkariss and rule over that kingdom, even stating that outright. His original name was Chickenhound, but those who have read Mattimeo know him by a different title: Slagar the Cruel.
    • In Outcast of Redwall we follow archvillain Swartt Sixclaw on his journey from leader of a small band of robbers to Warlord of a vast horde. Along the way he graduates from a psychopathic teenager to a brutal, charismatic general nicknamed "The Pitiless One."
  • The Khaavren books in the Dragaera universe have an ongoing pattern in which a secondary villain in one book will become a much more competent Big Bad in the next. In The Phoenix Guards, Lord Garland is an Evil Chancellor who is the pawn of other, more competent villains. In the next book, Five Hundred Years After, Garland is reduced to hanging out in a Bad Guy Bar, but is behind machinations which successfully destroy the Dragaeran Empire, albeit not in exactly the way he planned. In that book, he is assisted by his daughter Grita, whom he mistreats and it's implied prostitutes. By the next book, The Paths of the Dead, Grita has reinvented herself as a powerful sorceress and is The Man Behind the Man during the rest of the series.
  • A series of science fiction books by Tony Daniel features Ames, an interplanetary dictator who sends virtual lifeforms to virtual deathcamps, and generally causes terror. He used to be a composer with an abusive childhood.
  • Mister Dattam from Yulia Latynina's Wei Empire cycle started out as a somewhat asocial, awkward, yet genial boy with a somewhat unhealthy obsession with technology. The events of the prequel short novel, during which he was repeatedly and thoroughly manipulated and used by his close friends and relatives, forced to flee for his life, dragged into becoming one of the leaders of a bloody rebellion, and then betrayed and told by his close childhood friend that he was nothing but a pawn in a much bigger game from the very beginning, had changed him into a ruthless, selfish Magnificent Bastard, who then went on to become a shameless Complete Monster, a medieval equivalent of a Corrupt Corporate Executive and the real leader of the Shakunik monks.
  • Gully Foyle from Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination began as an uneducated Engineer's Mate 3rd Class aboard a freighter, and by the end he is a cybernetically enhanced unstoppable killing machine with the ability to teleport himself across the galaxy and through time.
  • In The Godfather:
    • Vito Corleone progresses by stages from a mild-mannered grocery clerk with no interest in anyone else's affairs to the head of the most powerful crime family in New York.
    • His son Michael gives him a run for his money. Michael Corleone goes from being a "civilian," with no interest or experience in the mafia, to assassinating the leaders of all four rival families, plus the ringleader of Las Vegas and his brother-in-law.
  • Pontius Glaw, recurring character and eventual Big Bad in the Warhammer 40000 Eisenhorn novels. Starting off as just another bored noble with a penchant for watching gladiatorial combat, a chance encounter with a pit fighter's Chaos-tainted piece of jewelery turned him into a powerful heretic and the head of a major Chaos cult. He was then knocked back to being a Nothing by getting himself mostly killed, eventually becoming nothing more than a personality engram encoded into a hunk of quartz. He then became a nightmare again, when Eisenhorn gave him a robot body in exchange for information; Glaw used the body to escape from his confinement, destroy Eisenhorn's carefully-constructed support network, and nearly unleash a powerful daemonic superweapon before finally being killed for good.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Gentleman Johnny Marcone began his criminal career as a two-bit nobody. When a little girl ended up comatose from a bullet meant for him, he took it upon himself to "clean up" Chicago's criminal underground. By the time of the books, he is established as one of, if not the most powerful (mortal) man in the city, and can casually deal with supernatural threats that even Harry has trouble with. He recently signed on with the Unseelie Accords, a sort of supernatural UN, making him the first mortal to do so in it's long, long history. The worst of it is, Harry can't bring himself to do anything about him, because he tends to pull Harry's fat out of the fire. A lot.
    • Although, there a few moments where he's less of a "Nightmare" as he is a "Mobster With A Heart." This being the other reason Harry is unwilling to harm Marcone.
    • Polonius Lartessa, one of the Denarian leaders is another example; when she started out she was just an underaged hooker in the temple of Isis. Then Nicodemus gave her the Denarian piece containing a fallen angel; since then she has ascended to a position where has not only become one of the most powerful mages on the planet, but has also caused numerous wars and ethnic cleansings (most notably the Rwanda Genocides and the Killing Fields of Pol Pot) purely for the hell of it. From nobody hooker to one of the biggest Complete Monsters in Literature.
    • The Archive. She's the magical receptacle for everything ever written down. Most Archives inherit this knowledge, the memories of past Archives at around age 30 or so, making them a straight example of this trope. The current Archive, though, has been the Archive since she was a few minutes old. She inherited it when her mother committed suicide, which Ivy remembers. In the Dresdenverse, knowledge is power. She can tango with the better part of two thirds of the strongest soldiers for Hell in the setting at one time, inside a trap made for her, with no preparation. She would have probably escaped, too, if not for Harry's hero complex and the fact that he's one of her only friends.
    • The current Summer Lady and Summer Knight. They were originally both changelings (one mortal parent, one Fae parent), who were a source of entertainment for the Winter Court (it's as unfortunate as it sounds). However, when Harry killed Aurora and freed the trapped Summer Knight (Lily), Lily became Lady Summer and appointed Fix as the Summer Knight.
    • Wizards in general, but Harry especially. He starts out an orphan, the son of a poor, kindly stage magician. and Margaret LeFay McCoy, but hush. Now? He's taken on literal gods Winter and Summer Knights, Ladies, and Queens as well as several of their retainers, Greek godlings, ancient Native American nightmares, and so on, is on speaking terms with some such as Odin, plus some Angels, though they aren't technically gods, they're at the same unimaginable level of power, has killed at least a dozen of those gods: Lady Summer Aurora as well as the entire Red Court, he's currently the Winter Knight, has beaten to a standstill a creature that stops for nothing less than a nuke, and killed one of the heirs of Kemmler twice - Kemmler being a Warlock that the entire White Council and then some had to deal with, and who was responsible for WWI. One of those times, Harry was dead. He's ousted the White King, manipulated Marcone into joining the Accords, the first muggle to do so ever, has killed uncountable vampires (Red, White, and Black), ghouls, and Fae, lead an assault on Arctis Tor, the center of the Winter Queen's power, resisted and converted the imprint of a Fallen Angel, established dominance over a creature so ancient it has achieved localized omniscience, works for Uriel, discovered the Black Council and killed at least several of its members, and...
      • How could you leave out using a loophole of the Laws of Magic to raise a ZOMBIE Tyrannosaurus Rex? Which, coincidentally, won him a (temporary) reprieve after insulting the Erlking (the Summer King) by imprisoning him in a binding circle. He's also nearly killed 2000+ year-old Nicodemus Archleon, leader of the Knights of the Blackened Denarius TWICE with his bare hands, to the point that said villain is now terrified of Harry.
  • Darth Bane. From two-bit nobody miner on an Outer Rim world to one of the most powerful and evil Sith Lords of all time.
  • Rand al'Thor from the Wheel of Time went from a shepherd's son to being the single most powerful man on the face of the earth, able to destroy whole cities at will. Granted, he is The Chosen One and meant to save the world, but he is also prophesized to break the world too, and the fact he is quite rightly reputed to be a bit mad, and deteriorating, still makes a nightmare even to his allies.
    • From the same series, Padan Fain started out as a rank-and-file darkfriend whose cover was that he was a peddler. Then he got recruited by Ishamael to track Rand down, given minor magical abilities in the process. Then he merged with the soul of Mordeth, one of the more notorious Complete Monsters in history, acquiring a whole lot more power in the process and also going totally nuts. Blaming both sides of the battle of good against evil for his suffering, he's got it out for everybody- but especially Rand- and is unfortunately one of the more powerful beings in the setting now.
  • Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish from A Song of Ice and Fire. Started off as a cute, mischievous kid with a crush on a girl too highborn for him to marry, and grew up to become a Magnificent Bastard who destroyed the most powerful noble families of Westeros, and orchestrated a continent-wide civil war. He now controls two of the seven kingdoms, has a claim to a third and we still have no idea what the man's goals are!
  • Doctor Impossible. From a nebbishy perpetual undergrad mocked for his outdated theories to the third most dangerous man on Earth, who nearly destroyed the world with a toy, a mirror and a trinket.
  • Akar Kessel from The Crystal Shard: A wimp who finds the eponymous Artifact of Doom and becomes a pawn to its desire for conquest. Still undone by his incompetence.
  • Steerpike was just a put-upon kitchen helper before discovering his Manipulative Bastard side.
  • General Woundwart from Watership Down was originally just an average ordinary rabbit who lost his parents from a young age who joined a gang of rabbit revolutionaries, then he became a power hungry dictator who enslaves rabbits and makes them work themselves to death and has his higher ranking officers do what they like to them including beating and occasionally raping them.
  • Claudandus aka Pascal from Felidae was an ordinary cat who was picked up off the streets for experimenting by scientists who vivisected him, along with many other cats, and being the only test subject to survive, this eventually drove him insane and killed the head scientist and became a serial killer of cats deeming them unworthy of resurrecting an ancient breed.
  • Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. She was just another player, facing a one in twenty-four chance of staying alive longer than everyone else, but by the end of the series, she was the face of the revolution and played a role in the deaths of two corrupt Presidents of Panem.
  • In Wicked, there is the wizard who started as con artist and ended as an evil dictator of OZ, destroying everyone who opposed him.
    • The musical has him saying: "Hey look who's wonderful? This corn-fed hick.", referring to himself.
  • In Holes, Kissin' Kate Barlow, one of the most feared outlaws in the Old West was once a small-town schoolteacher
  • Stag Preston of Spider Kiss went from a shady bellhop to a sociopathic superstar.
  • In Harry Potter, Lord Voldemort went from living in a Muggle orphanage as a child to being the Big Bad as an adult. And got defeated by a boy who spent most of his early years living in a closet under the stairs of people who don't like him.
  • Umbridge could also be one of these.
  • Lio Shirazumi used to be a timid high school kid with a crush. He wanted to impress his crush by getting in a fight, but things got out of hand and he needed to find a way to dispose of a body. Then he eventually grew to become a cannibal with a crush...
  • Just Another Judgement Day, the ninth book of the Nightside series, introduces The Walking Man. He was just an ordinary human being, until he was given a mission from God to purge all the evil in the Nightside--and enough Power to do so with extreme prejudice. The Walking Man shrugs off any and all attempts to hurt or kill him, or otherwise stop his mission. No one and nothing in the Nightside is effective against him. John Taylor is only able to "defeat" him by finding the vanilla mortal he used to be and separating him from his power.
  • Robert Bloch's "Sweets to the Sweet" has Irma, who was unfortunate enough to have her mother suffer Death by Childbirth. Blaming her for this, her father regularly beats and abuses her, constantly calling her a witch. Her uncle is no better; though he's fully aware of the abuse, he ignores it and goes about his own life, and gets irritated when the housekeeper begs him to intervene. So she resolves to become exactly what her father thinks she is, and studies witchcraft, creating a tiny clay Voodoo Doll of her father. And ultimately bites its head off, then slips away while his brother rushes his bedside.
  • Not exactly evil, but Dr. Alexandre Manette ends up nearly being the death of his son-in-law Charles Darnay in Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. In one of those trumped-up coincidences Dickens was so famous for, Dr. Manette is imprisoned in the Bastille for many years thanks to the Darnays' influence and writes an angry journal entry condemning the whole family. His daughter Lucie later marries Charles, the young son of the family who had imprisoned him. When the French Revolution comes, a murderous people's tribunal puts Charles on trial and submits as evidence Dr. Manette's long-forgotten denunciation of his family. Charles is promptly sentenced to death and is due to be beheaded by the guillotine in 24 hours. If not for a certain Heroic Sacrifice....
  • All together now: "They're all gonna laugh at you!"
  • Scourge from Warrior Cats, from small kitten named Tiny, bullied by his siblings, he manages to become leader of BloodClan with sheer ruthlessness and one of most deadly cats in Warriors.
  • The Demon Princes: Viole Falushe and Howard Alan Treesong both started out as disliked, bullied kids before ending up as the titular Demon Princes.
  • Ma'elKoth from The Acts of Caine used to be Hannto the Scythe, a wimpy necromancer.
  • In the Left Behind novels, before becoming The Antichrist/The Beast, Nicolae Carpathia got his start as a businessman, followed by a political career. The False Prophet, Leonardo Fortunado, started out as a kingmaker and business partner of Carpathia's before ascending to the role of Most High Reverend Father of Carpathianism.
  • The Phantom of the Opera: In the original book by Gaston Leroux, Erik had a relatively harmless life before becoming a Torture Technician and then the titular Phantom:

  Erik was born in a small town not far from Rouen. He was the son of a master-mason. He ran away at an early age from his father's house, where his ugliness was a subject of horror and terror to his parents. For a time, he frequented the fairs, where a showman exhibited him as the "living corpse." He seems to have crossed the whole of Europe, from fair to fair, and to have completed his strange education as an artist and magician at the very fountain-head of art and magic, among the Gipsies. A period of Erik's life remained quite obscure. He was seen at the fair of Nijni-Novgorod, where he displayed himself in all his hideous glory. He already sang as nobody on this earth had ever sung before; he practised ventriloquism and gave displays of legerdemain so extraordinary that the caravans returning to Asia talked about it during the whole length of their journey. In this way, his reputation penetrated the walls of the palace at Mazenderan, where the little sultana, the favorite of the Shah-in-Shah, was boring herself to death. A dealer in furs, returning to Samarkand from Nijni-Novgorod, told of the marvels which he had seen performed in Erik's tent. The trader was summoned to the palace and the daroga of Mazenderan was told to question him. Next the daroga was instructed to go and find Erik. He brought him to Persia, where for some months Erik's will was law. He was guilty of not a few horrors, for he seemed not to know the difference between good and evil. He took part calmly in a number of political assassinations; and he turned his diabolical inventive powers against the Emir of Afghanistan, who was at war with the Persian empire. The Shah took a liking to him.

  • In the Age of Fire Series, the Copper was ostracized from his family at early age and was considered a cripple and misfit by the Lavadome Dragons. By the end of his book, he's their leader, and has his sights set on conquering the world.
  • The villain from The Moment Of The Magician was a balding, overweight loser who'd scraped by doing cheap tricks for kids' birthday parties, until he found himself in a world where his magic worked.

Live-Action TV

  • Breaking Bad is one long study in this trope for Walter White. In season one he's a mild mannered science teacher, by the end of season four, he's toppled a major drug ring and murdered a LOT of people
  • Torrence from 2009's The Day of the Triffids sees the collapse of society as an opportunity to get himself a nice suit and an army of mercenaries and try to take over the country.
  • Sylar/Gabriel Gray from Heroes. Would have just stayed a sweet, polite, nerdy watchmaker if not for the actions of Elle and The Company to force him to kill again in order to see how powers were transferred, thus turning him into a Social Darwinist Serial Killer, hungry for more and more power until he eventually was capable of imitating the President of the United States of America, rounding up everyone who could potentially challenge him, having them executed, and generally ruling the world from on high, as he did in one possible future.
  • Mantrid from Lexx. He would have stayed on his ice planet for all eternity (or until he died, maybe, eventually), but due to the heroes' actions, he instead became a composite part-evil scientist-part-Insect essence-all Big Bad planet-disassembling, sun-eating, universe-destroying superweapon superbeing.
    • Similarly, Stanley H. Tweedle, a technician fourth-class (lowest level) who had been nothing but a complete failure until fate intervened and he became the captain of the Lexx, which had the greatest destructive force in both universes.
  • The Replicators from Stargate SG-1 were built originally as just (semi-intelligent) toys who diverged so far from that original function that they became a Horde of Alien Locusts bordering on omnicidal mania, and eventually, an evil race. Oh, and yeah, not only were they a toy, but they were in fact a toy built by what was essentially another toy, a messed-up android built by a doddering old fool left alone on some backwater planet with nothing else to do.
    • Actually Reese (the android) created and subsequently lost control of her "toys" while her "father" (as she called her creator) was still around. The replicators then killed everyone on the planet and left Reese there, alone.
      • The Asurans of Stargate Atlantis (commonly misrepresented as just another group of Replicators, including in the show itself) are something of a variation. They were created to be a weapon against the Wraith, but decided that they would be happier living peacefully and researching ascension. The Ancients weren't happy with that, and decided to get rid of them. Then the Atlantis team showed up. They wanted to be a nobody, and turned into a nightmare.
      • Actually the Asurans were Replicators (they came first) and its heavily implied that Reese's father, was actually an Ancient who started up the project again in the Milky Way. This is why their programing code and abilities were exactly the same.
  • Perhaps a bit of a stretch, in that it was the second pilot of the series and he wasn't really a "nobody", Gary Mitchell of Star Trek: The Original Series. Beginning as a jovial and friendly if ambitious Starfleet officer who also happened to be Jim Kirk's original best friend before Spock (the episode, in fact, marking the very beginning of the latter), a single shock from the energies of the mysterious barrier at the edge of the known universe turned him into an eventually near-invincible psionic being (counterable only with the help of another of similar if slightly weaker capabilities) with designs of self-exaltation to the point of avowed godhood, and with as much personal concern and regard for his former friends, in the words of the science officer and future best friend of Kirk: " we have in common with a shipload of white mice."
  • In the Doctor Who serial Planet of Spiders, the main (human) villain, Lupton, was a former salesman and manager for 25 years who was embittered when his company fired him. So he volunteered to do the bidding of giant spiders, who gave him great powers.
    • The Master. Before he looked into the Untempered Schism and had the drum beat implanted into his brain, he would just have been a harmless Time Lord child.
  • Liam in Buffy the Vampire Slayer was just a cheap and fun loving young man, just one of many in the world who would have lead an unremarkable life — until he met a beautiful vampire. Reborn as Angelus, he immediately distinguished himself from other vampires by his sheer cruelty and inhumanity. Even the Master, one of the oldest and most powerful vampires seen in the series, called him "the most savage creature I have ever known". Despite being not much stronger than the average vampire, Angelus always inspires fear and dread whenever he reasserts himself. During his stint as Big Bad he came closer to destroying humanity than anyone else in the series, even the First Evil itself.
    • Willow went from a powerless, clueless Muggle to the most dangerous member of the Scoobies and probably the most powerful magic user on the planet over the course of six seasons, but didn't become a Nightmare until Tara was killed and she went on an Unstoppable Rage rampage that almost ended with the world ending.
    • Warren Mears at first seemed to just be some pathetic geek living in his mom's basement, until he showed up at Buffy's place with a gun.
      • Arguably, the From Nobody to Nightmare happened in the episode Dead Things. Before this episode, Warren was presented more like Jonathan and Andrew, i.e. immature geeks trying to act like comic book supervillains, though he had been the only one willing to have a demon kill Buffy in "Flooded" and tried to dissolve her in "Gone" instead of re-visibling her. However, in Dead Things, Warren mind controls his ex-girlfriend, then proceeds to try and have sex with her, and then crosses the Moral Event Horizon by accidentally killing her when she wakes up, then manipulates Jonathan and Andrew into framing Buffy for murder, using magic so even Buffy believes she's the killer. Then he just gets worse from there...
    • The Mayor. He was originally a mortal human, stumbled across the Hellmouth while prospecting for gold, and made a deal with the demons (which included the founding of Sunnydale on the Hellmouth and his gaining immortality) mainly in order to avoid being killed.
  • The villain in Secrets of the Stars was a failure in life before he was chosen by the Ancient Lights. This means Sarah Jane can't convince him to stop and he refuses to surrender and return to his old life when he's lost.
  • Billy Miles in The X-Files is one of these. In the pilot episode, Billy is only a poor young man abducted by aliens. And this is the last we think we see of him. Seven years later, he is abducted again, is returned with an alien virus, and turns into an indestructible killing machine, bent on murdering Scully and her unborn child. I bet Mulder really regretted not taking that shot in the pilot.
    • Of course, Billy was just one of several many people just like him abducted and changed by the aliens. Even if Mulder had killed him, they still would have had to deal with someone else, and it still would have been an example of this trope.
  • Benjamin freakin' Linus of Lost. Originally a pitiful little boy who was a victim of a drunken dad who always told him that his birthday is essentially the anniversary of the day he killed his mom. Flashforward 30 years later and he orchestrated the death of his whole town, including his father who he killed with his own hands after reciting his "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
    • Not to mention his first introduction. He was very convincing as the innocent Henry Gale, making it virtually impossible for anyone to Spot the Imposter. Then he began to show his manipulative nature that we're all familiar with, starting with stringing Locke against Jack even further which had horrible results.
    • Hell, the Smoke Monster was just a guy who wanted to escape from his jerkwad mother and sniveling brother. But then he gets pushed to far murders his mother, gets murdered by his brother, dumped in a magic spring, and becomes the mass-murdering Big Bad monster.
  • In The Wire, young drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield just starts out the third season as a small-time player with a few corners. His first appearance is about 10 seconds. Due to the arrest of his competition at the end of the season, he has taken over by the end Season 3. In the fourth season, the police see him as just another drug kingpin like the one before. By the end of Season 4, they find out that he has filled up AT LEAST 22 vacant houses with bodies.
  • Viktor Adler / Master Org from Power Rangers Wild Force. Unlike most PR Big Bads before or after him, he started out as a completely ordinary man with a crush on one of his two co-workers. Then he found the remains of the original Master Org and got much, much worse (without ever developing a split personality like Mercer and Mesogog).
    • Likewise, Trakeena from Power Rangers Lost Galaxy. She went along with daddy Scorpius's plans, but it wasn't like she was some big architect in them and even refused to do some things out of reluctance or vanity. Then Scorpius got killed, and suddenly she took up the reins of the organization, stopping at nothing to get her vengeance on the Rangers, complete with attacking civilians and turning her own Mooks into suicide bombers.
  • About half of the younger generation of gangsters in Boardwalk Empire. Lucky Luciano? Just some dumb, Hot-Blooded kid. Al Capone? He's just the The Don's immature driver who makes up stories about serving in The Great War so he can make himself look more Badass. Bugsy Siegel? Just a kid with a bad temper.
    • The biggest is definitely Meyer Lansky. In his first appearance, he's on the receiving end of jokes about being a kid in his dad's suit. Within twenty years, he will be one of the most powerful men in America.
  • An episode of Sliders features a world instantly cursed with twice its previous population because of the sliding technology. It's dominated by warlords who control the food supply. They meet one who mentions he used to be a shoe salesman.
  • Rumplestiltskin of Once Upon a Time. Started out as a cowardly, crippled, wool-spinning peasant; then somebody made the mistake of threatening his son. Cue burning down the Duke's palace, killing an all-powerful evil sorcerer, and taking on said evil sorcerer's power, making ol' Rumple possibly the baddest dude in the fairy tale world.
  • Oswald Danes from Torchwood: Miracle Day was just your average, run-of-the-mill sex offender on death row until everyone in the world lost the ability to die and everyone saw his lethal injection fail on live television. He was then recruited by an evil corporation as a spokesperson to help promote their corrupt agenda because vile though he is, Danes is a well-known figure and very charismatic. His Karma Houdini bites him in the ass however when the corporation reveal that he has outlived his usefulness and he goes back to being a nobody. On the run. From everyone.


Professional Wrestling

  • The WWE NXT season one rookies were just some wet-behind-the-ears, fresh-out-of-training nobodies — maybe something someday, but for now not worth much. Then they banded together to form The Nexus, and completely tore apart Monday Night Raw. For a few months after that, they were "the biggest threat WWE has ever faced" — bigger than The Alliance, bigger than the N Wo, bigger than the McMahon-Helmsley Regime, you name it. Ironically, their undoing came when Daniel Bryan, the only rookie who actually had a good amount of experience before coming on NXT, and who had been expelled from the group for showing remorse, joined the WWE wrestlers in the fight against The Nexus.
  • The Miz, of course. When he first appeared on television in the summer of 2006, it was merely as the obnoxious emcee for that year's Diva Search (which Layla El won, by the way). He eventually started wrestling, but almost everyone (except for Michael Cole, which Cole himself would Lampshade years later) thought of him as a joke who had only been offered a contract with WWE because he'd been on so many reality shows. (Outside of Kayfabe, of course, he'd been the second-place contestant on Tough Enough, but WWE commentators never bothered to point that out.) He remained essentially a "curtain-jerker" for his entire first year on TV, even getting eliminated from his first Royal Rumble Match after only seven seconds! It was only after he was drafted to ECW on SciFi in the summer of 2007 and paired with John Morrison in a heel tag team that he started to emerge as something resembling a threat. Fast-forward three years and several titles later, and suddenly Miz is "Mister Money in the Bank" and eventually "the most must-see WWE Champion in history!" And, of course, "Awesome."
  • Mark Henry spent the better part of 15 years as a midcarder, best known for his angle with Mae Young, and was considered an oft-injured bust who the WWE only hung onto to justify the untold millions they (over)paid him. When the company was short on monster heels, they turned to Mark Henry to see if he could fill that role finally. With strong booking that had him decimating upper midcarders and main eventers alike, coupled with a rejuvenated Henry in the ring and on the mic, he was able to finally be convincing as one of the most dangerous men in the company, if not THE most dangerous.

Tabletop Games

  • Cyric of the Forgotten Realms was originally a rank-and-file thief in his guild, then an ordinary if somewhat amoral and greedy, mercenary. After the Time of Troubles he became the Prince of Lies, the Black Sun, the Mad God, the Lord of Three Crowns; a Complete Monster of a god even when compared to other Greater Evil deities, who controls the portfolios of Murder, Lies, and Strife (and for a while Death, Tyranny, and Intrigue as well). And the title "mad god"? That's an understatement. He makes Lloth look sane.
    • Lloth is merely so chaotic she schemes in several opposite directions at once, but her scheming is coherent. Cyric made rotting Moander at its final gibbering stages of degeneration look sane. Then again, probably making the Cyrinishad in such a way that in the process he had to be exposed to it himself wasn't the brightest idea to begin with.
      • The Archdevil Bel is probably one of the greatest examples of this. He started out as an ordinary lemure, a weak pile of goo that doesn't even have an intelligence score all the way up the promotion chain until he overthrew his boss and became the Archdevil of the first layer of hell. True it's the lowest ranking Archdevil there is, but tell him he's not a nightmare to his face and he'll probably kill you and use your soul for some evil deed.
  • In Warhammer and Warhammer 40000, ANYONE who gets possessed by a daemon becomes a nightmare. If it's properly bound...
    • The Tau in the latter. When the mighty Imperium of Mankind first discovered them, they were no more than a simple plains-dwelling race that had barely mastered fire. Fast-forward six thousand years and they've assembled a multi-species empire capable of standing against the might of an Imperial crusade and defeating a Tyranid splinter fleet without a single lost vessel. Note that this could also apply to the Necrons in their own time, who went from an insignificant, short-lived race orbiting a dying sun to an endless army of immortal killing machines possessing the most advanced starships in the setting.
  • The "Gagagigo" series of Yu-Gi-Oh cards tell the tale of a cute little Gigobyte's eventual transformation into the insane cybernetic monstrosity Gogiga Gagagigo.
  • In Exalted, this is often part of the backstory of Abyssals and Infernals. Infernals are offered their Exaltation by the Yozis after a deep, personal failure, and Abyssals only get the chance to become Abyssals when they're at death's door. The Prince of Shadows is a particularly good illustration of this trope as it applies to Abyssals.
  • A frequent factor in Betrayal at House on the Hill. That cute little boy who collects bugs? Just discovered a nest of Big Creepy-Crawlies and thinks they're so cool he's just gotta feed his new friends fresh meat. That sweet little girl with the teddy bear? Stumbled across a gateway to hell. The possibilities go on and on...
    • This trope can take place not only in the plot, but in the mechanics. Most games revolve around a haunt, or a time when some player turns on the others. The traitor and the others compete to fulfill different, opposed goals. Character stats in the game can go up and down. A character might start with only modest physical or mental stats, pass a few checks, Take a Level In Badass, find a magical item for a further buff...and then wind up betraying the rest of the players while easily the most powerful character in the game.
  • Delta Green features a few amongst the more human antagonists. One was once just a guy learning how to play guitar from some random drunkard. A pretty teenager from Ohio. A health food magnate. Dirt encrusted war orphans, one of them missing an arm. All of them viciously insane, completely amoral and enslaved to the will of powerful and dangerous alien entities.
  • Yawgmoth from Magic: The Gathering. He started out as an ordinary medic and eventually became a god-killing Multiversal Conqueror Dimension Lord Eldritch Abomination.

Video Games

  • Earthbound: Porky Minch started off as Ness's neighbour - a complete Jerkass, but too lazy and self-centered to do anything dangerous with it. Then he gets involved with Giygas. Once he gets his grubby little hands on some of Giygas's technology, he changes from a mere rotten brat to The Dragon to Giygas, or even part of a Big Bad Duumvirate with him depending on your interpretation. Once that falls through and Giygas gets destroyed, he buggers off with the technology and disappears into time. Come Mother 3, he's time-traveled so much that he's become immortal, has raised an army, is perverting nature and wants to destroy the world simply because he's bored.
  • Kirby Super Star: At first, Marx appears to just be another harmless, cutesy resident of Dream Land, but in fact he tricks the sun and moon into fighting, gets Kirby to summon Nova to stop the fight and then uses Nova's power to take over the galaxy. Then, in Kirby Super Star Ultra, he is resurrected from his former defeat in a demonic form by absorbing Nova's power.
  • Ace Attorney has Joe Darke, who was an ordinary office worker until he ran over a pedestrian. This triggered a chain of events that would lead to him becoming a notorious spree killer.
  • Shadow Hearts' Seiji Kato started off as a lovable goof with a kind heart, an eagerness to please, a crush on his superior officer, and next to no knowledge of magic, instead having studied geography. He summoned the ancient gods of Japan in an attempt to completely rewrite history and erase an entire timeline. Because his "girlfriend" died twice on him.
  • Psaro The Manslayer from Dragon Quest IV, a pretty boy who builds up a hate for humans because cruel men want his elf girlfriend's ruby tears and hurt her for them, He gathers monsters to invade other towns in order to kill the legendary hero/heroine, but is simply rumored by regular people as a random cruel arena fighter. When Psaro's girlfriend, Rose, is actually killed by humans, he goes mad and seek a way to evolve into a monster, and you have to fight him as a final boss.
  • City of Heroes' Lord Nemesis started out as a toymaker around the time of the Civil War. Now? He's a Mad Scientist master of Steampunk, The Chessmaster above all others in the game's universe, and was Emperor of the United States for a brief time.
    • Let's not forget the Big Good and Big Bad of the series: Marcus Cole was exposed to mustard gas during WWI, and after the war went globe-hopping with his now-mercenary platoon buddies, including his best friend Stephen Richter looking for a way to save his life. They eventually find the Well of the Furies, and drink from the Fountain of Zeus. Not only does this fix Marcus, but these two nobodies, these barely-notable privates in a war fought by millions, are now the first Incarnates of the gods themselves in generations, going by the respective names Statesman and Lord Recluse
    • Darrin Wade fits here, what with his killing Statesman's daughter and then Statesman himself. Oh, and he also plans to summon Cthulhu Expy Rularuu into this dimension and merge himself with it. Not bad for a rejected mage.
  • Soul Calibur's Siegfried was the leader of a rag-tag bunch of thieves; not much to write home about. After robbing a convoy where he mistakenly decapitates his own father and quickly loses his mind over it, convincing himself that someone else did it, he takes it upon himself to locate Soul Edge, thinking that his father's murderer deserves no less than death by that blade. He finds it, alright...
    • In Soul Calibur III Siegfried and Nightmare become separated. So Siegfried is no longer a Nightmare. He's just responsible for unleashing a Complete Monster that lacks any semblance of a conscience or humanity whatsoever. Oopsie. Then in Soul Calibur IV in his ending he allows Soul Calibur to bring "peace" to the world by covering it with crystals to trap it in stasis forever.
    • On the other hand, his father was a brave knight that was seen as a champion of the peasants, and went on a crusade. He arguably wasn't a complete nobody...
  • In Dark Cloud 2, Sirus was a peaceful, shy Moon Person (anthropomorphic rabbits) who liked flowers, and, after sneaking into the Palace to admire the gardens, was invited by Queen Alexandra to become their keeper. When war broke out over the three Atlamillia Stones, devastating the country and killing Alexandra, he obtained the Sun Atlamillia and swore eternal vengeance upon mankind. Ten thousand years later, the Dark Emperor Griffon has all but destroyed the world by manipulating the timestream, and sending out his armies to devastate the few resistance forces that he hasn't erased from existence.
  • In the Ace Combat games, your characters always start as unknowns, but quickly become the reason for much Oh Crap from the enemies.
  • Aldo Trapani, the real player character of The Godfather: The Game, was originally just the son of a Corleone-aligned baker. Ten years after his dad gets gunned down by Barzini goons, though, he gets taken under the wing of Luca Brasi and quickly becomes the top Corleone hatchetman, effectively crushing the other four families and becoming the new Don of NYC. Averted in the sequel, where Dominic is already established as Aldo's underboss prior to the start.
  • It's mentioned in the Mass Effect lore that The Illusive Man, Visionary Villain and leader of human extremist group Cerberus was once a normal man with a family.
    • Also, from the Reapers' perspective, Shepard him/herself. Starts out as a farmer/ordinary soldier/spacer, depending on the player's choice, but becomes the single greatest threat to the Reapers in tens of millions of years.
    • The Shadow Broker turns out to be a member of a primitive species who was enslaved and trained to be the original Shadow Broker's chief enforcer. He killed the original Shadow Broker and took his place.
    • Up to a point, the Krogan race. A proud warrior race that was way behind the rest of the galaxy technologically, they were eventually used by the Salarians as soldiers against the Rachni. With exposure to other cultures and better technology, the Krogan became a threat to all other races, to the point the Salarians had to cull their numbers with the Genophage.
    • The Geth are another example. They started their lives as simply labor devices with the ability to learn, eventually they develop the ability to philosophize, then they want their freedom, then they kick the collective asses of their creators so badly that the entire race is forced to abandon their home world. Then they disappear for a long time before coming back and attempting to conquer the known universe.
  • Throughout the Baldur's Gate series, the Player Character goes from being just some kid with a tiny fragment of the God of Murder in them to a being of incredible power. The bad guys in the third game don't send assassins after you - they send an army. You can also become a God, if you choose.
  • In Dragon Age, two of the available origins really are nobodies - you can't get more 'nobody' than an elf living in an elf ghetto or a Casteless dwarf. You then go on to command the armies of an entire country, whose combined power is more or less equal to your own. You can become the first person ever to slay an Archdemon without dying.
    • Though that last part is not due to the character's sheer badassitude.
    • Loghain is a better example; he wasn't even a noble before the Orlesian invasion and ended up as a Teyrn (roughly equivalent to Duke in medieval England), father-in-law to the King, and eventually regent over the land of Ferelden through a combination of clever military tactics, ambition, and backstabbing.
    • In the Warden's Keep DLC, you read passages from a journal about a young boy being made king because he was thought to be easily manipulated. However, he becomes Drunk with Power and ends up executing entire noble families as punishment for them talking back to him.
    • In Dragon Age II, Hawke starts out a penniless refugee forced to eke out a living in the slums of Kirkwall. By Act II, s/he is the head of a rich noble estate. By Act III, the Champion of Kirkwall. In one ending, the new Viscount of Kirkwall, in the other, the banner of the mages' rebellion against the Chantry across all of Thedas.
  • In Cave Story, the Doctor was, well, a doctor.
  • In Resident Evil 7, Lucas Baker starts off as a juvenile delinquent who is considered to be a bad seed amongst his otherwise lovable family. However, when Eveline ends up corrupting his family and turning them into psychopaths, he ends up putting his invention skills to horrible use, setting up sadistic death traps that he designed to be impossible to escape from. It only becomes worse when you find out that unlike his family, Lucas Baker (though he does have the powers that his parents possess, such as the ability to regenerate) actually ISN'T under Eveline's control, so he's doing what he does for the fun of it.
  • Happens three times in Chzo Mythos the first is John DeFoe by the way of being beaten to death with an enchanted idol then in the prestory Cabadath becoming the Prince, then Theo Dacabe becoming the New Prince.
  • Arguably, the Boss from Saints Row. At the beginning of the first game, he was just some guy on the street. By the end of the second, though... hoo, boy. Just ask the Stilwater Police Department.
    • In one of the endings of Saints Row the Third, this random street-kid from the rough part of Stillwater singlehandedly destroys an Airborne Aircraft Carrier, despite having a sizeable army with heavy military equipment available. He then proceeds to declare independence, turning the city of Steelport into a new city-state, and informing the entire US that if they have a problem with that, they're welcome to Bring It! Oh, and that ending is apparently the canonical one. The fourth game is gonna be innnnnteresting...
  • World of Warcraft: Kel'Thuzad, a second rate mage, discredited and harassed by the mages ruling council for a bit too much interest in certain taboo fields of study *cough*necromancy*cough*. Takes one little trip to that planet's version of the Arctic, comes back as leader of a death cult, spreading a plague of Undeath through the human kingdoms, bringing most of them to their knees before finally getting killed; only to come Back From the Dead and become The Dragon for one of the most powerful forces of Evil in the World.
    • Although according to WoWWiki, he was a member of the Kirin Tor's Council Of Six. They might have expelled him from the order, but it doesn't seem as though he was a nobody before that.
    • Kel'Thuzad was an Archmage of Dalaran and a man of considerable wealth and political standing, as well as being one of the Six. However, it has to be said that simply being an archmage and member of the Council of Six does not make one a noteworthy lore character, since most of its current members are relatively minor NPCs in WotLK. That said, this trope could be said to apply in that he started out as 'just' a powerful and influential mage who dabbled in necromancy (and was terrified by what he saw in Northrend), to being an incredibly powerful necromancer and the second-most powerful undead entity on Azeroth behind the Lich King.
  • Big Bad Demichev of Singularity - For Want of a Nail YOUR saving him from an inferno that should have killed him- rises to power in the USSR and leads it to world conquest. And in one of the endings, Barisov.
  • Everyone with a COMP in Devil Survivor, provided they survive making a demon contract. Special mention goes to the MC who can become the next Demon King or Messiah.
  • From Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, the Demi-Fiend. Ordinary High School Student one moment. Implacable godslayer the next.
  • In Alpha Protocol, one of the options you can start with is as a "Recruit", in which you are, well, a raw recruit with no field experience (and no starting skill points): in other words, a "nobody" who will make for a perfect fall guy if anything goes wrong. In one of the possible endings, you agree to work for the Big Bad but then betray him, having made enough friends in both high and low places to run your own Conspiracy and manipulate world events from the shadows.
    • There's also Steven Heck, the Crazy Awesome Conspiracy Theorist alleged-CIA Agent who's implied to just be a regular guy who decided out of sheer insanity to be the best Conspiracy Theorist in the world.
  • Prototype is the embodiment of this trope. The player character starts waking up from death relatively powerless and gradually becomes the scourge of the US Army.
    • In the plot it happens twice. First, by all accounts innocent college student Elizabeth Greene became an immortal host for the Redlight virus and a One Woman Zombie Apocalypse. Second, poverty-stricken, abused foster child Alexander Mercer grew up to get a degree in genetics, create the deadliest virus in mankind's history and with it attempt to take the whole human race with him when he died. That accidentally made his corpse the immortal host for the Blacklight virus and a Person of Mass Destruction - the player character.
  • Utsuho Reiuji, the Final Boss of Touhou Chireiden ~ Subterranean Animism, was originally just a simple, stupid bird who's job was basically a glorified boiler operator. Then she ate a sun god, gained the power to control nuclear fusion, and decided to Take Over the World and turn the surface into a blasted hellscape for giggles.
  • Possible for the Courier in any myriad of ways in Fallout: New Vegas. Starting out as some nameless schmuck with a couple holes in your head, you can go on to be seen as the scourge of any (and all) of the main factions in the game.
    • This carries over to fairly much all of the Fallout games. From know-nothing kids in vaults to dim tribesmen and simple couriers, the Main Character can end up cranking a global nuclear apocalypse Up to Eleven. Entire towns of innocents slaughtered. Mindless nuclear detonations and Kill Sat hellfires. Children, old men, diplomats, guards, all sent to die in The Pitt as slaves. And it usually pays better than playing as a good guy.
    • Also from New Vegas: Edward Sallow and Joshua Graham. One a Follower of the Apocalypse renowned for his petulance and narcissism with a fondness for Roman culture. The other a Mormon Missionary. After the two were captured by the Blackfoot tribe Edward decided to teach the tribe about war, eventually becoming their chieftain. Therein lies the story of Caesar and the Malpais Legate and the founding of Caesar's Legion.
    • And now we can add Ulysses to this list, with the release of Lonesome Road and the revelation that he was simply a member of a tribe conquered by Caesar's Legion who eventually rose to become a Fruumentarius, who after an event caused by The Courier came to the realization that one person can shape history. After Walking the Earth a bit and settling down to become a rancher/courier, the revelation that the person responsible for the event was alive and kicking led to the events of Lonesome Road, where he plans to nuke the Mojave in his own attempt to shape history.
    • As an entire species, Deathclaws are this. Start as harmless chameleons, but become the most terrifying creature on the planet after a little bit of radiation.
  • This is seen in Lands of Lore III. While the Big Bads of the previous two games were the sorcerous leader of the Evil Army, and then the setting's Crystal Dragon Satan, the main villain of the 3rd game turns out to be one the series' secondary supporting characters, who starts the game as comic relief and progressively turns villainous as he grows increasingly desperate while his plan to avoid death begins to unravel.
  • In Portal 2, we find out that Cave Johnson's secretary, Caroline, underwent Brain Uploading on Cave's orders after his death, as he felt Aperture would be in good hands with her. The computer her brain was uploaded into? GLaDOS.
    • The same trope can also said to have been invoked in Wheatley, who turned from being just one of the many personality cores within the Aperture Laboratories to being in charge of the entire facility...for a while.
  • Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh definitely uses this trope when the origins of the Hecatomb are finally revealed: it's actually the original Curtis Craig (not the one you've been playing). He started out as an innocent child who just happened to be in the same room as Paul Warner while he was looking for test subjects. Flung into another dimension and forced to watch as he was replaced by an alien duplicate, he plotted revenge; twenty years later, he's developed powerful psychic abilities, and he wants the duplicate's body for his own.
  • RuneScape is a good example too, you start off as a slightly tougher than normal human, who could end up being killed by giant rats, to an unstoppable juggernaut who has slaughtered their way through thousands to millions of enemies, wielding ultimate arcane power, not to mention the ability to summon giant metal beings that are exceedingly tough, with the ability to kill regular citizens with one punch, arrow, spell, with a bank account filled with potions that make you MORE unstoppable, dozens of ancient artifacts, enough regular weapons to outfit a small army, enough ranged weaponry(and the skill to use it) to qualify as a piece of artillery. You also end up being the most important person in the world just because of the aforementioned skills and involvement with...everything.
  • In Soul Nomad and The World Eaters, Revya starts off as a normal person, living in a hidden village with his/her best friend. Then, his/her soul gets fused with Gig's, and becomes so powerful that he/she destroys two of the World Eaters with ease, takes over the entire kingdom of Orviska and ends up destroying all of reality
  • In Sonic Adventure, Chaos, the watery humanoid being who grows bigger and stronger by consuming Chaos Emeralds, is called the god of destruction, and is responsible for destroying nearly all of the Echidnas, started off as an ordinary Chao, one of the adorable little critters you can raise in the eponymous gardens, until exposure to the Master Emerald mutated him. Then the Echidna tribe tried to take the Chaos Emeralds for themselves, hurting several Chao in the process. That resulted in Chaos earning his title.
  • In Dragon Fable, humble blacksmith apprentice Konnan turns to fire magic and renames himself Drakonnan after the hero failed to save his family from the fire dragon Akriloth. Drakonnan quickly surpasses his Evil Mentor Xan and Akriloth in terms of sheer evil.
  • Jane Turner of Valkyria Chronicles started out as the owner of a flower shop - however, the Empire razing her business turned her into the sadistic, war-mongering maniac she is now.
  • A staple of Grand Theft Auto. In fact, each game pushes it Serial Escalation.
    • Claude of Grand Theft Auto III goes from being a random mook (his first couple of jobs consist of driving prostitutes around and giving beatings to drug dealers who aren't paying their dues) to a feared and hated hitman who kills pretty much every gang leader in Liberty City.
    • Tommy of Grand Theft Auto Vice City goes from being a random mook to owning Vice City.
    • CJ of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas goes from being a random gangbanger (not even leader of his own street gang!) to semi-respected businessman and head of a criminal empire that extends over the entire state.
  • In Ghost Trick, Yomiel goes from being a computer programer (albeit one of the best) to being a disembodied spirit with the ability to possess other people and move his own time-frozen corpse like a puppet.
  • In most of the Zelda games, Ganondorf was a kid from a poor Gerudo tribe, who went on to become insanely powerful and nearly conquer Hyrule. In The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask, we also find out that the Skull Kid was...well, a kid who liked to joke around, and ended up possessed by an evil mask, summoning a giant moon to the ground. The Legend of Zelda the Minish Cap has Vaati, who started out as a miniscule elf and became a powerful sorcerer.
  • In the Hidden Object casual game Surface, a petty criminal named Sid takes over an alternate reality by switching places with his otherworldly duplicate, who rules the place.
  • Cyrus appears to be this in his respective games. He is explicitly stated to be a quiet boy who tinkered with machines and lived in Sunyshore City with his grandparents. Then he grows up and attempts to destroy the universe so he can remake it in what he believes to be a better one.
  • Another heroic example is of course Samus Aran of the Metroid series. The Space Pirates first encountered her as a harmless girl, orphaned when they attacked her home colony. Years later some bloodwork, warrior training and a suit of Powered Armor has turned that little girl into a One Woman Army with a grudge. She cuts through their soldiers with contemptuous ease, and turns the pirates' technology against them. She can effortlessly hack their data networks and bypass their security systems. She doesn't just wipe out bases, she leaves destroyed planets in her wake. She is the Hunter, the one threat in all the galaxy the Pirates are flat-out terrified of, all because one of their raids over a decade ago left one survivor.

Visual Novels

  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: All the secondary antagonists/ironic members of the main set of True Companions.
  • Fate/stay night's Sakura Matou goes from the cute girl with a jerk brother who gets kicked out of all the routes early, never does anything important, Cannot Spit It Out and more Shrinking Violet traits to an all powerful dark mage with the exact magic traits needed not only to be able to be the host of the (sort of) devil, but also express its power. And also to keep her mind (to a certain extent). Oh, and she can eat Servants or corrupt them as she pleases, have an immense Healing Factor and a bunch of other nifty moves. The one thing it doesn't do for her is improve her self image, causing her to believe that Rin (her sister) doesn't care about her (Rin's rather cold statements don't exactly help matters...), and to worry that Shirou might abandon her for Rin.
    • Avenger/ Angra Mainyu too. Started off as just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill Mesopotamian villager. After being randomly picked to be a scapegoat for 'all evils of the world' he ended up being summonable for the Holy Grail War, but even there he was still pathetic, being one of the weakest Servants imaginable. However his spirit then went inside the Grail where he made a wish to truly become the manifestation of evil for revenge on humanity, and that's the reason the Grail has been corrupted ever since.
  • In the Ace Attorney series, Joe Darke was an ordinary office worker, until he killed someone with his car. This led to a chain of events that made him an infamous Serial Killer

Web Originals

  • Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog goes this route with the main character. In the prequel comic released, he was merely a geeky kid who was inspired by a Mad Scientist's moment of triumph to be a Supervillain (albeit one with good aspirations). He consistently remains unsuccessful at impressing his superiors and is eventually shoehorned into a situation where he must commit a murder or be executed for incompetence. Eventually with the accidental murder of Penny, the girl he loved, he becomes a true supervillain in both position and personality.
  • Survival of the Fittest provides plenty of opportunities for (mostly) normal high school students to become multiple murderers. J. R. Rizzolo, in particular, went from being a regular guy who liked playing Guitar Hero to a sadistic, deceptive loony who offed his former classmates without a trace of guilt.
  • Coyle Command found its origins as a laundromat. Its leader, Coyle Commander, had the job of opening and closing it every day.
  • League of Legends has Jericho Swain, the Master Tactician. His first record of being known in Noxus was when he walked into an infirmary with a severely mangled leg. No one but Swain (and maybe his bird) knows what happened, and he walked off afterwards with nothing but a cane in hand, refusing magical treatment, going off to join the Noxian military. Instead of being turned away for being a cripple, he tore his way through the ranks as a commanding officer, being promoted when demotions were asked for, and being decorated after nearly every battle. And even now, he still walks around with a cane.
  • Frequently used in The Gungan Council for villains. Better examples would be characters that managed to fly under the radar for a year or two before everyone realized how nightmarishly involved they were in all of the galaxy's problems.
  • A host of kids in the Whateley Universe who are nothing until somewhere around the age of fourteen they manifest as mutants. Deathlist, most feared hero killer in the world, started out as an ordinary schoolboy.
  • The Questport Chronicles: The Fellowship never finds out who the mage who destroyed Questport is or where he came from. No one had heard of him until after the cataclysm.
  • The Queen of Pain from Orions Arm, an Eldritch Abomination that was once a perfectly normal cat.


  • In Eight Bit Theater, as it turns out The Onion Kid becomes Sarda, Reality Warper extraordinaire.
  • In the Order of the Stick book Start of Darkness, Redcloak goes from a cleric initiate to vessel of his god's will and earthly power simply by donning his mentor's Crimson Mantle.
    • Also, Xykon goes from being an unfocused thug with no real long-term goal other than just wanton murder and rape to an undead monstrosity that threatens the entire world.
    • Tarquin was once a small-time adventurer who tried to set up his own nation on the Western Continent. However, he joined together with his old friends and engineered a conspiracy which controls most of the Western Continent. He is now the de facto ruler of the Empire of Blood, as well as the other two Western Continent superpowers
    • The Snarl started out as a tiny piece of creation that embodied the pantheons' disagreements over how the universe should work. It was so insignificant that the gods either didn't notice or didn't care about its existence. Then it got bigger and meaner to the point that it could curbstomp entire pantheons. It is now supposedly the greatest threat to all existence, with the entire series revolving around efforts to control or seal it.
  • Pretty much the main story arch of Zebra Girl. the series began when a random magical accident transformed an ordinary tech support specialist into a demon with a soul. From those humble beginnings, she has gradually lost her humanity by inches, and has spent the past several months of the comic gleefully and unrepentantly terrorizing the inhabitants of her hometown as the living embodiment of fear. Basically, she has become a better-looking version of Freddy Krueger. With longer claws.
  • Jack Noir of Homestuck starts out as just an unwilling Obstructive Bureaucrat in the kingdom of Derse, but ends up becoming the comic's Big Bad after killing the Black Queen and takes the prototyping rings for his own use.
  • Karnak from Dominic Deegan was a human orphan raised by orcs. Through a Heroic Sacrifice to save Miranda Deegan, he was transformed into a semi-demon and gradually slaughtered his way up the ranks to become the only Demon Lord in Hell.
    • Most Infernomancers in the series fit this trope as well. And Necromancers. And maybe Siegfried. Yeah, Mookie sort of loves this trope.

Western Animation


 Green Lantern: Whatever he (Dee) is, he's not in the same league as Grundy and the others. He's a nobody.

Batman: Ever read the Odyssey? After Odysseus was caught by the Cyclops, he told it that his name was 'Nobody', so when he poked its eye out and his friends asked who did it all the Cyclops could say was "Nobody."

    • The same episode gives us this dialogue, with Dee's literal transformation From Nobody to Nightmare:

 Dee's wife: John? What are you doing here? Get out!

John Dee: Y'know, I never liked that name. It's so... ordinary. Especially for someone with such big things in store. You know, a destiny? Ooh, I like that. DR. Destiny. What do you think?

Dee's wife: I think you're crazy!

John Dee (transforming into Dr. Destiny): Maybe. Or maybe you're just seeing the real me. And now that I'm a doctor... (turns into a grinning skull) I think I'll perform some surgery.

  • Another Justice League example: David Clinton, an inventor from the Batman Beyond era who appeared in the first season finale of Unlimited. After single-handedly creating a time travel suit, he started building a collection of historical artifacts. At first, he only took things that wouldn't be missed, but after spending six months as the prisoner of a Wild West thug he went flying off the deep end. He used technology from the future to make a League-killing army of the Jokerz and filled Gotham with stolen landmarks from other time periods, polluting history so much that time itself started unraveling.
  • Wasp, of Transformers Animated, started as just another Autobot recruit, albeit a bit of an asshole. Then he got framed for espionage and went insane in the stockade, before breaking out years later with vengeance on his mind. And after that, Blackarachnia gets her hands on him and mutates him into the techno-organic Waspinator, which leaves him with uncontrollable electrical powers and makes him even crazier.
    • This one's a bit of a meta example, too. There was another, very similar Waspinator in an earlier Transformers series, Beast Wars... But that Waspinator was was The Chew Toy.
      • Until Beast Machines, where it's revealed his spark was used to create the much more competent and dangerous Thrust, the longest-lasting and most dedicated of Megatron's Generals.
    • Optimus Prime in most continuities is a heroic example. His origins include being a dock worker, a washout cadet on a repair crew, or a data clerk. The Decepticon uprising forced the humble Orion Pax to reluctantly become the hero Optimus Prime.
    • The Transformers Prime version of Megatron was once just a simple Gladiator, in the harsh pits of Kaon. That simple warrior, would eventually plunge an entire planet into darkness and destruction.
  • Otto Octavius in The Spectacular Spider-Man starts out as a meek, put-upon head scientist at OsCorp who spends his days bullied by his Mean Boss Norman Osborn in-between being forced to create supervillains for the mob. One experiment gone wrong later and he's got four mechanical tentacles welded to his spine and all his inhibitions removed, and spends the rest of the series trying his hardest to conquer the world as Dr. Octopus.
  • Alex O'Hirn and Flint Marko were a pair of petty thugs whose plots were always foiled by Spider-Man. Then O'Hirn got his hands on a badass rhinoceros-esque armor made of titanium, and Marko got virtual immortality and shape shifting sand powers, and the two formed probably one of the most epic evil bromances ever.
    • If the series continued, this trope would apply to Harry Osborn.
    • Don't forget Hydro-Man in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. According to him, he was a "nobody" and was expelled from school for causing a lot of trouble. His parents sent him to the navy where he'll straight up. During a voyage, he accidentally fell into ocean where some strange mist from a fissure which "turned [him] from a nothing... into a something!"
      • Numerous TAS villains fit. The Hobgoblin was a petty street thug who was granted superpowers by Norman Osborn and turned into a lethally dangerous Psycho for Hire. Venom, aka Eddie Brock, was a failed reporter, before his accquisition of the alien symbiote turned him into one of Spider-Man's worst enemies (his successor, Carnage, averts this, as Kletus Cassady was a Mad Bomber long before he got his symbiote). And then there's Spider-Carnage. Take a badly unhinged kid. Give him Spider-Man's powers. Then, after a long bout of emotional trauma involving clones and an identity crisis, attach the Carnage symbiote to him. Hello Omnicidal Maniac.
  • In Teen Titans Johnny Rancid was pretty much the lowest tier criminal to ever appear; just a violent jerk with a motorcycle and a small laser gun. Then he gets the power to rewrite the rules of reality and turns the entire world into a gothic hellscape.
    • Raven: Cool... I mean oops.
  • Batman Beyond's Willie Watts was a nobody who was picked on by the jocks and shunned by all the girls until he was given a visor to control a mini-Kaiju-sized, remote-controlled robot by his overly-aggressive and never satisfied father to fight back with. Willie then donned the visor and essentially went crazy because he was drunk with power and succeeded at getting back at the people who bullied him until Terry/Batman intervened, destroyed the visor and short circuited Willie's brain. Then at the end of the episode with Willie in juvenile, he found out he had gained psychic powers. THEN on a episode in the next season, Willie was released from juvie with a noticeable change in appearance (i.e. buff as all hell) and started getting his respect and trying to take Blade, the girl who had rejected him before. Now he was a jacked up, psychotic psychic Somebody.
    • Then there's Shriek. He was once Wlter Shreeve, a phonoologist, sound studier, and engineer. But when he was told his funding would cut, Derek Powers offered to let him continue if he would kill Bruce Wayne. After his initial battle against Batman, Shriek lost his hearing and began using his powers to torment the city, including at one time, completely muting all sound in the city.
    • Ira Billings would come to be known as Spellbinder. He was at first a bitter and underpaid psychologist at Terry's school. To gain some cash, he used his self-made VR technology to get students to steal for him. After being arrested and escaping, he began making even stronger VR simulators giving runaways and unwanted kids a perfect life for a short time in exchange for stealing, knowing they would overdose in time and didn't care. He also got a city-wide manhunt going against Batman by making people think he killed one of his Rogues Gallery in cold blood.
  • Batman the Brave And The Bold: Bullies used to pick on him because he sang in choir, but something very strange occurred when he kept singing higher! The ruffians around him quickly fell into a trance, and it was then, with wicked glee, he made those puppets dance! He's the Music Meister!
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Long Feng started out as the son of a middle-class merchant. With hard work and careful manipulations, he took over the Dai Li, turned the Earth King into a political figurehead, and became the Big Brother-like ruler of the entire Earth Kingdom. Unfortunetly for him, this came back to bite him when Azula convinced his minions that a ruler that works for power is inferior to a ruler who's born with it.
  • Wakfu: Noximilien Coxen was an unassuming watchmaker and a family man. Then he accidentally got his hands on a little something called the Eliacube...
  • Wrath-Amon from Conan the Adventurer used to be an ordinary Gila monster. After Ram-Amon used the Black Ring to turn him into a lizard man, Wrath-Amon stole the Black Ring from him and took control of the cult of Set.
  • All the villains in Miraculous Ladybug are Nice Guys at best and Jerkass' at worst, who are turned into Card Carrying Villains against their will by Hawk Moth after they have a traumatic experience.
    • A good example is Kung Food, who was a doting uncle and a humble Nice Guy. Then Chloe sabotages his soup in a contest out of spite. Hawk Moth promptly makes him the egotistical Kung Food.
  • Thanks to the Nanite event in Generator Rex, every living thing on Earth (except White Knight thanks to a near-lethal accident) has the potential to become a horrible monster. The first EVO threat seen in the series was an ordinary guy who spontaneously transformed into a several stories tall Kaiju that only The Hero Rex (a more advanced EVO) can defeat without nuking the area.
    • Special mention to Van Kleiss, who was a minor lab technician at the facility that invented the nanites before the event, and is now a Magneto/Orochimaru hybrid leading the largest organized group of malevolent EVOs.
    • Alpha from the Heroes United Crossover was a freaking Nanite that eventually became a menace capable of destroying the entire world.
  • Mayor Jones of Scooby Doo Mystery Inc; he started out as a smart kid who got into a good college...then he discovered the treasure hidden in Crystal Cove, setting him down the path that would lead to him being one of the most evil characters in Scooby Doo history. From there, he screw over the original Mystery Incorporated and Professor Pericles by becoming The Freak of Crystal Cove, and then he kidnapped Brad and Judy's son to keep them from getting revenge on him. When Fred Jones Junior found out, he was the angriest I've ever seen the character in any incarnation of the series.
  • Adventure Time has the Ice King, who was just an ordinary antiquarian before The Great Mushroom War but is now one of the series recurring villains.
  • The alternate universe of Danny Phantom if you think about it. The title character was an average unpopular kid who suddenly gained super powers and became the local super hero, only to lose his humanity in an attempt to dull the pain of losing his friends and family, and willfully caused The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Bolero has an evil, black eyed monkey who starts off as a shadowy figure before eventually becoming a towering man who kills off all the animals, thus halting evolution.
  • South Park's Eric Cartman is little more than a potty-mouthed Jerkass Spoiled Brat at the beginning of the series, but becomes a Magnificent Bastard Complete Monster by Season 5, a transformation firmly established by the episode "Scott Tenorman Must Die".

 Kyle: Dude, I don't think we should piss Cartman off again from now on.

Stan: Yeah, that's a good idea.


Real Life

  • Adolf Hitler: a mediocre art student, and one of millions of impoverished nobodies struggling through the economic mire of post World War I Europe, would rise to become the Big Bad of the 20th Century and a leading candidate for most evil human being ever.
    • There's also Josef Goebbels, who was a struggling playwright, Heinrich Himmler, who was a chicken breeder of all things, Reinhard Heydrich, a violin player who was bullied for his high-pitched voice and Jewish heritage, and Rudolf Hess, who as a child was pushed into Catholicism by his father.
      • Then there's Josef Mengele, who was the eldest son of an industrialist who specialized in farming equipment. In fact, even when Mengele took up his chosen field (Anthropology), he was pretty much a nobody medical student all the way through the '30s, and it wasn't until he joined the SS in 1938 (he joined the Nazi Party the earlier year) that the first signs of his nightmare transition began to show.
  • Josef Stalin was once a quiet Georgian boy studying to be an Orthodox priest...
  • Per the page quote, Pol Pot, the Cambodian dictator whose communal farms were often called "The Killing Fields", was once a history teacher. Oddly enough his knowledge of history probably gave him some insight into how to go about oppressing people.
  • Mao Ze Dong was an assistant librarian in his youth.
  • Idi Amin, the assistant chef and later amateur boxer, who went on to rule Uganda with an iron fist, murdering thousands.
  • It's hard to imagine that Joseph Kony, a rebel leader responsible for abducting as many as 104,000 children, started out as an apprentice for a witch doctor.
  • François Duvalier: A doctor from Haiti, who won international fame for his work in treating the poor. When he finally ran for president of his country and won, people expected things to get better, not worse. But he made himself a ruthless and brutal dictator who imposed a reign of terror and murdered thousands.
  • Marvin Heemeyer was described as an enjoyable person. Which made it quite surprising when he converted a bulldozer into a battletank (with armor and cameras and guns and everything) and proceeded to run over the buildings belonging to people who he felt had slighted in him in various ways.
  • Jeffery Dahmer: Chocolate factory worker.
  • John Wayne Gacy: Performed as "Pogo The Clown" and was a town parade coordinator. Gacy was also a fairly succesful small business owner and franchisee, as well as a political activist and pillar of the community (famously, he had his picture taken with Rosalynn Carter). Not exactly exceptional stuff, but compared to most other serial killers he was pretty prominent.
  • Maximilien Robespierre started as a country lawyer who, had the revolution never happened, would most likely have died unknown.
  • Oliver Cromwell was born a lesser son of a middle gentry familly, had a brief stint in parliment in which he failed to distinguish himself, and was commissioned as a mid-ranking officer at the start of the English Civil War. By the end of the war, he ruled over all of England as Lord Protector, and his measures against Catholics in Scotland and Ireland have been characterised by many historians as near-genocidal.
  • Bartholomew Roberts was a poor merchant seaman working a dead-end job on a slave ship when he was captured by pirates and forced to join their crew. Six weeks later he was their captain. Over the next three years he raided ships and port towns on both sides of the Atlantic, amassing a small fortune and making a name for himself as the most successful pirate of the so-called "Golden Age of Piracy".
  • Charles Manson was born to an unwed teenage mother, and spent his early years drifting between family members and group homes while committing petty crimes. Fast forward a few decades, and he had become leader of a murderous cult that killed the 1960s.
    • An actual quote from Charles Manson:

 "Nobody. I'm nobody. I'm a tramp, a bum, a hobo. I'm a boxcar and a jug of wine... and a straight razor if you get too close to me."

  • 2nd Indonesian President Suharto, was just an ordinary son of a peasant family. Fast forward years later when he join the military, becoming a general and later managing to ousted 1st President Soekarno becoming an absolute ruler of Indonesia. Even before becoming president he was known for the infamous communist purge in the 60's that he commissioned, which was estimated to have killed 1 million Indonesian people. He stayed as president for 32 years where he commit acts of genocide against perceived enemy of the states, which include his political enemies and many innocent people. His government was also well known for extreme corruption and of course, the infamous war crimes of Indonesian soldier to East Timor people, such as the infamous Santa Cruz massacre.
  • Saddam Hussein was born to a family of shepherds in a small town 8 miles from Tikrit. Unfortunately, his father disappeared 6 months before his birth, and ill-treatment by his step-father, as well as constant punch-ups concerning his legitimacy, drove him to run away to live with an uncle in Baghdad. His uncle was big supporter of the recently-founded Ba'ath Party, and eventually Saddam joined too, just a year before the deposing of Iraq's last monarch and the political uphevals that would bring the Ba'ath Party to power there a decade later.
  • Robert Mugabe was a bookish loner as a child, qualified as a schoolteacher, and went on to earn five batchelors degrees and two masters degrees, mostly via distance learning, some while imprisoned in Rhodesia (as was) for political activity. He was awarded a number of honorary degrees following his rise to power, some of which were later rescinded after his human rights abuses became too blatant to ignore.
  • Alberto Fujimori was a teacher and he rose to president and became a corrupted president ersatz dictator. He stole and killed beyond what can be accepted.
  • Abimael Guzman was a philosophy teacher at some obscure university and he rose to lead a terrorist organization that brought many deaths upon Peruvians and helped justify Fujimori's rise to evil.
  • Humanity in general, ih the beginning our primate ancestors were fruit eaters and often prey to other animals. As millions of years passed, we turned from hairy apes who were just capable of walking upright to fire wielding hunters by the Ice Age. In 10,000 years, humans completely altered the land we've taken over and built weapons of mass destruction capable of kilometer wide explosions.
    • Before us were the dinosaurs, which were once just little archosaurs running around in the shadows. During the Triassic, they became the most dominant species on Earth, and many were fearsome.
  • Truth in Television: even the worst of the worst was at one point an innocent babe in diapers or swaddling clothes.