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WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

And for what?

It's been many years,

Yet the screams of the vanquished still ring in my ears.

And for what?

I've blood on my hands.

I wait for my place in the halls of the damned.

And if I could go back and make my amends,

I'd make all those mistakes again.

I'd kill every last one of those bastards, my friend!
Alestorm, "Pirate Song"

There is the common stock character, the grizzled old guy with a wealth of experience who'll share his views with a travelling band or bold young rookie. There's no more adventuring for this old timer, he's seen it all, done some good, maybe done some bad but overall has earned the right to put his troubles behind him in his twilight years. He may be the Cool Old Guy or Old Master. Perhaps if life really got him down, he'll be a Grumpy Old Man, and if someone manages to rub him up the old way you'll see he's a Badass Grandpa but it's unlikely since some haunting experience makes him disinclined to take up arms again.

This is not that guy.

The Retired Monster may look like that archetype but his past is full of evil and atrocity and he's okay with it. In fact, he caused most of it. When you first see him, he'll come across as Affably Evil; he'll also have experience and advice that he might give out to a young hero, although possibly the best he can do is "You should stay away from people like me". However, he'll be creepier than the other guy, and he'll tempt the young ones, giving them advice more on the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism. You see, he's not doing any gross evil acts now -- he may not have done so much as run a red light in the past ten years -- but that's only because he's tired. As the backstory of this character becomes known, we learn that they kicked the dog a number of times, perhaps took a hopscotch over the Moral Event Horizon, only stopping because for some reason they got sick of it.

Perhaps he finally came out worse for wear after a run-in with the guy who's now The Obi-Wan. Maybe he was caught and sent into exile and now has at least enough fear of the authorities to not put a toe out of line. Then again, often, they have just literally retired, saying "I'm too old for this" and using their pension fund of Nazi gold to support a life of margaritas on the beach.

They've never said sorry, or at least never meant it, there was no Heel Face Turn and they are not The Atoner who'll help to make up for some wrong. No, they'll just sit back, but if a character underestimates their evil, if they think that because they aren't as bad as the more active monsters, that they're OK, they may get a horrid reminder of what the Retired Monster is capable of.

Monsters who don't retire, or come out of retirement and continue to be evil in old age, can become Evil Old Folks. Sub-Trope of Karma Houdini, due to the fact that very few of this type of character are found in jail. Compare the Retired Badass, one of several good counterparts, and the Retired Outlaw, which may occasionally overlap. Contrast The Atoner.

No Real Life Examples, Please

Examples of Retired Monster include:

Anime & Manga

  • Despite settling down on Earth and attempting to save it on several occasions, Vegeta of Dragon Ball Z has never explicitly been shown to express any guilt, angst or shame for his decades long life of murder, tyranny and genocide.
    • During the Buu saga, he makes this speech about how he wanted to go back to the days when he was a cold-hearted, ruthless brute who thought of nothing but causing pain and suffering to others. An episode earlier, when he becomes Majin, he proclaims to the Supreme Kai, "No! I am not innocent!" He knows he's an evil monster and is not ashamed of it.
      • This is, of course, because he feels he's gone "soft" and that he could--and should--be stronger than he is. By returning to the old state of mind, he believes he'd be able to use his full power.
  • Aya's mother in Master of Martial Hearts. A former Dark Action Girl, she used to partake in a girls-only Street Fighter Expy, under the direction of her husband-to-be Shigeyuki. Doesn't help the fact that the girls she beat up and defeated ended up tortured, maimed and sold into sex slavery (Like it happened to Haruki and Natsume's Cute Mute mother, and to Miko's mother). However, with the Platonic Heart closed for the time being, she settled as the average, if slightly overprotective mom, raising her daughter. Under the mask, she's still as plucky and dangerous as she used to be... and when Aya is directly targeted by the revenge-seeking Natsume, Miko and Haruki, she goes out for blood..
  • Claimed by Evangeline in Mahou Sensei Negima. Noble Demon attitude aside, it's actually not entirely incorrect: She has killed people and shows no remorse for anything she's done in the past.
  • Tomoe from Kamisama Kiss used to be a ruthless demonic murderer, bandit/warlord before the Land God Mikage recruited him to be his familiar. He still isn't exactly a nice guy (just ask Kurama, Mizuki or anybody else who has ever pissed him off) and sometimes dreams of going back to the 'good old days.'


  • Paul Moses from RED by Warren Ellis. At least at the start of the story. His last line is: "I'm the monster. Do your best."
  • The original premise of Nexus was that the title character was compelled by alien forces to seek out and execute mass murderers. Most of them were complete monsters, but some actually were repentant or just old and tired, and the alien forcing Nexus to kill them didn't care. Nexus was not at all happy about this.
  • In Preacher (Comic Book), Gunther Hahn, the Angel of Death and, at the end of the story, the Saint of Killers all qualify.
  • A future, senile version of Doctor Doom appearing in X Factor has faded away into a quiet life in his empty, decaying castle attended to by robot servants. But he still builds the occasional Death Ray in his more lucid moments.


  • In Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter plays this role, but the cannibalistic serial killer isn't very committed to leaving his days as a Complete Monster behind.
  • Con Air features a rather shockingly congenial former serial killer. Played by Steve Buscemi who pulls off a very creepy performance.
  • Kill Bill.
    • Esteban Viaiho, Bill's surrogate father. He was a pimp who lead a vicious gang consisting of his whores' children, but he's retired as of the movie. In reference to Bill shooting the Bride years before, he says "I would have just cut your face." Doesn't sound so bad compared to what Bill did, but just then he calls one of his girls over to the table sporting a hideous and disfiguring scar running across her mouth. He hands her a hanky to wipe off some drool. Then she fetches him a drink. The man is only semi-retired.
    • Also Pai Mei, an ancient Kung Fu master with a history of atrocities and bloodshed, who sports an unpleasantly racist and sexist worldview, along with the knowledge that he can do just about anything to anyone without fear, since he is just too tough and skilled to die. Until Elle Driver poisons his fish heads in retaliation for snatching out her eye, that is. Ironically, Bill thinks that he's getting lonely because everybody is too frightened to approach him, and that's why he accepts apprentices he despises, even though it doesn't stop him from abusing them as much as he likes.
  • The porter from The Seventh Seal establishes himself as this with one scene. He rescues a woman from an attacker, then off-handedly mentions that he could rape her, but he isn't going to, because participating in the Crusades has made him bored with rape.
  • Charlie Barrett in Suicide Kings is a former mob boss who used to have his enemies fed to their own dogs. Now, he's retired. Until he gets kidnapped by a group of rich kids looking to raise ransom money for one of their siblings.
  • Captain Teague in the third Pirates of the Caribbean film is heavily implied to be one of these. The Brethren Court, who are all pretty badass Pirate Lords in their own right are scared by his mere appearance at the meeting, even though he immediately slumps down in the corner and absent-mindedly begins playing with a guitar. When one of them suggests not following the Code for the second time, one of his strings snaps and he looks up, terrifying them all into silence.
  • "The Weird" of The Good, the Bad, the Weird turns out to be one of these. basically, part of the reason The Good is hunting The Bad is because he believes The Bad is this notorious bandit known as the "Finger Chopper". While The Bad is a total psycho, it's ultimately revealed that The Weird was the Finger Chopper and The Bad lost a finger to him. This reveal probably has a lot to do with The Weird being an expy of Tuco of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and in both cases, the seemingly comic relief character has a rap sheet of some seriously awful crimes.
  • William Munny of Unforgiven is one of these, in a deconstruction treatment of Clint Eastwood's Western anti-hero roles. While it doesn't seem like he necessary enjoyed killing, in his youth as a bandit, Munny was a cold blooded mass murderer. The events of the movie bring him out of retirement. English Bob could also be considered one of these. While at present, he plays the role of Remittance Man and is a sort of celebrity, it's indicated that he was previously employed killing Chinese laborers for the railroads, and the truth behind his gunfighter exploits is that he was a dishonorable Combat Pragmatist.
  • Vincenzo Coccotti of True Romance, who hasn't killed anybody...since 1984. Until now.


  • Albert, Death's servant in the Discworld books, seems like little more than a crusty old Jerkass. The wizard Alberto Malich, however, was a tyrannous bastard who ran the Unseen University like a boot camp and happily cursed any Muggles who stood up to him into oblivion, before disappearing while trying to attain immortality by performing the rite to summon Death backwards. Having achieved his goal of immortality in a roundabout way, Albert is actually content just to serve Death and do nobody any harm, especially considering there's a very nasty fate waiting for him if he ever does die.
    • Part of this is Characterization Marches On. His past was mentioned only in the earlier books, when his characterization was less pleasant.
  • Alex becomes this in the last chapter of A Clockwork Orange.
  • Lampshaded by a nurse speculating about her patient's past history in Douglas Adams' The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, though Odin later comes off as more of a trickster than anything else.
  • According to The Onion's Our Dumb World, Argentina is full of retired Nazis that fit this description, who will not shut up about that one time they killed a Jewish girl by hitting her over the head with their rifle.
  • The Culture character Zakalawe, of Use of Weapons turns out to be one of these. Once essentially an Evil Overlord, who commmited acts of mass murder and was crazy enough to create a chair from his half-sister/lover's corpse and then darn the cushions with her skin. However, he ends up hating what he did, and going through a bunch of mental breakdowns before ultimately becoming Bored with Insanity enough to present himself as relatively decent (if amusingly sociopathic) person. He does lean in the direction of The Atoner, but is sort of in too much denial to make it.
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible's Baron Ether. He was the world's first supervillain, and he's committed every crime you can think of, now he's a wheel chair ridden mildly senile old man.
  • An odd example both for being a main character and for being relatively young is Chane the vampire from the Saga of the Noble Dead; in the series' first arc he was a sadistic Psycho for Hire, but ultimately had a Heel Realization and cut back on the sadism (because it meant he'd lost control; don't think for a moment he seriously regrets the deaths themselves). Currently the Token Evil Teammate trying to help stop the much, much worse things in his universe, and is working somewhat to improve his behavior, if only for the sake of his Morality Pet's sensibilities rather than guilt. Whether he'll ultimately backslide or get a Heel Face Turn fully is as of yet unknown.
  • In Lonely Werewolf Girl Fire-Queen Malveria is presented as a fashion-obsessed, matchmaking, Ditz, but this because she's already killed all her serious enemies long ago and (currently) finds her title of "Persecutor of Mankind" to be boring. In Book two someone from her Complete Monster days turns up as the Big Bad of the story to tell her Nice Job Breaking It, Herod.
  • Corvis Rebaine, Terror of the East in The Conqueror's Shadow until the Current Complete Monster threatens his wife and kids. The remainder of the book is an illustration in why provoking one of these into coming out of retirement is a really bad idea!
  • The Necroscope Saga has Faethor Ferenczy, retired due to death. In this series that is no bar to being an active participant and spends his time being Harry's Spirit Advisor. His one attempt to come out of retirement, does not go well for him.
  • The Phantom of the Opera: In the original novel by Gaston Leroux, After his From Nobody to Nightmare phase, Erik, the titular phantom:

  Of course, he had to leave the Sultan's service for the same reasons that made him fly from Persia: He knew too much. Then, tired of his adventurous, formidable and monstrous life, he longed to be some one "like everybody else." And he became a contractor, like any ordinary contractor, building ordinary houses with ordinary bricks. He tendered for part of the foundations in the Opera. His estimate was accepted.

  • In Stephen King's novella, Apt Pupil, the teenage protagonist is fascinated by his old neighbor, who took part in Nazi atrocities. His increasing fascination with the old man slowly brings back the Complete Monster in him.
  • Sergeant Bothari in The Vorkosigan Saga is a fairly sympathetic example of this, having a tramatic and abusive childhood which left him with no sense of self, instead mirroring however others wanted him to be. He had a truly horrible and abusive childhood, with the result that he ended up with no sense of self, and would be whatever others wanted him to be. Bothari is undisputably a sociopath, and when under the command of a sadistic officer, regularly followed orders to rape and torture prisoners. However, following a Sudden Principled Stand, he ends up as a trusted bodyguard/ Psycho Sidekick of Cordelia and Aral Vorkosigan, as Cordelia is able to convince him to believe in an image of himself as an honorable soldier- and he doesn't really feel guilt for his past actions, as he sort of convinces himself that they didn't happen. His lack of true remorse is showcased The Warrior's Apprentice, in an incident where Miles had no choice but to let Bothari perform the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique on an enemy soldier. Miles notes Bothari's unhealthy eagerness to obey this order, and Bothari proceeds to torture the man to death with sadistic glee.

Live-Action TV

  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
    • In one episode the protagonists meet a Cardassian seems to have had a similar background involving a forced labour camp... or did he? er, yes, but he was the filing clerk pretending to be the camp commandant after being driven mad by guilt and was trying to air the atrocity out for all to see and get himself executed as penance
    • Supporting character Garak, who is an example of the 'got caught and exiled' variety.
      • Not sure if he fits the trope exactly, since he does seem to regret some of the things he did (as he found out after torturing Odo, and his speech after the Dominion War ends) even if he never actually says sorry.
    • Also the man who did the exiling, Enabran Tain, Garak's superior and father and the man who ran the Obsidian Order for twenty years. He actually comes out of retirement and forges an alliance with the Tal Shiar to strike at the Dominion preemptively. This doesn't end well.
    • The Maquis crewmembers on Star Trek: Voyager could also be considered a variant of this, as they were all former resistance fights and terrorists who had done some unsavoury things to the Cardassians in the past. The most egregious example would be Lon Suder, who only joined up with the Maquis to satiate his need to kill.
  • Babylon 5: Deathwalker. Though she still remained a Complete Monster, she just wanted to get everyone else to do her dirty work.
  • Samson Gray, Sylar's father, on Heroes. A sadistic murderer who retired to live a quiet life as a taxidermist because he just got bored of killing. Until Sylar showed up with the power of healing, and thus immortality.
    • Sylar himself retook the identity of Gabriel Gray in the alternate future of "I Am Become Death", having gotten bored with acquiring power and all the pointless killing. Due to a Noodle Incident, he now lives in the former Bennet house dotingly raising his young son "Noah" and once again working as a watchmaker.
  • Gunther Lutze from The Twilight Zone: He shows sick enjoyment of his crimes even years later, and feels no guilt. Watching his victims inflict their just deserts was easily a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Bill Jarvis (formerly "The Hollow Creek Killer") from the Criminal Minds episode "Haunted".
  • In a recent episode of CSI, a black janitor who befriended the murdered white supremacist student (who was trying to learn how to respect other races) turns out to be a leader in the Rwandan genocide. The student had found a picture of him in a book and was going to turn him in when the janitor murdered him
  • In Kings, Vesper Abbadon seems like a doddering old man, but there is a very good reason why he was called "the bloody King of Carmel." It's the same good reason why he's spent the last 30 years locked in a stone box with minimal human contact.
  • In the live-action version of The Tick, "The Terror" is an elderly old supervillain who was former buddies with Stalin. These days he's just a crazy old guy in a hospital whose antics amount to little more than throwing blood bags at Arthur. Considering Arthur's crappy level of fighting competence, that is actually a genuine challenge for him.
  • In The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Charles Fischer came back from a future in which he helped the machines to understand humans by torturing them to get inside their heads. He claims that he was sent back to the past as a reward for his services, and doesn't do anything particularly malicious. Subverted at the end when it's revealed that he accessed a computer system at his younger self's place of work in order to aid SkyNet.
  • Duncan from Highlander the Series is surprised that his friend and Cynical/Big Brother Mentor Methos is one of these. Back in The Bronze Age Methos joined with 3 other immortals to form a marauding pack that killed and burned their way through the world. (Inspiring the idea of The Four Horsemen along the way; Methos himself was Death). Although Methos never says that he's sorry, he is more guilty about his actions than most, calling those years his "angry adolescence", and when Kronos, another member of the Horsemen tries to get group together again, Methos plays them and helps Duncan bring them down from the inside.
  • On Rookie Blue Jamie Brennan was a feared ganglang enforcer who was infamous for using power tools to torture his victims. After a small stint in jail on relatively petty charges, he got married and went straight. When his family is killed in a suspicious car accident he kidnaps and tortures an undercover police officer to find out if the police were covering up what really happened.
  • Grimm gives us several literal examples of this trope, monsters who have retired into quiet, suburban lives. The most prominent being Big Badass Wolf Monroe, who starts out as this but is eventually driven to a Heel Face Turn.
  • Granny in Once Upon a Time, who used to be The Big Bad Wolf.


  • Alestorm's song Pirate Song seems to be about an old pirate regretting his days as a Complete Monster, which continues until the first chorus...

 And for what?

I've killed and I've shot

And reddened the cold tears of children with blood

And if I could go back and make my amends

I'd make all those mistakes again

I'd kill every last one of those bastards, my friend!



  • Planescape: Torment
    • Fhjull Forked-Tongue, an unrepentant devil who was tricked into signing a deal with an angel that obligated him to do good. This got him thrown out of the hellish hierarchy, mutilated, and led to him hiding out in a place where NO ONE could find him just so that he doesn't have to actually abide by the contract (which roughly says "Give charity to anyone who asks.")
    • And of course, Ravel herself.

  No... this world is full of thorns and Ravel has spent more than enough time a-picking them from her skin.

  • MadWorld states that Jack was this, being the former Grand Champion of the Deathwatch games, only quitting due to being tired of the games. He does come out of retirement since he's sent to save the Mayor's daughter (until he learns she was never in any actual danger, and that in fact the Mayor and several of his friends set up the whole Distressed Damsel ploy for their own entertainment) and later to take down the games with the help of XIII.
    • This is actually debatable. The game implies that Jack does feel tired of the killing because he doesn't enjoy what he does. The only reason he doesn't feel bad about his past actions is because he only killed people as horrible as him. That said, he does seem to care about normal people and doesn't want them to experience the hell he has.
  • Gig from Soul Nomad and The World Eaters. He once nearly destroyed the world. He wants a do-over, and this time, he'll spare nothing (except some hotpods, they're delicious). And he does not hide from the protagonists that this is his plan, or that taking advantage of his powers too much will release him, even though a little bit of deception would have him freed much quicker. And he's quite gung-ho about going off to kill Feinne, his former ally (though Feinne is far too powerful at this stage for them to succeed). And he'll chew you out for even suggesting he's not a bad guy. This gets played with a bit later when we find he was actually Brainwashed and Crazy and while he never reverts back to his original personality (in the Normal route at any rate) he does get enough Character Development to pull off a Heroic Sacrifice against the Big Bad. And then Redemption Equals Life.
  • Dragon Age has Flemeth, the Witch of the Wilds; infamous in legend for the countless atrocities she has committed throughout history. And the truth is even worse. She has allowed a demon to possess her, killed her second husband and everyone in his castle, and gleefully slaughters anyone who tries to hunt her down. And she makes a game of it, using her five-year-old daughter as bait. Not to mention she kidnaps, rapes, and murders men she finds in order to even have daughters, whom she raises just to use a ritual spell to take over their body so she can live forever. Don't be fooled when she offers help, she is NOT a nice old lady.
    • Maaaaaybe. While she's certainly not a nice person, and at best is a sadistic mass murderer, the person who gives you the information is about as trustworthy and manipulative as Flemeth is, and even says that she has no idea what the truth is. It may be a case of both ends trying to play the middle.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II, Kreia. Once a Sith Master, she taught the two Sith Lords currently hunting the player. Throughout the game she insists she is Above Good and Evil but her teachings of individualism and control inevitably lead toward the Dark Side. Eventually she comes out of retirement and becomes the final boss.
    • Mandalore counts, though he doesn't "mentor" you as much as the other one. He does share his cynical world view with you though and has no regrets about the violence he has partaken in.
  • Zaeed Massani from Mass Effect 2. While he has gotten better over the years, he was once a highly brutal merc and he co-founded the Blue Suns
  • Jericho from Fallout 3, to a T. He used to be a raider, and expresses some interest in taking up the life again, but spends the entire game just bumming around Megaton like every other NPC... at least until an evil Player Character convinces him to give it another shot.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, level 50 characters with Evil or Very Evil Karma can take the "Ain't Like That Now" perk to restore it to Neutral levels and gain a bunch of bonuses. The name of the perk comes from a quote from the aforementioned William Munny.
  • John Marston, the main character of Red Dead Redemption, is considered by Edgar Ross to be this. Ross fails to see the irony or hypocrisy of the fact that Marston is trying to stop killing people and Ross is forcing him to keep killing people. And that he becomes this trope as well (From a Certain Point of View).
  • The vampire Vorador spends most of the Legacy of Kain series as a Retired Monster, having given up on the mortal world after the murder of Janos Audron- though not before killing off most of the Circle of Nine in revenge. He's clearly still as hedonistic and depraved as ever, living in a luxurious mansion (complete with a torture chamber), surrounding himself with brides, drinking the blood of human captives from golden goblets; nonetheless, he advises Kain to avoid meddling in the affairs of mortals. If only he'd listened...
  • Jade Curtiss from Tales of the Abyss is responsible for creating fomicry at the age of 9, which he used to murder innocent animals and monsters, and committed generally evil acts, rightfully earning the nickname "Necromancer". However, after the death of his teacher, Nebilim, which he accidentally caused, he forbade himself from using fomicry ever again. Unfortunately for him, others with a limited understanding of fomicry would pick up his research from where it left off for their own unscrupulous goals, and the one that does have great understanding of it wishes to change the world with it......
  • In Jade Empire, Sagacious Zu used to be a Lotus Assassin. Even though he quit over a case of Pragmatic Villainy (he was ordered to kill the family of the emperor's brother as a punitive action, which he argued was pointlessly cruel), he seems to have no regrets about any of the other things he did up until that point.
  • Certainly Travis in No More Heroes 2 Desperate Struggle. He doesn't even remember the first assassin he killed when his brother comes for revenge. Well, he is this to a point...he most likely still hasn't gotten past how he dishonored Holly Summers by not killing her in battle when she wanted such a fate. Otherwise, he doesn't care to get back into the games until Bishop is killed and Sylvia "convinces" him, perfectly fine with his pathetic lifestyle. It's mainly because killing has become boring to him after killing the best of the best. He does regret killing Matt's cheerleaders but that and Holly seem to be is only two regrets.


  • Dan of Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, has a mother who might be is this. Dan has never known her except as his and his half-sister's loving mother, so he was pretty shocked to find out what she used to be like.
  • Mr Garrott (the eldest), from Wiglaf and Mordred. The patriarch of an entire family of complete monsters, that employs people who could be supervillains in their own right as household staff. Just how terrifying he can be is demonstrated when, while he expresses his displeasure with several members of the household staff, it cuts to two characters who were watching him discipline members of the staff, one asking, "Is it over yet!? I'm not supposed to be seeing this stuff live! I read about it later! He's supposed to be retired!" Meanwhile, the other person watching comments on how, asides from the gray hair, Mr Garrot has not changed at all since retiring thirty years ago.

Web Originals

  • Succubus matriarch Blacksky from The Return who believes world domination is just too boring these days.
  • In the Eridanus Galaxy online web game Imperium Nova, the Vampire Count Sergio Von Carstein announced his retirement at the age of 74 after a number of evil acts, including brutally suppressing several human and vampire rebellions, engineering a plague so he could reanimated the corpses to work his farms, attempting to brutally murder several fellow nobles, hooking up hundreds of thousands of humans to blood extraction machines, creating a gigantic zombie horde out of a military cemetery, and a career in organized crime.
  • Rich from the MSF High Forum, pretty much qualifies. There's a reason Mel'lon does not like him.
  • Not all the teachers and staff at Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe are retired superheroes. The story "Test Tubes Babies" ultimately reveals that one of the teachers we know is a retired supervillain and mass murderer. In "Mimeographic" we find out that the first house father of the school was a retired evil wizard.