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Some Dragons are ferocious fighters who leave the heavy thinking to the boss. Others are smart, detail-oriented administrators who oversee the day-to-day running of the evil organization. Either way (and watch out for those that actually have a foot in each camp), defeating the Big Bad almost always requires The Hero to overcome the Dragon first. A common but by no means universal theme is to have the Dragon pose a physical challenge to the hero, while the Big Bad poses a mental or moral challenge.
The Dragon will occasionally commit a Heel Face Turn when confronted by the heroes. If he does so, chances are very good that he will end up killing the Big Bad when the heroes cannot bring themselves to do so; often by joining the villain in death as a final act of redemption.
The Dragon is an integral part of the Five-Bad Band dynamic. If there's a Quirky Miniboss Squad, the Dragon is often the unofficial leader. He will almost always be physically, to say nothing of mentally, stronger than The Brute.
Please note that effectively being the Big Bad's secretary, or just constantly hanging around them is not enough to be a Dragon. The Dragon is somebody the Big Bad can rely on (or thinks they can rely on) in a time of trouble to step up and beat the living heck out of the Hero, or maybe just take charge for a while, should the Big Bad not be around to do the job. As such, s/he would be Evil's answer to The Lancer.
Tropes related to Dragons:
- Beta Bitch - in the Girl Posse led by the resident Alpha Bitch.
- Big Bad Duumvirate - when he achieves equal footing with the Big Bad.
- Co-Dragons - Two or more characters split the Dragon role between them.
- Climax Boss - generally when Dragons are encountered in Video Games.
- Corporate Samurai - If a Mega Corp or Corrupt Corporate Executive is the villain, this sort of character can fill the role of the Dragon.
- Demoted to Dragon - A previous Big Bad is revealed to be, or is reduced to being, the Dragon to another villain.
- Devour the Dragon - The Big Bad kills the Dragon in order to become stronger.
- Dragon Ascendant - when he takes over from the Big Bad after the latter is defeated or leaves.
- Dragon-in-Chief - when he is actually more dangerous than the Big Bad. Like Dragon with an Agenda, may actually be the Man Behind the Man.
- Dragon Their Feet - when the Dragon shows up late to the party.
- Dragon with an Agenda - when he has different goals from the Big Bad.
- The Heavy - The "active" villain that drives most of the plot. This is more often the Dragon than the Big Bad, since most authors want to keep the Big Bad in the background and mysterious for most of the story.
- It's Personal with the Dragon - When they and The Hero go back a little farther than it appears.
- My Master, Right or Wrong - When the Dragon does things he doesn't agree with out of loyalty to the Big Bad. They will often be an Anti-Villain in this case.
- Noble Top Enforcer - When the Dragon is an Anti-Villain that is considerably more virtuous than his master. Likely to turn on the Big Bad if their actions piss him off enough (including and especially a Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal).
- Number Two for Brains - When the Dragon is an idiot.
- Rule of Two: A standard Big Bad and Dragon dynamic where betrayal is expected, and often inevitable.
- The Starscream - a traitorous Dragon.
- Villainous Friendship - When a Dragon is good friends with the Big Bad.
The term "dragon" actually originates from folklore where the hero will often end up fighting an actual dragon before even fighting the more intelligent but weaker Big Bad and described as such in "The Hero Of A Thousand Faces", a non-fiction comparison of various fantasy heroes written by Joseph Campbell. Hence, dragons (or stand-ins for them) are often portrayed as a Big Bad's second-in-command.
For literal dragons and their permutations, see Our Dragons Are Different. Not to be confused with Dragon Lady, who is more likely to be a Big Bad than the Dragon, or Dragon, which was a magazine. Definitely not to be confused with The Savage Dragon or a Dragon Companion. Another heroic version of this trope is Number Two, or The Hero in a Big Good vs Big Bad scenario. See also: The Man Behind the Man, Hypercompetent Sidekick, Psycho for Hire, The Consigliere.
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