Badass Bookworm

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Oh no, the nerds have RISEN AGAINST US!


"Trouble rather the tiger in his lair than the sage amongst his books. For to you the Kingdoms and their armies are things mighty and enduring, but to him they are but toys of the moment, to be overturned by the flicking of a finger."

This character is a quiet smart guy or girl who is physically unimposing and soft-spoken, but with Hidden Depths of formidable physical and practical skills.

Their physical abilities might result from applying their genius to solve physical challenges like math problems. Their attention to detail might also result in a Diagnosis From Dr. Badass. While some badass bookworms are surprisingly strong, others might be Weak but Skilled, relying on flawless technique or supernatural abilities. Sometimes a bookworm can lack any special physical traits, but has access to an Impossibly Cool Weapon or enough firepower to make toe-to-toe combat a bit, as they say, academic. A favorite weapon of the bookworm might even be what's always close at hand.

Elderly examples are often Old Masters who have spent decades contemplating philosophy and punching trees in half. Another common type is the Adventurer Archaeologist, who spends as much time studying in the University as he does evading the poison-tipped arrows of angry natives. If the bookworm is a bit of a ditz, expect him to be Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass. If they prefer not to fight, doing so only when they must, then they have Minored in Asskicking. They are very likely to wear Specs of Awesome.

The trope is the inverse of Genius Bruiser. A Badass Bookworm looks like your standard geek, but then displays a surprising amount of physical prowess, whereas a Genius Bruiser looks tough, then unexpectedly shows off an intellectual side.

Note this is a different Trope from the typical Secret Identity superhero like early Peter Spider-Man Parker, as no one suspects the Nerd to be the superhero.

Examples of Badass Bookworm include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Yoshito Kikuchi and Kanzaki Urumi in Great Teacher Onizuka. Also, Azusa Shiratori's little sister.
  • Professor Gennosuke Yumi from Mazinger Z. He was a quite geeky-looking, Married to the Job scientist, but he could be pretty Badass when he wanted.
  • Aizawa Kouichi from Nabari no Ou is, for all intents and purposes, that one kid with the glasses—smart, somewhat nerdy, nice, and almost boring in the shadow of his weirder friends. Yet he's revealed to be the most professional and capable ninja in his village, and is more than willing to kill/brainwash the influential (including the CEO of a vast, international medicine/defense technology corporation) if the mission calls for it. To be fair, he's actually not exactly human, or a middle schooler, having been created as a living experiment centuries ago.
  • Think twice before attacking Faust VIII, from Shaman King. Enjoy your vivisection if you do. He can operate a bone transplant on himself in the middle of battle. Now that's Badass.
  • One Piece
    • Nico Robin, a Tall, Dark and Bishoujo Hot Librarian and a former Dark Magical Girl who now uses her considerable smarts and fighting skills for the sake of her True Companions.
    • Usopp has created the Clima-Tact, apparently from scraps lying on the ship, as well as its second, more powerful incarnation. The true feat is the original, however, because he created a weather manipulating tool without Dial shells. Basically, he invented a metal stick that can control the weather. There is also the fact that, until the stronger members get or get control of any form of "Ambition", which has been proven by now to allow physical attacks to hit Logia users, Usopp with his dials is the only one in the crew aside from Luffy, and maybe Zoro, who could conceivably take on most fruit users. Think about it. If he had better physical training, like with his reflexes, and physical resistance, what do you think he could do against Ace with a flame dial or Kizaru or Eneru with a flash dial?
    • Nami, the cartographer/meteorologist who's also the Action Girl who actually uses the Clima-Tact created by Usopp. She uses it's ability to generate heat, cold, and mild electricity to cause powerful localized storms, or even to create mirages, due to her extensive knowledge of geography and weather physics. Even without the Clima-Tact she's formidable. In her first appearance she steals a ship from some pirates, timing the weather perfectly so that the oncoming storm sinks the little ship she left them in without sinking her new (only slightly larger) ship.
    • Klahadore/Kurahadol is introduced as Miss Kaya's unassuming, well-dressed butler. Early on he's shown to be incredily gentle and possibly bookish, as he constantly has to adjust his glasses. Of course, he's secretly a massive badass named Captain Kuro, who to his credit, still wears those damn glasses and was pretty well-dressed when he was a pirate. Acknowledged as the third smartest character from East Blue by the series' creator, he's a genius whose nickname is "Kuro of the Thousand Plans." And besides being a mastermind when the gloves come on (his Freddy Krueger-sque clawed gloves) he's also an incredibly powerful pirate who can move fast enough to vanish in front of people. Oh yeah, plus he zero respect for human life and plans on murdering his entire crew after his latest plan, a pirate attack on the village culminating in the death of Miss Kaya so he can inherit her fortune), is completed. He also faked his death by framing a look-a-like via hypnosis
  • Kiyomaro Takamine of Konjiki no Gash Bell, middle school student and master tactician with loads of stamina.
  • Yomiko Readman of Read or Die is a particularly good example, as her extraordinary power stems directly from her love of books. The manga goes even further, with an entire school teaching Awesomeness By Analysis. They are ridiculously good at what they do.
  • Kazuo Kiriyama from the Manga version of Battle Royale is an evil version, a sociopathic genius who spent most of his time quietly reading books and staying out of everyone's way. Due to this their gym teacher, a former Olympic Judo champion, decides to pick on him for a bit of a laugh, failing to notice that he's been reading a book on martial arts and looking remarkably confident... Not to mention Kiriyama's first meeting with the guy who became his lieutenant. A book on anatomy and no human compassion equals the most ridiculously violent high-school beatings ever captured on a page.
  • Yuki Nagato from Suzumiya Haruhi is usually quiet and unassuming, and rarely ever puts down her book, even when everyone else is playing around... or when she's playing around, or even when she is water skiing. However, whenever she's confronted by the weirdness brought about by Haruhi Suzumiya herself and her Reality Warper power, Yuki exhibits surprising battle abilities. Such as the ability to temporarily overwrite reality, or play a bitchin' guitar solo. Her Badass-ness is one of the reasons why she's not creepy. Her fight with Ryouko Asakura was great. Not only was she stabbed straight through by multiple objects, she was able to be graceful while doing it. She won that fight, actually.
  • Gundam has a few:
    • Uso Evin likes to learn as much as he can, and his friends know that is usually near books when he is not piloting Gundam's. If he doesn't have a gundam nearby he just GundamJacks mid-air the nearest mobile suit.
    • Paptimus Scirocco is the poster boy for the villainous Bookworm: an ambitious political mastermind and Ace Pilot to rival Amuro and Char, he disdains social interaction and seems at his most content when he's working on his mobile suits or perusing data in solitude.
    • Flit Asuno completed his mother's mobile suit design, thus building his own gundam. He also didn't intend to pilot it, but did end up being the very first to beat a UE Veigan mobile suit as well as destroying every single Ace Custom in his path, and in the second generation, he may be a fleet commander but his home office is still filled with books.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has several.
    • Yuuno Scrya is a mage, an Adventurer Archaeologist, a librarian, and a scholar -- at age 9. In a library practically infinite in size, he can use magic to locate and decipher world-savingly critical information in a matter of hours. In battle, he can hold his own against a powerful ancient Magic Knight armed with a powerful Empathic Weapon, despite having no Empathic Weapon of his own, and he wasn't even giving the fight his undivided attention. Unfortunately, he is still a guy in a Magical Girl show.
    • Vivio, who became a librarian in the Infinity Library in third grade, begins showing more of her fighting skills in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid, including her skill in the Strike Arts style of martial arts, sparring evenly with Nove. This comes off as a surprise to Rio, who had thought of Vivio and Corona as "more of bookworm types."
    • Nanoha herself qualifies. The reason she's a Person of Mass Destruction at age 9 is that her math skills and intelligence allow her to perform really powerful magics. Out-thinking opponents doesn't hurt, either.
  • Bleach
    • Uryu Ishida, The Archer—masterful and top of his school class.
    • Nanao Ise, Shingami lieutenant and member of a famous reading club in Soul Society as well as the Shinigami Women's Association. Clearly a Bookworm, her 'badass' status is Informed Ability due to her rank. Although one must have the patience of a saint to have Kyoraku as one's captain.
    • Also, Risa Yadomaru from the Vizard group who was both Nanao's lieutenant * and* reading buddy before leaving Soul Society
    • Momo Hinamori, known as an artist and bookworm inside of the Shinigami circles, and pretty capable as an Action Girl whenever she manages to pull herself out of her (pretty understandable) Heroic BSODs.
    • Eccentric inventor/businessman Kisuke Urahara, who (it turns out) used to be third in command of what amounts to Soul Society's Special Forces. Additionally, he was able to master Bankai, a devastatingly powerful attack which usually takes years of study to learn, in a record shattering three days. He has also been known to pitch his numerous inventions in the midst of battle.
    • Not to mention the other geeky-looking inventor Aizen Sousuke.
  • Shikamaru Nara from Naruto. What do you get when you give a ninja an over 200 I.Q.? Almost all of his fights involve him showing surprising quickness to dodge his opponent's attacks all the while analyzing their every move. And then deciding always on the correct counter strategy. Characters go through some pretty serious, near-fatal injuries in battle (Naruto even lost a lung), yet to date, Shikamaru's most severe battle-related injury that we know of has been...a self-inflicted broken finger.
    • Pretty much all of the smarter ninja in this world count as this trope; on account of them being, you know, ninjas. Not to mention that learning ninjutsu actually requires a lot of study and intelligence itself. And even Naruto himself, a prototypical dumb hero, demonstrates some pretty decent strategic thinking when the need arises.
      • Sakura was introduced as an actual bookworm, and while one of the weakest of the Rookie 9, she is still a trained killing machine who demonstrates Improbable Aiming Skills and can kick a normal persons ass, not to mention she once let herself be hit with shuriken to get at an enemy. Post-skip, she has gained Super Strength and is a medical prodigy capable of inventing cures to elaborate poisons on the fly, before helping an old hag nin fight and kill the S-Class criminal who invented it. She is also hinted to have a talent for Genjutsu, which according to Jiraiya is a fairly intellectual branch of the ninja arts.
      • Orochimaru is a Mad Scientist who has pushed the boundaries of Forbidden Jutsu- including achieving a gruesome kind of immortality- and may have been on to the secrets of the Big Bad Uchiha Madara in the process. He is a fairly competent strategist- if Sarutobi didn't have that one jutsu, he probably would have destroyed the Leaf Village after all, one way or another-, has his own village where he conducts numerous horrific human experiments, and probably personally trained most of the younger Sound nin himself, as well as probably "modifying" them too. His Dragon, Kabuto, is a talented medic who has spliced his genes with Orochimarus' DNA.
      • Tsunade is a revolutionary medic-nin who now runs the entire Leaf village. And Jiraiya, arguably the most capable of the Sannin, is a best-selling author as well (of smut, but still...), and seemed pretty knowledgeable of ninja history.
      • Sand puppeteers like Sasori, Kankuro and Chiyo are expected to make and repair their own puppets, which are often elaborate death machines requiring a fair amount of maintenance. Sasori and Chiyo are both master poisoners as the weapons of the puppeteer are usually coated in poison, and Chiyo appears to have some medical knowledge as well. Sasori used to work with Orochimaru and it is implied they performed experiments together. And he's an artist, or regards himself as such at any rate.
      • The Akimichi clan secret jutsu rely on knowledge of special medicines; the Aburame are bug experts who turn their bodies into bug nests; the Inuzuka appear to be decent vets; and the Yamanaka...er, sell flowers.
      • Iruka. Chuunin-level academy teacher. Capable of projecting two sophisticated, all-senses illusions on opposite sides of Konoha. Echolocation (a possible bloodline limit). Can handle repeatedly being kicked in the spine by a beyond-super-strong former best friend. As skillful as Anko. Stood up to Pain.
  • Played around with the Data Tennis players (Sadaharu Inui of Seigaku, Renji Yanagi of Rikkaidai, Hajime Mizuki of Saint Rudolph, Taichi Dan of Yamabuki and Koharu Konjiki of Shitenhouji) from The Prince of Tennis. All of them use the information they collect to further their playing strategies (hence the "Data tennis" name), but the results are different since they have very distinct personalities and methods.
    • Inui and Yanagi also qualify in the Genius Bruiser category, both being over 6 ft. tall.
  • Professor Colbert from Zero no Tsukaima. Also qualifies for Retired Badass and Heel Face Turn.
  • Sailor Moon
    • Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury is the smartest junior high/high school student in the whole of Japan and a Sailor Senshi with mastery over water and ice-based attacks. She even has a visor and a special calculator that allows her to analyze the situation and discover the weak spots of their enemies.
      • Her Badass Bookworm status is lampshaded by Ami herself in the Stars season, when Haruka chides her for prioritizing the analysis of the rival they're fighting over her own safety and Ami replies "This is MY way to fight!"
    • In the manga version Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask who graduated at the top of his class, is considered almost as smart as Ami, if not as smart, is an excellent fencer, and is also considered one of the best hand-to-hand combatants in the series. Pity the poor guy is still subjected to The Worf Effect even then...
  • L of Death Note, who is laconic, lazy, a brilliant detective, and quite able to hold his own in the occasional fistfight with Light. Must be all the sweets. In the third live action movie he uses a thrown hammer to knock out a Psycho for Hire.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist
    • Edward Elric to some degree. Without all the angst and dangerous adventures, he's really just a short science geek. Minus of course, the Artificial Limbs and wiry physique.
    • Izumi is another splendid specimen -though it mainly happens offscreen, she must have studied like hell to get her alchemical know-how. But the most obvious case is probably manga Hohenheim: he's shown as a nerd of unspeakable proportions who spends more time in his study than with his family, lives on his own little nerdy planet and hardly ever fights. But when he does, it automatically results in CrowningMomentsOfAwesome.
    • How about we say ALL alchemists fit? Since you know - even if we don't see Roy leafing through books too often he is an expert with his own alchemy, has a vast knowledge about other fields than his fire-thing - oh, and not to mention he is in the army. Which implies he is not only Badass but also anything but Book Dumb .
    • Hell, even Fuery could fit this.
  • Playwright prospect, Kaleido Stage fansite webmistress, very skilled with technical stuff as well as with literature-related knowledge, and a talented acrobat and actress on top of it all... That's Mia Guillem from Kaleido Star to you.
  • Rider in Fate Stay Night, when you found out that she actually loves literature, when she is in her Meganekko mode. Of course, combined with her already powerful abilities...
  • Kuroo Hazama aka Dr. Black Jack. Apparently, obtaining his Medical Doctorate has transformed him into some sort of surgery-performing ninja. This is the only way one can explain feats such as using scalpels to deflect bullets, or climbing across the surface of an airplane in mid-flight. Perhaps he wasn't really mentored by Dr. Honma, but by Dr. McNinja.
  • Monster's Inspector Heinrich Lunge. While being a ridiculously intelligent BKA investigator with a photographic memory is impressive, Lunge's real threat is that he's practically a human terminator who doesn't shoot to wound so much as he shoots to cause excruciating pain.
    • Johan himself is a great evil example of this trope. A bona-fide genius- he once posed as a Law student, but legitimately got all A's, in between advising a tycoon on how to run his financial empire whilst the two discussed Latin- who happens to be a super-prolific Serial Killer, a man who amongst other things slaughters entire families off-screen. He has hardened criminals, mad scientists and Neo-Nazis all worshipping the ground he walks on, and the rest of the world p*ssing themselves in his presence because he just oozes evil. He is utterly fearless (even inviting) in the face of death and has been shot in the head twice and survived. His hobby is walking the edges of skyrise rooftops and he is probably The Antichrist. Not known for his fighting skill, but he's pretty familiar with guns and was bred to be The Ubermensch. He is also a Manipulative Bastard of the highest order and seems capable of talking civilization into destroying itself.
  • Negima plays this by translating the Library girls' abilities into battle magic. Given that said Library is filled with death traps to the point where the ground floor is off limits to Jr. high students and below the 3rd sub-basement is off-limits to the university students, rock climbing gear is needed to get to some parts of the Library that is open to the public, one of the librarians is a top class mage, and there is a dragon in the basement, a case can be made that they were fairly badass even before starting to learn magic.
    • Even without that Teen Genius Yue was already clever enough to begin with to qualify. She actually manages to defeats a dragon/griffin hybrid after saving two classmates by leaping in front of them to block an attack,using her artifact to look it up, determine its weaknesses, and coming up with a plan that involved her stabbing a spot a few centimeters square with a small knife while dodging friendly fire.
    • And also, Albireo "Ku:nel Sanders" Imma, who qualifies as a badass librarian.
    • Negi himself qualifies, although his scholarly abilities aren't emphasized. However, in the first chapter he responded to one of his new students questions "I'm fluent in English to a university graduate level." This from a ten year old (though one would think that his knowledge of Japanese would be the more impressive feat seeing as he is from Wales and all). And he's referred to as a genius more than once, by people familiar with his true background.
    • Nodoka Miyazaki is taking this trope and running with it in the last arcs with the way she is Min-Maxing her artifact. She is scary. According to Nodoka, ancient crypts and ruins in the Magic World are no match for Library Island. And, of course, Nodoka's artifact is absolutely no help in dealing with traps, locks, or natural hazards - it's all her.
  • Isuzu Ayane from Gate Keepers 21 is quiet, ranked third in the second year level of her high school, spends most of her time reading and sitting in front of her laptop, and yet when it comes to her part time job, effortlessly takes down scores of Invaders by throwing cell phones at them.
  • In Ghost in the Shell, Ishikawa gets his Badass Bookworm moments near the conclusion of each season. The first time, he proves that he is definitely not a Technical Pacifist, by blowing up a building with his pursuers in it, and in the next season by bludgeoning a secret agent into unconsciousness with the cast on his broken arm so that he can safely deliver a rod of weapons-grade plutonium.
  • Walter 'Angel of Death' Dornez from Hellsing, a polite elderly monocle-donning butler whose WWII experiences happen to include tearing whole armies to shreds with monofilament. He can still do that, as he eventually proves with spectacular scenes of gore and destruction.
  • Appledelhi, Ed's father, from Cowboy Bebop is a geologist studying and mapping the ruined Earth, and a bit of a Cloudcuckoolander to boot. When he is forced into a confrontation with Spike, he effortlessly beats off all of Spike's attacks, and is well on the way to stomping him good when he's interrupted.
    • The Cloudcuckoolander part? The earth he's mapping is STILL BEING RUINED by rocks falling from the sky. Every time one lands he races off to map the changes. And like Ed, Appledelhi can take somewhat cartoonish amounts of abuse and shrug it off. In a show that, for the most part, obeys all the laws of physics. A show so based on reality that Spike uses a known martial art—Jeet Kune Do, as created by Bruce Lee. Sure, the Bebop crew run into some pretty strange occurrences, but Spike is strictly Badass Normal, ending the episode several times wrapped up as if he were a mummy. He is... outclassed several times.
  • Soul Eater
    • Maka, the protagonist, is a recognized bookworm, a very badass bookworm that will kick your ass with her scythe-partner if you get in her way. She also packs quite the punch, too.
    • Ox Ford would probably count too.
    • Dr. Franken Stein likes to research and experiment, on himself as well as others. He is also the most powerful meister Shibusen has ever produced. His physical skill and soul wavelength abilities make him dangerous enough unarmed. Give him a Weapon, however, and he'll really start having fun.
  • In the 3rd episode of Golgo 13, the titular hitman is in a sniper duel with two mercenaries using advanced rifles superior to his own M16, and modified with a unique electronic "super scope". Based on their firing patterns, he deduces that the scopes have a vulnerability in that they do not take shifts in gradient into account. He then calculates the gradient necessary for their shots to be totally inaccurate, and positions himself in an area of the battlefield with that gradient, easily blowing them away. Duke Togo- international assassin, and math nerd.
  • Hakkai from Saiyuki, the polite and scholarly type in the party heading west. He even wears a monocle (if for different reasons). And then there's the matter of his energy blasts ... His past life Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden is actually a bookworm (to the point of being shown literally buried in books) and bespectacled, but people know very well you don't want to get him mad. He also single-handedly does the work of an entire military unit.
  • Tsutomu Tanaka, a minor character from Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. This 18 year old Salaryman with a young daughter first appears as a diminutive wimp who is fairly well whipped by his wife and boss, up until he stabs his index finger into a man several times larger than him without any resistance, KOing him instantly, and outruns a member of YOMI so fast that by the time she turns a corner, he has already disappeared.
  • Don't mess with Akira Shirase. Yes, he does look like a textbook example of computer nerd, who haven't shaved, washed or got enough sleep in three or four days. He also can listen to a song and write a binary of mp3 of it out of his head. He can also hack your PC into going boom using nothing more than a cellphone with internet connection. Or hack and drop a sequence of decommissioned spy satellites on your head. So, yeah, don't mess with Battle Programmer Shirase.
  • Manabu Yukimitsu from Eyeshield 21. Scrawny and weak, the only thing that even lets him join the team is the fact that he's more of a Determinator than the character whose determination is a running gag. However, after finally being put into the game against Shinryuuji, he manages to outsmart gifted Jerk Jock Agon Kongo and score a touchdown.
  • Seto Kaiba of Yu-Gi-Oh! is one of the top two Duel Monsters duelists of all time, a master chess player, CEO of the world's most successful game company, and inventor of the Duel Disk system, among other high tech gaming gadgets. Oh, and he was also apparently trained well in Krav Maga, and can disarm someone with a card fling.
  • Seta Noriyasu of Love Hina is a university archeology professor who is something of a parody of Indiana Jones. He's also a remarkably skilled martial artist and (in the anime, at least) passes on some of this knowledge to Keitaro.
  • Gen Sakon from the original Gaiking series wasn't only a top mechanic and a great Big Brother Mentor, but a Adventurer Archaeologist and pretty handy in hand-to-hand combat.
  • Kyrie Ushiromiya of Umineko no Naku Koro ni. Sure, she knows her place in the family conferences (near the bottom) and will leave most of the arguing to her husband Rudolf. But stick any kind of demon in front of her and watch it go flying. George may also qualify in the fourth arc, but Kyrie is more consistently this, and her analytical nature is way more played-up.
    • Heck, anyone who does truth duels with any level of skill has to be this by sheer necessity. Battler, for example, refuses to call himself well-read because it would be arrogant due to "only reading about a hundred a year."
  • Dekoppa or Kazuya Idetaro from Majin Devil qualifies. Quote:"...How boring. Solving Fermat's Theorem is more difficult than this." He proceeds to walk away with Badass Longcoat flapping in the breeze of the exploding remains of his opponent,Scary Shiny Glasses glowing doing an Unflinching Walk.
  • Harumi Fujiyoshi of Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei is a Yaoi Fangirl who spends much of her time producing Doujinshi. However, she's also a very competent athlete and the school's sports teams often try to force her to join. One episode indicates that her glasses are a Power Limiter, and she'd be an even more amazing athlete without them.
  • In almost the same exact vein as Harumi, Konata Izumi of Lucky Star is a great athlete to the point of winning the 100m Dash for her school's Athletic Festival....by visualizing herself in the original Track & Field/Hyper Olympic video game. Complete with custom controller and ruler trick. Much the same way, her athletic ability is shelved for her...other interests.
  • Legend of Zelda: Four Swords+: Vio is Link's "smart side" and is often seen reading. And yet, he's still strong and skilled enough to beat the "original" green Link in a sparring match.
  • Manabizaki from SWOT is a person who studies too much (which is what the title means). He's always found with his nose buried in a book. However, he also has a Hair-Trigger Temper and gets really pissed when anything interrupts his study time. This attitude, coupled with his externally nasty behavior, have gotten him into fights with Delinquents... to their detriment.
  • In Durarara!!, Izaya Orihara's primary forte is information dealing and being a manipulative rat bastard of a Troll. However, as he points out to Anri Sonohara, one doesn't make as many enemies as he does (particularly when one of those enemies is Shizuo Heiwajima aka Ikebukuro's God of Wrath) and survive unless they're also damn good in a fight.
  • Dragon Ball
    • Gohan was raised his whole life to become a scholar. Despite being a straight-A student, Gohan is one of the strongest fighters of the show, even having more fighting potential than his father. Even after spending a decade doing no martial arts training and not fighting anybody more formidable than random unpowered criminals, he's still capable of effortlessly kicking the ass of well over 99% of all fighters in the universe, and is literally stronger than God.
    • Trunks, to some extent.
  • Japan, England, and possibly Austria of Axis Powers Hetalia.
  • Black from Pokémon Special totally qualifies. Is he a Large Ham Determinator with Hyper Awareness? Yes, but he actually did some research before he went on his journey, and outright states that he's been spending time reading in libraries ever since he was a little kid so he could learn everything he possibly could.
    • Preceding Black is Platinum Berlitz who reads 10 books a day and knows quite a lot of concrete facts about Sinnoh, and various facts about a wide range of disciplines despite never leaving her mansion.
  • Lucy and Levi from Fairy Tail
  • The Black Swordsman from Kigeki will lend his services only if his employer gives him a book upfront as payment. If he happens to like the book, then you've just secured yourself a Vampire One-Man Army.
  • Yang Wenli, an aspiring historian turned strategist due to various circumstances, of Legend of Galactic Heroes. He has never been defeated in his career, besting even the Empire's brightest star Reinhard von Lohengramm. However, all he ever wants in life is early retirement and a generous pension so that he can pursue his real interest: study history.
  • Library War: Library Defense Force meets this trope thanks to the job.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The version of Reed Richards in Ultimate Fantastic Four. His stretch powers were regarded as the suckiest of the four right up to the point where he decided to pitch in anyway. Cue Doctor Doom getting thrown into scenery, Annihilus getting shot in the mouth (with his own gun!), and Diablo getting his Supervillain Lair blown up.
  • Fantastic Four: The original Reed Richards at times possesses this as well. He punched out Blaastar and Klaw, beat Doom in a one-on-one time travel duel, killed a couple of dinosaurs.... He's done his bit for the cause of badassery.
  • Gina Diggers, in Gold Digger, recently discovered this after being the 'fish' in jail. She totally forgot that she's been, you know, hanging around superheroes without dying. It tends to work out muscles. She also has one heck of a right hook and can do the math to know EXACTLY how much it will hurt. Ancient Gina, her "future me from the past" is even more powerful, being capable of creating an entire planet.
  • Barbara Gordon in The DCU is one. Even when she was Batgirl, she was a bookworm who was physically unimposing and underestimated. Now as Oracle, she's in a wheelchair and still capable of kicking the ass of various muggers, five Men In Black and the elite secret agent Spysmasher on different occasions, in addition to being a master strategist with a photographic memory, unmatched computer skills and genius-level intellect, of course.
  • As with Batman, so too is Black Panther, with the advantage of Wakanda being more technologically advanced than either the US or Japan. To rather ridiculous levels, actually, but that doesn't stop Black Panther from being the kind of bookworm who will get back up when you shoot him.
  • X-Men
    • We have Sage, who explicitly has Awesome By Analysis as her superpower. Combine this with a strong Action Girl streak and you have a badass who will beat you up while explaining what you are doing wrong.
  • Watchmen: Although the second Nite Owl isn't as tough or smart as Ozymandius, he's still a caped crimefighter with enough technical wizardry to build his own crimefighting weapons. He doesn't look threatening, and is effectively a comic book geek living out a childhood fantasy.
  • Peter Parker. Science nerd. Photographer. Spider-Man. Once punched Wolverine through an unbreakable plate glass window to fall to the street 15 stories below when he was mad. Badass.
  • Spiderman's villain, The Shocker. Smart guy and puts up a good fight. Has updated and improved his costume and blast gauntlets based upon past encounters with Spider-Man. Also one of the most professional villains in the rogues gallery, having an alright win-loss ratio considering that he fights Spider-Man.
  • The JSA's Mr. Terrific is the third smartest man on the planet. He has a knack for having knacks. He also has an Olympic gold medal and six black belts.
  • Amadeus Cho in the Marvel Universe is the epitome of this trope. When he isn't making SHIELD look like a bunch of fools with his mad hacking skills, he manages to take down foes with pebbles because of his understanding of physics and angles. He isn't called the seventh smartest person on the planet for nothing. And it's an open question among fans whether he's really only the seventh smartest.
  • Tony Stark, the titular Iron Man. He also kicks ass without the use of his suit or any advanced technology, considering Captain America (comics) taught him to fight.
  • Tim Drake, third Robin. In a very Batman-like vein, he devotes his free time to developing electronic gadgets for crime-fighting purposes, when he's not actively trying to clone his dead friends back to life. He's been established as being way less agile than Dick Grayson, and Batgirl can wipe the floor with him (a single time when he managed to beat her is largely considered Fanon Discontinuity, for too many reasons), but he's still pretty awesome and can beat Killer Croc while having the flu.
  • Barry Ween, Boy Genius, is a superintelligent ten-year-old Gadgeteer Genius who often has to resort to heavy weaponry to "deal" with his failed experiments. He also Took a Level in Badass with each subsequent reboot of his series, and now he can bare-handedly wipe the floor with whole warrior tribes without even ruffling his hair. Awesomeness By Analysis certainly has a lot to do with it.
  • Bruce Banner is the Badass Bookworm you wouldn't want to make angry! Perhaps not 100% applicable because the Hulk is a different personality, but overall they're the same person, and can certainly scrap any of the others. Not so long ago Bruce lost his powers (again) because of Villain Sue Red Hulk. Every sign on heaven or earth shows that Bruce is so Badass Bookworm that taking away his Hulk persona can make him even more dangerous. It's easy to forget he turned into The Hulk to begin with because he had a career building super-weapons for the government, which as Banner, he's intelligent enough to use and improve upon.

Bruce: You know, it just now occurs to me that maybe the real reason I became the Hulk... was to protect the world from Banner.

    • There's also the fact that not all Hulk personas are created equal. While the most commonly seen "Savage Hulk" (green) is basically all brawn and little to no brains, "Joe Fixit" (grey) is rather clever and "the Professor" (green, but more human-like than Savage) is just as smart as Banner. And then there's the Green Scar, who unlike the other personas is just as strong as Savage Hulk (if not stronger), but is also more than capable of thinking and smashing at the same time.
  • After a brief stint with the Wreckers in IDW's Transformers comics, during which he was badly wounded, Perceptor decides he needs to improve his combat abilities. (This takes place chronologically before his appearance in All Hail Megatron, thus retconning an answer to the question, "When did Perceptor get scary?"
  • Jill Trent, of the obscure Golden Age feature Jill Trent Science Sleuth, is an unusually early female version. Jill mostly relies on her prodigious science and engineering abilities to solve mysteries, as one might expect a Science Sleuth to do. But nearly every adventure ends up with Jill and her gal pal Daisy beating the crap out of the bad guys - just like contemporaneous male heroes would. (A public domain example of the feature can be seen here.)
  • Daredevil is a blind lawyer who just happens to be a martial arts master.
  • Both Dwight and Wallace from Sin City are very intelligent, well-educated men who are more than capable of bringing down the bad guys.
  • A certain mild-mannered reporter named Clark Kent can be quite safely stated to be one of the biggest Badass Bookworms of them all.
  • Doctor Strange likes to spend his free time in his study, usually in a Levitating Lotus Position about four feet off the ground. He can also take you down with a single spell or a well-placed kick, his choice.
  • Tintin: A highly intelligent young journalist and a force to be reckoned with. Solves crimes and punches out bad guys on a regular basis.
  • Lucien, the librarian of the world of dreams from The Sandman. When Dream is indisposed and the Furies begin ripping apart the Dreaming, some of Dream's more dangerous prisoners escape their captivity and try to wreak havoc. A few try to do so in the library, but those who tried didn't take Lucien into account.


Fan Fiction[edit | hide]

  • The Second Try has Shinji and Asuka becoming milder examples of this trope by necessity, since they had to accumulate and learn the sum total of human knowledge after they're left being the only two humans left alive on Earth, and are basically pigeonholed into being a civilization of two.
  • Dumbledores Army and The Year of Darkness shows just what happens when you get the Ravenclaws seriously riled up.
  • In the Pokémon story Brave New World, the first new addition to Team Aurabolt is a fat basement-dweller Squirtle with tenuous grasp on the difference between fiction and reality. He starts things off by pounding the crap out of the protagonist (who has already defeated entire armies) via Confusion Fu, proceeds to predict half the plot turns in the story, defeats homicidal demons via children's card games and a manifestation of the futility of life using nothing but logic, stores entire arsenals in his shell, holds his own in direct combat, and generally embodies Crazy Prepared and Crazy Awesome.
  • The protagonist/narrator of Travels Through Azeroth and Outland fits this description.
  • Yuuki Nagato of Suzumiya Haruhi no Seitenkan is even more Badass than the original Yuki Nagato.
  • Tara "Green Shield" Strong from DC Nation. Yes, she is a Snark Knight first and foremost, but this is someone who has a Masters at 19, is getting her M.D. by apprenticing under Doctor Mid-Nite, and got her abilities by playing Professor Guinea Pig on herself to try and prevent her crooked boss from taking credit for her work. She's even studying alchemy in order to better keep up with the magical trouble the JSA attracts.
  • John in With Strings Attached qualifies. In Real Life he was a voracious reader, not to mention a songwriting genius. In Strings, he's transformed into a guy who can fly and lift half a ton (though not at the same time) and given a magical charm that makes him powerful enough to lift a river. Not that he actually wants to do anything to you—unless you fuck with him or the others.
    • Paul and George probably qualify as well.
  • Harry in Harry Potter and the Invincible Technomage. Not only is he on his way towards being as brilliant as his adopted father Tony, he also gets regular physical training from Hell by Captain America.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Robert Redford's character Joe Turner in Three Days of the Condor, about a CIA employed bookworm who accidentally uncovers the usual Sinister Plot and spends the rest of the film using everything he's learned from his books to evade capture/death/assorted bad things.
  • Lt. Ring becomes one in the Heartbreak Ridge.
  • In Brotherhood of the Wolf, Grégoire de Fronsac is an 18th century French royal taxidermist, scientist, and soldier. His role in the film is half forensic detective and half ass-kicker. After the torture and murder of his friend, the mellow, charming scientist transforms into a double-sword wielding, war-painted killing machine on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Quorra from Tron: Legacy. When she's not derezzing Clu's mooks, she usually reads books from Kevin Flynn's library, which includes everything from Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky to Buddhist scriptures and Jules Verne.
    • Ram from the first film crossed this with Badass Normal and Badass Unintentional. He wasn't designed as a fighter - he was actuarial software for an insurance company. Still, he'd been able to hold his own on the Game Grid against Sark's warriors for nearly the equivilent of a year. He's also the only one who figures out what Flynn is without being told.
  • Hellboy: Abe Sapien's hobbies include classical music, reading, swimming in demon-infested waters, and kicking trolls in the face. Sure, he doesn't look like much of a badass compared to his partner, but his partner is Hellboy.
  • Indiana Jones.
    • The title character, when he's not fighting Nazis and retrieving lost artifacts from booby-trapped temples, Indy earns a paycheck as a respected professor of archaeology.
    • Likewise, though not to the same extent, his father.
  • Will Smith's character in I Am Legend. A brilliant research scientist who also kicks zombie ass. Handwaved by the fact he's also an Army Lieutenant Colonel.
  • Jijii from Ichi the Killer. A little old Chessmaster, Jijii, manipulates the underworld from the shadows until he's confronted by a Yakuza enforcer, forcing him to whip off his clothes to reveal his impossibly muscular frame, then break every bone in an enforcer's body.
    • In the manga it is explained that Jijii is an undercover cop who underwent plastic surgery to appear much older and less threatening.
  • Ling Ling Fat in Forbidden City Cop. A member of the Emperor's personal guard due to family heritage, LLF is actually an inventor and practicing gynecologist by trade, but in the end he uses his cunning and remarkable inventions to outfight the villains.
  • Max, the villainous Sidekick in John Woo's Broken Arrow, does very well against the Action Girl before he explains his badassness and attempts a Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner while drawing a gun, sealing his fate.
  • Buckaroo Banzai: adventurer, surgeon, scientist, rock star.
  • Donatello of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a geek who loves to invent stuff. Given reason, he can also decapitate bad guys with his bo staff.
  • Jack Ryan, a former Marine, from The Hunt for Red October. He knows tons of naval minutiae. He is not intimidated by senior officers. He can solve a world crisis. He can guess the moves of a renegade Russian sub captain with almost telepathic intuition. He can even jump out of a helicopter into the freezing North Atlantic. And after all this he remembers to bring his daughter a teddy bear when he returns home.
  • Doc Brown in Back to The Future 3 comes to Marty's rescue with what looks to be an improvised Sniper Rifle and claims to be able to "shoot a flea off a dog's back at 500 yards."
  • Sherlock Holmes fits this to a T, being a detective extraordinaire, an accomplished fighter, and a violinist. Doctor Watson does fine all on his own, both a doctor and an ex-soldier.
  • Ghostbusters - They're a bunch of disgraced professors (and one blue-collar joe) sending demons, malicious ghosts, evil sorcerers, and other supernatural baddies packing on a regular basis!
  • Captain Nemo is exactly this in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
  • Dr. Serizawa. The only human to ever kill Godzilla.
  • Arthur from Inception. In addition to being the team's researcher, he's smart enough to figure out how to simulate the sense of falling in zero gravity, and badass enough to pull it off, in a limited amount of time, while fighting off mooks. Again, all in zero gravity.
  • In Crimson Tide, Denzel Washington plays an academy-trained bookworm who Gene Hackman's seasoned submarine commander deems 'not hard enough'. Denzel proceeds to launch a mutiny, weather a counter-mutiny, and launch his own counter-counter-mutiny, all while battling a Russian sub and trying to avert nuclear holocaust.
  • Nadia from Pandorum is a biologist who knows some martial arts.
  • Tony Stark from the Iron Man films has no combat training, but he uses his technical genius to build a suit that gives him the powers of a superhero.
  • Duncan in the penultimate scene of Mystery Team.
  • In The Thirteenth Warrior, Ibn is a poet sent into exile as an "ambassador." He's the only foreigner of fighting age in the tent when the witch says the thirteenth warrior has to be an outlander. Then a sequence of events show he's not the soft intellectual he seems to be, having expert riding skills, the ability to figure out a language just by listening to it, and, with some modifications to the design, a deft hand with a sword. And he's one of a few left standing at the end.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf is incredibly wise and looks like an old man, but he mixes it up with the rest of the heroes with spell and sword. Faramir is another example.

"Nor were the 'loremasters' a separate guild of gentle scribes, soon burned by the Orks of Angband upon pyres of books. They were mostly even as Fëanor, the greatest, kings, princes and warriors..." The Peoples of Middle-earth, "The Shibboleth of Fëanor", J.R.R Tolkien.

  • in Godhead of the Immortal Moth-King Scheza Levi is very much this.
  • Prince/Shah Raschid in the Fangs of K'aath book series. He is a quiet scholar whom everyone thinks is a brainy wimp compared to his sociopathic brother, Abbas. However, with his wily girlfriend helping with practical matters of command, he displays his formidable combat, command and diplomatic skills guided by his good nature that make him a triumphant and inspirational commander of whole armies deeply impressed enough into absolute loyalty to him.
  • C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower who becomes a great Nelsonian seadog by his mathematical ability and his research skills. He also fights countless battles hand-to-hand, steals enemy ships by night, swashbuckles with the best, and duels a sadistic ship-mate who is so disturbed that he scares all others crapless.
  • Liet-Kynes in Dune, a hard working ecologist who is half-fremen.
  • The Discworld books:
    • Mr. Slant, zombie attorney and president of the Guild of Lawyers, whose death only made him work through lunch breaks. He can quiet a roomful of attorneys with a glance, and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of case and precedent because he was there and helped write it.
    • In Night Watch, a young Havelock Vetinari is bullied by his schoolmates in the Assassins' Guild for reading books with some interesting ideas about camouflage. Also chastised by one of his teachers for not being seen in any of his camouflage classes. He attended them religiously. Later vindicated when he manages to avoid the fate of the assassin who took the contract before him, the aptly named Sir John Bleedwell.
    • The Librarian, who, among other things, kept Adora Belle Dearheart from smoking in his Library, making him the only person to ever stop her from lighting up. This is helped by the fact that he's a 300 lb. orangutan.
    • Unseen Academicals gives us Mr. Nutt, a goblin who spent time in the libraries of Lady Margolotta (one of Uberwald's most powerful vampires) and damn near memorized them. He works as a candle dribbler at the Unseen University, and is extremely courteous, softspoken, and loquacious. He's also not a goblin; he's one of the last few orcs on the Disc. Orcs were originally bred as a super-soldier race for the Evil Empire. So when Mr. Nutt finally gets in touch with his orcish nature, he's able to tell an opponent he's got in a headlock just how much force it would require to rip his head off, and what muscles and bones would get in the way.
    • Tiffany Aching may be only nine, but she's read the dictionary cover-to-cover, mostly because nobody ever told her not to. She also whacks a monster with a frying pan, befriends the Nac Mac Feegle, takes on The Fair Folk to rescue her unpleasant little brother, and studies witchcraft with the intent of stopping future witch hunts in their tracks. And this is just the first book she appears in.
  • Professor Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula. The fact that he has "M.D., D.Ph., D.Litt., etc" after his name yet still hunts vampires should attest to this.
  • Kirsty from the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy. In addition to having an I.Q. of 165, she's won a regional tournament in shooting and knows karate. The people who underestimate her tend to do so for a very short time.
  • Hari Seldon in the first Foundation prequel. Turns out his entire homeworld knows kung fu.
  • Adele Mundy in David Drake's Republic Of Cinnabar novels is a research librarian who is an expert shot with a pistol. She never misses, even in free fall, even if rotating in free fall from her previous shot.

The Sissies were proud of their Signals Officer: the lady who'd as soon shoot you as look at you, who knew everything, and who never missed....
Hogg - She cleaned out this enclosure. She did it. Tovera said she just walked in and shot them all.

  • Harold Lauder from Stephen King's The Stand probably qualifies, although it's somewhat subverted in that years of being bullied, ignored, and rejected leave him bitter to the point of using his considerable skills and intelligence for evil rather than good.
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • Holmes is a brilliant detective, violinist, and black belt. His scarecrow physique hides surprising strength. In "The Speckled Band," a villain tries to intimidate him by bending a solid metal poker with his bare hands. Holmes is unimpressed and casually straightens the poker afterwards while chatting with Watson. In "The Solitary Cyclist" he easily beats up an unruly suspect. In "Hound of the Baskervilles," he's noted as an extraordinarily fast runner. Some viewers of the Guy Ritchie adaptation criticized the film for making Holmes into an action hero, but feats like engaging in bare-knuckle boxing matches are actually canon for the character.
    • Watson is a marginal example. He is a practicing London doctor, but also an ex-soldier who holds his own whenever Holmes's adventures get messy. However, he's described as being rather handsome, so he probably doesn't look much like a weakling. Many film adaptations turn him into a pudgy goober without much combat ability.
  • And then there's Lord Peter Wimsey. Also extremely clever, he looks like an effete aristocrat (in Murder Must Advertise he's described as "Bertie Wooster in horn-rims"). He's slightly built, and only 5'9" tall... but he was also a highly decorated World War I veteran, judo-trained and capable of holding off large beefy antagonists on several occasions. He is also a champion cricket player, a brilliant detective, a great student while at Oxford, and a famous expert on incunabula.
  • Isaac Dan Der Grimnebulin, in Perdido Street Station: while he is supposedly just a rogue scientist, he holds off an attack by the corrupt government's trained militia and faces off against monsters so scary that demons are afraid of them.
    • Even better, he holds his own against the said monsters in their own lair, after destroying their nested eggs, while veteran mercenary Shadrach and at least two robots built specifically for battle lose their lives ignominiously.
    • And he did all these even if specifically described as a fat and physically unfit man, who almost fainted from climbing a few flights of stairs. Guess if he trained himself a bit he would be even scarier.
  • Three of Doc Savage's five sidekicks qualify for Badass Bookworm: Elegant legal eagle "Ham" Brooks. The sickly looking, undersized "Long Tom" Roberts. And of course Professor "Johnny" Littlejohn with his monocle.
  • The Harry Potter novels feature many examples, since studying magic makes you badass.
    • Hermione Granger is a notable example, being a know-it-all bookworm whose studies grant her significant magical power. She comes into her own in the last book, where nothing would have gotten done without her hyper-organization and constant vigilance. In the films, she even slugs Malfoy in the face, though it's only a slap in the books.
    • Professor McGonagall and most of the Hogwarts teachers are all examples, being academics and experts in various fields of magic. Over the course of the series, there are hints every now and then, but in the final battle in Deathly Hallows, it's shown exactly why you do not screw with a Hogwarts teacher.

"Us teachers are rather good at magic, you know."

  • Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird sort of follows this. He's one of the smartest people in the town and the most successful lawyer. He's also a crack shot with a rifle, shooting a mad dog from a block away and is prone to selfless heroics, such as when he spent the night in a prison to personally face down a lynch mob out to get his client.
  • Aramis from The Three Musketeers: His life ambition to become a priest and his writing a thesis on the hand positions used for ritual blessings in the Catholic Church does not prevent him from being a member of an elite military unit and having martial skills on par with his less intellectual comrades-in-arms.
  • John Ringo really has a habit of placing badass bookworms in his stories
    • Into the Looking Glass, has William Weaver, Ph.D., a theoretical physicist who does most of his work in his head... while mountain biking, rock climbing, participating in kung fu tournaments, and fighting off an alien invasion. Except for the last, Ringo's co-author in the series actually does everything attributed to Weaver, in Real Life.
    • The Posleen War Series is rife with them
      • Micheal O'Neal, a Sci Fi geek who gets placed in charge of an ACS battalion. O'Neal mostly gets his position because he's the only one with a clue how to effectively use the ACS's, though he is described as being very powerfully built.
      • And then we have Talbot in the Council Wars series, who is a historic re-enactor and one of the main characters. Though he is more a Badass who became a Bookworm after retiring from Badassery.
    • The Combat Engineers in Gust Front deserve mention for routing a Posleen force through creative use of demo. By the end of the book, the smart God Kings refuse to go near anything with an engineers' symbol on it.
  • The bookish and unimposing Achamian from Second Apocalypse is constantly underestimated and thought weak even by his friends. As well as being strong mentally, he is a sorcerer of vast destructive power he rarely has reason to unleash.
  • Sabriel from the beginning of the Old Kingdom trilogy is explained to be at the top of her class in every subject, most notably Swordfighting and Magic (with Music close behind), and, while well-liked, certainly gives very little indication to her school friends of her real powers. Lirael, in the second book, is a much more extreme example. Aside from being the Second Assistant Librarian, she hardly ever talks to anyone in the Clayr glacier, and never tells anyone of her after-hours activities, which regularly include awakening horrible Free Magic creatures locked in the deepest dungeons of the library and destroying them with the help of her freakishly powerful dog.
  • The Aubrey/Maturin series:
    • It features Stephen Maturin, a 5'6", gaunt, clumsy, "small, indefinably odd and even ill-looking" man as well as a doctor, polyglot, natural philosopher and all-round intellectual, and Britain's greatest spy. Over the course of the books, he is seen shooting the pips out of playing cards, winning several duels, operating on himself and dispatching his enemies in very badass ways. And then dissecting them. Yet, somehow, he never quite develops the ability to board a ship under his own power without falling in the water.
    • Jack Aubrey also qualifies, in spite of being a bit less heavy on the Bookworm. But still, he is a war hero and immensely successful naval commander, who is also, like his good friend Dr. Maturin, a Fellow of the Royal Society (Britain's most prestigious scientist's association). He has written a number of well-received scientific articles on astronomy and geometry, and built his own observatory and telescopes.
  • Parodied by the Chinese text of Lion-eating Poet in a Stone Den, where the title character is a poet who... kills and eats lions. It's more of a tongue-twister, mainly because all the words are pronounced the same, only with different inflections. Also, he's parodying the Chinese poets and authors as they were well-known for spicing up their characters, like in Journey to the West.
  • The Keepers of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy. They primary goal has been to collect knowledge for a thousand years, only to give it back to mankind after the Collapse of the Final Empire. However, their feruchemicals power also allow them to store physical abilities (strength, speed, sight, etc...) to use it later. Making them very powerful warriors.
    • Then of course Sazed is not just any Keeper. In book 2, he kills a mess of koloss and nearly beats a Steel Inquisitor. In book 3, he becomes God.
      • Also Elend becomes this in book 3 after he becomes a Mistborn.
  • Neal Stephenson is fond of these:
    • The avout of Anathem study logic, math, and philosophy their whole lives, which makes them the perfect people to storm a super-advanced "alien" space ship. This goes double for Fraa Lio and the avout of the Ringing Vale, who study the science of combat.
    • Snow Crash features Hiro Protagonist. He's one of the world's best programmers and shows equal skill in swordfights and car chases.
    • Also Casimir Radon from his first book, The Big U, a "skinny, unhealthy-looking nerd" who shows immense courage and near-superhuman strength in every crisis.
    • In Zodiac, Sangamon Taylor is an intellectual environmentalist and a bit of a thrill-seeker who throws himself into many dangerous situations and kills off a few hitmen with his driving and seamanship. Even on his daily bicycle commute, he plays chicken with heavy traffic.
  • Strongbow Plantaganet from Edward Whittemore's Jerusalem Quartet.
  • Snowball from Animal Farm is very intelligent, designing a windmill and setting up committees and leading the animals to victory in The Battle of the Cowshed, where he sent Mr. Jones into a heap of dung and was wounded in the process.
  • Barrons from Karen Marie Moning's Fever Series. He owns a bookshop, is named after a publishing company, and is pretty mysterious and badass, with being immune to shades, Living Shadow and all.
  • Almost every Robert A. Heinlein character ever. If they don't read advanced math at the beginning of the story, they either get really into it just in time to defeat the Space Nazis using calculus and Latin, or die.
  • Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October and other novels. He is a quiet academic whose job and hobby is to study naval trivia for the CIA. However, he manages to win a shootout amidst a Pile o' Nukes, and even beats up a bunch of Irish terrorists with his bare hands.
  • Annabeth from Percy Jackson and The Olympians reads architecture books in Ancient Greek at the age of twelve. She is also a brilliant but brutal strategist and fights with a bronze knife. We guarantee that she can kick the butt of almost any mythological creature you care to name. Daedalus is also a brilliant swordsman who also happened to create the labyrinth, the most brilliant piece of architecture ever.
  • Too many to count in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Of special note are Zhuge Liang, who causes a larger enemy army led by the quite competent Sima Yi to retreat without battle by opening the gates of a city he had occupied and sitting on the wall, playing his lute. Sima Yi fled rather than "fall" into another of Zhuge Liang's traps, not finding out until much later that Zhuge had only a few hundred troops with him., Zhou Yu, Lu Xun, Jiang Wei, Cao Cao, Sun Quan, Pang Tong, and quite a few others. Hinted at in the button-masher spin-off video game Dynasty Warriors, insanely important in the strategic RTS and career sims called Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Especially interesting as this is a case of Truth in Television, as these men did exist (though their legends and histories are quite different). We still have the books some of the figures of that era wrote.
  • Stephen King and Peter Straub's Black House features a whole gang of bikers each with master's degrees in philosophy who own and operate a microbrewery with full knowledge of the chemicals processes at work. Of course, they're still badass enough that most of the town knows to leave them the hell alone.
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible's Dr. Impossible. He's the smartest man in the world and not noted to be particularly intimidating physically but is superhumanly strong and tough.
  • Henry from The Time Traveler's Wife would like to be just a simple librarian, but his chronological-impairment tends to leave him in situations where he needs to mug people for pants. As such, he's managed to become very good at beating the crap out of people. (He's mostly self-taught.)
  • Harry Creek from John Scalzi's Android's Dream universe arguably counts. Born a geek, raised a geek, created the world's first (Well. Second.) artificial intelligence, oh, and also survived one of humanity's worst military excursions, and managed to bring an opposing stellar government to its knees by surrendering.
  • The Andalites from Animorphs are an entire species of badass bookworms. Members of their military are expected to embody the ideal of "scientist, warrior, artist."
  • Alan Ryves from The Demon's Lexicon is a sweet, sensitive, mild-mannered guy who works in a bookstore and lives with his brother and crazy mum. Also, you mess with either of the aforementioned family members and he'll shoot you down before you know you've been hit.
  • Barnaby Grimes. He spends his spare time in the basement of Underhill's Library for Scholars of the Arcane reading dusty old articles. He also takes on werewolves single-handed.
  • A few characters apply in A Song of Ice and Fire. Tyrion Lannister is a bookish dwarf with no love of physical exertion, but he goes into battle twice, once taking down a knight by accident and in the second performing great feats of heroism. It is also hinted that Petyr Baelish, a short, noncombatant financial genius, is an expert with knives.
    • The stand-out example has got to be Rhagaer Targaryen, who was well known as a reclusive, scholary prince who one day out of the blue decided to take part in a tourney against the best knights in the kingdom...and won, despite only ever reading about tourneys. He then promptly ran off with the protagonists' sister, unintentionally helping to set off a Civil War (though his Caligula dad did most of the work by killing some nobles in horrible fashion for no reason) by pissing-off her betrothed, hot tempered Action Hero and future king Robert Baratheon, and the only man in Westeros who doesn't think Rhagaer was the most awesome Badass Worthy Opponent who ever walked the Earth. The two eventually fought and though Rhagaer lost, he is said to have fought valiantly and bravely in a truly epic battle. In between all of this he apparently found time to father The Messiah, something he planned after years of meticulous research.
  • Lyra Volfrieds starts off as a clumsy, unathletic and naive bookworm at the start of the story, but towards the end she picks up enough combat skills, practical magic and street smarts to work as a highly competent bodyguard, beat the crap out of the people who murdered her family, and defeat an evil sorcerer with her bare hands.
  • Cletus Grahame in Gordon R. Dickson's Tactics of Mistake (part of the Childe Cycle). He's a librarian. With a Medal of Honor. He's also a Chessmaster.
  • Professor William Race from Temple is brought on a secret mission to translate an ancient manuscript. Somehow, despite having no military training, he gets dragged along to every battle and ends up being the last man standing.
  • Humanity as a whole fit this trope at the opening of the first Man-Kzin War. Having become intellectual pacifists, humanity is viewed by the Kzinti as weak and cowardly... except humanity had given up war because they were too good at it. Four destroyed battle fleets later, the Kzinti finally started to catch onto this.
  • Ivy from The Dresden Files is a seven year old girl who fawns over Harry's cat in her first appearance. She's also The Archive (music). She has the sum total of all human wisdom and knowledge floating around in her head, updated live. Most people in the know consider her to be one of, if not the, most dangerous human magic users on the planet.
    • Wizards in general. Harry has on several occasions described himself as a "magic nerd". Most of these folks spend a hundred years or so learning how to lay some serious hurt on anyone in their way.
  • Tim Noonan is the Gadgeteer Genius of Rainbow Six, but he was also "poached" from the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team, as we are reminded from, among others, his quick takedown of PIRA terrorists during their attack on the hospital.
  • Mordred from Mary Stewart's The Wicked Day (rather than other mythological incarnations).
  • The 39 Clues gives us Amy Cahill, who is very booksmart and generally shy and nonviolent, but if you pick on her brother or break her heart, then watch out.
  • In Salamander, Coelus is just a harmless academic and theoretician, right? A reasonable assumption to make, up until he breaks out of a royal prison via creating a self-sustaining flaming tornado.
  • David Weber's In Fury Born mentions a planet of academics who get invaded by the Rishathan Sphere, an army of lizardlike aliens:

El Grecans might have been highbrows and philosophers, but that hadn't meant they were airheads, and the Rish soon discovered that they'd caught a tiger by the tail. The academics of El Greco warmed up their computers, set up their data searches, and turned to the study of guerrilla warfare, sabotage, and assassination as if preparing to sit their doctoral orals. Within a year, they had two divisions tied down; by the time the Sphere gave it up as a bad deal and left, the Rishathan garrison had grown to three corps...and was still losing ground.

  • Brandark Brandarkson from the The War Gods series is another David Weber example. Brandark grew up in a place where literacy or any sort of education was considered a sign of weakness. Therefore, the only way he could survive as a bookworm was to be so badass he could beat up pretty much anyone else in his clan.
  • In Bram Stoker's Dracula, Jonathan Harker had been a quite ordinary young lawyer from London until his life and death (or to put it better, undeath) were at stake. It takes some badassery to escape while locked in a castle populated by vampires and then hunt the vampire boss himself throughout Europe. With a Kukri nevertheless.
  • Two words: Numair Samalin.
  • Derek Vandaveer of Zenith Angle by Bruce Sterling is primarily a computer science geek specialising in networks, but well able to handle himself in a fight and undertake illegal black ops. Part way through the book he spends a lot of time working out his frustrations on an exercise machine, so maybe he's taken a level in badass, but there is a strong implication that the underlying attitude was there all along.
  • The Collegia Magica trilogy by Carol Berg has some prime examples: Portier has been described as a walking encyclopaedia, Dante, the strongest magician in 200 years is a self confessed bookworm and Anne, potentially stronger than Dante in magic, knows seven languages and can describe theories of gravitation and optics in detail. Oh, and loves to read.
  • Randolph Carter in H.P. Lovecraft's Dreamworld stories, a scholar who repeatedly goes up against Nightmare Fuel creatures. While in his first story, "The Statement of Randolph Carter", he's described as a nervous wreck, Lovecraft actually Ret Conned that in a later novella, "The Silver Key", where Carter is described as having PTSD at that time—he'd been shot in WWI while serving with the French Foreign Legion.
  • Both Tavi and Ehren from Codex Alera count. Neither of them are very physically imposing—well, Tavi isn't until his twenties, though Ehren remains a self-proclaimed glorified "messenger boy" forevermore—and both of them are less then talented with the world's magic. However, both are extremely intelligent and kick much ass as they're much stronger than they are allowed to let on. For example, Tavi beats a couple of powerfully gifted bullied senseless without any furycraft; he's also told by an instructor to mimic the mistakes his classmates regularly make so that they'll be more vigilant about them because his own skill is sufficiently advanced. Ehren becomes a bit of a knife-nut, a spymaster, and a chessmaster.
  • Gen from The Queen's Thief books; he's small, lives in a library, and is much happier when he is skulking about and stealing things than when he's forced to practice any sort of martial art. However, he's a master swordsman, able to take down in an instant alone three assassins who ambushed him, and also able to spar with and beat a good portion of a company of elite guards in a single morning. Also, he as a hook for a hand, and uses it to deadly effect.
  • John le Carre's character George Smiley. He's a portly, middle-aged man whose eyesight is going, and whose wife gives him more than his fair share of problems, yet he was one of Britain's very best spies in his prime. He's still badass enough for "the Circus" to call him out of retirement when they need help in finding a mole. His skills are more in his gift for bureaucratic trickery, however, than any physical prowess.
  • Scaramouche: Andre-Louis Moreau, a lawyer, discovers - from studying fencing theory - a technique that will defeat even the most experienced opponents.
  • In the Bizarro Universe Transformers: Shattered Glass, the Decepticons have quite a few Badass Bookworms, and the Autobots also have a few. But the two most notable are probably:
    • The Decepticons have Razorclaw, a diminutive wolf-former who is The Professor and a Team Dad/Mentor who likes to lecture his two students. When it's time for battle, though, he's ferocious and quite capable of ripping the heads off of Autobots much bigger than he is.
    • And the Autobots have Blurr, a Wicked Cultured ex-professor who's usually very calm and unassuming, but is a member of Optimus' elite attack squad and can absorb kinetic energy to become a quick and deadly warrior when needed.
  • And in the G1 cartoon spinoff Transformers: Wings of Honor, when the Elite Guard finds itself low on members, they take in two "desk jockeys" as volunteers—one of which turns out to also be a sharpshooter, and the other of which once dispatched Decepticons using a desk stapler.
  • Fisk in the Knight and Rogue Series. Drawn to books due to being raised by a scholar, and adept with a knife.
  • Toni Ware and Leonard Stecyk in The Pale King. Thanks to spending childhood as a drifter, Toni is well-read but borderline homicidal. Leonard's extensive knowledge of medical techniques helps him saves someone's life and jump-starts his character development.
  • Time Scout: As a rule, time guides and time scouts have to be very, very knowledgeable about the past. Clothes, weapons, language, dialect, accent, dancing, fencing, fighting, shooting, riding...
  • Leland de Laal, the primary protagonist of Steven Gould's Helm, was generally held in contempt by his father for spending every spare moment of his time studying in the library—until, at the start of the book, in defiance of his father's proclamation, he scales a three-hundred-plus meter high granite formation known as the Needle solo to take the titular Helm that rested atop it. His feats only grow more impressive from there.
  • The "Four Horseman"—a quadruplet of small-town D&D nerds, wargamers, and dirt bikers—in 1632. Jeff Higgins in particular reveals his exceptional poise under fire starting with the Last Stand in the high school and escalating from there.
  • Aziraphale in Good Omens - despite his mild, kindly, book-obsessed exterior, he's actually a sword-wielding angel who's been on Earth for the last six thousand years, has seen pretty much everything at this point, and ends up going against Heaven's own directives in an attempt to prevent the apocalypse from occurring, despite all of Heaven and Hell being pro-Armageddon. Oh, and he's sort of secretly best friends with a demon, Crowley.
  • In The Fire in His Hands, prequel to Glen Cook's Dread Empire series, Megelin Radetic is a foreign scholar hired to come to (Middle East-Expy) Hammad al Nakir and tutor nobleman's son Haroun bin Yousif. The warriors of Hammad al Nakir tend to be scornful of Radetic's interest in botany and geology. Then a civil war breaks out, and they're shocked to discover his areas of expertise also include the construction and use of siege engines, and the undermining of fortifications. And he's skilled as a combat leader; taking charge of a caravan of noncombatants, mostly women, children, and the elderly, he "whipped hell out of tough young warriors" who attacked them. He's no slouch using a sword personally, either. Before long, Megelin Radetic is one of the top names on the enemy's list of people to assassinate. Try to assassinate.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Mr. Spock, and pretty much the entire Vulcan species, from Star Trek. What could be more non-threatening than a science officer (geek) with no emotion or ego? Well, screw with his ship or his captain and you'll find out pretty quick he'll neck pinch you into submission. You may also find out that Vulcans are, on average, three times as strong as humans. And if you really provoke him he will shoot the damn dog. Just to prove the point. And God help you if you say anything bad about his mother. He says at one time that the Vulcans were once barbarians who nearly killed one another off before adopting the teachings of Surak; it is strongly implied that the Romulans are descendants of Vulcans who would not or could not embrace Surak's philosophy.
  • The Next Generation
    • Commander Data, as an android, has the mental processing speed of a computer as well as super strength and resilience. "I presume your handprint will open this door even if it is no longer attached to your arm."
    • Captain Picard is a reclusive classical scholar most of the time and doing things like pulling off political Batman Gambits against a whole empire, assuming the role of a hardened criminal to infiltrate a gang of mercenaries, and single-handedly defeating a group of terrorists the rest of the time. And ever since the last few scenes of Season Three, he has had Borg strength, too. The movies eventually take things a bit too far in the physical combat direction, but there's a good reason why he and Data relate so well to each other. Picard fought and killed two Klingons sent to murder him. He's also taken down more Borg drones in single combat than pretty much any other character, and he's endured torture multiple times. Oh yeah, a knife to the heart and (years later) a phaser bolt to the same spot were not enough to kill him. That's badass.
    • Montgomery Scott. One of the best engineers of his day, and a fierce barroom brawler when he's pissed off.
    • And the women of Star Trek: T'Pol (standard Vulcan), Jadzia Dax (trained as a Klingon warrior), Kathryn Janeway (started out as a science officer and is the most trigger-happy captain except Kirk), B'Elanna Torres (half-Klingon genius engineer with issues) and Seven of Nine (Borg strength and intelligence in one pretty package).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Giles: Normally, he exemplifies the stereotypes you'd expect from a British librarian. He has a very soft spot for his books, but when the situation calls for it, he's willing to kick a little ass and show why he used to go by the nickname "Ripper." He once pulled a crossbow bolt out of his own back and stabbed a vampire with it and also makes a one-man assault on the factory after Angelus kills Jenny Calendar.
    • Willow is something of a geek, but sure can be dangerous. She took down Glory for a time, and she almost ended the world.
  • Angel:
    • Fred probably qualifies. Although it isn't shown often, her engineering capabilities have at least once resulted in an insanely awesome guillotining machine.
    • Wesley also fits this trope once he was Rescued from the Scrappy Heap. While he was on Buffy and in early Angel he was for lack of a better word, a by-the-book, private-education pansy (although to be fair, it was Watcher education, so he was basically learning how to be Badass). After being tricked into stealing Connor and being ostracised by the rest of Angel Investigations? He pretty much became the epitome of good old Buffyverse badassery.
  • A very dark variation of this can be found in the title character of Dexter. Dexter is a forensic blood spatter analyst and often called a "lab nerd" by the more macho police officers. Despite this, he can kill just about anyone. He's also a surprisingly beefy specimen under that shirt, which is more obvious while wearing his form-fitting murder clothes. He's bested Doakes, an ex-Special Forces member and ultra-badass cop, twice in hand-to-hand combat, despite being shot in the leg right before round two. He also killed The Skinner, who was the leader of a Nicaraguan interrogation unit, with his bare hands. He did so one-handed, because he crushed his own hand to escape his bindings. Most recently, he has taken down one of the most skilled cops in Miami, herself a murderer, in close combat.
  • Gil Grissom from CSI repeatedly emphasizes that he's a scientist, not a cop. It just so happens he's also an excellent shot with a handgun, on the few occasions it's come up.
  • Stargate Verse
    • Daniel Jackson from Stargate SG-1. This, however, was the end result of long, patient Character Development: just compare the innocent cutie from Stargate and "Children of the Gods" to the action man in seasons 9-10, and every relative degree of badassery in between in the other seasons.
    • An even truer example is Colonel Samantha Carter. Jack O'Neill said that her brain was a natural resource. That doesn't stop her from kickin' serious ass, alien or otherwise.
    • Rodney McKay from Stargate Atlantis also tends to fill this trope on a rare occasion or three per season. A very rare occasion, admittedly. Such as the time he was digging a rock out of his boot and was attacked by a Wraith. Rather than put his unbooted foot on the dirty ground, he emptied his magazine into the Wraith while hopping on one foot, killing it.
  • The Doctor, from Doctor Who. He started off as the feeble old scientist who had to have his younger and more physically-able companions do the legwork. When the plot required it, however, he became a master swordsman, or a blackbelt in Venusian Aikido, or even an expert in Good Old Fisticuffs. In fact, the Doctor is so much of a badass that he is feared by malevolent beings across the universe and throughout time. Most of his adventures were not exaggerated and his reputation as "the Oncoming Storm" is well-deserved.
    • "The Family of Blood" spotlit just this with the final voiceover.
    • "Forest of the Dead" the Doctor is facing a microscopic swarm which can strip people to bare bones in a matter of seconds. His response? He tells them to look him up (they're in a library the size of a planet at the time). They do and immediately back down.
    • Similarly, in "The Eleventh Hour", The Doctor takes the Atraxi to task for endangering Earth and ensures that they will never repeat this transgression by informing them of exactly who he is and of what he is capable.

The Doctor: Hello. I'm The Doctor. Basically... run.

    • Many of his incarnations are the very embodiment of this trope. Take Eight: he's only 5'8", and, in the Tie In Novels, he starts out well-built, but as he Forgets to Eat, it seems he gets skinnier as the series goes on. Moreover he's naive, at least in the novels all manner of flirting and dirty jokes goes right over his head. And except for occasional detours into No Indoor Voice in dramatic situations, he really is quite soft-spoken. Naturally, he's a genius, although of the Absent-Minded Professor variety, and given the opportunity to use his brain can defeat almost any evil plot. What's more, the first thing he ever really does is knock a huge steel door off its hinges, and while he doesn't like to fight, on a couple of occasions he's proven to be not half-bad at Good Old Fisticuffs. And he once saved the world despite having a huge hole in his chest.
    • Currently, River Song may qualify. She's evidently a professor, and later, or earlier, a doctor, but is...pretty scary for an academic.
      • In "The Big Bang" she pulls the aforementioned "Look me up" trick on a Dalek which assumed that as an associate of the Doctor she would show it mercy. It soon learned this assumption to be entirely incorrect.
    • Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. They have survived three run-ins with the Daleks.
  • Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap. A holder of multiple doctorates, speaks multiple languages, and happens to be a black belt in several disciplines.
  • Almost the entire cast of Criminal Minds is this. There's Hotch, former coin collector and self-confessed nerd, whose specialty is Awesomeness By Analysis and sniper-standard crack shooting; Rossi the author, interrogation specialist and video-game player; Prentiss and Morgan, who both love Vonnegut; Reid with his three Ph Ds, extreme amount of general (and pop-cultural) knowledge, who is also a damn' good shot when needed and can keep his head under any circumstances including slipping efficient little coded messages about his whereabouts into videos that a killer who has abducted him is sending to his fellow agents, WHILE being actively tortured and hepped up on dilaudid to boot, without even using his hands; and JJ, soccer player, butterfly collector and communications specialist who can take down a psycho killer through a plate-glass door in a perfect headshot. And Garcia, who's just..the Oracle of Quantico and goddess of all things quirky and nerdy, and a vicious hacker when she needs to be. Gideon the birdwatcher once baited a man about to shoot him in the head until he turned into a weeping, stammering mess. Only Elle, Todd and Seaver don't fit the trope, and Todd and Seaver really wasn't really around for long enough to even show potential.
  • Similar to Dr. Reid above, in Numb3rs, Dr. Charles Eppes gets talked into learning the combat skills of an FBI agent. As expected for a bookish sort like Charlie, he is terrible in most of the trials, especially in his pursuit driving lessons where he scares his instructor by his bad driving. This seems to include when Charlie tested for firearm proficiency when he seems to be shooting too slowly compared to the others. However, when Charlie's shooting target is brought back for examination, it has a big hole where most of the bullets hit dead center. Charlie explains how he got the highest shooting score by saying he followed the advice of the famous gunfighter, Wyatt Earp, "Speed is fine, but accuracy is final."
  • Noah "HRG" Bennet in Heroes. At the start of season two, his boss at Copy Kingdom berates him and sneers at him for failing to respect the art of photocopying papers. A short session with Mr. Horn-Rimmed Glasses in the backroom, though, ends with two broken fingers and a never-to-be-repressed terror of his new employee. He dosn't have any powers, and still maganges to match everyone else by knowing how they work. And then, in a two-part episode, everyone loses their powers. And Sylar makes him mad
    • Sylar. One of the first things that the audience learns about him before he was revealed was that his apartment was covered top to bottom with books. When he's trapped inside an empty dreamworld in his own mind, any visible space shown on screen was covered with images of books and clocks. When Peter gets stuck inside Sylar's head, Sylar heckles him with a comic book and in return, he humors Sylar with a copy of The Pillars of the Earth.
  • Firefly
    • River Tam is an unmatched genius of all sorts, but is unfortunately a complete mental wreck, on top of being a tiny, unimposing teenage girl. When confronted with danger, her typical response is of the crying, fetal-curling variety until she unlocks the ingrained Super Soldier training that came with her insanity. Legendary ass-kicking ensues.
    • Her brother Simon is a well-mannered and highly educated medic who detests violence and looks a complete sissy. That is, until someone threatens his dear sister.
    • Also Shepherd Book. Who, for a priest, is very good at shooting kneecaps.
  • Hit man Brother Mouzone from The Wire. Inspires fear and respect in the entire Baltimore drug organization, with good reason, despite his small stature, bow tie and glasses, devotion to Harper's magazine, and frequent use of big words and carefully crafted sentences.
  • Farscape
    • By the end of the series, one of the only people even half as scary as Aeryn Sun is her lover, former Smart Guy and now Badass Bookworm John Crichton. He started out pretty helpless, but trained by her and with his level of sanity consistently gently curving down into a plummet, he became the kind of guy who would threaten to suicide bomb with a nuke.
    • Another good example would be Scorpius. Originally introduced as an Omnidisciplinary Scientist and Torture Technician, subsequent episodes revealed that he was strong enough to throw Captain Crais across his office like a rag doll and wear armor that shrugged off pulse pistol shots. Doubly impressive considering the number of health problems Scorpius suffers from.
  • Power Rangers loves this trope:
  • MacGyver. Don't let his mullet and laid-back Minnesota drawl fool you: underneath that feathered-blond hairdo and behind all his folksy wisecracks lurks one of the most agile minds of any TV hero, capable of turning almost any collection of mundane objects into something amazing. He was so good at this that his name has become a real-life verb. On top of that, if it comes down to a brawl, he can kick guns out of hands with the best of them, and he's an accomplished mountain climber and ice hockey player.
  • Quinn Mallory in Sliders fits this trope perfectly.
  • Derek Raine of Poltergeist: The Legacy is rather badass also, despite being a 50+ year old bookworm.
  • Sam Winchester from Supernatural. While of course a badass demon hunter (it's pretty much a family trait), he's also brilliant at research, and had his girlfriend not been murdered, he was well on the way to becoming a lawyer.
    • Don't forget Bobby Singer. His home is full of stacks of ancient books that he uses for research (mostly to find things Sam can't find on the internet). And this little scene in Are You There, God? It's Me... Dean Winchester

Bobby: Solid iron. Completely coated in salt. One hundred percent ghost-proof.
Sam: You built a panic room?
Bobby: I had a weekend off.

    • What about Castiel? Admittedly, the audience (and Dean and Bobby) know from the very start that he's pretty damn badass, but to anyone who doesn't know who (and what) he is, he's an innocuous guy in a trenchcoat with a lot of esoteric knowledge and poor social skills.

Dean: He's tough, for a little nerdy dude with wings.

  • Walter White, from Breaking Bad. A high school chemistry teacher turned drug dealer, with a side order of explosives expert.
  • Michael Westen of Burn Notice. In addition to being rated on near "any weapon that fires a bullet or has an edge," he frequently gets out of situations by engineering some weird gizmo out of duct tape, paper clips, and a cell phone....that can blow a car full of snipers sky high. He also demonstrates, at the least, a rudimentary knowledge of finance, psychology, and chemistry. Comes with being a former CIA agent.
  • Barney from the |Mission Impossible TV show usually has a role designing gadgets or working complex machinery, but he is also often used for hand-to-hand combat. In one episode, he was revealed to have been a sixth fleet boxing champion, and while impersonating another boxer, wins several times against other skilled boxers without outside assistance.
  • Lennier from Babylon 5 is a highly intelligent, studious and soft-spoken aide, but he's also well trained in martial arts. He's highly skilled in combat and far stronger than he appears.
  • Cynthia from Malcolm in the Middle. While being both an adolescent girl and a huge nerd, her education extends to complete knowledge of Krav Maga, which she uses to disable Reese quite effortlessly on a couple of occasions.
  • Both of the main characters from The X-Files. Mulder is brainy enough to have graduated from Oxford, but his day job frequently involves outrunning men on horseback and fighting mutants. Scully tops off her undergrad physics major and medical degree with Improbable Aiming Skills, as well as doing more than half her share of the rescuing.
  • Clayton Webb from JAG.
  • Temperance Brennan from Bones. World-class forensic anthropologist with improbable martial arts skills and a love of large-caliber weapons. She once took down a perp who had just shot Booth with a shot to the throat on the fly.
  • Fringe's Peter Bishop is supposed to be a con man, going through life on charm and a genius-level IQ. But it seems he hasn't neglected the physical side of his education: he's pretty good with a gun and has been known to demonstrate some serious ass-kicking when required.
  • Though he's had to take several levels over the years, Primeval's Connor Temple is definitely this by the end of series 3. Especially if one makes the mistake of threatening Abby.
    • Going by early photos, Badass Cretaceous Connor is going to play a big role in series 4. About damn time.
    • Arguably Jess in Series 4 could be considered this, to some extent. Though not a typical 'bookworm', she's certainly the geeky team member now (aside from Connor), but even though she's just nineteen she has zero problems facing the creatures and anomalies themselves, and is described several times as being probably the best team co-ordinator the ARC could possibly have. Not to mention she manages to defuse a bomb (admittedly under Becker's guidance) and shows she knows how to handle a weapon, in her own CMOA.
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles: While watching her beat up everyone, it's sometimes hard to remember that Cameron is incredibly intelligent. This is only natural, though, as she never sleeps, can read very quickly, and spends a lot of nights at the local university library just studying. Apparently, she gets bored easily.
    • Early in the first season, she mentions that she spent one night simply reading a dictionary from one end to the other. Also, in the episode "Self Made Man", she turns to full-on detective mode and tracks down a terminator no one even realized existed and had been hidden for the better part of a century.
  • Tosh, Owen and Jack from Torchwood.
  • Smallville's Brainiac. He's a skinny guy who masquerades as a History Prof. He's also a Robotic Psychopath out to wipe out the human race and can go mano-a-mano with Superman.
  • Djaq and Tuck from Robin Hood. Though both only get their hands on one book each during the show's run, they are clearly well educated and have a love of reading, and are debatably the most Badass characters on the show.
  • The Twilight Zone episode "The Obsolete Man" has Mr. Wordsworth the condemned Meaningful Name librarian in a totalitarian state, who faces off with a state official to prove who has more courage.
  • Alias's Jack Bristow. He's introduced in the pilot as Sydney's no-nonsense father whose Deadpan Snarker could cut glass, and "sells airplane parts". You'd barely trust this guy with your checkbook, much less international espionage. Fast forward to Sydney about to die in a parking garage, and Jack screeches up in his car, sticks his head and his Glock out the window, plays chicken with the assassins, and hightails himself and his daughter out of there. Oh yes, did he mention he's a Double Agent? Jack proves to be an icy-calm stoic game-theorist whose Chessmaster abilities in tandem with his physical abilities just make him even more dangerous.
  • How I Met Your Mother has Marshal Eriksen. He's a lawyer and a damn good one. He also has the ability to analyze and learn any type of board game or card game in quick order and then proceed to win at it. He's also 6'4" and can knock out an even bigger bar bouncer in a heartbeat, although he'd prefer not to.
  • Gabrielle from Xena: Warrior Princess is a bard by profession, always writing stories. As the series progresses, Gabrielle goes from innocent non-combatant to a highly skilled fighter in her own right who earns the Fan Nickname "The Battling Bard of Potidaea."
  • The Season 2 villain on Veronica Mars, Cassidy Casablancas, is characterized as being very intelligent, and his murders are neatly calculated, requiring no physical contact with the victims. This is in direct contrast to Season 1's Big Bad, Aaron Echolls, whose killing was an unplanned crime of passion that resulted from him being unstable and brutally violent.
  • Abby from NCIS. She may be a lab tech but she can disable even hit-men in a melee.
    • McGee is a little bit of this as well.
  • Sanctuary: Helen Magnus is most often seen utilizing her abilities as an Omnidisciplinary Scientist to solve problems and save the day, but her coworkers in the Sanctuary are always quick to point out that she can handle herself in a fight and she has shown the ability to do so many times. Her ability to kick Adam Worth's ass despite his ability to teleport is a good example. Not to mention Monsoon, which is basically just an excuse to show off Helen evading the bad guys and saving the innocent bystanders through a combination of wit, stealth, and hitting people in the face. The following exchange sums it up quite well:

Charlotte: What are you, a spy, an agent or something?
Magnus: A doctor.
Charlotte: Of asskicking!

  • Highlander the Series.
    • Joe Dawson, from. Don't let the fact he's a double amputee fool you. He'll still kick your ass.
    • Methos. Granted some of his bookworm-ness is his cover as a Watcher, but he still fits pretty much.
  • Aunt Marie from Grimm: a retired librarian and terminal cancer patient, she's also one of the last living descendants of Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm and her Airstream trailer has an arsenal, armory, pharmacopoea, and archive giving one the knowledge and tools to deal with vampires, werewolves, ogres, witches, trolls, jaegerbaern, and all other manner of nasties. She bequeaths it to her nephew, but unfortunately dies before she can teach him how to use it all.
    • Monroe arguably fits here as well. He's a multi-lingual clockmaker, chef, and musician who can literally dis-arm someone without meaning to.
  • 'Warehouse 13: Myka, Claudia and H.G. and Artie are all examples of this. The series is exceptional in that more of the heroes fall under Badass Bookworm than non-Bookworm Badasses.


Religion & Mythology[edit | hide]

  • Athena, a Greek goddess of warfare. Contrasting with Ares, a god of warfare who was more into war for the inevitable bloodshed, Athena was more related to strategy and heroism. She is also a goddess of wisdom, being the daughter of Metis, aka cunning itself (well… kind of a daughter). Being a patron of both war and wisdom meant she was a creator of technology, teaching humans how to use war chariots, for example. She joined The Trojan War to help the mortal Diomedes to stick a spear in Ares, driving him out of battle. One of the epithets for Athena was Promachos, or "she who fights in the front," possibly the Ur Example of the Lady of War.
  • Lug, an Irish or Celtic deity. He was a historian, sorcerer, musician, artisan and expert warrior, among other things.
  • Older Than Feudalism: David in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible was a harp virtuoso and psalmist who also knew how to beat up men and beasts much bigger and stronger than himself.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Warhammer 40,000
    • Space Marine Librarians and Techmarines are psychics and engineers in an organisation Badass down to the man; they use their extra abilities to kick even more ass.
    • Eldar Farseers even more so -- visionary masters of lore, leaders of craftworlds, and seriously badass fighters. Now compare them to the Great Harlequin, the leader of the race's organization of historian-librarian-bard-acrobat-ninjas who are some of the most feared close-combat specialists in a game that already turns everything Up to Eleven.
    • Don't forget the Adeptus Mechanicus, although many of them will just run for their lives in fear there are some Magos whose enhancements and equipment make them more than a match even for a Space Marine and have no problem in showing it.
    • Any Champion of Tzeentch would be one, to say nothing less of the master of change himself. Notably Ahriman is both an extreme bookworm and can kill a Monstrous alien with one smack of his staff.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • As far as tabletop games go, the wizard class (or magic-user, in the older versions) is probably the oldest example. Raise your hand if you can wish for something and have it come true. See this motivator. One should always remember the primary rule of Epic Levels and Forgotten Realms. "Beyond level 20, you should listen to the wizard." Epic monks can shatter castles with their fists. Epic wizards can shatter planets with a couple gestures and some words.
    • Similarly, Archivists and Cloistered Clerics (the divine bookworms) can cast Divine Power to transform themselves into beefy bruisers.
    • There is a feat called Knowledge Devotion which allows one to translate knowledge about a given creature directly into more accurate and powerful attacks against that creature. Numerically, the potential benefit rivals the most powerful non-epic weapon enchantments.
    • Third edition Bards are basically fantasy Indiana Joneses. In addition to decent fighting ability, they get the Bardic Knowledge ability. For class skills they get Appraise, Decipher Script, Gather Information Spellcraft and Use Magic device; all of the "knowing skills". They are also the only other base class that has every knowledge skill as a class skill. A successful Knowledge check gives the character (not just the player) meta-game knowledge of a creature's stats, giving the player a huge advantage in combat. And they have Whip Proficiency!
    • Bards are also the only core class with Speak Language as a class skill; all other classes aside from the non-core spell thieves, paragon humans, and (depending on skill selections)NPC class experts have to gain additional languages as a cross class skill.
  • The GURPS Black Ops RPG setting features an organisation of Badass special ops/MIBs, with two divisions filling the Badass Bookworm category: the Science division (multidisciplinary scientists) and the Tech division (engineers). The former usually knows medicine and how to best fix or take apart the human body, while the latter can build ultra-tech (if unstable) superweapons.
  • The World Of Darkness has entire playable supernatural factions devoted to this trope:
    • The Ordo Dracul in Vampire: The Requiem throws themselves into this trope. The Sworn of the Axe, the "militaristic" faction of the Ordo Dracul, are Badass Bookworms par excellence. For the "goon squad" of the covenant, the Sworn of the Axe is nevertheless filled with geniuses, mad scientists and librarians... all of whom are dead fascinated in mowing over anybody that stands in the way of Transcendence from vampiric existence. However, the Ordo Dracul's founder, Vlad Tepes, subverts this trope quite a bit, though; Vlad starts out as Vlad The Impaler (yes) and it takes him 200 years to get to the point where he can read. Then, of course, he goes on to become the Vampire L. Ron Hubbard.
    • The Mysterium (Mage: The Awakening), meanwhile, has been in steady existence since the fall of motherfucking Atlantis. It's been hinted at fairly regularly that the Mysterium could have Awakened the whole of mankind a dozen times over, but they choose not to, if only because they are the librarians of the secrets of everything, and nobody comes to understand anything about the real universe unless they pay homage to the Mysterium first.
    • Also, innumerable hunters in Hunter: The Vigil also fall into this flavor, including the Loyalists of Thule (ex-Nazi occult researchers turned to killing the bad things and trying to atone for World War 2 being their fault) and the Null Mysteriis, who blend the Badass Bookworm with the Sufficiently Analyzed Magic.
    • The Autumn Court from Changeling: The Lost are also this to the degree. They're the ones who are most typically focused on finding out just how far fae magic goes, so they're the ones who study the Hedge, look into the origins of Contracts, and gather as more occult wisdom and lore as they can. But all courts have a guiding emotion. Theirs? Is fear. Which means they have powers that can make you wet your pants with a mere gaze.
  • Meet the Twilight Caste from Exalted. They are engineers, scholars, and lore-keepers; the signature character, Arianna, Exalted while trying to interpret a particularly tricky poem. They are also the ones most likely to design a BFG powered solely by the flow of the universe and unleash the kind of sorcery that can scythe entire battlefields clean.
    • They were also largely responsible for exiling the Primordial Malfeas to Elsewhere, and then sealing a whole bunch of Yozis (plus every demon in Creation) into him - effectively, they created Hell. The "scythe entire battlefields clean" spell is aptly named "Total Annihilation", the magical equivalent of a tactical nuke - and it's far from the only one. There is also the Light of Solar Cleansing, not to be confused with Cleansing Solar Light - basically killing all "creatures of darkness" (doing severe damage to bosses) within 5–10 miles from the caster. And if you are smart, you can use a Crucible of Tarim to bottle spells for future use...
    • Their cousins, the Daybreak and Defiler Castes, are also this, which is unsurprising given they're based on Twilight Exaltations. As of setting start, they've only been around about 5 years, so they haven't had the chance to match the Twilights' full scope... yet.
  • Anne Marie in A Touch Of Evil is quite literally one, as she gets an increase in her Combat skill for each book in her possession.
  • Rifts has the Rogue Scholar and Rogue Scientist classes. They are seekers of lost knowledge and Lost Technology, dedicated to uplifting the masses and learning all they can. However, Rifts Earth being the Crapsack World it is, they can also handle themselves in a fight, with weapon proficiency and hand-to-hand skills being part of their starting package of skills.


Toys[edit | hide]

  • Bionicle:
    • Nuju is basically a crabby seer/stargazer with his head in the clouds, but can be rather scary when in battle. It turns out that his Ice power is the one thing that the mighty Morbuzakh plant is afraid of, and while he and the rest of the Toa Metru are being suffocated by its tendrils, he manages to get away and rescue the others using basic physiology. He also has a lot of hilariously sarcastic one-liners that nobody else in the series could pull off.

Nuju: "Whatever it is, leave it. If you can't leave it, then take it back out with you. If it's too heavy to carry back out, then how did you get it in here in the first place?"

    • Whenua as well.
    • Mutran and Chirox can also count as this, being that they are both mad scientists responsible for several of the more destructive Rahi (animal) species in the world - Chirox’s in particular are described as “adding nothing to the ecosystem beyond death and destruction”. Chirox is also a devastating warrior, even after being rendered completely blind by the Mask of Life’s explosion of power.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The World Ends With You
    • Sho Minamimoto. He will nuke you with pi.
    • Also, Joshua. He's the most intelligent member of the playable cast, and he's the Composer, which pretty much means he's a physical god.
  • Gordon Freeman from Half-Life. Seriously, a theoretical physicist you do not want to cross, ever.
    • Half-Life 2 even calls attention to this. There's one area where Gordon hears a recorded announcement by Dr. Breen, chief collaborator to Earth's new alien overlords, chewing out a division of soldiers for not being able to stop him. "This is not some agent provocateur or highly trained assassin we are discussing. Gordon Freeman is a theoretical physicist who had hardly earned the distinction of his PhD..." Yet, when the revolution comes, everybody's behind Gordon. Because things in front of him tend to die.
    • One HL2 fanfic goes so far as to have the two protagonists find out that Gordon occupied the same level on the Combine's threat roster as planet-destroying warships.
  • Lexicus Runewright in RuneScape. Looks like a harmless librarian before he starts summoning books that shoots pages at you, plus multiple exploding books that could easily tear you to shreds if you don't have the sense to run.
  • Probably one of the earliest FPS examples is The Hacker from System Shock, where he manages to survive in the space station filled to the brim with mutants and cyborgs controlled by the Megalomaniac AI. That Military-Grade Neural Interface probably helped too.
  • Extremely literal video game example: Lex (a worm) defeats a variety of monsters and creatures of legend in Bookworm Adventures, despite the fact that he is lacking not only weapons but limbs. And he is also using the power of words.
  • Several of the magic users in Fire Emblem, especially if they're of the Mage/Sage, Cleric/Priest/Bishop or the Shaman/Druid classes. More specific examples are:
    • Azel the Fire Mage (FE4);
    • Mage General Cecilia, Niime the Hermit (FE6);
    • Canas, Renault, Lord Pent of Reglay, Erk, Big Bad Nergal and his Shadow Archetype, the Arch-Sage Athos (FE7);
    • Lute, Saleh, Ewan, Artur, Knoll, Natasha, Lyon (FE8).
    • Soren (FE9/10)
    • And for non-magic users who are still Badass Bookworms... the Cavalier Lance from FE6 fit the trope to a T.
  • Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice
    • Raspberyl is another example. Literally fights you with a book (and has access to fire spells).
  • Mitsuru Kirijo of Persona 3 is a top-marks student, president of the Absurdly Powerful Student Council, and daughter of the man who owns the school. She's also quite handy with a rapier. At one point late in the game, she even tries shouting down a Cosmic Horror. Even her own teammates are terrified by her at times.
  • Daniel Dankovski from Pathologic is a world-famous pathophysiologist, but he is also an excellent sniper and sharpshooter, and he is very strong at knife- and fist- fight.
  • Nightwolf from Mortal Kombat, before Hell broke loose in MK3, was a historian whose knowledge of both shamanism and Native American legends as well as his physical strength was what made him qualified to become one of the Earth Warriors. In the cartoon, he's also a computer genius on top of a fighter and a walking myth encyclopaedia. In the original arcade Mortal Kombat 3, as Nightwolf, you could actually throw your opponent, run after him, and throw him before he had a chance to recover. Also, in the newer games, he tends to have easy combos that take 25% of your life bar.
  • Citan from Xenogears is one of the best examples of this. He enjoys reading, tinkering with machinery, and other bookish hobbies, yet is one of the planet's best swordsmen, as well as being a master Gear pilot who has had an Omnigear since even before the events of the game).
  • The first six members of Organization XIII have this as part of their backstory (or so we assume); Six brilliant apprentices of a wise and loved king... who manage to release The Heartless on the worlds and become the most powerful Nobodies around. Zexion, who was one of the original 6 Organization XIII members, fits this trope literally. His weapon? A book.
  • Team Fortress 2 has the Engineer, although the "bookworm" part tends to take a backseat to the stereotypically Texan elements of his character in the actual game. He also has Mad Scientist tendencies.
    • The Medic is this too. He's got a lot more brains than brawn, but he's tough enough to hack you to pieces with a rusty saw with a needle sticking out of it.
  • A few examples from the Phantasy Star series:
    • Hugh from the second installment is seemingly just some random biologist who can use status debuffs, nothing especially useful, until he gains a surprisingly accurate multi-target insta-kill spell. That and the fact he can use a mace!
    • Hahn from the fourth game also does this, but can combine it with something else to cast Holocaust (you have to be badass to get away with that level of tactlessness)
  • Jaina Proudmoore in Warcraft III is actually like this, seeing that she really LIKES studying and declares to be 'in love' with her studies or profession as a mage, since it lets her study a lot.
    • As of the writing of this contribution, Discipline Priests, who also count as Badass Preacher.
  • Patchouli Knowledge from the Touhou series is a pretty good example of the "magician" variety: she closets herself in (what amounts to) her own private library virtually all the time—researching new and innovative ways to produce More Dakka. And she's not afraid to use them! Though the badassness level is sometimes slightly hurt by the fact that her frail health and asthma, due to lack of exercise and open air, can impede her ability to recite the incantations or endure protracted battles. Not that most people live to see the point where this matters, of course.
    • Also Marisa Kirisame, who got to be a magician in a setting where most true magicians have an inherent gift solely by studying really hard... and has enough firepower in her hands to turn a country into a crater. And very little moral trouble with using it, too.
    • Let's not forget Nitori Kawashiro. She goes by with the nickname "Super Youkai Warhead", and arms herself with an Extending Arm plus and Invisibility Module she built herself, despite the fact that the general level of technology in Gensokyo being equivalent to the Sengoku Jidai era. Or even earlier.
  • Keats in Folklore goes from mild mannered skeptical Intrepid Reporter to destroyer of souls with seemingly little convincing.
  • Isaac Clarke from Dead Space. He is the one and only to survive the events of the game. His weapons are MINING TOOLS, he is just a space engineer, and still manages to cut down (literally) an army of space zombies.
  • Chrono Trigger's Lucca. She built a robot and a teleporter while living in a quasi-medieval time period, not to mention the Time Key you use through most of the game. Her techo-geekness is established by her house, strewn as it is with books and cabling. She later repairs a robot 1,500 years ahead of her time. She also wields pistols and fire magic.
  • In older versions of Dwarf Fortress, order your bookkeeper to take the most accurate inventory of your stocks possible. He, a weak, unassuming social dwarf, will proceed to lock himself in his study, and work silently for roughly a season. Eventually, he will re-emerge, and after all those hours of updating the records, will have acquired the character notes 'Ultra-Mighty', 'Extremely Agile', and 'Unbelievably Tough'.
  • Shad, from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, could be a contender for this trope. He's a textbook nerd, with glasses and argyle socks and a freakishly large bow tie, who natters on extensively about the ancient race of bird-people called the Oocca. He's also tolerably muscular, uses an ornamental dagger as a bookmark, and forms a Resistance with the characters Auru, Ashei, and Rusl—all of whom are easily defined as being Badass. Not to mention the ancient Hyrulean BAZOOKA. It stands to reason that Shad wouldn't be part of that little collective if he couldn't hold his own.
  • Both Arcturus and Valerian Mengsk of StarCraft are both trained in swordsmanship and the use of a rifle as well as the former being a Magnificent Bastard and the latter being an Adventurer Archaeologist.
  • Lucian of the Elite Four in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl mentions that he just finished a book when you arrived and has the book depicted in his entering battle animation in Platinum. He's the last of the Elite Four, a devastating Psychic-type specialist. If you talk to him after beating him, he mentions he's going to go back to reading in order to prepare for his next battle. Awesome.
    • Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire: Rustboro Gym Leader Roxanne is also depicted as one, especially in the manga - where she forces all hopefuls into taking a written exam for the right to challenge her. It's pretty verbose on top of that, meaning that with one exception, everyone who got to fight her had some serious language comprehension skills.
    • Also of note is Cyrus from Team Galactic. Scientist, engineer, roboticist, strongest Pokemon trainer in the team and one of the strongest trainers in all Sinnoh, and the man who captured the embodiments of Willpower, Emotion, Knowledge, Space, and Time.
    • Azelf could be this in Pokémon form. It's a small, Psychic-type pixie, so it seems like it would specialize in the Special end of the spectrum, which is partially true; its Special Attack is very high. However, its physical Attack stat is just as high.
  • Jeff Andonuts from EarthBound. Unusual for an RPG in that he's also a Badass Normal; while he can't use Psychic Powers, he can make bazookas out of spare parts.
  • Likewise Lloyd in MOTHER 1, though storywise he had to Take A Level In Badass first.
  • Edmund from Gaia Online got his start as a Mad Scientist. Then he became a superhero. Then he fought off an Ax Crazy vampire hitman... multiple times... These days, he's supposedly retired. Supposedly.
  • It is heavily implied that Quintessential British Gentleman Professor Layton is one of these, even though the games consist mostly about solving puzzles. One particular example of this appears in the second game, in which one cutscene shows that Layton is quite proficient with a sword.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics: the Calculator does stuff with math. Stuff like injuring every enemy on the screen. At once. Since the game lets you change classes, every one of your characters can learn to be a bookworm. Combine this with all the other classes... Badassery out the behind.
    • Nu Mou Scholars in Final Fantasy Tactics A2 use books as their weapons of choice. Seriously, no one expect a short and fragile race like the Nu Mou to be physically strong since they specialize in magic, but Scholars can deal a good amount of physical damage and use spells that hits everyone by just reading from the book. Human Seers also uses books for weapons and their Magick Frenzy ability lets them hit enemies with spells AND the book.
    • Not only can Calculators nuke every enemy on the screen with high-level spells, they do it for no MP cost! If properly used, Calculators are an even bigger Game Breaker than the infamously broken optional character Orlandu.
  • John Vattic from Second Sight, a skinny, awkward-looking academic... that also happens to be one of the most powerful psychics in the game. Plus, as seen in the first level of the game, he can kill people with his bare hands.
  • Briar Rose in The Lost Chapters expansion of Fable I. Spends a lot of her time shuttling back to the Heroes' Guild to research eldritch incantations and ancient prophecies, but is fully capable of throwing down on fell abominations when necessary.
  • Mass Effect
    • Liara T'Soni is a rather unassuming archaeologist, until you find out she can kill you with her mind. If the player isn't an Adept, she's the most powerful biotic in the game.
    • Tali'Zorah nar Rayya: don't let that 'all tech' rating fool you, she can pack a mean shotgun and gets the strongest shields in the game pretty much by default, in addition to her ability to kill you with her toolkit. Quarians in general tend to fit the trope. Their entire life and culture revolves around spaceships and technology, and their environmental suits make them look like skinny engineering nerds. But don't let that fool you.
    • Professor Mordin Solus. Motor Mouth doctor. Ran clinic during plague, threat to mercenaries. Came to start trouble. Killed them, left bodies on display. Formerly part of Special Tasks Group. (inhale) Never saw him coming. Salarians in general fit trope. First impressions awkward, but Salarian ingenuity, intelligence, and logic will hold the line.
    • To a degree, Kaidan Alenko. He's a techie with medical training who initially appears to simply be a Nice Guy. However, as you learn later, he's also an incredibly powerful biotic (for a human) who (accidentally) killed one of his instructors in biotic training who threatened the girl he liked and then Kaidan after Kaidan stood up for her.
  • Eternal Darkness
    • Alexandra Roivas is a student in abstract mathematics and number theory.
    • Her grandfather was a clinical psychologist who, in the chapter you play him, gets two of the most awesome guns in the game (a sawed-off shotgun that can be used at close range to remove one arm and two heads from 9-foot-tall brutes, and an elephant gun that knocks him over when he fires it). Other people were Edwin Lindsay (Think Indiana Jones, with a beard), a 14th-century monk, Roberto (an architect during the Renaissance), and a WWI journalist who puts all that spare ammo lying around to good use. Everyone gets to dismember zombies and other monsters.
  • Protagonist Giacomo from Rise of Legends is this. Who else would lead a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that culminates in him destroying Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who claim to be gods?
  • Tails from Sonic the Hedgehog. He is a freaking genius, even making a robotic suit that rivals Eggman's, while at the same time being fairly fast, having the ability to fly, and, in some games, being able to take out Eggman by himself. Not through intelligence, though. No, through beating the ever loving crap out of him! Heck, in Sonic Adventure Series, he has to go and beat Eggman to a missile then take on one of Eggman's mechs by himself, saving the city SINGLE HANDEDLY.
  • Alex Mercer from Prototype. Before the events of the game, he had already earned a phD in genetic engineering by age 29, and it's heavily implied that his work was leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else's. Then he's infected with The Virus and offensive abilities so great that he can slice a tank in half (and then pick up those halves and smash helicopters out of the sky with them) and decimate entire bases single-handedly, as well as defensive abilities that enable him to survive point-blank tank fire and survive a direct hit to the face with a nuke. Oh, and he also gains all of the knowledge and memories of anyone he consumes—yes, that includes other geniuses, as well as military personnel whose expertise lies in operating tanks, choppers, etc.
  • If leading the Squad that wins practically every major victory of an entire war counts as badassery, Gunter Welkin from Valkyria Chronicles definitely counts. He's not a true soldier but just a student learning biology to become a school teacher. A skill which actually helps him win a number of critical battles, by using the environment to his advantage.
  • Trilby, from the Chzo Mythos, studied hard at engineering and mechanics before turning to the life of a Gentleman Thief. What truly makes him a badass is that he used his skills to face the forces of evil not once, not twice... but THREE TIMES! Having also become a Man In Black he literally becomes The Stuff of Legend.
  • Grace Nakimura from the Gabriel Knight series, who is well versed in tai chi and not about to let herself be a Damsel in Distress.
  • Mical/Disciple and Bao-Dur from the second Knights of the Old Republic. Mical is a historian and spy trying to salvage Jedi history and lore for the Republic. You meet him doing a little "light" reading in the bombed-out, nasty-critter-infested ruins of the Dantooine Enclave. His starting class is Soldier (VERY tough, plenty of combat feats), but you cross-class him to a Consular (MASSIVE amounts of Force whoop-ass). Bao-Dur is a shy, soft-spoken engineer who came up with such a nasty weapon of mass destruction (the Mass Shadow Generator) that even the Mandalorians were horrified when they saw it in action. He's also no stranger to more...personal combat, either. It's what cost him his left arm. Badass he is, he built his own artificial one. You can cross class him as a Guardian (mostly because his mechanical arm prevents him from wearing robes, thus limiting his ability to use Force powers anyway).
  • Tales of the Abyss has Colonel Badass Jade Curtiss. He discovered/invented fomicry, an entire branch of science, by himself before he even turned ten; he is the personal confidant and right-hand-man to Emperor Peony, with some people speculating that Jade is really running things through his emperor; he is well versed in several scientific subjects, including medicine; he figures out the game's big plot twist almost instantly, if you pay attention near the beginning of the game; he is, excepting seventh fonists, the most powerful fonist in the world; by the end of the game he's even shrugged off the effects of a Fon Slot Seal, a rare and dangerous weapon akin to a nuke in-universe.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, Genis is small, he's smart and carries a toy kendama as a weapon. He also has the most dangerous spells at his disposal. His sister also has her moments.
  • Super Robot Wars has Shu Shirakawa, pilot of the Granzon. He has multiple P.H.D.'s at age 21, a strong grasp on alchemy, and improved on technology granted by Guest, which involves weaponized black holes. Also, he and Jade Curtiss above have the same seiyuu.
  • Jason Hudson, the secondary protagonist of Call of Duty Black Ops; in addition to being a double-major in psychology and political science prior to his service, he is described as an excellent tactician with genius-level IQ.
  • In Heroes of Might and Magic V Tribes of the East, vampire lord Giovanni dismisses Arantir as a humble bookworm, then attempts to backstab him... and Arantir easily eradicates him. Arantir points out that there is great power to be found in books, especially magical ones.
  • Fallout: New Vegas
    • The Courier, of course, can be this.
    • Arcade Gannon. Speaks fluent Latin? Check. Quotes Shakespeare? Check. Reads books about socioeconomics for fun? Check. Owns Ancestral Armor and can take down a Death Claw with a pistol? Check.
    • Veronica is skilled with all manner of tech and is good at punching people.
  • Shantotto from the MMO Final Fantasy XI easily qualifies. She's short, a professor, and can cast ancient magic spells without useing what some would call the "magic casting pose."
    • She also says everything in a rhryme, for most people that would take a lot of time.
  • Edgar Roni Figaro from Final Fantasy VI is an engineer who outfitted the entire Figaro Castle with the ultimate defense—a submerge mode! He also fights with his engineering tools, including a drill, a bolt gun, and a CHAINSAW. And did I mention that he's the king?
  • The heroes of I.M. Meen. Enough to fight trolls and demons bare-handed, literally punching out Cthulu .
  • In Golden Sun games, Mercury Adepts are prone to this. To date, we have:
  • Ghostbusters the Video Game upgrades Winston to the badass bookworm status of his colleagues, stating that he's just received his doctorate.
  • Shulk in Xenoblade Chronicles is a rare example of a main JRPG protagonist being this. He is a weapons researcher who is studying the Sword of Plot Advancement, and eventually wields it himself. Even before that, he's pretty adept at swordplay, while being smarter than the usual Wangsty idiots we're used to.
  • Mages in general in Dark Souls naturally enough. Of the specific NPCs are Big Hat Logan and his apprentice, Griggs.


Web Animation[edit | hide]

  • Homestar Runner
    • Arguably, Strong Sad. Sure, he's a fat, well-read elephant. Yeah, he is smarter than half the cast. But the only one who can beat him up is Strong Mad, and several times mentions that Strong Bad is no threat to him. On top of that, he has beaten Coach Z to an inch of his life, single-handedly stopped the invasion of King Bubgonzola, strategically beat down the resistance in Strong Badia the Free, is a high-ranking officer in the Homestarmy and was able to survive being run-down by a truck and having it parked on him with only short-term damage. Not to mention the ways he gets back at Strong Bad, including saving snowballs in the fridge since he was 8 just to pelt him with them, and in Baddest Of The Bands, tazing him repeatedly.
    • Pom Pom tops this. He is the Only Sane Man, and has made many a blockbuster. But don't tick him off, or he'll five-hit combo you into next week.
  • Sudoku from Banana-nana-Ninja! is a Child Prodigy Gadgeteer Genius, who is also a Ninja. And a tangerine. In the Dueling Ninjas game, his Transformation Ray can turn you into a pie or impale you with a sword.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Nearly every educated Spark (mad scientist) in Girl Genius qualifies for this Trope, including the protagonist, Agatha. Not only can they build death rays and turn even the most innocuous of mechanical items into death traps (such as a merry-go-round that can level a small town), but they are generally shown kicking butt with their bare hands (and feet) as well as with less sophisticated weapons, such as giant wrenches and rapiers. And don't forget brooms! Badassness depending on anger level seems to be common among sparks.
  • Both Narbonic and Skin Horse have more than enough Badass Bookworms to satisfy even the most jaded troper. If Dave from the former isn't the very CHARACTERIZATION of this trope near the end, well.
  • Dr. McNinja. Totally badass. Has an MD.
  • Axe Cop: Uni-Man. He comes from a planet whose collective intelligence caused a mutation in the planet itself, and is himself a brilliant scientist, currently developing powerful weapons for Axe Cop and his team. However, when Dr. Stinky Head steals his unicorn horn, Uni-Man interrupts the ensuing carnage to reclaim his horn...and then this happens.
  • Vaarsuvius from The Order of the Stick is an excellent example.
  • Zaebos from Earthsong is a member of the elite Haven Guard, and the librarian.
  • Schlock Mercenary
    • Captain Tagon usually wears epaulet grenades. Kevyn Andreyasn "I'm not a Mad Scientist" used to wear a tank killer (shield-breaching) grenade floating over one shoulder and 13,75 kiloton yield antimatter bomb over another.

I am Commander Kevyn Andreyasn , I have shaped the destiny of worlds, of nation, of galaxies. I have created and destroyed. I have followed and I have led. I flirt with death for a living and I have cheated with the reaper more time than I can remember.

    • Also, Para Ventura can pull some showy daring feats when she doesn't freeze in fear, Doctor Bunnigus, Reverend Theo, the company's lawyer Massey, Ennesby, and probably a few others.
  • Colin from Goodbye Chains. Attended MIT with enough engineering skills...to blow everything the shit up. Oh, and guns. Can't forgot those.
  • Keychain of Creation: Misho. Dear Gods in Yu-Shan Misho. Now being a Twilight Caste Solar is all about being a Badass Bookworm in the first place, but Misho is a glasses-wearing healer who prefers to use Awesomeness By Analysis to defeat his foes. And if you piss him off, he will obliterate you.
  • Felicia Whitewind from Fetch Quest: Saga of the Twelve Artifacts also qualifies, since not only is she a scholar, she's also capable of making it hard for thieves to get to her. Just watch her and you'll see.
  • In Jill Trent, She-Sir Science Sleuth, a parody Remix Comic of the original Jill Trent Science Sleuth feature, Jill fights like the man she once was, but thanks to the wonder of Femavium, her girl-brain cells now have the proportional density of 58 girls! Perfect for Doing Science!
  • Benjamin Hewitt, protagonist of Bibliography qualifies.
  • Joey from Opey the Warhead. Complete with Berserk Button that turns him almost Axe Crazy. Thankfully Opey snaps him out of it.
  • Dexter from Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi is able to fight on even terms against the Powerpuff Girls with his robot backpack. Also, in later chapters he fights in hand to hand combat against his rival Mandark.
  • Alexander Hamilton and Nathan Hale of The Dreamer definitely qualify.
  • bookwyrms is about some female students in a magic academy who work in its library in retrieving ancient lost tomes. To quantify their power, the demigoddess isn't the strongest one (despite displaying Hercules levels of might)
  • Nan in Lovecraft Is Missing is a librarian who also happens to be an expert in the occult. Considering this is a Cosmic Horror Story based on the works of the Master Himself, that's not exactly a field for the fainthearted. Luckily, Nan is a highly effective ass-kicker who faces thugs and Eldritch Abominations with equal aplomb.
  • Ayanah from Pawn. A physically weak scholar type, she uses her considerable smarts to traverse a legendary dungeon that claimed the lives of mighty warriors, stops the demon guardian from killing her by reciting an obscure demon law, beat said guardian by challenging her to a game she knew the demon knew nothing about, and effectively enslaved said demon with a kiss.
  • Bob of True Magic, pictured above. He later threatens somebody whilst the sword's still in the book.
  • Rose from Homestuck is constantly teased about her reading material by the other kids, which is heavily weighted on the goth and fantasy side of things. Upon entering the Medium, though, she uses that knowledge to become a powerful witch, or something very like it.
  • xkcd to the forces of darkness: remember that sysadmins are obsessive people who played way too much FPS.
  • Zokusho Comics: Jack's a mage and apparently plays chess quite well. He also sets people on fire.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • In The Gamers Alliance, Richelieu wears glasses, looks somewhat unkempt, has a fragile-looking body and spends considerable time reading dusty tomes in his tower. However, when push comes to shove, he shows his opponents exactly why he is one of Alent's most powerful mages.
  • Perhaps it's a bit of a stretch, but Chip, a cowardly bookworm from the web fiction serial Dimension Heroes, exhibits power that matches that of his teammates when push comes to shove.
  • Dr. Tran has a PhD in Kicking Your Ass.
  • Tech Infantry has Icarus Hicks, a medical researcher and neurosurgeon who manages to hold his own against Space Marines in Power Armor.
  • Ashpaw Longstripe in Tasakeru is a quiet, even-tempered, philosophical type. He also carries around a gigantic morning star as big as the other characters' heads. And it has spikes.
  • Tuck and others in The Saga of Tuck are D&D geeks, sci-fi bookworms and math geeks. With a piquant overlay of close arms fighting and covert counterintelligence ops.
  • If there is a scientist in Darwin's Soldiers, there is a very high chance they can hold their own in combat.
  • Heroic Sociopath Jobe Wilkins of the Whateley Universe. Published research papers in biology when he was about ten. Has more biology patents than some entire sections of the United Nations. Just developed a new cure for dysentery. Looks like a scrawny little weasel. Outsmarted a team of trained criminals from the Deville Academy, and then beat the crap out of the one who hadn't yet been infected by the disease Jobe was just researching, in a Crowning Moment of Awesome that was also a Crowning Moment of Funny even though he was giving the villains hideous diseases. In his Combat Final, he nearly beat Punch, who is a TK brick who can knock over a car with one finger.
  • Half-Human Hybrid Shane Myers from Strange Little Band is one of these. He's generally quiet and unassuming. More interested in his research and family than anything else. He can also kick ass both physically and psychically when he needs to.
  • MSF High Forum: Joni, sort of. She's not quite badass yet, but she's studying to be a mage... And she has the bookworm part down pat (she has a bookshelf which spans an entire wall of her dorm room).
  • Ather City: At first, Nick seems like an annoying nerd who tries to make people scared of him by having better weapons than them. Then he throws a building at you.
  • Derek the Bard, of Warning! Reader's Advisory—magical librarian extraordinaire.
  • The Hermit from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe is perhaps the smartest being on the planet. He's read entire libraries, and with an eidetic memory can recall it all. He can just look at you and by taking in the details of your clothing, your stance, and so on can tell where you've been and what you've been up to. And he's a bad guy with teams of assassins at his beck and call, so don't piss him off!


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Samantha aka Sam of Totally Spies!. Heck, the first OP has her expertly using a chemistry kit as Clover and Alex watch her in amazement. While at the same time, she is able to fight off the random villains that the trio encounter just as effectively as her partners. AND she also manages to get and keep excellent grades at school.
    • As if that wasn't enough, the spinoff The Amazing Spiez brings us Marc, who is almost a much younger male version of Sam. This is lampshaded in "Operation Killer Condos" when the Spiez use one of their gadgets to disguise as the original spies (and Jerry), and Marc-as-Sam points out that he gets to be the smart one.
  • While Justice League member The Question is more crackpot than bookworm, he does distill this trope into one glorious moment where he nails a guy in the face with a computer monitor just after he's finished using it.
  • Raven from Teen Titans is very reserved, and spends a lot of her time reading. But anyone who seriously pisses her off will have their ass handed to them. Just ask Dr. Light (see the episode "Spellbound.")
  • In Challenge of the Super Friends, Asian Captain Ethnic Samurai (real name: Toshio Etou) was actually a Japanese history professor in the University of Tokyo before he was turned into a super hero by the New Gods of New Genesis.
  • In Spider-Man: The Animated Series Doctor Otto Octavius was a brilliant scientist and teacher before becoming the villainous Dr. Octopus. In the new The Spectacular Spider-Man series, his turn is even more pronounced. Meek and abused by his employer, the reluctant flunkie Doctor Octavius endures a lab accident that fuses his robotic harness to his spine. Otto wakes up newly Multi-Armed and Dangerous, and feeling downright megalomaniacal to boot. He soon proves just how much of a threat he can be.
    • Doc Ock in general. His first battle with Spiderman in the comics wasn't even close.
  • In The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, scientist Benton Quest sometimes shows Badass tendencies (though he's usually overshadowed by his more conventionally badass bodyguard, Race Bannon), particularly during his escape from the villain's headquarters in "General Winter" and his climactic fight with Big Bad Dr. Zin in "The Robot Spies." This was also true in the original Jonny Quest series, in which Dr. Quest is a "real dynamo when he gets going" according to Race Bannon himself.
  • In Spiral Zone, Benjamin Davis Franklin of the Zone Riders is a geeky, scrawny science nerd who looks like "Weird Al" Yankovic. Nevertheless, he's tough enough to kick Big Bad Overlord in the face in one episode.
  • Danny's brainy older sister Jazz in Danny Phantom discovers she has amazing ghost fighting skills in "Maternal Instincts". She has since displayed said skills in a couple of other episodes. We're going to ignore "Secret Weapons".
  • Dexter, from Dexter's Laboratory, is a tiny, stub-limbed boy genius who spends all his time in his secret laboratory, trying—in vain—to keep his pretty-princess Cloudcuckoolander sister out. Until a monster attacks the city, or aliens invade, or a meteor threatens Earth; then Dexter pulls out one of his giant, anime-inspired robots, super-powered exoskeleton suits, or space ships and kicks ass. He also seems to have learned kung-fu at some point.
  • And let's not forget Blossom from The Powerpuff Girls.
  • From Metalocalypse: Dethklok's manager, Charles Foster Ofdensen.
  • Transformers
    • Starscream was a Cybertronian scientist before his ascension to air commander of the Decepticon forces.
    • There's also Wheeljack, the cheerful crazy inventor, who can hold his own in battle quite well.
  • To an extent, Kyle from South Park. On the outside, a potty-mouth, angry nine-year old who's also the smart one of the group, but the movie demonstrated that he can hack into top secret military databases. He has also been shown to be fairly athletic at points of the show and fully capable of kicking Cartman's ass when necessary.
  • Dr.Splitzy/Splitzy of Captain Simian and The Space Monkeys is the ship's engineer whose technical expertise is matched by his subtle but effective fighting skills. Then again, you do not want to mess with orangutans.
  • Tanya, the Gadgeteer Genius of The Mighty Ducks, may wear glasses and speak with a stutter, but she holds her own with pros in ice hockey as well as on the battlefield.
  • Bishop, from the newer Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003. You THINK that he's the resident Obstructive Bureaucrat, but when Mikey finally gets to take his revenge Bishop easily wipes the floor with him.
    • Also, Donatello.
  • Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon seems like an overthinking klutz of a Viking, but once he befriends Toothless and seriously studies Dragons, he is able to handle the species and use inventions with them in battle that leave his warrior contemporaries agape.
  • In Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, "Doc" Hartford's Series 5 ability is useless in combat, and he's the most formally-educated of the four (Ph.D in Computer Psychiatry). Still, he's still able to keep up with the other three using a standard issue blaster, his fists, and his copious wit. Hand him a sword, and he's truly frightening.
  • Arguably, Gargoyles has two. First is the obvious one, Lexington. Though the smallest of the clan, he maintains incredible strength (like bending metal spikes). What's more, ever since waking up to a technologically advanced society, he's engrossed himself in it. He built a motorcycle and flew a chopper. Then you have Goliath: it goes without saying that he fits the "badass" portion of the trope. However, he's often been seen alone, in a library, busying himself with the tomes therein.
  • Twilight Sparkle of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic is a dedicated bookworm to the extent that her mentor ended up having to order her to take a break from her studies to make some friends. One thing led to another and she winds up having to fight Nightmare Moon (a Physical God who is the embodiment of darkness and the night) one-on-one to protect them. In later episodes she faces a full-grown dragon, a cockatrice, a giant monster-bear made of stars, and a Hydra on her own. She isn't always successful, but she never hesitates to try. She also manages to place fifth in a marathon, despite never having run in a race before, by studying books on long-distance running techniques beforehand.
    • Although it does turn out that facing a cockatrice is actually the worst way to fight one - much better to look away. Even so, in the pilot of Season 2, she works out how to re-unite her friends and beat Discord by reading through her own damn writings on the matter!
  • Huey Freeman from The Boondocks is probably the most intelligent character of the series and is often seeing reading or watching the news to heighten his awareness. He is also one of the best fighters of the series and his kung fu skills are something to watch out for from this 10-year-old boy.
  • Abby from The Secret Saturdays.
  • Dot Matrix from Re Boot.
  • The title character from Scaredy Squirrel.
  • Archer, episode "The Rock": Stuck in the laundromat below the ISIS facilities, a couple of the nerdy "drones" employed by ISIS build a GPS-enabled communication device out of cell phones, a cash register, lasers, wires, a belt, paper clips, and the mica crystal of an engagement ring, with which they use to call a helicopter to save Archer and Lana in San Morino. Even Pam is impressed:

Pam: Holy shit, you geeks are badass.

    • As if that wasn't enough, Krieger doesn't activate this makeshift communicator—one that could save Archer and Lana from certain death—until Malory Archer guarantees him and his coworkers a pay raise.
  • Sokka, anyone? In a World full of Elemental Powers and mystical nonsense, he manages to handle himself (sort of) through science, technology, and intuition. Bonus points for also being a Badass Normal as well.
  • Ferb. At the end of an episode that revolved around Phineas training to beat Buford, Ferb knocked the bully out with one pinch. ("Well, he was all up in my face.") He also tends to get the "action"-type sequences in general, being "more of a man of action" than a talker, and, of course, he can build anything. And yet, if it weren't for Phineas he'd probably just be sitting under that tree, reading a book all summer...


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Due to the combination of mandatory military conscription by the state and the cultural emphasis on education in Judaism, Israel produces a number of these.
  • T.E. Lawrence. Yes, that Lawrence. Who by chance is also an example in film. There was also a badass Czech/Austrian theologist working against him.
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein. He's commonly known as an outstandingly influential philosopher. What's less known is that he was also an exceptionally brave soldier in WWI (albeit one fighting for The Empire).
  • Neil De Grasse Tyson. Astronomer, Director of the Hayden Planetarium, wrestler and boxer in school and still, as he told an interviewer "a nerd who could kick your butt."
  • Jamie Hyneman of MythBusters is also a brainy geek who's repeatedly demonstrated his excellent badassery with firearms (for example, he did the Scope Snipe test, firing freehand without a scope on his rifle). In another episode, he smashed the locks off a door, barehanded. Not to mention calmly reporting the situation with a steady voice while being buried alive. Also worth noting that before he was in Mythbusters, he was an owner of a Caribbean salvage diving company, animal wrangler and a wilderness survival expert.
  • Daniel P. Bolger, writer and soldier.
  • Dr. Liviu Librescu, Romanian-born Holocaust survivor, scientist and academic professor. During the Virginia Tech massacre, Librescu personally kept the door shut to prevent gunman Seung-hui Cho from entering the classroom while his students escaped out the windows. He was shot through the door five times before finally succumbing to a shot to the head. Of course, he had a history, since surviving the Holocaust takes a Determinator in itself...
  • Perhaps the best example though was Alfred the Great, King of Wessex and arguably the founder of England. He was bookworm to the Nth degree and he was badass to the Nth degree. He was a great scholar, fond of theology, philosophy, and the classical lore from the Romans and before. He was also a great warrior and could earn the devotion of his followers at a time when kings were expected to fight beside their men. He codified laws, encouraged learning, and organized a military system that could protect against the Danes.
  • Henry Knox. He started out as a bookseller in Boston, who read all the books on military science as they came in. When the Revolutionary War broke out, Washington put him in charge of the artillery corps. He moved sixty tons of cannon overland, through mountains, from Ft. Ticonderoga to Boston and drove the British fleet from the harbor. Knox shared Washington's boat during the crossing of the Delaware and wound up as the nation's first Secretary of War.
  • Roald Dahl was an Ace Pilot in the Second World War. Yes, THAT Roald Dahl. What is arguably more badass is when the war broke out he had to round up all the German people in the town in Africa where he lived. He managed to stop them from escaping with only one death on his hands. Oh, and he did this without any training, being told it was his responsibility only the day before.
  • Most African-American civil rights leaders fit this trope.
    • Frederick Douglass taught himself to read and was an excellent orator. He also beat his slavemaster's ass. No, seriously.
    • Malcolm X.
  • While he never really went out ass-kicking, the fact remains that Niels Bohr, second most important theoretical physicist of the 20th century, aka "The Great Dane", was a huge, two metres tall athlete known for always taking two stairs at once even in old age. Ernest Rutherford, an experimental physicist with a pronounced dislike for theoreticals once remarked, "Bohr is different. He plays football."
  • Leonardo da Vinci was allegedly able to bend iron horseshoes straight. He also used a gun of his own design to kill soldiers attacking the city of Florence from 300 yards away. Good shooting even compared to modern day soldiers. Leonardo da Vinci was an artist first and foremost and lived on the art commissions of wealthy patrons. However, in his resume to Cesare Borgia he did rather focus on his engineering skills, throwing in painting as an afterthought.
  • Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain is a particularly striking example of this trope. Before he joined the Union Army in the civil war, he was a professor at Bowdoin University. At the Battle of Gettysberg he commanded the 20th Maine. Not only was he awarded multiple honors for bravery in combat, including the Medal of Honor, but he also received wounds that should have been fatal, not once but twice. He survived the war and went back to teaching. By the end, he had taught every subject except mathematics.
  • Francis Lovell, later Viscount Lovell. Boyhood best friend of Richard III, he was as much a bookish scholar as Richard was an accomplished warrior. However, upon hearing that Richard had been killed in Battle against Henry Tudor, he proceeded to lead a revolution against Tudor in order to put Richard's heir on the throne, including literally leading the army into battle. The fact that the revolt ultimately failed does not in any way decrease the utter awesome badassedry of that.
  • General Vo Nguyen Giap was an economist, schoolteacher and journalist before he joined up with Ho Chi Minh and became one of the Vietnam People's Army's most badass military leaders.
  • Socrates served as a foot soldier in three major Athenian campaigns. He once escorted Alcibiades, one of his superiors, through a chaotic battle back to safety by himself. He gathered a number of hoplites around him, made faces at the Theban cavalry until they decided to seek easier prey. Then he walked away. The other Athenians either ran or died.
  • His student Plato was a champion wrestler. He might count instead as a Genius Bruiser, however: "plato" means "broad," and he was named such for his broad shoulders.
  • Annmaria Rousey Demars. Ph.D.'s in both engineering and statistics. Barely over five feet tall. Judo gold medals. And she's obviously a great teacher too: her daughter Rhonda Rousey won a gold in judo at the Beijing Olympics. Do NOT mess with this family!
  • Sir Richard Francis Burton. In this case, truth is far more awesome than fiction.
  • Insofar as his appearance on film is concerned, Lieutenant John Chard, (British) Royal Army Engineers probably qualifies. Oh, you don't know who he is? Well, there's this little confrontation called the Battle of Rorke's Drift where about 100 English soldiers held off four thousand Zulus. John Chard was the commanding officer during the battle.
  • Saxton Pope was a doctor and surgical instructor at the University of California who became close friends with Ishi, the last member of almost certainly the last 'uncontacted' First Nation tribe. He picked up a plethora of ancient skills from him, literally wrote the book on modern fieldcraft and bowhunting, and killed grizzly bears using home-made bows and arrows.
  • Siegfried Sassoon: These days, his reputation is as an anti-war war poet. What's often forgotten is that he was just as good at waging war as writing about it, including a single-handed attack on a German trench (which got him a medal) and numerous other near-suicidal exploits. Unlike fellow warrior-poet Wilfred Owen (equally brave and equally decorated), he managed to die of old age.
  • Abraham Lincoln, well-known as a bookworm, is often cited as performing ridiculous feats of physical strength with little to no effort. And then there was the time he was challenged to a duel of his choice, and he chose broadswords in a pit. He also fought pirates and worked for a time as an amateur wrestler, during which time he reportedly invented the choke-slam when an opponent stomped on his feet.
  • Dr. Ruth Westheimer—yes, THAT Dr. Ruth—was a sniper. At 16. She had joined Haganah, an underground Jewish military, where they discovered she was deadly accurate with a sniper rifle and with tossed hand grenades.
  • Isaac Barrow, Newton's old teacher and predecessor as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, was a noted brawler who, while traveling in the Middle East, was credited with driving off pirates who attacked the ship on which he was a passenger with his ferocious swordsmanship.
  • Mosh?eldenkrais. Physicist, WWII Naval Science officer, Judo expert.
  • Brigadier General Nathanael Greene, the youngest general in the US Continental Army at 33, learned everything he knew about warfare from books. That he taught himself to read. He went on to join the revolutionary effort despite a strong limp and a nonviolent religious background-people called him "The Fighting Quaker"
  • Kim Komenich, professor and photo journalist. Also the bane of stupid bank robbers.
  • Pioneers of aeronautics mostly were their own test pilots, with everything this implies: wings of wood and tarp, balls of tool steel. One of last cases was R.E. Alexeev, constructor of Soviet WIGs. Once an Eaglet landed on the rocks. In a later practice flight the pilot slams this machine in a wave when landing. Some instruments in the cockpit shut down, but takeoff engines on the nose are still heard. Alexeev jumps the controls and sets the remaining engines to full throttle, then takes one look from a top hatch, says "To the base." and takes the place of the pilot. They run about 40 km like this, land, then commission members disembark and discover what this was about -- the tail is broken off.
    • There is also Howard Hughes. Many of the airplanes he designed were built from his experience as an airplane racer, and he had little former education in how to build or design aircraft, but went on to make some of the most influential designs in post WW 1 aviation. When he crashed the XF-11 in 1946, he ended up grievously injured and confined to a bed. Deciding he did not like the bed, he ended up dictating a design that had hot and cold running water and push-button adjustments. He was also the archetypal millionaire playboy. Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark were both heavily inspired by Hughes.
  • Space collects this sort of people almost by definition. It's full of even greater dangers on the way of development than air, in that past successes don't ensure at all that the next small step will not be catastrophic. Even after the first manned space flight, a whole generation of Soviet rockets were more likely to vaporize everyone around than to pull their load into orbit, and even later American shuttles were at least half as nasty. The people who get to see the Earth from above for real usually has a lot of training not only to stay alive and well after nearly squashing acceleration, but also to deal with any expected and unexpected technical problems on board.
    • An example: F. Story Musgrave: computer scientist, chemist, mathematician, medical doctor and biophysicist. Went into space six times. On his last mission, he stood up during re-entry to film, taking 1.7 Gs. He was SIXTY-ONE at the time. Also went back to school to get a master's degree in Literature so he could properly express what he'd seen and done.
  • Robbing a bunch of gamers? How hard could it be to take on a bunch of nerds. Just watch out for the guy with a DS.
  • Alexander Hamilton and Nathan Hale.
  • Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson comes across as a quiet smart guy in interviews. He climbed Mt. Everest with a broken leg.
  • Wong Fei Hung. Not only was he a doctor, but he ran a militia too.
  • A.J. Ayer. To quote from his biography: "Ayer was . . . chatting to a group of young models and designers, when a woman rushed in saying that a friend was being assaulted in a bedroom. Ayer went to investigate and found Mike Tyson forcing himself on a young south London model called Naomi Campbell . . . Ayer warned Tyson to desist. Tyson: 'Do you know who the f$*k I am? I'm the heavyweight champion of the world.' Ayer stood his ground: 'And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both preeminent in our field; I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.' Ayer and Tyson began to talk. Naomi Campbell slipped out." He was 77 at the time.
  • There was a US Navy exercise which involved having a team Navy SEALs attempt to take over an amphibious assault ship on their own. They had succeeded in taking over most of the ship and had neutralized most of the security, but were held off by the ship's engineers who armed themselves with tools and pieces of pipe and used safety netting to restrict the areas of approach.
  • Confucius. Despite being the founder of a notoriously dorky, scholarly philosophy, he was said to be tall and strong. The arts he taught included rites, music, arithmetic, literature, archery and charioting, the last two being martial in nature. Eastern ideals of “warrior-gentleman” such as Japan’s “bunbu ryōdō” were influenced by this.
  • Uwe Boll is known for challenging critics who pan his films to boxing matches because he apparently has some boxing experience. He tried to challenge gaming critic Seanbaby to a match, so Seanbaby sent him with his height, weight, and fighting experience. Boll reportedly backed off after discovering that he's a little more "fit" than your typical gaming nerd.
  • Almost ALL Finnish politicians, industrialists, managers, businessmen, lawyers and anyone holding any significant position have been in the Army Reserve Officers Academy in Hamina, Academy of Maritime Warfare in Helsinki or Academy of Aerial Warfare in Kauhava in their twenties.
    • Finnish president Mauno Koivisto. He served as a ranger squad leader in the long range troops of Lauri Törni - later known as Larry Thorne. Koivisto holds the degree of Doctor in Sociology.
  • Leon Trotsky was an intellectual with no military experience, buy still managed to found the red army and lead it to victory against its many enemies. A few times he even got personally involved, mainly by rallying fleeing red army soldiers. According to the historian Paul Johnson, Trotsky seriously pissed off the rest of the Politburo by reading novels during the meetings instead of discussing business. Now that's a real bookworm.
    • Not to mention, of course, the fact that Trotsky's death epitomises this trope in a nutshell. He was approached from behind and cloven in the head with an ice pick whilst reading, and yet still managed to turn on, grapple with, knock down and pin his assailant to the floor long enough for his bodyguards to come to his assistance. Only then did he collapse, later to die of his injuries
  • Eric Greitens is a Rhodes scholar with a doctorate in politics from Oxford University who wrote his dissertation on how humanitarian organizations can best help children affected by war. After he got his Ph.D., he decided he was up for another challenge, so he became a Navy SEAL.
  • Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is a wonkish bookworm Fulbright scholar with a master's degree from Cornell University. She's also married to an equally Badass Bookworm astronaut and combat veteran, and she enjoys fixing her own cars, riding and racing motorcycles, and taking part in a little roller derby now and then. Oh, yeah, she also survived a bullet to the brain in an assassination attempt and is making what doctors have called a remarkable and miraculous recovery. Though many patients describe rehab as the hardest thing they've ever done, Giffords decided her rehab regimen was "too wimpy" and designed a more rigorous plan. Unfortunately, Congresswoman Giffords has been unable to return to work and has had to resign her seat in Congress, but that doesn't make her and her amazing feat of recovery any less badass. It just makes her human.
  • Marxist revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, MD; also a literary and philosophical commentator.
  • George Scovell, cavalryman and intelligence officer.
  • Frederick the Great of Prussia wrote music, poetry, history, political propaganda, satires etc. as well as textbooks on warfare (including an art of war written entirely in verse). And he personally commanded the Prussian army through some of the bloodiest and most hard-fought campaigns of the 18th century.
    • His brother, the well-read and somewhat short prince Heinrich (Henry) was another such example. His brother Frederick called him the only commander of the Seven Years' War who did not make a single mistake.
  • Gerhard von Scharnhorst reorganized the Prussian army for the Wars of Liberation. Many other officers looked down on him because of his lowly peasant origins, his unassuming appearance (in particular his skinny legs) and because he was best known for writing several textbooks and his teaching at Hanoverian and Prussian military schools. However, he relished getting into combat, was wounded several times, picked up a musket so he could be the last officer to leave the battlefield after the defeat of Auerstedt (1806) and died because he started making long journeys after being wounded at Großgörschen (1813). His top student Carl von Clausewitz was another example.
  • Archibald Wavall was a reclusive and eccentric British General who was fond of poetry and practically destroyed the Italian empire by himself in World War II.
  • Louis Nicolas Davout certainly looked the part, being bald and having to wear glasses because of his myopia. Still he was one of Napoleon's toughest lieutenants, earning the sobriquet "the Iron Marshal".
  • Advanced practitioners of Historical European Martial Arts may become this; since the martial arts in question are revivals of lost styles via study of the period fighting manuals, any practitioner who seeks proper understanding must read at least a few different manuals of one style for the sake of context and technique verification.
  • Jacques Cousteau developed his passion for undersea exploration and perfected modern scuba-diving apparatus as an officer in the French Navy during World War II...while also leading commando operations against Axis intelligence operatives and helping to bring the French fleet onto the Allied side. Also notable in that his home was directly opposite that of Admiral Darlan, Prime Minister of the Vichy government.
  • Another entry from France: Marcel Marceau was a member of the French Resistance who practiced mime as a means of keeping Jewish children quiet as he and his brother smuggled them into Switzerland. It's fair to say that there are a few people out there today who don't hate mimes as a result.
  • Cao Cao. Yes, THAT Cao Cao. He was, in reality, not just a warrior and a ruler, but also an accomplished poet. He also wrote some commentary on Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Some records depict him as taking time to read every day, even when on military campaign.
  • Cory Booker. Stanford graduate, Rhodes Scholar who attended Oxford, owner of a Doctorate from Yale Law School, mayor of Newark, NJ... and guy who ran into a burning building to save people trapped inside.
  • Varian Fry. Scholar, Journalist, Spy, Refugee Smuggler and Righteous Among the Nations.