Miles Gloriosus

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He's a soldier; he's a real man! Just listen to all his exploits and how the very gods are afraid of him! Admire his pristine uniform and shiny medals that prove his valour! He loves danger! He will seek out any peril to test himself against!

Just don't put him near an actual fight.

The Miles (pronounced "ME-lays"[1]) Gloriosus is usually a soldier, or claiming to be one. Great White Hunter, Gentleman Adventurer, or other dangerous occupations are also possible. And it is Always Male—women aren't expected to distinguish themselves in danger.

The Foil of The So-Called Coward. Since he is invariably all talk, falling for his stories is a mark of the Naive Newcomer. Those who are not taken in may, in peace and quiet, find him more or less amusing, which depends on his skill on storytelling, but when trouble arises, he is always The Load. May be No Hero to His Valet—type 1 only. Often considering himself God's personal gift to women, he is frequently part of a Love Triangle, his stories making him triumphant, until danger reveals to the heroine which man really is admirable.

May be a Small Name, Big Ego, but may also be running a con—and may be proud of his cleverness rather than his alleged prowess. It can be hard to tell because one of his chief traits is his utter shamelessness. No matter how clearly he was reduced to quivering terror by the merest hint of danger, as soon as the danger ends he will snap back to the boasting mode, making it hard to tell whether Believing Their Own Lies is in effect. He is incapable of realizing that people might think better of him if he says Think Nothing of It.

Any annoying braggart may be taken for the Miles Gloriosus, which is why subverting this, having them turn out to be brave and good at fighting -- or even just competent -- is a surprise. Such surprises often fall under Glory Seeker; he may also go for glory at the expense of others: Glory Hound.

Named for a stock character in ancient Roman theater—the term translates "boasting soldier."

Particularly annoying subtrope of Fake Ultimate Hero and particularly egotistical subtrope of The Munchausen. Inverse of the Cowardly Lion. Similar to Lord Error-Prone. If the plot ever forces him to stand and actually act like the badass he claims to be, then it's Becoming the Boast. Villainous versions may overlap with Hero Syndrome.

Compare Smug Super, Nominal Hero, and Phony Veteran.

Contrast Shrouded in Myth, Armchair Military and Badass on Paper. Subtrope of Paper Tiger.

Examples of Miles Gloriosus include:


Anime[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Woodney from Black Cat, also Identity Impersonator.
  • Mr. Satan (Hercule in the U.S.) from Dragon Ball Z.
    • Hits Fake Ultimate Hero as he gains more character development. At least, he proves to be braver than he looks.
      • Mr. Satan also is an impressive fighter ... for an ordinary human with no ki powers. He'd probably have been very effective against the villains from Dragon Ball. It's just that pesky Z that disqualifies him.
      • He is also the only person who manages to tame Majin Buu. At one point Goku even points out that this alone makes him worthy of being Earth's champion.
  • During one episode of Rurouni Kenshin, the Kenshingumi encounters one of these... who not only lays claim to enormous feats of blood-soaked bravery, but also the name of 'Battosai'. In other words, he's claiming to be Kenshin, the man who basically saved the country singlehandedly, but retired from his killing ways to be a man of peace. Kenshin doesn't particularly care, but his friends are incensed when they find that the fake has been pressing the local shopkeepers for money based on his proclaimed reputation. In the end, a professional killer shows up wanting a fight with the 'Battosai', however, and the fake is proven quite incapable of actually fighting... however, the Kenshingumi winds up forgiving him, when they find out that he's been using his drummed up reputation AND the money it's earned him, to run and protect an orphanage.
    • Of course, when the kids he was protecting were threatened not long after, he redeemed himself by completely ignoring a sword slash on his arm, grabbing a mook by his HEAD and throwing him at another mook...WOAH.
  • In an episode of The Slayers, the characters meet a warrior who brags about killing all kinds of monsters, including the recently revived and defeated (by the heroes) Dark Lord Shabaranigdo. He's not a coward however, as when confronted with a dragon on a boat ride (He volunteered to defend the ship during passage) he tried to stop it bravely, he was just completely ineffectual.
  • In Angel Densetsu, Kuroda is one, Ogisu is usually treated as one although he isn't really one.
  • Ash's Oshawott from Pokémon. While this crops up occasionally in the anime, he makes it apparent, putting on a cocky attitude until he faces an opponent that is actually challenging, such as the Grass-type Pansage or his own evolved form.
    • He actually managed to beat Pansage after a bit of encouragement from Ash, however.
  • Usopp was this when he was introduced.
  • Scourge from Warrior Cats used to be one, claiming to have killed foxes and ripped teeth out of the mouth of dogs. Then he Took a Level in Badass and was actually able to do the stuff he claimed to be able to do.
  • Subverted with Nanael from Queen's Blade. Yeah, yeah, glorious, strong, smart, perfect. Then why are you so skittish around danger, hmmm? Play it cool. Oh look, here come the bad guys, and its time to live up to your talk. And these aint mooks. You've got Melona who's basically the T1000 except harder to kill, you've got an ancient spell-casting necromancer princess, and a scythe-wielding ghost girl with an army of evil spirits at her command. They give many of our main characters trouble one-on-one. You've gotten yourself into a mess this time, girl. And... she blows the ghost girl and her evil spirits up with a slice. Then hammers the revived ancient necromancer princess in the face. Then turns our resident T1000 into a goo tornado with a drill kick, sending the ghost girl and ancient princess right along with her. Pretty much effortlessly. Then she flexes her arm, places her other hand on her bicep, and declares "Nanael is so cool!" Yeah, it turns out that not only is Nanael not the Miles Gloriosus, she is easily the strongest character that we've seen fight to date. She had to be nerfed in season 2 just to give the protagonist a chance at winning the tourney.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • In Astro City, Crackerjack invokes this trope. While he is a skilled brawler, excellent acrobat and master of disguise, as well a true hero in every sense, there is NO way he could be as good as he claims to be. An alien assumes his arrogance and bragging indicate his true character, and even when seeing his heroism wrestles with the idea that he might really be The Hero.
  • Volstagg the Voluminous, of Marvel Comics' Warriors Three. A blowhard who called himself "The Lion of Asgard" and lays claim to several improbable feats of strength, cunning, and bravery, he proves ineffectual and cowardly in actual combat. In his own defense, he often mentioned that these supposed exploits took place when he was younger and more physically formidable. More recently in the comics, he has been retooled into a Boisterous Bruiser, fond of food, drink, and women and given to much merriment, in more equal contrast with his friends Fandral the Dashing and Hogun the Grim. He's still a braggart—such as considering himself the equal of any three or four human Avengers—but not for no reason.
    • Volstagg was based on Falstaff.
    • Both averted and subverted in the movie: although he still has a hefty appetite, Volstagg is able to carry himself in a fight as well as any of Thor's companions, averting the trope (but subverting the character as written in the comic).
  • Several of the members of the new "Infinity, Inc." in 52 were very fearless when they were Lex Luthor's media darlings beloved by the public and taking down minor thugs to widespread acclaim, even going so far as to smugly lecture members of the Justice Society that they were the new generation replacing them and that there was nothing they could do about it. Then, when Black Adam declared war on the world and a real crisis ensued, they were last seen cowering in some rubble before running away.
  • The dashing and charming warrior Arcadio from Sergio Aragones' Groo the Wanderer. Despite the quests that Arcadio embarks on, he is almost never the one to actually complete them. Yet will both take the credit and believe that he completed them on his own regardless.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Aliens featured Bill Paxton as Hudson, the wisecracking PFC. In the extended edition, he even claims himself to be the "Ultimate Badass". That said, it's kind of understandable that he would freak out (Game over man! Game over!) the moment the aliens actually showed up, since they are pure horror. However, despite varying between making sarcastic comments and making scared sarcastic comments, he actually proves useful throughout the film, and his "Last Stand" certainly makes him CMOA worthy.
  • Subverted in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. A braggart army captain is named Miles Gloriosus, but turns out to be boisterous and violent rather than boisterous and incompetent.
  • "Brave" Sir Robin in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, who has a troupe of troubadours to follow him about and sing of his praises. Unfortunately he runs away at the first sign of danger, and they incorporate his cowardice into their song...
  • Britt, the titular hero of The Green Hornet movie is pretty close to this throughout the film, boasting about how awesome he is, taking credit for his partner Kato's achievements and generally being a barely competent blowhard. There's even one scene where a villain is about to hit them with a cement truck. Kato picks up a rock to shatter the truck's front window so Britt can shoot his gas gun at the driver, but all we see of Britt is him running away, firing his gas gun in all directions shouting "EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF!!!!" By the end of the film, Britt does gain a measure of competence.
  • This is pretty much the entire plot of Rango
  • In The Wild Hunt, Bjorn is the big cheese of his Viking faction of LARPers and is always talking in Large Ham voice about being a warrior and going on adventures. When shit gets dangerous, however, he completely freezes. A girl lampshades it by screaming at him to justify all his talk and do something.
  • Spence in Ronin, played by Sean Bean, makes himself out to be just as much of a deadly Badass as all the other operatives chasing after the MacGuffin. However, he is eventually exposed as a poser and told to get lost, which he does.
  • Steve Martin's character in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is doing this as part of a con.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Professor Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, to an extent. It's not explicitly confirmed that he's an inherent coward (although definitely incompetent), but he's admitted he didn't do the things he has claimed to have done.
    • Interestingly, Lockhart was one of the very few characters based off real people. The real person, according to J. K. Rowling, was "even more objectionable than his fictional counterpart" and is probably going around claiming that he was the inspiration for Albus Dumbledore.
  • Let's not forget Fflewddur Fflam, from Lloyd Alexander's The Book of Three! Slightly mocked in that he suffers a consequence every time he lies or tells an exaggeration (namely, a string on his lute breaks). This consequence is used to highlight the fact that he Took a Level in Badass at the end of the story, when he claims to have fought in the last battle with unbelievable bravery and skill, and turns out to be telling the truth.
    • He's a very sympathetic take on the trope; in the subsequent books it becomes clear he really is brave and a hero, he just can't resist exaggerating.
    • A prequel short story makes it clear that he was always a Badass, almost to the point of foolhardiness; at one point, he defended a lone man attacked by a group of bandits without hesitating and lept into a raging current to save a stranger from drowning. In fact, most of his early lies in the prequel story are simple modesty ("No, no... it was no trouble at all, and I needed a bath anyways...")
  • One Forgotten Realms anthology had a short story of the member of an explorers club and how he was hailed by everyone as a hero and an example to look up to. The 'Hero' makes a living getting free drinks and meals telling of his adventures. Eventually Cyric, god of lies, captures him and points out all his lies such as he was the sole survivor of a battle because he ran away. The 'Hero' is dragged down to Hell to the sounds of everyone abusing him. Although you'd think the God of Lies would commend him for this, he's also the god of murder and insanity. Don't look for too much logic in his actions.
    • Au contraire, I say. Given the petty and potentially ephemeral nature of his "glory", there was a fair chance the man could have eventually wised up (probably after being outed as a fraud or overshadowed by grander tales) and redeemed himself, or at least turned a new leaf. Given how the afterlife works in D&D, this would have severed all claims Cyric could lay on his soul, and so he chose to take it while the getting was good. He was a thief before his ascension to godhood...
  • Professor Nimrod Pennyroyal from Mortal Engines claims to be an explorer / gentleman adventurer in a series of best-selling books, but turns out to be a liar and a coward.
  • Inspector Friedland Chymes in Jasper Fforde's The Big Over Easy is the best detective ever! He's a genius who always gets his man, who singlehandedly put away an Axe Crazy Serial Killer, and whose exploits are the most read in all the magazines and papers. Except, of course, that he makes all his cases up, he stole the credit for his greatest success from his partner (who was the man who actually caught the Axe Crazy Serial Killer) and who runs away from the first hint of danger in a cowardly panic.
  • Subverted with Ciaphas Cain. He claims to be one of these, but all the evidence goes against it.
    • Subverted on multiple levels. His interstellar reputation is that of a Miles. People who meet him in person find him modest about his accomplishments, and unwilling to engage in pointless battles. In secret, he thinks of himself as a rank coward. The reader, however, learns that he will dive right into a necessary battle (e.g., to save the planet he happens to be standing on), and is a very effective combatant. I.e., under all his layers he might be something of a Miles after all.
    • Cain is arguably an inversion, considering his reputation is mostly the product of The Empire's propaganda machine and the man himself is pretty laid back about the whole deal. This sort of attitude only contributes to his legend; something Cain himself is highly aware of and uses to his benefit. Often by playing the bluff old campaigner who thinks nothing of routinely performing badass feats.
  • Surprisingly, Sir Lancelot is one of these in Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles. He employs the spinmeisters of the day (bards) to tell his "Great deeds", plunders the battlefield after the fighting has ended for his "Spoils of victory" and is not above giving himself cosmetic cuts to show how hard he had fought. This policy is so successful that, even though the narrator actually knew Lancelot and was responsible for his execution for treason, he is told by one of those to whom he's recounting the tale that his tale is clearly wrong, as it doesn't match his "legend".
    • This is something the narrator is quite irritated about. Lancelot is so bad that the narrator struggles to come up with anything good about him. This is possibly the only moment when Derfel (the narrator) is actually bitter.
  • Paris from The Iliad, making this trope Older Than Feudalism. He jumps in front of the Trojan lines (wearing a leopard skin no less) and challenges the best of the Greeks to face him. Menelaus is happy for a chance to punish him for stealing his wife, but as soon as Paris sees Menelaus he falls back behind the Trojan lines, much to the chagrin of his more valiant brother Hector.
  • Warden Ramirez is the regarding his success with the ladies in The Dresden Files. He's actually a virgin. The timing of the reveal is unfortunate from his point of view. When this is revealed (by a succubus no less), Harry spends the rest of the time ribbing him. In actual combat, he is more than competent. It takes skill to make regional commander in the Wardens on a war footing before you're 25.
  • Captain Jack Fosdyke, the Great White Hunter from the P. G. Wodehouse short story Monkey Business, comes on like a great hero who can strangle a gorilla with his bare hands. When a gorilla (actually an actor in a gorilla suit) escapes from his cage, he turns out to be quite the coward.

"Not gor-illas dear lady, por-illas. A species of South American wombat, and very good eating they make, too"

  • Iorwerth from The Valkyrie's Tale. He presents himself as a knight whose stories about the battles he's fought are brilliant and entertaining. Of course, this is because he's a bard pretending to be a knight; making up stories is what he's best at.
  • Jan Onufry Zagłoba from Sienkiewicz Trilogy. He boasts about his accomplishments (others had achieved with little to no help from him) and is prone to overplay his courage and battle prowess. To be fair to him, however, he's incredibly cunning, which has saved the heroes from serious trouble more than a few times, and isn't really that much of a coward (he just doesn't like to put himself in unnecessary danger).

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Kevin Webster in Coronation Street often mentions how he's going beat up/flatten/decapitate people he's angry with, but he only has the bottle to pick fights with a teenage goth, and even then, said Goth sends Kevin running with his tail between his legs. He was also frightened of David Platt, when he went on his rampage, instead leaving it up to Ken Barlow to stop him. He's also terrified of what will happen if Tyrone finds out that Kevin's been having an affair with his wife. Kevin's father Bill is similar, with his boasting about how he'd swing for David Platt if he didn't have his grandmother Audrey to hide behind. Tyrone Dobbs recently told Bill that he sees where Kevin gets his cowardice from.
    • Though he did wallop the crap out of John Stape after discovering Stape's affair with his daughter Rosie (and got a prison sentence for assault). Admittedly, John Stape is not exactly much of a fighter.
  • Lucius Lavin from Stargate Atlantis.
  • Rimmer in Red Dwarf idolizes people like Napoleon, Rommel and Patton, and would love to be thought of as a daring and heroic military strategist. Too bad he's a complete coward and utterly incompetent.
    • He was very close to Alexander the Great. His Chief eunuch mind you.
      • Alexander the Great personally ordered him killed with an axe for picking off his roses.
  • Ross Kemp in Extras, until he has a run-in with Vinnie Jones.
  • Barney Fife of The Andy Griffith Show.
  • Howard Moon of The Mighty Boosh claims to be a "man of action," but when threatened habitually blurts, "Don't kill me! I've got so much to give!"
  • Captain Cook in the Doctor Who serial "The Greatest Show In The Galaxy" is a particularly boring, particularly cowardly and a particularly villainous and reprehensible version of this trope. Its a minor moment of awesome when the Doctor, even as he's at Cook's mercy and his life is on the line, finally has all he can take of Cook's waffling and tells him to shut up.
  • Frank Burns was often one of these on Mash.
  • Finn Hudson from Glee, who talks a much better game than he plays when it comes to being a leader, and who tends to reinterpret his own ignoble actions in a much more heroic light in hindsight. His habit of claiming others' achievements (or a whole group's achievements) exclusively as his own - particularly in the matter of football game victories in which he was actually a minor player at best - puts him in this camp.
  • The Minbari warrior caste in Babylon 5, given that they seem to be spending most of their time blustering and bullying, but won't fight when they really are needed.
  • In an episode of Foyle's War, the Asshole Victim was a sailor who'd been given a medal and showered in praise for "rescuing" several of his comrades when their ship was sunk; it turned out that saving them had been purely incidental to saving himself, and that he'd actually shot one of them to keep him off a piece of wreckage he didn't think could hold them both.
    • In another episode, an old wounded WWI veteran who is considered a hero by the people in the area turns out to have shot himself in the leg to escape the trenches (and thus has a possible motive for the murder, since the victim was the only person who knew this).
  • The West Wing had a general who C.J. found out was planning, as his last act before retirement, to do a bunch of TV interviews claiming the U.S. was unprepared to defend itself with a wishy-washy liberal president in office. She shuts him up by threatening to point out in public that among his chestful of medals he wears (and has a phony explanation for) one he was never awarded. It's subverted, however, when Bartlet calls her in to tell her to back off; he might not have earned that particular medal, but he's got a lot of genuine ones which in Bartlet's eyes have earned him the right to express his views.

Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • WWE's Sheamus as a Heel. He always talks a big game about just how much of a badass he is - and while he can take down the majority of WWE's roster with ease, he becomes a cringing coward when opposed by top-tier competition like John Cena, The Nexus, and Randy Orton.
    • Sheamus is really just the latest in a long, long line of Professional Wrestling heels who have acted this way - going all the way back to the original gimmicky Heel, Gorgeous George, who would spray himself with disinfecting perfume so that his opponents couldn't get germs on him. Fact is, no matter how legitimately Badass they might be as a Face or a Wild Card, guys like Triple H, Randy Orton, and even Kane will be remarkably prone to turning to jelly when they are heels. (Kane acting this way is particularly odd, since he survived being lit on fire and so theoretically shouldn't be afraid of anything!) Ironically, one of the few times this trope was averted was when one of them feuded with The Undertaker: it was Luther Reigns, engaging in a brief feud with 'Taker early in 2005 (this was just before 'Taker's monumental feud with Orton, which was one of the most memorable of that year). Reigns claimed that he wasn't at all afraid of Undertaker, since he had already "spent five years in darkness," which was in reference to his prison term, during which he almost died when his throat was slit. Reigns went on to lose his match with 'Taker, but he never acted like a coward and gave as good as he got.

Theater[edit | hide]

  • Titus Maccius Plautus's ancient Roman play Miles Gloriosus is the Trope Namer, making this one Older Than Feudalism. Modern audiences may recognize the vainglorious soldier from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
    • "Miles Gloriosus" is Latin for "boastful soldier", and even before Plautus the term was used for a comic stock character in Roman theater.
    • As usual with Plautus, there is some influence from an older Greek stock character: "alazon" (αλαζών) which means braggart and/or arrogant, depending on the context. "The alazôn is an impostor that sees himself as greater than he actually is." He might be a soldier, a scholar, an artist, etc. He is typically coupled with a sarcastic character whose comments undermine the seriousness of any given argument. A particularly memorable example exists in "The Acharnians" (425 BC) by Aristophanes. Lamachus , a historical general, is presented as a "rabid militarist" who makes a speech as to the reasons the ongoing war should be prolonged. Dikaiopolis (the protagonist) mocks the rather pompous arguments and attire of his opponent. Reducing Lamachus to a laughing stock. That Lamachus was using empty threats of violence but fails to react to even the greatest insults, probably points to the brave general being just another blowhard.
  • The figure of the Captain (Il Capitano) from Commedia Dell'Arte is a Miles Gloriosus.
  • William Shakespeare has a few of these:
    • Don Armado in Love's Labour's Lost
    • Parolles from All's Well That Ends Well.
    • Pistol from Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V.
    • Falstaff comes close, though his protestations of bravery tend to be so absurd that even he probably doesn't take them seriously.
    • Rodrigo of Othello fits the "God's gift to women" version of this, paying a character who seems to fit the traditional clever servant role to help him in his quest to seduce Desdemona. Unfortunately, that other character happens to be Iago, and rather than the Humiliation Conga these characters often get, Rodrigo ends up as one of several corpses in the play.
  • Subverted and lampshaded in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The character named Miles Gloriosus actually does appear to be everything they say, although he's still a fame hogging, pigheaded fool.

Miles: Stand aside everyone! I take LARGE STEPS!

  • Papkin from the Polish play Zemsta.
  • Major-General in the Pirates of Penzance
  • Subverted by the Duke of Plaza-Toro in The Gondoliers - he sings a song boasting (quite truthfully) about his cowardice.
  • Lewis in Pippin, a strong stupid type who likes wearing shiny breastplates, swinging a sword around and boasting about the number of enemies slain by his hand.
  • Cyrano De Bergerac: At Act II Scene III, The Musketter is identified as this by Raguenau, who doesn't seem to realize (or care) that he is his wife's lover.

Ragueneau: 'Tis a friend of my wife — a terrible warriorat least so says he himself.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • A prime example of this trope would be Captain Linebeck, from The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass. He acts the part of the dashing hero, but it's quite obvious to everyone that he's really just an enormous coward. Still, even he proves useful, if largely ineffectual, when the chips are down so perhaps he can be excused...
  • Sir Roderick Ponce von Fontlebottom the Magnificent Bastard from Jade Empire fits this trope to a T. He's an obnoxious blowhard who seems to be a cross between Don Quixote and a British Imperialist. Subverted in that you can fight him, and he has the strongest weapon in the game (a blunderbuss! In a game based on ancient China! Not quite fair).
  • In Medievil, Sir Daniel Fortesque earned his knighthood during times of peace by being a very entertaining, and convincing, storyteller. When a real enemy appeared, he took the first arrow right in the eye. Not that this stopped him: the king (sensing that the public needed to hear something hopeful after the horrific battle) gave him a hero's funeral for "killing" the Big Bad.
    • While certainly a braggart, leading the charge proved he had the courage to be a real hero. After returning, Fortesque subsequently Took a Level in Badass and turned out to be a real hero after all when he destroyed the Big Bad several centuries later.
  • Captain Qwark from Ratchet and Clank.
  • Anomen from Baldur's Gate II—a mild example, since he is a competent warrior in-game. The game's actual Knight in Shining Armor and The Munchausen (Keldorn and Jan Jansen, respectively) aren't fooled by his tall tales (like killing a Wyvern single-handedly, or having defeated several hill giants during a battle) for a second, however. Neither are just about anyone else, come to that, though most of them are too polite or disinterested to call him out on it.
    • The Protagonist can also call Anomen on this exploits, and tend to run into a few enemies of non-importance who have an overinflated sense of might.
  • Morrowind includes an NPC named this. Considering he's a great hunter often referenced in conversation, who never leaves the tradehouse...
    • Admittedly, that might just be because he isn't important enough NPC for the scripting effort necessary to avoid that, rather than actual proof that he never leaves the tradehouse.
  • Daxter in Jak and Daxter makes little hesitance when he talks proudly about his "many heroic deeds". The only one who believes or is even remotely impressed by this is his love interest, Tess. He does have his heroic moments, being the one who gets Jak out of prison, and defeating The Dragon just before that. Of course, the latter depends entirely on what you believe, as his entire Gaiden Game is either him telling the truth, or more yarn spinning.
  • In Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, Franklin Payne seems to be this before you meet him, since you hear many NPC's telling of his nearly impossible feats and others who claim that he's really a coward. Subverted when you meet him and see that he is really that good.
  • The Head Editor in Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is a perfect mold of this trope. He claims to be able to handle his own, but no matter what mission you do with him, he's ALWAYS at level 10 and half of the time, he gets too scared or nervous to fight, relying on your clan to do the dirty work. His only ability is Camouflage, which lets him hide. In one mission, he brags that the Owner (his boss) is more powerful than he is, but he is only at level 1!.
  • Ziegfried in Final Fantasy VI, who tries to disguise himself as the greatest swordsman alive. The first time he attacks you, he opens with a flurry of eight weak physicals when you have a character who can inherently counter randomly, and an item that lets someone else counter randomly too. Hilarity Ensues.
    • When you meet him again after the Time Skip, he claims that someone was running around pretending to be him. If you fight him in the arena he turns out be a very powerful opponent, so he's probably telling the truth. Either that or he did some serious Level Grinding over the Time Skip and doesn't want to admit he was such a wuss.
    • Actually it's true : the badass warrior, champion of the Colosseum is Siegfried, Ziegfried was impersonating him in the phantom train.
  • The Golem Boss in Chrono Trigger tries to scare you with a big countdown. The problem is he's afraid of heights. And you're fighting him on the wing of a plane. His true nature reveals itself after about ten seconds.
  • Godot's introduction in Case 2 of Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations. He brags that he's never lost a case. Technically, this is true, because it's his first case.
  • In Psychonauts, Coach Oleander makes claims about his impressive army background to the point that the inside of his head appears as a twisted battlefield and contains memories of himself seemingly single-handedly winning some type of war. Upon a second visit, however, you can find his true memories which show him being kicked out of the army, air force, navy, and even the army kitchens (though this is more due to his height than his cowardice or incompetence).
  • Tony Delvecchio of Backyard Sports is built off this character type.
  • Flavio the merchant from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.
    • Subverted; He gets Character Development and becomes a Cowardly Lion near the end of Chapter 5. Afterward he's not quite as much of a lying braggart as he was when you first met him. He himself even states that he's found something "far, far better" than treasure or glory during the ending of the chapter.
    • Super Paper Mario also featured Flint Cragley, though he trades much of the cowardly flaw for simple incompetence, and is obviously a Fake Ultimate Hero from the first time you meet him.
    • Luigi, while normally a Cowardly Lion in the main series, is portrayed as a Miles Gloriosus in the Paper Mario series. In the second game, he tells Mario (who gets bored and falls asleep) about all of his exploits in the Waffle Kingdom, but his various partners tell the real truth about his adventures, always messing up. Also, in Super Paper Mario he seems to act brave, but he is ultimately found scared in the Underwhere, only cheering up when Mario finds him.
      • If you notice... He only brags about what he does when he talks to Mario, which kind of makes it look more like he's trying to make his big brother proud. Unlike some other examples, his stories do hold truth to them, he did do all the things he said he did... just not quite as heroically.
  • The self-appointed captain of the Toad Brigade in Super Mario Galaxy acts like he's the bravest person in the world, yet he always seems to chicken out if the mission looks too dangerous. This is lampshaded in the finale. After learning that the the captain is being promoted to Royal Guard Commander, one of the other Toads states "But the leader is the least brave of all!"
  • In Okami, the 'great swordsman' Susano is actually an incompetent coward. The main character, a magical wolf-goddess named Amaterasu, sometimes hangs around and helps him fight, although he never seems to notice that his techniques only work when the 'annoying wolf' is around.
    • Interestingly, by the time you fight Orochi, this trope has been largely deconstructed. Susano doesn't want the reputation he's been bragging about, to the point that he started the whole incident by trying to prove the legend of his ancestor false to free himself from the burden of living up to it. Issun mocks him for quivering in fear in his sleep, unaware that his dreams contain things worth being afraid of. And he catches on to the fact that his heroic feats are not truly his own, embittering him to the idea that the gods expect him to save the world... and even then, Susano's Amaterasu-assisted slices are more effective than when Ammy does them on her own.
  • In Mass Effect 2, a crazy fan of Captain Shepard (the player character) can be found essentially cosplaying as the Captain and attempting to go around the galaxy righting wrongs and helping people. Although he claims to be a "badass" he can be scared off by shooting him in the foot or kneeing him, and overall he's incredibly incompetent. There is one ending to his side quest that shows he has some guts, but the end result is that he is killed attempting to stop a petty crime.
    • If you choose the paragon solution of pretending that he actually helped to solve a real crime he walks away transformed and you later hear on the Illium PA system that he is now leading a charitable organisation that helps out the orphan victims of slave raiders.
  • Maniac in the Wing Commander series, at least outside of the cockpit (in the cockpit, he's the 11th highest ranking ace in a 3 decade galactic war).
    • See his and Blair's original encounter with "Seether" in the Wing Commander IV intro.
    • Later in that game, when forced to back up his words in an argument with "Gash" Dekker if the player decides to not intervene, the viewer gets a practical demonstration of Maniac not living up to his boasting.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • In the Adventures of The League of STEAM episode, "Tall Tails", Crackitus, Thaddeus and Jasper boast about encounters they've had with the Kraken. Until it actually arrives...


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Zapp Brannigan from Futurama is the patron saint of this trope. He will never rush in to a fight, but obtained a reputation of being a good fighter through his willingness to sacrifice wave after wave of his own men, while avoiding any risk to himself. If he does end up fighting, it's because he believes he has an overwhelming advantage, or is too stupid to realize that he's in danger.
  • Tiger from Skunk Fu! did fight Dragon (the Big Bad, not The Dragon), but becomes this trope after the fact. However, when angered, he is known to fight ferociously.
  • Captain K'nuckles from The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack claims to be a great adventurer, but truth be told, he's more of a glorified bum.
  • Die Fledermaus from The Tick (animation), who looks and talks the part of superhero but is the first to flee when danger is afoot. In fact, he doesn't just flee, he sometimes faints!
  • Slugslinger from Transformers is a mild subversion in that he is the incredibly brave and talented gunman that he constantly claims to be, and a dutiful soldier who never backs down from a fight. Except it's all a lie; Slugslinger's confidence and ability are wholly reliant on his gun Caliburst, and when the ammo dries up, his true cowardice is revealed.
    • In Transformers Animated, Sentinel Prime is one of these. While being Optimus Prime's equal, he considers himself superior, and is constantly bragging about how he should be fighting Decepticons while Optimus should be repairing Space Bridges. Then Starscream falls out of the sky, and Sentinel goes straight into Coward Mode.

Sentinel: What is that thing?
Optimus: Oh that's right, you've never seen one up close. It's called: a Decepticon.

    • And, unlike Optimus Prime, he's kept his fear of organics from when they abused both of them.
  • The cartoon Mickey's Rival introduces the character of Mortimer Mouse: romantic rival, shiny new car owner, taller than Mickey ever hopes to be...and an obnoxious braggart. Mortimer tries to impress Minnie by waving a red picnic blanket in a bull's face. Oh, how courageous he is, taunting a slobbering, snorting brute...while there's a fence in between them. The fence of course is actually open, and Mortimer only needs two seconds upon realizing this to not only haul ass out of there, but to throw the offending red blanket on top of the girl he was trying to impress. What a guy.
  • Daffy Duck starts out as one of these in Draftee Daffy, right up until the moment when he gets a phone call informing him that "the little man from the draft board" is on the way to see him.
  • Captain Hero of Drawn Together is a superhero whose Catch Phrase is "Save yourselves!"
  • Gaston in Beauty and the Beast could probably fit this. He is thought of very highly in the village for his various accomplishments (which are not really explained beyond hunting, being good-looking, spitting, eating 60 eggs, stomping around in boots, and decorating with antlers) and is brave enough to hunt down the Beast only when he has a mob in front of him. When he's held over a cliff, he starts crying and begging to be saved.

Gaston: Let me go! Please! I'll do anything! Anything!

    • And in his last major dick move, he then thanks Beast for sparing him by stabbing him in the back.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Boast Busters" introduces Trixie, a traveling magician-type unicorn, whose show involves boasting of her magic superiority and using tricks to show up anyone who dares call her out. She also claims to have vanquished an Ursa Major, so when two young unicorns who buy into her stories are told not to believe it unless they see it, they go out and bring one to town, eager to see their new hero in action. Trixie, naturally, freaks out at the sight of a giant bear monster, and is forced to admit she just said she defeated one to look better. Once the bear (actually an Ursa Minor) is defeated by Twilight Sparkle, however, she's all "You may have vanquished an Ursa, but you will never have the amazing, showstopping ability of the Great and Powerful Trixie!"
  • Lucius from Jimmy Two-Shoes. In one episode when he believed a moon beast might threaten Miseryville, he rode up into space to defeat it. The moment he came across resistance he freaked out and was defeated.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Captain Hammer in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a variant: he's an arrogant blowhard, but he's also as tough and brave as he says. The only reason he's brave, however, is because he is so super-strong and Nigh Invulnerable that he has never been injured in his life. It's telling that he flees, crying like a baby, the very second that he feels pain for the first time.

"I think this is what pain feels like!"

    • To be fair, if you had never felt any pain before, how would you react? And it wasn't just any pain, he was at ground zero for a small explosion. Contrast this, however, with Dr. Horrible's reaction; he's felt pain all his life, much of it at the hands of Captain Hammer, so he simply gets up and brushes himself off. Karmic justice indeed. Until the twist.
  • In V4 of Survival of the Fittest, Jimmy Brennan is built almost entirely on this trope, pissing his pants and losing his shit in one thread, and bragging about all the ass he's already kicked in the next.
  1. or, for those of you capable of reading the IPA, [ˈmile:s]