You want to make a character a badass? You got two choices, bub. You can take the boring route: he’s a quiet, brooding, loner with lots of spikes and stuff. He wears black, chews iron nails, and he don’t take no sass from nobody.
Or you could take the hard route: make him a friendly, kind-hearted, do-gooder. There are tons of ways to take this road.
What makes your character a badass is not how you describe him, it’s how he reacts to things. If that guy in the photo above shrieks at the sight of a spider, hides behind mommy when the thunder rolls, and wields that scythe like a limp-wristed showgirl, then he clearly isn’t a badass.
Let’s go back to the playground – it’s such a useful training ground for life in general. The kid everyone respected and liked was seldom the one they feared. In most cases the bullies knew to curb their base instincts when they were around the real king of the school-yard. The real king was always that kid who would stand up to the bully, who everyone liked, who didn’t have a kid at the school that he didn’t like.
You want a classic example of a badass good-guy who is genuinely liked by all and genuinely likes all? Look to Discworld’s Carrot Ironfounderson. He beat Detritus the Troll in a barfight. He arrested the leader of the Thieves Guild on his first day on the job. He knows the name of every citizen of Ankh-Morpork. He is so likeable that Commander Vimes likes Carrot – Commander Vimes doesn’t like anyone.
Okay, so Carrot is just another Mary-Sue marching along in the parade of Mary-Sue’s that is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. How about Liam Neeson’s character in the Taken trilogy? Regular, friendly guy until it’s time to get medieval and then boom – he doesn’t unleash the dogs of war, he transforms into the dogs of war.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Founder of the Jesuits. Took a cannonball to the knee, walked home.
Saint Quiteria and her nonuplet sisters.
Forget what you know about Paladins from the rulebook, and look at their real life inspiration. The twelve paragons of virtue of Charlemagne’s court – the ultimate in knightly ideals exhibiting the best in chivalry, heroism, and tearing evil apart limb from limb.