Created By: callsignechoSeptember 29, 2010 Last Edited By: callsignechoJuly 28, 2011
Troped

Essential Madness

The Only One who can save us...is crazy

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Trope
Formerly Heroic Psychopath and Insane Hero. Please offer input on the name. Rolling Updates.


The moment their arms spun freely in our air, they were doomed -- for Man has earned his right to hold this planet against all comers, by virtue of occasionally producing someone totally batshit insane.
Rollover Text, "Alternative Energy Solution," XKCD

This is when the clinically insane person turns out to be The Only One who has the right stuff to stop the Omnicidal Aliens, Cosmic Horror or Big Bad. It could be his bent perceptions allow him to see things "normal" people can't. Or maybe the bad thing that happened was so completely out of the realm of possibility that only the total nut job prepared for it. Keep in mind, what separates this from Heroic Sociopath or other crazies is that this character's madness is essential to the task. If he was not crazy, he could not do it.

This guy put the Crazy in front of Prepared and Awesome, but don't confuse him with The Jor El or The Worm Guy, who are not actually insane, just misunderstood. Not to be mistaken for his padded-cellmate the Heroic Sociopath, who is a hero in spite of his anti-social tendencies, not because of them.

When the whole human race is composed of Heroic Madmen, it's Humanity Is Insane. Compare The Cuckoolander Was Right and Power Born Of Madness, although this trope doesn't necessarily involve superpowers. See also Blessed With Suck.


Examples

Anime

Comics
  • Crazyman from Continuity Comics, whose power is being crazy. "Crazyman" is recruited by a secret service as the "Plan B" to dangerous "unwinnable" situations. Danny is to the secret service as Monk is to the San Francisco Police Department, and comes up with solutions no sane man would come up with. If James Bond were insane, he'd be Crazyman.

Literature
  • Redwall - In High Rhulain, The hare Major Cuthbert went insane after hid daughter was killed by vermin. He ended up killing a sea monster single handedly.
  • In Larry Niven's Madness Has Its Place, Jack Strather's megalomania and paranoid schizophrenia make him one of the few men left on Earth with the cojones to actually resist the invading Kzinti.
  • Blindsight: The main character's severe autism means he's the only one able to objectively synthesize all of the information and determine just what the deal is with the Starfish Aliens they discover. Of course he's also unable to bond with other people or empathize with them, so...downer.
  • In C.S. Friedman's This Alien Shore, the Guerans (a mutant race descended from humanity) are all insane, which makes them the only ones who can pilot ships through hyperspace. In addition, the heroine's multiple personality disorder grants her a secret power that could alter the balance of power throughout known space.
  • Jack Vance: One of his short stories (The Men Return to be exact) featured a world where causality had basically gone out the window. One character was barely surviving, trying to find patterns where there were none. The ones who were crazy before The Event on the other hand were basically gods.

Live Action Tv
  • Seven Days: the only person able to pilot the Chronosphere is Frank Parker, inmate at a military insane asylum.

Webcomics
Community Feedback Replies: 46
  • August 30, 2010
    isaaccount
    I was just thinking that we could have use for a trope like this!
  • August 30, 2010
    Tokuiten
    Needs A Better Name. 'Psychopath' and 'sociopath' are synonyms. Heroic Nutjob or Heroic Nutter maybe.

    But you'll also need to distinguish it more from Power Born Of Madness.
  • August 30, 2010
    callsignecho
    ^ They're not clinically synonymous, but okay. Suggestions on a better name are welcome. More examples are especially welcome.
  • August 30, 2010
    randomsurfer
    Seven Days: the only person able to pilot the Chronosphere is Frank Parker, inmate at a military insane asylum.
  • August 31, 2010
    zanbolt
    Insane Hero? Something a bit more respectful?
  • August 31, 2010
    BlackDragon
    Corporal Piebald of Schlock Mercenary weaves effortlessly between paranoia, panic and megalomania. Not only has he survived numerous engagements, he recently managed to get promoted to Lieutenant - soon afterwards proving that just because you're paranoid doesn't mean you're wrong...

    Not sure it qualifies, since his insanity is shown to be, at most, an advantage - not a dealbreaking 'only his insanity can save us now' thing - but I thought I'd throw it out there.
  • September 29, 2010
    NativeJovian
    I think Heroic Psychopath works pretty well. I don't know what the actual medical definitions are, but the common language use of "sociopath" means lacking emotion/empathy for other people, and "psychopath" means generically crazy.
  • September 29, 2010
    Taelor
    "They're not clinically synonymous, but okay."

    Both have fallen out of use in the psychiatric community. Back when they were still in use, there was a great deal of variance between how they were used, but both seemed to refer to some variant of what we would now call Antisocial Personality Disorder.
  • September 29, 2010
    Sweet Madness
    A specific type of The Only One? This can also be compared to The Cuckoolander Was Right and Power Born Of Madness, although this trope doesn't necessarily involve superpowers.
  • September 29, 2010
    randomsurfer
    According to my sociology teacher 20+ years ago Sociopath and Psychopath mean (or anyway meant) the exact same thing; just that sociologists called them sociopaths and psychologists called them psychopaths.
  • September 30, 2010
    TBTabby
    Freakazoid. Like the theme song says, "Drives the villains crazy, 'cause he's a lunatic!"
  • September 30, 2010
    Treblain
    Sorry, I know you've changed the title a few times, but I don't think Insane Hero conveys the trope well enough. It needs to imply that the character is The Only One because he's insane.
  • September 30, 2010
    callsignecho
    Please vote or offer alternatives:

    I'm stumped on the name. But is there at least some consensus that this is tropeable?
  • March 6, 2011
    callsignecho
    Necro-bump.
  • March 6, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    • Lavan Firestorm from the Heralds Of Valdemar isn't crazy exactly but he's seriously depressed and not at all stable. However his pyrokinetic abilities are so powerful and so needed that there really was no choice but to use him to fight against the Karsite Army. This of course along with the death of his companion made him genuinely insane.
    • In the Wheel Of Time series, Rand Al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn who is supposed to save the world, is slowly (but not slowly enough) going insane do to the taint that was infecting Saidin before he cleansed it (and maybe for other reasons), like all male channelers. He also happens to be one of the most powerful channelers and is in control of about half the continent at this point. Not a good combination.
  • March 7, 2011
    Bisected8
    Their insanity might grant them a Disability Superpower or Disability Immunity.
  • March 7, 2011
    TonyG
    In the original comics, The Tick is explicitly an escaped mental patient.
  • March 8, 2011
    Fanra
    In Larry Niven's Madness Has Its Place, Jack Strather's megalomania and paranoid schizophrenia make him one of the few men left on Earth with the cojones to actually resist the invading Kzinti.

    • Larry Niven likes this one. All members of the U.N. WMD police, the ARM, are either naturally paranoid or take drugs during working hours to make themselves paranoid.
      • The members of the alien race called "Pierson's Puppeteers" who deal with other races are all insane, since any sane Puppeteer would never leave their planet. Their racial "Hat" is cowardice, and space travel is dangerous (at least more dangerous then staying at home).
  • March 8, 2011
    DragonQuestZ
    I vote for Insanity Superpower, as it fits the format of Disability Superpower (since this is a Sister Trope, a close snowclone is acceptable).
  • March 8, 2011
    bluepenguin
    In C.S. Friedman's This Alien Shore, the Guerans (a mutant race descended from humanity) are all insane, which makes them the only ones who can pilot ships through hyperspace. In addition, the heroine's multiple personality disorder is eventually revealed to make her the only non-Gueran capable of doing so, which makes various organizations eager to get their hands on her.
  • March 23, 2011
    SKJAM
    "Radar Man" in Paranoia Agent has been Driven Mad By The Revelation, but his craziness also feeds him the information he needs to fight the menace to reality. Sort of.
  • July 7, 2011
    callsignecho
    Dragon Quest Z, that would be misleading, as the guy we are talking about here is often a Badass Normal.

    This is a tough one to name. :(
  • July 7, 2011
    Koveras
  • July 7, 2011
    callsignecho
    ^ But was he a hero? And was he The Only One because he was Crazy Awesome?
  • July 7, 2011
    Koveras
    ^ Yes, he was a hero, he was even invited into the Justice League after they went Heroes Unlimited. As for The Only One... does being the only individual crazier than the Joker in this continuity count?
  • July 7, 2011
    RazorSmile
    • Jack Vance: One of his short stories (The Men Return to be exact) featured a world where causality had basically gone out the window. One character was barely surviving, trying to find patterns where there were none. The ones who were crazy before The Event on the other hand were basically gods.
  • July 7, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Crazyman from Continuity Comics, whose power is being crazy. From Neal Adams' website:
    With the promise that he may be cured, an adrenaline powered, chemically imballanced "Crazyman" is recruited by a secret service as the "Plan B" to dangerous "unwinable" situatiions.
    Danny is to the secret service as Monk is to the San Francisco Police Department, and comes up with solutions no sane man would come up with. If James Bond were insane, he'd be Crazyman.
  • July 7, 2011
    Tambov333
    Heroic Madman is great.
  • July 8, 2011
    packardcaribien
  • July 9, 2011
    Aelesis
    Captain Quark at the start of Ratchet and Clank 3, but he gets better.
  • July 9, 2011
    qualitycontrol
    If you're still looking for a trope name, how about "A Man Who Stares at Goats."
  • July 9, 2011
    Tambov333
    ^Nah. Too vague and misleading.
  • July 11, 2011
    NetMonster
    Don Quixote as a literary example?
  • July 11, 2011
    tylerdurden
    Deadpool, during Secret Invasion.
  • July 12, 2011
    PennyDreadful
    How about Crazy Jane from the Doom Patrol? She's got 64 different personalities, after all.
  • July 13, 2011
    TheThirdSet
    Was Dr. Frankinstine from Soul Eater already mentioned? Because in the anime at least he is pretty much the only one who has a hope of curing the spread of madness but he is already insane at that point.
  • July 13, 2011
    fluffything
  • July 13, 2011
    Monessi
    Deadpool, multiple times, most memorably that time when saving the world involved kicking Captain America in the balls.

    Riddick.

    Happens periodically with the Joker, mostly because it's funny to see heroes have to work with the Joker.

    Arguably, Taxi Driver would qualify.

    An episode of Warehouse13 did this with the designer of Warehouse security, who was out and out loony. Actually, having to get the help of a crazy/delusional inventor to deal with is invention gone bad may be a sub-trope of this not-yet-a-trope, but that can wait.

    Would Mina Harker from Dracula count?

  • July 13, 2011
    fluffything
    • One episode of Batman The Animated Series had Batman having to team up with Harley Quinn in order to stop The Joker because she was the only one who knew what he was up to and how to stop him.
    • The titular character in Beetlejuice has saved the Neitherworld several times, even though he's considered to be an insane nusciance by the public.
    • Alucard from Hellsing is completely Axe Crazy, and is the best defense against more evil vampires.
  • July 14, 2011
    callsignecho
    Name changed to make it clear that this character's madness is essential to the task. I see a lot of examples offered that are heroes who just happen to be crazy, and this is not that thing.

    Alternative name: We Need Your Madness.
  • July 18, 2011
    Firedamaged
    Freakazoid, Beetlejuice, Deadpool and sort of Luna Lovegood are all prime examples.
  • July 27, 2011
    BraveHoratio
    What about Only A Crazy Person ? (or does that sound too much like dialogue?)
  • July 27, 2011
    wanbli
    Neon Genesis Evangelion's Ikari Shinji certainly qualifies, since it's implied Unit 01's berserk mode is tied to his manic state.
  • July 28, 2011
    WarriorSparrow
    I think Doug Rattmann from the Portal 2: Lab Rat comic qualifies as this - he has schizophrenia, with a floating Compsnion Cube that talks to him, and yet he's the only one who can save Chell's life.
  • July 28, 2011
    madelinemary
    hannibal lecter? his sociopathy was the only reason he could help track down buffalo bill
  • July 28, 2011
    KamenZero
    This trope is essentially in effect when you use a Malkavian in Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines.

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