aka: Hero Syndrome
A Heroism Addict is an individual who craves the attention and glory that comes with heroism...and thus, creates a catastrophe to play The Hero in. The Heroism Addict suffers from Hero Syndrome, a Real Life disorder most often found in firefighters, in cases where they are also arsonists who start fires so they can get recognition from putting them out, or similar jobs like emergency workers or police officers. Usually they are also losers — they have huge egos, but they tend to be low on the hierarchy of whatever job they have (for example, a Deputy who thinks he should be Sheriff), and thus their delusions of grandeur do not match their reality. Acting the hero thus gives them the chance to be the center of attention before they go back to their menial work. Hero Syndrome is a fairly common trope in fiction and serves as a textbook example of Evil Cannot Comprehend Good. It is a symptom of Narcissism; it is pathologically self-centered, and involves a callous disregard for the victim. A Heroism Addict does not care at all about the people they are supposedly "saving" and are only interested in the glory, whereas the true Hero traditionally always cares about the people they are saving and, while they may be susceptible to thrill-seeking and the limelight, they don't let that override their sense of duty and empathy. This guy, however, has a warped sense of duty and no sense of empathy; hence, he is almost always a Villain, or at best an Anti-Hero. Needless to say, has nothing to do with Chronic Hero Syndrome, which is about real heroes. Might be related to Munchausen By Proxy. Compare Fake Ultimate Hero, Glory Hound. Contrast Engineered Heroics, where the danger is faked.
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Anime and Manga
- A minor recurring character named Sentinel Vengeance from Franken Fran is addicted to doing "good" and constantly cons people so he can appear as a hero as well as vanquish his thirst for revenge on the first two Sentinels.
- Hank Pym's fall from grace as a superhero began when he attempted to do this (along with hitting his wife). He has since recovered, only to have his reputation besmirched again by an impostor.
- In the "Tarnished Angel" arc of Astro City superhero El Hombre got caught doing this, and tries to do it again under a new identity to regain his heroic reputation.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- Captain Amazing in Mystery Men arranges the release of his Arch-Enemy, Casanova Frankenstein, from the mental institution since he is losing his corporate sponsors thanks to the lack of crime in the city. This backfires when he underestimates his old foe, and gets himself killed as a direct result.
- Inverted in Unbreakable, when we discover that Elijah masterminded a number of catastrophes to search for a hero, because he thinks of himself as a supervillain and needs a Worthy Opponent. Yes, he's insane.
- The villain in Tamora Pierce's Cold Fire is a firefighting expert whose skills are basically the only thing he has in his life. Unfortunately for him, he's been so successful at getting the fire rate down that people are starting to take him for granted and not listening to him...so of course he starts setting more fires to teach them a lesson.
Live Action Television
- Lie to Me did this once with an ambulance driver who changed traffic lights to cause car crashes in order to be the first on the scene; she wants to make up for accidentally causing a car crash that killed her mother and left her brother brain damaged by saving the new victims instead. It turns out her brother was the one causing the accidents; she saved his victims out of guilt for what he did, and what she did to him and their mother, and he enjoyed controlling her through that guilt because he wanted revenge on her.
- Criminal Minds: A sniper from the first season who turns out to be an ER nurse is one of these, though Gideon refers to it as "Hero Homicide" (though, only one person actually died, and that was for imitating him). In the third season, a sheriff's deputy is discovered to have this after he shoots Penelope to conceal his crime-spree.
- An episode of New Tricks deals with the serial arsonist version of one of these.
- In the series 2 finale of Sherlock, Moriarty does a very good job of framing Sherlock Holmes as one of these, playing on the suspicions that Scotland Yard officers had already voiced in previous episodes, with the masterstroke being Moriarty himself posing as an actor paid by Sherlock to pose as "master criminal James Moriarty".
- Neighbours, in 2008, had the firefighter/arsonist varient in a character named Jay Duncan, who reflects the Truth in Television of this trope - not only has he done this multiple times, ending up on the front page of newspapers, but he reflects the attitude that while not outright trying to kill people (and showing remorse when confronted), it's clear he enjoys the hero worship too much to stop on his own. After his fire at the park in Erinsborough kills at least one person (Marco Silvani) and hospitalises others, he's eventually caught whilst in the process of threatening Steph (demonstrating his mental instability - all photos of him on newspapers depicted him having rescued single, blonde-haired mothers with a child). However, he's pitiful at best and pathetic at worse - Kirsten Gannon (herself having shown selfish traits in the past) sympathises with the fact that "he must feel lonely" despite being angry that he hospitalised her; Carmella Cammeniti, whose husband died, makes it clear that she views him as little more than a pathetic waste of life before leaving the room, reducing him to a sobbing wreck.
- An episode of Smallville featured a policeman who kidnapped Chloe in an attempt to get credit for finding her. When that failed due to him and Lana having a telepathic connection, he decided he'd rather get the credit for solving the latter's murder...
- Even Stevens: In "Louis in the Middle", Louis gets addicted to committing acts of heroism after he saves a kid from getting run over.
- Disgaea 3 has Super Hero Aurum, who, after defeating an apparently benevolent demon overlord, raised his son to be the biggest villain he could achieve, hoping to return to glory by defeating him in the climactic battle. None of the Noble Demon or genuine Hero protagonists think this guy is anything better than scum when they learn this.
- The Fan Remake of Quest for Glory II had hints that a previous hero of Shapier had this kind of personality. When you go to the Adventurer's Guild it has various stuffed heads of Random Encounter enemies from that game. When you look at one it mentions the name of the guy who killed it. Ask about him, and you'll be informed that he killed a bunch of monsters and was generally a Glory Hound, but he became angry when he was "rejected" and the Guild stopped accepting all the heads he kept trying to donate. Unhappy at missing out on the adulation, he became a bandit instead. Put together some cryptic clues and he'll become a Bonus Boss.
- Captain Qwark, enemy, friend and all around pest to Ratchet & Clank, is driven by the need to be loved and seen as a hero, with all the perks it includes. In the first game he helps the Big Bad so he can be the hero of the planet Drek is making, and in the second game tries to instigate a brand new disaster to save the universe from. In later games he's settled for taking credit for Ratchet and Clank's activities. This exchange in All 4 One sums up Qwark well.
Ratchet: I guess parades and groupies just aren't everyone's thing.Qwark: Wait a minute- BOTH of those are my thing!
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has Luke Atmey, a private eye who is planning heists with the thief he is chasing and proclaiming his heroism upon "recovering" the stolen objects.
Atmey: Unable to find a rival worthy of my genius, I was forced to create one myself! Here I am, the tragic clown!
- In Dead Rising 3, Kenny Dermot is jealous of player character Nick Ramos for being a hero. In an attempt to prove that he's superior, he kidnaps a woman and unleashes a zombie on her, intending to save her from it. When Nick shows up and kills the zombie before Kenny can (in fact, Kenny was too slow and the zombie would have killed the woman if Nick hadn't intervened), Kenny yells at him for "ruining his big moment" and attacks him.
- The Powerpuff Girls: A couple.
- Major Man is a phony with genuine superpowers who better resembles the classic, Superman-esque hero than the girls, and wins over the City of Townsville because of that. But most of his crimes are engineered, and he's hopeless when he thinks he's faced with a real crisis, such as a giant monster attack, making him a Miles Gloriosus as well.
- Princess Morbucks is a regular member of the girls Rogues Gallery and started off like this, though she's more interested in having superpowers than acting the hero and is driven more by greed and revenge.
- In the anime version, Princess Morbucks' older sister does this: setting up everything in the episode she is in, even employing the services of Mojo, along with film editing, to make it look like she saved the day as well as bested the Power Puff Girls. One of the rare cases where she actually gets away with it.
- Futurama: Zapp Brannigan does this sometimes, though his plans are rarely well-thought out and they never go as well as he makes it out. More usually though he just causes disasters and shifts the blame onto somebody else.
- In one episode where the Planet Express crew become volunteer firefighters, the others notice that Bender has been present at most of the fires and think he's been setting them on purpose to look more herso he could play hero. In reality, the fires had been set by a fire elemental that Bender had unknowingly been harboring inside his body.
- This happens in Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo, used by the commander of the local police. The only supervillain he ever caught was Brushogun, but Brushogun's Mook Maker powers gave him limitless criminals to capture for additional fame.
- After an incident that causes the Brotherhood to become Accidental Heroes on X-Men: Evolution, they create accidents to fix and gain fame. When they set out to stop a runaway train, they leave after being reminded that there is a second train that will cause a collision. Avalanche, however, does return to help the X-men avert the disaster - after which he tells them not to expect his help again but that the Hero Syndrome won't happen again. To his credit, he was generally the more responsible member of the group anyway, though he doesn't want to admit it.