"The League of Shadows has been a check against human corruption for thousands of years. We sacked Rome, loaded trade ships with plague rats, burned London to the ground. Every time a civilization reaches the pinnacle of its decadence, we return to restore the balance."
The crimes of the villain(s) date back long before our grandfathers were born. Historical events that hurt many people are attributed to a single organization or person, usually more than one
. Even if there isn't technically a law against causing earthquakes or eruptions, the events are used to show how dangerous the criminal is by placing wars, economic struggles, assassinations, and other pivotal events in their past. Stock Unsolved Mysteries
are particularly useful for this.
These crimes can be committed by a group, like the Ancient Conspiracy
, or a single person, like We Didn't Start The Führer
. Those tropes cover the actual villains, this trope is about the "crimes".
Note that this doesn't necessarily have to apply to a villain: i.e. an Idiot Hero Reality Warper
could've caused a natural disaster through clumsiness.
Subtrope of Historical In-Joke
, and essentially the evil twin of Been There, Shaped History
. Compare Beethoven Was an Alien Spy
, Julius Beethoven Da Vinci
and Historical Villain Upgrade
. Often a form of List of Transgressions
or Offstage Villainy
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Anime and Manga
- In Superman Family #165 we learn that Superman's dog Krypto accidentally caused the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. You can read it here.
- Immortal criminal Vandal Savage from The DCU claims to have been many historical figures including Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler, Blackbeard and Jack the Ripper. He was also an advisor to many famous conquering, and may have either been Julius Caesar or participated in Caesar's murder, depending on which version of the story you believe.
- Batman villain KGBeast, a Soviet super-assassin, has been described by the CIA as a participant in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.
- Day of the Barney Trilogy has Barney responsible for, among others, the extinction of the dinosaurs, Caligula's depravity, the Black Death, the rise of Hitler and betraying Anne Frank.
- Reimagined Enterprise repurposes several real-world wars of the 1990s as the Eugenics Wars. For example, Khan Noonien Singh's people were the real reason the UN sent a military expedition into Somalia in 1992.
Film — Animated
- In The Castle of Cagliostro, the Cagliostro family's centuries-old counterfeiting operation caused the collapse of the Bourbon dynasty, financed Napoleon and brought about the Wall Street Crash.
- DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp shows that the villain Merlock was responsible for the sinking of Atlantis and the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
Film — Live-Action
- In The Pariah by Graham Masterton the death of the Toltecs, the atrocities of Caligula, the Black Death and the Salem witch trials are all attributed to the demonic antagonist.
- Incarnations of Immortality: Satan engineered the Black Plague by tricking Gaia. He later regretted how far it went, and the experience taught him his responsibility as the Incarnation of Evil. Inverted later as he tricks Chronos into averting the holocaust and World War II as a favor to YHWH though this costs him his friendship with subsequent Incarnations of Time who till then were the only ones friendly to him.
- Spider Robinson's Callahans Crosstime Saloon short story "Unnatural Causes". A team of alien Krundai are responsible for many harmful acts in Earth's history, including: starting riots, wars and revolutions, causing the downfall of the Roman Empire, assassinations, promoting drug use and the Holocaust. Their ultimate aim is to cause humanity to destroy itself so they can feast on our bodies.
- A Running Gag in Good Omens involves Crowley, the demon who was responsible for the original Temptation in the Garden of Eden, frequently receiving the congratulations of Hell whenever they notice something like the Spanish Inquisition has popped up in the human world. They inevitably leap to the conclusion that Crowley was responsible for getting it started. He frequently protests to the sympathetic Angel Aziraphale that he had nothing to do with it whatsoever: the human race thought of new ideas to be beastly to each other all on their own.
- Croup and Vandemar have one in Neverwhere that isn't particularly specific but apparently includes assassinating kings, heroes and gods.
- Star Trek: The Original Series. In "Wolf in the Fold" it is discovered that Redjac is a noncorporeal lifeform which has been a serial killer on several planets, including Earth where it was Jack the Ripper as well as a few other unnamed killers (in China in 1952 and Kiev in 1974).
- In the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie, the Master attributes an invented historical rap sheet to the Doctor while recruiting Chang Lee. The Doctor himself has been responsible for inspiring the Great Fire of Rome and starting the Great Fire of London (both accidents) as well as bringing about the destruction of Pompeii (by stopping it and then triggering it again as a crossing of the Godzilla Threshold), among other historical encounters.
- The X-Files: According to the Day in the Limelight episode "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man", the CSM was personally responsible for the assassinations of JFK and MLK, and made sure that the Buffalo Bills never won the Super Bowl.
- In Supernatural, the demon lord and Torture Technician Alastair implies that he had a hand in the concentration camps, noting how he hasn't been on Earth since "Poland, '43".
- Babylon 5: A Vorlon "inquisitor"-slash-Torture Technician sent to test the resolve of Delenn and Sheridan mentions that he was abducted back in the Victorian age... and it's implied that he was Jack the Ripper.
- Bewitched: Bumbling Aunt Clara causes the Northeast Blackout of 1965 when she tries to use magic on some candles.
- Quantum Leap: In one of the show's Kisses with History, Sam causes the Northeast Blackout of 1965 during an attempt to leap home.
- Criminal mastermind Lord Kane in Evil Genius is alleged to have had a hand in every major crime of the 20th century, from starting the fire that crashed the Hindenburg to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. He insists that his greatest atrocity was the result of a minion mishearing his statement "A bit of light panic, I think eh?" as "That ship, the Titanic, sink her".
- Star Trek Online: In a purely fictional example, the Player Character discovers partway through the Starfleet "Romulan Mystery" and Romulan "In Shadows" story arcs that the Tal Shiar, particularly Hakeev and Taris, caused the supernova that destroyed Romulus in 2387.
- Kane from Command & Conquer claims to be the biblical Cain, who has led the Brotherhood of Nod throughout human history. Given his fondness for Sarajevo and the fact that his elites are called the Black Hand, Kane probably helped instigate World War One, and in one timeline's version of World War II he was a shadowy adviser to Josef Stalin.
- In Everyman HYBRID, HABIT claims that Josef Mengele was one of his possessed victims.
- Hardly Working: Over the course of the show, the Phantom of the Office has taken responsibility for the Black Plague, the extinction of the dodo bird, and most shockingly, the death of Jesus Christ.
- The Fairly OddParents:
- In an early episode it's revealed that once every few millennia fairies have to be evil for 24 hours. During Wanda's stint she killed the dinosaurs.
- Though not villainous in intent, Cosmo accidentally sank Atlantis, destroyed Pompeii ... and created Pittsburgh.
- In Yoohoo And Friends, Father Time was responsible for starting the Salem Witch Trials after trying to help three women carrying heavy buckets of water... by enchanting brooms to carry them. Thankfully he managed to save their skins shortly afterwards.
- The Simpsons: