"I used to be somebody in this town... now everybody's got a gimmick."id-i-o-syn-cra-sy: a characteristic, habit, mannerism, or the like, that is peculiar to an individual. cra-zy: mentally deranged; demented; insane. The type of Supervillain who can only commit a crime a certain way. This goes way beyond the Calling Card. These villains will fixate on one idea, one thing that they will continue to use over and over, which eventually becomes their entire philosophy. Everything becomes about this thing. In real life, this is called monomania, an obsessive fixation on one idea or thing or person. It's particularly common in Superhero fiction, where villains often only have one gimmick to establish their identity. Compare Beat It By Compulsion. See also Calling Card, Criminal Mind Games, The Gimmick. Frequently coincides with Steven Ulysses Perhero, with the villain's destiny apparently set from birth.
— The Riddler, Batman: Hush
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Anime & Manga
- Maou-Jou De Oyasumi: Everything the Princess does is in the name of getting a good night's sleep. Escaping? Getting rescued? Making friends? She couldn't care less. She just wants a nice comfy sleep.
Batman's rogues' gallery has enough examples that it's probably easier to list the ones that aren't crazy.
- The Riddler (Edward Nigma) and riddles. It originated as a harmless theme, but became Darker and Edgier as the years went by: Riddler suffers from Super OCD and narcissistic personality disorder, and has to leave puzzles to prove how smart he is (he's even been given a Freudian Excuse in the form of a father who, not understanding his son's intelligence, beat him, giving Nigma an obsession with expressing his smarts in convoluted ways). In one instance, Riddler thinks he's found a way around his compulsion by leaving notes instead of riddles...but Batman discovers puzzles embedded within the notes that Nigma didn't intentionally leave—in other words, he's so mentally ill that he doesn't even realize when he's acting on his compulsions. However, he's sometimes able to make this work for him: sometimes, the obvious answer to his clue masks the real answer, which is much more difficult to figure out.
- Cluemaster, the father of Spoiler, felt a compulsion to leave clues behind at the crime scenes, but he eventually got over it and stopped. Leaving clues, not committing crimes.
- Two-Face is usually compelled to commit crimes based on the number two or the concept of duality. Whether or not he kills a given individual is often determined by the outcome of a coin toss.
- The Joker, Depending on the Writer, may only commit crimes based on the theme of jokes or pranks. Alternatively, the crime itself must be "funny" (albeit according to the Joker's own highly warped sense of humor).
- Back in the day Joker also had a compulsion to leave clues to his future crimes.
- The Film Freak only commits crimes that are re-enactments of famous movie scenes.
- The Calendar Man (real name Julian Gregory Day) commits a different crime each day, but will re-create that crime exactly, one year later to the day.
- In other instances, Calendar Man is relatively sane and calm for most of the year...except on holidays, when he always commits some horrific themed crime (such as cutting a woman's brake line on April Fool's Day as a "prank" or attempting to blow up a maternity ward on Labor Day).
- The Black and White Bandit (real name Roscoe Chiara), a Mad Artist who became obsessed with black and white after going colorblind. He's got a Skunk Stripe in his black hair, he has a Dalmatian named Domino, steals things like antique chess sets, etc.
- Joe Coyne (pictured above) was a failure as a criminal. Not only was he regularly caught by the police ("coppers"), his crimes only netted him pennies. Thus, to get back at "coppers and pennies," he launched a career as the Penny Plunderer. A career that Batman ended on his very first outing, but Joe's theme outlived him; he (not, as is often assumed, Two-Face) provided the giant penny that became a fixture of the Batcave.
- The Silver Age version of the Mad Hatter—the one with the red handlebar mustache - centered all his crimes around hats and other headgear.
- Crazy Quilt (who's technically more of a Robin villain than a Batman one) was an artist who was also something of a cat burglar on the side. When an accident made him go blind, he opted for experimental surgery that restored his vision but distorted his perception of color. He then went crazy and became obsessed with color.
- It's Depending on the Writer, but Catwoman has a tendency to go after anything that has to do with cats.
- Early versions of the Penguin were obsessed with committing umbrella-based or bird-based crimes, though these days he's usually simply a portly sociopath with a high opinion of himself.
- Maxie Zeus is a gang leader who believes himself to be the reincarnation of the Greek god Zeus. He is not. It's almost laughable given that the Greek Gods' existence is an established fact within the DC universe, what with a well-known superheroine tracing her origin back to Greek Mythology. The key word being almost, as he's very intelligent and resourceful despite his delusions.
- Some of the villains made up for the 1966 Batman TV series make Batman's comic book rogues gallery seem calm and subdued by comparison:
- Egghead (Edgar Heed) was a big-headed bald guy who considered himself "the smartest man in the world" despite his obsession with egg-based crimes.
- King Tut was a guy who got hit on the head and started to believe he was an Egyptian pharaoh, and of course is obsessed with Egyptian stuff.
- False-Face (Basil Karlo) ingested a chemical formula that let him change his face any way he wanted, but at the cost of his own identity, so he started commiting crimes involving forgeries and impersonation.
- In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Clock King", Temple Fugate is The Sociopath without any emotion, whose only interest in the world is being a Schedule Fanatic, clocks and time: he uses a Time Bomb triggered by an expensive watch, has an Abandoned Warehouse with a Room Full of Crazy Clocks, and conducts a Bank Robbery by messing with a time lock. All those tropes were exploited to lure Batman into a trap: Fugate acknowledges his obsession, and uses it against his enemies. The real Evil Plan is to kill someone in a Clock Tower with the clock hands.
- Flash villain Rainbow Raider (real name Roy G. Bivolo), a failed artist who became obsessed with colors as a result of his colorblindness.
- Superman's enemy Bizarro feels compelled to do the opposite of everything normal people do. This leads to some truly strange behavior, such as building a basement on top of his house.
- The pre-Paperinik New Adventures Paperinik villain Inquinator makes you happy that Garth Ennis never will write Disney comics: he is a musophile, obsessed with dirt, filth and garbage, and his crimes are invariably littering and vandalism made out to be something special by the sheer scale. He later tried to rain black ink down on the White House.
Films — Live-Action
- The villain in the Saw movies is compulsive about his sadistic torture games, and becomes known and feared for them, his whole life seems to revolve around it. In fact, a major plot point in the later movies is being able to tell the real Jigsaw killer's death traps from those of a copycat using this trope; he always has to give the victim a means of freeing themselves from the death trap (as he firmly believes he's "helping" them better appreciate life by facing their sins through the game), whereas the copycats usually make the death traps inescapable.
- Though The Middleman thinks the Palindrome (Ivan Avi) is like this, it turns out to be a subversion: he only left the mirrors behind because he thought he was a good artist.
- El Eco-Loco (the name means Eco-Crazy in fact) in Odisea Burbujas is a garbage-obsessed villain, who dress as a homeless man, is always dirty (his Villain Song specifically says he hates water and soap), travels in a flying garbage can and tries to pollute the world as much as possible.
- Invoked by Jerry Seinfeld in Seinfeld's episode "The Robbery":
It's not like Batman, where there's three crooks in the city and everybody pretty much knows, who they are. Very few crooks even go to the trouble to come up with a theme for their careers anymore. It makes them a lot tougher to spot. "Did you lose a sony? It could be the Penguin...I think we can round him up, he's dressed like a PENGUIN! We can find him, he's a PENGUIN!
- Also invoked in The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon is obsessive-compulsive, neurotic, mysophobic and other many disorders that can be easily classify as monomania, prompting Leonard to say in one episode:
The guy's one lab accident away from being a super villain.
- The World Ends with You: Sho Minamimoto is obsessed with math and algebraic functions to the point where he uses them in his hints for each day's mission, but when you actually fight him... he kicks you. Over and over and over. No math except the ability to use it to create Taboo Noise, and cast Level ''i'' Flare by reciting pi to a hundred digits.
- The Global Guardians PBEM Universe featured several supervillains who were this: The Conundrum has to leave puzzles as clues; The Great White Hunter, who hunts superheroes for sport; and The Widdershins Man, who only commits crimes based on opposite concepts are only three examples.
- Red Panda Adventures
- The Red Panda and Flying Squirrel note eponymous themes are a common trait for "sick in the head, wannabe supervillains". It's first seen in the episode "Rabbit Season", where the Red Panda is able to set a trap for that episode's villain, Jackrabbit, after recognizing that the reason for her unusually selective thefts was because she only stole things whose value was measured in karats. He takes the theme to its logical conclusion and has a rabbit statue put on display to lure her in.
- The Mad Monkey invokes this as much as he falls prey to it. He's motivated to be a villain because he views himself as the ideal arch-nemesis to the Red Panda. To this end, he embraces the theme presented by his power to control baboons by committing monkey related crimes. When, in later appearances, the Mad Monkey is shown to have learned martial arts, the Red Panda notes he's predictable due to having focused on the Monkey Style.
- Danny Phantom: Almost all the ghosts are like this about something.
- The Box Ghost and boxes. At one point, he even steals Pandora's Box.
- Technus at one point vows to stop announcing his secrets and plans all the time, which is apparently quite difficult for him (he eventually slips up and announces when he's about to make a getaway, which enables Danny to stop him).
- Most of the villains on Darkwing Duck fit into this. There's Quackerjack, who uses toys, and the cinematically-inclined Tuskernini, who "directs" his crimes as if he were a movie director, and Ammonia Pine, whose crimes invariably involve cleaning things up, and Splatter Phoenix, fixated on paintbrush artistry.
- Kim Possible: Kim has fought her share of Idiosyncrazy villains: Duff Killigan, the homicidal golfer; Frugal Lucre, the world's cheapest criminal; and so on.
- Spoofed in Futurama, "Less Than Hero", with the Zookeeper, who commits crimes using a pack of highly trained animals.
Fry: Pack of highly. Got it.
- Used extensively in WordGirl. Take as examples:
- The Butcher, whose attacks all involve calling forth some type of meat.
- Chuck the Evil Sandwich-Making Guy, who uses a condiment gun (also parodied in that he, tired with the same old routine, tried to become the "Handsome Panther").
- Tobey, who continually uses giant robots to attack and destroy the city.
- Dr. Two-Brains, who will only ever attempt to steal cheese.
- Lady Redundant Woman, who's crimes mostly revolve around copying and redundancy.
- Mr. Big, who extensively uses mind control in his schemes.
- A number of Sushi Pack villains are like this: Oleander's various schemes are (usually) a ploy to eat the eponymous Pack, Paradoxter's crimes have an element of paradox and oxymoron to them (such as using literal jumbo shrimp as henchmen), and The Collector is always involved in collecting something when he shows up in the series, regardless of whether he's committing an actual crime.
- Parodied on Drawn Together when Captain Hero convinces Xander to pose as a supervillain for him to defeat. The persona they come up with? Two Hands.
Xander: You'll never defeat me and my... TWO HANDS!!
- Serial killers in real life often have a distinctive modus operandi that allows criminal investigators to identify them, some of them even leave clues behind to taunt the authorities.
- Some criminal organizations like The Mafia have particular styles of committing crimes, especially murders with some ritualistic traditions associated. This is often done to send the message and scare normal people and/or the police, but also to let other rival gangs know who was the author.