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Devil Complex

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"Now, make your declaration... Declare that demonkind will rise up against God!"
Naoya, Devil Survivor

Some villains are proud of the fact they're villains, fully admitting they're evil and boasting about it. But some go even further, by claiming to be who many consider the ultimate villain, the Devil himself. Or a God of Evil, or a high ranking demon or demon king. In short, they have a Devil Complex.

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While it may be an exaggeration on how much of a Card-Carrying Villain they are, sometimes they actively want to be a devil, even if they have to overthrow the current one. Perhaps they simply want to boast they're Eviler Than Thou to Old Scratch, or share wicked goals like a world of chaos, Hell on Earth or a regime of tyranny. Either way, don't expect them to be subtle about how they feel.

A sub-trope of Card-Carrying Villain, a character that identifies as evil or otherwise wrong but not to the extent of calling themselves a demon. Sister trope to A God Am I, where someone boasts of being a divine being and not an infernal one. If the narrative is comparing them to the Devil instead, they're a Satanic Archetype.


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Examples

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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Played with the Chilean comic book Diablo. After making a Deal with the Devil to come Back from the Dead as the Lord of Entropia's herald, Alex got the disguise and the codename of "Diablo" (Devil in Spanish), but he says he serves the Devil himself instead of being one, as said in the first issue:
    Alex/Diablo: The mask isn't for hiding, it's to show you who sent me.
  • Inverted in the French comic Professor Bell: The devil goes around Earth and at one point gets into a conversation with a priest, asking questions on the nature of good and evil. When the devil asks what the priest would do if a man came up to him claiming to be the devil, the priest would recommend seeing a psychiatrist.
  • In Marvel comics there are a vast number of actual demons and rulers of various underworlds and afterlives. But if any of them were ever to try and claim to actually be THE Devil the others would promptly put aside any and all disputes to rip the pretender apart.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Batman Begins: During his brief time in a prison in Tibet, Bruce Wayne is attacked by the leader of the local prison gang, who boasts that "You are in Hell, little man, and I am the Devil!". Bruce finds the whole intimidation attempt comically overblown, and fights off both him and multiple other men simultaneously, to the point where the guards have to take Bruce away, not to protect him from them, but to protect them from him.
    Bruce: You're not the Devil. You're practice.
  • Done in The Devil's Rejects when Otis B. Driftwood marks himself as the Devil doing his work to Roy as a mockery of Christian beliefs before he brutally murders him.
    Otis: I am the devil. And I am here to do the devil's work
  • Highway 61: Mr. Skin is a delusional man who thinks he's Satan, played charmingly by Earl Pastko, has taken upon himself to "collect souls" by making deals with people when they are still alive, then returning to steal their corpses when they die. He is one of the antagonists of the film when he follows the protagonist hoping to claim the corpse of someone who previously made a deal with him, but whose body has been stolen by the protagonist to use in a smuggling drug-mule trip under the guise of giving it a decent burial back in his hometown. Mr. Skin also believes he is the devil due to a bizarre belief that he was born on the same day that multiple famous celebrities died (including Elvis) and that their deaths were the costs to bring him into Earth.
  • In the Live-Action Adaptation of Tokyo Tribe, crime lord Buppa boasts that he's the real devil, and wishes to reign supreme as the Devil of Asia.
  • In The Exorcist, the possessed Regan insists that it is "the devil" to Father Karras. He is unimpressed, already skeptical that she is actually possessed and noting how cliched it is for a crazed person to claim such a thing, "like saying you're Napoleon Bonaparte." He's both right and wrong to be skeptical: she is possessed, just by another demon trying to mislead.
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    Literature 
  • In the Modesty Blaise novel I, Lucifer, the young man known as Lucifer believes himself to literally be Satan. This doesn't stop him from being the Token Good Teammate of the villains, for a Blue-and-Orange Morality version of "good"
  • In Phantoms the "Ancient Enemy" (a living mass of primordial protoplasm that has eaten entire towns throughout history) definitely falls under a broad definition of "Eldritch Abomination" but it believes itself to be the actual Biblical Devil because so many of the populations of towns of people it has absorbed obviously thought it was something unholy as their final thoughts. The result is a tremendous arrogance that eventually brings its downfall.
  • The Wheel of Time: Ishamael was one of the Dark One's greatest servants during the Age of Legends and was (incompletely) sealed outside reality with him. Centuries of Sanity Slippage, aggravated by the Dark One's power, left him believing that he was the Dark One himself, and he used that persona to lead the forces of the Shadow during the devastating Trolloc Wars.
  • An Unkindness of Ghosts: Giselle publicly declares herself the Devil at her execution. Given her mental state, it's unclear how literally she means it, but she's immediately taken up as an Icon of Rebellion against the Sovereign's despotic regime.
    "It isn't my name! My name's Devil now! And I'll kill you all, I swear it, if not in this life, the next. ... I will haunt you."
  • In Red Dragon, there is a lot going on in the head of the serial killer who serves as the book's main antagonist... and at one point, his thoughts turn to a snatch of the book of Revelation — about the Dragon casting down with its tail the stars of heaven — as something that, apparently, he fully expects to get to.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who
  • Lucifer (2016): Discussed Trope. Lucifer is completely honest with everyone he meets about who he is. People never believe him. They think he's either completely delusional, or engaging in an act to establish a Devil persona for himself — either as a PR exercise as part of his identity as a club owner or to handle his emotional issues and complicated family situation through the use of metaphors. However, he is absolutely adamant that the Devil is not the villain humanity portrays him as. He is a punisher of evil rather than evil itself and is incapable of creating sin within humans or forcing them to do anything against their will. All he can do is draw out desires humans already possess and encourage them to embrace those desires. When he does encounter people who worship the Devil, engage in murder in his name or push the belief that the Devil is the source of all evil, Lucifer tends to become extremely upset and angry about it. This comes to a head in Season 4; after learning the truth at the end of Season 3, Chloe runs afoul of a priest who also knows the truth and inundates her with the history of the Devil as recorded by the Church. When she confronts Lucifer with everything she's learned, Lucifer is both horrified and broken-hearted; it takes Chloe the entire season to reconcile the differences between the Church's representation of the Devil and her own personal understanding of the man she knows.
  • Oz: Timmy Kirk starts out as a run of the mill prisoner, before becoming more unstable as the series goes on. After taking over the Christian Gang he begins a long feud with Father Mukada, accusing him of sexual abuse and later hiring an arsonist to burn down the rectory the priest lives in. As his psychosis worsens, he claims to be Satan while on death row, and it appears to be genuine.
  • The "Jimmy Tango's Fat Busters" sketch on Saturday Night Live has one of Jimmy's clients testify that the weight-loss program had helped him lose 65 pounds in four days and find out he was the Devil. The fact that the program involves "an unbelievable amount of pure, raw crystal meth" is possibly related.
    And I will wash over the Earth, and the seas will run red with all the blood of all its sinners! I am reborn! And I’ve got YOU to thank, Jimmy Tango!

    Video Games 
  • In Castlevania: Chronicles of Sorrow, Graham Jones in Aria and Dmitrii and Darius in Dawn are completely convinced that they are Dracula's Reincarnation because they were born the day he died. While they all have demon-related supernatural abilities, they are also completely wrong; the real reincarnation is the protagonist Soma.
  • Devil Survivor: Naoya Route: The Player (Abel) becomes the King of Bel after killing every last Bel demon during the lockdown. Naoya congratulates Abel as demons in the lockdown zone come to greet their new overlord. If the player continues in Overclocked he may choose to perform a war against God.
  • In Persona 5, when the party confronts Shadow Kamoshida in his Palace and call him more of a demon than a human, he agrees, calling himself "a demon who rules this world!" Cue One-Winged Angel and boss fight.
  • In Fate/Grand Order, Oda Nobunaga often refers to herself as the Demon Lord of the Sixth Heaven and fully embraces her Card-Carrying Villain status despite being a total goofball. Later on, the actual Demon King of the Sixth Heaven Mara, the Superpowered Evil Side of the Pseudo-Servant Kama manifested as Beast III/L, shows up to engulf the cosmos in her "love" in the Tokugawa Ooku event and gleefully refers to herself as such.
  • In The King of Fighters 2001, Igniz at first declared himself a god before our heroes fight him. After he's defeated, however, he claims himself the devil instead and aims to crash the satellite he's on towards the earth.
  • Jack Lupino from the original Max Payne is a mobster whose belief that he is the Anti-Christ has driven him to roving insanity. Plus, he is so jacked on Valkyr, he is both utterly unhinged and inhumanly durable.
  • Mega Man Zero: Right before you fight him in the series' Grand Finale, Dr. Weil declares "Ware ga akuma da!" ("I am the Devil"!) Pretty fitting for the guy.
  • Sengoku Basara: Oda Nobunaga, under a massive Historical Villain Upgrade, is a Card-Carrying Villain who openly proclaims himself to be the Demon King of the Sixth Heaven. In later games he's become literally demonic after coming Back from the Dead. Of course given how many Evil Overlord tropes he uses, it's not like having a devil complex could make him any more Obviously Evil than he already is.

    Web Original 
  • Dr. Clef of the SCP Foundation has claimed he is the Devil. This may or may not be true.

    Webcomics 
  • 8-Bit Theater: Black Mage temporarily becomes King of Hell, gaining extremely destructive powers in the process. However, he's very shortly overthrown by Lich.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • It is alleged that Charles Watson - member of the Manson Family and conspirator of the infamous Tate—LaBianca murders - said "I'm the devil, and I'm here to do the devil's business" during the act.
  • According to various people who knew him, famed British occultist Aleister Crowley claimed to be "the Great Beast 666". Many used this as justification to call him a Satanist, though it was more likely done to annoy the Christian authorities of the time.
  • Oda Nobunaga claimed to be "the Demon King of the Sixth Heaven". This line - combined with his life full of conquest and genocide - would go on to inspire the trope Demon King Nobunaga.note 
  • The Axeman of New Orleans would frequently mail letters to local papers describing himself as being a malevolent spirit or demon from Hell itself, voicing how amused he (as well as the likes of His Infernal Majesty and Franz Joseph I of Austria) is by the local police's attempts to track and capture him.
    "I am not a human being, but a spirit and a demon from the hottest hell. I am what you Orleanians and your foolish police call the Axeman."

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