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Diabolical Mastermind

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"He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city."

The criminal version of the Evil Overlord. Standing out from the terrorists, drug smugglers, murderers, gangsters, evil dictators, and other petty criminals with their short-term, narrow goals is the diabolical mastermind. The Diabolical Mastermind is a brilliant strategist with a sophisticated, long-range plan for their domination.

Generally found sitting in an expensive leather chair with one hand idly tapping a Trap Door button and the other stroking his pet cat (or dog), the diabolical mastermind is always at the top of whatever criminal food chain the hero — usually a detective or spy — ends up climbing. He differs from the Evil Overlord in that he (usually) has no sovereign territory or political power of his own, although his criminal resources sometimes rival those of a developed nation.

Because of this, he (and it is almost always a he) is generally protected by dozens of mooks and sometimes The Dragon. As such, he is very rarely made to pay for his crimes.

The diabolical mastermind's motto is that you have to spend money to make money. As such, he may spend countless millions—or billions—of dollars building a super orbital Death Ray operated from a secret volcano base, only to then hold the world's governments to ransom for even more money. Since money is no object, the best way to ask the world for this ransom is to take over every TV channel or network in the world.

Note that the diabolical mastermind is not always motivated by money. He may lust for power, land, priceless art, or something else. But his tactics are invariably complicated and technologically impressive.

Typically, the diabolical mastermind holds no political affiliation, nor does he follow anyone else's orders. As far as he is concerned, his is the only opinion that matters and everyone else will follow his lead. He fights for no cause except his own. Any affiliations with political parties or rebel fighters are purely for the purposes of hiding his connections with crimes or having others do his dirty work. This is not to say he has no political views or agenda, just that they are either kept separate from — or are the same as — his own personal ambitions.

Of course, the diabolical mastermind isn't upset about getting his hands dirty if needed, although if he manages to capture the hero, he inevitably makes the mistake of pulling the Blofeld Ploy or favouring a Death Trap rather than just shooting the guy in the head. He is often a Bad Boss and his henchmen fear those ominous words: "You Have Failed Me for the last time..."

In politics, this character would resurface as the Shadow Dictator. The line between this character and a particularly powerful, competent Corrupt Corporate Executive is razor-thin, and in some cases nonexistent. Quite frequently is The Faceless ("next time, Gadget!") and a Badass Normal.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Case Closed: The mysterious Ano Kata ("That Person"), head of the Black Organization, who directs the organization's many shady criminal endeavors whilst leaving little clue as to his true identity.
  • Light Yagami of Death Note definitely has shades of this, especially after the Time Skip following him killing L. He runs the task force dedicating to catching Kira while secretly being Kira, has a global following that reveres him as messiah of a new world, including multiple proxies that he occasionally acts through when he needs to lie low, and his power and influence is such that nearly all world governments have agreed to step aside and not impede his will.
  • Izaya Orihara from Durarara!! manipulates people and supernatural beings just because he can, and it's fun. He is a Knowledge Broker who has a hand in everything that happens in Ikebukuro and is arguably the most dangerous out of a cast of very dangerous people.
  • Gouda in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex clearly qualifies. That he is actually a high-ranking officer of the national security services acting out in the open and on behalf of his superiors only shows how corrupt and divided the government is.
  • Gundam:
    • Mobile Suit Gundam:
      • Gihren Zabi crosses between this trope and a full-on dictator or even Evil Overlord. He has an IQ of 240, and makes use of his Cult of Personality, his offices in the Zeon government and various other political and military connections to maintain a stranglehold on Zeon's politics. The spin-off manga The Plot To Assassinate Gihren focuses on this aspect of his character, as although he himself is not present, he turns out to be behind the assassination plots on himself, which he orchestrated as false flags to draw out any dissidents in the upper echelons of Zeon society.
      • Kycilia Zabi, his younger sister, manages to rival her brother in this regard. Although she lacks his tremendous charisma and the resources he has access to, she's still able to use her various offices and commands to carve out a powerbase of her own in the Zeon military, in preparation for a move against her brother.
    • In contrast to his predecessor, Muruta Azrael, who operated publicly as a legitimate (if still exceedingly evil) politician and lobbyist, Lord Djibril of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny prefers to operate as the terrorist version of this. He rarely leaves his hidden lair, from which he pulls the strings on Blue Cosmos, the Atlantic Federation, and eventually the Earth Alliance. Comes complete with Right-Hand Cat, A Glass of Chianti, and no moral compass.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has Alejandro Corner, a Celestial Being Observer with designs on hijacking them in his own scheme to control the world. Although he turns out to be a pawn of his Enigmatic Minion, and the true diabolical mastermind, Ribbons Allmark.
  • William James Moriarty, Moriarty the Patriot's version of Professor James Moriarty, is the mastermind behind the criminal organization that stands as The Lord of Crime and everyone answers to him.
  • All for One from My Hero Academia was this at the height of his power before being deposed by All Might years before the start of the series. He ruled the criminal underworld with an iron fist and snuffed out any potential threat to his rule all past users of One for All. In the present day, he's refocused his efforts in reestablishing his criminal empire and raising his successor, Tomura Shigaraki to be the head of it.
  • Tobi from Naruto is the shinobi equivalent of this, being the secret leader of one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world entitled Akatsuki the purpose of which is Take Over the World.
  • Dynamis in Negima! Magister Negi Magi absolute loves the idea of being one of these. And he's good at it.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
  • One Piece:
    • Crocodile leads a secret criminal organization that's out to overthrow a whole kingdom. He's even based on Mafia-type gangsters. What sets him apart from other masterminds is that Crocodile has superpowers.
    • The same way as Crocodile before him, Doflamingo poses as a benevolent king to his kingdom while secretly oppressing them and holding up a worldwide black market.
  • Makoto Shishio from Rurouni Kenshin seems to be a combination between a Diabolical Mastermind and a badass.


    Comic Books 
  • Batman: In the 1990s, the Penguin opted to open a posh nightclub called the Iceberg Lounge, seeming to go straight. In truth, the Iceberg Lounge was a front for his criminal activities but turned out to be so profitable (Gotham's elite would attend for the thrill of being in the presence of many of Gotham's infamous Rogues Gallery) and brought Penguin such respect (one of his primary motivations in life) that he began spending much of his time running the place when he wasn't actively involved in a crime. By dealing in information and stolen goods, this allowed Penguin to keep his hands mostly clean while securing himself a position as primary crime lord of Gotham City.
  • Hunter Rose, the original Grendel in Grendel is a Diabolical Mastermind with a carefully developed and successful plan to take over all organized crime in the USA. He differs from the usual archetype in being an enthusiastic and very competent fighter who much prefers getting his own hands dirty to telling other people to do so.
  • Iron Man villain the Mandarin is a classic example, with a Yellow Peril twist.
  • Mr. V, a.k.a. "Faceless", from the early Martian Manhunter comics was a fat guy in a horrible costume and mask. He was also the head of international crime syndicate Vulture, and vexed the Manhunter for years with one scheme and scientific gizmo after another. Even his inevitable defeats didn't stop him, because whenever he was captured and unmasked it was always revealed that it was just another one of his henchmen under the mask and that the real Mr. V had gotten away again. As this blog notes, Mr. V is this trope, boiled down to its most simplistic and archetypal. "Faceless was the embodiment of crime, without any character depth or motivation beyond the desire to successfully commit crime and to put down those who would prevent crime."
  • Runaways:
    • Alex's parents, Catherine and Geoffrey Wilder, are this, controlling most of the LA underworld through fear and intimidation. They have agents within the LAPD, execute anyone who commits a crime without asking their permission first, and have successfully kept most superheroes and supervillains out of the city. The Pride as a whole might actually count, but since Geoffrey is the Big Bad, and the one who handles affairs in LA directly, he and Catherine are the clearest examples (the rest being a collection of Mad Scientists, Evil Sorcerers, time-travelers, Mutants, and Human Aliens who have their own areas of responsibility in The Syndicate). Bonus points for being Badass Normals to boot.
    • In subsequent chapters, the 1985 Geoffrey shows himself to be an example as well. Having just been pulled into the future, he forms the New Pride, while successfully manipulating a superhero group and the Runaways into doing exactly what he wants them to, ultimately killing one of them before being returned to the past.
  • Sam & Max: Freelance Police has recurring nemesis Mack Salmon, who thanks to Sam and Max has a fish in a glass bowl for a head, for some reason.
  • Wallenquist in Sin City is The Don who is thwarted quite a bit but remains untouchable by the heroes. In fact, none of the heroes so far, have even met him face-to-face. The Roark family almost qualifies. They're still in power but a few of them are dead at this point.
  • Spider-Man:
  • The Octopus, archfoe of Will Eisener's much-acclaimed The Spirit, is a classic example. Debuting in the 1940s, he anticipated both Dr. Claw and Blofeld in that his face was never seen — even on those occasions when he confronted the Spirit in person, his face was always in shadow, his most distinctive feature being his purple gloves with three yellow lines down the back. Initially a crime boss, the modern-day reboot by Darwyn Cooke recreates him as the leader of a terrorist group — the Octagon.
  • Lex Luthor, prime antagonist of Superman in comics, TV, and film, was originally created as a classical criminal mastermind trying to make money or take over the world. Since then, he has added being a Mad Scientist and Corrupt Corporate Executive to his portfolio.
  • Roberto Rastapopolous from Tintin occasionally gets high-tech enough to deserve this description.
  • X-Men: Magneto has shades of this in Classic Villain mode.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Castle of Cagliostro: Count Cagliostro.
  • Gru, the Villain Protagonist of Despicable Me is a career supervillain who even looks something like a cartoon version of Blofeld.
  • The Great Mouse Detective: Professor Ratigan's Villain Song explicitly points out that he is "the world's greatest criminal mind".
  • Megamind's title character falls somewhere between a low-budget version of a Diabolical Mastermind (with a small number of flying robot minions, a series of secret lairs, and endless, albeit simple, schemes to stop Metroman once and for all) and the Mad Scientist (which is far more prevalent).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The vast majority of Film Serial villains qualify.
  • Doctor Evil from the Austin Powers movies is a parody of diabolical masterminds in general and Blofeld in particular.
  • Sr August de Wynter in The Avengers (1998).
  • Ma-Ma, the drug-lord of the Peace Trees tower block and the villain of Dredd, is a Rare Female Example.
  • Fantômas, in the 1964 film, takes more after Blofeld than his “elegant anarchist” character from the novels of the same name.
  • Most villains from the James Bond movies are diabolical masterminds. The average Bond villain has A) wealth, generally in the millionaire range or higher; B) the unswerving loyalty of large numbers of Mooks ranging from a large criminal gang to an army; and C) political (and usually criminal) connections which leave the villain untouchable through regular channels. Some also have D) political mastery of a small country, or at least control of it for all practical purposes.
    • Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the archnemesis of James Bond and leader of supercrime organisation SPECTRE, runs various illicit operations, plots terror attacks, and makes multiple attempts to start wars behind the scenes throughout his various incarnations.
    • Goldfinger is a big-time international gold smuggler and a millionaire entrepreneur, with ties to the Reds.
    • Kananga from Live and Let Die is an island dictator and drug lord Mister Big.
    • Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me is a billionaire shipping magnate with an underwater base that steals nuclear submarines.
    • Hugo Drax in Moonraker is a billionaire industrialist with his own secret space station who makes shuttles for NASA. The original novel had him as a Nazi who disguised himself as a British businessman but is actually working for the Soviets.
    • The Big Bad Duumvirate in Octopussy are an Ax-Crazy Russian general, and an Afghan smuggler and prince living in India, respectively.
    • Max Zorin is a billionaire industrialist, as well as a rogue KGB agent and the product of Nazi genetic engineering.
    • The Big Bad Duumvirate in The Living Daylights are a corrupt Soviet general and a criminal, this time a KGB chieftain and a crooked arms dealer respectively, who plan to have Bond murder the former KGB superior to cover up their ring of embezzlement, drug running, and diamond smuggling.
    • Franz Sanchez is a big-time drug lord with "an invisible empire from Chile to Alaska" and the local dictator in his pocket.
    • GoldenEye has Janus, who is the head of a big-time arms dealing syndicate that has got its hands on a Kill Sat.
    • Media magnate Eliot Carver from Tomorrow Never Dies uses money from his media empire to create tomorrow's headlines, as well as provide himself with numerous personnel, both as armed gunmen and for engineering catastrophes.
    • Renard from The World Is Not Enough is a notorious international terrorist, while Elektra King was an oil heiress until she killed her father for revenge and to get rid of the "heiress" part.
    • Die Another Day has Gustave Graves, a millionaire jeweller who secretly trades in conflict diamonds, passing them off as from a diamond mine in Iceland. He's actually corrupt North Korean colonel Tan-Sun Moon.
    • The various members of Quantum, from Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace, count where SPECTRE agents do not, as they seem to be an organization of equals. Aside from Mr. White, phony green activist Dominic Greene and terrorist banker Le Chiffre, their leadership includes high-ranking politicians and businessmen. In Spectre, it's revealed that Quantum is actually a front for SPECTRE.
    • Silva in Skyfall, who nearly brings down MI6 with the power of Hollywood Hacking. Spectre reveals he was doing this on behalf of Blofeld as a way to humiliate 007 for their Cain and Abel relationship.
    • C/Max Denbigh in Spectre. He is in charge of a proposed merger of MI5 and MI6, using it as a cover to give control of his surveillance plan to Blofeld.
  • Kingsman: Being an Affectionate Parody of the classic '60s/'70s Bond films, it naturally has its villains fit this archetype.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The main villain is the Fantom, a wealthy arms manufacturer with highly advanced technology (that he forced a group of kidnapped scientists to make for him) and a desire to start a world war to drum up business. In fact the Fantom is James Moriarty, the brilliant criminal mastermind from the Sherlock Holmes stories, who wants to analyze the League's super abilities and reproduce them in a form that can be given to others.
  • Baron de Marchant (Curd Jürgens) in Missile X: The Neutron Bomb Incident, who wants to start a nuclear war.
  • Mission: Impossible Film Series has several.
  • Once Upon a Spy: Marcus Valorium is a scientific genius who plans to use his Shrink Ray (combined with a computer program that allows him to convert any satellite into a Kill Sat by bouncing the Shrink Ray off it) to wreak havoc across the world by doing things like shrinking dams to cause widespread flooding (his first target is the Hoover Dam). His goal is to create chaos out with will emerge a ruling intellectual elite, unfettered by the chains of democracy, which he regards as an inefficient tool that allows the ignorant to drag down their intellectual betters.
  • Dick Jones in RoboCop (1987) is a bigshot Corrupt Corporate Executive within OCP, with ties to organized crime in Detroit and enough resources at his disposal to use Walking Tank soldiers for personal protection and to provide Clarence Boddicker's gang with military-grade weaponry.
  • Lord Blackwood and Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes (2009). Tried to become Prime Minister-for-life on the backs of his Freemasons-like group; also hinted to be Jack the Ripper.
  • Star Wars: Palpatine is effectively this in the prequel trilogy, before his makes his full transition into Evil Overlord. He's an influential senator in the Galactic Republic who manipulates his way into becoming Chancellor, has ties to several major Mega Corps, and is able to engineer a massive galactic war that he controls both sides of, which he uses to reform the Republic into an Empire and catapult himself into becoming its Emperor.
  • Lex Luthor in Superman: The Movie. The character's Mad Scientist aspects were dropped, and the Diabolical Mastermind parts played up for everything they were worth.
  • In Unbreakable, this trope is discussed by Elijah's mother near the end, who says that her son refers to these types of supervillains as "The Real Threat" as opposed to villains who simply resort to brute force. As it turns out, Elijah himself is one of these.
  • Keyser Soze from The Usual Suspects. Organizes a bogus heist and instigates his own arrest. It's all part of an elaborate scheme to kill one witness before he can inform on Soze's cartel. Ironically the trope is discussed when Verbal Kint says to his police interrogators: "To a cop, the explanation is never that complicated. It's always simple. There's no mystery to the street, no arch criminal behind it all. If you got a dead body and you think his brother did it, you're gonna find out you're right." The irony being that Verbal is actually Keyser Soze.
  • Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Became Toontown's judge for the sole purpose of erecting a freeway on its site. Also a sole stockholder in the construction company handling the demolition.
  • Dr. Arliss Loveless in Wild Wild West, an ex-Confederate scientist who plots the rise of "The Disunited States of America."
  • Sebastian Shaw from X-Men: First Class, who (mutant powers aside) wouldn't be terribly out of place as a James Bond villain.

  • Professor James Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes is one of the earliest examples of this trope. The man apparently can't run anything on the up and up: He was a promising faculty member at a provincial university before scandal drove him to resign. The only work he could find afterward was as a private math tutor. This provided excellent cover as he went on to control London's underworld over the next thirty-odd years. Every crook in the city answers to him in one way or another. Better yet, Holmes can't publicly out this kindly old teacher as a major kingpin — he would seem utterly mad.
  • In the James Bond novels, Dr. No is the character who establishes the archetype that would later become the standard for the film series' Bond villains. He's something of an Unbuilt Trope, in that his extreme megalomania (to the point of establishing an Elaborate Underground Base with a window facing the ocean and using a deathtrap involving a school of crabs) was exceptional among Bond villains at the time, and a significant amount of wordcount was spent on explaining just what kind of person would do something like that. And the deathtrap is poorly designed enough that Honey can just walk out once the crabs are gone.
  • "Gentleman" Johnny Marcone of The Dresden Files is probably one of the most benign versions of this, as his mastery of Chicago's underworld has actually reduced the bloodshed and chaos of criminal activity in the Windy City. That has actually been his intended goal for many years now, ever since a young girl was accidentally gunned down by hitmen aiming for him. This hasn't stopped him from turning a pretty good profit, however.
  • Corvus of Tyrannosaur Canyon believes himself to be one, but his machinations are relatively simple and not particularly ambitious.
  • Nero Wolfe has his own answer to Professor Moriarty in the person of Arnold Zeck, a crime boss Wolfe describes as having "unexcelled talent, a remorseless purpose, and a will that cannot be dented or deflected" and criminal interests in everything from gambling to professional larceny to political malfeasance.
  • The villain of The Night Mayor is Truro Daine, whose extensive criminal career is such that nobody can think of any precedent to compare him to short of fictional supervillains like Fu Manchu and Lex Luthor. When he was finally caught, the charges started with 8921 counts of first-degree murder and continued through arson, blackmail, drug-running, pornography, and other trespasses too numerous to mention. The jail time due for all his crimes is enough that if he lived that long he'd come out to find the human race had evolved into something else. He continues pulling the strings of his criminal empire from maximum security prison. The prison governor notes that a man of Daine's genius could easily have made a legitimate fortune larger than his ill-gotten gains, but apparently Daine would have found that too boring.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Most American soaps feature an all-knowing, all-seeing, wealthy businessman who secretly controls a small town. Sometimes there is overlap with a corrupt CEO, like J.R. Ewing, but generally these guys remain in their mansions and don't get much work done. See Stefano from Days of Our Lives, Adam Chandler on All My Children, Victor Lord on One Life to Live, Victor Newman on The Young and the Restless, Alan Spaulding on Guiding Light, James Stenbeck on As the World Turns, Carl Hutchins on Another World (replaced much later by Alexander Nikos, after Carl reformed), numerous mob bosses on General Hospital (particularly Mikkos Cassadine, a discount Blofeld with his own Weather-Control Machine) Gregory "COLD DAY IN HELL" Richards Esq. on Sunset Beach, and Alistair Crane on Passions (a ridiculous pastiche of each these villains).
  • The Clairvoyant, mysterious leader of a Nebulous Evil Organisation called Centipede, in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Played with. It turns out he himself is a mid-level member of HYDRA.
  • All over the place in Alias. Arvin Sloane, Julian Sark, and two out of the three Derevko sisters all fit the bill at various times. Basically, anyone who wants to lay a claim to being a season's Big Bad.
  • The Avengers faced dozens of these during their adventures. In fact, the series might have originated the term: Mrs Peel's last words to Steed were: "Always keep your bowler on in times of stress, and a watchful eye open for diabolical masterminds."
  • Breaking Bad:
    • Gustavo Fring is a quiet businessman with an enigmatic past who becomes the mastermind of the biggest meth empire north of the US-Mexico border through cunning and scheming. He also avoids the failings of a typical crime boss by rejecting the extravagances of the criminal lifestyle, instead cultivating an image of himself as a pillar of the community and a friend of law enforcement.
    • Walter White seeks to establish himself as one in his alter ego of Heisenberg, although for the first half of the series his operation is simply too small (consisting only of himself, his partner Jesse, and one or two dealers) to qualify him as such. By Season 5, with his connection to Madrigal, alliances with other drug dealers and his use of the Aryan Brotherhood as muscle, Heisenberg could accurately be described as the "king of meth".
  • Burn Notice had two, both ex-CIA men who blackmailed spies into working for their Murder Inc. operation. The first was colloquially referred to as "Management", and a second "silent partner" named Anson Fullerton.
  • The Goodies. Spoofed in "The Lost Island of Munga" when the Goodies meet a villain of previous acquaintance.
    "Who am I? I [Dramatic Pause] am the Napoleon of Wickedness. The Most Naughty Man in the World! Master of Disguises (Sussex University). Arch Rascal, Prince of Mischief. You many know me as... [henchman plays Ominous Pipe Organ] Nasty Person!"
  • Kamen Rider:
  • Life: When you reach out for Roman, he's not there.
  • Life on Mars (2006) finds the unit in pursuit of the Morton brothers (a fictitious analogue to the Kray twins), a gangster duo seizing control of Manchester's racketeering outfits by killing their rivals. Their only lead on the brothers' whereabouts is Sam's father, Vic Tyler, a petty crook and the only person to lay eyes on the Mortons. Vic is later revealed to be the true gang leader, with the "Morton brothers" acting as his nonexistent bosses.
  • Metal Heroes:
    • Chōjinki Metalder has God Neros. To the public he's Gozo Kirihara, a wealthy philanthropist who heads a prominent financial corporation. In private behind his corporate front he leads a consortium of crime syndicates and terrorist militias called the Neros Empire, which he uses to spread terror and economic turmoil throughout the world.
    • Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya: Dokusai heads a criminal group in the ninja underworld. Despite having limited resources to run on, he's able to compensate by loaning his henchmen as Hired Guns for various criminal activities, allying his lot with powerful ninjas and being an exceptionally skilled ninja himself.
    • Kidou Keiji Jiban: Doctor Giba is an evil scientist who heads the Criminal Syndicate Bioron, has an access to a seemingly never-ending supply of advanced technology, armaments and materials for creating Bioweapon Beasts, and seeks to take over Japan by fomenting terror in its population, before moving on to the world.
  • Mr. Terror from Mighty Med, the leader of a massive organisation of Super villains is a rare female example.
  • Person of Interest: Elias, the self-styled "evolution of organized crime".
  • Power Rangers Time Force: Ransik is an intelligent criminal mastermind who basically ruled and threatened the entire city with his army, which he forged through his sheer charisma and will power. Unlike other villains in the franchise, Ransik also desires both power and money, and his schemes are often geared just as much towards increasing his wealth as they are to plots to destroy the city like a classic Power Rangers Big Bad.
  • Jim Moriarty, the BBC series Sherlock's interpretation of the literary character, is a "consulting criminal", which winds up being a cross between Diabolical Mastermind and Psycho for Hire. Moriarty is portrayed as rivaling Sherlock in terms of intelligence; but where Sherlock stimulates himself by solving crimes and mysteries, Moriarty plans perfect crimes (mostly for other people to actually commit) for the same kind of rush. The money and (incidental) power are just pleasant bonuses for him.
  • Earth-2 Lionel Luthor in Season 10 of Smallville. By fusing LuthorCorp and the Metropolis underworld, he's become the most powerful man on Earth-2 and is one step short of becoming the Corrupt Corporate Executive version of The Emperor. A ruthless Social Darwinist, he values power and control not so much for their sake, but as proof that he, by virtue of his position, is the greatest survivor on Earth-2. Having an evil Superman at your beck and call can help with that.
  • Some of the smarter Gou'ald System Lords fit this to a T on Stargate SG-1. Particularly the big three that SG-1 faced off against; (in escalating order of how well they fit) Apophis, Anubis, and Magnificent Bastard Ba'al.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Our Man Bashir" most of the crew's transporter beam patterns are accidentally put in a holosuite portraying characters in Dr. Bashir's 1960s spy program. Captain Sisko plays a mad supervillain planning to flood the world called "Dr. Noah".
  • Super Sentai:
    • J.A.K.Q. Dengekitai: Boss Iron Claw heads a crime syndicate literally called "CRIME" and command a network of mob bosses throughout Japan. He even has ties to alien invaders, who for whatever reason thought forming a crime syndicate was the best way to go about taking over Earth.
    • Choujuu Sentai Liveman: Great Professor Bias runs the Volt, essentially an Academy of Evil that trains prodigious college students to become Evil Geniuses, resides within a Space Base in Earth's orbit and masterminds the events of the series as part of his plan for world domination.
    • Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger: Agent Abrella is a black marketeer who deals to all of the Alienizers the Dekarangers face and is responsible for enabling them to be as big of threats as they are, making him one of the most influential figures in the space criminal underworld even though the Dekarangers don't even know who he is. When he decides to get serious in opposing the Dekarangers, he's able to bust out four of the deadliest Alienizers, pull off a successful scheme to capture DekaBase and nearly bring about the destruction of the Space Police as a result.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look had a recurring sketch about one of these and his frustrations with certain aspects of the job. Such as a contractor's requirement that a secret revolving wall have a clearly visible sign on it saying "Warning: Wall may rotate", and his henchmen responding to the instruction "Let's hope he meets with an unfortunate accident" by hoping that the man in question met with an accident.
  • Dr. Miguelito Loveless in The Wild Wild West.
  • Wiseguy villain Mel Profitt. He controls a multi-billion-dollar criminal empire from so far behind the scenes that the FBI has never even heard of him. He lives on an opulent super yacht year-round. He employs a CIA agent with a tricked-out car as his personal assassin. He finances revolutions in Banana Republics and plans to buy Major League Baseball franchises. And he's completely batshit insane, just for good measure.


    Video Games 
  • The Joker shows himself to be this throughout the Batman: Arkham Series, especially in Batman: Arkham Origins, in which he takes over from Roman Sionis as The Don of Gotham without anyone the wiser for a long time.
  • Frank Fontaine in BioShock. Originally a Brooklyn hoodlum, he made his way to Rapture and cornered the market on fish, which led to his discovery (and later monopolization) of plasmids, which effectively made him the "guv'nor." Fontaine is like Teflon; he even opened a "House for the Poor" to engender loyalty from the less fortunate.
    Ryan: This Fontaine fellow is somebody to watch. Once, he was just a menace, to be convicted and hung. But he always manages to be where the evidence isn't. He's the most dangerous type of hoodlum... the kind with vision.
  • City of Heroes:
    • City of Heroes has its share of these — almost every group of NPC villains has at least one of these at the top, as well as a few diabolical masterminds-in-training amongst the lieutenants.
    • City of Villains features a character class devoted to this trope, appropriately named the "Mastermind." Your primary ability is summoning henchmen, be they a robotic army of doom, waves of the undead, heartless mercenaries, armed thugs, or ninjas. Since you can always resummon more, you're expected to let them die in your name — and one support power called "Detonate" specifically is described as giving your minion an explosive device, then while he's trying to set it up, you blow the device and the minion sky high. Also true to the trope, you have the least hit points of any class in the game — but any damage you take can be funneled through your minions in certain situations.
  • One of the big bads in Die Reise ins All, is one. Not a big surprise, as it is Profesor Moriarty himself. And now he is even more dangerous.
  • The game Evil Genius and its sequel is a Diabolical Mastermind simulation, where you select one of several evil supergenius characters and build up a globe-spanning criminal empire, dealing with any spies or secret agents sent to take you out or disrupt your operation.
  • Mention must be made of Geese Howard, the best-known villain of Fatal Fury. Based on Jean-Claude Van Damme's character in Bloodsport, he's a German-American crook who once rose as high as the city's Police Commissioner, but decided to ditch the artifice and become a full-time kingpin. He's been 'killed' more than once, but his second death actually stuck, and he appears now in dream matches.
  • In that vein, control over Final Fight's Metro City is being wrested away by the Mad Gear gang, led by a mob boss known as Belger. He dies in the original but has been reincarnated in various forms (including a cyborg, a zombie, and a vengeful brother).
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has an over-arching plot involving the murder of the hero's mother, Beverly Johnson, as part of a coup d'état within the Grove Street families. Corrupt junk squad officer Frank Tenpenny is behind it, promoting Grove Street capo Big Smoke to drug baron in exchange for his cut. Smoke takes over as lead villain once Tenpenny is tried for murder (though he is later acquitted), with numerous gangs answering to him, including the Ballas, the Los Santos Vagos, and the Russian mob.
    • Grand Theft Auto V has Lester Crest, a criminal mastermind with resources at his disposal who helps the protagonists plan their various heists. He's a very pragmatic examples who takes a fair cut from the heists and never screws over his accomplies.
  • Hitman:
    • In Hitman: Codename 47, all of your missions are coming from the same buyer: Dr. Otto Ortmeyer, a human cloning pioneer and "father" to 47. He uses 47 to kill the other genetic donors and reap the rewards for himself. He is later killed after summoning 47 back to the lab he originated from.
    • In Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, 47 falls for the same trick as before. His client this time is Sergei, a Russian mob boss and 47's 'uncle'. (His brother was Boris, the final target in 47's previous outing.) Sergei is not interested in revenge but merely wants to assemble a nuclear missile that is undetectable by radar. Your targets each own a component for the missile which Sergei asks you to collect.
    • Hitman: Blood Money introduces the Franchise, a rival outfit to the protagonist's murder-for-hire "Agency." As Mr. 47 climbs his way up the criminal ladder, killing off the Franchise's mooks, he's captured by the authorities in an untimely raid — whereupon the Franchise's founder is revealed to be the game's narrator, a composite character of Blofeld and Le Chriffe from Casino Royale (2006). The real objective was to get his hands on 47's enhanced DNA to produce more assassins like him: he systematically backed 47 into a corner by killing his associates, hiding behind a phony contract killing business to divert them, all the while giving interviews to the press condemning human cloning (to remove the competition).
    • The World of Assassination Trilogy has the Shadow Client, who in the first game manipulates the ICA into eliminating those connected to Providence to dismantle that organization. In the second game, it's revealed that he has a personal connection to 47; he's another clone, Lucas Grey a.k.a. Subject 6, a former friend of 47 who is trying to break Providence's hold over the world and in the third game the Constant, who had already displayed great amounts of this behind the scenes anyway, displays his smarts by killing Grey and hunts down 47.
  • Jade Empire:
    • Kai Lan the Serpent is the local figurehead of The Syndicate in the Imperial Capital Arena. It eventually turns out he's not as high-ranked as you're initially led to believe, as he seems to have superiors of some sort (who only contact you if you kill him in the arena).
    • Another example is Gao the Greater, another high-ranking member of the same syndicate.
  • The James Bond video games, of course, have plenty of these, much like their cinematic inspirations.
    • Agent Under Fire has Adrian Malprave, who is out to Kill and Replace various world leaders with clones under his control.
    • NightFire has Raphael Drake, whose business decommissioning old nuclear reactors and missiles is actually a front for his plot to hijack an American military space station and Take Over the World.
    • Everything or Nothing has Nikolai Diavolo, who wishes to use nanomachines to overthrow the Russian government and install himself as dictator, and then conquer Europe from there.
  • Geese's counterpart in The King of Fighters is Rugal Bernstein, an arms dealer with a taste for merlot, pet cougars, and portrait galleries of himself. In a running theme for fighting games, he's been killed multiple times and resurrected just as often. Interestingly, he seems to have some Orochi power in him, which explains how he can go toe-to-toe with the likes of Akuma.
  • The Illusive Man of Mass Effect. He's a Well-Intentioned Extremist who believes that Humanity Is Superior and sees aliens as threats to human dominance. While he does claim that his actions are solely for the benefit of humanity and will handwave any Moral Event Horizons of Cerberus as "rogue cells", in his opinion Cerberus is Humanity and it seems that he only does so if said Moral Event Horizons lead to colossal failures (which tends to be incredibly frequent).
  • Mastermind: World Conqueror has game mechanics and cutscenes all mastermind-style, in stylish red and black (much like mastermind morality). The character himself in the game and the flash series is more a Dr. Evil-like parody who often gets into petty grudges and arguments with his underlings, whom he's way too eager to kill off.
  • Max Payne:
    • Nicole Horne, the corrupt pharmaceutical pusher from the first Max Payne. Starting out as a government chemist, she began peddling a rejected super-soldier drug on the streets. Horne used her old government contacts to assemble an army of mobsters, ex-government agents, and junk squad cops to do the heavy lifting for her.
    • The sequel, The Fall of Max Payne, gives us Vladimir Lem, also known as Vlad, harmless club owner/shadow leader of the "Cleaners" hit squad/leader of the Russian mafia. The Squeaky Cleaning Company goes into buildings dressed as custodians, kill their targets, and then use cleaning materials to remove any trace. Their main purpose is stomping anyone standing in the way of Vlad's control of the underworld. He finally overreaches when trying to take over the Illuminati.
  • "Big Boss" in the first two MSX Metal Gear titles. In both cases, Solid Snake is called in to neutralize a foreign power before it can launch a nuclear weapon, and the American spymaster Big Boss is the shadow dictator of both nations. In addition to hinting at his "final boss" status, his name is an old colloquialism from Wall Street — the "boss" whom all other bosses answer to.
    • Solidus Snake functioned as one during the events of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Unfortunately for him, in a series where triple-crosses and Man Behind the Man reveals are commonplace, he didn't last past two games. In the original Metal Gear Solid, he was technically the U.S. President, but had little freedom and mostly carried out whatever The Illuminati told him to do. He broke out of the system by attempting to form a coalition with Russian troops in Alaska, an operation spearheaded by Liquid Snake, who believed he was acting alone. When this fell through, Solidus went underground (though publicly he resigned and suffered a heart attack) and regrouped with the Russians, this time seizing an offshore battle cruiser and declaring Manhattan a "free" republic. Just as before, Solidus accomplishes this task by hiding behind a phony hostage-taking.
  • In the NES adventure game Nightshade (1992), you play as a wannabe crime fighter seeking to fill the vacuum left by Vortex, the city's late superhero. On the flip side, the criminals have their own vacuum to fill: without a hero to fight, the gangs descend into all-out war until a Pharaoh-themed supervillain, Sutekh, proposes that they unite. As his reward, Sutekh is now at the helm of a mega-gang that controls the city.
  • Overwatch has a rare female example in Sombra, a hacker who has built quite the criminal empire off of stolen top-secret information. She is pretty much the most actually powerful person in the world at this point: able to hack any device and blackmail any foe in order to get what she wants. She takes down The Don Katya Volskaya with a few threats and a little infiltration assistance from Reaper. Not exactly a villain though. She behaves more like an Eldritch Abomination in that it's not clear exactly what she wants, and it's entirely possible all her experimentation on herself has actually made her something not quite human.
  • Giovanni, the cat-stroking head of Team Rocket, from Pokémon Red and Blue. He was only The Faceless on the Gym Leader page in the manual and in parts of the Pokémon: The Series anime prior to the release of Pokémon: The First Movie, though.
  • Albert Wesker eventually became this in Resident Evil 4 and the spinoffs surrounding it. The funny part is that Wesker was originally just a goon working for the evil Umbrella Corporation. By this time, he was retconned as a Blofeld-type in a black leather chair who carried out orders via monitors and satellites.
    • The rarely-seen Oswell E. Spencer was the president of Umbrella Corp and the chief architect of the games' events, up until his death in Resident Evil 5. Spencer was a very elitist person who funded Umbrella Corp. to pursue his eugenics goals. He went off the deep end because he suddenly became in possession of a powerful evolutionary tool (Progenitor Virus). His ideals suddenly became feasible. In the early stages of the game's development, the Ashfords, who co-founded the company, were instead called the Kruegers, former high-ranking Nazis, although in the final version of the game they were descended from British aristocrats as the developers decided to remove the explicit Nazi imagery.
  • King Octopus from the Richman series is an international criminal who once used the power of a special diamond to scam many kings' riches, manipulated a princess to start a tournament to see if any of the contestants have said diamond (as he lost it during another scuffle with his arch-enemy and he knows that some of them has possessed it before he got it,) and later tried to use the power of another set of diamonds to brainwash the whole world to a more money-hungry one. Of course all but scamming kings are eventually foiled.
  • In Shadowrun, Jake Armitage is a courier who was shot by his Mr. Johnson, Drake, and left for dead somewhere in Seattle. Unfortunately, the bullet wiped clean any memory of Jake's last assignment or the angry-sounding voice on his answering machine. Long story short, Aneki Corporation developed a revolutionary if malevolent Artificial Intelligence. Because of this, Matrix Systems, a small corporation, started working on a program to destroy the A.I. Aware of that, Aneki cut a deal with the metahuman Drake. With Drake's firepower, they cleared Matrix Systems off the map, except for Jake, who is carrying the last copy of the program. Jake manages to destroy Aneki using the program and kill Drake (inside of Drake's Volcano Lair, no less), thus saving Seattle from the A.I.
    "Don'cha know you can't run, Armitage? Drake'll get ya, wherever you are!"
    • In Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall, an investigation into the murders of some high-profile deckers leads to a major conspiracy involving Dr. Vauclair, the hero who brought down a Great Dragon who attacked Europe. He subsequently went underground, dedicating the next few decades to developing a pathogen which will wipe out the dragons for good. Though it is possible, through judicious use of skill points, to talk him out of his plan. His bodyguard will turn traitor and execute him (thereby replacing Vauclair as the final boss) if this happens. Conversely, it is possible to submit to Vauclair and agree to help accelerate his plan, which has the unintended consequence of removing the barriers protecting earth from the Lovecraftian Horrors lurking in the metaplanes.
    • A more straightforward example is the Great Dragon Lofwyr. Like most dragons, he sees his company as a treasure hoard, and his employees (which includes the protagonist) are little gold coins that he keeps well-polished. He's concerned with the end of the world, and plays chess on a global scale to prevent it — but he wants to be on top at the end, not just get through it. His involvement in the dissolution of the Flux State is a growing concern in Dragonfall, as anarchy (especially on Lofwyr's front doorstep) is just bad for business. Vauclair's research is a good instrument for the Flux because APEX unshackled is more of a god in its reign than dragons will ever be in meatspace. But it apparently has no effect, because Lofwyr still invades the F-State and wins anyway in the epilogue. It was always going to happen and is canon.
  • M.Bison seems to be behind all the mischief in every Street Fighter game after II, barring the third installment which introduced too many new characters for some fans' tastes. He straddles the Evil Overlord line, but his criminal syndicate and (thankfully) ineffective world domination plots land him a spot on this list.
  • Mr X of Streets of Rage manages to take over the city. Pity he didn't arm his mooks with any of the guns there... He got a nice one for himself though.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Edwin VanCleef was the mastermind behind the criminal organisation the Defias that has its tentacles everywhere. He was otherwise unusual for the role of being a Well-Intentioned Extremist whose Rank Scales with Asskicking.
    • In the Cataclysm expansion VanCleef's daughter Vanessa does daddy proud by murdering his enemies and setting Sentinel Hill ablaze, all while hiding her true identity until the final reveal.
  • The enigmatic "Big Daddy" in the XCOM Enemy Within DLC, so named for the overstuffed chair in his lair. His/her organization, EXALT, is conspiring to undermine Earth's defenses and collude with the aliens in order to dominate everyone else. The mastermind is never seen or referenced, and seemingly escapes through a James Bond-style hatch before your forces arrive at the penthouse HQ.

    Visual Novels 

  • The aptly named Mastermind from The Fan appears to be this, though not much is known about him at the moment. He seems to be the head of a powerful corporation that has its own army and several MIB in its employment, and he's only appeared so far as a black distorted silhouette with a magenta-colored eye on a green monitor, amid a lot of static.
  • Mr. Sin from Sam & Fuzzy.
  • Jaunt from Those Unknowable: The Shadows Over Innsmouth.
  • Daedalus from Sluggy Freelance is a light parody of the concept, or else is trying too hard to cleave to it: he has all the trappings, such as the always-shadowed face, but usually manages to spoil the mystique.

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Vesuvius Matheson is the wealthy head of the far-reaching Matheson Crime Family which owns the city of Matheson and has his minions infiltrating or bribing many government officials in Maar Sul. He hatches elaborate schemes to strengthen his power base, even going so far as to fund the Proninist invasion of Maar Sul.
  • Doctor Steel. Though he's not so much evil as he is mad... very mad. Very, very mad.
  • Dominus in the Whateley Universe. He's the head of The Syndicate and is a shadowy director from behind the scenes. Chessmaster might count as well, even if he was actually in the vicinity during the Halloween invasion, hidden away in his flying command base, surrounded by mooks, while his lover Deathlist led the assault.

    Western Animation 
  • Belphegor, the main villain from the French-Canadian animation Belphegor, fits this trope very well. Unlike most diabolical masterminds, however, he gets in on the action just as much as his mooks and underlings, if not more so.
  • Lawrence Limburger from the original Biker Mice from Mars series. Voiced by William Morgan Sheppard.
  • Number One, leader of F.E.A.R., in Birdman.
  • Baron Silas Greenback from Danger Mouse usually sits behind his desk stroking his pet and organising villainy, leaving his henchman Stiletto to do the work.
  • Taurus Bulba from Darkwing Duck.
  • Stewie from Family Guy, especially in the early years. It kinda petered out for a while & got replaced with a Transparent Closet schtick, but they've been trying to bring it back recently.
  • Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is a worldwide wanted terrorist that leads the Cobra Organization, which sows discord and chaos with aims of world domination. His effectiveness as a leader varies: in the original cartoon, he was such a failure with a long string of defeats that his comrades created Serpentor to become a proper leader to Cobra and the Commander getting Demoted to Dragon with an Enemy Civil War ensuing as result. Later cartoons portray him as a more scary villain, being able to overthrow the US government and getting bumped up to Shadow Dictator.
    • In the original cartoon continuity he's also a Karma Houdini. In a surprise guest appearance on the third season of the Transformers cartoon (taking place in the then-distant future of 2005), it's revealed that while Cobra as an organization no longer exists, the Commander (as Old Snake) is a respected older statesman of the criminal underworld.
  • Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget was another fine diabolical mastermind.
  • Valmont in Jackie Chan Adventures.
  • Dr. Zin in Jonny Quest TOS. He has at least two major bases, a castle and an Elaborate Underground Base inside a volcano, plus an army of mookss. He's also a technological genius, who developed a robot spy and a beam that can shoot down airplanes.
  • Gorilla Grodd in the Justice League cartoon, especially the JLU where he founded the Legion of Doom and charged each member 20 percent of the profits from their crimes. Lex Luthor became one after losing his Corrupt Corporate Executive and Mad Scientist guises, eventually taking control of the Legion from Grodd.
  • Kim Possible is positively lousy with Diabolical Masterminds — except that none of them are actually any good at it.
  • Dr. Heinz Doofenschmirtz from Phineas and Ferb. Although it could be argued that he is half Diabolical Mastermind and half Absent-Minded Professor.
  • Hank Scorpio, from The Simpsons, is another parody; he's a textbook diabolical mastermind, except that he's a really nice guy and good boss. One of the most popular one-shot characters in The Simpsons.
  • Cybron in Skysurfer Strike Force.
  • Dark Kat from SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron.
  • Slade, Brother Blood, and the Brain on Teen Titans (2003) all qualify. Slade does serve as The Dragon for Trigon at one point, but that's purely for personal gain rather than loyalty — his only affiliation is ever himself.
    • Slade also manages not to belittle himself on the villain food chain by serving as Dragon, considering who he's working for.
  • Transformers Beast Wars Megatron is a prime example. Unlike other Megatrons, this one didn't have any political power in his faction. (The Council considered him a dangerous rogue.) He's described as brilliant in the cleverly crafted strategies he uses to thwart the Maximals throughout the show. He has a handful of lackeys (half of them traitorous, and the other half stupidly loyal) and he takes the time to incorporate their plans against him to further his agenda without them knowing.
  • Subversion: The Monarch, would-be superfoe of Doctor Thaddeus Venture and The Venture Bros., spent his trust fund becoming a diabolical mastermind purely so that he could be a diabolical mastermind. He has no desires beyond killing Doctor Venture, despite the fact that Venture couldn't care less about him.
    • Phantom Limb has aspirations as such, and in the fourth season has taken multiple steps in that direction by expanding the Revenge Society's roster with real supervillains instead of a mug, toaster, and high-heel shoe.
    • The Sovereign is the official Diabolical Mastermind of the series as the head of the Guild of Calamitous Intent. It's technically an elected position, but it fits the rest of the trope well. He also flexes his muscle as a fiendishly powerful shapeshifter and has some hand-to-hand skills, but the majority of his power comes from the vast, high-tech Guild he leads.
  • Mr. Big in WordGirl, but considering this is a children's edutainment show, don't expect him to get away with his evil acts.