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Heroism Addict

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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 whatsoever; hence, he is almost always a villain or at best a very dark-shaded Anti-Hero.

Needless to say, has nothing to do with Chronic Hero Syndrome or Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help, which is about real heroes. Might be related to Munchausen By Proxy. Compare Fake Ultimate Hero, Glory Hound. Contrast Engineered Heroics and Monster Protection Racket, where the danger is faked. See also Minion Manipulated into Villainy, where the villain causes someone hardships or tragedies, so they can solve them in exchange for the person's loyalty.


Subtrope of the Sins of Pride and Lust (the Lust in this case being lust for glory and recognition).


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  • Mechamato: Payapi secretly sets fires so that he can put them out and be recognized as a hero for it.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball Super: Frost, Frieza's alternate self from Universe 6, initially seems like a cool and friendly hero who's beloved for ending wars and villainous plots all across the galaxy. In reality, the vast majority of conflicts and disasters that he stops were deliberately set up ahead of time by him and his agents. Once people are in danger, Frost heads over and "defeats" the villains he himself created. He does this out of a mixture of extreme narcissism, greed, and pragmatism; why conquer the galaxy when you can pretend to save it and get worshipped like a god in return?
  • 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. When he suffers The Loins Sleep Tonight, he arranges for the deaths of all the people who supported him, so that he could feel self-righteous once more.
  • Itsuki, the Bow Hero from The Rising of the Shield Hero is genuinely addicted to being seen as a selfless hero, when he's really the most vain hero of the four. The worst thing about it is, Itsuki tends to do "heroic" deeds while undercover to put up the facade that he is a truly humble hero who desires no praise for his actions. At one point, he even goes by the pretentious nickname "Perfect Hidden Justice."

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • Hank Pym's fall from grace as a superhero began when, after being faced with a court-martial and removal from The Avengers for his unprovoked attack on Elfqueen as she was trying to surrender, he attempted to do this by way of creating an indestructible robot to attack the team and only making it vulnerable to his stings, allowing him to swoop in and seemingly "save the day". The fact that he hit his wife Janet when she tried to talk him out of this plan didn't help him at all. The plan failed because Janet destroyed the robot herself and everything came to light, resulting in not only Pym's removal from the Avengers, but Janet divorcing him. He has since recovered, only to have his reputation besmirched again by an impostor.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The White Magician's shtick by the time Diana meets him is to sell stolen STAR Labs tech to low-level criminals and then fight those same criminals to protect the citizens, which leads to the perp's death in all cases where they'd have any hope of identifying him as their supplier. In one particularly cruel instance, he sold a computer to a teen that took over the teen's body and allowed the White Magician to puppet the terrified boy as he "fought" him and inflicted fatal burns on him.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Incredibles: This is Syndrome's problem, though the name is probably a (wonderful) coincidence. He wants to be a great and famous hero like his childhood idol Mr. Incredible but sees no problem murdering actual heroes or attacking cities in pursuit of this, not to mention blowing up children. To do this, he creates the Omnidroid, a powerful battle robot made to be Nigh-Invulnerable, highly intelligent, and generally strong enough so that no one else could take it on, leaving him to stop it with the help of a remote control. This backfires on him when it turns out that the learning robot "got smart enough to wonder why it had to take orders", recognizing the remote as its Weaksauce Weakness and getting it off of Syndrome with a sneak attack. Syndrome goes down fairly easily after that, leaving the Incredibles and Frozone to actually defeat the thing.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Aquaman: Orm almost single-handedly disposes of the submarine that attacks his forces and the Xebellians. Except he is the one behind the attack, as he paid Black Manta to get the submarine for him.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Loki in his debut appearance in Thor attempts to use such a situation as his final bid for power. He brokers an agreement with his people's sworn enemy, Jötunheim and their king Laufey, to assassinate his adoptive father Odin. This act is done to deceive Laufey that Loki is his ally within Asgard. After granting them passage to the castle, Loki suddenly betrays Laufey right before he assassinates Odin and kills him, portraying himself as Odin's savior and giving himself justification to go to open war with Jötunheim. However the whole plot relies on Thor being stuck on Earth, which unfortunately for Loki, is not the case and his plot is exposed in front of his mother.
    • This turns out to be Mysterio's modus operandi in Spider-Man: Far From Home. The entire thing about Elementals, his acts as a hero, his backstory, basically everything was faked using holographic technology he invented for Stark Industries, along with help from his crew in order to make him look like a superhero worthy as Iron Man's successor.
  • 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 of course he starts setting more fires to teach them a lesson.

    Live-Action Television 
  • 9-1-1 uses this in the aptly titled "Hero Complex." Suspicious over a patient dying under the care of new paramedic Jonah, Hen and Chimney discover a pattern of Jonah's patients near death and saved. It seems as a kid, Jonah saved the life of his school bus driver and hailed for heroism which pushed him to become a paramedic. But Jonah took the wrong lessons as rather than do this to help people, he gets off on the accolades of others. The paramedics realize that Jonah is now deliberately putting patients at risk just so he can look better "saving" them. Sadly, he overestimates his skills with several of these victims dying when they didn't need to.
  • An episode of Chicago Fire has a man finding an infant thrown from a car in a crash. But when he pops up at another scene, they realize the guy wants to look like a hero and risked injuring the kid to place him in that place. He later throws a rock into a highway just to cause a crash and has the audacity to "help" the paramedics whose car was just hit by the rock and is arrested.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • A sniper from season one episode "L.D.S.K" who shoots people non-lethally turns out to be an ER nurse who wounds people so that he can care for them. Gideon refers to it as "Hero Homicide" even though the one person actually died was killed for being a suspect.
    • Season three "Lucky" ends with Penelope being shot by her date. In the next episode "Penelope" the shooter turns out a sheriff's deputy who shot people so he could be the first one to respond and tried to kill Penelope because he thought she was on to him.
  • Even Stevens: In "Louis in the Middle", Louis gets addicted to committing acts of heroism after he saves a kid from getting run over, and Tawny and Twitty have to try and snap him out of it before he gets hurt.
  • 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.
  • NCIS: New Orleans uses a medical variant when a doctor from a pharmaceutical company uses Y. pestis bacteria (aka plague) to start an epidemic that his company can create vaccines for, largely to generate some profit to keep them from bankruptcy.
  • Neighbours, in 2008, had the firefighter/arsonist variant 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 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".
  • 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.
  • Some from the Ultra Series:
    • The series finale of Ultraman Taro has an Alien Valky who brought along a rampaging monster called a Samekujira, which he unleashed in the middle of the city to capture and prove himself as a powerful hunter. But Ultraman Taro got in the way.
    • Gregorl-Man from Ultraman Dyna is an alien posing as Ultraman Dyna, who wanted fame and glory for himself, which he does so by unleashing the supposedly-deceased kaiju, Monsarger, into the middle of the city, and then single-handedly defeating Monsarger while pretending to be Dyna before basking in the glory of the cheering crowd. The Defense team, Super GUTS is able to realize something isn't right because the real Ultraman Dyna wouldn't gloat about his victory in public.
    • Ultraman Mebius has Alien Mefilas, one of the Arc Villain before the series finale, who after brainwashing the population of the city into thinking he's the true hero and saviour instead of Ultraman Mebius, then revives the monster Gromite to attack the city, before destroying Gromite in front of the civilians to prove his heroism.

    Video Games 
  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night: The Alchemist's Guild, fearing its power would dwindle as the Industrial Revolution replaced magic with science, plotted to summon an army of demons to the human world and then banish them, in order to show the world there were dangers that only they could deal with. It backfired spectacularly, as they summoned more demons at once than they could control and the human world turned into Hell on Earth.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past it is implied that the natural disasters plaguing Hyrule were caused by Agahnim himself, who then proceeded to use his powers to "save" the kingdom. As a result, he was hailed as a hero and the king made him chief advisor and heir to the Seven Sages.
  • The Fan Remake of Quest for Glory II had hints that a previous hero of Shapeir 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!
  • The final plot twist of Seven Photos: The Photographic Detective reveals that the entire game consisted of Piper solving a crime she paid the culprit to perform.

    Visual Novel 
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations 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!

    Western Animation 
  • 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 so he could play hero. For once, however, Bender is entirely innocent. In reality, the fires had been set by a fire elemental that Bender had unknowingly been harboring inside his body.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: The first thing Chloé does after getting her hands on the Bee Miraculous (other than transform in front of everyone to show off) is to try and prove how good a hero she is by doing some Trainstopping. But with no out-of-control trains to stop, she makes one of her own by paralyzing the conductor. She then proceeds to fail miserably at stopping it. She quite deservedly gets chewed out for this by Ladybug, on live TV no less. She gets better though.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: A couple.
    • Major Man is a phony with genuine superpowers who presents himself as The Cape in a way the girls don't 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.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • Nils H., a German nurse and murderer who was sentenced to a lifetime in prison after killing over 100 patients in two hospitals he worked in. He was good at resuscitation and liked the attention and praise it got him, so he purposefully gave patients who didn't need them antiarrhythmic agents and was there to "help" them as soon as they got cardiac arrest. But all too often, they still died.
  • The phenomenon of firefighter arson. Perpetrators of this crime often seek out fire services not for public service, but because it provides an arena for excitement. This excitement-based motive is often classified as "hero syndrome".

Alternative Title(s): Hero Syndrome