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Historical Rap Sheet

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"The League of Shadows has been a check against human corruption for thousands of years. We sacked Rome, loaded trade ships with plague rats, burned London to the ground. Every time a civilization reaches the pinnacle of its decadence, we return to restore the balance."
Ra's al Ghul, Batman Begins

The crimes of the villain(s) date back long before our grandfathers were born. Historical events that hurt many people are attributed to a single organization or person, usually more than one. Even if there isn't technically a law against causing earthquakes or eruptions, the events are used to show how dangerous the criminal is by placing wars, economic struggles, assassinations, and other pivotal events in their past. Stock Unsolved Mysteries are particularly useful for this.

These crimes can be committed by a group, like the Ancient Conspiracy, or a single person, like We Didn't Start the Führer. Those tropes cover the actual villains, this trope is about the "crimes". Therefore, it can involve Reminiscing About Your Victims.

Note that this doesn't necessarily have to apply to a villain: an Idiot Hero Reality Warper or Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds could have caused a natural disaster through clumsiness.

Subtrope of Historical In-Joke and Real Event, Fictional Cause, and essentially the evil twin of Been There, Shaped History. Compare Beethoven Was an Alien Spy, Julius Beethoven da Vinci and Historical Villain Upgrade. Often a form of List of Transgressions or Offstage Villainy.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Played for Laughs in Black Butler's anime, where before being tortured, Sebastian says in a light-hearted manner, "I admit it, I started the Black Plague." Considering his age and what he is, he probably wasn't kidding.
    • The Titanic was sunk by zombies attacking the crew and a grim reaper slicing the ship in half with his sythe.
  • It's implied in Hanappe Bazooka that Nero had Dance and Bazooka start the Great Fire of Rome.
  • Lupin the Third:

    Comic Books 
  • In Superman Family #165 we learn that Superman's dog Krypto accidentally caused the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. You can read it here.
  • The DCU's Immortal criminal Vandal Savage claims to have been many historical figures including Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler, Blackbeard and Jack the Ripper. He was also an advisor to many famous conquering and may have either been Julius Caesar or participated in Caesar's murder, depending on which version of the story you believe. He is known to make some of it up, but being around before the discovery of fire he has a pretty big rap sheet.
  • Batman villain KGBeast, a Soviet super-assassin, has been described by the CIA as a participant in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.
  • Doctor Zero clashes with Anubis, an immortal Plague Master who was worshipped as the Egyptian god. He's responsible for the Black Death sweeping across Europe.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Orlando has a long history of causing massive problems through his/her stupidity, starting with telling other Trojans they should drag that giant wooden horse inside the city walls to get a better look at it.
  • The Ultimates
    • Red Skull assassinated John F. Kennedy, took part in the Vietnam War, worked for two of the most brutal dictators of the 20th century (Pol Pot of Cambodia and Idi Amin of Uganda), worked for the Russians in Afghanistan, and has trained and fought alongside terrorist groups across the entire globe.
    • Nick Fury is giving a debrief to the Ultimates, that contains top-secret information. There are 11 alien species living on the planet (at least, that SHIELD knows of). One of those species are the Chitauri, shape-shifter aliens that arrived in 1977. They infiltrated Germany in the 1920s, helping National Socialism and Hitler. WWII was actually a war meant to eradicate those aliens, and it ended with the destruction of their training camps in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: It turns out that Bombie the Zombie is responsible for sinking the Titanic. Back in 1909, Scrooge ran into Bombie at the North Pole, who then fell into an ice crevasse. Three years later, Foola Zoola's curse draws Bombie back to Scrooge during one of his travels across the North Atlantic, dragging the iceberg with him.

    Fan Works 
  • Danganronpa: Paradise Lost heavily hints that Haiji Towa was a regular participant in child sexual abuse overran by infamous American billionaire and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
  • Day of the Barney Trilogy has Barney responsible for, among others, the extinction of the dinosaurs, Caligula's depravity, the Black Death, the rise of Hitler, and betraying Anne Frank.
  • Reimagined Enterprise repurposes several real-world wars of the 1990s as the Eugenics Wars. For example, Khan Noonien Singh's people were the real reason the UN sent a military expedition into Somalia in 1992.
  • In The New Adventures of Invader Zim, Norlock has acted as an Evil Mentor to most of history's most famous warlords, conquerors, dictators, and criminals.
  • A Good Compromise: According to Lord Protector Julyeen, Kilana (possibly an earlier incarnation of her) originally gave the order to deploy the Teplan blight.
  • Kyubey in The Soulmate Timeline is the reason that Neanderthals and Denisovans went extinct. They were less efficient sources of emotional energies than modern, extant humans, and it was simply better for Kyubey's purposes to guide humanity to not have the less effective stock continue to use resources.

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    Film — Live-Action 

  • In The Pariah by Graham Masterton, the death of the Toltecs, the atrocities of Caligula, the Black Death, and the Salem witch trials are all attributed to the demonic antagonist.
  • For Love of Evil: Satan engineered the Black Plague by tricking Gaia. He later regretted how far it went, and the experience taught him his responsibility as the Incarnation of Evil. Inverted later as he tricks Chronos into averting the holocaust and World War II as a favor to YHWH, though this costs him his friendship with subsequent Incarnations of Time, who till then were the only ones friendly to him.
  • Spider Robinson's Callahan's Crosstime Saloon short story "Unnatural Causes". A team of alien Krundai are responsible for many harmful acts in Earth's history, including: starting riots, wars and revolutions, causing the downfall of the Roman Empire, assassinations, promoting drug use, and the Holocaust. Their ultimate aim is to cause humanity to destroy itself so they can feast on our bodies.
  • A Running Gag in Good Omens involves Crowley, the demon who was responsible for the original Temptation in the Garden of Eden, frequently receiving the congratulations of Hell whenever they notice something like the Spanish Inquisition has popped up in the human world. They inevitably leap to the conclusion that Crowley was responsible for getting it started. He frequently protests to the sympathetic Angel Aziraphale that he had nothing to do with it whatsoever: the human race thought of new ideas to be beastly to each other all on their own.
    "Neither claimed any responsibility for Milton Keynes, but both reported it as a success."
  • The Hypnotists: Dozens of famous historical events, both good and bad, have been caused by hypnotists (often Jax's ancestors) doing things like making Christopher Columbus make a wrong turn so he'd reach America or mesmerizing Napoleon into losing the Battle of Waterloo.
  • Croup and Vandemar have one in Neverwhere that isn't particularly specific but apparently includes assassinating kings, heroes, and gods.
  • In The Dresden Files, the Fallen Angels Anduriel and Imariel (and their hosts, husband and wife Nicodemus Archleone and Polonius Lartessa) have only collaborated a few times in history. The last time they did, they caused the Black Plague. Tessa is also stated to have caused the Rwanda Genocide and Killing Fields of Cambodia (as well as the War of the Roses and the Drug Cartels of Columbia) essentially for shits and giggles.

    Live-Action TV 


    Tabletop Games 
  • Old World of Darkness averted this for one and only one specific instance: anything and everything else was free to be the result of a supernatural plot, but the Third Reich had to remain purely human in its origins.

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    Web Original 

    Western Animation