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History's Crime Wave

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History's Crime Wave is when historical villains — criminals or tyrants — are used in a work of fiction. This may involve Historical Villain Upgrade. The villains don't have to be on Earth; they just have to be historical, though this can also extend to mythological villains.

Should not be confused with criminal organizations that really have survived throughout much of history, such as various incarnations of The Mafia.

See also Jury of the Damned, Archived Army, and Army of the Ages. Historical Rap Sheet is similar, but it need not involve real figures, and may instead attribute real events to fictional figures.



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    Comic Books 
  • The Trope Namer is in All-Star Comics #38 where the Justice Society of America investigate Gotham City murders claimed to be performed by historical villains. Though they turn out to be the disguises of an insane wax museum guard, he succeeds in killing every member in the issue except Wonder Woman, who has to use the purple ray to bring them back to life. The villains are Nero, Goliath, Captain Kidd, Cesare Borgia, Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun.
  • One version of the Lethal Legion, fought by the Avengers West Coast, was made by the Demon Satannish resurrecting four dead criminals and giving them powers. They were
    • Axe of Violence - A demonically-enhanced Lizzie Borden with an axe replacing one hand.
    • Coldsteel - A demonically enhanced Josef Stalin now an 8 ft. giant with superhuman strength.
    • Cyana - A demonically enhanced Lucrezia Borgia with poisoned claws.
    • Zyklon - A demonically enhanced Heinrich Himmler who can belch deadly gas fumes from his mouth.
  • In All-Select Comics #7, the sorcerer Terdu summons a group of villains from the past, whom he dubs the 'Men of Evil', to battle Captain America and Bucky. The Men of Evil were Captain Kidd, Jack the Ripper, Frank and Jesse James, Bluebeard, Gyp-the-Blood, and three gangsters (names unrevealed) who had died in the electric chair decades earlier.
  • In "The Ghost Robbers of the Wax Museum!!" in Big Bang Comics #6, Knight Watchman's adversary and Master of Disguise Mr. Mask commits a series of robberies while adopting the identities of some of history's greatest villains: Jesse James, Blackbeard, Attila the Hun, Adolf Hitler, and Jack the Ripper.
  • There is a comic by the Finnish comic artist Petri Hiltunen where a man brings a supply of weaponry to a group of outlaws who turn out to be the immortal revenants of various historical villains. Their leader plans to kill the man instead of paying, but the man tells him that's not going to work because he is Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus, and thus also immortal. As the man is leaving, one of the revenants runs up to his leader to inform him that the man was lying. How does he know? Because he is Judas Iscariot.
  • One time Judge Dredd faced a crime wave committed by famous criminals out of history and literature. The ultimate culprit turned out to be the manager of a museum full of animatronics - the museum was going under, so he sent out the exhibits of criminals to bring in money for him. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to reprogram them to commit crimes other than what they historically did (A graverobber would only rob graves, etc), so his crimes weren't paying even before Dredd caught up with him.
  • In Knight and Squire #3, Richard III is resurrected and he proceeds to resurrect England's other 'bad' kings: William II, John, Edward I, and Charles I. The monarchs are granted genetically enhanced superpowers and each leads a criminal army to take over a different part of the UK.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: In Adventure Comics #314, a villain called Alaktor recruits history's three greatest villains (Nero, Adolf Hitler, and ... John Dillinger) to take on the Legion. Apparently Alaktor considers bank robbery to be equal to mass genocide.
  • In one The Mighty Thor comic he goes to the demon Mephisto's realm and encounters a group of villains.
  • Leading Comics #3 has the Seven Soldiers of Victory working against Dr Doome (not Victor) who has used a time machine to summon up the Time Tyrants, Alexander the Great, Emperor Nero, Napoléon Bonaparte, Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun.
  • Shazam!: Captain Marvel villain Ibac could be considered a type of this trope. Lucifer gave a crook the ability to turn into Ibac, with the powers of Ivan the Terrible, Borgia, Attila the Hun and Caligula. (Note that Ibac's name, like Shazam's, is an acronym of those four's first initials.) This doesn't explain how he gains enormous strength and durability, considering that logically he should only be about as strong as several men.
  • Inverted in Supreme; as a boy, Supreme was a member of the League of Infinity, which is comprised of heroes from history (some folkloric, some real, some made up by the comic). Uh, and they're all teenagers. Its eclectic membership includes Kid Achilles, a young Wild Bill Hickok, famed strategist Chu-Ko Liang, Mata Hari, mad scientist Wilhelm Reich, Aladdin, mutant caveman Giganthro, Witch Wench, the Germanic swordsman Siegfried, and team leader Zayla "Future Girl" Zarn. Their opposite number the League of Infamy presumably play this straight, but never make a full appearance.


  • The Divine Comedy has a much larger number in the Inferno section, some known to us only through the poem. Oddly, it also includes some scattered mythological villains, like Antaeus.
  • Possibly the oldest example is in The Odyssey as Odysseus goes to the Underworld and sees mythological villains being punished for their crimes, like the trickster Sisyphus, the husband-murdering daughters of Danaë, and the cannibalistic Tantalus.
  • Return to Groosham Grange has the waxworks of Hitler, a French Revolutionary and others brought to life from Madame Tussaud.
  • In Sorcerer Conjurer Wizard Witch, London suffers from a crime wave committed by the magically-animated waxworks from Madame Tussaud's Chamber of Horrors. The felons thus unleashed are a mix of historical criminals like Dr Crippen and George Joseph Smith and fictional (but real in-universe) villains like Sweeney Todd and Sir Percival Glyde. Among other incidents, Crippen tries to poison the punch at a society party, Sweeney Todd cuts the throat of a famous entertainer, and Glyde attempts to menace a young lady only for her to demonstrate decisively that young ladies in the 20th century are more bold and enterprising than the fainting maidens of his day.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Kamen Rider X has a variation, where the Nebulous Evil Organisation G.O.D. has the Villan Monsters, made by combining animal DNA with the DNA of historical figures. However, their list is all over the place: while it includes a few recognized villains like Al Capone, Genghis Khan, and Adolf Hitler (who resulted in the memetic Starfish Hitler), it also includes figures who were more ambiguous (Ishikawa Goemon, Geronimo), completely unremarkable (Benjamin Ogle), and some who were just straight-up fictional (Dracula, Arsene Lupin).
  • The "encores" in Legends of Tomorrow season 5 are historic villains revived by Astra. Mostly they reappear shortly after their death, and the Legends go to them, but in "Mortal Khanbat" Genghis Khan spent centuries making his way out of his tomb and emerged in the 1990s, and in "The Great British Fake-Off", Jack the Ripper, Bonnie and Clyde, Brutus, Henry VIII and the pirate Black Caesar are all brought to 1910 by Lachesis.
  • In the Lois & Clark episode "That Old Gang of Mine", Mad Scientist Emil Hamilton creates clones of Al Capone, John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde to demonstrate that evil is not hereditary. It doesn't work out that way. (There was a comic book storyline at around the same time that may have been the inspiration, but it used fictional gangsters.)
  • Red Dwarf:
    • "Meltdown" has the crew encounter a "wax-droid" museum planet, where the wax-droids have become self-aware, and the "Good" and "Bad" characters have gone to war. The "Bad" characters include Al Capone, Benito Mussolini, Hitler, Caligula, Rasputin the Mad Monk, Richard the III, and jazz musician James Last.
    • In "Cured", the crew encounter a scientific base where Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Vlad the Impaler, and Messalina have been recreated through cloning and cured of 'evil'. (Lab notes reveal that Rupert Murdoch proved resistant to the treatment.) However, it turns out the evildoers are actually androids who were originally the medical staff of the base who have been reprogrammed to believe they are historical villains.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • There's an odd In-Universe example when the Excalbians create duplicates of various criminals who are "historical monsters" from the perspective of the Enterprise crew, with Genghis Khan the only real-world historical "villain," and set them against a group of Historical Heroes, of whom the only real-world counterpart is Abe Lincoln.
    • Another episode offers an Inversion in which another bunch of aliens create psychic images of the Earps and Doc Holliday, popularly remembered as the heroes of the OK Corral gunfight, and put Kirk and his landing party in the roles of the "villainous" Clantons and McLowrys.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the Daemon Prince Doombreed is said to have once been a "warlord of ancient Terra" whose acts of brutality had impressed the War God Khorne so much that he granted him immortality. While his identity is ambiguous (Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler are two popular suggestions), the time period given makes it clear that he's a historical figure.

    Video Game 

    Western Animation