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Joe Coyne demonstrates the rationality and levelheaded demeanor typical of this trope as he begins his career as the Penny Plunderer.
"I used to be somebody in this town... now everybody's got a gimmick."

id-i-o-syn-cra-sy: a characteristic, habit, mannerism, or the like, that is peculiar to an individual.

cra-zy: mentally deranged; demented; insane.

The type of Supervillain who can only commit a crime a certain way. This goes way beyond the Calling Card. These villains will fixate on one idea, one thing that they will continue to use over and over, which eventually becomes their entire philosophy. Everything becomes about this thing.

In real life, this is called monomania, an obsessive fixation on one idea or thing or person. It's particularly common in Superhero fiction, where villains often only have one gimmick to establish their identity.

Compare Beat It by Compulsion. See also Calling Card, Criminal Mind Games, The Gimmick. Frequently coincides with Steven Ulysses Perhero, with the villain's destiny apparently set from birth.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle: Everything the Princess does is in the name of getting a good night's sleep. Escaping? Getting rescued? Making friends? She couldn't care less. She just wants a nice comfy sleep.
  • Rare heroic example: All that Goblin Slayer gives a damn about is killing goblins. All goblins must be wiped out with extreme prejudice. All goblin stragglers must be purged. All nests must be burned to the ground, flooded, gassed, whatever will get the job done. Even the slightest hint of goblins must be investigated. If a request isn't about killing goblins, it isn't worth even a glance. Goblins today, goblins tomorrow, goblins 24/7.
  • Erika from Kaguya-sama: Love is War is obsessed with Kaguya, and her spin-off series shows that just about everything she does is motivated by her desire to be just like Kaguya or get closer to her. One prime example would be when she studied really hard for the end of semester exams specifically so she could get third place and have her name listed right after Kaguya's on the score list.

Batman's rogues' gallery has enough examples that it's probably easier to list the ones that aren't crazy.

  • The Riddler (Edward Nigma) and riddles. It originated as a harmless theme, but became Darker and Edgier as the years went by: Riddler suffers from Super OCD and narcissistic personality disorder, and has to leave puzzles to prove how smart he is (he's even been given a Freudian Excuse in the form of a father who, not understanding his son's intelligence, beat him, giving Nigma an obsession with expressing his smarts in convoluted ways). In one instance, Riddler thinks he's found a way around his compulsion by leaving notes instead of riddles...but Batman discovers puzzles embedded within the notes that Nigma didn't intentionally leave—in other words, he's so mentally ill that he doesn't even realize when he's acting on his compulsions. However, he's sometimes able to make this work for him: sometimes, the obvious answer to his clue masks the real answer, which is much more difficult to figure out.
  • Cluemaster, the father of Spoiler, felt a compulsion to leave clues behind at the crime scenes, but he eventually got over it and stopped. Leaving clues, not committing crimes.
  • Two-Face is usually compelled to commit crimes based on the number two, the concept of duality, or the theme of chance. Whether or not he kills a given individual is often determined by the outcome of a coin toss. He also has a tendency to get law-court and criminal justice-themed crimes, reflecting on his origins as a former district attorney driven to criminal insanity by his deformities, but this is a much less frequent motif.
  • The Joker, Depending on the Writer, may only commit crimes based on the theme of jokes, pranks, clowns or comedy. Alternatively, the crime itself must be "funny" (albeit according to the Joker's own highly warped sense of humor).
    • Back in the day Joker also had a compulsion to leave clues to his future crimes.
  • The Film Freak only commits crimes that are re-enactments of famous movie scenes.
  • The Calendar Man (real name Julian Gregory Day) commits a different crime each day, but will re-create that crime exactly, one year later to the day.
    • In other instances, Calendar Man is relatively sane and calm for most of the year...except on holidays, when he always commits some horrific themed crime (such as cutting a woman's brake line on April Fool's Day as a "prank" or attempting to blow up a maternity ward on Labor Day). In the Batman: Arkham Series he tries committing crimes on more obscure holidays, both as a change of pace and perhaps to become more unpredictable to the authorities.
  • The Black and White Bandit (real name Roscoe Chiara), a Mad Artist who became obsessed with black and white after going colorblind. He's got a Skunk Stripe in his black hair, he has a Dalmatian named Domino, steals things like antique chess sets, etc.
  • Joe Coyne was a failure as a criminal. Not only was he regularly caught by the police ("coppers"), his crimes only netted him pennies. Thus, to get back at "coppers and pennies," he launched a career as the Penny Plunderer. It was a very short career which Batman ended on his very first outing, but Joe's theme outlived him; he (not, as is often assumed, Two-Face) provided the giant penny that became a fixture of the Batcave.
  • The Silver Age version of the Mad Hatter - the one with the red handlebar mustache - centered all his crimes around hats and other headgear. A more consistent motif for the Mad Hatter in general is theming his crimes around the works of Lewis Caroll — especially Alice in Wonderland. This particular focus is also shared by lesser villains Tweedledum and Tweedledee, who often work together with the Mad Hatter as a result.
  • Crazy Quilt (who's technically more of a Robin villain than a Batman one) was an artist who was also something of a cat burglar on the side. When an accident made him go blind, he opted for experimental surgery that restored his vision but distorted his perception of color. He then went crazy and became obsessed with color.
  • Zigzagged with Catwoman: whilst she was introduced focused on cat-related loot, she dropped the fixation quite early on. She still likes to go after cat-themed valuables, but it's because she appreciates the joke, and she is much more focused on just getting anything that is sufficiently valuable and challenging.
  • Also zigzagged with The Penguin; introduced with a fixation on committing umbrella-based or bird-based crimes, that angle was dropped and he came to usually be portrayed as just a portly sociopath with a high opinion of himself.
  • Maxie Zeus is a gang leader who believes himself to be the reincarnation of the Greek god Zeus, which informs both his criminal persona and his choice of crimes, always relating back to Greek Mythology or electricity in some way. He is not. It's almost laughable given that the Greek Gods' existence is an established fact within the DC universe, what with a well-known superheroine tracing her origin back to Greek Mythology. The key word being almost, as he's very intelligent and resourceful despite his delusions.
  • Poison Ivy is typically portrayed as what happens when this trope meets up with Eco-Terrorist, as many of her crimes revolving around committing extreme acts of violence or terrorism either to steal rare plants or to "avenge the suffering of plantkind" upon humanity.
  • Zigzagged with The Scarecrow, whose crimes tend to be split about 50/50 between "using fear gas and other means to terrorize others to ostensibly continue studying fear" and "steal the funds to be able to make more fear gas".
  • Minor villain Magpie is a jewel thief with a particular obsession with gemstones or other valuable objects named after birds.
  • Golden Age villain Mirror Man was, as his moniker suggests, obsessed with mirrors and how they could be used to commit crimes.
  • The first Ventriloquist, Arnold Wesker, is a variant of this; whilst he doesn't have a specific motif to his crimes beyond "getting rich", his entire criminal personality is built around a serious case of disassociative identity disorder, causing him to legitimately believe that his secondary personality, "Scarface", whom he associates with the ventriloquist puppet he's always carrying around, is both the "man in charge" and an entirely separate individual. In layman's terms: he really, truly thinks that the puppet is the one giving orders.
  • Downplayed with Basil Karlo, the 1st and most famous Clayface, who is sometimes portrayed as having a tendency to commit crimes themed or otherwise based around movies, especially his own movies.
  • Cornelius Stirk is a downplayed example; his motif revolves exclusively around murdering victims by terrorizing them to death, then eating their hearts, as he suffers from the delusion that he must do so in order to survive.
  • Similarly to Cornelius Stirk, Victor Zsasz is a murderous nihilist who kills people and cuts tallymarks into his skin with an obsessive-compulsive enthusiasm.
  • Firefly always, always commits crimes of arson. Not just because he's an arsonist for hire, but because he's also a pyromaniac who gets off on burning things.
  • Humpty Dumpty is an unusual overlap of this and Tragic Villain: he always commits acts of deadly sabotage... in the name of fixing things that inconvenienced him, and so he reasoned they were "broken". He didn't want to hurt anybody, he just... did a terrible job at fixing things. Even when he murdered his abusive grandmother and badly sewed her corpse back together, he did so because he's too mentally deficient to really understand he was doing something wrong.
  • Lock-Up is a psychotic would-be vigilant driven to crime to punish lawbreakers he felt the government was too soft on; his crimes therefore are always done against other criminals, and revolve around capturing, imprisoning, torturing, and sometimes even killing those he feels are guilty.
  • Doodlebug is a Mad Artist who murders people to use their blood to scrawl repulsive artistic murals... which are actually arcane sigils and glyphs stemming from his knowledge of Black Magic.
  • Jane Doe is what happens when you cross this trope with an identity thief. She's so obsessed with living a better life that she targets individuals at random, memorizes as much information about them as she can, learns to mimic their voice, then murders them and skins their corpse to wear as a costume so she can perfectly imitate them. Inevitably, she gets bored with the problems of her latest victim's life. So she goes hunting for another life to steal...
  • While most of Batman's opponents who suffer from this trope debuted in the Golden and Silver Ages, the Absence, aka Una Nemo, is an example who debuted in 2011! She's obsessed with leaving holes in things, and in stealing precious items, since she was driven mad by a combination of nobody caring about her absence and her surviving a comic-style case of Dandy Walker Syndrome, leaving her with a softball-sized hole straight through her head.
  • Some of the villains made up for the 1966 Batman (1966) TV series make Batman's comic book rogues gallery seem calm and subdued by comparison:
    • Egghead (Edgar Heed) was a big-headed bald guy who considered himself "the smartest man in the world" despite his obsession with egg-based crimes.
    • King Tut was a guy who got hit on the head and started to believe he was an Egyptian pharaoh, and of course is obsessed with Egyptian stuff.
    • False-Face (Basil Karlo) ingested a chemical formula that let him change his face any way he wanted, but at the cost of his own identity, so he started commiting crimes involving forgeries and impersonation.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Clock King", Temple Fugate is The Sociopath without any emotion, whose only interest in the world is being a Schedule Fanatic, clocks and time: he uses a Time Bomb triggered by an expensive watch, has an Abandoned Warehouse with a Room Full of Crazy Clocks, and conducts a Bank Robbery by messing with a time lock. All those tropes were exploited to lure Batman into a trap: Fugate acknowledges his obsession, and uses it against his enemies. The real Evil Plan is to kill someone in a Clock Tower with the clock hands.

    Comic Books 
  • Flash villain Rainbow Raider (real name Roy G. Bivolo), a failed artist who became obsessed with colors as a result of his colorblindness.
  • Superman's enemy Bizarro feels compelled to do the opposite of everything normal people do. This leads to some truly strange behavior, such as building a basement on top of his house.
  • The pre-Paperinik New Adventures Paperinik villain Inquinator makes you happy that Garth Ennis never will write Disney comics: he is a musophile, obsessed with dirt, filth and garbage, and his crimes are invariably littering and vandalism made out to be something special by the sheer scale. He later tried to rain black ink down on the White House.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): Evidently hounded by her own name Tigra Tropica finds a way to use tigers in all of her crimes, no matter how much they make her schemes far more complicated and convoluted.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, the Guild of Gamblers has risen up the wealth and prestige ladder and can now afford to employ its own in-house enforcers, the Dealers and Croupiers. Used as debt collectors who will call round to politely explain that a person of honour and decency does not try to evade or wriggle out of a gambling debt, sometimes they are used to perform more emphatic tasks to explain to somebody that the Guild is concerned about their behaviour. Given the unique ethos of Ankh-Morpork and to spare the City Watch an un-necessary investigation, they leave a single Caroc card next to the body so as to signal to the Watch this is a Guild matter. From the point of view of Sam Vimes, discovering the Ten of Swords next to the body means he can then call the matter a case of Attempted or Actual Suicide, and close the case. note 

    Films — Live-Action  
  • The villain in the Saw movies is compulsive about his sadistic torture games, and becomes known and feared for them, his whole life seems to revolve around it. In fact, a major plot point in the later movies is being able to tell the real Jigsaw killer's death traps from those of a copycat using this trope; he always has to give the victim a means of freeing themselves from the death trap (as he firmly believes he's "helping" them better appreciate life by facing their sins through the game), whereas the copycats usually make the death traps inescapable.
  • Invoked but also subverted in the original Home Alone movie. Every time Marv and Harry rob a house, Marv plugs a sink and leaves the water running so it floods, because he says that they need to have a sort of gimmicky calling card; he wants them to be known as the Wet Bandits. Subverted because Marv's not really crazy so much as he is just an idiot, and when Kevin's efforts lead to them being caught by the police, the officer even mentions that it's because of what Marv did that they'll be able to trace all their criminal activity. In the second movie Marv wraps tape around his hand to try and establish a new gimmick as the Sticky Bandits; the only use he finds for this is to slightly more easily steal loose change from a charity donation bin, which Harry mocks.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Though The Middleman thinks the Palindrome (Ivan Avi) is like this, it turns out to be a subversion: he only left the mirrors behind because he thought he was a good artist.
  • El Eco-Loco (the name means Eco-Crazy in fact) in Odisea Burbujas is a garbage-obsessed villain, who dress as a homeless man, is always dirty (his Villain Song specifically says he hates water and soap), travels in a flying garbage can and tries to pollute the world as much as possible.
  • Invoked by Jerry Seinfeld in Seinfeld's episode "The Robbery":
    It's not like Batman, where there's three crooks in the city and everybody pretty much knows, who they are. Very few crooks even go to the trouble to come up with a theme for their careers anymore. It makes them a lot tougher to spot. Did you lose a sony? It could be the Penguin... I think we can round him up, he's dressed like a PENGUIN! We can find him, he's a PENGUIN!
  • Also invoked in The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon is obsessive-compulsive, neurotic, mysophobic and other many disorders that can be easily classified as monomania, prompting Leonard to say in one episode:
    The guy's one lab accident away from being a super villain.
  • Makoto Aizen of Ultraman R/B. While not an actual villain, he is behind all of the monster attacks in Ayaka City and transforms himself into Ultraman Orb Dark (an Evil Knockoff of Ultraman Orb) as part of his Engineered Heroics. As we found out later on, Makoto was possessed by an alien named Cereza, whose extreme fixation on Ultraman Orb and his human form Gai Kurenai started due to being rescued by the real Ultra. Inspired by his act, Cereza created Ultraman Orb Dark as his alter ego under the notion of being an Ultra just like Orb.

    Video Games 
  • The World Ends with You: Sho Minamimoto is obsessed with math and algebraic functions to the point where he uses them in his hints for each day's mission, but when you actually fight him... he kicks you. Over and over and over. No math except the ability to use it to create Taboo Noise, and cast Level ''i'' Flare by reciting pi to a hundred digits.
  • The Corwid of the Free from Zeno Clash are a bunch of insane forest-dwellers who each have a singular obsession that they fixate on to the exclusion of all else, regardless of whether or not it hurts themselves or other people. For example, one guy wants to be invisible, and accomplishes this by reasoning that being invisible means people can't see you, and people need eyes in order to see. Another guy just straight up wants to eat people. The only thing that stops them from fulfilling the "criminal" aspect of this trope is that there's probably no such thing as "crime" in a lawless place like Zenozoik.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers, the Cardinal Virtues are unique variations of sin eaters, the Eldritch Abominations plaguing the world of The First. Most sin eaters are base creatures obsessed with gorging on aether, while even the more powerful and intelligent ones have little drive other than to infect victims with corrupted light aether to create more sin eaters: but the Cardinal Virtues, sin eaters created from the Warriors of Light from The First, exhibit unique behaviors that set them apart from the others. These behaviors are later revealed to be a form of Ghost Memory, as each one's behavior is linked to their actions and deeds while living. These include:
    • Andreia is shown to be obsessed with finding and slaying powerful monsters, often reviving nearby corpses to aid in her hunts. This is because, in life, Renda-Rae was scared of being alone.
    • Phronesis creates "hollows", spatial rifts that suck in everything around it. Nyelbert had been specifically bred to have this ability, along with his best friend Taynor, who got sucked into a hollow. Nyelbert regretted losing his friend and spent his life looking for a way to save him.
    • Dikaiosyne specifically hunts down anyone carrying the sacred Othrus treasures. These treasures belonged to the princess of Vorburt, whom Branden served until her untimely passing.
    • Sophrosyne seeks out and resurrects specific sin eaters. These sin eaters are theorized to be members of the dwarven tribe Lamitt belonged to who suffered from a fatal disease that she cured after the tribe's elders condemned them to die in isolation, leading to their subsequent exile.

    Web Original 
  • Red Panda Adventures
    • The Red Panda and Flying Squirrel note eponymous themes are a common trait for "sick in the head, wannabe supervillains". It's first seen in the episode "Rabbit Season", where the Red Panda is able to set a trap for that episode's villain, Jackrabbit, after recognizing that the reason for her unusually selective thefts was because she only stole things whose value was measured in karats. He takes the theme to its logical conclusion and has a rabbit statue put on display to lure her in.
    • The Mad Monkey invokes this as much as he falls prey to it. He's motivated to be a villain because he views himself as the ideal arch-nemesis to the Red Panda. To this end, he embraces the theme presented by his power to control baboons by committing monkey related crimes. When, in later appearances, the Mad Monkey is shown to have learned martial arts, the Red Panda notes he's predictable due to having focused on the Monkey Style.
  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Android 16 is obsessed with exactly two things: birds, and killing Son Goku, with the latter coming up during and after his Heel–Face Turn. It's hardwired into his programming.

    Western Animation 
  • Danny Phantom: Almost all the ghosts are like this about something.
    • The Box Ghost and boxes. At one point, he even steals Pandora's Box.
    • Technus at one point vows to stop announcing his secrets and plans all the time, which is apparently quite difficult for him (he eventually slips up and announces when he's about to make a getaway, which enables Danny to stop him).
  • Most of the villains on Darkwing Duck fit into this. There's Quackerjack, who uses toys, cinematically-inclined Tuskernini, who "directs" his crimes as if he were a movie director, Ammonia Pine, whose crimes invariably involve cleaning things up, and Splatter Phoenix, fixated on paintbrush artistry.
  • Kim Possible: Kim has fought her share of Idiosyncrazy villains: Duff Killigan, the homicidal golfer; Frugal Lucre, the world's cheapest criminal; and so on.
  • Spoofed in Futurama, "Less Than Hero", with the Zookeeper, who commits crimes using a pack of highly trained animals.
    Fry: Pack of highly. Got it.
  • Used extensively in WordGirl. Take as examples:
    • The Butcher, whose attacks all involve calling forth some type of meat.
    • Chuck the Evil Sandwich-Making Guy, who uses a condiment gun (also parodied in that he, tired of the same old routine, tried to become the "Handsome Panther").
    • Tobey, who continually uses giant robots to attack and destroy the city.
    • Dr. Two-Brains, who will only ever attempt to steal cheese. On the rare occasion that he actually steals something valuable, it's only because he plans on turning it into cheese with his Transformation Ray. When his henchmen request that they have their cut of the loot before he turns it into cheese, he berates them for their lack of commitment to the whole cheese gimmick.
    • Lady Redundant Woman, whose crimes mostly revolve around copying and redundancy.
    • Mr. Big, who extensively uses mind control in his schemes.
  • A number of Sushi Pack villains are like this: Oleander's various schemes are (usually) a ploy to eat the eponymous Pack, Paradoxter's crimes have an element of paradox and oxymoron to them (such as using literal jumbo shrimp as henchmen), and The Collector is always involved in collecting something when he shows up in the series, regardless of whether he's committing an actual crime.
  • Parodied on Drawn Together when Captain Hero convinces Xander to pose as a supervillain for him to defeat. The persona they come up with? Two Hands.
    Xander: You'll never defeat me and my... TWO HANDS!!

    Real Life 
  • Serial killers in real life often have a distinctive modus operandi that allows criminal investigators to identify them, some of them even leave clues behind to taunt the authorities.
  • Some criminal organizations like The Mafia have particular styles of committing crimes, especially murders with some ritualistic traditions associated. This is often done to send the message and scare normal people and/or the police, but also to let other rival gangs know who was the author.


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