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Going hand-in-hand with Genius Cripple (though not all Genius Cripples are Evil Cripples and vice-versa), an Evil Cripple is a villain or generally morally perturbed character who also suffers a debilitating physical condition, often taking the form of paralysis that causes him or her use a wheelchair.

There are a variety of reasons this trope exists. In some stories, especially those featuring superheroes, the contrast between a hero with super strength and a villain who is physically handicapped and instead relies on his brainpower plays on the archetype of brain vs. brawn. These stories also tend to feature a Freudian Excuse in the background of the villain that is often based around his disability and is the cause of his hatred for the world. This has Unfortunate Implications, obviously.

A popular image in the Evil Cripple Humiliation Conga or Break the Haughty situation is for such a character to be knocked out of his wheelchair and have to crawl around on the ground helplessly. This, along with the tendency for the disability to be implied to be the fault of the character or some sort of karmic punishment, can fall into Unfortunate Implications and Acceptable Hard Luck Targets. This is a profoundly negative portrayal of handicapped people that has recently begun to be examined in the field of Disability Studies.

A common subversion of this trope is when the character is revealed to not actually be crippled, but was exploiting that image to maintain a cover or give the illusion of helplessness. Given that, some of these examples contain spoilers.

See also Evil Albino, Depraved Dwarf, Hook Hand, Red Right Hand.

Examples of Evil Cripple include:


Anime & Manga

  • Shiba'i in Ikki Tousen is The Chessmaster behind Kyosho Academy's Sousou Motoku, and though she later does start walking around it's not made clear whether or not it's because she was faking being disabled or if Motoku (who had turned her into his Soul Jar this point) was the one who allowed her to do it. Shiba'i is based on Sima Yi, who faked an illness, which suggests that she was able to walk the entire time.
  • One of the Code Geass manga spin-offs makes Nunnally a straight-up Yandere whose hatred for the world results in another personality developing.
  • Mariko from Elfen Lied has spent most of her life in isolation and has extreme atrophy in her legs, so she has to get around in wheelchair. She also gets a scene of crawling around on the ground helplessly, though she, like all of the Diclonius, also falls squarely in Woobie territory.
  • The Chairman in Paprika.
  • Mashiro Kazahana in Mai-HiME falls more into morally ambiguous throughout much of the series, given that she actively manipulates the HiME and has certain Creepy Child tendencies, though by the end of the series she's fully on the side of the good and provides a convenient Deus Ex Machina to the heroes.
  • Quincy Rosencreutz of Bubblegum Crisis 2040 is stuck in a complex life-support system, controlling his company entirely by means of a voicebox. While definitely not a straigh-up good guy, he is contrasted with his ever viler underling, Brian J. Mason, who eventually betrays him. They both share the same medical condition, but Mason avoided the life support system by having Boomer-technology installed in his body.
  • Gauron became one late in Full Metal Panic, as the result of injuries sustained during the first season finale. He still managed to set in motion events that led to Kaname's near death at the hands of one of his Creepy Twins, the destruction of a major portion of downtown Hong Kong, and the deaths of multiple high-ranking Mithril and Amalgam personnel.
  • Edge Turus in Until Death Do Us Part started off as just plain evil; only after going too far and invoking Diplomatic Impunity did he lose An Arm and a Leg.
  • Kagari Izuriha from the anime Black Rock Shooter. A possessive girl who would strike at anyone who got too close to her friend. After the death of her supposed "other self", Kagari was able to walk.
  • Any evil automail user from Fullmetal Alchemist.
    • Both the manga and the 2003 anime feature a terrorist leader named Bald with an automail arm (that conceals a knife and a double-barreled rifle. (Bald didn't appear in the 2009 anime, though.)
    • At the end of the 2003 anime, Wrath lost his right arm and left leg when they were pulled through the Gate of Truth. [1] Ed took pity on him and asked Rose to rescue him. At the end of the anime, we see him living with the Rockbells, fitted with automail. In the movie Conqueror of Shamballa, he's still wearing the automail.
    • Also in the 2003 anime, we have Frank Archer, who lost half his body in Lior and had to have his whole left side replaced by automail.
  • The Area 88 manga and OVA, have Farina, an elderly arms dealer who is confined to a wheelchair.


Comic Books

  • There was a one-shot Golden Age Batman foe called the Thinker who fit this trope to a T, especially the "brains over brawn" part.
  • The Ultimate Marvel version of The Leader fits this very closely: he's crippled because the experiment that gave him super intelligence expanded his head to the point his body couldn't support it.
    • Also the case over at The DCU with Green Lantern villain Hector Hammond, whose head has gradually expanded to this point over decades of stories.
  • Professor Xavier from X-Men when he goes evil.
    • The X-Men have also faced a Japanese cripple mutated by the atomic bombings, who tried to take revenge on the team for not being freakish like him.
  • And MODOK in most of his incarnations is in a powered wheelchair.
  • Another Green Lantern foe, Baron Tyrano, is permantly confined to an iron lung.
  • Dr. Caulder, leader of the Doom Patrol is arguably insane, and, despite good intentions, tries a little too hard to force the world to be a better place.
  • Ma Gnucci in The Punisher, after her unfortunate encounter with a group of polar bears.
  • Valiant Comics, a company that is sadly no longer around, had a crime lord by the name of Dr. Silk who was an elderly man in a wheelchair who couldn't breathe properly.
  • Martian Manhunter J'onn J'onnz's brother Malefic was convicted of Mind Rape and sentenced to memory wiping and having his Psychic Powers removed. Unfortunately, Malefic's hatred of his people remained, and he created a telepathic plague "Hronmeer's Bane" that caused all Green Martians who contracted it to burst into flames. Also a case of Disability Superpower -- Malefic lacked the crippling weakness to fire since it is linked to the Martians' telepathy. J'onn defeated him for good by curing Malefic (restoring his weakness to fire) and sending him into a sun.
  • Armless Tiger Man.
  • One particularly vile Ghost Rider villain was a multibillionaire who was paralyzed in a drunk driving incident. He was the drunk driver and the other victims were a school bus full of children. He's a Ghost Rider villain because he made a deal with a Fallen Angel trapped in Hell -- granting the entity and his cohorts passage to Earth in exchange for restoring his ability to walk -- and Ghost Rider was sent to stop him.
  • Lex Luthor became one of these at the conclusion of a story arc wherein he had implanted his mind in a cloned body and posed as his own son, Lex Luthor II. The clone underwent severe degeneration, ultimately leaving Lex in a vegetative state, unable to move, feel, hear, or even close his own eyes. He still managed to take control of Superman's Kryptonian warsuit, and wearing it as a suit of Powered Armour, nearly beat the hero to death. After his defeat he was confined to an intensive care unit; one of his henchmen helped him escape and eventually restored him to full health.
    • Another Superman villain, the Ultra-Humanite, is most commonly and most famously shown as an albino gorilla, but he actually began as a mad scientist in a wheelchair. He soon gained the ability to Body Swap with any person or animal he pleased, however, so he didn't stay crippled for long.
  • X-Men villain Apocalypse employed a few of these within his Horsemen, artificially curing their condition as a sort of Deal with the Devil. The original Horsemen included War, a quadriplegic army veteran confined to an iron lung; Famine, an anorexic teenage girl whose body was morbidly withered by the disorder; and Death, the X-Man Angel who lost his wings.


Film

  • One of the most famous examples, and possibly the inspiration for many others of this type, is the eponymous Doctor Strangelove, an ex-Nazi scientist. At the very end of the film he manages to stand up out of his chair... and then the world ends.
  • The crappy B-Movie The Atomic Brain starred a wheelchair-bound old woman as the primary villain. When the film turned up on Mystery Science Theater 3000, Mike and the bots even made a Doctor Strangelove reference.
  • Obesandjo, the Nigerian crime boss from District 9, is confined to a wheelchair. Speculation that it might be his version of a throne crumbles when the viewer notices the knock-kneed way he sits and how he never gets up from it, even when his men are getting bumped off.
  • The wheelchair-bound crime boss who talks through a hole in his throat in the Thai action blockbuster Ong Bak is a truly vile example, cynically selling his country's religious treasures to foreigners and causally orders the deaths of anyone who tries to protect them.
  • An unnammed Blofeld appears confined to a wheelchair in the opening sequence of For Your Eyes Only.
  • Dr. Arliss Loveless in the 1999 version of Wild Wild West lost his legs in the Civil War. He replaced them with robotic spider legs.
  • In Big Trouble in Little China, when David Lo Pan is in his "old man" form, he gets around in a motorized wheelchair.
  • Jan Murray plays a wheelchair-bound Nazi Mad Scientist in the Z grade movie A Man Called Dagger
  • Mr. Potter in It's a Wonderful Life
  • Dr. No in the eponymous James Bond film lost his hands in an industrial accident and replaced them with mechanical ones. He's hated the world ever since.
  • Ivan Igor (Lionel Atwill) in Mystery of the Wax Museum.
  • Blanche Hudson (Joan Crawford) in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane
  • Jason Stryker in X 2 X Men United was experimented on by his father, a mutant-phobe, and turned into a living Lotus Eater Machine confined to a wheelchair in contrast to Charles Xavier, who is with the good guys. Jason is portrayed sympathetically, but his appearance is definitely intended to be creepy.
  • Though more of a Corrupt Corporate Executive Anti-Hero, Rufus Shinra spends part of Final Fantasy VII Advent Children in a wheelchair. He's still hurt, but he's at least partially faking it.
  • Elijah Price in Unbreakable, a movie which draws from comic book lore and explicitly compares the villain's physical frailty with the "unbreakability" of the main character.
  • Darth Vader in Star Wars. He is a severe burn victim and was repeatedly mutilated, so he has to rely on his suit. Of course, given his slow descent into villainy, the deformities were more icing on the cake than the direct cause.
    • Similarly, General Grievous was pretty much blown to bits by a bomb and was rebuilt into a robotic body with some 80% of him being prosthetics.
  • A minor character in Edward Scissorhands had a prosthetic leg, and when he first met Edward he encouraged him not to let anyone call him a cripple. However, when Edward was accused of terrorizing the neighbor, this same man parked his lawn chair on his driveway in the middle of night, wondering if they had "caught that cripple yet".
  • The drug kingpin in Brick has a clubfoot, and walks with a cane.
  • The Man With A Plan from Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead. Bonus points for being played by Christopher Walken.
  • The Man Behind the Man of Once Upon a Time in the West is a crippled (and dying) and walking only by crutches Railroad Baron. However, he's pretty much a villainous Woobie.
  • Ephialtes, the deformed, treacherous hunchback in 300.
  • A pedophile and drug dealer from Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! has some unspecified condition which requires him to use crutches.
  • Mother of Mother's Day wears a neck cast for some reason.
  • Christopher Lee's wheelchair bound Big Bad in Once Upon A Spy. Bonus points for having said wheelchair equipped with missiles.
  • "Big Brain" from The Hills Have Eyes (2006) has a, well, big brain and is confined to an old-fashioned wheelchair, where he serves as the Mission Control for the other mutants.
  • The killer in Midnight Movie has a foot so fucked up it it sometimes looks like he's walking on his ankle. Unfortunately for the other characters, it doesn't seem to slow him down that much.
  • Invoked and then subverted in Hugo. The orphan-hunting Station Inspector's leg brace is fodder for a number of sight gags, but The Reveal-- he was horribly wounded in World War One--is a genuinely emotional moment, and a clue that he's actually more of a Broken Bird.


Literature

  • Captain Hook.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has Lothar Frey, nicknamed "Lame Lothar", one of the masterminds of the "Red Wedding".
  • Non-wheelchair example: In A Series of Unfortunate Events, one of Count Olaf's more frightening henchmen has hooks for hands -- interestingly, he's the only one who eventually gets a semi-detailed backstory and becomes relatively sympathetic.
  • Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code was wheelchair-bound due to polio, and turns out to have been in on the Gambit Roulette surrounding the location of the Grail.
  • The "Tzaddik" in Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart detective novels.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Only In Death, when Hark finds Soric at the end, his keepers are an old woman with a deformed face, and a hunchbacked dwarf. Judging by the psychic impressions of them that other characters received from Soric throughout the book, they are evil indeed; Maggs was convinced that the woman was Death itself. They do their best to keep Hark from killing Soric at his own request, and Soric warns Hark to make it appear a commissarial execution or they would hang him out to dry.
  • In Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, Shere Khan the tiger, Mowgli's great enemy who separated him from his parents at infantry and presumably killed them.

 "His mother did not call him Lungri [the Lame One] for nothing," said Mother Wolf quietly. "He has been lame in one foot from his birth. That is why he has only killed cattle. Now the villagers of the Waingunga are angry with him, and he has come here to make our villagers angry. They will scour the jungle for him when he is far away, and we and our children must run when the grass is set alight. Indeed, we are very grateful to Shere Khan!"

  • The Wheelchair Assassins of Infinite Jest are some pretty nasty customers; a crew of pissed-off and legless Quebecois trying to take down the government by means of a mind-destroying video cartridge.
  • Subverted in Lord Kelvin's Machine: The villain is crippled from a childhood illness -- until, about three-quarters of the way through the book, a time-traveller visits his child self and treats him with medicine from the future; result: in the present, the villain is now no longer crippled, nor ever has been... but he's still just as evil.
  • The crippled and disfigured Inquisitor Glokta of The First Law, while arguably not exactly evil in the context of the story, is nonetheless more than morally bankrupt enough to qualify.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society and sequels has the lovely Ledroptha Curtain. He remains in a wheelchair, but not because he's paralyzed - he has a rather short temper as well as a disease that makes him fall asleep whenever he feels strong emotions... such as rage. Hilariously, his brother Nicholas has the same disease, but he fits the Evil Cripple's benevolent cousin trope (Genius Cripple) just fine.
  • In The Silence of the Lambs book Hannibal, Complete Monster Mason Verger continues to bring suffering and misery to children even after being paralyzed by the title character.
  • Subverted in the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Crooked Man," in which they initially suspect the titular 'crooked man' of being mixed up in a murder. It turns out to have not been a murder at all; the victim died of a heart attack, tangentially related to the appearance of the crooked man, but it wasn't the crooked man's fault at all and he was actually a very kind person.
  • Death's agent in the novel Final Destination: Looks Could Kill is a severe burn victim, who the entity promised to make beautiful again if she helped it.
  • Chodo Contague from the Garrett P.I. series is TunFaire's dreaded crime lord, who's confined to a wheelchair in his first few appearances. In later novels he's even more impaired, having suffered a severe stroke.
  • The One in Last Legionary is revealed to be a badly mutated human, who can barely move without the use of his Powered Armour exoskeleton. Outside the skeleton he's a truly pitiful figure, unable even to walk. In the skeleton, he becomes The Juggernaut, and nearly kills The Hero on several occasions.
  • Prime Minister Mark Normanby in Jo Walton's Small Change series, after surviving the assassination attempt in Ha'Penny.
  • Hurwood from On Stranger Tides has only one arm, and betrays and murders a bunch of people in an attempt to install his dead wife's spirit in their daughter's body via voodoo magic.
  • The High Priest (Priestess?) of Helgrind from the Inheritance Cycle. Leader of an H.P. Lovecraft-esque Religion of Evil, possesses immense psychic powers, regularly performs Human Sacrifice--and is missing his/her arms, legs, and part of his/her tongue. These body parts were presumably given up as part of the extensive self-mutilation performed in the Religion of Evil.
  • Long John Silver of Treasure Island fame isn't just an Evil Cripple, he's the Trope Maker and Codifier of the common idea of one-legged pirates.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Barty Crouch Jr. in his Mad-Eye Moody disguise. Oddly, he wasn't actually disabled, but he adopted Moody's identity to serve his evil purposes, and Moody just so happened to have a peg leg and a missing eye (though the latter wasn't at all crippling, as Moody had a replacement that let him see in all directions and through solid objects).
    • Peter "Wormtail" Pettigrew, who sacrificed his right hand to resurrect Voldemort and was given a silver prosthetic hand with super strength. This hand eventually proved to be Wormtail's downfall, as it strangled him after he hesitated to kill Harry.
  • Ivar the Boneless from Ragnar Lodbrok and His Sons, a Viking warlord crippled from birth and unable to walk, is noted as outstandingly clever, but also extraordinarily cruel.
  • Hackle from the Knight and Rogue Series, who lost a leg to a wolf trap.
  • London Has Fallen, has Sultan Mansooa hacker working for a notorious weapons-dealer. After having his legs blown off by the G6 nations, he joins his boss crusade against the wons who wronged them by throwing London in chaos. He is eventually shot by the President's bodyguard three times despite his questionable threat level. Later one its shown that the bullets were not enough as the terrorist manages to get a grenade.


Live Action TV

  • Davros, the creator of the Daleks, from Doctor Who.
    • Also Lumic, creator of the new series Cybermen.
    • The Captain, of classic Who story The Pirate Planet.
  • Spike spent some time in a wheelchair in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though he had been faking it for an undetermined length of time. He was clearly established as evil before he became crippled, and was injured fighting Buffy.
  • The X Files has had its share of crippled Monsters Of The Week:
    • "The Walk" -- quadruple amputee war veteran committing murders via astral projection
    • "Home" -- limbless Evil Matriarch of the incestuous Peacock clan
    • "Badlaa" -- legless Indian Body Snatcher/illusionist
    • "The Amazing Maleeni" -- banker in a wheelchair turns out to be able-bodied and impersonating his deceased twin
  • Breeny from Zoey, Duncan, Jack, and Jane
  • Hunchback, leader of Black Cat gang from The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed.
  • Law and Order: Criminal Intent had a Stephen Hawking Expy who was not as handicapped as he made himself out to be, and almost got away with the murder.
  • Criminal Minds
    • In the two-parter "The Fisher King", the UnSub turns out to be a guy with burns over ninety-percent of his body.
    • "Roadkill" features a wheelchair-using killer who committed hit and run homicides with a modified pickup truck.
    • "To Hell..."/"...and Back" featured a quadriplegic doctor who was manipulating his mentally retarded younger brother into committing murders so he could have fresh bodies for his experiments (he wanted to find a way to cure his condition). Although, it was said there was no way he could get actual information from his experiments. He just liked killing people.
    • "A Family Affair" had another wheelchaired UnSub, except this one had his family bring him victims and then he would kill them.
  • Lex Luthor in Season 8 of Smallville, courtesy of horrific injuries sustained in the previous season's finale. Confined to the back of a truck, he is unable to move or breathe without the means of a respirator, is down an eye, and is hooked up to a life-support system in the back of a moving truck. Luckily for him, he maintains his Chessmaster status, which continues to render him very dangerous.
  • In Strange Luck, Chance's love interest, a former faith healer is being chased by a crippled billionaire (who looks like Stephen Hawking) as he wants her to heal his condition as her powers are genuine. When she does heal him, it only ends up killing him instead.
  • William Raines from The Pretender who is dependent upon an oxygen tank that he wheels everywhere with him that only increased it by the squeaking noise the wheels made.
    • To really nail it in, the Costume the Pretender picks for a Halloween Costume is to make himself look like William Raines.
  • Warehouse 13 has Walter Sykes, who was turned evil by an artifact that also allowed him to walk. His entire goal is revenge on the warehouse for taking the artifact from him.


Professional Wrestling

  • During his stint in Ring of Honor in 2008, normally squeaky clean babyface Zach Gowen was wheeled out as a surprise member of the Age of the Fall, the dominating heel faction of that time. What makes him an Evil Cripple? How about the fact that he only has one leg?
  • Vickie Guerrero, during her Smack Down! general manager run in 2008, in cahoots with Edge and the faction La Familia.
  • In Smoky Mountain Wrestling, there was Ron Wright, former wrestler and manager, who was confined to a wheelchair after years of in-ring abuse. He tried to play the sympathy card with the crowd, but he was still the same heel as he'd always been, interfering on the behalf of his clients and berating the crowds for not sending him money for a surgery that would help his condition.


Theater


Video Games

  • In No One Lives Forever II (which is an Affectionate Parody of Spy Fiction in general), a villain from the original game returns in a wheelchair... with integrated rocket launchers. For starters.
  • Belger, the Big Bad of Final Fight.
  • Von Bolt from Advance Wars: Dual Strike.
  • Subverted in one of the Ace Attorney games. The killer is wheelchair-bound, but he's easily one of the series' most sympathetic murderers and it's even said that he isn't really a bad man.
    • He's also smart enough to accuse Nick of being discriminatory, since accusing a man in a wheelchair of murder is generally seen as a bit tasteless.
  • The Society's Controller from Front Mission Gunhazard gets a giant flying fortress and life support for his wheelchair.
  • Cunningham from Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops, although his missing leg doesn't impede his ability to move around (but he was forced into a desk job anyway, which was why he set out on his Evil Plan). His disability is treated relatively realistically, though - well, for Metal Gear.
  • League of Legends: Jericho Swain. He's a cripple with a cane. He's one of the bad guys, has a raven that can blast enemies with lightning, and he can shapeshift into a giant humanoid vampiric raven himself. He also walks faster than the game's phoenix and gyrocopter pilot champions.
  • Crysis 2:Jacob Hargreave - He guides you, designed the suit you're wearing, has the most intimate knowledge of the Ceph incursion then turns on you, tries to kill you to peel you out of the suit (that is keeping you alive!), and when that fails, tries to blow you up. Oh, and he was crippled, floating in a stasis tank the whole time.
  • Ozwell E. Spencer, Big Bad and The Man Behind the Man to almost everything in the Resident Evil games, is ultimately revealed to be a sick, crippled old man in a wheelchair, hooked up to life support and dreaming of godhood. Without his Dragon-in-Chief Sergei Vladimir he's of very little threat, and is slain by Wild Card Albert Wesker before the heroes can even meet him.
  • Hugh Darrow from Deus Ex Human Revolution.
  • During Triple H's story in WWE 12, The Miz is confined to a wheelchair after a career-ending leg injury. Or so it appears; it's eventually subverted when he jumps out of his chair and attacks you during one of your matches.


Web Comics


Web Original


Western Animation

  • Parodied in the episode of South Park featuring Christopher Reeve.
    • And Jimmy under the effects of steroids.
  • Mr. Brisby from The Venture Bros.
  • The evil Deen in the Jonny Quest episode "Turu the Terrible" is confined to a wheelchair. (Just how did a guy in a wheelchair get into the Amazon rainforest?). There's also Doctor Jeremiah Surd, the quadriplegic super-hacker and Mad Scientist from The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest.
  • Lucius VI on Jimmy Two-Shoes. Apparently, his wheelchair wheels are grafted right onto him.
  • The leader of the Jerk Jocks in The Cleveland Show is deaf.
  • Combustion Man from Avatar: The Last Airbender has a prosthetic right forearm and lower leg, purportedly from injuries sustained when still learning to control his technique.
  • The Batman Beyond villain Shriek, an engineer specializing in sonic technology, was rendered deaf after his first encounter with Batman, which led to him becoming a vengeful recurring foe.
  • The Handicapped Mafia from American Dad.
  • A later Inspector Gadget episode, "Gadget Meets the Clan", featured a disabled mafia boss.
  • Word of God confirms that minor Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles villain the Garbageman has no legs, explaining why he was only ever shown riding around in little mechs.

Notes

  1. The arm and leg had originally been stolen from Ed, so they weren't his anyway.
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