Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional, and anyway the “patients” are all fictional, so any “diagnoses” are purely in good fun.
While reading about personality disorders, it struck me that lots of comic book super-villains are written with traits similar to Narcissistic personality disorder. Not all of them display all the traits – I think Doctor Doom comes the closest to being a textbook Narcissist – but a great many of them have at least a few of the traits. From the DSM-IV:
Doctor Doom certainly has arrogance, haughtiness, and self-importance to spare. He doesn’t exactly have delusions of grandeur, however – he’s actually accomplished most of his schemes, has held ultimate power more than once (although he’s never quite managed to destroy that infernal Richards!). Your average power-mad despot may plot to rule the world, but Doom’s been there, done that, and kept a t-shirt as a souvenir.
The lack of empathy is harder to establish. Doom has cared and even loved people before, including his mother and his childhood sweetheart, Valeria (didn’t stop him from dealing her an especially unpleasant fate). He’ll commit horrible acts – up to and including kidnapping innocent children to Hell – to further his goals. I think he’s perfectly capable of understanding pain and suffering, he just doesn’t care. There is a great moment from Priest’s Black Panther run, where Magneto is discussing how a Deviant lord named Ghaur wants to “purify his race” by destroying “genetic anomalies”, claiming it is his right to do so. Magneto says this is an argument he’s heard before. Doctor Doom appears and says, “Your cloying, self-serving Holocaust reference – echoing my own humble Zefiro beginnings – was meant to forge an emotional bond that you will inevitably exploit…” Doom’s not only sneering at Magneto for being sentimental about the Holocaust, but manages to redirect the attention to himself at the same time.
Baron Helmut Zemo and Count Luchino Nefaria both share traits in common with Doom as far as egotism and superiority. Unlike Doom, they’re both artistocrats by birth, and Zemo especially has some definite white-supremacist leanings. Zemo doesn’t quite strike me as a narcissist, though, since so much of his identity is tied to living up to the mantle of his father and their family’s heritage, not so much in himself, personally.
Lex Luthor’s a classic example. (Look at Lex Luthor: Man of Steel for a good exploration of the Post-Crisis version’s narcissism.)
Prometheus, from JLA makes Luthor look like a saint in comparison.
Glorith, a Legion of Superheroes enemy is another good example.
Luthor hits 8 of the 9 narcissistic qualities, by my measure (he has empathy, though he rarely acts on it positively unless he can gain from it - though he does, occasionally). Glorith and Prometheus hit all 9 hard.
Auric Goldfinger, the eponymous villain of Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, seems to fit pretty nicely. As I’ve pointed out, he’s the ultimate Bond Villain. He does things purely because he wants to, even when it’s pointless (as when he gives his presentation on his Foty Knox caper to people he’s planning to “off” anyway.) He’s certainly exploitive and preening, and has no difficulties with killing people. He also avoids the cheap stereotype of killing one of his own henchmen pointlessly. Goldfinger only kills when there’s a point to it. I always wonder how those other villains and supervillains can retain employees when they snuff underlings on a whim.
The whole clan of Harkonnens from the Dune series seems to fit here, as well.
I think this is the criterion that knocks most of your super-villains out of contention for full-blown narcissist. Almost by definition, a super-villain has to have legitimate acheivements (invented doomsday weapon, built criminal empire, etc) to go along with his preening self-importance. I’d say that someone like Luthor (who, say what you will, has accomplished a LOT) is clearly an egotist, but not a narcissist.
If I had to pick someone who meets all the criteria, how about Professor Chaos.
You can be accomplished, and still believe yourself to be smarter, stronger, or just better than you really are. Luthor’s a damn good example of this, as is Prometheus. Or Magneto. Mr Sinister. Quite a few others.
The Delusions of Grandeur is probably second only to the inflated sense of entitlement in the standard supervillainous pathology.
Not to mention it’s only one of 9 narcissistic behavours, and only the most extreme examples - Prometheus, or Glorith, again - would have all nine to any real extent.
I dunno, villains like Red Skull and Baron Zemo are almost more invested in their ideologies of superiority than in their own identities. Red Skull has some serious self-hatred – here he’s hallucinating meeting all the people he’s failed, betrayed, or whose lives he has ruined, including his father, Hitler, and his daughter. He’s about to commit suicide when he sees Captain America approach, saying, “You, Skull, are the lowest, most despicable man I’ve ever met. But… someone has to be.” Remember this is all coming straight out of Skull’s psyche. He’s a self-loathing, suicidal maniac who’s dedicated his whole life to evil because, well, it’s not like he had anything else. Thoughts?