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Standing out from the smugglers, gangsters, evil dictators and other petty criminals is the diabolical mastermind. Generally found sitting in an expensive leather chair with one hand idly tapping a trap door switch and the other stroking his pet cat, the diabolical mastermind is always at the top of whatever criminal food chain the hero — usually a spy — ends up climbing. He differs from the Evil Overlord in that he (usually) has no territory or political power of his own, although his criminal resources sometimes rival those of a developed nation.
Because of this, he is generally protected by dozens of Goons and sometimes The Commander. As such, he is very rarely made to pay for his crimes.
The diabolical mastermind's motto is that you have to spend money to make money. As such, he may spend countless millions or billions of dollars building a super orbital Death Ray operated from a secret volcano base, only to then hold the world's Governments to ransom for billions of dollars. Since money is no object, the best way to ask the world for this ransom is to take over every TV channel or network in the world........Weird
Not that the diabolical mastermind is not always motivated by money. He may lust for power, land, priceless art or something else could be anything really. But his tactics are invariably complicated and technologically impressive.
Typically, the diabolical mastermind holds no political affiliation, nor does he follow anyone else's orders. As far as he is concerned, his is the only opinion that matters and everyone else will follow his lead. He fights for no cause except his own. Any affiliations with political parties or rebel fighters are purely for the purposes of hiding his connections with crimes or having others do his dirty work. This is not to say he has no political views or agenda, just that they are either kept separate from or are one in the same as his own personal ambitions.
One early example of this type of character is the Disney character The Phantom Blot!
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The Phantom Blot AKA The Shadow Blot first appeared in 1939 in a Comic known as "Mickey Outwits the Phantom Blot"
The Phantom Blot is, in my opinion an awesome villain because he is VERY smart. He's a Master Thief who is a Master of Escape, Master of Hypnosis, Blackmailer, Created many different inventions, Steals Money to Make his plans work, Knows a lot in psychology and manipulation. In most of his appearances, he's nearly destroyed Mickey. Often he outsmarts him. The very first story that featured him had Mickey escape traps by literally inches several times.
The first time it was a Laser-gun rigged to a sleeping cat. Mickey dodged it by rocking his chair so it fell... But then there was a trap door not far from it, which dropped the mouse straight into a barber's chair with a scythe blade trying to slice him in half. He had no chance to dodge that. A slight miscalculation on the Phantom Blot's part regarding his victim's size is all that saved Mickey there.
In one story where he actually pretended to be a ghost in an old castle-turned-hotel in order to rob everyone there one by one. When he was exposed, he almost fatally harmed Mickey with a battle-axe. Hands-on, no mercy. Most Villains at the time would have spewed some ineffectual threats and maybe use useless attacks that always seem to miss.
In another story, he tricked Mickey into thinking he had a sleep disorder, then he tricked him into thinking his Matrix style Dream Machine had made him do something horrible in his sleep, THEN he told Mickey that he was dreaming... and "woke him" into another fake dream, just to mess with him for kicks. Eventually Mickey realized this and broke out for real, but the plan was a lot other league of super-villain there.
One of his master plans is to rob a bank. But that's too simple for the Phantom Blot. So he goes all out, steals some paintings to make Mickey come after him, then ruins the paintings with some crazy paint/ink-eating bacteria and pins the blame on Mickey to make him lose credit with the police. Then he releases the bacteria into the bank, making all the money appear useless. He then plans on driving it all off and fixing it by reversing the process somehow.
The Phantom Blot doesn't just break in, steal and run, like other villains. He manipulates people on every level before he gets to that point. He doesn't reveal himself to be the culprit before it's technically too late. That's what makes him so interesting in my opinion. He can pop up at any moment, and you can bet his plan will be complicated. Not only that but he doesn't attack wildly and ineffectually. If he had a laser-gun, he would just fire once, to destroy. He's always loses, but the point is that he seems more sinister and clever than most villains at the time.
He may be forgotten by most people, but whenever the Blot shows up, you know things are about to get nasty
He's also the Main Villain of Epic Mickey
In his role, he was accidentally created by Mickey when visiting the sorcerer's workshop, who then attacks a world ruled by Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. He proceeded to corrupt the world into a Wasteland, force Oswald out of power, and later playing on Oswald's envy against Mickey to use him as a puppet. Besides conquering Wasteland, he's set his focus on becoming a cartoon star in his own right by any means, the knowledge of him being a mistake being his primary drive. HOWEVER, Rather than being a thief, he's an actual monstrous mountain of ink with glowing yellow eyes and demonic growls, that turn people to stone husks. Making him an EVEN MORE THREATNING VILLIAN.