It was then that I made the discovery that was to change my life for a second time, viz., that the criminal underclass - the thieves, burglars, counterfeiters and con-men who were the plague of London - were all unremittingly stupid. I thought I would be afraid of them. As things turned out, I would have felt more anxiety walking through a field of sheep. I saw that once that what they lacked, crucially, was organisation and that, as a mathematician, I was ideally suited to the task. If I could bring the same discipline to their nefarious activities as I could to binomial coefficients, I would create a force that could take on the world. I will confess that, although it was the intellectual challenge that first interested me, I was already thinking of personal profit for I was growing tired of living hand-to-mouth.
~ James Moriarty, on becoming the greatest criminal mastermind of all time
Masterminds are considered geniuses among geniuses; in other words, they are among the most intelligent beings in existence and are characterized by a personality in which they will plan things to amazing lengths and always have a backup plan. They are often Weaklings, but these characters should not be underestimated, as they can be extremely difficult to catch or defeat due to their incredibly complex schemes. They are usually referred to as "the brain behind it all", and just like master manipulators, they rarely show themselves directly towards their enemy.

The only way a Mastermind can be defeated is if the hero or another character (whether evil or not) finds a way to exploit their arrogance (e.g. Supreme Leader Snoke was unexpectedly killed by his apprentice after a final insult; in Hannibal, Mason Verger was pushed by his assistant amongst the boars and then eaten alive by them), if they are of similar intelligence (e.g. Near eventually cornered and forced Light Yagami to confess he was Kira the whole time), or by a huge stroke of luck (e.g. in the Dark Knight, Batman caught off-guard the Joker at the very end of the movie).

Examples of well-known Masterminds include Lex Luthor, Norman Osborn, John Doe, Dr. Ivo Eggman Robotnik, Auric Goldfinger and Professor Moriarty.

Of course, they are rarely Incompetent. The only way a Mastermind could be incompetent would be a comical character, whose failures are played for laughs.

To qualify as a Mastermind, such characters have to be rarely caught off-guard and must have a Plan B, C, or D to fall back on should their original plan be foiled. They are the complete opposites of Dimwits, who are stupid and cannot make any smart decision.

Also, manipulative Machiavellians, or skilled tricksters are not necessary masterminds unless they meet the aforementioned criterias, and proved to be successful in most of their plans.

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