- “You can't count on anyone! Especially your heroes!”
- ―Syndrome expressing his bitterness towards Mr. Incredible
Originally, in the early drafts of the film's script, Syndrome was originally going to be featured as a minor villain, like Bomb Voyage in the prologue of the film. The film's main villain was originally supposed to be Xerek, who was to fulfill what became Syndrome's role in the finished version of the film: he was to call retired superheroes back to action to battle to death the Omnidroids and was the boss of Mirage. Syndrome's appearance in the film was to be fast as he was to be the main antagonist of the film's original opening sequence.
However, when Brad Bird noticed that Syndrome was more popular for the film's producers, he deleted Xerek from the story and used Syndrome instead in what would have been Xerek's role if the film's story would have been left intact. Despite this, Xerek ended up being reintroduced in The Incredibles comic book series of Boom! Studios.
As a young Buddy Pine, the boy who would become Syndrome aspired to become a superhero and this goal led him to beg Bob Parr to hire him as a sidekick, "Incredi-Boy!". Sadly, after Bob categorically refused to grant Buddy's favor, Buddy returned home in disgrace and rejected the righteous path. He became embittered and eventually descended into megalomania.
Buddy is a technical genius, and even at an early age could create wondrous gadgets to circumvent his lack of "super" powers. After his dismissal at the hands of Mr. Incredible, and the dissolution of classical superheroes, the young man turned his gifts towards evil, eventually murdering several superheroes with his Omnidroids and various super weapons. He is a classical sociopath, caring not at all for the rules of society; and seeing it as his mission to make himself the world's ultimate hero through trickery and technology, and when he grows tired of that, to make superheroes entirely obsolete by selling his weapons to the highest bidder. Because "when everyone is super... no one will be."
Syndrome appeared to be driven at an early age for recognition and ego nourishment, which are normal traits for that of a child prodigy, as seen by him attempting to overcompensate for his lack of super abilities with his brainpower and technology. Perhaps even if Mister Incredible had not rejected Buddy, he would still descend into villainy as he proved of having no grasp on the terms of what it means to be a hero which is shown when he still considered himself one despite having killed real heroes. To put it simply, Syndrome, having never been told he was special or could do great things, wished to remove the world of its specialties (specifically supers) by either eradicating them or turning them redundant with his technology, which makes him a bit of a complex character as well.
Aside from being bitter and sociopathic, Syndrome was intensely sadistic, as shown by how he taunted Mr. Incredible with his family's supposed death, and a second time when he gloated to the family on how he would steal away Jack-Jack and turn him into a sidekick in a last-ditch attempt to spite Mr. Incredible.
Though it was years and his vindictiveness had completely absolved him, Syndrome does have a memory of why he respected Mister Incredible and was visibly impressed when he tricked the probe by hiding from the corpse of Gazerbeam while claiming "he truly was Mister Incredible" and was "still geeking out about it."
- Genius-level Intellect: While not having superpowers, Syndrome's high intellect made him a fierce opponent, his tactical skills and inventions proving to be more than enough to allow him to compete with the likes of Mr. Incredible. He was also a former child prodigy - when Syndrome was still at a young age, he was a gifted boy who specializes in technology engineering, as he was able to create jet boots at a young age.
- Technology Engineering: Syndrome was a formidable foe when it comes to building numerous advanced technology and weapons, as he was also capable of becoming a successful weapons designer.
- Utility Gauntlets: Using zero-point energy, Syndrome is able to create a field of quantum energy that inhibits the majority of a victim's body movement. If the victim's skin is exposed, the range of motion of the victim's face is also taken to the minimum (only their eyes can move), and the ability to speak is also inhibited. The field is moved by his fingers and can be fired in the forms of energy blasts and concentrated beams. Like the trigger for Spider-Man's web-shooters, the trigger for these weapons is located high on the palm of each hand to prevent most unwanted firings. The left-hand gauntlet also holds the remote control for the Omnidroid. A communicator is likely built into the right-hand gauntlet.
- Aero Boots: In his short days as IncrediBoy, Buddy used makeshift rockets. As Syndrome, his rocket boots were modified to project flames of blue fire.
- Bio-Probe: Used to locate temperature, atmosphere and life signals in various locations. Worn in the left-hand gauntlet.
- Miniature "I"-bomb: Small, but exceedingly powerful explosive. Worn in the right-hand gauntlet.
- Omnidroid: To date, there have been ten known versions of this battle robot. The first nine were prototypes designed to fight and kill supers. The tenth was used in the foiled Operation Kronos. All of them were artificially intelligent, enabling it to solve any problem that it encounters; Omnidroid v.10 figured out that Syndrome used a remote device to control it and knocked him unconscious. Another feature of the Omnidroids is that they have colored eyes (e.g., 09 has a blue/green eye, v.10 has a red eye). The Omnidroid's only weakness is itself: in the film, Mr. Incredible scrambles into Omnidroid 08's inner workings, making the machine pierce its own hull in a vain attempt to pry the hero free from inside, and later on, Mr. Incredible launches Omnidroid v.10's claw at it and tears right through it, ripping out its power core.
- Viper: Helicopter-like, VTOL vehicles with ducted fans attached that twist and turn to control the vehicle's altitude and movement. The ducted fans tend to decrease lift when changing independent blade pitch.
- Velocipod: Round open cars with four surrounding blades that spin at exceedingly high speeds to keep them airborne.
- Manta Jets: Specially designed transporters resembling manta rays that have a translucent holographic monitor inside, and are able to travel underwater.
- Energy Prisons: Prisons in which the victim is obtained inside a powerful electric field and unable to escape due to hard metal mineballs.
Syndrome's real name is Buddy Pine. As a young boy, he was in his own words Mr. Incredible's biggest fan, even wanting to become his sidekick. Buddy was insistent on this and tried to force this on his idol but Mr. Incredible immediately rejected him. One night, as Mr. Incredible was facing the criminal Bomb Voyage, Buddy showed up with a pair of rocket boots to help him. Calling himself IncrediBoy, he flew off to get the police, but he didn't realize that Bomb Voyage had attached a bomb to his cape. Mr. Incredible had to release Voyage to save Buddy. Eventually, Mr. Incredible was angry at the boy for meddling in his affairs and had the police take him home. Feeling hurt and betrayed, Buddy stopped idolizing Mr. Incredible and hated him for his actions, even tearing off the huge poster he had of him on his wall in a fit of rage.
Fifteen years later, Buddy became a rich and successful weapons designer. Operating through his agent, Mirage, Buddy called for several superheroes to fight his battle robots: the Omnidroids, as test subjects to ensure that the Omnidroid would be powerful enough to take down Mr. Incredible. All of them were killed by the battle robot and those that actually defeated it were killed by its successors. Eventually, Buddy deemed it ready to fight his ex-idol and had Mirage send for him when the femme fatale discovered Bob's identity and location. Mr. Incredible defeated the robot, but Buddy built another, more powerful unit, the Omnidroid v.9. The robot defeated Mr. Incredible and Buddy arrived, he revealed his identity as the latter was shocked that it was his former fanboy. Buddy declared himself to be Bob's nemesis and better, "Syndrome." Syndrome, discussed his past and revealed how he got rich before Mr. Incredible tried to attack him. Syndrome immobilized him with his zero-point energy invention, he laughed that he was almost caught monologuing and in a fit of rage, accidentally tossed Mr. Incredible over a cliff with his invention, causing the hero to land in a river. After tossing a bomb into the water, Syndrome sent a robot probe after him to confirm that he was dead. Mr. Incredible managed to trick the probe by hiding behind the corpse of the late hero and activist Gazerbeam.
Mr. Incredible snuck into Syndrome's hideout and infiltrated his computer and discovered elements of Syndrome's plot: Operation Kronos. Unfortunately, due to a tracking device, Mr. Incredible was caught and held in a high-security trap and torture device. When Syndrome found out that a government aircraft was coming to the island, he assumed his prisoner had sent reinforcements. When Mr. Incredible denied any involvement, he sent missiles to destroy the plane anyway, not knowing that it was, in fact, the Parr Family.
Even though the missiles hit their mark, the family survived and swam to the island. There, Elastigirl was able to break Mr. Incredible out of Syndrome's prison and they reunited with their kids. Syndrome managed to recapture the family and was surprised that Mr. Incredible had a family with a fellow hero. He later revealed his plan which was to send his Omnidroid v.10 to wreck the city and he'd arrive to stop it and look like a hero in the public's eyes.
However, when he arrived to defeat the robot with a special remote control, the Omnidroid (which had become self-aware like its predecessor before it) betrayed and outsmarted him, knocked Syndrome's remote out his hands, and shot at his rocket boots with a laser gun. With his rocket boots out of control, Syndrome smashed into a building and was knocked unconscious. He remained unconscious during the Incredibles' battle and awoke just as the robot was defeated spectacularly; destroying his plans of glory and revenge and infuriating him.
With his plans foiled, Syndrome broke into the Incredibles's home and attempted to kidnap their baby, Jack-Jack, to be his sidekick and protege, just as he had been denied in his own youth. The family arrived just as he was preparing to leave, and he suspended them and slammed them into a table. He then began the trip to his hoverjet. However, Jack-Jack transformed into a mini-monster and disabled his rocket boots. Syndrome got back on his jet and started yelling that their battle is not yet over and he would "get your son eventually!". However, as Syndrome laughs evilly, Mr. Incredible threw his prized sports car at the jet, knocking it off-balance and causing Syndrome to slide toward the left turbine. Syndrome's cape got tangled in the spinning blades, just as foreshadowed by Edna Mode, and the evil genius was pulled in, resulting in the explosion of the plane. Syndrome was killed, ending his reign of terror on the Incredibles and avenging Gazerbeam and the other supers he killed, indicating that the battle was already over.
Syndrome was seen only during the end of Jack-Jack Attack, when he came to the door of the Parrs' home, claiming to be a replacement babysitter. In the mix, he lies that his 'S' symbol stands for "sitter." (Also mentions that he wanted initials for Baby Sitter but he didn't wanna go around wearing a big BS) and Kari believes him and leaves gratefully. This is when he attempts to kidnap Jack-Jack. Here he is shown for the second time without a mask.
Due to his demise, Syndrome doesn't make a full appearance, but he is indirectly referenced by Bob Parr. He references that the jet blew up and took their old house with it, which was accidentally caused by Syndrome's death in the jet turbine.
Syndrome appears as a playable character in the Disney Infinity video game series. While the main antagonist of the Incredibles Play Set level (implying that he survived the events of the 1st film), he also makes a major antagonistic role in the 3.0 level, Toy Box Takeover, where he steals the Magic Wand from Mickey Mouse (as well as Merlin's magic wand) and tries to control the Toy Box world with the other villains (most notably Davy Jones, Venom and Darth Vader as level bosses and the other Marvel villains within his "Hero Eliminator" level). When confronted in his lair, he uses the Sidekick feature to make five copies of himself. After he is defeated, Syndrome and the other villains are blasted far away by Merlin's magic.
Syndrome and his past-self Incrediboy are playables in the LEGO The Incredibles game. Some scenes are the same as the first film with few differences:
- Incrediboy arrived to help Mr. Incredible lately against Bomb Voyage like the first film's game console adaption. Except he is finally able to aid Mr. Incredible in defeating Bomb Voyage before calling the police while unaware that Voyage manage to implant the bomb Incrediboy's cape at his defeat.
- After Mr. Incredible and Frozone defeats the first two Omnidroid tests, Syndrome's full appearance is seen.
- He uses a control pad to control Omnidroids instead of his control wrist.
- Syndrome's tragic past is cut from this game, where he instead accidentally throw his Omnidroid remote control pad.
- Syndrome survived at the end of the first film's chapter, where he instead being beaten badly by the awakened super-powered Jack Jack while attempt to kidnap the baby at home off-screen before the other Incredibles arrived there. As Syndrome surrenders, right before he went to hiding, he advices the Incredibles to find a better babysitter, regarding how dangerous Jack Jack have become. He can be later fought as a bonus boss where he is arrested.
- According to official sources, Syndrome is 25 years old, is 6'1" (184 cm), and weighs 185 lbs (83 kg).
- Before Jason Lee was cast as Syndrome, Joaquin Phoenix was originally considered for the role.
- When Edna Mode refuses to design a cape for Mr. Incredible, deeming capes as hazardous to superheroes, she recalls a number of past accidents that involved their interference. This foreshadows Syndrome's ultimate fate.
- In another bit of foreshadowing, as Incrediboy, Bomb Voyage placed a bomb on his cape before Mr. Incredible got it off, leading to the string of events that brought down costumed superheroes in the first place.
- As a young boy, his hair was blond. However, as an adult, it is red.
- In Jack-Jack Attack, his mask is not on, and he still has his cape.
- Syndrome is a rare instance where a character's voice actor also voiced their juvenile counterpart, another being Terk from Disney's Tarzan.
- When Buddy sneaks into Mr. Incredible's car, Mr. Incredible goes through several names trying to remember Buddy's name. One of the names he says is "Brodie", possibly a reference to Syndrome's voice actor Jason Lee's breakout character from the movie Mallrats.
- In some novelizations, Syndrome's fate isn't fully explained. Instead of being sucked by the propellers, it's described that after Mr. Incredible launched his car against the plane, Syndrome was left without his getaway vehicle. Then, it's said that after that "anyone never heard anything about Syndrome again".
- In one of the comics, Syndrome's profile was among the rogue files, implying the possibility that he may have survived the cape malfunction and the jet explosion and may still be fighting the Incredibles.
- As mentioned before, Syndrome was to be a minor antagonist in the original version of the film when Xerek was to be the film's main story antagonist. In the original proposed opening sequence, Syndrome was to attack the Incredibles after learning from an agent of his that Mr. Incredible had recently moved into [the agent's] neighborhood (after an incident where Mr. Incredible accidentally cleaved his hand with a butcher knife and, due to his superhuman durability, dented it in the process without injury to himself, and was forced to fake injury and hide the incriminating knife), broke into the Incredible Family's home (the Incredibles used the last name "Smith" instead of "Parr" in this earlier drafts), disguising himself as a burglar and making enough noise to lure Bob to him, and then used Bob as a battering ram to wreck the home. He also tried to capture Violet while she was still in her infancy, but she, in her invisible state, regurgitated saliva onto his eyes (apparently, the baby Violet had a problem with this, as earlier in the scene, she regurgitated saliva onto her mother's shirt, much to the disgust of one of their neighbors), making him drop the parents. In response, Syndrome immobilized both Helen and Violet, but became immobilized himself when Bob rolled a mirror between them and lodged him into the ceiling of Violet's room. Syndrome was ultimately killed when the family's home was totaled in a gas main explosion sparked by flame in the fireplace (the Incredibles, however, managed to escape in time). In the same scene, Syndrome, upon discovering Violet, also hinted that Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl essentially broke the law by marrying and having children, although this concept was cut in the final version, as when a similarly scripted revelation occurred, he does not mention the legality of whether Supers should breed or not. It should be noted that in the proposed original prologue sequence of the film, it is clear that Syndrome and Mr. Incredible had already met and by their conversation it is understood that they had already fought in the past on several occasions. Also, as a curiosity, Syndrome did not carry a layer, although it carries one in the finished film.