"Well, you look nervous. Is it the scars? You wanna know how I got them?"
Many times, when an author wishes to identify a certain character as a Badass
, said character will be given some sort of horrific permanent disfigurement
. Most of the time, the disfigurement will stay unnoticed, possibly out of respect for he that is marked, or because the story behind it is too horrible for the others to imagine.
But there always exists the chance that some bystander will ask about the scar
, in which case the Badass is contractually obliged to explain it. When he is, expect the story to be long-winded, fantastical, and involving at least one Crowning Moment Of Awesome
. In other words, a Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?
Similar to Scar Survey
, but can occur between any two characters (not just hero/heroine) at any time (not just after sex). Can overlap with Rugged Scar
. In the case of Rugged Scar
, the story is not the important part, just the general fact that having the scar makes the character seem tougher.
For further scar-y goodness, see Covered with Scars
; Good Scars, Evil Scars
; Scar Survey
; and Scars Are Forever
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Anime and Manga
- In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the character of Gouda Kazunto gets a chance to explain the particular disfigurement of his head, which includes a somewhat iconic pointy shape.
- Then, in Second Gig, Saito tells a group of poker players how he lost his eye.
- Ibiki Morino's scars are the result of being tortured and interrogated by enemy shinobi. The Land of Tea arc in the anime implies that some of his scars were pre-existing at the time of his encounter with Aoi.
- Gaara's "love" scar on his forehead happened when he attacked himself with his sand after an assassination attempt by his uncle.
- Kakashi has a scar over the eye he lost and replaced with a Sharingan. He received it saving Obito from an attack that would have likely killed him.
- Rurouni Kenshin - The titular Manslayer's signature cross scar marks him as who he is and the incidents that caused it made him decide to become a Technical Pacifist.
- Fullmetal Alchemist has Scar who received his scar after his town was blown up by Kimblee.
- Keroro Gunsou has Giroro's noticeable scar across his face, allegedly caused by Keroro
- Kurei in Flame of Recca has his scar as a self inflicted injury as a sort of mark of shame for his failure to protect someone. However, no one has ever actually asked him directly how he got it, for good reason and the tale is told by one of his underlings.
- In Wolf's Rain, Tsume has an X-shaped scar on his chest. Toboe continually bothers him to know its origin, but Tsume doesn't actually explain until one of the last episodes in the series. It was a punishment from his former pack for his cowardice.
- In One Piece, when talking to Whitebeard, Shanks points to the scars over his eye and uses it as an example of how dangerous Marshal D. 'Blackbeard' Teach really is, as he was the one who caused the wound.
- In Nanatsu No Taizai, the story behind Ban's very prominent scar is that he tried to take Meliodas' sword, a thing that is the latter's Berserk Button.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Misato has a huge scar just below her ribcage, which along with the cross-shaped pendant left from her father, is a painful reminder that she's the sole survivor of the Antarctic expedition that triggered the Second Impact.
- The upper body of Betrayal Knows My Name's Usui Shuusei is covered with nasty burn marks from when he interrupted Hotsuma's suicide attempt. They occasionally pop up during more emotional scenes between the two of them and tend to provoke It's All My Fault moments in Hotsuma.
- Tokiko Tsumura of Busou Renkin, by the same mangaka as Rurouni Kenshin, above, has a horizontal scar across her nose. In the series' Distant Epilogue she explains that it marks when she became an alchemist warrior. The subsequent flashback shows her getting gashed across the face by a humanoid homunculus, right before she instinctively activates her busou renkin in self-defense and juliennes him.
- Bleed Kaga from Future GPX Cyber Formula has his trademark crescent-shaped scar on his forehead, which is the product of a car explosion which killed his best friend as a result of the Zero Realm when Kaga failed to save him, and for many years he steered away from the skill.
- The first quasi-romantic moment between Hanala'Jarva and Joachim Hoch in Uplifted.
- A Growing Affection has two examples:
- Due to his Healing Factor, Naruto only has one scar on him. That is where he nearly stabbed himself through the heart to save Hinata from the Kyuubi. Hinata, understandably, loves this scar, and kisses it whenever she can.
- Keiko Takamichi has some "cool battle scars" on her back, from where Pein's Animal path hit her after she and her cousin finished off the Naraka path.
- Bait and Switch (STO): The source of Captain Kanril Eleya's facial scars, along with one on her abdomen, is shown in a Flashback Nightmare in the first chapter. While repelling a boarding action she was slashed across the face then stabbed in the right kidney by a Knife Nut Orion matron.
- Kurenai in Leftovers has one on her from a bear trap. She mentions that it's the reason she started studying traps as a hobby.
- Subverted in Article 2. Shane is a combat marine, and has a pretty hefty set of scars with stories to go with, but the stories are things like "lost a fistfight with a dumpster", "tried to do a handstand on a grocery cart and missed the dismount" and "steak knife".
- The page quote, taken from The Dark Knight, is one of several examples from the film. The Joker being the Joker, however, the story changes every time he tells it.
- In the live-action 101 Dalmatians, Jasper tells Horace that Skinner has a horrible scar on his neck from where a dog nearly tore his throat out, rendering him mute, and warns Horace not to ask him about it. Horace immediately forgets this warning upon seeing the scar, and Jasper decks him.
- Jaws. Quint and Hooper show off their scars and explain how they received them. This leads to Quint telling the story of the USS Indianapolis.
- Meanwhile, Brody surreptitiously checks his appendix scar.
- Pay It Forward: Mr. Simonetti explains that his face was disfigured by his father freaking lighting him on fire.
- At the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, young Indy accidentally catches himself in the chin the first time he tries to use the iconic bullwhip, drawing blood and providing an in-universe explanation for actor Harrison Ford's Real Life scar.
- In the live-action Jonah Hex film, when asked about his disfigurement, Jonah explains: "Cut myself shavin'."
- A tie-in storybook based on Disney's The Lion King actually explained how the villain got his scar in the first place. Go on. Guess the name of the bad guy!
- In Treasure Planet, Jim asks Long John Silver how he became a cyborg. Silver simply responds, "You give up a few things chasing a dream."
- In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Buck tells the story of how he lost his eye during his first encounter with Rudy.
- In How to Train Your Dragon, Gobber regails the Viking kids with stories of how his leg and hand were eaten by dragons.
- In Rock N Rolla, Those Two Russian Bad Guys are introduced talking about their various scars, which come from things like bullet wounds, grenades, barb wire, and even getting caught in tank tracks. One quickly gets the idea that they will be more than the misfit criminal protagonists have bargained for.
- Chuck Norris in a Hong Kong action movie whose name escapes me. He's been arrested by the police who are listing his distinguishing marks for their report. In a clipped tone Chuck lists the cause of each scar as it's written down: gunshot, knife, pitchfork...
- Shotgun Stories, a 2007 film starring Michael Shannon, is essentially named after this trope: Shannon's character has prominent scarring on his back from a shotgun blast, and several stories are told throughout the film, explaining them. Each story gives an alternate interpretation for who he is as a person, and for his motivations throughout the film.
- In Chinatown, Jake's nose is slashed by a gangster. Similar to Jonah Hex above, his answer whenever someone asks is "Cut myself shaving."
- Black Cadillac has a Running Gag where Robby refuses to give a straight answer when asked where he got the scars on his face. At the end, Scott reveals that they were the result of an accident they had while playing.
- The Quick and the Dead. Used as a Badass Boast by Spotted Horse to show he is Immune to Bullets (he's not, but doesn't go down easily).
- Invoked in Dragon Tiger Gate by Turbo Shek who has a scar on his face that he gave to himself in order to seem tougher and make others respect him. He gives several explanations for how he got it over the course of the movie.
- A pirate with a peg leg, a hook for a hand, and an eyepatch walks into a bar. The bartender asks him "What happened to your leg?" The pirate replies "That was the result of a fierce battle with a shark. I managed to fight him off, but he bit off my leg as a parting blow" The bartender then asks "Then what happened to your hand?" The pirate replies "I lost that in a swordfight. The dread pirate Blackbeard engaged me in combat, and he got in the last move." The bartender then asks "And your eye?" The pirate replies "That was due to a seagull. I was looking up and I saw him just before he pooped in my eye." The bartender asks "And that's what took out your eye?" The pirate replies "No, that's the first day I had my hook."
- Some Older Than Print historical anecdote tells about two kings (name forgotten) comparing their scars. The one boast about his fight with a lion in the arena. He looks at the even more impressive scars of his colleague and asks: "Lion, arena, too?" "No, Lamia, bed." (Not the Lamia - it was the name of his wife - but that was probably part of the joke too.)
- Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick, who lost his leg while grappling with the Great White Whale.
- Every member of the Seablite gang from Dark Life has a scar, all with the same story: they're surgical scars from Doc Hudson cutting them open to see how their Dark Gifts work.
- Harry Potter has his famous lightning bolt, naturally, courtesy of You-Know-Who. There's also Mad-Eye Moody's scars from his career spent fighting Death Eaters, and Lupin's facial scars (in the movies) are self-inflicted due to his transformations. Averted with Dumbledore's scar on his kneecap shaped precisely like the London Underground; its mentioned offhand in the first chapter of the first book and then never explained or even referenced again.
- Many characters in A Song of Ice and Fire bear scars, and probably the most notable "how-I-got-these" story would go to Sandor Clegane, who decides it would be fun to tell Sansa all about how his brother held his face down in a lit brazier when they were kids. Sansa is not enthused.
- Harry Dresden. At one point Anastasia sees him topless and touches each scar. He gives a short summary of what gave it to him. Even though he has a (very slow) Healing Factor, he still has lots of them.
- A bit more dramatic than most, because most or all of them weren't just random backstory, but happened in the series where the reader got to see it happen.
- Callie, the protagonist of Cut by Patricia Mc Cormick, has been sent to Sea Pines, a residential treatment facility, to deal with her Self Harm problem. Callie mainly cuts herself on her arms, leaving scars that she tells the stories of to her therapist at one point in the book.
- Dustfinger may be a subversion. The story behind his facial scars is humiliating rather than awesome: he was held down by a couple of thugs and carved up by a man who fancied his wife. He mentions several times that it was Basta who "decorated" his face, but it's someone else who actually explains what happened.
- Darkness at Noon tells the story of the scar on Gletkin's scull, which is too well-known that it need not be spoken by the characters:
When, during the Civil War, Gletkin had fallen into the enemy's hands, they had tied a lighted candlewick onto his shaven skull, to extract from him certain information. A few hours later his own people recaptured the position and found him unconscious. The wick had burnt right to the end; Gletkin had kept silence.
- In the Tawny Man trilogy, Fitz is posing as the servant of a very effeminate nobleman. When a rookie soldier tries to make fun of him over the rumours that he's more than just a servant, all the experienced soldiers nearby take one look at his scars and try to talk the rookie down.
- At one point his injuries, and with it scars, are all magically healed. After taking one look at himself he magically puts the scars all back. Not because he is proud of them, but because he is instantly recogniseable as a member of the royal family without them.
- The Ironclaw novel Scars has some examples of course. Most notably the scars on main character Danica's fingertips from when her father ripped out her claws and cauterized the wounds, after she accidentally scratched her legitimate half-brother. And Danica realizes that the supposed impostor of prince Fabrizio de Rinaldi is the real one when she recognizes the scars she gave him.
Live Action TV
- A joke version occurs in Get Smart:
Hans Hunter: (re: his scar) Mr. Smart, have you ever heard of the Great White Rhino?
Maxwell Smart: That was done by the Great White Rhino?
Hunter: No, that was done by a small blue convertible.
- They used the same joke another time except it was a wooden leg and "The Great White Whale"
- In an episode of Blackadder, Redbeard Rum explains how he lost his legs... before revealing that he doesn't have any legs in the first place.
Redbeard Rum: (to Edmund) I'll wager those legs have never been sliced clean off by a falling sail, and swept into the sea before your very eyes!
Edmund Blackadder: Well, neither have yours.
Rum: That's where you're wrong!
- In the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "The Gang Buys a Boat," Mac decides to ask a sailor about his hook, thinking it will be a cool or interesting story.
Mac: So, how'd you lose that hand?
- 30 Rock: Liz Lemon questions her ex-boyfriend how he got his hooks. He explains that he got one of them when he was in Africa working for Doctors Without Borders, by waving at his old high school football coach from a helicopter ("It looked just like a black version of him!"). The second story is unexplained, but involves explosives.
- The Jeffersons. Jennie is writing an article about gangs, and she starts to hang out with one. Each member has at least one scar, which they call "medals," and they are proud to show them to her and tell how they got them (in a knife fight, shot, etc.). One young trainee gang member doesn't have any medals yet but is looking forward to getting one in the next rumble - if he doesn't have a medal he can't become a full member of the gang. He ends up killed in the rumble.
- In an episode of InSecurity, Burt and N'udu compare scars. The causes range from protecting the Ligerian ambassador from a Ganzi assassin's bullet to falling off a roof.
- On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike has a scar on his eyebrow, mainly because his actor James Marsters received one in a mugging. Still, in "Fool For Love", while Spike is telling flashback stories, one of them shows the character getting it during his fight with the Chinese Slayer during the Boxer Rebellion. Apparently, it was a magic sword.
- Averted in Merlin with Lancelot. When he shows up for the second time in the series he has a scar across his cheek, one that no one ever comments on. When he turns up a season later for the third time, the scar is completely gone.
- In Arrow, Ollie has horrible scars across his chest when he returns from the island, eventually explained as being the result of Deathstroke torturing him. A lot of the advertising of the series specifically invokes this trope.
- In Traveller, Aslan never fix cosmetic damage (which does not inhibit performance) on warships. They consider it an honorable career to raise its value. This applies even if the ship was purchased from humans and earned its scars in a human navy.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, scars are a symbol of glory and honor. A good story can bring more renown if it's got a scar you can show off, and a wicked scar is always cooler if it's got a howl-worthy story behind it.
- And due to their Healing Factor only aggravated damage like fire, silver, or the claws of other werewolves leaves scars, practically guaranteeing a story behind each scar.
- In one Far Side strip, one sailor is telling another of how he got his peg leg. The other sailor, however, has a peg head.
- Henry V
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
- RWBY's Weiss has a small scar across her left eye. When Weiss's VA was asked about it, she dodged the question, replying that '[the fans] will find out.' This alone implies that it's significant.
- Given the hints in episode 15 that Weiss's father is abusive, a common fan theory is that he caused it.
- Heart Core Actually starts off with one of these. It shows how Ame, once a happy and cheerful princess, was forced into a permanently scarring ritual by her father, costing her much of her powers and leaving her with large scars on her face and arms that never healed. This made her rather bitter against her dad.
- Anna from Sire has a highly visible scar running across her face. We learn she earned it in an attempt to kill herself with a letter opener after her Hyde-Child "sister" murdered their uncle.