->''"No one sees Gold, but Gold sees ''everything''."''
-->-- ''Film/{{Revolver}}''

Hello, Troper. I see you've come to learn more about the No One Sees The Boss trope. Don't worry, I can take care of that for you. While [[BlatantLies I'm not the trope you're asking about]], you can deal with me just as you would him. You see, [[SelfDemonstratingArticle no one sees that particular trope]], ''ever''.

This trope [[RunningGag (that is, the trope that is not me)]] is often used in conjunction with MysteriousEmployer, TheDon, The BigBad, The GreaterScopeVillain, The GodOfEvil, and villains which are MadeOfEvil, when the bad guy in question is TheGhost. Supposedly, the guy exists, and [[WeAreEverywhere almost every person you see acts as his eyes and ears]]. At the same time, [[ShadowDictator no one has any idea who he is or what he looks like]], or even if "he" is really a [[PowersThatBe "they"]]. There are also the examples where [[{{Masquerade}} the Boss may want people to think he doesn't exist at all.]] He might employ [[MouthOfSauron one trusted servant whose job is to relay the Boss's words.]]

[[TheChessmaster Almost every ordeal the characters suffer through was caused, known, or controlled by him]]. Often, it's as simple as it sounds: The Boss exists, but is simply reclusive. But sometimes, the person in charge only exists as a [[LegacyCharacter title, rather than a name]] and [[LegacyImmortality is simply replaced by a successor]] if they die, [[YouAreInCommandNow step down]] or [[YouKillItYouBoughtIt are killed by said successor]]. Other times, the Boss spends most of his time as a faceless mook and is HiddenInPlainSight the whole time. And lastly, there's the version where there actually IS no Boss, and it's actually been the DragonInChief, TheOmniscientCouncilOfVagueness or a {{Cult}} that's been running the show by pretending to follow TheMaster's orders.

This can sometimes be used by the forces of good as well, but it's not very common. Some heroic cases where this may apply are MissionControl, TheChosenOne, The BigGood or The FakeUltimateHero.

This trope [[OverlyLongGag (which is certainly not speaking to you now)]] is a SubTrope of TheGhost, The PowersThatBe, and The {{Masquerade}} in combination. Like the first two, the character never makes an appearance with enough weight to establish whether he's real or not, but this is done ''deliberately'' either by his {{Mooks}} or the ManipulativeBastard himself. Sometimes, the ExactWords "no one sees the boss" are used, or some variation thereof like "no one knows what he looks like" or "he may or may not exist". Any information given will usually be ShroudedInMyth like, "I heard he was born after Cthulhu raped Beelzebub and the baby clawed his way out of the womb and ate both parents' souls". Before TheReveal (if there is one), any origin will be MultipleChoicePast.

The point is, if it's not being done in-universe, it's not this trope. Usually, the audience doesn't even know themselves, but this tends to vary depending on its importance as a PlotTwist. See also ShadowDictator.

Now, please write your examples below, my Troper friend. I am sure that the real No One Sees The Boss trope will put them on display so fast that it'll almost seem as though he were on this page the whole time . . .



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* L from ''Manga/DeathNote'' counts, at least for the first book. For all intents and purposes he fits as a BigGood version, but his character is pretty much fully introduced in only the second of twelve books (his name remains a mystery). Kira himself counts as this at first, since no one is sure what the hell is going on in the beginning.
* Goth, the big boss of the syndicate in ''Manga/EtCetera'', due to highly-secretive and indirect contact being enforced among the higher-ranks in order to keep the drug operations running. As such, he isn't seen at all until the final book.
* ''Manga/OnePiece'''s Crocodile, [[VillainWithGoodPublicity Hero of Alabasta]], turns out to be Mr. 0, leader of the Baroque Works organization, fomenting revolt. We, the audience, know this right away, but InUniverse agents of his organization are kept in the dark, only receiving orders through TheDragon, Miss All-Sunday.
* The Big Bad of the fifth part of ''Manga/JoJosBizarreAdventure'', Diavolo, is this trope embodied, to the point where he uses the name 'the Boss' and is absolutely obsessed with remaining unseen. This trope is basically what the character is based around. [[spoiler:This is deconstructed in the non-canon ''LightNovel/PurpleHazeFeedback'' after he's killed. Giorno takes over as boss, and pretends that he was the boss all along. Turns out that if no one knows what you look like, anyone can impersonate you...]]
* ''Manga/{{Arachnid}}'' has this secret international organization of bug-themed assassins which is managed by front man Suzumebachi. Its members believe he is in fact the boss, but he states the real boss is already overseeing the Arachnid Hunt contest inside the Ouran High School. We soon learn that the boss is the local StudentCouncilPresident, a creepy young girl named Sara. However, [[spoiler:it turns out neither she nor the one she is revealed to be a servant of are really the boss. The actual boss is Yoriko, the heroine's supposed first friend. She has been in control of Japan for the past century thanks to a condition that makes her ageless for as long as she is able to mantain absolute mental control over somebody]].

* There was a story arc in ''ComicStrip/ThePhantom'' newspaper comic where the Phantom busted a gang whose leader spoke to his underlings via radio from a secret location and had never been seen. He turned out to be the mousy-looking accountant type who collected the gang's takings.
* In ''ComicBook/TheGoon'' no one sees Labrazio, as he conducts all his business through the Goon. [[spoiler:Because the Goon killed him years ago.]]
* In ''ComicBook/{{Runaways}}'', the 1900's gang called the Sinners were run by a mysterious pair whom only the Maneater ever saw. This is because the bosses were [[spoiler:Dale and Stacey Yorkes, Gert's time-travelling criminal parents]]. This creates some serious problems when Chase and Xavin try to join the Sinners.

* In ''Film/{{Equilibrium}}'', the "Father" who runs the entire dystopian society is revealed to have been dead for years, and his son now effectively controls everything.
* Sam Gold in ''Film/{{Revolver}}''. He ''does'' exist. Kinda. [[spoiler:But he's all in your head. Sorta. He's in ''everybody's'' heads. MetaphoricallyTrue. And he's also {{Satan}}. Maybe. [[MindScrew This movie is weird like that.]]]]
* Keyser Soze from ''Film/TheUsualSuspects'' is the "HiddenInPlainSight" variant.
* ''Film/TheWizardOfOz'': "But nobody can see the Great Oz! Nobody's ever ''seen'' the Great Oz! Even ''I've'' never seen him!" Turns out [[TheManBehindTheCurtain there's a good reason for that]].
* ''Film/PiratesOfTheCaribbeanOnStrangerTides'': (Captain) Jack believes this to be the case when no one has seen the captain or heard him, instead taking orders from the first mate (his purported daughter), and starts a mutiny by getting the crew to realize it. Unfortunately, this backfires when it turns out Blackbeard [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szUEkiRPQwQ is in fact very much present and in command.]]
* The mysterious boss in Fritz Lang's ''Film/TheLastWillOfDrMabuse'' who gives out his orders from behind a curtain.
* The unseen head of SPECTRE in ''Film/{{Thunderball}}'', whose identity is concealed even from his own criminal executives (but not his RightHandCat). The following film ''Film/YouOnlyLiveTwice'' had Blofeld's identity revealed to the audience, and he works among hundreds of mooks who see his face without a care.
* Dr Vulcan in the 1949 Republic FilmSerial ''King of the Rocket Men'', seen only as a voice and a shadow on the wall.


* {{Big Brother|IsWatching}}, the GreaterScopeVillain of ''Literature/NineteenEightyFour'', operates like this. We don't even know if he's a single person, a LegacyCharacter, or just the Party's fictional mascot.
* The Creator in ''Literature/SwordOfTruth''. While the earlier books almost flat out show that he exists, later books start to imply that he's a figurative entity that has no actual consciousness, but is the essence of all good and righteousness. The same is ''NOT'' true of his [[GodOfEvil opposite]], [[DevilButNoGod the Keeper of the Underworld.]]
* In ''Literature/TheManWhoWasThursday'', the BigGood who hired all the policemen to infiltrate the anarchists has never actually been seen, allowing each policeman only one brief conversation in a darkened room. Meanwhile, no one seems to have met the BigBad Sunday at all. [[spoiler: They're the same person.]]
* ''Literature/CatchTwentyTwo'': Major Major Major Major has left explicit orders that no one is to be let in to his office while he is occupying it.
** Major Major Major Major has left; you can go in now.
* In ''Literature/GarrettPI'', crime boss Chodo Contague has a stroke and his daughter Belinda takes over his organization, claiming to relay his orders.
* ''Literature/TheMoonIsAHarshMistress'': Adam Selene, leader of the Revolution. Plenty of people see him on video screens, but no one gets to meet him in person, because he doesn't actually exist. He's a figurehead invented by the ''real'' mastermind of the Revolution, whose true identity is concealed from almost everyone because he's a sentient computer. When Adam Selene addresses the citizens of Free Luna, the video and audio are entirely computer-generated.
* In ''Literature/{{Nightfall}}'', Mondior, leader of the Apostles of the Flame cult, turns out to be fictitious (similarly to Adam Selene, he's seen in video simulations only). His "spokesman", Folimun, is the real leader of the group.
* In the ''Literature/DeptfordMice'' trilogy, no one has ever seen the BigBad living GodOfEvil Jupiter, not even the rats who worship him. He can see things anywhere through an extension of himself in [[FortuneTeller Madame Akkikuyu's]] CrystalBall. It turns out the reason he never lets his rat minions see him because [[spoiler:he's actually a monstrous ''[[CatsAreMean cat]]''.]]
* In the ''Literature/StarTrekNovelVerse Section 31'' novels, the eponymous organisation is run by a figure called Control, who only appears to the Directors, and even then only as a {{Sinister Silhouette|s}} generically-humanoid hologram with a disguised voice. It's generally believed by the Directors that one of them could eventually succeed to the position, but further research suggests that this has ''never'' happened. [[spoiler: Control is actually a three-hundred-year-old AI data monitoring program that decided "report any suspicious activity to appropriate authorities" wasn't enough of a response.]]
* In ''Literature/BridgeOfBirds'', nobody communicates with the current Duke of Qin except through his assistant, a timid little man called the Key Rabbit, who serves as an intermediary and holds the keys, as the name suggests. [[spoiler:This is because he is in fact the Duke, UsefulNotes/QinShihuangdi himself, having become immortal and apparently less recognizable than the portraits would suggest.]]
* Near the end of ''Literature/ParadoxBound'', [[spoiler:after the death of Archibald Truss, one of his BodyguardBabes (the other one was killed too) plans to run his banking empire in this manner, acting as his errand girl, while actually making all the decisions herself]].

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'', this trope is the reason that Heaven is so screwed up. Apparently only four angels have ever actually seen God, which doesn't include Joshua, the only angel He seems to really ''talk'' to. As a result, half of the angels don't even believe God exists and some of them have decided that there's no point trying to obey their [[ParentalAbandonment errant father]] and that they might as well do [[TheHedonist whatever they want]]. The few who do believe in their Father and are loyal to Him express it [[WellDoneSonGuy in]] [[TheDutifulSon different]] [[OnlySaneEmployee ways]], and the whole situation eventually degenerates into an outright civil war.
* Up until the very end of Season 5, Jacob in ''Series/{{Lost}}'' appears to give some sort of orders but is never seen. When Locke demands in Season 3 that Ben take him to see Jacob, it turns out that Jacob apparently doesn't exist at all... or does he?
* ''Series/{{NCIS}}'': In one episode, [[spoiler:the errand boy]] is actually the boss, but nobody realises because the real boss was around, but is now [[spoiler:in a coma]]. Another episode centers around a street gang whose leader only communicates with one lieutenant via email, [[spoiler:because the lieutenant murdered him and has been emailing himself to become the gang's de facto leader.]]
* Robin Masters from ''Series/MagnumPI'', with Higgins as his front man. The last episode seemed to clear it up, but then...
* In the first half or so season of ''Series/{{Soap}}'', the head of the Mafia was like this. (He later appeared, negating his [[BuffySpeak this-trope-ness.]])
--> "Nobody sees Mr. Lefkowitz. Not even ''Mrs.'' Lefkowitz."
* Number One in ''Series/ThePrisoner'', until the final episode anyway. [[spoiler:[[MindScrew Except not]]. [[GainaxEnding Maybe]].]]
* On the Apprentice-spoof ''MyBigFatObnoxiousBoss'', the apparent boss "Mr Todd" would refer the elimination decisions to "the real boss". In the final episode, the real boss is revealed to be [[spoiler:a monkey]].
* ''Series/RemingtonSteele'': Miss Holt named the eponymous agency because she didn't think she'd be hired if people didn't believe there was a man at the helm, sending her on her assignments. This trope starts out being placed perfectly straight, but then a man actually did show up to take on the role and name.
* ''Series/InPlainSight'', the US Marshals transport a man who is the go-between for a mysterious female assassin known as "Lola", who agreed to inform on her after being caught in a sting. It turns out [[spoiler: There is no "Lola", he is the assassin, and he let himself be caught just so he could get at a target in the jail he was being held at, confident his lieutenants would free him from the marshalls.]]
* ''Series/{{Carnivale}}'' gave us Management.
* ''[[Series/AgentsOfShield Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.]]'': The mysterious mastermind behind Project Centipede, known only as The Clairvoyant. He seems to live up to the name, staying several steps ahead of the SHIELD agents as if he can read their minds and foresee their actions. The Clairvoyant never meets anyone in person, giving orders to Centipede operatives only by telephone or text message. [[spoiler: In reality, he is a turncoat SHIELD agent with high-level security clearance, which he uses to read SHIELD's files (including the psychological profiles, mission reports, and planning documents of other agents).]]
* In one episode of ''Series/MissionImpossible'', the IMF infiltrate a conspiracy of former Nazi leaders intent on establishing a Fourth Reich, allegedly lead by a bedridden official from Hitler's original Third Reich, whose bed is obscured by a curtain and who always gives orders through his [[TheDragon Dragon]]. [[spoiler: When it turns out the leader is just a dummy and a series of tape recordings, Rollin poses as the official (claiming to be recovering from his illness) in order to drive a wedge between the dragon, who knows the man doesn't exist and that Rollin can only be an impostor, and the rest of the conspiracy, who do not, and believe that the dragon is irrationally attacking their beloved leader.]]
* In ''Series/TheWire'', an international crime [[TheSyndicate syndicate]] is headed by a mysterious man known as "The Greek" who nobody outside the organization ever sees, regardless of how important their connection to the syndicate is. Instead, outsiders meet with The Greek's NumberTwo, a man called Spiros, usually at a run down little Greek diner with just a couple of booths and a little bar area. Everyone wonders who The Greek is, and no one suspects that he's [[HiddenInPlainSight the little old man with a kindly appearance who sips coffee and reads the newspaper at the bar]], sitting just close enough to listen to Spiros and the people he talks with.
* In ''Series/ColdCase'', a circus is ostensibly run by "Management". When pressed, the little person, who manages the carnies, replies that it's a group of investors from various parts of the world. [[spoiler:It actually turns out to be the circus's resident giant, who is actually smarter than he lets on and is the real killer]].

[[folder:Religion and Mythology]]
* May or may not be true with every deity in every religion ever. [[RuleOfCautiousEditingJudgement Only put examples here where it applies in story or adage.]]
* There's a popular adage: "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he doesn't exist." That's actually from ''Literature/TheScrewtapeLetters'', though the idea may have been kicking around before that specific work.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* [[http://www.sjgames.com/pyramid/sample.html?id=4661 "Supporting Cast: The Man,"]] a ''Pyramid Magazine'' article for ''TabletopGame/{{GURPS}} Voodoo''. "The Man" is a powerful crimeboss who nobody ever sees, but who controls all the gangs in the city. In fact he's a powerful spirit who manifests because people ''[[ClapYourHandsIfYouBelieve believe]]'' there's a hidden figure controlling crime.
* Another ''Pyramid'' article, [[http://www.sjgames.com/pyramid/sample.html?id=2177 "A Fistful of Tunes You Can Whistle"]] for ''TabletopGame/DiscworldRoleplayingGame'', is set in a SpaghettiWestern style town run by the barking mad Varozag family. The head of the family is never seen, but "Don Dominguo orders it!" is the standard justification for their odder demands. The article suggests that an actual encounter with the Don could serve as the climax of a scenario -- live or stuffed.

* ''Franchise/TheElderScrolls'':
** ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIIIMorrowind Morrowind]]''
*** By the time of the game, the [[PhysicalGod Tribunal]] were forced into this after [[BigBad Dagoth Ur]] cut them off from their [[CosmicKeystone source of power]]. Previously, Vivec and Almalexia walked and worked among their people, offering guidance and performing miracles. Now, they remain almost exclusively in their temples, communicating with only a few high ranking Temple officials and personal guards. The third Tribunal god, Sotha Sil, was reclusive to begin with and has gone so far into seclusion that even Temple officials can admit they don't actually have any contact with him (they don't even know ''where'' he is, as his Clockwork City is hidden).
*** While most of the ThievesGuild hideouts are [[OpenSecret Open Secrets]], the actual Guild Master stays well hidden. You'll only find out where he hides out once you've risen to a high rank in the Guild. Justified, since he is a high priority target for the rival [[TheSyndicate Cammona]] [[TheMafia Tong]].
** Count Hassildor of Skingrad in ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIVOblivion Oblivion]]'' is famously reclusive, unusually LongLived, rumoured to be a [[BenevolentMageRuler powerful sorcerer]], and [[HundredPercentAdorationRating well-loved by his subjects]] despite his isolation. His affairs are managed by his stewards, who are quick to remind people that he doesn't take visitors. When the player persists in requesting a meeting, it's revealed that the Count is actually [[spoiler:a vampire, but a good guy and a conscientious ruler nonetheless]].
* In the ''VideoGame/FallFromHeaven II'' mod for ''VideoGame/{{Civilization}} IV'', Sabathiel is never seen except by a few high priests. [[spoiler: He actually left and the priests are ruling in his name]]
* The leader of the Enclave in VideoGame/Fallout3, President Eden, is unseen, with [[TheDragon Dragon]], Colonel Autumn, being the only one who know's his true identity. he seems to spend his time broadcasting messages about the glory of pre-nuclear holocaust America on the Enclave's radio station. [[spoiler:Eden is later revealed to be the maintenance system for Raven Rock, who took over the Enclave after the previous leader was killed.]]
* In ''VideoGame/{{Grandia II}}'', [[spoiler:The God of Light, Granas, has been dead for centuries and the church that supposedly worships him is actually devoted to Valmar, ''the God of Darkness''.]]
* In ''Franchise/MassEffect'', the Shadow Broker has never been seen by anyone--not even his closest operatives. [[spoiler:Turns out that the Broker is a yahg, a primitive species that are pretty much good at ''anything'' they care to try. He's later killed by Shepard and Liara, and to cement how good he was at his job, [[YouKillItYouBoughtIt Liara takes his place without anyone knowing there was a change.]] In fact, this is exactly how the yahg took control from the previous Broker.]]
* "The Colonel" in ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid2''. Specifically, at one point you're directly asked if you've ever met him in person or know any name for him besides "The Colonel". Raiden can't give a good answer, and it's because [[spoiler: The Colonel is essentially an AI construct who was never a real person]].
* In ''VideoGame/PrinceOfPersiaWarriorWithin'', the Empress Of Time fits this trope, since [[spoiler:her real identity is Kaileena, and her own underlings actually attempt to kill her at some points of the story.]]
* In ''VideoGame/Splatoon2'', Mr. Grizz in the Salmon Run mode is portrayed as just a bear statue with an antenna on it, as we never get to see who is ''really'' speaking through said statue.
* The villain of ''VideoGame/Stinkoman20X6'' is always shown as a silhouette, but since that game actually doesn't have a final level, this means that we will ''never'' get to see what he really looks like.

* Talzo's boss in ''Webcomic/KirbyAdventure'' stays hidden in the shadows for most of the comic and makes very few appearances, with our heroes not even becoming aware of his existence until much later on. He is eventually revealed to be [[spoiler:Miracle Matter.]]
* In ''Webcomic/{{Vexxarr}}'', Vexxarr is arrested by some kind of AIs who unquestioningly obey the "Master", who they never disturb in case he might be in deep meditation. When Vexxarr finally talks his way into a private audience, it turns out that the Master is a skeleton sixty years dead, having died when the ship's life support was ruined in a long-ago battle.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'' has a variant, with a twist: The Dai Li do this with the Earth King, in order to enforce their chief Long Feng's monopoly on his ear and control of his authority. The Gaang eventually had to fight their way into his throne room, and then found out that he didn't even ''know'' of the ForeverWar with the Fire Nation.
* From ''WesternAnimation/InspectorGadget'', Doctor Claw.
** Similarly, the head honchos of ''WesternAnimation/CoolMcCool'' and ''[[Creator/{{Terrytoons}} James Hound]]'' are heard but never seen.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheSpectacularSpiderMan'', no one but [[TheDragon Hammerhead]] ever gets to meet the Big Man, New York's [[BigBad premier gang lord]]. His organization either take their orders from [[MouthOfSauron Hammerhead]] or more rarely get to talk to the Big Man over speakerphone (overseen by Hammerhead). This is because the Big Man is [[VillainWithGoodPublicity a well-known and respected philanthropist]] who can't risk ''anyone'' being able to connect him to the underworld. Subverted in season two, when the Big Man starts losing faith in Hammerhead's competence and begins meeting with his henchmen in person- causing Hammerhead to turn [[TheStarscream Starscream]] against him.
* ''WesternAnimation/DangerMouse'' tries to talk to the U.S. President in "The Statue Of Liberty Caper," but the Commander-In-Chief is surrounded by Secret Service agents.
-->'''Danger Mouse:''' Uh...nice to have almost met you!