Oral hygiene is for wimps!

In comic books and animated works, one way to demonstrate that a character is a no-nonsense Badass or creepy is to show them with strands of saliva, phlegm, drool, or some other mucus dangling between their teeth. Popularized by the various Rob Liefeld clones during The Dark Age of Comic Books, but examples predate that period.

This occurs because drooling and oral messiness tends to invoke a Squick response in many people, making phlegmings a convenient visual shortcut for invoking Primal Fear. For instance, it may show anticipation of a good meal (e.g., the heroes/villains) in predator characters. Or it may be a sign of disease, like rabies.

In comic book images like the one shown, a saliva trail between upper and lower jaws works as a visual shorthand, indicating that the mouth has just now been opened (since such trails would be expected to disappear after a moment). Thus their use helps create a feeling of immediacy, that what you're seeing is a "snapshot" rather than a posed image.

A common trope for characters with More Teeth than the Osmond Family. Contrast with Gonk, the blatant uglification of a character.

Cookie for you if you thought this was a trope about snot based videogame enemies.

Trope originally identified by the HeroMachine blog.


Anime & Manga

Comic Books
  • The trope illustration is from the cover of Dale Keown's Pitt #2.
  • Spider-Man's collection of symbiote villains (Venom, Carnage, et al.) have this in spades.
  • Modern artists draw The Incredible Hulk with this.
  • When Wolverine goes into a berserker rage, he often has either this or flying spittle.
  • The Horror Hosts of EC Comics were big on this. EC artist Graham "Ghastly" Ingels was particularly fond of them, as is his Spiritual Successor Berni Wrightson.
  • The graphic novel Age of Reptiles has every character displaying this trope all the time. Partially justified in that the characters are dinosaurs.
  • The Brood from the X-Men comics. Not surprising, since they were expys for the Alien xenomorphs.
  • Quite common with the Sith in Star Wars: Legacy. Protagonist Cade will get this too at the times he's leaning more towards the dark.
  • Ubiquitous in any issue of Tales of the Jedi that was illustrated by Dario Carrasco Jr. It's the "sense of immediacy" type; anyone whose teeth aren't clenched is probably displaying this.
  • Rob Liefeld came up with blood phlegmings once, because... well, Rob Liefeld.

  • The title monsters in the Alien series often had mucus dripping from their teeth/mouths.
  • Every monster in From Beyond, but particularly the bat creature at the end.
  • The Fly (1986): Brundlefly excretes a sticky white liquid constantly, which he uses to dissolve and digest his food.
  • The Penguin from the Darker and Edgier Tim Burton sequel to Batman, Batman Returns, has a perpetual trickle of an oil-like bile running down his chin.
  • The creators of Tremors initially avoided this trope, in order to set their movie apart from the dark, dripping world of Alien, but realised upon watching the rushes that the Graboids didn't look real enough without it.
  • In the first Shrek movie, the title character lets out a blood-curdling roar that shows off just how good the computers were at rendering flying spittle. Several members of the angry mob have slimy faces in the next shot.
  • Stanley Kubrick loved this trope.
  • The Kraken from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest takes this to an (intentionally) absurd level.
  • The killer in The Funhouse is constantly drooling due to his deformed features.
  • Featured in In the Mouth of Madness.
  • In Return of the Living Dead, when Freddy finally succumbs to the zombie hunger he starts foaming at the mouth like he's chewing on Alka-Seltzer.
  • Jay from Home Sweet Home.
  • Victor Crowley in Hatchet.
  • The sea monsters in Deep Rising.
  • Nitro from the film Mean Machine is constantly drooling and spitting to bolster up his loony appearance.

Live-Action TV
  • Fek'lhr, the guardian of the Klingon hell, as seen in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Devil's Due".
  • Doctor Who:
    • During his big reveal, Rasilon sprayed quite a bit giving a The Earth Will Fall speech
    • The Eleventh Doctor gets this quite a bit.
  • Khal Drogo's Rousing Speech where he declares he will invade the Seven Kingdoms in retaliation for Daenarys' near assassination is accompanied by a lot of spitting. Given that he is one of the most badass and barbaric characters in the series, it seems totally in-character for him. Watch it here.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A giant spider demon drools over Buffy in "Helpless". I mean, who wouldn't?


  • The Heromachine blog had a character creation contest based on "The Image Nineties". Lots of contestants gave their entries Phlegmings.
  • Many images of Komodo dragons show Phlegmings, as they're quite prone to doing it in real life. And for extra creepy points, their saliva is essentially their venom!


Video Games

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • Mumm-Ra of Thunder Cats is a repeat offender.
  • The hyenas in The Lion King likewise, as they were always depicted as ravenously hungry.
  • Foamy the Freakadog for the rabies version.
  • The Dragon-Pig from Wakfu
  • Legion of Super Heroes whenever Timber Wolf enters his feral form (and in one instance where he roars in his normal state) expect him to be salivating quite a bit

Alternative Title(s):

Teeth Drool