Oral hygiene is for wimps!
In comic books and animated works, one way to demonstrate that a character is a no-nonsense Bad Ass
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 comics, 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
- 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.
- Fek'lhr, the guardian of the Klingon hell, as seen in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Devil's Due".
- Doctor Who:
- 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.
- The Heromachine blog had a character creation contest based on "The Image Nineties". Lots of contestants gave their entries Phlegmings.
- Featured on some of the aliens in Bally's Space Invaders pinball game.