main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Oral hygiene is for wimps!

In comic books and animated works, one way to demonstrate that a character is a no-nonsense Bad Ass 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 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

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.
  • Rob Liefeld came up with blood phlegmings once, because... well, Rob Liefeld.


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.


  • The Heromachine blog had a character creation contest based on "The Image Nineties". Lots of contestants gave their entries Phlegmings.


Video Games

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • Mumm-Ra of ThunderCats 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

Broken FaceplateStock Visual MetaphorsPower Glows
Palate ProppingMouthful Of IndexPutting a Hand Over His Mouth
Pie-EyedGraphical TropesPowerpuff Girl Hands
Pac-Man FeverIndex SyndromePinocchio Syndrome
Perpetually Shiny BodiesPersonal Appearance TropesPhosphor-Essence
Pest ControllerHorror TropesPleasure Island
Orifice InvasionImageSource/Comic BooksPlanetary
Pet HeirJust for PunPhoney Call

alternative title(s): Teeth Drool
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy