A relatively simple way for a writer to show a character's tough without explicitly saying it
: give them a prominent scar. Even if the cause of the scar
is never revealed, it's clear that the character suffered some sort of serious wound and survived. For example, you look at a group of Space Marines
. Who do you think is the toughest one there? The clean-faced guy or the guy with a healed gash across his face
Like an Eyepatch After Time Skip
, it's a common tool to show a character is a Future Badass
Common Rugged Scars include:
Compare Every Scar Has A Story
and Scar Survey
. In this case, the story behind the scar is irrelevant, all that matters is that the character's scar sets them apart as tough or a survivor. Overlap between the two is possible; even if the cause of a scar is revealed, if it is used to show someone is tough then this applies as well. Covered In Scars
is a subtrope that occurs when this is taken Up to Eleven
. Goes hand-in-hand with Real Men Get Shot
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Anime and Manga
- Invoked by Luffy of One Piece, who thinks it would be badass to himself a scar below his eye in tribute to his hero Shanks. Shanks himself has a claw mark scar over his eye from his fight with Blackbeard.
- Dragon Ball
- Bardock, Goku's father in Dragon Ball Z is completely identical to his son (and his son as well), except for the fact that he has a scar on his cheek. Not surprising he'd pick something like that up, considering his job is to travel from planet to planet and wipe out their entire populations.
- Bleach, many characters are Covered In Scars or examples of Every Scar Has A Story, but Tsubaki stands out as he came into existence with a scar over his eyebrow. Fitting, since he's Orihime's sole form of attack and the most brash of her fairies.
- Domon Kasshu, Hot-Blooded hero of G Gundam has a cross-shaped scar on his right cheek. The origin is never given, but it fits his brash persona, though a 4koma makes fun of this saying that the scar was actually Master Asia etching an 'X' on his cheek with a marker, punishing him when he messed up.
- Busou Renkin's Tokiko Tsumura has a large scar running horizontally across her cheeks and nose. It's very fitting, as she's the more aggressive of the main characters (her catch phrase is "I'll splatter your guts!"). It's left unexplained until the epilogue chapter, where it turns out she acquired it when she was attacked by a humanoid homunculus and activated her Busou Renkin for the first time. The author stated in the liner notes that it was partly inspired by the scar he'd put on Himura Kenshin's left cheek in Rurouni Kenshin.
- In Soul Eater, Black Star ends up getting a scar over the tattoo of his clan symbol. This also momentarily makes him come off as a Chick Magnet.
- The creator of Ginga Nagareboshi Gin and it's sequel Ginga Densetsu Weed is fond of this trope. Many characters of his have scars or acquire them at some point. Notable examples are the absolutely covered by them Riki, arguably the most powerful dog in either series, and his son Gin, the protagonist of Ginga Nagareboshi Gin.
- Bait and Switch:
- In the original fic, Admiral Amnell Kree is stated to have severe scarring around her left eye.
- The Headhunt: Commander Imara Stadi, a former MACO operator, is stated to be a classic beauty marred by a scar that starts near her eye, crosses her lips, and ends under her chin.
- Avatar: The Heavy Colonel Quaritch has three scars on his head. Presumably it's a claw wound of some sort.
- The Dark Knight's incarnation of the Joker. Rather than the Joker's traditional Frozen Face, this one has a Glasgow Grin, indicating the series' Darker and Edgier tone while still establishing the character as someone who isn't going to die easily.
- In the first and second Terminator movies, the John Connor of the future has an unexplained scar on his face. We finally see what causes this scar in Terminator Salvation.
- Sarah Connor was meant to have a similar scar on her face in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but the makeup process was too time consuming and difficult to implement.
- Invoked by Turbo Shek in Dragon Tiger Gate. He has a scar on his face that he gave to himself in order to seem tougher and make others respect him.
- Lethal Weapon 3: Martin Riggs and Lorna Cole compare scars in a one-up fashion, which also justifies taking off all of their clothing, followed by inevitable fornication. This overlaps with Every Scar Has A Story, but in this case the actual story of the scars are less important than their symbol of showing someone is tough.
- In Glory Trip, a former slave, is given A Taste of the Lash as punishment for going AWOL from the army. He removes his shirt revealing a back already covered in whip scars. He doesn't flinch as he's given the punishment.
- Invoked, then inverted in The Magnificent Seven. While looking for gunmen to hire, one farmer suggests one that has lots of scars on his face, thinking that scars are a sign of toughness. Another farmer replies that "The man for us is the one who GAVE him that face."
- Raleigh from Pacific Rim has several burn scars on his torso and arm. They were caused by the circuitry in his suit shorting out when Knifehead destroyed Gypsy Danger's left arm.
- Star Wars:
- In Attack of the Clones, Jango Fett sports a number of prominent facial scars with his helmet off, which draws a direct contrast with the clean-faced clone troopers we saw a couple scenes earlier.
- At some point between AOTC and Revenge of the Sith Anakin acquires a vertical scar on his left eyebrow and cheek. The EU explains it as the result of a lightsaber graze during a duel with a Dark Jedi named Asajj Ventress.
- In Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, this is common in the Darker and Edgier Flashpoint Universe
- Both Aquaman and Aqualad have a scar across the bridge of their noses.
- Captain Thunder (Flashpoint Captain Marvel) has a bunch of inexplicable scars over both his eyes.
- Blind Master in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, played by the RZA, has a large gash running down his face. Its cause it not revealed in the movie, but he's shown to be a wise and skilled master.
- Carlos from The Book of Life, has an "X" scar underneath his right eye. Word of God explained it came from his bullfighting career.
- Cira in A Brother's Price has a scar that goes across her face, and is very tough.
- In Billy Budd, the Dansker has running across one of his cheeks "a long pale scar like a streak of dawn's light falling athwart the dark visage."
- In the Ciaphas Cain novel The Emperor's Finest, Cain gives Drumon, a Techmarine (of all people) he's sparring with, one, albeit on his armour (which might as well be skin as far as a Space's Marine's concerned, especially a Reclaimer Techmarine). Drumon decides not to repair it as a reminder not to let his guard down (as he was deliberately holding back, and still confident that Cain wouldn't accidentally wound him).
Live Action Television
- Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn Nine-Nine has a small scar over her eyebrow. She's easily the scariest person in the precinct.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- When Riley returns, he's taken a level in badass and gained a really neat scar over an eye.
- Wishverse Buffy has one which is used to show that she's much more gruff and combat-oriented than the main universe Buffy.
- Future versions of Peter Patrelli in Heroes always have an unexplained healed gash across his face. This is particularly odd since he gained a superhuman Healing Factor fairly early in the series.
- EarthForce Colonel Ari ben Zayn in the Babylon 5 episode "Eyes" has one that starts next to his left eye and goes down to his jawline. Pretty clearly meant to make him look threatening since the only explanation given (when Commander Sinclair pisses him off) is he "got it leading men into battle."
- Action Man, the UK equivalent of G.I. Joe, had a scar on his face to set him apart from cheap, generic soldier dolls.
- Saix from Kingdom Hearts is the best example for this trope. A stoic, ice-calm commander with a X-shaped scar with the center on his nose is the easily one of the most feared villains in the whole series. Many characters, including seriously powerful ones often choose to flee on his arrival. And when the moon finally breaks his calm, the scar nearly covers all of his face, and he becomes an unstoppable demon.
- Sub Zero gained a scar over one eye in between Mortal Kombat II and 3. The details behind it are never given, but it does coincide with him being cast out by his McNinja Assassin Clan.
- Similarly, Siegfried from the Soul Series of games gained a scar over his eye at some point while Walking the Earth.
- Kanji Tatsumi from Persona 4 has a small scar on his brow. Fitting, since he's a delinquent infamous In-Universe for getting into fights and feared by many (even if he does have a very soft center).
- In Persona 4 Arena, Akihiko has been Walking the Earth since Persona 3, and he's picked up a couple of scars, notably a giant claw mark on his chest. It's never elaborated on, but it fits his "wild man" redesign and the fact that when it comes to hand to hand combat, he's probably the best fighter in the game.
- In Elsword, Raven's is somewhere between this and Covered with Scars. He's also a grizzled veteran who has witnessed many tragedies in his life (including surviving the death of his family).
- Star Trek Online:
- The game features these on multiple NPCs, for example Agent Franklin Drake◊ from Section 31, and J'mpok◊, Chancellor of the Klingon Empire. A wide array of scars are also available for Character Customization, although whether they fall here or under Every Scar Has A Story depends on how RP-inclined the player is.
- Admiral Amnell Kree in the Foundry mission "Bait and Switch" has very heavy scarring across her left eye. Her in-game dossier implies them to be the result of injuries sustained during the Dominion War (she got a Purple Heart after the Battle of Cardassia), but they serve more to mark her as a Frontline General. Section 31 Agent Grell likewise sports a lightning-bolt-shaped scar on the left side of his forehead, which is left unexplained.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing Matt Engarde from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney hides a double example under his Peek-a-Bangs; he has the claw-like scars over one of his eyes. This highlights that he's nowhere near as innocent as he seems, but hides it well as these never get seen before The Reveal that he's the Big Bad of the case.
- Final Fantasy VIII: When designing the main character, Squall Leonhart, Tetsuya Nomura wanted to give him some characteristic to make him stand out from past protagonists. Since he was a mercenary, Nomura decided to go with his iconic scar.
- In Crusader Kings II, a character's battle wounds can heal into scars, providing the character with a small monthly Prestige bonus.
- Ser Royland Degore in Telltale's Game of Thrones. His personal history is only briefly referenced in-game, and his prominent facial scar is never explained. He is the master-at-arms of Ironrath and is immediately established as a tough, reckless and aggressive character, always advising the player to choose the least diplomatic option available. His background is explained a bit better in the game's codex, revealing he indeed is universally regarded as a brilliant and tough commander.
- Song from Avatar: The Last Airbender survived a fire bender's attack, but has a scar on her leg. She bonds with Zuko, who has a burn scar on his face (which was given to him by his father).
- Colonel Staquait, the cruel leader of the French Foreign Legion in The Legend of Tarzan, has a cut scar over one of his eyes.
- G.I. Joe: Renegades: Hard Master, former leader of the Arashikage Ninjas, had three scars on his head.
- Young Justice
- Vandal Savage sports a trio of scars along his face. This is despite being an immortal caveman and Magnificent Bastard.
- Harm has a set of claw like scars over his face.
- To underscore the Bad Future, Future Enzo in one episode of ReBoot has a scar over an eye. Though in this case, the audience gets to see when he receives this scar.