"I mean, it's not that I necessarily wouldn't draw a cartoon like Henry or Snuffy Smith or Blondie, it's that I can't. If I drew Blondie, for example, it would still come out looking like The Far Side; Daisy would get rabies and bite Dagwood, who'd go insane and have Mr. Dithers stuffed — whatever that means."
— Gary Larson, The PreHistory of The Far Side
Authors have styles. It's common and acceptable that, when people write often, they start to develop a distinct way of writing, or an arbitrary favouritism for one of their characters, places, or even a specific name.
Some authors, though, have internalized a single style to such extent that it's noticeable in anything they happen to write, co-write, or in extreme cases, even inspire. There are extreme cases in which, without knowing who wrote the work you're watching/reading, you can say "Hey, it has to be <insert author name here>!", because his/her style is too distinct and famous not to recognize.
Visual artists, and movie directors, have similar styles in not only their stories but the spectacle.
Related to Author Appeal, Author Catchphrase. See also Creator Thumbprint. Compare Hey, It's That Guy!.
A villain whose motivation and characterisation are not explored in detail, if at all (Gunbuster, Neon Genesis Evangelion), influenced by his favourite film Battle Of Okinawa.
He usually collaborates with Shiro Sagisu (Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Kare Kano) or with artists who produce soundtracks with the same effect, with a lot of quiet piano music and existing Western art music for introspective dramatic scenes (Love & Pop, Shiki-Jitsu).
He likes using a black or white screen with writing on it, representing questions characters ask or tell themselves, narration, or parts of dialogue of some characters (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Kare Kano, Love & Pop, Shiki-Jitsu).
Focus on industrial city views (electric wires, grey buildings, etc.), which Anno has said he is very fond of (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Kare Kano, Love & Pop, Shiki-Jitsu).
Focus on sci-fi technology, using Technobabble and close-up shots (The opening sequence of Madox 01, Gunbuster, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, Neon Genesis Evangelion).
Long, suspenseful scenes waiting for an enemy attack, accompanied by unnerving music, usually played on the piano (Gunbuster, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, Neon Genesis Evangelion).
Cuts between scenes that feel ‘premature’, often to industrial urban views, creating suspenseful pacing (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Kare Kano, Love & Pop, Shiki-Jitsu).
Somewhat Mind Screwy animation to stop the viewer from focusing on external conditions and focus on a character’s (or characters’) state of mind, accompanied by unsettling music and often a spotlight turning on loudly to indicate something (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Kare Kanonote Used occasionally in the beginning as a form of Self-Parody, later Played for Drama, The Wind Rises).
A general theme of a main character in a poor emotional state going through a crisis, or a series of crises, to grow as a person (Gunbusternote This series is different in this respect, as the main character was fairly well-functioning despite the trauma she experienced, and simply applied what she had already known to harder and harder challenges. The theme used in the way Anno is most famous for was codified only in Evangelion, inspired by Anno’s own struggle with depression after the Troubled Production of Nadiatook a heavy emotional toll on him., Neon Genesis Evangelion, Kare Kano, Love & Pop, Shiki-Jitsunote While the last three were originally written by different artists altogether—Kare Kano was a manga by Masami Tsuda, Love & Pop was based on Ryū Murakami’s novel Topaz II, and Shiki-Jitsu was based on Ayako Fujitani’s novella Touhimu, Anno wrote the scripts for all three (except the infamous last episode of Kare Kano), implementing significant changes, and directing them in a style distinctly his own, to the point he had to resign around mid-series while working on Kare Kano because of Creative Differences with Tsuda.).
Masaki Tsuzuki, the main (and only) writer behind the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha franchise, is very fond of a particular kind of Mood Dissonance: after setting up a massive tragic mood with somber opening monologues, mournful music, and pessimistic foreshadowing, he then proceeds to throw it out the window in favor of epic battles that eventually end up with (almost) no fatalities, no permanent injuries, no psychological traumas, but a ton of new friendships. He is also known for successfully alloying the masculine and the feminine in his characters, which results in a very ambiguous relationship dodecahedron between them.
Keiichiro Kawaguchi has a style that focuses on a large volume of Shout Outs, turning anything into a rapid-fire Gag Series. He also has a distinctive style of eyecatches featuring the characters saying one-liners, as well as a love of fanservice of all kinds.
Leiji Matsumoto: Trains, willowy women, and reflections on what exactly defines a "human".
Mamoru Hosoda's films often feature a dimension consisting of a white background covered with lots of multicolored numbers, symbols, and lines.
Adachi Mitsuru's manga normally involves sports theme, high school relationships (and rivalries), simple, comical character designs (with enormous ears), recurring pet, the uses of Subtext and blatant references from the author's other manga (going to the point of advertising any Adachi's manga on sales)
Junji Ito will give you nightmares about the strangest of things. Spirals, [[Gyo fish]], your own skin... Sexually promiscuous young girls are always dangerous. The tiniest evil deed will result in a hugely disproportionate karmic feedback. The more beautiful someone is(especially if female), the more Body Horror will happen to it.
Ken Akamatsu loves his female moe characters, often possessed of and wielding enormous power. They'll almost always orbit around a central male hero. Cosplay, cultural references, computers, magic and/or Magitek will slip in there somewhere too.
Hitoshi Ashinano: dreamlike, unrealistically tranquil settings; flying, dreams of flying; mono no aware; no magic but no proper physics and biology laws either; simple faces and complex backgrounds.
Daisuke Igarashi: sketch-like but very detailed drawing style, heavy use of hatching instead of toning (even on eye irises), focus on nature, shamanism sensu lato, nature vs. technology.
Amano Kozue: Cats. And water. And nearly all-female casts, all in ankle-length dresses which still emphasize their butts. (see Author Appeal)
A Face-Heel Turn by a family member or best friend of the protagonist.
Some sort of supernatural element appearing in a world where the supernatural isn't commonplace.
Ryu Fujisaki loves his sci-fi and will work in futuristic designs in any manga he draws. This includes Hoshin Engi, which was a fantasy story in ancient China. Oddly, this actually worked in favor of the manga.
Most of Hiro Mashima's works, such as Rave Master and Fairy Tail, take place in fantasy worlds with magic, swords, and sourcery, hotblooded idiot heroes, small and adorable team pets (one of which has a recurring cameo role in another series, interacting with that show's team pet) and commonly use a Boy Meets Girl dynamic for the two main characters.
M.C. Escher took a great deal of inspiration from the geometric designs in the Alhambra, a Moorish palace he saw on a trip to Spain. However, his works can readily be told apart by the one thing he found fault with in those designs — whereas they were all abstract, in accordance with Islamic prohibitions against realistic art, Escher's art always has something that's alive.
H. R. Giger is a serious, serious, serious case of Freud Was Right; all of his artwork contains nightmarish sexual imagery depicting the merge of flesh and machinery with strong phallic and erotic overtones. You probably recognize his work from the Alien franchise. The xenomorphs? They look like giant dicks for a reason.
Telcontar Rulz tends to put in a lot of Arc Words which are variations on 'this was no coincidence', implication of meddling by the Almighty, somewhat Catholic views of the afterlife, Wolverine being connected to Van Helsing (as in the film) and being a nephilim. Also, Big Damn Heroes and Papa Wolf / Mama Bear characters abound. And lots and lots and lots of snarking.
The underlying Motif throughout the Sherlockian works of both is a sense of Realism with Holmes and Watson, fleshing out the characters as real people with real emotions. One result lies in the men pointing out that the characters in the Sherlock Holmes stories of Strand Magazine are just that, people whose traits have been so far exaggerated as to be all but fictional.
Michel Gondry has a personal style. Most of his videos are weird in one or more ways. Some have trippy morphing environments and multiplying objects; others are set in a crude, theater-like scenery and feature puppets. He may also break the boundary between an in-video fiction (TV show/book/dream) and reality, or make a musicological rendition of the song. And if it's filmed with a shaky camera, it might also be one continuous shot.
If it's a Tool video, it's going to feature some form of stop-motion animation, eerie and disturbing imagery, the characters will come straight out of the Uncanny Valley, and the band won't be in the video. The only major aversion to this is "Hush". The only other aversion is "Sober," where there are glimpses of the band members.
Russell Mulcahy's videos were all filmed in a highly cinematic style back when nearly all music videos were still being shot in video and almost always were filmed on location in some beautiful and/or majestic setting. He also liked utilizing split screens and widescreen footage, and was doing slightly surreal music videos back when a lot of videos were simply performance videos with a little added footage thrown in.
Ok Go have a tendency towards visually impressive and surprisingly cheaply made videos, using a lot of primary colours or other effects that stand out, and often consisting of a single shot.
Also, pole matches. Insane objects on top of poles at every corner of the ring. Expect any sort of tangible object at the center of a dispute to be put on a pole. And if there is no object in dispute, he'll put a weapon of some sort on a pole. Just because.
Tim Rice likes his idioms. Also never has more than two female protagonists. His lyrics also have a remarkable ability to sound like normal conversations that just coincidentally happen to fit a certain rhythm and rhyme scheme.
If you're watching a play with a vast number of literary references and Genius Bonuses, if the dialogue is peppered with puns and if the play looks like a simple love story but turns into a debate on the nature of art or reality, then it's by Tom Stoppard.
Many companies include at least one Shout-Out in every game. Blizzard threw a couple into Warcraft I, spiced a few dozen into Warcraft II, and now they just go crazy with it.
It seems customary for most BioWare games to have a heroic sociopath on the protagonist's team. Teenage girls who have a tendency to be thieves/technical experts. (Imoen, Mission, Tali, Wild Flower, Sigrun, etc). These apply even when Bioware adapt other franchises, as is the case with Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood. Heroic sociopath? Shadow, for starters, and also two other playable characters, Eggman, who is at points mandatory, and secret character Omega. Thieving, technical expert teenager? Rouge the Bat. These characters are like this in Sega's offerings, too, but that their roles are either unusually flattering (Shadow, Eggman), or unusually prominent (Rouge, Omega) in Chronicles.
Bioware also has a habit to write "general" epic save the world plots with the protagonist being the "chosen one". In contrast, games written by Chris Avellone tend to focus more on given protagonist's own story/person/coming of (heroic) age and philosophy.
Traditionally, every game must begin with a routine mission (usually the tutorial level, but in Dragon Age II it was the entire first chapter) that goes horribly wrong and leaves the protagonist as the only person left to carry the torch.
Tall, long-haired, slender and willowy, bejeweled and tastefully made-up, fine-featured and alabaster-skinned... men.
Relatedly, the man is so fond of white- or silver-haired bishonen that he may well be one of the Trope Codifiers for use of this trope in the modern era.
Leotards on female characters.
Lots of beads.
Other other major Final Fantasy character designer, Akihiko Yoshida, has a couple elements of his own:
Fond of thigh-high leather boots on characters male and female, young and old alike.
Possibly ties into a fondness for bondage-themed clothing designs in general.
Allergic to noses.
Other other other major Final Fantasy character designer Toshiyuki Itahana, appears to be a breast and leg man. Unique leggings or tight bodysuits are common. Check out the character designs for Garnet or most of the female characters in the Crystal Chronicles series (especially Chime and Belle) for examples of this.
Final Fantasy's graphics rendering of characters in general has a very distinctive style, which makes it obvious when another game is copying it with a cheap rearangement of character X's body, character Y's heir, and character Z's outfit.
Games that Tim Schafer's been at tend to transpose a standard premise onto a non-standard setting (Grim Fandango is a film noir/romance...in the South American mythological afterlife, Psychonauts is about a runaway kid attending a summer camp...for psychics, Brütal Legend has an ordinary man thrown into a fantasy world...which happens to have a landscape resembling every Heavy Metal album cover ever produced). They're also full of foreshadowing, almost excessive amounts of throwaway detail and characterization, and...weird. A lot of weird. No, more weird than that.
ZUN seems to have a penchant for Little Miss Badass characters who wear really frilly dresses (though in later works, the outfits aren't as frilly). Oh, and lots and lots of Nice Hats. His music is also very distinctive, and it's easy to tell when he's been called on to compose for a game outside the main series.
Suda51 makes, for the most part, strongly character-driven games with intricate stories, about which he often doesn't bother to explain everything of. He likes to incorporate real life events into his stories, but almost always has an element of Body Snatching to them. He will always have at least one character that has blocked out a traumatic memory from his past, and an important point of character development is the character acknowledging and overcoming this event, which Suda refers to as "killing the past". His games will also have a post-modern feel to the interface, and will always show close-ups of characters, either when they're introduced, or whenever they're speaking. His games will invariably feature tons of shout-outs to movies, and include Professional Wrestling moves in at least one character's arsenal. Luchadores, too. He's also big into raining blood, revolvers, and toilets (especially related to defecation).
One thing that is present in all of his work is super-powered female leads. The main heroine is either the most powerful being in the series or one of the most powerful. However, she is often in circumstances where she can't use her full power so that others can at least fight with her on equal grounds.
People Can Fly, the developers of Painkiller, have a knack for games with massive numbers of enemies on-screen at once, fun, catharthic gunplay in unsettling, creepy environments, and huge, epic fights against massive boss monsters. Even after the company was absorbed by Epic Games, many players felt that the extra content the team cooked up for the PC version of Gears of War was the single best part of the entire game.
It's pretty easy to pick out Grant Kirkhope's work on soundtracks for Rare, particularly Donkey Kong 64 and the Banjo Kazooie franchise. The vast majority of his compositions all share a similar song structure (it's virtually guaranteed that at some point the melody and harmony will be flipped to have the main theme played in the basss clef), and can mostly be written in the key of C. This is by no means a bad thing though, as almost all his work also counts as Crowning Music of Awesome.
One other quirk is that the boss battle music will be a more dramatic rendition of the music heard in the rest of the level.
Rareware also has a very distinct art style, especially noticeable in the N64 era. Many of their games feature cartoon animals such as Banjo, Donkey Kong and Conker, as well as sentient inanimate objects such as a talking toilet in Banjo Tooie, the pinatas in Viva Piñata, and least we forget The Great Mighty Poo of Conker's Bad Fur Day fame. Also expect most of the characters to have giant Sphere Eyes. Another trait of Rareware's games is that they're generally quite comedic, so the colorful cartoony style suits their games well.
If the RPG is well-written, epic, funny, poignant, and terrifically overambitious; if it's less about Saving the World and more about your character's personal journey; if it has no happy love stories but instead ones that are unrequited or horribly tragic; if it takes some staple RPG cliché and does really really nasty things with it; if you're betrayed by the last character you'd expect to betray you; if everybody has an agenda that may or may not coincide with yours; and if you find the most spectacular battles are fought not with swords or guns but words - lots and lots and lots of words - it's a fair bet that game involved Chris Avellone. He also has a philosophy degree that he tends to show off, particularly in Planescape: Torment.
Many games by where Edmund Mcmillen is involved in, feature weird anatomy and life cycle-related themes, including unborn creatures.
Hideki Kamiya likes designing his characters on basic concepts that usually come down "What would be awesome?" Dante was Coolness, Viewtiful Joe was Style, Bayonetta was Beauty and Ammy from Okami was because he thought making the main character a wolf would be neat. Also, expect his main characters to dash around like kids with a sugar addiction and have over the top attacks. Also expect battles to be viewed primarily from an isometric angle (With full 3D environments), gigantic bosses which require specific and over-the-top finishing moves, lifebars that double up on themselves when they exceed the max capacity, and only being able to dodge due to lack of a block command (although Ōkami and The Wonderful 101 let you block).
Shoot-em-ups by ShinobuYagawa are infamous for various game mechanics, such as rank, collecting items without dropping any points, collecting bomb bits rather than whole bomb items, and bombing generously to reap even more points.
Shigeru Miyamoto is well-known for making games that have gameplay over story as one of their priorities. In contrast, Miyamoto's pupils Eiji Aonuma and Yoshiaki Koizumi have preferred to insert complex and thoughtful stories within the games. Most of the resulting games offer a middle aspect between the two opposite visions, which itself has become a joint signature style (though in some cases Miyamoto does manage to upend the table for a more gameplay centric game).
Taro Yoko, the director responsible for the general tone and characterization of NieR and the Drakengard series, has a pretty noticeable directorial style. His casts are always comprised of Dysfunction Junction, and tend to have pretty bizarre quirks. He has also established himself as a Trolling Creator and seems to have a thing for Playing The Player, particularly when it comes to the endings of his games. Drakengard in particular is infamous for its joke ending, which earned Yoko so much ire he had to "hide out in a bunker" until the backlash died down. If you want a secondary source of entertainment in his games, tick a box every time one of these elements makes an appearance: identical twins (or just straight up Opposite Sex Clones), siblings with troubled relationships, magical flowers, beautiful women with grotesque secrets (who may be vicious and brutal warriors or monsters or both), character duality, robots, incest, cannibalism, and children suffering hideously.
The tables created by Zen Studios for Zen Pinball tend to have many things in common: Three or more flippers, modes that do not stack (on most tables, if not in a normal state, anything not related to an objective at hand is worth minimal points and does not qualify towards anything), Timed Missions, very strong emphasis on ramps (Iron Man has 4), a playfield longer and wider than a normal machine, at least one multiball mode required to reach a Wizard Mode, multi-stage wizard modes, narrow shots, multi-level playfields, generous and easy-to-obtain ball savers, a kickback on both outlanes, and Skill Shots requiring soft plunges.
If you play a game by Treasure it's either going to be really weird, really hard, or both at once. Their games thrive on strange Japanese humor, intense and over-the-top action, spectacular boss fights and brutally difficult arcade-style gameplay. Their games also often have a colorful and exaggerated anime art-style.
David Willis, author of the Walkyverse, has cultivated a paranoid fanbase for his works, due to his use of extremely subtle foreshadowing that might not pay off until years later. He also has a way of flip-flopping between humor (often potty humor) and serious drama. Expect references to superheroes and comic books to show up now and then.
Visually, his art tends towards cartoony and simple, with as few lines as possible.
Also, expect Author Tract rants of a character against an offensive caricature of a reader in response to a single post he found in an obscure section of a forum or that got sent at him on Twitter, usually extremely confusing since he rarely to never provides any kind of link to tell you what he is talking about.
Sometimes blatantly treats rather specific disagreements he's had with other people as if they're some sort of universal experience we've all had, which, again, will probably just confuse someone that is just there to read a comic about retail employees (or whatever) that to that point has had reasonably consistent continuity and a strong fourth wall.
Before Living With Insanity, David Herbert's webcomics tended to star Jerk Ass protagonists who were anti-social, yet surrounded by loyal friends, and were always working for the greater good. He seems to have changed his style only slightly though. Both LWI and Gemini Storm have protagonists who are borderline insane and are partnered with men who are much more competent. However, both series were created at the same time (Gemini Storm #1 taking a year to produce), so who knows what kind of stars will be featured in his next work?
His new style seems to have a man and woman as protagonists in various relationships. Living With Insanity has David and Alice, who are roommates, Gemini Storm featuring a brother and sister, and Domain Tnemrot has a surrogate father and daughter relationship. Just Another Day has the woman as the antagonist.
Sandra K Fuhr is known for superb character development, making good use of the World of Weirdness trope, well written gay main characters and ending her happy funny comics with a heavy dosage of Cerebus Syndrome. Her latest comic, Other People's Business, though it maintains her usual style, it is much darker from the outset, the plot having been kickstarted by one of the main characters' parents possibly being murdered. It may have been something much worse. The about page warns you two important things: 1) Not everyone is going to get a happy ending and 2) The characters are lying to you.
Mash-ups of made of pictures from old periodicals is something found only in Wondermark.
Ryan Armand's comics tend to feature Mood Whiplash (especially for the sake of a gag), characters who find their absurd situations normal, females who look vaguely Asian, and a very vague, yet nice-looking, setting that can move the story just as much as dialogue. Also, his art style is about fifty years out of date.
As for Style Wager well he doesn't like using commas. No he doesn't not at all.
The Twilight Chronicles and other short films from the creators (The Whore, The Magnificent Adventure) always feature actors portraying characters of the opposite gender, slutty villainous women, characters returning alive after an apparent death, and gratuitous use of the word "whore".
And women who have gigantic hips. (Though the Trope Namer is actually a misnomer. It's actually Stephen Silver's art style and character designs used in these shows.)
The success of Batman: The Animated Series was in large part due to Bruce Timm's distinctive character designs, and soon became the de facto house style for the DC Animated Universe. The style tends towards streamlined characters, straight lines, broad-shouldered males with chiseled chins, and shorter women with emphasized Hartman Hips. DCAU series that don't sport the Timm Style look tend to stand out immediately as a result.
If there are Shakespeare references up the ass and a large number of characters, you're probably watching a Greg Weisman show.
He also has one villain who has his hand in everything that is seemingly unrelated to said character, and who benefits from his plans regardless if they succeed or fail. You know the one.
Each of the Looney Tunes directors have a highly individual style that make their cartoons easily distiguishable from each other while still remaining whithin the house style.
Chuck Jones is a master of the Aside Glance and Oh, Crap face, often shown in lingering pauses with little touches of movement (a twitch of the eye, a drooping ear) to break up the tension. His early films are more slower paced and Disneyesque than the studio's regular output, but his later films are known for their split-second timing and experimental background design. He also has a fondness for cats. (Conrad Cat, Claude Cat, Pussyfoot, etc.)
Matt Groening's characters tend to have round white eyes and overbites with circular teeth, his show tend to satire politics, religion, modern society and pop culture and they often include jabs at Richard Nixon.
Jon McClenahan's signatures in his animation style included arched eyebrows in a character's side profile, visible knuckles when a character clenched their fists, slight bouncing in their walk cycles or when they pointed towards the viewer, and the lower lip drooping when showing shocked or confused expressions.