The Gimmick

There are two parallel definitions of a gimmick:

  • A cheat; either a method of doing something that appears impossible, or some device used for cheating.
  • A feature that distinguishes something (in this case, a character or series) from the competition (with strong connotations of not adding any functionality or value).

This is about that second, as applied to characters.

The power of sheer gimmickry, when properly used, cannot be underestimated; a properly executed gimmick can make a character truly memorable.

The true definition of a gimmick is if an Alternate Universe or Reboot equivalent (or a Captain Ersatz) isn't "really" that character without the gimmick, then that's this.

Unlike actors, the large majority of professional wrestlers don't really have character roles but rather are reacting to where they are placed in a book, what spots they are given, how an audience reacts and just use gimmicks to make things more interesting. After all, you can't help but react the way you really would, but what if you decided to react to everything in the most negative way you can possibly perceive it? You are going through a rough patch so why not use it? Maybe you strive to react in the ways you think will be best for your merchandise sales? If nothing else, people will not have to think hard to understand why someone would act in such a way. Even if your gimmick is that of a survivor from the lost city of Atlantis, you had better react to all things as if you are a survivor from Atlantis. If the gimmick is not a part of you, it has to become part of you or will likely fail.

To a professional wrestler, finding something within to magnify and project outward is almost as important as being physically conditioned, almost as much as wrestling in of itself. Something that immediately lets fans pick one out from amongst their peers can give fans something to latch on to and believe in. Drawing people's attention is the first step to drawing crowds. Interest can make crowds want to see one win... or get one's head beat in. So long as they are interested enough to tune in or buy tickets, you win something. Simply dying a few hairs blonde did wonders for Sputnik Monroe. Randy Savage's memorable voice and odd way of speaking hyped fans for his matches that much more. And, of course, George Wagner had people speculating as to whether he was gay or straight.

Most common in Comic Books and Professional Wrestling, but can show up elsewhere. See also Idiosyncrazy, for when a character's gimmick is driven by his insanity, rather than out of universe considerations. Compare the Dancing Bear. A whole team of people with a shared gimmick tends to result in a Gang of Hats.


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     Comic Books  
  • Batman's gimmick in the Justice League is either his detective skills, or his sheer intellect.
  • Batman's Rogues Gallery is filled to the brim with these. To name some particularly famous cases:
    • The Joker provides an example of how far you can go without going outside your Gimmick: outside of the Silver Age, he defines the human version of the Monster Clown. Within the Silver Age and Silver Age styled settings, he's merely a prankster Villainous Harlequin. He and his minions generally just focus on the abstract theme of humor or play up the clown shtick for all it's worth: depending on the medium, they will style themselves as standard circus-style clowns, jesters, mimes, classic comedians of vaudeville and Hollywood, or on at least two occasions the Pierrot-type whiteface clown from Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci. And this doesn't even include those non-Joker villains who occasionally disguise themselves or their henchmen as clowns for some reason, probably much to the Joker's annoyance. You have to wonder why Gothamites haven't learned to react with screaming paranoia whenever a buffoonish character appears on the scene.
    • The Riddler, in some versions, is actually an interesting case, in that his gimmick is also explicitly his motivation and downfall: His superiority and inferiority complexes are such that he has to leave clues, to prove that he's smarter then everybody else.
    • The Penguin has flip-flopped over the years from snobbish social climber to cold-blooded gangster to mutant bird-man, often depending on the medium. His umbrella and beak-like nose seem to be the only constants.
    • Similarly, the Mad Hatter's gimmick has vacillated between hats and Alice in Wonderland. Or sometimes both at once.
    • Most Batman villains are like this to either a small extent (Catwoman is fond of going after Cat related valuables) or a huge extent (the Riddler as previously mentioned). Appropriately, Two-Face can't seem to decide whether his theme is opposites or the number two. Maybe he should just flip for it.
  • Toyman is an excellent example of a character whose only real continuity between versions is his Gimmick.
  • An example of a poorly implemented gimmick: Paste Pot Pete. (Pete later changed his name, because it was too silly, even for the Silver Age.)
  • Spider-Man's gimmick, in universe, is his spider theme (less important) and sharp wit (more important); but out of series, his gimmick is One of Us: he's an average person who got hit with the superpower stick, and now has an extra set of responsibilities.
  • Captain America's gimmick is Patriotism and embodying the American Fighting Spirit.
  • Green Arrow has a whole Robin Hood and Bow And Arrow gimmick going.
    • As well as his very outspoken left-wing political views, which, since the '70s, have been a defining character trait of his.
  • The Flash's Rogues Gallery was full of gimmick themes with obvious names: Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Captain Boomerang, Mirror Master, Rainbow Raider, The Top (In that he spun like one).
  • The Punisher's willingness to kill and torture bad guys. And having a skull on his tunic.


  • Mystery Men has dozens of gimmicky superheroes and supervillains, most of them second-rate at best (though the main characters eventually do Take A Level In Badass. The Blue Rajah is notable in that he doesn't seem to know whether he's a British-sympathizing Indian prince or a guy who throws forks at people, and eventually settles on calling himself "a limey fork-flinger."
  • The 2008 live-action film version of Speed Racer is played almost like Wacky Races, with all kinds of colorfully costumed race-car drivers fighting and plotting against each other in order to win. Noteworthy entrants include Snake Oiler, who is sort of a combination of a cowboy and a rock star, while another racing team consists of Horny Vikings. It's interesting that the (non-racing) colorfully-suited Cruncher Block gang (a pastiche of all the different British and American "Mob" stereotypes) looks downright non-gimmicky by comparison. The title character, of course, doesn't have a gimmick beyond the fact that, well, he's a racer (not that he really had much choice in the matter, since "Racer" is literally his family name). That, and he has a pet chimpanzee.


  • Nero Wolfe was best known for solving cases while never leaving his house. His narrator, Archie Goodwin, did all of the relevant legwork; the combination of the the Hard Boiled-styled detective and the very Defective Great Detective was the gimmick of the series as a whole.
  • Penny of Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain decides to have candy be her main gimmick as a Mad Scientist, and starts designing weapons based around sugar. Some are simple (such as a water knife that uses soda instead of water), but others are more involved, like a wand that covers enemies in a candy coating, freezing them in place. Apparently it's common for mad scientists to have a theme to their inventions.

    Professional wrestling 
  • Some commonly reoccurring gimmicks have pages on this wiki. They are not mutually exclusive to each other and many different variations of each are explained in more detail on each respective article.
  • Jake "The Snake" Roberts, whose gimmick was being evil. And having a snake. However, he may end up being just as well known for his born-again Christian gimmick in the 90s, as it led to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin delivering his Austin 3:16 promo, and the Attitude Era at large.
  • The One Man Gang's gimmick was having a chain and squashing jobbers, then he reappeared from an over seas trip to get in touch with his Deepest Darkest African roots, becoming a pretty fly for a white guy Akeem the African dream.
  • Prolific in the late '80s and early '90s WWFE, when every wrestler would be gimmicky. See Wrestling Doesn't Pay for examples.
  • The Undertaker's gimmick has switched between being a grave digging zombie, a wrestling evil in hearts of all men, a wrestling biker, a wrestling grim reaper and the last outlaw. Through it all, the gimmick of being unbeatable at Wrestlemania has been his only constant.
  • Black Magic started out as a simple mat technician, then became the Foreign Wrestling Heel Lord Henry Norman, then became the dance battler Norman Smiley, then went to being the cowardly screaming Norman who was forced into WCW's hardcore division and would dress in the home team uniforms of the cities he wrestled in.
  • Charles Wright went from a No Celebrities Were Harmed Charles Barkley, to Voodoo sorcerer, to ultimate fighter, to political revolutionary, to pimp, to moral guardian to pimp again.
  • Pretty Boy and Wannabe playboy Scotty The Body also had a Surfer Dude gimmick as Scotty Flamingo. Then in ECW he became the depressed nihilist Raven and Stevie Richards began imitating Raven's old gimmicks before his own gimmick settled on being Raven's ascended fanboy and Psycho Supporter who wore a small midriff baring shirt. Then Francine became Stevie Richard's ascended fangirl. Then Victoria became Stevie Richard's psycho supporter.
  • Goldust's gimmick was being ambiguously gay and being a movie critic who took himself so seriously he dressed and painted his body to look like an Oscar award. Then he got sick of movies and became The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust, a gimmick which involved dressing in the most offensive manners possible (such as Black Face) and reciting poetry. Then he returned to form as Goldust but got electrocuted by Stevie Richards, adding a speech impediment to his gimmick. He popped up in TNA as Black Reign, whose gimmick was being Goldust without the gold and having a pet rat named Misty.
  • The Rock's gimmick was speaking in third person at all times and comically overselling.
  • K-Kwik/Ron "The Truth" Killings was just a wrestling rapper, except for when he was a wrestling political activist such as his TNA run, but then he was betrayed by John Morrison and became an insane conspiracy theorists who talks to people who are not really there and hates all you little Jimmies. He also developed a fear of heights and spiders. He was also the bad toothed Pretty Ricky but most fans would rather forget that one.
  • LuFisto's gimmick was started as Lucifer, then became a tease who tried to get men to drop their guard so she or her partners in crime could beat them up more easily. Then she became a Kawaii anime about garbage wrestling.
  • Macaela Mercedes started out as an ill tempered narcissist before becoming the relentlessly cheery high flier Jillian Hall. But then Jillian got breast implants and became a malicious, vain bully. Then Jillian became "the fixer", a freelance consultant who needed a protective mask when she wrestled do to a giant mole that grew on her face. Then the Boogeyman bit the mole off Jillian's face and her biggest client fired her, seeing her slip closer to her cheery gimmick before becoming a narcissist again. Then she became convinced she could sing, even though she couldn't.
  • Bryan Danielson started off as a bland vanilla midget who was picked up by Spanky because he needed a partner but then merged the ROH World and Pure wrestling titles and became an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy. Then he became the bland vanilla midget rookie Daniel Bryan until he won one of the ladder matches at Money in the Bank, burnt his bridges and degraded into an insane Small Name, Big Ego who hates goats and the word yes. This was partially based on real life, where he was the very definition of vanilla midget before working on speaking.
  • Carly's gimmick was wearing a wife beater, not wrestling like his father and carrying a shovel. Then in Ohio Valley Wrestling his gimmick became being Ambiguously Gay. Then he began to imitate Razor Ramon's gimmick of speaking in third person and taking other people's things before settling on eating apples, spitting on people and having an afro.
  • Eddie Colon's gimmick was wrestling like his father but then he became a gangster by teaming up with Hunico, Camacho and his cousin Orlando. Then he and Orlando became masked Mexican bullfighters.
  • Albert was one half of Trish Stratus's T&A, then became the disgustingly hairy A-Train, then went to Japan where he became the star Giant Bernard then returned the the US in an Akeem like fashion as Lord Tensai. He then tagged with the Funkasaurus and became disco dan Sweet Tea.
  • The leprechaun Hornswoggle's original gimmick was to be a projectile for the fighting Irishman Finlay. After he got popular he became more of a prankster that lives under the WWE rings. And was the anonymous Raw GM who only spoke through a computer.
  • The Boogeyman's gimmick was that he was an actor from a failed television program who got lost in character, believing he really was the Boogeyman. He also had the gimmick of randomly appearing to beat up people the fans did not like, talking to clocks, wrestling with glass from smashed clocks sticking out of his head and eating worms.
  • The base gimmick of Leva Bates is a geeky super hero who wants to protect honorable professional wrestlers from all the evil they encounter in their line of work (except in places where it is the other way around). Extensions of the gimmick include "specialized armor" (goggles to stop eye poking and other case by case bases) and channeling her favorite characters.
  • Brodus Clay's gimmick was being a gangsta thug before it became based on his real life job as a body guard but then he became a giant dancing Disco Dan and the only living, breathing Funkasaurus in captivity.
  • Cheeseburger's gimmick was being the underfed whipping boy of the Ring of Honor locker room but then became a blood thirsty man-leech Landa in Chikara derivatives Wresting is Fun and Wrestling is Respect.


     Video Games  
  • The Warriors. Even more than in the 1979 movie that started it all, the 2005 game is jam-packed with colorful street gangs you won't be confusing for each other. Sometimes the gimmick is merely wearing a particular kind of clothing (the Jones Street Boys and their zebra-striped "referee" shirts, or the Saracens in their Adidas tank tops), or something having to do with race or sex (the Hurricanes are all Puerto Ricans, the Lizzies all girls). Beyond that, things start getting weird. You have the Hi-Hats (clowns), the Boppers (1930s gangsters), the Savage Huns (kung-fu experts straight out of a Bruce Lee movie), and the Furies (who apparently can't decide whether they're baseball players or multicolored demons). Even the Warriors themselves have a well-defined gimmick, although it actually informs their character (they all dress vaguely or sometimes blatantly like American Indians, and indeed maintain a tribal form of government that is roughly egalitarian, with a "war chief" being informally designated as circumstances warrant).