The question is, how are we gonna stop that thing? [beat] Sokka: Why are you all looking at me? Aang:
You're The Idea Guy. Sokka:
So I'm the only
one who can ever
come up with a plan? That's a lot of pressure.
The Smart Guy is the guy in a Five-Man Band
whose focus is on intellectual pursuits. This is the team member who will always be prepared, sometimes Crazy-Prepared
. They will be at the computer doing Rapid-Fire Typing
. Expect some fancy talk
from this character. Because their role is about ideas, plans, and being Mission Control
, they often leave the action stuff to the others.
Physically they are usually short and wear glasses
. They may even be a Child Prodigy
. The Smart Guy is sometimes written as mousey and withdrawn. If not antisocial, at least non-social, sliding into TV Genius
. Can be expected to play a mean game of chess. Weak, but Skilled
is definitely not out of the question, either.
Sometimes the Smart Guy is more street savvy then they appear. If this is the case it usually makes The Smart Guy physically as well as mentally capable. This can be done by making the Smart Guy and The Big Guy
one and the same, effectively defying the two stereotypes to the utmost extreme. (see Genius Bruiser
). Then there is the path of the Badass Bookworm
. They remain firmly planted as the Smart Guy, but are just as ready to fight as everyone else. The results are often impressive, and usually have the advantage of surprise. Who expects the little guy with glasses to be an asskicker?
In rare cases, the Smart Guy may also be a Boisterous Bruiser
Powers and skills common to the smart guy include:
- In modern or sci-fi settings, The Smart Guy often has great skill with technology and engineering, in order to build and repair devices for the band. The Gadgeteer Genius, Mad Scientist, and The Professor will often fill this role. If they're the protagonist, they'll be a Science Hero. In such cases, The Smart Guy will rarely have good tactical skills, and may lack in common sense as well. Quite often they're an alien, cyborg or robot. If all of the characters are using guns, the Smart Guy may be the sniper.
- In settings where guns are rare, he might be one of those few who uses one, considering a lack of combat skill.
- In fantasy settings, he'll usually be skilled at magic, particularly of the offensive variety, in which case he serves as the team's "nuker". His Weapon of Choice tends to be a Magic Wand, a Simple Staff, or both in one package. Alternatively, he may prefer a easily manageable dagger. Or, if magic is the de facto power of the age, the Smart Guy will probably use a sword or a gun.
- In a Superhero setting, or any one with superpowers that don't quite fall under magic, The Smart Guy is often a Badass Normal with Super Intelligence, or has relatively weak powers to offset their brilliance (and increasingly often will find ways to utilise apparently useless powers to great effect). He could also achieve Psychic Powers after reaching Brain Critical Mass. Or conversely, they'll be the ones in the Powered Armor (in this case, if the armor lends enough muscle, they might be a Genius Bruiser or Badass Bookworm who doubles as The Big Guy).
- Some incarnations have The Smart Guy be less of a genius, and more of a Deadpan Snarker; a wisecracking, street-smart Trickster who has traded in strength for intelligence, and uses his guile and wits to outwit his foes. This type may well be The Lancer if roles are overlapping, or the Token Evil Teammate.
His knowledge will allow him to find enemy weaknesses
and to serve as Mr. Exposition
in order to explain plot points to the less intelligent members of the band (and the audience).
The Smart Guy archetype is often unfairly vilified in shows where Dumb Is Good
. Other times, he's not so much the Smart Guy as the Smartass
Guy. The Smartass Guy will occur in a team with a Big Smart Guy
. The team doesn't need another brainy guy so much, and since Big Smart Guys tend to be Gentle Giants
, adding a Deadpan Snarker
just seems natural. Appropriately, The Smartass Guy will probably be the "sneaky Lancer" type mentioned above.
In recent years, as casts have become more gender-balanced, The Smart Girl
is the one most likely to swap genders. Since the character type is outwardly sexless and non-masculine, turning them into The Smart Girl is not that big a stretch. Mousey, shy and withdrawn work equally well on female characters, and can sometimes be appealing (see Hot Librarian
and Nerds Are Sexy
). When used in this way, she's usually much less girly than The Chick
(see Wrench Wench
). In a fantasy setting, she's often the Black Mage
, or sometimes the White Mage
In an ensemble cast, the Smart Guy is usually the last character to have a Love Interest
if they even bother to give him one at all. He may or may not be asexual
. He may also explicitly be said to have no luck with women (we are frequently showed just one instance of this as a pretext to at least answer the question and to completely avoid the romance issue afterwards). When present, the shoehorned love interest character is often little more than an uninspired female version of himself, or close to it. Often, this relationship does not last for a number of reasons (a convientent pretext for the smart guy to avoid future romances) or the love interest falls victim to the Chuck Cunningham Syndrome
. Invarialby, because smart and well rounded characters are difficult to write, this allows writers to avoid having to develop the Smart Guy character beyond his basic fuctional role.
If there's a Robot Buddy
on the team, he's usually The Smart Guy.
If you're looking for his Evil Counterpart
in the Five-Bad Band
, it's The Evil Genius
Oh, and he's also part of the Four-Man Band
in a comedy ensemble.
Not to be confused with the series Smart Guy
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- Donatello, he who does machines, pretty much defines this trope.
- Brainiac 5 fills this role in every version of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
- Though the Smart Guy in X-Men can vary depending on the current roster, generally speaking it's Hank McCoy/Beast.
- On the original team, Iceman filled the role of The Smartass Guy to Beast's Genius Bruiser. It bears pointing out that he had the poorest grades of the class.
- In most incarnations of the Justice League of America, Batman is a mix of The Smart Guy and The Lancer.
- Similarly, the Justice Society of America has Mr. Terrific, the third smartest guy in the DCU.
- Knights Of The Dinner Table has Brian, who has memorized all the Hackmaster books (their version of Dungeons & Dragons) and is a master of tactics. In the "real life" of the strip makes his living building and repairing computers, trading on Ebay, and painting miniatures. In game, he tends to play wizards whenever he can and has gone to great pains to make sure each character inherits the meticulously kept journals of the previous one (amongst other Crazy-Prepared preparations.)
- Taranee Cook in W.I.T.C.H. is archetypical of this trope.
- Reed Richards, aka Mr Fantastic, is a rare example combining this and The Hero as part of the Fantastic Four. He's also one for the larger Marvel Universe in general, being regarded as the smartest man in the world. (which is no mean feat)
- Iron Man and Hank Pym usually share this role in The Avengers, with slightly different fields. (one being the Gadgeteer Genius in the Powered Armor, the other being a more comic booky scientist with his Pym Particles)
Religion and Mythology
- In Classical Mythology, Athena is this among the Olympians. Hermes sometimes fill this role in a trickster-ish sort of way.
- Among mortals, Odysseus is the "ideas man" for the
Greeks Achaeans in the Trojan Cycle (including The Iliad and his very own story, The Odyssey). Pretty much every actual strategy mentioned in relation to the Trojan War starts with him, including (ironically) both one of the reasons for the war (the Achaean kings agreeing to protect whoever married Helen, to keep them from fighting over her) and the reason it ends (the Trojan Horse, of course). Naturally, Athena favors him and helps him out a lot (against the wishes of her uncle Poseidon, whom he had somehow offended).
- The Biblical prophet Daniel (aka Belteshazzar)]] was a brilliant scholar and a top-notch administrator.
- In Girl Genius, some of the Sparks are even identified by the Jagers as "da schmot guy".
- Vaarsuvius fills this role in The Order of the Stick. Although Roy Greenhilt has more common sense and Haley Starshine is more observant, V's sheer 18 INT has them beat. Besides, Roy and Haley are The Hero and The Lancer respectively.
- Hod, god of darkness and winter, is The Smart Guy to the Norse kids in Brat-Halla, although he is a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass as well.
- Riff from Sluggy Freelance is both The Smart Guy and The Lancer, being a Mad Scientist with a penchant for destruction.
- Sweden from Scandinavia and the World.
- Tedd of El Goonish Shive.
- In Dubious Company, Walter starts out as this to Tiren and after they pick up Elly. But when the team picks up Sal, she then becomes the The Smart Girl and Walter functionally shifts to The Leader.
- This also occurs on the Imperial side, with Izor shifting the responsibility to Gary once he becomes a prominent character.
- On the group Team Kimba in the Whateley Universe, Phase is probably the smart one, even if Chaka seems to be best at coming up with ideas in the middle of a fight. Phase is over-educated for a freshman in high school, is most likely to use the big words, and is a smart aleck too. The Smart Guy they go to for gadgets is Bugs, who is a Hot Scientist.
- While not intelligent to a superlative degree, Chip from the web fiction serial Dimension Heroes proves on several occasions that his reservoir of book knowledge can prove beneficial in making it out of various tight spots the heroes get into.
- Open to debate, since none of the characters are all that bright, but in Redvs Blue, Simmons is arguably the smartest member of either team when it comes to pure common sense.