Also called "baddies", "goons", "scrubs", "drones", "small fry", "flunkies", "pawns", "toadies", "grunts", "minions", "lackeys", "underlings", "swarmers", "henchpersons", "popcorn enemies", and "Cannon Fodder". In Japanese videogame jargon, they're known as "zako" or "small fry". The actual term "mook" presumably comes from Hong Kong Cinema, and takes its name from the mook jong, the wooden training dummies used in Wing Chun, whose only function is to get hit. In Hong Kong movie circles, they're often called "three-hit men," in reference to how many hits it takes to put them down, though the actual number of hits varies.
It's a thankless job, to be sure, but somebody's gotta do it. Enter the humble mook.
Mooks play an important role, as without someone to fight on a constant basis, an action movie/show/game would have a lot less action. If every single minion your hero ever runs into has a personality, then the pacing of the show would slow to a crawl and Quirky Miniboss Squad, The Dragon, and the Big Bad would not feel as unique in comparison. Thus, mooks serve as Filler and a backdrop to the truly climactic moments of an action franchise while also ensuring that in-between things are kept lively. In Video Games, they may also double as a ready source of Experience Points, gold, and recovery items for the player.
In addition to accentuating the real villains, mooks also help establish the heroes, especially their combat skills, as their lack of an identity allows them to be beaten, mauled, shot or otherwise disposed of in creative ways without guilt. The Hero might find it in his heart to Save the Villain, forgive him, even accept him into his inner circle, but the guys whose only crime is not finding a better employer will be shown no mercy (although exceptions apply). Next to Punch-Clock Villain, but usually more faceless, this is one of the tropes most liable to Just Following Orders, a fact that may be pointed up in order to reduce Moral Dissonance about their disposability.
It's rarely explained just why they're willing to fight and die for villains who want to destroy the world, or what they get in return. Their life expectancy is on a level with that of the average mayfly, and you have to wonder why they took the job in the first place, especially if master is abusing them as much if not more than the heroes. Depending on just who/what they are fighting for, the plausibility of this can vary.
Being Acceptable Targets by definition, sometimes mooks serve as (or devolve into) outright comic relief rather than an actual menace by being dimwitted, ineffective, clumsy, a genuine danger to themselves or just plain unlucky. Despite all this, some may get their own moments in the spotlight or become genuine villains in their own right.
Except where noted in some of the subcategories, it is generally considered "bad form" for mooks to be given any sort of detailed backstory or personality (beyond broad strokes). Put another way, for the purposes of heroes continuing to be seen as heroes, and to avoid a major mood swing, mooks generally have no girl/boyfriends, children, parents, grandparents; they don't belong to church groups or non-profits that might miss them; they don't spend part of their day looking forward to what's on TV tonight (never to see the show because they're about to die), and they generally die quick, semi-painless deaths (blood and gore optional). Mooks are rarely female, and if they are, they generally don't fall into the "gorgeous" category because you don't want the viewer/reader to become attached to a character the hero is about to kill (The Spy Who Loved Me is a noted example where this rule is broken, and 35 years later James Bond fans still criticize the decision to have Bond murder Caroline Munro's helicopter-flying babe). There are, of course, exceptions, either to make a Mood Whiplash and ponder about the nature of violence, establish the protagonist as a ruthless Anti-Hero, or briefly acknowledge that the mooks have lives and personal affairs but they're so trite and cliche that they deserve no sympathy anyway.
Not to be mistaken with a certain racial slur, or the tentacled aliens from the MOTHER series (although they themselves qualify), or the purple bird-like creature from Princess Comet (although he is also a mook in this sense).
Specific variations include:
- Adorable Evil Minions (cute Mooks.)
- Airborne Mook (flight-based Mooks.)
- Aquatic Mook (water-based Mooks.)
- Bandit Mook (Mooks who steal things from you.)
- Boss in Mook Clothing (looks like a Mook, fights like a Boss.)
- Cowardly Mooks: (Mooks that flee from battle.)
- Doom Troops (Mooks whose signature is their fear factor, regardless of strength or status.)
- Elite Mooks (puts up a much better fight than the others, but still a Mook.)
- Evil Minions (non-combat Mooks.)
- Faceless Goons (Mooks without distinct facial features, making it easier to mow them down without feeling bad about it.)
- Fake Ultimate Mook (looks tough, but it's not.)
- Gas Mask Mooks (wear gas masks over their faces.)
- Giant Mook (bigger and tougher, but still a Mook.)
- The Goomba (a videogame enemy defined by being, even by Mook standards, pretty mook-ish.)
- Heavily Armored Mook (Mooks equipped with heavy armor.)
- Helpful Mook (a Mook that ends up helping you somehow, intentionally or not.)
- Instakill Mook (a Mook that can kill you in one blow.)
- Invincible Minor Minion (can't be hurt by you at all.)
- King Mook (scaled-up, boss version of a Mook.)
- Kung Fu-Proof Mook (a Mook who is immune to a certain form of attack, but not others.)
- Mascot Mook (marketable Mooks.)
- Mecha-Mooks (robots, machines, just about anything mechanical, either piloted or automated.)
- Middle-Management Mook (A Mook located at the very middle of the evil corporate ladder.)
- Mini Mook (smaller than normal Mooks.)
- Mooks Ate My Equipment (Mooks that eat your stuff.)
- Mook Bouncer (a Mook who teleports players back to a previous area.)
- Mook Lieutenant (regular Mooks take orders from this guy.)
- Mook Medic (heals others.)
- Night of the Living Mooks (the undead.)
- Nocturnal Mooks (Mooks who only show up during nighttime.)
- Patrolling Mook (Mooks who patrol a certain area.)
- Personal Mook (Mooks that directly serve a Big Bad for mundane tasks, instead of being part of their army proper.)
- Plant Mooks (Mooks grown in a garden.)
- Player Mooks (playable Mooks.)
- Punch-Clock Villain (fights for the villains, but is not a villain.)
- Pushy Mooks (Mooks that push you into hazards.)
- Replacement Mooks (Boss gets new Mooks.)
- Shield-Bearing Mook (carry shields and even attack with them.)
- Slave Mooks (Mooks that were enslaved and forced to work for the enemy.)
- Smash Mook (Mooks who Attack! Attack! Attack!.)
- Stealthy Mook (Mooks who specialize in stealth, in some cases even having invisibility powers.)
- Stompy Mooks (Mooks who specialize in stomping very loudly)
- Super Powered Mooks (supers with red shirts.)
Other related tropes:
- Actually Four Mooks (a squad of Mooks is represented by one individual on the overworld.)
- Artifact Mook (previously encountered Mooks that are contextually out-of-place in later appearances.)
- Breakout Mook Character (one exceptional Mook rises above the ranks and becomes his own character.)
- Dancing Mook Credits (credits featuring amusing Mooks.)
- Even Mooks Have Loved Ones
- Keystone Army (when the Mooks are subject to a fatal Instant-Win Condition.)
- Million Mook March (large number of Mooks displayed in one grand march.)
- Minion Master (a character who creates Mooks.)
- Mooks but No Bosses (the game only features Mooks as enemies.)
- Mook Carryover (Mooks get a new Boss.)
- Mook Chivalry (only one Mook atacks at a time.)
- Mook Commander (this kind of enemy strengthens mooks passively.)
- Mook Debut Cutscene (fancy way to introduce Mooks.)
- Mook Depletion (a villain discovers he no longer has reserves.)
- MookFace Turn (a Mook that pulls a HeelFace Turn.)
- Mook Horror Show (a Mook massacre.)
- Mook Maker (spawn Mooks.)
- Mook Mobile (standard craft piloted by Mooks.)
- Mook Promotion (a regular Mook that eventually upgrades into a villain of its own.)
- Multi-Mook Melee (a boss fight against a large number of Mooks at once.)
- Set a Mook to Kill a Mook (turn Mooks against one another.)
- Uniformity Exception (one of these Mooks is not like the others.)
- What Measure Is a Mook? (Mook lives are morally irrelevant.)
This trope is the Evil Counterpart of the Redshirt Army, which are Mooks on the good side. Similar to but not to be confused with their non-combat brother Evil Minions (likewise the Redshirt Army with the Red Shirt). Occasionally, it turns out they were Not Always Evil. If a "character" who would otherwise qualify as a Mook is disqualified because he's apparently acting on his own, you have Bit Part Bad Guys.
In Video Games, mooks tend to be slightly more powerful, and able to at least hurt the hero, if not kill him a few times. However, 9 times out of 10, the hero has a Healing Factor (more often objects used to heal than spontaneous healing) while the mooks stay hurt forever. Also, while the hero can restart if he/she dies, the mooks (usually) only die once per level, and when the level is restarted, they usually do the exact same thing they did before.
If they're lucky, mooks may very occasionally get promoted to the status of a more major villain. The heroes may also be able to persuade them over to the good side, in which case they have performed a MookFace Turn. Humanizing mooks is a basic technique of Deconstruction. In some Video Games, certain kinds of mooks will have a special introduction when they appear for the first time.
Armies of mooks are not always but usually overwhelmingly male. Typically, killing or harming even one nameless female tends to twist an audience's sympathies differently than the effect of the same to a male. As your protagonist escapes the fortress of doom, you don't want the audience worrying about the mooks being taken out or hurt. In video games however, all-male mook armies are usually there for an entirely pragmatic reason, since including random female enemies would be requiring constructing entirely new character models for characters the player won't interact with outside of killing them.
If the mooks also provide romantic services, this may overlap with Paid Harem.
When supposedly elite fighters in large number are less competent together than a man alone, it's Conservation of Ninjutsu.
Note #1: With respect to media (particularly anime), a "mook" can also refer to a Japanese publication which is a hybrid of a magazine and a book.
Note #2: It's also a mostly obsolete racial slur against Italians, so use with caution.
Note #3 (to Tropers): Mooks refer specifically to easily-killed bad guys. If you're looking for easily-killed good guys, you want Red Shirt Army.
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- Video Games
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- Western Animation
- Vs. System has army characters that are generally mooks given they can get killed off quickly and lack uniqueness because you can only have 1 copy of non-Army characters like Spider-Man on the field; army characters are replaceable. Some examples are S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Doom Bots, and Sentinels. Also, army characters do not have any restriction whatsoever in deck construction, whereas any other card is restricted to 4 copies (at most).
- Magic: The Gathering has creature tokens, which are creatures who aren't even worth having their own card. By default, creature tokens' names are also their creature type, and if they leave play they simply cease to exist. They rarely have abilities, and those they do have are typically keyword abilities ("Flying," versus, "Any creature able to block this creature must do so."). They are also typically created in large numbers, either via a one shot deal creating two or more, or by a repeatable effect squeezing out one each turn. Creature tokens didn't have any sort of official representation until Magic Online needed some standardized way to represent them, and then they weren't printed in paper for years afterward.
- Tokens also exist in Yu Gi Oh with similar rules. They are mainly used as sacrifices for bringing out stronger monsters or occasionally as fodder for stalling the opponent. There also are a few cards that summon token under the opponent's control. Cards that summon them in large numbers usually have some restrictions on what they can be sacrificed for.
- Super Munchkin has the "Wimpy Thugs", "More Wimpy Thugs" and "Still more Wimpy Thugs" monsters. "3,872 Orks" from the original game might count since they are the only monster going in hordes.
- Sentinels of the Multiverse features decks for the villains that summon mooks to help the villain do their dirty work. Depending on who the players are fighting against, the number of mooks in the deck vary from few in number to half of the deck. Villains who rely on theirs mooks as a part of their deck's strategy include Baron Blade, Citizen Dawn, Grand Warlord Voss, the Dreamer, Omnitron, La Captian, the Chairman, the Matriarch, and Gloomweaver.
- The Decepticon Seekers from Transformers Meta.
- Friendship Is Magical Girls: The Infestation, a swarm of cockroach-like Changelings, are introduced as just another Monster of the Week during the Magic Arc. When they return during the Loyalty Arc, however, the MotW format has mostly been dropped, at which point they're repurposed by Eskarrg to serve this role, due to their numbers. He actually refers to them as "cannon fodder" at one point.
- The members of the croc fraternity Zeeba Zeeba Eata from Pearls Before Swine are these, with the added twist that they kill themselves rather than others killing them.
- The Scorpies in Sequinox are shadowy beings that serve Scorpius, but have almost no peronsality and only exist as cannon fodder for the Sequinox girls to attack before getting to the Stars themselves.
- Dr. Cube's minions and Mung Wun, the Thai Fly's children in Kaiju Big Battel.
- Most of the lower ranking members of Generalissmo Takada Monster Army in Fighting Opera HUSTLE.
- The Age Of The Fall's last grasp at credibility involved Jimmy Jacobs leading a mass of anonymous masked men.
- The Guardians of Truth were mooks for The House Of Truth in Ring of Honor.
- The Latino Nation for LAX, The Latin American Exchange(Xchange), in TNA
- The Flood of Chikara's main gimmick was being made up of numerous rudos throughout the promotion's history, but they still had masked mooks just to swell their numbers even further.
- Any time someone has a "security team," they will invariably get run over by their protectee's nemesis.
- Lots of the stuff that gets summoned in Destroy the Godmodder falls squarely into this category. Sometimes with entire armies getting wiped out in one shot by relatively weak entities. This is also the Godmodder's primary way of keeping the players from winning, as if the Godmodder has too many mooks they'll automatically nullify attacks against him, so keeping their numbers limited is why summons are important.
- The Meyer Security guards in Door Monster's The Guards Themselves.
- In the Whateley Universe, the main characters get to leave their Super Hero School Whateley Academy and travel into Boston for the day... only to face The Necromancer and his homicidal Quirky Miniboss Squad, along with a couple hundred mooks who are nameless and somewhat faceless. The Necromancer has lived up to his name by animating hundreds of corpses, and Phase has to fight them in the sewers underneath Boston. Only she doesn't have a flashlight.
- Clearly the writer had just played Doom 3.
- Leading to one of the funnier but more horrific sequences. Phase is worried about getting zombie gunk over her/him, and is informed s/he's probably okay. Just... "make sure to get cremated when you die."
- Junior's black-suited henchmen from RWBY. Debuting in the "Yellow" trailer, they acted like Junior's bodyguards and faced Yang after she barged into the place. Cue Curbstomp Battle with them in the stomping end. Later they reappeared this time working for Roman Torchwick in robbing a shop and faced Ruby. They didn't fare any better, too much to Roman's chagrin ("You were worth every cent, truly you were.") After Roman became an ally of White Fang, he began to employ the organization's goons as his muscle. They didn't prove to be an improvement over Roman's previous underlings.
- DSBT InsaniT: The Darkness counterparts are Psycho Man's mooks.
- Dreamscape: The Master of the Dammed's minotaurs patroled the Unworld, looking for anyone who is acting up.
- Deviant: The various superpowered gangs have quite a few unpowered members between them.