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Oral hygiene is for wimps!

In comic books and animated works, one way to demonstrate that a character is a no-nonsense badass, creepy or just plain pissed is to show them with strands of saliva, phlegm, drool, or some other mucus dangling between their teeth. Popularized by the various Rob Liefeld clones during The Dark Age of Comic Books, but examples predate that period.

This occurs because drooling and oral messiness tends to invoke a Squick response in many people, making phlegmings a convenient visual shortcut for invoking Primal Fear. For instance, it may show anticipation of a good meal (e.g., the heroes/villains) in predator characters. Or, it may be a sign of disease, like rabies.

In comic book images like the one shown, a saliva trail between upper and lower jaws works as a visual shorthand, indicating that the mouth has just now been opened (since such trails would be expected to disappear after a moment). Thus their use helps create a feeling of immediacy, that what you're seeing is a "snapshot" rather than a posed image.


A common trope for characters with More Teeth than the Osmond Family. Contrast with Gonk, the blatant uglification of a character. See also *Drool* Hello.

Cookie for you if you thought this was a trope about snot-based videogame enemies. Or to do with a language spoken in Belgium.

Trope originally identified by the HeroMachine blog.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The trope illustration is from the cover of Dale Keown's Pitt #2.
  • Spider-Man's collection of symbiote villains (Venom, Carnage, et al.) have this in spades.
  • Modern artists draw The Incredible Hulk with this.
  • When Wolverine goes into a berserker rage, he often has either this or flying spittle.
  • The Horror Hosts of EC Comics were big on this. EC artist Graham "Ghastly" Ingels was particularly fond of them, as is his Spiritual Successor Berni Wrightson.
  • The graphic novel Age of Reptiles has every character displaying this trope all the time. Partially justified in that the characters are dinosaurs.
  • The Brood from the X-Men comics. Not surprising, since they're expys for the Alien xenomorphs.
  • Quite common with the Sith in Legacy. Protagonist Cade will get this too at the times he's leaning more towards the dark.
  • Ubiquitous in any issue of Tales of the Jedi that was illustrated by Dario Carrasco Jr. It's the "sense of immediacy" type; anyone whose teeth aren't clenched is probably displaying this.
  • Rob Liefeld came up with blood phlegmings once, because... well, Rob Liefeld.
  • Used frequently for the overmuscled villains during Mike Deodato's time as an artist on Wonder Woman (1987) to show that they'd just opened their mouths, especially during Artemis's stint as Wonder Woman.
  • Norby: In the last panel of chapter twelve in the Norby, the Mixed-Up Robot adaptation, Zi's mouth is watering as she says Jeff and Norby are unwelcome aliens. Combined with Jeff's speculation that the baby's mother would eat him and Norby, the page ends with the implication that the two are about to be snacks.
  • Seen on this Conan the Barbarian cover.
  • My Little Pony Generations: When the shriek-yowls are shown shrieking in anger, the tops and bottom of their beaks are connected by long strings of saliva.

    Film — Animated 
  • The hyenas in The Lion King (1994) likewise, as they were always depicted as ravenously hungry.
  • In the first Shrek movie, the title character lets out a blood-curdling roar that shows off just how good the computers were at rendering flying spittle. Several members of the angry mob have slimy faces in the next shot.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Nitro from the film Mean Machine is constantly drooling and spitting to bolster up his loony appearance.
  • Venom (2018): True to the comics, the title character often gets these in his fang-filled mouth when the Symbiote takes over Eddie's body. Particularly noticeable when Eddie transforms into Venom for the first time and licks a Mook's face while musing about which bits of him to eat first.

    Live Action TV 


  • The Heromachine blog had a character creation contest based on "The Image Nineties". Lots of contestants gave their entries Phlegmings.
  • Many images of Komodo dragons show Phlegmings, as they're quite prone to doing it in real life. And for extra creepy points, their saliva is essentially their venom!


    Video Games 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Teeth Drool