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Oral hygiene is for chumps!

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, Perverted Drooling and Spit-Trail Kiss for other tropes involving high-viscosity saliva.

Cookie for you if you thought this was a trope about snot-based video game 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Rob Liefeld came up with blood phlegmings once.
  • Tales of the Jedi: Ubiquitous in any issue illustrated by Dario Carrasco Jr. It's the "sense of immediacy" type; anyone whose teeth aren't clenched is probably displaying this.
  • Transformers: Generation 2: Megatron is somehow able to produce these despite being a robot.
  • Wolverine: When Wolverine goes into a berserker rage, he often has either this or flying spittle.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Used frequently for the overmuscled villains during Mike Deodato's time as an artist to show that they'd just opened their mouths, especially during Artemis's stint as Wonder Woman.

    Film — Animated 
  • In the first Shrek movie, the title character lets out a bloodcurdling 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 
  • Alien: The xenomorphs often have mucus dripping from their teeth and mouths.
  • Batman Returns: The Penguin has a perpetual trickle of an oil-like bile running down his chin.
  • The Fly (1986): Brundlefly constantly excretes a sticky white liquid from his mouth, which he uses to dissolve and digest his food.
  • The Funhouse: The killer is constantly drooling due to his deformed features.
  • Home Sweet Home: Jay drools a lot.
  • Mean Machine: Nitro is constantly drooling and spitting to bolster up his loony appearance.
  • The Return of the Living Dead: Wen Freddy finally succumbs to the zombie hunger, he starts foaming at the mouth like he's chewing on Alka-Seltzer.
  • Tremors: The creators initially avoided this trope, in order to set their movie apart from the dark, dripping world of Alien, but realised upon watching the rushes that the Graboids didn't look real enough without it.
  • 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 
  • Mass Effect: Something half-glimpsed in the Prothean Cipher does this, contributing to the general message of species-wide trauma and unimaginable suffering.

  • Kevin & Kell: R.L.'s drooling jaws are almost all we ever see of him.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Teeth Drool