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Photo Doodle Recognition

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When the Thin Chin of Sin doesn't already clue you in.

This is when someone has an old photograph of someone they don't know, looking through old albums, yearbooks, or in someone's collection of stuff, but there's something familiar about it. Then they start to draw on it, adding glasses or a hat, scars or some sort of distinctive feature, and find that, holy crap, they do know this person!

They have changed the photo of them as they looked years ago to look more like their contemporary selves.

This can also be done with other types of pictures. The main idea is that someone starts with an image and adds features so the person in it becomes recognizable. Often used as The Reveal, and one way of Deducing the Secret Identity.

Contrast Mustache Vandalism, in which additional features are drawn onto pictures with no real purpose except perhaps as an expression of disdain for the person depicted.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Crayon Shin-chan has the short arc in the Matazuresou apartments, where a drug dealer named Masuo Steroid tries posing as one of the neighbors with a disguise including growing his hair long and wearing sunglasses. But Shin-Chan found a photo of Masuo (pre-disguise), starts doodling on it, and reveals to the police that the friendly neighbor is actually an undercover Masuo.
  • Played With in Gintama. Gin scribbles on a photo of someone whom he assumes has gotten plastic surgery, while his friends deride both his art skills and the possibility that anyone would possibly choose to look like that. They look up from the drawing to see just such a person. It's the wrong guy... who just happens to work with the man they're looking for.
  • Subverted in Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon regarding Professor Kukui's moonlighting as a popular masked wrestler called the Masked Royal. His wife Professor Burnet has a crush on the Masked Royal, and sees a resemblance between him and her husband. She uses a painting app to draw the wrestler's mask over Kukui's face, but she doesn't put two-and-two together and just finds the uncanny resemblance hilarious.
  • In Ranma ½, when Principal Kuno is introduced, he shows a large picture of his long-lost son who is shaved bald in the picture. Ranma promptly uses a paintbrush to paint hair on the head - confirming the son's identity as Tatewaki Kuno.
  • In Show by Rock!! Yaiba draws yellow hair and stars on the unearthed photo of Amatelast so Crow and Aion can recognize the singer as Shu☆zo, who's now in Trichronika.

    Comic Books 
  • In one Golden Age Batman, Bruce Wayne realises that a new playboy in town and the master thief he is hunting are one and the same when Dick Grayson doodles a moustache and goatee on a picture of the playboy in the newspaper.
  • Done in Bendis' Daredevil run when a Daredevil costume is drawn over a photo of Matt Murdock.
  • In DCeased, Jimmy stumbles on Superman and Lois kissing and asks, horrified, what Clark is going to think. After letting Supes spend a few seconds in consternation about how to handle this, he laughs and reveals that he's known for years, because, among other things, every photographer draws on his work when he gets bored. He just said nothing because he figured Supes had enough on his plate.
  • A Doom Patrol story in the 81st issue of My Greatest Adventure had the Chief realize that Dr. Janus was actually a Nazi war criminal named Josef Kreutz by drawing facial hair on a picture of Kreutz with Adolf Hitler.
  • In one Lucky Luke story, charlatan Dr. Doxey changes his name, shaves his moustache and beard, and has a new picture of him taken for his ads. However, a kid Doxey pissed off defaces the ad to the point it looks exactly like Doxey's old face, allowing Luke to recognize him.
  • In one pre-Crisis story, Superman is to be featured on a postage stamp. He goes to great lengths to make sure that a side shot of him is chosen, rather than a full-face view, because if the stamp was postmarked in a town with a double-O in its name, the letters might land on his face in such a way that they resemble a pair of glasses, which might give away his secret identity. Presumably kids in the DC universe never doodle glasses and mustaches on newspaper photos, which might also be a bit of a clue.
  • In Youngblood (2017) #1, Petra realises missing teenager Horatio Megalos is also the missing vigilante Man-Up after seeing his missing poster and drawing a rough sketch of Man-Up's mask on it.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm when Bruce Wayne is looking over an old picture of Sal Valestra's gang (i.e. the Phantasm's victims), he feels that the last member looks familiar, picks up a red pencil and draws a big grinning mouth over him. Much to his shock, the gangster in the photo is none other than Joker.
  • In The LEGO Movie, the citizens of the Wild West town don't recognize Emmet, as shown on a wanted poster. However, one Mecha-Mook asks the hunter to draw a cowboy hat on the picture, at which point he confirms that the stranger that rolls into town was, in fact, Emmet.
  • Parodied to hell and back in The Simpsons Movie. While the Simpson family is on the run, Marge notices a wanted poster of them in a convenience store, and distracts the cashier while Bart sneaks behind and draws various changes. Then when he's finished, the cashier looks back at the poster, then back towards Marge, and notices a family identical to the hideous scribbles Bart made, who are then promptly arrested.
  • Inverted in Tangled: Flynn is easily recognized from his wanted poster after a character uses their hand to cover the ridiculous and inaccurate nose.
  • After Woody is taken in Toy Story 2, the other toys are conducting an "investigation", with Etch drawing a sketch of the guy who took him. Buzz, who had been chasing the perp's car, ended up with a feather that came out of the guy's trunk and, on a hunch after cracking the code on the car's Vanity License Plate, tells Etch to draw the man in a chicken suit. Everyone gasps as they recognize Big Al, the owner of Al's Toy Barn toy stores.
    Hamm: I knew there was something I didn't like about that chicken!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ace Ventura: Pet Detective: A variant occurs when Ace is trying to find the whereabouts of Ray Finkle, who he suspects of kidnapping the Miami Dolphins' mascot. When Ace's dog lies on the photo he's using for reference, the lay of his hair makes Finkle look like police lieutenant Lois Einhorn, and Ace makes the connection (to his utter horror).
  • Officer Albrecht from The Crow figures out that Eric Draven is the vigilante that's been killing Top Dollar's gang when he draws the distinctive marks from the vigilante's face on the eyes and lips of a picture of Eric.
  • In the live-action adaptation of Mr. Magoo, Mr. Magoo infiltrates an auction for criminals by disguising himself with black hair and a moustache. He is discovered when Austin Cloquet sees a photo of Mr. Magoo in a newspaper and draws in black hair and a mustache on his photo.
  • In Muppets Most Wanted, Fozzie realizes that Kermit has been replaced by Evil Doppelgänger Constantine when he drips some guacamole on a picture of Constantine in the newspaper. The guacamole covers up his mole, making him look exactly like Kermit.
  • In One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing a British spy smuggles a secret out of China. Soldiers are looking for him, with a photo showing him clean-shaven and wearing a monocle, looking as British as can be. They recognize him disguised as a local peasant after scribbling in a Fu Manchu mustache and a coolie hat.
  • In Spellbound, someone recognizes Dr. Petersen's picture in the paper after a policeman draws glasses on it.
  • Though it's not in the theatrical version, in the Richard Donner cut of Superman II this is how Lois Lane first figures out Superman is really Clark. In the newsroom, Lois finds herself staring at a big picture of Superman in an issue of the Daily Planet, then starts drawing Clark's suit, tie, hat, and glasses on it with a marker, stunned as the result looks exactly like Clark. Shortly after this she throws herself out a window to test her theory, but Clark uses super-breath to get an awning to catch her. In the theatrical version overseen by Richard Lester and the Salkinds, this was replaced by the glasses scene at Niagara Falls, followed by Lois throwing herself in the river.

  • The BattleTech Expanded Universe has Victor Davion's intelligence aide Jerrard Cranston mention this as a possible concern for him. Since he is secretly Galen Cox Faking the Dead, he doesn't want to be discovered by accident and mentions his mild displeasure in the supposedly deceased Galen Cox being memorialized on stamps, worrying that some bored kid will color in the blond-haired portrait of Galen on the stamp and add a beard where Galen was known for always being clean-shaven, and give away Cranston's true identity. Of course, some additional plastic surgery was involved in the ruse, so it isn't that obvious. Events soon transpire that this becomes the least of Cranston's worries.
  • The Case of Charles Dexter Ward: Theodore Ward draws glasses and a beard over a photograph of his son, establishing through questioning that the picture is now a dead ringer for his son's mysterious associate Dr. Allen — meaning Allen is Charles's Doppelgänger. Considering that Charles's ancestor Joseph Curwen was also a dead ringer for Charles...
  • Similar to the Hound example, in Hercule Poirot's Christmas, Poirot attaches a false mustache to the portrait of the murder victim, thereby confirming that the heavily mustached investigating officer is his illegitimate son.
  • In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sherlock Holmes recognizes the Big Bad from a series of Baskerville family portraits, and demonstrates to Watson by putting his arm over the hat and period costume. Now seeing only the facial features, Watson sees the similarity at once which gives them the motive, the Big Bad is the son of the Baskerville Black Sheep, and so is set to inherit the manor (And perhaps more importantly, the seven figure fortune that came with it) if the current owner dies.
  • In Time Scout, Skeeter Jackson uses this to show that a few missing people went downtime to the Old West disguised as a caballero, a fancy lady, and a porter headed for a shooting competition.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Agent Carter, SSR agent Sousa snaps a picture of a blonde woman suspected in an assassination, who is really his (brunette) co-worker Peggy in disguise. The photo is taken from the back, though, so he doesn't have enough to recognize her. A witness he interrogates later reveals the woman is actually a brunette, so Sousa tries darkening the woman's hair in the photo. It's still not enough for him to recognize Peggy, though, until he later sees scars on her shoulder that match the photo's.
  • In the Belgian series Largo Winch, Largo recognizes an attacker as someone who tried to murder him earlier by adding glasses and removing his stubble from the police sketch.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In "West to Mexico", which takes place in the Old West, Stan is a wanted man who is running from Roger the bounty hunter. Stan grows a mustache and later on his face is bruised badly by Bullock and his gang. Roger doesn't recognize Stan at first due to his mustache and bruised face, but when his cough causes him to spit blood over the wanted poster of Stan, he recognizes him when his blood forms the same features on Stan's face.
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, Season 2 Episode 18, "Make 'em Laugh", Joker is discovered to be the one responsible for brainwashing famous comedians into committing crimes when Alfred shows Batman and Robin a video tape of the previous Gotham Comedy Competition. When they realize one of the contestants sounds familiar, Batman edits the video to show the Joker's regular eyes on the contestant's face, showing a perfect match.
  • Subverted in China, IL, when Baby Cakes kidnaps five professors, among them is his dad, because he thinks they're witches and wizards and locks them in his basement, the news reports their disappearances and people are led to believe a serial killer is loose among the college. When the police releases a sketch of the suspect which is basically a face of a generic hairless person, Baby Cakes fails to realize that's him and thinks a wizard is killing the people that looks like his prisoners. He is led to believe it was Steve after setting a square bottle on the wanted poster that leaves a stain on the eye of the face which inspires Baby Cakes to draw a pair of glasses and hair on the side.
  • Darkwing Duck: In "Clash Reunion", Drake is looking through his high school yearbook, when Gosalyn thinks the science nerd in his class looks strangely familiar and starts drawing on his photo. Drake is initially irate, until she shows him that he'd actually gone to school with Megavolt.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: Exaggerated In "The Laughing", Dee Dee proves to Dexter that he's the were-clown terrorizing the neighborhood by taking a newspaper picture of the clown and drawing a full portrait of Dexter: glasses, hair, lab coat and boots, over it. This shows that the clown is the exact same height, build, and proportions as Dexter.
  • Harley Quinn: In the episode "All The Best Inmates Have Daddy Issues", Harley immediately recognizes a bartender as an amnesiac Joker on sight, but Ivy isn't convinced until she uses her phone to take a picture of him laughing and edits it to draw on his white skin, red lips and green hair.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: In "Lady Wifi", Alya uses an app on her phone to draw Cat Noir's mask on Adrien's picture and notices that they look similar. Unfortunately, the idea is shot down by Marinette.
  • My Adventures with Superman: In the end credits of "Let's Go to Ivo Tower, You Say", which ended with Lois realizing that Clark may actually be Superman, the last photograph of the montage (which is different in every episode) is one of Superman with Clark's glasses drawn over it, apparently by Lois.
  • In one episode of Static Shock, when Static and Gear are looking at an old photo of SheBang's parents and their colleagues, Static catches sight of one of the scientists. By doing a little digital doctoring, he confirms that the scientist is Heavyman, the villain of the episode.


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