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.
[He comes up with a plan 45 seconds later]
This is the guy in the 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 and Techno Babble from this character. Because their role is about ideas they initially leave the action stuff to the others. Of course, Weak, but Skilled is always in effect for this guy.
Physically if not tall and skinny, 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 The Smart Guy is sometimes written as mousey and withdrawn.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.
Sometimes the Smart Guy is more street savvy than they appear. If this is the case it usually makes The Smart Guy physically as well as mentally capable. This is the path of the Badass Bookworm, or one who Minored In Ass Kicking. 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?
With a personality range from the introverted and weird TV Genius, the highly technical Spock, to the improbably cool Hollywood Nerd, the smart guy is better defined by the skills he brings to the table rather how he acts. Common types that you can mix and match on your way to Omnidisciplinary Scientist are:
- Techies who have great skill with technology and engineering. They build and repair devices for The Team, and can hack in to any computer system. As you push towards pure sci-fi they may have an innate higher reasoning capacity than normal humans, either because they're of an alien race or they're robotic and have technology literally as part of their bodies.
- The Mad Scientist who conducts all kinds of experiments to help the team. Like the techie, you can find them in the lab coming up with new Phlebotinum that does whatever the plot needs it to. The wizard can be equivalent in fantasy, and less frequently a priest if spirits and spirituality play a big role.
- The booksmart guy. They're busy doing research (if they're not already a walking encyclopedia), analyzing enemy weaknesses, and generally serve as Mr. Exposition breaking down plot, lore, or what the heck just happened to other teammates (and the audience.) As the idea guy, they can plan and direct missions. But if they fall into over-analysis and prattle they're just as likely to be ignored.
- Swapping book-smart genius for street-smart cleverness. A thief archetype, detective or Street Urchin who has traded in knowledge and intelligence for know-how and intel. They figure out mysteries, track down foes, and get into hard to reach places. If they're good with tech too you get a Playful Hacker. Sometimes, they're just weirdos or rascals that are capable of outsmarting their foes through sheer creativity or ingenuity, while making a fool out of them in the process.
- Swapping knowledge for wisdom. An older Mentor Archetype, or the Wise Beyond Their Years Only Sane Man who can keep a cool head, think their way around problems that seem too big to solve, and give really good advice.
- Because of the prevalence of Shorter Means Smarter, some teams go as far as to replace the smart guy with a small guy for the visual contrast with the rest of The Team without being particularly more intelligent.
Other common powers include:
- In fantasy and superhero settings, they tend to be Weak, but Skilled. This can manifest as magic ability, Psychic Powers, or Super Intelligence.
- If they're a Gadgeteer Genius, they will build and customize their own weaponry, such as Powered Armor, vehicles, or being one of the few gun users. In a magical setting they may use spells or a Magic Staff. If martial arts are the go to, they may use a Simple Staff or an elegant sword.
- Their Elemental Powers are typically part of Fire/Ice/Lightning. Fire as the 'birth of science' for curious types. Ice (or water) as the cold ivory towers of education and learning for bookish ones. Lightning to go along with machines for techies. Or they could be non-elementals that rely on practical knowledge if they lack the spiritual aptitude for magic.
In terms of relationships, The Smart Guy may be part of a Little Guy, Big Buddy duo with The Big Guy, or a less volatile foil pair than The Hero and The Lancer. Alternatively the smart guy can act as a loyal sidekick under The Leader, to contrast with The Lancer whose force of personality and vocal dissent is more of a partner on equal footing.
As casts have become more gender-balanced, The Smart Girl is the one most likely to swap genders. Since the character type is not stereotypically masculine, turning them into The Smart Girl is not a big stretch. During The New '10s, the prevalence of media partnerships with STEM also encouraged many a Smart Girl especially for the Gadgeteer Genius archetype. When used in this way, she's usually much less girly than The Chick.
In an ensemble, the Smart Guy is usually the last character to have a Love Interest if they even bother to give him one at all. When they do, expect a subplot about the geek's unrequited feelings towards an unattainable cooler love interest for Smart Guys around the same age as the rest of the cast. Younger Smart Guys may have a cute Puppy Love plot with someone their own age, or a Precocious Crush on someone much older. In most cases where the geek's love interest is not "out of their league", they tend to be little more than a Distaff Counterpart.
If there's a Robot Buddy on the team, he's usually The Smart Guy.
Oh, and he's also part of the Four-Man Band in a comedy ensemble.
Not to be confused with the series Smart Guy.
- Savior of Demons: Murai is the default translator for the Arcosians when they go to meet the Tsufuru. He also has elements of The Smart Guy and Deadpan Snarker.
- Sherman of Calvin and Hobbes: The Series. Though he's a bungling inventor, he's still the resident Mr. Exposition.
- Henry Wong fills this role in the Tamers Forever Series
- Lightning Bolt in Ace Combat: The Equestrian War.
- Brain from My Little Unicorn, in theory anyway.
- In Horseshoes and Hand Grenades and its sidestories, we have different members. In Horseshoes alone we have Riderman, JK and Miu Kazashiro
- In Month of Sundays we have Ibuki Watanabe for the "Cosmic Hunting Dogs".
- The Super Hero spoof film The Specials from 2000 includes a brainy gadgeteer member of the titular superteam whose nom de guerre is simply "Mr. Smart".
- Star Wars: There's a reason C-3PO refers to R2-D2 as his counterpart: They split the usual Smart Guy duties between them, with R2 handling the practical side and 3PO handling the exposition side.
- Kevin Sandusky of Tropic Thunder is the one who knows what is going on the most. He recognized the Heroin Processing plant, he can read the map, and he's the only one of the actors who had actually read the script and the book.
- Lucius Fox in The Dark Knight Saga. He runs Wayne Enterprises, either invents or improves upon most of Batman's tech, and can come up with an antidote to Scarecrow's fear gas in the span of a night.
Bruce: (after Lucius explains how he made the antidote) Am I supposed to understand any of that?Fox: No. I just wanted you to know how hard it was.
- Bruce Banner in The Avengers. While the "other guy" gets his share of action, Nick Fury brings Bruce into the plot specifically because he knows more about gamma radiation than anyone on the planet. Tony Stark, Insufferable Genius extraordinaire, doesn't even mind playing Bruce's assistant.
- Hank McCoy/Beast from the X-Men Film Series, is incredibly intelligent and a brilliant scientist who has invented most of the nifty tools and gadgets (X-Jet, Cerebro, etc.) that the X-Men use.
- Donald Poultry is the pre-teen version of this trope in Summer Camp Nightmare, as he goes about the camp carrying a tape recorder and a suitcase full of tools, and put his technical knowledge to good use, even if in one circumstance (as in fiddling around with the rec room's TV set's channel reception) it gets him into trouble with the Dean Bitterman camp director. He also narrates a good deal of the movie's story.
- 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
GreeksAchaeans 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 the Caucasian Nart Sagas, Setenay — as brainy as she is beautiful — demonstrates an affinity for observing and investigating the world around her. She is credited with revealing the life-giving power of water to the first people, and in one tale assesses the properties of a magical apple through experimentation.
- In Girl Genius, some of the Sparks are even identified by the Jagers as "da schmot guy".
- In Gil's case, it's even on his hat.
- 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.
- Magick Chicks: Faith recognized Sandi's talents as a technopath, when she was young, and helped her learn to properly control her abilities. Now, she's so adept at her gift that she can predict the probability of future events with 97.09% accuracy; so long as she has all the available data. What's more, the cast page of the comic's print edition describes her as "a living Google", which is why Faith chose her as her personal secretary and is genuinely surprised whenever Sandi can't find intel on something.
- Riff from Sluggy Freelance is both The Smart Guy and The Lancer, being a Mad Scientist with a penchant for destruction.
- 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.
- In morphE, Asia Ellis fills the role of smart guy through being the analytical thinker of the Five-Man Band who takes notes, makes maps when introduced to new areas and studies every text she can find to discover the many truths of the awakened world. Despite not being the most intellectual member of the party Asia fits this trope perfectly.
- Tedd of El Goonish Shive is knowledgeable and skilled in Magitek and the science of magic to the point of being able to create magic watches out of mundane toy watches that can cast spells for even Muggle users.
- Nepta from ''Tinyraygun is a brilliant young space explorer. Unfortunately, her intellect's somewhat limited to what she learned in books.
- In Homestuck, Rose is the beta kids' main Smart Guy and the primary Miss Exposition when it comes to explaining the mysteries of Sburb. Even her mythological role as the Seer of Light marks her as a quester after knowledge. Jade is also very brainy, but her intelligence isn't as central to her character or role in the story as Rose's is.
- In the alpha session, Dirk (Rose's genetic father) takes on the Smart Guy role as the team's chief strategist (though he does have an AI double to help him out).
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: This is split between Tuuri and Mikkel. Tuuri was the one officially hired for this quality, but Mikkel being The Medic, more than a decade older than her, and having expertise in things in which Tuuri does not causes him to frequently override her in that domain.
- Im Not Your Friend: Natalie likes doing homework and math.
- While not part of a Five-Man Band, computer programmer Raimi definitely fulfills this function in Broken Saints.
- Iridescence from Dusk's Dawn, sort of. It's inferred that she's an expert in the medical field by her Cutie Mark, and she senses something bad is happening in the De Noir's castle.
- Blake Belladonna fills this role for the eponymous team of heroines in RWBY, due to her fondness for reading and her intimate knowledge of history and Faunas rights. She has a reason for knowing all this stuff: she's a Faunas herself.
- Dreamscape: Keela is The Smart Guy of the Five-Man Band. She is very observant, extremely clever, and not very expressive.
- In "Caelum Lex" Cyrus, the Dionysian's engineer and resident tech nerd, is often one step ahead of everyone else, coming up with ideas and plans and solutions that no one else on the crew considered
- PHILLIPS from The Last Stage by Nat One Productions switches between this and Naïve Newcomer. He is incredibly knowledgeable about the paranormal due to his lifetime of research, but is inexperienced in the field. When PATRICK needs to know what something is or does, though, PHILLIPS is the one he looks to.
- 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 Red vs. Blue, Simmons is arguably the smartest member of either team when it comes to pure common sense.
- James in ''Lightning Dust: safe to say that Klaus can go to him to ask about certain monsters/baddies in town and would probably go to him for inventions to help him while fighting if James knew about LD.
- Eugene, Matt Santoro's nerdy clone. Word of God (Matt himself) says that, if Matt's clones had a fight to the death, Eugene would win - despite being physically weak, he could build something like a tank to defend himself, because he's the only clone intelligent enough to do so.
- Felix from The Ben Heck Show has become an Ensemble Dark Horse because of his software-savvyness, especially in Linux.