Brains and Brawn

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Think Skrimir, just try!"

"No! That's your job Ranulf. You're my second in command, think of a way for me to use my strength!"
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
"You've got the brawn, I've got the brain, let's make lots of money..."

Teaming up The Smart Guy with The Big Guy (or The Evil Genius with The Brute). Sometimes, Brains and Brawn serve as heroes, but other times they're villains (forming an Evil Duo, often the Quirky Miniboss Squad or part of a Terrible Trio, and very frequently Those Two Bad Guys). Either way, there tends to be some element of comedy inherent in their natures. If the Brain is ever condescending or mean to Brawn, it's because Dumb Is Good.

Usually, in such a pair like this, The Smart Guy would usually communicate vital information to The Big Guy, so that The Big Guy would utilize this information to his advantage. Other times, The Smart Guy would provide items and equipment for The Big Guy to utilize. Regardless, while The Smart Guy provides resources and information, The Big Guy must protect The Smart Guy with his life, so that he could gain more information and resources from The Smart Guy.

When you have one character with both Brains and Brawn, you've got yourself a Genius Bruiser or a Badass Bookworm, depending on whether it's the intelligence or the muscle that's more obvious.

Examples of Brains and Brawn include:

Heroic examples

Anime and Manga

  • Somewhat subverted with Edward and Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist. It initially appears that Edward is the brains and Alphonse the brawn, when in actuality Edward is a Badass Bookworm and Alphonse is a Genius Bruiser.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has the partners Smart Girl Teana and Cute Bruiser Subaru.
  • A description used for Maka (brains) and Soul (brawn) from Soul Eater, which appeared to be the case only initially. Soul's understanding of insanity and music has given them the upper hand on several occasions, showing that he does take time to think and come to useful (at times life-saving) conclusions. While Maka's attempt at gaining 'strength' through brute force originally got her nowhere (except off of London Bridge), her recent victories have demonstrated her increased physical ability. Tsubaki and Black Star are a better example, where it is the Weapon who is the sensible one, and the meister the brash - but ultimately effective - bruiser.
  • Goku and Bulma were essentially this early on in Dragon Ball, before it became less about adventure and more about martial arts.
  • Code Geass has Suzaku who pilots the Lancelot, and Lloyd Asplund who maintains it. Kallen and Rakshawta have a similar relationship concerning the Guren II.
  • Oriko Magica has the titular Oriko and her (girl)friend Kirika. Oriko is a Seer and yet to be seen fighting. Kirika is batshit insane and rather talented at killing things. Together they cause the plot.
  • Choji and Shikamaru from Naruto could also count as it is Shikamaru's intelligence and Choji's strength that is the main focus of their attacks especially when they work together.

Card Games

  • In Chaotic, Borth-Majar is one creature in regards to the rules of the card game, but consists of two entities: A super-smart midget with no offensive power who rides on the back of a dumb-as-rocks rock monster who is barely able to cast spells on his own. Be sure to practice before using "divide and conquer" tactics with them in the Dromes, though, as trying to be in two places at once can be highly disorienting.

Comic Books

  • Black Canary and Oracle in Birds of Prey (the comic book version).
  • From Jack Kirby's New Gods: The Happily Married couple, escape artist Scott "Mister Miracle" Free and the massive Hot Amazon Big Barda. Also serves as an inverted example of Huge Guy, Tiny Girl.
  • The central characters of Marvel Comics's Incredible Hercules are the titular legendary Greek hero, one of the strongest men to ever walk the Earth, and his teenaged travelling companion, Amadeus Cho, who is inexperienced but incredibly smart; they often work for/with Herc's sister Athena, another genius, though of the Chessmaster type.
  • Luke Cage and Iron Fist are longtime friends and frequent partners. Fist is the brains, and Cage is the brawn. Although, Danny can often be a Fish Out of Water in New York City, where Luke has far more "street smarts".
  • X-Men allies-and-sometimes-enemies, the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, has B'nee and C'cill, two symbiotic mechanoids who could have inspired Master Blaster. One is big, clunky, armored, and sub-sentient, the other is small, agile, and has tactical skills. They are apparently named after "Beany and Cecil", a kids' show.
    • For that matter, Beany and Cecil, since Cecil is a sea serpent.
    • Among the X-Men themselves, one of their more enduring couples is computer geek Kitty Pryde and team powerhouse Colossus.
    • And their enemies, Juggernaut and Black Tom Cassidy.
  • Dwight from Sin City is capable of handling himself in a fight but if he can help it, he likes to think his way through problems while his friends kill the bad guys. He often has Miho do all the dirty work but one story did involve him enlisting Marv's help.
  • Though they're not really a team as such, Dilton Doiley and Moose Mason from Archie Comics get on better than most peripheral characters when they do meet—possibly because Dilton has little real interest in girls (beyond anatomy, and that's not a double entendre), so Moose doesn't have to beat him up for hitting on Midge.
  • Rick Jones and the Hulk.


  • A few characters in Pirates of the Caribbean are teamed up this way, like Jack Sparrow and Will Turner in the first film.
    • Including evil versions, there are anywhere from two to four sets, depending on how strict you are in the roles. Two of the sets are more like comedy teams. Becket and Mercer count for the sequels.
  • Chunk and Sloth make a weird sort of comic/heroic pair in The Goonies. Chunk isn't exactly brainy, but he is when compared to Sloth, and he does lead them to the rest of the Goonies. Along the way Sloth demonstrates his incredible strength, for better or worse.
  • Ygor and the Frankenstein's Monster are teamed up like this in Son of Frankenstein and The Ghost of Frankenstein, as the Monster is a Man Child and thinks of Ygor as his friend.
  • In the film remake of Twenty One Jump Street, a brains-and-brawn combo help each other get through the police academy (one helps the other learn the law, the other helps the first to pass the physical) and become best buds.


  • The eponymous pairing in the novel, Freakthe Mighty by Rodman Philbrick: Freak is a short handicapped kid (but brainy), Max (the narrator) is a Gentle Giant that people assume is stupid, and together they are Freak the Mighty.
  • Inigo and Fezzik from The Princess Bride, though they start the story as Punch Clock Villains.
    • Of course, Inigo isn't really very bright; he's just smarter than Fezzik. Conversely, Fezzik is much stronger than Inigo, but since Inigo is the world's second greatest swordsman, he's quite capable of providing his own brawn. Unless he needs a door broken down.
      • He wasn't as motivated as the man in black so I'm going with best in the world
      • They actually go into this in a fair amount of detail in the book: The Man in Black is (barely) better than Inigo in a clear, open field, but he has no idea how to use terrain to his advantage or counter dirty tricks like Inigo does. Inigo is walking all over Wesley at the beginning of the duel, underestimates him, and lets the fight get into the open where Wesley is able to keep Inigo from escaping and wear him down.
  • Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser.
    • an aversion. Fafhrd is repeatedly shown as being highly intelligent and intellectually curious (he trapped a socratic scholar with logic) while the Mouser, if you're keeping count, is actually the more dangerous of the two in a fight. Both have personally quirks that occasionally make them do VERY STUPID things (the Mouser keeps getting carried away with his own love for his "cunning" and winds up overreaching himself, while Fafhrd is too fond of embracing his capacity for self-delusion.) but both are smart AND tough.
  • Miles Vorkosigan and his cousin Ivan "You Idiot" Vorpatril by preference, although almost anyone will do for the latter in a pinch (albeit usually with less abuse).
    • Subverted in that Ivan turns out to not actually be an idiot - just lazy, and willing to use Obfuscating Stupidity to avoid being put in charge of anything, or responsible for anything.

Miles: Do you think of yourself as an innocent bystander?
Ivan: God knows I try to be.

  • The Gentleman Bastard Sequence series has small guy Locke Lamora partnered with 'muscle and fat' bruiser Jean Tannen. Slightly averted as, although Locke is capable of making up vast and complex Xanatos Gambits, Jean is fairly clever himself, often having to come up with his own (admittedly less elaborate) gambits while Locke is incapacitated.
    • It's also subverted, as Jean was the child of wealthy parents before being orphaned, and so he's actually a Genius Bruiser who is very well-read. While appearance-wise, Locke looks more like an aristocrat, he's a Satisfied Street Rat and a lot less book-smart than Jean and can be too impulsive.
  • Mentioned, in name if not in spirit, in Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who... Sang and its sequels—each "brainship" is assigned a "brawn" who acts as companion, ambassador and muscle for the immobile cyborged pilot encased inside the ship. Averted because brawns are also required to be pretty damn smart in order to come close to the pilot's abilities. As mentioned below, they also serve as someone to say to the other, "why are we heading to [planet / space station / Negative Space Wedgie] again?".
  • In a 1950s science fiction novel about the first manned spaceship flight to Mars, whose name I have long ago forgotten, the two-man crew is introduced to each by the chief scientist thusly, "Brains, meet Brawn. And Brawn, meet Brains"
  • Artemis Fowl and (Battle) Butler. Butler is actually pretty smart, but standing next to Artemis (Who, as far as we know, is the smartest person on, or under, the Earth) even he looks dim.
  • Tragic example: George and Lennie from Of Mice and Men.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "Queen of the Black Coast," Belit and Conan the Barbarian. Well, an Anti-Hero pair.

Conan agreed. He generally agreed to her plans. Hers was the mind that directed their raids, his the arm that carried out her ideas.

  • A Song of Ice and Fire's Bran and Hodor make what is probably the most extreme example on both ends, Bran being a 7-9 year old lordling that gets crippled at the beginning of that first book., Hodor being the gigantic oaf that only knows how to say his name (and it's not even actually his name) that is put to the task of carrying him around wherever he goes.
  • Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM, to some degree. While Cain does kick copious amounts of ass with sheer skill and light weaponry, physically he is no match for Jurgen, a sturdy Valhallan who skips wussy laser pistols in favor of a BFG melta gun. Cain is a Guile Hero while Jurgen is socially stunted, Literal-Minded and largely considered ignorant by most (though Jurgen has a decent case for more being Book Dumb and is very capable in the areas of scrounging and being prepared).
  • Fisk (brains) and Michael (brawn) from the Knight and Rogue Series. Fisk is actually good with knives, but prefers to stay out of fights, and Michael, who does have some bright moments, actually has more of an education than Fisk, but you'd never notice it.
  • The Steampunk novel series The Ministry of Peculiar Occurences has the Meaningfully Named Books and Braun; Non-Action Guy Wellington Thornhill Books, Esq. and Action Girl Miss Eliza D. Braun.

Live Action TV

  • Supernatural: Sam (brains) and Dean (brawn) Winchester. Sam is a Badass Bookworm and Dean is something of a Genius Ditz, Depending on the Writer.
    • May be a subversion in later seasons, in that Sam is (much) bigger and stronger than Dean, but they still function this way.
  • Merlin: Merlin (brains) and Arthur (brawn). Merlin is sort of defaulted into the position of brains because (unlike Arthur) he usually knows what's actually going on. Amusingly, Arthur seems to consider himself the brains and the brawn of their two man band and takes delight in calling Merlin an idiot, useless buffoon, girl's petticoat, etc. -- although, if you don't know that Merlin has magic, his antics do seem a bit strange.
    • In fact, as far as the magical side of the series goes, Gaius is the brains and Merlin is the brawn—Gaius knows just about everything there is to know about everything but doesn't like to use magic, while Merlin, the most powerful warlock of all time, manages to consistently not know anything about the evil magic of the episode until Gaius does the research for him. Granted, Gaius is his mentor, so it's sort of in the job description.
  • Prison Break's protagonists are Lincoln Burrows, a street tough framed for murder, and his brother Michael Scofield, an engineer with a genius escape plan. The "brains/brawn" comparison is made several times.
  • Eliot Spencer and Alec Hardison of Leverage act like this sometimes. Eliot, however, is implied to be somewhat of a Genius Bruiser. Hardison... fights the injured, although he appears to have slowly taken a level in badass over the course of the series.
  • Finch and Reese respctively in Person of Interest.

Mythology and Folklore

Newspaper Comics

Tabletop Games

Video Games


"With my brains and your brawn, we'll make an excellent team!"

  • The above quote from Half Life is one of the lines you'll hear when the hero, Gordon Freeman, enlists a scientist to help him out during a stage. It's also something of a parody, given that the "brawn" is a nuclear physicist.
    • Somewhat inverted in Half Life 2 when Gordon is teamed up with Action Girl Alyx Vance for some of the game and practically all of Episode 1 and most of Episode 2.
  • Metal Gear has Solid Snake, the Badass Shell-Shocked Veteran serve as brawn for his Hacker/Engineer friend Hal Emmerich.
    • As for Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker for the PSP, usually the combat-team are considered TheBigGuys, who leave Mother Base to complete various fighting/sneaking missions. Meanwhile, the R&D team, Intel team, Mess-Hall team, and First-Aid team are usually considered TheSmartGuys, in that they stay behind at Mother Base to provide food, medicine, equipment, and information for the combat-team.
  • In Halo: Combat Evolved, Master Chief with his brawn, and Cortana with her brains, also count.
  • Uncharted Drakes Fortune has the brawn/brain team of Nathan Drake and Victor "Goddamn/Sully" Sullivan, if only because Sully acts as a father-figure to Nathan Drake, always providing words of wisdom to help Drake survive each adventure, while Drake protects Sully with his muscles and guns.
  • Your starting squadmates in all three Mass Effect games: Kaidan and Ashley in Mass Effect, Miranda and Jacob in Mass Effect 2, and Liara and James in Mass Effect 3.
  • Invoked in the manual for the first Mario Party game, which describes Luigi as the brains, and Mario as the brawn.
  • Ratchet and Clank, with Ratchet carrying the BFG and Clank usually figuring out the bigger threat they face.
  • Team Fortress 2 With The Heavy and The Medic who are paired in every possible way other than that, including in the metagame, videos, comics, and memes

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Dr. Venture and Brock Samson from The Venture Brothers
  • T-Bone and Razor in Swat Kats are something of a subversion: Razor invents all the gadgets and weapons, but he's a martial arts expert and arguably the better fighter of the pair, while T-Bone is a Boisterous Bruiser who's also an excellent mechanic and genius pilot.
  • Siblings Anne and Tom Chan in The Amazing Chan and The Chan Clan.
  • Spoofed on Tale Spin. While concocting a plan with his barfly buddies Baloo assures them that they can't fail, "With my brains, and your...whatever."
  • Also played with on The Simpsons when Bart and Lisa team up. "With your book-smarts, and my ability to exploit people with book-smarts..."
  • Tex Avery's George and Junior.
  • Borth-Majar from Chaotic.

Real Life

  • Usually, at an average house-hold, The Big Guy is usually the breadwinner, going out of the house to work to earn paychecks needed to purchase vital goods for the house. Meanwhile, The Smart Guy is usually the homemaker, staying at home to utilize the vital goods to take care of the house, so that The Big Guy could rest and recuperate from a long day at work or outside the house.

Villainous examples

Anime and Manga

  • Sora and his twin brother, Nike, in Air Gear are the two official leaders of Genesis. Sora being the brains behind all of Genesis' operations and Nike being the brawn that goes out and does the more physical work. Before Genesis though, it seemed that they were more Bash Brothers.

Comic Books

  • Another Neil Gaiman example from The Sandman. Brute and Glob, two 'Major Arcana' (the most powerful and significant of dreams)that go rogue during his imprisonment. They are literally the embodiment of this trope, and exploiting Dream's law against killing mortals they manage to create a barrier inside the mind of an abused child even Morpheus can't easily penetrate.
  • Nidhiki and Krekka from Bionicle
  • Tz'how and his wife Jessica in Bowling King. Tz'how is a bowler with powerful arms, but he thinks it's an astonishing coincidence that Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson resemble one another and has a pretty advanced case of amnesia. Jessica, meanwhile, uses his lacking intelligence to keep him from regaining his memories of their past together and constantly plots to live comfortably with him.
  • Early in Daredevil comics, Mr. Fear specifically hires the Ox and the Eel as his enforcers because they're, respectively, incredibly powerful but too slow to challenge his leadership and cunning but lacking the strength to oppose him.
  • According to Anne in SSDD, Richard and Norman used to be "like those guys from Mad Max".



  • Croup and Vandemar from Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.
  • Tulip and Pin from the Discworld novel, The Truth.
    • Terry Pratchett, writer of said novel, has had fans point out to him that it's "obvious" that Tulip and Pin are based on Croup and Vandemar, and had this to say:

"Fiction and movies are full of pairs of bad guys that pretty much equate to Pin and Tulip. They go back a long way. That's why I used 'em, and probably why Neil did too. You can have a trio of bad guys (who fill roles that can be abbreviated to 'the big thick one, the little scrawny one and The Boss') but the dynamic is different. With two guys, one can always explain the plot to the other..."


Live Action TV

  • Heroes had the firestarter siblings, of whom the stronger brother was told by his father that God gave him a sister instead of a brain. Of course the sister wasn't all that bright either.
  • Malcolm Tucker and Jamie, the Violent Glaswegian spin doctors from The Thick of It and In the Loop.
    • Topher and Dominic have tension between them as two of the bad guys running the "Dollhouse." Dominic, a bodyguard, regularly uses threats of physical violence on Topher to ensure he's doing his job well. Topher, a programmer, regularly uses witty barbs on Dominic to rub it in that he's smarter.


  • MF DOOM and Madlib in the video for Madvillain's "All Caps"; Both are mutated scientists, with DOOM being a hulking monstrosity and Madlib being a pocket-sized supergenius.

Video Games

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Rocky and Mugsy, from a series of Bugs Bunny shorts.
  • Ransack and Crumplezone from Transformers: Cybertron. In a slight subversion, Ransack often comes across as not especially bright either, and being the brains only because Crumplezone is several times thicker than a titanium-reinforced brick.
  • Ren and Stimpy.
    • Really villainous? They're more like anti-heroes, because their principle is not to do evil. Besides, Ren is very much both brains and brawn, taking his occassional Unstoppable Rage into account. Stimpy is, it would appear, neither.
  • Drakken and Shego from Kim Possible: He invents plans to Take Over the World, she beats up people in their way.
    • Although Shego is far more intelligent than Drakken, and finally takes her chance in A Sitch in Time.
  • Handicapped kids Nathan and Mimsey in the South Park episode "Crippled Summer".
  • Pinky and The Brain, anyone?