Obfuscating Stupidity/Comics

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search

  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin is apparently a user of this trope, as he once told Susie that it's far easier to keep people's expectations low, and wow them every now and again, then to keep them high and wind up disappointing at some point.
    • A cloning storyline in which Calvin (supposedly) creates a personification of his "good half" to take his classes for him proves this: if the clone is real, than it demonstrates that Calvin could do well in school if he bothered to try; if it's an extended game of make-believe than Calvin really is doing well for a change (if only for the sake of keeping the game going.) Then again, any of Calvin's musings to Hobbes on the nature of existence and reality during any given 'sledding' strip should tip even the most casual reader off that the kid's a freaking genius, it's just that school bores him senseless.
  • Arguably deconstructed in Watchmen (well, what isn't?): instead of playing dumb, as Batman is famous for doing, Ozymandias is sure to let the entire world know just how smart he is. It works just as well in avoiding suspicion when he kills millions of people to prevent a nuclear war, because no one could imagine the world's smartest man would be behind it.
  • Some incarnations of Superman (especially the iconic portrayal by Christopher Reeve) had their Clark Kenting rely almost completely on Clark Kent being a clumsy, timid stick-in-the-mud (albeit not stupid), so nobody would seriously entertain the notion that this farm boy could be the Man of Steel. Indeed, it was a running joke throughout the Golden and Silver Ages that Clark couldn't get a date with Lois Lane because she was only interested in the brave, physically-capable Superman]].
    • Superman is arguably a Trope Codifier, at least for DC comics. The fact that he can disguise himself with a pair of glasses and this, and nobody ever figures it out themselves, is a testament either to human stupidity or his awesome Obfuscating Stupidity. Oh, and the hair curl. This is even Lampshaded in Lois and Clark: the New Adventures of Superman, where Lois is told point blank, "Hello! Duh! Clark Kent is Superman!"
    • In one Silver Age story Lois herself used this trope; while disguised as a blonde to get close to a story she bumps into crooks who notice her 'resemblance' to Lois Lane. She pretends to be a Dumb Blonde gangsters' moll and goes along with the crooks plan to use her as a 'fake' Lois to trap Superman.
    • In All-Star Superman, it's pointed out that Clark exploits the identifying power of mannerisms and posture to better his disguise. Luther even outright says that if Kent stood up straight and worked out more, he could have a body that looked like Superman.
    • An interesting subversion came when Lex Luthor fed all the evidence he had regarding Superman's identity into a supercomputer, and it told him that Superman's secret identity was Clark Kent. Luthor then destroyed the machine and ignored the results, but rather than thinking that someone as bumbling and timid Kent could never be Superman, he believed that someone as powerful as Superman would never demean himself with such a disguise.
  • Batman relies quite strongly on his public persona of "Bruce Wayne, idjit." Averted in the animated series, where he's portrayed as the head of the Wayne Enterprises and a shrewd businessperson, but still having a rather...enthusiastic attitude towards social activities.
    • This backfires on him during No Man's Land when he tries to secure government aid for Gotham as Bruce Wayne. This fails for various reasons: 1) Lex Luthor is pulling strings to keep Gotham from getting help in a bid to buy up its real estate, 2) the problems the earthquake brought to Gotham can't be solved with money alone, and 3) no one takes the "idiot playboy" Bruce Wayne seriously. It really doesn't help that it looks like Bruce ditched Gotham and moved to the Bahamas using his money and connections despite the lockdown. In the end Bruce has to rely on Lucius Fox to secure government aid while he as Batman deals with the problems in Gotham and Lex Luthor's machinations.
    • It becomes a major plot point of 'Batman: R.I.P.', which starts with Alfred pointing out that Bruce is using his 'Batman' voice even when he's out of costume in the Batcave. And after a period of dating Jezebel Jet, she confronts him during a dinner with the question of whether or not there's anything more to Bruce Wayne than the fun, spontaneous, but ultimately shallow man she'd been dating. The relationship ends up being saved by an assassination attempt on Jet, with the assassin even writing off Bruce as a layabout "...with Bowflex muscles." But Bruce manages to piss him off enough to get dragged off into a secluded room by a henchman to be 'executed,' at which point he sticks to the shadows and picks off the assassins without them ever seeing him. Unfortunately, when he's interrogating the leader, Jet sees him illuminated by moonlight and, between the physical evidence and her own belief that it was impossible for there to be so little to a person, she realizes that he's Batman, in spite of Bruce's hate-filled tirade against himself for the exact sort of shallowness she had perceived. Of course, she already knew his identity, and this was all a Xanatos Gambit by the Black Glove.
    • Lampshaded explicitly in the DCU fanfic 'An Unusual Mission' by Adrian Tullberg:

Superman: The death of Bruce Wayne's parents is public knowledge, the twelve years he spent training are completely unaccountable, and Batman's equipment budget outstrips the GCPD's by several million every year. The main reason nobody has successfully put the two together is the fact everybody thinks Bruce Wayne can't even walk and talk at the same time, let alone launch such a campaign. Does that tell you how good an actor he is?

  • It's also true of Spider-Man. In the early days, no one would have suspected bookish, shy Peter Parker of being the web-slinging, wise-cracking Spider-Man. This remained true as he ended up a science teacher.
  • Grunge of Gen 13, both pre and post-Worldstorm. The post-Worldstorm versions works very hard to give the impression that he's a stupid slacker, due to bad experiences when he was younger and still extremely nerdy. Pre-worldstorm, he takes the same advanced biology classes as the team's resident genius, Fairchild.
  • Grimlock of Transformers (at least in the Marvel comics) was depicted as affecting his speech impediment to both make opponents underestimate him and because of his own belief that intellectuals are inferior. He was like a Dubya that actually knew what he was doing.
  • While it's not always clear that he's doing it on purpose, it's been said more than once that one of Deadpool's "superpowers" is actually the ability to distract and confuse people by rambling on and on about stupid things until you either want to surrender or commit suicide from all the inanity - and yet, the whole time he's rambling, he's efficiently killing or otherwise getting on with whatever task is at hand. Often people underestimate him as a complete idiot because of all the talking, although occasionally someone will say he's an idiot but not underestimate his fighting abilities. For his part, Deadpool has occasionally implied that he knows the effect the constant rambling has, but most of the time it appears to be just one of the traits that make him crazy ol' Deadpool.
    • Both. His constant, irritating, non-sequitur monologuing and erratic behaviour is exactly why he could beat the crap out of The Taskmaster. Not only because Taskmaster became so irritated by the constant flood of inanity that he got all distracted, but also because he couldn't copy Deadpool's unpredictability and insanity. And Deadpool knew precisely what he was doing by unleashing it in spades. But yeah, mostly he's just nuts.
    • During Civil War, he used the phrase "addled moron that I am (or pretend to be)". This being Deadpool, it's entirely possible the "or" should be taken at face value, and he's genuinely too crazy to know how intelligent he is at any given moment.
    • Deadpool also says to Cable in the Cable and Deadpool comic something along the lines of " It's fun playing the fool, but do you know when it's stops being fun? When you actually start to believe it."
  • In the super-hero parody comic The Inferior Five, heroine Dumb Bunny has the reputation of an atypical Dumb Blonde, billed as being "strong as an ox, and almost as intelligent." However, a more modern story - where her team crossed over with the Legion of Substitute Heroes - she hinted that she was smarter than she let on, as she perfectly understood a scientist's complex theory. Possibly she plays dumb simply to make the other four members of her team feel better, as they are clearly not feigning their problems and limitations.
  • From Garfield: Odie, probably. Or he might be Genius Ditz.
    • This is deliberately shown in one strip, when Odie watches Jon, then Garfield exit the house with a wicked smile...only to settle down in a smoking-jacket, pipe, in a plush recliner, watching a show on Classical music with a copy of War & Peace nearby.
    • And in another strip where John, Garfield and Odie go on a picnic and Odie "accidentally" locks the doors of the car, "trapping" himself inside while John and Garfield try to instruct him on unlocking the doors. The final panel has it pouring rain, Odie enjoying the picnic meal while listening to the radio, and John and Garfield stuck in the rain wondering if Odie's not as dumb as he appears.
    • Another strip has Jon struggling to solve a Sudoku puzzle and giving up, Odie examines it and solves it very quickly to Jon's surprise.
  • 11-year-old Molly Hayes, the youngest of the Runaways, seems to have the mentality of a six-year-old most of the time. However, she sometimes reveals herself to be at least as mature as her teammates, who are all in their mid-to-late teens. At one point, Molly's telepathic father states that she "acts childlike to lower people's defenses", but actually has "a ferocious intellect".
    • Reaches its funniest point when time-displaced Geoff Wilder calls her on it.

Molly: Please, mister! Don't hurt me!
Wilder: Skip the waterworks, kid. Your cloying Rudy Huxtable routine is just an act you put on to get attention from your older friends. Why don't you behave like the bright young woman we both know you are?
Molly: Fine. Your son took after you, you know. He was a total frickin' failure.

  • Booster Gold acts like a publicity-seeking fool to cover up the fact that he's been tasked with protecting the timestream. (Although he's not exactly a genius.)
    • Booster's longtime buddy Ted Kord/ Blue Beetle II invoked this as well; he was a wisecracking prankster who was also a technical genius with his own company.
  • Plastic Man is usually portrayed as being genuinely a bit dopey. During "World War III," Grant Morrison's final story arc for JLA, however, he reveals that, thanks to his longtime friendship with a C-List Fodder hero named the Red Bee, he knows just about everything there is to know about "apian management." Since an alien Evil Overlady named the Queen Bee is taking over New York City, and all the big-name heroes are busy on the Moon, Plastic Man ends up masterminding their victory. Big Barda even mentions how out of character this is for him, remarking, "This almost seems like a plan." To which he responds (while disguised as a big clown), "I only act dumb, sister."
    • Almost identical to another moment in "I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League" where Dibny tells Booster Gold that "the difference between you and me is that I only act like an idiot".
  • Near the end of Strangers in Paradise, it is revealed that Casey was doing this all along; while posing as a Dumb Blonde aerobics instructor, she was actually keeping an eye on Katchoo for Tambi. This may or may not be an Ass Pull.
  • Jack Point, the titular character of Judge Dredd spinoff The Simping Detective, dresses as a combination of a stereotype Private Eye and a clown. His reasons are threefold: To get criminals to underestimate him, conceal gadgets and weapons in his clown gear and to allow bloodstains to be easily washed away. This is also on top of his penchant for whiskey.
    • The main Dredd strip gave us a particularly tragic version in the form of Tweak, an alien in the "Cursed Earth" story. Tweak was a genius and the ruler of his planet, but intentionally entered slavery on Earth and pretended to be a dumb animal to prevent the evil, greedy humans from returning to his planet in order to strip it of resources and enslave his species.
    • There's also PJ Maybe, a child prodigy who puts on a big show of being borderline retarded so as to avoid his teachers taking any interest in him. By the age of 14, he's already Mega-City One's most dangerous Serial Killer.
    • Averted in the case of the Wally Squad's Dirty Frank. He really is that crazy, but is dangerously effective nonetheless, in part because nobody thinks such a maniac could possibly be an undercover Judge.
  • Ben Grimm of Fantastic Four often acts like a dumb palooka who doesn't understand Reed's "big words" and loves to clobber. But he's well-educated - a trained test pilot and astronaut (who happens to love clobberin'!)
  • Ultra Boy, Jo Nah, of the Legion of Superheroes, is presented this way in the reboot continuity, partly to explain why he's a dumb jock sometimes, and a clever guy other times. The cover story is that he figured out early on that of the LSH's enemies was manipulating events, and he presented himself as dumbish to keep the enemy's guard down.
    • To elaborate, Ultra Boy figures out in one annual that Glorith has been manipulating events in the time stream and had used her time powers to usurp the place of the Time Keeper in history, creating the Legion as her patsies to keep other potential universe rulers, like Mordru, weak. Jo Nah manipulates Glorith into a terrible confrontation with the Legion, who sacrifice much but prevail in the end, causing Glorith to lose the bulk of her powers. Because of the time based abilities of the foe in question, Jo Nah has to act stupid for the rest of his life or face repercussions. It doesn't work. Glorith figures it out and displaces Phantom Girl, Jo's girlfriend, in time where she winds up amnesiac and working for L.E.G.I.O.N. Yes people, Geoff Johns is out there, repeating your storyline.
  • In Marvel 1602, Rojaz, the suspiciously-tall-and-blond Native American.
  • Roger Fox of FoxTrot is usually a quite legitimate Bumbling Dad. However, from time to time he is able to use this apparent cluelessness to get what he wants. For instance, in a week-arc where his wife forces him to go to an aerobics class, he spends the entire time doing embarrassing things like doing the wrong moves and singing along to the music. She gets so mad that she tells him she's never going to take him to another class...which, as his thought bubble points out, is just what he wanted in the first place.
  • According to one strip of Walter Moers, infants are not only able to talk, but discuss complex topics of philosophy, psychology and the like and only use this trope if adults are around. "Ducky make toot!"
  • A one-shot Star Wars Expanded Universe comic published in the Tales series depicts a nervous, stuttering freighter pilot landing at a backwater space station for repairs to his ship. After demonstrating his skill in a gunfight, the unfortunate man is coerced into an Old West style showdown with the local crime boss, who is always on the lookout for promising new opponents. The crime boss, Shoto Eyefire, wore body armor and had snipers stationed above them to kill his opponent if he was in trouble. And with these odds stacked horribly against him, the pathetic, stuttering pushover pilot shoots Eyefire through both knees and in the shoulder and fights his way out of the fortress. The Reveal comes when he opens a fake power pack for his blaster to reveal a lightsaber.

Eyefire: Non-lethal wounds...stun grenades...stun beams...lightsabers...I HATE Jedi Knights.

  • Cinderella from Fables acts like a slutty Valley Girl in public, but is really a highly trained Black-Ops agent.
  • Done twice in Les Nombrils: First in volume 3, when John John reveals that he does know how to read, and has been deliberately failing classes to prolong high school, then in volume 4, when Karine uses this to make Melanie drop her guard.