Super Identikit

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In TV, the sketch artists who work for the FBI or the police, even if they just work at a minor metropolitan precinct, are talented almost to the point of clairvoyance. They could be taking a description from a drug-addled hobo who saw the suspect for about four seconds from a hundred yards away, and the resulting picture will be so accurate that you'd think the suspect posed for it. In real life, of course, police sketches are somewhat less precise.

Also falling under this trope are the experts who perfectly reconstruct someone's face off of four square inches of decaying skull, and computer aging. (In the real world, though, the latter has on occasion proven freakishly accurate, making it at least sometimes a case of Truth in Television.)

Contrast with Facial Composite Failure.

Examples of Super Identikit include:

Anime and Manga


  • Parodied during the end of the movie Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle. The eponymous Harold and Kumar (who are Korean and Indian, respectively) have committed various crimes in their epic journey to White Castle. During the ending credits of the movie, a news report informs us "Police sketch artists believe the perpetrators to look like this", followed by a picture of two completely, offensively overly-stereotyped Arab and Chinese characters who look nothing like them. Harold and Kumar can be heard laughing at the gross misinterpretation.
  • The "funky description" schtick was also done in Johnny English, where the aforementioned spy makes up an "aggressor" to cover his accidentally knocking out of a security chief. The "aggressor" looks like Ronald McDonald's Evil Twin, yet a matching person appears in the final scene, reading a newspaper.
  • In the film Diabolik, Valmont has one of his girls describe Eva so that one of his goons can use a device to create a picture of her. The effect is...interesting to say the least. Aside from the girl giving a very hard to follow description that no-one could possible draw a likeness from, the face on screen appears to change at whim. Why, one could even assume that the images we saw on the device were nothing more than pre-rendered animation, but that would just be silly.


  • It's implied in The Inheritance Cycle when Roran goes into a city (after he's become a wanted fugitive) and sees his picture, which is accurate with the exception of the beard. In the poster right next to his, Eragon himself is pictured, which Roran recognizes immediately.
  • In Andre Norton's Solar Queen series, crewmembers develop hobbies, some intrinsically useful, to fight boredom during long periods in hyperspace. One communications technician created an electronic Super Identikit which automatically constructed an accurate picture from another fellow's spoken description. All the technician did was press one button to modify the picture in accordance with the other man's comments. ("Hobby?" How much would the Space Police give for that gadget?)

Live Action TV

  • CSI had a particularly grating example: they had a picture of a freckle-faced young girl grinning a toothy, squinty grin. They took us through the early stages of artificially ageing her, starting to make her look like a freckle-faced grinning adult. Then later when we saw the final result it was a picture of an unsmiling, closed-mouthed, wide-eyed young woman, which couldn't possibly have been extrapolated from the earlier picture.
    • They also once managed to put together a recognisable face out of a nine years decayed skeleton; bones provided a gender and possible ethnicity, dental estimated the age. Then some computer work and a tissue database put muscles and other features on the skull, the shapes suggested more ethnicity information leading to hair and eye colour, and Archie did the rest.
  • NCIS: Like many tropes on NCIS, this is played straight and subverted depending on the writer and plot requirements. Once this is played for laughs when Palmer's attempt at describing his attacker ends with a super villian-esque result. Other times, this is played incredibly straight, like when McGee created a program that successfully de-aged a suspect about ten years. Still other times, this averted when they get a vague pencil sketch that could be anybody.
  • On The Closer, on one occasion, Brenda brandishes accurate pictures of her detectives (who were identified being where they shouldn't be) to prove her point. On other occasion, she's seen grimacing over a ridiculously vague drawing. The strangest version came when her wacky, airbrained sister decided she would describe the killer from her "psychic vision." Incredibly, she successfully describes . . . Chief Pope. Who she'd never met.
  • The "four inches of decaying skull" version happened in an episode of Bones.
    • This is somewhat justified in Bones, because Angela was hired specifically for her artistic skill and ability to extrapolate faces from remains, and there are real specialists who have this ability.
    • There have been at least a couple of cases where she hasn't been able to reconstruct a face because there wasn't enough skull left.
  • Subverted in an episode of Dexter. The title character has just killed, in cold blood, a man who was about to commit murder; he is now stressed about a sketch being made from a description given by a young witness—the boy who was about to be killed. Dexter gets a glimpse of the image before it is completed; it seems to resemble him and throws him into a further anxious frenzy. However, at the end of the episode the full picture is revealed to be a sketch of Jesus; the traumatized and delirious boy conflated the two as his savior.
  • A similar subversion happened in an episode of CSI: NY. Mac and Stella discover the boy who witnessed a murder has great artistic talent so they ask him to draw the killer. He ends up drawing a character from one of his comic books. His traumatic experience caused him to confuse the events in the comic with reality.
  • Used, though possibly as parody, in the beginning of Farscape in which they peel back an image of a spaceship to reveal the pilot.
  • Subverted in Dark Angel when Max is seen stealing medications from a pharmacy in Flushed. Police pictures of her quickly land her in jail—along with about a dozen other women that approximately fit her description. Eventually, they all are released.
  • Subverted in Life On Mars: Based on a witness description, Ray produces a sketch that looks like a Monty Python's Flying Circus character.
  • In one episode of RoboCop, Murphy sees a black guy who tries to kill him. Later, he takes a photo of his childhood friend, and computer-ages it exactly into the guy he saw, complete with beard and hat. He is, of course, exactly right.
  • Subverted in an episode of Corner Gas: a police officer listens and sketches as a perpetrator is described, then holds up a page full of squiggles and asks if it looks like the thief.
  • Quincy once reconstructed a picture of an entire person from a single fragment of a thigh bone, including hair and eye color (although, to give the show credit, Quincy admitted he was only guessing on the hair and eyes based on statistical averages).
  • Subverted in an episode of Law and Order: SVU where a sketch artist is told to draw a man with big, dark shades and a hooded sweatshirt. Both Detective Munch and a lead commented that this looked exactly like the Unabomber.
  • Parodied in Strangers with Candy, in the episode where Jerri hits Mr. Jellineck with her car. The police sketch artist is told the perpetrator was male, but nevertheless produces a very accurate sketch of Jerri, which, when he puts it down, reveals her sitting right in front of him. Nobody suspects a thing.

Video Games

  • Used to varying degrees in the game Hitman: Blood Money. If Agent 47 is not seen in a level, the end-of-level newspaper publishes a sketch that looks nothing like him. The more often he is caught, however, the more the sketch resembles his actual appearance.
    • Similarly, your wanted poster in Zack & Wiki starts as a horrible sketch, but gets progressively better as your notoriety increases until they just use photographs.
  • Double subversion in Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy: at one point, the player takes control of a witness creating composite sketch of Lucas Kane via a computer program. Later on, the player takes control of Lucas when the police show him the sketch asking him if they recognize the person on it. The only response that doesn't increase suspicion is marked "Joke" where he says "Hey, this looks like a lot of people I know! Heck, it could even be me!" to which the officer replies "Yes, I understand. These composites can be a little vague.". However, if the sketch matches Kane's picture 100%, it can be later used as conclusive evidence.


  • Webcomic subversion: See this strip of the Order of the Stick.
    • Double-subversion. Those are race-pic from the core manual-style pictures of the exact subjects!

Western Animation

  • An especially egregious version occurred in Kim Possible, though it didn't involve a human: a small, rice-grain size fragment (from a digital reconstruction of the crime scene) had the weapon, an exploding golf ball, extrapolated from it.
    • Given that show's predeliction to gleefully hang lampshades on anything they can possibly get their hands on, that one might be intentional. I dunno, I haven't seen that one, but it's usually a smarter show than that.
      • No, it's not. Wade is pretty much the show's Deus Ex Machina. whatever Kim needs, she has only to open her PDA and give Wade a call.
  • Parodied on The Simpsons when Homer makes up details of an imaginary assailant, picking features that are bizarre and unlikely. The cops then manage to find someone who fits this imaginary description: Groundskeeper Willie.
    • Parodied again on The Simpsons when they're looking for Homer's mom (a fugitive from the police) - they show someone an old picture of her, and the person isn't sure, and then they say "according to our computer aging program she should be... 25 years older!" with the only thing on the screen being a large number 25.
    • Parodied as well in The Simpsons Movie similar to Wrongfully Accused when they are on their way to Alaska and see a wanted poster for themselves. While Marge frantically tries to keep the shopkeeper's attention away from the image, Bart adds weird features to the picture, immediately after which the shopkeeper cries out "Oh my God, there they are!" and a family looking exactly like Bart's modified version of the Simpsons walks in.
  • A sketch posted of the main four boys of South Park was incredibly realistic (though for some reason Kenny looked vaguely Inuit).
  • Played with in an episode of Quack Pack, when Donald Duck thrashes the living-room while playing with his nephews' VR-videogame, which he'd been admonishing them about earlier, he makes up a description for an assailant to cover for it. Similar to the Simpsons example, this turns out to perfectly match someone - a known criminal with an unbelieveably brutish appearance. Involved in numerous crimes, nobody had ever dared to bear witness against him - and he's then arrested based on Donald's bogus claims. Cue fame, fortune, and said criminal breaking out of jail to get revenge on Donald. Naturally, Hilarity Ensues...
  • Played with in an episode of the animated Men in Black series: The "sketch" artist used the witness's face instead of a sketchpad to physically recreate the criminal's appearance.

Web Animation

  • Parodied by Homestar Runner in "Strong Bad Is In Jail Cartoon", where the King of Town tries to describe the person who stole his crown (Strong Bad) to Bubs. The picture ends up as one of some guy Coach Z calls "Biscuit Dough Hands Man", who looks nothing like Strong Bad.