The Adjectival Man

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So, you've got a mysterious and strange character that needs a name...Oh, it's a male? No worries, then. Just slap an adjective in front the word "man", place a "the" in front of it all, and bravo! You have a name!

For some reason, these characters tend to almost always be villains, and, as can be inferred by the name of the trope, almost Always Male (though some cases might be better described as "male-ish"). There's something about the phrase "the _____ man" that just seems to appeal to people. Perhaps it's the right degree of familiarity mixed with strangeness? Or perhaps it brings up images of strange people we see often but don't know the names of? Or perhaps it's all just a great big coincidence? No matter the reason, there's just something primal about this wording.

Different from Something Person in that characters following this particular naming convention aren't superheroes, also there's the "the" in front of the name. Also different from The Adjectival Superhero, where the "the" and adjective are an optional addendum to the name. This trope is surprisingly prominent in Sci Fi and Horror stories, which may explain why most examples tend to be supernatural and/or antagonistic.

Compare Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep". Not to be confused with The Man.

Examples of The Adjectival Man include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

Comic Books[edit | hide]

Film[edit | hide]

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Mockers of Krondor are ruled by a series of different people under various names, the most popular being "the Upright Man." Others include "the Virtuous Man," "the Sagacious Man" (who later became the second Upright Man), and "the Square Man" (the original leader of the group that would become the Mockers).
  • In the Cthulhu Mythos, one of Nyarlathotep's avatars is called "the Dark Man."
  • The Invisible Man
  • The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury, wherein the eponymous man's tatoos provide the story's Framing Device.
  • The Blue Man, a nefarious possible-alien who kills a man, and the man's nephew goes after him.
  • The first warning regarding Long John Silver of Treasure Island fame? "Beware the One-Legged Man."
  • The Cunning Man from I Shall Wear Midnight
  • Randall Flagg of The Stand is known as the Dark Man. Oh, and the Walkin' Dude. There's also Trashcan Man, but he's a somewhat nicer guy. "The Man In Black" shows up once or twice, hinting again at The Dark Tower link, and "The Man Without A Face."
  • J G Ballard's short stories "The Overloaded Man" and "The Subliminal Man."
  • The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton.
  • J. D. Salinger's The Laughing Man, the namesake of the Ghost in the Shell character.
  • In Stephen King's Dark Tower series, "The Man in Black" and "the Good Man" are mentioned as villains. They may also be the same person.
    • Stephen King also had the Low Men featured in Hearts in Atlantis and the Dark Tower.
  • The Pale Lady and the Faceless Man in Moon Over Soho
  • The man in the yellow suit in Tuck Everlasting.
  • The title of Joanna Russ's feminist SF novel The Female Man is partly a subversion of this trope.
  • Rare example that's both non-villainous *and* human is "The Green Man" in the second Dinotopia book, "The World Beneath".
  • The title character of Poul Anderson's "The Sensitive Man" had been trained to temporarily enhance his senses, strength, speed, ability to hold his breath, etc. Unfortunately, when you've amplified your hearing to listen to a conversation on the other side of the room, and someone comes up and greets you at normal volume — Owwww! He wasn't a villain, but the deep-cover FBI agent got very antsy about him after he penetrated that cover.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The Cigarette-Smoking Man and the Well-Manicured Man from The X-Files are the two most recognizable examples from that show. There were also the Crew-Cut Man, the Hispanic Man, the Black-Haired Man, the Gray-Haired Man, the (very minor) Red-Haired Man, and the Toothpick Man.
  • The One-Armed Man from The Fugitive.
  • The Rubber Man from American Horror Story.
  • Thomas Veil was erased and became the Nowhere Man.

Music[edit | hide]

New Media[edit | hide]

  • The Slender Man Mythos, featuring...the Slender Man.
  • The Fear Mythos includes such fiends as "the Dying Man" and "the Blind Man".
  • The web novel Glitch has the Stalker Men running around

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The G Man from the Half-Life series.
  • The Illusive Man from Mass Effect
  • The Tall Man from the Chzo Mythos - there are also many other individuals who are given nicknames such as "the arrogant man", but the Tall Man is the main one.
    • The Tall Man is The Arrogant Man. Or at least he was, until Chzo sucked the presumptuous man who would dare try to summon him into his world, instead, and proceeded to torture him for countless centuries until he became a submissive Humanoid Abomination. He's also known as The Prince.
  • Fallout: New Vegas includes cryptic references to The Burned Man. He was lit on fire and thrown to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but is rumored to have survived as a barely-human horror.
    • DLC confirms that he did survive, against all odds; and repented of his past life, becoming much nicer as a result.
  • A Defiant NPC in Rift is named The Faceless Man.
  • The Gray Men from Ace Combat 5 The Unsung War.
  • The Scissor Man, from the first two Clock Tower games.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • The Thin Man is also a villain in the webcomic Flipside.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, prior to Ysengrin's first appearance in-comic, he's referred to by one of his followers as "the very nice man".
  • One of the superheroes in Magellan calls himself "The Man Who Can". Don't leave off the "The".

Urban Legend[edit | hide]

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Old lore has The Green Man.
  • The Red Man and the Black Man were used to describe Native Americans and people of African descent respectively. Similarly, the White Man is often used to denote Caucasians in general.
  • Similarly, Celtic Mythology has the Red Man and the Hunger Man, possessive demons of anger and hunger, respectively.
    • In Celtic mythology, there's also a Druid called The Dark Man, or Fear Doirche. Sadhbh, mother of Fianna warrior Óisín was turned into a doe for not loving him. A messenger of The Dark Man told Sadhbh that should she set foot in the castle (or dún) of the Fianna, the Dark Man would have no power over her. Cue Fionn - he found her in animal form, but brought her back to the Fianna castle as his hounds-turned-people Bran and Sceolan sensed she was a human in animal form. Once back, she became human again. They fell in love and Sadhbh got pregnant, but when Fionn was out fighting Vikings, The Dark Man used false images of Fionn, Bran and Sceolan to entice her out of the castle. She left to meet her husand outside, but just as she reached them the image turned into The Dark Man, who promptly turned her back into a deer. Fionn never saw her again, but found their son in the wilderness.
  • Not villainous, but The Blue Man Group.
  • In Paranormal stories of Shadow People or even Shadow Men, a commonly reported appirition is called The Hat Man seeminly because of a fedora style hat that he is reported to wear.
  • The Abominable Snowman, surely?