Signature Trait

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(Redirected from The Gimmick)

A Signature Trait -- sometimes called "a gimmick" -- is a feature that distinguishes a character from the competition (with strong connotations of not adding any functionality or value). The sheer power of such a trait, when properly used, cannot be underestimated; a properly executed Signature Trait can make a character truly memorable.

The true definition of a Signature Trait is if an Alternate Universe or Continuity Reboot equivalent (or a Captain Ersatz) isn't "really" that character without the trait, then that's this.

Most common in Comic Books and Professional Wrestling, but can show up elsewhere. See also Idiosyncrazy, for when a character's Signature Trait is driven by his insanity, rather than out-of-universe considerations.

Because this is also called a "gimmick" it is not to be confused with Gimmick, a trope about encrustations added to a work in the process of overhyping it.

Examples of Signature Trait include:

Comic Books

  • Batman's Signature Trait in the Justice League is either his detective skills, or his sheer intellect.
  • Batman's Rogues Gallery is filled to the brim with these. To name some particularly famous cases:
    • The Joker provides an example of how far you can go without going outside your Signature Trait: outside of the Silver Age, he defines the human version of the Complete Monster Monster Clown. Within the Silver Age and Silver Age styled settings, he's merely a prankster Villainous Harlequin.
    • The Riddler, in some versions, is actually an interesting case, in that his trait is also explicitly his motivation and downfall: His superiority and inferiority complexes are such that he has to leave clues, to prove that he's smarter then everybody else.
    • Most Batman villains are like this to either a small extent (Catwoman is fond of going after cat-related valuables) or a huge extent (the Riddler as previously mentioned). Appropriately, Two-Face can't seem to decide whether his theme is opposites or the number two. Maybe he should just flip for it.
  • Toyman is an excellent example of a character whose only real continuity between versions is his Gimmick.
  • An example of a poorly implemented Signature Trait: Paste-Pot Pete. (Pete later changed his name, because it was too silly, even for the Silver Age.)
  • Spider-Man's gimmick, in universe, is his spider theme (less important) and sharp wit (more important); but out of series, his gimmick is One of Us: he's an average person who got hit with the superpower stick, and now has an extra set of responsibilities.
  • Captain America's gimmick is Patriotism and embodying the American Fighting Spirit.
  • Green Arrow has a whole Robin Hood and Bow And Arrow gimmick going.
    • As well as his very outspoken left-wing political views, which, since the '70s, have been a defining character trait of his.
  • The Flash's Rogues Gallery was full of gimmick themes with obvious names: Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Captain Boomerang, Mirror Master, Rainbow Raider, The Top (In that he spun like one).
  • The Punisher's willingness to kill and torture bad guys.


  • Nero Wolfe was best known for solving cases while never leaving his house. His narrator, Archie Goodwin, did all of the relevant legwork; the combination of the the Hard Boiled-styled detective and the very Defective Great Detective was the gimmick of the series as a whole.

Professional Wrestling

Video Games

  • Monster Rancher differentiates itself from other Mons Series in that you can create monsters to raise by "unlocking" them from CDs or DVDs that you already own.