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There are two parallel definitions of a gimmick:
- A cheat; either a method of doing something that appears impossible, or some device used for cheating.
- A feature that distinguishes something (in this case, a character or series) from the competition (with strong connotations of not adding any functionality or value).
This is about that second, as applied to characters.
The power of sheer gimmickry, when properly used, cannot be underestimated; a properly executed gimmick can make a character truly memorable.
Most common in Comic Books and Professional Wrestling, but can show up elsewhere. See also Idiosyncrazy, for when a character's gimmick is driven by his insanity, rather than out of universe considerations.
- Batman's gimmick 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 Gimmick: 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 gimmick 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 gimmick: 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.
- Jake "The Snake" Roberts, whose gimmick was being a Complete Monster. And having a snake.
- Prolific in the late '80s and early '90s WW
FE, when every character would be gimmicky. See Wrestling Doesn't Pay for examples.
- 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.