|The A-Team is a group of ex-United States Army Special Forces who, at the end of the Vietnam War, were convicted of a crime they did not commit and managed to escape from the military police. As fugitives, the A-Team work as soldiers of fortune, using their military training to fight oppression or injustice. Hannibal, along with B. A. Baracus, Templeton "Faceman" Peck, and H. M. Murdock make up the A-Team.|
In the pilot episode ("Mexican Slayride: Part 1"), Hannibal is described as follows by a reporter colleague of Amy Allen: "The leader [of the A-Team] is a Colonel named John Smith. But everybody calls him Hannibal. The guy has a very unorthodox style." Smith takes his name from the famous military commander, and strategist, as alluded to by B.A. Baracus in the same episode. He is distinguished by his unflappable demeanor, even when in peril, his constant cigar-smoking, his black leather gloves, and his many comic disguises. He is a master tactician (although his plans rarely turn out as they are supposed to; when asked if she thought this was going to work, Amy Allen summed it up by saying, "Hannibal's plans never work right. They just work.") and seems to have a plan for getting the team out of any situation they get into. His favorite catch phrase is, "I love it when a plan comes together".
He fought in both the Korean and Vietnam wars and achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel - keeping with US Army Tradition, he is most often referred to simply as "Colonel". Thriving on adventure and the adrenaline rush of life-threatening situations (or being "on the jazz", as the rest of the team refers to it), he seems to genuinely enjoy every challenge they encounter. He is renowned by both allies and enemies for being cool-headed and extremely clever. There is rarely a situation where he is not able to smile in the face of adversity. He will usually light up a cigar when he needs to do some thinking — often when coming up with a plan, and in the heat of a dangerous or exciting moment. He is also often seen putting on his gloves when he senses the action is about to pick up (such as a fist fight breaking out). When captured by their enemies, he will deliver flippant or sarcastic remarks. He regularly dispenses aphorisms, especially to their foes, upon defeating them. He also has some medical skills which he picked up when in Vietnam.
He styles himself a "master of disguise", though his skill lay not so much in how convincing his disguise was, but in his ability to assume any role and convince others that his role is genuine. Most episodes begin with the prospective clients coming to meet the A-Team, and instead, being introduced to one of Hannibal's comic aliases. Hannibal uses his various disguises to screen all the A-Team's potential clients to assure they were not fronts for the military—sometimes playing more than one at a time. Clients often make reference to a "Mr. Lee", the owner of a Chinese laundromat who tells them where to meet the team.
Hannibal is also an aspiring actor, playing monsters in low-budget horror movies (being a fugitive, he can only choose roles in which his face cannot be seen). His many roles include "Gatorella", "Killgator" and his most famous, "The Aquamaniac". Naturally, Hannibal secures his roles playing his own agent; somehow always 'eluding' the Producer of his true identity.
In the recent movie adaptation, Hannibal is portrayed as a character who, though still tactically brilliant and capable of making a plan come together, is not quite as unflappable as his TV counterpart. In fact, due to the betrayal nature of the storyline (the film concerning the "crime they did not commit"), Hannibal is often shown as angry and intense- indeed, the team's conviction by military court visibly affects him - though his penchant for wisecracks is still prevalent. This could have something to do with the fact that the conviction is extremely recent for the movie Hannibal, while for the TV character, at least ten years have passed since it happened. The character doesn't don any disguises in the film, instead leaving that arm of business to Face, the only exception being at an airport when the A-Team is flying from Germany to Los Angeles, in which Liam Neeson (who played Hannibal in the film) disguises as his real-life normal appearance. The cigar smoking was also kept intact despite Neeson being an ex-smoker who kept his personal preferences aside for the role. Hannibal shows considerable leadership abilities, attempting to take the A-Team's full blame for their alleged crime, and breaking them out of prison when they reject it. But, he steps back and lets Face plan the final mission, a decision B. A. regrets.