Call For Comments: Minor Characters

From Wayne: Ostensibly, every story has a protagonist or two, those characters who we are meant to focus and root for, the focal point through which we experience the story. By definition, anyone else in the narrative is a minor character. So, what we want to talk about here is why do we care so much about them.

Some of it simply because they do add to the story and plot. They give the main character someone to talk to. The audience is given a different point of view by their presence. Many of them are as important, if not more so, than the main character. Dr. Watson chronicles the adventures of Sherlock Holmes because we would have a tough time getting into his head otherwise. Sancho Panza is the common man foil to the lofty madness of Don Quixote. In the midst of dark lords and wizards, grand warriors and otherworldly elves the argument can be made that Samwise Gamgee is the main character in Lord of the Rings.

Awhile back Mav and I had the idea of proposing a collection of academic essays about the second stringers in superhero comics. There’s a never ending supply of work on Batman and Wolverine. What we wanted to see was intelligent commentary on characters where someone like Hawkeye was the most famous example. There’s work to be done on Firestorm, or Nova, or the Red Bee. Well, maybe not the Red Bee. Surely there are lessons to be learned from the also-rans.

We also want to explore the idea that sometimes these background characters assert themselves to such a degree that they take over the narrative. We’re talking about Fonzie and Urkel here, or Squirrel Girl, or Wolverine, Deadpool, and Harley Quinn for that matter. What made these examples rise above their origins and become something entirely different than what was intended?

I have always been drawn to these characters. Back when Marvel published books like Marvel Spotlight and Marvel Premiere they would introduce brand new characters in solo adventures all of the time, simply to try out new ideas (a publication model that would never work today). I looked forward to these one shots of Jack of Hearts and the Torpedo and Monark Starstalker more than I did the new Spider-Man. I’m not sure why, other than even then if felt like the possibility of something new. Most of them weren’t great. Most of them never went on to be anything anyone cared about. I still find myself getting attached to tertiary characters in TV dramas and then disappointed when they don’t get more development (like, why did they even bring Clementine back in season 3 of Westworld if she was only going to get one five minute fight scene and then forgotten?).

Anyway… As someone once said, we’re all minor characters in other people’s live. Who are some of your favorites, and why? Let us know.

6 Comments and 1 Webmention for “Call For Comments: Minor Characters”

  1. I always felt Beast was a minor charecter in the 90s xmen cartoon, didn’t help that he was in prison for a chunk of it. That where I fell in love with big blue fella. I have to go back and watch that series again.

  2. 3rd… hell… 5th Stringers are my bread and butter. The reason I love them so much is because they’re nobodies creators have more of a chance to make those characters grow. Wolverine, no matter how much shit you do to him, is an A list character. He will always revert back to a dude with adamantium claws and a healing factor who is on 20 teams at once. But, the Irredeemable Ant-Man? He’s gonna show up in some books here and there, and then he’ll die and then… that’s it. He’s still dead as far as I’m aware. Most A list characters can’t stay dead longer than a week.

    So, yeah, I guess I like them because there’s just more freedom. They’re blank slates and nobody is gonna care what happens to them or their continuity.

    Some of my personal faves (many who grew up to be A list because of persistent writers):
    Dazzler, Squirrel Girl, Renee Montoya, Jubilee, the Agents of Atlas, Stephanie Brown, Shining Knight, Amethyst, Irredeemable Ant-Man. Any “young adult” character like Runaways, Firestar, Speedball, etc.

    Just to name a few.

    1. Or John Constantine. Supporting character in Swamp Thing to his own spin off. And for one who hasn’t gotten their full shine, Roz Solomon from Jason Aaron’s various Thors.

  3. Probably me favorite is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Zoe as featured in John Scalzi’s “Zoe’s Tale” part of the old man’s war series. On tv, Benson, from Benson. The facts of life spun off Mrs Garret from different strokes. There are so many spinoffs from minor characters on TV.

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