%% Image selected per Image Pickin' thread: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/posts.php?discussion=1301899408077524200
%% Please do not change or remove without starting a new thread.
[[quoteright:250:[[Series/HappyDays http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/HappyDaysPan_161.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:250:Hmmm. Something has changed about who's important enough to be on the cover, and where...]]

->'''Gandy Goose''': Nobody remembers me! Why are you still popular?\\
'''Mighty Mouse''': Well... some of us are built to last!
-->-- ''WesternAnimation/MightyMouse: The New Adventures'', "The Ice Goose Cometh".

What's a writer to do when [[EnsembleDarkhorse a minor character that they created for a show suddenly becomes much more popular than the other members of the cast?]] Why, re-write them as a main character of course!

This is that character. Usually starring in a sitcom, the breakout character quickly grabs hold of the audience's attention and writers take advantage of this energy. Someone who was once a one-note C-character (such as a SatelliteCharacter or a LivingProp) becomes a central part of the regular cast. Often liable to lead to a SpinOff, or be subject to becoming an AdaptationalBadass. Sometimes a breakout character becomes such because they fill a niche in the cast that wasn't previously filled or acts as an impressive foil to [[TheHero the Hero]].

When a character gets a larger, but ''still supporting'', role because of the fanbase, that is simply an EnsembleDarkhorse (which they also are even if they don't get any increased role). AscendedExtra is when a character gains any sort of increased role regardless of the character's popularity (or lack thereof). When a character simply takes over the existing show, see SpotlightStealingSquad.

[[TropesAreTools It isn't always good though]]. Sometimes if a breakout character gets too much screentime they risk making the audience feel that the character is [[WolverinePublicity overexposed]] or worse, become a [[TheScrappy Scrappy]] or a CreatorsPet. Always remember that you still have other characters in the cast who need screen time too and just because one character is extremely popular doesn't mean that the others should always be DemotedToExtra. This pitfall can be avoided by occasionally giving breaks to the breakout. Other characters can get their stories told and their fans will patiently wait for them to reappear in the story and be all the more excited when they do reappear.

Trying to intentionally make a breakout character before they're even introduced to audiences can also lead to some [[HypeBacklash unfortunate results]].

Also see BreakoutVillain, a SubTrope for villain character, and IconicSequelCharacter, a SubTrope for when the Breakout Character in question doesn't appear until a sequel. Compare to BreakupBreakout. Contrast TheArtifact.

* BreakoutCharacter/AnimeAndManga
* BreakoutCharacter/ComicBooks
* BreakoutCharacter/LiveActionTV
* BreakoutCharacter/VideoGames
* BreakoutCharacter/WesternAnimation


* [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8sZ1DWsAHE "¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!"]]
* Geico:
** Although the Geico Gecko was always the main character of his own commercials, he started out as a complainer, annoyed that the company's name was similar to his own, causing him to get calls from prospective customers. When he proved sufficiently popular, he became the company's mascot (justified by a commercial that actually depicts him getting hired by Geico), the focus of most commercials, and, inexplicably, changed accents.
** The Geico Cavemen were so popular they got their own show. Of course, that didn't last very long.
** Maxwell the Pig was first featured in one of the Rhetorical Questions campaigns. He became so popular that he starred in his own series of commercials.
** The Hump Day Camel. Originally intended as a one-off, popular response to the ad he starred in saw him come back for several sequels, including one set in a zoo that heavily Lampshades the original ad's popularity.
* In one campaign, commercials for Capital One credit cards featured rampaging Barbarian hordes, who would mercilessly attack anyone not bearing the correct card. Because Barbarians are more interesting than shoppers, they quickly became the main characters of these commercials, using the cards themselves to stock up for their various acts of mayhem.
* Sugar Bear was one of three identical bears featured on the box of Sugar Crisp. Two of them were removed and the bear that would become Sugar Bear was given a voice.
* In the UK, the character [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleksandr_Orlov_(meerkat) Aleksandr Orlov]], a meerkat, was created to advertise an insurance comparison site called "compare the market.com", presumably based on the idea that "compare the market" and "Advertising/CompareTheMeerkat" sound similar if you say them in a silly accent. The character has become a huge success, spawning his own franchise (books, toys, general merch etc...). He's even been interviewed on a talkshow, despite being a CGI character. His wikipedia page is actually longer and more detailed than that of the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compare_the_Market company he was created to promote.]]
* [[Advertising/TheManYourManCouldSmellLike Isaiah Mustafa, the Old Spice Man]] was initially just one of several Old Spice ads airing on television. The popularity and FountainOfMemes caught on like wildfire, leading Old Spice to launch an entire marketing blitz centered around Mustafa.
* The Carfax Carfox started as a puppet of a shady car dealer. His popularity lead him to become Carfax's mascot.
* In the late '80s, Duracell ran a commercial showing their battery outlasting several competitors at powering a toy. Competitor-brand Energizer realized that their battery wasn't included in the competition, and launched a TakeThat spoof-commercial against Duracell, showing their battery outlasting Duracell in a similar toy. The toy used in both commercials? A mechanical rabbit hitting a drum. Fast-forward to today, and the Energizer Bunny used in that initial spoof has become a valuable mascot that keeps going and going and going...

[[folder:Comic Strips]]
* ''ComicStrip/{{Popeye}}'' - Popeye the Sailor started out as a minor character in ''Thimble Theatre'', which had been running for ''ten full years'' before he was introduced. The strip was originally about the adventures of a money-hungry slacker named Harold Hamgravy, who traveled the world in search of riches. Popeye originally showed up as a generic sailor who was hired by Hamgravy for a treasure hunting voyage. He wasn't supposed to show up again after the end of that story arc. Instead, he ended up becoming so popular that the strip was eventually renamed after him. Poor Hamgravy was demoted to minor supporting character status, and to add insult to injury, Popeye even stole his girlfriend, Olive Oyl!
** This history is lampshaded in the live-action Popeye movie. As the story opens, Olive has just dumped Hamgravy.
*** In fairness, though, Hamgravy is kind of a jerk, and only dated Olive because her family is rich (and would routinely dump her for wealthier women, only to come crawling back after they rejected him.) Popeye, on the other hand, is always true to his lady.
* The very aptly named Opus of ''ComicStrip/BloomCounty'' and its follow-up comic strips was originally a fairly flat gag character, not intended to ever be seen again after his week-long plot was resolved, but fan reaction quickly led the author to make him the main character of the strip.
** Years later, Breathed mused in one of his books about the nature of the breakout character: "You can't design an Opus; they're the sort of characters who come knocking at your door in the pouring rain at 3 in the morning. [The author's] job is to figure out which ones should be let in and allowed to stay."
** Funny thing is, he almost accidentally made another one -- by making the worst possible ''deliberate'' attempt: Bill the Cat. Many long storylines in the later years of the initial strip featured only Bill and Opus, with the rest of the crew having barely more than cameos -- such as the 'Deathtongue' stories.
* ComicStrip/SnuffySmith. He started out as a one-shot character in ''Barney Google'', a comic about a luckless gambler. A 1934 storyline took Google to a hillbilly mountain community called Hoot'n Holler, where he met Snuffy and his family. Google was only supposed to be there for a few weeks, but Snuffy proved so popular that Google permanently relocated there. The comic was renamed "Barney Google and Snuffy Smith" and Google's part in the strip became smaller and smaller, until he was written out altogether. Despite his name being in the title, Google has only appeared in the strip twice in the past 20 years.
** This was actually the second time this had happened to the strip. A decade prior to this, Google's horse, Spark Plug, proved incredibly popular, and ended up becoming the focus of several storylines and a huge amount of merchandise (with the strip temporarily renamed "Barney Google and Spark Plug.") When Snuffy took over the comic, he adopted Spark Plug as his horse.
* First, it was ''Robotman''. Then, it was ''[[ComicStrip/RobotmanAndMonty Robotman... and Monty]]''. Then Robotman got [[PutOnABus put on an intergalactic bus]], and now it's just ''Monty''.
* In the early ''ComicStrip/{{Peanuts}}'' strips, Snoopy acted like an ordinary dog, and wasn't a key character.
* ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_(comics) Nancy]]'' was originally called ''Fritzi Ritz'' and about a flapper. Fritzi became Nancy's Aunt Fritzy, and Nancy and Sluggo took center stage.
* British newspaper strip ''Flook'' (1949-84) featured Flook (a creature) and Rufus (a boy) as main characters. But there was a short period back at the start (before Rufus ''found'' and ''named'' Flook) when the strip was called ''Rufus''.
* Dick Cavalli's ''Morty Meekle'' was eventually taken over by (and renamed after) what was originally a minor character, Winthrop.
* In the early years of ''ComicStrip/FoxTrot'', the strip equally focused on the five members of the family. Come the late 90's, and Jason's pretty much the main character.
* The crocodiles from ''ComicStrip/PearlsBeforeSwine''. Zebra originally contacted his predators through letters in the early days of the strip. Wanting to cut out the middleman, author Stephen Pastis had a fraternity of crocodiles (Zeeba Zeeba Eata) move next door. Their complete incompetence in killing Zebra became the comic's new and most popular RunningGag (besides long, confusing puns, of course).
* Catbert was introduced to ComicStrip/{{Dilbert}} as a one-shot character who tried to eat Ratbert. Fans began asking to see more of Catbert (asking for him by that name, even though he hadn't been given one in the strip) and Scott Adams decided that when [[FanNickname your readers spontaneously name a character for you]], it's a good idea to keep him in the strip. Now Catbert is [[CardCarryingVillain Evil Director of Human Resources]] at Dilbert's company.
* ComicStrip/KrazyKat and Ignatz Mouse were so popular as {{Funny Background Event}}s in ''ComicStrip/TheFamilyUpstairs'' (originally titled ''The Dingbat Family''), that George Herriman gave them their own strip.
* Bill Holbrook
** The first time it happened in a comic was [[PerkyGoth Dethany Dendrobia]] in ''ComicStrip/OnTheFastrack''.
** Before that, in he same strip, it was Wendy Welding who just grabbed the spotlight. And Dethany came long after Samantha (see right below) became a major player.
** The second time was Samantha Argus from ''ComicStrip/SafeHavens'' went from just one of the kids in the (former) main character's [[ArtifactTitle eponymous day care center]] to the strip's central character.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* ''FanFic/ThePerseusAttraction'': Luke Castellan. Luke was originally intended to become the main antagonist, and Percy's rival for Annabeth. However, the breakout of his first real appearance (doing squats in a sword class listening to Noah and the Whale and Katy Perry) quickly gained him recognition among the reviewers. He further solidified his position by making stupid dream appearances with Kronsis throughout the first season, and then when he saved the entire Perseus Attraction main cast by recreating The Princess Bride (as the 'Man in Pink.) By season 3, which covers The Titan's Curse, Luke appears tag teaming the sky with Annabeth, even though he should have no part in the story at all at all, in a typically 'Luke' fashion, making him all but untouchable as the Breakout.
* The SouthOfNowhere story 'Romance on the Set' has an universe example on the show Spencer and Ashley star in with Rachel played by Creator/TaylorMomsen. She starts as a minor character but later becomes a regular and is then PromotedToLoveInterest for Ashley's character
* Electra Pendragon first appeared in Fanfic/JakeEnglishsMysteriousTheaterOfScientificRomanceFromTheYear3000, an MST series with a laughably thin ExcusePlot, as a ParodySue that [[CreatorsPet the author pretended to have an unhealthy obsession with]]. She was surprisingly well-received and ended up becoming a character in the author's next fic, Fanfic/JusticeSocietyOfJapan.
* TD from ''FanFic/TheNonBronyverse'' was originally conceived as the protagonist for a silly one-shot story, but whose popularity (no doubt helped by his DeadpanSnarker tendencies) ended up spawning a full-fledged story, and later an entire series of works.
* ''Fanfic/ChildOfTheStorm'' arguably has several, but the two most prominent are Carol Danvers and [[spoiler: Diana of Olympus, a.k.a. Wonder Woman]], both thoroughly re-imagined, and intended for relatively little: as per WordOfGod, both were thrown in at the last minute, a third and half of the way through the story respectively. They have since become two of the most popular characters in the fic.
** The Winter Soldier is also one, as the fic greatly expands on his internal dialogue, the growing conflict between his Soldier personality and his Bucky personality, as well as his history with Natasha.
* In canon, [[WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic Lightning Dust]] is a one episode foil that serves to show why teamwork trumps solo flying. In the ''Blog/ReadingRainbowverse'', she becomes the center of an ever-increasingly dysfunctional family and the personal target of an EldritchAbomination who dates a changeling.
* ''[[http://archiveofourown.org/works/2675738/chapters/5983319 Anything Her Heart Desires]]'': Ingrid Hanna Andersen. WordOfGod is that she was not only intended to be a very minor character, but was written to be as unimpressive as possible. But if you're writing a "problematic Elsanna" ''Disney/{{Frozen}}'' fic, and Elsa & Anna aren't speaking, someone's going to fill the void. By the end of the story, [[spoiler:Elsingrid.]]

[[folder: Film -- Animated]]
* Franchise/DisneyAnimatedCanon examples, in chronological order:
** Dopey from ''Disney/SnowWhiteAndTheSevenDwarfs''. The personality of Gideon the cat from ''Disney/{{Pinocchio}}'' was completely altered during the film's production to make him more like Dopey in Disney's hopes of capturing the same lightning twice.
** Jiminy Cricket from ''Disney/{{Pinocchio}}'' ended up becoming something of a mascot for Disney due to his popularity.
** Figaro who was also in ''Disney/{{Pinocchio}}'' was one of the earliest Disney characters to become popular outside of the film he came from similar to DonaldDuck. In the mid 40's, Figaro got his own series of shorts and would also become Minnie's pet cat. Figaro is also seen in MickeyMouseClubHouse and the spin-off "Minnie's Bow Toons".
** Jose Carioca from ''Disney/SaludosAmigos'' and ''Disney/TheThreeCaballeros'' became HUGE in Brazil. He was also popular enough in the U.S. to reappear in ''Disney/MelodyTime'' and cameo in ''Disney/AliceInWonderland'', as well as pop up in shorts and TV specials through the 1970s.
** Tinker Bell from ''Disney/PeterPan'' became just as popular as Jiminy Cricket. Tick-Tock the Crocodile is also this, to a lesser extent.
** ''Disney/SleepingBeauty'' has Maleficent. Many of the heroic characters in the movie were shallow and bland by comparison (except the three good fairies, who were essentially the ''real'' protagonists of the movie), but every time the evil fairy showed up, she shamelessly stole the scene. To this day, she is perhaps ''the'' iconic Disney Villain. Maleficent is all over the merchandice, one of [[BestBossEver the most epic bosses]] in the ''Franchise/KingdomHearts'' franchise, and even got [[Film/{{Maleficent}} a movie of her own]] starring Angelina Jolie!
*** Ironically, she was sort of forgotten in the latter half of the 20th Century due to ''Sleeping Beauty'' falling out of focus, perhaps because - besides the more present-day movies - classics like ''Snow White'', ''Bambi'' and ''Pinocchio'' would generally be better known and remembered over the years; not helped by her movie coming out in TheFifties, from where the studio was constantly struggling to keep with the times, or that villains just weren't ''meant'' to be so popular (interesting and likeable, yes, but not popular). The DisneyRenaissance of TheNineties may have either highlighted this (with its memorable revival of the studio) or otherwise helped Maleficent (thanks to both said revival and to the focus on EvilIsCool with the villains), but either way it was ''VideoGame/KingdomHearts'', which made Maleficent the Disney villains' representative in the BigBadEnsemble (for the first two main titles especially), that really caused her popularity to skyrocket in modern times.
** ''Disney/OneHundredAndOneDalmatians'': Cruella de Vil, Cruella de Vil... What does it say that the 1961 animated version treated her simply as the villain, but the '90s live-action films were essentially a VillainBasedFranchise focused on Cruella? In fact, Cruella was the only human character to return in the live-action sequel. Of course, this was compounded by the dogs not talking in the live-action versions, although they still had AmplifiedAnimalAptitude. And in 2018, there's going to be ''Cruella'', a live-action spin-off movie explicitly centered on her. Ironically, the [[Literature/TheHundredAndOneDalmatians original book]] had a sequel in which Cruella only had a small role.
** Baloo from ''Disney/TheJungleBook'' became so popular in the late 1960s that Disney brought his voice actor back to basically play the same character in ''Disney/TheAristocats'' and ''Disney/RobinHood''.
** Marie from ''Disney/TheAristocats''. While Marie is one of the main characters in the film. She started becoming popular in the mid to late 90's replacing Thomas as the character that represented the film. She's also been featured alot in any merchandise for ''The Aristocats''. [[GermansLoveDavidHasselhoff Marie is so popular in Japan]] [[http://www.universohq.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/MiriyaMarieAbril_des.jpg that she even gotten her own one-shot manga "Miriya & Marie"]] where she is the main character and even [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EftIAMsVKgk gotten her own music video.]] Outside of Japan, Disney released a book in 2006 called "Disney Marie" where she and Roquefort visit the famous places in Paris, France. A year later, Disney also released a book with a CD called "Disney Marie A is for Adorable A Fabulous Alphabet" which is a read-along CD which mostly follows any alphabet letter related to Marie, Paris, or anything related to her complete with a BraggingThemeTune titled "Everyone Loves Marie" which serves as the theme and background music for the book. She even gotten a cameo in Creator/RobinWilliams' ''Film/{{Flubber}}'' and a [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7698R5cc2vE remix by D!tto called "Oui Oui Marie" created to promote the Blu-ray released of the film that is focused on Marie]]. [[WhatCouldHaveBeen In fact, Disney was going to make a sequel called]] ''[[WhatCouldHaveBeen The Aristocats II]]'' [[WhatCouldHaveBeen where Marie serves as the main character with her family serving as secondary characters and gains a love interest.]]
** Tigger from ''Disney/TheManyAdventuresOfWinnieThePooh''. He was even given his own [[Disney/TheTiggerMovie non-canon spinoff film]] in the early 2000s.
** Iago from ''Disney/{{Aladdin}}''. His popularity has grown to the point that he's arguably more iconic than Aladdin himself, and he even has a HeelFaceTurn. Only the Genie rivals him in popularity.
** Timon and Pumbaa from ''Disney/TheLionKing''. They got their [[WesternAnimation/TimonAndPumbaa own TV show]], a POVSequel, and have tons of fan art dedicated to them, far more than Simba, Nala or Mufasa get.
** In the animated movie ''Disney/TheEmperorsNewGroove'', Yzma's servant Kronk delivers many of the film's funnier moments. Because of this, and partly because he was voiced by the deep-voiced Creator/PatrickWarburton, Kronk was popular enough among the fanbase to be the main character in the sequel, ''Kronk's New Groove''.
** Stitch from ''Disney/LiloAndStitch''. Creator/ChrisSanders' mischievous blue alien quickly became one of Disney's most iconic characters during Disney Animation's lull in the 2000s, and was heavily promoted throughout the decade, especially in [[Ride/DisneyThemeParks Disney Parks]]. [[GermansLoveDavidHasselhoff He became especially popular in Japan,]] where they even had [[Anime/{{Stitch}} an anime]] made there.
** Disney initially expected that Anna would be the breakout character of ''Disney/{{Frozen}}'' due to her princess status (as Rapunzel had three years earlier), and focused most of their initial marketing push around her. While Anna did become popular, it was her older sister Elsa the Snow Queen and snowman sidekick Olaf who ended up breaking out.
* Chomper from ''WesternAnimation/TheLandBeforeTime'' film series. He was originally just a guest character brought in for the second film. But he proved to be so popular with fans and critics that he was brought back as a supporting character in the fifth film. Eventually, he became a main character in the TV series as well.
* Despite being almost pure comedy relief, the Penguins and King Julian from ''WesternAnimation/{{Madagascar}}'' and its sequel were so obscenely popular that they got their own SpinOff series, ''WesternAnimation/ThePenguinsOfMadagascar'', as well as a film all to themselves ''WesternAnimation/ThePenguinsOfMadagascar''. Nobody really cared that it seemed to take place in a completely AlternateUniverse (there's no feasible way the two series can co-exist) - the characters are just ''that'' awesome.
* Puss in Boots, the swashbuckling feline who became the primary protagonist of the 2011 spin-off prequel ''WesternAnimation/PussInBoots'', was a supporting character who first appeared in ''WesternAnimation/{{Shrek 2}}'' as an assassin on Shrek and Donkey's life before making amends and joining them as a PowerTrio in all the other sequels. Audience and critics alike gave him credit for stealing the show. Even after the Shrek franchise ended, his own popular spinoff has left room for an entirely new franchise focused on him.
* Scrat from the ''WesternAnimation/IceAge'' franchise quickly rose to become the most popular character in the film; he even has a special segment of his own in the first film.
* ''WesternAnimation/FindingNemo'' has Dory. Popular enough to call the sequel ''Finding Dory''.
* The [[SpotlightStealingSquad scene-stealing]] Minions from ''WesternAnimation/DespicableMe'' definitely qualify. They have starred in countless mini-films, dominate the soundtrack, have earned the position of official Mascot of ''Universal Pictures'', and got a feature film of their own in 2015 ''WesternAnimation/{{Minions}}''.
* La Muerte and Xibalba from ''WesternAnimation/TheBookOfLife'', gained a lot of attention for their designs, the former’s loving (but feisty) nature, the latter’s mischievous (but [[JerkWithAHeartOfGold caring]]) nature and their relationship with each other.
* Bing Bong, Riley's [[ImaginaryFriend imaginary friend]] from ''WesternAnimation/InsideOut'' became this because of the crucial role he plays in the film's plot and for being adorable and hilarious. It got to the point where his image was placed on Inside Out merchandise packaging, even if the product was not related to him at all.

[[folder: Film -- Live-Action]]
* Steve Stifler in ''Film/AmericanPie'' starts out as a supporting character, establishing himself as a jerkass who is only interested in sex. In the sequel, he actually gets involved in the main plot, getting much more screen time even though he continues to be the same selfish jerk throughout the entire film. The third movie goes much further, with Stifler as the central character, making the ultimate transition into JerkWithAHeartOfGold, which took up most of the film's plot.
* Punic Wars-era strong man Maciste (played by Bartolomeo Pagano) was the breakout character of the Italian epic ''Film/{{Cabiria}}'' (1914). Pagano reprised his role as the star of 25 Maciste films in the following twelve years, and a further slew of SwordAndSandal films during the 1960s and 1970s starred various other actors in the same role.
* ''Film/{{Clerks}}'' - Jay and Silent Bob are originally bit characters. Smith put them again in ''Film/{{Mallrats}}'' only because he wanted to see Jason Mewes play Jay one more time. According to his blog, he had no idea they were so popular at all until the screening of ''Mallrats'' at 1995 San Diego Comic Con. After that, he felt confident enough to put them as bit characters again in ''Film/ChasingAmy'', to give them a more prominent part in ''Film/{{Dogma}}'', and finally to make a whole movie about them: ''Film/JayAndSilentBobStrikeBack''. And, of course, they made their return in ''Film/ClerksII''.
* ''Film/DazedAndConfused'''s David Wooderson. Originally a more minor character, Richard Linklater was so impressed with Matthew [=McConaughey's=] performance, he ended up writing much more dialogue for him.
* Aldous Snow from ''Film/ForgettingSarahMarshall'' who got his [[SpinOff own movie]], ''Film/GetHimToTheGreek''.
* In the first ''Film/FridayThe13th1980'' Jason was supposed to have [[DeadForReal drowned]] before the events of the film. His mother is actually the killer in this film. However, the writer saw the movie ''Film/{{Carrie 1976}}'' and wanted a shocker ending, so Jason crawls out of the lake at the end of the movie. Sequels would have Jason as the main character, though he did not get his iconic hockey mask until [[Film/FridayThe13thPartIII the third movie]].
* Slimer from ''Franchise/{{Ghostbusters}}'' didn't even have a name in the [[Film/{{Ghostbusters 1984}} original film]], yet he wound up the mascot of the cartoon series and franchise. The third season of the cartoon series was even titled ''Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters''. His semi-official name during production of the first film was Onionhead, but the [[FanNickname fans nicknamed him Slimer]] and it stuck.
* [[AlphaBitch Sharpey Evans]] from the ''Film/HighSchoolMusical'' films, despite being the DesignatedVillain, proved so popular that she ended up getting her own spin-off film in which she's the protagonist.
* Franchise/MarvelCinematicUniverse:
** Agent Phil Coulson is the very definition of this. In the first ''Iron Man'', he had a minor role as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. ''Insanely'' positive fan reaction to his character got his role somewhat expanded in ''Iron Man 2'', and in ''Thor'' and ''The Avengers'' he's one of the central characters. Even [[spoiler:his own death]] couldn't stop him, as he just was [[spoiler:resurrected]] to lead the TV series ''Series/AgentsOfSHIELD''. The guy headlines his own short films, has his own comic book series, and from the looks of it, is getting bigger and bigger.
*** It's worth noting that he's such a fan favorite that he's crossed ''universes.'' His actor had a few minor spots as an FBI agent on Series/TheWestWing and some fan fiction has run with the idea that the characters are actually the same person, and that Phil Coulson was merely undercover in the FBI.
** Film/IronMan fits this because before the movies came out, he was being shifted into the background. He was still a mainline superhero in the Marvel Universe, but people wanted to see everyone else more. Then the movies came out, and suddenly Iron Man is one of the biggest things ever -- to the point that he's overshadowed ''Spider-Man'' in popularity these days.
** While were on the subject of superheroes, Captain America deserves a mention. While he had appeared in his [[Film/CaptainAmericaTheFirstAvenger own movie beforehand]] and had a prominent role in ''Film/{{The Avengers|2012}}'', it wasn't until the success of ''Film/CaptainAmericaTheWinterSoldier'' that Cap rose to became one of the most popular characters in the MCU rivalling, and at times, surpassing Iron Man himself. Case in point for the posters for the original ''Avengers'' movie: Cap was displayed in the background and Tony had center field; however for the posters for ''Film/AvengersAgeOfUltron'', Cap is displayed front and center as the most prominent member of the team.
*** In fact, most of the World Changing events, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, such as [[spoiler: [[Film/CaptainAmericaTheWinterSoldier the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D]] or [[Film/CaptainAmericaCivilWar the Avengers breaking apart]]]] happen in Captain's Films!
** Loki. Despite having previously appeared in ''Thor'', it wasn't until his depiction in ''The Avengers'' that Loki became almost as merchandise-able as the heroes themselves. Suddenly people wanted more of Loki and actor Tom Hiddleston to the point that Target even released their own ''Film/ThorTheDarkWorld'' Blu-ray packaging that features only Loki on the cover.
** When Peggy Carter debuted in the comics, it was to be a TemporaryLoveInterest to ComicBook/CaptainAmerica during his time in UsefulNotes/WorldWarII... and she debuted in TheSixties, [[RetCon long after]] Cap's regular WWII war stories were over. At first she appeared only in {{Flashback}}s (in her first story she wasn't even named!). Under these circumstances, she's rarely been anything more than a SatelliteLoveInterest in the comics. But when ''Film/CaptainAmericaTheFirstAvenger'' came out, since 99% of the film takes place during the War, she naturally had a [[AscendedExtra much bigger role]]. She took center stage in the [[Film/MarvelOneShots Marvel one-shot "Agent Carter"]], which was such a huge hit that it [[SpinOff spun off]] into [[Series/AgentCarter her own regular TV series]]. It's worth noting that the filmmakers have tried to use Peggy in every single (Earth-bound) MCU vehicle after ''The First Avenger''. Creator/JossWhedon wrote a scene for her in ''The Avengers'', and she has cameos in ''The Winter Soldier'', ''Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'', ''Age of Ultron'', and ''Ant-Man''. This character has ''seriously'' resonated with her audience. The fact that the actress playing her isn't prohibitively expensive probably helps this enormously.
* ''Franchise/PiratesOfTheCaribbean'':
** Captain Jack Sparrow. The original intention was for the series to focus on the adventures of up-and-coming pirate Will Turner. Jack was meant to be a freewheeling, accidental mentor, with a large role only in the [[Film/PiratesOfTheCaribbeanTheCurseOfTheBlackPearl first film]]. But Creator/JohnnyDepp ended up re-imagining Jack in such a hilarious, fascinating way that he dominates the first movie. His increased role continues into the sequels until the [[Film/PiratesOfTheCaribbeanOnStrangerTides fourth film]], where he's the only star and the previous main characters are not present.
** Barbossa was originally only meant to be a {{Foil}} and nemesis for Jack in the [[Film/PiratesOfTheCaribbeanTheCurseOfTheBlackPearl first film]], but proved to be so memorable (due to Creator/GeoffreyRush's incredible performance) that the writers decided to [[BackFromTheDead resurrect]] him at the end of the [[Film/PiratesOfTheCaribbeanDeadMansChest second film]], leading him to become one of the main characters in the [[Film/PiratesOfTheCaribbeanAtWorldsEnd third]] and [[Film/PiratesOfTheCaribbeanOnStrangerTides fourth]].
* ''Franchise/StarWars'':
** Han Solo. Creator/GeorgeLucas wanted [[TheHero Luke Skywalker]] to be the hero that everyone else just supports, but the public [[AllGirlsWantBadBoys just went for Han]]. Doesn't hurt that it was Creator/HarrisonFord, even before he was big.
** Even Darth Vader is one of these. In the first movie, he barely even appears, and when he does, he's usually being [[TheDragon subordinate]] to Grand Moff Tarkin. In early drafts of the script, he was even killed in the Death Star trench run, and was never intended to [[ItWasHisSled be Luke's father]]. Fortunately, however, Lucas decided to insert a shot of him escaping as a SequelHook, and he ended up becoming ''the'' big villain of the series, enough to warrant a three-movie-long StartOfDarkness arc.
** Admiral Piett is a more minor example. Viewers found him so sympathetic in Episode V that he was written in to Episode VI to reprise his own role as Admiral of Vader's fleet... and then he dies. (At least he [[GoingDownWithTheShip goes down fighting]].)
** Boba Fett became so popular that a decent chunk of the prequel trilogy's second film was dedicated to his origin story. His father became the sole genetic basis for the Grand Army of the Republic, one of the single most influential factions in the entire saga. He was even digitally added into a restored scene of ''A New Hope'' when Lucas released the Special Editions of the original trilogy. This in addition to his role as a supporting character and protagonist in the Expanded Universe stories, as well as getting his own upcoming anthology film?. All of this is pretty crazy when you realize he has just two lines in Episode V and none in Episode VI.
* Creator/TommyLeeJones' version of Deputy Gerard in ''Film/TheFugitive'' was so popular that he got his own sequel, ''Film/USMarshals''.
* ''Film/TheLostBoys'' - Edgar Frog was merely a supporting character in the first film while Michael was the protagonist. But in the sequels, Edgar becomes the primary focus of the series, predominantly in the third film.
* ''Film/ThePinkPanther1963'' was originally meant to be about David Niven's jewel thief character, with Inspector Clouseau bumbling antagonist. Then a last-minute casting change put Creator/PeterSellers in the Clouseau role, and [[Franchise/ThePinkPanther the rest is history]]. Let's face it, the whole thing ended up turned around. The thief, the antihero, the glamour romance interest and the plot all end up being forgotten in favour of Clouseau. The animated Pink Panther that appeared in the opening credits to the movies ended up as [[WesternAnimation/ThePinkPanther an independent character]].
* Burt Gummer, a supporting character in the original ''Film/{{Tremors}}'', wound up stealing the franchise so completely that the TV series never bothered to give leads Kevin Bacon or Fred Ward so much as a ContinuityNod.
* ''Film/TropicThunder'' - [[TomCruise Les Grossman]], the foul mouthed movie producer has his own movie in the works.
* ''Film/XMenFilmSeries'':
** Wolverine. [[WolverinePublicity Come on, it's Wolverine]].
** Deadpool, sort of. He was already popular among comics fans, but the positive reception to Creator/RyanReynolds's Wade Wilson in ''Origins'' eventually led to Deadpool getting his own feature film, even though ''Origins'''s InNameOnly depiction of Deadpool himself generally rubbed fans the wrong way.
** Quicksilver was a such a crowd pleaser in ''Film/XMenDaysOfFuturePast'' that he was given a larger role in ''Film/XMenApocalypse''.
* The original ''Film/JurassicPark'' made ''[[RaptorAttack Velociraptor]]'' a {{Stock Dinosaur|s}}. It's speculated that ''Film/JurassicWorld'' will do the same for ''[[SeaMonster Mosasaurus]]''. ''Film/JurassicParkIII'' was set up to do this for ''Spinosaurus'', [[AvertedTrope but]] [[ReplacementScrappy it didn't really work]] [[VillainSue out that way]].
* [[Film/StepUp Step Up 2: The Streets]] has Andie's {{Adorkable}} and talented friend Moose who was very popular even with those who didn't like the movie. His actor won a "Best Scene Stealer" award. Moose became a main character in the third movie and the only character who appears in all the films except the first one.

* The Ponson Du Terrial 19th Century saga that came to be known as ''Rocambole'' was originally called ''The Dramas of Paris'', the first book of which was subtitled ''The Mysterious Inheritance''. TheHero was Armand de Kurgas and the BigBad was his half brother and EvilCounterpart Adrea Feliponi aka Sir Williams. Baccarat was a supporting character, not even the most prominent female, and Rocambole was a minor character who only showed up near the end. But those latter 2 characters were the most popular.
** So in the second novel Baccarat becomes the main hero of the story, and is given her own EvilCounterpart in FemmeFatale Torquise, while Rocambole becomes TheDragon. Andrea is still the BigBad but Armand is absent much of the story and seems useless when he is there.
** In the third book Baccarat is still the lead protagonist, now dealing with her Evil Doppleganger half sister. Armand's role is even smaller, Rocambole is DragonInChief to a mute Andrea serving more[[spoiler: and becomes DragonAscendant]].
** Then he gets a HeelFaceTurn and becomes TheHero of the saga with the other main characters phased out all together.
* Slappy, the DemonicDummy of ''Literature/{{Goosebumps}}'' fame, was a minor character in the first ''Night of the Living Dummy'' book, but in the sequels was brought back as the primary villain.
* ''Cthulhu'' in the ''Franchise/CthulhuMythos''. He has very few appearances in Lovecrafts own stories and most of them are very minor references (only ''Literature/TheCallOfCthulhu'' extensively features him), with Yog-Sothoth and Nyarlathotep, as patrons of human sorcerers, being far more prominent. Lovecrafts term for his stories was Yog-Sothothery.
* ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'':
** Samuel Vimes was originally intended to be a minor character in the City Watch sub-series, with Carrot being the major character. Suffice it to say, Samuel Vimes is likely only beaten by Death and the Librarian for the number of books he's in.
** Death. He started out as a joke in ''Discworld/TheColourOfMagic''. He appears in nearly all of the books, sometimes as a main character.
* ''Literature/TheLumatereChronicles'': Froi. He begins as an immoral thief and supreme ButtMonkey who just cannot catch a break, and ''deserves'' it to a degree as well, but he grows on the group of Exiles when [[TheHero Finnikin]] and [[ActionGirl Evanjalin]] save him from slave traders. He begins to speak the language of Lumatere, albeit poorly. Later on, he helps gather the Lumateren exiles from around the continent in order to regain the kingdom and helps to rebuild Lumatere as well. In book two, ''Froi of the Exiles'', he takes center stage and the readers are shown just how much CharacterDevelopment he's gone through.
** In hindsight, Creator/MelinaMarchetta probably ''always'' intended for Froi to be a major character, given how crucial his role in the backstory of Lumatere [[spoiler:and Charyn]] turns out to be, and loads of {{Foreshadowing}} in the first book that the second and third bring to fruition... but that doesn't mean that his complex development over the course of the first book didn't make him a popular character with readers.
* [[Literature/{{Psmith}} Rupert Psmith]] was a supporting character in Creator/PGWodehouse's school-story ''Mike'', but quickly eclipsed the stolid protagonist to become the star of the novel. In later books he is the central character. As Creator/EvelynWaugh wrote: "One can date exactly the first moment when Wodehouse was touched by the sacred flame. It occurs halfway through ''Mike'' ... Psmith appears and the light is kindled which has burned with growing brilliancy for half a century."
* The novels [[Literature/AgentPendergast ''Relic'' and ''Reliquary'']] have Batman-like, super-competent FBI Agent Pendergast as the tertiary main character (who didn't even manage to appear in the film of the book). The authors subsequently made him the main character of their next several books. Note that this wiki's own page for the series even bears his name.
* Reginald "Turnip" Fitzhugh from the Literature/PinkCarnation series by Lauren Willig. In the first few books, he's a very minor character -- young and handsome, but so daft and foppish that no one takes him seriously. He appears in a few society scenes, but has nothing to do with the plot. Turnip was so popular with fans, however, that Willig gave him his own book, ''The Mischief of the Mistletoe''.
* ''Literature/TheIcewindDaleTrilogy'' was originally supposed to be about Wulfgar and his friends, one of whom was a dark elf named Drizzt Do'Urden. The first book is pretty much like this, the second book has everybody pretty much share the spotlight, and by the third book Drizzt has clearly become the star. Salvatore followed up with ''Literature/TheDarkElfTrilogy'', a prequel series which told Drizzt's life story before he met the others, cementing Drizzt's status as TheHero. The greater series as a whole became known as ''Literature/TheLegendOfDrizzt''.
* Literature/AlbertCampion in the series of novels by Margery Allingham. He was originally just a minor character in ''The Crime at Black Dudley'', but Margery Allingham found him so fascinating that he became the lead character in a series of novels.
* ''Literature/InterviewWithTheVampire'' is Louis's story, with Lestat as a villain and supporting character (he's actually absent for a good chunk of the novel midway). But thanks to all the positive feedback he got in Interview, Rice saw fit to not only make the sequel from Lestat's POV, but to pretty much make him the protagonist of the whole damn ''TheVampireChronicles'' series.
* Literature/RamonaQuimby, star of Beverly Cleary's beloved book series started off as a minor character in the ''Literature/HenryHuggins'' series.
* Evvy of the ''Literature/CircleOfMagic'' universe by Creator/TamoraPierce. She was one of the students that the first four protagonists found in their travels, but thanks to her terrible living situation Briar decided to take her with him, whereas the other students were okay where they were and haven't appeared since. Evvy was the protagonist of ''Melting Stones'' in the next series and tritagonist in ''Battle Magic'' with Briar and Rosethorn after that.
* Ridley from ''Literature/TheCasterChronicles'', who was popular enough to get her own spinoff series (''Literature/DangerousCreatures'').
* Literature/WarriorCats features several. Not so much in the series proper, but the [[WarriorCatsNovellas novellas]], Super Editions, and manga, plenty of popular characters get their own adventures. Tigerstar, Graystripe, Crookedstar, Tallstar, Yellowfang, and more have all gotten either novellas, manga, or Super Editions about them.
* Bernice Summerfield was the [[Series/DoctorWho Seventh Doctor]]'s companion for much of the Virgin ''Literature/DoctorWhoNewAdventures''. She ended up getting a popular Creator/BigFinish spin-off, the first Doctor Who companion to do so.
* Creator/RosemaryWells' character [[http://jto.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/p11-wells-a-20140908.jpg Yoko]] first debuted in the 1998 book Literature/{{Yoko}} [[VerySpecialEpisode which deals with racism]]. Like the other characters created by Wells, she was originally going to only show up in one book like the other characters she made in the past. However, Yoko actually started getting popular with readers in the late '90s. As a result, Wells decided to create a new book series in the late '90s titled ''Yoko & Friends'' which brings back other characters from Wells previous books such as Nora from ''Noisy Nora'' and Charles from ''Shy Charles''. Yoko later becomes one of the characters featured in the AnimatedAdaptation of ''Timothy Goes to School''. Years after the animated series ended, Yoko continues to be one of Wells' most beloved characters and new books starring Yoko are still being made by her with the latest being "Yoko Finds Her Way" in 2014.
* Magnus Bane from ''Literature/TheMortalInstruments'' was only meant to have a minor role in the first book of the series, but due to the amount of positive reception by the fans he received an expanded role as both a secondary character and [[spoiler:Alec Lightwood]]’s love interest – appearing in every book in the series. He also went on to appear in the prequel series – ''Literature/TheInfernalDevices'', and got a series of short stories that were told from his perspective – ''Literature/TheBaneChronicles''.

[[folder:Pro Wrestling]]
* Wrestling/BoboBrazil went from lower card attraction whose only notable opponent was Ernie Ladd to top draw in multiple promotions with highly publicized matches against Wrestling/AndreTheGiant and The Sheik.
* ([[{{Heel}} Somewhat]])Popular {{Narcissist}} Wrestling/LexLuger became the successor to Wrestling/HulkHogan after the latter was shamed out of the WWF by Wrestling/{{Yokozuna}}.
* Wrestling's LegionOfDoom had many proven stars in it, including [[Wresling/EdFarhat both]] [[Wrestling/TheIronSheik Sheiks]]. But the entire stable's identity would be completely absorbed by the two least known members at the time of its inception, Wrestling/TheRoadWarriors.
* Wrestling/EddieGuerrero started out as a guy who would wrestle during intermissions and ended up as one of the biggest stars in Mexico as one half of La Pareja Atómica with El Hijo Del Santo in Wrestling/{{CMLL}} then as part Wrestling/{{AAA}}'s of Los Gringos Locos.
* Wrestling/StoneColdSteveAustin started out as part of a tag-team in Wrestling/{{WCW}} with the late Wrestling/BrianPillman called "The Hollywood Blonds". They eventually part ways and Austin became a singles competitor both in WCW and eventually Wrestling/{{ECW}}. When he joined the [[Wrestling/{{WWE}} WWF]] however, his meteoric rise began after the epic "Austin 3:16" speech he made after winning the King of the Ring tournament in 1996. And the rest, as they say, is history.
* While Wrestling/CMPunk has always been an EnsembleDarkhorse, his CareerResurrection in 2011 put him in a whole new level especially when he won his fifth world title, which is also the fifth longest reign in history and the longest since the Hulk Hogan reign of '84 to '88.
* Wrestling/CheerleaderMelissa went from valet(cheerleader) to the Ballard Brothers in All Pro Wrestling and semi regular competitor who usually lost to an undefeated streak in Ultimate Pro Wrestling, tours of Japan and the seizing of APW's Above The Law Title belt, which she would permanently rename the "Future Legend Title". Then she became ranked as the best woman in her profession as Wrestling/{{SHIMMER}}'s champion.
* To the annoyance of wrestling fans many years after the fact, Wrestling/JohnCena on Thursday Night Smackdown, as his rise to super stardom coincided with the loss of most of what made him a star in the first place.
* Wrestling/JimmyJacobs, in IWA Mid-South, All American Wrestling and Wrestling/RingOfHonor. Each being a more extreme case than the preceding. Consider he started as a commentator, one could say this of his wrestling career in general.
* While [[Wrestling/HunterJohnston Delirious]] was always fairly important to the angles of his starting promotion, Gateway Championship Wrestling, in Wrestling/RingOfHonor he was little more than a jobber for higher who got a long term deal because the [=RoHbots=] took an unexpected liking to him. Then worked his way out of jobberdom to feud with Adam Pearce's Hangmen 3, Wrestling/AustinAries and his so called Pantheon of gods and became the aforementioned Jimmy Jacob's enforcer in Age Of The Fall.
* However briefly, Wrestling/DolphZiggler was a main eventer and World Heavyweight Champion after starting out as [[Wrestling/{{Chavo Guerrero Jr}} Kerwin White's]] caddy and a cheerleader in the spirit squad.
* Wrestling/AJLee went from loser of NXT season 3 and borderline jobber to {{spotlight stealing| squad}} general manager of Monday Night Raw and then longest reigning divas champion.
* Jimmy Havoc after Wrestling/{{Progress Wrestling}} made him their top heel several other companies in England started to use him in a similar way to the point at that one point in 2015 he held 5 different companies championships at the same time.
** Will Ospreay has become popular among internet fans recently. Although this popularity started due to a match he had in Pro Wrestling Guerilla, many have now seen his work in Progress and have nothing but good things to say about him.

* Creator/DouglasAdams originally intended Marvin the Paranoid Android to be a one-off character in the ''Radio/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy''; he supposed that there were only so many jokes you could get out of a robot with [[TheEeyore Eeyore-like depression]]. He's the most popular and well-remembered character in the franchise to the point he's considered the SeriesMascot.
* Hey, man, this is Donnie Baker. I was a know-nothin' redneck that owned a boat and worked as a stockboy under that dumbass Randy. Then I started callin' ''TheBobAndTomShow''. Now the chicks can't keep their hands off my pork rind. I swear to God they can't.
* Karl Pilkington, from ''The Ricky Gervais Show'', for a real life example. Originally the show was just a vessel for Ricky Gervais and his partner in crime Stephen Merchant. Then they discovered the machinations of their producer's mind and the entire thing changed gear. Karl Pilkington quickly became the focus of the show, and his thoughts (and mad stories) have since been compiled into books, and even a TV series.
* Radio/{{The Adam Carolla Show}}:
** David Alan Grier when he's a guest. Particularly his impression of R and B singer Teddy Pendegrast, which usually involves a skit of him coming into the studio to lay down backing vocal tracks (with Adam acting as producer) and him going off into obscene sexual tangents.
** Recently, comedian Jo Koy's "Bung Lu Soo" character (aka "The Rooster"), who has evolved from his "generic Asian guy accent" bit. He's constantly trying to join old 70s bands and goes on weird tangents. When he's not trying to join musical acts, he's the host at PF Chang's, not allowing Adam to sit down despite his reservation.
*** Jo seems to have another hit on his hands with "Brown Sugar" a literal box of brown sugar trying to live in the pantry, only to be denied by the other spices due to his "ethnicity."
* ''AudioPlay/BigFinishDoctorWho'':
** Charlotte Pollard the Edwardian Adventuress. She was the 8th Doctor's main companion in the monthly audio series and ended up getting her own spin-off. She has finally become a CanonImmigrant, one of the most popular DW companions, and is now in DW Legacy.
** The Eighth Doctor himself. Given that he has only two TV stories, there was a huge gap to be filled and Big Finish created a complex Doctor with whom they can basically do anything they want.

[[folder: Roleplay]]
* A number of examples from ''Roleplay/DinoAttackRPG'':
** Trouble was intended by [=PeabodySam=] to be a one-off character who would only appear in a very short scene. Trouble ended up becoming popular enough to become Rex's personal [[TheLancer Lancer]]. When Trouble was suddenly subjected to ChuckCunninghamSyndrome, other players eagerly awaited his return. [[spoiler:They ultimately got their wish when Trouble came BackForTheFinale and was given a DyingMomentOfAwesome.]]
** Kat was introduced by Jackson Lake as an AffirmativeActionGirl. As a response to her unexpected popularity, Kat was elevated to a higher level of prominence and given far more character development, especially starting with the [[UndergroundLevel Goo Caverns]] StoryArc.
** Dr. Alan Pierce was first brought in as a seemingly random extra who existed for no other purpose than to heal Zenna after she got into a nasty accident. Not only did he go on to become a major character in the RPG and one of Atton Rand's most popular characters, but his popularity also led to the Dino Attack Team's medical wing being brought to the forefront and being a focus for drama as opposed to simply a place for wounded agents to be healed.
** A number of RedShirt characters, such as Hertz and Zelda Frodongan, were able to survive and graduate to MauveShirt status before ultimately becoming important members of the cast thanks to their popularity.
* From ''Roleplay/{{AJCO}}'': Cameo Vincenti was brought in mostly to help bolster the numbers of AJCO, which were rapidly becoming insignificant when compared to the expanding Castle Crew. They eventually wound up becoming the driving force of the first truly structured story arc, rekindling A_J's interest in the Void, developing the concept of the Void linking worlds and prompting Egg's shift from a LovableCoward into a CrusadingLawyer.
** The angelic mayor Kaja of Katton also became very important very quickly, being a rare NeutralGood in a world of GreyAndGrayMorality. Her village consisted of only herself and Crez in the arc she was introduced in, and following the conclusion of the Silo arc is now the largest in terms of numbers (housing roughly ten characters, which is two more than the titular AJCO).
** Arguably Egg as well. She was an insignificant yes-woman when she first arrived, a cowardly background worker of AJCO. She gained a little more time in the spotlight after the creation of the Castle Crew, but rocketed into main character position following [[spoiler: Cameo's death]] and the unveiling of her status as a prosecutor. She's been involved in every arc finale as a key player -- she is the only non-State character to have this status.
* ''Roleplay/PersonaRequisAeterna'' has this a gameplay mechanic; the more interest the [[PlayerCharacter players]] show in an [[NonPlayerCharacter NPC]], the bigger and important that NPC's role becomes.

* The popularity of Sir John Falstaff in ''Theatre/HenryIV, parts I and II'' inspired Creator/WilliamShakespeare to write a play around the character, ''The Merry Wives of Windsor'', making this OlderThanSteam.

[[folder:Visual Novels]]
* Kotori Shirakawa was one of the heroines in ''VisualNovel/DaCapo'', though both Nemu and Sakura were more important characters to the 'real' plot of the story. However, Kotori proved to be extremely popular and landed not only a clear expy in [[VisualNovel/DaCapoII the sequel]] but also numerous fan discs and side stories to satisfy all of her fans.
* The two Archer servants from ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'' are this:
** Archer, the Servant of Rin Tohsaka, only comes to prominence in the second of three routes in the game, but he has more fans then the main character. [[spoiler: Though funnily enough, he ''[[FutureBadass is]]'' the main character.]] He has since appeared in almost every spinoff, including as a playable servant in ''VideoGame/FateExtra'' and its sequel ''Fate/Extra CCC''.
** Gilgamesh is also in a similar boat, only becoming a main antagonist in one route. However, he has since appeared as a major antagonist in the prequel ''Anime/FateZero'', as a playable servant in ''Fate/Extra CCC'' and as a main character on ''LightNovel/FateStrangeFake'', among other roles.

[[folder: Web Animation ]]
* ''WebAnimation/HomestarRunner''
** Strong Bad, the cartoon's rival/villain is even more popular than the title character.
** Homsar, who started off as a OneShotCharacter that's purely there to help make fun of a [[RougeAnglesOfSatin misspelling of Homestar's name]] in the second [[FourthWallMailSlot Strong Bad Email]], but has since became one of the core characters of the series.
*** Senor Cardgage, Stinkoman, Trogdor, and Teen Girl Squad started as jokes in sbemails, and the latter now have [[WebAnimation/TeenGirlSquad their own page.]]
* ''WebAnimation/BravestWarriors'' has Catbug. An adorable [[MixAndMatchCritters cat with a ladybug shell and wings.]] Fans ''loved'' the cute little critter. He's basically the series mascot at this point, and even outshines the Bravest Warriors themselves in popularity.
* ''Machinama/RedVsBlue'' has Caboose. His [[TheDitz idiotic nature]] and [[CloudCuckooLander childish randomness]] caused many fans to get attached to him. It helps that Caboose has gotten a lot of scenes in later seasons, being one of the more frequently seen characters of the Blue team to appear.
* Velvet Scarlatina the Australian-accented bunny girl of ''WebAnimation/{{RWBY}}'' was intended as a one-off character for Volume 1 to demonstrate [[FantasticRacism the social challenges faced]] by the [[LittleBitBeastly Faunas]]. [[TheWoobie For obvious reasons]], the fandom reaction was extremely strong, so much so that she later became a recurring character with her own team, CFVY, and the show's creators held a fan contest to submit a costume design. [[spoiler:Velvet even becomes a ChekhovsGunman in Volume 3, when she unknowingly hands Ruby information which reveals Mercury and Emerald's machinations and proves Yang's innocence. She also gets her own fight scene, where she more than holds her own against two Paladins at once.]]

* Ray and Roast Beef from ''Webcomic/{{Achewood}}''. Originally two of a trio of cats (along with Pat) who fancied themselves "the dirtiest dudes in town" and basically existed to be a bad influence on Phillipe. So interchangeable were they in the early years that Beef was billed simply as "the other cat," notable only for being "not Ray, and not Pat." But soon the three of them began to develop their own personalities, the trio became a duo (with Pat evolving into a sanctimonious vegan) and the strip began to revolve around the friendship between laid-back Ray and eternally depressed Beef.
* The little blue thing in ''Webcomic/SomethingPositive'' was simply a one-off joke for ''Life with Rippy'' until...well...fans started ''liking'' the bastard. He'd eventually become Kharisma's imaginary "NEW FRIEND!" What the hell were the fans thinking?
** Probably the same thing they were thinking with Rippy ''himself''...who was a one-shot one-panel gag in S* P, and he'd eventually get his own gag series.
* Loopy church-girl Joyce stole the spotlight in ''Webcomic/{{Roomies}}'', with most storylines centering around her. Willis tried to write her out by having her [[PutOnABus inducted into secret alien-fighting organisation SEMME,]] but it backfired. Once SEMME was in the picture, Willis found it more interesting than the college life premise, and ''Webcomic/ItsWalky'' was the result. She then ''stole the spotlight again'' in ''It's Walky!'', as the strip mutated from being primarily about Walky to being primarily about Walky and Joyce's relationship.
** Both Mike and Robin were relatively minor characters in ''It's Walky''; Robin was only introduced halfway through, and while Mike was there from the beginning, his role was later reduced by transferring him to a different squad. However, come ''Webcomic/{{Shortpacked}}'', both are members of the primary cast--in fact, Willis knew his next project would be ''Shortpacked'', and decided to lay the groundwork early, creating Robin to spin her off and deliberately [[LateArrivalSpoiler killing Mike]] to cause confusion when he reappeared. (come ''Webcomic/DumbingOfAge'', emphasis on both is heavily reduced, Robin moreso than Mike) .
* Fox and Collin from ''Webcomic/FriendlyHostility'' were originally minor characters on the author's previous webcomic, ''Webcomic/BoyMeetsBoy''. Now that ''Friendly Hostility'' is over, the writer's started ''Other People's Business'' which has Leon, a minor character from ''Friendly Hostility'' as a major character, and Collin reduced to the background.
* The [[Webcomic/MSPaintAdventures Midnight Crew]] originally started as {{Evil Counterpart}}s of the ''Webcomic/ProblemSleuth'' characters that appeared in a few non-canonical strips drawn for donations. They became so popular that they started appearing frequently as a ShowWithinAShow in ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'', then became [[InteractiveFiction playable]] during an Intermission arc between Acts 3 and 4.
** Said intermission is ''canon'' - the Midnight Crew are the exiles of the Trolls, who are {{Breakout Character}}s in their own right.
** They also have counterparts in the kids' session. Spades Slick's counterpart / alternate universe past self, Jack Noir, ultimately became one of the most active antagonists.
* In ''WebComic/DeadOfSummer'', the integration of Music/TheProtomen was secondary, as originally, the characters in Book 2 were going to be just a group of people who lived underground. The Protomen's willingness to be in the comic, however, suddenly gave these people names and faces. They soon became major characters, and have drawn many fans to the site for the sole reason that they're the Protomen.
* Zexion in ''Webcomic/AnsemRetort'' became increasingly more popular in Ansem Retort, to the point that Season 3 revolved entirely around him. Nearly everything in the comic ends up focusing on him and/or Axel
* Arthur the duck and Gramp in ''Webcomic/{{Sheldon}}''. ''Weeks'' can go by without seeing the title character.
* Zig Zag from ''WebComic/SabrinaOnline''. A decade after her introduction, she's gone from "just Sabrina's boss" to being just as prominent a character as Sabrina herself.
** Yeah, but Zig Zag was invented by Max Blackrabbit, a friend of ''Sabrina'' creator Eric Schwartz, and was already established with a backstory and porn career when Schwartz asked to use her. She's more of a permanent crossover character, and was pretty well destined to rub up against Sabrina in the way that she does.
* Kel from ''Webcomic/RoguesOfClwydRhan''. She first appeared as indentured servant to the Green Knight, joined the Rogues when they overcame him, and spent a year or so snarking in the background (with stringy hair) before growing a personality (and nice head of ginger locks), and becoming one of the principal characters.
* [[BigBad Helmeted]] [[Webcomic/BobAndGeorge Author]]. Did you know that he wasn't originally even a character to begin with? When he first appeared, he was supposed to be just [[AuthorAvatar THE Author]] [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin with a helmet]]. The Dave just decided to give him [[SpinOff his own comic]]. Helmeted Author Quips were so popular that [[FanNickname Helmut]] [[spoiler:became the BigBad of the series, eventually possessing Bob]].
** Mynd, Chadling and [[GratuitousNinja Mike]]. They were originally just villains that a fan requested. However, [[ItWasHisSled Chadling betrayed Mynd]] and after the storyline, all three became [[WolverinePublicity so popular]] that Mike became the narrator of the Second Party. Later he was resurrected by Mega Man and Bass. Then he got an EvilCounterpart from EvilOverlord Mike AKA Ninja Ned. Mynd himself became [[spoiler: one of Bob's three evil minions]].
* The photo webcomic [[http://www.tfw2005.com/boards/transformers-funnies/377267-hearts-plastic-life-times-transformer-toys.html Hearts of Plastic]] has seen several breakout characters, including Ratchet, Bill Cosby's Floating Head, and Grimlock. But the biggest is Baby Clouder, the son of DoubleDealer and Arcee. Clouder went from a very minor character introduced in Season 2 to being one of the leads to being the most popular character in the comic. This may or may not be related to Clouder going from being a simple baby to [[GooGooGodlike becoming the most powerful being in the universe]].
* ''Webcomic/StringTheory'': Marcus was first intended to be one-time-only, but fans liked him so much the artist decided to make him a recurring character.

[[folder: Web Original ]]
* ''[[Franchise/TheSlenderManMythos The Slender Man]]'' took off by means of this trope. Originally, there was (and still is) a thread on the Website/SomethingAwful forums devoted to photoshopping normal photos with ghosts or monsters hidden somewhere in there, with one intent being to dupe real life paranormal organizations. Eventually, one member posted two photos of a tall, thin man [[TheBlank with no face]] who had tentacles instead of arms. [[FanNickname Slendy]] gradually took over the thread because he was, more than any of the other ghosts and monsters, genuinely terrifying, and thus, a legend was born.
* ''WebVideo/TheAnnoyingOrange'' sprung forth two adorable characters ''Marshmallow'' and ''Midget Apple'', who were both introduced as minuscule, supporting characters in their first videos (esp. Midget Apple who only got one line), but grew to become two of the most iconic, beloved characters of the series.
* ''WebVideo/TheSpoonyExperiment'' - Dr. Insano started as a one-off character in a [[WebVideo/AtopTheFourthWall made-up 'Previously On' montage]]. He was brought back in [[Creator/NoahAntwiler Spoony's]] ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVIII'' review series, and now he's one of the most popular and iconic characters among Website/ThatGuyWithTheGlasses' repertoire.
* In ''TheLazerCollection'', Doctor Octogonapus made a single appearance. The sequel has him making several appearances, and in the third, there's an actual storyline and he's the antagonist.
* [[RidiculouslyCuteCritter Catbug]] only appeared in three episodes of ''BravestWarriors''' first season, but by the season's finale he's easily the most popular with its fanbase. And with a seemingly expanded role in the upcoming Season 2 ''and'' a web short just for him, the folks at Cartoon Hangover are very aware of this.
* ''WebVideo/TheLizzieBennetDiaries'':
** It has Lydia Bennet. In the book this is inspired of, she is shown as an irresponsible HormoneAddledTeenager who jeopardizes her family's future and her sister's chances of happiness for a hunk. The series highlights both her FreudianExcuse (her mother is obsessed with men and thinks that no happiness or self-worth could be really found without a loved one, and she receives no attention from her [[AloofBigBrother Aloof Big Sisters]]) and her more sympathetic traits (she's almost in love with the things she has a passion for, making her vibrant and genuine, her talent for getting things to go her way is both innocent and hilarious and she has no idea of what she is doing). Plus, she is a FieryRedhead played by the adorkable Creator/MaryKateWiles. On the flip side, she [[spoiler: becomes TheWoobie. ]] She was very popular with the fans, but she was obviously an interesting character to the writers who gave her lots of opportunities to shine. She even had her own spin-off vlog.
** Bernie Su, one of the head writers and directors of the show, frequently described Charlotte Lu as his favourite character. Charlotte Lucas of ''Literature/PrideAndPrejudice'' was voice of reason and close friend to book Lizzy, but her role was made much more important in the vlog.
* Flora has become this in the small franchise of play-by-post role-plays and stories spunoff from ''[[http://z7.invisionfree.com/thegangoffive/index.php?showtopic=12689&st=0 Into the Black]].'' Not only is she the only character to migrate forward from the [[CanonDisContinuity maligned]] sequel ''Racing the Storm'', she stars in the sequel and ''Racing's'' epilogue is spent entirely delving into her backstory. She also appears in many of the expanded universe stories and was even ported into the alternate-universe ''Blanking the Slate'', the only character to do so who didn't originate from the original role-play.
* Nappa from ''WebVideo/DragonBallZAbridged'' is a character who was so popular, that the creators of the series brought him back as a ghost after he died, and he even got [[LetsPlay/TwoSaiyansPlay a shared internet series with Vegeta]].
--> '''Nappa''': I am hilarious and you will quote everything I say.
* Creator/AchievementHunter became this for Creator/RoosterTeeth. Outside of ''Machinima/RedVsBlue'' and ''WebAnimation/{{RWBY}}'', most videos people hunt down are dedicated to the six-eight man team of nutcases.
** For the AH crew themselves, there's Team Lads (Creator/MichaelJones, Creator/GavinFree, and [formerly] Creator/RayNarvaezJr) and Ryan Haywood.