Ensemble Darkhorse / Web Comics

  • Midoribom a.k.a. Racer from Bomberman Land Parody is quite popular despite only appearing in that one comic in the entire Bomberman fandom. He is featured the most though
  • Roast Beef, Ray and (to a lesser extent) Pat from Achewood were originally part of "The Dirtiest Guys in Town," a group of nondescript cats who hung out together in early arcs. Ray and Roast Beef later became the main characters of the strip and Pat a notable supporting character.
  • Fail-Druid and Rob from Ctrl+Alt+Del, despite the fact that they're supposed to be annoying, are the most beloved characters in the series.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • Sasha. Riff's girlfriend for under two years out of the strip's 10+ year run, enjoyed lasting popularity despite not making any in-continuity appearances between mid-2002 and mid-2009.
    • There was also Bert, Torg's artist friend with a disturbing obsession with crotches. He proved to be so popular, his life was spared in the KITTEN arc, which was written with the full intent of killing off a bunch of secondary characters. He was eventually killed off in the KITTEN II sequel arc, but still lasted much longer than originally intended, and even returned for a while as a ghost.
    • Crushestro, one of the villains introduced in the "Paradise" arc, gained significant popularity due to his over-the-top mannerisms. He made a reappearance for another Breather Episode. He then later ended up teaming up with Torg to fight Bestseid.
  • I think its safe to say that the only reason people still read Sinfest is because of Fuchsia and Criminy and maybe Lil'E and Tang.
  • Branch, from Home On The Strange. This is how she started out - as a person even the other characters couldn't stand. A more unlikely Ensemble Dark Horse has never been seen, but exactly one sentence of Character Development made her The Woobie and a fan favorite.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Originally, Nale was supposed to be the only member of the Linear Guild who survived their encounter with the Order. But fans latched on to the Psychopathic Man Child Thog, so Rich Burlew made him (and Nale's girlfriend Sabine) recurring villains.
    • Thog's status received lampshading here.
      Tarquin: It's weird, no matter how many people he kills, the audience still thinks he's lovable.
    • Then there's Memetic Badass O-Chul.
    • Fans love Memetic Bystander That Guy With A Halberd.
    • Daigo and Kazumi Kato, formerly Soldier #1 and Soldier #2.
    • The MitD (Monster in the Darkness) is a fan fave.
    • The Booted Wight, Tsukiko's right hand minion (and the unofficial face of her undead mooks) is quite popular.
  • The Wotch:
    • Cassie SinClair seems to have a much bigger following than main character Anne Onymous, despite her appearances in canon being rather sporadic.
    • This is probably due to shipping: Robin/Cassie is much more popular than Robin/Anne. Also, her sporadic appearances seem to help her avoid the Idiot Ball.
    • In a less typical example, despite the main comic making Jason's receiving of a Gender Bender as a major running gag it seems to be more popular in fan work to apply it to Robin instead.
    • Robin makes the cuter girl. Or maybe it's just because Jason's transformations were being overdone at this point.
  • Zexion from Ansem Retort is a prime example of this trope. Originally planned to be the straight man to Axel, he gradually became more of the jerkass, and his popularity grew with it. By Season 2, his gradual descent into being a jackass had become a free fall. His popularity grew to the point that Season 3 focused entirely on him, he's featured in the intro image to the website, and is arguably the most popular character in the entire series.
  • A Darkhorse Race would be the Jägers in Girl Genius. Originally amusing background characters, they were so popular that they became a major plot element, and 4 joined the main cast. More specifically, Da Boyz, a trio of Jägermonsters sent to find a remaining Heterodynes (plus Jenka). Also the Girl Genius Wiki has a suprising amount of support for the nyar spider, a small spider that appears in one comic, wraps up a bad guy for dinner, and is promptly squished. People were oddly happy when it turned out this was a species, not an individual.
  • Questionable Content:
    • Steve really only exists to give Marten a male friend, but he has a loyal following that wonder what he's up to during his long absences from the comic. When the answers are like this, it's no wonder.
    • The fourth-wall breaking filler character "Sweet-Tits" became an instant favourite, despite only appearing twice and never being coloured or given a proper name.
    • According to the results of a "most popular character" poll, the most popular character (by far, scoring twice as many votes as the runner up) is... ...Hannelore! It surprised the hell out of the author.
  • Kamikaze Kate from Misfile has managed to be far more popular than her number of appearances would seem to warrant.
  • Ozy and Millie has had a handful of one-shot, or even one-panel, characters who gained a fandom. They include Edwin the clueless juror, Emily the schoolgirl skunk, and Stevie the black cat. The latter two have reappeared on occasions when the cartoonist needed extra students, but they remain Flat.
  • Doctor Hot from Checkerboard Nightmare. The author rolled with it and expanded his role, to further fan approval, but that didn't mean he had to like it. As his cast page describes him:
    Hacky, sensationalist TV pop psychologist who appeared in ONE LOUSY PANEL whose single-word catch phrase has been adopted by "Checkerboard Nightmare" fans.
  • Irregular Webcomic!:
    • We have the Allosaurus. He first appeared infrequently, but after fans grew very attached to him he started being more commonly featured, his growing popularity eventually led to a successful presidential campaign. He also has the distinction on of being one of the few characters that invariably prompts mass-hacking into the popularity polls.
    • In a fan poll, the most popular character was... Death of Insanely Overpowered Fireballs, surpassing by a wide margin even the author, Steve, and Draak.
  • Dominic Deegan:
    • We have Caylin Bren, evil blonde leader of The Chosen. Caylin's head got exploded by Luna, but there's just enough evidence suggesting he could have lived through it that it didn't quiet his fans. He was also written into the maligned Snowsong story arc, appearing in several flashback strips. Bren's popularity appears to have waned over time.
    • Later the Ensemble Dark Horse of the series became Punchy McStonefist, the dwarf who everyone remembers for punching Dominic in the balls, followed by the Time Abyss Magnificent Bastard Rilian (who arranged for the aforementioned ball-punching as a Secret Test of Character), Bort the Mongrelman, and Gerald, a smiley face made of newspaper clippings that acts as Quilt's Companion Cube.
  • Katherine from Wapsi Square, a fairly minor supporting character, developed a fanbase rivaling most others, prior to the major shift in subject and tone. Fan demand led to her being one of the few supporting characters who were carried over after the change; although her role remains minor.
  • Slightly Damned Buwaro's Companion Cube treatment of his pet rock Thadius has rubbed off on the fans to a ridiculous degree. Who even lampshade themselves in some fan art.
  • 8-Bit Theater:
    • Bard was only seen in a one-panel gag as the "fifth Light Warrior" who was unmade by Sarda before his birth. He is quite commonly mentioned in the comic's forum, with some members even managing to trick a few people that he actually was in the comic at first and the creator retroactively replaced earlier strips with Bard-free strips - a tactic the author actually pulled off on a smaller scale before.
    • There's also King Steve, the insane and utterly retarded Cloud Cuckoo Lander ruler of Corneria, and the Dark Warriors. Despite their lack of plot relevance, they both get more attention than was originally planned, and the Dark Warriors also get all the credit for killing Chaos, since they happen to look kinda like the Light Warriors.
  • Brawl in the Family:
    • Kingsonnn Dededoo initially appeared in one of the gag-a-day strips, but became a fan favorite on the forums. He has since made at least one more appearence.
    • Despite being The Scrappy in the video games, Waluigi is — WALUIGI TIME. Waluigi is funniest character in the comic. Waluigi makes everything better, and — GACK! Ahem. Waluigi is an even bigger Darkhorse, as he debuted in a series of Dada comics Matthew made for April Fools' Day. In fact, Waluigi's become so popular thanks to the comic that his canon counterpart's gone from Scrappy to Base-Breaking Character status.
  • Dr. Lee, from Skin Horse by Shaenon Garrity and Jeffrey Channing. She was in one series, as the Meganekko repressed Mad Scientist and one of the antagonists, but she is still being requested by fans, and drawn in fan art,
  • Regina from Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures appeared for a single panel in a flashback, then got an almost-blank cast page a few years later. Her resultant fan following was... mind-boggling. Readers' minds were boggled right back when she finally appeared out of nowhere in 2009.
  • The fat Shetland Pony from Hark! A Vagrant has developed quite a fan following, considering that he was created for a one-off strip about a horse pooping. So much so that a limited edition run of Fat Pony figurines were made. They have all since been sold. The Adventure Time episode "The Eyes" focuses on an unblinking fat Shetland Pony who, according to Word Of God, is based off of this character!
  • Homestuck:
    • Given its very large Geodesic Cast and tendency to fall into Four Lines, All Waiting, there's quite a few of these in the fandom, although to what extent you could call those characters "minor" is debateable. The Wayward Vagabond was one of the first though, and gained quite a large following even before becoming a playable character.
    • The best example would probably be Ms. Paint, a random background character in Prospit that became well-known due to her Punny Name and unique appearance, but has absolutely no bearing on the plot whatsoever.
    • Another good example would be Fedorafreak, a character who has "appeared" in the form of background messages on John's dad's PDA a grand total of maybe four times. There are people who roleplay as him.
    • All of the post-scratch trolls in the series seem to be radically more popular among the fandom, judging by the staggering amount of fan art, fan fiction, and cosplaying there are of them as opposed to the actual main characters.
    • Nepeta is another good example. Despite being very popular among the fandom, and appearing in a ton of fanart, she's probably the least important of the trolls. All she's done that's of any significance is being Aradia's server player, having someone to fill the "Leo" slot of the troll's zodiac motif, and asking Rose to talk to Jaspersprite. The latter of those three leads to Rose leaving Jaspersprite seemingly for good, but that's still a relatively minor event.
    • These troll's ancestors are also pretty popular, considering how eleven of them only had the sum total of two comparatively small arcs covering them, and a very quick recap given later into Act 6. The twelfth? In a possible nod to this, she's the biggest villain in Act 6 bar Lord English himself. These people probably have more fan works devoted to them than the guardians of the main characters, who are, putting it simply, the human equivalent in their role of the Geodesic Cast. Heck, on the wiki, their page is the second top right behind the one on trolls in general.
    • Jake English became one very quickly, and his popularity borders on Memetic Badass at times. It probably helped that his debut finally gave some resolution to who the hell Jade's penpal was anyway. Although he would later go on to become something of a small Base-Breaking Character after he gets into the game.
    • The main character of Post scratch Rose's book series, Calmasis, has to be the worst offender of this in the history of the webcomic. Possibly no more significant than a passing mention and possible foreshadowing of other events, s/he has hundreds of pieces of fanart and has already spawned several fan theories hours after their debut update. Yes, a character within a book within a webcomic who was only described in detail on one page has quickly risen to massive popularity, already rivaling several other main characters who were given thousands of pages to flesh out. Only this fandom could do this.
    • Much like Calmasis, Aranea suddenly garnered tons of fanart before speaking even a single line. But she would later become a Base-Breaking Character thanks to her actions later down the story, and her rather unexpected role as a villain.
    • The Felt. Despite being a Quirky Miniboss Squad made specifically for the Midnight Crew Intermission, they became very popular among the fanbase. So popular that they may have increased their importance among the comic; Act 5 introduces Doc Scratch, a new member of the Felt, and reveals that Felt boss Lord English is a time-traveling demon with a connection to the Troll Universe. It turns out Scratch and English masterminded the entire plot of Homestuck. Speaking of the Midnight Crew...
  • Problem Sleuth: the Midnight Crew debuted and appear exclusively in several donation commands, "[waging] merciless, donation-funded warfare against the protagonists in a non-canonical but nonetheless grand plotline.". They later became a fundamental part of the plot of Homestuck, both as themselves and as alternate universe counterparts. Such was their popularity that Hussie briefly gave serious consideration to doing a Midnight Crew adventure instead of Homestuck. Not only do they appear, but their alternate reality selves play a big part in the comic. This also sets forth a very confusing game within a game scenario.
  • Lolrus from What Do You Do is incredibly popular for something that only appears like 7 times out of over 700 panels.
  • Erfworld has several, some of which the authors delight in putting in, even as background characters. Most notable is "Scarlett", the unnamed redheaded Unaroyal warlord who has since her first few appearances been decrypted and joined Gobwin Knob and continued to appear frequently. Also, Vurp, the last surviving Hobgobwin after Chapter One, and to a lesser extent Sizemore, the most underused Caster. Now that Scarlett's been given a name (Sylvia), she may count as an Ascended Extra by virtue of this trope.
  • Eerie Cuties has a few:
  • Vampire Cheerleaders: While the cheerleaders, as a whole, are certified Base Breaking Characters, the lone exception is Suki Taft. Despite her more negative qualities, she was a fun loving ditz, at heart, who got along with Leonard; making her the only one of the cheerleaders anyone liked. So in the comic's final volume, the other four were essentially written out, while Suki flunked and had to repeat her senior year as means of keeping her in the story. The fans couldn't be happier.
  • Sonichu:
    • Yawning Squirtle. He's so much of an Ensemble Darkhorse that he has his own webcomic.
    • Also Magi-Chan. His snark, lack of sycophantic behavior towards Chris (compared to the other characters), and apparent homosexuality (not intended by Chris of course) gave him this status.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court:
  • Cookie Monster has appeared in two comics and one bonus page so far, but almost all of the comments on those pages are about her. Turns out, one of her roles was transition to the whole chapter in the Foley House (her style obviously is — and was confirmed to be — influenced by Foley kids).
  • Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name:
    • Ples Tibenoch already had a massive fanbase before he was even introduced into the comic, all based on a few doodles and lone illustrations from the author.
    • Don't forget the unnamed cashier from the liquor store! He appears in maybe 3 pages of the whole story, yet fans have latched onto him, affectionately dubbed him "CA$H MONEY", and you should just see how much fanart he has.
  • Mortifer has a few examples:
    • The best example would probably be Leonest. He was the first black marketeer the protagonists had to deal with, a demon-obsessed drug dealer. Thanks to his cool design and deadpan attitude, he became instantly popular, and was upgraded to secondary cast member (Though all he did was hang out with the protagonists at their office between missions/during the Beach Episode. It's implied that he started doing other work for SinTech that doesn't overlap with what the protagonists are doing).
    • A rather odd example would be Matthew. While ostensibly a member of the main cast, he barely got any screen time — only a small side plot about him stalking his brother's girlfriend that eventually got co-opted by Joey anyway. Didn't stop Matthew from being more or less the strip's most popular character. [[spoiler: However, Matthew recently gained a lot more importance due to him becoming The Mole for Vlad. Amusingly enough, the reason for his betrayal was that he was never given anything to do — in other words, because he didn't get enough screen time.
  • Far Out There has Bridget and Alphonse. The pair of mute, superpowered zombie children were only introduced to be the sidekicks of a secondary character, but they've since become the most popular creations in the comic.
  • Last Res0rt has Sedja the Efreet, a character that lives in a bottle around Addy's neck. Despite only having a few pages where she's even seen in the comic, let alone in action... well, who wouldn't like a character you shoot out of a gun?
  • Zig Zag, the titular character's porn star boss in Sabrina Online, has gradually been taking over the strip, to the point that the December 2010 group of strips focuses on Zig Zag and doesn't feature Sabrina at all.
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • Chika, who won this status after five Q&A comics with her, even despite general "enough of Q&A" reaction on EGS forum.
    • Also, Rhoda, who didn't have much of a role until recently. Lampshaded here
    • Before either of them was Susan, who was originally intended by the author to be a minor secondary character and has long since become a firmly established member of the main cast with multiple tragic backstories and some of the most visible character development of any of them.
  • Looking for Group has Richard, who is without a doubt the most popular character in the whole story.
  • Corasyn from Nothing Comes Naturally. An adorable little magenta Weasel Mascot with odd, robotic speech patterns.
  • Alexander Hamilton is not, by any means, a major character in The Dreamer. He showed up in the middle of Issue 9, played a small role, and was gone by the end of Issue 10. You would not know this from looking at his fanbase. Oh, the shipping!
  • FreakAngels features 12 of the eponymous psychics, about eight of whom function as major characters. The spaciest and strangest of the lot, Arkady, is the most popular character with the fans. (Of course, she's also the only one who is perpetually sweet-tempered — the rest of the Freakangels range from deeply cynical to downright murderous.)
  • Tempest of Domain Tnemrot gained a large following on her first page and when the story's focus switched to the main characters, there were complaints she didn't get more screen time.
  • Penny Arcade has Tycho's niece Anne, also known as Annarchy. While almost all cameo characters in Penny Arcade gain massive fan followings overnight, Anne deserves special mention, since when a poll was held to determine which minor character should get their own guest strip over Comic Con, Anne won by a huge margin.
  • Android Nin Wah from Commander Kitty. She ends up getting quite a bit of Character Development that the real one missed out on, and even Took a Level in Kindness towards CK. The comments would often mention that they preferred this one over the real Nin Wah.
  • Digger has Ed, who started off as just a random hyena-monster the author created because she couldn't draw a bear, and ended up being a Woobie and probably the most beloved character in the entire comic.
  • Precocious:
    • Yvette, the shy grey cat who appears every now and then is becoming popular.
    • And now so is Ursula.
  • Conventional Wisdom introduced three nameless kids in the Ichibancon 2014 comics. After one of the biggest fan responses in the comic's history, they're appeared in every major update since.
  • Pocket from The Story of Anima, owing to his unique design and status as The Comically Serious.
  • Chen of Godslave became fairly popular with the fandom thanks to being an easily-annoyable Leeroy Jenkins and deciding that he's going to fight Edith, the protagonist, alone — and holding his own. He spawned his own meme, Chen Chill, and some readers even ship him with Edith.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/EnsembleDarkhorse/Webcomics