"These two right now are just comic relief, but they play an important role later on. You'll see."
Any character who is innocuously and unimportantly introduced to the viewer, but who later proves to be important
by the end of the episode.
In other words, they're a human Chekhov's Gun
. (Or an animal, or an extraterrstrial, or a universe-crossing entity Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence
, or a...)
For example, consider a poolboy in the CSI
mystery of the week who just happened to be at the scene of the crime just before the murder, where other leads overshadow that one until the last five minutes, when suddenly Grissom finds that one piece of evidence that conclusively proves it was him. (Of course, if the poolboy is played by George Clooney
, everyone and their mother will know it was him the minute he appeared on screen
Or, in an episode with Two Lines, No Waiting
, a character that seemed to be a Bit Character
in the B plot suddenly becomes a large player in the A plot. On most Cop Dramas, this usually means the two teams are Working the Same Case
According to Roger Ebert
, you can often figure out
who the murderer is (in a badly-written murder mystery, at least) by checking the Law of Conservation of Detail
: The Chekhov's Gunman
is the only character who doesn't seem to have any other reason for being in the story (see The Butler Did It
). Compare to Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize
, which is based more on the actor playing the role
than on the character in itself.
In video games, such characters are always obvious because they look conspicuously different from generic NPCs
, and usually have a name
When the Chekhov's Gunman
is hidden by shadows, you've got yourself a case of Sinister Silhouettes
. If a character in an adaptation
is transformed into a Gunman by appearing earlier than in the source work, that's an Early-Bird Cameo
. If a character originally conceived as minor becomes important through later Character Development
, that's a Destined Bystander
May overlap with The Dog Was the Mastermind
. Sometimes used to refer to a writer who constantly uses and/or is particularly skilled with using Chekhov's Gun
or its variants (including the Gunman), such as Eiichiro Oda
, author of One Piece
, although this isn't the primary usage.
See also Connected All Along
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- Bunnie Rabbot of Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog first appeared in a pin-up in the original four issue mini-series before appearing in the comic proper some issues later. She also looked markedly different.
- Dr. Finitevus first appears during the "Return to Angel Island" arc as just another member of the Dark Legion. About 40 or so issues later, he joins the Big Bad Ensemble by manipulating damn near everyone in order to ensure Knuckles becomes the new Enerjak.
- Dr. Finitevus had been around earlier than that - when Knuckles first started showing signs of being "Chaos Knuckles", he was the echidna who used the Chaos Siphon to try to drain Knuckles' power.
- In the Blackest Night event, Tales of the Lantern Corps #3 gives Kilowogg some Character Development by showing his own training as a rookie lantern by Lantern Ermey. In Green Lantern Corps 41, we see Ermey return as a Black Lantern
- The locust swarm that causes the Bone brothers to get separated in the first issue of Bone seem like just some natural, albeit random, occurrence. After the scene where the swarm separates the Bones the locusts disappear and don't seem to have been all that important. That is until later when we learn about who the Big Bad is. He's called The Lord of Locusts.
- Practically anyone who has ever appeared in the Prelude but not in the graphic novel of Dreamkeepers is suspected to be one of these.
- Empowered has Ocelotina a female hostage Emp tries (and fails) to save from ThugBoy in Volume 1 appears again in Volume 2 trying to kidnap Empowered for Les Yay-related reasons. She then becomes a recurring character as a deliberate model for the fetish crowd that Emp keeps unintentionally feeding.
- In the Fall of Cthulhu comics by BOOM! Studios, a character with no speaking lines at all who can be spotted in a lot of backgrounds throughout the whole story turns out to be the final overmind (though not a villain per se) who orchestrated the whole story through a Gambit Roulette.
- The Joker during Infinite Crisis. First seen torturing King and asking him why he wasn't invited to join the Society. Is told that he's considered too unpredictable, and kills King out of anger. Not seen for the next hundreds of pages or so. Guess who kills Alexander Luthor Jr.?
- Before appearing as one of the lead villains in the Captain America Corps mini-series, Bright Star first appeared as an unnamed reporter in an issue of Ed Brubaker's Captain America run.
- A zombie Deadpool appeared in Marvel Zombies, but only as an extra without dialogue. Later on, he plays a main role in the series. Similarly Black Bolt appeared numerous times in the series, but doesn't get an actual role until much later.
- Scott Pilgrim volume 3 features a cameo of a mystery man who then turned out to be Gideon Gordon Graves.
- In Spider-Man, Norman Osborn was originally introduced as a nameless member of Mr. Jameson's club, and got upgraded to nameless friend of Jameson a while later. While he got a good deal of mostly non-speaking background appearances, he was barely noticed until he was revealed to be Harry Osborn's father about 2 years after his first appearance. 2 issues later he was revealed as the Green Goblin, who had been an active villain in the series for years.
- The first and second volumes of Ultimate Spider-Man are peppered with casual references to Tandy Bowen, one of Peter's unseen schoolmates. She finally shows up in volume 3 as one half of the superpowered duo Cloak & Dagger.
- As a bonus gag, Ty Johnson (Cloak) is revealed to have been the teenage manager of the burger joint Peter worked at.
- John Constantine's official first appearance is in Swamp Thing #37. But in #25, there's a background character in a crowd scene who looks suspiciously similar to Constantine.
- The first page of Watchmen features a red-haired man holding a sign that reads "The End Is Nigh." He appears a few more times and doesn't seem very important— until Rorschach's mask comes off halfway through.
- In issue 2 of Earth 2, Jay Garrick passes by a rambling man in a back alley. In issue 9, that man turns out to be Khalid Ben-Hassin.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW): Pinkie finds the cave troll and has him save the others from a group of giant spiders.
- The Ravages Of Time uses this trope so, so much: For example, the little kid who made a one-page appearance alongside Shan Wuling and some shady types at the end of a chapter in Volume 6 but who's quickly forgettable once the rest all take up much more prominent roles? When he appears as a grown up in Volume 33 and moves out, his identity is hinted at by his new traveling companions are identified as Xu Sheng and Pan Zhangnote , then confirmed when he identifies himself as Zhongmou, the courtesy name of Sun Quan.
- Diabolik uses this rather often, with a minor character becoming suddenly important at the end of the story or a few issues later, but, being a Long Runner (continuously published since 1963 and running) also set the record for this with Margot Hammer, first appearing in the 1963 Wham Episode "The Arrest of Diabolik" as an unimportant character and an Unwitting Pawn of Eva in the rescue of Diabolik and then returning in 2001 in "The Shadow of the Avenger" as the title character, convinced the police is letting Diabolik go and carrying on terrorist attacks to force them to arrest and execute the man who indirectly got her husband imprisoned. They then broke the record with Walter Dorian and "the greatest smuggler of all times", the first a man whose identity had been used by Diabolik in the first three stories and the latter mentioned in passing in "The Phantom Murderer", also published in 1963, and then told their story (and their importance in Diabolik's backstory) in the 2006 story "The Years Lost in Blood", with Dorian showing up in person.
- In Downfall, Zommari shows up in chapter 16, casually mentioned: "The most senior of these artificial Arrancar, a bald, dark-skinned, sinister-looking man, was kneeling on one knee, silently, at the perimeter of the force." -he goes on to be a pivotal fighter in the subsequent battle, never mentioned by name. This is especially notable, as it gives him a much needed moment of true badassery.
- In Time Braid, Demon Sakura is this. You think she's gone after a forced merge early on, but then she's discovered in a kind of 'inactive aspects' area of Sakura's Mental World, and Sakura uses her to guard the box containing the memories she doesn't want Sasuke to see. Later, her mastery of the Sharingan is used to give Sakura the chance at her Heroic Sacrifice, and afterwards she becomes half of Sakura's new demon/kami split axis.
- What About Witch Queen? has swarms of those, made harder to keep track of by presence of Lots And Lots Of Characters.
- Prince Ferdinand is mentioned in passing in chapter two as being missing due to navy dragging him off for pirate hunt. Come chapter sixteen, and he saves Anna from smugglers who kidnapped her, and even becomes a POV character.
- Patrick Schneider appears briefly in chapter six, and reappears in chapter twenty six with important information.
- Valdemar Schwalzmaar, the man who ferries Hans to Westerguard in chapter six, appears ten chapters later and tells Michael of Hans' whereabouts.
- Felix Drachner appears to be a Chekhov's Gunman who still waits to fire, but his hand is seen in dozens of places separated by miles.
- In Hogyoku Ex Machina, after Ichigo's time traveled, he and other characters try to avoid future crisis' by planning ahead and/or making peace with would-be enemies. This includes anime filler arcs and movie continuities, so it wasn't unusual to see Muramasa involved. At the final battle, though, he saves Ichigo's life which completely thwarts Aizen's plans. Without him there, the bad guy would have won. Yep, a former filler villain was that important.
- In Forward, Ashley Frye bumps into a drunk man in a bar while looking for information about her sister Kaylee. This later turns out to be John Garis, an agent of the Academy who's after River, and he saves Ashley from Jubal Early.
- In Calvin At Camp, Calvin throws a water balloon at Sally, early on in the episode "Champion Charlie Brown." She comes back later and has him arrested by the Urban Rangers for it, playing right into Lucy's hands.
- In White Rain, the kid who gets punched in the face back in Chapter 1 shows up in Chapter 11 and helps out.
- Calvin's dad nearly runs over a skunk in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series while on the way to a courtroom. Shortly after they arrive, it reappears and sprays him in revenge, forcing Calvin to take his place.
- Dr. Watson and his wife have a baby girl in the finale for Children of Time. The baby turns out to be a Time Lord, having been conceived in the TARDIS, and her regenerative abilities become instrumental in putting things to rights in the last episode.
- The Powers Of Harmony: Vigil at first just seems to be a Sixth Ranger there for no reason other than giving the group of Royal Guards enough members. Then it turns out he's Horizon's brother (last seen, unnamed, in the flashback Blair and Piro show Twilight) and linked to him the same way as the Echoes.
- Played with in Justice Society of Japan. Given how Lelouch Lamperogue and the Black Knights appear early one, one would expect that Zero would be one of the founding members of the titular team. Subverted in that he isn't. Shirley Fenette is. But double subverted in that Lelouch himself plays an important role.
- In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Reflecting Balance, it is mentioned in a couple of conversations between Blitz the Shinx and his mentor, Hercules the Heracross, that Blitz has a younger sister. Said younger sister eventually comes to visit Blitz in Chapter 21, and ends up indirectly spurring revelations about Blitz's past.
- In Mega Man Recut, some humans Mega met during previous episodes appear, aged-up, in Future Shock.
- Bright Man is mentioned early in the first part of "The Beginning", several parts before his actual appearance in the next episode.
- Mega Man Reawakened has Darian Darhk, who plays a minor role at first before helping Mega in later chapters.
- Crowns of the Kingdom has the Queen of Hearts, Jiminy Cricket, and Hypatia, all of whom are mentioned early on and return to play key roles later.
- The Fifth Act has younger Cloud Strife, whom the elder Cloud Strife convinced while posing as the kid's uncle to stay in Nibelheim instead of joining Shinra in the early chapters. The kid comes back when he goes to Midgard with the escaped Kunsel in tow trying to find his "uncle" and give Zack and Genesis the means to find the holes in the elder Cloud's cover story.
- Another is Vincent, who is quickly ditched by Cloud when he doesn't support Cloud's plan to kill Sephiroth. He comes back when he shoots Hojo in the head.
- Aldev from Warriors of the World: Soldiers of Fortune turns out to have been possessed by the villain in an attempt to divide the party.
- In Enemy to Love, Orihime doesn't have much screen time early on, but she is the one to A. destroy the Hogyoku so Aizen couldn't use it, and B. use it's power to bring Ulquiorra back to life, who kills Aizen himself.
- In Travels of the Trifecta there is a part where Conway and Paul are traveling on Route 216 and come across a Smoochum swarm, and Conway wants to catch one but Paul thinks they're uselessly weak Pokemon and they leave the swarm alone. One Smoochum takes a moment to watch them out of curiosity. Later on, that Smoochum ends up helping Conway when he's in danger.
- In Unnatural Disaster 1.6 we encounter a skinhead schoolmate of Taylor's called Egbert Rhine. He eventually goes on to kill Travis.
- In the earlier chapters of Shatterheart Syaoran is accosted by a gang, with its leader heading the fight, on his way home from the library. Syaoran has to run from the fight when he sees that he's outnumbered. Syaoran meets the gang again fifty chapters later during an outing with Fai and they turn out to be Serial Killers who kidnap and torture him For the Evulz.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!: Dark Messiah (by the same author as Shadowchasers) the Mayor of New York appears in an early chapter to give some words of encouragement to the protagonist, and is stated to be a Duel Monsters fan herself. She's the woman behind the man, as well as literally demonic.
Live Action TV
- mothy's Evillious Chronicles song "Daughter of Evil" (sung by Kagamine Rin) gives us this example: Early on, the song mentions that the princess has a "servant with a like face". In the sequel, "Servant of Evil" sung Kagamine Len, it turns out that the servant in question, the princess's twin brother, changed clothes with her so he could die in his sister's place.
- Fans waited years for the song representing Wrath to come out. A Fandom Berserk Button was to say that "The Last Revolver" was the Wrath song. Come 2014, and "The Last Revolver" turns out to be the backstory for the Wrath song, "The Muzzle of Nemesis". The Wrath sinner was staring everyone in the face for four years and no one knew it. Bonus points for being an actual gunman.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers released "Dani California" in 2006. The title character was soon revealed to be the same "Dani the girl" from the chorus of "By the Way" (2002) and also the "teenage bride with a baby inside" from "Californication" (1999).
- Eugene from Foxtrot was this, as the page image suggests. He started out as a minor character in the 1997 Camp story arc, but 3 years later, the Wus, including him, returned, but aside for one strip early on, he never appeared. That is, until it turned out that he was the one who stole Phoebe's camp journal, and left a bunch of fake clues from everyone, setting up the events of the arc.
- Also happens in Professional Wrestling as companies will use local talent or developmental wrestlers as crowd plants for heels to attack or other roles as police officers or security. Also happens if wrestlers have matches on the B-Shows before having a proper debut on A Shows.
- Molly Holly actually made two appearances on episodes of WWF Heat back in 1998 under the name Starla Saxton. This was before she joined WCW and later WWE permanently.
- Candice Michelle was introduced as a backstage make-up artist late in 2004 and appeared in random backstage segments for a while before becoming a prominent character on TV.
- Another one that shows how well WWE creative team can plan stories in advance is the character of Tori (not Wilson). She was introduced as an obsessed Wrestling/Sable fan at the 1999 Royal Rumble helping Sable win a match and eventually feuding with her going into WrestleMania XV. Watching old Sable matches will show Tori sitting in the front row of the audience regularly for at least two months before she actually debuted on TV.
- In 2003 the La Résistance stable was your typical Foreign Wrestling Heel team and one episode had them make their way to the ring and insult a man who appeared to be a US pilot. Later on in the match, the pilot jumped out of the crowd and entered the ring to help La Résistance win their match. Next week he was added to their stable as Rob Conway.
- The NXT rookies from season 1 could count given that when the season was over, they rampaged WWE and formed The Nexus. Then Daniel Bryan was released almost immediately, but brought back as an enemy of The Nexus.
- Even the McMahons followed this trope. From Vince's announcing days before the Montreal Screwjob outed him as the WWF/WWE's owner, to Shane's refereeing and appearances as a backstage official, to Stephanie appearing as a random passer-by in a "Stone Cold" Steve Austin segment months before debuting as Vince's daughter.
- In Role-Playing Games, most RPGA tournament events followed this trope in that if someone was introduced passively, but by name, then that person would return by the end of the event either with the Superweapon or as the Big Bad. One player was heard saying at Gen Con: "Of course I knew he was the bad guy. He was the first NPC we met who was an ass to us."
- Amara Li was named as a random museum donor in Pathfinder Society's 2nd season. In the 3rd season, she is the leader of a major faction.
- In Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit, the one who called the ghosts into the house and is keeping them tied there turns out to be the maid, an overeager girl who for most of the play has just been your typical simple servant played for laughs.
- Early on in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Chief of Police Andre warns Lawrence, a master conman, that there is an infamous con artist even more skilled than him in town, known as the Jackal. This is promptly forgotten about for most of the show until "The Reckoning," at the climax of the story: after Ms. Colgate, Lawrence and Freddy's con target whom both men had fallen in love with, leaves the scene, having supposedly been swindled out of $50,000 by Freddy, Lawrence and Freddy find that they are the ones swindled out of $50,000, with the lone suitcase they have remaining to them merely containing Freddy's clothes and a note from Ms. Colgate that says "Goodbye, boys; it was fun! Love, The Jackal."
- Not quite. Lawrence is on the lookout for the Jackal in the beginning and once he sees Freddy conning some tourists, he assumes he's the Jackal. However, it was never officially confirmed that he was.
- In Hamlet, Laertes is introduced briefly as a character in the first act, before departing for most of the play's storyline. He returns in the fourth act and plays a major role at the end of the play.
- There is also Fortinbras, who is briefly mentioned but not seen early in the play, then makes his first appearance at the end of the play to assume control over Denmark in a Dark Horse Victory now that all its royal family is dead.
- In Pippin, the torch-wielding player who will play a part in the grand finale makes a false entrance at the beginning of the play, when the Leading Player promises to present "a climax never before seen on a public stage."
- Played with a bit in Tom Stoppard's mystery parody The Real Inspector Hound, where both the murderer and the victim are Chekhov's Gunmen.
- Rehearsal For Murder the killer is the man in the back of the auditorium. Also true in the TV movie it's based on.
- Inverted in the play Rumors when the two biggest players in the show never actually appear on-stage, with one of them only showing up with one line from off-stage at the end.
- In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the crazy old Beggar Woman is primarily a side character whose interactions with the main cast are primarily for comic relief. She's actually Sweeney's thought-to-be-dead wife, Lucy Barker, who spent fifteen years Going Among Mad People after surviving her attempt to kill herself with poison after what happened to her at Judge Turpin's masked ball.
- Dr. Lyman Hall in 1776 starts as a new delegate whose need to be introduced to his fellow Congressmen is a convenient way to introduce them to the audience as well. He foreshadows his role when he says that while Georgia is against independence, he himself is for it. After witnessing Adams' Eleven O'Clock Number, Hall changes his vote to yea.
- Judge James Wilson, who serves no significant part of the narrative, other than comic relief, constantly forgetting Pennsylvania cannot second its own motions. Until he has to cast the deciding vote for declaring independence. He votes yea.
- Mike from Bob and George made a brief appearance at the very end of Mynd's introductionary storyline. In a later animated strip, he and Chadling make an appearance as potential characters Proto Man could be teaming up (who turned out to be Roll). Both characters are properly introduced in the second storyline featuring Mynd.
- The very first strip of Ozy and Millie features background characters who would become important later.
- Jones from Gunnerkrigg Court. Her first mention in the comic was so subtle that no one noticed it at the time. Then she was introduced standing next to the Headmaster at the parlay, watching the proceedings silently. As it turns out, she's responsible for training the future Medium, and she's a valuable source of information.
- In Tales of the Questor, there is a small story where Linneaus, a Raccoonan pastor learns that the Alligator people in the swamp were looking for information about God and he volunteers to go to them as a missionary. While that story seems like a postscript story to the strip's first major continuity, there is a later story where a wizard tells of a boy with a powerful talent for magic who goes half-crazed in horror of his power and the people who tried to exploit him and he was last seen running into the swamp, never to be seen again. These stories may be unrelated, but given the religious allegory nature of the strip, it would seem that the boy is inadvertently heading for the one Raccoonan who can help him.
- Girl Genius: Krosp the emperor of all cats is in the last panel of This page among Dr. Demitri's teddybears.
- Moloch von Zinzer at first appears to be just a throwaway enemy. In just a few short pages, he comes back to play a larger role. The clank in the time window doesn't actually come into being until years (our time and comic time) later. Von Zinzer's true importance is hinted at when Dupree gives her phenomenon report to Klaus.
- Merlot is of minor importance, when we first meet him, and then one last time years later.
- The Geisters... they first appear in the above-mentioned phenomenon report from Dupree.
- Otilia, the Muse of Protection, appears in another body, then in a flashback cameo, then we see her somewhat worse for wear.
- Franz, a huge lizardlike monster who lives in the sewers of Mechanicsburg was introduced trying to have a nap in june 2008. In december 2011, he awoke, and came to the defense of the Heterodynes.
- During the Sister arc of El Goonish Shive, Tedd and Elliot found the diary of the wizard who created the diamond that had "created" Ellen. Guess who the antagonist of the arc Sister II is, six years later.
- In an early Order of the Stick strip, Sabine mentions that she is a servant of "the archfiends" sent to aid (and get sex from) Nale. Later on, we see a brief flashback of her in the Lower Planes, where she receives orders from three rather ominous looking cloaked figures. These three figures were eventually reintroduced as characters in their own right, the Inter-Fiend Cooperation Commission, and look to be shaping up as very important villains...
- And now we have Elan and Nale's father Tarquin, who only appeared in a single panel of a cutaway gag in one of the early strips.
- For his early appearances in the story, Blackwing is the subject of jokes about how DND players neglect their familiars when playing as arcane casters. Then he plays a crucial role in O-Chul and Vaarsuvius' plan to destroy Xykon's phylactery, and gets a promotion to major character.
- Hel, the dwarven goddess of the dead, was shown in a couple throwaway gags arguing with Thor over whether dead dwarves counted as having died in battle. But then it was revealed that after being turned into a vampire, the dark spirit that now controls Durkon is a servant of Hel.
- In 8-Bit Theater, the little kid who is orphanized by the Light Warriors is introduced and makes some minor appearances, until it's revealed that it's Sarda's past self.
- Incidental characters in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! usually wind up with something more significant to do later on. Rocko Sasquatch is probably the best example, being introduced as just a quick joke—the huge scary guy Bob has to share a jail cell with for a couple of strips—and then returning two years later as a major character.
- In Ménage ŕ 3, one of the many passer-bys who are impressed by DiDi's assets shows obvious A-Cup Angst in the first panel here. She returns as a psych student who thinks she can treat Yuki's problems. The author uses a Brick Joke to establish that she's the same person. When first we see her again, she's reading a pamphlet about breast enlargement.
- Drowtales has been running since 2001 so naturally has plenty of these, but perhaps the best example is Sha'sana, who narrates the prologue and is seen for one page, and was implied to have been killed by Snadhya'rune, until 25 chapters later when she's revealed to have survived.
- In Homestuck, from very near the debut of the first troll it was revealed that there were twelve of them, and in some panels of the kids' Pesterchum chumlists you can see their trolltags. All were introduced later; some stayed minor characters, others... didn't.
- Then there's the alternate John who Terezi tricked into flying to his death. His death led to the Dave in his timeline going back and becoming Davesprite, but after that he was completely forgotten until dead Vriska meets him with a dream bubble, and thinking he's "her" John, takes him on a tour/date.
- Oh look, it's a little guy walking across the desert. Oh, he's found something with a spirograph on it, hey, is that John? Oh, this Wayward Vagabond guy was the one talking!
- John is described early on as having a deep-seated hatred for Betty Crocker. It's mostly played for laughs, until the Doc Scratch intermission of Act 5 Act 2, where it's revealed that Betty Crocker wasn't human, and is the Troll Empress, working for Lord English.
- The Empress herself is also a Chekhov's Gunman, having been referred to in Feferi's introduction.
- In Act 6, we meet Jane Crocker, Nanna's teenage alternate. Her appearance was first previewed back in Act 4, two thousand pages and about a year and a half prior.
- In Jake's letter to John, all the way back at the Act 4 epilogue, he mentions that somebody had to twist his arm to get him working on John's birthday present. Fast forward to Act 6, and Jake talks to Calliope, who mentions giving him some more arm twisting.
- In one strip of Shortpacked!! a nameless woman working at a supermarket shows up. A while later she begins dating one of the main characters and became one herself. When the author went back and titled some of his earlier strips he called the one she appeared in "She'll Show Up More Later".
- In one of the first story arcs of Demon Eater, we see a white giant. Later on, she's revealed to be a member of one of the strongest Demon Societies in the story.
- In Prophecy Of The Circle this happens to a couple of tekk characters, mostly because the first chapter is told from the perspective of the tikedi, who are their enemies and can't communicate with them.
- Renn'tekk, who first appears as a random, nameless tekk wrecking havoc in a tikedi village, but becomes an important character after the first perspective-flipped chapter.
- Shan'rekk too doesn't get a proper introduction when he first appears, although in his case it's plainly visible that he's important, or at least a very unique tekk.
- Like the FoxTrot example, in a PvP murder mystery arc, Francis is briefly shown, then fades as suspicion shifts to "Tom Bolero." Francis turns out to be the murderer.
- In Spacetrawler, the apex speaker (and apparent Big Bad) Kuu-Drahc is accompanied by an unnamed personal assistant when he heads a meeting of the GOB. Later, the protagonists learn that Kuu-Drahc is not the big bad, but takes orders from a Man Behind the Man named Qwahntoo. Then they find out that Kuu-Drahc's "personal assistant" from earlier was actually Qwahntoo.
- The Other Grey Meat has a character named Chekov, who happens to be one of the few survivors of a failed raid on the Big Bad.
- Robespierre in Rusty and Co.
- In Narbonic there's a young, cute blonde woman wearing round glasses. We see her a couple times in a bar where Dave is doing something bizarre. She plays the 'straight man' character in the scenes. We don't know anything about her. Until the final arc of the webcomic, when her identity is absolutely critical.
- "Octopus Pie" is practically made by this trope. Hardly a single character gets introduced without getting back to the comic later.
- Split Screen: The bartender Jan meets at the beginning of the comic turns out to be Jeremy's old girlfriend, whom she didn't recognize after not seeing her for a decade (Natalie didn't bring it up because she thought Jan didn't like her that much). Natalie manages to bring Jan up to speed on what happened the night she (Jan) left town and what was really going on between her and Jeremy (Answer: Nothing.)
- In the first chapter, Shiara calls out to someone named Eron, thinking that he's followed her. He appears in Volume 4, revealed as Kayn'dar's brother and the one who thought of sending Acheron on the quest, finding him expendable.
- Eron goes on to gripe about an "unsightly half-elf" living in the city. We don't find out until the very end that it's Varden's sister Marynn.
- Cockroach Jesus, introduced in the introductory post in OH GOD THE RAPTURE IS BURNING was originally just a throwaway character meant to be a little warmup to all the craziness. Turns out he is the Big Bad, the emissary to The Rapture, and destroyer of universes.
- Iron Liz makes her first appearance in the Atop the Fourth Wall/The Spoony Experiment Crossover Warrior #2 and #3, saying "Wait. Who am I?", She made her first official appearance in the Atop the Fourth Wall review of Chain Gang War #1
- During a Christmas review, Linkara refuses to do Yet Another Christmas Carol, even though the spirits keep arriving. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come gets a reaction from him... "Is that a robot hand?" It's the first appearance of Mechakara within the reviews.
- Two of them in Broken Saints. The first is the hobo Raimi meets near the alleyway, who seems to be nothing but another one of his hallucinations. The second is the supposedly dead Lear Dunham, one of the co-founders of BIOCOM. In the end, they turn out to be the same person. The freakin Big Bad.
- Many, many people in Whateley Universe works. Given that the stories center around the 600 or so students at the Whateley Academy and their connections (plus the fact that the number of novels, novel chapters, short stories, novelettes, and vignettes now numbers over a hundred) it is sort of inevitable that characters seen in passing can become major players in later stories. Examples: Beltane (Kendall Forbes) gives the protagonists the campus tour on day one... and much later gets her own leading role in "For Whom the Belle Tolls", as well as other appearances. The Headmistress gives a speech on the first day of classes... and then turns out to also be the greatest superheroine around (in her spare time).
- One of the hot blondes that Phase sees in the cafeteria on her first day at Whateley Academy - the one who really stares angrily at her — turns out to be an old enemy. Who then in later stories turns out to be the blackmailer. And then in a later story actually gets people to try to kill Team Kimba. And then in a later story takes over the Alpha clique and runs the student body, so she can really go after the heroes.
- At first, Cavalier and Skybolt only get mentioned to show how dangerous The Don really is, and why The Don runs the campus. They're central to the Fey and Generator story "Christmas Elves". And then what they do next drives a lot of the plots for Winter Term.
- One of the throwaway jokes early in the universe is about some girl at school who has the spirit of the squirrel and is a campus joke. She has now become a protagonist with her own stories, and in her combat final, she managed to beat one of the most dangerous bullies at Whateley in a simultaneous Crowning Moment of Awesome and Crowning Moment of Funny.
- div This five minute skit uses it twice! (Pay attention to the chaos that effects 2 characters...)
- During The Irate Gamer's review of Super Mario Bros. 2, he makes a joke about the game only having one player by having another Irate Gamer briefly appear, asking if he could play. Towards the end of his review, he comes back, revealing that he's an Evil Twin.
- Two in There Will Be Brawl. Game and Watch had been seen around the city doing various tasks. He actually is an Eldritch Abomination, and is the "End of Days" meant to bring about the end of the world.
- Ness and Lucas were seen playing in an alley, and served to remind Luigi of his motivation for fighting. Then it gets turned on his head when he discovers they are the murderers.
- And that feeling of hope Luigi got from seeing them was artificially planted by their telepathy to keep Luigi fighting - which they found entertaining.
- From the Global Guardians PBEM Universe: The tall, impressive looking woman standing just behind and to the right of crimelord Baron Samedi in the early story that introduced Samedi as a Diabolical Mastermind? Yeah, it turns out that she's more than just Samedi's Dragon. It turns out she's Battle, the mother of Stone, the former Global Guardian.
- The Descendants does this a lot: Elizabeth von Stoker is introduced in Volume 1 as a Girl of the Week and becomes recurring villainess Freaque in volume 2. Callie Kreiger is first seen as an almost faceless part of a Girl Posse in Volume 2, becomes an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain in Volume 3 and finally helps save the city in Volume 4. Finally, Jay Willis starts as a random Gang Banger in Issue three and becomes the Descendants version of The Juggernaut in Issue 48!
- Lance M Donovan who had made appearances earlier in I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC before his significance showed up. In literal terms, we also have the Punisher who shot the Joker when he was holding Harley hostage to use as his escape. You know when he said "I'm waiting for an opportunity to present itself", it was going to be awesome.
- Averted with the Professor in Romancing SaGa 3. They have a unique sprite, are conspicuously introduced, and have two different quests associated with them. Most other characters with all these traits can join your party... but the Professor is just a minor NPC with no relevance outside their associated quests.
- The Questport Chronicles: So, that mage who shows up in the first quest of the third year? Yeah, turns out that he was responsible for the destruction of Questport.
- Survival of the Fittest: Evolution has Khalid Shamoun, a "winner" of a previous experiment run, who first appeared in the prologue, being shot by the scientists after mouthing off to show that they won't allow rebellion. Later he's put on the island as a player for the second time partway through. Another example, this time from the main site, would be Yelizaveta "Bounce" Volkova, who first appeared as a character in the in-universe chat and later made a appearance in the main game.
- Eric Rosethorn from The Quest For Geekdom makes a brief appearance as a one shot character. Later he becomes the big bad.
- Early in Project Million, Diamanda pops the balling of a little boy at Disneyland, then steals his lollipop. He later shows up to club her over the head and save Robert. Though he's really only after his lolly.
- In Little Busters!, Mio is the last girl to be formally introduced, but she makes a cameo only a couple of days in when Rin sees a girl while searching for members. After Rin1 is finished Rin will recognise her, but the first time around only her voice makes it clear who she is (though the fact that she's voiced at all makes it obvious she's someone important, anyway).
- Noob introduced top player Fantöm in the ad that made early Audience Surrogate Gaea buy the game in which the series is set. She enventually runs into him in-game and his team ends up being the series Deuteragonist. The younger brother Spararap mentions having in an early episode becomes essential in Season 1 finale and is the healer of Fantöm's team. Minor character Castörga was briefly introduced in Season 3 finale and appeared in the Season 4 three-parter with a bigger role.
- In Worm, Oliver is a minor character with a seemingly useless power who has probably less than ten lines in the entire story. His power ends up being instrumental in defeating the last Big Bad.
- RWBY silhouettes background characters, making it clear who's relevant to the plot. So when we see a fully-coloured strangernote watching Jaune in Episode 3, we know she's going to be important.
- This happens a lot in Slender Man stories. Notable examples include Brian, who makes about eight appearances, maximum, who turns out to be the Hooded Man/totheark and Kevin, who was mentioned exactly once as the translator for Noah's uncle's German, who is eventually revealed to be the Observer, essentially the series's primary selling point outside of Visual Effects of Awesome.
- Most Literal Example Possible: The assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the last straw that led to World War One, which led to the The Great Depression, which led to Hitler's rise to power, which led to World War II, which led to the Allies dividing Europe, which led to the Cold War, which led to the Russians invading Afghanistan, which led to the United States backing some unsavory types, which ultimately led to 9/11. Not often does one assassination get to define a whole century.
- It may have happened anyway, Franz Ferdinand was just the excuse. Austria was going to invade the Balkans anyway. It is well documented, and public knowledge at the time, that the Balkans were a powder keg just waiting for a spark to set it off.
- Way, way back in The Roaring Twenties, there was an unimportant art student which had been rejected from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. He served in the German Army during WWI, and reached the unimportant rank of Lance Corporal. He joined a small, two-bit political party that was deemed dangerous by the police (he was originally a police spy, before the party won him over), but otherwise not even a blip on the political radar. This man's name? Adolf Hitler.
- Following the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the Soviet Union, there was a low level enforcer in the Bolshevik Party with the almost unpronounceable name of Iosef Besarionis dze Jughashvili. He managed to quickly rise through the ranks and changed his name to the much easier to pronounce, Joseph Stalin.
- A librarian at the University of Peking spent most of his free time reading and discovered some books by a guy named Karl Marx. This avid reader was named Mao Zedong.
- There was also the carpenter from Galilee, as well as the Arabian merchant and the shepherd with the speech impediment. Both of them end up shaping the conflicts for the last 1500 years and continuing.
- Some obscure French officer name Napoleon, a prince from the backwater of Macedonia named Alexander, and this Asian guy who had a horde or something. What's a khagan?
- A 1916 newspaper printed a photograph of a little boy donating five cents to a fund for war orphans. That little boy was Richard Nixon.
- In 1948, a no-name lawyer from the small city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, won a congressional seat in a surprise upset. Almost two decades later, this obscure Congressman—a fellow by the name of Gerald Ford—became House Minority Leader, mostly because the Republican Party had suffered a huge defeat in 1964 and was outnumbered more than two-to-one by the Democrats; most people hadn't heard of him well into his term. Ford was introduced to the nation a little while later thanks to a speech he gave on the House floor in which he criticized the Vietnam War, as well as the numerous insults President Lyndon Johnson hurled at him in response. A few years later, he was the 38th President of the United States. Bonus points for getting there without ever being elected President or Vice-President (he first replaced Vice-President Spiro Agnew after Agnew got involved in a tax evasion scandal, and then he got tapped for President after Watergate).
- The vast majority of elected officials, especially those from notably humble origins such as Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama, although humble origins are not a requirement: John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush were less important sons of powerful men who did not carry the weight of expectations that their siblings did... at least, not at first.
- After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865, his funeral procession would travel from Washington, D.C. to his (almost) final resting place in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois (since his coffin has been exhumed numerous times afterward). One of the procession's stop would be on 14th Street and Broadway in New York City, on April 24, 1865. A picture was taken of this procession, and an open window is shown in the left-hand side of the photo. You can barely see, but two little boys are leaning out the window watching the procession go by. Those two little boys? They're future President Theodore Roosevelt and his brother Elliott Roosevelt, father of Eleanor Roosevelt.
- In 1919, a Vietnamese pastry chef (or dishwasher, sources are unclear) and student in Paris named Nguyễn Ái Quốc wrote a letter to the Paris Peace Conference asking for French colonial domination of Vietnam to end. He was completely ignored. He then became a Communist, and traveled to the USSR to further his political education. He later returned to Vietnam to become a leader of the Vietnamese nationalist movement under the name he had assumed in Moscow—Ho Chi Minh. After World War II, he beat the French out of the country, and then led it as it slid into the famous war with the United States.
- Mitt Romney started off as the Republican candidate for Massachusetts' Senate seat in 1994. Jump ahead 18 years, and he's now the Republican candidate for President of the United States.
- One scary example comes in the form of Ted Bundy's background before he became one of the most infamous serial killers in modern American history. Years before his spree, he was a lowly intern lawyer who got caught up in a political scandal. Bundy gave an interview to the local media smiling, laughing, and denying any involvement in the scandal.
- In 2010, the San Fransisco Giants claimed outfielder Cody Ross for the sole purpose of keep him away from the division leading Padres, who were in desperate need of an outfielder. They planned on using him as a late inning defensive replacement. But he managed to make the postseason roster and become a pivotal part of their World Series team, winning NLCS MVP
- In a 2005 episode of The Simple Life, the farm family of the week, the Seberts, introduced us to their daughter "who is really into music": Ke$ha.
- A 1985 TV commercial for Kellogg's "Just Right" breakfast cereal featured an unnamed redheaded woman playing the piano. We now know her as multiplatinum musician Tori Amos.
- Some of the most famous generals of World War II fought during World War One (George Patton, Charles de Gaulle, Bernard Montgomery, Erwin Rommel, among others).
- A lot of famous movie directors' could be described as this. Case in point, in 1953 a little-known photographer who had made a few short films and documentaries released a somewhat cheesy feature film titled Fear and Desire. That man later went on to direct 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining, amongst other incredible films.
- In 1959, the director of the now-forgotten Roman epic Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei (The Last Days of Pompeii) fell ill and another man, some guy named Sergio Leone was brought in to replace him at the last second. Several years later, Leone was given a simple job- create a simple, low-budget Spaghetti Western re-using an old set to make up for the failure of a previous project. Looking for a cast he hired an actor at that point best known for his role in the tv series Rawhide. They worked together on this project, using what little they had, and created a film that turned out to be a surprising box office success, so the studio gave them a bigger budget for a sequel. They worked together once more, and created a second film that was even better, and got an even bigger budget to create yet another film- and they made The Good The Bad And The Ugly, considered now one of the greatest movies ever made. The actor's name? Clint Eastwood, who would go on to direct a number of movies himself and win a number of Academy Awards.
- In 1974, bad marketing resulted in the failure of college short-turned-feature Dark Star. The writer, disappointed about the results, decided to retool the script using the simple idea of a spaceship's crew chasing an alien. He ended up giving the script to an unsuccessful director who re-wrote the protagonist into a woman and decided to cast a young stage actress- and in 1979, the film was released under the title of Alien, propelling Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver to stardom.
- King Edward III of England had four sons: Edward of Woodstock (aka Edward, the Black Prince), Lionel of Antwerp, John of Gaunt, and Edmund of Langley. None of these sons became king after him, but are nonetheless extremely important because their progeny ended up fighting each other in the Wars of the Roses.
- In the Mexican–American War (1846–48), among those who distinguished themselves were a military engineer named Robert and a young quartermaster born Hiram. Both had a difficult time during the 1850s, but made a serious comeback in the 1860s, when Robert (E. Lee) rose to be general-in-chief of Confederate forces, and Hiram (Ulysses Grant) became Commander of the Union Army.
- In a way, most friends you make, especially in school, can be this trope. Think about it. How many of your friends were little more than "extras" in your life, sitting in the background at school or work, until they said or did something that made you want to befriend them? (And many of your friends can probably say the same for you.)