A Breakout Character
is the most popular or well known part of their franchise. However, what most don't realize is that this character did not appear until an installment or two in, having been completely absent at the franchise's beginning. Yet, the character has become so iconic the lack of their presence feels like Early-Installment Weirdness
. The character is an Iconic Sequel Character.
Possible causes of this include adaptations frequently condensing the original story and including characters earlier on than the original (especially when the original is subject to Adaptation Displacement
) or the franchise not Growing the Beard
and gaining a larger audience until after the Iconic Sequel Character makes their debut.
Compare Second Episode Introduction
, which is this on a much smaller scale and Ascended Extra
, for when the character is there the whole time, just in a greatly reduced role.
Contrast Demoted to Extra
for when a character has importance in the beginning of a work, but their role decreases as the work goes on. Subtrope of Newer Than They Think
Note: in order for a character in a serialized television show to count, they must have appeared as early as season two, and no sooner. Examples that appeared in late season one go under Breakout Character.
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- Captain Haddock is one of the most iconic characters in Tintin but he doesn't appear until the ninth book.
- Dennis the Menace (UK) did not appear until almost thirteen years into the run of the Beano comic. Other mainstream strips such as Minnie The Minx and The Bash Street Kids appeared even later.
- Thimble Theater ran for ten years before Popeye made his debut.
- In Peanuts (which began in 1950), Peppermint Patty and her friend Marcie weren't introduced until 1966 and 1971 respectively, but soon became part of the main cast.
- Dick Tracy debuted in 1931, but many of his most popular characters didn't debut until The Forties, an entire decade's worth of Iconic Sequel Characters. Nearly all of Tracy's most famous villains debuted then, including the three most publicized and frequently seen and referred to throughout the decades: Pruneface (1942), Flattop (1943), and Mumbles (1947). The Forties also marked the debut of some of the strip's best known supporting characters: Vitamin Flintheart (1944), Diet Smith (1945), and the Plenty family of hillbillies, B. O. Plenty (1945), his wife Gravel Gertie (1944) and their daughter Sparkle (born 1947). In terms of the regular cast of characters, Sam Catchem (1948) and Lizz (1955) have become so ubiquitous that anyone who began reading the strip from the late Fifites to the present might not even realize that they're later additions.
- For characters that have become prominent under the current creative team of Mike Curtis and Joe Staton, there's the now reformed villain the Mole (1941) and frequent enemy B-B Eyes (1942), as well as Moon Maid (1963) and Honeymoon (born 1965).
- Many characters iconic to the Spider-Man franchise don't actually appear until MUCH later in the comic's run than one might think. Mary Jane Watson doesn't have her first full appearance until issue 42, four years into the book. Venom doesn't make his first real appearance until issue 300 in 1988 over 25 years of publication later.
- Special mention goes to Gwen Stacy. Due to being referenced often in flashbacks and Adaptation Displacement, it may come as a shock to some fans to find out that not only was she Spidey's fourth love interest (behind Liz Allen, Betty Brandt, and finally the future ex-Mrs. Spider-Man, Mary Jane).
- Victor Mancha became an important part if the team's plot in Runaways, has significant links to greater Marvel Universe, and now that the book is on hiatus he's the only member of the team to be in an ongoing (or at least an an on going where he isn't fighting to avoid being Lampshaded C-List Fodder, anyways). He doesn't make his first appearance until Runaways' second volume. Likewise, Xavin, a character that gained the series some minor attention for being gender fluid, doesn't appear until a few issues after Victor's first appearance, and doesn't join the team or really have much effect on the plot, aside from having a character Put on a Bus for an arc, until Volume 3.
- Robin, doesn't make his first appearance in Batman until Detective Comics #38, 11 issues and a year of publication after Batman's first appearance in Detective Comics #27.
- Storm and Wolverine didn't join the X-Men until the series relaunch (twelve years after its initial launch). Other iconic X-Men like Kitty Pryde, Rogue, and Gambit joined even later.
- Iconic villains Apocalypse and Mr. Sinister did not appear until the mid-1980's, over two decades since the X-men made their debut. Heck, Apocalypse was introduced in the spin-off title X-Factor and didn't appear in the main book until 1992.
Live Action Film
- Star Wars:
- Yoda first appears in The Empire Strikes Back. For those who watch the series in order of events (i.e., prequels first), Yoda would seem to mysteriously drop out for the fourth installment!
- To a lesser extent, from the same film, Lando Calrissian.
- Big Bad Palpatine also doesn't appear in the first movie (although he is mentioned) and only briefly appears in Empire; his first full appearance (and Ian McDiarmid's first appearance) is in Return of the Jedi, and his name isn't mentioned until the prequel trilogy.
- Boba Fett first shows up in Empire as well, though some fans consider him an Advertised Extra anyway.
- In the Lethal Weapon series, Joe Pesci's Leo Getz character first appears as a federal witness in the second film, and manages to show up in the rest of the series' films.
- Arguably, the James Bond film series character "Q," since this character was referred to as "Major Boothroyd" in the first film, and was not played by the instantly recognizable Desmond Llewlyn until the second film, From Russia with Love. Definitely in the books, where this character does not come up until the sixth book.
- In the Police Academy films, Bobcat Goldthwait's "Zed" character shows up in the second film, and ends up joining the Academy in the next one.
- Cato and Dreyfus from The Pink Panther movies didn't appear until the second film.
- Gollum for The Lord of the Rings (The Hobbit will invert this instead).
- Simon Pegg's character in the Mission: Impossible films seems to be becoming this. He doesn't appear until the third film, but he's the only actor aside from Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames to be a part of the team in multiple movies (with Pegg signed on to show up in the fifth film as well).
- Puss in Boots was introduced on the second Shrek film, and became popular enough to get his own movie.
- Elle, Crash, and Eddie were all introduced in the second Ice Age movie, and have been part of the herd ever since.
- Outside a mention in the theme song, Piglet didn't appear in the Disney adaptation until the second film Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. Allegedly, the reason for this was that he was not intended to be adapted at all, though fan requests eventually convinced Disney to think otherwise. Much like in the books (see below), Tigger makes his delayed debut in the same film.
- Jesse and Bullseye first show up in the second part of the Toy Story trilogy, and are remembered as well as the original characters, with Jesse remaining a vital part of the cast in Toy Story 3.
- Tigger wasn't introduced until the second Winnie the Pooh book and is now one of the most popular and recognizable characters from the franchise.
- Thomas The Tank Engine didn't appear until the second book of The Railway Series. James, Percy and Toby also appeared in later books.
- Thalia Grace of Percy Jackson and the Olympians does not appear until the very end of The Sea of Monsters and doesn't do anything until The Titan's Curse, but became extremely popular with the fanbase. Her connection read: being his sister with one of the primary characters of the Sequel Series The Heroes of Olympus solidified her importance.
- Similarly, Nico di Angelo wasn't introduced until The Titan's Curse, where from then on he became a prominent supporting character and popular with the fans. His role also becomes more emphasized in The Heroes of Olympus.
- Several popular characters in the Harry Potter series did not show up until well after the first novel. Some include:
- Book 2: Lucius Malfoy, Dobby, Tom Riddle
- Book 3: Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Cedric Diggory, Peter Pettigrew, the Dementors in general, Cho Chang
- Book 4: Mad-Eye Moody, Barty Crouch, Jr., Viktor Krum, Fleur Delacour, Bellatrix Lestrange (although she isn't named till the next book)
- Book 5: Luna Lovegood, Dolores Umbridge, Nymphadora Tonks, Grawp
- Book 6: Horace Slughorn
- For the Discworld series:
- Though it's certainly justified by the eventual end of the Klingon Promotion present in early books, it wasn't until Moving Pictures that Unseen University actually had any of its more iconic wizards, including Archchancellor Ridcully, the Dean, the Bursar, Ponder Stibbons...
- The first City Watch book, Guards! Guards!, had only four significant named characters in the Watch. Many iconic members such as Angua, Detritus and Cheery weren't introduced until later installments.
- Clarice Starling first appeared in The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris's second book featuring Hannibal Lecter.
Live Action TV
- Frank, a main character from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is introduced in the second season.
- Mike Nelson, a well known Mystery Science Theatre 3000 host, was part of the writing team early on but didn't join the main cast until midway through season 5. Which makes it odd to see "Mike" show up in bit parts in earlier seasons as Morrisey, the Amazing Colossal Man, and many others.
- Amy and Bernadette were introduced only in Season 4 of The Big Bang Theory, and have since become part of the core cast.
- Elmo first appears in 1984, almost 20 years after the premier of Sesame Street.
- Even though he's now considered to be one of the most iconic villains of the series, The Master didn't appear in Doctor Who until Season 8 during Jon Pertwee's tenure as The Doctor.
- Likewise with most of the monsters. The only recurring monsters from the first three seasons are the Daleks. The Cybermen are introduced in William Hartnell's last story, and in the Troughton era we get the Ice Warriors and the Great Intelligence. The Autons and Silurians make their first appearance in Season 7, the Sontarans in Season 11, the Zygons in Season 13, and of course the Slitheen, Weeping Angels and Ood don't appear until the new series.
- Castiel is so popular in Supernatural fandom that many new viewers are surprised he doesn't appear until the beginning of the fourth season.
- It takes until the beginning of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's second season for Spike to appear, and he doesn't join the main cast until several episodes into the fourth season (meaning he's only credited as such for the latter half of the series). Regardless, he's frequently considered to be one of the more iconic figures of the show, thanks in part to his debut being seen as the point where the show started Growing the Beard.
- Steve Urkel was originally meant for a guest spot in the first season of Family Matters, and doesn't join the main cast until Season 2. Eventually, his spotlight stealing led to more story lines centering on him, then to the show treating him as the main character. Now, he's likely the only thing people remember about the show.
- From Glee, Blaine and Sam were both introduced in Season 2; Sam was the Sixth Ranger at the start of the season, and Blaine appeared a couple episodes later as a love interest for Kurt before integrating with the rest of New Directions in later seasons. Due to Sam and Blaine's longevity and popularity with fans (none of the other new kids caught on quite as much), both are given a sort of "Honorary Original" status.
- Alexis Carrington, the scheming Rich Bitch from Dynasty, didn't appear until the second season.
- Chloe O'Brien is one of the best known characters from 24; serving as Jack's primary source of information who always has his back. She doesn't appear until season three and doesn't even get promoted to the main cast until season five.
- Jack's boss Bill Buchanan doesn't show up until halfway through the fourth season.
- Even most non-fans of the franchise will recognize Pavel Chekov from Star Trek as one of the core seven characters from the original show. Several of them may be more surprised to learn he wasn't added to the show until season 2.
- Worf and General Martok are iconic parts of the cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine despite not showing up until halfway through the show.
- Seven of Nine is probably the most well known Voyager character outside the fandom, for reasons. She was first introduced in the season 4 premiere.
- Beacker on The Muppet Show didn't appear until season 2. Rizzo the Rat, as performed by Steve Whitmire, wasn't featured on the show until season 5. And to a lesser extent Pepe the Prawn didn't join the Muppet cast until Muppets Tonight.
- Frasier Crane is one of the best known characters from Cheers, thanks in no small part to his own series that spun off from it, but doesn't appear until the third season.
- Likewise, Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad who is getting his own spinoff didn't appear until the middle of season 2.
- Gus Fring and Mike Ehrmntraut are two of the show's most iconic characters and didn't appear until the very end of season 2.
- Ben and Desmond of LOST.
- Most of Law & Order's longest running and most iconic characters weren't introduced until after the first season. Most notably, Lennie Briscoe, Anita Vanburen, Jack McCoy and Ed Green weren't introduced until season 3, season 4, season 5 and season 10 respectively.
- The King of Fighters '95 introduced Iori Yagami, The Rival to the game's protagonist, Kyo. His popularity, which was spurred by his appearance and personality, managed to make him so popular that he not only kept being used as an icon for the series in later iterations, but also became a major breakout character.
- In most minds, the ever-popular Ikari Warriors team consists primarily of Ralf, Clark and Leona. Leona was not added to the series until '96, replacing her commander Heidern.
- In another SNK series, Genjuro Kibagami debuts in Samurai Shodown 2 as a more directly involved rival to Haohmaru compared to historically-inspired rival Ukyo Tachibana, since then they have been the series' traditional fighting game Shotoclone-rivals.
- Touhou has incredible amounts of this, particularly if one ignores the fact that the sixth game was essentially a reboot. Marisa, ones of the main characters shows up first in the second game. Yukari, probably the single most important character to the backstory, is first introduced in the seventh game. Some of the most important characters to the current status come from the tenth.
- From Crash Bandicoot games, the series mainstay villains Tiny Tiger and N. Gin are introduced in the second game, while the other ones Dingodile, N. Tropy, & Bigger Bad Uka Uka are introduced in the third one.
- On the other side, Crash's little sister, Coco, is introduced the second game, and their third bandicoot memeber, Crunch, was introduced in the the forth platformer game.
- In Sonic the Hedgehog games, Sonic and Dr. Eggman were the only characters introduced in the first game. Sonic's most well-known friends Tails, Knuckles and Amy Rose were introduced respectively in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic the Hedgehog CD.
- In Final Fantasy, the three contenders for Series Mascot are the Black Mage, the Chocobo, and the Moogle. The first Final Fantasy title had no Chocobos or Moogles, Chocobos debuted in II and Moogles in III.
- Pyramid Head was introduced in the second Silent Hill game and has since become a iconic part of the series appearing in both Silent Hill movies
- Doctor Nefarious in Ratchet & Clank came about in the third game, Up Your Arsenal, yet he's since become the series' most recognizable villain, even being made playable in All 4 One along with series mainstay, Captain Qwark and the titular duo.
- Nemesis first appeared in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and has gone on to make a appearance as a main antagonist in Resident Evil: Apocalypse and as a playable character in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
- Ripto was the Big Bad of Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! game. He later became the main antagonist for the original series.
- Terence wasn't one of the original five birds (seven, if you count the Blues as separate characters) in Angry Birds, but he's come to be very popular among the fans.
- Street Fighter's Chun-Li wasn't introduced until Street Fighter II. Due to Sequel Displacement, the entire SFII cast is better known than the non-holdovers from the first game.
- Though Akuma was present at the tail end of Street Fighter 2's lifespan, he wasn't a playable character until the Alpha series.
- Similarly, Fatal Fury waited until its second game to introduce the female lead, Mai Shiranui. (Along with Kim Kaphwan)
- Whether you instinctively add the Super to the Super Mario Bros. franchise or not, it should always be remembered that there was a regular Mario Bros. first that completely lacked Peach and Bowser. You can make the same argument for Luigi in Donkey Kong, but there were still many later games without him.
- Wario managed to replace Mario as protagonist in the third Super Mario Land game and ended up turning it into the Wario Land series. Impressive, considering he didn't even appear until the second one.
- Ebisumaru didn't appear in the Ganbare Goemon series until the second game, let alone Goemon's other allies.
- Sludge Vohaul didn't show up until the second game in the Space Quest series (and indeed was in only 2 out of the 6 official games overall), yet he's treated as Roger Wilco's major iconic arch-nemesis by the fans.
- While several of the more notable characters of the Mass Effect series debut in the first game, Mass Effect 2 brings us a number of important ones as well. Perhaps the biggest are the Illusive Man, EDI, Miranda, Mordin, and Thane.
- Rush and Protoman didn't appear in the Mega Man series until the third installment. Bass didn't come into existence until the seventh.
- Mocchis are one of the "main 6" monster breeds of Monster Rancher, and are often one of the species shown at the forefront in the series. This is possibly due to Mocchi's involvement as the mascot of the anime series. However, Mocchis didn't appear until Monster Rancher 2.
- World of Warcraft originally released with only nine character classes. Death Knights were added with the second expansion Wrath of the Lich King and Monks joined in with the fourth expansion Mists of Pandaria.
- Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck didn't appear until almost a decade into the Looney Tunes series run. Several other main stars were also Breakout Characters from later shorts.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender : Azula, although serving as the dominant antagonistic force for the Gaang during the series (and does technically show up in a cameo in the first season finale), does not become prominent in the series until Season 2.
- Sgt. Hatred from The Venture Bros. doesn't appear until the end of season 2, and doesn't receive much characterization until season 3. Come seasons 4 and 5, he becomes the new Venture family bodyguard and is a main character present in almost every episode.
- While many The Simpsons characters debuted in the first season, other fan favorites like Ralph Wiggum, Duffman, Groundskeeper Willie, Fat Tony, Cletus, Comic Book Guy, Dr. Hibbert, as well as many others didn't appear until the season season on. Ralph's characterization wasn't set in stone until season four and many of them were examples of Characterization Marches On.