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The Lancer
"I used to live here, you know."
"You're gonna die here, you know."

"I see you are the surly, temperamental one who instigates, Wolverine. You cannot be the leader, then."
Azazel, The Uncanny X-Men

The Foil for a hero of the closely allied variety.

In general, the Lancer will often (though not always) form one half of a Red Oni, Blue Oni contrasting duo with the Hero. Specific ways this can manifest include:

This is the member of the Five-Man Band who is most likely to not be a team player. He's the one who sneaks off on his own to advance the team's goals independently. He might be jealous of The Leader, with an attitude of "Why can't I be the leader?" When he finally gets his chance he may well find himself asking himself, "Now what would The Hero do?"

If The Complainer Is Always Wrong and there's a chronic complainer to act as the show's Butt Monkey, it's likely this guy. He's also the one most likely on The Team to go turncoat, and the last one The Hero will suspect. Conversely, if the rest of the members turn their backs on The Hero for some reason, the Lancer may be the only one who sticks by his side. The Hero and The Lancer may also be rivals for a love interest, or one of them will have a cute sister whom the other crushes on, only to have the brother say "My Sister Is Off-Limits!!" Sometimes The Hero and the Lancer may be love interests to each other.

In the event that The Leader of The Team is unable to lead, The Lancer steps in; unless of course the Number Two is someone else in the group. Sometimes, he's forced to take the position against his will. Either way, this plot is used to contrast the leader's leadership style against what the lancer's would be. A frequent ending for this plot is for The Lancer to gladly give up the reins of power while The Leader often notes that the team will be in excellent hands the next time he is absent.

Powers and skills common to The Lancer include:

When worst comes to worst, The Lancer is the one person on the team who is likely to die for the cause. He's also the most likely member of the team to pull a Face-Heel Turn and get turned to The Dark Side (though this usually doesn't last), or end up Brainwashed and Crazy by the Big Bad or the Evil Genius (and if this happens, either The Chick or The Hero will talk him out of it).

Conversely, if a hero team has a Number Two already that fails to act as a Foil for The Hero, then the lancer can be a redeemed Dragon (the Five-Bad Band's Evil Counterpart) who has turned away from his evil ways through his interactions with the party.

Originally always male, female lancers have become more common. They are either merged with, or contrasted with, The Chick. Having the character who is both most like and most unlike The Hero also being the strongest woman can create UST. She may be in a Love Triangle, acting as the Veronica to The Chick's Betty in pursuit of the object of her secret desire, The Hero. A female Lancer and The Chick may develop into an Odd Couple and work as a sub-team. A former Dark Magical Girl often becomes the Lancer after her Heel-Face Turn to her Magical Girl counterpart.

This trope is named for the man-at-arms of The Middle Ages, the term for a professional soldier. While the term also encompasses the members of the knightly class, a man-at-arms was not necessarily a knight. They were also men of lesser financial and social status than knights, but were equally trained and equipped to fight on horseback in full armour and with sword and lance, just like their social superiors. In this regard, he is most recognizable as King Arthur's right-hand man, Kay, who was the greatest warrior of Arthur in source Welsh legends (and who was later demoted to plucky comic relief) - either way, as a constant Foil for our noble hero, he fits this trope to the letter.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Batman fills this role in most incarnations of the Justice League of America. The darker interpretations fall into the Rival/AntiHeroic version of this trope, with Superman as The Hero.
    • Nightwing is an example of how the Lancer's traits depend on who The Hero is: when he fills this role for Batman, his empathy, idealism, and approachability are played up as a contrast to Bruce.
    • In a hilariously fitting Evil Counterpart, The Joker tends to be the Lancer (or more apropriately, The Dragon) to Lex Luthor on the rare occasions they team up.
  • Hawkeye of The Avengers. He tends to chafe under Captain America's leadership, but it's clear how much like Cap he is — he led both his own Avengers franchise and the Thunderbolts for several years.
    • Iron Man has also acted as a Lancer to Captain America at times, often being pragmatic in the face of Cap's idealism.
  • As indicated by the page quote, Wolverine of the X-Men.
    • He was also the Lancer for Luke Cage when the latter led the New Avengers.
    • Iceman was the Lancer of the original five, with an attitude bigger than Connecticut and a constant bone to pick with The Hero, Cyclops.
    • A solid case could be made for Angel as the Lancer of the original five, actually, right down to being a rival for the affections of The Chick. Unlike Iceman, Angel has actually done the leadership thing on occasion.
    • Wolverine (and Rogue, under similar circumstances years later) panicked and tried to refuse when ordered into a leadership position (despite proving rather competent in same). Nobody has had the nerve to try that stunt on Iceman. In fact, Wolverine was even slated to lead Alpha Flight when he ran away to join the X-Men instead (he was also in love with the team's eventual leader's red-headed wife.) Then again Logan has taken leadership positions since.
  • Moonstone of the Thunderbolts is somewhere between this trope and The Starscream.
  • Speedy I/Arsenal/Red Arrow has often played this role against Robin/Nightwing in the Teen Titans (and later the Outsiders).
  • Namor is perhaps the MU's resident Freelancer, having filled the role on every team he has ever been in, and simply filling that role for the MU heroes in general.
  • Huntress was the Lancer to Black Canary's Hero in Birds of Prey, at least until the Canary left.
    • At which point she became the Lancer to Oracle's.
  • Deadpool would probably be horrified if he realised, but he ends up being this when he teams up with Cable. Sure, he wouldn't be anyone's first choice for a voice of reason, but no-one else can actually stand up to Cable when he's getting way too into the future mutant messiah thing.
  • Skywise from ElfQuest has a great number of complementary traits with his buddy and heroic leader Cutter. A drinker and womanizer, he is more lively and easygoing than Cutter, who naturally bears a keen sense of responsibility for the tribe. Skywise is a studious, curious dreamer, while Cutter prefers to live in the here and now.
    • A more likely interpretation is that among the Wolfriders, Strongbow is the lancer and Skywise is the smart guy. Unlike Skywise, Strongbow makes a habit out of disagreeing with Cutter a lot. In the later series, e.g. Shards, Rayek becomes the lancer.
  • For the current New Avengers line-up Hawkeye/Ronin seems to be The lancer for Captain America (Bucky).
    • Actually, it's the other way around.
  • In Young Avengers, Kate/Hawkeye is the Lancer to Eli/Patriot. They butt heads near-constantly (though that might just be them flirting), but Kate genuinely believes Eli is the only one who can actually lead the team.
  • Donald Duck fills this role nicely for Scrooge in the Don Rosa Uncle Scrooge comics, serving as a practical, pessimistic Foil for the overly-eager treasure hunter, ever ready with either a complaint or a snarky observation.
  • In Sin City, Dwight has had two lancers over the course of the series. In the story A Dame To Kill For, he employs the help of Sociopathic Hero, Marv. Later in the same story and subsequent stories after that, his lancer is Action Girl, Miho. Both lancers are extremely loyal to Dwight but are also far more violent, causing him to be unsettled more than once by their brutality.
  • Woody plays this role against his friend Eric in Quantum and Woody.
  • In Runaways Nico was originally this to Alex. These days Gert, Victor, and Chase have all been known to alternate the role amongst themselves.
  • In The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes (The Hero) has had three Lancers: Shane Walsh, Tyreese, and Abraham Ford, the latter two of whom were explicitly identified as Rick's "right-hand man" at some point in the story. Unfortunately, he's had three Lancers because all three of them died, so this can't be a role any of other survivors are coveting. Michonne (who is still alive and considered an essential member of the survivors) may also fill this role, having been referred to as Rick's "right-hand woman."

    Fan Fic 

    Films — Animated 
  • Timon from The Lion King. To a quite hilarious extent.
  • Toy Story: Buzz Lightyear is Woody's Lancer in Toy Story 2 and 3, after their rivalry is settled in the first film. He fits the definition so well it's almost scary. He begins as a rival to The Hero, has a similar design (law enforcing hero of a television show's toyline with a voice clip feature), acts as the team leader when Woody is away, ends up Brainwashed and Crazy in the service of the Big Bad for a while, and as is made obvious during said Brainwashed and Crazy time he's the most combat-skilled and dangerous of the cast.
  • Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon: almost exactly as above. She is first indifferent of the hero, then jealous of him and infuriated, to the point of beating him up. But as soon as he manages to change her mind, she becomes his staunchest defender and right-hand woman. And it would seem, possibly something else.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Pictured above: Han Solo in Star Wars. "Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid."
    • The Prequels have Obi-Wan to Qui-Gon in Episode I and then Anakin to Obi-Wan in Episodes II and III.
  • Being a loose film adaptation of the same original story, Lancelot fits this trope to a T in King Arthur.
  • Jack Sparrow, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan in Pirates of the Caribbean seem to take turns playing The Hero and the Lancer. They switch sides and betray each other so frequently it can be hard to keep track of who's on which "team" and who's just out for their own ends. The only person who seems to consistently fulfill this role is Joshamee Gibbs, as the Lancer to Jack Sparrow.
  • Rusty Ryan to Danny Ocean in the Oceans Eleven movies.
  • The WWII biopic Patton depicts a "lancer reversal" between American generals George S. Patton and Omar Bradley. At first Bradley is Patton's lancer when Patton is made commander of the II Corps in North Africa and Bradley his deputy. Then after the invasion of Sicily, Patton is reprimanded for slapping a shellshocked soldier and Bradley is promoted over him. Bradley commands the U.S. 1st Army during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Meanwhile Patton was used to decoy the Germans into thinking the invasion would be at Calais. Patton becomes Bradley's lancer when he gives Patton command of the Third Army to implement "Operation Cobra", the Allied plan to breakout of the Normandy beachhead.
  • Snowman is this to The Bandit, hauling the all important cargo and occasionally saving the Bandit when the cops decide to get serious.
  • Arthur, the Point-Man, is the sensible and cool-head Lancer to the dark and troubled Cobb in Inception.
  • Bucky to Captain America in Captain America: The First Avenger.
  • Iron Man to Cap in The Avengers. Out of the whole Dysfunction Junction, they have the most personality conflict for any number of reasons (idealist vs. cynic, reluctant soldier vs. ex-weapons maker), but still end up working well together. Hawkeye, by contrast, is the Sixth Ranger who only really opens up around Black Widow.
  • Gene Hackman is the lancer to a buy-the-book Wilhem Defoe in Mississippi Burning.
  • In Mr Saturday Night, Stan had the makings and ambitions to be a comedian but his brother Buddy Young had the guts to go and perform, so Stan becomes the more grounded manager to egotistical Buddy.
  • In The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya fulfills this role rather well to the Man In Black/Westley. At first he is arrogant and apprehensive of Westley's skills, but eventually goes on to be a faithful right-hand man and gains a deep-set respect for his skills to the extent that he believes that Westley is capable of anything (which essentially turns out to be the case).
  • Sam French is the Lancer to Jake Wyer, The Hero, in Fifty/Fifty.
  • Subotai from the Conan the Barbarian (1982) film. He teaches Conan how to be a thief, saves him from the Tree of Woe, and stands by his side during the Battle of the Mounds.
  • Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit:
    • Legolas and Boromir both fill this for Aragorn.
    • Sam fills this for Frodo.
    • Balin fills this for Thorin.
  • In Seven Psychopaths, Billy fits the role of the Lancer to Marty. Marty and Billy are almost perfect foils for eachother, since they have different opinions on Marty's alcoholism, Marty's girlfriends, and lifestyle. Marty has the Badass power (Billy says that Marty is the "best writer of his generation"), and Billy dies for the cause.
  • Ripcord from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
  • Steven Prince from The World's End. Despite being friends, he's a bit of a rival to Gary.
  • Hugh Mercer to George Washington in The Crossing. He's Washington's Number Two and best friend and is more cautious, skeptical, and even-tempered.
  • Pete to Teddy in Neighbors.
  • X-Men:
  • Al Giardino in Sahara

    Tabletop Games 
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse has a tribe originally made up of Lancers: The Shadowlords. In former times, their task was to act as the Beta of packs and did what the Alpha couldn't be seen to do. Unfortunately, more and more of them feel that the Silverfangs are no longer up to the task of leading...
  • This trope can be found in the makeup of any Dungeons & Dragons party due to the variety of roles that need to be performed in a campaign. The Hero of this group will generally be the one who is the obvious leader of the group, whether by being a great warrior or diplomat. Conversely, the Lancer will probably be the Leader's opposite, being the team's negotiator in the former case or being the taciturn combat leader in the latter.

    Toys 
  • Every Toa team in BIONICLE has one of these, usually a Toa of Ice to balance out the Toa of Fire leader. The most prominent example would be Kopaka, who has a Red Oni, Blue Oni dynamic with Tahu.
    • And to continue the tradition, Stormer is this to Furno in Hero Factory.

    Theatre 
  • Hamlet: Horatio.
  • Orestes: Pylades acts in this capacity to his friend Orestes, in Euripides' play.
  • Romeo and Juliet: Mercutio is Romeo's right-hand man and best friend. He even goes so far as fighting and losing a duel in his name.
  • Casio, in Shakespeare's Othello. Casio is Othello's faithful lieutenant. He is a good friend to his general, but has a weakness for drink and women.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • Wyn from the web fiction serial Dimension Heroes.
  • Star Whistle from Dusk's Dawn, as she's a major plot point in the first half and is the last pony standing when fighting the Evil Twin.

    Real Life 
  • Kobe Bryant to Shaquille O'Neal from their generation of the LA Lakers. The seasoned Shaq was The Big Guy and the captain, while the rambunctious Kobe was the rookie. Their relationship was frequently punctuated by feuds played out in the press. Now that Shaq retired, Kobe's become the face of the Lakers, with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum sharing the role of the Lancer.
  • When they were both on the Chicago Bulls, Scottie Pippen was seen as a lancer for Michael Jordan.
  • Russell Westbrook, the cocky Red Oni, to Kevin Durant, the collected Blue Oni. Unlike Kobe and Shaq, Durant and Westbrook are Heterosexual Life-Partners.
  • Dwyane Wade to LeBron James in the Miami Heat. James is the theatric champion on the court; Wade is the leader and the face of the team.
  • The Chicago Blackhawks are led by young superstars Jonathan Toews, nicknamed "Captain Serious", and Patrick Kane, who does not exactly carry the same reputation.
  • Alex Rodriguez to Derek Jeter after he joined the New York Yankees.
  • Bobby Bonilla to Barry Bonds, during the competitive 90s Pittsburgh Pirates, before their downward spiral to becoming one of the worst teams in over a decade. Bobby Bonilla would go with coach Jim Leland and win a world series with him on the Florida Marlins. Barry Bonds would go to the San Francisco Giants and put up great career numbers. But he would never win a World Series and then you have the steroids accusations.
  • Formula 1 team Ferrari has been using this, with Eddie Irvine, Rubens Barichello and Felipe Massa playing the lancer to Michael Schumacher. Massa continued as the lancer for Fernando Alonso. Will probably be subverted in the 2014 season with Alonso being paired with Kimi Raikkonen. This trope is also evident in the Red Bull team with Sebastian Vettel being paired with Mark Webber and now Daniel Riccardo.
  • The Who is an interesting example. Pete Townsend was the band's artistic leader, but was also violent and dealt with depression. He wasn't the band's frontman, though. He left that up to "second-in-command", Roger Daltrey who was more reserved in comparison and often served as the more mature member of the group.
  • The Beatles are another interesting variation: John Lennon started out as The Hero, with Paul Mccartney as the Lancer. And as time went on, they switched.
  • The Rolling Stones has Keith Richards as The Lancer to Mick Jagger.
  • Beanie Sigel, during the early 2000s, was The Lancer to Jay-Z. It didn't work out in the end.
  • Speaking of Jay-Z, Kanye West is his Lancer on Watch the Throne.
    • in West's own crew, GOOD Music, Pusha T is the Lancer to West's hero.
  • Ace Pilot Staff Sergeant Nils Katajainen (36 kills) to Captain Hans Wind (78 kills) in the Finnish Air Force in WWII. They usually flew as a pair. Both were awarded the Mannerheim Cross, roughly the Finnish equivalent of Victoria Cross or Congressional Medal of Honor.
  • Michael Vick to Donovan McNabb in the Philadelphia Eagles. McNabb was the calm, collected quarterback leader with a passion for the sport, while Vick was the "bad-boy" second-in-command who was in legal troubles, especially with the dog-fighting.
  • During his last three seasons at Manchester United when he established himself as one of the best players in the world Wayne Rooney was often his lancer.
  • Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton served as George Washington's Number Two during the Revolutionary War and Washington's time as president. While Washington was stoic, deliberative, and against bare knuckle politics, Hamilton was brash, quick witted, and famously one of the most vicious political fighters of his generation. This proved useful to Washington, who relied on Hamilton's intricate thinking and writing skills to serve as his Army chief of staff and most trusted secretary, much to the annoyance of others on Washington's staff.
  • Likewise Rahm Emanuel. A dirty, armtwisting guy from Chicago, who was once a senior advisor to Bill Clinton, as he was to Barack Obama. Did you know he studied ballet?
  • Shuuichi Ikeda to Toru Furuya; they voiced for the main antagonist and the main protagonist of Mobile Suit Gundam respectively.
  • Michael Wittmann, one of the most successful armored commanders of all time, had Bobby Woll as his gunner. They were so in tune that, eventually, all Wittmann had to do was give Woll a direction where enemy tanks could be found and let Woll do the rest. Luckily for Woll, he wasn't with Wittmann when the latter's luck ran out in August, 1944.
  • General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, to General Robert E. Lee once Lee earned command of the Virginian forces in 1862. When Jackson was killed, accidentally shot by his own men at Chancellorsville, Lee said "He had lost his left arm, but I have lost my right."
    • On the Union side, William Tecumseh Sherman was the Lancer to Ulysses S. Grant. "Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk. Now, we stand by each other always." Grant entrusted Sherman to handle the Western theater of the Civil War while Grant assumed command in the East to fight Lee. It worked.

The LeaderFive-Man BandThe Smart Guy
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The LeaderJustForFun/Tropes of LegendThe Big Guy
Well-Intentioned ExtremistOverdosed TropesDriven to Suicide
Junior CounterpartFoilLight Feminine and Dark Feminine
I Have You Now, My PrettyImageSource/Star WarsRay Gun
Persona 3Stop Helping Me!Final Fantasy VIII
Lady of AdventureHeroesThe Last DJ

alternative title(s): Lancer
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