They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character

"I'm still not quite sure how SMeyer came up with her; it's like she wandered in from a better book."
cmdr_zoom, commenting on Cleolinda' s LiveJournal about Twilight character Alice.

The character is brilliant. They might be any role but no matter what trope they fall under, whether a single trope or many, they all have one thing in common. You love them, but the writer doesn't. It's not their fault, they do the best they can. They just never seem to get the screentime that you think they deserve. That Day in the Limelight isn't forthcoming, the episode focusing on their mysterious past doesn't turn up, you never get to hear their snarky remarks on a situation that just calls for it and after five pages of teasing they get Put on a Bus to Nowhereville or get a bridge dropped on them.

Often happens when a single- or few-episode character is introduced. They show great promise, with an interesting background or interaction with the main character(s), and could have led to a compelling plot or new dynamic if made a permanent fixture, or at least a recurring character — but were underdeveloped and then discarded. Occasionally this happens to someone whose backstory is revealed in supplementary materials, or in a video game are filled through sidequests, which are very likely to be skipped and ignored, although it's especially annoying if these supplementary materials were never available in your country.

Contrast Creator's Pet, this trope's exact opposite, where a character isn't considered good by many viewers but keeps getting exposure anyway. A subtrope of They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot, supertrope of Too Cool to Live. Nearly always an Ensemble Dark Horse. Fan Fic writers are especially drawn to these characters, as the Fanfic Fuel they generate can be prompts for many stories.


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     Comic Books 
  • Ares from Marvel Comics was portrayed as a Badass Papa Wolf, once villain of The Avengers who was recruited onto the Mighty Avengers team. However, the team itself was short-lived as after only two short arcs the team was disbanded and he became a Dark Avenger instead. This led to him being tossed around by every other villain the team faced and the book focused on other characters instead. He scored a few crowning moments of awesome while being neglected but it seems increasingly likely that he won't feature too prominently anymore seeing as The Void tore him in half in an embarrassingly short Curb-Stomp Battle during Siege.
  • DC's New 52 introduces Ev Crawford, a.k.a. Starling, in the revamped Birdsof Prey. Starling is a rarity: a breakout character from DC's reboot, a quick shot with a gun, a devil-may-care attitude, and cool tattoos. Plus, she is a bisexual character, and the reboot was supposed to be more diverse in its character roster. Starling became a fan favorite... so naturally, she is revealed to be a traitor in 2013, tossed into comic book limbo, and has been forgotten ever since.
  • Shamrock, Marvel's Captain Irish heroine. She's possessed by the spirits of dead Irish soldiers who have unfinished business. When they possess her they give her the speed, strength and martial skill of a thousand dead warriors... oh sorry, they actually made her really, really lucky. But wait, it gets better; she retired from superhero-ing to become... a hairdresser. And no one cared!
  • Teen Titans:
    • Cute Mute and Body Surfer Jericho. After being stuck on a floppy as a Brainwashed and Crazy ghost for a couple years he was finally revived and restored to his old self and with a new body... only to be shoved into limbo about ten issues later where he would turn up a in couple years evil again due to multiple evil personalities from his power of possession (and also possibly from being 'dead') and ultimately suffer Eye Scream. What makes this even more of a waste was that during Jericho's short time as a newly revived hero, he had hardly any interaction with any of his old friends (especially best friend/almost love interest Raven who resurrected him but instead their relationship seemed forgotten) or a decent reunion with his father Deathstroke the Terminator, or really anything about the character was explored besides "mute son of Deathstroke". Now, the mute part has been taken away, thus DC Comics having one less hero with a physical disability. Besides some sweet bonding moments with his half-sister Ravager, Jericho was mostly stuck in the background and underused until he was thrown in to the mediocre and forgettable stories DCU: Decisions and the Titans/Teen Titans/Vigilante crossover Deathtrap. However, as of Blackest Night Jericho seemed to have recovered from both insanity and Eye Scream... for now.
    • Several fans of the modern Superboy, disappointed at his editorially mandated shock death in Infinite Crisis, were perked up by the reveal that his evil yet sophisticated clone Match would finally be made part of a teen villain team alongside fellow evil clone Inertia. Since Match had previously infiltrated Superboy's close circle of friends and had successfully manipulated them and even gained a villainous crush on Wondergirl thanks to his high degree of intelligence, it was hoped he'd be an epic villain and we'd get to here some great monologues. Then the team finally appeared. Match was a carbon copy of Bizarro. No real characterization. Weaker power level. And redundant; a Superboy Bizarro had already been done.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Toxin was introduced in the Venom vs. Carnage series as being basically a good counterpart of Spider-Man's villains Venom and Carnage. The character became an Ensemble Dark Horse amongst some fans, and could have been quite interesting, having his own conflict and a unique relationship with his symbiot. But all he got was a short-lived limited series where he fought mostly villains that weren't really able to match him (his main antagonist, Razor-Fist, was just a guy with blades instead of hands. Against a guy with Venom's and Carnage's abilities combined), and was never actually seen again after that. When the symbiote finally showed up again, it was stripped from its original heroic host, Brainwashed and Crazy and forced to bound with a Eddie Brock to go kill the Flash version of Venom.
    • During the poorly received "The Other" storyline, a subplot involved him fighting a new villain named Tracer. Tracer at first seems completely forgettable, literally just a punk with a gun, but he is later revealed to be a robotic entity that claims to have arisen from the internet as a sort of god to the world's computers (like Marvel's very own version of Lain). He gets destroyed, but declares that he'll be back. He hasn't been back.
    • Carl King, aka the Thousand, was a one-shot villain introduced as Peter Parker's high school bully who was aware that Parker was Spider-Man. Jealous of Peter's powers and wanting some of his own, King eats the now-dead spider that bit Peter, which causes his body to transform into a Hive Mind swarm of spiders. He gains the ability to "possess" people by entering their bodies and eating their insides, wearing their skin like a suit and mimicking their voices. His ultimate goal is to steal Peter's life. While he could have been a decent recurring villain as well as a good Evil Counterpart to Peter, he's killed off in his debut when all of his spiders die.
  • This is pretty much the premise of Avengers Arena, killing off teenaged heroes with cult followings in a Hunger Games style fight to the death. Because the characters originated in series that had been cancelled though, they fall into C-List Fodder box described above. Detractors reaction has pretty much unanimously been "You could have brought the characters back another way and considered reviving their series instead of killing them in cold blood, damn it!"
  • Fantastic Four:
    • During the story arc in which Franklin Richards was sent to the distant future then came back with a Plot-Relevant Age-Up, Marvel seemed to bend over backwards to make sure the adult Franklin never encountered Rachel Summers, the time traveler who was his girlfriend in her own alternate future. Then when the arc was concluded they promptly erased the adult version of Franklin from existence and brought back the child whose lack of control over his powers means his only way to participate in stories is as a either a kidnapping target or a source of Deus ex Machina. At least the aged-up version was an actual character.
    • Reed's father Nathaniel became a warlord in another dimension and fathered the warrior woman Huntara. Years later, he got summarily retconned as just an alternate universe version of Reed's real dad, and then killed off-panel. A completely different character was then introduced as Reed's "real" dad.
  • Superman villains and Abusive Parents Zod and Ursa had their young child end up on Earth, where Superman and Lois Lane adopted him under the name Christopher Kent. The Character Development and story potential opened up by Clark and Lois finally becoming parents was then wasted when Christopher got sucked into a Year Inside, Hour Outside dimension for a Plot-Relevant Age-Up and wound up becoming just another minor character by the "New Krypton" arc. Especially sad as the New 52 reboot came not too long after all this, so Christopher's change to the status quo would not have been permanent in any case.
  • This was particularly bad in Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog during the Penders/Bollers era as many characters were introduced, especially by writers other than the two, then dumped as the two did their own things.
  • The otherwise pretty forgettable Quasar spinoff Star Blasters introduced an alien robot villain named Skeletron. He claimed to be the sole survivor of an ancient race of machine creatures called the Turgentine Technenium, who had dominated a huge swath of the Marvel Universe eons ago, only to finally be destroyed in a tremendous war with the organic races of that era. He got killed, and the Turgentine Techenium hasn't been mentioned since.
  • Elliot S! Maggin invented a character named Superwoman who had a lot of potential. Kristin Wells was a time traveler from the distant future who used then-commonplace technologies to be a superhero in the present day (she actually first appeared in non-superhero form in Maggin's Superman novel Miracle Monday.) Superwoman only received a handful of appearances before Crisis on Infinite Earths erased her from history. She's probably best known these days for having a non-speaking cameo in Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow? Half her shtick, meanwhile, got appropriated by the Post-Crisis character Booster Gold (a time traveler who uses his era's tech to be a superhero).
  • Towards the end of Dn A's run on Nova, the Nova Corps started to be built up again. All of the new recruits were interesting characters and had a lot of potential, but perhaps none more so than Zan Philo. A Skrull member of the Nova Corps who had been trapped in the Fault for over thirty years, he seemed to know several things about the Nova Force which even Richard didn't, and served as a drill instructor for several issues. Between the fact that he was a heroic Skrull, was a very competent character, and had a lot of unanswered questions in his backstory (why does he have two artificial arms and one regular one?), Zan Philo was just full of potential.
  • The premise of Axis is an event that causes heroes to become bad and villains to become good, known as "Inversion." A number of fans and reviewers have pointed out that most of the inverted heroes are acting in rather generically evil ways, though the characterizations of the inverted villains have been met with praise for the way the baddies are portrayed as retaining their negative traits even when trying to do good.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Cerise from My Brave Pony: Star Fleet Magic II is a major in Starfleet, can stand toe-to-toe with Lightning and can use the Uniforce. She is a one-shot character.
  • In The Prayer Warriors: Battle With the Witches, Voldemort appears in a single scene, establishing himself as an enemy to both the Prayer Warriors and Hogwarts, and blackmailing Draco into killing Michael with the threat of killing Ebony so that he will be able to continue to fight against Dumbledore. It would have been more interesting to have an additional opposing faction, but Voldemort is never seen again.
  • This happens pretty often in Nuzlocke stories due to Real Life Writes the Plot. A writer can come up with an interesting and complex personality for a Pokemon... only for it to die to a fluke critical hit before they can fully develop. One notable example is Vinny the Magneton in Petty's Nuzlocke Challenge, who developed a huge fan following when he was introduced due to his interesting personality and good performance in battle... and he unceremoniously died to a critical in the next chapter.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Furious Five in Kung Fu Panda. Wonderful character design, awesome powers, voiced by the likes of Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan, each with the potential for intriguing backstories — but for such an imaginative, talented group of characters they seem remarkably underutilized. However, they're given a bit more to do in the sequel (particularly Tigress) and are also fleshed out a bit more in supplementary material like the Secrets of the Furious Five special and the Legends of Awesomeness series.
  • Brutus of The Secret Of NIMH has a scary introduction where he menaces Mrs. Brisby with an electrified spear, but that's his only appearance in the film. He's apparently in the scene where the rats are moving Mrs. Brisby's house as Justin shouts for him, but he's not on-screen. A scene of him actually getting to use his badass electro-pike (against Dragon, perhaps?) would have been nice.
  • Zee from Monster House. At first she's a nasty (though darkly humorous) subversion of the sweet and kind babysitter, but there are a few moments here and there that suggest she's not altogether bad and there's even some build-up as to her involvement in the titular Monster House (at one point she offers to go and see what DJ is so afraid of). Given the emphasis put on her in the film's first half, many Genre Savvy viewers expected her to turn up again in a Chekhov's Gunman capacity, but ...nope. Instead she disappears halfway through the film and only reappears for a tiny scene during the closing credits.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Flash Sentry. Nopony shown before was ever enough to make Twilight stop because she apparently has a crush. There was almost nothing to show exactly what made Flash Sentry so special. In fact, he was even Sunset Shimmer's ex boyfriend - nothing else was made of this.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Friendship Games: The Shadowbolts weren't given much screen time — surprising since they're the focus of the toyline (along with the protagonists, of course), were among the first things leaked and/or formally revealed about the film, and promotional materials (such as posts by the official My Little Pony facebook page and the official Equestria Girls website) pushed parallels between them and the Humane 6 and gave interesting character traits that are, for the most part, unexplored in the film proper.
  • Valka in How to Train Your Dragon 2. She's shown to be an incredible character with a connection to dragons, a sympathetic backstory, and a very spooky design aesthetic that is great to look at. But then she gets pushed to the sidelines for the sake of Hiccup's character development, and in a situation where you'd think she'd do great, she ends up being pushed down almost immediately. Word of God says that she was originally conceived as the Big Bad, which does explain it somewhat.
  • The Book of Life:
    • Manolo's cousins, the Adelita Twins who fought during the revolution and are also the only badass Sanchezes to not be Bull Fighters. Only got two scenes.
    • Joaquin's dad is talked about a lot but never makes an appearance which leads to all sorts of Fanon.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Galaxoid and Nebular, the two aliens Calvin sells the Earth to in Calvin and Hobbes, could've been fun characters. Problem is, they were introduced extremely late into the strip (two months before it ended), and thus were only featured in two arcs.

     Professional Wrestling 
  • In the WWE, Muhammad Hassan was original portrayed as an Arab-American suffering from racism in a post-9/11 world. Judging by his character alone, he had the potential of becoming one of the biggest woobies ever. However, he was treated as a typical Foreign Wrestling Heel by the fans despite being billed from Detroit, Michigan to the point where he eventually became the very thing he was stereotyped as.
  • Paul Burchill's pirate gimmick, in which the wrestler discovered one of his distant ancestors was a pirate so he began to model himself as one, swinging onto the ramp from a rope and brandishing a cutlass, was much beloved by the fans. It even came about at the height of the popularity of Pirates of the Caribbean. But, the gimmick was axed prematurely because Vince McMahon couldn't understand why a pirate would be a Face.
  • Hade Vansen, a mysterious British wrestler who was supposed to feud with the Undertaker, was released before he debuted. Most fans feel it was a waste
  • When Dustin Rhodes returned to WCW in 1999, it was originally supposed to be in the guise of "Seven," a ghoulish, pail-skinned character in a long coat and wide-brimmed hat. One vignette for the character features him staring at a child through the child's bedroom window, and then the child's eyes turn into empty black pits. When the character actually debuted, he floated to the ring (with assistance from some wires) and then Rhodes broke character and cut a worked shoot promo verbally bashing this gimmick, as well as the Goldust gimmick. The next time he was seen, he had a completely different gimmick, and the Seven character never even wrestled a match. The gimmick was actually the brainchild of Rhodes and his father Dusty, but the character was dropped after the network executives feared that he would be misinterpreted as a child abductor.
  • Maxine was an Ensemble Darkhorse for Diva fans on NXT Redemption. As well as having a solid character, she was quite good in the ring too. When NXT Redemption was cancelled, she could have made for a good top heel in the women's division - or at least a character role on TV. She spent a couple of months barely being used, and opted to ask for her release.
  • Layla returned to WWE after a year off (due to a torn ACL) fresh off a Heel-Face Turn - and very improved in the ring. As Kelly Kelly was on her way out, WWE were in need of a new top babyface Diva - and Layla had gotten decent reactions from crowds beforehand. However she was barely on TV and got no mic time to herself at all. Despite wowing people in the ring, nothing was done with her at all. It happened again a year later when she turned heel on her friend Kaitlyn - seemingly forming an alliance with AJ. This was dropped after a couple of weeks and Layla was Put on a Bus for months for unknown reasons.
  • The Beautiful Fierce Females on NXT, mostly due to Real Life Writes the Plot. Summer Rae and Sasha Banks formed a Power Stable hoping to take control of NXT - later recruiting Charlotte to make it a villainous version of The Three Faces of Evenote . However Charlotte left for a few months to get breast implants. The feud between Paige and Emma also took centre stage and Bayley also needed people to feud with - so the BFFs never got much of a chance to get pushed as a top heel faction. What's more is that Summer Rae's main roster career took off, meaning that she had to stop appearing at NXT. When she returned, the group was quickly broken up. Put it this way: the first time the three of them wrestled in a 6-Diva tag together - it was the start of their break-up.

    • Dark Hunter Ancient. He's a unique case: started out as a decent character (evil but not outright malicious, and a founding member of the Dark Hunters), but was overall plain and unimportant. Not many would've missed him. Then, with no foreshadowing, he's revealed to be a Double Agent for the good guys. He's become interesting! He is then abruptly killed off and forgotten completely, rendering this reveal pointless (because no other character found out). Worse, the plot which led him to be killed was abandoned after that chapter.
    • Other Dark Hunters might also count, such as Guardian, who only ever appeared in one scene before being killed by the Big Bad For the Evulz, even though they had an in-depth backstory written for him. Toyless Toyline Characters are prone to this, as a lot of them come off as more interesting than the main characters, but are always forced to the back because there's too many of them.
    • Some might think they wasted Tren Krom too. Sure, he had a great impact on the story already, and was an interestingly developed character (some sort of a benevolent but still mean-spirited Eldritch Abomination who's terrified to see what the world he was once appointed to rule had come to), but he was bound to his island prison, which limited his use greatly. Then, he became free, and when we next see him... his pieces are all over the scenery. Justified in that killing off powerful characters was the point of this story, but still. There was great potential in the guy.
    • Telluris. A crazed and evil Gadgeteer Genius who does have a good side, but this is usually overshadowed by his mighty mechanical scorpion-war machine, the Skopio XV-1. The Skopio only ever appeared in one scene (not counting its animation model appearing in The Legend Reborn), in a difficult-to-get side story, and got trashed. Thus, the most defining aspect of Telluris' character was gone. Telluris also received an in-depth history, and even seemed like an actual likable character, only to be killed off later for no reason whatsoever, before he could do anything that had an impact on the plot.
    • Alternate-Teridax, the benevolent Alternate Universe-self of the story's Big Bad. He is brought to the main universe, but only appears for a short action scene where he brutally demolishes some Mooks, and is then forgotten. He doesn't even play a part in defeating the original Teridax, and nobody seems to care that he's there.

     Web Comics 
  • The "To Thine Own Self" arc of General Protection Fault introduced some side characters who would have been interesting in their own right as counterparts to the main cast, but got killed off before long. Examples include a version of Yoshi who is a savant at engineering but otherwise mentally retarded, Wong Li, a diminutive yet extremely powerful operative and a Shrinking Violet version of Sharon. Unfortunately, most of the resistance characters are implied to have been killed off when the resistance hideout is raided, and Nega-Sharon is a Reverse Mole for the Emperor, and gets killed when an explosion causes the roof to collapse on her.
  • Homestuck: The trolls of Hivebent hover somewhere around 'deuteragonist' level, but are still this. (They're introduced in Act 5, almost half of them are dead by Act 6, and they're the protagonists of a compelling, highly abridged Story Within a Story that Hivebent gives us only an idea of.) They each have their own distinct personalities and methods of coping with the Fantastic Caste System and their species' truly messed up culture. They have an alien system of romance that the author created specifically to bait shippers with. It should come as no surprise that they're also Ensemble Darkhorses par excellence.

     Web Original 
  • SBB Brothers:
    • Presumably; this was what the producer thought about Kristen and Roscoe. Before he canceled the original Sims Big Brother 7, the two were brought back as the guest star players. Both were evicted second and didn't have a chance to develop (That and SRN admits that he had almost no creativity while working on Sims Big Brother 4 anyways; and it shows.) However when the viewers chose the cast of All stars, Roscoe sadly didn't make the cut (He did have several amusing moments; though, more than can be said for Kristen) but Kristen was one of two people from season 4 that made it in - the other was Johnny. Kristen wasn't even a producer's choice!
    • Unfortunately; the same could be said about a lot of the big brother 4 cast. CJ seemed almost a background prop despite being popular enough to win (Viewers voted on the winner) Brian and Sam seemed to be in control of the game, heck, Sam is the only player who was never nominated.
    • The viewers also thought this about Dana, too. Dana was another early boot from Big Brother season 2 but was voted in as well.
  • Survival of the Fittest has Loads and Loads of Characters, each with detailed backstories, characterizations, and other information inside their profiles. It also happens to be a Deadly Game in which characters die regularly. As you might expect, many characters die early on, or without reaching their full potential.