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Wolverine Publicity
Just to be clear, it's not like he appears in any other issue either.

"I stopped reading X-Men about the same time they started putting Wolverine on the cover of comics in which he didn't actually, technically, appear."
Lore Sjöberg, The Book of Ratings, "Marvel Supervillains (Part I)"

When certain popular characters within a fictional universe (and sometimes in real life) get used in gratuitous and/or inappropriate ways purely to enhance marketing.

Superhero teams in comic books constantly change. Characters join and leave so often that any given superhero team is often unrecognizable within a year. Other superhero teams have a Heroes Unlimited setup, where there are Loads and Loads of Characters and no two issues will have the same group. As a result, there are a lot more fans of particular comic-book characters than there are fans of particular comic-book teams or comic-book titles. Fans will like a new team book not if it has a name they recognize, but if it has characters they recognize. A new title will often sell based on whether it has already-popular characters in it, and existing characters will often be made more or less powerful based on how popular they are with readers. This is done so that characters can be viewed by more readers, and also to find the best possible combination for a team for sales. This leads to one of the most overused tricks in comic-book marketing. When a character is very popular, they will often get Wolverine Publicity: appearing in every comic book title and format possible, smearing them all over even the non-related covers with all the fine delicacy of bacon-flavoured soap. The character will often have a flood of mini-series which desperately search for something new to do with them ("in this issue, Wolverine visits Turkmenistan!"), until the fans are sicker of them than they would be of bacon if they had to bathe in an offal gutter at the meat-packing plant too.

The next step of Wolverine Publicity is random cameos to drive other titles. The promoted character will appear in the first issue of every new title, and appear in old titles with flagging sales, regardless of whether the promoted character makes any sense there. Particularly shameless marketers will just slap the promoted character on the cover and have them appear for one panel in the issue. They will often suffer from The Worf Effect; a new character hasn't "made it" unless they can thrash the most important character in the universe. Even if the story is actually a team-up, this pairing might suffer from being a Story-Breaker Team-Up since the promoted character may not fit in with the title's story or tone at all.

If a team has multiple titles, with different members in each one, the promoted character will somehow manage to appear in both titles — even if the two stories are supposed to be happening at the same time.

Compare Spotlight-Stealing Title, Billing Displacement, Covers Always Lie, Overused Copycat Character, Red Skies Crossover, Lady Not-Appearing-in-This-Game. When an iconic villain shows up in an installment supposedly featuring someone else as the Big Bad, this becomes Hijacked by Ganon. If an actor or character engages in self-promotion (whether in-universe or out), this could shade into It's All About Me. In music this can be one of the factors that leads to one or two members being The Face Of The Band.

Not to be confused with the idea that Wolverine is becoming the focus of the Marvel Universe (although that certainly has spawned many examples of this trope). Whenever Marvel wants to do without him for a while, they usually have Magneto rip the metal off his bones...


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Wolverine 
The Marvel Comics character Wolverine (who is of course the Trope Namer) is the worst offender, hands down. So he gets his own section. He's been so over-used that his later appearances are prone to parody and Lampshade Hanging. By the end of the 1990s, Wolverine had been paired up with practically every other Marvel hero in existence, all the way down to five-year-old Katie Power of Power Pack. Twice. Why? Well, beyond his general popularity, he has a number of traits that make him the perfect storm for this:
  1. His long life-span means he can appear in all flash-back stories with his modern personality. He can appear in flash-forward stories for this reason, and also his popularity means he won't be Killed Off for Real.
  2. That long life means he has connections all over the world and beyond, meaning he can easily drop into any location: America? Japan? Canada? Germany? France? Russia? Hong Kong? Space? Hell? Yep.
  3. He's both a Rated M for Manly Badass and a Woobie, depending on the story you want to tell.
  4. It's almost impossible to write him out of character: Is he in helpful teammate good-guy mode? Or berserker evil loner animal mode? A blow to the head can make all the difference.
  5. He seems to know every hot babe in the Marvel Universe, making an enticing cover design easy to draw.

Even his son Daken was following in his footsteps for a little bit; he was a member of both the Dark Avengers and the Dark X-Men, in addition to having his own solo title at the time. And of course X-23 was added to the cast of Avengers Academy to boost the falling sales. She's was also one of the leads in Avengers Arena.

Parodies and Lampshades

Comic books
  • The image at the top of this page is from a month when Marvel published every single one of their comics with a Wolverine variant cover (it was the 30th anniversary of his first appearance so they did something special for him), even if they didn't actually take place in the Marvel Universe. This includes their adaptation of the Anita Blake Urban Fantasy books."
  • Marvel had already recognized how absurd it was getting by the late 1980s. Their humor/parody comic What The?! showed Wolverine just trying to have a quiet day of fishing and going insane because of all the other characters popping up to get him to guest-star.
  • A cover of the first "What The?!" featured Wolverine saying he had to appear on the first cover, as it was in his contract.
    • And Wolverine was appalled when he discovered how the editors were going to squeeze even more out of him when he's introduced to Wolverina. Then came X-23...
  • In another What The?! story, various characters tried to increase their popularity by wearing eyepatches... which Wolverine sported at the time. Said story ends with Wolvie "cutting" their plans short.
  • In an issue of New X-Men, a character mentions that Wolverine is the only mutant who finds time to be on all three X-Men teams at once.
  • Lampshaded in New Avengers. After discovering that Elektra had at some point been replaced by a Skrull, they discuss who else might have been substituted. Wolverine himself pointed out that his ability to be on so many teams at once seemed ridiculous... unless he was trying to infiltrate as many as possible.
  • And from Runaways:
    Iron Man: "A Wolverine appearance? How novel. Seriously, this is the third time I've run into you this week..."
  • In Deadpool, Wolverine's appearance in issue #27 was declared "his most gratuitous guest appearance ever!" right on the cover.
  • Also lampshaded in the Weapon X: First Class mini-series Deadpool gives a laundry list of Wolverine's powers ending with "the ability to appear in twenty books every month".
    • This ''House of M'' parody cartoon takes a shot at it, too.
      Cyclops: Since when are you in the Avengers anyway, Wolverine?
      Wolverine: I was getting bored only being on three teams while having my own solo adventures. A guy's got to live a little.
    • Also from the same flash artist, Cyclops assigning teams to deal with the latest return of the Dark Phoenix. Team A is sent, with Wolverine, to track down Phoenix. Team B, with Wolverine, ( "Uh..." ) is sent to defend from an inevitable attack by the Brotherhood of Evil, and Team C, with Wolverine, to have adventures in Europe, or something.
      Wolverine: Now wait just a—!
      • Even funnier because it happened. In one issue, Cyclops had pretty much the whole team in his face complaining about their assignments. Wolverine was among them, saying "Look, I appreciate the confidence, but I can't be on every team!" In the end, Cyclops told them nobody was having their assignments changed.
      • He wasn't even on all three teams at once beyond the first story arcs. Once things settled, he pretty much only appeared in Astonishing, basically proving that he was only thrown on the other two teams to boost sales.
  • One X-Force cover actually has Wolverine baring his claws for the camera and say "I'm only doin' this to increase sales." Amazingly, this was revealed to be the first panel of the story, in which he legitimately was appearing in the issue.
  • Wolverine's popularity was parodied when he appeared in X-Force (with the team that would later become X-Statix). He does a TV spot saying he doesn't know what to think about the new X-Force but it's just a favor to his old pal Doop. However, when a super-donnybrook breaks out the villains deride Wolvie as "the housewife's choice", a mass-market approved badass not to be taken any more seriously than Mr. Clean or Toucan Sam.
  • Wolverine #73 (July 2009) has a short story that covers a month or so in Wolverine's life that parodies/riffs on the idea of his many appearances in various Marvel titles.
  • Wolverine even manages to pull this off in non-Marvel publications. Twisted Toyfare Theater in particular enjoys pointing this out - one comic followed Wolverine through a day of his many crossovers. This included Wolvie plowing through a magazine stand, forcing his head through a copy of Wizard magazine, and a kid asking his mom to get the copy of Wizard with Wolverine on/through the cover.
    • If you can't figure out for yourself, Wolverine has appeared on the cover of Wizard (the leading comics mag) more than any other character. In 2004, Wizard even released a supplement that was entirely about Wolverine, and proudly copped to the trend by displaying their favorite Wolvie covers - listing all of them would just take all day.
  • Lampshaded in an issue of New Avengers, when Mockingbird ask him how he can be on the X-Men and two Avengers (regular Avengers and New Avengers) teams at the same time. He jokes that multitasking is his mutant power.
  • During the brief period where Daken was posing as Wolverine at the behest of Norman Osborn, he was a member of both the Dark Avengers and Dark X-Men. The writers decided to have several characters get in some digs by asking just how many teams Dark Wolverine could possibly be a member of.
  • Spoofed in one cover of Great Comics That Never Happened, in which Wolverine converts to get his contractually-obligated spot on a Jewish superhero teamup.
  • There is a backup story that shows a few weeks in the life of Wolverine. Every day is a different team-up. Except for Saturday. Saturday, Logan Drinks.
  • This was eventually Lampshaded and dealt with in issue Avengers (vol. 6) #24, where Captain America fired Wolverine from the team because he felt he was spreading himself too thin.
  • Lampshaded in Uncanny Avengers Annual #1. Mojo pitches a new show called "Avengers of the Supernatural", which stars characters such as Blade, Doctor Strange, and Ghost Rider. Upon seeing the pitch, the network execs immediately ask if he can add Wolverine to the team as well.

Music

Websites

Web comics
  • In the second volume of Ensign Sue Must Die, some of the protagonists land in the Marvel universe and Wolverine insists on joining the hunt (after getting thrashed by a Sue armed with the Infinity Gauntlet). When Spock questions how useful he'd be, Captain America points out that in their universe, all teams are required to have Wolverine included.
  • When the F-Men are introduced in the webcomic Bad Guy High, their Wolverine parody Koala was outside a building one panel and inside it the next. When confronted with it he responded
    It's in my contract to appear in every panel

Straight Examples

Anime & Manga
  • And now Wolverine even appears in anime form!
    • As a tie in to that, he also saves Tony Stark twice in the Iron Man anime.
    • He's also in the Blade anime. And, for obvious reasons, the X-Men one. That's a year of constant Woverine anime-ness!

Comic books
  • One of the earliest examples of Wolverine Publicity is Alpha Flight #13, released in 1984. On the cover of this issue we see a badass-looking Wolverine pointing his claws at some unseen menace, defending Heather Hudson from it, and saying: "Okay, sucker, the only way to get to the lady is through me!". Something like this does happen in the comic, but then we learn it was all just a nightmare by Heather (and even in the nightmare Wolverine only appears in a handful of panels), and the real Wolverine is not in this issue at all.
  • The Wolverine: First Class title is this taken to its logical extreme: The book is really about Kitty Pryde as a young X-Man, but because Logan is her mentor, he gets the title.
    • Had the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine title come out about three years later, the names would have definitely been reversed, although the book is 60% Kitty and 40% Wolverine.
  • Wolverine and Power Pack is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. One episode had the Power Pack (and Franklin Richards) accidentally travel back in time to the early 20th century and save a boy named James Howlett from kidnapping. A cynical reader might think they've been bilked out of their money, until The Reveal: James Howlett is Wolvie as a kid.
  • Exiles is a comic where the members are drawn from different alternate universes. For one arc, the main characters are suddenly fired and a new team created, made up of Wolverine alone. Why? Because an evil alternate Wolverine is causing trouble and everyone knows the only way to beat Wolverine is with two or more Wolverines. What's more, we discover there have been several teams of Wolverines before that, and the main villain is a Wolverine. You end up with two entire issues with every version of Wolverine imaginable; the main team is the Days of Future Past Wolverine, young James Howlett, Marvel Zombies Wolvie, Albert (a robot made in Wolvie's image) and Elsie Dee, and a fresh from Department H Wolvie.
  • The Ultimate X-Men collection books have special covers depicting, in order, Wolverine, Wolverine, Wolverine, Wolverine, Wolverine, Captain America, Wolverine...
  • New Avengers #35 is the perfect example of how Covers Always Lie.

Film
  • X-Men film series:
    • Wolverine, as portrayed by actor Hugh Jackman, is one of only two characters (the other being Professor X, who has been portrayed by both Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy at different points in his life) to be in all the seven X-Men live action movies and if the rumors about him getting a third movie and an appearance in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse get confirmed, that will make nine movies where Jackman has portrayed Wolverine, more than any other actor in a superhero role.
    • Wolverine is the only X-Man to receive an entire movie about his character (not even a movie, but two: X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine. There are also plans for a third one). Also, at least four of the five other X-Men movies had him in a role of importance. Magneto was also under consideration to receive an X-Men Origins movie but this idea was scrapped and much of his history ended up being integrated into X-Men: First Class.
    • Due to getting his own prequel movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he once used to hog every single ad spot in Quake Live during early May 2009.

Literature
  • The audio book adaptation of Civil War has Wolverine front and center on the cover, displayed prominently next to Captain America and Iron Man. Wolverine literally shows up in one chapter and then completely disappears from the plot.

Videogames
  • Wolverine even shows up in the Ultimate Spider-Man video game, as one of the boss battles for Venom.
  • He's on the cover of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows (except for the Nintendo DS version; Nightcrawler is the only mutant to be found there). You fight him, he gives you all of two missions, he (involuntarily) becomes Venom-Wolverine much later so you fight him again and then he disappears from the game. Luke Cage does more in the game than he does. And the game cover was voted by fans out of a choice of two. The other cover didn't feature Wolverine.
  • The Marvel vs. Capcom series, where Wolverine is the only character to be in every single one of Capcom's games. He's even in Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age Of Heroes twice (one with the adamantium claws and one with bone, since the metal had been removed from his skeleton at that time), with each version having different movesets (the admantium version is based on his previous Marvel vs. Capcom appearance while the bone claw version takes after his style in X-Men vs. Street Fighter).
  • He also appears in the Deadpool game. He does very little of note other than lying unconscious whilst Deadpool repeatedly slaps him in the face.

Western animation
  • And extending into animated adaptations, we have Wolverine and the X-Men.
    • In fairness, this show was originally going to be simply a Wolverine solo series. The rest of the X-men were added later.
    • A Wolverine and the X-Men comic launched a few years later, featuring Wolvie at the helm of a new mutant academy, leading his splinter version of the X-Men after an internal struggle led to the population of Utopia siding with either him or Cyclops.
  • Wolverine was one of the first guest-stars in Ultimate Spider-Man, and his arrival was promoted on Marvel's official website.
  • The toy line for Avengers Assemble has revealed that Wolverine will be appearing in that show as well.
  • The Hulk Vs. double feature was released in Scandinavia under the much catchier title, "Wolverine".
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes might have retconned Wolverine into a member of the Howling Commandos. He fought alongside them in the episode "Meet Captain America", and later appeared with them before Cap during his stay in Niflheim. However, no one refers to Wolverine by his codename in either of those episodes, instead using his original surname, Howlett.
    • In the second season, Wolverine becomes The Lancer of the New Avengers. Interestingly, Iron Man explains that he picked each of the New Avengers based on past performance; each of the other five heroes did guest spots prior to this episode, but Wolvie just had the fleeting cameos mentioned above, and only gets accepted into the team after saving Spider-Man.

    Anime and Manga 
  • For Ah! My Goddess this is the norm, with the main character Keiichi rarely making the cover page.
  • Most of the promotional art for A Certain Magical Index features Mikoto in a rather notable way, as if she formed a Power Trio with main characters Touma and Index. In reality, she only makes bit appearances on various episodes, the only notable ones being an Arc about her (Which she shares with one of her clones and Accelerator, with the clone having similar screentime and more Character Development) and A Day in the Limelight Ship Tease episode later on the season. Komoe and Kaori have as much importance than her if not more (At least in the anime first season), but they get very few appearances in the official art and tend to share them with Mikoto, despite never meeting in the anime (Stiyl, being a guy in a Improbably Female Cast, was never in the running, even if he's more relevant than any girl). This goes even more so for her roommate Kuroko, who is in most of the aforementioned art, but only gets 2-3 minor appearances with Mikoto and a Barack Obama gag, yet outdoes in appearances everyone else on the series but Mikoto and actual heroine Index.
    • Mikoto and Kuroko are also the focus of the artwork of the A Certain Scientific Railgun anime, their spin-off series', but at least there's it's justified: They're The Hero and The Lancer. Uiharu and Saten complete the Four Girl Ensemble, but the artwork always makes them seem less important for some reason.
    • The second anime season took the same route as the first, with Mikoto (Kuroko too, but less so this time) being shoved in on nearly every official artwork, but she's only been a secondary character on Kuroko's arc, helped a little on the final arc and got another Ship Tease date, but she was never the main focus at any time. All her other appearances are Ship Tease cameos (Generally made up for the anime at that) with no relevance to the current arc. Oddly enough, official art is more likely to come out when she is around, so they have an excuse to stick her in pics every time, even if the arc has like 5-6 important girls. Meanwhile, more important or relevant characters get one or two pictures tops and barely any cameos (With one exception marked below). Remember, this is after Mikoto got her already mentioned Spin-Off with her on the lead and lots of artwork focused on her. At this point she may as well be the Index equivalent of Wolverine.
    • The exception is Itsuwa. She's had a grand total of three appearances, one in a mob with no lines, and two short ones where she gives the main guy a hot towel. Truly important things, which is why she appears the most in official art after Mikoto, Kuroko and Index. Never mind that the two arcs with Itsuwa had WAY more important girls (mostly Agnese and Orsola), Itsuwa gets all the art. Subverted in that she becomes more important on later novels, but that's hardly a justification to have her appear so much now, when she hasn't done a single thing, while the girls who actually do stuff get ignored. Funnily, there's a picture of her with Mikoto. They've never met, and on most of Itsuwa's screentime she was on a different continent than Mikoto. The preview for the second season also featured three of the four members of God's Right Seat, Vento, Terra and Aqua, which seems to imply that they had originally intended to go as far as volume 16, but apparently didn't get there. As a result, only Vento plays a role and Aqua puts on a brief appearance in the second-to-last episode, but otherwise...
    • Most openings and endings also emphasize Mikoto (Again, to Power Trio levels). The second season openings also highlights Accelerator (who has little screentime on the anime but is loved by the fans), as well as throwing in a Uiharu cameo, even though she's a very minor character on Index, but since she's a main on Railgun, there we go.
    • All in all, this is par per the course for JC Staff, which loves Pandering to the Base to Crippling Overspecialization and promotes the 1-2 most popular females while ignoring everyone else. Only that's usually the lead girl (Such as Shana or Louise), not a secondary character with little to no relevance on over half the arcs, making Mikoto's case stand out the most.
  • Nearly all of the promotional art for Ergo Proxy solely features supporting protagonist Re-l Mayer, indicating that she is the main character. And, to the marketing team's credit, the first few episodes certainly make it look this way. However, once the series kicks into high gear, it becomes obvious that the true protagonist is the comparatively unassuming Vincent Law.
  • When the Wild Swans movie was dubbed into Italian, the dubbers tried to cash in on the popularity of the Heidi anime by claiming that the princess was Heidi, even calling the movie, "Heidi Becomes a Princess."
  • This happens in the Gundam franchise, with none other than Char Aznable. The first opening credits sequence for Gundam ZZ features Char opposite the main character, and yet he never appears in the series.
    • Char's sister Sayla appears on the cover of the Laserdisc boxset for the second half of Zeta Gundam, but she only appears in one episode, with no speaking parts at that.
  • In the Lyrical Nanoha franchise, whenever official art comes out and it's not from the manga spinoffs Vivid or Force, there's a 95% chance it'll be from the third season Striker(s), which came after a 10-year Time Skip that radically changed the appearance of Nanoha and Fate, the main girls, plus introduced a lot of new characters and got rid of several others. While this made sense back in 2007-2008, when Striker(s) had just aired and was the Cool New Thing, nowadays we've had a movie set on the first season and a manga of said movie, with a second movie announced covering A's, the second season (Both set before the big Time Skip), plus two Video Game adaptations set on A's (Though the second one has Vivid characters, but it's still mainly an A's game). Yet still all the art will depict Nanoha and Fate post-Time Skip (and often alongside their adopted daughter Vivio), or otherwise a character in their Striker(s) period, except a little bit to advertise the movies, but that's the oddity and not the default.
    • Not to mention Nanoha and Fate still get a fair deal of art even on the pics of said spin-offs, where they aren't the main characters. Hell, they still have far more artwork than the rest of the metaseries' cast, which is pretty bad as it's formed by Loads and Loads of Characters.
    • This is mostly the magazine NyanType's fault though, as them running Force apparently justifies having 2-3 Nanoha pics every month, while the actually airing animes get one, tops.
  • Unusually, Nel's adult form from Bleach is featured heavily on manga covers and anime openings, despite only appearing in a few chapters and not really accomplishing anything important.
  • Fate/stay night and all of its related works in the Nasuverse have this with the insanely popular Servant Saber. She (or one of her incarnations) gets top billing in almost everything related to Fate. The page image for Fate/Zero (which was also the 1st promotional image released for its anime adaptation) is a perfect example: Saber is front and center in the picture and is illustrated in bright, eye-catching colors while everyone else is a mere silhouette (and she's not even the main character of that series).
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
  • Levi from Attack on Titan is a supporting character, but insanely popular with the fandom. This has resulted in official merchandise and promotional material frequently replacing the actual Deuteragonists of the series with him. Based on these, one might be surprised to learn that Armin is the third member of the Power Trio, and not Levi — who almost always replaces Armin in anime-related materials.

    Comic Books 
  • From 2008 onwards, this trope might as well be called "Iron Man Publicity":
    • In the Marvel NOW! relaunch, not only does he have his own title, but is a main character in two different Avengers titles (Avengers and New Avengers).
    • He was a lead character in Guardians of the Galaxy.
    • He's the leader of the team in Avengers Assemble and the mentor of The Falcon, the show's Audience Surrogate.
    • He's still getting guest-starring roles in Ultimate Spider-Man.
    • In addition to another live-action blockbuster, he had two DVD films, Iron Man: Rise of Technovore and Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United out in 2013.
    • He's an immensely popular candidate for team-ups and even had an entire month of Iron Man variant covers (where nearly every book Marvel published had an Iron Man-themed cover, even if he had nothing to do with the series) devoted to him.
    • Although it hit new levels with the movie, Iron Man's wide publicity in the comics began a bit earlier with Civil War. Tony was the face of superhero registration, and as such he appeared in almost every Civil War tie-in, often seeming to be everywhere at once — and serving whatever political purpose each writer wanted.
    • Iron Man is also one of the few Marvel characters who have been granted two concurrent monthly books. (Again, the movie had a lot to do with this.) For about a year, Iron Man: Director of SHIELD and Invincible Iron Man were both on the stands.
  • The Knights of the Old Republic comics are set ~4000 years before A New Hope. Yet, the cover of issue 25 has Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and Cade Skywalker on it. Granted, they appear, although in a vision.
  • In the Silver Age of the Marvel Universe, virtually any character who was supposed to get their own title would either appear in Spider-Man first, or have Spider-Man appear in their title's first issue - in fact, there's a phrase to refer to most of Marvel's Silver Age that basically amounted to "Spider-Man is in the third issue". Trades soliciting comics to shop owners would often carry a picture of the title's third issue's cover. Thus, Spider-Man wound up on a huge number of these, encouraging owners to feel that at least up to that issue the title would be a sure seller. In the nineties, replace Spidey with Wolvie, and it still works.
    • This even happened with the Marvel The Transformers series which had the alien suit Spidey appear before being retconned away later.
    • This trend continued even into the 1990s, with Spider-Man appearing in the second and third issues of Darkhawk and the fifth and sixth issues of Sleepwalker. Wolverine didn't appear (and thank God for that), but Darkhawk and Sleepwalker would later team up with Spidey again when they tangled with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
    • Lampshaded in this cover of Excalibur
    • Linkara reviewed NFL Super-Pro #1, guest-starring Spider-Man. He didn't wait a second after seeing the cover to point out he was there simply to boost sales. Things got worse as the story progresses, as Spider-Man and Super-Pro had little to no interaction, and had a solo scene where he broke into a mob boss's house and gave up searching for evidence after scanning only one room. Simply put, Spider-Man didn't add anything to the plot whatsoever, which is worse than not appearing at all.
    Linkara: So this scene was: COMPLETELY POINTLESS.
    • Then again, NFL Super-Pro was infamous for its pointlessness.
    • Spider-Man was featured in the second issue of Marvel's The Awesome Slapstick limited series (albeit not on the cover). Noteworthy only because Spidey was all but useless in the issue, with many jokes made at his expense.
    • This extends to the current age, where C-lister Gravity finds Spider-Man watching him fight his nemesis, and he doesn't lift a single finger to help .
    • As of 2011, Spider-Man is catching up with Wolverine for the number of books he's in per month. Besides his own book, he's now on two Avengers teams (same as Wolvie), and with the Human Torch's death Spidey's taken their spot in the Fantastic Four.
      • This was Lampshaded in the first issue of Avenging Spider-Man. While talking about how he has very little free time, Peter mentions that he's on two different teams of Avengers with an emphasis on the "two", as if to highlight how ridiculous that is.
      • Lampshaded as well in the first appearence of Yellowjacket in The Avengers (who, as you should know by now, was actually Henry Pym with a double-personality crisis). After introducing the characters, we have two pages with J.J.Jameson praising the new hero and Spider-Man making fun remarks from the window. Then, the caption text reminds us that it was an Avengers comic book, and continued with them. Spider-Man's influence in the actual plot? Zero.
  • During the Bronze Age, Ghost Rider was a cameo in some Marvel property about once a month.
  • The Punisher seemed to be everywhere in the Marvel Universe in the early '90s.
  • In 1991 Marvel parodied their own tendency to do this with a three part Fantastic Four story headlined "The World's Most Commercial Comics Magazine'' which starred Wolverine and Spider-Man, as well as the then-hot Ghost Rider and Gray Hulk, as a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits brought together as Unwitting Pawns "The New Fantastic Four". And also had another unnecessary cameo by the Punisher at the end of the story. Lampshaded on the cover blurb— "World's Most Exploitative Cameo". Frank Castle doesn't actually show up until the last panel of the last page, flying past aboard a commercial jet.
    • He's actually in an attack chopper pursuing a giant flying monster returning to Monster Island (where the last part of the story takes place). When he sees the FF and the aforementioned "new FF" coming out of the island together, he went ah forget it and breaks off his pursuit.
    • In a similar vein, a few years later, an issue of She-Hulk was "starring on this issue" Wolverine, the Punisher and Spider-Man. She-Hulk helpfully informs us they are not starring (nor even technically appearing) in this issue, however.
  • The villain Venom from the Spider-Man comic was so popular that he was turned into a Nineties Anti-Hero, then given endless cameos and mini-series. When he began to feel over-exposed, the writers created the new character Carnage (a Darker and Edgier version of Venom— think about it, darker and edgier than a brain-eating fanged Body Horror, they had to make Carnage totally Axe Crazy and covered in blood) and repeated the process all over again.
  • This is not exclusive to Marvel. Superman has sometimes been used this way, especially when he always turns up in a flagging new series starring an untested character (of course, given Superman's speed he could actually pull this off if he wanted to).
  • Batman, to the point where the trope could be renamed to "Batman Publicity":
    • A particularly bad offender of this is the back cover of the Catwoman collected volume Relentless. The back cover shows Catwoman and Batman kissing. While this TECHNICALLY takes place Batman doesn't show up until the last 5 pages, barely has 2 pages of screentime and serves mostly to talk Catwoman out of her Heroic BSOD. The kiss is Catwoman drunkenly coming on to him.
    • A common theme will be Superman for the most part being supportive of the new hero, while Batman will be a bit more suspicious. DC's former policy regarding the two was actually an inversion, as they were kept away from other titles (and even off the covers of Justice League of America, which they actually appeared in regularly) to prevent them from becoming overexposed.
    • In a rather surprising aversion of this, Simon Dark, a series set in Gotham City, went more than a year without an appearance by the Bat. Or Robin. Or Catwoman.
    • Tim Drake, who appeared in his own title, Batman, and Teen Titans. This was lampshaded once when he was helping Batman on a case. Bats reminded him had to be on a plane to San Fransisco that night, and that he should honor his commitments. Robin still appeared for the rest of the arc, and this would also imply that the Titans' adventures (at least those that include him) all occur over the course of a weekend.
    • This also happens with Robin (Damian Wayne), who appeared in Batgirl and a bunch of other titles shortly after Final Crisis. He was even briefly added to the floundering Teen Titans series as part of a heavily-promoted sales stunt, complete with multiple variant covers celebrating his arrival.
    • While Batman's appearances in the Blue Beetle series were never particularly gratuitous, they do provide an interesting contrast to his perceived constant distrust of new heroes. Even when he doesn't show it to him, Bruce always seems to keep an eye out for Jaime and is proud of his growth as a superhero. Whether this is because he has a soft spot for the kid or because he feels guilty for accidentally leaving him for dead on the Brother Eye satellite is certainly up for debate.
    • After the New 52 DC comics relaunch, it seems Batman Publicity is the name of the game. Not only is he a member of both the Justice League and the new Justice League International, he's got no less than FOUR books where he's the main character (Batman, Batman: The Dark Knight, Batman and Robin and Detective Comics). Plus tying into the Batman books are the new Batgirl, Batwoman, Nightwing, Birds of Prey and Catwoman comics, plus the all new comics Batwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws. That's a lot of Bat (to be exact, thirteen issues, or an entire quarter of DC's relaunched comics line).
      • If you count Red Robin in the Teen Titans, Harley Quinn in the Suicide Squad, and even old-time Gotham City in All-Star Western, the number of books with Bat-related characters is raised to sixteen; that's almost a full third of the relaunch.
      • DC has also occasionally refreshed the line by cancelling and replacing a few books at a time, though the net result has been the Bat-family gaining three new books: Batman Incorporated, Worlds' Finest (with Huntress as co-lead), and Talon (with a new Bat-related character). The only cancelled book with a Bat-character was Justice League International, but even that was eventually replaced with another Justice League team (Justice League of America) that included Catwoman. An alternate version of Batman was also used to hype Earth-2, along with an alternate Superman and Wonder Woman, but the three were killed off in the first issue.
      • A second Batman was added to the Earth 2 series and featured on the cover of Earth 2's first Annual - despite the story mainly concerning Earth 2's Atom.
      • Justice League of America's Vibe had an issue with Batman on the cover, with the tagline being "Betrayed by Batman!". Except he only appeared for one-and-a-half pages, and it wasn't even him - It was someone who made herself look like him.
      • July 2014 almost parodied this in its exposure. The line-wide variant covers all included Batman, even if he had nothing to do with the comic and had never been involved, or even didn't really fit in on the cover either. July 23rd was proclaimed "Batman Day" by DC Comics on top of this. The exposure would not be much of a problem in hindsight, considering this was in fact the month of Batman's 75th anniversary, but no similar publicity ever came up regarding Superman the year prior, on his own 75th anniversary. Other examples pervaded media in this month, but they were related to his then-upcoming movie, which is an entirely other story altogether.
    • There is a trade paperback featuring 3 issues that detail the first meeting of Green Arrow and Green Lantern and 5 issues about the first meeting between Green Arrow and Batman. What this Green Arrow team up book called? Batman: The Ring, The Arrow and the Bat, of course!
    • The LEGO Movie features appearances by characters from The LEGO Company's licensed theme sets... and Batman happens to be the most prominent of them all.
  • In the 90's, after his creation and Zero Hour, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner was somewhat guilty of this, too. He had his own title, adventures with the Nightwing-less Titans incarnation, joined the JLA, had cross-overs with Superboy, The Flash, Connor!Green Arrow, still had his own monthly, made an appearance or two in Wonder Woman during the period Donna Troy had just lost her ex-husband and son, and basically showed up in a lot of titles. More of an inversion, though, since he was also establishing himself as a hero in his own right and had to run across these other heroes at some point; his guest appearances weren't about using him to hype other characters, they were using the other characters to hype him.
  • Nineties Anti-Hero Lobo has also been used in this way. One Superman cover had the strapline "In this issue: Lobo appears on one page!"
    • As a parody of Wolverine, this is to be expected.
  • Gambit of the X-Men followed in Wolverine's wandering footsteps for a while too.
  • Parodied with the cover of the last issue of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!, prominently featuring a member of the popular Teen Titans — "All right, it's just Changeling, you can't have everything." Also, Superman's appearance in the first issue.
  • The second trade paperback of DC's Justice miniseries has the Legion of Doom on the cover, with The Joker front and center. Except that the Joker was never in the Legion of Doom, wasn't broken out of prison when Legion member Scarecrow escaped from Arkham Asylum, and only makes cameo appearances in the rest of the series, in a Paper-Thin Disguise as an Amish man most of the time, and he blows up a building. None of those things have any bearing on the actual plot. The actual main villains of the series, Lex Luthor and Brainiac, are shoved off to the side behind Joker, as if to insinuate that they're supporting characters instead of the main antagonists. This may be a Mythology Gag in reference to the various Super Friends series, which Justice is heavily inspired by; Joker was originally slated to be a member of the Legion of Doom, but due to a Filmation cartoon being produced at the same time getting the rights to him first, the Ace of Knaves was largely left out of Super Friends.
  • Donald Duck is on most of the covers of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories. Somewhat fair, since he's also probably has at least one story in every one of them, but there are a few times where the cover art in question is actually from a story that isn't actually published in said issue.
    • This is fairly legitimate in that the "duck" comics (and Disney comics in general) traditionally had covers that were more or less one-off gags unrelated to the contents (and frequently boiled down to Stuff Every Reader Already Knew, like "Uncle Scrooge is really, really wealthy" or "The Beagle Boys are incompetent crooks").
  • Wildstorm also tried to pull this off with Grifter, Zealot and, later, Midnighter, by having them make as many guest appearances as possible. Grifter and Midnighter actually starred in two miniseries just about them teaming up! Generally the best way to tell if a comic was in trouble was by how prominently Grifter appeared on the cover.
    • When Wildstorm was still an Image imprint, Grifter and Zealot shared the spotlight with Spawn and Badrock. Badrock is an oddity in that he's never had a solo series but was the star of the Marvel Team Up-like Badrock and Company and has had many crossover minis - including ones with Wolverine and Grifter!
  • Emma Frost has been appearing in a great deal of comics, often just so that she can be there. The worst example is the time when she showed up in one page of one issue of White Tiger's miniseries to tell her that white wasn't her color (after several thugs had mistaken her for Emma... because a dark-haired Hispanic woman and a blonde Caucasian woman are so alike).
  • Deadpool has been appearing everywhere lately. Within one year (Fall '08 - Fall '09) he has been granted three of his own ongoing titles (more than Iron Man and Captain America combined) and a confirmed place as a regular character in X-Force, given his first animated speaking role (Hulk vs. Wolverine), confirmed as making his first speaking television debut (Season 2 of The Super Hero Squad Show), made one of the most prominent characters of Ultimate Alliance 2, ... errr... "featured" in a live action film (Barakapool), and offered his own reboot movie. Not bad for a character who was canceled less than a decade ago.
    • There was a Marvel Team-Up between Deadpool and It the Living Colossus. For all that Deadpool actually did to help, it was basically an It one-shot. It seems Deadpool's role in this team-up was just to get people to buy the book. Sorry, did we say Marvel Team-Up? Our mistake - the book's called Deadpool Team-Up. Deadpool is the star of Marvel's team-up book - meaning Marvel editorial considers Deadpool their flagship character. Oh, and Deadpool Team-Up started with issue 900 and counts down from there. Granted, this was a joke about the then-current release of Action Comics 900 - the series got canned after a little over a year.
    • Similar to the earlier mentioned Wolverine variant covers, Deadpool was for one month featured on numerous variant covers, though the series were mainly in the Marvel Universe. The covers ranged from slight alterations of the original covers to parodies of classic covers (One Amazing Spider-Man cover parodied Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21, and featured Deadpool smoozing up Mary-Jane and pushing Spidey out of the way) to at least one completely original cover. And he's prominently displayed on most of the artwork for Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and shown opposite Dante in the intro. His eventual burst of popularity is lampshaded by She-Hulk in the game, who, annoyed, points out to Deadpool that in the 80s and early 90s she was very popular.
    • Deadpool is now getting his own video game. The last line of the teaser trailer? "Suck it, Wolverine!"
    • He's also given a prominent position on promo for the Lego Marvel Super Heroes game. He's right up there with the cast of the Avengers movie, Spider-Man, and you guessed it, Wolverine.
    • In this interview the writer of the 2010 Ant-Man and the Wasp miniseries felt the need to specify that neither Wolverine nor Deadpool appears in it.
    • Lampshaded in one solicitation for Secret Avengers:
    DEADPOOL DEADPOOL DEADPOOL DEADPOOL DEADPOOL! WE HEARD THAT DEADPOOL RAISES SALES SO WE’RE DOING THIS EARLY ON.
    JUST KIDDING. ALL ABOUT THE ART. YOU’RE GOING TO PAY FOR THIS, RIGHT?
  • Villains have started getting in the act too. The Hood and Norman Osborn especially. Doctor Doom did it before them though; He was even the first villain defeated by Squirrel Girl.
    • Doctor Doom was involved in Marvel Lampshading of this in Strange Tales 122, at the time a Human Torch series. Doom's face (or rather, mask) appears in the bottom-left corner of the cover, above the caption "Doctor Doom does not appear in this story! We just felt like drawing his face!"
    • The first few issues of the Warren Ellis revamp of Marvel's Thunderbolts have Norman Osborn dressed in his Green Goblin suit displayed prominently in all the covers, despite the fact that he does not wear it until much later in the series.
  • The Scandinavian Disney trades, which didn't start printing home-produced material until the late 90s, could always be counted on to feature Duck Avenger on the cover if he made the slightest appearance in the book. Amusingly enough, he appears more often than ever nowadays, but has only had two cover appearances in 20 years. Guess his popularity dropped.
  • Believe it or not, Captain Marvel was often shoved on the cover back in the 40s, when he was the decade's most popular hero. Of course, since the number of genres was a lot more eclectic, you'd see him promoting the latest Funny Animal book or Western.
  • IDW Comics clearly hoped that they could do this in their Transformers comics with new character Drift. They even said as much. What they ended up with was something a little different. Interestingly, in hindsight, people are saying that Drift's actual appearances weren't awful enough to justify the massive hate; it's just that if you're gonna give a character the Wolverine treatment, he'd better be as proven and as liked as Wolverine, Spidey, and Deadpool are. Shove a new character in people's faces and have everyone tell us how awesome they are, and you basically have a bad fanfic. With him, the hype was taken Up to Eleven prematurely, so Hype Backlash went up to eleven as well.
  • Sonic appears on the cover of the first issue of Sonic Universe, despite not actually appearing in the issue other than a brief flashback.
  • For a brief time in the '90s, the popularity of Death's Head II led to him appearing in nearly every Marvel UK comic, either as a cameo or a guest appearance.
  • The Fantastic Four were pretty much this for most of The Sixties and The Seventies; Strange Adventures and Marvel Two-In-One were just two ways Marvel Comics tried to turn the Fantastic Four into a Cash Cow Franchise.
    • The Fantastic Four even show up in The Amazing Spider-Man #1, back before the Web-head could start making his rounds.
  • With the growing popularity of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel has started making a habit of inserting Rocket Raccoon into media, including his own mini-series being included with the first volume of The Annihilators to help boost sales, his surprising appearance in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, his confirmed playable appearance in Marvel Heroes Online, and the raccoon even holds a prominent position in the promotional image for Marvel's upcoming Marvel NOW series, standing in the front next to Wolverine himself. Marvel has also included him as one of the four heroes on the banner of their News preview images on the Marvel website (alongside Iron Man, Thor and Nova). In 2014, alongside the Guardians' film, he got an ongoing series.
    • When the Guardians were first set to appear in an episode of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, almost all of the commercials and previews focused on Rocket, despite his relatively small role in the episode compared to the rest of the team.
  • Hawkeye has been living out this trope in the wake of The Avengers live-action movie. He is currently in Secret Avengers, Avengers, Avengers Assemble and his own solo title, and was previously added to the cast of Avengers Academy in order to help boost sales. Beyond that, he was one of the most heavily promoted new additions to Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and will be one of the leads in the upcoming Avengers Assemble animated series. That's in addition to appearing in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes and Ultimate Spider-Man. He's also appeared in the Iron Man Anime film.
  • Fellow movie Avenger Black Widow has also gotten a boost in terms of this trope. In comics, she stars in Avengers Assemble, Avengers, Secret Avengers, and was also featured in Winter Soldier as a main character before getting her own solo feature in 2014. In addition, she's one of the leads in the Avengers Assemble animated series, and the co-lead in the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier. She also appeared alongside Hawkeye in the aforementioned Iron Man anime feature.
  • Spoofed on the very first cover of Animaniacs comics, which featured Pinky and the Brain dressed in costumes they wore in a story later in the comic. (It could be argued, of course, that Pinky and the Brain are the most popular Animaniacs characters; but since they're not the main characters, you wouldn't expect to see them on the cover of the first issue.) The spoof part comes from Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, who "tear" their way through the front of the cover so that Yakko can complain "Whose comic is this, anyway?!"
  • Marvel has been doing this with Captain Marvel (formerly Ms. Marvel) in the wake of the Marvel NOW! relaunch. In addition to her own solo book, she had a guest arc in Avenging Spider-Man, is present on two different Avengers teams, and is slated for team-ups in several other titles. She was also the main focus of the Enemy Within Bat Family Crossover featuring her solo title and the Avengers Assemble comicnote .
  • Some variant covers for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) prominently feature popular background ponies from the show. Two covers feature Time Turner decked out in Doctor Who Shout Outs implying the first Story Arc is an epic crossover, one of them for an issue with no background ponies much less Time Turner and the other flat out having the TARDIS on it. He does appear in the first issue, but only as an incidental pony with no allusions to Doctor Who (just like in the show). The biggest offender however has to be Vinyl Scratch, who shares a cover with Applejack for Issue #1 (the only BG pony to appear on one of the Mane Six covers by Andy Price) and appears by herself or with others on later covers. Like Time Turner she does appear in the first issue, but as an incidental character.
  • Forever Evil: Though it is more or less par for the course, Batman's exposure in Villains Month far outshines most others. In all of his goings-on taking place in the present day, he has four villain issues, making for a total of sixteen between Batman, Batman and Robin, Batman: The Dark Knight, and Detective Comics, seventeen if Superman/Batman counts. The next highest amount is Superman at eight or nine following the same rules between Action Comics and Superman as his personal goings-on. The third member of the Big Three, Wonder Woman, has only two issues in her one ongoing, less than many of the other series going on. The Batman situation would not be so jarring but for the fact that some of the villains involved in it have no connection to Forever Evil (The Joker being highly publicized, but one of these), are very new to The DCU (the Court of Owls), are just being introduced at this time (Joker's Daughter) or are actually a rogue of another member of the Batfamily (Ventriloquist III).
    • It can be explained, however, by the fact that many monthly series were skipped in the Villains Month, and their own villains got showcased in bigger, related titles that weren't skipped: a couple of Batman's Villains Month titles show bad guys whose main roles are not in said Batman titles, they're in related (even if loosely related) titles that were skipped for that month: Ventriloquist (Batgirl), League of Assassins (Red Hood and the Outlaws), Court of Owls (Talon) and Joker's Daughter (Catwoman) to name a few.
      • And that is not a Batman-exclusive case: we also have Cyborg Superman (Supergirl villain showcased in Action Comics), Dial E (villainous version of Dial H showcased in Justice League), Deadshot, Killer Frost and Black Adam (Suicide Squad, Firestorm and Shazam villains, respectively, showcased in Justice League of America), the Creeper (Katana villain showcased in Justice League Dark), among others.
  • Around the time their film came out, Marvel seems to have decided to pimp out the six characters featured in the film above all others, along with Coulson, Hill, and Nick Fury as the go-to SHIELD team. As well as each one now having their own book note  and the above listed points of publicity-giving-ness, they now regularly appear as the default Avengers line up in any book besides the main Avenger book, with Secret Avengers being relaunched to be a SHIELD-focused team book that had the characters from the film featured heavily in promotional material but notably left out characters yet to be featured note . As well as that, these six, plus Falcon, now also have their own animated show, appear regularly in Spidey's animated series, and alongside Wolverine and Spider-Man (both of whom, as noted, are VERY guilty of this trope) were the main characters of Lego Marvel Superheroes.

    Fan Work 
  • Naruto is the second most popular fiction to be used in crossover fanfics. They pretty much have Rule 50 on every single Fanfic you can imagine. Thanks to Wolverine Publicity, readers will often only read and and give a ton of reviews to Naruto crossovers even if the story makes no sense and/or very poorly written while overlooking the other non-Naruto ones.
  • Every Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai doujinshi features Sena in some shape or form. Every single one. While most do it because they're focused on her, it's rather jarring to see a book about Yozora with her on the cover and all the plot being about her, yet the first three pages being Sena love just because. Or having her on the cover with Yozora yet not appear even once inside the thing. While she may be popular, this is a little annoying to non-fans of her, as other "Ensemble Dark Horse" characters, using the term loosely here, don't do this kind of stuff, it's just Sena.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Blu-Ray cover of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs features the Queen in the front and center, in her hag form, with Snow White relegated to the bottom of the picture.
  • The Smurfs and the Magic Flute was originally a Johan and Peewit film, but when The Smurfs became really popular the title was changed to make it look like they were the stars, even though the film really focused much more on Johan and Peewit.
  • The sequel to Disney's The Jungle Book had megastar actor John Goodman providing the voice of Baloo the Bear, and ads for the movie loudly proclaimed "Baloo is back!" Um, excuse us, but wasn't this story supposed to be about Mowgli?
  • Wreck-It Ralph is about video game characters, both original and already famous from other titles. So while the story only deals with Disney's original characters created for the film, a lot of posters prominently featured Sonic the Hedgehog, Zangief, M. Bison, Q*bert, Clyde the Pac-Man Ghost, and Bowser in them, even though they only have seconds to minutes of screentime for each of them.
    • Calhoun, one of the four major characters, didn't even make it onto the front cover of the DVD case because of all space taken up by the extras.
    • In-Universe, it's Played for Drama/Averted; Ralph seeing Vanellope's picture on the console is what causes him to realize that she is supposed to be in the game.
  • The posters and covers of Tom and Jerry: The Movie prominently featured Droopy, despite his only getting a short cameo. One could even argue Tom and Jerry themselves were victims of this trope, since the movie wasn't really about them anyway but about a poor little orphan girl.
  • The Kung Fu Panda animated shorts Secrets of the Furious Five and Secrets of the Masters are both advertised as being "brand new Po adventures" when they're actually about, well, the Furious Five and the Master's Council. Po is just the narrator.
  • For Melody Time, Donald Duck, who appears in the "Blame It On the Samba" sequence, receives some fanfare in the VHS trailer and is the only character on the DVD case. On the other hand, most theatrical posters, both domestic and international, prominently featured another character from a different segment, Pecos Bill.
  • In the poster for Food Fight, the Product Placement characters are featured first and foremost on the film poster, even though the characters in question aren't featured prominently in the film.
  • Frozen: Ensemble Darkhorse Olaf, who first appears (alive) halfway into the movie, is easily the most visible character on the poster, while the leads are buried in snow. The DVD switches the Wolverine Publicity to Elsa, who gets half the cover despite her being an offscreen prescence for most of the second act. In both cases, the film's lead, Anna, is the least noticeable character.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Jack Nicholson became (at the time) the highest-salaried actor in film history for his performance as The Joker in Batman (1989), even getting a share of the film's enormous box-office take. The Warner Brothers studio promoted him as the movie's main star on posters, on videotape boxes, and in the credits of the movie itself. This extended even to DC Comics' official adaptation, which, despite being clearly titled Batman, showed the Joker's face looming like a godlike apparition over Gotham City, while a smaller image of Batman himself appears below.
  • The American DVD cover of Infernal Affairs shows Kelly Chen posing with a gun. At no point in the movie does she have a gun, or even an action scene. The two main characters get much less space on the cover. On the other hand, this might just be a case of Sex Sells. The Chinese DVDs rightly put Andy Lau and Tony Leung up front, but since fewer Americans know who any of them are, they decided to sex things up a bit.
  • At at least one video store, in the French film section, there is a sub-section called "Films in which Audrey Tautou has less screen time than the box art would suggest." There's also a "Non-Satanic Malevolent Children" section in Horror, but that's neither here nor there.
  • "Bruceploitation" refers to the wave of Bruce Lee imitators, and Lee-style martial arts movies, that followed the superstar's death. Actors adopted stage names like Bruce Li, Bruce Lei, and Dragon Lee in an attempt to cash in on Lee Mania. Jackie Chan recalled how his early movie posters would say "the next BRUCE LEE, Jackie Chan," with Lee's name much larger than his own.
  • The undisputed king of Wolverine Publicity in the Star Wars universe has to be Darth Vader - this trope could have well been called "Vader Publicity". Even when the main focus of Lucasfilm's marketing is a series that doesn't involve Vader as a Sith Lord, such as the first two prequels or Star Wars: The Clone Wars, one can be absolutely sure to see zillions of different products featuring Vader in the current merchandising line. Often, original trilogy characters are included in the line, or the line itself becomes partly original trilogy-focused, for the sake of including Vader merchandise. One can also expect a cameo or two from the Sith Lord in some form in the media itself (such as a vision to his former self Anakin in Star Wars: Clone Wars), or at least a new character that happens to be a blatant Expy (such as Darth Malak in Knights of the Old Republic).
    • Revenge of the Sith had a heavy marketing campaign focused on featuring Anakin finally becoming Darth Vader and his first chronological appearance in the Vader suit. While the movie does detail his turn to the dark side, he doesn't don the outfit until the very end of the movie.
    • It's even parodied in Lego Star Wars: The Padawan Menace where throughout the movie, Darth Vader would appear out of nowhere to take center stage of a scene, only for a Lego mini-figure of George Lucas to call cut and tell Vader he's not in the movie because it takes place in the prequel era.
  • The DVD release of Mazes and Monsters has on the cover a dragon, a castle and a maze. None of these things appear in the movie. The title refers to a roleplaying game (a reference to Dungeons and Dragons) played by the characters. Furthermore, while Tom Hanks is in the movie, the picture of him on the cover is from when he was much older and well established. Furthermore, despite how much the breakdown of his character drives the plot, he was actually a supporting character and given rather low billing compared to the other cast members (the movie seems to treat Jay Jay as the main character).
  • Dazed and Confused was promoted with posters prominently featuring Milla Jovovich simply because she was, at the time, the most famous person in the cast. She only has one line in the movie, is not a focus character in the ensemble action, and only pops up a handful of times. She's also on the cover of the DVD cases (excluding the Criterion Collection edition) since those reuse one of the movie's promotional posters.
  • Deep In The Valley has Kim Kardashian on the front cover. She appears in the actual movie for all of ten seconds and her character does nothing other than lets the heroes into a night club.
  • The DVD cover for Frankenstein Island features only John Carradine's name at the top, and his face is on all of the different DVD covers. In the movie he plays the ghost of Dr. Frankenstein, and his screentime is less than five minutes combined.
  • The DVD cover for Showtime's 2005 musical parody Reefer Madness features Neve Campbell, both with her picture displayed in the foreground and her name at top-center- yet her character is in two scenes in the whole movie, once for the length of a musical number and the other for literally the three seconds it took to say her line, and like John Carradine above, has less than 5 minutes total screen time.
  • In Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, you could be forgiven for thinking that Angelina Jolie's character was the main character, being the focus of basically every commercial and having a spot on the cover. Turns out that her character gets around 10 minutes of screentime.
  • The Hungarian movie Sacra Corona featured Franco Nero on the cover. He appears in the role of Gerard Sagredo in the opening scene, where he's promptly killed. He makes a second appearance as a ghost towards the end of the film.
  • Although Steven Seagal is featured prominently in the promotional material for the film Executive Decision, his character meets an untimely death barely a quarter of the way through the movie.
  • The American DVD for The Twins Effect (retitled Vampire Effect) places Jackie Chan prominently on the cover. His appearance only amounts to a cameo.
  • The White Witch, Big Bad of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, has made a cameo in the film versions of both Prince Caspian (when her three worshipers try to force Caspian to resurrect her) and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (as a form taken by the Mist of Evil), despite being completely absent from the respective books. (In this case, it has more to do with Tilda Swinton's contract, as she signed on to do and get paid for three films.)
  • Advertising for The Avengers puts the spotlight on Iron Man, whose movies became the highest grossing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, at the time.
  • Pee-wee Herman makes a cameo in the 1987 comedy Back To The Beach. His scene doesn't really advance the plot (not that Back to the Beach had much plot to begin with, anyway), and seems to have been included only because Pee-wee's portrayer, Paul Reubens, was one of the biggest stars in the world at the time. (You'll also notice that he's prominently featured on that movie's video box cover, despite appearing on screen for only a few minutes.)
  • Ultimately subverted by Anna Nicole Smith in To The Limit (1995). She was heavily promoted as the star of this direct-to-video action flick, despite not portraying the main character and despite To the Limit being a sequel to an earlier film - Da Vinci's War - in which Smith hadn't even appeared! (This was a year or so after Smith had been named Playboy Playmate of the Year, appeared in some sexy ads for women's jeans, and been cast in relatively small roles in two major Hollywood movies, so at the time it seemed like she was everywhere.) Throughout the movie (which, continuity-wise, is pretty much a mess anyway), her character is featured to a ridiculous degree, at one point with the story stopping dead in its tracks just to show an extended sequence of her naked in the shower! And yet, despite her character being both The Ditz and a Faux Action Girl, Anna Nicole is the one more responsible than anyone else for defeating the villain in the end! Weird.
  • Based on marketing, you would think Drew Barrymore was the main character of Scream, when in reality her character dies several minutes into the movie. Despite this, she even received top billing on some promotional material (she was credited toward the end as "And Drew Barrymore" in the actual film).note This might have been a marketing gimic since they were paying homage to Psycho by killing off the supposed main character early on, shocking audiences.
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Legolas gets minimal screen-time in this film, but he was an Ensemble Darkhorse in The Lord of the Rings. Three guesses who got the most coverage in all the trailers.

    Literature 
  • Cthulhu, of all things. In the original works of Lovecraft, he appeared only once, in The Call of Cthulhu (not to be confused with the RPG based on his works), but has since come to be adopted as the symbol of Lovecraft, no doubt due to the work of Lovecraft's "protege", August Derleth, who did more than anyone else to help keep Lovecraft's writings in print after his death and also basically created the Cthulhu Mythos. Most of the core ideas that people today would describe as being part of the "Cthulhu Mythos" come not from Lovecraft at all, but Derleth's later imitative stories.
    • Same applies to all of the Old Ones, really. The only Lovecraftian god that actually plays a prominent role in more than a couple of stories is Nyarlahothep. Yog-Sothoth often has a fairly important role, but usually he's just invoked in spells, rather than making an actually appearance. Azathoth gets mentioned a lot too, but never actually appears in any of Lovecraft's stories.
    • Of course, none of this stopped Lovecraft from mentioning Cthulhu, Yog Sothoth, Azathoth and the Old Ones in general every chance he got, regardless of relevance to the story at hand. The moment someone mentions the Necronomicon, or starts muttering about other old books, or gives any sort of long expository speech, you have a fairly safe bet some of the big names will pop up.
  • Cross-promotion. Aside from the common example of "story in book by the author of popular book ", there's when older books get hijacked by adaptations into other media. One example: All of Arthur C. Clarke's books getting reissues whose covers depicted spaceships from the then-recent film 2001: A Space Odyssey... Including Tales From The White Hart, which didn't even HAVE spaceships.
  • This got an author acknowledgement in regards to the Discworld universe. After a few Ankh-Morpork/City Watch books, he got away from them for a while. When asked, he admitted that when he wrote Ankh-Morpork books, the City Watch took over, and when the City Watch took over, Sam Vimes took over.
  • Then there are things like "Tom Clancy's Op-Center," where Clancy's name is often the biggest thing on the cover even though he didn't actually write the series. He's credited as "creator," which usually means coming up with the core setting concepts, and leaving them to be fleshed out by other creators.
    • This is a common publishing phenomenon wherein a bestselling author's name is placed prominently on the front cover in order to attract the sales that author normally generates, wherein his or her contribution may have been limited to an idea or an outline at most. Generally speaking, if a best-selling author's name appears on the cover in massive print followed by the name(s) of another author you've never even heard of in smaller letters, this trope's in play.
    • This is especially true for those suffering from Author Existence Failure; usually, whomever is finishing their work, or writing in the style of that person, gets their own name printed on the cover in a much smaller, less noticable typeface.
  • As noted below in Magazines, Rush Limbaugh is sometimes used for Wolverine Publicity, and Limbaugh claims it's no coincidence that Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations sold significantly more copies than Al Franken's other books.
  • In the wake of Twilight, we're being inundated with reissued classic romances such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and Romeo and Juliet — all featuring black covers with close-up pictures of something red (usually a rose) and a very familiar typeface. In the case of the relatively short Romeo and Juliet, the typeface has been blown up to a ridiculous point size to inflate the page count to more closely match the Twilight readin' experience. (Nothing wrong with the last one, though; no matter your reading level, it's always nice not to have to squint.)
    • Not to mention that there is a giant sticker on Wuthering Heights that says "EDWARD AND BELLA'S FAVORITE BOOK!"
  • Roger McBride Allen wrote three novelsnote  that take place in the same Universe as Isaac Asimov's Robot series. Asimov's name is so large on the cover of these books that you could be forgiven for thinking he wrote them.

    Live Action TV 
  • Parodied on 30 Rock with "Seinfeld-Vision", in which Jerry Seinfeld is digitally inserted into every single NBC show, whether he's appropriate or not.
  • This actually happened to live-action sitcoms on ABC, with Steve Urkel, at the height of his popularity, being crossed over onto almost every show in the TGIF lineup at one point or another.
    • He even had cameo appearances in shows on completely different networks. "Hey, what's Urkel doing on All That? ... for the third time?"
    • Later syndication advertisements of earlier episodes often were ONLY about his small scene unrelated to the actual plot of the episode.
  • NCIS: Los Angeles features a Portuguese actress (Daniela Ruah). The local version of FOX only stated it a few rare times, and then only in the first few weeks. When the show started airing on a native TV channel, she was the focus. As in The Trailers Were All Around Her Character.
  • Castiel is starting to get this in Supernatural's sixth season, with most of his appearances cameos at best, and Cas mostly showing up once per episode to explain why he's too busy offscreen to help out this week. Also, Misha Collins is now receiving credits for episodes in which he doesn't even appear.
    • He also gets his own solo TV bumper (Dean and Sam had to share one) and is one of the only three cast members to be included in the official publicity photos despite appearing only about thirty minutes total in the entire sixth season so far.
    • Extends to Misha Collins himself - ever since he started appearing in the fourth season he's been doing as many, if not more, interviews as Jared and Jensen and appearing at just about every convention going.
    • Even after supposedly getting killed off (death doesn't always stick in the Supernatural world), he's still getting as much attention from fans and reviewers alike as the two main characters.
  • Blunt: The Fourth Man was a British TV movie from the '80s. The video was released in the late '90s or the 21st century. Anthony Hopkins's face featured prominently on the cover. Ian Richardson played the eponymous Blunt (not a drug reference), the main character, while Hopkins played someone else. But then Richardson never played a cannibal (or at least not Lecter).
  • Kamen Rider has been doing this to a point with Momotaros from Kamen Rider Den-O. If it's a Kamen Rider production, and Den-O is in it, you WILL at least hear his voice, even if other Riders don't even have a line. (That being said, it should be noted that his voice actor Toshihiko Seki, being a voice actor, is indeed the most readily available of all the lead actors in the entire franchise when it comes to role reprisal.) The Den-O series itself counts as well, having more crossovers with other Riders and more spinoff movies than any other in the franchise.
    • Both of the movies for Kamen Rider Decade extend this. There is no real need for Momotaros to be on-screen, but they put him in anyway just because of his Wolverine Publicity.
      • Decade is at least consistent with this; each Rider has a Final Form related to their abilities that Decade can activate but due to the Demonic Possession that Den-O is known for, his Final Form is Momotaros himself. Diend can also summon former Riders, including Momotaros in one episode. Not to mention that the first of Decade's movies was the epilogue to the Den-O arc in the show and the second was a Reunion Show featuring every single main Kamen Rider in history...
      • Lampshaded in said second movie. The final line before the credits roll is Momo telling Tsukasa to stop pestering him because he's "super busy" (the Super Den-O Trilogy of films soon followed.) Busy doing some Wolverine Publicity, we presume... oh wait, not just Wolverine Publicity: he's also a Wolverine Publicist!... and he even advertised for McDonald's! Choke on that, Wolverine.
      • In the show itself, Den-O's world is the only one to not have any kind of key alteration, for no apparent reason other than to have all the original characters readily there for crossover movie purposes. Even characters that weren't as important (like Naomi, who could have just as easily been discarded or at least given an Other Darrin) were there.
    • The franchise's 40th anniversary movie stars the original Kamen Rider, then-current Rider OOO... and Den-O. And Momotaros is part of OOO's movie-exclusive powerup mode. At least they have the grace to justify Den-O's involvement by making it a Time Travel plot.
      • Den-O aside, in that particular movie, Double got a bit of this as well, with Shotaro and Philip being the only one(s) of the remaining Heisei Riders to appear out-of-suit and have proper lines. They also appeared prominently out-of-suit in the following year's Movie Wars Megamax, and Double and Accel got to appear with OOO (who got to show up out-of-suit himself) and Birth in the following Movie Wars Ultimatum.
    • Den-O's presence in crossovers has generally been dialed back since then, getting at most a line or two more than other non-leading Riders, though we know he'll have more of a presence in Kamen Rider Taisen. In this case, it's kind of justified: the movie guest-stars Super Sentai, it's traditional for Sentai mecha to use a Rider powerup in such situations, and the current Sentai and Den-O share a Cool Train theme. Having Den-O's train combine with the Sentai train mecha is a natural fit.
  • "Hey guys I heard this rumor that Libby/The Smoke Monster/Walt/Christian/Desmond is going to be in this episode! Oh look there they..." * blink* LOST.
    • Australian promos, especially in the early seasons, would sometimes imply that the upcoming episode would reveal that a particular character would be the key to everything. One promo claimed that the season 1 episode with the first Hurley flashback would answer the already answered (off screen) question "is it a dream/purgatory/Truman Show?"
  • The Sky1 adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Hogfather went to DVD with David Jason (who had probably minutes of screen time, total) front and centre, making him look like the most important character in the story. However, his character was barely necessary and most of his minutes were padded, timewasting scenes to show off the big name star. He was also used in all their advertising and his name dropped constantly in all promo material.
  • If you look online, you'd be excused for thinking iCarly was actually iSam or even iSeddie and that the star is Jennette McCurdy and not Miranda Cosgrove.
  • Nick-At-Nite does this with The George Lopez Show, and it's still getting progressively worse. At first, they would look for any excuse they could find to air a George Lopez marathon. ("Hey, it's St. Patrick's Day! How can we celebrate Irish culture? George Lopez is Mexican - close enough!") Then they dropped the pretenses altogether and now air George Lopez marathons without even giving an excuse.
  • Advertisements for Merry Christmas Drake and Josh on Nick, wich focus much more on iCarly stars Miranda Cosgrove and Jerry Trainor, despite their characters relatively minor roles in this show. Heck it won't even say the stars' names until the end, and that's because they're the title characters(and they have to say what show they're advertising).
  • Since 1985, Elmo from Sesame Street has been given more prominence than older characters on the show such as Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster, much to the chagrin of long time fans.
    • The DVD cover and trailer for A Special Sesame Street Christmas give Michael Jackson more emphasis than deserved for a singer whose guest spot lasts shorter than a minute.
  • Almost every CBS episode promo for How I Met Your Mother heavily features Barney Stinson, so if you didn't actually watch the show, you could be forgiven for thinking he's the main character. In the actual show, he gets lots and lots of entertaining subplots, being a legitimate Breakout Character, but is actually the focus of the A-plot only around 1/4 of the time. So that promo you just saw that dedicated 15 out of its 20 seconds to Barney pulling some crazy stunt? Chances are, said stunt takes up only around three minutes of the episode.
  • The Stargate franchise has a particular case of this with Samantha Carter, every episode where she appears she is heavily advertised regardless of screentime. A particular notorious episode was early in the first season of Atlantis where she was identified as "guest starring" in the commercials. In the episode, she had ONE WORD and 10 seconds of screen time.
  • Desperate Housewives in season 7 had Renee, a character who had no major ties to any of the plot lines that season standing front and center on the DVD cover, with all of the other main characters in the background.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike. Friggin' Spike. After he joined the main cast of Buffy he essentially became the face for the franchise as a whole. He pretty much became shoehorned into every following episode even if his appearances were limited to just less than a minute, with the same even applying after he moved over to Angel after Buffy ended. The comics have been no different: Angel's canon After the Fall sequel gave him not one but two spinoff comics that tied in with its main story with Buffy season 9 doing the same. He's also heavily featured in marketing, even if he appears very little (heck, Buffy's third season DVD heavily featured him in cover images, even though he's only in one episode!). By this point it's surprising they don't just call it the Spikeverse instead.
  • A DVD containing Christmas-themed episodes of The Garry Moore Show bore the title, "The Garry Moore Show Presents: A Carol Burnett Christmas", and also had a cover featuring only Carol Burnett. Since early pressings just used the title, "A Carol Burnett Christmas", the people making this DVD actually got sued for false advertising.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers:
    • Based on how prominently he was featured in the merchandise for the series, you might think that King Sphinx was a member of the main Five-Bad Band, maybe even to the point of being Co-Dragons with Goldar. In the show itself, he was just a standard MOTW featured in a single filler episode who did nothing that would make him particularly memorable and was never seen or even mentioned anywhere outside of that one episode.
    • After Adam made a brief return in In Space (then believed to be the last season) and "Forever Red" brought back Jason and Tommy for the tenth anniversary special in Wild Force (also believed to be the last season at the time of filming) it's become more and more prevalent for series to try and harken back to the original series and bank in on its popularity and nostalgia. Tommy was specifically brought into Dino Thunder to help boost ratings. Since then, it hasn't been uncommon to try and bring back Rangers/characters/suits/plot devices from the Mighty Morphin' era, knowing that people's nostalgia for that series will prompt a ratings boost and make it a popular/talked about episode, or in the hopes that it will get people to watch the season. The reuse of the theme song from Samurai onwards is also a version of this. Hell, Megaforce has basically marketed itself to older viewers on the fact that, "Past rangers are going to appear in it, so you should watch it for that reason!"
  • In print ads for the Son of Svengoolie, whenever they ran a film with the word "Frankenstein" or "Dracula" in the title they'd use a still shot of Boris Karloff as the Monster or Bela Lugosi as Drac, even if they weren't in the film running. Or even if the character didn't appear, such as in Dracula's Daughter.
  • When Logan's Run first aired on TV, the advertisements featured Farrah Fawcett, who was a bigger star, but had a small role in the film.
  • Despite the Dinobots (Grimlock in particular) appearing in trailers, adverts and posters for Transformers: Age of Extinction alongside Optimus Prime, they only appear in the last 15 or so minutes.

    Magazines 
  • In 1995, Time Magazine ran a cover photo of a cigar-chomping Rush Limbaugh with the blurb, "Is Rush Limbaugh Good for America?" The article inside only tangentially dealt with Limbaugh and mainly concerned the rise of "electronic populism" that would result from people having more TV and radio choices and from consumers getting more of their news from the Internet. This trope tends to involve Limbaugh a lot; a controversial, polarizing figure with 20 million daily listeners can attract a lot of attention even if he doesn't have much to do with the real guts of the project.
  • Is it safe to say Barack Obama is an example of this trope yet? Even before he was President, it seemed like he was EVERYWHERE.
  • Ron Paul. He hasn't won a thing yet in the 2012 Presidential race (and he didn't fare well in the 2008 Presidential race either) but he seems to be often praised as the future of American politics...despite being nearly eighty years old.
  • Cosmopolitan often promises BRAND NEW SEX SECRETS, but really just tells the reader the same stuff everybody knows. The worst cover example was, "Orgasm Guaranteed," while inside the magazine, it says there's no such thing.

    Music 
  • This is extremely common with hiphop artists, such as Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Akon, Lil Jon, and Lil Wayne, etc. It's even worse with producer-types like P. Diddy, Dr. Dre, and Timbaland, whose collaborations are better-known than their own songs. Likely because popular artists are used as crutches for newer artists, or older artists to help them sell to a very fickle hip-hop crowed with short attention spans. Interestingly enough this was somewhat rarer in The Nineties (Except maybe 2Pac), and The Eighties. This type of publicity causes A LOT of Hype Backlash and Internet Backdrafts. In late 2007 T-Pain was in four top 10 singles at the same time.
  • In the late '90s, Puff Daddy (or whatever he's called now) was in so many videos that Chris Rock made a joke about it during the 1997 MTV Music Video Awards.
  • Rihanna. Until 2013, her record company pushed for for her to release at least one new album every year (for fear of her losing star power), and that's on top of nearly every mainstream hip hop album within the last five or six years having at least one song with her doing guest vocals.
  • The album "Wolverine Blues", by Death Metal band Entombed, actually featured Marvel's Wolverine on the cover of some early versions. This was done by the record company cutting a deal with Marvel without the knowledge of the band. Obviously, the album had nothing actual to do with Wolverine at all.
  • Slash. Parodied on the Crack Baby Athletic Association episode of South Park.
  • Dave Grohl
  • Josh Homme
  • This review of a mediocre German recording of Leonard Bernstein's Candide, narrated by Loriot, notes that Loriot's name is "twice the size of Bernstein's name" on the cover and that he "is the only person whose picture is printed in this package. The same picture, six times."
  • Angus Young of AC/DC always seems to be emphasized as the Face of the Band, even though Bon Scott (and now, Brian Johnson) more fit that role. Granted, he is one of the two lead guitarists, along with his brother Malcolm; but it seems as if his face is featured front and center on every piece of AC/DC merchandise, while Malcolm is hardly featured at all.
  • Same with Gene Simmons of Kiss, probably because he wears the most outlandish face paint. He's been a guest judge on American Idol, recorded a spoken-word album, and was even a guest in a documentary about Superman. Many fans are surprised when they first learn that Gene is only the co-lead singer (splitting the duties with Paul Stanley) and plays bass and not lead or rhythm guitar.
  • Partly due to his workaholic tendencies, it was hard to escape Phil Collins in The Eighties, a fact which might have contributed to his Critical Backlash at the time. He led Genesis to Top 40 success, had an even more successful solo career (No Jacket Required was 1985's Grammy Album Of The Year), drummed in Robert Plant and Eric Clapton's bands (he co-produced Clapton's Behind The Sun comeback album), was prominently featured in Live Aid, Knebworth 1990, the Prince's Trust concerts, the Band Aid single "Do They Know It's Christmas?", had successful duets with Phillip Bailey and Madeline Martin, penned a number of movie themes ("Against All Odds", "Separate Lives"), appeared on albums by ex-bandmate Peter Gabriel, Tears For Fears, Al DiMeola, Paul McCartney, Howard Jones, Mike Oldfield and Frida (Anni-Frid Lyngstad of ABBA), acted and provided songs to the film Buster, guested in a Miami Vice episode... you get the picture. His patent "gated reverb" drum sound was a trademark of the 1980's, even on productions he was not involved in. In The Nineties it slightly cooled down, but he still had a high profile scoring Tarzan and Brother Bear in the latter part of the decade.
  • Elton John, particularly in The Seventies, was a very successful and high-profile entertainer with multiple demographics and a larger-than-life image. His albums sold astronomically and/or had rave reviews, his tendency for flamboyance was at an all-time high, and he always seemed to be in the news or creating controversy with his outspokenness or humor. High-profile friendships with John Lennon, Billie Jean King and Rod Stewart also gave him notoriety, along with his ownership/management of British soccer club Watford F.C. His appearance in The Who's 1975 rock musical adaption of Tommy as the "Local Lad" in "Pinball Wizard" was considered the highlight of the movie, and Elton's cover of the song outsold the original. Similarly to Collins, this may have led to much of the Critical Backlash and Hype Backlash against him by the end of that decade (middling albums and his outing in 1976 didn't help. Although he had major comebacks in The Eighties and The Nineties, often they were led by equal levels of backlash as his profile increased.
  • Kevin Talley. Even when he was in Dying Fetus, he was already making a name for himself as an in-demand live session player, and once he left, it seemed as if he had made it his life's goal to do session work for every single band in metal. It goes like this: if a band suddenly needs a fill-in drummer or needs someone to do studio work due to lack of a full-time drummer, chances are high that Talley will get the job due to his extreme precision, protean adaptability, and uncanny ability to learn entire sets in a matter of hours and play them perfectly.

    Mythology 

  • Medusa. Despite the fact that her only solid presence in the original myths is against Perseus, her woobieness in retrospect and being a stock Shout-Out means that if someone's doing anything remotely related to Greek Mythology, she's pretty much an obligatory presence even if claiming to be mythologically accurate yet making the setting during the time of The Argonauts as a reviewer noted in Rise Of The Argonauts that she's just there to be there. Granted she's not the only Gorgon in the myths, but she's a perennial favorite to use.
  • Hercules. Hercules, in some plays and stories, at some point, was in almost every major thing Greece ever did, including riding along with Jason and the Argonauts. He also apparently stopped off at every island and city-state he could find and had about 300 kids, all of whom are the ancestors of kings. He often makes cameos in stories where people go to the underworld, as well. Even accounts of the Trojan War, which took place decades after Hercules' death, have one of his sons make a cameo appearance (and be killed by a son of Zeus despite his own divine heritage).
    • At least the Argonauts story gets rid of him fairly quickly, when he abandons the expedition out of grief at the death of his Ambiguously Gay friend Hylas.
  • Hermes, better known to the Romans as Mercury. Although he was not one of the highest-ranking gods on Olympus (being Zeus's son and the official messenger for the other gods), the Greeks loved him for his penchant for mischievous adventure, and tried to work him into every one of their stories.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • John Morrison and The Miz most definitely. Not just because they appeared on all three WWE brands regularly, featured on most pay per views if only for a short segment and had their own internet talk show but also because the World Tag Team Championships they wore were supposed to be exclusive to one show, Raw. As ECW superstars they never should have gotten a title shot in the first place. Even worse, SmackDown!'s equivalent WWE Tag Team Champions, Carlito and Primo, weren't even guaranteed to appear on their own show, then Miz and Morrison stole their girlfriends. It was justified by ECW having kayfabe "talent sharing agreements" with both Smackdown and Raw, but it seemed that they were the only two wrestlers smart enough to take advantage of the agreement. (Interestingly, therefore, Morrison and Miz may have been the ones responsible for ECW being discontinued two years later and Raw and SmackDown being reintegrated a year after that!) And fans really wanted to see them take a beating.
    • Carlito and Primo later defeated Miz and Morrison for the Unified Tag Team titles, belts that were supposed to crossover between different shows, and still weren't as overexposed as Miz and John Morrison were.
    • 1. The talent scene at the time was so pitifully dead compared to previous years that "rules" aren't going to get in the way of entertainment. 2. Miz and Morrison were heels, thus ''should'' be hated and 3. Carlito's growing issues with the company was counterproductive.
  • The Rock was originally billed as Rocky Maivia. He was publicized so much, that everyone got sick of him. Even Rocky Maivia hated Rocky Maivia.
  • Triple H, circa 2002-2005 (give or take). Led to Pat Patterson quitting after his suggesting using "less Triple H" to stop ratings from falling fell on deaf ears, and led to the Bubba Ray Dudley line "This is not the Triple H Show!"
    • Even in the time when he wasn't on the show, Spring 2010 to July 2011 (with the exception of the lead-up and actual PPV of WrestleMania 27) he was still in the opening, toward the end, in one of the more prominent spots. When he was out with an injury in 2001, he was still mentioned pretty much constantly and they were running a sequence that showed his rehab pretty much every night. This, of course, is one of the benefits of being married to the boss's daughter who is also the head of "Creative".
    • This criticism actually dates as far back as 1999-2000, when the infamous "Rock vs. Triple H" feud was in full swing. It became so bad, in fact, that when Mic Foley became the new WWE commissioner after King Of The Ring 2000, one of the first things he opted to do was reduce Triple H to a midcarder role.
  • John Cena from 2005 on has been in a main title bout at every WrestleMania and has only lost twice.
    • Five years later, if you never watch wrestling, you would think John Cena is the only character because he is the only one in every promo commercial.
  • Even though WWE is currently divided into the Raw and Smackdown brands, pretty much the entire main event crew, including John Cena, Triple H, CM Punk, Randy Orton, Mark Henry, and others appear on both shows with alarming regularity.
  • Arison's head booker was guilty of it, or so it was thought, as after she left the promotion they still continued to advertise her on shows Aja Kong obviously would not be on, having left and all. She eventually took them to court to put a stop to it. Also, combining this trope with loophole abuse kicked off the career of Amazing Kong.
  • Kelly Kelly is one of the most overexposed Divas (and no, not because she used to be an exhibitionist). Except for The Fabulous Moolah, she is the only Diva currently (2011) featured in the opening montage for all WWE programming. And over the past few years, WWE's writers have dredged up one excuse after another to have her appear in segments, most infamously her fake pregnancy prank when Jerry Springer was the special guest host. (And this was before she was booked to win the Divas' Championship!) Not-so-subtly Lampshaded in a TV commercial for 7-Eleven, one of the sponsors of the 2009 SummerSlam show (in which Kelly barely even appeared), in which she knocks away a row of commemorative Edge, John Cena, Triple H, and The Undertaker drinking cups with a Kelly Kelly cup.
  • AJ Lee is another Diva who started hogging the spotlight in later years. Despite rarely competing in the ring, she's been made the focal point of almost every main-event feud on Raw for the past seven months, culminating in her becoming the psychotic lover of CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Kane. It was taken to extremes when she was named the new Raw General Manager. Vince has surprisingly been listening to viewers who frequently request he build back up the Divas division to where it was during its peak in the early-to-mid-2000s. However, at this time, the Divas division was pretty heavily based around Trish Stratus, and to a lesser extent, Lita and Mickie James. Vince feels that, much like Cena, the Divas division needs a central character to work as a keystone, saying he "needs a Trish" to build from. He's tried with Kelly Kelly, Eve Torres, and AJ, and to a lesser extent, Maryse and the Bella Twins, but these have all fallen apart for one reason or another.
  • To tie in with A.J.'s increased screentime, the ever popular Daniel Bryan saw his increase significantly post-WrestleMania 28. As of late 2012 he and his tag team partner Kane are a major part of shows as dysfunctional WWE Tag Team Champions, appearing in multiple segments on any given night. Consequently, this has brought more focus to the tag team division than it's seen in years.
  • Attempted in-universe by Chris Jericho. ("Raw is Jericho!")
  • Also attempted in-universe by John Laurinaitis, who while General Manager of both Raw and SmackDown booked himself into the ring (sometimes to compete, sometimes not) at every opportunity, and even tried to have his face put on the cover of WWE's latest video game instead of CM Punk's.
  • Yet another in-universe attempt involves Brock Lesnar making this part of his demands on signing a contract with WWE, specifically asking for Raw to be re-christened as WWE Monday Night Raw: Starring Brock Lesnar. (What makes this really strange is that, in Real Life, Lesnar is a notoriously private person - almost to the point of being a recluse - so he'd be one of the last people in the world to ever demand such a thing.)
  • Of course, this is not a new thing to the WWE. During the entire Rock n' Wrestling era and well into the '90s, they promoted Hulk Hogan endlessly. This probably jumped the shark at Wrestlemania IX, where after Mr. Fuji's interference caused Bret Hart to lose the heavyweight title to Yokozuna, the Hulkster himself came out and demanded an immediate match with the big sumo, which was granted...and ended 20 seconds later with Hogan as the new champion.
  • A common complaint about the WWE's Attitude Era was that too much focus was put on Vince McMahon's own family. He even went so far as to have daughter Stephanie and wife Linda become part time wrestlers, even though neither had any significant experience with the "sport." Luckily, the McMahon family's Wolverine Publicity slowly declined once The Rock won King Of The Ring 2000, and daughter Stephanie was later given the much more appropriate role of general manager.
    • This became a problem again in 2001 though with the Invasion storyline. Apparently, they didn't think WWF fans/wrestling fans would be interested in seeing guys from WCW and ECW wrestle against WWF guys, so they made the whole storyline about Shane and Stephanie trying to take out Vince and take over his company, and it eventually turned into a continuation of the Austin/Vince Mc Mahon feud, which basically meant it was a rehash of everything the Attitude era had already done long after it had gotten stale in the hopes that it would work twice, which is why this era is generally looked upon as a massive waste of potential.

    Sports 
  • LeBron James from 2010 to June 2012. The media paid attention to EVERYTHING he did, to the point of stalking.
  • Shaquille O'Neal anyone? Within his first four years in the NBA, Shaq released two rap albums, starred in two movies, had his own video game, and appeared in commercials endorsing Pepsi, Taco Bell and more. Years later, he would go on to do even more endorsements, get his own reality TV show, release a couple more albums, and make cameos in video games. Shaq has been everywhere, and this isn't even getting into his basketball career.
  • The Yankees and Red Sox at ESPN. Baseball Tonight should be renamed the Yankees and Red Sox show.
  • Troy Polamalu has been promoted as virtually the equal of Ben Roethlisberger on the Pittsburgh Steelers for the past several years. Granted, Polamalu is a top-notch player, but he's only a safety while Roethlisberger is the quarterback.
  • Tim Tebow, definitely. Despite a fairly average quarterback, he was *the* most talked about person on ESPN during the 2011 NFL season. His overexposure declined a little bit during the 2012 season when he spent it entirely as the backup to Mark Sanchez, but he still gets way too much attention.
  • NBC Sports Network airs one or two games of Major League Soccer every weekend. The overwhelming majority of the matches they air feature the Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders FC, and/or Philadelphia Union. However, they are pretty good at not hyping up star players on the level of other examples, so unless a player is having an incredible day, don't expect the commentators to ramble on about them for half the match.
  • Danica Patrick, first in Indycar and then NASCAR gets constant promotion and coverage no matter how well she's doing. Since there are 42 other drivers in a NASCAR race Danica gets far more coverage than any other driver with similar career stats. Somewhat lampshaded by the fact that Go Daddy.com sponsored both Patrick in NASCAR and James Hinchcliffe in Indycar; Hinchcliffe won several races with their name on his car, as opposed to Patrick who won nothing except the pole position at the Daytona 500, yet Go Daddy dropped Hinchcliffe and kept sponsoring Patrick.

    Video Games 
  • In Final Fantasy XIII-2, the cover of the game shows only Lightning in a badass pose, but we only get to play as her younger sister Serah and Noel.
    • Although the main character from Dissidia: Final Fantasy is the Warrior of Light, Lightning appears always in the middle of all Dissidia 012 images. It doesn't help the fact other character from the game such as Laguna and Kain Highwind contribute more to the story.
    • Lightning began to take the spotlight again as Square's press releases pegged Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2 as the "Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Saga." Not bad for someone who was the Protagonist in a game with an ensemble cast (XIII) and a background character for the sequel (XIII-2). Then the third game in the trilogy was called Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII and featured her as the sole playable character.
  • In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, almost all chapters prominently feature Rena in the cover, even those that have nothing to do with her.
    • She is missing only in Meakashi-hen and Minagoroshi-hen (And Rei, if that counts). That's 2 out of 8, people!
    • Rena is also on the PS2 remakes covers, except for Kakera Asobi, where Rika and Hanyuu are there instead.
    • Rena was the cover girl from the beginning, and only Keiichi, Rika and Hanyuu can be said to be more important to the plot. She is the one that makes Keiichi remember the events of the first arc, which is the catalyst for what happens in the rest of the anime. That being said, it's a sure thing she gets the most attention due to her popularity.
  • Christopher Walken appears on the box cover and on the serigraphy of every single CD of Black Dahlia. He has a three minute bit part in the game.
  • Strangely inverted in Yoshi's SafariMario makes a legitimate and prominent appearance everywhere... outside of the game's cover. (Granted, he doesn't appear directly in the gameplay, but that's because the game is played in a first-person perspective from his point of view.)
  • Mario, his supporting cast, and to a lesser extent Link has a habit of making cameos in games on Nintendo systems. The Mario gang has made appearances in even third party games for Nintendo systems, sometimes even as playable characters. The Gamecube release of Soulcalibur II was the best selling version of that game almost entirely because Link was a character in it. This has even been lampshaded in some of the Mario RPGs.
  • Zero, Ensemble Dark Horse was a supporting character in the first Mega Man X who got promoted to co-protagonist in the sequels, had a retroactive cameo in the original series, gained his own series in the form of Mega Man Zero, and returns from the dead as a Biometal in ZX. Aside from that, he was also mentioned in two more (Legends and Battle Network), with the latter even including an expy in one of its Gaiden Games as well as the anime. Legends 3 was set to introduce a character who would fill that series Proto Man/Zero niche before it was unwisely canceled by Capcom. Last but not the least, he appears as a playable character in SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Project X Zone. The only series he hasn't appeared in, yet, is Star Force.
  • Always expect Ryu and Chun-Li to pop up in Capcom's crossover games. Excluding the Street Fighter-less Cross Edge, they're the only characters with a perfect attendance record, and Ken would had got it too if it wasn't for him being one of Ryu's transformations in Marvel vs. Capcom, an entirely different character with the same name in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom and the developers deciding Akuma was enough in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. And predictably, the trope namer has appeared in all of Capcom's Marvel-licensed fighting games. He even has two versions of himself in Marvel vs. Capcom 2.
    • Zangief is also present in nearly all of the crossover fighting games; his absentee counts are SVC Chaos (where he's replaced by Hugo from Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact), Tatsunoko vs. Capcom (where he's replaced by Alex from Street Fighter III), and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (where he's replaced by Haggar from Final Fight) as the Capcom side's grappler.
    • Morrigan is next to them. Since the first Marvel vs. Capcom she was always present, except in SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos where she's replaced by Demitri as the Darkstalkers character. And it's still played straight, since said game wasn't developed by Capcom, but by SNK.
      • To put it in perspective, she's the sole Darkstalker in FOUR games: Marvel vs. Capcom, Capcom vs. SNK, Capcom vs. SNK 2, and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. Given that she's essentially a Pirate Who Doesn't Do Anything (succubi are supposed to use their charms to corrupt good men's souls, not get modelling gigs), that's pretty impressive.
    • Capcom intends to give Frank West the same treatment.
    • On the topic of Street Fighter: When Akuma first appeared in Super Street Fighter II Turbo, he was in every piece of promotional material for the game. The home conversions of the game prominently featured him on the cover art. Lastly, Akuma appears in the intro of the game opposite Ryu. In spite all of this promotion, the conditions to fight Akuma are so exceedingly difficult to attain due to the game's difficulty that it's safe to say that most people have never seen him in the arcade version. In addition, the code to play as that character requires such precise timing that the average player probably wouldn't get it right after the first 30 tries. After all of this, though, Akuma has been guaranteed an appearance in almost everything Street Fighter-related since.
    • Oddly enough, when it came to the initial release of SFA3, Cody ended up taking this spot. Despite not being a 'main' character story-wise or even the most high-profile of the new additions, he ended up a major presence, if not the focus, of most promotional art for the game, including one of him vs. Ryu, with the rest of the cast in the background.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl prominently featured Solid Snake and Sonic the Hedgehog on its back cover. While they are indeed playable characters, both have to be unlocked, and Sonic doesn't appear in the game's story mode until the final boss battle.
  • Marisa Kirisame of Touhou is the second playable character, having been in the games since the second on the PC-98. To date (up to UFO), her head is the icon for all ZUN-made Touhou games in the Windows domain - even the one where she doesn't even appear in, Shoot the Bullet. Not even Reimu (the lead) is capable of boasting that she's appeared in every game in one form or another. Marisa is not, however, the icon for Double Spoiler or Fairy Wars. She is, however, fightable in both, and Reimu isn't in Fairy Wars outside an ending appearance. As doujinshi are a major part of Touhou, it also happens to all the fangames Marisa takes a starring role in, more than Reimu by far.
  • Nomura has said that he wants Sora to be in every Kingdom Hearts game, even if he has nothing to do with the story.
  • And of course, that brings up Final Fantasy VII Cloud Strife. In addition to the media directly related to his universe - VII, Crisis Core, Advent Children, Dirge of Cerberus - he's popping up in other universes with frightening regularity. He gets a Shout-Out in Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy IX, he's an unlockable Guest Fighter in Final Fantasy Tactics, a recurring character in Kingdom Hearts, in Itadaki Street, and he's in Ehrgeiz and Dissidia: Final Fantasy (Which he would have been in either way, being the hero of a main numbered entry). The character designer of Final Fantasy XIII, Tetsuya Nomura, was specifically told they wanted a female Cloud Strife for a main character, which is how he came up with Lightning.
    • And with Cloud comes Sephiroth. If Cloud shows up in the work, chances are Sephiroth is going to be his nemesis or get a shout out.
    • Gilgamesh, originally from V, is a recurring character in several numbered entries (or, if they preceded his game, their remakes), thanks in part to his status as a Breakout Character. To date, he's appeared in more games than any other character. Additionally, it is heavily implied that it is the very same Gilgamesh from V in most of his reappearances.
  • Kyosuke Nanbu of Super Robot Wars Original Generation. Either him or his Alt Eisen mecha (or any variation of the machine) will undoubtedly be displayed on the game covers of the Original Generation series, including the Super Robot Wars OG Saga: Endless Frontier Gaiden Game.
  • The Bonus Boss of Dragon Ball: Attack of the Saiyans, none other than "Legendary" Super Saiyan Broly, despite the game covering until the saga before Super Saiyans appear on the plot, about 15 volumes and 150 episodes before the point Broly's movie could happen. Proving why he belongs in this trope, they used him on ads for the game. When was the last time you saw a Bonus Boss on ads?
    • Broly has actually appeared in a total of 17 games. Broly is also one of two characters to get a "What If?" Super Saiyan 3 form in Raging Blast, the other being Vegeta, who's more fitting for the status.
    • While Dragon Ball Z: Taiketsu is not, by any means whatsoever, a good (or even decent) fighting game, it was heavily promoted as the first game in the US to include Broly, which is probably Taiketsu's only claim to fame.
    • Cooler gets a lot of advertising, and has appeared in 9 games.
    • Revenge of King Piccolo only has King Piccolo himself show up for the last few stages. Most of the game is spent covering the Red Ribbon arc. The Japanese name counts too, as it refers the Tournament Arc that gets even less stages than King Piccolo's arc. At least the Red Ribbon is prominently featured on the cover.
  • The AC Nine Ball from Armored Core has only shown up in four out of thirteen games, yet is the series' unofficial mascot and every AC fan worth their salt will instantly recognize him.
  • Shadow the Hedgehog and his motorbike in Shadow the Hedgehog. The bike is actually a hidden vehicle, only in a couple of levels, and handles lousy too, but it still manages to get in all the trailers, and was a big deal for many gamers who kind of expected it to be a little more important than that.
    • Possibly toyed with with the heavy bike in Sonic Riders; not only does it offer a big speed boost (taking advantage of Shadow's already top-notch speed) but it just seems... fitting for him. Looks more badass than him skating around at least.
    • The bike went on to be Shadow's vehicle of choice in Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing. Its sequel All-Stars Racing Transformed primarily revolved its mainstream marketing in the US around two specific characters: Sonic and Danica Patrick. That NASCAR Product Placement money must have been a lot.
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Sub-Zero is the only character who is present and playable in every fighting game in the series, and is present in every spin-off except for Mortal Kombat: Special Forces. He was also the main character in Mortal Kombat Mythologies Sub Zero, and he has made cameos in other Midway titles such as MLB Slugfest.
    • For a while, even he was upstaged by Goro, who created an amazing amount of buzz for a game he wasn't even in. No, he was not in Mortal Kombat II. Any version. At all. No, that didn't prevent a kajillion hours of speculation about whether he was alive, where he could be, what exactly happened to him after Mortal Kombat 1, whether Shao Kahn knew about him, etc. When he did finally return, in Mortal Kombat 4, he was given given a superstar's welcome-back and placed front and center on the cover art, despite the fact that he had virtually no story to speak of and no connection to Shinnok's scheme whatsoever.
    • Scorpion. It doesn't hurt that he's not only Ed Boon's favorite character, but a fan-favorite for many. He and (Younger) Sub-Zero have become the series' Spotlight-Stealing Squad, usually receiving top-billing or spots on the covers despite having minimal ties to the overall plot. The only exception was in Mortal Kombat Deception, where the Elder Gods made Scorpion into their Champion to deal with the threat of Onaga. It has gone beyond top-billing: Scorpion's the logo mascot for Netherrealm Studios.
    • Unsurprisingly, Scorpion and Sub-Zero were the ones chosen to debut Mortal Kombat X to the world.
  • Silent Hill:
    • Pyramid Head, after his popularity in Silent Hill 2, was put in the movie. He appears in two scenes. He serves no real purpose other than fanservice and to be scary as hell.
    • Appeared again in Homecoming, said movie's sequel, and had an expy in 0rigins with The Butcher. Again with no real reason other than fanservice.
  • Thrall and the Horde (or at the very least the Orcish race) in modern Warcraft media. A giant statue of a Orc riding his wolf into battle was even erected right at the headquarters of Blizzard Entertainment because of how popular they are.
  • If your knowledge of Team Fortress 2 is small to barely existent, chances are the only class you know from this game is the Heavy.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The adult incarnations of Link have only appeared in four out of the fifteen titles of the series, but you'd never know it from all the times he's showed up. He's been in on the default roster of all three Super Smash Bros. games labeled as just "Link", with his Young incarnation (who has in comparison appeared in six games in the series) as a secret character in Melee who was replaced with his Toon incarnation (who has appeared in six titles of the series) in Brawl. Adult Link even appeared as a Guest Fighter in Soul Calibur II and was the star of Link's Crossbow Training one of the few spin-offs in the series. At this point, Adult Link is probably the most recognized incarnation of the character.
    • This may be because the games featuring adult Link happen to be the more popular games in the series, or vice-versa (games such as Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword may tend to be more popular because they feature adult Link).
  • Pokémon:
    • Charizard's case probably most closely resembles that of the Trope Namer. In many circles, it ended up becoming one of the (if not the) most popular Pokémon and overshadowing Series Mascot Pikachu for being the series' definitive Rated M for Manly character, just as Wolvie himself ended up overshadowing Marvel's mascot Spider-Man in similar circles. As a result, from 2013 onwards, it started getting a ton of gratuitous anime, manga and merchandise appearances (many of them in starring roles), acting as the franchise's backup Spotlight-Stealing Squad not named "Pikachu", and getting two Mega Evolutions while other Pokémon (except Mewtwo) only got one. In fact, a strong case can be made for Charizard being more aggressively marketed than Pikachu during this period, largely due to Game Freak's efforts to appeal to older Pokémon fans.
      • In the case of the Super Smash Bros. series, Charizard started out as a Pokémon that can be summoned through the Poké Ball item. In Brawl, it becomes a playable character through the Pokémon Trainer, alongside Squirtle and Ivysaur. Finally, in the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U installments, Charizard returns as an independant character.
      • Mega Charizard X in particular has been getting this treatment, being marketed much more heavily then its Y counterpart. It's made multiple anime appearances, on top of being the form utilized in the 2014 Super Smash Bros. games, whereas the latter has nothing to its name at this point.
    • Pikachu is the best-known example, appearing in almost every single piece of merchandising available (you wouldn't even know that it's actually a fairly rare Pokémon species, and unobtainable via normal gameplay in Pokémon Black and White). It was the franchise's poster boy for this trope for the longest time, until Game Freak decided to change its marketing strategy.
    • The cute "Pikaclones" (Pichu, Plusle/Minun, Pachirisu, Emolga, and Dedenne) tend to get a lot of focus, especially in the anime, where it's become a tradition since generation 4 for one of the main characters to own the one introduced in the current generation of games.
    • Lucario was the first widely-noted example of this after Pikachu. One got to star in its own movie, and also appeared prominently in every single aspect of the franchise (including a playable appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl). It ended up getting even more attention after receiving a Mega Evolution in X/Y.
    • Then after trying again and failing with Zoroark (an Expy of Lucario), the Pokémon Company noticed how popular Zekrom was, and proceeded to give it a prominent appearance in nearly everything (including as the main Pokémon in Pokemon Re Burst and Pokémon Conquest).
    • Similar to Charizard, Blaziken received a Mega Evolution and a distribution event when X and Y came out, with no word of its counterparts Sceptile and Swampert getting a similar treatment.
    • In Generation VI, this almost happened with Mewtwo instead of Charizard, with both of them being among the most popular Pokémon in the franchise. However, possibly due to unexpected Audience Reactions to the Mewtwo-starring 16th Pokémon anime movie, Mewtwo was brought down to Zoroark's level and Charizard was given the lion's share of the marketing instead.
    • Also, the starters and legendaries usually receive most of the promotion and publicity, despite being the rarest and most difficult 'mons to obtain in-game.
  • Samus's Varia Suit from Metroid. It was optional in the first game, surpassed by the gravity suit in Super, and outranked by several other suits in the Metroid Prime series, yet the suit gets used in all of the promotional art. The Zero Suit to a lesser extent, particularly thanks to Super Smash Bros., even though you hardly see Samus in it in her own games.
  • Heihachi Mishima is the Tekken series' designated cameo character, appearing in Xevious 3D/G, Smash Court Tennis, SoulCalibur II, Pac Man Fever, Namco × Capcom, Tales of the Abyss, Project X Zone and Playstation All Stars Battle Royale.
  • In the Mascot Fighter Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien was the only represented series that was still running at the time of the game's release. All other Cartoon Network shows represented had been finished for a while now.
  • God of War's Kratos seems to be evolving into Sony Computer Entertainment's Wolverine, seeing as how he appeared in Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny as per fan-request as well as the PS3 version of Mortal Kombat 9. He's also stated to be the "beginner's character" in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, similar to Mario in Super Smash Bros.
    • Ratchet also seems to be going the same way. He's essentially to Sony as to what Mario is to Nintendo.
  • Five of the first eleven characters revealed for Injustice: Gods Among Us were Batman characters.
  • Six of the first twelve characters revealed for Infinite Crisis were Batman characters, including three versions of Batman.
  • Judging by Skyrim fanworks, you'd think Unrelenting Force (aka "Fus Ro Dah!") was the only Shout in the game, and that the Dragonborn is required to use it all the time. While it can stagger foes (or knock them off their feet with its full power), it's not that powerful or useful unless you employ a very specific strategy.
  • Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign has roughly thirty playable heroes and villains (at the time of this update). Wolverine and Black Widow, each in three different costumes, are six of them.
  • Another Marvel example: Lego Marvel Super Heroes heavily leans on three characters:
    • Phil Coulson, who serves as the guide icon for story missions and serves as the voice of hints as to what powers you need to use to solve a particular puzzle.
    • Deadpool, who serves as the guide icon for side missions and voices the intro and outro to EVERY side mission.
    • Stan Lee, who you need to save 50 times over the course of the game, including once in every single mission. (Deadpool even says "He's in this game more then I am!")
    • Wolverine, the Trope Namer, only appears in a few missions where his presence is more or less justified, thereby kinda averting the trope for him.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne's American and Japanese versions subvert this. The European cover, however, is very happy to zoom out of the main character just so they can stick in a poorly Photoshopped version of Dante in and adding a "Featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry Series" right there in the front.

    Webcomics 
  • For a while in the late 90s/early '00s, Max Blackrabbit's Zig Zag was like this in Furry Comics (especially those of a Fan Servicey bent); a member of the Sabrina Online cast from the strip's third year onward, she was also a supporting character in Badly Drawn Kitties (before the reboot) and had cameos and guest spots in at least a dozen other comics. Zig Zag isn't quite as popular in the fandom now as she was at the beginning of the '00s, so this sort of thing has been averted as of late.
  • Parodied by Schlock Mercenary in their transcript blurb— whenever the true transcript is not available, this message replaces it, trying to attract advertisers by using popular tags:
    The transcript for today's comic has not yet been entered. Had it been entered, instead of seeing this message you would have seen the text of the strip, rendering this page searchable, and providing all kinds of yummy words for our advertisers to twig on, like "mercenary" and "iPod Warcraft xBox Playstation widescreen TV".
  • Parodied in an 8-Bit Theater strip, where the cast splits up into multiple teams and Fighter appears in all of them, a team consisting of multiple Fighters, all in the same panel, ''with two of them high-fiving each other''. Black Mage doesn't get it. Neither does Fighter. The strip is even titled "Fighterine" in reference to the Trope Namer.
  • Dragon Ball Multiverse: Chapter 25 was announced as Bibidi's special, even though he only appears during the first part of the special and the Kaioshins have much more time.

    Web Original 
  • That Guy with the Glasses:
    • The site has been so rife with Dr. Insano and Spooning With Spoony crossovers that Noah Antwiler says they've frequently left him ragged and that he worries his fans will tire of them. Thankfully, there's a good supply of Expy Insanos willing to pop out of The Multiverse at any time.
    • The Nostalgia Critic is no stranger to this kind of exposure either; given Doug has multiple characters, it is common for the other reviewers to get him to cameo or crossover at least once as one of these characters. Inverted too though; he's had just about every conributer on the site crossover and cameo once in his videos, which probably helps get their names out to his fans and encourage them to watch his videos. His recent videos, meanwhile, tend to be filled with skits and cameos by actors/actresses from his Demo Reel series, leading many to complain that show is starting to focus more on guest star hijinx than on actual reviews.
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: Linkara has appeared in other peoples' reviews several times. Admittedly, these reviews are usually comic-book related, but he also usually appears with less well-known reviewers of the site like MarzGurl and Film Brain.
  • Many YouTubers use this tactic in order to get views, by labeling things that have nothing to do with their video, or using a gratuitous image of a hot woman, and misnaming their video.
    • Raocow does this in reverse — he sticks random tags that make sense in context on his videos. The Related videos section typically gets some comments on the video in question.
    • The VlogBrothers tend to get more views from guys on videos where the picture giraffe sex on the preview, even though the giraffe sex is not typically actually in the video.

    Western Animation 
  • Wolverine's super teaming-up abilities were lampshaded in an episode of The Super Hero Squad Show.
    Wolverine: Just you and me, huh HERBIE? Okay, let's see... (Pulls out a huge list) Reptil, X-23, Dr. Doom, Firestar. Ah, here we go! HERBIE, Wolverine team up #640.
    HERBIE: bzzt Wolverine and the Easter Bunny?
    Wolverine: Yeah, that was a hairy one.
    • "Too Many Wolverines" featured the clones present in the episode as an excuse for wolverine publicity.
    • Cartoon Network uses different symbols to represent its shows. For Pokemon, it uses a Pokeball. For Hot Wheels, it uses the Hot Wheels logo. For The Super Hero Squad Show? A profile of Iron Man's face.
  • During the early seasons of The Simpsons, Bart Simpson constantly took front and center in publicity materials, even if the upcoming episode focused on someone else. Some of the more gratuitous examples include TV Guide's advertisements for "Old Money" and "Lisa's Substitute". (In later years, Homer has often replaced Bart.)
    • As a whole, The Simpsons franchise is this for Fox. They will be included wherever Fox is trying to promote themselves and gain an audience.
    • On the audio commentary for the episode "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy", then showrunners Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein discuss FOX's marketing for the episode, which featured a picture in TV Guide of Bart taking a peek under a doll's skirt.
  • Each episode of The Marvel Action Hour consists of one story featuring the Fantastic Four and one featuring Iron Man, but Netflix lists streaming episodes of the show under, Iron Man: The Complete Animated Series.
  • Disney XD's updated opening of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes showcases Iron Man, The Mighty Thor, Incredible Hulk, and Captain America, but not the superheroes who didn't have movies released before the premiere of The Avengers. Also, Nick Fury narrates, even though he sometimes goes several episodes without appearing.
    • Another egregious example involves a DVD titled, "Iron Man Unleashed". In actuality, three of the included episodes showcase other Avengers' Character Development, and the other three feature the heroes working togethernote  to save the world from Kang the Conqueror. (Iron Man seems to have become The Smart Guy for most of that arc, except for a few times when he blasts Kang with his repulsors.)
    • Australia got a season 1 Blu-Ray with a case depicting all eight Avengers. However, it also shows Nick Fury and Black Widow standing alongside them. Black Widow only appears in six episodes of the first season (though she is rather important) and is not an Avenger.
    • The Australian season 2 Blu-Ray did the exact same thing, positioning Black Widow, Nick Fury, Spider-Man, and Wolverine next to the team, even though the former two were supporting players and the latter two only appeared in about 2-3 episodes each. Basically those four took prominence because people know them from the movies.
    • The cover for the sixth American DVD shunts Captain America for an alien disguised as Ultimate Captain America, whose costume inspired that worn by Cap in the live-action Avengers movie. It also features Black Widow, despite her not having any lines in the included episodes.
    • When Marvel finally released a DVD collection of The Avengers: United They Stand to coincide with the popularity of the MCU, Captain America and Iron Man were given the most prominent placement on the box, despite the fact that they only appeared in one episode each. The actual Avengers highlighted in the show like The Wasp, The Falcon, and Hawkeye were all shunted off to the side, including Ant-Man, who was actually the leader and the main character.
  • In Iron Man, for a while, he was there in no less than four series at once: Iron Man: Armored Adventures, The Super Hero Squad Show, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and Marvel Anime: Iron Man. Ol' shellhead gets around these days. There's also Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United, soon to be followed by Iron Man & Captain America: Heroes United.
  • The Hulk seems to be taking his role now: these days, Iron Man's only in one show, but Hulk is a main character in Avengers Assemble and the main character in Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.. He pops up in Ultimate Spider-Man now and again too.
  • Spider-Man's not totally neglecting his crossover duties, popping up a few times in both Avengers series and Agents of SMASH.
  • Firefly from My Little Pony was on everything in the first Generation. Her only appearance in the cartoons was the pilot where she was the Spotlight-Stealing Squad and protagonist, but she appeared on the most merchandise for sure.
    • Pinkie Pie seems to appear on most of the promotional material for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Even moreso then Twilight Sparkle (who's suppose to be the main character). Mostly because of her bubbly personality. And she's pink.
      • She was also quite popular in G3. She went from a cute background pony with a lisp to being the leader of the generation within a few years, appearing on most merchandise and even being on toothpaste (her G4 counterpart has replaced her on the toothpaste now).
    • Rainbow Dash, an Expy of Firefly, seems to be inheriting this trope from her as well. She's on most of the official t-shirts and was the center of the hype leading up to "Cutie Mark Chronicles", a popular episode expanding on the main cast's backstories. However, she did turn out to be vital to all of them.
    • Hasbro seems to want to use their pretty pink pony Princess Cadence for all she's worth. She has two toylines centered around her, the logo for one of them (The Crystal Empire) is just a picture of her. She's also on the DVD artwork for one of the Season 1 box set DVD's. She's not introduced in the series until the Season 2 finale.
    • Hasbro is also well aware of bronies' love for background ponies and thus have started using them quite a bit in merchandise and advertising, usually Derpy, Time Turner, and Vinyl Scratch. Vinyl in particular has a bunch of t-shirts, a brushable toy that came in a "collector's set", was the first to get an Ascended Fan Nickname ("DJ-Pon3" in a commercial), and appears on several comic book covers (see the comic books folder). Her three appearances in the show barely make up a minute of screentime. At least Derpy & Time Turner are Recurring Extras!
    • Bizarrely, Fluttershy seems to be receiving this favorable treatment too. The Topps trading card and sticker packs and related merchandise (such as tins and lunch boxes) all feature either Fluttershy only or Fluttershy (sometimes accompanied by Angel) with everyne else to the side. If you didn't know any better and you were just in a department store's trading cards and tins shelf, you might think Fluttershy was the main character—and not shy at all, considering the way she hogs the spotlight for these materials. (The lunch box even has the other five main characters visibly annoyed at her smiling front and center!)
  • Duck Dodgers: A Movie Within a Show example, actually. Though Duck Dodgers had the lead role in a movie, Bugs Bunny was announced as the star. It was lampshaded when Cadet explained to Dodgers that it was to attract a larger audience.
  • Looney Tunes: During the intro sequence of Daffy Duck's Quackbusters, they've called more attention to Bugs' presence than Daffy's.
  • Brian and Stewie are starting to become this for Family Guy: if a story has a B plot with these two and the main plot with somebody else, the promos will focus on the Brian and Stewie (sometimes only Stewie) plot. "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven" and "Stew-roids" were the most egregious examples.
  • Despite only being a secondary character in the animated version of Peter Pan, Tinker Bell has been used to introduce just about every Disney TV special of the past several decades. Younger generations of kids might not even know why she's important!
  • Despite only appearing in two of his shorts, the bombshell character of Red Hot Riding Hood is prominently displayed in packaging and artwork of the Droopy DVD collection.
  • THIS VIDEO. During 2005, Cartoon Network made a summertime song as a promotion that around the time, the Cartoon Network original shows that were running consistently around that time included Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, and Codename: Kids Next Door. Well Cartoon Network tended to give a lot of emphasis to the older characters like Dexter, Johnny Bravo, and The Powerpuff Girls that didn't have their shows running as consistently. And that was also the same summer that introduced Camp Lazlo.
  • Ben 10 seems to have become this for Cartoon Network. He's had 4 different series, a crossover with Generator Rex, and 2 direct-to-TV live-action movies. Plus, he's in both crossover games
    Billy: (opening door) I'm so glad you're here- HEY! You're not the Powerpuff Girls!
    Numbuh 1: No, we're not.
  • Raw Toonage's opening titles featured Webby from DuckTales, but she never actually appeared in any of the show's cartoons or host segments. At the time Raw Toonage was on the air, The Disney Afternoon was still going strong, and DuckTales was its flagship show.
  • Four characters are primarily used to advertise most incarnations of Transformers - Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron, and Starscream. Even in Beast Wars, a series which takes place both millions of years in the future and in the past, the original Starscream still managed to get an episode starring himself.
  • Yogis Space Race isn't so focused on Yogi Bear as the title suggested.
  • In examining DC's three flagship characters:
    • Number of Batman animated series in the past ten years: 4. Number of Batman animated movies: 9. With one more for one or the other on the way.
    • Number of Superman animated series in the past ten years: 0. Number of Superman animated movies: 6. Not including the various movies and episodes where Supes teams up with Batman and various other heroes.
    • Number of Wonder Woman animated series ever: 0. Number of Wonder Woman animated movies: 1

     Real Life 
  • It wasn't really deliberate, but it ended up happening during the 1900 U.S. presidential election. William McKinley was running for reelection that year, but in those days presidential candidates usually didn't campaign for themselves. The task instead fell to McKinley's running mate, New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt, who had been added as a last-minute replacement but by that point was justly famous for his participation in the Battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba and many other larger-than-life adventures, particularly his days as a rancher in the Dakota Territory. On the campaign trail, Roosevelt dressed as a cowboy and managed to keep the spotlight consistently on him, to the point that many Americans ended up casting their vote more for Roosevelt than for McKinley. This was parodied in a popular cartoon of the time, which showed Roosevelt leading the inaugural parade on horseback... while just behind him, President McKinley was riding on a bandwagon and being forced to hold up a sign on which was written "ROOSEVELT is just ahead! Look at ROOSEVELT!" (Eight months later, McKinley was murdered by an anarchist, and the rest is history.)
  • Ronald Reagan: Practically every modern Republican politician will cite his name as someone who inspired them in some way - "Reagan made me a Republican" is very much a full-swing Catch Phrase to the right wing. Nevertheless, almost to the point of a cult, Ronald Reagan is attributed to popular conservative policies he had nearly zero input, and he provides convenient scapegoat excuses for unpopular policies he personally implemented. Conservative radio talk show and Fox News portray him a messiah for the American conservative workingman, to the point where they claim he singlehandedly won the Cold War. "What would Ronnie do," is constantly applied to every current issue in Washington, even if that problem is something Ronnie had absolutely zero interest in or did not exist in his time. It even extends to the nominal left wing, as this hero worship of Reagan created a bloc of conservative Democrats (known as Blue Dogs) who originated as... Democrats who voted for/supported Reagan. This even goes far enough to whitewash whatever flaws that man really had.
  • There's been much discussion of this over whether Sarah Palin fell into this during John Mc Cain's 2008 Presidential Campaign. Despite being the Vice President candidate on the ticket, Palin, in both the news and popular culture, ended up overshadowing Mc Cain. This ended up being the source for HBO's Game Change movie.


V-Formation Team ShotCover Tropes    
What Were They Selling Again?Advertising TropesXtreme Kool Letterz
Witch HuntImageSource/OtherYour Vampires Suck
Wide Open SandboxTurn of the MillenniumUn-Canceled
Eating the Eye CandyImageSource/Comic BooksAnt-Man

alternative title(s): Mascot Abuse; Cash Cow Publicity
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