"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 the Trope Namer himself. 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.
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...
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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 more recent 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:
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.
That long life means he has connections world-wide meaning he can easily drop into any setting: America? Japan? Canada? Germany? France? Russia? Hong Kong? Space? Yep.
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 now one of the leads in Avengers Arena.
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 BlakeUrban Fantasy books. For extra humor value, if you look closely, there's a note at the top-left corner of the page reading "Wolverine does not appear in this issue."
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.
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 the 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.
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.
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, Wolverine, Wolverine and... well, you get the idea. 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...
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.
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.
Yeah, well, if you take the evil path Mr. Luke Cage doesn't (voluntarily) get a Venom symbiote and comes after Spider-Man as freaking Venom-Wolverine in the epilogue now, does he?
Oh, and said cover was voted by fans out of a choice of two. The other cover didn't feature Wolverine. Go figure.
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 2twice (one with the adamantium claws and one with bone, since the metal had been removed from his skeleton at that time)
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.
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.
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 LimelightShip 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.
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 anotherShip 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.
That one exception would be 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. Nevermind 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.
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 spinoffsVivid or Force, there's a 95% chance it'll be from the third season StrikerS, 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 StrikerS 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 StrikerS period, except a little bit to adveritse 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 ServantSaber. She (or one of her incarnations) gets top billing in almost everything related to Fate. The page image (which was also the 1st promotional image released for its anime adaptation) for Fate/Zero 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).
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 three different Avengers titles (Avengers, New Avengers and Avengers Assemble).
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.
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.
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.
The Punisher seemed to be everywhere in the Marvel Universe in the early '90s.
It wasn't just Marvel, either. "ArchieMeets the Punisher", anyone?
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.
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).
As has Batman. Any new ongoing series in recent years will have an appearance by one or both of them before the first year is up.
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.
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.
Ditto for the current 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 particularily 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 satelite is certainly up for debate.
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 you have 16 books with Bat-related characters; that's almost a 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.
Speaking of Earth 2, a second Batman was added to the series and featured on the cover of Earth 2's first Annual - despite the story mainly concerning Earth 2's Atom.
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!
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-HeroLobo 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.
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 ofSuper 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 Americacombined) and a confirmed a 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.
It's safe to say Wolverine has officially passed the baton to Deadpool. Add to that a limited series and guest appearances in various titles (Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, Wolverine, etc.) all in the time frame shown above. And an additional limited series being released next year and well, to put it simply, he is the new Wolverine. Look at the cover art for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. He has more cover space than Wolverine himself.
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.
Let's not forget how he's prominently displayed on most of the artwork for Marvel Vs Capcom 3, and shown opposite Dante in the intro.
His recent burst of popularity is lampshaded by She-Hulk in the game, who annoyedly points out to Deadpool that in the 80's and early 90's, she herself was very popular.
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 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.
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.
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 littledifferent. 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.
Well, that and Grimlock had a lock on this position before Drift even existed.
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 Deaths Head II led to him appearing in nearly every Marvel UK comic, either as a cameo or a guest appearance.
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 suprising 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).
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.
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 is also featured in Winter Soldier as a main character. In addition, she'll end up appearing in the upcoming Avengers Assemble animated series as a member of the team, plus she'll be a supporting character in the 2014 Marvel Cinematic Universe movie Captain America The Winter Soldier. She'll also appear 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's also set to be the main focus of the Enemy WithinBat Family Crossover featuring her solo title and the Avengers Assemble comicnote coincidentally, both series are currently written by Kelly Sue DeConnick.
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 WhoShout 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.
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 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 any shape or way. Every single one. While most do it because they're focused on her, it's rather jarring 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 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, Qbert, Clyde the Pac-Man Ghost, and Bowser in them, even though they only have seconds to minutes of screentime for each of them.
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 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.
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).
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 let 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.
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 Ditzand a Faux Action Girl, Anna Nicole is the one more responsible than anyone else for defeating the villain in the end! Weird.
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, since the world would END if Azathoth were to appear, there's a good reason to keep him from making a physical appearance in a story instead of verbal references.
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 bookby 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.
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 Caliban, Inferno, and Utopia 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.
NBC was also accused of doing this with Deal or No Deal too... don't they ever learn?
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. On top of that, 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.
Possibly justified, now, considering his large role in the 19th episode, Day in the Limelight in the 20th, and massive part in the 21st and 22nd.
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.
His type of publicity is justified, however: by the time the 8th season rolls around, Castiel's return episode was the highest-rated one the show's had since Season 4 (when he debuted). In fact, all the episodes he shows up in thereafter get significant ratings bumps.
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. When I watched it, I saw that 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 follwed.) Busy doing some Wolverine Publicity, we presume... oh wait, not just Wolverine Publicity: he's also a Wolverine Publicist!... and he even advertised forMcDonald's! Choke on that, Wolverine.
Hey! It's not just that! He's got movies with his own True Companions coming out— and do you think all that food and coffee in the DenLiner dining car is free?
"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.
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.
Currently happening with 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.
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 bears the title, "The Garry Moore Show Presents: A Carol Burnett Christmas", and also has a cover featuring only Carol Burnett.
Based on how prominently he was featured in the merchandise for Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, 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 episode who was never seen or even mentioned anywhere outside of that one episode.
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.
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.
To show how extreme this can get, 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.
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.
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 production 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.
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 one 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.
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, Monday Night 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 nearly 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. And to be fair, 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 Buh Buh 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.
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.
A.J. is another Diva who's been hogging the spotlight recently. 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, andKane. It was taken to extremes when she was named the new Raw General Manager (yes, really)!
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.
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.
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.
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 has again taken the spotlight as Square's recent press release pegs Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2 as "Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Saga" and will be announcing "The next Lightning game..." soon, hence the "Lightning Saga" thing. 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). It has now been confirmed that the new title is called Lightning Returns Final Fantasy XIII and will feature her as the sole playable character.
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.
Strangely inverted in Yoshi's Safari — Mario 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.)
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.
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.
Considering they're non-Nintendo characters and hadn't been in the Smash series before, this is kind of justified.
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.
She is not the icon for Double Spoiler or Fairy Wars. She is, however, fightable in both... and Reimu isn't in Fairy Wars at all.
As doujinshi are a major part of Touhou, that's to say nothing of 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.
Well, that's not quite accurate. What he actually said was that Kingdom Hearts is ultimately Sora's story, so every game has to tie into him somehow. It's less about popularity (because certainly, his other half, Roxas, and his rival, Riku, are much more popular) and more about him simply being the main character.
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.
In the regular crossover titles, sometimes a series will be add to game without its plot. The biggest example of this is Mazinger Z, who lately is just kind of around. Even without that, he's on every game, as well as a Gundam series (Often two or three, minimum.), which count as regular examples.
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 arguably 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.
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.
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.
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.
It should be noted that there are actually two Sub-Zeroes: the older brother Bi-Han and the younger brother Kuai Liang. The former was the Sub-Zero present in Mythologies and the first game, only to be killed by Scorpion at the end of MK1 and turn into Noob Saibot in MK2. His younger brother took up his mantle in the same game as Noob's debut. To date, Noob has only been missing from the roster in Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance, while Sub-Zero has been a series mainstay since MK2. It should be noted that the younger Sub-Zero was the only member of the Trilogy hero gang (i.e. Liu Kang, Raiden, Kitana, Kung Lao, Cage, Sonya, and Jax) to not be killed off by the time DA was over.
And speaking of Scorpion... you guessed it. 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.
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 existant, 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).
Pikachu is the best-known Pokémon example, appearing in almost every single piece of merchandising available (you wouldn't even know that it's actually a fairly rare Pokémon, and unobtainable via normal gameplay in Pokemon Black And White). Furthermore, the Pokémon Company will usually let a brand-new Pokémon not named Pikachu star in a movie or video game, and if it's popular enough, it'll appear in all sorts of merchandise and other games/movies / anime episodes / TCG expansions until the next generation.
Although the cute "Pikaclones" in early generations (Pichu and Plusle/Minun) have shades of this, this was first played straight with Lucario, who not only starred in his own movie, but also appeared prominently in every single aspect of the franchise (including a playable appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl).
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 the Nobunagas Ambition crossover).
The newest "victim" is Charizard, who can actually be considered the Wolverine of the Pokémon franchise; despite having absolutely nothing to do with Generation V, it got a ton of new appearances and merchandising in 2013 based on Popularity Power alone. Mewtwo is also getting this to a smaller extent, appearing as a main character in the newest movie.
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 ZeroSuit to a lesser extent, particularly thanks to Super Smash Bros, even though you hardly see Samus in it in her own games.
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.
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." And... Um... "Mercenary."
Peter Paltridge said that once the Platypus Comix books compiling old comics reach the point when he created Mulberry, all successive books will have Mulberry Sharona's name in the title.
That Guy With The Glasses 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.
Doug Walker himself. Even when he started having other reviewers join the same, he still kept the original name (which refers to him and only him). But most obnoxiously, his likeness is on the site's logo. Even though all of the web series are produced under the Channel Awesome name, Walker has never renamed the site to reflect this.
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 recent 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.
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 except for Black Panther, who had to aid his subjects in Wakanda 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.
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.
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.
A slight example but Cheerilee in G4. She was popular in late G3, being a Core 7 member, so Hasbro forced her into G4. She has a few stock artworks and several toys, despite not even being named in-series or talking for most of the first season. She's since popped up several times in the second season and even had an episode revolving around her.
Hasbro seems to want to use their pretty pink pony Princess Cadance 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!
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!
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.
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.)