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Action Duo

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Left to right: "Columbus" and "Tallahassee."

Believe it or not, the Action Hero and Action Survivor aren't so different that they can't share the spotlight in the same story together.

When both are paired they create an Action Duo similar to Sensitive Guy and Manly Man and Red Oni, Blue Oni; only these two will be practically opposites in just about every possible trait, most notably combat skill. The Action Hero, in the context of this dynamic, is of course Made of Iron, skilled at brawling and shooting, and brave enough to wade through any firefight. However, he will often be saddled by the plot with baby-sitting the Action Survivor, who can (at best) run and dodge extremely well, through endless firefights that may be targeted at him.

If the Non-Action Guy at least manages to compensate by being The Smart Guy, you have Brains and Brawn. If the Action Hero sacrificed a basic skill for their awesome training, the Action Survivor will help round them out. And if they're not good for anything else, at least the Action Survivor can play The Heart and/or Morality Pet to an Action Hero who's become a Knight in Sour Armor or otherwise hardened by his violent past. Expect these disparities and constant action to make them Vitriolic Best Buds. However, if they're compatible enough with each other in that they each manage to kick equal amounts of ass, they're probably Bash Brothers or a Battle Couple.

The plot usually requires the Action Hero either protect the Action Survivor as they try to escape a Closed Circle, or with an Escort Mission with the Survivor as a Living MacGuffin. Occasionally, the Survivor takes up the role of Side Kick and "sells" his skills as useful to the Action Hero on his mission. They usually form a working partnership, even becoming friends.

A common portrayal is playing the two as Short Range Guy, Long Range Guy pair, normally with the badass being a short range fighter and the action survivor supporting from cover. The roles can occasionally be reversed, however: A Cold Sniper handing his Bumbling Sidekick an ax and using him as Zombie Bait is not unheard of.


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  • This was the dynamic between the Esurance special Agent and the former customer turned employee in the commercials, before they ran their course and dropped the special agent angle.

     Anime and Manga  

  • Yuuki and Zero sometimes take on this role in Vampire Knight, especially at the battle against Rido.
    • In recent chapters as well when fighting Kaname.

     Comic Books  

  • Yorick Brown and his bodyguard Agent 355 in Y: The Last Man. She kicks ass; he opens handcuffs and locked doors and quotes pop culture.
  • This is exactly how Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz start out in Green Lanterns. Though both are relative newbies to their powers and duties for whom the Call just won't hang up, Simon is far more combat-ready with his Power Ring and is the Action Hero archetype, preferring the "direct approach" to problems - which often equates to "jump right in with brute force"; his idea of planning ahead is to keep a loaded handgun as "backup" in case the Ring fails. Jessica, meanwhile, is the consummate Action Survivor half of this trope: her introduction in a prior Justice League arc established her as a chronic Innocent Bystander running and hiding from both real and imagined threats for literal in-universe years as part of her Backstory...and note, all of that was before the entire planet started getting Emotion Bombed with rage energy in the opening arc of Green Lanterns. In this book, she vastly prefers the cautious, strategic approach that might keep everyone alive; her first thought when the Red Lantern Corps invades is even "shouldn't we call the Justice League?" And until the very end of the "Rage Planet" arc, she can't even generate a Hard Light construct...which means she can't utilize the "greatest weapon in the universe" in anything except mostly-defensive functions like flight, which results in her relying on Simon to do most of the physical attacking and in her spending much of the climactic battle of "Rage Planet" curled up in hiding, while she tries to tamp down her panic attack. Part of Simon's character growth in that arc is learning that her cautious approach has merits because even he has limits, while hers is about overcoming her fear enough to wield her Power Ring to its full, proactive extent - not unlike the narrator's development from Zombieland.


  • Tallahassee and Columbus in Zombieland: "Columbus" spends almost the entire movie in Internal Monologue about how one has to be cautious and plan carefully in various ways to avoid dying in an After the End zombie-filled world, demonstrating that he's a classic Action Survivor. "Tallahasee", in contrast, delights in playing the Action Hero role in a world filled with acceptable targets for his aggression, and is the more proactive zombie-killer of the two. Tallahassee's direct approach and Columbus' smarts and caution lead them to being a good post-apocalyptic team.


  • In several of the Vorkosigan Saga novels, Miles Vorkosigan and his cousin Ivan Vorpatril make up this team: Miles does the strategic thinking while Ivan is dragooned into helping him and doing the physical stuff which the brittle-boned Miles can't.
  • In A Brother's Price, Jerin and Cira become this. While she's good at fighting, Jerin is very talented at sleight of hand and lockpicking. While he was just kidnapped, and needs to escape, she got herself into the action intentionally.
  • In Fire and Hemlock, Polly and Tom are this, which Polly insisting that she's a hero in training and he's her mentor, while he is a rather reluctant hero. She wants him to kill dragons, while he thinks that a bit much, and would prefer to tame them, anyway. They eventually compromise on a giant who is not killed, but chased away in the end.
  • In Books And Braun, Mr Books is actually the archivist, which doesn't stop secret agent Eliza from dragging him with her when new adventures call - the reason she met him is because he unwittingly got into trouble and she was sent to rescue him. She learnt to value his intellect on this occasion.
  • Dead Beat: Savvy medical examiner Butters is paired up with the powerful wizard fighter Dresden. In later books Butters never quite outgrows the flavor of an Action Survivor with his cautious prep work but becoming a Knight of the Cross with a lightsaber makes him an Action Hero in his own right.
  • The Fatal Dream: Daniel Nymph Junior and Trevor Lee, otherwise known as FBI agents 010 and 020, are a literal example of this. The team-up of Trevor with Peter Stelth at the Battle of Zuytdorp also qualifies.
  • The main pair of Along The Winding Road. Arthur is a skilled hunter and fighter, and while Charlotte technically hunts zombies, it's pretty clear combat with anything less shambling and brainless isn't her specialty.
  • In Simulated Sam and Benjamin fight together against the anti-virus program and then later team up again to retrieve the book from the Good Gracious host.
  • The Pendragon Adventure: This is Bobby Pendragon's dynamic with many of the other travelers, especially Loor, until he Takes a Level in Badass in book 6.
  • Virgil Cole/Everett Hitch: There are a few pairs of gunslingers wandering the west. The titular duo have been partnered up for 15 years at the start of the series. In the first book, they go up against a pair of brothers, Ring and Mackie Shelton. Resolution introduces another pair, Cato and Rose.

     Live Action TV  

  • From the first, there is a lot of tension and distrust between Firefly's Mal and Simon. Despite the distrust, when Simon is about to let himself be killed for his sister in "Safe" Mal comes in leading the team in a rescue party, demanding they let the two go. When Mal is in danger in "War Stories" Simon's aim is too poor to be of any help but he still manages to survive.

     Professional Wrestling  

  • "The Ugandan Giant" Kamala had this dynamic with Classie Freddie Blassie, Friday and Kim Chee. Blassie was a former wrestler who could reasonably handle himself but the other two totally relied on Kamala for protection.
  • Cyndi Lauper played the action survivor role with Captain Lou Albano, who later became a wrestler himself, and more famously with Wendi Richter. She occasionally tied to help in matches but her main role was to sing their entrance music and act as a cheerleader.
  • Paul Bearer wasn't much of a wrestler later in his career, so he switched to managing others, most famously his sons The Undertaker and Kane, in which case he rounded them out by being willing to speak.
  • Jimmy Hart, who had spent years evading pro wrestlers who wanted to beat the piss out of him and Hulk Hogan, who had spent years leg dropping pro wrestlers who wanted to beat the piss out of him, in WCW.
  • The King Jerry Lawler has wrestled well into his 60s but since the turn of the millennium his most high profile role has been a commentator in WWF television where he wasn't on the active roster but proved very protective of his non wrestler partners such as Jim Ross and Joey Styles should they be attacked. Physically attacked anyway, he had no problem with them being insulted. Al Snow and Johnathan Coachman were the evil counterparts to Jerry and JR specifically, Snow being more an Anti-Villain who had to do Coach's fighting but nonetheless coveted JR and King's jobs.
  • Konnan and Homicide liked to project the image of themselves being such a pair after injuries prevented the former from wrestling actively anymore. Konnan also set up one between himself and Puma on Lucha Underground, though everyone suspected him of planning to back stab both of them.
  • Ricardo Rodriguez was a professional wrestler but in WWE his wrestling role was downplayed in favor of being a Very Punchable Man who followed around Alberto Del Rio. Then this was attempted again with Rob Van Dam. After Del Rio snapped and kicked Rodriguez's ass.

     Video Games 
  • Leo and Vincent develop into this over the course of A Way Out as they seek to escape from prison and take revenge on the mob dude that screwed them both over. Unfortunately, when Vincent is revealed to be an undercover cop who was using Leo all along, the final battle the two of them fight is against each other.


  • Vesper and Corrick in Plume. Vesper is a young girl who's never been to the "wide world", yet while somewhat lost, still pulls her weight and manages to engage the bad guys, while Corrick is an immortal guardian spirit of hers with very little that could surprise him anymore.

     Western Animation  

  • Kim Possible and her eventual boyfriend Ron Stoppable. Kim is pragmatically a superhero who uses acrobatics and gadgets to save the world, while Ron usually just tries to keep up.
  • Joey and AP from Atomic Puppet. One's an ordinary kid who loves superheroes, the other's an egotistical sock puppet who was originally a superhero, and together they fight as a single hero against supervillains, giant monsters, evil aliens, and anything else that threatens their hometown.