Follow TV Tropes

Following

Breakout Character

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/HappyDaysPan_161.jpg
Hmmm. Something has changed about who's important enough to be on the cover, and where...
Lilith: What? I thought Morrigan's always been the main character.
Morrigan: I know it's hard to believe, but (Demitri Maxioff) actually was the main character for a while. But now it's time to use our charm and wit, and deftly usurp the throne of protagonist!
Advertisement:

What's a writer to do when a minor character that they created for a show suddenly becomes much more popular than the other members of the cast? Why, re-write them as a main character of course.

This is that character. Usually starring in a sitcom, the breakout character quickly grabs hold of the audience's attention and writers take advantage of this energy. Someone who was once a one-note C-character, such as a Satellite Character or a Living Prop, becomes a central part of the regular cast. Often liable to lead to a Spin-Off, or be subject to becoming an Adaptational Badass. Sometimes, a breakout character becomes such because they fill a niche in the cast that wasn't previously filled or acts as an impressive foil to The Hero.

It isn't always good though. Sometimes, if a breakout character gets too much screentime, they risk making the audience feel that the character is overexposed or worse, become a Scrappy or a Creator's Pet. Furthermore, other characters in the cast might be Demoted to Extra due to their reduced roles and screentime. This pitfall can be avoided if the breakout character is given an occasional break so other characters can get their stories told. As such, their fans will patiently wait for them to reappear in the story and be all the more excited when they do.

Advertisement:

Relatedly, this can sometimes result from Executive Meddling, as opposed to the will of the writer/director; The Fonz himself, our poster boy, was an example, as his increasing prominence was inspired in part by executive pressure, and said execs even wanted to rename the show Fonzie's Happy Days at one point. Naturally, like a lot of executive decisions over creators, this can backfire spectacularly and cause a popular character to crater from over-exposure.

Trying to intentionally make a breakout character before they're even introduced to audiences can also lead to some unfortunate results.

When a character gets a larger, but still supporting, role because of the fanbase, that is simply an Ensemble Darkhorse, which they also are even if they don't get any increased role. Ascended Extra is when a character gains any sort of increased role regardless of the character's popularity (or lack thereof). When a character simply takes over the existing show, see Spotlight-Stealing Squad.

Advertisement:

Also see Breakout Villain, a Sub-Trope for villain characters, and Iconic Sequel Character, a Sub-Trope for when the breakout character in question doesn't appear until a sequel. Compare to Breakup Breakout and Decoy Protagonist. Contrast The Artifact. No relation to Breakout.

The line between this and Ensemble Darkhorse can sometimes seem thin, and one may wonder why this isn't a YMMV trope when the latter is one. The key difference is this: the popularity of the character has to have influenced the direction of the narrative and put them into a major role, or led to the creation of new content specifically for them. That's what makes this a narrative and production trope; the influence of the character in the zeitgeist was so strong it actively, and quantitatively, influenced the production of the work. Otherwise, the character is just popular, which is often up for more debate in terms of degree, which is why Ensemble Dark Horse is a YMMV trope.


Example Subpages:

Other Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • The popularity of the Taco Bell chihuahua led to it becoming the mascot of the restaurant for a few years. Furthermore, its catchphrase, "¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!", was oft-quoted in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
  • Geico:
    • Although the Geico Gecko was always the main character of his own commercials, he started out as a complainer, annoyed that the company's name was similar to his own, causing him to get calls from prospective customers. When he proved sufficiently popular, he became the company's mascot, there's even a commercial that actually depicts him getting hired by Geico, the focus of most commercials, and, inexplicably, changed accents.
    • The Geico Cavemen were so popular they got their own show. Of course, that didn't last very long.
    • Maxwell the Pig was first featured in one of the Rhetorical Questions campaigns. He became so popular that he starred in his own series of commercials.
    • The Hump Day Camel. Originally intended as a one-off, his popularity saw him come back several times. This includes one commercial that is set in a zoo, which heavily lampshades his first appearance.
  • In one campaign, commercials for Capital One credit cards featured rampaging Barbarian hordes, who would mercilessly attack anyone not bearing the correct card. Because Barbarians are more interesting than shoppers, they quickly became the main characters of these commercials, using the cards themselves to stock up for their various acts of mayhem.
  • Sugar Bear was one of three identical bears featured on the box of Sugar Crisp. Two of them were removed and the bear that would become Sugar Bear was given a voice.
  • In the UK, the character Aleksandr Orlov, a meerkat, was created to advertise an insurance comparison site called "compare the market.com", presumably based on the idea that "compare the market" and "Compare the Meerkat" sound similar if you say them in a silly accent. The character has become a huge success, spawning his own franchise (books, toys, general merch etc...). He's even been interviewed on a talkshow, despite being a CGI character. His wikipedia page is actually longer and more detailed than that of the company he was created to promote.
  • Isaiah Mustafa, the Old Spice Man was initially just one of several Old Spice ads airing on television. The popularity and Fountain of Memes caught on like wildfire, leading Old Spice to launch an entire marketing blitz centered around Mustafa. This included crossovers with the equally popular Terry Crews, whose commercials were specifically meant to be as crazy and appealing as possible.
  • The Carfax Carfox started as a puppet of a shady car dealer. His popularity lead him to become Carfax's mascot.
  • In the late '80s, Duracell ran a commercial showing their battery outlasting several competitors at powering a toy. Competitor-brand Energizer realized that their battery wasn't included in the competition, and launched a Take That! spoof commercial against Duracell, showing their battery outlasting Duracell in a similar toy. The toy used in both commercials? A mechanical rabbit hitting a drum. Fast-forward to today, and the Energizer Bunny used in that initial spoof has become a valuable mascot that keeps going and going and going...
  • The Italian branch of frozen foods company Findus had in the late '90s cartoon animal families (porcupines, octopuses, raccoons, chameleons etc.) to advertise some of their products. After a while only the chameleons stayed, and then the other family members were phased out in favor of the younger son, Carletto. Nowadays Carletto with his catchphrase "Aren't you hungry?" is more or less Findus' mascot in Italy to this day, and all the other characters are completely forgotten.
  • Advertising for Danimals, Dannon's kid-oriented yogurt brand, originally featured a large cast of toon animals, including a monkey who would often end up getting a ton of yogurt dumped on him as a Running Gag. Over time, the monkey completely usurped the spotlight from the other animals (and underwent a drastic Anthropomorphic Shift as well), to the point that he's now the only one of them who still appears in advertising and packaging.
  • The popularity of State Farm's "Jake from State Farm" ad lead to Jake himself (khakis and all) becoming the insurance company's mascot.

    Comic Strips 
  • Popeye the Sailor started out as a minor character in Thimble Theatre, which had been running for ten full years before he was introduced. The strip was originally about the adventures of a money-hungry slacker named Harold Hamgravy, later just Ham Gravy, who traveled the world in search of riches. Popeye originally showed up as a generic sailor who was hired by Ham Gravy for a treasure hunting voyage. He wasn't supposed to show up again after the end of that story arc. Instead, he ended up becoming so popular that the strip was eventually renamed after him. Poor Ham Gravy was demoted to minor supporting character status, and to add insult to injury, Popeye even stole his girlfriend, Olive Oyl. This history is lampshaded in the live-action Popeye movie. As the story opens, Olive has just dumped Ham Gravy.
  • The very aptly named Opus of Bloom County and its follow-up comic strips was originally a fairly flat gag character, not intended to ever be seen again after his week-long plot was resolved, but fan reaction quickly led Berkeley Breathed, the author, to make him the main character of the strip. Years later, Breathed mused in one of his books about the nature of the breakout character:
    "You can't design an Opus; they're the sort of characters who come knocking at your door in the pouring rain at 3 in the morning. [The author's] job is to figure out which ones should be let in and allowed to stay."
  • Snuffy Smith. He started out as a one-shot character in Barney Google, a comic about a luckless gambler. A 1934 storyline took Google to a hillbilly mountain community called Hoot'n Holler, where he met Snuffy and his family. Google was only supposed to be there for a few weeks, but Snuffy proved so popular that Google permanently relocated there. The comic was renamed "Barney Google and Snuffy Smith" and Google's part in the strip became smaller and smaller, until he was written out altogether. Despite his name being in the title, Google has only appeared in the strip twice in the past 20 years.
    • This was actually the second time this had happened to the strip. A decade prior to this, Google's horse, Spark Plug, proved incredibly popular, and ended up becoming the focus of several storylines and a huge amount of merchandise (with the strip temporarily renamed "Barney Google and Spark Plug.") When Snuffy took over the comic, he adopted Spark Plug as his horse.
  • First, it was Robotman. Then, it was Robotman... and Monty. Then Robotman got put on an intergalactic bus, and now it's just Monty.
  • In the early Peanuts strips, Snoopy acted like an ordinary dog, and wasn't a key character. He took on a bigger role as the strip went on, becoming one of the lead characters.
  • Nancy was originally called Fritzi Ritz and about a flapper. Fritzi became Nancy's Aunt Fritzy, and Nancy and Sluggo took center stage.
  • British newspaper strip Flook (1949-84) featured Flook (a creature) and Rufus (a boy) as main characters. But there was a short period back at the start (before Rufus found and named Flook) when the strip was called Rufus.
  • Dick Cavalli's Morty Meekle was eventually taken over by (and renamed after) what was originally a minor character, Winthrop.
  • In the early years of FoxTrot, the strip equally focused on the five members of the family. Come the late 90's, and Jason's pretty much the main character.
  • The crocodiles from Pearls Before Swine. Zebra originally contacted his predators through letters in the early days of the strip. Wanting to cut out the middleman, author Stephen Pastis had a fraternity of crocodiles (Zeeba Zeeba Eata) move next door. Their complete incompetence in killing Zebra became the comic's new and most popular Running Gag (besides long, confusing puns, of course).
  • Catbert was introduced to Dilbert as a one-shot character who tried to eat Ratbert. Fans began asking to see more of Catbert (asking for him by that name, even though he hadn't been given one in the strip) and Scott Adams decided that when your readers spontaneously name a character for you, it's a good idea to keep him in the strip. Now Catbert is Evil Director of Human Resources at Dilbert's company.
  • Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse were so popular as Funny Background Events in The Family Upstairs (originally titled The Dingbat Family), that George Herriman gave them their own strip.
  • Samantha Argus from Bill Holbrook's Safe Havens went from just one of the kids in the (former) main character's eponymous day care center to the strip's central character.
  • The titular Jucika was the biggest star of the Hungarian magazines that published her between 1957 and 1970, despite sharing the pages with dozens of other recurring cartoons. Readers would mail the publisher if there was no new strip, and she went on to become a marketing mascot outside the magazines and became the defining fictional female character of her time. None of the other characters caught on as much, not even those from later decades. International social media also started admiring her in the late 2010s when the strips went global.

    Fan Works 
  • The Perseus Attraction: Luke Castellan. Luke was originally intended to become the main antagonist, and Percy's rival for Annabeth. However, the breakout of his first real appearance (doing squats in a sword class listening to Noah and the Whale and Katy Perry) quickly gained him recognition among the reviewers. He further solidified his position by making stupid dream appearances with Kronsis throughout the first season, and then when he saved the entire Perseus Attraction main cast by recreating The Princess Bride (as the 'Man in Pink.) By season 3, which covers The Titan's Curse, Luke appears tag teaming the sky with Annabeth, even though he should have no part in the story at all at all, in a typically 'Luke' fashion, making him all but untouchable as the Breakout.
  • The South of Nowhere story 'Romance on the Set' has an in-universe example with Rachel played by Taylor Momsen. She starts as a minor character on the show Spencer and Ashley star in, but later becomes a regular and is then Promoted to Love Interest for Ashley's character.
  • Electra Pendragon first appeared in Jake English's Mysterious Theater of Scientific Romance from the Year 3000, an MST series with a laughably thin Excuse Plot, as a Parody Sue that the author pretended to have an unhealthy obsession with. She was surprisingly well-received and ended up becoming a character in the author's next fic, Justice Society of Japan.
  • Child of the Storm has a couple. The two most prominent are Carol Danvers and Diana of Olympus, a.k.a. Wonder Woman, both thoroughly re-imagined, and intended for relatively little (for starters, Carol is a teenager, and Diana is 11/12 on her first appearance): as per Word of God, both were thrown in at the last minute, a third and half of the way through the story, respectively. They have since become two of the most popular characters in the fic, Carol even getting close to being a fully-fledged Deuteragonist.
  • Anything Her Heart Desires: Ingrid Hanna Andersen. Word of God is that she was not only intended to be a very minor character, but was written to be as unimpressive as possible. But if you're writing a "problematic Elsanna" Frozen fic, and Elsa and Anna aren't speaking, someone's going to fill the void. By the end of the story, Elsingrid.
  • Triptych Continuum: Sizzler, the palace's master of the meat station, has broken out of his own continuity. Two other authors are currently using him, which includes an appearance in a different series.
  • Nappa from Dragon Ball Z Abridged is a character who was so popular, that the creators of the series brought him back as a ghost after he died, and he even got a shared internet series with Vegeta.
    Nappa: I am hilarious and you will quote everything I say.

    Literature 
  • The Ponson Du Terrial 19th Century saga that came to be known as Rocambole was originally called The Dramas of Paris, the first book of which was subtitled The Mysterious Inheritance. The Hero was Armand de Kurgas and the Big Bad was his half brother and Evil Counterpart Adrea Feliponi aka Sir Williams. Baccarat was a supporting character, not even the most prominent female, and Rocambole was a minor character who only showed up near the end. But those latter 2 characters were the most popular.
    • So in the second novel Baccarat becomes the main hero of the story, and is given her own Evil Counterpart in Femme Fatale Torquise, while Rocambole becomes The Dragon. Andrea is still the Big Bad but Armand is absent much of the story and seems useless when he is there.
    • In the third book Baccarat is still the lead protagonist, now dealing with her Evil Doppleganger half sister. Armand's role is even smaller, Rocambole is Dragon-in-Chief to a mute Andrea serving more and becomes Dragon Ascendant.
    • Then he gets a Heel–Face Turn and becomes The Hero of the saga with the other main characters phased out all together.
  • Slappy, the Demonic Dummy of Goosebumps fame, was a minor character in the first Night of the Living Dummy book, but in the sequels was brought back as the primary villain, as well as becoming the mascot of the series.
  • Cthulhu in the Cthulhu Mythos. He has very few appearances in Lovecraft's own stories and most of them are very minor references (only The Call of Cthulhu extensively features him), with Yog-Sothoth and Nyarlathotep, as patrons of human sorcerers, being far more prominent. Lovecraft's term for his stories was Yog-Sothothery.
  • Discworld:
    • Samuel Vimes was originally intended to be a minor character in the City Watch sub-series, with Carrot being the major character. Suffice it to say, Samuel Vimes is likely only beaten by Death and the Librarian for the number of books he's in.
    • Death. He started out as a joke in The Colour of Magic. He went on to appear in all but one of the Discworld novels, and he's the lead character in five of them.
  • Rupert Psmith was a supporting character in P. G. Wodehouse's school-story Mike, but quickly eclipsed the stolid protagonist to become the star of the novel. In later books he is the central character. As Evelyn Waugh wrote: "One can date exactly the first moment when Wodehouse was touched by the sacred flame. It occurs halfway through Mike ... Psmith appears and the light is kindled which has burned with growing brilliancy for half a century."
  • The novels ''Relic'' and ''Reliquary'' have Batman-like, super-competent FBI Agent Pendergast as the tertiary main character (who didn't even manage to appear in the film of the book). The authors subsequently made him the main character of their next several books. Note that this wiki's own page for the series even bears his name.
  • Reginald "Turnip" Fitzhugh from the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig. In the first few books, he's a very minor character — young and handsome, but so daft and foppish that no one takes him seriously. He appears in a few society scenes, but has nothing to do with the plot. Turnip was so popular with fans, however, that Willig gave him his own book, The Mischief of the Mistletoe.
  • The Icewind Dale Trilogy was originally supposed to be about Wulfgar and his friends, one of whom was a dark elf named Drizzt Do'Urden. The first book is pretty much like this, the second book has everybody pretty much share the spotlight, and by the third book Drizzt has clearly become the star. Salvatore followed up with The Dark Elf Trilogy, a prequel series which told Drizzt's life story before he met the others, cementing Drizzt's status as The Hero. The greater series as a whole became known as The Legend of Drizzt.
  • Albert Campion in the series of novels by Margery Allingham. He was originally just a minor character in The Crime at Black Dudley, but Margery Allingham found him so fascinating that he became the lead character in a series of novels.
  • Interview with the Vampire is Louis's story, with Lestat as a villain and supporting character (he's actually absent for a good chunk of the novel midway). But thanks to all the positive feedback he got in Interview, Rice saw fit to not only make the sequel from Lestat's POV, but to pretty much make him the protagonist of the whole damn The Vampire Chronicles series.
  • Ramona Quimby, star of Beverly Cleary's beloved book series started off as a minor character in the Henry Huggins series.
  • Evvy of the Circle of Magic universe by Tamora Pierce. She was one of the students that the first four protagonists found in their travels, but thanks to her terrible living situation Briar decided to take her with him, whereas the other students were okay where they were and haven't appeared since. Evvy was the protagonist of Melting Stones in the next series and tritagonist in Battle Magic with Briar and Rosethorn after that.
  • Ridley from The Caster Chronicles, who was popular enough to get her own spinoff series (Dangerous Creatures).
  • Warrior Cats features several. Not so much in the series proper, but the novellas, Super Editions, and manga, plenty of popular characters get their own adventures. Tigerstar, Graystripe, Crookedstar, Tallstar, Yellowfang, and more have all gotten either novellas, manga, or Super Editions about them.
  • Bernice Summerfield was the Seventh Doctor's companion for much of the Virgin Doctor Who New Adventures. She ended up getting a popular Big Finish spin-off, the first Doctor Who companion to do so.
  • Rosemary Wells' character Yoko first debuted in the 1998 book Yoko which deals with racism. Like the other characters created by Wells, she was originally going to only show up in one book like the other characters she made in the past. However, Yoko actually started getting popular with readers in the late '90s. As a result, Wells decided to create a new book series in the late '90s titled Yoko & Friends which brings back other characters from Wells previous books such as Nora from Noisy Nora and Charles from Shy Charles. Yoko later becomes one of the characters featured in the Animated Adaptation of Timothy Goes to School. Years after the animated series ended, Yoko continues to be one of Wells' most beloved characters and new books starring Yoko are still being made by her with the latest being "Yoko Finds Her Way" in 2014.
  • Magnus Bane from The Mortal Instruments was only meant to have a minor role in the first book of the series, but due to the amount of positive reception by the fans he received an expanded role as both a secondary character and Alec Lightwood’s love interest – appearing in every book in the series. He also went on to appear in the prequel series – The Infernal Devices, and got a series of short stories that were told from his perspective – The Bane Chronicles. He is also one of the main characters of The Eldest Curses together with Alec.
  • In the Super Powereds series, Titan is a minor character, who appears in a few places. The author then decided to create a spin-off with Titan as the main character called Corpies. The fourth book of the main series references the events of the spin-off.
  • Geronimo Stilton has the Thea Sisters, a quintet of fangirls who look up to Thea Silton and are adventurers in their own right. Originally, they started out as the secondary cast for a spin-off book Thea starred in, Thea Stilton and the Dragon's Code, assisting her with a case. It didn't take long for follow-up books to be made entirely about them, with Thea simply chronicling their adventures instead.
  • Sera Tomlinson was originally planned to be the main character of Aeon 14 and Destiny Lost the first novel. However, M.D. Cooper found the Human Popsicle Tanis Richards so compelling that she wrote the Intrepid Saga trilogy to fill out Tanis's backstory and made her the primary viewpoint character of the main series going forward.

    Music 
  • The Beatles: Why George, of course! During the early years, he only wrote two songs per album. In addition, he was overshadowed by songwriters John and Paul, and clowning Ringo. Eventually, his songwriting skills benefited him the popularity in the band.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Unlike his most obvious counterparts, Lou Thesz of the NWA and Rikidozan of the JWA, El Santo was not groomed to be a top star, had no political power, had no stake in ownership and wasn't booked to lose fairly often. The man himself openly admitted to having no idea why he was so popular, but he is basically the Trope Maker for Lucha Libre as it is known in Mexico and despite initially being booked as a rudo, this failed to hard that fans became offended when AAA and CMLL used his image for anything other than tecnico luchadors. Santo is one of the biggest stars any genre or region of pro wrestling has ever produced, easily bigger than Thesz and at least comparable to Rikidozan.
  • Bobo Brazil went from lower card attraction whose only notable opponent was Ernie Ladd to top draw in multiple promotions with highly publicized matches against André the Giant and The Sheik.
  • Jackie Sato and Maki Ueda were initially just one of Zenjos many native tag teams and weren't even considered the best, as wrestlers, as talkers or even as dancers, despite "dancing" being a big part of their "Beauty Pair" gimmick. Despite their average skills, they were booked to win the tag team title belts, from another native team no less, and it proved to be a smart decision, as their victory got Zenjo mainstream media attention and lessened Zenjo's dependence on foreign wrestlers. Not many people remember that the Beauty Pair's time on top of the tag team division only lasted one year but both, Ueda and Sato had won singles title belts after that, Sato having a lengthy reign as WWWA Champion.
  • Wrestling's Legion of Doom had many proven stars in it, including both Sheiks. But the entire stable's identity would be completely absorbed by the two least known members at the time of its inception, The Road Warriors.
  • Eddie Guerrero started out as a guy who would wrestle during intermissions and ended up as one of the biggest stars in Mexico as one half of La Pareja Atómica with El Hijo Del Santo in CMLL then as part AAA's of Los Gringos Locos.
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin started out as part of a tag-team in WCW with the late Brian Pillman called "The Hollywood Blonds". They eventually part ways and Austin became a singles competitor both in WCW and eventually ECW. When he joined the WWF, however, his meteoric rise began after the epic "Austin 3:16" speech he made after winning the King of the Ring tournament in 1996. And the rest, as they say, is history.
  • While CM Punk has always been an Ensemble Darkhorse, his Career Resurrection in 2011 put him in a whole new level especially when he won his fifth world title, which is also the fifth longest reign in history and the longest since the Hulk Hogan reign of '84 to '88.
  • Cheerleader Melissa went from valet (cheerleader) to the Ballard Brothers in All Pro Wrestling and semi regular competitor who usually lost to an undefeated streak in Ultimate Pro Wrestling, tours of Japan and the seizing of APW's Above The Law Title belt, which she would permanently rename the "Future Legend Title". Then she became ranked as the best woman in her profession as SHIMMER's champion.
  • Jimmy Jacobs, in IWA Mid-South, All American Wrestling and Ring of Honor. Each being a more extreme case than the preceding. Consider he started as a commentator, one could say this of his wrestling career in general.
  • While Delirious was always fairly important to the angles of his starting promotion, Gateway Championship Wrestling, in Ring of Honor he was little more than a jobber for higher who got a long term deal because the RoHbots took an unexpected liking to him. Then worked his way out of jobberdom to feud with Adam Pearce's Hangmen 3, Austin Aries and his so called Pantheon of gods and became the aforementioned Jimmy Jacob's enforcer in Age Of The Fall.
  • However briefly, Dolph Ziggler was a main eventer and World Heavyweight Champion after starting out as Kerwin White's caddy and a cheerleader in the spirit squad.
  • AJ Lee went from loser of NXT Season 3 and borderline jobber to spotlight stealing general manager of Monday Night Raw and then longest reigning Divas Champion.
  • Jimmy Havoc after Progress Wrestling made him their top heel several other companies in England started to use him in a similar way to the point at that one point in 2015 he held five different companies championships at the same time.
  • Mustafa Ali was an emergency alternate for the WWE Cruiserweight Classic who was slotted into the tournament after another competitor was unable to complete. Although he was eliminated in the first round, he was one of the wrestlers who went on to join the revitalized cruiserweight division, and has been steadily gaining in popularity ever since.
  • Alexa Bliss debuted on WWE's main roster around the same time as many talented female wrestlers did and during the time where women's wrestling is being taken seriously again. While the focus and priority of the company is clearly set on "the Four Horsewomen" (Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and Bayley), Alexa quickly got over with the fans, culminating with her being the first woman to win both SmackDown and RAW Women's Championships barely a year after her debut.
  • Becky Lynch. Since her main roster debut, she's ridiculously popular with fans. So popular in fact that her Face–Heel Turn in 2018 was quickly Retooled into her being a frustrated Anti-Hero with White-and-Grey Morality. During this time, she's been favorably compared to the aforementioned "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. This led to her winning the 2019 Royal Rumble and main eventing WrestleMania, winning both women's title belts.
  • All Elite Wrestling:

    Radio 
  • Karl Pilkington, from The Ricky Gervais Show, for a real life example. Originally the show was just a vessel for Ricky Gervais and his partner in crime Stephen Merchant. Then they discovered the machinations of their producer's mind and the entire thing changed gear. Karl Pilkington quickly became the focus of the show, and his thoughts (and mad stories) have since been compiled into books, and even a TV series.
  • The Adam Carolla Show:
    • David Alan Grier when he's a guest. Particularly his impression of R and B singer Teddy Pendegrast, which usually involves a skit of him coming into the studio to lay down backing vocal tracks (with Adam acting as producer) and him going off into obscene sexual tangents.
    • Comedian Jo Koy has a couple of characters like this:
      • His "Bung Lu Soo" character (aka "The Rooster"), who has evolved from his "generic Asian guy accent" bit. He's constantly trying to join old 70s bands and goes on weird tangents. When he's not trying to join musical acts, he's the host at PF Chang's, not allowing Adam to sit down despite his reservation.
      • Jo seems to have another hit on his hands with "Brown Sugar" a literal box of brown sugar trying to live in the pantry, only to be denied by the other spices due to his "ethnicity."
  • Big Finish Doctor Who:
    • Charlotte Pollard the Edwardian Adventuress. She was the 8th Doctor's main companion in the monthly audio series and ended up getting her own spin-off. She has finally become a Canon Immigrant, one of the most popular DW companions, and is now in DW Legacy.
    • The Eighth Doctor himself. Given that he has only two TV stories, there was a huge gap to be filled and Big Finish created a complex Doctor with whom they can basically do anything they want.
  • On Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, Peter Sagal stood out enough among the original city correspondents to become an Ascended Extra as replacement host of the show.
  • Wooton Bassett the mailman in Adventures in Odyssey started out as a significant but still altogether minor character who debuted well into the show's run and made recurring appearances, but his popularity with listeners eventually led to him becoming one of the show's central characters, to the point that he was one of the few main characters aside from the core trio of Whit, Connie, and Eugene who was carried over into the series' soft reboot following the series' 50th album.

    Roleplay 
  • A number of examples from Dino Attack RPG:
    • Trouble was intended by PeabodySam to be a one-off character who would only appear in a very short scene. Trouble ended up becoming popular enough to become Rex's personal Lancer. When Trouble was suddenly subjected to Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, other players eagerly awaited his return. They ultimately got their wish when Trouble came Back for the Finale and was given a Dying Moment of Awesome.
    • Kat was introduced by Jackson Lake as an Affirmative Action Girl. As a response to her unexpected popularity, Kat was elevated to a higher level of prominence and given far more character development, especially starting with the Goo Caverns Story Arc.
    • Dr. Alan Pierce was first brought in as a seemingly random extra who existed for no other purpose than to heal Zenna after she got into a nasty accident. Not only did he go on to become a major character in the RPG and one of Atton Rand's most popular characters, but his popularity also led to the Dino Attack Team's medical wing being brought to the forefront and being a focus for drama as opposed to simply a place for wounded agents to be healed.
    • A number of Red Shirt characters, such as Hertz and Zelda Frodongan, were able to survive and graduate to Mauve Shirt status before ultimately becoming important members of the cast thanks to their popularity.
  • From AJCO: Cameo Vincenti was brought in mostly to help bolster the numbers of AJCO, which were rapidly becoming insignificant when compared to the expanding Castle Crew. They eventually wound up becoming the driving force of the first truly structured story arc, rekindling A_J's interest in the Void, developing the concept of the Void linking worlds and prompting Egg's shift from a Lovable Coward into a Crusading Lawyer.
    • The angelic mayor Kaja of Katton also became very important very quickly, being a rare Neutral Good in a world of Grey-and-Gray Morality. Her village consisted of only herself and Crez in the arc she was introduced in, and following the conclusion of the Silo arc is now the largest in terms of numbers (housing roughly ten characters, which is two more than the titular AJCO).
    • Egg as well. She was an insignificant yes-woman when she first arrived, a cowardly background worker of AJCO. She gained a little more time in the spotlight after the creation of the Castle Crew, but rocketed into main character position following Cameo's death and the unveiling of her status as a prosecutor. She's been involved in every arc finale as a key player — she is the only non-State character to have this status.
  • Persona Requis Aeterna has this a gameplay mechanic; the more interest the players show in an NPC, the bigger and important that NPC's role becomes.

    Theatre 

    Visual Novels 
  • Kotori Shirakawa was one of the heroines in Da Capo, though both Nemu and Sakura were more important characters to the 'real' plot of the story. However, Kotori proved to be extremely popular and landed not only a clear expy in the sequel but also numerous fan discs and side stories to satisfy all of her fans.
  • Fate/stay night:
    • Archer, the Servant of Rin Tohsaka, only comes to prominence in the second of three routes in the game, but he has more fans then the main character. Though funnily enough, he is the main character. He has since appeared in almost every spinoff, including as a playable servant in Fate/EXTRA and its sequel Fate/Extra CCC.
    • Gilgamesh is also in a similar boat, only becoming a main antagonist in one route (in the others, he is alternately a secondary partner in the Big Bad Ensemble, or he's taken out without ceremony by the proper Big Bad). However, he has since appeared as a major antagonist in the prequel Fate/Zero, as a playable servant in Fate/Extra CCC, as a main character in Fate/strange fake, and as a main character in the penultimate chapter of Fate/Grand Order's first Myth Arc, among other roles.
    • Cu Chulainn has acquired this status as of Fate/Grand Order. Not only does he have four versions to be acquired (including a much coveted 5-star Alter version), but the game has also brought in many of his legend's supporting cast and has made him a major character in two Singularities. Additionally, his original Lancer variant is the epitome of Simple, yet Awesome, being of only moderate rarity but having immense utility potential due to having good stats, a single-target Noble Phantasm (a super attack, in simple terms) that deals heavy damage and offers a chance of One-Hit Kill, and extremely potent skills that excel at keeping him alive. Solo Cu runs are a common type of challenge, and one can find countless videos online of him soloing all kinds of bosses.
    • Grand Order also gave Kojirou Sasaki a huge bump in popularity. Early in the game's run, the wyverns that flooded the Orleans singularity were somewhere between Goddamned Bats and Demonic Spiders, and only Assassins could handle them well. As a 1-star Servant, Kojirou was the most common Assassin and fallback for people to deal with the wyverns; so much so that people began to call him the real Savior of France and he was promoted to honorary dragon-slayer. The game writers decided to run with this and gave him greater roles in events, in particular appearing alongside and being associated with Georgios and Saint Martha. Later updates scaled down the wyverns to a more manageable level, so he would be relegated to the bench after clearing Orleans...until Palingenesis was introduced, which allowed lower-rarity Servants to break their lower level caps, and everyone's favorite ronin made a triumphant return. He would finally end up in a short but highly significant role in part 3 of Epic of Remnant.
    • Ilya wound up with her own Spin-Off series called Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA, a Lighter and Softer Magical Girl series set in its own continuity that seems to partially exist to give the extremely Woobietastic character a much happier life.
    • In the original visual novel and the 2006 anime, Bedivere only received one scene's worth of screen time — just enough to intrigue some people about him. Then along came the Camelot Singularity in Fate/Grand Order which put him front and center. Thanks to an engaging plot and being well-written and well-developed as a character, Bedivere's popularity exploded overnight. He is one of the most popular characters in the game (albeit still a long ways off from the astronomical popularity that Jeanne Alter and Ereshkigal enjoy), and his tale is being adapted into a pair of movies releasing in 2020.
  • Of the Danganronpa cast, the one character that everyone loves to talk about is Nagito Komaeda from Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. Part of the main cast of that game, he quickly started to endear himself to fans for his incredibly fluctuating luck, his infuriating nature, and his genuinely interesting backstory and personality. He quickly came to be one of the most marketable characters of the game, getting two Image Songs, showing up in Ultra Despair Girls as a side character, and getting his own spinoff OVA bundled up with Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. Ironically, his presence decreased overall where he should have been most prominent— the backstory for the 77th graduating class of Hope's Peak.
  • Grisaia Series: Matsushima Michiru became somewhat of a fan favorite. She was the lead of a standalone side story to Grisaia, and the main novel, Eden seemed to weirdly favor her among the love interests, despite the story following a kind of "harem" route and a romantically non-committed protagonist, a prominence she even lampshades. Most importantly however, she received her own spin-off game, the magical girl themed Idol Magical Girl Chiru Chiru Michiru, which takes place in an alternative, much more lighthearted and comedy focused Grisaia universe.
  • Taken to a very logical extreme in Triangle Heart 3: Sweet Songs Forever. The only thing people tend to remember this visual novel for is that it is the first appearance of Nanoha Takamachi, who ended up getting her own series that has completely eclipsed her debut game.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: Strong Bad, the cartoon's rival/villain, is even more popular than the title character, to the point where he got his own segment that now makes up the majority of the content on the site.
  • Bravest Warriors has Catbug. An adorable cat with a ladybug shell and wings. Fans loved the cute little critter. He's basically the series mascot at this point, and even outshines the Bravest Warriors themselves in popularity. The fact that he is voiced by an actual kid may further emphasise this trope as well as the character's adorability.
  • Red vs. Blue has Caboose. His idiotic nature and childish randomness caused many fans to get attached to him. It helps that Caboose has gotten a lot of scenes in later seasons, being one of the more frequently seen characters of the Blue team to appear.
  • RWBY
    • Velvet Scarlatina the Australian-accented bunny girl of was intended as a one-off character for Volume 1 to demonstrate the social challenges faced by the Faunus. For obvious reasons, the fandom reaction was extremely strong, so much so that she later became a recurring character with her own team, CFVY, and the show's creators held a fan contest to submit a costume design. Velvet even becomes a Chekhov's Gunman in Volume 3, when she unknowingly hands Ruby information which reveals Mercury and Emerald's machinations and proves Yang's innocence. She also gets her own fight scene, where she more than holds her own against two Paladins at once. Team CFVY themselves have become so popular that a spin-off YA novel starring them, After the Fall, has been announced for July 2019.
    • Neo Politan is a popular antagonist who is more interesting in many ways such as her deadly fighting style involving kicks and a umbrella as her weapon, her ice cream themed design combined with a lack of voice. She potentially made her way into Volume 6 and was made into a character in BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle.

    Webcomics 
  • While Polandball is still skewed towards comics about European countries, the Southeast Asian countryballs enjoy considerable popularity. In particular, comics starring Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines are about as common as any concerning the Euros.
  • Ray and Roast Beef from Achewood. Originally two of a trio of cats (along with Pat) who fancied themselves "the dirtiest dudes in town" and basically existed to be a bad influence on Phillipe. So interchangeable were they in the early years that Beef was billed simply as "the other cat," notable only for being "not Ray, and not Pat." But soon the three of them began to develop their own personalities, the trio became a duo (with Pat evolving into a sanctimonious vegan) and the strip began to revolve around the friendship between laid-back Ray and eternally depressed Beef.
  • Go Get a Roomie!: Lillian AKA Lazy Tyke was initially conceived of as simply a one-off character for Roomie to meet by accident, but wound up being a favorite of both the audience and the author and then became the co-protagonist as the series shifted from being mostly about random silliness and over to a lesbian romance.
  • Something*Positive:
    • The little blue thing was simply a one-off joke for Life with Rippy until...well...fans started liking the bastard. He'd eventually become Kharisma's imaginary "NEW FRIEND!" What the hell were the fans thinking?
    • Probably the same thing they were thinking with Rippy himself...who was a one-shot one-panel gag in S* P, and he'd eventually get his own gag series.
  • Both Mike and Robin were relatively minor characters in It's Walky!; Robin was only introduced halfway through, and while Mike was there from the beginning, his role was later reduced by transferring him to a different squad. However, come Shortpacked!, both are members of the primary cast—in fact, Willis knew his next project would be Shortpacked, and decided to lay the groundwork early, creating Robin to spin her off and deliberately killing Mike to cause confusion when he reappeared. (come Dumbing of Age, emphasis on both is heavily reduced, Robin moreso than Mike).
  • MS Paint Adventures: The Midnight Crew originally started as Evil Counterparts of the Problem Sleuth characters that appeared in a few non-canonical strips drawn for donations. They became so popular that they started appearing frequently as a Show Within a Show in Homestuck, then became playable during an Intermission arc between Acts 3 and 4.
    • Said intermission is canon - the Midnight Crew are the exiles of the Trolls, who are Breakout Characters in their own right.
    • They also have counterparts in the kids' session. Spades Slick's counterpart / alternate universe past self, Jack Noir, ultimately became one of the most active antagonists.
  • In Dead of Summer, the integration of The Protomen was secondary, as originally, the characters in Book 2 were going to be just a group of people who lived underground. The Protomen's willingness to be in the comic, however, suddenly gave these people names and faces. They soon became major characters, and have drawn many fans to the site for the sole reason that they're the Protomen.
  • Zexion in Ansem Retort became increasingly more popular in Ansem Retort, to the point that Season 3 revolved entirely around him. Nearly everything in the comic ends up focusing on him and/or Axel
  • Kel from Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan. She first appeared as indentured servant to the Green Knight, joined the Rogues when they overcame him, and spent a year or so snarking in the background (with stringy hair) before growing a personality (and nice head of ginger locks), and becoming one of the principal characters.
  • Bob and George:
    • Helmeted Author. Did you know that he wasn't originally even a character to begin with? When he first appeared, he was supposed to be just THE Author with a helmet. Then Dave just decided to give him his own comic. Helmeted Author Quips were so popular that Helmut became the Big Bad of the series, eventually possessing Bob.
    • Mynd, Chadling and Mike. They were originally just villains that a fan requested. However, Chadling betrayed Mynd and after the storyline, all three became so popular that Mike became the narrator of the Second Party. Later he was resurrected by Mega Man and Bass. Then he got an Evil Counterpart from Evil Overlord Mike AKA Ninja Ned. Mynd himself became one of Bob's three evil minions.
  • The photo webcomic Hearts of Plastic has seen several breakout characters, including Ratchet, Bill Cosby's Floating Head, and Grimlock. But the biggest is Baby Clouder, the son of Double Dealer and Arcee. Clouder went from a very minor character introduced in Season 2 to being one of the leads to being the most popular character in the comic. This may or may not be related to Clouder going from being a simple baby to becoming the most powerful being in the universe.
  • String Theory (2009): Marcus was first intended to be one-time-only, but fans liked him so much the artist decided to make him a recurring character.
  • Susan of El Goonish Shive was originally intended as a recurring minor character who served as Sarah's snarky Heterosexual Life-Partner, but quickly proved so popular with both the author and audience that she got promoted to main cast, with her shared Dark and Troubled Past with Nanase becoming a major part of the comic's ongoing Myth Arc.
  • The main character of Freefall is actually Sam Starfall. The Furry Fandom guaranteed that Uplifted Animal Florence Ambrose gained a far higher profile.

    Web Original 
  • The Slender Man took off by means of this trope. Originally, there was (and still is) a thread on the Something Awful forums devoted to photoshopping normal photos with ghosts or monsters hidden somewhere in there, with one intent being to dupe real life paranormal organizations. Eventually, one member posted two photos of a tall, thin man with no face who had tentacles instead of arms. Slendy gradually took over the thread because he was, more than any of the other ghosts and monsters, genuinely terrifying, and thus, a legend was born.

    Web Videos 
  • While the Spanish channel Destripando La Historia started to be about musical videos about the origin of fairy tales and comic books characters, their videos about the origin of Greek Gods are the most popular and tend to produce the most memes. The six main brothers also tend to get cameos in mostly of their videos post-Zeus. Even among the Greek Gods, Zeus and Demeter are by far the most popular, resulting in larger roles:
    • Zeus is the only of the Greek Gods to have a major role in every Greek God video because of his fame of a Memetic Molester and a Magnificent Bastard.
    • Demeter's popularity as a Only Sane Man and a huge Woobie led to her getting her own video and the creators even making a recap of all the parts of Demeter in every video she has been (something they hadn't do with any other character). She also has a major role in a lot of the videos, althought she doesn't appear as much as Zeus.
  • The Annoying Orange:
    • It sprung forth two adorable characters Marshmallow and Midget Apple, who were both introduced as minuscule, supporting characters in their first videos (esp. Midget Apple who only got one line), but grew to become two of the most iconic, beloved characters of the series.
    • The title character himself could also count. Once intended to be just another skit for Daneboe's channel, the video became a viral hit. He eventually got popular enough to get sequel videos and gain his own channel, which received multiple times more subscribers than Daneboe itself.
  • The Spoony Experiment: Dr. Insano started as a one-off character in a made-up "Previously On" montage. He was brought back in Spoony's Final Fantasy VIII review series, and now he's one of the most popular and iconic characters among That Guy with the Glasses' repertoire.
  • The Lizzie Bennet Diaries:
    • It has Lydia Bennet. In the book this is inspired of, she is shown as an irresponsible Hormone-Addled Teenager who jeopardizes her family's future and her sister's chances of happiness for a hunk. The series highlights both her Freudian Excuse (her mother is obsessed with men and thinks that no happiness or self-worth could be really found without a loved one, and she receives no attention from her Aloof Big Sisters) and her more sympathetic traits (she's almost in love with the things she has a passion for, making her vibrant and genuine, her talent for getting things to go her way is both innocent and hilarious and she has no idea of what she is doing). Plus, she is a Fiery Redhead played by the adorkable Mary Kate Wiles. On the flip side, she becomes The Woobie. She was very popular with the fans, but she was obviously an interesting character to the writers who gave her lots of opportunities to shine. She even had her own spin-off vlog.
    • Bernie Su, one of the head writers and directors of the show, frequently described Charlotte Lu as his favourite character. Charlotte Lucas of Pride and Prejudice was voice of reason and close friend to book Lizzy, but her role was made much more important in the vlog.
  • Jeffy of SuperMarioLogan. Originally, he was supposed to be a one time character in Mario the Babysitter. However, so many fans ended up liking him that he returned a few months later. Now, the character has practically taken over the channel. He now appears in most videos, has merchandise, and has even multiplied the channel’s sub count by 10 in less than 3 years.
  • Lia Marie Johnson for React. Likely due to being older, she was significantly more popular than the other regular kids on Kids React — which led to the creation of Teens React. She even appeared in the video that announced Teens React, then later made it on to YouTubers React.
  • Darth Vader and Adolf Hitler for Epic Rap Battles of History. Their Battle Rapping served as the show's Breakthrough Hit, and most likely because of this, they have battled two more times throughout the series making them the only trilogy of the show to date.
  • In Super Beard Bros, Brett was originally a guest commentator who stepped in as a brief replacement for Alex when Alex wasn't available. Fans adored him, and he became the official third Beard Bro as a result of his popularity.
  • Kanae from Nijisanji became quickly popular in late 2020 thanks to fan subs and his Genshin Impact streams at least in the English speaking Fandom.
  • Sanders Sides has Anxiety/Virgil, who was initially introduced as a one-off character and was added to the main cast following the strongly positive fan reaction. The main plot of Season 1 ended up focusing on his befriending and acceptance with the rest of the group, and he remains a fan favorite character with major focus episodes and character arcs to this day.

    Real Life 
  • Darci Lynn: Out of the characters Darci uses, Petunia Rabbit became her most known and famous to the point where she has her about 95% of the time. She's also the only character used in her appearances on All That and Unfiltered.

 
Feedback

Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Fonzie

Top

Sun Wukong, The Monkey King

As Red states, Sun Wukong, The Monkey King, is the most beloved character from the whole of the Journey to The West, having been homaged and referenced throughout countless media. Which makes it a surprise to many, that he isn't actually the main protagonist of the text.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (22 votes)

Example of:

Main / BreakoutCharacter

Media sources:

Main / BreakoutCharacter

Report