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Chekhov's Gunman

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"These two right now are just comic relief, but they play an important role later on. You'll see."

Any character who is innocuously and unimportantly introduced to the viewer, but who later proves to be important by the end of the story.

In other words, they're a human Chekhov's Gun. (Or a non-human animal, or an extraterrestrial, or a universe-crossing entity Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence, or a...)

For example, in a fantasy story, the protagonists search for a legendary hero of old, repeatedly encountering a traveling drunk in each tavern who seems to serve as pure comic relief, until it is revealed that the drunk is the legendary hero, fallen on hard times.

Or consider a poolboy in the CSI mystery of the week who just happened to be at the scene of the crime just before the murder, where other leads overshadow that one until the last five minutes, when suddenly Grissom finds that one piece of evidence that conclusively proves it was him. (Of course, if the poolboy is played by George Clooney, everyone and their mother will know it was him the minute he appeared on screen.)

Or, in an episode with Two Lines, No Waiting, a character that seemed to be a Bit Character in the B plot suddenly becomes a large player in the A plot. On most Cop Dramas, this usually means the two teams are Working the Same Case. They may appear at a Chekhov's Party.

According to Roger Ebert, you can often figure out who the murderer is (in a badly-written murder mystery, at least) by checking The Law of Conservation of Detail: The Chekhov's Gunman is the only character who doesn't seem to have any other reason for being in the story (see The Butler Did It). Compare to Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize, which is based more on the actor playing the role than on the character in itself. Sometimes, though, seemingly unimportant characters aren't examples of this trope and are only Red Herrings to distract Genre Savvy fans who find their seeming insignificance suspicious by itself.

In video games, such characters are always obvious because they look conspicuously different from generic NPCs, and usually have a name.

When the Chekhov's Gunman is hidden by shadows, you've got yourself a case of Sinister Silhouettes. If a character originally conceived as minor becomes important through later Character Development, that's a Destined Bystander. See Early-Bird Cameo when a character makes a brief appearance well before being properly introduced in the same work or continuity. And Chekhov M.I.A. is when the Gunman is first mentioned as having gone missing. When instead of just one Gunman you have a group of Gunmen, you have Chekhov's Army.

If the gunman turns out to be a major villain, up to and including the Big Bad, then The Dog Was the Mastermind. Sometimes used to refer to a writer who constantly uses and/or is particularly skilled with using Chekhov's Gun or its variants (including the Gunman), although this isn't the primary usage.

See also Connected All Along.

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    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: Season 3, episode 12, we see Caesar standing next to Adeli's global leader in a flashback. He's not even given a name, just mentioned to be manipulative. 243 episodes later, he's revealed as the Big Bad of the main arc of Season 7, and was responsible for Kalo's death.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Blackest Night event, Tales of the Lantern Corps #3 gives Kilowogg some Character Development by showing his own training as a rookie lantern by Lantern Ermey. In Green Lantern Corps #41, we see Ermey return as a Black Lantern.
  • The locust swarm that causes the Bone brothers to get separated in the first issue of Bone seem like just some natural, albeit random, occurrence. After the scene where the swarm separates the Bones the locusts disappear and don't seem to have been all that important. That is until later when we learn about who the Big Bad is. He's called The Lord of Locusts.
  • Practically anyone who has ever appeared in the Webcomic Prelude but not in the graphic novel of Dreamkeepers is suspected to be one of these.
  • Empowered has Ocelotina a female hostage Emp tries (and fails) to save from ThugBoy in Volume 1 appears again in Volume 2 trying to kidnap Empowered for Les Yay-related reasons. She then becomes a recurring character as a deliberate model for the fetish crowd that Emp keeps unintentionally feeding.
  • In the Fall of Cthulhu comics by BOOM! Studios, a character with no speaking lines at all who can be spotted in a lot of backgrounds throughout the whole story turns out to be the final overmind (though not a villain per se) who orchestrated the whole story through a Gambit Roulette.
  • The Joker during Infinite Crisis. First seen torturing King and asking him why he wasn't invited to join the Society. Is told that he's considered too unpredictable, and kills King out of anger. Not seen for the next hundreds of pages or so. Guess who kills Alexander Luthor Jr.?
  • Before appearing as one of the lead villains in the Captain America Corps mini-series, Bright Star first appeared as an unnamed reporter in an issue of Ed Brubaker's Captain America run.
  • Kid Colt (2009): A short-term example, as the first issue begins with Colt eating breakfast in a saloon, only to be attacked by gunmen. One of the other diners, visible in the background from the very start of the scene, keeps calmly eating until the fight ends and the final gunman is about to shoot Colt In the Back - at which point he steps in and shoots the man. He's then introduced as Hawk, Colt's future sidekick, whose narration opened the story.
  • A zombie Deadpool appeared in Marvel Zombies, but only as an extra without dialogue. Later on, he plays a main role in the series. Similarly Black Bolt appeared numerous times in the series, but doesn't get an actual role until much later.
  • Scott Pilgrim volume 3 features a cameo of a mystery man who then turned out to be Gideon Gordon Graves.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • Bunnie Rabbot first appeared in a pin-up in the original four issue mini-series before appearing in the comic proper some issues later. She also looked markedly different. Of course, she was already a major character on the animated series on which the comic was initially based.
    • Dr. Finitevus first appears during the "Return to Angel Island" arc as just another member of the Dark Legion. About 40 or so issues later, he joins the Big Bad Ensemble by manipulating damn near everyone in order to ensure Knuckles becomes the new Enerjak.
    • Dr. Finitevus had been around earlier than that - when Knuckles first started showing signs of being "Chaos Knuckles", he was the echidna who used the Chaos Siphon to try to drain Knuckles' power.
  • In Spider-Man, Norman Osborn was originally introduced as a nameless member of Mr. Jameson's club, and got upgraded to nameless friend of Jameson a while later. While he got a good deal of mostly non-speaking background appearances, he was barely noticed until he was revealed to be Harry Osborn's father about 2 years after his first appearance. 2 issues later he was revealed as the Green Goblin, who had been an active villain in the series for years.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • The entire line was fond of doing this, often revealing a seemingly minor character to be the Ultimate Universe equivalent of a character from the mainstream Marvel Universe.
    • The first and second volumes of Ultimate Spider-Man are peppered with casual references to Tandy Bowen, one of Peter's unseen schoolmates. She finally shows up in volume 3 as one half of the superpowered duo Cloak and Dagger.
    • As a bonus gag, Ty Johnson (Cloak) is revealed to have been the teenage manager of the burger joint Peter worked at.
    • In Ultimate Fantastic Four, Strange Josie was mentioned as one of many Baxter Building students with weird hobbies before appearing as an actual character.
  • Hellblazer: John Constantine's official first appearance is in Swamp Thing #37. But in #25, there's a background character in a crowd scene who looks suspiciously similar to Constantine.
  • The first page of Watchmen features a red-haired man holding a sign that reads "The End Is Nigh." He appears a few more times and doesn't seem very important— until Rorschach's mask comes off halfway through.
  • In issue 2 of Earth 2, Jay Garrick passes by a rambling man in a back alley. In issue 9, that man turns out to be Khalid Ben-Hassin.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW): Pinkie finds the cave troll and has him save the others from a group of giant spiders.
  • Rick and Morty (Oni):
    • Jerry is shown to occasionally meet up with Rick J19ζ7, otherwise known as "Doofus Rick", in the latter's dimension for occasional "Best Friend Days". While Dimension J19ζ7 doesn't have a native Beth, Summer, or Morty since Doofus Rick never had his own children, Jerry is not related to Rick by blood, and as such, there is a "Doofus Jerry", who captures Jerry Prime and Doofus Rick and becomes the Big Bad of one storyline.
    • After Rick crosses the galactic crime lord Party Dog in Issue 39, Party Dog assembles the Rick Revenge Squad in Issue 41 to take him down, which is made up entirely of these:
      • Peacock Jones is framed by Rick for the latter's drug trafficking ring and arrested in Issue 19 after trying to rape Summer, and the Meeseeks who acts as a mule for the drugs is also arrested. It turns out that the two of them have become friends in prison, and Party Dog breaks them both out to join the Squad.
      • In Issue 27, Rick and Morty look after the Martian Princess Decoria until she can go home, but she commits a Heroic Sacrifice and dies defending Morty, Summer, and Rick from a spider monster. It turns out that her brother, Prince Detrar, blames them for this and joined the Squad to get back at Rick and avenge her death.
      • In the series, right before he dies, Krombopulous Michael is shown to have a lover whose picture he keeps in a locket. Issue 34, which is about Michael's origin story, shows that this was his wife, Krombopulous Amy, who is told that Rick was responsible for her husband's death and decides to take up killing to avenge him.
    • Party Dog himself is defeated by another Chekhov's Gunman: when none of the Smiths can bring themselves to kill Party Dog (since he's, well, a dog), Rick hops dimensions and gets Snuffles/Snowball from "Lawnmower Dog" to resolve the issue.
    • Peacock Jones becomes this a second time: after the Rick Revenge Squad fails to kill Rick, Peacock is the only one who survives the encounter and escapes in Issue 42. He returns in the "Rickoning" storyline starting in Issue 56 for another revenge attempt on Rick.
  • Diabolik uses this rather often, with a minor character becoming suddenly important at the end of the story or a few issues later, but also set the record for this with Margot Hammer, first appearing in the 1963 Wham Episode "The Arrest of Diabolik" as an unimportant character and an Unwitting Pawn of Eva in the rescue of Diabolik and then returning in 2001 in "The Shadow of the Avenger" as the title character, convinced the police is letting Diabolik go and carrying on terrorist attacks to force them to arrest and execute the man who indirectly got her husband imprisoned. They then broke the record with Walter Dorian and "the greatest smuggler of all times", the first a man whose identity had been used by Diabolik in the first three stories and the latter mentioned in passing in "The Phantom Murderer", also published in 1963, and then told their story (and their importance in Diabolik's backstory) in the 2006 story "The Years Lost in Blood", with Dorian showing up in person.
  • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye:
    • A number of characters who join up with the crew are mentioned or shown in flashback a significant time before they do so. For example, Nightbeat makes a minor appearance in a flashback during season 1 before joining the cast as a major character in season 2.
    • Conversely, characters who are mentioned in the present, such as Terminus and the Heavies, often go on to appear in flashbacks that reveal them to be important to the backstory.
    • Issue 9 features a brief appearance from an incredibly minor bystander named Quark. About two dozen issues later, Quark turns out to be Brainstorm's motive for his scheme to rewrite history; he was Brainstorm's unrequited love who died in the war.
  • The Incredible Hercules has several references to Maddy Cho, Amadeus' younger sister. She finally makes her first appearance in the Totally Awesome Hulk series as a major character.
  • One of Magekiller's protagonists, Marius, first appeared in a a minor role in the Dragon Age short story, "Paying the Ferryman."
  • Paperinik New Adventures introduces Xadhoom this way, having her clouded in shadow as she screams a Big "NO!" after witnessing the end of the Evronian invasion of Xerba (her homeworld). She reappears two issues later as Evron's worst enemy.
  • Superman:
    • In Superman Smashes the Klan, Dr. Wilson, who appears in the first issue to welcome the Lees to the community, is conspicuously absent when Lois visits the Health Department in the following issue. He reappears in the final part of the story as the Grand Imperial Mogul of the Klan, having used the Health Department as a cover for making anti-Superman weapons.
    • In Supergirl (1982) #4, Linda's tenant Mrs. Berkowitz observes an old picture of her missing daughter Rachel and cries. In issue #13, Supergirl meets and fights super-villain Blackstarr... as well known as Rachel Berkowitz.
    • At the beginning of Supergirl (2011), some aliens are seen floating in several pods in the background. In later story Last Daughter of Krypton, Supergirl meets and fights four of those aliens -who were called worldkillers-, and her leader reveals that there is a fifth worldkiller. Guess who fights Supergirl at the climax of the Red Daughter of Krypton arc, almost thirty issues later?
    • In the third issue of Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, a stray cat may be seen in the background of a panel, partially hidden behind a trash can. In another issue said cat turns out to be Streaky, Supergirl's super-powered cat pet (well, Supergirl believes that he is her pet cat. Streaky knows that she is his human pet).
    • At the beginning of Bizarrogirl, Jimmy Olsen saves a child from being run over. Shortly after, a fake cop abducts him. Four issues later, Supergirl and Cat Grant have to work together to find him and several more children kidnapped by Dollmaker.
    • In Superman's Return to Krypton, Superman goes back to the past and gets stranded in Krypton. In the story's First Act, Superman gets involved in the shooting of a film, and the director casually mentions they will need a fire-breathing monster to film another scene. In the Second Act, Kal visits a zoo, passes by the cage of a fire-breathing beast, and correctly guesses the producers of "The Space Explorers" film will be borrowing it. In the Third Act, Kal meets the beast again while shooting "The Space Explorers" final scene, and its antics are accidentally but directly responsible for Superman escaping from Krypton (long story).
    • In Superman: Space Age, Brainiac shows our Superman a world that had already destroyed itself, leaving only its Superman, in an attempt to get him to join him. As the end of his own world approaches, Superman decides to give that world renewed hope by transporting his Earth's inhabitants' DNA structures there.

    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot:
    • Eugene started out as a minor character in the 1997 Camp story arc, but 3 years later, the Wus, including him, returned, but aside for one strip early on, he never appeared. That is, until it turned out that he was the one who stole Phoebe's camp journal, and left a bunch of fake clues from everyone, setting up the events of the arc.
    • It was even lampshaded in the final strip of the storyline, after everyone realized that Eugene was the innocuous secondary character who was introduced, then forgotten.

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars: TJ sometimes makes offhand remarks concerning a new recruit under his command. In ch. 74, Asuka and Shinji get to meet this new Private. It's Gendo; he snuck into their unit using his birth name of Rokubungi.
  • In Downfall, Zommari shows up in chapter 16, casually mentioned: "The most senior of these artificial Arrancar, a bald, dark-skinned, sinister-looking man, was kneeling on one knee, silently, at the perimeter of the force." -he goes on to be a pivotal fighter in the subsequent battle, never mentioned by name. This is especially notable, as it gives him a much needed moment of true badassery.
  • In Forewarned is Forearmed, Elizabeth mentions during the P-1 tournament that she came to investigate because of the unusual number of Persona users gathered in one place. Akira remembers this years later, and calls in every single Persona user he knows in hopes of piquing her interest so he can talk to her and figure out what Fake Igor is and why Lavenza has been replaced by Caroline and Justine.
  • Rise of the Minisukas: Shinji in chapter 22 and Kensuke in chapter 23 mention offhandedly "Mat", a new student who is so quiet and unassuming than hardly someone has noticed him; and not even Shinji, who considers him a friend, can remember his full name. Is it short for Matsuhide? Or Matsusuke? Chapter 24 finally shows "Mat" and reveals his full name: Matarael, the alien whom they supposed to fight, and who had infiltrated Shinji's class.
  • In Time Braid, Demon Sakura is this. You think she's gone after a forced merge early on, but then she's discovered in a kind of 'inactive aspects' area of Sakura's Mental World, and Sakura uses her to guard the box containing the memories she doesn't want Sasuke to see. Later, her mastery of the Sharingan is used to give Sakura the chance at her Heroic Sacrifice, and afterwards she becomes half of Sakura's new demon/kami split axis.
  • What About Witch Queen? has swarms of those, made harder to keep track of by presence of so many characters.
    • Prince Ferdinand is mentioned in passing in chapter two as being missing due to navy dragging him off for pirate hunt. Come chapter sixteen, and he saves Anna from smugglers who kidnapped her, and even becomes a POV character.
    • Patrick Schneider appears briefly in chapter six, and reappears in chapter twenty six with important information.
    • Valdemar Schwalzmaar, the man who ferries Hans to Westerguard in chapter six, appears ten chapters later and tells Michael of Hans' whereabouts.
    • Felix Drachner appears to be a Chekhov's Gunman who still waits to fire, but his hand is seen in dozens of places separated by miles.
  • In Hogyoku ex Machina, after Ichigo's time traveled, he and other characters try to avoid future crisis' by planning ahead and/or making peace with would-be enemies. This includes anime filler arcs and movie continuities, so it wasn't unusual to see Muramasa involved. At the final battle, though, he saves Ichigo's life which completely thwarts Aizen's plans. Without him there, the bad guy would have won. Yep, a former filler villain was that important.
  • In Forward, Ashley Frye bumps into a drunk man in a bar while looking for information about her sister Kaylee. This later turns out to be John Garis, an agent of the Academy who's after River, and he saves Ashley from Jubal Early.
  • In Calvin at Camp, Calvin throws a water balloon at Sally, early on in the episode "Champion Charlie Brown." She comes back later and has him arrested by the Urban Rangers for it, playing right into Lucy's hands.
  • In White Rain, the kid who gets punched in the face back in Chapter 1 shows up in Chapter 11 and helps out.
  • Calvin's dad nearly runs over a skunk in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series while on the way to a courtroom. Shortly after they arrive, it reappears and sprays him in revenge, forcing Calvin to take his place.
  • Dr. Watson and his wife have a baby girl in the finale for Children of Time. The baby turns out to be a Time Lord, having been conceived in the TARDIS, and her regenerative abilities become instrumental in putting things to rights in the last episode.
  • The Powers of Harmony: Vigil at first just seems to be a Sixth Ranger there for no reason other than giving the group of Royal Guards enough members. Then it turns out he's Horizon's brother (last seen, unnamed, in the flashback Blair and Piro show Twilight) and linked to him the same way as the Echoes.
  • Played with in Justice Society of Japan. Given how Lelouch Lamperogue and the Black Knights appear early one, one would expect that Zero would be one of the founding members of the titular team. Subverted in that he isn't. Shirley Fenette is. But double subverted in that Lelouch himself plays an important role.
  • In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Reflecting Balance:
    • It is mentioned in a couple of conversations between Blitz the Shinx and his mentor, Hercules the Heracross, that Blitz has a younger sister. Said younger sister eventually comes to visit Blitz in Chapter 21, and ends up indirectly spurring revelations about Blitz's past.
    • In chapter 4, Stella asks Santos to deliver a letter to a friend of hers who lives in Silver Woods. As Stella starts to realize what is really going on, we see her frequently communicating with said friend via letters regarding the events of the plot. Stella's pen pal is eventually revealed to be a Mismagius named Samara, and she is working on a way to seal the Big Bad of the story away once more.
    • In Chapter 3, the main characters rescue an Aerodactly named Aeron. Aeron later shows up again in Chapter 57 to return the favor by giving Blitz and his teammates a ride to Wyvern Island after one of the Axis Tower crystals is found there.
  • In Mega Man Recut, some humans Mega met during previous episodes appear, aged-up, in Future Shock.
    • Bright Man is mentioned early in the first part of "The Beginning", several parts before his actual appearance in the next episode.
  • Mega Man Reawakened has Darian Darhk, who plays a minor role at first before helping Mega in later chapters.
  • The Night Unfurls:
    • Michelle, the Arc Villain of the Liberation of Ansur Arc (Chapters 9-11), is introduced as early as Chapter 4. You probably don't expect much from him in terms of plot progression, given that he is, in Kyril's words, "a disgusting pile of excrement" and nothing else.
    • Grishom is introduced in the original story in Chapter 9, merely being a thorn on Kyril and Celestine's side, yet not contributing much to the main plot. He then proceeds to graduate into Arc Villain status in the Rebel Scum Arc, staging a rebellion against them in the name of the Black Dogs.
    • The remastered version has Boris, introduced as just a lowly cook who works for the Black Dogs. The only thing notable about him is that he makes rock-hard bread. Turns out that he plays a pivotal role in Kyril's Great Escape plan, becomes a prominent member of the team involved in said plan, and is able to cook decent meals after ditching the Black Dogs.
  • Crowns of the Kingdom has the Queen of Hearts, Jiminy Cricket, and Hypatia, all of whom are mentioned early on and return to play key roles later.
  • The Fifth Act has younger Cloud Strife, whom the elder Cloud Strife convinced while posing as the kid's uncle to stay in Nibelheim instead of joining Shinra in the early chapters. The kid comes back when he goes to Midgard with the escaped Kunsel in tow trying to find his "uncle" and give Zack and Genesis the means to find the holes in the elder Cloud's cover story.
    • Another is Vincent, who is quickly ditched by Cloud when he doesn't support Cloud's plan to kill Sephiroth. He comes back when he shoots Hojo in the head.
  • Aldev from Warriors of the World: Soldiers of Fortune turns out to have been possessed by the villain in an attempt to divide the party.
  • In Enemy to Love, Orihime doesn't have much screen time early on, but she is the one to A. destroy the Hogyoku so Aizen couldn't use it, and B. use it's power to bring Ulquiorra back to life, who kills Aizen himself.
  • In Travels of the Trifecta there is a part where Conway and Paul are traveling on Route 216 and come across a Smoochum swarm, and Conway wants to catch one but Paul thinks they're uselessly weak Pokemon and they leave the swarm alone. One Smoochum takes a moment to watch them out of curiosity. Later on, that Smoochum ends up helping Conway when he's in danger.
  • In Unnatural Disaster 1.6 we encounter a skinhead schoolmate of Taylor's called Egbert Rhine. He eventually goes on to kill Travis.
  • In the earlier chapters of Shatterheart Syaoran is accosted by a gang, with its leader heading the fight, on his way home from the library. Syaoran has to run from the fight when he sees that he's outnumbered. Syaoran meets the gang again fifty chapters later during an outing with Fai and they turn out to be Serial Killers who kidnap and torture him For the Evulz.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!: Dark Messiah the Mayor of New York appears in an early chapter to give some words of encouragement to the protagonist, and is stated to be a Duel Monsters fan herself. She's the woman behind the man, as well as literally demonic.
  • In the very first chapter of Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox, one of the rumors surrounding the impact the Kyuushingai had on society tells of a waiter being driven to madness by the stress of dealing with the fear the Nine Terrors caused, when he accidentally spilled soup he was serving to a guest at a restaurant and panicked that he might have unwittingly offended one of the Terrors. 84 chapters later, we get to find out who the waiter is: it's Kyusuke, The Dragon of the Akatsuki group, who was previously introduced by name at the end of Chapter 36, decapitating Kyuushingai member Utakata with a sword.
  • In Eugenesis, Doubleheader is introduced as a very minor character who's only real role is to give Nightbeat minor info on the mystery at the heart of the story. A couple dozen chapters later, he's revealed to be the Decepticon mole and proceeds to suicide bomb a major demonstration, critically injuring Rodimus.
  • Fan writer Jurnees Jakes has a tendency to give one-shot and referenced characters in Kim Possible larger roles in his "All Good Things" series.
  • A Voice in the Wilderness has Commander Darva, captain of VSW Revenge. In part I, she leads a Vaadwaur border picket, and it's to her that Eleya makes the Federation's pitch for a peace conference with the Vaadwaur Supremacy. In part III, her ship is the flagship of a battle group under Overseer Harn sent to rescue Eleya from the Borg.
  • Thousand Shinji: When Shinji and Rei fight Ramiel, several soldiers finish off it. After the battle, Shinji told them that he owed them a favor. Fifteen chapters later they show up again when Shinji needs to get Asuka to safety. He finds one of them, recognizes him, and hands over Asuka to him, entrusting him to get her to her Evangelion.
  • In chapter 7 of Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, readers are introduced to Keiko Nagara, a Shinji’s classmate whose only apparent purpose is teasing Asuka. A while later she becomes an Evangelion pilot.
  • This Bites!: The weakest potential CP9 agent, Nero, turns out to be a lot more important than anyone realised: In addition to Kalifa and Kaku's Devil Fruits, there was a third one in Spandam's possession meant for Nero when he got back to Enies Lobby. But since Nero was knocked out and never made it, that Devil Fruit sat in Spandam's office until Cross reached it and stole it, and it turned out to be the exact kind needed to turn Merry human and thus save her life.
  • With This Ring: Scott and Barda Free, who are initially introduced during an investigation of a Boom Tube sighting. Barda Free and Wonder Woman become fast friends and the possibility of them coming back to action is discussed. In both the Paragon and Renegade timelines, they are recruited when the Team has to fight the Light and the mind-control League.
    • Yao Fei AKA Accomplished Perfect Physician. He was brought up by Paragon!OL to Batman as a Justice League candidate to have a Combat Medic on board and he does join the Justice League and the Great Ten off-screen. Guess who the team has to fight when the League gets mind controlled? And manages to beat the Team back into retreating?
    • Cassie Sandsmark, the future Wonder Girl and illegitimate child by Zeus. It was mentioned that until she was found out, it was thought that Zeus had changed and was faithful to Hera. She becomes one of the reasons that Hera is successfully convinced to divorce Zeus.
  • All-American Girl: Screwball and Barking Mad/Screw Loose are casually mentioned in an early chapter. At first it looks like yet another background character cameo which are common in My Little Pony fanfics. Later, however, they re-appear and are revealed to be subordinates of Faust herself, one being a Discord cultist with chaos magic and the other a supernatural being of chaos, who play a role in the plot.
  • All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird does this by dropping an early allusion to Bethany Hawke, noting that the Lady Herald reminds Varric of her. 33 chapters later, she turns up at Skyhold, ultimately replacing Solas as the third mage in the inner circle.
  • In Skyhold Academy, early in the story, things go pear-shaped at the school's big football game and the opposing school's coach makes a vague threat toward Evvy. Several months later, this has been completely forgotten, until Evvy is kidnapped right out of the school grounds.
  • Felgrand in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines originally came off as just a random O.C created to take Giovanni's role in Celadon, and when the Team Rocket Trio grabbed him at the end of chapter 20 he'd never be important again. Then he returned in Chapter 23 to collaborate the reveal of the chapter.
  • Lance M Donovan who had made appearances earlier in I'm a Marvel... And I'm a DC before his significance showed up. In literal terms, we also have the Punisher who shot the Joker when he was holding Harley hostage to use as his escape. You know when he said "I'm waiting for an opportunity to present itself", it was going to be awesome.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse:
    • Zizane, who appears as an apparent one-off antagonist, reappears for the season 1 finale as a major part of Trixie's plot to deal with the Night Court.
    • During Nightmares Yet to Come:
      • Early on, one of the bad guys grumbles that thanks to Luna crashing their party, his mane's gotten burned, and he's going to have a time explaining that in the morning. Soon after, when Trixie's in Canterlot, she encounters a colt who has to sheepishly explain what's happened to his mane.
      • In one of their vague meetings, the not-cultists mention hiring two ponies to catch someone named "Star". A later chapter reveals the two are Sunset Shimmer and Lightning Dust, and the "Star" turns out to be someone who escaped them some years prior.
  • In Persona: The Sougawa Files, the party members show up far before they become relevant to the plot (Wilma shows up in Chapter 13 and her Shadow is defeated in Chapter 20, for example).
  • In chapter 8 of When the Brush hits the Canvas, Link is saved by the StreetPass grandpa of all people. Before that, he was only given a throwaway line in chapter 4.
  • In Chapter 2 of Half Past Adventure, the Red Herring Femme Fatale's Cyborg valet Izak seems to just be a minor background character… until he ends up being the one to take out Bandit Princess.
  • Chapter 1 of Zero Context: Taking Out the Trash has a background character named Mini-Lina referred to briefly in a throwaway line, playing video games somewhere in the near distance. After she's apologized to for being interrupted, she disappears from the story until the second-to-last chapter, at which point Mini-Lina Inverse pops up to annihilate a magic-proofed mecha that had been giving the protagonists trouble.
  • Early in Cinders and Ashes: the Chronicles of Kamen Rider Dante, Hoshi comes across a shopkeeper who talks about the importance of living close to people when he's buying lighters from him. Nothing was clear about him outside of his name being Tachibana... Until a few chapters later where he's revealed to be an artist who draws a fancomic based off Hoshi's fanfic, as well as being Setsuna's brother. After this reveal, he becomes a much more central character to the plot.
  • In Run to You, the DJD are very briefly mentioned (albiet not by name) in the second chapter, then are mentioned by name in the third chapter, before they show up and kidnap Starscream in the fourth chapter.
  • It's Always Spooky Month: The squirrel from the beginning of chapter 6 later returns near the end of the chapter, which ends up making the rival team lose the basketball game.
  • In Switchblade, the exam proctor that interrogated Izuku as part of his Undercover Hero exam turns out to be War Dog's civilian guise.
  • Somos Familia: Domingo Cavallero shows up as a greedy and unpleasant member of the local mayor's family who asks Hector for an enormous loan for a stupid business proposition. The next time he's mentioned, it's revealed that he is Hector's father.
  • The Forever Captain series: Rishun Hayward. She is first introduced as a housewife in the Carters’ neighborhood in His Part to Play, with a mention of her past “special service” during the war. But her special operative skill set proves invaluable to helping Steve during the action of Boulder in the Stream.
  • the curse of the anime protagonist:
    • The first time Izuku meets Hitoshi Shinsou, he saves him from a would-be murderer. Chapters later, that would-be murderer was revealed to be Stain. It's strongly implied that Izuku's actions impressed the villain so much that he took to stalking him, and seeing Izuku's acts of kindness eventually led to him putting Izuku on the same pedestal as All Might.
    • Yashiro offhandedly mentions one of his classmates, whose father owns a large media company, to Izuku. Said classmate later shows up at the USJ, using his Quirk to take pictures and videos for the League of Villains, which are leaked to the public by his father's company. Whether their cooperation with the villains was willing or not is unknown.
  • The second half of chapter 8 of Harry Potter and the Power of Paranoia focuses on the course of events starting with Harry using the Fidelius charm to hide his identity from the world and ending with the muggleborn population of Britain abandoning the country entirely, with the POV hopping between different characters deciding to leave due to the danger they believe themselves to be innote , however on segment is and odd one out; Luna Lovegood who is a pureblood and leaves not because she is under threat, but because she is friendless, bullied and the muggleborn leaving just make her realise she has no reason to want to stay at Hogwarts. Chapter 11 then reveals that she ended up moving to America, where she met and fell in love with Jim Dobbins, AKA Harry Potter, becoming his Love Interest for the rest of the story.

  • mothy:
    • The Evillious Chronicles song "Daughter of Evil" (sung by Kagamine Rin) gives us this example: Early on, the song mentions that the princess has a "servant with a like face". In the sequel, "Servant of Evil" sung Kagamine Len, it turns out that the servant in question, the princess's twin brother, changed clothes with her so he could die in his sister's place.
    • Fans waited years for the song representing Wrath to come out, which was commonly (and wrongly) believed to be "The Last Revolver". Come 2014, and "The Last Revolver" turns out to be the backstory for the Wrath song, "The Muzzle of Nemesis". The Wrath sinner was staring everyone in the face for four years and no one knew it. Bonus points for being an actual gunman.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers released "Dani California" in 2006. The title character was soon revealed to be the same "Dani the girl" from the chorus of "By the Way" (2002) and also the "teenage bride with a baby inside" from "Californication" (1999).

  • Chad from Welcome to Night Vale. Mentioned once in episode 3, then he's revealed to have summoned a Beagle (It Makes Sense in Context) in The April Monologues, about three and a half years worth of episodes later.
  • Barry Bluejeans from The Adventure Zone. He's just a throwaway joke character who dies in the very first mission... until he returns much, much later as the true identity of the mysterious Red Robe, a member of the IPRE, and Taako's brother-in-law.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Also happens in Professional Wrestling as companies will use local talent or developmental wrestlers as crowd plants for heels to attack or other roles as police officers or security. Also happens if wrestlers have matches on the B-Shows before having a proper debut on A Shows.
  • WrestleMania VI had three: Edge and Christian were audience members while a pre-fame Diamond Dallas Page was Honky Tonk Man's driver.
  • Molly Holly actually made two appearances on episodes of WWF Heat back in 1998 under the name Starla Saxton. This was before she joined WCW and later WWE permanently.
  • Candice Michelle was introduced as a backstage make-up artist late in 2004 and appeared in random backstage segments for a while before becoming a prominent character on TV.
  • Another one that shows how well WWE creative team can plan stories in advance is the character of Tori (not Wilson). She was introduced as an obsessed Wrestling/Sable fan at the 1999 Royal Rumble helping Sable win a match and eventually feuding with her going into WrestleMania XV. Watching old Sable matches will show Tori sitting in the front row of the audience regularly for at least two months before she actually debuted on TV.
  • In 2003 the La Résistance stable was your typical Foreign Wrestling Heel team and one episode had them make their way to the ring and insult a man who appeared to be a US pilot. Later on in the match, the pilot jumped out of the crowd and entered the ring to help La Résistance win their match. Next week he was added to their stable as Rob Conway.
  • The NXT rookies from season 1 could count given that when the season was over, they rampaged WWE and formed The Nexus. Then Daniel Bryan was released almost immediately, but brought back as an enemy of The Nexus.
  • Charlotte Flair made her very first WWE appearance in a January 2006 episode of WWE Raw watching her father fight Edge for the WWE Title in a Ladder Match, and again in 2008 during Ric's "retirement", years before officially joining the WWE in 2012. Chronologically, her very first appearance in the wrestling world was during a 1999 episode of WCW Monday Nitro, which infamously aired the same time Mick Foley won his very first WWE Title. Even before she made the main roster, she had a cameo at WrestleMania XXX as one of the women accompanying Triple H to the ring; the other two were fellow NXT stars Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss.
  • Dean Ambrose was one of The Undertaker's druids during Royal Rumble 2006, and was in fact the one on Taker's right.
  • Johnny Gargano appeared as a Jobber named Cedric van Haussen a few weeks before WrestleMania 23, wrestling against MVP in a losing effort.
  • Tommaso Ciampa, Gargano’s future tag team partner and rival, appeared as Muhammad Hassan's lawyer in a 2005 episode of WWE SmackDown where he was Tombstoned by The Undertaker.
  • The Hardy Boys were the gatekeepers during King of the Ring 1996. Yes, the same event where "Stone Cold" Steve Austin first established his presence to the WWF/E.
  • Zack Ryder was an audience on WrestleMania X and was one of the kids Razor Ramon posed with after winning the Intercontinental Title. He also lost a squash match to Matt Morgan in 2005.
  • A fourteen year old Bayley was visible as a ringside audience member during a 2004 episode of WWE Raw.
  • Sasha Banks, aside from the example mentioned above in the Charlotte entry above, was in attendance on Eddie Guerrero's tribute show.
  • Even the McMahons followed this trope. From Vince's announcing days before the Montreal Screwjob outed him as the WWF/WWE's owner, to Shane's refereeing and appearances as a backstage official, to Stephanie appearing as a random passer-by in a "Stone Cold" Steve Austin segment months before debuting as Vince's daughter.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Role-Playing Games, most RPGA tournament events followed this trope in that if someone was introduced passively, but by name, then that person would return by the end of the event either with the Superweapon or as the Big Bad. One player was heard saying at Gen Con: "Of course I knew he was the bad guy. He was the first NPC we met who was an ass to us."
  • Amara Li was named as a random museum donor in Pathfinder Society's 2nd season. In the 3rd season, she is the leader of a major faction.
  • One series of Paranoia missions, involving Computer-mandated "improvements" to the Food Vats, also made passing mention of a NPC with the Matter Eater mutation. Later, the PCs revisit his sector - now plunged into famine - and run into him again. Turns out a lot of citizens discovered that they had that mutation. They also discovered that real meat tastes much better than vat product...
  • In Battle for Zendikar, they mention that only two of the Eldrazi Titans are on the plane that and no one knows where Emrakul went. Come the next block, Shadows over Innistrad and there some "mysterious" force behind the scenes, twisting the plane to their whim. The only surprising thing about The Reveal that Emrakul was said force was that they expected us to be surprised.

  • Survival of the Fittest: Evolution has Khalid Shamoun, a "winner" of a previous experiment run, who first appeared in the prologue, being shot by the scientists after mouthing off to show that they won't allow rebellion. Later he's put on the island as a player for the second time partway through. Another example, this time from the main site, would be Yelizaveta "Bounce" Volkova, who first appeared as a character in the in-universe chat and later made a appearance in the main game.

  • In Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit, the one who called the ghosts into the house and is keeping them tied there turns out to be the maid, an overeager girl who for most of the play has just been your typical simple servant played for laughs.
  • Early on in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Chief of Police Andre warns Lawrence, a master conman, that there is an infamous con artist even more skilled than him in town, known as the Jackal. This is promptly forgotten about for most of the show until "The Reckoning", at the climax of the story: after Christine Colgate, Lawrence and Freddy's con target whom both men had fallen in love with, leaves the scene, having supposedly been swindled out of $50,000 by Freddy, Lawrence and Freddy find that they are the ones swindled out of $50,000, with the lone suitcase they have remaining to them merely containing Freddy's clothes and a note from Christine that says "Goodbye, boys; it was fun! Love, The Jackal."
  • In Hamlet, Laertes is introduced briefly as a character in the first act, before departing for most of the play's storyline. He returns in the fourth act and plays a major role at the end of the play.
    • There is also Fortinbras, who is briefly mentioned but not seen early in the play, then makes his first appearance at the end of the play to assume control over Denmark in a Dark Horse Victory now that all its royal family is dead.
  • A minor example in Hamilton: after The Story of Tonight - Reprise, Hamilton and Laurens serve in the Continental Army, but Lafayette and Mulligan are put on their respective buses back to France and New York. They eventually both return as Chekov's Gunmen: Lafayette in Guns and Ships with the titular guns and ships - a gift from France that he had returned to France to get - and Mulligan in Yorktown, when it's revealed that he was using his apprenticeship to act as a spy for the Continental Army. Neither is exactly subtle about their nature as a Gunman, as their returns are both heralded by the chorus shouting their names.
    • Additionally, James Madison is briefly mentioned in Non-Stop as one of the co-authors of the Federalist Papers, alongside John Jay and Hamilton. He returns as one of Act 2's Big Bads alongside Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.
    • Most of the characters are, in a sense. All the main characters, except for King George III, are present in Alexander Hamilton, serving as the song's omniscient narrators as well as introducing who they are in relation to Hamilton. While Burr, Laurens, Lafayette, and Mulligan are re-introduced in the very next song in Aaron Burr, Sir, Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy take another 4 songs to appear in The Schuyler Sisters (and take another 4 songs to actually become relevant to the plot in A Winter's Ball), George Washington takes 7, in Right Hand Man, and Madison, Jefferson, Maria Reynolds, and Phillip Hamilton don't appear until the next act (Jefferson and Madison in What'd I Miss, Phillip in Take A Break, although he is portrayed by a different actor until The Reynold's Pamphlet, and Maria in Say No To This). Burr is quite literally Chekov's Gunman, as he introduces himself as "the damned fool who shot him [Hamilton]". This doesn't actually happen until the end of the play (naturally, since you don't expect the main character to die halfway into a show about his own life).
  • In Pippin, the torch-wielding player who will play a part in the grand finale makes a false entrance at the beginning of the play, when the Leading Player promises to present "a climax never before seen on a public stage."
  • Played with a bit in Tom Stoppard's mystery parody The Real Inspector Hound, where both the murderer and the victim are Chekhov's Gunmen.
  • In Rehearsal For Murder, the killer is the man in the back of the auditorium. Also true in the TV movie it's based on.
  • Inverted in the play Rumors when the two biggest players in the show never actually appear on-stage, with one of them only showing up with one line from off-stage at the end.
  • In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the crazy old Beggar Woman is primarily a side character whose interactions with the main cast are primarily for comic relief. Until the very end when we learn that she's actually Sweeney's thought-to-be-dead wife, Lucy Barker, who spent fifteen years Going Among Mad People after surviving her attempt to kill herself with poison after what happened to her at Judge Turpin's masked ball. And Sweeney doesn't find out about this until after he's already killed her prior to his final vengeance upon Turpin.
  • Dr. Lyman Hall in 1776 starts as a new delegate whose need to be introduced to his fellow Congressmen is a convenient way to introduce them to the audience as well. He foreshadows his role when he says that while Georgia is against independence, he himself is for it. After witnessing Adams' Eleven O'Clock Number, Hall changes his vote to yea.
    • Judge James Wilson serves no significant part of the narrative other than comic relief, constantly forgetting Pennsylvania cannot second its own motions. Until he has to cast the deciding vote for declaring independence. He votes yea.
  • In the Mrs. Hawking play series: Yulia Sherba in Base Instruments. She is introduced as if she is only there to fall for Justin's charm, but it's actually to seed her for her relevance to the mystery.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Series-wide:
      • Honestly, there's always at least one witness that turns out like this, if not the killer himself. If the game is trying to keep you from paying attention to them, they probably did it.
      • There’s Shoe, who is introduced as Matt Engarde’s cat. At first glance he seems like a simple joke character. He later plays an important role in tipping off Phoenix, Edgeworth, and the police to Maya’s location by meowing just as Shelly de Killer finishes one of his calls.
      • Misty Fey, who was only mentioned in passing at the beginning of the first game, then shows up as both major character and victim in the last case of the Phoenix Arc.
      • The completely nondescript chief prosecutor who gave von Karma his first penalty in the first game turns into a major character in Investigations 2.
    • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney:
      • Valant Gramarye makes a couple of two-second appearances in Case 3 before being introduced. He's the magician responsible for the "vanishing Lamiroir" trick, which played an important role in the murder. He also was a witness in Phoenix's last trial, and he's strongly implied to have killed Magnifi, his master... but he didn't.
      • The victim in the first case is described just as "a mysterious world traveler". It might seem at first that he's yet another throwaway victim who won't be brought up again. He is in fact Zak Gramarye, Trucy's father, and a vital character to the plot.
    • In Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, Lang's assistant Shih-na, who barely says a word throughout the entirety of the case she first appears in, is Calisto Yew, murderer and The Dragon to the head of the smuggling ring.
    • Ace Attorney Investigations 2:
      • Played with in the case of Sirhan Dogen. The first time he's introduced, Edgeworth is sure he's the killer, but he's not. Then you find out while he didn't commit the murder, he was pretty much the indirect cause of it. But just when you think you've seen the last of him... he turns out to be vital to the plot of the last case.
      • Simon Keyes is introduced in Case 2 as that case's wrongly accused person you have to prove innocent. In the final case, he is the killer. Also, he's the Big Bad of the whole game. Even though he is only guilty of actually killing one person, he orchestrated nearly every other death in the game with his Magnificent Bastardry.
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice we have Queen Amara, who was disguised as Rayfa's maid Nayna the entire game while everyone thought she had been killed 23 years ago.
  • C14 Dating: In most routes, Paige, the other student from Melissa's university who was prevented from coming to the class by a last-minute family emergency, is forgotten after getting mentioned early in the game. In the proper solo ending, she's seen talking to Melissa right before her presentation about the class.
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: Genocider Syo/Genocide Jack, is brought up at the start of the game as the possible mastermind behind the cast's current predicament, and later on turns out to be Fukawa's Split Personality. In Chihiro's third free-time conversation, Chihiro reveals that he is working on an self-aware artificial intelligence; later, after Chihiro's death, the heroes find a laptop housing the AI (Alter Ego) and it becomes the heroes' ally. Finally, Junko Enoshima is a seemingly minor character who gets killed in Chapter 1 without making much of an impact on the plot. Later it turns out she is actually the mysterious sixteenth student in disguise, who was also a false gunman and was suspected of being the mastermind. So what happened to the real Junko? She's the mastermind.
  • Several in Daughter for Dessert:
    • Heidi is introduced as a woman serving drinks in a bar, whom the protagonist calls a “Nazi bitch” in a drunken stupor. She becomes one of the main girls in the story.
    • Lily first appears as a hitchhiker on the protagonist's and Amanda’s trip to Whiskeyville. She then crashes an awkward moment between the two in Whiskeyville, and then shows up at the diner looking for work (the protagonist having given her his card).
    • The protagonist runs into Saul for the first time walking into a bar. Later, Saul offers to buy out his failing diner.
    • Cecilia does not immediately introduce herself, but orders a meal at the diner, and gives Amanda a $1,000 tip. Only when she returns does the player find out who she is.
  • In Double Homework, Daniela first appears as a photographer who the protagonist assumes assumes, with reason, works for the press. In reality, she’s helping Dr. Mosely/Zeta to run a sex experiment on him and his classmates.
  • In Fate/stay night, Gilgamesh shows up very briefly mucking about in the Prologue. Kuzuki also shows up briefly in the first day of the Fate route, and wouldn't go on to become important until halfway through the UBW route.
    • Similarly, the Avenger class is mentioned in passing as being something of a mistake that happens in the Grail War occasionally as well as the existence of Angra Manyu. These details aren't fully followed up upon until the sequel Fate/hollow ataraxia.
    • In Fate/Grand Order, two characters introduced before your first mission suddenly become extremely important at the end game. One is the doctor you meet goofing off in your room, who ends up as the only ranked staff member at Chaldea after the bombing and becomes your Mission Control. He's a Servant who won the Grail War that led to the creation of Chaldea and is key to the Big Bad's existence. The other is the Ridiculously Cute Critter that follows Mash around. It's one of the Seven Beasts of Calamity.
      • Before the bombing, the Director says that the mission to Singularity F will be carried out by Chaldea's seven best agents. After the bombing, they are presumed dead and never heard from again. They become the major antagonists of Part 2, working for the Alien God. For a double example, one of them is a True Ancestor.
      • A 2021 art, voice, and animation update for the Caster Cu Chulainn met in the prologue strongly implies that he's Odin, the Norse king of the gods, disguised as Cu Chulainn. And that he knew and was preparing you for the Lostbelts from at least the first White Day event, if not even earlier.
  • Pennington in Fleuret Blanc. He only appears briefly in the intro scene and during an optional event many players may not see due to its rarity and stringent precondition. Turns out he's not only Junior's father but a Professional Killer who eliminates FOIL's departing members. Interestingly, it's entirely possible to complete the story without realizing his importance, as The Reveal only happens if you complete his sidequest.
  • In Hatoful Boyfriend, you're seemingly introduced to every dateable character on the first day of the game. The protagonist will find an ID card on most routes for a student she doesn't recognise. She can bring it either to her maths teacher (who will remark that the student in question has been missing for a while) or the school doctor (who is very glad that she brought it to him specifically). No further details are given on this mystery student, and it appears that he's just foreshadowing for the true nature of the doctor... until Anghel's route, when you learn that the card actually belongs to him, and he ditched it because it has his real name on it.
  • In Little Busters!, Mio is the last girl to be formally introduced, but she makes a cameo only a couple of days in when Rin sees a girl while searching for members. After Rin 1 is finished Rin will recognise her, but the first time around only her voice makes it clear who she is (though the fact that she's voiced at all makes it obvious she's someone important, anyway).
  • In Melody, Xianne is introduced as a waitress in a karaoke bar, and reappears a couple of weeks later working at a jazz club and a massage parlor. She eventually gets into a relationship with Sophia.
  • Each route in Raging Loop opens with the protagonist briefly interacting with a rude cashier at a convenience store before moving on. The cashier seems to be an unimportant side character. However, the fact she has her own full-body sprites, and even a separate dialogue volume slider in the options menu, suggests there's more to her. Near the end of the game, it turns out she is significantly entangled with the plot: she is investigating the Stable Time Loop on orders from a shady organization, and uses her supernatural abilities to let the protagonist retain his memories between his deaths. Oh, and she's also the protagonist's ex-girlfriend.
  • In Shining Song Starnova, Mr. Producer notices a suspicious man lurking near the stage during a promotional handshake event for Mika’s upcoming TV series, and chases him off. This man later turns out to be Mika’s stalker and the Big Bad of her route.
  • In chapter two of Your Turn to Die, Gashu is initially introduced in the gift shop, seemingly no more than a generic shopkeeper. After the first part of the chapter is finished, he reveals himself to be heavily involved with the killing game, being the creator of the Floor Master Rio Ranger, as well as the host of the second Main Game.

    Web Animation 
  • Two of them in Broken Saints. The first is the hobo Raimi meets near the alleyway, who seems to be nothing but another one of his hallucinations. The second is the supposedly dead Lear Dunham, one of the co-founders of BIOCOM. In the end, they turn out to be the same person. The freakin Big Bad.
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, the Centurion, who's been appearing on and off in the background and quick gags of several episodes, has been Primarch Rogal Dorn all along.
  • TMK's first video, Kirby.MP4, shows Marx as a Freeze-Frame Bonus. Marx is later established to represent Beta Tester #1 during Season 2.

  • Looking for Group does this with a bunny. Turns out this character was an archmage and The Chessmaster running most of the main plot.
  • Mike from Bob and George made a brief appearance at the very end of Mynd's introductionary storyline. In a later animated strip, he and Chadling make an appearance as potential characters Proto Man could be teaming up (who turned out to be Roll). Both characters are properly introduced in the second storyline featuring Mynd.
  • The very first strip of Ozy and Millie features background characters who would become important later.
  • Jones from Gunnerkrigg Court. Her first mention in the comic was so subtle that no one noticed it at the time. Then she was introduced standing next to the Headmaster at the parlay, watching the proceedings silently. As it turns out, she's responsible for training the future Medium, and she's a valuable source of information.
  • In Tales of the Questor, there is a small story where Linneaus, a Raccoonan pastor learns that the Alligator people in the swamp were looking for information about God and he volunteers to go to them as a missionary. While that story seems like a postscript story to the strip's first major continuity, there is a later story where a wizard tells of a boy with a powerful talent for magic who goes half-crazed in horror of his power and the people who tried to exploit him and he was last seen running into the swamp, never to be seen again. These stories may be unrelated, but given the religious allegory nature of the strip, it would seem that the boy is inadvertently heading for the one Raccoonan who can help him.
  • Girl Genius: Krosp the emperor of all cats is in the last panel of This page among Dr. Demitri's teddybears.
    • Dr. Demitri himself proves to be far more important than he seems. Aside from the novel confirming he is Krosp's creator, Agatha and Krosp eventually discover that the real secret he managed to keep from the Baron creating an army of Intelligent Bear-Soldiers for Krosp to command. He also turns out to be Martellus's mentor.
    • Moloch von Zinzer at first appears to be just a throwaway enemy. In just a few short pages, he comes back to play a larger role. The clank in the time window doesn't actually come into being until years (our time and comic time) later. Von Zinzer's true importance is hinted at when Dupree gives her phenomenon report to Klaus.
    • Merlot is of minor importance, when we first meet him, and then one last time years later.
    • The Geisters... they first appear in the above-mentioned phenomenon report from Dupree.
    • Otilia, the Muse of Protection, appears in another body, then in a flashback cameo, then we see her somewhat worse for wear.
    • Franz, a huge lizardlike monster who lives in the sewers of Mechanicsburg was introduced trying to have a nap in june 2008. In december 2011, he awoke, and came to the defense of the Heterodynes.
  • During the Sister arc of El Goonish Shive, Tedd and Elliot found the diary of the wizard who created the diamond that had "created" Ellen. Guess who the antagonist of the arc Sister II is, six years later.
  • In an early Order of the Stick strip, Sabine mentions that she is a servant of "the archfiends" sent to aid (and get sex from) Nale. Later on, we see a brief flashback of her in the Lower Planes, where she receives orders from three rather ominous looking cloaked figures. These three figures were eventually reintroduced as characters in their own right, the Inter-Fiend Cooperation Commission, and look to be shaping up as very important villains...
    • In the second arc, V kills off a young black dragon that had been guarding the MacGuffin the Order had been searching for to repair Roy's sword. Many strips later, its mother shows up gunning for V and pushes him/her towards making a Deal with the Devil.
    • Even more interesting, it was the same Sabine, shapeshifted as a blacksmith, the one who sent the party to search the aforementioned MacGuffin, which then develops in the plotline that gives to the archfiends the opportunity to make that deal with V, making this an extreme case of the trope.
    • And now we have Elan and Nale's father Tarquin, who only appeared in a single panel of a cutaway gag in one of the early strips.
    • For his early appearances in the story, Blackwing is the subject of jokes about how DND players neglect their familiars when playing as arcane casters. Then he plays a crucial role in O-Chul and Vaarsuvius' plan to destroy Xykon's phylactery, and gets a promotion to major character.
    • Hel, the dwarven goddess of the dead, was shown in a couple throwaway gags arguing with Thor over whether dead dwarves counted as having died in battle. But then it was revealed that after being turned into a vampire, the dark spirit that now controls Durkon is a servant of Hel.
  • In 8-Bit Theater, the little kid who is orphanized by the Light Warriors is introduced and makes some minor appearances, until it's revealed that it's Sarda's past self.
  • Incidental characters in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! usually wind up with something more significant to do later on. Rocko Sasquatch is probably the best example, being introduced as just a quick joke—the huge scary guy Bob has to share a jail cell with for a couple of strips—and then returning two years later as a major character.
  • In Homestuck, from very near the debut of the first troll it was revealed that there were twelve of them, and in some panels of the kids' Pesterchum chumlists you can see their trolltags. All were introduced later; some stayed minor characters, others... didn't.
    • Then there's the alternate John who Terezi tricked into flying to his death. His death led to the Dave in his timeline going back and becoming Davesprite, but after that he was completely forgotten until dead Vriska meets him with a dream bubble, and thinking he's "her" John, takes him on a tour/date.
    • Oh look, it's a little guy walking across the desert. Oh, he's found something with a spirograph on it, hey, is that John? Oh, this Wayward Vagabond guy was the one talking!
    • John is described early on as having a deep-seated hatred for Betty Crocker. It's mostly played for laughs, until the Doc Scratch intermission of Act 5 Act 2, where it's revealed that Betty Crocker wasn't human, and is the Troll Empress, working for Lord English.
      • The Empress herself is also a Chekhov's Gunman, having been referred to in Feferi's introduction.
    • In Act 6, we meet Jane Crocker, Nanna's teenage alternate. Her appearance was first previewed back in Act 4, two thousand pages and about a year and a half prior.
    • In Jake's letter to John, all the way back at the Act 4 epilogue, he mentions that somebody had to twist his arm to get him working on John's birthday present. Fast forward to Act 6, and Jake talks to Calliope, who mentions giving him some more arm twisting.
  • In one of the first story arcs of Demon Eater, we see a white giant. Later on, she's revealed to be a member of one of the strongest Demon Societies in the story.
  • In Prophecy of the Circle this happens to a couple of tekk characters, mostly because the first chapter is told from the perspective of the tikedi, who are their enemies and can't communicate with them.
    • Renn'tekk, who first appears as a random, nameless tekk wrecking havoc in a tikedi village, but becomes an important character after the first perspective-flipped chapter.
    • Shan'rekk too doesn't get a proper introduction when he first appears, although in his case it's plainly visible that he's important, or at least a very unique tekk.
  • In a PvP murder mystery arc, Francis is briefly shown, then fades as suspicion shifts to "Tom Bolero." Francis turns out to be the murderer.
  • In Spacetrawler, the apex speaker (and apparent Big Bad) Kuu-Drahc is accompanied by an unnamed personal assistant when he heads a meeting of the GOB. Later, the protagonists learn that Kuu-Drahc is not the big bad, but takes orders from a Man Behind the Man named Qwahntoo. Then they find out that Kuu-Drahc's "personal assistant" from earlier was actually Qwahntoo.
  • The Other Grey Meat has a character named Chekov, who happens to be one of the few survivors of a failed raid on the Big Bad.
  • In Narbonic there's a young, cute blonde woman wearing round glasses. We see her a couple times in a bar where Dave is doing something bizarre. She plays the 'straight man' character in the scenes. We don't know anything about her. Until the final arc of the webcomic, when her identity is absolutely critical.
  • Octopus Pie is practically made by this trope. Hardly a single character gets introduced without getting back to the comic later.
  • Split Screen: The bartender Jan meets at the beginning of the comic turns out to be Jeremy's old girlfriend, whom she didn't recognize after not seeing her for a decade (Natalie didn't bring it up because she thought Jan didn't like her that much). Natalie manages to bring Jan up to speed on what happened the night she (Jan) left town and what was really going on between her and Jeremy (Answer: Nothing.)
  • Inverloch:
    • In the first chapter, Shiara calls out to someone named Eron, thinking that he's followed her. He appears in Volume 4, revealed as Kayn'dar's brother and the one who thought of sending Acheron on the quest, finding him expendable.
    • Eron goes on to gripe about an "unsightly half-elf" living in the city. We don't find out until the very end that it's Varden's sister Marynn.
  • Back in 2011, a character named Pete the Primid appeared in L's Empire who was a member of L.E.E.T. that was fired after only a single panel. 4 years and 890 pages later he turns out to be the Smash Threader.
  • Cutter of Unsounded. He at first just seems to be a weird, minor bit character tagging along with the Red Berry Boys, but at the climax of the first arc, he reveals himself as the mastermind behind the whole First Silver operation.
  • Lisa's co-worker Valerie in Sunstone was shown early on in the story to be in a relationship with another woman, proving Lisa wrong about her initial impression that she was judgemental about Lisa's own growing relationship with Ally. In Chapter Five, it is Valerie that Lisa talks to as she's preparing to confess her feelings about Ally to her, and they end up talking about their respective significant others. Valerie ends up being the one who Lisa actually tells that she loves Ally, something she could never tell Anne, Cassie or anyone else.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: While trying to contact Onni via the mage-exclusive dreamspace, Lalli notices another mage running around in the zone between safe areas, tries to call him, but get dragged under the water by rogue spirits before he gets a response. That other mage reappears later in the real world, as the expedition's Little Stowaway.
  • Girly has a running gag where characters have sex is replaced with them frolicking in a field of flowers surrounded by cute animals. Winter and Otra end up defeating the Big Bad by having sex onscreen, resulting in all the animals Zerg Rushing them.
  • In Yokoka's Quest, Vivi is introduced as the guy who delivers the mail and Yfa's friend. It later transpires that he was keeping track of Yokoka, Yfa, and Mao after they left Betel's Forest.
  • Dregs:
    • After her brief appearance helping Chub and Coney catch the nudist, Mags later returns to help defeat Baron von Willendorfer.
    • Ironfang also returns, after earlier chasing Chub and Coney, to prompt the Baron to Exit, Pursued by a Bear.
  • Mr. Boop: The divorce lawyer is a literal example.
  • Unordinary: The power level reading vendor from the early chapters returns (and then quickly leaves) when Remi, Blye and Isen go to the same mall.
    • A post-mortem one. Early on, news reports talk of a superhero being murdered. The same superhero later turns out to be Remi's brother Rei, whose passing motivates her to start investigating EMBER.
  • Aisopos: Plenty of people that Aesops meets during his life, turn out to have a bigger role later in the series.
    • Lenius and Daross, the two Spartan brothers. They helped Aesop flee from Sparta, thanks to Lenius's idea of tricking the soldiers into thinking that he and Aesop fought for Daross and Aesop injured him. And that's the last we hear from him. Meanwhile, Daross is taken to Athens and lives with Mrs. Chrysa. While he has a bigger role and even saves Aesop's life once, he later appeared in silent cameos only. Then, in Part 2, the two brothers reunite again and become the main members of the gang.
    • Solon, a new politician, who only made a brief appearance in Part 1, has an even bigger role in Part 3 (Part 3 takes place 30 years later), where his actions result in Aesop's death.
    • Lady Sappho, the woman who buys Bri and trains her. At first, we meet her in Sparta, then when she takes Bri under her wig, but in Part 2, her role is expanded into her own arc.
  • Tails Gets Trolled: Coyote first appears for a single panel in chapter 2, assisting the Troll Slaiyers in building a stage in exchange for Shadow killing the Roadrunner offscreen. Much later, he returns as the leader of the Neutrals, becoming one of the main characters and possibly getting even more screentime than Tails and Shadow through his lengthy battle with Demaro.
    • Cheeto Man, aka Chester the Cheetah, also counts, as he is introduced very briefly in a single panel as just another member of the Defenders. Currently, he is arguably the most dangerous and powerful villain in the series, revealed to have been secretly controlling Knuckles and the Defenders with an iron fist from the start, and being powerful enough to have effortlessly defeated the Troll King.

    Web Original 
  • Serina: The fireslime lumpus, a froglike animals that secrets a potent neurotoxin in its skin, is first mentioned in the Cactaiga entry as simply one example of the environment's fauna, without receiving any more focus than any of the many other animal species in the project. Some entries later, its toxin is used by the gravediggers to help the fisher and pastoralist daydreamers turn the tide against their warmonger foes by arming them with poisoned spears.
  • Supermarioglitchy4's Super Mario 64 Bloopers features Hobo 1 and Hobo 2, who seem at first to just be random hobos worshipping the number four. But, as revealed in the 10 Year Anniversary Special, they turn out to actually be SMG1 and SMG2, and as revealed in The Other Universe, they caused SMG0’s crash landing in the Mushroom Kingdom, which also caused SMG3’s guardian pod to be knocked off course by him, leading to the latter antagonising the gang for the entire series.
  • The Rapture Logs: Cockroach Jesus, introduced in the introductory post in OH GOD THE RAPTURE IS BURNING was originally just a throwaway character meant to be a little warmup to all the craziness. Turns out he is the Big Bad, the emissary to The Rapture, and destroyer of universes.
  • Whateley Universe: As the stories center around the 600 or so students at the Whateley Academy and their connections (plus the fact that the number of novels, novel chapters, short stories, novelettes, and vignettes now numbers over a hundred) it is sort of inevitable that characters seen in passing can become major players in later stories. Examples: Beltane (Kendall Forbes) gives the protagonists the campus tour on day one... and much later gets her own leading role in "For Whom the Belle Tolls", as well as other appearances. The Headmistress gives a speech on the first day of classes... and then turns out to also be the greatest superheroine around (in her spare time).
    • One of the hot blondes that Phase sees in the cafeteria on her first day at Whateley Academy - the one who really stares angrily at her — turns out to be an old enemy. Who then in later stories turns out to be the blackmailer. And then in a later story actually gets people to try to kill Team Kimba. And then in a later story takes over the Alpha clique and runs the student body, so she can really go after the heroes.
    • At first, Cavalier and Skybolt only get mentioned to show how dangerous The Don really is, and why The Don runs the campus. They're central to the Fey and Generator story "Christmas Elves". And then what they do next drives a lot of the plots for Winter Term.
    • One of the throwaway jokes early in the universe is about some girl at school who has the spirit of the squirrel and is a campus joke. She has now become a protagonist with her own stories, and in her combat final, she managed to beat one of the most dangerous bullies at Whateley.
  • The Descendants does this a lot: Elizabeth von Stoker is introduced in Volume 1 as a Girl of the Week and becomes recurring villainess Freaque in volume 2. Callie Kreiger is first seen as an almost faceless part of a Girl Posse in Volume 2, becomes an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain in Volume 3 and finally helps save the city in Volume 4. Finally, Jay Willis starts as a random Gang Banger in Issue three and becomes the Descendants version of The Juggernaut in Issue 48!
  • The Questport Chronicles: So, that mage who shows up in the first quest of the third year? Yeah, turns out that he was responsible for the destruction of Questport.
  • Worm: Oliver is a minor character with a seemingly useless power who has probably less than ten lines in the entire story. His power ends up being instrumental in defeating the last Big Bad.
  • The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles:
    • In the first chapter, Tebow pauses to sign an autograph for a young fan in Toronto. Chapters later, that same kid (now a young teen) shows up again, this time as a player for the Atlantic Schooners.
    • In the wilderness of Quebec, the Toronto Argonauts start getting supply drops from bizarre, futuristic aircraft. This is their first contact with their fans from Greenland City, who they don't meet properly until the final chapter.

    Web Videos 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall:
    • Iron Liz makes her first appearance in the crossover with The Spoony Experiment "Warrior #2 and #3", saying "Wait. Who am I?" She made her first official appearance in the Atop the Fourth Wall review of Chain Gang War #1.
    • During a Christmas review, Linkara refuses to do Yet Another Christmas Carol, even though the spirits keep arriving. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come gets a reaction from him... "Is that a robot hand?" It's the first appearance of Mechakara within the reviews.
  • div This five minute skit uses it twice! (Pay attention to the chaos that effects 2 characters...)
  • During The Irate Gamer's review of Super Mario Bros. 2, he makes a joke about the game only having one player by having another Irate Gamer briefly appear, asking if he could play. Towards the end of his review, he comes back, revealing that he's an Evil Twin.
  • Two in There Will Be Brawl.
    • Game and Watch had been seen around the city doing various tasks. He actually is an Eldritch Abomination, and is the "End of Days" meant to bring about the end of the world.
    • Ness and Lucas were seen playing in an alley, and served to remind Luigi of his motivation for fighting. Then it gets turned on his head when he discovers they are the murderers. And that feeling of hope Luigi got from seeing them was artificially planted by their telepathy to keep Luigi fighting — which they found entertaining.
  • Eric Rosethorn from The Quest For Geekdom makes a brief appearance as a one shot character. Later he becomes the big bad.
  • Early in Project Million, Diamanda pops the balling of a little boy at Disneyland, then steals his lollipop. He later shows up to club her over the head and save Robert. Though he's really only after his lolly.
  • Noob:
    • The series introduced top player Fantöm in the ad that made early Audience Surrogate Gaea buy the game in which the series is set. She eventually runs into him in-game and his team ends up being the series Deuteragonist.
    • The younger brother Spararap mentions having in an early episode becomes essential in Season 1 finale and is the healer of Fantöm's team.
    • Minor character Castörga was briefly introduced in Season 3 finale and appeared in various later portions of the story in a bigger role.
  • This happens a lot in Slender Man stories. Notable examples include [[spoiler:Brian, who makes about eight appearances, maximum, who turns out to be the Hooded Man/totheark and Kevin, who was mentioned exactly once as the translator for Noah's uncle's German, who is eventually revealed to be the Observer, ''essentially the series's primary selling point outside of amazing visual effects.''
  • Kynan from Critical Role was introduced in Episode 23 as an In-Universe Fan Boy of Vox Machina whose dreams of joining the group were crushed by Vax. He returns in Episode 67 as one of Dr. Ripley's henchmen.


Video Example(s):


Balloon Travel

When the anglerfish who had chased after SpongeBob's balloon earlier brings it back, SpongeBob tries to explain to him that he has a bigger problem than that as he can't get home, while anglerfish fills the balloon with air. It's only when SpongeBob rises off the ground does he learn anglerfish was helping him to float back home. When SpongeBob offers his gratitude to him in with a Rock Bottomite accent, he finds the anglerfish can speak just fine.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (22 votes)

Example of:

Main / ThisIsNoTimeForKnitting

Media sources: