The Five-Man Band is a group of characters whose members fall into archetypes which all complement one another. They are a very specific team with skills that contribute to the group in a way oddly analogous to the members of a rock band. It can sometimes literally be a musical group, but much more often is not.
The group traditionally includes:
- The Leader — (lead singer) The leader of the group. Can be a mastermind, charismatic, levelheaded, headstrong, or some combination of the four. Often also The Hero.
- The Lancer — (lead guitar) Usually a contrast to The Leader. If the Leader is clean-cut and/or uptight, the Lancer is a grizzled Anti-Hero or Deadpan Snarker; if the Leader is driven and somewhat amoral, the Lancer is more relaxed and level-headed.
- The Smart Guy — (keyboardist) The physically weak, but intelligent or clever member. Often nerdy and awkwardly played for comic relief. Sometimes unconventionally young (early- to mid-teens). Sometimes a Trickster and a buddy of the Big Guy.
- The Big Guy — (drummer) The strongman of the team. May be dumb. Or mute.
- The Chick — (vocal effects, tambourine) A peacekeeping role to balance out the other members' aggression, bringing them to a nice or at least manageable medium. The Chick is often considered the heart of the group. This role is played by a woman or girl. Someone female. Otherwise, it is not a Five-Man Band.
The five-man rock band phenomenon, four guys and a girl singer, is no longer as current as it once was. It was very hard to escape in the 60's and 70's. However, the group structure, as you will see in the examples, turns up in a lot of storytelling. Like a whole lot of storytelling.
See also ¡Three Amigos!, Power Trio, and Cast Calculus. Fighting ability is usually determined by Fixed Relative Strength. Compare the Command Roster, for military-esque teams. Contrast with the Five-Bad Band. The Psycho Rangers are the collective Evil Counterpart of a given Five-Man Band. See also Four-Temperament Ensemble.
These are examples of teams that fit all five of the character tropes. Remember that they form a team dynamic; it's always tempting to match two of the characters in a show, then try to convince yourself and others that the other characters can be squeezed/wedged/stuffed into the description of the other character types, but that's not the point of the Five-Man Band trope. The individual character types exist outside of the band. The Five-Man Band only occurs when the team as a whole fits, not just a few characters.
As a rule of thumb, if your band example has to justify more than two types, or a single trope with more than two sentences of qualifiers, you're trying to fool yourself. If it isn't a Five-Man Band, it isn't a Five-Man Band.
- Comic Books
- Live-Action TV
- Newspaper Comics
- Professional Wrestling
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games
- Web Original
- Western Animation