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The Bus Came Back

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Only two more seasons until they're back on the bus again.

"After months and months of rumors, flat-out denials, and almost certainly some begging by the producers, Michael Rosenbaum has agreed to reprise his role as Lex Luthor for the series finale of Smallville. When asked why he finally relented after refusing to return for so long, the actor explained that someone reminded him he was Michael fucking Rosenbaum, and what the fuck else did he have going on."
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After a main character gets explicitly written out of a story, we often never see them again. This trope is about when they return once again, to work with the current main characters.

This works several ways: we may get to find out what they've been up to, and then they go back to whatever it was; or it's used as a way to advance their character development even though they're no longer on the show. At the end of the episode, the character generally ends up on a different, longer bus.

In rare cases, the character in question returns for good and resumes their major role. This can happen when the character's been an Ensemble Dark Horse and the authors are either trying to fix the removal that was controversial in the first place, or simply attempt to win some favors from the fans. In this case the character has all the chances to turn into a Spotlight-Stealing Squad. Or it might be that it's the show with Loads and Loads of Characters and this particular one simply was Out of Focus, if maybe a bit too long. It may also occur when an actor recovers from an illness, finishes work elsewhere, or when legal issues are resolved.

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Often The Bus Came Back is invoked as part of Gondor Calls for Aid, where the main characters bring characters back from the bus to help in a dire situation. Sometimes this even involves bringing back former villains to fight against the current Big Bad, because Even Evil Has Standards. If the returning character suddenly has a new personality or a new actor from the one showcased before, it's respectively either a case of Not as You Know Them or The Other Darrin.

Compare with Commuting on a Bus, where a former major character turns into a recurring guest character (regularly getting on and off a bus). If the character takes the bus and returns in the very same episode (or, despite his plans, never manage to actually take the bus), then he was simply With a Foot on the Bus. Back for the Dead, which is the subtrope where the character dies at the end of the return episode; and Back for the Finale, where a character returns expressly for a show's final episode. If, on the other hand, a character never comes back even though it'd be easy for the character to return for at least one episode, then it's a Long Bus Trip.

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Not to be mixed up with He's Back, which is when a mainstay character recovers from a personal crisis.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Mazinger Z: Kouji Kabuto, Sayaka Yumi and nearly all Mazinger Z characters were Put on a Bus at the end of the series. Several of them returned at the end of Great Mazinger, though: Kouji, Sayaka and Prof. Yumi. When UFO Robo Grendizer started, though, Kouji was the only character of both series was not Put on a Bus. The Bus Came Back for Boss for two episodes, and it was supposed to come back for Sayaka as well, but Executive Meddling prevented it.
  • Pokémon, being a Long Runner with only five characters being permanent fixtures (Ash, Pikachu, Jessie, James, and Meowth), has this several times:
    • For the humans: Misty showed up in Hoenn for a two-parternote  and then later met up with Ash in Pallet Town and spent an episode revisiting Mt. Moon. May showed up in the middle of Sinnoh for a Tournament Arc, while Dawn participated in a Tournament Arc in Unova. Brock has left Ash's group five times so far: The first was during the Orange Islands where he sat out that entire Filler Arc. The next three were after Johto, Hoenn, and the Battle Frontier, each of these lasting only a few days at the most. The fifth time was when he left to become a Pokémon doctor at the end of Sinnoh. This one stuck with a side story showing that he's been making progress on this goal.
    • Brock and Misty return once more (probably to celebrate the anime's 20th anniversary) for a two-parter in the Sun and Moon series. They have gotten access to Mega Evolution and battle Ash for old times' sake.
    • Staring from mid-Kanto, a wild Jigglypuff with a penchant of Face Doodling anyone who fell asleep from her singing was a recurring character, only to vanish after one early Hoenn episode. She has then made a return during the Sun and Moon series some 12 years after her last appearance, first reappearing during the Misty and Brock reunion, and then has shown up in Alola.
    • The Pokemon are more prone to show up again. Since Ash drops off most of his roster at Professor Oak's lab these days, he has access to them at any time. In theory anyway - in practice they are mostly just seen when Ash returns home. Squirtle and Charizard also come back from time to time, there was an episode in Johto where Ash met up with Lapras again, and Ash's Gliscor came back just in time for Ash's Sinnoh League battle against Paul. Charizard returned to Ash's regular team during Episode N but was dropped off at Oak's at the end of Decolora. The same thing happened to Goodra during the Kalos league, only instead of being left at Oak's it was left with Keanan.
    • There was a period where Wobbuffet was left at Team Rocket's main headquarters for the Black and White series, only for it to come back by X and Y. This was mainly done to make the Team Rocket trio more threatening.
    • Even one-shot characters can randomly show up for another episode. Or mini-series in the case of Ritchie in the Whirl Islands. A surprising example in Decolora was Clair, Blackthorn City's Gym Leader.
  • In the Ah! My Goddess manga, a lot of characters from Nekomi Tech, such as Megumi, Sora, Tamiya, Otaki, and Aoshima, were Put on a Bus, and have so far appeared only once since Volume 20, which is around the time Keiichi and Belldandy graduated. It may have been unintentional, due to the fact that the series itself slowed down considerably after Volume 16 or so. Also, Sayoko, the series' first Harmless Villain (there are two others, who appeared in subsequent chapters) has not reappeared since Volume 15.
  • Practically any character in One Piece can show up again, as long as they haven't died:
    • Shanks comes in some of the first episodes, saves Luffy's life, leaves, leaving a Chekhov's Gun in the process. 400 odd chapters later, he ends the Whitebeard War, before leaving again.
    • "From the Decks of the World" shows what every character who has been major at some point in the series has been up to since Monkey D. Luffy and his crew encountered them. If a major character doesn't appear in this sub-series and is not a villain, then odds are either they have already returned, or they're on a higher-class bus and will return to the main story later.
    • Even most of the villains came together for the Impel Down story arc. Luffy is certainly surprised to see them all again.
    • One character in particular seemed to have a Sound-Only Death when he was last seen or at the very least, he was likely to never show up in the series again even if he did survive. Exactly 401 chapters later in the manga, Bellamy the Hyena returns in Chapter 704.
    • The Reverie Arc is shaping up to be like this, with royal characters and their bodyguards from all over the world gathering at Mary Geoise for the quadrennial World Council. Vivi and the Alabastians, Wapol from his Black Drum Kingdom, Dalton and Kureha from the Sakura Kingdom, King Riku and his family from Dressrosa, the Tontatta dwarves, and less savory characters like Stelly (Sabo's adoptive replacement son) and Saint Charloss show up in this arc. Even more surprising characters appear, such as Saint Mjosgard, the World Noble who was saved by Otohime, Bartholomew Kuma, and Jewelry Bonney.
  • After the horrifying school shooting in which her best friend was almost killed, many students died or were hurt, and she was almost raped by the younger Kuroda (with his gun), Noriko Kimura from Wolf Guy - Wolfen Crest pretty much disappears from the story. However, we later learn that her family moved to Nara specifically for her sake. So when Inugami goes there to hide from Haguro, he ends up meeting with her again.
  • In Cardcaptor Sakura, Meiling comes back for an episode in the Sakura Card arc, having been Put on a Bus in episode 43.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, upon the revolt in Central, the bus not only comes back, but it's loaded to the brim with weaponry and ammo for the Mustang faction (supplied by Jean Havoc), with none other than second lieutenant Maria Ross at the wheel. Talk about a Badass Bus, eh?
  • Quite common in Fairy Tail. The first major example would be Lyon, Gray's old rival who completely vanishes at the end of their arc. He and Sherry come back for the Nirvana arc about 100 chapters later, and every other character introduced in that arc takes a page out of his book and pulls another 100 chapter vanishing act. There's also one of Erza's old friends (Milliana) who shows up again in the tournament arc.
  • In GUNNM, Figure Four gets put on a bus when the original manga, Hyper Future Vision, started to gear towards the finale, and was nowhere to be seen for the most of the sequel run as well. However in the recent chapters of the Last Order he seems to return with the vengeance, and even takes the role of a protagonist (at least so far), instead of being The Lancer that he was earlier.
  • The concept of Steel Saints returned in season 2 of Saint Seiya Omega, several years after its first three representatives vanished without a trace.
  • A return few were expecting: Grell Sutcliffe from Black Butler was hauled away at the end of the Jack the Ripper arc. There's mention of a shinigami's suspension being lifted during the Noah's Ark Circus arc, but it isn't until the Campaniana arc that we get confirmation it's her.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ sees the return of defeated villain Frieza, now more powerful than ever and hell-bent on Revenge.
    • Dragon Ball Super's version of the movie one-ups the movie by also bringing back Captain Ginyu, who got trapped as a frog in the middle of that arc, when he manages to bodyjack Tagoma and rejoin his master. Of course, he's inevitably killed by Vegeta (finally completing the set) a few episodes later, but he does manage to prove quite the threat to the other Z-Fighters.
    • The Future Trunks arc brings back the entire Bad Future timeline, now experiencing yet another apocalypse courtesy of an evil version of Goku. Along with Future Trunks (who joins the main cast for the arc), we get Future Bulma (unfortunately Back for the Dead), and Future Yajirobe (who was presumed dead, but survived).
    • The Universe Survival arc brings back Android 17 as one of the fighters, whose only appearance since the end of the Cell Saga was a brief cameo when Goku was gathering energy for his spirit bomb against Kid Buu. And he performs quite well, too. In fact, he's the winner of the tournament, after Goku and Frieza sacrifice themselves to take out Jiren.
  • In Beyblade, the teams from season 1 never appeared in season 2, but they came back in season 3. However, some of the bladers from season 1 never appeared in season 3, Team WHO (the Dark Bladers) never came back, and the Majestics were kicked out by the Barthez Battailions before the beginning of the World Championship. It also didn't help that most members of all returned teams are Demoted to Extra anyway. While the teams from season 1 are back, the teams from season 2 disappeared.
  • Rose of Versailles's Fersen just keeps coming back.
  • Shirobako: In the middle of the run Erika, the Big Sister Mentor of MusAni's Production, takes a leave of absence to take care of her ailing father. She only come back at around episode 18.
  • In Moyashimon, Sawaki's childhood friend Kei suddenly drops out of college and disappears for several chapters. He reappears eventually... living as a girl and dressing in an Elegant Gothic Lolita fashion.
  • Aoi Asahina finally makes an appearance in Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School for the first time since Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, unlike other survivors, all of whom have been featured in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair and Danganronpa Another Episode Ultra Despair Girls.
  • The Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Reflection manga had a rather extreme example when it had a cameo of Misato Mikami, who hadn't been seen since the Triangle Heart 3: Sweet Songs Forever OVAs, a whopping 15 years earlier (making the bus trip in question longer than the Lyrical Nanoha franchise as a whole).
  • In Touch: Several chapters after being sent to South America, Takeshi Yoshida's back, he's ace pitcher for a different school, and loses embarrassingly against Meisei. After that, we never see him again.
  • The Tamagotchi character Himespetchi had to return to her home planet in episode 35 of Yume Kira Dream. She remains absent from the show until the first episode of GO-GO Tamagotchi!, where she returns to Tamagotchi Planet.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Noriaki Kakyoin from Stardust Crusaders ends up in the hospital for most of the Part's second half, but returns just in time for the Part's climax.
    • While most of the Diamond Is Unbreakable cast would continue to make appearances throughout the series spin-off manga, Thus Spoke Rohan Kishibe, Yukako Yamagishi would remain absent from the story. That was, until "Episode 9: D.N.A.", where she plays a central role.
    • Romeo Jisso, Jolyne's boyfriend from the beginning of Stone Ocean, shows up for the first few chapters of the Part before leaving the story, eventually making a brief return during the Part's second half.

    Comic Books 
  • The Multiversity:
  • Convergence is basically all about this trope, as characters from the pre-Crisis multiverse, the pre-Zero Hour! universe, the pre-Flashpoint DCU, and the Flashpoint timeline itself meet and fight.

    Perhaps the most notable example of this is the World's Finest tie-in, which focuses on some of the truly forgotten characters. The champion is Sir Justin a.k.a The Shining Knight, who is usually one of the more overlooked members of The Seven Soldiers of Victory, but its narrative focus is on friggin' Scribbly The Boy Cartoonist, who had previously been completely eclipsed by the original Red Tornado — Ma Hunkle, a housewife who dressed up as a male superhero.
  • One of the titles spinning out of Convergence was Superman: Lois and Clark, featuring the married Clark Kent and Lois Lane from the pre-Flashpoint DCU living incognito in the post-Flashpoint DCU alongside their post-Flashpoint versions. (Unfortunately for them, their lives are kind of complicated by the post-Flashpoint Clark having had his secret identity revealed to the world.)
  • In Superman: Brainiac, Cat Grant, a character that had not been seen since the early nineties, reappears and becomes again a permanent supporting character.
  • Some examples in Supergirl stories:
    • In Supergirl (Rebirth) Cameron Chase returns to regular appearances as the Director of the DEO after two years of absence. She was last seen (aside from a cameo) in the first Batwoman Annual way back in 2014, where she retired and went back to freelance PI work.
    • In 2017 storyline Plain Sight Shanon Vance - a. k. a. Strange Visitor - makes her first appearance since 2001.
  • When Willy Vandersteen started the Belgium comic series Suske en Wiske in 1945, he originally wanted it to be about Wiske and her older brother Rikki. However, this format didn't turn out the way he planned so after just 1 story Rikki was put on a bus; he left to go buy new shoes, but never returned and was never mentioned again. Over 50 years later, in 2003, the character finally returned for a single story to reveal what became of him.
  • The final storyline of the 2003-2011 Teen Titans series had several Titans who were put on a bus at the start of JT Krul's run (notably Aquagirl and Bombshell, who were "fired" from the team off-screen and never mentioned again) coming back to aid the current team in their Final Battle. A number of other former Titans, many of whom weren't necessarily put on a bus, came back as well.
  • During the 1970s, after Gwen Stacy's death, Mary Jane Watson established herself as Spider-Man's primary love interest. This was not to the liking of some writers, so Marv Wolfman split the two up by having MJ reject Peter Parker's proposal of marriage, then involving Peter in an adulterous affair with Betty Brant Leeds before having him start dating a number of newly created female characters (Debra Whitman, Marcy Kane, the Black Cat). However, after the split Mary Jane still had great chemistry with Peter and also was friends with so many members of the supporting cast that many readers still expected her and Peter to get back together, so she was written out of the series (along with her Aunt Anna) in 1980. Three years later Roger Stern brought Mary Jane back in time to meet Peter exactly 200 issues after their first meeting (Amazing Spider-Man #242, 1983) and right from the start many of Peter's and MJ's friends and relatives tried to set them up again, paving the way for their eventual marriage in 1987.
  • Ultimate Marvel
    • Ultimate FF is Victor Van Damme's first appearance since he was left for dead in the Marvel Zombies universe at the end of the "Frightful" arc of Ultimate Fantastic Four.
    • Misty Knight was created in the 1970s, and forgotten a short time later. She was brought back in 2006 in the Ultimate Galactus Trilogy (first major appearance since then, Ultimate or otherwise). It was followed by the Daughters of the Dragon miniseries in the mainstream universe. She became a regular character since then, appearing in several comic books, and was even incorporated into the MCU Netflix series.
  • Halo:
    • Jun-A266's fate was left intentionally vague at the end of Halo: Reach; it took almost three years before Halo: Initiation revealed he had indeed survived Reach's fall.
    • Team Black, the stars of Halo: Blood Line, were seemingly forgotten after their comic ended with a Bolivian Army Ending. It took five years before they appeared in Halo media again, in Halo: Escalation. And it was to be Back for the Dead; Team Black was brought back solely to killed offscreen by the Ur-Didact.
  • Originally a case of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, Lyman, Jon's roommate and Odie's owner, last appeared in Garfield in 1983. However, in the four-part "Long Lost Lyman" episode of The Garfield Show, he finally returns. (And an explanation for his disappearance is given: he was photographing wildlife in Australia.)
  • In the 2008 DC Comics miniseries Reign in Hell one of the supernatural characters who gets dragged into the infernal battle is Linda Danvers, the Earth Angel Supergirl, last seen in 2002, and who most fans assumed had been retconned out of existence following the reintroduction of Kara Zor-El.
  • In Robin Tim's internal monologue notes that he's probably going to drift away from his friends at Gotham Heights when his dad forces him to transfer to Brentwood, and for quite a while none of them are seen or mentioned. Eventually Ives reentered the story and became a recurring character again, but the rest of the group stayed on the bus with only Callie ever even getting a mention afterwards.
  • During the Batman Bat Family Crossover, "Officer Down", Jim Gordon retired and was succeeded as Police Commissioner by Michael Akins. The "One Year Later" Time Skip after Infinite Crisis revealed that Gordon was back as the GCPD Commissioner, but there was no word about Akins' whereabouts. However, Akins came back in Detective Comics (Rebirth), replacing the corrupt Sebstain Hady as Gotham's mayor.
  • Will Payton's Starman dropped off the map after the end of James Robinson's Starman run in 2001, until a picture of him showed up in 2017's Dark Nights: Metal, and the man himself returned in a 2018 Justice League story.
  • Young Justice (2019) marks the return of the team 16 years after its dissolution.
    • The book brings back the Pre-Flashpoint Superboy Kon-El/Conner Kent—who'd previously been erased from continuity and replaced with a Darker and Edgier Kon-El in the New 52—by having his old best friends, Impulse, Robin and Wonder Girl realize he was missing and set out to track him down, discovering he'd been trapped in Gemworld when the timeline went wonky.note 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin's babysitter Rosalyn stopped appearing after the Stupendous Man arc in 1990. She returned for one final story line in September 1995, three months before the strip ended.
  • Usagi Yojimbo: After the Chanyou chapter, the Geishu clan, including Noriyuki, Tomoe Ame, Motokazu, Horikawa, and so on were completely absent from the chapters that followed it, but while they still have yet to return in the main series, they did come back in Senso.
  • After their removal from continuity in The New 52, fans have waited throughout DC Rebirth for the re-establishment of the Justice Society of America and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Finally, it was announced in 2019 that both teams would officially return in, respectively, Justice League (2018) #31 and Brian Michael Bendis' Superman #14.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The Daxamite who allied with Diana to eradicate slavery in the Sangtee Empire nicknamed "Julia" comes back after over one hundred issues in order to help fight Imperiex.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Legend of Total Drama Island, an eliminated contestant makes a guest appearance to help with a later challenge.
  • In the Pony POV Series, Trixie leaves Ponyville at the end of the Gaia Arc, and (minus an appearance in the "Retcon-Struction Blues" special episode) doesn't properly return until the Wedding Arc.
  • Ciel, from Ruby and Nora disappeared for five stories after one scene. She has since returned in “Atlas”, and it’s possible she’ll be a part of the main cast.
  • Inverted in The Universe Doesn't Cheat, since it's a prequel. Lieutenant T'Var, Eleya's operations officer prior to Reshek Gaarra, only made a brief appearance in Bait and Switch before leaving the USS Bajor to take her first command, but is a supporting character here.
  • A total of one "disappeared" character from Fractured, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands crossover reappears in its sequel Origins. Anna Erickson, a Star Destroyer captain, pops in for a few chapters but isn't seen again after that. Given that there's a whole cruiser load of characters to begin with...
  • In the The Fifth Act Cloud ditches Vincent when the latter proves to be an obstructive ally and the timeline's original Cloud is convinced to stay in Nibelheim. Little Cloud and Vincent join the party both bearing important information about Cloud and Nibelheim.
  • In The Ultimate Evil, original character Nataline "Nat" Homato leaves the story at the end of the Demon Portal arc. She doesn't reappear until the end of the seventh chapter of the sequel, The Stronger Evil.
  • In Challenger Jessie, James, and Meowth first appear in the second chapter and don't show up again until the twentieth, six months later in-universe. They explain to Ash that their attempt to rob the Viridian City pokemon center was their very first mission as Team Rocket members and that they went legit after being arrested. They now work as news reporters.
  • A recurring thing in Pokémon: Nova and Antica. The story is bringing back old friends and rivals.
  • The Power Rangers Dino Thunder fic “Always a Ranger” makes great use of this, as not only does Kim return to Tommy’s life, but most of Tommy’s old Ranger friends drop in to visit him at some point (the only members of Tommy’s old teams who never show up are Trini and Justin, and that’s for the justifiable reason that Trini died a few years ago and Justin is doing top-secret work for the government).
  • Used to great extent in AAML: Diamond and Pearl Version; starting with Ash deciding to visit Misty after realising how he feels about her, he immediately arranges to get Charizard back on his team so that he can fly straight to Cerulean, and later chapters include developments such as Haunter permanently joining Ash's team, Ash bringing Sceptile and Snorlax back to his party to fight Paul, and Anabel appearing to face Ash during the Twinleaf Festival.
  • In Chapter 52 of The Parselmouth of Gryffindor, Professor Max, who had been bussed off to Azkaban forty installments earlier (in Chapter 15), finally makes a return.
  • Infinity Crisis:
    • Phil Coulson returns to officially reveal his survival to the Avengers (although they admit they’ve known he was alive for a while now)
    • While en route back to Earth, Stark and Nebula encountered and rescued Valkyrie and Sif
    • Jane Foster comes to the Avengers compound to provide scientific insight
    • The Red Skull returns to Earth, and Thanos also brings back Malekith and Hela.
    • Technically Snart’s cold gun, considering that we last saw it being disassembled by Ray to use its components to disable a bomb; also applies to Mjolnir, which is restored by Thanos on Hela's request (even if it's subsequently picked up by Jane because Hela didn't know about the worthiness enchantment).
    • Barry and Wally are able to bring Pietro Maximoff back to life after finding him in the Speed Force
    • Jessica is shocked to see Matt Murdock/Daredevil alive after assuming he died following the Defenders' battle with the Hand.
    • The moment when everyone killed by the Gauntlet returns (as well as Constantine working with Nebula to perform a ritual that restores Gamora to her body), leaving the heroes to tear through Thanos's forces.
    • Shuri and Cyborg are able to use the Mother Box and the Mind Stone to repair and reactivate the Vision.
    • Back on Earth-38, Lucy Lane and Cat Grant have returned to the DEO and Cat Co respectively; after being 'dusted' by "The Snap", they each decided that National City was the best place for them to make the kind of difference they wanted to make.
    • In Different Strokes, Slade returns to help the team and the Huntress is now an operative for Argus.
    • Darcy Lewis becomes part of the Avengers' primary support staff in Taking Flight (and Fights).
    • In Powers and Marvels, Jason, Trini and Zack are brought back into the fold to help the Avengers and the active Rangers after the Power Coins are stolen.
  • Ancienverse:
    • Numerous past friends of Ash return in the Team Tournament, including Brock, Gary, May, Dawn, and Conway.
    • Squishy and Z-2 also make a return appearance in Alola.
    • Harry Kalas returns in Tenacity to commentate on the Hope Leilani and Alola League.
    • Several prominent Team Rocket agents reappear in Tomorrow, including Butch and Cassidy, Domino, Pierce, and Dr. Zager.
    • In the same story, the Team Rocket trio retrieves their Sinnoh Pokemon, left at HQ at the end of DP. Even their Unova Pokemon appear.
  • In Candy For Your Thoughts?, Noah is brought back for the Niagara falls challenge instead of Blaineley. After that, he's eliminated, along with Owen. However, he proved to be vital for the chapter, as he sang a musical number with Owen that eventually got Cody to confess his love for Courtney.
  • In Hellsister Trilogy, the Legion of Super-Heroes and Satan Girl's child are put on a bus after the first arc wraps up, are conspicuously absent during the second arc, and return at the beginning of the final storyline, thirty-five chapters later.
  • Weight of the World: After not being seen since The Depths of Deception, Roman returns in The Charlatan of Choice and takes the Relic of Creation from Nora and Romano to give it to Salem.
  • In Peanuts story Everybodys Gotta Leave Sometime, several characters who hadn't been seen in years or even decades return to say their goodbyes to Charlie Brown: Shermy (who made his last appearance in 1969), Patty (1997), Violet (1997) and Pig-Pen (1999).

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness: Josh reappears in this movie, after having not been seen since the first one. It seems he chose not to pursue a legal career, and went into the ministry with Dave.
  • Dr. Serizawa, not seen since the first film, is back in Godzilla (2014), being portrayed by Ken Watanabe. However, the character is a descendant instead of the original (to be fair, the original also died), and he's for Godzilla instead of against him.
  • In Godzilla: Final Wars, they basically rounded up every monster design from Toho's history, including ones who hadn't been seen in twenty or thirty years - Anguirus, Ebirah, King Caesar, Hedorah, Kamacurus, Kumonga and so on make appearances, and Gigan plays a significant role, even getting a new design when he gets scraped up and rebuilt with chainsaw hands.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • Ray - Ray Charles' mother was active through much of Ray's life but the film makes it appear as though she didn't have an active role in his young development. She died before he met his first wife. In fact, Ray's life is portrayed as a rotating support circle. Different bandmates and managers guided him along different steps of the way and then he outgrew them and moved onto a new support circle. In reality, Ray kept in touch with a lot of his earlier band mates and Ahmet Ertegun (Curtis Armstrong) knew Ray until the end of his life. Once Ray dropped him as a manager, he didn't appear again in the movie though.
  • Star Wars:
    • Darth Maul, who seemingly dies at the end of The Phantom Menace and does not reappear at all throughout the rest of the prequel trilogy or sequel trilogy. He is finally brought back at the end of Solo NINETEEN years later, with new robotic legs and a new profession as a crime boss. Somewhat averted for fans who kept up with the animated series outside of the films, as he had already returned for Star Wars: The Clone Wars much earlier.
    • In the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker, Luke reassures us that nobody is truly gone. Emperor Palpatine's Evil Laugh follows.
  • Played for Laughs in Summer School: Jerome is excused to use the restroom on the first day, and isn't seen again until the Final Exam six weeks later.
  • X-Men Film Series
  • Grant and Sattler of Jurassic Park appeared in Jurassic Park III after sitting out the second film, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which starred Malcolm. In the fourth film, Jurassic World, the only character from the original trilogy to appear was Dr. Wu (unless, of course, you count the fourth film's T. rex, who is the same individual from the first). Malcolm returned in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; the third Jurassic World film, sixth in the saga as a whole, is set to unite Grant, Sattler, and Malcolm for the first time since the first film.
  • James Bond: Jeffrey Wright's Felix Leiter was last seen in Quantum of Solace in 2008. 2020's No Time to Die brings him back.

    Literature 
  • In Caleb Williams, Collins disappears from the novel after telling Falkland’s backstory. Ten years (and many chapters) later, Collins bumps into Caleb on the road. It turns out Collins was sent to the West Indies to look after Falkland’s plantation.
  • Discworld:
    • Twoflower is put on a bus at the end of The Light Fantastic. He returns (or, rather, Rincewind returns to him) in Interesting Times, about a decade later. He has not been seen since, except for a small mention in The Last Hero.
    • Then there's Eskarina Smith. Admittedly she belongs in the earlier stranger parts like Twoflower, but it took her 23 years to return, and about 34 books.
  • Dora Wilk Series: Witkacy is a side character in Soul Thief, appears briefly in Gods Must Be Crazy and then all is silent about him until he reappears as Dora's police partner in Exorcisms of Dora Wilk, three books later.
  • The AI Iona, one of Halo: Blood Line's stars, was seemingly forgotten after the comic ended with a Bolivian Army Ending. It took five years before she appeared in Halo media again, in Halo: Saint's Testimony, which centers around Iona attempting to convince the UNSC to not terminate her despite her impending rampancy.
  • Dame Estelle Matsuko was a main character and ally of Honor Harrington's in the first novel of the series, On Basilisk Station. She then virtually vanished from the narrative for a dozen books thereafter; despite being name-checked as the incoming Home Secretary for the Grantville government in War of Honor and having gained a peerage in the meanwhile (becoming Lady Dame Estelle Matsuko, Baroness Medusa), she didn't properly reappear on-page until The Shadow of Saganami. As the Imperial Governor of the Talbott Quadrant, she is a major player in the Saganami Island spinoff series (of which The Shadow of Saganami is the first novel).
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Phil in The Grim Grotto. Tons of examples in The Penultimate Peril, including Mr. Poe, Jerome, Justice Strauss, the teachers from Prufrock Prep School, residents of the Village of Fowl Devotees, Hal (running an Indian restaurant), Carmelita Spats, Sir, Charles, and Bruce (a minor character from The Reptile Room).
  • Star Wars Legends: Halfway through Galaxy of Fear, the droid DV-9 declared that he was tired of dangerous adventures. On a character level he wasn't really needed anymore, either; mostly he had contrasted with The Stoic Hoole as an adult-figure who was less forbidding around Tash and Zak, and by that point the kids and Hoole had finally come to trust and like each other. DV-9 was freed and went to be a research assistant on Koaan. In the last book the others visit Koaan and he meets them and helps find something they were looking for, but declines to come with them off the planet.
    "I am not programmed for philosophy, but I've seen enough to know that you and Tash are in for more excitement than my circuitry can handle. I belong here."
  • Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note: Sunahara, who has been Commuting on a Bus after the fourth novelnote , officially returns to the recurring cast in the eighteenth novel, when he returns to Aya's class.
  • Tortall Universe: In the Protector of the Small quartet's third book, Squire, most of Kel's page friends are scattered all over Tortall with their own knight-masters and she doesn't see them at all. They come back in Lady Knight when they're all posted to the Scanran front.
  • Trixie and Gilda in Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell. Less so for Trixie, since she had recently appeared in Season 3, but this is Gilda's first reappearance in any sort of Friendship is Magic-related media since Griffon The Brush Off.
  • In Warrior Cats, Graystripe was captured by Twolegs early in the third book of the second series and ultimately presumed dead or permanently lost by his Clanmates. In the first book of the third series - taking place half a year after the second series ended - he returned, having escaped and found the Clans in their new home.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Theme Parks 
  • The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland opening day had a denizen called the Hatbox Ghost. Through the use of lighting his face in a certain way, his head would disappear and reappear in the hatbox he carried. He was included front and center in much of the promotional material for the new attraction. However, while the effect worked from a specific angle, the illusion broke down when viewed from most of the angles of the ride. Just a few days after the ride was opened, the Hatbox Ghost was removed. His animatronic was subsequently lost by the staff. Yet, the Hatbox Ghost retained a following for decades afterward. In 2015, the Hatbox Ghost, using modern projection technology, finally returned to the mansion.

    Webcomics 
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • As of issue 789, the green-haired elf that's been hanging around the Palace of Blood is revealed to be Zz'dtri in disguise, more than 700 comics after being dragged away by copyright lawyers. "Parody is protected speech."
    • And #1105 sees the return of the final member of the original Linear Guild, Hilgya. That's more than 1,000 comics since we last saw her.
  • Dominic Deegan: Snowsong, who was last seen in 2007, makes a re-appearance in July of 2012.
  • Homestuck:
    • God Tier Aradia was Put on a Bus by going off to delay Jack Noir, then turned up alive and well in a dream-bubble in Act 6, having appointed herself a caretaker of the dead.
    • For the longest of time, John was Put on a Bus when in comparison to other characters. Then in Act 6 he gains the ability to Cosmic Retcon anything, anywhere, at anytime. Suddenly, he becomes the main focus of the plot again.
  • Something*Positive begins each year with a week of "Old Familiar Faces," where we get a bunch of one-shot comics dealing with characters who haven't been seen in a long time. Often these include characters like Jhim or Branwen, who used to be major secondary characters, but also a grab-bag of One Shot Characters from years ago who never even got named.

    Web Original 
  • Suburban Knights: Suede left the site two years prior to do missionary work. It turns out he was taking a temp position as an Obstacle for Jaffers. He lets Team A go after 'defeating' him and assists them in the final battle.
  • Fallout: Nuka Break: In episode 5, a character from the movie, Red, returns to the cast ensemble as a villianess.
  • We're Alive had Pegs, Kelly, Datu and Hope Put on a Bus at the end of chapter 29. In chapter 34 Datu and Hope return after Boulder falls to the zombies. Pegs and Kelly are missing and presumed dead, however.
  • Eddsworld had Tord returning to redo one of his lines in WTFuture. It was rumored he was scheduled to return in Fun Dead and an upcoming Wild West-themed episode should feature him as a main character.
  • Fans were disappointing when Taylor wasn't on season 5 of Wipeout Roblox, but were happy to see him return for season 6.
  • A surprising one from Red vs. Blue was Grif's sister Kaikaina, who was only seen in the final season of The Blood Gulch Chronicles saga and claimed to have Dropped A Bridge On Her, though Grif knew this was unlikely.
    • Another comes from Doc suddenly returning in season 13 after a teleportation accident vanished him halfway through season 11, with nobody seeming bothered by his disappearance. Doc is very angry to discover that the people he considered his friends never bothered to try and find him. In the process, the long-missing character of "O'Malley" also returned, after a much longer absence of about 8 seasons. (The Omega AI he was birthed from appeared, but O'Malley is somewhat distinct from Omega. It's weird. )
  • Noob had to get Dark Avenger Put on a Bus due to his actor having a drop in availability, but has been able have him back just long enough to be relevant to the plot on a couple of select occasions.
  • The Brooklyn Guy from SuperMarioLogan made his debut in a 2011 short, and was Put on a Bus the following video. He then returned three years later at the end of Part 5 of the "Bowser Junior's Summer School" story arc, and is now a recurring character with so far over 30 different jobs.
  • Midnight Screenings: Jerrid Foiles left the show after about a year due to a falling out between him and main host Brad Jones. Although they later reconciled and Jerrid started appearing in Brad's other videos again, it seemed that Jerrid was forever gone from Midnight Screenings. However, he made his triumphant return for the Warcraft review, and has become a semi-regular reviewer again ever since.
  • This happens on Death Battle every time an old contestant (winner or loser) returns in another match-up.
  • Gaming All Stars 2: Kratos, after initially appearing in Remastered to slay Giga Bowser and never receiving any more screen time after that, returns as one of the central protagonists (Alongside Mario and Master Chief).

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time
    • After not being seen since his first appearance in "What Is Life?", NEPTR suddenly reappears in "Hot to the Touch"; apparently his three-season absence was the result of a game of Hide and No Seek.
      NEPTR: I am the ultimate hide-and-seek champion! 15 months, 4 days, and 9 hours, and you guys could not find me. Ha ha ha ha ha ha!
      Jake: Oh, plops! We forgot about the game!
    • In "Furniture & Meat", we find the Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant from "The Limit" is shown to be living in Finn and Jake's house under one of their many piles of treasure.
      Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant: I will continue to chill here until you command me!
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • The female terrorist Red Claw appeared as a relatively minor villain in "The Cat and the Claw" (which was actually about Catwoman) and then vanished - only to return a couple of years later as the Big Bad in "The Lion and the Unicorn".
    • Boxy Bennett, the crooked owner of a Gotham City nightclub, made a brief appearance in "Harlequinade" and then returned later for "Harley's Holiday". There's even a Continuity Nod to "Harlequinade" in the latter episode, with Boxy grumpily reminding Harley that his place got trashed the last time she visited him.
  • Justice League: While most of the villains from Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series not named The Joker or Lex Luthor didn't show up at all during Season 1 of the show, in Season 2, they started being used again: Volcana, Luminous and Firefly cameoed during a prison break in "Only a Dream," while in "Secret Society", Clayface, the Parasite, and Sinestro were all part of Gorilla Grodd's titular team.
  • In 1994, many of the Care Bears cousins were Put On The Bus, and those that weren't were converted into bears, an ill-accepted move among fans. Playalong did try to bring back the cousins between 2003 to 2005, but the attempt was stymied by poor marketing and was ultimately aborted to revamp the franchise for Welcome to Care-A-Lot. Four of the cousins were finally taken off the bus with 2015's Care Bears & Cousins.
  • Family Guy:
    • "The Splendid Source" has Peter and co. encountering their old buddy Cleveland in his new hometown during a road trip.
    • Similarly, Kevin, son of Joe and Bonnie Swanson, was largely retired after the series' third season and un-cancellation, and a later episode off-handedly suggests he died in Iraq, but he came back in the season 10 episode "Thanksgiving" he is revealed to have actually been AWOL and returns to the recurring cast.
    • The vaudeville duo Vern and Johnny were shot to death by Stewie in "Saving Private Bryan", who insisted they would not be seen again. They made a reappearance in "Back to the Woods" with Vern as a ghost and Johnny in Hell (because according to Vern, "Johnny liked little boys"). They are also seen briefly in the opening to "A Lot Going On Upstairs", alongside other characters the series had Put on a Bus previously, such as salesman Jim Kaplan, police officer Obie, strongmen Phineas & Barnbaby, RJ, and Peter's co-worker Fouad.
  • The Inspector Gadget Spin-Off Gadget and the Gadgetinis had this with the characters of Brain and Chief Quimby. Quimby was about the same, except Gadget is now working for a different agency, while a shell-shocked Brain has retired to a riverfront house.
  • In the last season of Johnny Bravo, the prominent supporting characters from the first season came back and the newer additions like Carl and Pops stayed as well.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender franchise:
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender had plenty of characters who initially showed up in only one episode return later. Jet and the Freedom Fighters appeared in season one before returning for and arc in season two. Suki did the same, before taking another bus trip before properly joining the Gaang in season three. The Mechanist wasn't named until he came back in "The Day of Black Sun," in a Gondor Calls for Aid situation.
    • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Owl-Knowing One Wan Shi Tong appeared in one episode, "The Library," which ended with him pulling his library back into the spirit world so its knowledge couldn't be used by humans. In the Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, Aang's granddaughter Jinora meets him while trapped in in the spirit world.
    • In the second season finale, we learn of the ultimate fate of Zhao. It turns out he's been trapped in the Fog of Lost Souls for seventy years with little else to do but ramble aimlessly about his desire to kill the moon.
    • In the first season of Korra, the flamboyant pro-bending heel Tahno was set up to be a minor villain. However, at the climax of the pro-bending arc, Amon showed up, kicked his ass, and took away his bending. The next time Tahno is seen, later in the season, he's a husk of his former self. Although Korra eventually learns how to return peoples' bending, he isn't mentioned or seen again (outside of a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo) until the series finale, where it's revealed that he's actually a pretty good trombone player, headlining the band playing at Varrick and Zhu Li's wedding.
  • Moral Orel: Shapey was put on a moving van when the Puppingtons and their brief neighbors the Posabules accidentally switched them with their own son. Realizing (about ten episodes later) that Shapey has been switched, Bloberta goes to their new residence to pick him up but doesn't take back Block.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • One-shot antagonist Trixie returned after two seasons for a rematch, and again another three seasons later. Since then she became a semi-recurring character. Having a fan following rivaling that of some main characters helped.
    • Gilda the Griffin was a one-shot antagonist from the first season, merely showing up to teach Rainbow Dash a moral. However, after four seasons, she once again appeared in an episode where Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie travelled to her hometown.
    • After the major backlash regarding Derpy in the Season 2 episode "The Last Roundup" and hasty Orwellian Retcon, it was assumed she wouldn't appear again in the show. Despite that, she returns in the finale of Season 3, though given she hasn't been seen in any promotional material for either that season or for Season 4 many saw it as simply a final farewell. And then she shows up again in "Rainbow Falls" as Rainbow Dash's replacement. Her continued cameos since make it apparent that they wouldn't just eliminate such a fan favorite from the show, and she even got a speaking role in the one hundreth episode "Slice of Life".
    • In the Season 5 episode "Tanks for the Memories", Rainbow Dash's tortoise Tank was given a send-off by going into hibernation. He does appear a few episodes later in "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?"
  • In an episode of The Penguins of Madagascar, many, many of the characters that were shipped off to Hoboken came back, complete with evil clones.
    • Dr. Blowhole came back in a one-hour special.
    • Alex the Lion, from the original movie, makes a cameo in one episode as a Spirit Advisor to Skipper.
  • A number of characters on The Simpsons have shown up on what seems to be a one-episode basis, only to return unexpectedly years later: Bleeding Gums Murphy, Mona Simpson (Homer's mother), Artie Ziff, even the Grimes family. In a notable but less memorable example, Lunch Lady Doris was retired for a decade before she was recast.
    • Dr. Marvin Monroe was a recurring character until he seemingly vanished with no explanation. His death was confirmed a few seasons later when his tombstone was shown, but a few years later, he made a brief reappearance claiming he "was very sick", only to not make any further appearances again. A recent Treehouse of Horror episode referenced Monroe's ambiguous status by having him appear "in limbo", where he appears in a ghostly state but can only partly pass through walls.
  • Rick and Morty: fan-favourite character Evil Morty first showed up in "Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind" along with Evil Rick, who turned out to be a non-sapient cyborg under his Morty's control. Three years and two seasons later, "The Ricklantis Mixup" ends with the new President of the Citadel getting revealed as Evil Morty, who then proceeds to kill his treacherous subordinates and establish a dictatorship.
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "Legacy of Mandalore", Sabine chooses to stay with her family and help build the Mandalorian Resistance. In "Zero Hour", she returns when Ezra comes to her and Clan Wren in search of reinforcements to help the besieged rebels on Atollon. However, she can't return permanently, having to return to the ongoing Mandalorian civil war.
  • Steven Universe:
    • In the early Season 3 episode "Hit the Diamond", the Crystal Gems convince a group of Rubies sent to find Jasper that she's on Neptune, and they go there without question. They only realize they've been tricked several episodes later when they show up at the end of "Earthlings" near the end of the season.
    • After leaving the Crystal Gems in "Raising the Barn", Lapis returns to Earth during the battle against Blue and Yellow Diamond, in which she assists until she is poofed along with Peridot.
    • At the end of her debut episode, Bismuth is poofed and bubbled by Steven and remains bubbled until the end of season 5 when he makes the decision to bring her back for Garnet's wedding.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: At the beginning of season four, Keith is Put On The Bus when he leaves the team, and from that point on only pops up occasionally. Season six gave him much more focus, and he ended up permanently returning to the team with his Galra mom, an Altean girl, and a space dog in tow.
  • Regular Show: Mordecai's first love interest, Margaret, leaves for college at the end of season four, just as he's about to formally ask her to be his girlfriend. She returns partway through season six, which causes complications with his current girlfriend CJ, as he still holds an interest in Margaret and she's prone to jealously. By season eight, both Margaret and CJ are effectively written out of the show once more, as Mordecai's indecision regarding his love life pushes them away.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987): After being written out of the show at the end of the eighth season, Shredder and Krang returned in the final season for a 3-part arc.
  • Thanks to the valiant efforts of a brand-new writing team, several characters returned in the Seventeenth Season of Thomas & Friends. These characters were Duck, Bill & Ben, and Harvey. The special that came before Season 17, King of the Railway, brought back Jack the Front Loader from the aborted spin-off "Jack and the Pack". The following special, Tale of the Brave, saw the return of Oliver the Great Western Engine, and Season 18 brought back his brakevan Toad, as well as Duncan. The special after that, Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, brought back Alfie, Trevor, Oliver the Excavator, Max, Monty, Donald, Douglas, and Daisy. the season 20 movie Journey Beyond Sodor brought back Rosie as well.
    • Season 21 would bring back Bulgy (perhaps a literal example of this trope) and Terence. Season 23 brought back the foreman of the Sodor Construction Company, Miss Jenny, who hadn't been seen since Season 12.
  • When Toonami returned, it was hosted by TOM 3.5, with no sign of TOM 4. However, sometime later, TOM 4 did come back briefly to talk to TOM 3.5/5. Sadly, he after suffered a Bus Crash in The Intruder II, when The Intruder gloats about killing TOM 4.
  • In The Venture Bros., Baron Underbheit disappears after being deposed from Underland, and this was meant to be his last appearance. Two and a half seasons later, and he appears as a homeless person before joining the Revenge Society.
  • Morph in the 90's XMen. He was effectively written out after the season 2 finale, returns in a season 4 cameo (compete with increased badassness) only to disappear again until the final episode.
  • Spyke/Evan of X-Men: Evolution was a member of the main cast until a poison made him mutate out of control, leading him to leave the X-Men and join the more seclusive mutant group known as the Morlocks. Spyke is gone for the rest of that season, and has two more appearances in the final season, one where he's the main focus and the other where he's merely part of the ensemble to help save the world from the show's final villain, Apocalypse.
  • Season 11 of SpongeBob SquarePants has "Spot Returns", Plankton's amoeba puppy who hasn't shown up since the season 9 episode "Plankton's Pet". The thing is he never seemed to have left, just been forgotten about.
    • On the topic of season 9, Bubble Bass made his great comeback from that point onwards, several years after only previously showing up in a pair of season 1 episodes.
  • Recurring characters in South Park are often used very infrequently, sometimes with several years between major appearances on the show.
    • Mr. Hat, a puppet and alter-ego for Mr. Garrison, was a major character in early seasons and seemed inseparable from Garrison and was implied to be sentient. After he came out of the closet, Mr. Hat's usage declined until he was casually written out in "The Death Camp of Tolerance".
    • Previously phased-out or retired characters such as Mr. Hat, the Super Best Friends, Big Gay Al, Mr. Slave, Pip Pirrup, Dr. Alphonse Mephesto, his assistant Kevin, and others, were all brought back for the series' 200th and 201st episodes for Call-Back reasons, but none of them have returned to the regular cast since. Most of them also appear in the video games.
    • Stan's grandfather Marvin, who lived with the series' central family for the first eleven seasons, had few speaking roles and disappeared from their home by early Season 13, becoming especially noticeable when the core four family members move out in "You're Getting Old". He was re-introduced in "Cash For Gold", five years later, living in an assisted living facility, but still occasionally appears at dinner with the family.
    • Tweek, a longtime fan favorite who was briefly a main character, had a nearly seven-year absence from the show. He spoke on only one occasion between Season 10 and Season 17, and was removed as a regular from the main characters' classroom. He received multiple small speaking parts in Season 17, and the Season 19 episode "Tweek x Craig" seemed to re-establish him as a member of the series' cast, and he has remained prominent again since. However, his classroom absence has not been addressed.
    • One of the most notable examples may be Ugly Bob, introduced in the second season in a show within a show, but he reappeared fifteen years later in "Royal Pudding", on an actual bus, claiming to have moved to the United States due to his hideous disfigurement.
    • Although he was never Put on a Bus, the owner of Tom's Rhinoplasty, Dr. Tom, makes no speaking appearances in the twenty years between "Tom's Rhinoplasty" (in season 1) and "Members Only" (in season 20) though he made infrequent cameos.
    • Season 22 is shaping up to be an epic example of this, since important roles are given to infrequently-seen characters such as Towelie, Mr. Hankey (who however is booted out of town seemingly permanently), Grandpa Marsh, Satan and the Manbearpig. Even Ned Gerblansky makes an appearance!
  • Halfway into The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Kanga and Roo seemed to disappear from Disney's Winnie-the-Pooh works. However they made a return in the Seasons of Giving special almost a decade later, and following The Tigger Movie were promoted to even bigger roles than they had before. The Book of Pooh also coincided with this, introducing them as regulars in Season Two.


 
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Donald and Douglas Return

After being absent since Season 12, Donald and Douglas make their return helping Duck build the new line, and is surprised he hasn't seen them in a long time.

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