A character who is often referred to, but never quite makes it onscreen. Sometimes just casually mentioned, but eventually played for comic effect as the camera (or lead character) just fails to catch them.
Sometimes the character is never seen because the viewer is, in essence, this character (and thus share viewpoints). In this case the viewers are probably being used as The Watson.
If a disembodied voice—"Yes Ma, I'm coming!"—they're The Voice.
Not the Great Gazoo, but occurs in similar range of plot devices. See also He Who Must Not Be Seen and Nothing Is Scarier (for when a character remains unseen for the Rule of Scary). For a concept, item, or location, rather than a person, see Cryptic Background Reference. If it's an event, you can check out Noodle Incident. Often overlaps with No One Sees the Boss.
Compare and contrast with The Faceless where a character's face is never visible. For a character who is frequently mentioned but never seen because they died before the story began, see Posthumous Character and Death by Origin Story. If the character eventually appears, see Unseen No More. For a character whose existence can only be inferred see Unknown Character.
- Anime & Manga
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- Live-Action TV
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- Western Animation
- Ernest P. Worrell, an advertising icon who later starred in a television show called Hey Vern, It's Ernest! and a series of films, often addressed someone named Vern who was (presumably) behind the camera and never spoke or was seen on screen. In fact, Ernest was famous for the Catchphrase "Knowhutimean, Vern?" This would be one of the cases where The Watson is simultaneously invoked.
- All adults, the cat next door who hates Snoopy... and that little red-haired girl. The TV specials adapt the fact that adult dialogue is never presented as speech bubbles in the comic by making the adults The Unintelligible (Waa Waa wa Wa wa wa Waa).
- The Little Red-Haired Girl was seen in full in both It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown and Happy New Year, Charlie Brown (which also claimed her name was Heather). However, despite the fact that Charles Schulz wrote the scripts for both specials, he claimed both were non-canonical. She appears again in The Peanuts Movie, although her face is never seen in detail or close-up until Charlie Brown gets a chance to talk to her.
- There's also the Head Beagle, the dog who rules over all dogs in the world and has the respect of humans. Other than Snoopy's brief reign, no dog who ever held the title has ever been seen.
- Also, the "Girl in the Red Truck", a human on whom Snoopy's desert-dwelling brother Spike had a crush. She was eventually fleshed out for a special It's the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown that combined animation and live action, where she was named Jenny and portrayed by Charles Schulz's daughter Jill. (Again, the special, which wasn't as well-received as most Peanuts specials, is considered non-canonical.)
- The trend of the not showing adults in any form is averted in the fourth movie, Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don't Come Back!!). Charlie Brown's grandfather is seen in a war photo; he looks exactly like Charlie Brown except taller. The Baron, Violette's and the main antagonist, is a fully voiced character but only appears as a silhouette.
- Roger, Juliette's loud, boorish brother in 9 Chickweed Lane. Mentioned infrequently at best. And it had been so long since anyone had mentioned him in the comic, that when Edna mentioned him at the end of the WWII flashback, many thought Brooke McEldowney had made him up on the spot. When he eventually appears in the flesh, he's mild-mannered and soft-spoken; pretty much the opposite of his passionate, outspoken sister and niece.
- In Garfield, Ellen was a woman Jon regularly phoned to get a date, and always failed. We never heard her actual answers, only his reactions to them. She eventually appeared in a storyline where she has amnesia, and therefore agreed to a date with Jon. Also, Jon's neighbor Mrs. Feeny, often the target of Garfield's pranks, was never seen in the comic.
- Many of Jon's dates count. Such as Ruby the violent convict who had YBUR tattooed on her forehead. But many we do see as well, such as Bertha (A large woman who loved to eat) and Kimmy (A woman raised by wolves)
- In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin's grandmother and grandfather are mentioned on several occasions, but are never seen.
- Montel Vontavious Porter had the gimmick of being "the highest paid free agent in sports entertainment" and general manager Theodore Long had a hard time dealing with his unseen contract negotiator.
- During the TNA Aces & Eights angle, D'Lo Brown and Bully Ray would make frequent reference to other chapters of the group. For obvious reasons(Aces And Eights being a real motor cycle gang) these were never shown.
- Bray Wyatt's beloved "Sister Abigail," whom he refers to often in his promos and has even named his Finishing Move after, but who has yet to actually appear. (Assuming that she is a person, not a disembodied entity. Also assuming she even exists. For what it's worth, what Bray's said about her heavily implies that she is a real person, but she died some time ago.) From what he has said of her, she is responsible for making him into what he is today (so she's either evil herself or just plain messed up bad) and possesses the power to save the world with a touch or destroy it with a kiss.
- The somewhat infamous Anonymous Raw General Manager. He'd send his directives via emails to a laptop on a podium that Michael Cole would read out loud. His identity was eventually revealed as a joke long after the bit had been dropped.
- Sabrina Thwaite (and husband Richard) in The Archers are often "just missed" on-air, pulling out of Christmas pantos at the last moment and so forth, usually explained by tutting disapproval from the regular characters.
- A long-standing trope in The Archers. Mr Pullen, whose troublesome prostate has been a Running Gag for many years, is never heard. Freda the Middle White sow used to be heard sometime but not Freda Fry, cook at The Bull and long-suffering wife of Bert Fry. Most notoriously, the late Pru Forrest went unheard for years only to be lampshaded in a special anniversary episode by being voiced by Judi Dench.
- Duffy, the owner of the eponymous eatery in the the 1940s radio show Duffy's Tavern. Every episode opened with the manager Archie answering the phone with the words "Hello, Duffy's Tavern, where the elite meet to eat. Archie the manager speakin'. Duffy ain't here — oh, hello, Duffy."
- Samantha, the scorekeeper for the panel game I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. Since The Points Mean Nothing, the game doesn't need a scorekeeper; she only exists as the focus of elaborate double entendres.
- Colin Sell, the pianist, has sometimes been assumed by listeners to be fictional too (if you decided they were just playing prerecorded piano music, then Colin would be in a similar position of only existing to be abused in elaborate wordplay). Humphrey Lyttelton once claimed that someone had come up to him to ask whether Samantha and Colin were real and he told them that Samantha was but Colin wasn't.
- Mrs. Bradby, Mr. Lamb's landlady in The Men from the Ministry is often mentioned in great detail, but never actually appears in the show.
- There's also Mr. Rudge and Fatty Scott, two civil servants who are often subjects of various Noodle Incidents.
- Sir Harold Dixon in season one of Absolute Power, who has employed Prentice McCabe for unspecified reasons which Martin has studiously avoided doing anything about, and who he therefore refuses to take phone calls from. In the last episode of the season, Sandy briefly works for Sir Harold, but he still never actually appears.
- Kako in A Profile never makes it onscreen, though she does have a line or two. Maybe. She sounds exactly the same as her sister, you see. Apparently, by the end, even Masayuki has never met her.
- In Saya no Uta, Doctor Masahiko Ogai, Saya's "father", never appears in the story because he's Dead All Along.
- There are multiple cases in Shikkoku no Sharnoth. The most obvious being that Watson, Mycroft Holmes, Queen Victoria and Moriarty. Except that in the end it's revealed that Moriarty was the old professor that everyone has been meeting and who may or may not be the Big Bad, depending on how you look at it.
- Asumu Ushiromiya, Battler's not quite mother, is often talked about but she is never shown, not even in flashbacks.
- Homestar Runner:
- Strong Badman is created when Strong Bad gets an e-mail from one "Stiny". Within the email, and in several future Strong Badman appearances, Strong Bad imagines Stiny being Strong Badman's sidekick, who he constantly shouts orders or insults toward, but he never appears.
- The Strong brothers' parents have been mentioned a few times, including an old birthday card that their mother made Strong Bad write for Strong Sad (the only physical evidence). We never see either, and in fact the Brothers Chaps themselves stated point-blank that they had no interest in resolving the mystery. ("Nice try, dodongo!")
- DSBT InsaniT: Only a portion of Slima, as Jell-O of all things, has been shown in the series proper.
- Abe Kroenen has this happen a lot, often with female characters like Ilsa or Liz (until recently). This is not so much because of gender bias in the comic as it is the fact that it's a Toy Comic and the Hellboy merchandising brigade is less than helpful.
- In the fan comic Doki Doki Literature Girls, the player is absent, having previously deleted Monika after her Hostile Show Takeover. As such, teh player is mentioned in passing, but plays no important role in the comic.
- All of the characters from Dinosaur Comics that aren't the main characters, bar maybe the flea that lives on the end of T-Rex's nose, but he's so small you can't see him.
- The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! has Bob's neighbors Ray and Mr. Fluffinougat; the Spitoonellis, named Harold and Maude; and Voluptua's dad the Nemesite Emperor.
- Far Out There had Tabitha's Mother in this role before eventually upgrading her to The Voice.
- Tower of God: King Zahard, the ruler of the Tower. Furthermore the Irregulars Phantaminum, and Enryu. And finally the Director of the 2nd Floor, Evankell.
- Invoked by Word of God in Alice and the Nightmare when it comes to President Spade.
President Spade is usually cooped up in his office and only makes brief appearances as formalities, but otherwise he's a rarely-seen dude.
- Precocious has Ursula's parents. We know more about what their car looks like and that hasn't been shown either.
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: Ensi Hotakainen, the grandmother to main characters Onni, Tuuri and Lalli. She's mentioned to have been the magic teacher to Lalli in his younger years. She's also mentioned to have made a mistake that apparently had dire consequences, that included Onni getting a Promotion to Parent at sixteen, and all three of them leaving their hometown to go live in a military base when Tuuri was ten and Lalli eight. Ensi also stands out as being The Constant, as the only character to make an appearance of sorts in both the Distant Prologue (as a pronounced baby bump) and the main story (via being mentioned by her grandchildren). The comment on a blog post illustration of her mentions that she was drawn in her forties rather than as a ninety year old (which is the exact number of years separating the main story form the Distant Prologue), which implies that she is still alive. She's finally shown via flash-back in Chapter 15.