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The Lancer

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"I used to live here, you know."
"You're gonna die here, you know. Convenient."

"It's my job to say crazy stuff. Your job is to stay cool and stop me."
Gon Freecss, to his Lancer Killua Zoldyck in Hunter × Hunter

The Foil for a hero of the closely allied variety.

In general, the Lancer will often form one half of a Red Oni, Blue Oni contrasting duo with the main character. While they may butt heads with The Leader, they're usually the Best Friend by the end of it all.

Traits common to the Lancer include:

  • Being The Hero's primary foil. Typically in some form of Red Oni, Blue Oni. Their force of personality makes them a partner or Friendly Rival of relatively equal footing when paired up with The Leader, rather than a Sidekick who is more of a helpful assistant.
  • If they're also Number Two, they fill in the gaps in the hero's leadership style. If the hero is charismatic, they may be a mastermind. If the hero is levelheaded, they may be headstrong. If the hero is rash, they may be a calming influence.
  • Having a different mindset in terms of goals, training, or culture. If the team works from a place of passion, the Lancer may be more diligent and thoughtful and vice versa.
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  • In a military setting, if the Captain is smooth, the Lancer will be Sergeant Rough. Since they're the hero's counterpoint, they may be more willing to employ dirty tricks or venture into moral gray areas. See: Token Evil Teammate. To that end, former bad guys or bad boys in general will become the Lancer on the good guys' side. This might also apply to their true Evil Counterpart (which is The Dragon).
  • If The Big Guy doesn't kick in the door, this guy will.
  • If there's a potential traitor in the group that manages to fool the hero, expect the Lancer to sniff him even before he knows the guy's true colors.

Due to most heroes being cheerful and passionate types, Lancers are often surly or analytical, but when the chips are down, Lancers are true as steel and will lay down their lives for the cause. If the rest of the members turn their backs on The Hero for some reason, the Lancer may be the only one who sticks by his side. In the event that The Leader of The Team is unable to lead, The Lancer usually steps up. This plot is used to contrast the leader's leadership style against what The Lancer's would be. A frequent ending for this plot is for The Lancer to gladly give up the reins of power while the Leader often notes that the team will be in excellent hands should he be absent after that.


On the other side of the coin, if the Lancer's dissent gets too out of hand, they're likely to go off on their own to do what they think is right.

Powers and skills common to the Lancer include:

This trope is named for the man-at-arms of The Middle Ages, the term for a professional soldier. While the term also encompasses the members of the knightly class, a man-at-arms was not necessarily a knight. They were also men of lesser financial and social status than knights, but were equally trained and equipped to fight on horseback in full armour and with sword and lance, just like their social superiors. In this regard, he is most recognizable as King Arthur's greatest warrior and right-hand man, Sir Kay, according to the source Welsh legends (and who was later demoted to comic relief).

On that note, if you were looking for a trope on the actual appearances and usage of lances, that's the Jousting Lance trope.

The Chick is usually the mediator between The Hero and the Lancer, making for a Power Trio (as well as a set-up for a Love Triangle). If it's a Love Triangle, the Lancer can either be the Hero's romantic rival or a potential love interest to contrast The Chick.

If given enough individual focus, the Lancer may become the Deuteragonist.

Not to be confused with the recurring character title of the Fate Series, nor Lancer in Deltarune, or the RPG of the same name.


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    Comic Books 
  • Batman fills this role in most incarnations of the Justice League of America. The darker interpretations fall into the Rival/AntiHeroic version of this trope, with Superman as The Hero.
    • Nightwing is an example of how the Lancer's traits depend on who The Hero is: when he fills this role for Batman, his empathy, idealism, and approachability are played up as a contrast to Bruce.
    • In a hilariously fitting Evil Counterpart, The Joker tends to be the Lancer (or more apropriately, The Dragon) to Lex Luthor on the rare occasions they team up.
  • Hawkeye of The Avengers. He tends to chafe under Captain America's leadership, but it's clear how much like Cap he is — he led both his own Avengers franchise and the Thunderbolts for several years.
    • Iron Man has also acted as a Lancer to Captain America at times, often being pragmatic in the face of Cap's idealism.
  • Wolverine of the X-Men.
    • He was also the Lancer for Luke Cage when the latter led the New Avengers.
    • Iceman was the Lancer of the original five, with an attitude bigger than Connecticut and a constant bone to pick with The Hero, Cyclops.
    • A solid case could be made for Angel as the Lancer of the original five, actually, right down to being a rival for the affections of The Chick. Unlike Iceman, Angel has actually done the leadership thing on occasion.
    • Wolverine (and Rogue, under similar circumstances years later) panicked and tried to refuse when ordered into a leadership position (despite proving rather competent in same). Nobody has had the nerve to try that stunt on Iceman. In fact, Wolverine was even slated to lead Alpha Flight when he ran away to join the X-Men instead (he was also in love with the team's eventual leader's red-headed wife.) Then again Logan has taken leadership positions since.
  • Moonstone of the Thunderbolts is somewhere between this trope and The Starscream.
  • Speedy I/Arsenal/Red Arrow has often played this role against Robin/Nightwing in the Teen Titans (and later the Outsiders).
    • Oddly, the way he's been The Lancer has varied widely, sometimes being the hotheaded rebel willing to risk lives needlessly, other times calling out Nightwing for being callous about the danger he's putting the team in.
  • Namor is perhaps the MU's resident Freelancer, having filled the role on every team he has ever been in, and simply filling that role for the MU heroes in general.
  • Huntress was the Lancer to Black Canary's Hero in Birds of Prey, at least until the Canary left.
    • At which point she became the Lancer to Oracle.
    • Subverted when it comes to her relationship with Batman. Batman once recruited Huntress to the Justice League expressly to try to force her into this role, hoping it'd curb her murderous urges — it didn't take. For her part, Huntress tries to impress Batman, but her Daddy Issues clash too badly with him being a Technical Pacifist for them to get on for long. Both want her to be the Lancer to him, but neither can tolerate the other long enough for it to happen.
  • Deadpool would probably be horrified if he realised, but he ends up being this when he teams up with Cable. Sure, he wouldn't be anyone's first choice for a voice of reason, but no-one else can actually stand up to Cable when he's getting way too into the future mutant messiah thing.
  • Skywise from ElfQuest has a great number of complementary traits with his buddy and heroic leader Cutter. A drinker and womanizer, he is more lively and easygoing than Cutter, who naturally bears a keen sense of responsibility for the tribe. Skywise is a studious, curious dreamer, while Cutter prefers to live in the here and now.
    • A more likely interpretation is that among the Wolfriders, Strongbow is the lancer and Skywise is the smart guy. Unlike Skywise, Strongbow makes a habit out of disagreeing with Cutter a lot. In the later series, e.g. Shards, Rayek becomes the lancer.
  • For the current New Avengers line-up Hawkeye/Ronin seems to be The lancer for Captain America (Bucky).
    • Actually, it's the other way around.
  • In Young Avengers, Kate/Hawkeye is the Lancer to Eli/Patriot. They butt heads near-constantly (though that might just be them flirting), but Kate genuinely believes Eli is the only one who can actually lead the team.
  • Donald Duck fills this role nicely for Scrooge in the Don Rosa Uncle Scrooge comics, serving as a practical, pessimistic Foil for the overly-eager treasure hunter, ever ready with either a complaint or a snarky observation.
  • In Sin City, Dwight has had two lancers over the course of the series. In the story A Dame To Kill For, he employs the help of Sociopathic Hero, Marv. Later in the same story and subsequent stories after that, his lancer is Action Girl, Miho. Both lancers are extremely loyal to Dwight but are also far more violent, causing him to be unsettled more than once by their brutality.
    • Dwight also acts as the Lancer for Gail in her leadership of the Old Town girls. Gail's more vengeful and murderous than Dwight's strategic approach, but Gail's unquestionably in charge and Dwight doesn't forget it for a moment.
  • Woody plays this role against his friend Eric in Quantum and Woody.
  • In Runaways Nico was originally this to Alex. These days Gert, Victor, and Chase have all been known to alternate the role amongst themselves.
  • In The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes, as The Hero, has gone through FOUR lancers:
    • Shane Walsh, his old police partner and the most short-lived of his lancers.
    • Tyreese, whom many speculated would actually become the main character before his own death, which shocked many readers.
    • Abraham Ford, who served a dual role as The Big Guy.
    • Paul Monroe is Rick's current lancer and has had much better luck filling the role. He also serves as one for Maggie after she becomes leader of the Hilltop.
    • Michonne can also be considered Rick's lancer, at one point being explicitly identified as Rick's right-hand woman.
    • As can Andrea, Rick's trusty sharpshooter and eventual Second Love.
  • Douglas Pope from Circles is the Lancer to his husband Paulie. While Paulie is a kind and caring leader, Doug can come off as brash and aloof if you get on his bad side.
  • Crimson had Joe, a wacky Mexican-Indian vampire to The Chosen One vampire hero Alex Elder. Whereas Alex resists drinking blood at every turn, Joe is a Fully-Embraced Fiend who loves being a vampire and targets only criminals for lunch. Joe becomes a valuable ally and his best friend despite these differences.
  • The DNAgents had the lightning-shooter Surge, who as his name might imply was unpredictable and reckless making him this to the group's Team Mom, Rainbow. In an extremely amusing turn, Surge's own foil was a hero actually named Lancer, making Lancer The Lancer to The Lancer!
  • ''In W.I.T.C.H., there's Cornelia. Whenever Will has to make a difficult decision regarding their duties as Guardians, Cornelia will usually argue against her choices or doubts. Subverted in that usually they get along well and confide in each other in more personal matters. And after a while from knowing each other, Cornelia does not doubt Will's position of leader in the team.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): During "Journey to the Stars" the violent pragmatic Khund Ectreba serves as the lancer to Wonder Woman, who remains a Technical Pacifist despite leading a revolution during the arc.
  • Spider-Man usually takes the unofficial role as second in command within the Champions when team leader, Ms. Marvel is unable to. Even when Ms. Marvel is leading on the field, he will at times act as a co-leader, becoming the main support for the overall mission. He also often acts as a voice of reasoning and calm for the team as a whole, being the one to de-escalate rising tensions between members and calling themselves out to reflect on their mistakes when they make them no matter how uncomfortable.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Pictured above: Han Solo in Star Wars is this to Luke, who is the Hero.
    • He also is a lancer to Leia (even as their romance blossoms).
    "Your Worshipfulness, let's get one thing straight. I take orders from just one person, me"
    • The Prequels have Obi-Wan to Qui-Gon in Episode I and then Anakin to Obi-Wan in Episodes II and III (despite being Anakin's mentor and superior in the Jedi Order).
  • Being a loose film adaptation of the same original story, Lancelot fits this trope to a T in King Arthur.
  • Jack Sparrow, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan in Pirates of the Caribbean seem to take turns playing The Hero and the Lancer. They switch sides and betray each other so frequently it can be hard to keep track of who's on which "team" and who's just out for their own ends. The only person who seems to consistently fulfill this role is Joshamee Gibbs, as the Lancer to Jack Sparrow.
  • Cosmo to Sam in The Fugitive.
  • Rusty Ryan to Danny Ocean in the Ocean's Eleven movies.
  • The WWII biopic Patton depicts a "lancer reversal" between American generals George S. Patton and Omar Bradley. At first Bradley is Patton's lancer when Patton is made commander of the II Corps in North Africa and Bradley his deputy. Then after the invasion of Sicily, Patton is reprimanded for slapping a shellshocked soldier and Bradley is promoted over him. Bradley commands the U.S. 1st Army during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Meanwhile Patton was used to decoy the Germans into thinking the invasion would be at Calais. Patton becomes Bradley's lancer when he gives Patton command of the Third Army to implement "Operation Cobra", the Allied plan to breakout of the Normandy beachhead.
  • Snowman is this to The Bandit, hauling the all important cargo and occasionally saving the Bandit when the cops decide to get serious.
  • Arthur, the Point-Man, is the sensible and cool-head Lancer to the dark and troubled Cobb in Inception.
  • Bucky to Captain America in Captain America: The First Avenger.
  • Iron Man to Cap in The Avengers. Out of the whole Dysfunction Junction, they have the most personality conflict for any number of reasons (idealist vs. cynic, reluctant soldier vs. ex-weapons maker), but still end up working well together. Hawkeye, by contrast, is the Sixth Ranger who only really opens up around Black Widow.
  • Gene Hackman is the lancer to a by-the-book Willem Dafoe in Mississippi Burning.
  • In Mr. Saturday Night, Stan had the makings and ambitions to be a comedian but his brother Buddy Young had the guts to go and perform, so Stan becomes the more grounded manager to egotistical Buddy.
  • In The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya fulfills this role rather well to the Man In Black/Westley. At first he is arrogant and apprehensive of Westley's skills, but eventually goes on to be a faithful right-hand man and gains a deep-set respect for his skills to the extent that he believes that Westley is capable of anything (which essentially turns out to be the case).
  • Sam French is the Lancer to Jake Wyer, The Hero, in Fifty/Fifty.
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series Spock is Kirk's Lancer.
  • Subotai from the Conan the Barbarian (1982) film. He teaches Conan how to be a thief, saves him from the Tree of Woe, and stands by his side during the Battle of the Mounds.
  • The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit:
    • Legolas and Boromir both fill this for Aragorn.
    • Sam fills this for Frodo.
    • Balin fills this for Thorin.
  • In Seven Psychopaths, Billy fits the role of the Lancer to Marty. Marty and Billy are almost perfect foils for eachother, since they have different opinions on Marty's alcoholism, Marty's girlfriends, and lifestyle. Marty has the Badass power (Billy says that Marty is the "best writer of his generation"), and Billy dies for the cause.
  • Ripcord from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
  • Steven Prince from The World's End. Despite being friends, he's a bit of a rival to Gary.
  • Hugh Mercer to George Washington in The Crossing. He's Washington's Number Two and best friend and is more cautious, skeptical, and even-tempered.
  • Pete to Teddy in Neighbors.
  • X-Men Film Series

    Tabletop Games 
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse has a tribe originally made up of Lancers: The Shadowlords. In former times, their task was to act as the Beta of packs and did what the Alpha couldn't be seen to do. Unfortunately, more and more of them feel that the Silverfangs are no longer up to the task of leading...
  • This trope can be found in the makeup of any Dungeons & Dragons party due to the variety of roles that need to be performed in a campaign. The Hero of this group will generally be the one who is the obvious leader of the group, whether by being a great warrior or diplomat. Conversely, the Lancer will probably be the Leader's opposite, being the team's negotiator in the former case or being the taciturn combat leader in the latter.

  • Every Toa team in BIONICLE has one of these, usually a Toa of Ice to balance out the Toa of Fire leader. The most prominent example would be Kopaka, who has a Red Oni, Blue Oni dynamic with Tahu.
    • And to continue the tradition, Stormer is this to Furno in Hero Factory.

  • Hamlet: Horatio.
  • Orestes: Pylades acts in this capacity to his friend Orestes, in Euripides' play.
  • Romeo and Juliet: Mercutio is Romeo's right-hand man and best friend. He even goes so far as fighting and losing a duel in his name.
  • Casio, in Shakespeare's Othello. Casio is Othello's faithful lieutenant. He is a good friend to his general, but has a weakness for drink and women.

    Web Animation 
  • The Chief , from Arby 'n' the Chief counts as this to the The Arbiter. During their various adventures of both regular Halo games and Serious Business, The Arbiter is clearly the only skilled one of the duo. Their opponents would often only die to The Chief just from how utterly unpredictable he tends to be, both ingame and out. Beyond season 6 however, his actual skills grow a bit, but his main advantage is still his Confusion Fu.
  • Star Whistle from Dusk's Dawn, as she's a major plot point in the first half and is the last pony standing when fighting the Evil Twin.
  • Dreamscape: Anjren is The Lancer of the Five-Man Band. She is almost like a Distaff Counterpart to Dylan, in that she is also a Determinator that is not to be underestimated.
  • RWBY:
    • On Team RWBY, Weiss Schnee falls into this position as team leader Ruby's partner. It's demonstrated best in battle during the fight with the Nevermore — Ruby makes the plans, but Weiss is the one who executes most of the key steps, including watching Ruby's back while she sets everything in place. Weiss has major problems with this at first, as she always expected she'd be the leader, but when Port points out that she would have made a terrible leader, she resolves to be the best teammate instead.
    • On Team JNPR, Pyrrha Nikos is the lancer to team leader Jaune, her partner. Whereas he's bumbling, barely competent and largely inexperienced with the outside world, she's straight-laced, talented and more experienced. Unlike Weiss, though, she's thoroughly supportive of him.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Real Life 
  • Kobe Bryant to Shaquille O'Neal from their generation of the LA Lakers. The seasoned Shaq was The Big Guy and the captain, while the rambunctious Kobe was the rookie. Their relationship was frequently punctuated by feuds played out in the press. Once Shaq left for Miami, Kobe's become the face of the Lakers, with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum sharing the role of the Lancer.
  • When they were both on the Chicago Bulls, Scottie Pippen was seen as a lancer for Michael Jordan. He even got promoted to The Leader during Jordan's brief retirement, holding the ship well if not enough to continue the dynasty.
  • Russell Westbrook, the cocky Red Oni, to Kevin Durant, the collected Blue Oni. Unlike Kobe and Shaq, Durant and Westbrook were Heterosexual Life-Partners.
  • Dwyane Wade to LeBron James in the Miami Heat. James is the theatric champion on the court; Wade is the leader and the face of the team.
  • The Chicago Blackhawks are led by young superstars Jonathan Toews, nicknamed "Captain Serious", and Patrick Kane, who does not exactly carry the same reputation.
  • Alex Rodriguez to Derek Jeter after he joined the New York Yankees.
  • Bobby Bonilla to Barry Bonds, during the competitive 90s Pittsburgh Pirates, before their downward spiral to becoming one of the worst teams in over a decade. Bobby Bonilla would go with coach Jim Leland and win a world series with him on the Florida Marlins. Barry Bonds would go to the San Francisco Giants and put up great career numbers. But he would never win a World Series and then you have the steroids accusations.
  • Formula Ones team Ferrari has been using this, with Eddie Irvine, Rubens Barichello and Felipe Massa playing the lancer to Michael Schumacher. Massa continued as the lancer for Fernando Alonso. Will probably be subverted in the 2014 season with Alonso being paired with Kimi Raikkonen. This trope is also evident in the Red Bull team with Sebastian Vettel being paired with Mark Webber and now Daniel Riccardo.
  • Klay Thompson is The Lancer of Stephen Curry, a duo known as "Splash Brothers" for their Improbable Aiming Skills.
  • The Who is an interesting example. Pete Townsend was the band's artistic leader, but was also violent and dealt with depression. He wasn't the band's frontman, though. He left that up to "second-in-command", Roger Daltrey who was more reserved in comparison and often served as the more mature member of the group.
  • The Beatles are another interesting variation: John Lennon started out as The Hero, with Paul McCartney as the Lancer. And as time went on, they switched.
  • The Rolling Stones has Keith Richards as The Lancer to Mick Jagger.
  • Beanie Sigel, during the early 2000s, was The Lancer to Jay-Z. It didn't work out in the end.
  • Speaking of Jay-Z, Kanye West is his Lancer on Watch the Throne.
    • In West's own crew, GOOD Music, Pusha T is the Lancer to West's hero.
  • Ace Pilot Staff Sergeant Nils Katajainen (36 kills) to Captain Hans Wind (78 kills) in the Finnish Air Force in WWII. They usually flew as a pair. Both were awarded the Mannerheim Cross, roughly the Finnish equivalent of Victoria Cross or Congressional Medal of Honor.
  • Michael Vick to Donovan McNabb in the Philadelphia Eagles. McNabb was the calm, collected quarterback leader with a passion for the sport, while Vick was the "bad-boy" second-in-command who was in legal troubles, especially with the dog-fighting.
  • Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton served as George Washington's Number Two during the Revolutionary War and Washington's time as president. While Washington was stoic, deliberative, and against bare knuckle politics, Hamilton was brash, quick witted, and famously one of the most vicious political fighters of his generation. This proved useful to Washington, who relied on Hamilton's intricate thinking and writing skills to serve as his Army chief of staff and most trusted secretary, much to the annoyance of others on Washington's staff.
  • Likewise Rahm Emanuel. A dirty, armtwisting guy from Chicago, who was once a senior advisor to Bill Clinton, as he was to Barack Obama. Did you know he studied ballet?
  • Shuuichi Ikeda to Toru Furuya; they voiced for the main antagonist and the main protagonist of Mobile Suit Gundam respectively.
  • Michael Wittmann, one of the most successful armored commanders of all time, had Bobby Woll as his gunner. They were so in tune that, eventually, all Wittmann had to do was give Woll a direction where enemy tanks could be found and let Woll do the rest. Luckily for Woll, he wasn't with Wittmann when the latter's luck ran out in August, 1944.
  • General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, to General Robert E. Lee once Lee earned command of the Virginian forces in 1862. When Jackson was killed, accidentally shot by his own men at Chancellorsville, Lee said "He had lost his left arm, but I have lost my right."
    • General James Longstreet is arguably a better example of Lee's Lancer. Lee described him as the "staff in my right hand" after the Seven Days' Battles, an series of engagements in which Longstreet performed well and Jackson did not. Longstreet rather than Jackson was the official second-in-command of the army. Where Lee shared personality traits with Jackson, including general reserve, an explosive temper when pressed, and a deep religiosity, Longstreet had a more laid-back, fun-loving personality, and did not share Lee and Jackson's objections to drinking and gambling. Despite that, Lee more often spent time at Longstreet's headquarters than Jackson's, apparently preferring the atmosphere there. He also served as more of a foil to Lee in a military sense as well. Jackson usually embraced Lee's offensive strategies and tactics. Longstreet on the other hand repeatedly opposed Lee's decisions and argued for alternative tactics, such as at Gettysburg, and he criticized many of Lee's decisions in his memoirs. For all of that, he and Lee were personally good friends, and on campaign, where Jackson was often sent out for detached duty, Longstreet would more often remain with Lee and serve as his principal subordinate and adviser.
    • On the Union side, William Tecumseh Sherman was the Lancer to Ulysses S. Grant. "Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk. Now, we stand by each other always." Grant entrusted Sherman to handle the Western theater of the Civil War while Grant assumed command in the East to fight Lee. It worked. Philip Sheridan, a fiery and aggressive Union commander and cavalryman, also played this role for Grant in the East in Sherman's absence.
  • Allan Kuhn, the assistant manager of Aalborg BK, is a good example of the lancer. He took over management in AaB in 2008 as caretaker after Bruce Rioch was sacked, and didn't lose a single match for the remainder of the fall (which includes a draw at home against Villarreal and away against Manchester United). In the beginning of the 2009 season, he took over the manager seat at Midtjylland, which he left in the late 10/11 season due to him finding the work of a manager incompatible with his family life. Since that, he has been assistant manager.
  • A very important role in professional cycling. It's very hard to win any race without a good lancer, who would usually play the role of The Smart Guy and/or taking on a very offensive role to wear down the rider from other teams. Lancers are nearly employed in nearly every discipline of road race cycling
    • The most obvious example is the lead-out rider for a sprinter. The lead-out rider's role is to deliver the sprinter in the right position at the right pace to sprint to the line. A good lead-out can make the difference between finishing first and off the podium in an even field, and make the best sprinter look invincible.
    • In a stage race or hard one day race, the lancer can take attention by attacking and having other teams exert themselves for the captain to drive it home, by grinding down competition by holding a high and steady pace up a mountain, Or by attacking from a distance, be ignored by the other teams and win the race.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Lancer


Trope Talk: The Lancer

Red talks about this role, in her Trope Talk episode on the Five Man Band.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

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