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The Lancer
aka: 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.
  • 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 Heart 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 Heart.

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

Occasionally, the lancer and the dragon will fight each other at some point, being the second-most prominent characters to their respective teams; see Lancer vs. Dragon when that happens.

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 
  • 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.
  • 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 appropriately, The Dragon) to Lex Luthor on the rare occasions they team up.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • For the New Avengers line-up Hawkeye/Ronin seems to be The lancer for Captain America (Bucky).
    • Actually, it's the other way around.
  • New Warriors: Nova serves this role to Night Thrasher, being the one most likely to butt heads with him, and being more impetuous and headstrong.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Moonstone of the Thunderbolts is somewhere between this trope and The Starscream.
  • The Transformers (Marvel) had a few over the course of its long-run and rotating roster. The original Lancer to Optimus Prime was Prowl, who offered a cold logical point of view to Optimus Prime's more noble and compassionate stance. During a period when Optimus Prime was a prisoner and Prowl was The Leader, Jazz acted as the Lancer to him, being the one who embraced Earth culture and sought to understand humans more. During a UK storyline where most of the senior Autobots went missing leaving Jetfire in command, Ironhide and Smokescreen took on the role of Lancers, offering alternate viewpoints.
    • When Grimlock became the first long-term new leader, Blaster (who had earlier filled the role for Perceptor on Cybertron) looked like becoming the Lancer to him: Both were similar temperament but Blaster felt protecting humans was a priority while Grimlock believed in doing anything necessary to achieve a goal. However, Blaster quickly deserted and set up an Autobot splinter group, leaving Ratchet as the closest thing to an alternate voice among Grimlock's command. Around the same time, Kup acted as the Lancer to Fortress Maximus among the Nebulan Autobots, being the one most eager to resort to violent solutions against Fortress Maximus' attempts for peace.
    • Optimus Prime then returned as The Hero, leaving either Grimlock or Kup to take on the role of the Lancer in a Red Oni, Blue Oni set-up. (Fortress Maximus was Optimus Prime's Number Two for a while but they were similar temperament.) During Grimlock's second tenure as leader, and in the Marvel UK Earthforce storyline, Prowl took on the role of Lancer again, tending to favour a more traditional way of doing things in contrast to Grimlock's maverick tendencies.
    • For the Cybertron-based Autobots, Impactor, Springer or Ultra Magnus acted as the Lancer, being the physically strong field commanders to non-action Big Good Emirate Xaaron.
    • In Marvel UK's post-movie stories, Kup took on the role of Lancer to Rodimus Prime, being the one who had a personal relationship with him and challenged him the most, as well as often taking on a leadership role in his absence. (Ultra Magnus was clearly senior but was more The Big Guy.)
  • 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.
  • ''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.
    • Artemis has served this role to Diana ever since her debut being the more cynical and violent foil to Diana.
  • 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 Heart. 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.
  • 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.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, Astrid eventually becomes Hiccup's Lancer, with her energetic ferocity and physical nature contrasting against Hiccup's more quieter and intellectual manner. They initially are at odds first with Hiccup's goofing up at dragon training and then when he completely upstages her with his newfound knowledge of dragons giving him a overwhelming advantage. Eventually, she finds out his secret and Hiccup and Toothless win her over. From then on, she is not just in growing love with Hiccup, but is glad to be the muscle to Hiccup's brains both on the job and in their relationship.
  • In Robin Hood (1973), Little John is Robin Hood's Lancer, as a physical Foil (he's a big bear, Robin Hood is a lithe fox) and as the more cautious and serious Sidekick to contrast the carefree and daring Robin.
  • Toy Story: Buzz Lightyear is Woody's Lancer in Toy Story 2 and 3, after their rivalry is settled in the first film. He fits the definition so well it's almost scary. He begins as a rival to The Hero, has a similar design (law enforcing hero of a television show's toyline with a voice clip feature), acts as the team leader when Woody is away, ends up Brainwashed and Crazy in the service of the Big Bad for a while, and as is made obvious during said Brainwashed and Crazy time he's the most combat-skilled and dangerous of the cast.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Conan the Barbarian (1982): Subotai 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 Crossing: Hugh Mercer is [1]'s Number Two, best friend, and is more cautious, skeptical, and even-tempered.
  • Fifty Fifty (1992): Sam French is the Lancer to hero Jake Wyer.
  • The Fugitive: Cosmo to Sam.
  • G.I. Joe: Retaliation: Flint.
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: Ripcord.
  • Inception: Arthur, the Point-Man, is the sensible and cool-head Lancer to the dark and troubled Cobb.
  • Gleahan and the Knaves of Industry: Mark falls into this role as he gets to know Gleahan.
  • King Arthur: Being a loose film adaptation of the same original story, Lancelot fits this trope to a T.
  • The Hobbit: Balin, son of Fundin. A senior member of the Company, he’s the cool and calm problem solver to Thorin Oakenshield’s fiery determination. Aside from the personality contrast, Balin is also not overly concerned with reclaiming the dwarves’ ancestral homeland, content to live the peaceful life they have built in the years since their exile.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • Legolas is the Lancer to Aragorn and his trusted confidant. While they have personality traits in common, they don’t always agree on the best way to approach situations, and their fighting styles are largely opposite (archer and swordsman).
    • Samwise Gamgee is not only Frodo Baggins’ Lancer but his literal and emotional support. While the influence of the One Ring gradually eats away at Frodo’s life force and mental state, Sam remains steadfastly devoted to his friend until the very end and his moral compass never wavers.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • Mississippi Burning: Gene Hackman is the lancer to a by-the-book Willem Dafoe.
  • Mortal Kombat: The Movie: Johnny Cage fills this role for The Hero Liu Kang, being the Jerk with a Heart of Gold who has all the snarky quips and one-liners in contrast to Liu's nobler, more straightforward character. He also has the less "epic" goal: Liu wants to avenge his brother's death at Shang Tsung's hands and save Earthrealm, while Johnny just wants to prove he's the real deal and not a conceited actor full of hot air.
  • 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.
  • Neighbors: Pete to Teddy.
  • Ocean's Eleven: Rusty Ryan to Danny Ocean in all the movies.
  • Patton: This WWII biopic 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.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Captain Jack Sparrow, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Smokey and the Bandit: Snowman is this to The Bandit, hauling the all important cargo and occasionally saving the Bandit when the cops decide to get serious.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Spock is Kirk's Lancer.
  • Star Wars:
    • Han Solo 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).
  • The World's End: Steven Prince. Despite being friends, he's a bit of a rival to Gary.
  • X-Men Film Series

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
  • 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...

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 


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?

4.88 (24 votes)

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Main / TheLancer

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