Follow TV Tropes

Please don't list this on a work's page as a trope.
Examples can go on the work's YMMV tab.


They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character

Go To

"Every time I watch a show, I get hooked on one particular character who isn't a main character. He or she only gets about one or two scenes per episode, and I watch while slowly and unconsciously ripping a hole out of the sofa pillow with my teeth, because it seems like only I can see the potential in this person that ISN'T being exploited!"

This character is brilliant. They might serve any role in the story, but no matter what trope they fall under, whether it be single trope or many, they all have one thing in common: you love them with a passion, but the writer doesn't. At least not to the same extent. For whatever reason, the work has gifted the audience with what you think is a fantastic new addition to the cast, but they just never seem to get the screentime you think they deserve. That Day in the Limelight isn't forthcoming, nor are any more hints about their mysterious past getting dropped. You never get to hear their snarky remarks on a situation that just calls for it, and after five pages of teasing they get Put on a Bus to Nowhereville or get a bridge dropped on them.

Often happens with characters that are introduced for only a single episode or two, or have mere supporting roles in a work that already has a large cast. These are characters that have an interesting backstory or interact with the main cast in intriguing new ways, setting the stage for compelling future plots or new dynamics if made a permanent fixture, or at least a recurring character — but those things never happen because the character in question ended up underdeveloped or underutilized by the narrative. This also happens to characters who only turn up within supplementary materials or, in a video game, through sidequests (which are very likely to be skipped and ignored). This can be especially annoying if these supplementary materials were never made available in your country.


Please note that this trope is about ignored characters with good potential who never receive the spotlight (or do so just once and then get removed or forgotten). It is not about leading characters who are not used the way you would like; there are infinite alternative ways any given character could have been used. It is not either about characters who have a limited or supporting role in one work but have leading roles elsewhere in the franchise, that's a Hero of Another Story.

Contrast Creator's Pet, this trope's exact opposite, where a character isn't considered good by many viewers but keeps getting exposure anyway. A subtrope of They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot, supertrope of Too Cool to Live. Nearly always an Ensemble Dark Horse. Fan Fic writers are especially drawn to these characters, as the Fanfic Fuel they generate can be prompts for many stories.



    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • 100 Bullets:
    • Milo is a Hard Boiled Detective with a Bandaged Face who has some Belligerent Sexual Tension with Megan, got along well with Lono in the past, and refuses to dance to Graves' tune once he figures out the man's game. Many fans resent the authors for killing him off in his first arc.
    • Most of the Trust leaders get the short end of the stick when it comes to plot relevance and character development, despite wide interest in how they operate and what kinds of dynamics they have with each other. About half of them never even get names or dialogue until the arc they die or their appearance directly preceding that one, and even the more prominent ones tend to get killed with little fanfare. Fulvio, Sigmar, and the Nagel twins might be the ones with the most wasted potential.
  • This was particularly bad in Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) during the Penders/Bollers era as many characters were introduced, especially by writers other than the two, then dumped as the two did their own things.
    • This came to a head when Ken Penders decided to sue Sega itself. He basically attempted to claim ownership over the entire race of Echidnas within the Sonic universe, as a stepping stone for his own spin-off. The spin-off ended up in Development Hell, but the damage was done. Every single character not created by SEGA or under effective ownership by Archie was Exiled from Continuity.
  • This is pretty much the premise of Avengers Arena, killing off teenaged heroes with cult followings in a Hunger Games style fight to the death. Because the characters originated in series that had been cancelled though, they fall into C-List Fodder box described above. Detractors' reactions have pretty much unanimously been "You could have brought the characters back another way and considered reviving their series instead of killing them in cold blood, damn it!"
  • The premise of AXIS is an event that causes heroes to become bad and villains to become good, known as "Inversion." A number of fans and reviewers have pointed out that most of the inverted heroes are acting in rather generically evil ways, though the characterizations of the inverted villains have been met with praise for the way the baddies are portrayed as retaining their negative traits even when trying to do good.
  • Aztek had a lot of this, with Joy Page being a love interest until she became a victim of the Lizard King, the Lizard King himself being underused as a possibly archenemy of Aztek, Tezcatlipoca ultimately not being a reinvention to the Wonder Woman villain of the same name, and Quetzalcoatl from War Of The Gods also not being used in the role.
  • Birds of Prey:
    • In the original Birds of Prey continuity, Tabby Brennan was introduced as an Eviler Counterpart to the Huntress, and was set up to be able to return as a recurring villain. When the series did bring her back, it was to kill her off stupidly in one issue.
    • Later in the New 52 Birds revamp, new character Ev Crawford, a.k.a. Starling was introduced. Starling is a rarity: a breakout character from DC's reboot, a quick shot with a gun, a devil-may-care attitude, and cool tattoos. Plus, she is a bisexual character, and the reboot was supposed to be more diverse in its character roster. Starling became a fan favorite... so naturally, she was revealed to be a traitor in 2013, tossed into comic book limbo, and has been forgotten ever since.
  • Dark Avengers: Ares was portrayed as a Papa Wolf, once villain of The Avengers who was recruited onto the Mighty Avengers team. However, the team itself was short-lived as after only two short arcs the team was disbanded and he became a Dark Avenger instead. This led to him being tossed around by every other villain the team faced and the book focused on other characters instead. He scored a few crowning moments of awesome while being neglected but it seems increasingly likely that he won't feature too prominently anymore seeing as The Void tore him in half in an embarrassingly short Curb-Stomp Battle during Siege.
  • Fantastic Four:
    • During the story arc in which Franklin Richards was sent to the distant future then came back with a Plot-Relevant Age-Up, Marvel seemed to bend over backwards to make sure the adult Franklin never encountered Rachel Summers, the time traveler who was his girlfriend in her own alternate future. Then when the arc was concluded they promptly erased the adult version of Franklin from existence and brought back the child whose lack of control over his powers means his only way to participate in stories is as a either a kidnapping target or a source of Deus ex Machina. At least the aged-up version was an actual character.
    • Reed's father Nathaniel became a warlord in another dimension and fathered the warrior woman Huntara. Years later, he got summarily retconned as just an alternate universe version of Reed's real dad, and then killed off-panel. A completely different character was then introduced as Reed's "real" dad.
    • Wildstreak was a paraplegic young African American woman whose father designed a powered exoskeleton granting her not just freedom of movement but superhuman speed and agility. She had a fun and eager but very earnest personality, and had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, like Tracer listed above, she had the misfortune to debut in an otherwise mediocre Fantastic Four story about Ben and Psi-Lord fighting a Venom knock-off called "Dreadface." She's spent most of the last twenty years in comic book limbo.
  • Shamrock, Marvel's Captain Irish heroine. Debuting in Contest of Champions (1982), she's possessed by the spirits of dead Irish soldiers who have unfinished business. When they possess her they give her the speed, strength and martial skill of a thousand dead warriors... oh sorry, they actually made her really, really lucky. But wait, it gets better; she retired from superhero-ing to become... a hairdresser. And no one cared!
  • Towards the end of DnA's run on Nova, the Nova Corps started to be built up again. All of the new recruits were interesting characters and had a lot of potential, but perhaps none more so than Zan Philo. A Skrull member of the Nova Corps who had been trapped in the Fault for over thirty years, he seemed to know several things about the Nova Force which even Richard didn't, and served as a drill instructor for several issues. Between the fact that he was a heroic Skrull, was a very competent character, and had a lot of unanswered questions in his backstory (why does he have two artificial arms and one regular one?), Zan Philo was just full of potential.
  • The otherwise pretty forgettable Quasar spinoff Star Blasters introduced an alien robot villain named Skeletron. He claimed to be the sole survivor of an ancient race of robots called the Turgentine Technenium, who had dominated a huge swath of the Marvel Universe eons ago, only to finally be destroyed in a tremendous war with the organic races of that era. He got killed, and the Turgentine Techenium hasn't been mentioned since.
  • Scott Pilgrim has a couple:
    • Stacey Pilgrim was an interesting "normal" character (for a certain value of normal, anyway), but she almost completely disappears from the series after the second volume. When she reappears in the final volume, she's suddenly acting like a jerkass.
    • Julie Powers was a hot but snarky woman who wasn't afraid to tell Scott his faults at first, before she was flanderized into your generic jerkass character in volume three.
    • Knives Chau was a fun, if slightly stereotypical, cute Asian teen character in the first two volumes, only to be Demoted to Extra as the less interesting Grumpy Bear Kim Pine began taking her place. In the last volume, she only appears in a whopping total of two, plot-unimportant scenes.
    • Hollie was a cute-looking girl with a good character design and a dynamic of being best friends with Kim, but the scenes she was in can be counted on one hand - almost none of them with Kim.
    • Matthew Patel was easily the most likable out of all the evil exes, yet he was only in a single scene with absolutely no build-up, and Ramona never talks about him even once after that.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Toxin was introduced in the Venom vs. Carnage series as being basically a good counterpart of Spider-Man's villains Venom and Carnage. The character became an Ensemble Dark Horse amongst some fans, and could have been quite interesting, having his own conflict and a unique relationship with his symbiot. But all he got was a short-lived limited series where he fought mostly villains that weren't really able to match him (his main antagonist, Razor-Fist, was just a guy with blades instead of hands. Against a guy with Venom's and Carnage's abilities combined), and was never actually seen again after that. When the symbiote finally showed up again, it was stripped from its original heroic host, Brainwashed and Crazy and forced to bond with Eddie Brock to go kill the Flash version of Venom.
    • During the poorly received "The Other" storyline, a subplot involved Spidey fighting a new villain named Tracer. Tracer at first seems completely forgettable, literally just a punk with a gun, but he is later revealed to be a robotic entity that claims to have arisen from the internet as a sort of god to the world's computers. He gets destroyed, but declares that he'll be back. He hasn't been back.
    • Carl King, aka the Thousand, was a one-shot villain introduced as Peter Parker's high school bully who was aware that Parker was Spider-Man. Jealous of Peter's powers and wanting some of his own, King eats the now-dead spider that bit Peter, which causes his body to transform into a Hive Mind swarm of spiders. He gains the ability to "possess" people by entering their bodies and eating their insides, wearing their skin like a suit and mimicking their voices. His ultimate goal is to steal Peter's life. While he could have been a decent recurring villain as well as a good Evil Counterpart to Peter, he's killed off in his debut when all of his spiders die.
    • David Lowell, aka Sundown, was a retconned early member of Spidey's rogues gallery who distinguished himself twice over, first for becoming one of the most powerful villains the wall-crawler ever tangled with (at his peak he was strong enough to fend off Spidey, the Avengers, the Fantasic Four and the X-Men all at once) and, more intriguingly, by being one of the few members of said rogues gallery to seriously reform (he was only 'defeated' in the first place after he surrendered in remorse, and later served his time and rebuffed a gangster's attempt to recruit him once he got out). His final appearance implied that he might return again, using his powers for good, but he never did and has seemingly vanished off the face of the planet.
    • Mysterio: A lot of Spider-Man fans feel that Mysterio has a lot of untapped potential as a villain but writers in general don't tap into the full extent of his skills, theme, and idea. Notable is that there are multiple villain who use the Mysterio identity, among them a teleporting mutant and a stunt double who was also the Jack O'Lantern, yet the only Mysterio anybody ever seems to care about is Beck.
    • Alyosha Kraven ultimately ended up as just one more Daddy's Little Villain, but there was a time when the character could have been something more. A mutant with animal empathy unlike his father who just snorted a lot of jungle cocaine, "Al" experienced a Heel–Face Turn early on and set up shop in Hollywood, leading to a hilarious one-off where he paid to have Spidey and JJJ take a camping trip together for charity, and a short-lived miniseries called "Get Kraven" that slyly lampooned a lot of Hollywood culture. This ended up being what doomed the character, as Hollywood types don't take kindly to being lampooned and the character took a sharp veer back into villainy, ultimately degenerating into a forgettable face in the Kraven family pile and being ignobly killed offscreen.
  • Superman:
    • Superman villains and Abusive Parents Zod and Ursa had their young child end up on Earth, where Superman and Lois Lane adopted him under the name Christopher Kent. The Character Development and story potential opened up by Clark and Lois finally becoming parents was then wasted when Christopher got sucked into a Year Inside, Hour Outside dimension for a Plot-Relevant Age-Up and wound up becoming just another minor character by the "New Krypton" arc. (He did get some further development during New Krypton, though). Especially sad as the New 52 reboot came not too long after all this, so Christopher's change to the status quo would not have been permanent in any case. Chris eventually showed up at the end of Dan Jurgens' Rebirth run - as Overlord Jr., with no one remembering the time when he lived with Clark and Lois anymore thanks to the events of Superman Reborn.
    • Unfortunately, Superman himself fell into this in the New 52. He was introduced as a younger and angrier figure that considered himself “Superman first, Clark Kent later”, just like the Silver Age. His characterization varied across books, as each writer was more interested in depicting their own interpretation of Superman instead of delivering a single, more cohesive narrative. By the time Superman: Truth hit the shelves, fans were tired of the dark and brooding Superman and preferred the more optimistic Superman: Lois and Clark.
    • Elliot S! Maggin invented a character named Superwoman who had a lot of potential. Kristin Wells was a time traveler from the distant future who used then-commonplace technologies to be a superhero in the present day (she actually first appeared in non-superhero form in Maggin's Superman novel Miracle Monday.) Superwoman only received a handful of appearances before Crisis on Infinite Earths erased her from history. She's probably best known these days for having a non-speaking cameo in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? Half her shtick, meanwhile, got appropriated by the Post-Crisis character Booster Gold (a time traveler who uses his era's tech to be a superhero).
    • World's Finest #246-247 by "Zany" Bob Haney is an extremely Silver Age, entertainingly (if you're into that kind of thing) insane story about Superman being framed for abusing his long-lost hunchbacked identical twin brother. Right. Not surprisingly, later stories did not reference it. However, the plot is introduced by a little alien criminal guy named Ram Drood. We've never seen him before, but the JLA has apparently encountered him repeatedly and call him "the greatest space bum in all the galaxies!" We never learn what exactly he's done to earn himself that reputation, and he clearly lives his life on the shady side, and yet he also clearly isn't so villainous that JLA would feel obliged to haul him off to the Space Police or whatever, and they hear him out peacefully. In fact, he comes across as a fairly adorable and intriguing Jerk with a Heart of Gold who it would have been fun to see return once in a while, but unfortunately he's stuck in a story so ridiculous that no one wanted to revisit any elements of it.
  • The Untold Story of Argo City: The citizens of Argo City. They are ordinary people (families, rescue workers, etc.) who temporarily develop super powers and struggle to survive a radiation storm in vain after already losing their home planet. Plenty of fans wanted to see more of them survive along with Zor-El and Alura. This sentiment apparently extends to writers, as several different continuities have more survivors of the city.
  • Teen Titans:
    • Cute Mute and Body Surfer Jericho. After being stuck on a floppy as a Brainwashed and Crazy ghost for a couple years he was finally revived and restored to his old self and with a new body... only to be shoved into limbo about ten issues later where he would turn up a in couple years evil again due to multiple evil personalities from his power of possession (and also possibly from being 'dead') and ultimately suffer Eye Scream. What makes this even more of a waste was that during Jericho's short time as a newly revived hero, he had hardly any interaction with any of his old friends (especially best friend/almost love interest Raven who resurrected him but instead their relationship seemed forgotten) or a decent reunion with his father Deathstroke the Terminator, or really anything about the character was explored besides "mute son of Deathstroke". Now, the mute part has been taken away, thus DC Comics having one less hero with a physical disability. Besides some sweet bonding moments with his half-sister Ravager, Jericho was mostly stuck in the background and underused until he was thrown in to the mediocre and forgettable stories DCU: Decisions and the Titans/Teen Titans/Vigilante crossover Deathtrap. However, as of Blackest Night Jericho seemed to have recovered from both insanity and Eye Scream... for now.
    • Several fans of the Kon-El Superboy, disappointed at his editorially mandated shock death in Infinite Crisis, were perked up by the reveal that his evil yet sophisticated clone Match would finally be made part of a teen villain team alongside fellow evil clone Inertia. Since Match had previously infiltrated Superboy's close circle of friends and had successfully manipulated them and even gained a villainous crush on Wondergirl thanks to his high degree of intelligence, it was hoped he'd be an epic villain and we'd get to here some great monologues. Then the team finally appeared. Match was a carbon copy of Bizarro. No real characterization. Weaker power level. And redundant; a Superboy Bizarro had already been done. He was eventually murdered by Superboy-Prime offscreen just prior to the reboot.
    • Doomed/Reiser, a college freshman who accidentally gained the ability to become a Doomsday-like monster, had most of his intrigue removed when transferred from his short-lived solo comic to the Teen Titans. Initially, Doomed's induction seemed to provide an opportunity for further exploration into his efforts to prove he has a greater potential for good than Doomsday did, overcome his difficulty communicating as a vocally unintelligible monster, and address the possibility that he might someday become unable to resume human form. At the least, Reiser's acceptance of his dual nature at the end of his book suggested that joining the Titans would allow Doomed to unleash the fullest extent of his abilities. Unfortunately, his tenure basically consisted simply of making some very gratuitous cameos, before heading back to Metropolis. This also resulted in Reiser having even less personality than he did in the solo series.
  • X-Men:
    • During the 90s Emma Frost was given an extended family, consisting of sisters Adrienne and Cordelia Frost and brother Christian Frost. All three of these characters were introduced with great promise — Adrienne was the eldest sister who had dedicated her life to out-Emmaing Emma, Cordelia was the youngest sibling who, true to her Shakespearen name, had a somewhat impish personality, and Christian was a tragic victim of the Frost trio's Abusive Parents. While Christian never made an appearance beyond flashbacks, both Adrienne and Cordelia were put to great use in Generation X only for both of their stories to be cut short thanks to a switch of creative teams. Adrienne was Killed Off for Real whole Christian and Cordelia were Put on a Bus, and for quite a long time they vanished... until the era of X-Men (2019), when writers finally saw fit to bring back Cordelia and elevate Christian because there's no better time for an LGBT character with a tragic backstory to be featured. With this, Adrienne is now the only one of the Frost siblings who truly qualifies for this trope.
    • Exodus, aka Bennet du Paris, was one of many promising characters who saw his potential squandered. Introduced as a Mysterious Watcher and The Dragon of Magneto, Exodus became the Dragon Ascendant after Magneto was incapacitated following the Fatal Attractions (Marvel Comics) event. This was intended to set the stage for a new generation of the Brotherhood in their successors, the Acolytes, with Exodus assuming Magneto's role as the preeminent enemy of the X-Men. But after the lackluster reception of the Blood Ties (Marvel Comics) story which was grooming him for Big Bad status, this plan was shelved and the Acolytes and Exodus were both moved Out of Focus, leading to them being offered up at The Worf Effect altar to build up new villain Holocaust. Later stories would give Exodus more depth, showing him as more conflicted about his master's mission of mutant supremacy than earlier stories indicated, but this too was wasted thanks to the constant changing hands of writers. Consequently, the character has never lived up to his full potential and remains a second-string character doomed to stand in Magneto's shadow.
    • David Haller, aka Legion, is a rare case of a character being recognized as one of these. The son of Professor X, David was cursed with a tragic union of Split Personality Take Over and With Great Power Comes Great Insanity. For the first twenty years of his existence, he was used much more as a Plot Device than a character, being the For Want of a Nail instigator that ushered in the Age of Apocalypse. But as stigma against mental illness lessened in the 2010s and Legion came back into the spotlight following his use as The Heavy for another alternate universe story (Age of X), his potential was finally recognized, leading to his grand promotion as the star of the live-action television series Legion (2017).
    • Madelyne Pryor, aka the Goblyn Queen, Red Queen, and a number of other aliases, is one of the most infamous cases of this in the X-Men stable. Like Exodus above, she originally had a full character arc set up in which she was going to marry Cyclops, get him to retire from superheroics, and the two were going to live Happily Ever After, with Cyke coming back sporadically to mentor the next generation. But thanks to the Executive Meddling-mandanted revival of Jean Grey to facilitate the launch of the X-Factor title, Madelyne was forcibly derailed into villainy, having her history rewritten and turning her into a clone to deaden her humanity and make it easy to have her Killed Off for Real. But the sloppy way in which this was done led to a lot of reader sympathy for Pryor, sympathy which was only heightened by how Cyclops seemed to get off completely scot-free. This led to Maddie's return in the pages of X-Man and sporadic use over the years, while Cyclops would see his hero cred progressively diminish until he was flat-out turned into a Villain Protagonist (and later just plain villain). Despite this, Pryor remains a villain herself, if one of the cooler and more sympathetic villains.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes
    • Galaxoid and Nebular, the two aliens Calvin sells the Earth to, could've been fun characters. Problem is, they were introduced extremely late into the strip (two months before it ended), and thus were only featured in two arcs.
    • Some fans felt this way about Uncle Max, despite Watterson's regret at having introduced him. Some disagree with him and think that Max did bring something new to Calvin: an adult who regularly interacted with him at his level.
    • Calvin's doctor is considered by many to be a very funny and sarcastic character (like when he tells Calvin his ear light is a cattle prod and that "it hurts a little less than a branding iron"). Sadly, he disappeared after the chicken pox storyline, and never became as major as Rosalyn or Miss Wormwood.

    Fan Works 
  • Code Prime: The Glaston Knights have even less time here than they did in the original series, being totally wiped out after only two battles. At least some fans have expressed annoyance that they died without any character development at all. Special mention goes to Claudio, who was the Sole Survivor in canon, yet here is one of the first to die.
  • Smaug in Lay Down Your Sweet and Weary Head. Thorin spends all his time worrying about the dragon's inevitable appearance. Then when he finally appears, Thorin shoots him and kills him in the space of a few paragraphs. We scarcely get to see Smaug at all. Even his attack on Dale is off-screen.
  • Cerise from My Brave Pony: Star Fleet Magic II is a major in Starfleet, can stand toe-to-toe with Lightning and can use the Uniforce. She is a one-shot character.
  • Of State: Grimmel the Grisly could have made for an interesting antagonist for Hiccup and his kingdom to face. Additionally, there was potential for an interaction between him and Frozen's characters. Many readers were disappointed at his treatment as a one-off villain who served little more than a plot device to show Hiccup's status as an Adaptational Badass.
  • In The Prayer Warriors: Battle With the Witches, Voldemort appears in a single scene, establishing himself as an enemy to both the Prayer Warriors and Hogwarts, and blackmailing Draco into killing Michael with the threat of killing Ebony so that he will be able to continue to fight against Dumbledore. It would have been more interesting to have an additional opposing faction, but Voldemort is never seen again.
  • This happens pretty often in Nuzlocke stories due to Real Life Writes the Plot. A writer can come up with an interesting and complex personality for a Pokemon... only for it to die to a fluke critical hit before they can fully develop. One notable example is Vinny the Magneton in Petty's Nuzlocke Challenge, who developed a huge fan following when he was introduced due to his interesting personality and good performance in battle... and he unceremoniously died to a critical in the next chapter.
  • A few cases in Panzer und uni
    • In the last chapter, Emi Nakasuga is introduced. For context, Emi and Miho had parted ways at the end of the prequel manga, Little Army, promising to see each other again once Miho found her own way of tankery. Unfortunately, Emi doesn't serve any role other than as Miho's final opponent in this fic.
    • Similar to Emi, there's also Chihiro Yusa, an old friend of Miho's who ended up going to a different middle school. She rejoins Miho's university team in the first chapter, but hardly has any role in the fic. Interestingly enough, Hitomi, the other member of their group, doesn't appear at all.
  • Universe Falls: You'd think Ronaldo, a walking Conspiracy Theorist stereotype, would fit in a Gravity Falls fanfic like a glove with its various mysteries, conspiracies, and cryptids, yet his presence is scaled back considerably compared to his various episodes from Steven Universe proper.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Furious Five in Kung Fu Panda. Wonderful character design, awesome powers, voiced by the likes of Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan, each with the potential for intriguing backstories — but for such an imaginative, talented group of characters, they seem remarkably underutilized. However, they're given a bit more to do in the sequel (particularly Tigress) and are also fleshed out a bit more in supplementary material like the Secrets of the Furious Five special and the Legends of Awesomeness series.
  • Many who didn't like Shark Tale have dubbed Lenny the film's only likable character, due to his being a Nice Guy and genuinely pretty sympathetic (it helps that Jack Black actually does a decent job as the voice as opposed to just acting like himself into a microphone like the rest of the cast did) and have stated that he should've been the protagonist.
  • Brutus of The Secret of NIMH has a scary introduction where he menaces Mrs. Brisby with an electrified spear, but that's his only appearance in the film. He's apparently in the scene where the rats are moving Mrs. Brisby's house as Justin shouts for him, but he's not on-screen. A scene of him actually getting to use his badass electro-pike (against Dragon, perhaps?) would have been nice.
  • Zee from Monster House. At first she's a nasty (though darkly humorous) subversion of the sweet and kind babysitter, but there are a few moments here and there that suggest she's not altogether bad and there's even some build-up as to her involvement in the titular Monster House (at one point she offers to go and see what DJ is so afraid of). Given the emphasis put on her in the film's first half, many viewers expected her to turn up again in a Chekhov's Gunman capacity, but ...nope. Instead she disappears halfway through the film and only reappears for a tiny scene during the closing credits.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games: The Shadowbolts weren't given much screen time — surprising since they're the focus of the toyline (along with the protagonists, of course), were among the first things leaked and/or formally revealed about the film, and promotional materials (such as posts by the official My Little Pony facebook page and the official Equestria Girls website) pushed parallels between them and the Humane Six and gave interesting character traits that are, for the most part, unexplored in the film proper.
  • Valka in How to Train Your Dragon 2. She's shown to be an incredible character with a connection to dragons, a sympathetic backstory, and a very spooky design aesthetic that is great to look at. But then she gets pushed to the sidelines for the sake of Hiccup's character development, and in a situation where you'd think she'd do great, she ends up being pushed down almost immediately. Word of God says that she was originally conceived as the Big Bad, which does explain it somewhat.
  • The Book of Life:
    • Manolo's cousins, the Adelita Twins who fought during the revolution and are also the only badass Sanchezes to not be Bull Fighters. Only got two scenes.
    • Joaquin's dad is talked about a lot but never makes an appearance which leads to all sorts of Fanon.
  • Finnick from Zootopia starts off as a cutesy sidekick to Nick, who is apparently a baby fox that wants to grow up to be an elephant...only for the audience to find out later on he's actually a grown up fennec fox that has a cynical, aggressive, tough as nails personality and a deep voice. However, despite the fact that he makes his personality very well known, he only gets three lines and is in the movie for less than 5 minutes, to the point where he's pretty much the only character in the movie who's nowhere to be found in the Dance Party Ending (which is also kind of weird considering he can be seen on many of the promotional materials for the movie, to the point where he has his own toy commercial).
    • However, the directors have acknowledged his popularity, and have gone on record saying that if a sequel is made, he will have a bigger role.
  • Most of the characters in The Secret Life of Pets appear to be in the movie just for audience appeal, and ended up largely superfluous to the plot. Among the protagonists, Chloe and Tiberius only contributed briefly to Max's rescue, while Buddy, Mel, Norman, and Sweetpea could've stayed home for all the difference they made.
  • In Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire, lots of effort is devoted early on to establishing a huge herd of interesting supporting cast members, who then spend the rest of the movie tripping over each other for screen time to the point where it feels like all of them got shortchanged. If the proposed TV series had materialized, they would have each finally gotten a chance to shine.
  • Frozen II: Of all characters from the first film, Prince Hans could qualify for this since it was said he was going to be making a return and have a potential Heel–Face Turn before the writers scrapped the idea entirely. He only gets brief mentions.
  • Wreck-It Ralph/Ralph Breaks the Internet: Many fans of the cute little racers in the game Sugar Rush wish they had more screen time (aside from Vanellope and the adult King Candy/Turbo, both of which play major roles) and some wish the racers had their own film or TV show. One Sugar Rush racer (in this case Rancis Fluggerbutter) did get his own tie-in book, and a subplot about the racers with Fix-It Felix, Jr. and Sergeant Calhoun as their parents was planned for “Ralph Breaks the Internet” during the storyboards, but was cut from the final version and only showed a few scenes in the beginning and end. Still, fans are disappointed about the limited screen time for the Sugar Rush racers. Some fans make fanfics about them, and some are even annoyed that the racers have full bios that the “Wreck-It Ralph” movies wasted. Yet the lead trio of racers (Taffyta Muttonfudge, Rancis Fluggerbutter and Candlehead) get a few small scenes of screen time, which a few are annoyed about.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In the WWE, Muhammad Hassan was original portrayed as an Arab-American suffering from racism in a post-9/11 world. Judging by his character alone, he had the potential of becoming one of the biggest woobies ever. However, he was treated as a typical Foreign Wrestling Heel by racist fans despite being billed from Detroit, Michigan to the point where he eventually became the very thing he was stereotyped as. Eventually, due to outcry following an incident where men in ski masks assisted him on the same day as the 2005 bombings in London, Hassan was written off when the Undertaker dropped him through the stage.
  • Paul Burchill's pirate gimmick, in which the wrestler discovered one of his distant ancestors was a pirate so he began to model himself as one, swinging onto the ramp from a rope and brandishing a cutlass, was much beloved by the fans. It even came about at the height of the popularity of Pirates of the Caribbean. But, the gimmick was axed prematurely because Vince McMahon couldn't understand why a pirate would be a Face.
  • Hade Vansen, a mysterious British wrestler who was supposed to feud with the Undertaker, was released before he debuted. Most fans feel it was a waste
  • When Dustin Rhodes returned to WCW in 1999, it was originally supposed to be in the guise of "Seven," a ghoulish, pail-skinned character in a long coat and wide-brimmed hat. One vignette for the character features him staring at a child through the child's bedroom window, and then the child's eyes turn into empty black pits. When the character actually debuted, he floated to the ring (with assistance from some wires) and then Rhodes broke character and cut a worked shoot promo verbally bashing this gimmick, as well as the Goldust gimmick. The next time he was seen, he had a completely different gimmick, and the Seven character never even wrestled a match. The gimmick was actually the brainchild of Rhodes and his father Dusty, but the character was dropped after the network executives feared that he would be misinterpreted as a child abductor.note 
  • Maxine was an Ensemble Dark Horse for Diva fans on NXT Redemption. As well as having a solid character, she was quite good in the ring too. When NXT Redemption was cancelled, she could have made for a good top heel in the women's division - or at least a character role on TV. She spent a couple of months barely being used, and opted to ask for her release.
  • Layla returned to WWE after a year off (due to a torn ACL) fresh off a Heel–Face Turn - and very improved in the ring. As Kelly Kelly was on her way out, WWE were in need of a new top babyface Diva - and Layla had gotten decent reactions from crowds beforehand. However she was barely on TV and got no mic time to herself at all. Despite wowing people in the ring, nothing was done with her at all. It happened again a year later when she turned heel on her friend Kaitlyn - seemingly forming an alliance with AJ. This was dropped after a couple of weeks and Layla was Put on a Bus for months for unknown reasons.
  • The Beautiful Fierce Females on NXT, mostly due to Real Life Writes the Plot. Summer Rae and Sasha Banks formed a Power Stable hoping to take control of NXT - later recruiting Charlotte to make it a villainous version of The Three Faces of Evenote . However Charlotte left for a few months to get breast implants. The feud between Paige and Emma also took centre stage and Bayley also needed people to feud with - so the BFFs never got much of a chance to get pushed as a top heel faction. What's more is that Summer Rae's main roster career took off, meaning that she had to stop appearing at NXT. When she returned, the group was quickly broken up. Put it this way: the first time the three of them wrestled in a 6-Diva tag together - it was the start of their break-up.
  • CHIKARA simply announced that Wani would be on Juan Francisco De Coronado's squad for the Torneo Cibernetico at the 2015 Season Finale Top Banana and never developed a character or backstory for him. He didn't do much of note during 2016. Then he defeated Space Monkey for the Young Lions Cup and, once he lost it to Sylverhawk, he left and was completely forgotten.
  • WWE signed Heidi Lovelace, who had been a Champion and main eventer in many promotions, changed her name to Ruby Riot(t), made her the leader of a team...and jobbed her out nonstop.
    • They also signed Heidi's longtime friend/rival Kimber Lee, changed her name to "Abbey Laith," and jobbed her out endlessly and released her. As Princess Kimberlee, she had made history by becoming the first female CHIKARA Grand Champion, and all WWE could think to do with her is have her lose to Lana, who isn't even a wrestler.
  • WWE gave Kizarny a big buildup and then did nothing with him.

    • Dark Hunter Ancient. He's a unique case: started out as a decent character (evil but not outright malicious, and a founding member of the Dark Hunters), but was overall plain and unimportant. Not many would've missed him. Then, with no foreshadowing, he's revealed to be a Double Agent for the good guys. He's become interesting! He is then abruptly killed off and forgotten completely, rendering this reveal pointless (because no other character found out). Worse, the plot which led him to be killed was abandoned after that chapter.
    • Other Dark Hunters might also count, such as Guardian, who only ever appeared in one scene before being killed by the Big Bad For the Evulz, even though they had an in-depth backstory written for him. Toyless Toyline Characters are prone to this, as a lot of them come off as more interesting than the main characters, but are always forced to the back because there's too many of them.
    • Some might think they wasted Tren Krom too. Sure, he had a great impact on the story already, and was an interestingly developed character (some sort of a benevolent but still mean-spirited Eldritch Abomination who's terrified to see what the world he was once appointed to rule had come to), but he was bound to his island prison, which limited his use greatly. Then, he became free, and when we next see him... his pieces are all over the scenery. Justified in that killing off powerful characters was the point of this story, but still. There was great potential in the guy.
    • Telluris. A crazed and evil Gadgeteer Genius who does have a good side, but this is usually overshadowed by his mighty mechanical scorpion-war machine, the Skopio XV-1. The Skopio only ever appeared in one scene (not counting its animation model appearing in The Legend Reborn), in a difficult-to-get side story, and got trashed. Thus, the most defining aspect of Telluris' character was gone. Telluris also received an in-depth history, and even seemed like an actual likable character, only to be killed off later for no reason whatsoever, before he could do anything that had an impact on the plot.
    • Alternate-Teridax, the benevolent Alternate Universe-self of the story's Big Bad. He is brought to the main universe, but only appears for a short action scene where he brutally demolishes some Mooks, and is then forgotten. He doesn't even play a part in defeating the original Teridax, and nobody seems to care that he's there.
      • In both of the last two cases, it's quite possible that more would have been done with them if not for the Executive Meddling that shut down BIONICLE and left some stories half-written.
    • The Vahki made a huge impact on fans in the 2004 web animations and tv commercial, which portrayed them as merciless, extremely efficient and creepy law enforcers that keep the city in a constant 1984-esque state. They had powerful abilities, could show up everywhere, attacked in swarms, and being fully robotic, had no reason to care about their lives. This depiction never came up elsewhere; the comics, books and movie turned them into disposable Mooks easily beaten though convenient circumstances and barely ever using their powers. The writer hated them so much, he wrote them out of the story.

    Web Animation 
  • Lobo (Webseries): Some DC fans were bothered that Superman (a common rival of Lobo) didn't make a cameo. Others were relieved since Lobo generally isn't a family friendly character.
  • Red vs. Blue had Grif's Sister, Kaikaina. Once introduced in season 5, she was quickly well-liked and deemed a hilarious character, but still ends up having barely any effect on the story. Come the next season, Sister appears to show the other characters moved to other places and left her behind, despite all the fun gags or plot complications that could be built off Grif having a sibling on the other side. It would take seven seasons for Sister to appear again in a cameo, and after brief appearances in the following two, she was finally back in the main cast for season 16, which while divisive among fans, had Sister's reintroduction and usage being one of the few things no one complained about.

  • SBB Brothers:
    • Presumably; this was what the producer thought about Kristen and Roscoe. Before he canceled the original Sims Big Brother 7, the two were brought back as the guest star players. Both were evicted second and didn't have a chance to develop (That and SRN admits that he had almost no creativity while working on Sims Big Brother 4 anyways and it shows.) However when the viewers chose the cast of All stars, Roscoe sadly didn't make the cut (He did have several amusing moments; though, more than can be said for Kristen) but Kristen was one of two people from season 4 that made it in - the other was Johnny. Kristen wasn't even a producer's choice!
    • Unfortunately, the same could be said about a lot of the big brother 4 cast. CJ seemed almost a background prop despite being popular enough to win (Viewers voted on the winner). Brian and Sam seemed to be in control of the game, heck, Sam is the only player who was never nominated.
    • The viewers also thought this about Dana, too. Dana was another early boot from Big Brother season 2 but was voted in as well.

  • Check, Please!:
    • Downplayed case, but some believe it happens to Bittle. The first 2 years of the comic heavily focus on Jack's issues, his past and his plans for the future, leaving Bittle to have focus only during his coming out, his concussion and his crush on Jack during year 2. Bittle is heavily implied to be a rather complex character, and things about him never got explored, such as his relationship with his father and his conservative family, his bullying-filled childhood, his fear of checking that seems to expand to most forms of physical contact and his romantic life.
    • Kent's implied narrative is very compelling, dramatic and got a lot of fans interested in it after Jack's comments about their relationship brushing off Kent as a physical thing, while Kent is still in love with him. That added to the rise in popularity of Kent/Tater made a lot of people interested in his side of the story, but since the plot takes place from Bitty's point of view, and he can't stand Kent, he doesn't really get any focus.
  • The "To Thine Own Self" arc of General Protection Fault introduced some side characters who would have been interesting in their own right as counterparts to the main cast, but got killed off before long. Examples include a version of Yoshi who is a savant at engineering but otherwise mentally retarded, Wong Li, a diminutive yet extremely powerful operative and a Shrinking Violet version of Sharon. Unfortunately, most of the resistance characters are implied to have been killed off when the resistance hideout is raided, and Nega-Sharon is The Mole for the Emperor, and gets killed when an explosion causes the roof to collapse on her.
  • Homestuck:
    • The trolls of Hivebent hover somewhere around 'deuteragonist' level, but are still this. They're introduced in Act 5, almost half of them are dead by Act 6, and they're the protagonists of a compelling, highly abridged Story Within a Story that Hivebent gives us only an idea of. They each have their own distinct personalities and methods of coping with the Fantastic Caste System and their species' truly messed up culture. They have an alien system of romance that the author created specifically to bait shippers with. It should come as no surprise that they're also Ensemble Dark Horses par excellence.
    • Jade is by far the least-seen of the original four main kids, an issue that only grows as the comic goes on. She is introduced with a unique life — the first of the four players to have her dream self awake and under control, living on an island with a superpowered teleporting dog as a guardian, and has plenty of Hidden Depths that could work well with other characters. As a hero of Space, she also has one of the two "required" aspects to a session (along with Time, Dave's aspect) and plays a crucial role in the endgame of Sburb. Then Act 5 ends with her becoming one of the most powerful characters in the entire story... then her screentime plumets. While John, Rose, and Dave all undergo their own personal adventures and storylines, Jade spends more time than any of them either "just" left to piloting a ship, asleep, or mind-controlled by the Condesce. She barely even interacts with Rose that much, with their total number of on-screen conversations being in the single digits.
  • Starfighter: Encke and Keeler, the leaders of the Sleipnir ship. They are so far the ones to show to be the sanest and most level headed members of the cast, but some fans feel that their romantic tension needed more screen time, specially because, aside from a flashback implying that Keeler was Encke's Closet Key, there isn't much to their relationship outside of friendly and professional.
  • VG Cats: To say the least, Ramsoomair's style was good back in the day. He made a number of jokes about Star Fox, but the only time anyone actually got to see how he would draw any of the characters aside from Slippy Toad was in the strip where Aeris imagines Fox & Falco having sex while making bad in-jokes... with Wolf presumably joining in later.

    Web Original 
  • Survival of the Fittest has tons of characters, each with detailed backstories, characterizations, and other information inside their profiles. It also happens to be a Deadly Game in which characters die regularly. As you might expect, many characters die early on, or without reaching their full potential.
  • In The Nostalgia Critic's review of Osmosis Jones had a parody of Inside Out with other actors as his emotions. But instead of any character references, they mostly just fight about whether they ripped off the former movie or not, even though they're focused on two completely different aspects of the body.
  • SuperMarioLogan:
    • Name any student character that appears in the "Bowser Junior's Summer School" or "First Grade" story arcs that isn't Junior, Toad, Cody, or Joseph. Almost all of them never show up in any other videos besides those story arcs. Charleyyy, Black Yoshi, Shrek, and Logan are in the "Summer School" story arc, but they don't really count, due to the former three being recurring characters, and the latter being the series' creator.
    • The Strongbottom Family, all of whom are royalty from the Iron Asses of Wales and are related to Chef Pee Pee. Naturally, this would raise a lot of possibilities. What sort of antics would Junior get up to with the sisters? What sort of development would Chef Pee Pee go through with his father? Where did Stacy learn "Queef?" What sort of struggles would Chef Pee Pee and Benjamin go through taking care of BOTH the Strongbottoms and Bowser's family? What sort of relationship would Bowser and the King have? Where is Queen Strongbottom? How did Chef Pee Pee go from royalty to a common house chef? There was a lot that could be done with this family and could have added a lot of characterization, depth, character development and even an interesting backstory to Chef Pee Pee. But instead, King Strongbottom gets killed by his servant Benjamin (Even more baffling because Strongbottom says that Stacy would take the throne if he died, yet we never see Stacy again), Stacy never goes beyond being a cheerleader who keeps saying "Queef" and Chef Pee Pee's big sister is not even named.
  • In Overly Sarcastic Productions trope talk on Plot Twists, Red lists this and its counterpart as a hallmark of a bad twist; The story would be more interesting if the twist hadn't happened. As an example, she asks what would have happened if Quicksilver had survived Avengers: Age of Ultron.
    • In Captain America: Civil War, Petrov might have sided with Tony, truly believing that Tony was atoning for his actions through the Sokovian Accords. This would have put him on opposing sides of Wanda, the first time the twins truly conflict, and leading to some great drama.
    • Petrov could have survived the Snap, leaving him as the sole surviving twin and spent the five ensuing years doing for earth what Captain Marvel did for the universe; running around and being a hero to the survivors. When Wanda returns in Endgame, there is suddenly a five year age difference between these twins and, while Petrov had five years to come to term with his loss, and has grown as a person, Wanda lost the love of her life a few minutes ago from her perspective, leaving the two at completely different places in life.