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We have The Ghost or He Who Must Not Be Seen, a character who is frequently mentioned but is never seen on-screen.

Sometimes it happens that the writers decide to finally reveal this character to the audience, either as a recurring character or just for one appearance. This character is Unseen No More.

Compare Ascended Extra, who is a minor character whose role is later expanded. May overlap with The Reveal if the appearance is somewhat shocking. If the character is only seen from behind or we only hear his voice, it falls into The Faceless or The Voice. The Faceless or The Voice characters may overlap only if they finally get shown on screen entirely. Might even be a subversion of Posthumous Character if the talked about character is assumed to be dead and turns out not to be; see also Chekhov M.I.A. and Not Quite Dead.

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Compare The Real Remington Steele, when someone whose identity was known to be fake/used by another guy shows up as a real person, and Not-So-Imaginary Friend, where a character who's presumed to be imaginary is proven to be real.

Warning: As a possible The Reveal trope, expect unmarked spoilers.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball: Grandpa Gohan was The Ghost by virtue of being dead. While he was mentioned a lot, he never made an appearance in the first arc and most of the second arc, before making a surprise appearance at the end as a literal ghost.
  • Tweeny Witches: For the most part, Jidan is either heard or has his full face obscured in flashback. He finally appears in person when Sigma is revealed to have been imprisoned.

    Comic Books 
  • Mary Jane Watson was introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man #25 with a plant obscuring her face and continued to appear as The Faceless until her iconic reveal in issue #42 almost a year and a half later.
  • Scott Pilgrim had a Running Gag of Mobile and Lawrence barely being off-screen but often mentioned. Both of them finally appear in-person at the end of Volume 5, and Scott briefly confuses them both for Gideon.
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    Comic Strips 
  • Peanuts: Even if it's known Charlie Brown has a crush on her, the Little Red-Haired Girl never appears in the comic strips. She will appear a few times in animated adaptations.

    Fan Works 
  • The Calvinverse: Socrates' owner Elliot went his first several appearances without getting a good look at his physical description, much to Calvin's frustration. The audience and characters finally got their first actual encounter with him in the penultimate episode of Season 4 of Calvin and Hobbes: The Series.

    Films — Animation 
  • Meet the Robinsons: Mr. Robinson is talked about a great deal, but only appears at the very end of the film, where he's revealed to be the grown-up version of Lewis.
  • Robin Hood: King Richard is the Big Good of the story and is repeatedly mentioned throughout the movie. He finally appears onscreen at the very end of the film.
  • Shrek: The Muffin Man is mentioned by Gingy in one scene of the first movie. He appears in the sequels.
  • Toy Story: Evil Emperor Zurg is only mentioned by Buzz in the first movie, but appears in Toy Story 2, and is the main villain in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. Likewise, Al's Toy Barn was also mentioned in the first movie, but Al himself didn't appear until the second movie.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Jaws: The shark is never shown on screen, only the damage it causes from the perspective of the victims. It finally shows up when Brody, Quint, and Hooper are at sea.
  • Signs: The presence of an extraterrestrial threat is made all the more menacing by the fact that we never see them directly - most of the time, all we get is a quick glimpse of alien fingers reaching under a doorway, or a leg disappearing into the corn stalks. Even when we do see them directly, it's only as a blurry image on a video camera or a silhouette outside the window at night. Eventually, we get a quick glimpse of one of the aliens without any shadows, but even then it's so fast that you'd need to pause the video to get a proper look.
  • The Sixth Sense: Cole, the Trope Namer for I See Dead People, discusses his ability to see ghosts, but it isn't until halfway through the film we get to see the ghosts. That is, unless you count Malcolm, who was Dead to Begin With.
  • Star Wars finally unmasked Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi.

    Literature 
  • The Graveyard Book kept the Sleer, an Eldritch Abomination that guards an ancient pagan tomb, obscured in shadow until the book's climax.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, several characters only mentioned in the previous books make their on-page debuts here:
    • Mrs. Figg, the Dursleys' Crazy Cat Lady neighbor who was mentioned to have looked after Harry for them before he found out he was a wizard is revealed to be a Muggle Born of Mages who was watching over Harry for Dumbledore.
    • Mundungus Fletcher had previously been mentioned in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with the indication being that he was the wizarding world equivalent of a swindler. He finally appears in Chapter 2 and is exactly as much a sneak thief as the previous books presented him as.
    • An interesting example with Dumbledore's brother Aberforth. First referenced by Dumbledore in the previous book, then again by Mad-Eye Moody early on here with the indication being he's the Black Sheep of the family, he makes his debut in Chapter 16 as the owner of the Hog's Head pub in Hogsmeade; however, we don't find out that he's Aberforth until Book 7.
  • The Inheritance Cycle frequently mentions the Big Bad King Galbatorix, but he never makes an appearance until the end of the final book.
  • Related to the Game of Thrones item below, several major characters in A Song of Ice and Fire are mentioned often in the first book in but don't appear until the second or third - Stannis Baratheon, Randyll Tarly, Mance Rayder and Balon Greyjoy, to name a few.
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    Live-Action TV 
  • Agent Carter: Jarvis' wife, Ana, was mentioned from time to time in season 1, and finally appeared and became a supporting character in season 2.
  • All in the Family: George Jefferson was often mentioned on the show but did not appear until "Henry's Farewell" in Season 4. That's because producer Norman Lear's choice to play George, Sherman Hemsley, was appearing in a Broadway musical at the time and the role was left open until he was available.
  • Babylon 5: In season 4, William Edgars of Edgars Industries communicates multiple times with Michael Garibaldi, deliberately choosing an audio-only feed each time. It's not until "The Exercise of Vital Powers", most of the way through the season, that Garibaldi (and the audience) finally sees his face.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Howard and Bernadette's two young children are often discussed but are never seen until the final episode of the series.
    • Except for his mother Mary, who is a recurring character, and his sister Missy, who first appears in season one, most of the people from Sheldon's childhood are mentioned often but unseen for the most part. His grandmother Constance (A.K.A. Meemaw) appears in season nine, and older brother Georgie in season eleven. All of them, plus his deceased father, appear in the Spin-Off Young Sheldon.
  • Boris: Dr. Cane, an important director often mentioned since the first episode, spends most of the show either as The Ghost or The Faceless. When he's The Faceless, he's usually seen from behind, sitting on a chair and talking to the character in front of him. His face is revealed for the first time in the next-to-last episode, although he oddly goes back to being The Faceless in the finale.
  • The Drew Carey Show: For most of the first season, Mr. Bell (Drew's boss at this point in the series) doesn't appear on-camera, only heard through an intercom. At the end of the Season Finale, Winfred-Lauder's new Dutch owners fire Mr. Bell, setting up Season 2's debut of the far better known Mr. Wick. It is at this point where Mr. Bell makes his first and only on-screen appearance.
  • In Elementary, Morland Holmes is frequently mentioned throughout the first three seasons, but doesn't actually appear until Season 4, when he becomes a Recurring Character.
  • Early seasons of Empty Nest have the Westons mention a third sister named Emily while Harry lives with Carol and Barbara. After Kristy McNichol (Barbara) decided to leave the show, Emily finally showed up and moved back home.
  • Frasier: Whilst the show's most famous The Ghost, Maris, remained unseen throughout, Roz's mother finally made an on screen appearance after six seasons of mentions, and Daphne's parents made their first appearances in the finales of Seasons 7 and 9 respectively.
  • Friends: Phoebe's father. In the season 2 episode "The One With Phoebe's Dad," Phoebe wanted to meet her father (it turns out the guy from the pictures wasn't him) but eventually decides she's not ready for that. He remains unseen until a season 5 episode where he makes his first and only appearance.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Stannis Baratheon in Season 1 is only occasionally talked about by other characters. Stephen Dillane portrays him from Season 2 onwards.
    • Balon Greyjoy never appears in the first season, and is talked about by other characters. Patrick Malahide portrays him in Season 2.
    • Mance Rayder is mentioned in the first two seasons. Ciaran Hinds portrays him from season 3 onwards.
    • Roose Bolton's bastard, Ramsay Snow, is first mentioned in Season 2. He later appears in Season 3 and his name is only revealed in the Season 3 finale.
  • The Good Place:
    • In the first episode, Michael mentions Doug Forcett, the only man who has figured out how the Afterlife actually works. He finally appears in Season 3 when Michael and Eleanor sought to find him.
    • The Judge is mentioned several times before she makes her proper first appearance in the Season 2 episode "The Burrito."
    • Early on in season 4, there is a brief mention of a Disco Janet, who appears in Season 4 as part of the army of Janets who come to stop the Judge from rebooting all of existence.
    • Jason often mentioned a buddy of his named Donkey Doug, who we finally meet in Season 3 and is revealed to be Jason's father.
  • Grace Under Fire: Grace's ex-husband Jimmy was The Unseen for the first season, never appearing on-screen and only being heard when he was in a television ad that was not shown to the audience. He became a recurring character in the second season.
  • Hannah Montana: Uncle Earl was the character mentioned whenever the Stewarts needed to talk about weird events in their family. He was finally shown on-screen in "(We're So Sorry) Uncle Earl," where he was just as crazy and hammy as they built him up to be.
  • Happy Days: Jenny Piccalo was Joanie's off-screen best friend for quite a few seasons, but in season 8 she finally appears and becomes a recurring character.
  • Haven: Laverne was the dispatcher for Haven PD that Nathan frequently called over the radio, but she was never seen in-person until the Season 5 episode "Blind Spot."
  • House of Anubis: In season one, Nina's Gran was only mentioned in conversation, or in one case, heard over the phone, due to her being in America while Nina was in England. In season two, however, she became a recurring character, having gone to England on vacation.
  • How I Met Your Mother: The titular mother. When talking to his children, Ted reveals many facts about her, but she remains unseen until the season 8 finale. In season 9, she's a regular.
  • iCarly: Sam's Mom and Carly's Dad are often mentioned by their daughters throughout the show but not shown. The former eventually appears in the episode "iSam's Mom" and the latter in the series finale "iGoodbye."
  • Just Shoot Me!: It happens a few times.
    • Jack's wife Allie is constantly mentioned throughout the series, but only makes a physical appearance in the fifth season finale.
    • Nina will often mention her friend and roommate Binny. In one episode that parodies Psycho, Elliot and Finch begin to wonder if Binny is real at all, since no one besides Nina seems to know her. Elliot and Finch break into Nina's apartment to discover she is in fact real, but apparently won't go outside due to botched plastic surgery.
  • Keeping Up Appearances: Hyacinth's sister Violet and her husband Bruce are mentioned througout the series, but do not appear on-screen until the fifth series.
  • The Latest Buzz: Amanda is constantly seen hounding on her phone to "Daddy's Assistant," who works for her father. Said man finally appears in person in the series finale, where the gang remark that this was the guy she had been pestering this whole time.
  • Lois & Clark: Perry White's wife Alice is mentioned numerous times throughout the series, often in relation to his on going struggles with his marriage, but doesn't appear (even when they both are kidnapped by a cult leader she remains offscreen) up until the second to last episode in season four.
  • Lost:
    • The show once depicted its own cheesy Show Within a Show called "Exposé," mostly via island survivor Nikki's flashbacks to her time as an actress. In one such flashback, it had its supposedly long-running The Ghost Big Bad turn out to be played by none other than Billy Dee Williams.
    • Jacob is first mentioned early in season 3, but doesn't appear until the season 5 finale.
  • On Married... with Children: Al and his coworkers at Gary's Shoes had never seen Gary to the point that Al believes it's just the store's name. In Season 9, Gary makes a visit where they learn she's the 401st richest American because of the store's poor performance. Gary becomes a recurring character for the rest of the series.
  • NCIS: Los Angeles: After years of being mentioned, we finally get to meet Kensi's civilian girlfriends Mindy, Mandy, Tiffany, Tiffany and Cat during her wedding to Marty Deeks in the latter half of Season 10.
  • Only Fools and Horses: Boycie's wife Marlene was a ghost in the first three seasons, with a Running Gag that Boycie would mention her, say "You remember Marlene?" and get the reply "All the boys remember Marlene." She appears in the fourth season episode "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie," and is a recurring character from then on.
  • Parks and Recreation
    • Jerry's wife Gayle was occasionally mentioned throughout earlier seasons before making a proper appearance in the Season 5 episode "Ron and Diane", played by Christie Brinkley. This begins a Running Gag where the characters constantly question someone who looks like her married Jerry.
    • Mayor Gunderson didn't make any appearances until the final season, and even then, he's dead.
  • Psych: Shawn and the rest of the crew frequently refer to Dobson, an SBPD officer, for eight years, but never actually interact with him. All we're told is that he supposedly looks like Val Kilmer. In the series finale, Dobson is seen for the first and last time for less than a minute and he's played by Val Kilmer.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: A running plotline for the first few seasons was Harry and Tom dating the Delaney Sisters (Jenny and Megan). Tom had to convince Harry to double-date with him, and later it's revealed that Harry isn't interested in the sister that's interested in him. It's not until the fifth season (after Tom is in a relationship with someone else) that they appear on screen. As Voyager reviewer Jim Wright puts it when they appear...
    THESE are the Delaney sisters? Oh my. The legends are true...Gee, Mr. Braga (one of the producers), it's not even my birthday!
  • Supergirl:
    • Kara's "more famous cousin," Superman, was constantly teased in Season 1 as the show's favorite Easter Egg, being constantly mentioned and rarely directly. Even the few times he did appear he would be The Faceless. This finally changes as of Season 2 following the network change for the show, where he shows up proper and assists Kara as a Guest-Star Party Member when he does.
    • Lex Luthor and his past crimes are also referenced frequently, and some of his weapons (including his Powered Armor) and even one of his security houses are used by his family, but, aside from some childhood flashbacks, he doesn't appear properly until Season 4 as the Big Bad.
  • The Walking Dead: Negan is the Big Bad of season 6 and is frequently mentioned by people who work for him but only appears in the season finale. In the following seasons, he's a regular.
  • Diane in Twin Peaks was only known as the faceless secretary Agent Cooper constantly adresses over his tape recorder for over 25 years, leading some to believe Cooper made her up. She finally appeared in the series' 2017 revival, played by Laura Dern.

    Video Games 
  • ClayFighter series has 2 of them: Santa Claus, The Rival of Bad Mr. Frosty mentioned in his backstory in the first 2 games, and Dr. Kiln, The Man behind the clones in the second game. Both finally appear in the third game of the series, ClayFighter 63 1/3 and its update Sculptor's Cut as the bosses: the former as Sumo Santa (having a Face–Heel Turn) and the latter as the Big Bad and Final Boss.
  • Dark Souls II: Aldia, King Vendrick's older brother, used to be a background character who doesn't appear on-screen, but due to his experiments on the Giants and his attempt to create a dragon (after which he was not heard from again) he was an important character lore-wise. In Scholar of the First Sin, he finally appears as the titular character and the True Final Boss of the game.
  • EarthBound: Giygas is mentioned as the ultimate Big Bad of the story in the opening. He is constantly mentioned throughout the plot, but not shown until the end, but even then, only for a few minutes.
  • The Forerunners from Halo were never seen in the games made by Bungie, having apparently gone extinct when the Halo Array was activated. We don't even hear of any individual Forerunner characters until Halo 3, where the Terminals mention two Forerunners known as the Didact and the Librarian who were at the forefront of the conflict against the Flood. In Halo 4, Master Chief and Cortana encounter the Didact, who had been imprisoned in Requiem for 100,000 years for his brutal treatment of the Advanced Ancient Humans, and the Librarian, copied by Brain Uploading into Requiem's computer systems.
  • The "Posthumous Character Subversion" is used in Knights of the Old Republic. We don't see Revan without a full face mask and thick robes you could practically hide a Wookiee in. We also don't hear Revan speak on camera. After a battle with the Republic where Malak took the opportunity to pull a properly-Sith power grab and shoot Revan's ship, it's presumed Revan is dead. However, several characters mention that there's always the possibility Revan might still be alive. Well, that does turn out to be the case; it's the Player Character under that mask.
  • PAYDAY 2: After nearly two games as the PAYDAY Gang's Mission Control (and who the player had only ever seen from behind during the live-action web series), they finally meet Bain in person during the "Hell's Island" heist which tasks the gang with rescuing him after he's been captured by the Kataru. Unfortunately for him, by the time he's rescued, he's been infected with a terminal disease by his torturers, and he dies following the White House heist.note 
  • Pokémon Gold and Silver gives this treatment to "Red," the variously-named protagonist of Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow, which takes place a few years prior to Gold and Silver in-universe. The current Player Character can run into Red's family, and even The Rival from the same previous generation, now named "Blue," in their post-Elite Four campaign across Kanto, but never actually comes face-to-face with Red until confronting him at the summit of Mount Silver, the true Final Level of the game. Even so, Red never says a word before, during or after combat, and remains The Voiceless and a Heroic Mime.
  • Power Instinct: Belti sisters, Elizabeth and Sandra, are rivals of Goketsuji sisters since decades and only they were mentioned in the backstory of the first game, being represented by Sandra's granddaughter Angela Belti. Finally both sisters appeared as selectable characters for the last game of the franchise, Matsuri Senzo Kuyou, being effectively foils for the Goketsuji, both being Western witches compared to Oume and Otane's evil Yamato Nadeshiko.

    Web Comics 
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Annie's Disappeared Dad, whose fraught relationship with her and with his childhood acquaintances among the teachers is a major ongoing plot element, abruptly shows up with a teaching position in Chapter 51. Annie is just as stunned as everyone else.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Fire Lord Ozai, the series Big Bad, is cloaked in shadow for the first two seasons despite frequently appearing even with a speaking role. He's finally fully revealed in the Season 3 premiere.
  • Doug: Skunky Beaumont goes from The Ghost in the Nickelodeon cartoon to a recurring character in the Disney version.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: Eddy's brother is only mentioned in the show. He finally shows up in the final scene of the movie.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Star Swirl the Bearded is referenced in various episodes since season 2. He only shows up for the first time in the season 7 finale and makes a few other appearances in the following seasons.
    • Moondancer got a couple of mentions in the first episode of the first season. We don't get to see her until Season 5.
  • Steven Universe: White Diamond is alluded to in various Homeworld iconography, from murals depicting her likeness to the appearance of the color white on the Diamond Authority's Era 1 and Era 2 symbols. It is not until her debut episode "Legs From Here to Homeworld" is she ever even mentioned by name five seasons in.
  • Trollhunters: Merlin is alluded to as the Big Good of the series numerous times, having been the creator of the Amulet of Daylight and the Trollhunter. In "Unbecoming," he appears in a disembodied voice, and in "For the Glory of Merlin," he is revealed to be alive (having been in an endless sleep for centuries) and joins the main cast.
  • Kim Possible: Professor Dementor is mentioned several times as a Mad Scientist with a much more impressive reputation than Dr. Drakken (much to Drakken's annoyance) before he finally starts appearing as a regular antagonist late in the first season.

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