It’s time for the spotlight to shine on the secondary characters. The people who fill out the world, make the story matter to the heroes, aid the villains, and sometimes play a key role themselves.
James Gordon—I love the TV show Gotham, and one of the top reasons is because it shows us some of the main characters from the Dark Knight trilogy before that storyline takes place. One of the stars is Detective Gordon.
It’s fascinating to see how his environment is shaping him. The pressures of being a good cop in a bad city. Of doing what’s right…but at what cost? Of compromising and the repercussions—externally and internally.
Harrison Wells—Harry is an interesting fellow. In the first season of the Flash, he ended up being the villain, but until the point where we discovered that startling truth that he was actually Eobard Thawne, his character added a lot to the story. His secrets were intriguing, his motives mysterious.
Fast forward to this season, and Wells is back. Actually, his Earth 2 doppelganger. Not a villain, he still brings a strong personality to the team dynamic at Star Labs. It’s fascinating to see this Wells compared to the villainous reverse Flash. His sharp attitude and less-than-friendly ways toward the team keep the sparks flying, but sometimes in a positive or humorous way.
Unlike many B list characters, he has a strong motivation—do anything and everything to keep his daughter safe.
Felicity Smoak—I loved the first two seasons of Arrow. Season three went downhill like a snowball picking up speed for the wrong reasons. I’ve only seen bits of season four.
Through it all, Felicity has remained my favorite character. In a show that seems bent on every female character becoming a kick-butt warrior chick complete with tight black leather, she stands out because she’s exactly the opposite. A techy nerd with a gift for saying the most hilarious things and add humor that most DC characters lack.
Alfred Pennyworth—Both interpretations of the Wayne’s loyal butler—found in the Dark Knight trilogy and the Gotham TV show—are memorable. Not because of any profound depth or marvelous development of character. In that regard, the sum of attributes we see in Alfred is narrow.
But seriously, who doesn’t love a butler with an English accent? Who’s loyal to a fault. Who helps adult Bruce in his Batman escapades and mentors young Bruce after his parents die. Who’s always there to serve.
Leonard Snart—Aka Captain Cold, Snart never fails to keep me interested. Most of the time he happily dons the outfit of villain, but on occasion he stoops to actually helping someone. This contrast in character makes him stand out like a Groot cosplay at comic con.
With his role in the new show Legends of Tomorrow, Snart has become even more intriguing. For a long time he seemed like a selfish, heartless rogue, but now his Captain Cold heart is showing hints of thawing. And his perfectly timed dry sense of humor is priceless.
Groot and Rocket—You could argue they’re not secondary characters since they’re part of the GoG team, but they don’t feel like main characters since they don’t get as much screen time. They’re a loveable duo with personalities that complement each other and provide for plenty of humor, yet also a number of touching moments.
Fitz and Simmons—Another adorable duo. Their character arcs have remained flat for the most part, and they aren’t as fully developed as other secondary characters. But seriously, they’re the best, aren’t they? Two ends of the same test tube. If anyone deserves to be together, it’s Fitz and Simmons.
Phil Coulson—I hated Coulsen the first time I saw him in Thor. As I got to know him over the course of several more movies and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the more he grew on me.
As with many Marvel characters, he comes across as stagnant. He’s entertaining but lacks major growth, and his character remains on the surface level, not bothering to dig beneath the quirks and personality ticks.
Peggy Carter—Playing a semi-major part in the first Captain A movie, Peggy didn’t stand out as a marvelously intriguing character. Sure, she was witty and impulsive, and the fact that she could work and thrive in a man’s environment showed her toughness.
But it wasn’t until she received her own miniseries that her character became more fleshed out. Not as much as could be, but in the two seasons of Agent Carter, it was fascinating to see her life after Cap crashed in the ice—how she learned to move on and focus her energy elsewhere.
When it comes to sheer number, Marvel, as in most things, maintains the upper hand. However, when dealing with intriguing characters who go beyond stereotypical dialogue, uncommon quirks, and “fillers” around the main characters, DC has done a better job. Their characters present more depth, complexity, and variety.
One thing I appreciate about Marvel’s characters—main and secondary—is the amount of humor. DC’s populace tends toward darker, more brooding attitudes and outlooks on the world. A major reason why I love Cisco so much. And Felicity. And Snart.
At the end of the day, both casts complement the arcs of the heroes and villains and do a solid job of filling out the storyworlds, but I’d give DC the edge.
Who do you think has better secondary characters and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts.