Supporting Leader

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Aragorn: Draw out Sauron's armies. Empty his lands. Then we gather our full strength and march on the Black Gate.
Eomer: We cannot achieve victory through strength of arms.

Aragorn: Not for ourselves. But we can give Frodo his chance if we keep Sauron's Eye fixed upon us. Keep him blind to all else that moves.

The Supporting Leader is a secondary character who leads the forces of good in their struggle against the Big Bad. He isn't the protagonist of the series, but generally gets a spotlight episode focusing on some important battle right as the actual heroes are off performing whatever task winds up actually saving the day. This character is often the Deuteragonist.

The Brigadier and The Captain may be his underlings. The heroes who actually defeat the Big Bad may also be in his or her chain of command, but they're more likely to be an independent force of their own; their personal struggle is usually for the Golden Snitch while the Supporting Leader keeps the Big Bad from winning by default.

Pretty much found in any story where a kid is the hero. One of the surrounding adults will take on the role.

A variation of this is common in gaming, where following an initial battle, the player's nominal superior will tell them that the main battle is in hand and they need to proceed to the special objective that is the real centerpiece of the mission.

Sometimes this character will be the true hero of the story, and the central character will be the Supporting Protagonist. When the leader is the protagonist, rather than a secondary hero, it's A Protagonist Shall Lead Them.

Compare Big Good. Contrast with Hero Protagonist. If the battle scenes seem like they'd be pretty interesting in their own right, this character may be the Hero of Another Story.

Examples of Supporting Leader include:

Anime and Manga

  • An event in Mahou Sensei Negima that happened before the series takes place the main character's parents had this kind of relationship with the mother, Princess Arika, serving as The Aragorn to the father, The Thousand Master in his fight against the Big Bad who was known as "The Life Maker" and "The Mage of the Beginning". Though neither Arika nor her forces actually help the Thousand Master in his fight as he defeated the Mage of the Beginning shortly before they arrived. But they DID suppress and seal the World Destroying Apocalyptic Magic that was released as "The Ritual to Return the World to Nothing" was completed. So after saving the world they at some point had hot sex and thus the greatest Chick Magnet/Shounen Lead the world has ever seen was born.
  • King Fahn in Record of Lodoss War, and King Kashue in its sequel, Chronicles of the Heroic Knight. The main hero of the former, Parn, becomes another Aragorn in the latter as the focus shifts to a younger hero.
  • Maximilian Jenius in Macross 7.
  • Natsuki Kruger in Mai-Otome.
  • Anubituf in Simoun.
  • Admiral Lindy Harlaown, and later Hayate, in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha.
  • Roy Mustang in Fullmetal Alchemist.
  • Bright Noa in the original Mobile Suit Gundam.
  • Kunimitsu Tezuka from The Prince of Tennis.
  • Holland Novak from Eureka Seven.
  • Kamina from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann; Kittan takes the role after Kamina's death.
  • In Star Blazers / Space Battleship Yamato, Admiral Gideon fills this role taking on the Comet Empire's main space fleet while the Hero's ship is engaging a smaller task force. This of course leads to the Hero's ship being the only one to survive.
  • Griffith from Berserk, sort of. It's complicated.
  • In The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Mendoza is very much a Supporting Leader to the child hero Esteban. Subverted a bit in that he's a lot more morally ambiguous than most other examples of this trope, being more the Lovable Traitor than anything else.
  • Toraji in Innocent Venus.
  • In Dragon Ball, Master Roshi and Tien take this role. Roshi also has the role of The Obi-Wan or The Mentor.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog in season 1 of Sonic X. Let's not kid ourselves. Chris is the main character there.
  • Gaara in Naruto. Despite being relatively young, he commands an entire battalion and is Regimental Commander to boot.
    • In a way, this has been Kakashi's role since the start of Shippuden as well.
  • Captain Gundam in SD Gundam Force
  • Slam Dunk: Akagi is this in series. Uozumi is also this from Ryonan's perspective, as everyone sees Sendoh as the real hero of the team.
  • Eyeshield 21: Hiruma is this as well as being the Deuteragonist.

Card Games

  • In the Weatherlight storyline of Magic: The Gathering, Eladamri, king of the Skyshroud elves, and Lin Sivvi, champion of the Vec tribe of humans, lead the ground forces of Dominaria's Coalition against the demonic Phyrexians while the scruffier main cast of heroes takes the fight directly to the Big Bad, Yawgmoth.

Comic Books

  • Miho is a silent and deadly ninja woman who is one of the most skilled "heroes" in Sin City. She is usually the one Dwight McCarthy relies on to kill mooks while he carries the plot as the main character. She has never been the protagonist in any of the stories she has appeared in.
  • Nightwing, whenever he appears outside of his own series, is inevitably leading something, be it the Outsiders, the Titans, or even the Justice League.

Fan Fics



  • Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings. Remarkably, he is completely Genre Savvy about the fact that his role is to divert enemy forces away from the real heroes, rather than actually saving the day himself. Bard, the secondary character from The Hobbit who slays the dragon Smaug and leads the men in the final battle is another Middle Earth example. Arguably, Tolkien uses the ability to see oneself as merely one strand of a larger struggle or story as a mark of the humility that MAKES a leader great.
    • In broader terms, Gandalf's entire reason for being could be considered this. As a Wizard sent to Middle-earth by the gods, his role was to oppose Sauron and his influence and to aid those opposing him. He often acts as The Chessmaster and The Man Behind the Man but also gets down and dirty himself.
  • Prince Gwydion from the Prydain Chronicles, a fairly similar character to Aragorn himself.
  • Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series subverts this trope by having a supporting character act as an Aragorn in the first book, leading the Royal Army, and then turning traitor and leading the Army in a coup in the second book.
  • Lord Mhoram in Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.
  • Buliwyf from The 13th Warrior is the leader of the Norse against the Wendol, though the main character is Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan, a visiting Arab.
  • Sam Anderson from Robert A. Heinlein's Starman Jones fits the trope perfectly.
  • Colonel Graff in Ender's Game, anyone?
  • Merriman Lyon in Susan Cooper's "The Dark Is Rising" series. In the first book, he plays the friendly uncle and acts as a sort of guide and guardian to the main characters. In the second book, he's graduated to serving as the mentor figure to another main character. By the third book he finally starts doing things the audience is made privy to, but he's still clearly playing second fiddle to the main characters of the earlier books. He basically skips the fourth book entirely, only to assume a bit more importance in the finale (but still not as much as the other main characters).
    • In some ways, Will (The Hero of the second book) becomes the Aragorn to Bran in the fourth book. While the story is still told from Will's point-of-view, most of what is actually accomplished in the book is entirely Bran's doing.
  • Another example of the "child protagonists" type - Konstam Khan in The Homeward Bounders. He's genuinely noble and heroic, and the Five-Man Band wouldn't have a hope of winning against Them without him, but it's not his story.
  • Polgara in The Belgariad. True, the Army of the West were inspired by Ce'Nedra and led by the Alorn Kings, but they all look to her for guidance. She even goes as far as bluntly saying that all they do is "make a lot of noise so Belgarion can slip over to confront Torak"
  • Professor McGonagall in The Deathly Hallows leads the defense in the Battle for Hogwarts to give the Power Trio the time to find the final horcrux, even though she has to trust Harry by his words alone.
    • Also Neville Longbottom, yes that Neville Longbottom, served as this amongst his classmates while Harry spends most of the book searching for horcruxes.
    • Don't forget Kingsley, who defines sharply on Potterwatch the good guy's principle ("Wizards first" leads quickly to "Death Eater"), and later become minister of Magic.
    • Dumbledore in general in the Harry Potter series.
  • Bernard in the Codex Alera spends most of each book kicking the crap out of bad guys to give Tavi time and room to work. Less so later, if just because Tavi is actually leading larger groups than he is, but in the first two he definitely qualifies.
    • Ehren is an... odd example. As he developed, he Took a Level in Badass, eventually becoming adviser to the First Lords Gauis and Attis (and I doubt Tavi will be quick to ignore his advice, either). Looking back on things, the entire war might not have been won had it not been for the little (or big) things he did.
  • Robb Stark in A Song of Ice and Fire is the leader of the "good" Stark forces, but isn't one of the books' many POV characters - his actions are viewed from the perspective of his mother Catelyn.
    • Some people are slowly coming to the assumed realization that the entire Song of Ice and Fire series is essentially just a massively complex telling of how Jon Snow is secretly the son of Ned's sister Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen, and thus the rightful heir to the throne. Which would imply the entire series is simply a Rightful King Returns scenario in which the rightful king shall return and the land be made whole - making Jon the true protagonist of the series, and EVERYONE ELSE who even remotely seems like a major player is actually an Aragorn (or something worse).
  • Mark and Courtney of The Pendragon Adventure in The Soldiers of Halla.
  • Prince Verity from the Farseer trilogy.
  • Bigwig from Watership Down. He faces off against the Big Bad in the Burrows, and Woundwort actually thinks he's the Big Good. Turns out he's just buying time for Hazel's plan to come into fruition.
  • Bluestar in Warrior Cats: The Original Series. She usually sends Fireheart off to do important tasks while she holds off the villains long enough for him to complete them. And, in Omen of the Stars, Ivypool seems to be taking this role.
  • In the X Wing Series, squadron leader Wedge Antilles is kind of an odd example, since he's one of the main characters and is along for the ride the whole time. He counts, though, because except in Starfighters of Adumar he undergoes no character development and is slightly out of focus, and the people under his command are usually the ones who score the absolute critical hits.

Live Action TV

  • John Sheridan started out as this (and The Captain) in Babylon 5, but morphed into the main character for the whole series.
  • Noah Bennet (HRG) of Heroes.
  • In some early episodes of the original Doctor Who series, the Doctor was an Aragorn for companion characters such as Ian Chesterson, although the Doctor was clearly the main protagonist. This was most likely because the first actor to play the Doctor, William Hartnell, was elderly (or close to it) and mostly unsuitable for physical action. As a result,the Doctor would do the thinking, planning, and handle the purely cerebral battles with the villains, while a younger companion took care of the physical action as necessary. This was especially true near the end of Hartnell's tenure when his health was failing. Actually, according the the original series bible for the show, the role of the Doctor was initially intended to be secondary to the companions Susan, Ian and Barbara. But then again, the initial format was intended to be more of an educational show than an actual sci-fi series.
    • By the Third Doctor era, The Brigadier was this. It was usually a case of UNIT holding off the Monster of the Week while the Doctor deals with the Big Bad, or the Master, or both.
    • Jack is generally this to the Doctor, whenever he turns up.
  • Kamen Rider Wing Knight/Len has become one of them for being a cool leader.
  • Arguably, Tsuyoshi Kaijou/Akaranger becomes this in the legendary war in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger
  • Jason of Star Command; Commander's Canarvin (James Doohan) and Stone (John Russel) were this to the titular Jason.


  • Richard the Lion Heart plays this role in most adaptations of the Robin Hood legend. Robin has no hope of ever being anything but a bandit as long as Prince John rules England, but "when the true king returns" to overthrow John's corrupt administration, he knights Robin and pardons his men.


  • Bionicle has Toa Helryx, the first Toa and leader of the Hero Secret Service. She and her organization coordinated forces throughout the Matoran World to unite against the Brotherhood of Makuta. After the organization blew its own cover, she temporarily became a prisoner of the Big Bad, and now, her role as a leader has basically diminished.

Video Games

  • General Luft in the Galaxy Angel games. Tact inherits this role, too, once Kazuya becomes the new lead.
  • In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the Galactic Federation commander, Admiral Dane, serves this role, showing up to send Samus off on a special mission as the rest of his forces fight the bulk of the Space Pirates. In fact, this happens twice, on two consecutive missions.
  • The Griffon in American McGee's Alice. He gathers the allies Alice has met and has them storm the castle while Alice goes to face the Queen. Too bad you would soon have to take his place.
  • In Halo 2, Master Chief becomes this to the Arbiter. While Master Chief is supposedly the hero of the series, it is the Arbiter around whom the vast majority of the game's plot revolves, and ultimately he's the one to stop Tartarus and save the galaxy (temporarily, at least). Master Chief retakes the role of The Hero in Halo 3, with the Arbiter dropped down to Sidekick / Proud Warrior Race Guy status.
    • Admiral Terrence Hood is the supreme commander of earth's forces, with Commander Keyes, Sgt. Johnson, and the Master Chief under his command.
    • Shipmaster Rtas 'Vadum, better known as Half-Jaw, takes this role from Admiral Hood in the second half of Halo 3.
  • Eternal Sonata has Jazz, a playable character and the leader of a revolutionary group known as Andantino.
  • Admiral Hackett plays this role in Mass Effect, leading the human fleet against Sovereign and the geth fleet while Shepard goes after Saren.
    • He does it again in Mass Effect 3, where he's more or less the leader of the survivors of the human race. What's more, any forces the other races commit to the war effort fall under his command, and he's in charge of the Final Battle to retake Earth and the Citadel from the Reapers.
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Captain Maritus, Burd, and Martin Septim all take up the role of the Aragorn and hold off deadra, exiting the oblivion gates while you run in to seal off the gates.
    • Arguably, it could be said that Martin is the hero, and the Player Character is in fact the Aragorn, and this is most likely how the in-universe historians will record it. Especially considering that Martin is ultimately the one who defeats Mehrunes Dagon in a Heroic Sacrifice. So could this be considered a case of multiple, alternating examples?
      • You actually can be the one who defeats Mehrunes Dagon if you use Wabbajack. Martin gets himself killed anyway.
  • In Final Fantasy XII every character not named Ashe, Vaan, or Penelo including the guests in the party.
    • This seems to be a pattern for Ivalice stories: Final Fantasy Tactics puts most everyone not named Ramza into the Aragorn mode. Especially Delita.
  • In Warcraft II, Lothar serves as one of these for most of the Alliance campaign. He is killed by orcs in the second-to-last mission, requiring the player character to take command.
    • In World of Warcraft, almost any friendly NPC that appears after the very beginning of a dungeon is this. In the Halls of Stone, for example, in the Icecrown instances, Jaina or Sylvanas is leading a bunch of regular soldiers on a covert mission into the backdoor to the citadel, and your party is just a group of elite, irregular forces helping.
    • The Halls of Stone makes the player characters The Aragorn when your only role in-story in the second half of the place is to protect Brann Bronzebeard long enough for him to hack into the Titans' computer and deactivate the defense systems you're fighting.
    • Bolvar Fordragon fits this trope, as he leads the Alliance forces at the battle of the Wrath Gate.
    • Dranosh Saurfang also qualifies.
    • Or Dranosh's legendary father, High Overlord Varok Saurfang.
  • Takeda Shingen from Sengoku Basara a Hot-Blooded Cool Old Guy and mentor to one of the protagonists. Though not a main character, he is easily one of the most powerful and influential, and holds a lot of sway over Yukimura.
  • Flynn from Tales of Vesperia fits this trope, as he is always one step behind the heroes, providing them with aid as Captain of the knights.
    • The Play Station 3 remake removes most of this however as now he generally meets up with the heroes in time and helps out for most of the end of chapter events, before joining the party for good towards the end.
  • One could make a case for Ocelot of the Metal Gear Solid series. He'd been scheming to take down the Patriots, and without him as a diversion for the Patriots' wrath, it's questionable whether Snake and co would have lasted as long as they did, much less saved the day. And, yes, this was all according to Ocelot's plan.
    • Snake himself is the Aragorn of Metal Gear Solid 2. Raiden gets the lion's share of the gameplay, but it is clear that he is inferior to Snake and Snake is busy being awesome off-screen.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Mei Ling, as commander of the Missouri, is leading the only visible resistance (paltry as it may be) against the Patriots and Ocelot. Of course, during the final battle she and her men weren't really providing a distraction as much as desperately trying to just survive until Snake could get to GW's server room. They still pulled a little of the heat off of Snake, though.
  • If the Big Damn Heroes moment is to be taken as this, then The Group from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess serves this role to a certain extent.
  • Dragon Age Origins starts out with King Cailan Theirin and Duncan, continues with Arl Eamon, and, finally concludes with either Alistair or Queen Annora fulfilling this role, depending on the player's choices.
    • Before the final battle, the player can also choose one of the remaining party members to stay behind and lead a brief gaiden encounter
  • Leo, Ladius, Thoma, and Duran are this to Rex in Agarest Senki.
  • Chun-Li of the Street Fighter series tends to be one of the few characters trying to stop the Big Bad of each game. While Guile could also qualify for this role, he only really started opposing Bison story-wise in Street Fighter Alpha 3 due to being Out of Focus. Chun-Li however has been trying to stop Shadaloo since Street Fighter Alpha 1 and continues on to fight the Illuminati in Street Fighter III when Guile is retired.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • Both Chief of Security Franklin Delarose (a decorated soldier) and Headmistress Elizabeth Carson (better known as superheroine Lady Astarte) got a chance to be a Supporting Leader in the Halloween stories set at Super-Hero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, when an unstoppable super villain led a small army against the school.
  • Lonelygirl15 has (at least in its first season) Tachyon filling this role - as she runs around the world fighting the Order, she occasionally stops to lend a little aid to our band of refugee heroes. Their first major victory happens almost entirely because she was in town at the time.

Western Animation

  • Cheetor in Transformers: Beast Machines
    • Ultra Magnus crosses this with Big Good in Transformers Animated, leading the Autobots' military forces in back-and-forth skirmishes at the fringes of the galaxy while the heroes thwart the Decepticon plans on Earth.
  • Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender eventually comes to think of himself in this role, even refusing to kill his father at one point, so that Aang may have the opportunity later.
    • After Zuko joins the Gaang and officially becomes a protagonist, the role goes to Iroh, who leads an army to reconquer Ba Sing Se in the name of the Earth King while the Aang is fighting Ozai.
      • The Grand Finale pretty much gives this role to all the supporting characters; Zuko and Katara go to the Fire Nation to ensure that he is ready to ascend to the throne (and deal with Azula), Iroh leads the army which reclaims Ba Sing Se, and Sokka, Toph and Suki go to sabotage the airship fleet, all ensuring that everything that comes after Aang beating Ozai will be positive.
  • Race Bannon in Jonny Quest.
  • Jesus Christ himself in the Imaginationland episodes of South Park.