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The supporting cast: The importance of secondary characters, according to writers of My Adventures with Superman, She-Ra, Eat Your Heart Out, and more

Are you an aspiring storyteller needing tips on your supporting cast? Hear what some comic creators have to say.

My Adventures with Superman
Image credit: Cartoon Network

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The supporting cast are usually under-appreciated in stories. They don’t receive as much of the spotlight as the protagonist, but they can still play an important role in the narrative. At the ALA Annual Conference, a collection of talented comic creators discussed how they create and utilize their secondary characters.

Everyone shared their thoughts. Sometimes they are used to reflect the impact of a protagonist’s difficult decisions. Others represent an external aspect of the primary character to give them agency.

To Lydia Anslow, artist for Eat Your Heart Out, everyone is the lead of a story.

“They all need to have their own personality, their own world. For them, they’re having their own main character arc…Every character should have an element of that care to who they are even if they are a secondary character. They have their own story as well, and their stories are meshing with the main character, but they should also be as important.”

Lydia Anslow and Josie Campbell speaking at ALA Annual 2024 conference.
Image credit: Lydia Anslow, Josie Campbell

One interesting take came from Josie Campbell, who wrote I Heart Skull-Crusher and for the animated series She-Ra Princess of Power and My Adventures with Superman. She asks herself how do these secondary characters make the life of the protagonist more difficult because “you start to get a bigger personality out of them.”

Campbell continued, “That also gives the story another layer of like, okay, how is this protagonist not just reaching for the goal, but now we have more obstacles in the way. How are they getting around them? How are they bonding despite the fact these people are causing chaos even if they’re on the same side…You’re not just going from A to B, you’re going from A to Z to Y to X to then A again. I think that makes the story more interesting to read.”

With these helpful words, we should look back upon our favorite supporting cast members and see if they fall under any of these examples.

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