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Batwoman Just Established a Major Connection to Batgirl

If the superhero comics of the past century — and the various movies, television shows, video games, and radio plays inspired by them — have taught us anything, it’s that even the most brooding crime fighters don’t work alone. Across years and years of stories, superheroes (and even supervillains) have developed their own ensembles of side characters, whether in the form of friends, family members, coworkers, or love interests. While that concept has had a wild trajectory of its own in the comics (there are multiple instances of creators killing off or banishing a book’s supporting cast for the sake of “reinvention”), it hasn’t always effectively made its way onto the screen, with some adaptations of the past few decades boiling down any secondary characters into some combination of predictable tropes, cannon fodder, and other unrelated costumed characters.

As superhero adaptations have gotten weirder and more wide-ranging than ever, telling stories about B, C, and even D-list characters, that ethos has gradually begun to change, with an entirely new crop of compelling — and refreshingly ordinary — supporting casts popping up. Nowhere has that been more apparent than in three superhero adaptations from the past two years: DC’s The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker, and Marvel’s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.

Yes, non-costumed supporting characters have always been a part of superhero movies and shows in some form or fashion — decades of Batman and Spider-Man reboots have helped turn characters like Alfred Pennyworth, Lucius Fox, and May Parker into household names. But there’s definitely a difference between side characters who exist to prop up the main character’s narrative, and side characters who become irreplaceable to the actual plot. The Suicide Squad highlighted that latter category in spades, with the entire plot of its gory, kaiju-filled game of life and death ultimately riding on one incredibly small thing — Flo Crawley (Tinashe Kajese) whacking Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) unconscious with a golf club, just before she could kill off the entirety of the main costumed cast. (Honestly, so much could be written just about Amanda Waller’s own significance as a powerful civilian supporting character in a world of gods and monsters, which is probably why Davis is set to return as the character in Black Adam, and a spinoff surrounding her is reportedly in the works.) Even the death of Milton (Julio Ruiz), which was largely played for laughs, still served as an accidental turning point in the chaos of The Suicide Squad’s third act.

Peacemaker took that idea of supporting characters being significant and essentially built the entire show around it, turning The Suicide Squad veterans Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) and John Economos (Steve Agee) into reluctant teammates of Christopher Smith / Peacemaker (John Cena), alongside a cast of new, largely not-costumed characters like Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks). It’s impossible to imagine the show’s final fight against Project Butterfly — or the vast majority of the events of Season 1 — playing out without that exact team, and the various kooky, but capable things they each brought to the table. (The biggest joke of the finale, that Team Peacemaker was able to save the day long before the literal Justice League showed up, arguably only works because they’re a bunch of non-superpowered civilians.)

While She-Hulk’s plot is still ongoing, we’ve seen small instances of random side characters being key parts of it, whether in Jennifer Walters / She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany) solving a supervillain’s parole case thanks to an offhand comment from her former coworker Dennis Bukowski (Drew Matthews), or sexist comments from her various bad dates helping her win a lawsuit surrounding the She-Hulk name. All of these examples have found unpredictable, but excellent ways to advance their narratives, without defaulting to a “guy in a chair” and a crop of gadgets.

Beyond just mattering to the narratives of their respective shows and movies, this new crop of superhero supporting characters have become something special by just… being something special in their own right. Again, Harcourt and Economos were just random civilian employees of a government agency with a handful of comic appearances each before Peacemaker. But their individual storylines were so compelling that viewers were left making fancams of Harcourt and being invested in Economos’ insecurities about his “dye beard” by the season’s end. While theories have popped up around whether or not Harcourt could secretly be the daughter of someone like Sarge Steel, that possibility is far from the only thing that makes her interesting — and if it were to happen, it would only create another compelling storyline to throw her into. Compare this to some of the other superhero media of recent years (particularly a lot of The CW’s Arrowverse shows), where the vast majority of the supporting casts consisted of comic-accurate characters reinterpreted as window dressing for the main character’s story, essentially spinning their wheels until they could eventually don a superhero suit and name of their own.

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