10 vital supporting characters in comic books
From Lois Lane to Rick Jones and others, comic books have been home to many supporting characters that have proven vital to a superhero's life and existence. Sometimes, they're the surrogate guardian to an orphan, like Alfred Pennyworth is to Batman. Other times, they're a bigger picture help, like Nick Fury to the Avengers.
Whatever the case, supporting characters in comic books are always there when needed. Their tales may not be as legendary as the heroes they support, but they nonetheless deserve to have them recognized.
Disclaimer: This article will contain Marvel and DC comics spoilers over the course of decades. Any opinions therein are exclusive to the author.
10 supporting characters in comic books that heroes couldn't survive without
1) Alfred Pennyworth (Batman)
Alfred Pennyworth has been serving the Wayne family all his life and is Batman's confidant, legal guardian, and surrogate father figure following the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Despite dying in 2019's City of Bane event and remaining dead as of 2023, Alfred remains an iconic part of Batman's supporting cast.
The Post-Crisis version of Alfred is immortalized in several adaptations, including the Batman: The Animated Series and Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. Alfred has helped Batman with emergency medical support, emotional support for the various Robins, and the general upkeep of Wayne Manor.
2) GCPD Commissioner James "Jim" Gordon (Batman)
Another vital supporting character in the Batman mythos is Commissioner James "Jim" Gordon. The mustachioed police commissioner has been a constant in Batman's supporting cast since 1939, even becoming dependent on Batman to aid in stopping Gotham's colorful cast of villains.
Beyond being Batman's confidant, Jim Gordon has been a constant crusader for police reform and helping to clean up Gotham's various flavors of corruption. Without Gordon, as shown multiple times in comics, movies, and other media, Batman's relationship with the GCPD would be significantly worse.
3) Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen (Superman)
Sometimes, being human is all that's needed to make a difference, even in a superhero's life. Lois Lane and James "Jimmy" Olsen are two of Superman's most enduring supporting characters in various Superman media and have proven most helpful more than once.
Lois Lane has been a hard-hitting reporter at the Daily Planet publication and Superman's first real supporting character. Jimmy Olsen has been one of the best photographers and a large magnet for weirdness. They're both as iconic as Superman, having had to either be rescued or sometimes do the rescuing when Superman can't.
4) Martha and Johnathan Kent (Superman)
The most vital part of Superman's supporting cast is and will always be Martha Kent and Jonathan Kent. The Kents found and raised Superman when he crash-landed on Earth as a baby. Both Kents taught Superman the values of kindness, helping others, and humbling work as a farmer.
It has been shown repeatedly throughout Superman's long history as a character that he wouldn't be Superman without the Kents. They instilled a strong moral compass in Superman, helped Clark discover his Kryptonian heritage, and would remain key figures in his quest for his identity as he chose to be human.
5) Rick Jones (Incredible Hulk)
The Incredible Hulk doesn't have many friends or supporters outside the Avengers. For every person who's friendly to Bruce Banner, many others want him locked away or dead. This is where Rick Jones comes in. Rick Jones was, at first, the sole confidant and secret keeper of Bruce's identity as the Hulk.
Rick has been vital in helping Bruce Banner and The Hulk hide from the military and try to maintain control over the Hulk. Fun fact: Rick Jones established a HAM radio network of contacts called the Teen Brigade and helped the Avengers meet up for the first time against Loki by accident. He's since been the go-to sidekick for The Avengers, Rom the Spaceknight, and Captain Marvel.
6) Nick Fury (Avengers)
As James Gordon has proven, the superhero community having government liaisons and representatives helps to appeal to the populace. In the Marvel universe, the superhero community has the government agency SHIELD. and Director Nick Fury to help them out as an intermediary.
Nick Fury handles the background things that don't necessarily make it into the wider superhero stories: organizing missions, black-ops work, and ensuring the world's governments don't interfere in superhuman affairs. It's got him into conflict more than once, but the superhero community depends on his aid.
7) Pepper Potts (Iron Man)
Assisting Iron Man is a full-time job, and supporting characters Pepper Potts and Edwin Jarvis both know it. Pepper is often the voice of reason to Tony, a fact that Tony Stark realized when he asked her to become the head of Stark Industries post-Secret Invasion in the comics.
In the aftermath of that event, Pepper assumed the identity of Rescue following finding a secret armored suit made for her. Pepper Potts would aid in various conflicts involving Tony afterward, including launching a rescue when Tony was in a vegetative state and managing to save him, Black Widow, and Maria Hill.
8) Ben and May Parker (Spider-Man)
Although "Uncle" Ben Parker is most famous for being a "canon event", in that his dying triggered Peter Parker to take the "with great power, comes great responsibility" motto seriously, both Ben and May Parker were vital supporting characters to Peter in raising him.
They had to take Peter in when his parents died and raised him the best they could, much like the Kents did for Superman. Aunt May, in particular, has been the focus of many a story, including being the founder of FEAST in the Insomniac video games, wherein she is usually helping people and reminding Peter to stay grounded in reality.
9) Skeets (Booster Gold)
Booster Gold, the hero from the future, is usually portrayed as an arrogant but genuinely heroic figure. He'd be far from a good or functional superhero without his trusty sidekick and supporting character Skeets. Skeets was a security robot from the 25th century, repurposed to aid Booster's quest to get rich and prevent disasters.
As with Pepper Potts, dealing with someone like Booster Gold presents its fair share of challenges. Skeets is always quick to point out Booster's flaws in logic and tactics and help him out when need be, usually boosting his shields or armor repair. Whether Booster actually listens or not is another story entirely.
10) Moira MacTaggart (X-Men)
Moira MacTaggert is an X-Men supporting character, geneticist, and expert in mutant affairs. Where Nick Fury handles the big picture for the rest of the Marvel Universe, Moira handles the smaller-scale problems that come with working alongside the X-Men and mutant kind in general.
One major example is that she co-founded Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, co-created Cerebro, and has aided mutants with mental health issues, from Cable to Jean Grey. She's held down the fort in Xavier's absence, even forming her version of the X-Men team alongside Banshee. The X-Men may depend on Professor X, but Moira is a vital supporting character for their mental health.
As these are only ten vital supporting characters in comic books, there are doubtless plenty more that could fit into this list. But the most vital and iconic ones, from Alfred to Moira, all have roles to play in helping the superhero community thrive and prosper.
Superheroes wouldn't be where they are today without the support and help of these supporting characters. It's a good reminder that it is not only the sidekicks punching and kicking that help heroes out in times of crisis and turmoil.