(From Irregular Webcomic: Martians. Click for full-sized discounts.)
I bring up this episode of Irregular Webcomic! from earlier in the week because it exhibits a trope I hate: when a seemingly bit character with a mundane life turns out to have an incredibly exciting past that often is more intertwined with the heroes and their present plot than we thought.
You know that ordinary proprietor of the pizza place Ishmael worked for? It turns out he’s actually a descendant of Alessandro Volta locked up by the Nazis in 1933 who was freed by time travellers and started the Reichstag fire, accidentally time-traveled with them back to the 1980s, and then got the idea to start a pizza place from a young Adam Savage from MythBusters.
(I think I may have just summarized IWC‘s appeal in a nutshell.)
Now, you could argue that Morgan-Mar is limited in his LEGO figures and is thus more justified in this economy of casting than most, and a similar case could be made for a related contrived coincidence: that Adam and Jamie not only attended the same college as Ishmael, but (it’s implied in the themes’ previous comic) stayed in the exact same dorm room. Still, I can accept a lot of things stretching my suspension of disbelief, but this is the sort of thing that takes a skilled hand to pull off, and part of what makes it work is often exactly what antics the character pulled off in the past, what led him to his current mundane existence, and how it’s presented to the reader. Typically, if he’s presented as a retired badass first and a simple farmer second, it can work well (even if he’s introduced as the simple farmer first), but not so much the other way around.
Once you start getting into things like supernatural powers and, oh yeah, time travel, it starts to stretch suspension of disbelief too much for my purposes. Especially when it raises questions like “how does he explain his appearance out of nowhere and his similarity to the guy who disappeared back in 1933?”