Within serial narratives, the ongoing composition of the centric will may change over time. However, each change takes place within either a new story or a new story-arc. In the first few exploits of Batman, he alone incarnates the centric will of the feature. After Robin enters, the Batman and Robin team becomes an ensemble of two, still incarnating much the same centric will. Twenty years later, Batman plays a lone hand again, and then, if Robin only occasionally appears, his status is that of an “eccentric” guest-star. However, when a new story presents a new Robin, the ensemble-of-two is reborn as if it never left.
To anyone concerned with the subject of narrative centricity-- in other words, just me-- it can prove vexing to seek a coherent definition of stature that can encompass all of the variations possible in serial narratives focused on ensembles.
The most familiar examples of ensemble-narratives are those focused on teams. However, the mere existence of a team does not prove that everyone on the team is part of an ensemble of coordinated, autonomous characters. In STATURE REQUIREMENTS PT. 2 I mentioned one example, that of the 1960s teleseries IRONSIDE, noting that Ironside was the focus of the series while his helpers were clearly subordinate types. Yet in another sixties series like MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, it's evident to me that the team's leader is simply a "first among equals."
These differing dynamics seem to evolve without reference to the author's conscious intent. For my money, Joss Whedon's BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1997-2003) follows the IRONSIDE model. Buffy Summers is the star of the show and remains so from start to finish, even though there's a lot of narrative time lavished on the support-characters-- Xander, Willow, Angel, and former adversary Spike-- and even though one of them, Willow, arguably becomes more powerful than Buffy.
Conversely, ANGEL (1999-2004), from the same producer, begins its first season by focusing principally upon its "noir vampire" character Angel, who receives aid from two assistants, Doyle and Cordelia. However, for reasons I've never bothered to learn, Doyle's character was killed off and his sole talent, that of prognostication, was transferred to Cordelia. In the tenth episode of ANGEL, however, a subordinate character who'd appeared on the BUFFY show shifted the balance away from Angel as the superordinate focus. Wesley Wyndham-Price, though initially played for comedy, soon emerged as a coordinated character alongside Angel, and Cordelia followed suit. Other new characters joined the ANGEL cast and projected the sense of being autonomous allies to the vampiric hero, rather than his subordinates. There were some characters I would still deem to be of subordinate stature, like "Lorne the Empathy Demon" and the ditzy vampire Harmony. And naturally, whenever Buffy or any of that character's support-cast appeared on ANGEL, they had the status I mentioned above: that of "eccentric guest-stars."
Complicated though these parsings may seem, they've like a walk in the spring rain next to the convolutions on finds in comic books-- which I'll address in Part 4.