Created By: ElleOctober 2, 2011 Last Edited By: AgaresJanuary 13, 2014

Dark Counterpart

A Shadow Archetype paralel to a heroic character

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope

(Inspired by the TRS Thread for Dark Magical Girl, which would be a subtrope. Description needs expanding.)

While Evil Counterpart includes this definition (except for the Anti Hero allowance) it may be desirable to split this out from there. However, can't start a TRS thread for it until the backlog clears out.

If Upbringing Makes The Hero, this is what you get when a similar character is brought up in much less favorable circumstances.

A hero and his Dark Counterpart are fundamentally Not So Different, but along the way, something happened to the counterpart that set him on a different, darker path, one that puts him at odds with the hero. While the Dark Counterpart may also be an Evil Counterpart, "dark" doesn't have to mean "evil". The Rival, Anti Hero and Anti Villain are just as likely roles for them.

Evil or no, this is frequently a conflicted character. You aren't likely to find them in works with Black And White Morality, or if you do they will swing hard toward either Black or White by the end. They often have a tragic past, bad upbringing and/or a "damaged goods" personality (i.e. Troubled But Cute and Broken Bird). They are strong candidates for a Heel Face Turn, if evil, but it will not be easy for the hero that tries it; the Dark Counterpart doesn't want the hero's pity and has a lot to learn about trust, friendship and/or love.

Darker And Edgier often figures heavily in the Dark Counterpart's style. If the Dark Counterpart fills an antagonist role, they stand a good chance at being redeemed by The Power Of Love and/or The Power Of Friendship.

In the Magical Girl genre this role is filled by the Dark Magical Girl.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Yu Gi Oh appears to have one of these every season.
    • Yu Gi Oh GX: Aster Phoenix to Jaden Yuki. His Destiny Hero monsters are all Dark-attribute, in stark contrast to Jaden's Elemental Heroes which are more varied in their attributes, and Aster himself is pessimistic in contrast to Jaden's upbeat character.
  • Vegeta to Goku in Dragon Ball Z. Both Sayans, both uber-powerfull. Goku, Lovable Orphan, raised by kind people, becomes a stalwart Defender Of Earth. Vegeta, raised in the Proud Warrior Race Sayan culture and driven to become powerful for the sake of power. He shifts from outright Evil to Dark after Goku defeats him on Earth: by the time of the Namek saga, his power quest has him going after the villains of the season and his attitude toward the heroes shifts from antagonistic to chilly. He ends up falling in love with Bulma and becoming an official Good Guy.

Live-Action Television
  • Faith to Buffy in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Faith is a Dark Action Girl and a very lonely character withhas a father/daughter relationship (to mirror Giles and Buffy) with the season's Big Bad, one strong enough and real enough that Buffy's Power Of Friendship doesn't pull Faith back to the good guys right away. Ultimately it's not Buffy that saves her but Angel, a fellow redeemed villain.
  • Clark Luthor, from Smallville, could possibly count. He starts off the same as Clark Kent, until his ship arrives on Earth. Then he's found by Lionel Luthor instead of the Kents, which leads to a much darker version of Clark Kent

Video Games
  • Shadow to Sonic in the Sonic The Hedgehog series.
  • Riku to Sora in Kingdom Hearts. Riku is Sora's rival both in fighting skill and for Kairi's attention. Both Riku and Sora land in Traverse Town when Destiny Island is swallowed by The Heartless, but Sora bunps into Donald and Goofy to form the main Power Trio, while Riku instead meets Maelficient, who convinces him that Sora has abandoned him and twists him to The Dark Side. Both of them are able to become Keyblade wielders and both of them believe they're doing what's needed to rescue Kairi but Riku becomes Drunk On The Dark Side and needs Sora and friends to smack sense back into him. In the sequels he becomes The Atoner, helping Sora from the shadows while still waging conflict with his inner Dark Side.
  • Iori to Kyo in The King Of Fighters series. Both of them are ultimately heroic figures and both have Jerk Ass tendencies, but Iori is more prone to violence and bouts of rage.
  • Both Saren and Tela Vasir to Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect. They represent everything that could go wrong with the Spectre archetype.
  • Akuma to Ryu in Street Fighter. They're both Blood Knights, but Akuma has allowed his unending quest to become stronger to consume him. Ryu has flirted with The Dark Side, but so far has had enough moral character to keep in control.
  • Starkiller is this to Luke in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Western Animation
  • Charles Muntz to Carl Fredricksen in Up. Muntz served as Carl's mentor (during his youth for the longest time, prompting him and Ellie to become adventurers and make the trip to Paradise Falls. Post-Timeskip, even though Carl has become a Grumpy Old Man, he still has a little Jerk With A Heart Of Gold side to him, while Muntz has gone completely off the deep end of a Moral Event Horizon, hoping for something tangible that will redeem him in the general public's eye and bring him back from Fallen Hero status.
Community Feedback Replies: 33
  • October 2, 2011
    TBTabby
    Akuma to Ryu in Street Fighter. They're both Blood Knights, but Akuma has allowed his unending quest to become stronger to consume him. Ryu has flirted with The Dark Side, but so far has had enough moral character to keep in control.
  • October 2, 2011
    KingZeal
    • Iori to Kyo in The King Of Fighters series. Both of them are ultimately heroic figures and both have Jerk Ass tendencies, but Iori is more prone to violence and bouts of rage.
    • Both Saren and Tela Vasir to Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect. They represent everything that could go wrong with the Spectre archetype.
  • October 2, 2011
    JusticeReaper
    • Yu Gi Oh GX: Aster Phoenix to Jaden Yuki. His Destiny Hero monsters are all Dark-attribute, in stark contrast to Jaden's Elemental Heroes which are more varied in their attributes, and Aster himself is pessimistic in contrast to Jaden's upbeat character.
  • October 2, 2011
    wanderlustwarrior
    There's an entire archetype in Yu Gi Oh called the Dark Counterparts. Then each season, every character seems to have a dark counterpart.

    • The Espada and Shinigami tended to face their opposites along these lines in Bleach.
  • October 2, 2011
    jprice67
    Starkiller is this to Luke in The Force Unleashed/Star Wars.
  • October 3, 2011
    Koveras
    Batman to Superman? *runs for the hills*
  • October 3, 2011
    Elle
    [up] Is covered by The Cape and The Cowl being Shadow Archtypes, but in and of themselves it's hard to justify them as Counterpart characters. Not so much a comics person though, so for all I know someone more knowledgeable might disagree.
  • October 23, 2011
    crazysamaritan
    Batman is more often a Dark Counterpart to himself than to superman.

    With Alfred and the bat-family, compared to Kent's dead parents, you might argue Supes being the dark counterpart, instead.
  • October 23, 2011
    Gatchaman432
    • Masamune to Tsubaki.
    • Charles Muntz to Carl Fredricksen in Up. Muntz served as Carl's mentor (during his youth for the longest time, prompting him and Ellie to become adventurers and make the trip to Paradise Falls. Post-Timeskip, even though Carl has become a Grumpy Old Man, he still has a little Jerk With A Heart Of Gold side to him, while Muntz has gone completely off the deep end of a Moral Event Horizon, hoping for something tangible that will redeem him in the general public's eye and bring him back from Fallen Hero status.
  • October 23, 2011
    isk2837
    I think Clark Luthor, from Smallville, could possibly count. He starts off the same as Clark Kent, until his ship arrives on Earth. Then he's found by Lionel Luthor instead of the Kents, which leads to a much darker version of Clark Kent
  • October 23, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    Batman is a Foil to Superman, not this. Eh, this tropes needs to be defined better otherwise it's just Evil Counterpart. I think Vegeta (counterpart to Goku) is really one of the classics of this trope. Here are my thoughts:

    • The Dark Counterpart usually has either a similar heritage (same species, country, background) or similar powers to the main Hero, but their life took a turn somewhere that lead them to being Darker And Edgier than the hero, if not outright Evil and on the exact opposite side of the hero.
    • They start out as a form of antagonist or obstacle, not necessarily on the side of the bad guys, but certainly not on the side of the hero. They are usually The Dragon or Lieutenant, not the Big Bad. If evil, they are pretty much always an Anti Villain.
    • (This part isn't always stated, it's more implied) Both the Dark Counterpart and The Hero see the parallels between them. This leads The Hero to sympathize with the Dark Counterpart's very different life, which is probably filled with loss, hardship and abuse, and which molded the Dark Counterpart into what they are. The Hero will make many attempts to reform them.
    • The Dark Counterpart, also seeing the parallels, is jealous of what the The Hero has that they do not (usually allies, loved ones, more power, carefree attitude, relative sanity, etc.) They are angry at the world for giving these things to The Hero and not them, and sees The Hero's attempts to convert them as pity, usually resulting in Dontyou Dare Pity Me. Still, deep down something The Hero says strikes a chord (though it may be awhile before we see the effects), but their pride and distrust causes them to reject The Hero, at least initially.
    • Through various encounters they interact with The Hero many times and have opportunities to accept The Hero's kindness, but they don't. Right before a climax they have a last chance to join The Hero and perform a Heel Face Turn. Basically there are three outcomes: 1. They reject the hero, usually after going completely off the deep end, and are imprisoned or killed. 2. They reject evil, but they don't join The Hero. They are usually an Aloof Ally for a while before finally joining The Hero later. 3. Complete Heelface Turn, they join they Heroes team and become a powerful ally.

    If the character never Heel Face Turns, then they are just an Evil Counterpart. The same if The Hero never offers them redemption, and/or they don't share any background and are just The Rival, or so little background is known that we can't tell.

    Other Examples:

    Hmm, looking at this I think the description in Evil Counterpart is mixing itself up with this. The Evil Counterpart is Evil, period. More the complete inverse of the Hero in terms of ideals, just similar in powers and position. They will never been redeemed. The Dark Counterpart is always redeemed. They aren't usually evil, just Troubled But Cute and/or a Broken Bird, often they are evil only because they misunderstood the Big Bad's intentions. They are often conflicted and introspective, where the dark counterpart probably isn't. The Evil Counterpart doesn't need backstory or Anti Villain traits, they can usually just settle for similar powers and costume to designate their Evil Counterpart status, whereas the Dark Counterpart does need those things otherwise we won't buy their Heel Face Turn.
  • October 23, 2011
    crazysamaritan
    when I read the trs, the focus of the dark personalities was on loneliness and lack of love. Darker and edgier does not play into this. The dark magic girl often resulted from brainwashed and crazy, too. Which makes it hard to say that a dark counterpart is always begun opposed to the hero. The heel face turn or die requirement basically says you can't make a judgement mid-arc about what a character is supposed to be invoking, which sounds odd if said arc lasts more than 10 episodes.

    Your last paragraph is a lot closer to my understanding of this tropes intent.
  • October 23, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    "The heel face turn or die requirement basically says you can't make a judgement mid-arc about what a character is supposed to be invoking, which sounds odd if said arc lasts more than 10 episodes. "

    ^You can generally tell because the Evil Counterpart is generally not conflicted at all and obviously has no intentions of ever performing a Heel Face Turn from the beginning. The DC can perform a Redemption Equals Death. There might be instances where the character dies without performing a Heel Face Turn but none come to mind. I don't think the trope is really used that way much, if at all, which is why I said that. Anyways, those are guidelines.
  • October 23, 2011
    Elle
    Noir, I don't want to bog the trope down with too many requirements or it will be more specific than I intend - this isn't a direct transplant of all of the Dark Magical Girl characteristics. But I did work some of what you wrote in.
  • October 24, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    If it doesn't have more requirements than it's nothing different than what Evil Counterpart already is. Just sayin'

    Also I didn't take those requirements from Dark Magical Girl. They are very common. It's actually not very restrictive, considering all the characters that fit. You don't have to take everything I suggested (which were more like guidelines than hard rules, anyways), but you need to do something to it, otherwise it's just a duplication.
  • October 24, 2011
    crazysamaritan
    I was just pointing out the guidelines I thought were bad. You didn't say conflicted, you said fht or dead, and i disagreed with that. Trying to add refinement, not take away, if you understand. :)

    I'm also spoiled by children's cartoons; I don't see how dark counterpart need Darsker And Edgier.
  • November 24, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    Bumping.

    By Darker And Edgier I mean they are pretty much always more aggressive and cool, not necessarily grimdark and crazy violent. It's a matter of degree, but I believe they almost always are Darker And Edgier. You can be Darker And Edgier without being a Ninties Anti Hero-type character. Especially in children's media Darker And Edgier might just mean a cooler black costume and a cold attitude. Also their usually usually sadder history automatically makes them a bit darker and edgier by comparison to the hero.
  • November 24, 2011
    AP
    • There was an Elseworlds story concerning Superman being raised by the the Waynes. As one can expect, Clark's adopted parents are killed before his eyes, prompting him to become a dark Anti Hero as opposed to The Cape. This version of Superman/Batman actually killed criminals in pretty brutal ways, something that the normal versions of the character would never do.
  • November 25, 2011
    blueflame724
    Tsuchimikado and Acceleratorto Touma. Touma is the wholesome hero who tries to save everyone without killing. The other two, while capable of heroics, are generally trying to protect those they care about even if it involves morally ambiguous means.
  • December 2, 2011
    crazysamaritan
    ^ ^ you're equating Darker And Edgier to cool. I dislike that.

    The trope page specifies one thing to qualify as Darker And Edgier; "more adult". The Dark Counterpart on a children's tv show tends to be less adult and more aloof. That "cold attitude" you mention is just aloofness/angst, and not adult behavior.

    You also give Sasuke as a Dark Counterpart to Naruto, when they've had several climaxes where the hero extends a gesture of friendship to their counterpart. In the very first one, Sasuke turned it down in favour of siding with team evil.

    Instead of just picking at your qualifiers, should I post my own?
  • December 4, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    I would argue that a cold attitude is more adult, but whatever. Yes, Sasuke falls under outcome number 1, so far, but he'll probably be offered friendship one more time before the end and we'll get to see whether Naruto takes him out or there's some kind of reconciliation.

    By all means, post your suggestions.
  • December 4, 2011
    TheWanderer
    • Arguably, Gargoyles had a case in the episode where it contrasted Mac Beth and King Arthur. Unlike his depiction in Shakespeare, the MacBeth in that world is an honorable Anti Villain who is tired of immortality, and although he has been an enemy of the gargoyles several times, the whole affair started because of a mistake, and in some other cases MacBeth has defended the Manhattan clan, refused to smash them while they were in a stone sleep, etc. When both Arthur and MacBeth are involved in a quest to claim Excalibur, it get pointed out that a prophecy about the "timeless king" would apply to MacBeth as well. Eventually Macbeth only gets a false Excalibur that breaks when used, and Arthur claims the true sword. Afterward, Arthur, impressed by Macbeth, offers him a position as one of Arthur's knights, which Macbeth declines, but he does state he'll be a willing ally to Arthur should Arthur ever need him.
  • December 30, 2011
    azul120
    Bumping. I think we can use this.
  • December 31, 2011
    Lumpenprole
    Fanfic: there was a story (link now dead, can't find) where Bruce Wayne saw his parents gunned down by a robber- but then instead of leaving him behind the robber kidnapped Bruce as a hostage/ransom prisoner, locking him in a closet and sexually abusing him for weeks before he was finally rescued. The Batman that results from this version of history makes the standard Batman look well-adjusted and carefree by comparison. He tortures and mutilates criminals, and kidnaps Dick Greyson in a twisted attempt to redeem/relive his own past. The story ends with the police closing in, Batman realising how hopelessly damaged he is, and with life in Arkham as the only alternative deliberately goads Robin into killing him.
  • February 16, 2013
    TrueShadow1
    • In Fate Stay Night, the jaded Archer is this to the naive idealist Shiro. Especially since Archer is Shiro from the future.
    • Non-heroic example, Satori Komeiji and Koishi Komeiji from Touhou are sisters from the satori race, whose mind-reading powers make them hated by humans and other Youkai. To cope with this, Satori chose to live in Former Hell, where other kinds of hated youkai also live, becoming a Hikikomori. Koishi, on the other hand, chose to seal her mind-reading power, which results in her becoming an Empty Shell whose presence cannot be detected by ordinary people. She now roams around Gensokyo aimlessly.
    • Shinjiro is this to Akihiko in Persona3. Both came from the same orphanage, both are Persona users, and heck, even their Personas are twins, with Shinjiro's colored black while Akihiko's is white. However, after an accident, Shinjiro left SEES sealing his Persona powers, while Akihiko keeps being an active member.
  • January 11, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    Namespaced the examples + fixed a Red Link.
  • January 11, 2014
    DAN004
    Subtrope of For Want Of A Nail.
  • January 11, 2014
    FlyingDuckManGenesis
  • January 11, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    I'd forgotten about this ykttw!!

    @- Noir Grimoir: Sorry-sorry-sorry!

    "I would argue that a cold attitude is more adult" - Using the first Superman film, The alter-ego of Superman presents a colder attitude than the Clark Kent alter-ego, who is much friendlier and cheerful. That would mean that Superman is Darker And Edgier than Clark. That must be misuse. He is more "cool", but not more adult. Man Of Steel, however, is clearly supposed to be a darker film, and that's conveyed with ambient lighting, and the fact that the Clark alter-ego in that film is much more serious than the Clark alter-ego in the first film. The Superman alter-ego is just as formal in both.

    • The Dark Counterpart has some sort of shared history to the other character, usually sharing a similar heritage (same species, country, background) or similar powers. However, their history is also characterized by how their history took a "left turn" somewhere that led them to an ideology opposed to the other character. This "left turn" may even be onscreen, in the form of Character Development.
    • As the character begins their role as Dark Counterpart, they are an antagonist or obstacle, not necessarily on the side of the bad guys, but certainly not on the side of the hero. Usually The Dragon or Lieutenant, and almost never the Big Bad. If evil, they are pretty much always an Anti-Villain.
    • The parallels between the original character and their Dark Counterpart are often clear to the audience, and occasionally remarked upon by the characters in the story. For the Light Counterpart, they are likely to sympathize with the Dark Counterpart, and proffer friendships and alliances. For the Dark counterpart, they often become jealous of the differences, and may display this jealously by proudly claiming those differences as something that makes them "better" than their counterpart. They see the offers as demonstrations of pity, usually resulting in Dont You Dare Pity Me.
    • As they reject the initial offer of Heel Face Turn, the audience may see the Dark Counterpart conflicted by the offers. Their story-arc as a "Dark" character may last for multiple seasons, and they often leave the services of the Big Bad without actually joining the heroes. Ultimately, they may end their time as a "Dark" character by becoming an Aloof Ally or Redemption Equals Death.
  • January 11, 2014
    DAN004
    So what, would we need Adult Counterpart or something?
  • January 13, 2014
    IndirectActiveTransport
  • January 13, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    You've misread Shadow Archetype. That is specifically everything the character hates or surpresses. Vegeta is not the shadow archetype to Goku, because Goku has nothing repressed. Knives isn't the Dark Counterpart of Vash, because they both had the same upbringing. He is the Shadow Archetype because he does what Cash refuses to do.
  • January 13, 2014
    xanderiskander
    ^To be fair the laconic is very misleading on what this is about.

    I don't buy this either. This seems entirely the same as Evil Counterpart to a tee, from the For Want Of A Nail backstory representing "what the hero could have become" to them being very likely to be Dark Magical Girls almost everything is the same. Plus Tropes Are Flexible and there's nothing preventing an Evil Counterpart from having a Heel Face Turn or becoming a Hero Antagonist later in the story.

    The only thing different I notice is this doesn't mention having a similar appearance to the good counterpart. But that doesn't seem to be a strict requirement for the examples for Evil Counterpart anyway as long as they share a similar history that took different turns. It would be better to take Evil Counterpart to TRS to make the description less narrow so it can attract more of the shared history examples. Or perhaps change Evil Counterpart's misleading page image.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable