->''"I've experienced death, countless times. Sometimes, I see a bright light. Sometimes, I see Heaven, or Hell. But eventually, no matter what, I wake up in my bed, wearing my same old clothes. (''voice cracks'') And the worst part? Nobody even remembers me dying! I go to school the next day, and everyone is just like, 'Oh, hey, Kenny.' Even if they had seen me get decapitated with their own eyes. You wanna whine about curses, Hindsight? You're talking to the wrong fucking cowboy."''
-->-- '''Kenny''', on one of ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'''s most beloved {{Running Gag}}s

One of the side effects of CerebusSyndrome is that some gags from the early part of the story may no longer seem to fit the more serious tone of later portions. There is however a way to make these early funny elements consistent with the rest of the story: giving them a Cerebus Retcon. The Cerebus Retcon gives a rational, often cynical, InUniverse explanation or interpretation of early gags, frequently by giving them a late {{Deconstruction}}, either for drama or BlackComedy.

While this trope will frequently be the consequence of a {{Retcon}}, it may be hard to distinguish retcons that bring little alteration to the initial continuity from the author using the early gags as {{Foreshadowing}} of their serious explanation/interpretation, that can be part of TheReveal. This trope can hence cover both cases. For a trope in a similar situation, see ArcWelding, which sometimes overlaps with Cerebus Retcon.

If the lighthearted moment is only referenced or alluded to in a serious scene without being outright retconned, it's a CerebusCallBack.

Compare ReimaginingTheArtifact, DoingInTheWizard, BackstoryHorror, and CrapsaccharineWorld. Often related to FunnyAneurysmMoment, RewatchBonus, and HarsherInHindsight.

'''Unmarked plot spoilers''' are abundant in this page, as the mere title of this trope is already suggestive. Tread carefully.


[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist'': Ed's short stature gets used for comical characterisation for most of the series. Then [[spoiler:it turns out he hasn't grown since the disastrous ritual because Al's body on the other side of the Gate is drawing nourishment from him to survive]]. It's still played for comedy even after this reveal because his rants are so fricken hilarious.
* ''Manga/GreatTeacherOnizuka'' does this gradually. During one of his later admissions to the hospital, the eponymous character gets what looks like a serious nosebleed [[EroNosebleed until everyone comes to the conclusion that it was only because he was turned on by the nurses' uniforms and got a peek under their skirts after "pretending" to fall down.]] Later in the same chapter, a panel suggests that the nosebleed actually is as serious as it first appeared. In the final story arc, [[spoiler:the audience learns that Onizuka has had chronic internal bleeding and cerebral aneurysms in the head for quite sometime, which shines a different light on some of the nosebleed gags throughout ''Great Teacher Onizuka'' as well as the various head injuries, comedic or serious, he has gained throughout not just this series, but it's predacessor, ''Shonan Junai Gumi''.]]
* [[CombatMedic "Tray King" Yuda]] from ''Manga/{{Toriko}}'' , while not intentionally comedic, his full of Narm catchprase that he "would not miss even a single millimeter" or any variation thereof. His Full Course are also revealed to be much weaker (capture level 0-20) compared to less experienced chef, [[DefiedTrope defying]] the PowerLevel [[RankInflation inflation]] that has been going UpToEleven until now. Oh, and he's more than 100 years old and '''No.4 Chef''' in the human world. But why it's very important to him? In a Flashback, His master set him out on a journey, especially to learn the taste of failure. [[spoiler: He arrived on a village that plagued by a disease, where he used his medicinal cooking to heal the whole village. He had a talk with a boy he met earlier... and then [[BloodfromtheMouth the kid died]]. Turn out there should be a slight difference when cooking the antidotal food when given to children. The difference? You guess it, 1 millimeter. And the weak full course? It's that child's full course and dream]]. Turn into CrowningMomentofAwesome when back to the present time, [[spoiler: he [[TheReasonYouSuckSpeech chastises Condor]] [[BreakTheHaughty Window of doing]] [[IronicEcho a 'megaton-class' mistake]] of overlooking the property of his environment]]. Yuda use a narrow world lines within the Multi-gravity space. Their width? [[CrowningMomentofAwesome 1 millimeter]].
* ''Manga/MedakaBox'':
** Medaka has a habit of copying everyone else's poses, as part of comic relief. After the GenreShift, it's revealed she does this since she doesn't have her own identity.
** Shiranui, among other things, is known for her incredible BigEater tendencies, as well as a rather comical opposition to the title character. [[spoiler:Turns out that she's Medaka's double, designed to help her from the shadows, eating more than she needs to, and having no true identity.]]
* At some point in ''Manga/LoveHina'', Creator/KenAkamatsu must have realized that Keitaro was surviving in too many instances where he simply should not have. With the choice between toning down the girls' ComedicSociopathy and simply hoping the fans chanted the MST3KMantra, he [[TakeAThirdOption took a third option]] and made Keitaro's durability a part of the story, with at one point Kitsune ordering that it was alright to use lethal force while hurting him, as he was immortal. At a point near the end where the manga became serious, when Keitaro is dangling from a great height, he lets the audience know it's serious by even referencing his own ability to walk away from excessively violent slapstick injuries by saying that "at this height, I'll die, even if I'm immortal!" Later on, he yells at Narusegawa for her reckless behavior that put them both in danger, "Don't ever do anything this crazy again! I'd survive, but I doubt you would."
* In ''Manga/MahouSenseiNegima'', Akamatsu's next series, the protagonist Negi was originally portrayed as something of an IneptMage, despite being a child genius who graduated from the magical equivalent of university at age 9. As the story began moving in a more serious direction, it's said that Negi's early magical malfunctions were the result of the spells being performed on or around Asuna, who (unknown to herself at the time) has latent AntiMagic abilities.
* Shinobu in ''Manga/UruseiYatsura'' is an example. She starts out with the comedic ability of super strength when she gets angry. After a while, characters become explicitly aware of it, and Ataru takes advantage of it to get the group out of a jam at least once. The series never stops being a comedy, though oddly enough in the third movie (''Remember My Love'') the aliens leave, and without the genre shift brought by the presence of aliens, Shinobu also loses her power.
* ''Anime/DragonBallZ'', Goku's tail is revealed to indicate he is actually a Saiyan rather than just a boy with a tail. His kindly nature is also revealed to be the result of brain damage; if he'd never injured his head, Goku would have grown up to be a BloodKnight. Or a more sociopathic one than he already is.
* ''Manga/AhMyGoddess'': Early chapters show "the system" preventing anyone from interfering with Keiichi and Belldandy's relationship. [[spoiler:Chapter 285 gives this a rather dark spin. The system is also preventing their relationship from advancing, and it does so by altering Keiichi's feelings.]]
* ''Anime/RevolutionaryGirlUtena'':
** The fact that [[AlphaBitch Nanami]] gets constantly chased and/or attacked by all kinds of animals is hilarious, [[spoiler:of course until TheReveal that [[FriendToAllLivingThings Anthy]], whom Nanami constantly bullies, is actually a witch]] and is strongly hinted that she cursed her because of it. Nanami's awful luck with animals takes on additional significance after it's revealed that years ago, [[spoiler:she [[KickTheDog drowned her brother's kitten]] [[GreenEyedMonster out of jealousy]].]] Those animals have a good reason to [[AnimalsHateHer hate her]], even without [[spoiler:Anthy's]] influence.
** Anthy herself has this in the form of some of her more subtle backhanded comebacks with her otherwise ExtremeDoormat personality, which tend to be pretty funny the first time you hear them. Then you find out [[spoiler:her ManipulativeBastard brother has emotionally anaesthetized her through years of emotional and sexual manipulation leaving it so that the ''only'' way she can fight back is passive aggressively.]]
* Tamahome of ''Manga/FushigiYuugi'' was initially portrayed as a huge mercenary, even charging people for rescuing them. This is later revealed to be because he is giving the money to his [[MassiveNumberedSiblings huge]], [[PerpetualPoverty impoverished]] family. Once they've [[spoiler:been slaughtered]], he ''still'' makes reference to this trait.
* ''LightNovel/HaiyoreNyarkoSan'' has the character Ato-ko Shirogane, first introduced in the GagSeries ''Remember my Love(craft-sensei)'' as a CovertPervert who browses porn sites by the hundreds ''simultaneously'' and drops a ClusterBleepBomb when describing what she would do to [[EmotionlessGirl Cuuko]]. Her only "appearance" in the main anime is near the end of the second season, when she sends a box of LovePotion-laced chocolates to Nyarko, causing [[HilarityEnsues hilarity to ensue]]. When Ato-ko pops up in the novels, however, it turns out that she [[{{Cuckold}} steals other womens' boyfriends/lovers]] [[EmotionEater because she literally feeds on the emotional pain it causes]]. This effect also extends to all the friendly, polite interaction she has with the show's stars Nyarko and Mahiro, since she's trying to steal the latter away from the former, and makes the chocolate incident darker by implying that she was trying to artifically speed their relationship along so it'd be "tastier" to destroy.
* Josuke in ''Manga/JojosBizarreAdventure'' getting irrationally pissed whenever someone makes fun of his hair just seems like a funny BerserkButton gag, until it's eventually revealed that [[spoiler: Josuke was saved as a baby by a mysterious stranger with the same hairdo. He eventually grew up to adopt the same hairstyle out of respect, and considers any insults towards it as an insult toward the man who saved his life.]] The hair gag is never used again after that.
* ''Manga/YuYuHakusho'': Koenma originally was ReallySevenHundredYearsOld but looked like a baby, with a pacifier. He could occasionally become a teenager, but the joke was that he still has the pacifier. Later, the pacifier was "explained" as an energy storage device to give him a non-comedic reason for having it when not a baby (although [[VoodooShark this doesn't explain why such a thing would look like a pacifier to begin with]]).
* In ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'', Kakashi’s chronic lateness and horrible excuses (combined with Naruto and Sakura’s shouts of “Liar!”) were played entirely for laughs, but then we find out that Kakashi’s real reason for being late is that he visits the memorial stone every day in honor of his dead best friend. He stays there for HOURS lost in thought, and even talks to it like he’s talking to Obito. Oh, and those lame excuses? They were Obito’s. Using them is Kakashi’s way of keeping Obito’s memory alive. This becomes even more depressing when [[spoiler: Kakashi finds out that Obito is still alive, and is evil, since Obito is the reason Kakashi is the person he is today… so in effect, everything in Kakashi’s life that he believed in has become a lie.]]
* The manga version of ''Manga/SailorMoon'' lacks the "Minako falls in love several times per day" RunningGag present in the anime and [[Manga/CodenameSailorV the series on which they're based]], with Minako's character being usually more mature than in ''Codename: Sailor V''. Then, after the ''Sailor Moon'' manga ends, we finally have the ending of ''Codename: Sailor V'' and find out that [[spoiler:she ''killed her true love in battle'' and realized that [[MarriedToTheJob she values her mission over everything else]], and she's the local example of a StepfordSmiler]]. Ouch.
** The Sailor V manga however DID include the joke, it's pointed out a a couple of times she's had a couple dozen crushes she's called "her first love"
* ''Manga/OnePiece'' has a few examples, turning otherwise cute gags into tragedies when examined closely.
** While more heartwarming than serious, the reason Genzo, a father figure to Nami from her home village, wore a pinwheel on his hat was because his face scared Nami as a baby, but wearing the pinwheel made her laugh. Once she departed with Luffy and was finally happy, he placed the pinwheel at Belle-mere's grave, saying he didn't need it anymore.
** Kokoro, an older {{Gonk}} introduced in the Water 7 arc, is introduced as a LadyDrunk played for comic relief. Then you find out that she used to have a thinner figure and didn't drink until the day Tom, her friend and employer (and the mentor of Franky and Iceburg) was sent to Enies Lobby to be executed. Since then, she hasn't stopped.
** Portgas D. Ace has the word ASCE tattooed on his arm, with the S crossed out. It was obviously a mistake on the tattoo artists part, right? Much later on, we learn that when Luffy and Ace were kids, they were friends with a boy called '''S'''abo, who was apparently killed by the World Nobles. Ouch.
** During the Fishman Island Arc, ever wondered why the two princes, Ryuuboshi and Manboshi act goofy by singing and dancing in scales and mambo respectively?? [[spoiler:It turns out it's a way to cheer their sister up… right after their mom was murdered, ''right in front of them''.]]
** Baby 5's ExtremeDoormat tendencies were initially played for laughs, but a brief flashback showed that when she was a toddler, she was abandoned by her family for being useless. Her crewmates never corrected this FreudianExcuse, as they found a person who would do anything to feel needed was too convenient.
** A guy called Senor Pink who dresses up like a baby and rejects all woman around him? Hilarious. A guy called Senor Pink who dresses up like a baby [[spoiler:not only because he hopes his late wife will find it funny from heaven as it was the only thing that made her smile when an accident rendered her comatose, but as a tribute to his own infant son who died at a very fragile age]] and rejects all woman around him [[spoiler:because his heart belongs to said late wife]]? TearJerker.
* A meta-example for the ''Anime/{{Pokemon}}'' anime: according to [[LightNovel/PocketMonstersTheAnimation the novels]] by Creator/TakeshiShudo, Brock's numerous siblings are the result of his mother's [[ReallyGetsAround several relationships and marriages]] that ended in divorce. And this was before she even appeared in the anime.
* If one takes the [[VideoGame/SandsOfDestruction game]] ''Sands of Destruction'' as the original, and the [[Anime/SandsOfDestruction anime]][[note]](production of the game began first, but the anime was released first)[[/note]] and [[Manga/SandsOfDestruction manga]] as RetCons instead of AlternateContinuity, this trope is firmly in place as regards Morte's motivation. In the game, she merely wants to destroy the world because it's already ending itself and she can't come up with a better use for a dying world than [[ItAmusedMe assuaging her own boredom]]. [[spoiler:Naturally, the moment she realizes both that the world ''can'' be saved and falling in love is even more fun than blowing stuff up, she changes her mind.]] She's [[GenkiGirl incredibly upbeat]] throughout the game, rushing into things without a thought. In the anime, her motivation changes to revenge for [[spoiler:the deaths of her parents and brother: she doesn't know who is responsible, and feels that the world is worthless, so killing everyone is her solution; she only changes her mind at the last minute when she realizes that revenge isn't going to bring her family back and that the world actually does have its good points as well as its problems]]. She's also more serious, fitting her grimmer motives. In the manga, she's just as upbeat as she was in the game but her motivation is instead changed to [[spoiler:the fact that she's now the one who wished for the state of the world a thousand years ago, but she was tired and forgot to wish that humans and beastmen would be friends, so everyone's racism is ''all her fault'' and the only way she knows to fix the world is to wipe it out and start again from scratch; she's killed before she fully changes her mind, but Kyrie manages to bring her back at the end of the story - which, being the ''end'', doesn't allow us time to know what she's really thinking]].
* Luluco's [[IJustWantToBeNormal desire for normalcy]] in ''Anime/SpacePatrolLuluco'' starts making a disturbing amount of sense once we see [[spoiler: what her childhood was like]]. This doesn't keep it from being funny though.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* The TropeNamer is ''ComicBook/CerebusTheAardvark'', which in later issues liked to go back and explain some of the more humorous characters and situations of the early issues as being much more serious than originally thought. For instance, a minor gag in the fourth issue was later retconned (over 180 issues later!) as having been a tremendously significant event which kicked off a chain reaction that changed the course of Cerebus's life and led directly to all his eventual misery. Had said gag not occurred, Cerebus would have actually ended up as ruler of the world.
* In the comic version of ''ComicBook/{{Wanted}}'', the supervillains use an actual, massive in-universe CerebusRetcon in order to erase all memory of superheroes and supervillains. During this transformation, it shows in vivid detail how [[UsefulNotes/TheGoldenAgeOfComicBooks Golden Age]] visual styles and themes eventually shifted into a more realistic, DarkerAndEdgier style seen in more modern comics.
* ComicBook/BuckyBarnes, ComicBook/CaptainAmerica's KidSidekick during the TheForties, underwent this when brought back by Creator/EdBrubaker. The original version of his origin was that he was a cheery fanboy of Cap who accidentally discovered his secret identity and thus was recruited as his partner to keep the truth from getting out. Then Bucky died in a plane explosion and after that putting kids in harm's way looked like a less appealing idea for Marvel. ''ComicBook/CaptainAmericaWinterSoldier'' then retconned his first origin as propaganda, with the truth being that Bucky was an orphan who grew up [[MilitaryBrat on a military base most of his life]] and when partnered with Steve was essentially a teenage assassin, intended to do the black ops work Captain America couldn't be seen doing. So Bucky went from kid sidekick to {{Child Soldier|s}} [[spoiler:and then to AntiHero when he was brought back as Winter Soldier.]]
** And long prior to that, there was the retcon that ComicBook/TheFalcon was a former pimp and drug dealer who was brainwashed by the ComicBook/RedSkull to be his [[TheMole Mole]] in the superhero community. The whole thing is so contentious that it's been retconned in and out of continuity several times.
* ''[[ComicBook/GrantMorrisonsBatman Batman R.I.P.]]'' and the events leading up to it are one big Cerebus Retcon. All that [[UsefulNotes/TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks Silver Age]] Franchise/{{Batman}} wackiness? All either hallucinations caused by Scarecrow or Joker gas, or delusions of a young Batman as he took part in a dangerous mental experiment to try to understand the Joker's mind.
* Cassidy, hard-drinking roguish Irish vampire in Creator/GarthEnnis' ''ComicBook/{{Preacher}}'', was a fun and charismatic guy. Then, later in the series, we got an uncompromising look at how pathetic, dangerous and destructive he genuinely was. Several moments you thought were simply gags and fun moments got a nasty pay-off. A joke where Cassidy says something "tastes like semen!" and then hurriedly tries to get out of suggesting he knows what that tastes like? [[spoiler:He does know because he got so desperate for a heroin fix that he paid for it with oral sex.]]
* The [[MindRape supervillain brainwashing]] plot arc which began in Creator/DCComics' ''ComicBook/IdentityCrisis'' used this trope in two ways:
** Prior to ''ComicBook/IdentityCrisis'' (and particularly during the [[UsefulNotes/TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks Silver Age]]), heroes used "mindwipes" and other forms of selective memory erasure ''all the time'', frequently to preserve the heroes' secret identities. Ethical issues relating to this were seldom (if ever) addressed. Suddenly, in ''ComicBook/IdentityCrisis'', the ethics of mindwiping came to the forefront, and were revealed as the cause of a major past schism in the Justice League.
** In addition, several changes in certain supervillains' behavior were attributed to the effects of mindwiping. Most notably, this was used to explain how Dr. Light went from being a serious threat to the [[UsefulNotes/TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks Silver Age]] Justice League to a [[HarmlessVillain joke villain constantly bested by the]] Comicbook/TeenTitans by revealing that he was given, not just a mindwipe, but a personality alteration after an attempted rape in ''ComicBook/IdentityCrisis''.
** One of the most controversial revelations was that Comicbook/{{Catwoman}}'s turn towards [[AntiVillain Anti-Villainy]] (and sometimes outright heroism) during the 90's was not the result of CharacterDevelopment, but rather a mindwipe and personality alteration dealt by ComicBook/{{Zatanna}}.
* Kid Eternity is a comic character from [[UsefulNotes/TheGoldenAgeOfComicBooks 1942]]. A clerk in heaven made an error and he died before his time while boating with his grandpa. He was resurrected to do good stuff by summoning heroes of the past. Then Creator/GrantMorrison got his hands on the poor kid in the modern age. Demons made up all that misfiling stuff. The clerk is a minor demon. The "historical figures" he becomes are demons as well. It's all ThePlan about earning their way back into heaven by "helping" humanity via [[EvilutionaryBiologist evilution]]. Oh, and he's an orphan; the man he calls "grandpa" is actually a ''child molester. Dammit,'' Morrison! At least the "revive dead people" part was retconned back in again. Kid Eternity is seen reviving Marvin. Who was killed by his dog. Who was really a demon. So, yeah. More CerebusRetcon.
* The ''Franchise/{{Batman}}'' villain the Mad Hatter was always slightly creepier than most, but in the first ''ComicBook/SecretSix'' miniseries it became canon that he was a serial rapist, a drug addict, [[ArsonMurderandJaywalking only ate food with hats on it]], and was afflicted with macrocephaly. For a villain whose hat (harhar) is casual mind control and was drawn after a Tenniel illustration, this worked surprisingly well.
* In the final ''ComicBook/ScottPilgrim'' book, Scott learns from Kim that the very quirky flashback of book 2 wasn't very quirky at all. Basically he beat up the shy Chinese boyfriend of Kim, Simon Lee, to get with her, and to top it off, he told his best friend Lisa Miller that he was leaving and neglected to tell Kim so Lisa had to, even though Kim ended up shunning her for a month after that. Kim does admit that she was partially at fault for leaving Lee that easily though. It also turns out that all his quirky memory losses were [[spoiler: part of Gideon's plot to mess up Scott]].
* ''ComicBook/AngelAndTheApe'' was a [[UsefulNotes/TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks Silver Age]] comic about [[ABoyAndHisX a girl named Angel and a gorilla named Sam]] [[TheyFightCrime fighting crime]] in the city, with the oddity of the latter [[UnusuallyUninterestingSight never being mentioned]] (except everyone assumed Ape was a very hairy human). When it was revived in 1991 it was explained that Sam was actually the grandson of Gorilla Grodd, a [[Franchise/TheDCU DC Universe]] simian supervillain. Like Grodd, Sam has psychic powers, which in his case [[WeirdnessCensor make him look human to others]] as long as he concentrates.
* The Creator/AlanMoore run of ''ComicBook/{{Miracleman}}'' explained that the [[UsefulNotes/TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks Silver Age]] adventures of the character (then named "Marvelman") were hallucinations generated by the LotusEaterMachine the government kept him in when he wasn't needed.
* The changes made with ''ComicBook/CrisisOnInfiniteEarths'' combined this with CosmicRetcon, warping the entire [[Franchise/TheDCU DC Universe]] to usher in UsefulNotes/TheDarkAgeOfComicBooks.
* John Dee, a.k.a. Dr. Destiny: originally a supervillain defeated by [[Franchise/JusticeLeagueOfAmerica the Justice League]], he had a magic ruby that could make dreams come to life. Sounds dangerous, but since this was UsefulNotes/TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks, he was handily defeated and not thought of again for a long time. Come ''ComicBook/TheSandman'', it was revealed that it was Dream's own ruby amulet, and that being kept in [[BedlamHouse Arkham Asylum]] had caused Dee to go completely, [[OmnicidalManiac omnicidally]] insane. When he stole the ruby back, he plunged the world into twenty-four hours of horrific madness straight out of nightmares and warped desires before finally being stopped by Dream's direct intervention.
* ''[[ComicBook/StreetFighter Street Fighter: Chun Li]]'' has the death of Dan's father, Go Hibiki. Depictions of Go Hibiki's death have been comical, showing how Dan is a stereotypical character with a generic backstory. In this comic... it's played completely straight. Dan's father is murdered by Sagat and he's left traumatized.
* Gilbert Hernandez's ''ComicBook/LoveAndRockets'' and related work: Dios mio, poor Fritz. Initially introduced as a sexy, funny, [[BrainsAndBondage kinky]], ReallyGetsAround {{Cloudcuckoolander}}, once she starts getting stories centering around her it becomes increasingly obvious that she's an incredibly damaged but [[ThePollyanna heartbreakingly, unjustifiedly, optimistic]] woman who's been sexually and financially exploited and emotionally abused by just about everyone she's ever known except her sisters.
** Jaime's half of the series also featured at least one major retcon of this type. Early stories of the Hoppers 13 (aka Locas) books were slightly campy, pulpy affairs, lending the "Rockets" to the "Love & Rockets" title of the larger comic. These stories had Maggie interacting with aliens, dinosaurs, robots, rocketships, interplanetary travel, and hovercars, all occupying a fictional retrofuturist setting. Later stories eliminated the science fiction elements completely and shifted the settings to the real world. Later comics retconned the early stories by saying that Maggie's memories of that period had become muddled by LSD use and too many 1950s sci-fi comic book.
* The long-forgotten ''Franchise/MarvelUniverse'' mini-series ''Conspiracy'' implied that most of the FreakLabAccident and MillionToOneChance-based {{Origin Stor|y}}ies from UsefulNotes/{{the Silver Age|of Comic Books}} were actually the result of a shadowy government cadre called "Control." So any silly story conceits that could be dismissed as a PlotHole or TheoryOfNarrativeCausality were actually implied to have been caused deliberately. The reason [[Comicbook/FantasticFour Reed Richards and his friends]] were easily able to sneak into space, as well as the reason their rocket didn't have proper radiation shielding? Control. The gamma bomb test that transformed Bruce Banner into Comicbook/TheIncredibleHulk? Control. The wildly unsafe radiation experiments witnessed by [[Franchise/SpiderMan a certain schoolboy from Queens]]? Control.
* At the end of her arc in ''ComicBook/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicIDW'', Chrysalis and her Changelings got a humorous defeat when her castle partially crumbled around them, trapping them inside with nobody except themselves and a magically animated costume of Pinkie Pie for company. In her issue of ''[[ComicBook/MyLittlePonyFiendshipIsMagic Fiendship is Magic]]'', it's revealed that Celestia has rebuilt the ruins into a fully-functional prison, complete with magical barriers, anti-exfiltration scans and a dedicate troop of guards. Oh, and they're going to stay in there for ''at least'' a thousand years before being considered for parole. And Chrysalis has had a VillainousBreakdown due to learning about Twilight ascending to [[WingedUnicorn Alicorndom]], scribbling insanely all over the castle as a result.
* ''ComicBook/{{Convergence}}'' reveals that ComicBook/{{Brainiac}} has never been subjected to the retcons that have repeatedly altered the DC Universe. He is a being existing outside of time and space ever since ''ComicBook/CrisisOnInfiniteEarths'', and just about every version of him seen since his first appearance have been more or less puppet constructs acting out his will.
* The first issue of the official ''WesternAnimation/InvaderZim'' continuation comic does this in regards to Zim's relationship with his FriendInTheBlackMarket[=/=]KnowledgeBroker, Prisoner 777. On the show, 777 seemed to be helping Zim purely for the hell of it (or, with some AlternativeCharacterInterpretation, as a way of messing with the Irkens), but the comic reveals that Zim is actually [[IHaveYourWife holding 777's kids hostage]] in exchange for his services.
* ''Franchise/GreenLantern'':
** Back in [[TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks the Silver Age]], Hal Jordan seemed to have the ''least'' dramatic backstory of any DC superhero: he was a cocky, handsome, all-American [[AcePilot test pilot]] who spent his free time trying to woo his boss' daughter, and was on uncannily good terms with his family. But Creator/GeoffJohns' post-Crisis run went into a bit more detail about Hal's background, and revealed that his arrogance actually masks [[SadClown some truly sad experiences]]. For starters, he saw his father die in a test flight when he was just a child, and [[IconicOutfit his brown bomber jacket]] is actually a memento of his father. For another thing, his mother disowned him after he ran away from home to join the Air Force on his 18th birthday, and refused to speak to Hal on her deathbed. When she died of cancer, Hal's brother Jack blamed him for driving her to an early grave, leading a guilt-ridden Hal to intentionally get himself kicked out of the Air Force by punching his commanding officer. [[MyGreatestFailure That mistake]] is the reason Hal got his job as a test pilot for Ferris Aircraft, since they were the only aviation company that would hire him after his dishonorable discharge.
** The Green Lantern's [[WeaksauceWeakness weakness to the color yellow]] has long been the butt of jokes from comic book readers (and other superheroes) for its perceived silliness, and even ''Green Lantern'' fans long dismissed it as an artifact of the Silver Age. But the weakness didn't seem nearly as funny after Creator/GeoffJohns finally revealed its origin in ''Green Lantern: Rebirth'': it turns out that the "yellow impurity" in the Central Power Battery that caused the power ring's ineffectiveness against yellow objects was actually a malevolent alien EldritchAbomination called "Parallax"--the [[AnthropomorphicPersonification living embodiment of fear]], which was [[SealedEvilInACan imprisoned in the power battery]] by the Guardians to stop it from enslaving the universe.[[note]] Parallax is yellow because the power of fear manifests as yellow energy; it's the antithesis of the green energy of courage, which gives Green Lanterns their powers.[[/note]] Parallax's mastery of fear was so great that it led to Hal Jordan's corruption and FaceHeelTurn in ''ComicBook/EmeraldTwilight'', which culminated in him rebelling against the Green Lantern Corps and successfully draining the Central Power Battery. So, yes...the Green Lantern's weakness to the color yellow brought the largest peacekeeping force in the galaxy crashing down.
* Antoine D'Coolette, the easily scaring comic relief of the group who Sonic loves to make fun of is discussed by Bunnie in Issue 46 of ''ComicBook/ArchieComicsSonicTheHedgehog''. Turns out he was once much more valiant and composed way before Sonic joined the Freedom Fighters, and clever enough to save Bunnie's life on one occasion. He lost his way after his father was roboticized, wearing his father's uniform and attempting desperately to win Sally's love for the purpose of filling the emotional void his loss left him.

[[folder:Comic Strips]]
* ''ComicStrip/FunkyWinkerbean'' did this as part of its descent into CerebusSyndrome. For starters, the once humorous bullying of Bull Bushka against hapless nerd Les Moore was revealed to be the result of an abusive parent after the first time skip.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* In the ''WesternAnimation/JackieChanAdventures'' fic ''Fanfic/QueenOfAllOni'', after Jade becomes evil once more, we see that her parents [[ParentalNeglect neglected her]] almost to the point of [[AbusiveParents abuse]], painting her being sent to live with Jackie in a new light. In fact, she herself says that before her StartOfDarkness, she would have thought being sent to Jackie's as the best thing that ever happened to her.
* In the ''WesternAmination/JackieChanAdventures'' and ''WesternAnimation/{{WITCH}}'' crossover fanfic ''Fanfic/{{Kage}}'' (part of ''FanFic/ProjectDarkJade'', like ''Fanfic/QueenOfAllOni'' above), a number of events from the W.I.T.C.H. cartoon are made DarkerAndEdgier, like the Battle of Somber Hill.
* "[[http://ask-jappleack.tumblr.com/ Ask Jappleack]]", a CharacterBlog tie-in to Creator/MaxGilardi's animated ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' parody ''WebAnimation/PonyDotMov'', reveals that Applejack's MushroomSamba after over-indulging on too many apples is actually an EldritchAbomination's attempt at making contact with her, which ultimately ends up sending her to Equestria Prime (i.e., the normal Equestria from the show). It also ties in [[TrademarkFavoriteFood Applejack's comedic obsession with apples]] with said EldritchAbomination's attempts to devour all planes of existence.
* There is an entire genre of fanfic called angstfic, which makes the characters wallow in angst -- especially if the original fic that the fanfic is based on is a wacky comedy or lighthearted. The usual victims are ''Anime/{{Pokemon}}'' and any comedy by Creator/RumikoTakahashi.
* There's also a surprising number of ''WesternAnimation/KimPossible'' fanfics with depictions of mental trauma and constant injuries that Kim and/or Ron acquire on a daily basis from their fights with supervillains, including the incident in the [[BigDamnMovie Big Damn]] [[WesternAnimation/KimPossibleMoviesSoTheDrama Movie]] where Kim [[MoralDissonance kicked Shego off the roof of Bueno Nacho into a charged electrical tower with the intent to kill]].
* In one ''Anime/MagicalGirlLyricalNanoha'' fanfic titled ''Behind the Smile'', it is suggested that Hayate suffered sexual abuse in the foster care system before living alone, and her SkinshipGrope tendencies were a way of warding off unwanted male attention.
* In ''[[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/7081044/1/Crumbling_Masks Crumbling Masks]]'', a ''LightNovel/TheFamiliarOfZero'' fanfiction, Saito and Louise relationship of DoubleStandardAbuseFemaleOnMale is taken seriously; but instead of the usual angst one might expect from this type of stories, [[spoiler:it ends with both of them realizing they actually enjoy being in a S&M relationship and accepting themselves as the kind of persons who would enjoy that kind of thing.]]
* In the ''WesternAnimation/MyLifeAsATeenageRobot'' fanfic ''Fanfic/MyLifeAsATeenagedVonNeumannDevice'', [[RobotGirl Jenny's]] [[RidiculouslyHumanRobot ridiculously human nature]] is extended to her having a robotic reproductive system... and her discovering all the baggage that comes with sex, up to and including [[spoiler:being molested and raped by Cluster guards, and an accidental pregnancy]]. Also, [[AlphaBitch Brittany Crust's]] rivalry with Jenny [[VillainousBreakdown turns into a full-blown paranoid hatred of machines]] that [[SanitySlippage culminates in a psychotic break]] where she [[spoiler: starts talking to her television, tries to rape [[KissingCousins her cousin Tiff]], tries to murder Tiff's boyfriend in a jealous rage, and ultimately merges with Queen Vexus in a last-ditch effort to get rid of Jenny.]]
* ''FanFic/HuntingTheUnicorn'' is a ''Series/{{Glee}}'' fanfic that uses this to [[{{Deconstruction}} rip apart]] [[RelationshipSue Blaine's]] portrayal. He's compassionate, selfless, and loyal -- which means he [[WellDoneSonGuy defends his estranged father]] from any kind of insult, ignores personal issues until he is literally ''dragged into therapy'' by [[TrueCompanions the Warblers]], and is so [[WideEyedIdealist unflinchingly helpful]] that [[ChronicHeroSyndrome dropping everything to help Kurt after ten minutes]] doesn't mean he's a perfect MartyStu -- it means he's a naive little boy that dodged a ''huge'' bullet by meeting someone who "only fell in love with him." And [[TheFirstCutIsTheDeepest he wasn't always that lucky.]]
* Many, many ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'' fanfics turn Naruto's status as village black sheep into outright hatred and open, often homicidal abuse. So, that scene in the beginning where he's getting chased for vandalism by the equivalent of the Keystone Kops? People are actually trying to kill him over it. The small apartment he lives in by himself? A slum with no hot water that people frequently vandalize. His birthday? A festival in memory of the survivors of the Fox's attack on the day he was born, where he must fear for his life. The Hokage's advisors? Part of a village council made up of clan leaders (a.k.a. the parents of all his friends) who want nothing more than to exile him or publicly execute him. His favorite ramen stand? The only place in the village willing to sell him food. The reason Naruto's so dense? No teacher at the academy was willing to teach him anything. The reason a ''ninja'' wears a bright orange jumpsuit? The villagers wanted Naruto to completely fail at stealth and die on his first major mission. ''Yeesh.''
* In ''FanFic/HorseshoesAndHandGrenades'', we have [[BitchInSheepsClothing Misa Torizaki]] whose most defining trait in ''Series/KamenRiderFourze'' was her [[UnwittingInstigatorOfDoom forcing Norio Eguchi to become Cygnus Zodiarts.]] She got away with it too. What happens here? Word spread about her actions and she's called "Swan Bitch" by people under their breath. Her backstory is her part of a rental company who ran away from home to escape her abusive and alcoholic step-father and the day she met Cygnus, she was going to be raped. Cygnus inspired her to make the Ugly Ducklings be a club that does good deeds and she severed her ties with the rental company...until they found out and put her through some degrading jobs. That, and probably holding onto the Zodiarts Switch, eroded her sanity that ultimately made her activate Norio's switch to become Cygnus.
* A minor example from [[Fanfic/Swing123AndGarfieldodiesCalvinverse the Calvinverse]] - remember how Calvin declared himself to be the Earth Potentate to Galaxoid and Nebular in [[ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes the original strip]] as a joke? Well, starting with ''[[Fanfic/CalvinAndHobbesTheMovie The Movie]]'', [[NiceJobBreakingItHero this is why he has to fend off aliens]], as they still believe this. It loses its darker implications in ''[[Fanfic/CalvinAndHobbesTheSeries The Series]]'', as the aliens are specifically told that he's not the Earth Potentate - ''[[WhatAnIdiot and they still pursue him.]]''
* In Pokemon fanfic [[http://m.fanfiction.net/s/7530589/1/Like-No-One-Ever-Was Like No One Ever Was]] it turns that [[HarmlessElectrocution Pikachu's constant shocking of Ash]] and [[IdiotHero Ash's ditwi]][[TooDumbToLive tted behavior]] are directly related. As in that Pikachu's electric shocks are causing Ash brain damage and his Trainer career was slowly ending to the resulting muscle deterioration.
* ''Fanfic/GameTheoryFanFic'' uses this both with elements from canon and the story itself. As an example of the former, Yuuno forgetting to tell Nanoha that he was human leads to a serious case of PoorCommunicationKills instead of being played for laughs. As for the latter, the RunningGag of Hayate being obsessed with zombies [[spoiler:turns out to be {{Foreshadowing}} the early involvement of the Mariage.]]
* ''Fanfic/DeathNoteEquestria'': L's [[TheSpock personality]] and her relationship with Bon Bon becomes this when it's revealed that [[spoiler: Bon Bon is actually a changeling]]. As Twilight explains, this means that [[spoiler: Bon Bon was feeding off of L's emotions for years, essentially hollowing her out into a meat puppet]].
* The ''Fanfic/FacingTheFutureSeries'' does this with the jokes about Danny wanting to be normal and him manifesting new ghost powers when it's revealed that [[spoiler:his ghost half has sentience in his subconscious]].
* ''FanFic/NoChanceForFate'' is this for two series at the same time. While in canon ''Anime/SailorMoon'' at least tried to play its story serious despite comedy, ''Manga/RanmaOneHalf'' was simple sociopathic comedy. Taking away this coat of comedy (without actually removing humor) reveals how truly fear-inspiring parts of both canons are. On the ''Sailor Moon'' side, what was only implied in canon is now shown in its horrific glory. On the ''Ranma'' side, absurd canon plots are taken to their logical - and thus horrifying - conclusion. [[spoiler: Shown dramatically with Happosai and Konatsu's backstory.]]

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/MonstersUniversity'' touches on the backstory of Sully's scare assistant Mike. In ''Monsters Inc.,'' Mike served mostly as a comedic ButtMonkey and seemingly second-fiddle to Sully's accomplishment. But then the prequel reveals how much grief and failure Mike experienced to get the position he did today and come to terms with his shortcomings and ultimately be treated like an equal to the on-field Scarers despite only being a coach.
* In ''WesternAnimation/FindingNemo'', Dory's amnesia initially comes off as more of a comedic quirk than a genuine handicap, and it seems like a natural part of her CuteClumsyGirl persona. But as the film goes on, it gradually becomes clear that she's deeply bothered by her inability to hold onto memories, particularly since it means that she can't remember anything about her real family, and it makes it almost impossible for her to form lasting relationships. As much as she might annoy Marlin, she ''does'' deeply value him as a friend...since he's one of the few friends that she's ever had.
* In the original ''WesternAnimation/KungFuPanda'', Po having [[ObliviousAdoption a goose for a dad]] was repeatedly PlayedForLaughs, with the issue not being touched upon at all aside from a slight tease during their last scene together. In ''WesternAnimation/KungFuPanda2'', the issue ''is'' touched upon, and it turns out that Po not only has a DarkAndTroubledPast, but that the reason Mr. Ping never brought it up before is that he was afraid his son would leave him to find his real family.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* In ''Film/SupermanII'', Zod's [[TheDragon Dragon]] Non was a [[TheSpeechless silent]] [[DumbMuscle brute]] upon whom Jor-El looked with contempt. This characterization carried over to the comics... and then it was revealed Non was once a close friend of Jor-El's until he was abducted and [[MindRape lobotomized]].
* ''Franchise/StarWars'':
** In ''Film/ANewHope'', Luke Skywalker's Aunt Beru notes to his Uncle Owen "Luke's just not a farmer, Owen. He has too much of his father in him.", to which Owen says "That's what I'm afraid of." In ''Film/TheEmpireStrikesBack'', we learn that [[LukeIAmYourFather Luke's father is]], [[ItWasHisSled in fact, Darth Vader]], one of the most evil men in the galaxy. And it's even worse if you consider the Prequel Trilogy, as we see in ''Film/AttackOfTheClones'', shortly after Anakin originally met Owen, he went on a rampage, slaughtering dozens of Sand People after his mother's death by their hands. It goes from mere apprehension that Luke might get himself killed to fears that Luke might turn evil.
** There's also a comedic scene in ''A New Hope'' where Chewbacca refuses to go inside the chute to the Death Star's trash compactor because of the smell, and Han ends up having to kick him in. In the canonical ''Star Wars: Chewbacca'' mini-series from Marvel, we learn that [[{{Claustrophobia}} tight, enclosed spaces]] {{Trigger}} traumatic flashbacks to his time as a slave, making his unwillingness to go down the chute much more understandable.
** One of the things Darth Vader is best known for in the Original Trilogy is Force-choking anyone who angers him. This gets ''very'' tragic in ''Film/RevengeOfTheSith'', as the first person Anakin/Vader killed with the Force choke (albeit indirectly) was Padmé, the love of his life, which became ''the'' reason he joined the Dark Side.
** In ''A New Hope'', the gunner of the Death Star says "Stand by" twice when he can destroy Yavin IV, giving Luke enough time to destroy the station before it destroyed the Rebel base. ''Literature/DeathStar'' shows that the gunner had a HeelRealization after Alderaan, and that was his way to [[RedemptionEqualsDeath put off firing long enough for the Death Star to be destroyed, knowing that he'd die in the process]].
* ''Franchise/MenInBlack'':
** In the first two films, K was TheStoic, though [[TheComicallySerious this was mostly played for laughs]]. When Boris the Animal goes back in time in [[Film/MenInBlack3 the third film]] to kill K, J goes back to save him, and finds that K is a likable person with emotion. The reason K has always been such a curmudgeonly old guy is [[spoiler:because he witnessed J's father sacrificing himself to save K from Boris back in 1969, which ended up with K somewhat becoming a surrogate father to J]].
** [[AmusingAlien The Worm Guys]] are always seen [[MustHaveCaffeine drinking coffee in MIB's kitchen]]. In [[WesternAnimation/MenInBlack the animated series]], it's explained that coffee is a sacred beverage on their homeworld which only royalty can drink.
* Franchise/MarvelCinematicUniverse:
** In ''Film/{{The Avengers|2012}}'', Tony's flight through the Chitauri wormhole at the climax of the movie is just a good old fashioned fist-pumping action climax, and his resultant brush with death [[LikeYouWouldReallyDoIt (which he obviously survives)]] is PlayedForLaughs, with Tony absentmindedly rambling about going to get shawarma immediately upon waking up. But then ''Film/IronMan3'' reveals that he actually got PTSD from the experience, and a minor plot point in the film involves him struggling to cope with anxiety attacks following the battle in New York.
** Senator Stern from ''Film/IronMan2'' was more of a comedic pain-in-the-ass than an actual threat, and his attempts to confiscate Tony's armor never really panned out. Then in ''Film/CaptainAmericaTheWinterSoldier'', we find out [[spoiler:Stern is a high-ranking agent of HYDRA, and was likely trying to take Stark's armor so that the organization could mass-produce their own versions]].
*** Similarly, the World Security Council played CommanderContrarian in ''The Avengers'', pushing Fury to use Tesseract weaponry instead of trying to assemble a RagtagBunchOfMisfits. The councilman leading this charge later returned in ''Series/AgentsOfSHIELD'' as, like Senator Stern, a [[spoiler:leading member of HYDRA, adding context to why he wanted high-powered weaponry so badly]].
** This is the whole point of the Sokovia Accords plot in ''Film/CaptainAmericaCivilWar''. It's shown that the Avengers' heroic deeds in the past movies have caused untold amounts of collateral damage, and the main villain of the movie [[spoiler:is a man whose wife and son were crushed to death by falling buildings during the final battle in ''Film/AvengersAgeOfUltron'']]. To hammer this point home, footage of Comicbook/TheIncredibleHulk fighting the Chitauri from ''Film/{{The Avengers|2012}}'' is shown, and it's revealed that he accidentally knocked debris onto a crowd of screaming civilians. To make it worse, ''Age of Ultron'' made it a specific point to show that the Avengers were doing everything they could to keep civilians out of the line of fire, and the implication was that they had essentially succeeded until ''Civil War'' showed otherwise.
** In the ''Film/IronMan'' movies (especially ''2''), Tony suffers from unresolved issues due to the fact that his parents died in a car accident when he was young. ''Film/CaptainAmericaTheWinterSoldier'' puts a darker spin on it by dropping a heavy hint that their deaths were [[spoiler:actually a HYDRA assassination]], though this information is seen by Steve and Natasha, not Tony. ''Film/CaptainAmericaCivilWar'' takes it further, as not only is the hint confirmed and revealed to Tony, but it adds the detail that [[spoiler:Steve's brainwashed friend Bucky carried out the hit]]. Tony is furious that [[spoiler:Steve had kept this from him for two years and is now protecting his parents' killer]].
* MuppetsFromSpace: After decades of Gonzo's species being PlayedForLaughs, this film has him undergo an identity crisis and go out to search for others like him.
* In Creator/TimBurton's ''Film/CharlieAndTheChocolateFactory'', Willy Wonka always seems to stop short and becomes hesitate whenever he is about to say "parent", which is initially played up as one of his (multiple) [[{{Cloudcuckoolander}} eccentricities]]. Then we find out about his [[spoiler: FreudianExcuse (which doesn't exist in the books): he is estranged from his father, a strict dentist who didn't allow him to even eat a single candy. This experience motivated him to start the whole chocolate business, actually.]]

* ''Literature/ASeriesOfUnfortunateEvents'': As the series develops, it turns out that many of the characters' motivations and activities were tied up with the fraught history of a secret fire-fighting / peace-keeping organization.
* At one point in ''Literature/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy'', a MillionToOneChance produced when Arthur Dent accidentally activates the Infinite Improbability Drive causes two missiles to be transformed into a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias, which fall onto the surface of an alien planet. While the whale [[ContemplateOurNavels contemplates its brief existence]] at some length before its demise, all that the bowl of petunias thinks is, [[OhNoNotAgain "Oh no, not again."]] This thought is left unexplained, with the comment: "If we knew exactly why the bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the Universe than we do now." The bowl of petunias, however, is dismayingly explained in ''Life, the Universe, and Everything'' as being one of many incarnations through time and space of a creature called Agrajag, whom Arthur Dent has accidentally killed in each form (also counts as a BrickJoke).\\\
''Mostly Harmless'' reveals the entire truth: [[spoiler:The Guide Mark II somehow used Reverse Temporal Engineering to screw with Agrajag's reincarnations so that Arthur would be brought to the Cathedral of Hate ''before'' he ducked an assassin's gunshot at Stavromula Beta. This is not a paradox, although it does ensure Arthur's eventual arrival. The Guide's purpose in this was simply to ensure all remaining humans (Arthur, Trillian, Tricia, and Random) were back on Earth before it was demolished again, this time for good, by the Vogons.]]
* Creator/StephenKing's story ''The Library Policeman'' starts off goofy and turns deathly serious, casting the earlier goofy parts in a new light. This reflects the very ''writing process'' of the story: King started off writing a goofy tale and found it turning into a deathly serious one, so he took it and ran with it.
* ''Literature/TheCourtshipOfPrincessLeia'' had a rather stock villain duo in Warlord Zsinj and General Melvar, dim-witted and ''[[CardCarryingVillain eeeheeheeeeevil]]'' sadistic bad guys who had the resources -- a Super Star Destroyer and a device that cut off the sunlight from a particular planet -- to threaten our heroes. Their resources were more of a plot point than they were; the only role ''they'' played was to leer menacingly and set up those things, then be killed quickly. In the Literature/XWingSeries, set earlier, Creator/AaronAllston made it a point to expand on those two, making them FauxAffablyEvil, ''very'' intelligent, and quite essential to the plot. Their two-dimensional idiocy became ObfuscatingStupidity, and they actually turned into legitimate (and ''very'' entertaining) threats.
* ''Literature/HarryPotter'':
** Hermione's attitude towards House Elves in the series was always treated as your average tree-hugging annoyance. Especially in regards to Kreacher as Sirius would crack sarcastic jokes about Kreacher obsessing over the family members' old belongings and even making death jokes about him which Harry and Ron openly laughed about. Then in the final book and we find out exactly what Kreacher has been through... Sirius's jokes and attitude don't seem so funny anymore.
** A more notable example would be the way a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher never stays on for more than a year, to the point where people joke about the position being cursed. Turns out, it is: [[spoiler:Voldemort himself wanted the position many years ago, but Dumbledore refused to give it to him. (Obviously, this was before he became known as wizard-Hitler.) Ever since, no one has been able to hold the job for more than a year without something happening to them.]]
** Neville Longbottom is bumbling and forgetful, and most of the other characters (especially Snape) tease him for his incompetence while his grandmother relentlessly pushes him. We later learn that Neville's parents were Aurors that were tortured into total insanity, a significant part of his bumbling lack of self-esteem is fear of not living up to their example, and his grandmother's nature was to toughen him up to protect him from the same fate.
** In ''Philosopher's Stone'', Hagrid is presented as a goofy, over-sized character who is clumsy with his magic and hides his wand in an umbrella. This is presented as simple comic relief. It is later revealed [[spoiler: that Hagrid is a half-giant and has been suffering from FantasticRacism his whole life. He is clumsy with magic because he was framed for Tom Riddle murdering Moaning Myrtle, and was expelled from Hogwarts early in his education. Accordingly, he has to keep his wand in an umbrella not to maintain TheMasquerade, but because he's not allowed to have a wand in the first place (and said wand was actually snapped into several pieces after his expulsion, which the umbrella somewhat rectifies).]]
** An early chapter in ''Philosopher's Stone'' also shows Harry conversing with a snake at the zoo, which gets Dudley into trouble with his bumbling. At the time, the comical incident just seems to be a sign of Harry's magical abilities manifesting. ''Chamber of Secrets'' later reveals that the ability to speak in Parseltongue (the language of snakes) is actually a very rare ability among Wizards, and that it's one marker of the bloodline of the Salazar Slytherin--from whom Lord Voldemort is descended. Harry's ability to speak to snakes later becomes a sinister mark of his connection to Voldemort, and it foreshadows the revelation that [[spoiler: Harry carries part of Voldemort's soul inside him]].
** A lot of characters seem to view love potions as a harmless joke (although, notably, Harry himself doesn't appear to share this attitude). Then it's revealed that Merope Gaunt spent months using them to mind-rape (and then just straight-up rape) Thomas Riddle, leading to the birth of Voldemort.
** After her introduction in ''The Prisoner of Azkaban'', resident {{Cloudcuckoolander}} Sybil Trelawney is treated almost entirely as comic relief, with the students and faculty of Hogwarts all dismissing her [[TheEeyore constant gloomy prophecies]] as nonsense. Not even Dumbledore seems to take her seriously, as he joins in on the snark-fest whenever she's not in earshot. But her prophecies seem a lot less funny after the end of ''The Order of the Phoenix'' reveals that [[spoiler: Voldemort tried to kill Harry as an infant because Trelawney prophesied (rightly) that Harry was the only person in the world capable of defeating him, and that one of them was destined to kill the other]].
** In early books, the taboo against speaking Voldemort's name aloud is played for (slightly dark) laughs, because of the inherent ridiculousness of fully-grown adults collapsing into shivering fits at the mere mention of a Wizard's name--while the young Harry, who wasn't raised to fear Voldemort, can't understand what the big deal is. But in the seventh volume, we find out that there's actually a very good reason to be afraid of saying Voldemort's name: [[spoiler: Tom Riddle placed a curse on the name "Voldemort" to keep tabs on his enemies, ensuring that his Death Eaters would be sent to dispatch anyone brave enough to speak his chosen name aloud]]. After we learn that, the taboo is played for deadly serious ParanoiaFuel.
** Hogwarts resident [[OurGhostsAreDifferent ghosts]] are initially presented as whimsical comic relief side characters who help drive home the school's fantastical nature; generally speaking, they're all quite jolly and easygoing, and they don't seem to have any angst about being dead. But as the series goes on, and the CentralTheme of Death becomes more prominent, it can seem rather odd that the ghosts are treated so light-heartedly. Well, in ''[[Literature/HarryPotterAndTheOrderOfThePhoenix Order of the Phoenix]]'', we learn that ghosts are actually regarded with great curiosity and scrutiny by Wizards, and that there's an entire secret department in the Ministry of Magic devoted to studying the mysteries of Death and the Afterlife. Nearly Headless Nick also outright states that becoming a ghost is a FateWorseThanDeath chosen only by tormented wizards who are afraid--or unwilling--to face the Afterlife. [[spoiler: After Sirius' death, a devastated Harry even asks Nick if he might come back as a ghost, and becomes even more distraught when he learns that he won't]]. The idea grows another layer in ''[[Literature/HarryPotterAndTheDeathlyHallows The Deathly Hallows]]'', when it's revealed that the Bloody Baron and the Grey Lady are [[spoiler: a pair of tragic StarCrossedLovers who wound up TogetherInDeath after the Bloody Baron killed her in a fit of rage, and later committed suicide]].
* ''Literature/TheHungerGames'': Finnick Odair's flirtatious personality and ReallyGetsAround reputation in ''Catching Fire'' come across very differently when you learn in ''Mockingjay'' [[spoiler: [[SexSlave how few of his supposed Capitol trysts were voluntary]]]].
* Creator/JRRTolkien did this with ''Literature/TheHobbit''. Bilbo recovers a magic ring from Gollum's cave after winning a riddle contest. While the original story did make plain that Bilbo was riddling for his life, the ring he retrieves is later treated as a precious prize, saving his life several times and leading to his happy ending. Years later, when it was time to release ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'', Tolkien retconned the story (actually ''[[ReWrite rewriting]]'' ''The Hobbit'') to tie in with the fact that the Ring is in fact a malicious artifact made of pure evil that was using Bilbo to escape Gollum's ownership. The existence of the first edition of ''Literature/TheHobbit'' was even deconstructed: it records ''Bilbo's lies'' about how he got the Ring and what it was like.
* ''Literature/MonsterHunterInternational'' has Earl's minotaur-skin coat. Originally, you would have assumed it was a trophy. [[spoiler: In book 3, it turns out he wears it to remember his minotaur friend.]]
* ''Literature/TheWanderer'':
** Thirteen year old girl Sophie tells a couple of stories about her grandfather Bompie. Most stories end with Bompie ending up in the water, where "he was frightened, was nearly pulled under, had to struggle hard and long to get out, after which his father gave him a whipping and his mother gave him a pie", which at that moment was more funny than actually scary. But in the end of the book, we learn that [[spoiler:this ending is imagined by Sophie. When she was four, her family was caught by a storm during sailing, their boat sunk, her parents died and she had to swim hours to reach the shore, all alone. For her, this wasn't funny, it was her PrimalFear]].
** Before that, we learn that the whippings Bompie received (which '''were''' part of the original story) weren't funny, either. [[spoiler: They embittered Bompie to the point that he broke off all contact with his father and never reconciled until the father was gravely ill]].
* In early ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'' books, there are repeated references to the Battle of Koom Valley, a battle between trolls and dwarfs in which both sides claimed the other ambushed them, used as an illustration of FantasticRacism and humorously over-the-top grudge-holding. In ''Discworld/{{Thud}}'', it's revealed [[spoiler: the original Battle of Koom Valley was a tragic misunderstanding in which a fight broke out during an attempted ''peace talk'' between dwarfs and trolls, leading to further centuries of war and hatred.]]
* In the second book of ''Literature/PercyJacksonAndTheOlympians'', Percy and Annabeth, while trying to evade Circe, release a bunch of pirates turned into guinea pigs (one of whom is Blackbeard) who proceed to ransack Circe's palace, which is played as the series' typical comedic HoistByHisOwnPetard to villains. Then it is revealed in the sequel series, ''Literature/TheHeroesOfOlympus'', that Blackbeard's release did have an impact, a decidedly ''non-comedic'' impact, namely enslaving Circe's two servants: Hylla and her younger sister Reyna, for several years. They had to climb their way to release, which brings about FridgeHorror by itself considering that Blackbeard's pirate crew are all adult males surrounding two female teenagers, one of whom is about ''10-year-old''...you get the clue. No wonder Hylla hates Percy so much.
** Oh, speaking of Reyna, there's her curious BerserkButton of [[FullNameUltimatum being called by]] [[PreppyName her preppy-sounding full name]], which Rachel exploits in ''The House of Hades''. That's because [[spoiler: she's trying to avoid her past, or rather, avoid the memory of her father, Major Julian Ramírez-Arellano, who had a FateWorseThanDeath due to a severe case of PTSD after participating in the Iraq War. She's even willing to serve Circe (though admittedly, the latter treated her decently).]]
** Reyna gets this example [[BrokenBird a lot]]. There's the case in ''The Son of Neptune'' where she's ''really'' interested in Percy, even saying a sentence ("I can help you") that Percy [[ComicallyMissingThePoint comically mistakes]] as [[GettingCrapPastTheRadar something else entirely.]] Once we learn about her, uh, bad relationship with pretty much every man she meets (particularly, [[spoiler: Jason]]), it becomes rather sad.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Though not a comedy, ''Series/{{Bones}}'' managed this. Booth's increasing tendency to receive advice from famous people during dreams turns out to be caused by [[spoiler:a brain tumor that's slowly killing him]].
* Billy on ''Series/AllyMcBeal'' got a hugely out-of-character haircut, became comically misogynistic, and started seeing amazing, wacky things everywhere. [[spoiler: Like Booth in the ''Bones'' example above, Billy had a brain tumor. Unlike Booth, he was KilledOffForReal.]]
* ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'':
** When we're first introduced to Dr. Bashir, it's played for laughs that he's incredibly [[InsufferableGenius young and arrogant about what a great doctor he is]]. But it gets distinctly weird to look back on this after a fifth season episode reveals [[spoiler:Bashir's intelligence is the result of illegal genetic enhancements that were performed on him as a child to correct severe mental retardation]].
** In a more minor example, in a early episode, Bashir mentions out that he confused a pre-ganglionic fiber with a post-ganglionic nerve during his medical finals. When fans pointed out that this is a mistake that no competent medical student would make, the explanation was retconned that he got the question wrong on purpose to avoid being valedictorian... [[spoiler:to cover up his genetic enhancements]].
* In ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'', resident ProudWarriorRaceGuy Worf makes an offhand comment about having a poor sex life due to most human women being physically fragile compared to him, lacking his Klingon physiology, meaning he has to restrain himself too much to enjoy sex. This same issue is later referred to in a much more dramatic fashion in ''[[Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine Deep Space Nine]]'', when he explains that as a boy, he accidentally ''killed'' another boy during a football/soccer match when their heads collided, which led to his restrained and uptight demeanor as he feels he must always be careful to avoid harming other, more fragile beings. It also became relevant when he married Jadzia Dax, and she was constantly in Dr. Bashir's office for broken ribs. As was Worf. [[CasualKink Not that they minded.]]
** In the pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint", when the ''Enterprise'' crew is placed on trial, Picard suggests that Q judge them based on their performance on the "long mission" they have ahead of them. Q dismisses the idea but says he will judge them just based on how they perform on this specific visit to Farpoint Station. Seven years later, in the final episode "All Good Things", Q reveals that he took up Picard's suggestion after all, and "the trial never ended".
** Lwaxana Troi, Counselor Troi's mother, is [[MyBelovedSmother very controlling]], but it's clearly humorous. Then comes "Dark Page" (her last appearance on [=TNG=]) and we learn that [[spoiler:Lwaxana had two daughters, and the older one, Kestra, drowned when Lwaxana wasn't paying attention.]]
** The later seasons established that during the first two seasons, while the Enterprise was wandering around doing random tasks and showcasing the most laid-back, blatantly MildlyMilitary traits in the entire franchise the Federation was in the tail end of a long and bloody war with the Cardassians. O'Brian especially had just left a front-line posting where he fought in several battles.
* ''Franchise/PowerRangers'' did this a few times.
** ''[[Series/PowerRangersNinjaStorm Ninja Storm]]'' retconned silly villain Lothor and his standalone plots to have been a long-term plan to overload the Abyss of Evil with [[UriahGambit dead monsters]].
** ''Series/PowerRangersJungleFury'' did this with a character. Flit as presented in the first 17 episodes was just a fly stuck in Camille who occasionally went out to comment on battles. Then we get his backstory, and he becomes a much more tragic character, trapped in evil, using his brief bouts of encouragement as one of the few things he can do with himself while being a prisoner.
** ''Series/PowerRangersRPM'' got gags out of Doctor K not going outside and her mention of growing up in Alphabet Soup, only to then reveal the utter ''horror'' of what Alphabet Soup ''did'' to her.
* It isn't exactly comedy, but the subplot in the first episode of ''Series/{{Heroes}}'' about Angela Petrelli getting arrested for shoplifting socks and her sons bailing her out is certainly pretty lighthearted. That is, until Volume 4 rolls around. In the episode 1961, we learn that Angela had a sister who she left when she was a child, regretting it ever since. We also learn that whenever she finds herself missing her sister particularly bad, she, you guessed it, steals socks. Suddenly, that lighthearted moment in the series premier seems a lot more disturbing.
* ''Series/KamenRiderDecade'''s female lead, Natsumi, is mostly {{Tsundere}} PluckyComicRelief owing to her [[FingerPokeOfDoom the Laughing Pressure Point]], used on [[JerkWithAHeartOfGold Tsukasa]] when he gets a little too smug or rude. In the BigDamnMovie, [[spoiler:she gains her own Rider powers and actually kills Tsukasa after he goes on a RoaringRampageOfRevenge against the Kamen Riders. She even uses the Laughing Pressure Point as an actual fighting move in the final battle.]]
** ''Series/KamenRiderGaim'' becomes this to the KamenRider franchise as a whole. [[spoiler:As it turns out, almost all of the [[MonsterOfTheWeek Monsters of the Week]] were humans that ate the fruits from Helheim Forest. Unlike the past human turned monsters from other Kamen Rider shows, save for KamenRiderWizard, they can't be saved (though it becomes all the more darker that it's revealed that they can be saved). It becomes worse when the Beat Riders are eventually blamed by the public for all monster attacks occurring in the city.]] Considering that Creator/GenUrobuchi is the head writer, many saw something like this coming.
* Sometimes, a CerebusRetcon happens naturally as the result of CharacterDevelopment over a series. For example, Wesley was a one-note bumbling UpperClassTwit when he first appeared on ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'', completely played for laughs. Once he became one of the regular cast of ''Angel'' his character was fleshed out enough to reveal that his early awkwardness was largely the result of a painful childhood with an abusive father; throughout the series any mention of his father causes Wesley to momentarily revert back to his old bumbling. His father's visit in "Lineage" is an especially dark example. This being Season 5, Wes has become extremely badass (seriously, he'd have a chance against a top of his game Ripper at this point). [[spoiler:Finally he has to shoot his father to save Fred's life. Luckily, it was a robot.]]
* ''Series/{{Angel}}'' also applies a massive CerebusRetcon in Season 4 in an attempt to inflate the season's BigBad. The minor and previously played-for-laughs character [[spoiler:Skip not only takes a hard turn in going from comedy to drama, but]] in one speech gives exposition about how the entire series up until that point has been orchestrated by the mystery newcomer: Though the speech does not factually contradict the storyline, it indicates a premeditated arc with every event previous to the speech for all main characters as well as the speaker itself which clearly had not existed in the story's mythos.
--> "You have any concept of how many lines have to intersect in order for a thing like this to play out? How many events have to be nudged in just the right direction: Leaving Pylea[[note]]Lorne heard music in his head all his life (which doesn't even exist in his universe, so he thought he was going mad). A portal accidentally transported him to Earth, where he discovered music and set up a neutral turf karaoke bar which became a lifeline for Angel's Investigations.[[/note]], your sister[[note]]Gunn's sister was turned into a vampire which he was forced to kill which ended up helping him cross paths with, and bond with, Angel.[[/note]], opening the wrong book[[note]]Fred left home for a specific university, took a part-time job as a librarian and just happened to open a book she was tidying away that transported her to Pylea - the same portal that dragged Lorne to Earth, in fact.[[/note]], sleeping with the enemy[[note]]Wesley and Lilah, which caused a lot of team conflict but also directly led to the discovery Earth occult books had been doctored to remove evidence of the Big Bad because Lilah was willing to share her pan-dimensional versions with Wesley, which turned out to be undoctored. This was a major clue against The Beast.[[/note]]. Gosh, I love a story with scope."
* ''Series/{{Glee}}'': Tina Cohen-Chang's ButtMonkey status in season 2 was played for laughs when we were meant to laugh at her getting hysterical during a rare solo, and her getting booed off stage in another episode when she worked on the performance for a week and cried about it for a month. In season 3, after the strong backlash fans had against her getting neglected, she got her own Cerebus Retcon ''episode'' ("Props") in which the Glee Club is made to feel guilty about her lack of solos, lines or appreciation.
%%** Subverted, as by the end of the episode she decides she was being "selfish" and that "Rachel Berry is a star" (to quote her freakin' '''BOYFRIEND'''), and apologizes for the retcon. It took until the fourth season for her to finally get a proper spotlight episode.
* In ''Series/{{Farscape}}'', originally Crichton was merely hallucinating Scorpius in the episode "Crackers Don't Matter", being driven mad like everyone else. The writers liked the idea of an invisible Scorpius acting as the devil on Crichton's shoulder so much, they retconned things so that the hallucination was actually due to a neural-chip implanted by Scorpius in a previous episode, eventually dubbed "Harvey".
* Bryan Fuller pulls off an ''inter-series'' CerebusRetcon. Remember Georgia Lass of ''Series/DeadLikeMe'', a grumpy dead girl who sends people off to the afterlife, and who is unrecognisable to anyone who knew her when she was alive? Well, ''Series/{{Hannibal}}'' brings back Ellen Muth as another girl called Georgia. She's afflicted with many disorders: the delusion that she is dead (which is aggravated by a skin disease so severe that she's basically rotting), the inability to recognise human faces, and episodes of psychotic aggression. At the height of her delusion, she accidentally murders a friend from her former life.
* In ''Series/HowIMetYourMother'''s 100th episode "Girls vs Suits", many of the titular Mother's quirks were played for laughs, such as painting pictures of robots and singing with her food during breakfast. In the 200th episode "How Your Mother Met Me", it was revealed [[spoiler: her FirstLove Max's last present for her was an ukelele "so your breakfast doesn't need to perform acapella" and her robot paintings were an activity she tried to do to get over his death. Louis's lack of appreciation of her singing muffin was a sign that they wouldn't work long-term.]]
* When Nate on ''Series/SixFeetUnder'' is suddenly stricken with an inability to speak clearly while placing an order at a fast food drive-thru, it's played for laughs ([[BlackComedy albeit dark ones]]). Later in the same season, it turns serious when [[spoiler:we learn that the incident was the first appearance of symptoms of Nate's AVM, which is the condition that eventually takes his life.]]
* ''Series/OrangeIsTheNewBlack'':
** In the first season, Morello's obsession with her wedding to her fiancé Christopher is a running gag, consistently played for laughs. [[spoiler: In the second season, we find out that Christopher isn't really her fiancé, and that Morello has deluded herself into believing that he loves her. She's in prison for violating the restraining order that he put on her after they had one date, and she proceeded to stalk him, threaten him, and try to hurt his actual girlfriend]].
** In most of the early episodes, Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren comes off as a rather generic take on the old "mentally unstable prison inmate" StockCharacter, and her crazy antics are [[BlackComedy played for (very dark) laughs]]. Later in the season, as Piper gets to know her better, it gradually becomes clear that Suzanne actually struggles constantly to keep her mental illness in check in order to avoid being sent back to Litchfield's psychiatric ward, which she claims is even worse than solitary confinement. Even her nickname is deconstructed: Suzanne is genuinely hurt by the name "Crazy Eyes", as it serves as a constant reminder that [[AllOfTheOtherReindeer she'll never be considered "one of the girls"]].
** In the pilot episode, Caputo is seen [[ADateWithRosiePalms taking out a bottle of lotion and masturbating in his office]] right after his first meeting with Piper. At the time, it seems like an EstablishingCharacterMoment for Caputo, establishing him as a slovenly idiot with no professional standards. But later on, as the character's HiddenDepths become clear, we gradually see that he's actually one of the most decent employees at the prison, and one of the few who's not afraid to clash with his superiors to fight for the inmates' rights. In the third season, after [[spoiler: he becomes the new warden]], the masturbation scene from the pilot actually gets a surprising CallBack, when Caputo reveals that he has a very good reason for doing it: when chewing out Bennett for [[spoiler: impregnating Daya]] and [[spoiler: getting Mendez fired for sleeping with her]], he tells him that he regularly masturbates on the job so that he won't be tempted to make sexual advances on the women under his charge.
* Karadoc being a BigEater and Arthur being unwilling to [[SexlessMarriage have sex with his wife Guenièvre]] (because it's an arranged marriage and he doesn't find her attractive at all) are two of ''Series/{{Kaamelott}}'''s {{Running Gag}}s. In the [[CerebusSyndrome sixth season]] that takes place before the rest of the series, it's explained that Karadoc was abducted and almost starved to death before joining the Knights of the Round Table, and Arthur promised to his first wife (who he married in secret and would never see again) that he wouldn't touch his new wife out of respect for her.
* In ''Series/AgentsOfSHIELD'', even when the relatively light-hearted first season took a turn for the dark about three quarters through the season [[note]]In the wake of ''Film/CaptainAmericaTheWinterSoldier'' and the revelation that SHIELD had been infiltrated by HYDRA since day one[[/note]], it still had a few comedic moments. One of these was the RunningGag that it was obvious to everyone around [[BigBad The Clairvoyant]] that he had gone insane from the alien blood used to treat his failing cybernetic body (well, PlayedForDrama with Ward and Reina, PlayedForLaughs with everyone else). Come the second season, which has a much more serious tone than the first, Coulson's biggest fear is that he too might go crazy since he was revived by that same blood, and this is played deadly serious.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** The Fourth Doctor's first story ("Robot") has him recently regenerated and acting clownish and crazy, and while there is a little bit of darker subtext (he tries to abandon Sarah Jane and the Brigadier because he wasn't really aware of what he was doing, although he later is sorry about it) it's almost entirely PlayedForLaughs. Come a turn for the DarkerAndEdgier and "The Face of Evil", and it's revealed that the Doctor's sneaking off around the universe in this state ended up creating a dystopian CargoCult that views him as a god of destruction that EatsBabies.
** In "Closing Time", it's revealed the Doctor can 'speak baby', and characterises the baby in question as a megalomaniac that addresses itself as 'Stormageddon', all played for laughs. In "The Girl Who Died", two series later, the Doctor translates a baby's speech in a much more haunting and poetic manner that is played as an otherworldly, beautiful moment.
** In "Under the Lake", there is a gag where Clara keeps cue cards to help the Doctor out in difficult social situations. When the cards show up again in "Face The Raven" it's played as a dramatic moment, with Clara and the Doctor picking through cards together while Rigsy looks on, anticipating hearing something terrible (which, of course, is what the Doctor says).
* ''Series/BetterCallSaul'' does this to several moments in its parent show ''Series/BreakingBad'':
** In ''Series/BreakingBad'', Skyler skeptically looking over Saul's degree from the University of American Samoa is PlayedForLaughs. Not so much here, where Chuck takes every opportunity to tear Jimmy's chances of going legit down because it's implied to be a shady diploma mill.
** Similarly, we have Saul's freak-out during Jesse and Walt's plan to scare him in Saul's introductory episode, "Better Call Saul", once you take "Mijo" into account. What at first seems like Saul simply fearing for his life turns into Jimmy thinking Tuco's men have decided to finally kill him. Especially after he says that whatever they think he did, ''Ignacio'' [[spoiler:aka. Nacho]] was the real one to blame.
--->'''Saul''': Oh, ''thank God''! Oh, Christ! Oh, I thought... (hyperventilating) What can I do for you, gentlemen?
*** Speaking of that episode, we have a line that takes on a whole other meaning thanks to this show:
---->'''Saul''': [[WhatYouAreInTheDark Conscience gets expensive, doesn't it?]]
*** Watching "Pimento", you can probably imagine Chuck's brutal "Slippin' Jimmy with a law degree is like a chimp with a machine gun" speech echoing throughout Saul's mind on a daily basis, reminding him that he is, and forever shall be, Slippin' Jimmy, which can make all of Saul's comic one-liners and amusing cowardice in ''Breaking Bad'' less amusing.
* In ''Series/GameOfThrones'', Hodor has consistently been portrayed as a hulking simpleton with childlike intelligence, and his GentleGiant persona has always been used for comic relief--as has the fact that [[PokemonSpeak he can only say his own name]]. The books and the TV show had long cryptically hinted that there was ''something'' more to Hodor than the Starks suspected, with the eventual revelation that his birth name was actually "Walder" ([[AdaptationNameChange "Willis" in the show]]). Then come the events of the WhamEpisode "The Door". It turns out that Hodor was once of perfectly normal intelligence, but suffered a massive seizure when [[spoiler: Bran [[MentalTimeTravel seized control of his younger self's mind]], inadvertently splitting his mind between two time periods]]. He can only say the word "Hodor" because [[spoiler: he heard Meera Reed shouting ''"Hold the door!"'' when he glimpsed into the future]].

[[folder:Professional Wrestling]]
* When Samuel Shaw's stalker angle began in Wrestling/{{TNA}}, he was an independent man with his own apartment who jealously attacked anyone he thought was trying to "take" Christie Hemme's attention away from him. Later, this was changed to a man who live with his mother, a woman of the same phenotype as Christie, who it was implied he previously had an {{incest|subtext}}uous relationship with.[[/folder]]

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* Plenty of things from ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'' when it became more serious after the silly first edition. Eldar lived on Craftworlds and had a boring life because they were retreating from Slaanesh and if you aren't disciplined he would devour your soul. The Emperor, originally implied to have been confined to the Golden Throne because of old age, had to be put on life support after a duel with his most beloved son.

* In ''Franchise/{{Bionicle}}'', the traitor Metus got [[KarmicTransformation turned into a snake]] and banished to the wastelands. The DVD for the movie ''The Legend Reborn'' included a short, [[{{Slapstick}} comedic]] [[BonusMaterial bonus cartoon]] that {{Homage}}d the classic ''WesternAnimation/WileECoyoteAndTheRoadrunner'' and ''WesternAnimation/TomAndJerry'' cartoons, in which he attempts to drop a boulder on the heroes, but TeamPet Click foils his plans and his [[ZergRush army of Scarabax beetles make short work]] of the snake. Metus's desperation is played entirely for laughs. Later, when other characters came across the snake Metus out in the desert, we found out he had survived all this time by eating rats, and was also suffering from a fatal mental disease that made him unable to dream (and thus, according to the story, release his stress), so he outright ''begs'' them to kill him, because he just couldn't take it anymore. Lucky for him, he later regained his ability to dream and his transformation has also become undone.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''VideoGame/ChronoCross'' does this to its predecessor, ''VideoGame/ChronoTrigger''. The best example is the Darkness Beyond Time, which takes what happened to Marle when she was briefly [[RetGone erased from history]] and runs with it. The Darkness Beyond Time is where ''all'' timelines (and the people in them) that no longer exist due to the actions of time travellers end up. You thought you were saving the world? Nope, you were condemning millions to a FateWorseThanDeath.
* ''Franchise/MetalGear''
** In the original game, ''[[VideoGame/MetalGear1 Metal Gear]]'', Snake looked to be in his twenties - but he looked to be late-middle-aged in ''VideoGame/MetalGear2SolidSnake''. For the sequel ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'', the character designer decided to go with a Solid Snake [[RetCon who appeared to be in his early-thirties]], younger-looking than his previous incarnation. As a joke referencing this, the characters who knew Snake in ''Metal Gear 2'' joke about his "age"; the sign that Gray Fox is back to normal is when he teases Snake with the throwaway line ''"You haven't aged well"''. However, in ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid2'', which started the Patriots plot arc, Snake is explicitly mentioned in the script as looking almost unrecognisably older than his self in ''Metal Gear Solid'', even though ''[=MGS2=]'' starts only two years later. Liquid spells it out:
--->''"You're drowning in time! I know what it's like, Brother. Few more years and you'll be another dead clone of the old man!"''
** And it continues in ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid4''. The reason for the PlotRelevantAgeUp was changed to fit in with {{Retcon}}s introduced in the third game, but becomes entirely horrible. Snake now appears to be in his mid-to-late seventies and his health is suffering as a result. [[spoiler: His own parents]] look younger than he does. It's very alarming to remember that the whole plot element started as a ContinuityNod joke.
** Applying BroadStrokes to ''Metal Gear'' and ''Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake'' allowed their eight-bit wackiness to be taken fairly seriously in the ''Solid'' series. Snake didn't seem that affected by the events of Outer Heaven at the time (he also had to do things like avoid giant constantly moving rolling pins and use a bomb blast suit to make himself immune to a strong wind), and ''Metal Gear 2'' attempted to paint him as a very traditional action hero who retired after Outer Heaven because he was a loose cannon and too badass to take orders from authority. ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'', and its AlternateUniverse counterpart, ''VideoGame/MetalGearGhostBabel'', claimed that Snake suffered immense guilt over his actions in Outer Heaven, got diagnosed with PTSD, and was forced to retire and go into hiding because he was unable to cope with the demands of everyday life.
** One scene in ''Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake'' involved Snake knowing a woman for all of five minutes. She [[FatalFamilyPhoto tells him about her family's history]], asks him about his (he says "I have no family"), and then she dies. Snake's over-the-top grief at her death was, at the time, a major {{Narm}}. In ''Metal Gear Solid'', which established that Snake had been essentially growing up in near-total isolation and had never had anyone tell him about their life or ask him about his own, his instant attachment to her seems very justifiable and deeply tragic.
** The reason why The Patriot in ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid3SnakeEater'', a copy of The Boss's WeaponOfChoice, has infinite ammo, is that it has an infinity-symbol shaped drum magazine, giving infinite ammo. However, in ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolidPeaceWalker'', it's explained that the Patriot has infinite ammo because ''"they say The Boss left a part of her soul behind inside it"'', making it more into a blessed memento of a supernaturally-gifted soldier rather than a cheap joke. It winds up a VoodooShark though, as the infinite ammo is explicitly noted about it before this could have happened. [[spoiler:You only get the Patriot after you have killed The Boss, but when talking about it Snake had not yet killed his mentor, and the method that Snake gets it is lampshaded for being dubious. He isn't even supposed to have it until after he kills The Boss]].
* In ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBrosBrawl'''s adventure mode, it is revealed that Mr. Game & Watch is actually made out of a special substance, that can be used to harvest shadow bugs, which are used to support the entire conflict of the story.
* ''VideoGame/{{Portal}}'':
** The Ratman's CompanionCube-related scrawlings in the first game are amusing (if a bit unsettling) because it's hard to imagine what sort of person would be that attached to an inanimate box. The ''Lab Rat'' [[ComicBookAdaptation tie-in comic]] reveals that Doug Rattmann was a [[TheWoobie formerly medicated schizophrenic,]] that his Companion Cube ''really was'' his [[AnimateInanimateObject only friend]], and that he ultimately sacrificed everything to save Chell's life.
** The BigBad GLaDOS has a hysterical black comedy streak a mile wide. In the finale, you disassemble her cores (who are also individually hilarious) and destroy her. In the sequel, not only do you learn that [=GLaDOS=] has been reliving that "death" ''millions'' of times since you killed her ([[UnreliableNarrator though you only have her word on this]]), but also that Aperture Science was killing people for decades before you came along, Chell has been trapped in the facility since she was a pre-teen, [=GLaDOS=] was made by uploading Cave Johnson's secretary (in the deleted content it's clear this was against her will), and that the facility has ''thousands'' of other test subjects to be tormented and murdered.
*** ''VideoGame/{{Portal 2}}'' has Wheatley invoke this; at the beginning of the game, he falls off his rail comedically (it's impossible for the player to catch him). [[spoiler:Post-FaceHeelTurn, he mentions his grief at you "purposefully" failing to catch him during his rant during the FinalBoss fight.]]
** During the game, [=GLaDOS=] repeatedly mocks Chell for being an orphan. Considering she also mocks Chell for a lot of things which aren't true, it gets lost in the shuffle. In the sequel, it's revealed that Chell was the daughter of an Aperture Science researcher and that [=GLaDOS=]' massacre happened on "Bring Your Daughter to Work" day.
* In ''Videogame/HalfLife1'', there are only four scientist models and several of them die in ways which are intended to be comic. In ''Videogame/HalfLife2'', three of those models have been given a specific name and arc. One has become TheQuisling leader of humanity. One dies horribly at the end of ''Episode 2'' in a very dramatic scene. Curiously the third remains the comic relief, however.
* This trope becomes strangely meta when ''VideoGame/TeamFortress2''s Heavy Weapons Guy is a character in ''VideoGame/PokerNightAtTheInventory''. Apparently, the Heavy experiences ''VideoGame/TeamFortress2''s respawn system as a series of semi-recurring nightmares.
* ''VideoGame/BillyVsSnakeman'' has a NewGamePlus method called "looping". Originally it's just treated as your character being signed on for a new season of a TV show. [[spoiler:Then it's revealed that this is the result of a series of time-manipulating experiments, dating back to a massive war against {{Kaiju}} that caused horrible damage to the world.]] And it's just the first of several revelations.
** Another aspect of the looping is that it allows you to shrug off failures during missions and quests as a general "oops, that didn't happen". [[spoiler:During the War, the Kaiju were terrified of the ninja's ability to unmake their own missteps so they could achieve perfect victories against all but completely impossible odds.]] And then there are the MikuMikus. [[spoiler:Originally benevolent beings of pure music who existed to aid and inspire the ninja. Somehow, the process of looping ''wholly unintentionally'' separated them from their wards and turned them progressively more deranged, until they were little more than roving, cannibalistic abominations. Neither side had any plans for this to happen at all.]]
* In ''VideoGame/TalesOfTheAbyss'', Guy's [[AllergicToLove gynophobia]] is a side effect of his childhood trauma. [[spoiler:Namely, being trapped under the corpses of his entire female household.]]
* Intentionally invoked in ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}}''. [[spoiler:Try looking at Adachi as the BumblingSidekick after finding out who the killer is. His odd moments of talking out loud about the murders when the gang is around suddenly makes more logical and darker sense...]]. Along with this, all of the party member's attitudes [[spoiler:are revealed to be the cause of their major issues, like Kanji's homosexuality complex and Naoto's gender complex.]] Kanji's earlier comedic outbursts come off as tragic by that point.
* Rei's entire character in ''VideoGame/{{Persona Q}}'' might as well be one of these. Her [[BigEater love of food, even things that don't seem edible]] and her [[EveryoneCanSeeIt ridiculously obvious crush on Zen]] are both played for comedy frequently throughout the game... until you find out the truth about her. [[spoiler: Turns out Rei is the ghost of a girl who died of a terminal illness, and Zen is a {{Psychopomp}} who took pitty on her and erased her memories. Her eating is a desparate, subconcious attept to convince herself she's still alive, and her crushing on Zen and, implicitly, the entire Group Date Cafe dungeon (which is ''heavily'' PlayedForLaughs at the time) come from her regrets over never having had a chance to meet her own "destined partner".]]
* ''VideoGame/DeadlyPremonition'' uses many of its odd gags and bizarre humor for foreshadowing--everything from the idiosyncratic behaviors of the main character to some of the throwaway joke lines end up hinting at the true nature of what's going on. But one of the biggest examples involves a certain tattoo--in an early comedic scene, it's revealed that [[NonActionGuy Thomas]] has an EmbarrassingTattoo, which protagonist York chuckles about and shrugs off: "We all lived through the 80's." Except the tattoo [[spoiler: is actually a symbol of his fanatical devotion to the sheriff, who has been drugging him with [[FantasticDrug red seeds]] and trying to frame him for the murders he committed. A devotion that gets ''even worse'' due to the [[TownWithADarkSecret insanity-inducing purple fog]], which poor Thomas is especially susceptible to]].
* Dr. Eggman in the ''Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog'' franchise was a typical evil cartoon villain that wanted to take over the world in the most obscure way, which was capturing animals and turning them into robots that would do his bidding. By the time ''VideoGame/SonicAdventure'' came to be, Dr. Eggman took a more dark approach to his evil schemes, such as trying to control a god with unlimited power and then deciding to fire a missile at a city when he fails in his original plan. Dr. Eggman even takes control of a weaponized space colony and ''[[VideoGame/SonicAdventure2 fires a laser at the moon, cutting it in half! And that was only a warning shot!]]'' Dr. Eggman's darker persona stayed with him for a while although Sega attempted to dial it back a bit by making Eggman a bit more cartoonish for the narm factor, which can be seen in ''VideoGame/SonicColors'' and ''VideoGame/SonicGenerations''. Dr. Eggman does return to his roots with animal capturing in ''VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog4'' as a throwback to the classic games.
* Cait Sith's entry to the party in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII'' is played as something of a video game visual shorthand joke, with neither Cloud nor the second party member actually wanting him to come along, but [[PartyInMyPocket Cait walking into him forcibly anyway]]. Cait Sith's overall silly premise (a stuffed animal fortune teller) and forced mascot character appearance means one wouldn't expect him to have a big reason for joining the party. Later in the game it's revealed the reason he forcefully entered the party is because he's actually a Shinra spy.
* Recurring Creator/NipponIchi character Asagi's story in an alternate mode of ''VideoGame/PrinnyCanIReallyBeTheHero'' is mostly played for comedy between her claiming to be the game's main character thanks to the approval of some random producer (Whom Hero Prinny believes is just a random demon messing with her) and her rather silly death in which she's unable to remove the bomb in her costume because of a stuck zipper. [[spoiler:Then, the sequel's ''Asagi Wars'' reveals that Asagi Kurosugi, an EvilCounterpart of Asagi, was the unnamed producer and the tailor who purposely sewed in the stuck zipper to keep Asagi from removing the bomb. She did this to kill Asagi and take her place as she had done with all the other Asagis throughout the game.]]
** Then Disgaea 5 reveals that [[spoiler: neither of the Asagi's mentioned is even real, actually being clones of the true Asagi. The only encounters that are "real" Asagi are likely MakaiKingdom, Disgaea 5, and possibly Disgaea 2]].
* If one takes the [[VideoGame/SandsOfDestruction game]] ''Sands of Destruction'' as the original, and the [[Anime/SandsOfDestruction anime]][[note]](production of the game began first, but the anime was released first)[[/note]] and [[Manga/SandsOfDestruction manga]] as RetCons instead of AlternateContinuity, this trope is firmly in place as regards Morte's motivation. In the game, she merely wants to destroy the world because it's already ending itself and she can't come up with a better use for a dying world than [[ItAmusedMe assuaging her own boredom]]. [[spoiler:Naturally, the moment she realizes both that the world ''can'' be saved and falling in love is even more fun than blowing stuff up, she changes her mind.]] She's [[GenkiGirl incredibly upbeat]] throughout the game, rushing into things without a thought. In the anime, her motivation changes to revenge for [[spoiler:the deaths of her parents and brother: she doesn't know who is responsible, and feels that the world is worthless, so killing everyone is her solution; she only changes her mind at the last minute when she realizes that revenge isn't going to bring her family back and that the world actually does have its good points as well as its problems]]. She's also more serious, fitting her grimmer motives. In the manga, she's just as upbeat as she was in the game but her motivation is instead changed to [[spoiler:the fact that she's now the one who wished for the state of the world a thousand years ago, but she was tired and forgot to wish that humans and beastmen would be friends, so everyone's racism is ''all her fault'' and the only way she knows to fix the world is to wipe it out and start again from scratch; she's killed before she fully changes her mind, but Kyrie manages to bring her back at the end of the story - which, being the ''end'', doesn't allow us time to know what she's really thinking]].

[[folder:Visual Novels]]
* ''Franchise/AceAttorney'':
** Another one comes in ''[[VisualNovel/PhoenixWrightAceAttorneyDualDestinies Dual Destinies]]'', where Apollo Justice's CatchPhrase of "I'm fine!" is given some clarification. In Apollo's [[VisualNovel/ApolloJusticeAceAttorney game of origin]], it initially seemed like a nervous habit of Apollo's, since he usually said it when he was... well, nervous. Then ''Dual Destinies'' reveals that [[spoiler: it was a catchphrase shared with his childhood friend, Clay Terran, which they both shouted to cheer themselves up when their spirits were low]]. This, along with [[spoiler: Clay's murder]] turns it from a seemingly nervous habit to TearJerker.
* A lot are done in ''VisualNovel/HatofulBoyfriend'''s BBL route. Highlights include -- Oko San isn't just an idiot, he's an older breed of birds that is less Uplifted than the others; Anghel [[DoingInTheWizard isn't actually a fallen angel]] but has the ability to induce hallucinations in others; Ryouta's weak stomach and Oko San's insane speed are due to Shuu testing drugs on them; Nageki didn't actually kill himself by jumping from the library window due to being bullied (as was implied) but burned himself to death in an underground laboratory beneath the library to prevent himself being used as a biological weapon; and Kazuaki isn't just obsessively mourning the loss of the bird in the blacked-out photo, but is pursuing a Machiavellian {{Revenge}} scheme in his name.
* In ''VisualNovel/{{Rewrite}}'' [[spoiler: Chihiya, Kotori, and Lucia's]] routes end fairly happily [[spoiler: considering most of humanity is still alive.]] However the Terra route reveals that [[spoiler: in the end the earth eventually dies taking humanity with it due to salvation taking place.]]
* ''VisualNovel/MajiDeWatashiNiKoiShinasai'': Most scenes involving [[spoiler:Touma, Jun, and Koyuki]] after clearing the Ryuuzetsuran path. Most notably, the ending of Chris's route is the only one where [[spoiler:Touma]] opts not to continue in their family's line of work and instead decides to "live for love", a choice that the Ryuuzetsuran route's reveals really puts into perspective.
* Early parts of ''VisualNovel/AProfile'' joke about Masayuki's unathletic physique and easily running out of breath while running to school. But then it turns out he's so weak because he collapsed due to a hole in his lung and was hospitalized for a long time, leading him to become completely out of shape and ruining his love of the track field. After this, the jokes largely vanish.
* ''VisualNovel/UminekoWhenTheyCry'':
** Jessica {{Megaton Punch}}es one of her friends at school with a brass knuckle after being pissed off in ''Turn of the Golden Witch''. This stance is seen as a joke. Later, in ''Alliance of the Golden Witch'', she uses the brass knuckles again and they suddenly become conducts for SupernaturalMartialArts.
** Another example is in the same arc, when Shannon brings up how Battler once told her "[[GratuitousEnglish See you again!]] I'll come back and take you away on a white horse!". When he's reminded of this corny line, Battler becomes embarrassed and doesn't want to remember it. [[spoiler:We later find out that Shannon actually took this promise seriously, and the fact that Battler forgot about it so easily is a major factor in her issues.]]
* Rin Tezuka from ''VisualNovel/KatawaShoujo'' appears for all intents and purposes to be your typical female {{Cloudcuckoolander}}, quirky, philosophical and inscrutable. [[spoiler: Playing again through the beginning of her route feels very different indeed once you learn she actually has what is heavily implied to be an untreated case of schizophrenia.]]

[[folder:Web Animation]]
* ''Machinima/RedVsBlue'''s intentionally and inherently farcical premise has been retconned in later seasons, [[GenreShift turning the series into a dramedy]] [[CharacterFocus centering around the vaguely plausible science-fiction story of the]] "[[HiredGuns Free]][[SuperSoldier lancers]]," who were originally introduced as soldiers able to be hired by both Red and Blue Team as part of the video game-ish setting.
** The pointless fighting between the Reds and Blues for control of a box canyon? Just part of a live-fire simulation for the Freelancers to train in, and everyone else involved is a scrub soldier chosen for their expendability.
** An early RunningGag is Grif forgetting or losing track of Red Team's ammo. ''Reconstruction'' reveals that he's been selling it to the other team, and when some other Red soldiers find out they put him up in front of a firing squad.
** [[LargeHam O'Malley]] and [[SyntheticVoiceActor Gary]] were two [[AIIsACrapShoot evil AIs]] who by and large were ineffectual and comedic villains. The flashback episodes to their time in Project Freelancer, however, play [[UnstoppableRage Omega's]] violent and hateful threats, and [[ChronicBackstabbingDisorder Gamma's]] deceptiveness much more seriously. They even help torture a fellow AI.
** The last chapters of ''Reconstruction'' loosed a whole barrage of these. Church getting killed, becoming a ghost, and possessing a robot body? [[spoiler:There's no such thing as ghosts, [[TomatoInTheMirror he's an AI]]]]. Not feeling anything when [[HatePlague Omega]] possessed him, always agreeing with Delta? [[spoiler:Church is the Alpha AI all the others came from, because he was tortured to the point of amnesia]]. His girlfriend Tex, who always seems to fail just when she's about to succeed? [[spoiler:She's an AI too, based on the memory of the ''original'' Dr. Leonard Church's loved one, and will always fail because that's what he remembered the most about her. And that original Dr. Church was the template of the Alpha-Church AI]].
** The finale of Season 10 turns the last forty episodes on their head. Agent Carolina's bitter rivalry with Agent Texas for the esteem of the Director of Project Freelancer? [[spoiler:She's the Director's ''daughter'', meaning she's been unknowingly struggling against a copy of her mother the entire time. While the Director watched]].
* The whole concept of the characters going to a night school in ''WebAnimation/TsukiDesu'' feels like an ExcusePlot and it's used to emphasize Tsuki's [[InformedFlaw supposed]] introversion. Later it's shown that she actually has a horrible phobia of the sunlight.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''WebComic/QuestionableContent''
** Faye getting drunk starts out as just an excuse for her to talk with a Southern accent and engage in wacky hijinks, but it later becomes a plot point that she's an alcoholic due to trauma in her past.
** Also, [[CloudCuckooLander Hannelore's]] rather unusual quirkiness and OCD in her early appearances are [[http://questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=2134 explained]] in [[http://questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=2147 much later comics]] as being an incredible ''improvement'' over [[spoiler:her near paralytic insanity during her early childhood.]]
* ''WebComic/ElGoonishShive''
** The Goo started out as a FreakLabAccident, but returned in the "Sister" arc, revealed to be driven by a device sent by Tedd's alternate-dimension counterpart to kill him.
** Furthermore, a gag character, the Demonic Duck, originally appeared as a one-shot gag when people would need a distraction and then point out his appearance, the joke being that the duck actually being there was far more ridiculous than someone using such a specific distraction. The duck [[NinjaProp turns out to be]] an ''actual character with dramatic effects on the plot'' later.
** Not to mention the Hammerchlorians storyline -- a simple, running joke gone supernova. Not only did he explain the joke (''Franchise/StarWars'' reference, anyone?), but he wound up putting an immortal, extremely powerful entity in a main character's debt, and giving her new spells and an angst-splosion to boot.
** There are a lot of subtle examples of this in ''EGS'' as it moved from a wacky tone to a more serious one. A simple example is Sarah wearing a beret as part of a visual gag early on, and then a later strip showing a serious explanation on how she got that beret.
** When Tedd's fondness for transforming into a woman starts being used to explore actual gender issues we get a flashback to his dad's reaction ... and in this context Mr Verres's grumpy attitude looks ''very'' different and it seems like his mother leaving isn't the only reason Tedd's got anxiety problems.
* ''WebComic/SluggyFreelance''
** Riff, an amateur MadScientist and "freelance bum", routinely invents pieces of advanced technology such as dimensional portals, giant robots, and ray guns. Originally there was little mention of where he got the materials to build these devices, even though he seemed to have no source of income. However, in a later story arc, Riff reveals that he was actually a freelance inventor for [[spoiler:the villainous Hereti Corporation]], who gave him a salary and a sizable expense account in exchange for the blueprints to all his inventions. After Riff [[spoiler:rebelled against Hereti Corp]], he lost access to their resources. While he still creates ridiculously powerful and dangerous devices, he hasn't been able to do so nearly as frequently after the [[spoiler:Dangerous Days]] arc, and (much to his horror) has had to get a regular job in order to pay the bills. He still bemoans the fact that he can't afford as much cool stuff as he used to, wailing, "I used to have a budget!"
** Similarly, in the early "vampire" story arc, one of Valerie's vampire compatriots asks her why she has a crush on Torg, upon which she has a flashback to her pre-vampirism husband, a double of Torg, accidentally impaling himself on his own lance. Cue the Stormbreaker Saga, when Torg is stranded in the Dark Ages and his attempts to save Valerie from becoming a vampire are played for drama. [[spoiler:In the end, after Torg goes back to the present, Valerie's husband dies in the accident, and it is revealed that this tragedy made her decide to join the vampire circle.]] Also retconned the accident from being the clumsy mistake expected of Torg to the result of recovery from a debilitating curse, in a character who was otherwise a competent warlord.
* ''WebComic/CollegeRoomiesFromHell''
** For ''all'' of the main characters (except possibly Dave), what started out as "[[WackyCollege wacky quirks]]" seem darker and darker over time, turning into [[{{Yandere}} personality disorders]], tragic pasts, or demonic influence, until it becomes clear that everyone is ''[[TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt playing a part in the coming fucking apocalypse]]''. By the end of 2004, the strip is a DysfunctionJunction to rival ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion''.
** Dave isn't exempt either. Early on, it's mentioned in a throwaway gag that he's deathly allergic to bee stings. Years later, in the ''Adversary'' storyline (which is pretty much solely responsible for tossing the comic into DarkerAndEdgier territory), as he and Margaret are running away from the Devil, they find that their path leads through a field of sunflowers... and bees.
* ''WebComic/SchlockMercenary''
** The protagonists discover at one point that before dying their old company doctor created a modified cryogenic kit capable of providing illegal and extreme modifications and performing far more powerful reconstructive surgery than a normal kit should. Initially this is just an excuse to solve the fact that almost the entire main cast were reduced to heads in jars at that moment, but later they run into a [[spoiler:bounty hunter hunting down said doctor]] and we discover that a massive government conspiracy is built around [[spoiler:"Project Laz-R-Us" and the attempt to make humans effectively immortal]], and certain government agents who discover that the protagonists know about it want them dead.
** Something similar happens with Petey, initially a high-level warship A.I. with issues about ghosts. Eventually, he becomes a [[spoiler:nigh-omnipotent nascent A.I. god]] by [[spoiler:fusing with virtually every other A.I. in the galaxy]] in a bid to [[spoiler:prevent the galaxy's annihilation]], and then sets out to [[spoiler:subvert and dominate every other galactic power]] to build a power base big enough to fund and supply a [[spoiler:genocidal assault on the Andromeda galaxy]] and its Paan'uri inhabitants. Inhabitants who are intangible, interact with normal matter solely through gravity, and tend to torment other species. [[FridgeBrilliance Y'know... kinda ghostlike.]]
** Schlock starts as a huge pile of shit with two mismatched eyes. Then he loses his eyes to diamond beetles and hires Tagon to find his home planet to get a new pair. And we find the amorph with mismatched eyes is quite famous there. He got his eyes from his "parents" who {{Fusion Dance}}d each other to death. Schlock is just the residue, with much of their knowledge and skills, but little to no morale, feared and hated by his fellow tribesmen. To further complicate things, normally FusionDance merges enemies' personalities and such "wars" end up uniting tribes, but his "father" used a modified technique, which absorbed just the enemies' bodies and expunged personalities, and "mother" tried to stop the murderous psycho, even with her life; yet [[spoiler:the former was a lonely hero fighting the slavers selling amorph slaves off-world and the latter was the slavers' UnwittingPawn]]. Still, this being an early storyline, everything is PlayedForLaughs.
** Another point about Schlock came around 2014. He spent a decade and half being beaten, frozen, exploded, sliced and partially burned, and didn't seem any worse for wear. Then a newcomer mentioned that since amorphs are effectively nothing but the carbosilicate equivalent of nerve tissue, all the damage to Schlock is like brain damage. Which would explain his sociopatic quirks.
* ''WebComic/{{Goblins}}'' did this in a big way. {{Word of God}} suggests that the apparent CerebusSyndrome was intentional almost from the word go -- this is supported by some bonus material in the PDF release of book one -- the early farcical jokey stuff was originally written much earlier (with Kobolds), and apparently rewritten as an introduction to the story as it is today. However, it is noticeable that the comic has gotten significantly less jokey since its inception...
** What was a farcical joke about how goblins inevitably receive appropriate names from the village seer became this huge plot point about the female goblin Saves-a-Fox who [[ScrewDestiny successfully struggled against the name given to her]] by killing said fox rather than saving it. It bears noting that she has saved the fox's pelt, even through being captured and held as a labor-slave by another tribe of goblins. Regarding Saves, [[spoiler:it's revealed that the fox likely had a horrific disease and if so, she actually did "save" it by giving it a mercy killing.]]
** The joke about how Chief was only the chief because he was named "Chief" was retconned, with Complains explaining to Chief that he only said that as a cruel joke, while Chief becoming actual leader was to avert a nasty prophecy.
** Several of those early strips involved an outlandishly panicked coward very nearly dying horribly due to mishap caused by the carelessness of the other goblins, the joke being that the outlandishly panicked coward was, in fact, named "Dies Horribly". Dies went on to become a semi-regular character and was the one to make the above-spoilered reveal to Saves-a-Fox. When he does this, he is ''also'' stating and quite clearly that this joke was ''never'' a joke and that Dies Horribly ''is'' going to die. '''Horribly.''' [[spoiler:He did. Then [[BackFromTheDead came back]].]]
* ''WebComic/ZebraGirl''
** Jack. Fire. [[spoiler:Apparently he thinks he deserves it.]] More importantly, he feels it relieves Sandra of her stress and keeps her from falling over the edge. [[spoiler:Turns out he was right: once Sandra really tortures someone for the first time, she snaps.]]
** The comic substituted the HyperspaceMallet with spontaneous combustion. Later, when the title character attacks her TrueCompanions and uses the same power, [[HilarityEnsues hilarity does not ensue]].
** In that same vein, the spell originally used to banish Lord Incubus way back in the comic's wacky beginning (before the genesis of the title Zebra Girl, even) has a slightly less humorous feel now that it's been used on the [[spoiler:former protagonist]] who is far more frightening than Lord Incubus ever was. Although, the spell still appears in the form of a magical toilet that sucks the unwanted guest in.
* The role of henchmen in ''ComicStrip/{{Nodwick}}'' -- though their inability to permanently die is still played for laughs in the later books, there's a good deal more attention paid to why things are that way.
* An early ''WebComic/GeneralProtectionFault'' arc titled "Secret Agent Geek" set the lovable slob Fooker as a Film/JamesBond knockoff secret agent, playing off as many spy-movie tropes as it could get its hands on, and finishing with a classic "It was all a dream -- OrWasItADream" closing. Then, years later, as the story takes a turn for the dramatic, it turns out that Fooker IS, indeed, a secret agent, possessing advanced combat skills, and access to high-tech gadgets and paramilitary troops. Nick's [[ScienceRelatedMemeticDisorder Inventors Gene]] also starts out being played for laughs, and then later turns into the catalyst for a grand {{plan}} involving seduction, time-traveling, world conquest, and The Franchise/{{Terminator}}. Lampshaded in the above quote when Trent, whose apartment Nick and Fooker had broken into to clear Trudy's name, sues Fred for libel.
* ''WebComic/LifeOfRiley''. What begins as a cheap throwaway joke about an artist who powers up a la DBZ when he works on computers, ends with same character resurrected as the second coming of the Messiah about to go toe-to-toe with arch-fiend Lillith over an artifact that can ''kill God''.
* Pointedly averted in ''Webcomic/CaseyAndAndy'': despite the comic having several dramatic storylines, the strip never gives any sort of explanation, serious or otherwise, as to why the protagonists can keep coming back from the dead. Especially when other characters come right out and ask for one. (In fact, the title characters never even acknowledge any such thing has happened).
* ''WebComic/TheOrderOfTheStick'' is chock full of throwaway jokes whose darker implications are fully explored later on. Some examples:
** Done when Haley's greed for treasure is revealed to be so that [[spoiler:she can pay her father's ransom money.]] Later subverted when it turns out she was always pretty greedy in the prequel book. WordOfGod is that the subversion was deliberately intended to avoid it being a FunnyAneurysmMoment.
** A straighter example was done with the mother of the Black Dragon from the Starmetal cave, who was mentioned lightheartedly several times during the encounter in which [[spoiler:Vaarsuvius disintegrated her son in a scene that was still more or less played for laughs. About three hundred strips later, she appears out of the blue seeking vengeance on Vaarsuvius. This leads to one of the darkest arcs the strip has done thus far and the start of an horrific CycleOfRevenge.]]
** Blackwing's appearance and disappearance, PlayedForLaughs at first in parody of D&D players' tendency to ignore the existence of familiars except for when they are needed, later becomes a serious commentary on how Vaarsuvius treats other beings, and becomes a method by which to demonstrate CharacterDevelopment.
** Most of the first arc was written without an overarching plot in mind, with the ExcusePlot of a party of adventurers clearing a dungeon to defeat an evil sorcerer lich. Notably, the dungeon is full of goblin mooks, who are treated as disposable by everyone, including the protagonists. Needless to say, later plot developments, especially the prequel book ''Start of Darkness'', put a much darker spin on this. [[spoiler:Goblins and other monster races were ''deliberately created'' by the gods for the sole purpose of giving XP to adventurers, more specifically their own clerics. Their leader Redcloak -- supposedly TheDragon of the story -- is in fact ''horrified'' by everyone, including his master Xykon, needlessly throwing away goblin lives, and his secret plan is to blackmail the gods into giving his race fairer living conditions.]]
* ''WebComic/{{Yosh}}''
** It started out as a manga-style comedy, and the protagonist was frequently subjected to the MegatonPunch, thrown out of windows, things like that. Then, once the comic went dramatic, it was revealed that he's a "Resistant" -- a kind of rare, magical entity who has NighInvulnerability -- thus making him central to the plot of an AncientConspiracy of mages. Upon learning that, the character comments that it's not really a major surprise, considering what he's survived in the past.
** Also, his CatGirl roommate was a normal girl that got mutated during [[MetaOrigin The Weirding,]] turning her into a chimera and made her life a living hell.
* Most of the transformations in ''WebComic/TheWotch'' are played for laughs, especially those of Ming-mei and the {{Jerk Jock}}s turned cheerleaders. In the "Consequences" arc, though, Anne is horrified that she screwed up so many lives. When Ming-mei remembers being transformed, she is clearly terrified and while the cheerleaders are more or less happy as girls, the webcomic ''Cheer'' shows that Jo still is driven to tears at one point when she realizes that no-one remembers anything good about their past selves. Cassie's love potions would also fit, starting as a running gag and ending with her realizing that she had selfishly been trying to MindRape someone into loving her. Same with Miranda West, who first appears to be an annoying mentor, but gradually shows signs of being more sinister.
* ''WebComic/LookingForGroup'' started with the heroic Cale'anon meeting up with Richard, a lighthearted OmnicidalManiac, who decides to travel with the empty-headed do-gooder because it'll be fun. Except [[spoiler:now it turns out he's on a mission to protect Cale, under orders from Cale's former master -- who, right after sending him into the world, ''[[MoralEventHorizon killed his wife in cold blood]]'' so he'd have nothing to come home to.]]
* Eddie from ''WebComic/EmergencyExit'' is a {{Cloudcuckoolander}} with a tendency to pull things out of nowhere. Why? Turns out it's because [[spoiler:he FORCED A PORTAL THROUGH HIS SKULL in order to keep the villains from getting it. That's where he keeps all his random objects, and it apparently seriously messed with his mind.]]
* A mild example in ''WebComic/DanAndMabsFurryAdventures'': a fairly early filler strip joked about various ways the comic could get more hits, including having a character coming out of the closet and introducing a BoysLove story. Much later, it's revealed that [[spoiler: Jyrras]] is not only bi, but also has a hidden crush on [[spoiler: his best friend Dan]], which he fears will ruin their friendship if ever revealed.
* ''WebComic/{{Homestuck}}'' has several.
** Jade's narcolepsy: [[spoiler: Vriska testing her psychic powers]].
** Karkat's arguing with his past and future selves: [[spoiler: an extreme sense of self-loathing which tends to manifest as him blaming himself for everything]].
** Gamzee's honking: [[spoiler: becomes terrifying after he goes AxCrazy]].
** Gamzee's reaction to Dave linking him to a video of Music/InsaneClownPosse's "Miracles"? [[spoiler:It's what pushed him over the edge and made him start killing people]]. Squiddles? [[spoiler:Kid-friendly representations of [[EldritchAbomination the Horrorterrors]]]]. Finding [[spoiler:Tavros's severed legs]] in a chest in Alterniabound, which prompts the narration box to ask what the ''hell'' they were doing there? [[spoiler:Vriska waves them in his face to goad him into attacking her before she murders him]]. The RunningGag about Betty Crocker? [[spoiler:She's Her Imperious Condescension, the troll [[GodSaveUsFromTheQueen Empress]], and she's taken over the Alpha universe's session]]. Hell, this could go on all day. [[KudzuPlot Homestuck is like that]].
** According to WordOfGod, Gamzee's religion, which started out as being a FantasyCounterpartCulture {{Juggalo}}, does not worship Music/InsaneClownPosse like we assumed. The "Mirthful Messiahs" are actually [[spoiler:[[TheDragon Doc Scratch]] and [[BigBad Lord English]]]].
** The Guardians are all initially presented as amusing weirdos whose kids regard them with varying levels of fondness and exasperation, and Bro Strider is not singled out in this context. It's not until ''much'' later in the story that Dave's able to admit to himself that Bro alone crossed the line into child abuse. Dave's got the PTSD triggers to show for it, too, such as a severe reaction to the sight of blood.
* One of the earliest ''WebComic/MegaTokyo'' strips has Largo being fluent in l33t as a one-off gag. Later on, l33t becomes the official third language of the series.
* In the [[StealthParody deliberately terrible]] ''DarthWiki/PowerupComics'', many punchlines involve the ButtMonkey Dorkwinkle getting shot in the head, only for him to reappear in later strips without a scratch [[UnexplainedRecovery and without any explanation]]. Later, the comic gains pretensions of having an overarching story, and Dorkwinkle is explained as a genetic experiment who actually possesses the ability to recover from fatal injuries (although dying and recovering still hurts like hell).
* In ''It's All Been Done Before'', the entire comic was this trope. What started off as a light-hearted series of adventures of a man, his girlfriend, and their various animated toys, turned out to be [[spoiler:the man refusing to put away his dead wife's toys on the day of her funeral]].
* ''WebComic/{{Exiern}}'' has been going through a series of these, converting it from the original author's lighthearted fan-servicey gender-bender to something a lot grimmer. The current continuity explains by retcon, among other things why ferocious-barbarian-warrior-turned-fanservice female warrior Typhan-Knee/Tiffany is able to ride a unicorn, [[spoiler:the true reproductive cycle of dragons]] and why Typhan-Knee was driven out of his tribe in the first place: [[spoiler:after killing two women who he was unable to rape on his first raids as a young man, he realised why he had failed and was caught by his father, the tribe chief, as he was about to rape a young man]]. Some readers suspect that [[spoiler:the young man in question may have grown up to be nearly-invincible knight Neils]], who is one of the party accompanying Tiffany currently.
* Kiel'ndia in ''WebComic/{{Drowtales}}'' early on has a [[http://www.drowtales.com/mainarchive.php?sid=437 habit of addressing the reader]] as a sort of "imaginary friend" that the author initially put in because he thought it was interesting. Much much later, after a 15 year {{timeskip}}, it's revealed that the reason she can do this is that the "seed" [[http://www.drowtales.com/mainarchive.php?sid=8880 she's merged her aura with]] is actually a human-like demon, and the [[HearingVoices voices]] she hears are fragments of the demon's personality.
* Mike from ''WebComic/BittersweetCandyBowl'' is frequently the ButtMonkey of the cast, especially in regards to [[{{Tsundere}} Lucy]], and it's treated as lighthearted comic relief and a RunningGag for a great portion of the comic. However, it's eventually revealed that [[DeconstructedTrope Mike]] ''[[DeconstructedTrope never]]'' [[DeconstructedTrope saw it that way]], and only put up with it because he [[DoggedNiceGuy was waiting for Lucy to change]]; turns out that Lucy's [[DoubleStandardAbuseFemaleOnMale abuse]] of him, along with it constantly being ignored by his [[WithFriendsLikeThese friends]] took a toll on him both emotionally and personally, and he gets tired of it. And eventually [[TheReasonYouSuckSpeech he]] [[WhatTheHellHero finally]] [[RantInducingSlight cuts]] [[PrecisionFStrike loose]] on them ''all.'' [[DespairEventHorizon Especially]] [[AnchoredShip Lucy.]]
* Fuzzy from ''WebComic/SamAndFuzzy'' is a mysterious bear-sized humanoid that nobody seemed to find mysterious at all, and his past was a complete unknown full of contradictions. Then, in book four, we learn that it's a literal unknown since his mind was erased and he's been making it all up to cover up for insecurities about who he really was. We also learn there's a world-wide conspiracy enforcing TheMasquerade by confining the full level of PlanetEris to underground habitats and Fuzzy was one of the lucky few who slipped the net.
** Fridge is very funny when he's a loud-mouthed possessed fridge who claims he won't escape by possessing Sam or Fuzzy because he's got standards. He gets less funny when he finally manages to escape, and sets in motion events that the main characters are still feeling the effects of over ten years later.
* Magic and the supernatural have always proved a nuisance to the good doctor of ''Webcomic/TheAdventuresOfDrMcNinja'', and one could see it as an amusing science-magic conflict. The ''First Generation American Ninja'' story shows a young Doctor enjoying fighting the undead as an alternative to killing people in his missions. [[CynicismCatalyst That changed]] when he picked a fight with a powerful ghost wizard he couldn't hit, [[spoiler:forcing his grandfather to sacrifice himself to protect him from the ghost's curse]]. The usual SpoofAesop end of chapter is the grown Doctor reflecting on the incident and reaffirming his hatred for magic and ghosts.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* There's a whole category of CreepyPasta regarding supposed dark secrets of light-hearted children's shows and games, e.g. that an actor was actually a HumanoidAbomination, that the show was being used to summon an EldritchAbomination, or that ''the show itself'' was an EldritchAbomination.
* ''WebVideo/AtopTheFourthWall''
** Linkara parodies this trope in his ''15 Things That Are Wrong with ComicBook/IdentityCrisis'' review, saying that he got his Miller Time watch by beating up a thug in a horrifying fashion, and then buried his corpse in Nevada... then reveals that he was just giving a ''bad'' example of a Cerebus Retcon, and that his watch was just a gift.
** The backstory for his Magic Gun could have been an example of the trope, [[SubvertedTrope if not for that fact that he had always planned on giving the gun a dark backstory]].
** His bouts of amorality throughout the series received this treatment at the end of his "Catwoman: Guardian of Gotham" review when [[spoiler:after a long journey to find a famous Wizard in order to discover why his Magic Gun no longer works, the Wizard proceeds to give him a TheReasonYouSuckSpeech, outlining (with clips from the show, WebVideo/{{Kickassia}}, and the crossovers with other reviewers) how Linkara hasn't been acting like a hero at ''all''.]]
* Not quite so harsh, but WebVideo/TheNostalgiaCritic used to be proud of how he and his generation got raised by television. But as his DarkAndTroubledPast became more and more clear, the pride turned bitter and "raising your kids on TV" is now one of the many things movie parents do wrong in his eyes.
* On ''WebVideo/TheSpoonyExperiment'', it's hinted that the real "experiment" at work is on Spoony himself... and he isn't even aware it's happening.
* Back in season 1 of ''WebVideo/YuGiOhTheAbridgedSeries'', there involves a scene where Joey is trying to "teach" Serenity how to drive. In Episode 54, however, it turns out said incident was actually the cause of Noah's "[[InsistentTerminology untimely death]]".
* Blog/AskKingSombra at first seemed like a fairly wacky, comedy blog. [[spoiler:[[http://ask-king-sombra.tumblr.com/post/38593340804/quick-coffee-talk-fetch-your-princess-a Then it was]] revealed that it was all in King Sombra's imagination after he was blown to bits by the Crystal Heart, reducing him to a horn, and Coffee Talk (an innocent mare who'd only gone to the north to report on the Crystal Empire) is there because he absorbed her in his shadow form. And Coffee Talk may be ''trapped'' there forever.]]
* [[http://bobthedalek.deviantart.com Bob the Dalek]] usually draws ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' comics featuring Octavia's mother (called Octamum), who has a habit of treating Vinyl Scratch like a baby - making her wear a bonnet and booties, giving her a bottle, etc. Then, in [[http://bobthedalek.deviantart.com/art/Revelations-411652481 this comic]], Vinyl asks her point blank why, if she wants another foal so badly, she doesn't just have another one with her husband...and Octamum reveals that she suffers from [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polycystic_ovary_syndrome Polycystic Ovary Syndrome]], which makes it almost impossible for you to have children.
* WebVideo/DemoReel did this ''fast'', as the TroubledProduction LighterAndSofter pilot had Rebecca making a fool out of herself with sexualized one-woman-shows, and Karl always saying "when ze wall fell" because he was a German stereotype. One episode later, and it was Rebecca's sexually abusive history that made her want to take control back, and Karl lost his wife and family when the wall fell.
* Danny Sexbang of ''WebVideo/GameGrumps'' has repeatedly told stories about being in France as an exchange student of sorts, but it wasn't revealed until episode 19 of their ''Wind Waker'' playthrough that he went to France as a part of coping with his depression/OCD.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'':
** The "Kenny Dies" episode, where he is KilledOffForReal... ''not'' in the usual over-the-top fashion, but slowly, due to a debilitating illness, with the episode's main plot revolving around his friends trying to get embryonic stem cell research legalized in the hope that a treatment can be developed before Kenny dies. The writers eventually brought him back anyway, after which he started dying very rarely. Many of the scenes in the episode are genuinely heartfelt and PlayedForDrama.
** It's played absurdly straight in the "Coon and Friends" saga. Kenny, [[spoiler:who is revealed to be the real Mysterion]], has stated that his [[BlessedWithSuck superpower]] is that he cannot die, and that even when he does die, no-one ever remembers it happening to him (itself a bit of a RetCon, since they sometimes did in the early seasons). He hates it so much that his near-HeroicSacrifice at the end comes off like [[DeathSeeker a desperate attempt to die for real]]. One might even see it as a {{Deconstruction}} of NegativeContinuity. Also, this ability apparently comes from his parents having been involved with the Cult of {{Cthulhu}}.
** In the episode "City Sushi", it's revealed Mr. Kim is [[spoiler:an insane Caucasian psychiatrist with multiple personalities. By the end of the episode, everyone allows the Mr. Kim personality to [[SplitPersonalityTakeover take over completely]], since curing him would cost the town its only Asian restaurant]].
** The two-part WhamEpisode "You're Getting Old"/"Assburgers" reveals that all of Randy's wacky hijinks come from the fact that he's unhappy with his life and trying to find something that will fix the problem.
** It might have always been there but "Cash For Gold" revealed that Stan's grandpa has Alzheimer's disease, making him calling Stan "Billy" all those times a little less funny.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheVentureBrothers'', how Master Billy Quizboy got his mechanical hand is told through TheRashomon, and the end of the episode has him saying he doesn't really remember. A later episode shows [[spoiler:this was because he [[LaserGuidedAmnesia had his mind wiped]]. His arm was bitten off by a pit-bull, and was given the replacement which had a monitoring device so he could act as TheMole]].
* Helga's family life and her bullying ways in ''WesternAnimation/HeyArnold'' was originally played for laughs (her dad is a pompous jerk who thinks everyone should bow down to him, her mom is a scatter-brained smoothie drinker, and her sister is a MarySue who doesn't understand how cruel life can be, and Helga acts like a bully because she's hiding her true feelings for Arnold) -- until the "Helga on the Couch" episode reveals that she's been neglected by her parents for years and Arnold actually was nice to her on her first day of pre-school. To top it off, [[WordOfGod Craig Bartlett]] (the show creator) has stated in many interviews that Helga's mom is an alcoholic, but, because Nickelodeon censors didn't want alcoholism to be mentioned on the show, the "smoothies" were created as a means to [[GettingCrapPastTheRadar let her alcoholism slip past the censors]]. There are also the other references to Miriam being a drunk: she once did court-ordered community service for a crime she doesn't remember doing, she falls asleep behind the couch, she had her driver's license revoked, and she tries to sober up by drinking coffee (which is actually a myth).
* In the ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'' episode "Jerome Is the New Black", Quagmire tells Brian that Cheryl Tiegs was the love of his life who left him and the break-up is the reason why Quagmire is a sex addict. Three past episodes had clues that make the revelation logical (and not just something the writers pulled out of their butts): in "Emission Impossible," Quagmire has a poster of Cheryl Tiegs on his refrigerator (during the scene where Chris shows Quagmire the objects he found on the scavenger hunt), in "The Perfect Castaway," Quagmire's reason for wanting to be blind (in a game the guys are playing) is because every woman he has sex with will, in his mind, be like Cheryl Tiegs, and in "Barely Legal" (the one where Meg becomes obsessed with Brian), Quagmire gives Meg the Shel Silverstein book ''The Missing Piece'' and tells her that he reads it whenever he feels that he needs to find the one thing in his life that's missing.
** "Jerome is the New Black" also had a gag involving Quagmire's sister and her abusive boyfriend, which was played for [[RefugeInAudacity tragic laughs]] (as Brian thought Quagmire's battered sister was just some one-night stand Quagmire had rough sex with). Two seasons later in "Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q.", Quagmire's sister and her abusive boyfriend come back, and the abuse is PlayedForDrama (soul-crushing, brutally realistic, [[{{TearJerker}} tear-jerking drama]]).
** In the episode "Yug Ylimaf" (the 200th episode where Stewie and Brian accidentally cause time to start going backwards), we see why the Greased-up Deaf Guy (a gag character who first appeared on the episode "The Thin White Line") is the way he is because he was walking beside a grease truck which suddenly exploded, burning away his clothes and leaving him soaked in grease and deafened by the explosion.
** A CutawayGag from "Meg Stinks!" shows how Peter funds all his wacky schemes: ''armed robbery!''
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Futurama}}'':
** "Where The Buggalo Roam" features a gag where Kif believes that kissing Amy is the same as making love to her. A later episode reveals that Kif's BizarreAlienBiology causes his skin to become receptive to genetic material whenever he feels a great sense of love for someone else. In other words, kissing Amy really is making love to her.
** In a season one episode, for a bit gag, Amy's parents set her up with Kif. In the season three premiere, we learn that Kif has been hopelessly pining for Amy since then but has been too scared to ask her out again.
** The first episode makes Fry's life in the year 2000 seem utterly miserable, so that it's understandable how he celebrates after being unfrozen a millennium later. Since then episodes have gone back and explored his previous life more closely, creating drama as Fry remembers his family, his girlfriend, and, most famously, [[TearJerker his beloved dog]].
** Mutants were shown to live in the sewers in one episode, and a RunningGag developed where they would stick their heads out of the ground to yell at people. The mutants' situation is PlayedForDrama later, when it's revealed that [[spoiler:Leela is a mutant, whose parents gave her up [[PassFail so she could pass]] as an alien and live on the surface]].
** In "Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles", when the cast is de-aged to teenagers, teenage Amy is shown as fat and her father makes fun of her weight. In "The Prisoner of Benda," it's revealed that Amy was a compulsive over-eater, which is why she was fat as a kid.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons''
** Parodied in "Behind the Laughter", the outside-of-canon AnimatedActors episode in which we're told that Homer became addicted to painkillers after falling down Springfield Gorge (in a well-known early episode), and that that enabled him to do "the bone-cracking physical comedy that made him a star." There is also, in the same episode, Homer feeding Lisa and Bart growth stunters via executive order in order to keep them looking the same age for the show to explain them never aging.
** In "Hurricane Neddy", Ned Flanders suffers a mental breakdown that leads to him [[TheReasonYouSuckSpeech furiously chewing out practically every Springfield resident]], after which he voluntarily checks himself into a mental hospital, where he is reunited with his old child psychiatrist Dr. Foster. Dr. Foster [[AsYouKnow explains that as a child]], Ned was very hyperactive and aggressive, not helped at all by his beatnik parents who didn't believe in disciplining him. So Dr. Foster performed a long-term series of spankings on him. [[GoneHorriblyRight It stopped his hyperactivity, but it made him practically incapable of expressing]] ''[[GoneHorriblyRight any]]'' [[GoneHorriblyRight anger]], and whenever he did feel angry, he'd instead going into strings of "nonsensical jabbering", namely his {{verbal tic}}s like "diddly".
** In the episode "[[Recap/TheSimpsonsS19E9EternalMoonshineOfTheSimpsonMind Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind]]", Homer has his life flash before his eyes. The dysfunctional character that we have come to know and love is shown to have a pretty poor time growing up, which makes the dark humor in the show harder to swallow.
** It may have been implied in the past; but the Season 27 episode "Puffless" reveals that Patty and Selma's father died of lung cancer when they were young. This makes his appearance in the Season 2 episode "The Way We Was" (where he is shown smoking a cigar and declaring that Marge meeting Homer "took years off his life") and subsequent mentions after that far less amusing.
* Most of the third season of ''WesternAnimation/MoralOrel'' does this to the first season. The first season is a comedy and Orel's life is portrayed as a HilariouslyAbusiveChildhood. Despite Orel's parents being pretty bad people, Orel is quite cheerful for the first two seasons, which might have made the implications of this less noticeable. It's towards the end of the second season where Orel realizes his father isn't the awesome guy he thought he was. It might be a CerebusRetcon for Orel himself as well.
* ''WesternAnimation/AdventureTime'' has several examples:
** Early episodes have the Ice King portrayed as a comedic PsychopathicManChild with a lust for women (particularly princesses) much younger than him that was often PlayedForLaughs. Come the episode "Holly Jolly Secrets": [[spoiler: In a pre-apocalypse Earth, the Ice King was an intelligent, mild mannered antique dealer named Simon Petrikov who bought an ancient magic Scandinavian crown. After putting it on as a joke in front of his fiancée (whom he affectionately referred to as "My Princess"), he did something he couldn't remember that drove her away forever. The Crown soon seized his mind and began altering his body, giving him power over ice and snow. In the process, he heard voices and had constant visions that drove him utterly and completely mad until he became the Ice King we know today. The Ice King also no longer seems to remember or understand what's happened to him.]]
*** Made lighter by "Betty" where [[spoiler:the reason his fiancee left him is revealed to be him, or more specifically, himself from 1000 or so years in the future after the Ice Crown has its powers and effects negated when an anti-magic being is summoned]].
** In "Evicted" Marceline suddenly reveals herself as the past owner of Finn's and Jake's home and kicks them out, which is used as the starting point for a comic adventure. In "I Remember You", it's revealed that the reason why she has lived in so many different places is because [[spoiler:Simon/Ice King as above was her foster father at the time that he was declining into madness, and that she keeps moving because he keeps instinctively looking for her without remembering their relationship, and acts either pathetic or dangerous in manners that she couldn't bear]].
** In "Ocarina", it's revealed that the rare occasions that Jake's children have appeared over the last season or so are [[spoiler:in fact the '''only''' times he's ever spoken to them, because he's embarrassed that due to their RapidAging they're more emotionally mature than he is, and that at least one of them absolutely hates him as a result]].
** A minor one: In "Everything Stays", it is revealed that Finn, Susan Strong, and the various mutated humans living underground wear animal hats because in the years following the Mushroom War, [[spoiler: wearing them was a method of camouflage and protection against vampires. Even after Marceline managed to kill all of them, the notion stuck for generations afterwards.]]
* In most versions of ''Franchise/ScoobyDoo'', the fact Scooby is a talking dog is utterly unremarked upon. In the DarkerAndEdgier ''WesternAnimation/ScoobyDooMysteryIncorporated'', we learn that {{Talking Animal}}s are the descendants of the animal gods of Egypt and China, who were actually ordinary animals possessed by {{Energy Being}}s.
** In the same show, Fred's status as a WellDoneSonGuy gets this treatment. In Season 1, his relationship with his emotionally distant father was PlayedForLaughs, through the obvious contrast between the [[ThePollyanna relentlessly optimistic teenage nerd]] and his uptight politician father. But it gets a lot less funny after the first season's finale reveals that [[spoiler: Fred Jones Sr. actually kidnapped an infant Fred Jr. from his real parents, and he has essentially been keeping him as a hostage for his entire life. Becomes more complicated when it's discovered that his birth parents, Brad and Judy were antagonistic, having become influenced by the Disk Pieces they were after. However, it is revealed that many of their positive qualities were repressed by the GreaterScopeVillain and it's revealed that the mayor really did care for Fred and he was, in a way, a better parent than his birth-parents (least before the WorldHealingWave.)]]
** In general, the classic ''Scooby-Doo'' formula that we all know and love--criminals pose as monsters to pull off overly complex schemes before being unmasked by the kids--has never really been questioned, and it's just an accepted convention that the ''Scooby-Doo'' universe is filled with crooks who all decide to pose as monsters for their own unrelated reasons. ''Mystery Incorporated'''s complex MythArc finally explores the phenomenon, revealing that it's not such a coincidence after all: all of the Gang's past adversaries have been the {{Unwitting Pawn}}s of a malevolent EldritchAbomination that compelled them to embrace their darker sides by taking the forms of monsters. On top of that, we learn that at least some of them (notably [[spoiler: Fred Jones, Sr.]]) were inspired to adopt their monstrous alter-egos by dreams of ''real'' monsters from an alternate dimension.
** ''Mystery Incorporated'' also humorously subverts this trope with its depiction of [[WesternAnimation/DynomuttDogWonder Blue Falcon and Dynomutt]]. The show's official explanation for Dynomutt's superpowers and enhanced intelligence is actually fairly dark: it turns out that he was nearly killed when he intervened to stop a break-in at [[WesternAnimation/JonnyQuest Quest Labs]], and [[WeCanRebuildHim he was given his robotic enhancements by Dr. Benton Quest in a last-ditch effort to save his life]]. The joke, though, is that Dynomutt is just as goofy and happy-go-lucky as ever, in spite of his past traumatic experiences; ''Blue Falcon'', on the other hand, is a grumpy misanthrope with anger problems, essentially a tongue-in-cheek parody of Batman in ''ComicBook/TheDarkKnightReturns''.
* ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'':
** Spike was often the ButtMonkey of earlier seasons, with season 3 having several entire episodes revolving around him hilariously failing at things. Starting with season 4, Spike has a character arc revolving around his self-esteem issues and generally feeling useless.
** In season 2's "[[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS2E20ItsAboutTime It's About Time]]", Cerberus leaves the gates of Tartarus, where many evil beings in Equestria are imprisoned. The whole thing is PlayedForLaughs when [[FluffyTamer Fluttershy tames him like an oversized puppy]], and is promptly forgotten after he's returned without a fuss. That is until the season 4 finale, "[[MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS4E25TwilightsKingdomPart1 Twilight's Kingdom, Part 1]]", where it's revealed that one of the prisoners managed to escape while Cerberus was gone, and happens to be ''the'' most catastrophic threat Equestria has ever faced.
** Early in [[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS1E1MareInTheMoon the very first episode]], Twilight rudely declines an invitation to an unseen friend's party to focus on her studies. It's treated as a quick EstablishingCharacterMoment for her [[LonersAreFreaks anti-social attitude]], and is all but forgotten when Twilight moves away and makes new friends. Five seasons later in "[[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS5E12AmendingFences Amending Fences]]", Twilight finds out that her friend--who already suffered from social anxiety and low self-esteem--degenerated to become a bitter and lonely shut-in, all because one of her so-called friends didn't turn up and eventually forgot her. It also serves as a reflection of [[ShadowArchetype the kind of pony Twilight could have become]] had she never made friends.
** "[[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS5E18BrotherhoovesSocial Brotherhooves Social]]" provides an example of what kind of effect the Mane Six's absurd amount of series-wide accomplishments (which include saving Equestria on a semi-regular basis) would have on others. Here we see that Applejack is considered the family hero, but her older brother Big Macintosh feels somewhat [[TheResenter resentful]] for getting ignored by their little sister Apple Bloom, who used to idolize him before Applejack started stealing his thunder. The fact that [[TheSilentBob he rarely opens up to speak his mind]] suggests that he's been stewing over this longer than he'd care to admit.
** For the first four seasons, [[AlphaBitch Diamond Tiara]] is seen as little more than a one-note, sometimes laughable SpoiledBrat who picks on the Cutie Mark Crusaders in practically every scene she appears in. Come the season five episode "[[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS5E19CrusadersOfTheLostMark Crusaders of the Lost Mark]]", it's made painfully clear that she gets it all from [[AbusiveParents her mother's psychological abuse]] and [[BeingEvilSucks desperately wants to change her ways]], but feels trapped by her lack of self-identity and general sense of inadequacy compared to the free-spirited Crusaders.
* Throughout the course of ''WesternAnimation/EdEddNEddy'', Eddy was portrayed as a SmallNameBigEgo [[NoIndoorVoice loud mouth]] [[{{Schemer}} scam artist]] who looks up to his brother and who's schemes usually go hilariously wrong and usually got his comeuppance at the end of the episode, usually by being beaten up by one or several of the Cul de Sac kids. It's all PlayedForLaughs... and then [[WeasternAnimation/EdEddNEddysBigPictureShow the movie]] comes a long, where it's revealed that [[spoiler: Eddy's brother was a BigBrotherBully who regularly beat Eddy up, and his SmallNameBigEgo traits were the result of a superiority complex he developed from this. His whole scamming and loud mouth nature were the result of trying to imitate his brother, who he thought the other Cul de Sac kids respected. (When in reality, they were all terrified of him.)]] Knowing this, this makes a ''lot'' of the earlier episodes, especially the ones where Eddy suffers DisproportionateRetribution, ''very'' hard to watch.
* ''WesternAnimation/GravityFalls'' is full of people with "[[TheDitz Unique]]" mindsets, who don't seem to be overly effected by the bizarre happenings in town. In "Society of the Blind Eye", [[spoiler: we learn that there's a SecretCircleOfSecrets that uses LaserGuidedAmnesia to wipe peoples' minds of said events...and that repeated use leads to SanitySlippage.]] Needless to say, it's going to be a bit harder to laugh at them from then on. [[spoiler: [=McGucket's=] own insanity was brought on by erasing the memories of something horrible that happened while working with the Author]].
** Pacifica Northwest was portrayed as the AlphaBitch rival to Mabel. In the season 2 episode "The Golf War" we see she's inherited this attitude from her shallow and neglectful parents, to the point where she doesn't even understand the ''word'' sharing. [[spoiler: Then, in ''Northwest Mystery Mansion'', we see that her parents are [[AbusiveParents horribly abusive]], controlling her every action through Pavlov conditioning, and are private, [[CardCarryingVillain proud]], [[RichBitch elitist]] [[EvilAllAlong scum]] who take pride in stepping on the common man]].
** Grunkle Stan's treatment of the wax dummy in his likeness, especially after it "dies", was assumed to be a reminder of his [[ItsAllAboutMe egotism]]. But in the episode ''Not What He Seems'', it's revealed that [[spoiler: he was treating it like a ReplacementGoldfish for his missing twin brother]]
** Dipper being [[DemonicPossession possessed]] by Bill originally seemed to be a MonsterOfTheWeek scenario that didn't leave too much of an effect on him afterward. In "The Last Mabelcorn" we learn that he is actually VERY traumatized from those events, so much that he tried [[spoiler: erasing Ford's mind]] when he believed he was under Bill's influence.
** Among Quentin Tembley's wacko laws is the "Finders Keepers" law, where you legally gain property just by taking it, which is played for laughs. Come the Season 1 finale, where [[spoiler: Gideon gains possession of the Mystery Shack by stealing the deed]].
* In the ''WesternAnimation/EarthwormJim'' episode "Queen What's-Her-Name" we learn that Princess What's-Her-Name is called so because she was such TheUnfavorite that no one bothered giving her a proper name at all.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheAmazingWorldOfGumball'' episode "The Void", which features the titular realm where the world put all its mistakes, the character Rob makes [[RetGone a cameo appearance as a quick nod to the fact that he hadn't hitherto done much in the show]]. In "The Nobody" [[spoiler: it is revealed that he was desperately trying to catch Gumball and Darwin's attention so they could help him escape the Void but they ignored him. Unbeknownst to them, [[TheBusCameBack he managed to make his escape]], [[BodyHorror became horribly disfigured]] while doing so, and once he gets his memories back he vows to become the show's BigBad]].
** Anais rejecting Billy at the end of "The Egg" was played lightly, but "The Pest" shows Billy was actually deeply hurt by this and resorted to bullying Anais in an attempt to feel better.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Archer}}'':
** Archer's [[WhyDidItHaveToBeSnakes fear of alligators]]. It was first introduced and PlayedForLaughs in "Pipeline Fever"; understandably, the other characters found it amusing that a reckless adrenaline junkie could be reduced to quivering fits by the mere mention of an animal. Two years later, "Once Bitten" revealed the origin of his phobia: [[spoiler: he actually loved alligators as a child, but one of his last (and ''only'') memories of his biological father was of him bringing him a stuffed toy alligator as a present]]. Archer apparently finds that memory so troubling that [[RepressedMemories it takes a near-death flashback to bring it back]].
** Archer's constant abuse of his beleaguered manservant Woodhouse is also consistently PlayedForLaughs. But as we gradually get more details about [[HilariouslyAbusiveChildhood Archer's childhood]], we eventually learn that Woodhouse has cared for Archer since he was a baby, as he was Mallory's manservant before he moved into Archer's apartment. In fact, Woodhouse was far more loving and dependable than the callous and neglectful Mallory, and he's really [[ParentalSubstitute the closest thing that Archer has to a father]]. With all of the abuse that Archer took from his ''mother'' as a child, there's the increasingly strong implication that he treats Woodhouse like garbage [[FreudianExcuse because he never learned how to show affection to his family]].
* ''WesternAnimation/StevenUniverse'' In the episode "Steven's Lion", when discussing whether Steven should be allowed to keep Lion, Garnet remarks that they "kept Amethyst", which is treated as a joke by Pearl. To the audience, it seems to be an innocent joke referencing Amethyst's rambunctious nature; however, in the later episode "On the Run", it is revealed that [[spoiler: Amethyst was created in the Gem-making facility known as a "Kindergarten", and that they actually ''did'' keep her.]]
* ''WesternAnimation/BeastWars'' ends with the heroes victorious and returning home with Megatron strapped to the outside of their space ship in a humiliating fashion. And then comes DarkerAndEdgier ''WesternAnimation/BeastMachines'' where it's revealed that Megatron was able to escape mid-flight allowing him to conquer Cybertron before our heroes even arrived.
* ''WesternAnimation/StarVsTheForcesOfEvil'': Throughout the first season, we've seen Star battle monsters who have tried to steal her powerful wand, apparently for some evil goal. Come "Mewnipendence Day", we learn that Mewni's original settlers ''massacred'' the monsters and stole their land, [[DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything while proclaiming themselves to be righteous]]. The motivation of the monsters shifts from CartoonishSupervillainy, to retribution.