-specific version of the Identical Stranger
(often, but not always, the Criminal Doppelgänger
): a not-necessarily-identical stranger wearing an identical costume.
Often an Evil Twin
, trying to usurp the hero, infiltrate the Justice League, trade on the hero's reputation for personal gain, or convince people that the hero has gone bad.
Occasionally, and only in comics at the Idealistic end of the Scale
, the hero will travel to some out-of-the-way spot and discover that somebody there has been inspired by tales of the hero, and has adopted an identical costume in tribute. An Emergency Impersonation
plot may or may not result.
Either way, the key point is that wearing an identical costume is sufficient to turn somebody into an Identical Stranger
, regardless of how different they look from the hero out of costume.
The other character's costume will be identical, or at least close enough to appear so when drawn at the comic-book level of detail. It may even be good enough to fool people who know the hero well. (The inspired-by hero's tribute costume will often have some slight difference that will let readers tell the two apart, but it's always deliberate personalisation, never an error resulting from the fact that they designed it based on rumours and have never seen the original for themselves.)
A source of much Fridge Logic
involving most costumed characters as to why this doesn't happen to them more often.
Sometimes, if the hero's powers come from a magical crystal
, some sort of special uniform
, a suit of Powered Armor
, or whatever. In that case, this trope may involve someone other than the main hero (typically one of the hero's close friends) using the equipment in their place to "pinch hit" for an otherwise unavailable protagonist.
If the copycat's costume isn't very much like the real thing, but people mistake it for the real thing anyway, it's a case of Easy Impersonation
(and hopefully it's being played for laughs).
Not to be confused with Identity Impersonator
, where the hero has one of his friends wear an identical outfit so that the hero can appear to be in two places at once (usually to help protect his Secret Identity
Similar plots sometimes occur with non-costumed heroes, usually as variations of "conman trading on reputation of hero the mark has never met" — see Legendary Impostor
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Anime and Manga
- After the Time Skip in One Piece, a group of pirates impersonate the Strawhat Pirates. They even managed to fool some of the Strawhats themselves. In the end, they either got arrested or met a sticky end, since they were nowhere near the calibre of the Strawhats and the kind of attention they got.
- In Black Cat, a incredibly fat guy runs around impersonating the eponymous bounty hunter.
- InTower of God, just as Viole's infamy is starting to spread, a brutish man decides to impersonate him for some easy robberies. He then has the bad luck of picking out Viole's long time companion Hwa Ryun as a victim.
- In the first season of Sailor Moon, Zoisite went around town dressed as a blue version of the title character, setting up disasters to "save" people from immediately after. "She" is then "captured" by Kunzite, leaving the real Sailor Senshi to come to the rescue and promptly get caught themselves. Especially amusing as the only major giveaway should be Zoi being about a foot taller than the original... and you know... Male.
- Sailor Moon S had a moment like this. Kaolinite had captured Usagi and even pegged her as Sailor Moon. When the Sailor Senshi appear, she's shocked to see Sailor Moon there, blowing her theory to hell and back. What's so funny is that it was actually Minako using the Disguise Pen and even then, she flubbed Usagi's trademark hairstyle!
- Futari wa Pretty Cure had an episode where a pair of Honoka and Nagisa's classmates dressed up as Cure White and Cure Black. Since almost nobody knew the real Pretty Cure even existed, the effects of this were rather limited, with no cases of mistaken identity at all. Honoka and Nagisa worried that the villains might get confused and attack the impostors, but the villain of the episode wasn't fooled... and proceeded to attack and mind-control the impostors anyway, for the novelty of being able to set up a Pretty Cure vs. Pretty Cure fight.
- Eclair and Lumiere's looks and positions are usurped by Dvergr and Arv in the final arc of Kiddy Grade.
- Towards the end of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, the two Malevolent Masked Men usurp Nanoha and Fate's appearances to spectacularly execute the Wolkenritter in front of Hayate's eyes.
- An episode of Battle of the Planets involved Mark impersonating Zoltar by wearing a costume that actually didn't look much like Zoltar's.
- YuYu Hakusho had a brief sequence right after The Heroes first worked as a team. Yusuke and Kuwabara are both almost too injured to walk, and two guys have started dishonorably jumping random toughs and pounding them, then dropping Yusuke and Kuwabara's names, and turning the whole area against them. Odd one, since they weren't trying to cash in on their reputation (as punks) but to ruin their reputations as honorable punks in order to irritate them and get them to walk into a trap while injured, so they could beat them and cash in on their new reputation as demon-slayers as the persons who beat aforesaid. Can't help feeling it was needlessly elaborate. A later kidnapping scheme relied on 'hey, you, Urameshi,' as bait and worked much better. The guys turned out to have a very passing resemblance to our heroes, but be really remarkably ugly, something Kuwabara takes exception to.
- Kami- Sama from Saiyuki has an interesting case where, yes, he is impersonating a Sanzo priest... but he was also a disciple to one and supposedly inherited the title when his master got bored with it. This trope doesn't kick in till he takes the one thing his master didn't bequeath him (which happens to be the most important) the sutra, from Sanzo. He also tries to get Sanzo to "give" him his followers... yeah the man is insane. No one really falls for it besides him, but it still counts.
- While not so much a "costume" copycat, in Fist of the North Star, Kenshiro is often-times described as "the man with seven scars". Needless to say, he gets a little puzzled when, after going around the Post Apocalyptic wasteland doing good and taking out small-level warlords, innocent people start freaking the hell out and running away from him. It turns out there's ANOTHER "man with seven scars", the mark of having survived a normally fatal Hokuto Seiken technique, only this guy's a rampaging maniac. When they meet, those scars are the ONLY thing that's similar, as the imposter is about a foot taller, twice as heavily muscled, and wears a mask halfway between a knight's helmet and a boiler grate. Turns out that it's Jagi, Kenshiro's adopted brother, who lost out on the chance to be the one true successor of Hokuto Seiken, but the kind-hearted Kenshiro refused to kill. He gave himself the scars and was being such a madman simply to ruin Kenshiro's reputation and lure him into a fight.
- Batman #86 (1954) featured a story in which Bruce (Batman) Wayne and Dick (Robin) Grayson, on a road trip across the US, discover an Indian reservation protected by Chief Man-of-the-Bats and Little Raven. Not only were these heroes' costumes exactly like those of Batman and Robin except for the addition of feather headdresses, the physical resemblance was so close (despite Chief Man-of-the-Bats and Little Raven being, you know, Indians) that Batman and Robin were able to stand in for them when they were injured.
- The two reappeared in a recent arc (Batman #667-669, 2007) dedicated to the many tribute heroes Batman and Robin had met over the world: Knight and Squire (England), the Legionnaire (Italy), etc.
- A 1980 issue of Fantomen, "Flame", featured a woman inspired to fight injustice by tales of The Phantom. She adopted a costume that somehow managed to look just like the Phantom's (apart from the necessary concessions to body shape), despite her never having seen the Phantom herself nor met anybody who had.
- Action Comics #233 (1957, pictured above) featured a country where everyone was required by law to wear a Superman costume.
- Steel wore a costume in tribute to Superman after the latter's death. However, he was the only Superman-replacement who didn't claim to be the real thing, and his costume didn't look that similar, other than the symbol and the cape.
- In Kingdom Come, Steel eventually switched his focus to Batman, using a Bat-Symbol and an axe instead of an 'S' shield and a hammer.
- Superboy (Kon-El, Conner) also did not claim to be the real thing. Rather, he admitted and was even proud of being a clone—he just wanted to be called Superman and not Superboy.
- Following the return of Captain America in the 1960s, his appearances through the mid-'50s were RetConned into tribute heroes—the Spirit of '76, the Patriot, and a nameless history professor who went so far as to re-invent the supersoldier formula and get plastic surgery to look like Steve Rogers. Eventually this last fellow lost his mind due to an unrecognized side-effect and slipped into the other version of the trope.
- Clint Barton also dressed up as Captain America for a bit after his real death, at Tony Stark's urging. He was shouted out of the idea by his own namesake.
- Spider-Man once met an imitator from The Netherlands (in a comic actually produced there.)
- A variation: In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, The Movie of Batman: The Animated Series, Batman is blamed for the actions of a new vigilante who also wears a costume with a black cape and makes a point of attacking from the shadows and being seen only in glimpses; in this case, the confusion is not deliberate, but results from the new vigilante making similar style choices.
- The Assignment (1997). A US naval officer has an uncanny resemblance to Carlos the Jackal, and so is used in a plot by the CIA and Mossad to kill the notorious terrorist by framing him as a CIA informant.
- Deconstructed in The Dark Knight, featuring vigilantes posing as the Batman trying to take down drug deals while brandishing shotguns. At least one of them ended up dead.
- The children's book Superweasel had a boy enviro-vigilante, with his evil double committing pure vandalism.
- The Superboy TV series had an episode, "The Beast and Beauty", with a criminal dressing as Superboy and trading on Superboy's reputation to get access to stuff he could steal. This impostor didn't look anything like Superboy (apart from the costume), and relied on the fact that more people knew of Superboy than really knew what he looked like.
- Another episode had a man who actually did look like Superboy impersonate him. However, he was more of a small time con man than an actual villain and used the scheme to make some quick cash by charging for autographs and pictures.
- One episode of The Adventures of Superman had gangsters pay for a boxer to get plastic surgery in order to impersonate the Man of Steel, giving George Reeves a chance to sport a Brooklyn accent.
- Normally, protagonist Sam Collins became bonded with the Servo program in Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad. On one occasion when Sam wasn't available, Sydney convinced Sam's best friend Tanker to become Servo in Sam's place. Although rather reluctant at first, Tanker proved to actually be pretty good at the job.
- An All That sketch had citizens confused as both Kenan Thompson and Amanda Bynes were wearing a Superdude outfit. And for those not in on the joke: Kenan is a fat black guy; Amanda is a thin white girl.
- The Queen of Swords episode "The Counterfeit Queen".
- In the Spanish TV series Aguila Roja, the Ninja-like hero is impersonated as part of trap to capture and kill him. The only reason the plan failed was because the impostor (a woman) turned out to have been a fellow student at the same Dojo.
- Wrestling example: When the nWo first formed, they started claiming they'd turned Sting to their side, which Sting vehemently denied... but then somebody in Sting's tights and facepaint started attacking the WCW guys. Sting went to Lex Luger, supposedly his best friend in the whole world, and pleaded his case... and not even Lex Luger believed him (keep in mind, the fake Sting was not exactly identical, just had a similar build and wore the same hairstyle, facepaint, and tights). The whole thing led to a War Games match, in which the WCW team was supposedly a man down, as "Sting" would be on the nWo team... but who should come out as WCW's fourth man but the real Sting! He pulled a Look What I Can Do Now, then walked out of the cage, angry because the WCW wrestlers were so distrustful that they'd actually believe the nWo's little con game.
- That wasn't even the first time someone did that to Sting. During the Sid Vicious vs. Sting match at Halloween Havoc 1990, Sid and Sting brawled to the backstage area where the cameras could not see the action. Sting and Sid would reappear, with Sting looking like he suddenly gained 40 lbs. Sid would then pin "Sting" to win the World title. As Sid was being announced the victor, the real Sting appeared with a rope hanging from his wrist. As the announcers figured out that Sid's Four Horsemen stablemate Barry Windham was the impostor, Sting would hit the Stinger Splash on Sid to retain the title for real.
- Also, during the early 1990s, The Undertaker was defeated by Yokozuna in a casket match after copious outside interference by nearly every heel on the roster. A few months later, Ted DiBiase brought "the Undertaker" back; in the end this turned out to be a look-alike. Paul Bearer (the Undertaker's manager), claimed that Taker would rise again at a PPV to defeat the impostor. So Undertaker and Undertaker fought, though it was more like Undertaker versus a Dude dressed like the Undertaker who was shorter and less muscular.
- The Undertaker's kayfabe brother Kane would eventually be targeted by an impostor; though this was when Kane had unmasked, while fake Kane was wearing Kane's old costume (including a shirt, mask, and wig). Fake Kane was also a bit shorter.
- Before he formed Right To Censor, this was Stevie Richards' entire gimmick, imitating The Brood, the Dudleyz, Dude Love, Val Venis, among others. Dustin Rhodes also had a similar gimmick with "The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust" a couple years earlier, coming out as "Hunterdust", "Dustydust", "Chynadust", "Dust Lovedust", and "Sabledust".
- Charlie Haas and the Big Show also did stints where their gimmick was imitating other people's gimmicks.
- When Sin Cara found himself suspended by the WWE, a new Sin Cara soon appeared, with the commentators noticing that the newcomer looked quite a bit larger and wrestled a very different style than the original. Soon enough, the real Sin Cara would return, and the impostor would reveal himself as Hunico, and explain that he tried to steal the Sin Cara identity because he felt Sin Cara had stolen the Mistico gimmick from him when the two were wrestling in Mexico.
- The West End Games Star Wars roleplaying game adventure "Tattooine Manhunt" introduced a knockoff Boba Fett named Jodo Kast. Kast wore Mandalorian armor, but it didn't have as much gear as Fett's and a slightly different color scheme. Originally intended as a stand-in for GMs who wanted a Fett-like character at a lower power level, the Expanded Universe introduced the idea that Kast traded on Fett's reputation, impersonating him to take jobs from people who had never met the man. It came back to bite him when Fett caught him in a trap, poisoned him, and blew him up.
- In Worm, Coil i.e. Calvert replaces Skitter with a highly-convincing body double as part of his plot to keep Dinah over Skitter's objections.