Iconic Character, Forgotten Title
aka: Reverse Shazam
Sometimes, the title of a work overshadows the main character. It's hard to fault someone (even though people do all the time
) for assuming The Legend of Zelda
stars a green-clad elf named Zelda for both this reason and the fact that the game features no elves at all.note
The title of a work can be heard so much that the character names become footnotes in comparison. This is I Am Not Shazam
But what happens when the opposite
occurs? What about when you've got an iconic character, the subject of a million parodies, whom anyone can caricature at a moment's notice, but no one can remember the name of the work they're in? You've got this trope. Iconic Character, Forgotten Title covers those character names that overshadow the title of their story.
Often, this will be lost in foreign language translations which use the character's name as the title instead of translating the original one.
Compare Cowboy Bebop at His Computer
. Contrast Spotlight-Stealing Title
. See also Mainstream Obscurity
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- The Treachery of Images by René Magritte is sometimes called "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" or "This is not a pipe".
- Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1. Or as it's almost universally known, Whistler's Mother.
- There's a Rembrandt's picture which is probably most properly called, 'The Company Of Captain Frans Banning Cocq And Lieutenant Willem Van Ruytenburch Preparing To March Out'. Or perhaps 'Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq'. Or even 'The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch'. No wonder everyone knows it as 'The Night Watch'.
- This happened early on with Superman. Action Comics was at first supposed to feature a variety of characters but Superman quickly took off and interviewing newstand owners revealed that kids were asking, not for Action Comics, but for "that comic book with Superman in it." Eventually, the title shifted to some variation of "Action Comics starring Superman" or "Superman in Action Comics." (Has shifted back and forth over the decades.) Of course, he has additional titles in his own name.
- A similar thing happened with Detective Comics and Batman.
- 2000 AD is primarily known as the comic with Judge Dredd in it, and has spawned a sister comic titled as such. ("Judge Dredd Megazine", that is, not "The Comic With Judge Dredd In It".)
- Dennis the Menace has been headlining The Beano since 1974.
- And like Judge Dredd, now has a Megazine in his own name.
- Similarly, Desperate Dan has been the main draw in The Dandy since 1984, with only a short interruption in 1999.
- The word Hellblazer just gets smaller and smaller, while the words "John Constantine" get larger and larger. Ironic, because the original title was chosen specifically because they didn't think anyone would know who Constantine was (despite his appearances in the Swamp Thing).
- Journey into Mystery is another example of a book that was originally supposed to be an anthology but eventually became dominated by stories about its most popular character before finally just being renamed for him. In this case, it became The Mighty Thor. The title Journey Into Mystery has since been revived on occasion heavily featuring Thor's supporting characters as its focus, with the most recent run centering first on Loki and later Lady Sif.
- Popeye originally debuted as a bit player in Thimble Theatre, with Olive Oyl already well-established. Pretty soon after, Popeye became the main star, with Olive Oyl becoming his love interest over her original love, the Dagwood-like Harold Hamgravy.
- The 100th issue of Tales Of Suspense saw the series renamed Captain America, after the superhero who co-starred (alongside Iron Man) since issue #59.
- Similarly, Tales to Astonish became The Incredible Hulk with #102, after the character who'd been co-starring since issue #59.
Films — Animated
- Some people think An American Tail is actually called "Fievel" (and that's before you mention dubs which are). It doesn't help that it has a sequel called Fievel Goes West.
- In-Universe example: While Wreck-It Ralph is the eponymous character of the film, the actual game he hails from In-Universe is known as "Fix-It Felix Jr.".
Films — Live-Action
- The murderous doll Chucky from Child's Play. The Child's Play title is entirely lost in the fourth and fifth films, Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky,but even before that most people simply referred to the films as the Chucky movies rather than Child's Play
- The Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street movies are better known as the Jason and Freddy movies respectively. Especially since Freddy vs. Jason came out. It doesn't help that several of the sequels don't have the words "13th" or "Elm Street" in their titles.
- Everyone knows The Three Stooges, but considerably fewer people can name any of their 190 films.
- The first film that featured Sylvester Stallone's character John Rambo was called First Blood. The second was called Rambo: First Blood Part II. The third movie then became Rambo III, and the fourth was simply called Rambo.
- Coffin Joe. Arguably, that name's a lot more memorable than any of the actual film titles.
- The first Indiana Jones movie was just called Raiders of the Lost Ark. This changed with the sequels. Indeed, even Raiders gets retrofitted with an "Indiana Jones and the..." in some places (including, notably, its DVD release.)
- The same thing happened with Pitch Black and the subsequent The Chronicles of Riddick series.
- The theme tune to The Spy Who Loved Me drops the film title in the lyrics, but is actually titled "Nobody Does it Better".
- The Dark Knight was in fact the first Batman film not to feature the word "Batman" in the title, but (rather understandably) it was often assumed that the title of the film was Batman: The Dark Knight (which was actually used in some countries) or something to that effect. Just as frustratingly, The Dark Knight Rises has been called The Dark Knight by people who can't remember the full title.
- Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. Several adaptations have actually been called "Scrooge".
- Svengali from Trilby. Several film adaptations have been titled Svengali.
- James Bond in all his novels and films. None of the major titles, and nearly none in general, have included the words "James Bond". Averted in the Brazilian translations of the film titles, which are always on the form "007 and X", where X are translations of the English titles with varying degrees of accuracy.
- Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This is probably thanks to the 1971 movie and a candy brand being named after him. Also sometimes mistaken as The Candy Man, from the song of the same name featured in the film. Not to be confused with the other Candyman.
- Hannibal Lecter from Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs. The two books that followed were named after him.
- Sherlock Holmes. Undoubtedly, nearly everyone has heard the character name, but only a significant minority could list the titles of any of the stories he appears in, with The Hound Of The Baskervilles being the most likely candidate.
- More people recognize John Carter of Mars than any of the stories he was in (save, perhaps, the last one which had a Character Title).
- In a curious case of promotional and marketing efforts gone awry, in the early 1930s Street and Smith had The Shadow serve as narrator for the Detective Story Hour in hopes of drawing attention to the Detective Story Magazine. Several listeners went to newsstands asking for the "Shadow Magazine". Street and Smith decided to roll with it and hired Walter Gibson to create the "Kent Allard Shadow".
- Kunta Kinte from Roots.
- Long John Silver from Treasure Island.
- If you can't remember The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, most people will understand if you just refer to its Headless Horseman.
- And how many people know that "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle" are just two of the stories in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.? Most editions of that book feature an illustration of one of those two stories on the cover.
- Older Than Radio: The Armenian folktale The Daredevils of Sassoun is commonly just called David of Sassoun after the main character, despite the real title sounding much cooler.
- Even the Wikipedia page starts with "Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe..." The actual title was:
- Gulliver's Travels. While his name is still in the title, it's not just "Gulliver's Travels". The full title was: "Travels Into Several Remote Nations of the World in Four Parts by Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then Captain of Several Ships."
- And many adaptations belie even the shortened title by having Gulliver visit only Lilliput. It's supposed to be Travels plural, not Travel.
- Newcomers who want to start reading the Honor Harrington books may have to dig around a bit before they learn that the first book in the series is titled, simply, On Basilisk Station.
- Journey to the West: The story seems more well known by its main character Sun Wukong, or the Monkey King. Some translations even call the story Monkey instead.
- Don Quixote (original title: The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha ("El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha" in the original Spanish). Older Than Steam.
- The Railway Series is frequently referred to as Thomas the Tank Engine, albeit as much due to the breakout television series of the same name (one instalment of the series was in fact called Thomas The Tank Engine however, as does some of the novels' merchandise use the show's moniker).
Live Action TV
- Late night talk shows are often known by the name of the current host. For instance, for many years The Tonight Show was referred to more often as "Johnny Carson". People are more likely to say, "John Smith is on Letterman tonight" than "John Smith is on Late Show tonight."
- Granted, it could be argued that since the show titles are often appended with "with David Letterman" or "with Jay Leno" that they're still valid shortenings. Then again, people tend to omit/forget that part when referring to the show's title (e.g. "The Late Show" and not "The Late Show with David Letterman,") making this a possible case of Accidentally Accurate.
- Conan may be a parody of this phenomenon, because that is in fact the show's full name. Conan O'Brien even joked that he named it that so that nobody could replace him on the show.
- The show is called Return of Ultraman, not Ultraman Jack after its title hero. Most people call it by its eponymous hero though.
- What show did the character Sergeant Bilko appear in? No, not Sergeant Bilko (except in syndication and the film version) but The Phil Silvers Show or You'll Never Get Rich.
- Many people referred to All in the Family as "Archie Bunker" back in the day. Later on, the series was re-tooled, slightly re-set, and became "Archie Bunker's Place".
- UK crime series Midsomer Murders features Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby, Causton CID as the chief protagonist of every episode and apparent point of the whole show, causing some people to just call the show "Barnaby."
- Family Matters was often misnamed "The Urkel Show" by viewers because Steve Urkel, originally a minor character, became a very successful Breakout Character.
- This trope is almost certainly why Game Show Network named its revival of Press Your Luck (AKA "Whammy" or "The Whammy Show"), "Whammy: The All-New Press Your Luck".
- Cold Opening into the Show Within a Show led many people to refer to Home Improvement as Tool Time.
- Alternately, there are many people who just assume that the Show Within a Show that the main character is the host of is also called "Home Improvement."
- Keeping Up Appearances is universally referred to as "Mrs. Hyacinth" in Denmark (even though it does have an offical translated name, and that, when you think about it, "Mrs. Hyacinth" is a case of I Am Not Shazam)
- A lot of people seem to think that Secret Diary of a Call Girl is titled "Belle du Jour", which in actual fact is the pseudonym of its main character, played by Billie Piper. The confusion might also be because the blog the show was based on was called "Belle du Jour".note
- Many people will refer to Married... with Children as "The Bundys" or just Al Bundy.
- When the popularity of the first incarnation of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was at its peak, some people were just calling the show "Regis". Which was funny, considering that ABC already had another show featuring Regis Philbin that did have his name in the title.
- In-Universe example: In the movie Rain Man, the titular character made it a point to watch The Peoples Court every day. At the time, the court was presided over by Judge Wapner. One of Rain Man's catchphrases was "10 minutes to Wapner".
- Young children often referred to Full House as "The Baby Michelle Show", because that's who they watched it to see.
- This tends to happen a lot with Horror Hosts, because the titles of the shows themselves tend to be fairly generic—there are dozens of Shock Theaters and Creature Featuress, so it's far easier to specify what the name of the host is. Even the more creative ones can't seem to avoid this, though—plenty of people remember Svengoolie from the seventies, but only a small handful of fans would be able to tell you his show was called Screaming Yellow Theater.
- What's the strip about the mountain-dwelling moonshiner with the large wife and baby named Tater? Snuffy Smith, of course. Except its actual full title for decades was Barney Google & Snuffy Smith. Initially it was just Barney Google, and it was about Barney, a horse racer. Once he met the Smith clan in the 30's, they became incredibly popular, Snuffy even being added to the title, until Barney was completely written out. Eventually he was dropped from the title, but not until years had passed wherein he didn't even appear. His name was usually written in tiny font above Snuffy's name.
- Charlie Brown from Peanuts. Executive Meddling produced the name Peanutsnote , and Charles Schulz reportedly hated it (he had named it Li'l Folks after his first strip from 1947-1950, but there were already two strips with similar-sounding names – the now-unknown Little Folks, and the very popular Li'l Abner). So not only do most of the animated specials and book collections include "Charlie Brown" in the title, but the title panels on the Sunday strips for many years said Peanuts featuring GOOD OL' CHARLIE BROWN. Also applies to Snoopy.
- Well averted with the animated shorts – The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show – and all major features – [phrase], Charlie Brown.
- In Italy it's known as "Linus" by most readers, mostly because of a publication of the same name.
- In Brazil there is an attempt to equal character and title by making Charlie Brown nicknamed "Minduim" (from amendoim, "Peanut").
- On a related note, most people know that famous Vince Guaraldi jazz piece only as "The Charlie Brown Theme". Its actual title is "Linus and Lucy".
- The irony of that is there's a Guaraldi song actually called "Charlie Brown Theme" (listen to it here) and it has been included on a number of albums (including the first one released in 1963), but it takes a while to find on the internet due to people confusing it with "Linus and Lucy", which was released on the same first album.
- Caspar Milquetoast from The Timid Soul. "Milquetoast" has even entered the lexicon as a term for a weak, submissive person.
- By the 80's, the title character of Moon Mullins had become a supporting character in his own strip. Much of the action was focused on the couple who owned the boarding house he lived in, "Lord" and "Lady" Plushbottom.
- Both Bloom County and Outland were known for Opus, so the third comic strip with him became just Opus.
- The comic strip Thimble Theater is hardly known today, but one of its characters, Popeye is quite well known, probably because he later got an animated series.
- There are many who think the comic strip Blondie is called Dagwood, since he's become the main character rather than Blondie.
- Pogo had so many well-loved and memorable supporting characters that the title character could go weeks at a time hardly appearing, and just being a part of the action when he did, rather than the focus. Many people have referred to it as Albert, Churchy or just "that political cartoon set in a swamp." Of course, Pogo's status as the swamp's Only Sane Man often had him delivering the Aesop or solving the problem.
- Gasoline Alley initially was about an auto mechanic named Walt Wallet. One morning he found a baby on his doorstep, named him Skeezix for some reason, and the baby actually grew up in real time, becoming a boy, young man, grown man with a wife and kids and later a grandfather. The action began to center around Skeezix so much, with Walt becoming a supporting character and eventually written out, it should be no surprise that after not much time, the comic became known as Skeezix.
- The ancient strip Bringing Up Father centered on Jiggs, an Irish hod carrier who came into the United States as a millionaire thanks to winning a sweepstakes. Also prominent is Jigg's disapproving wife Maggie. The strip has been referred to as Jiggs, Jiggs and Maggie or Maggie and Jiggs almost exclusively, almost never by its actual title.
- It was very common to refer to the N64 shooter Golden Eye 1997 as "Bond", "007", or "James Bond" in the 90s. Prior to the 2011 re-do, terminology had generally settled on "Goldeneye".
- The Ace Attorney series is commonly referred as the "Phoenix Wright" series. This is sort of a justified case, as "Ace Attorney" was originally the subtitle of the first game in the series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.note When it became obvious that the fourth game in the series would have a new protagonist, the localization staff did the best they could in promoting Ace Attorney as the main title of the franchise, while keeping Phoenix Wright title for the first two sequels, resulting in the overly long titles of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials & Tribulations. Even when the title of the fourth game was announced to be Ace Attorney: Apollo Justice, people kept referring to the new instalment as the "fourth Phoenix Wright game". Which is Hilarious in Hindsight, if you consider that Phoenix ended up as a One-Man Spotlight-Stealing Squad in said fourth game, despite losing his protagonist status, which he regained by the fifth.
- Tomb Raider's Lara Croft is about halfway there. The Tomb Raider name is still well-known, but the character has become very recognizable to people who don't play games, which is probably why the movies were called Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
- The 2nd and 3rd games are also named Tomb Raider II Starring Lara Croft and Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft respectively.
- Thanks to Capcom's Vs. series, this has unfortunately happened to Morrigan Aensland. There is also Strider Hiryu, although it's mittigated by the fact that he did recieve a reboot in 2014.
- Similar to Morrigan, Super Smash Bros. has done this for several obscure Nintendo characters, among them Ness, Captain Falcon, Marth, Roy, and Ike. However, Super Smash Bros. has also increased the popularity of those series for many people.
- Nameko (AKA Funghi) has become such a popular mascot character in Japan that some can't recall the game it originated from: Touch Detective.
- Dick Dastardly, the epitome of the moustache-twirling villain. What series did he star in, again? Admit it: it took you a moment to remember Wacky Races. The pigeon-hunting spin-off does not help things. Better known as Stop The Pigeon (after the theme song).
- During the first few seasons of The Simpsons, back when Bart was the most popular character and most of the episodes focused on him, it was not uncommon for people to refer to the show as "The Bart Simpson Show". He appeared on various t-shirts and merchandise, and was even the star of several video games. In the years since Bart's popularity died out, people now consider Homer to be the most iconic character of the series and are now less likely to use an informal name for the series.
- Metalocalypse is commonly referred as "Dethklok", after the cartoon band in which the show is centered around. The Working Title was actually Dethklok Metalocalypse before they decided to shorten it to just Metalocalypse, but since many people are not sure on how to pronounce "Metalocalypse" correctly, they simply refer to the show as "Dethklok" as well.
- The Dynomutt Dog Wonder show is more commonly referred as "Blue Falcon & Dynomutt" or simply "Blue Falcon".
- A number of people mistake the name of Jem as Jem and the Holograms because that's the actual name of the band she performs with in the show. It doesn't help that the DVDs have the longer title written on their covers. Even The Nostalgia Chick did this when reviewing the show.
- Some people who haven't seen KaBlam! in a while refer to it at times as "The Henry and June Show" (Which was actually a proposed (and failed) spin-off)
- Candle Jack and the associated meme is far more memorable than... Than the show he came from? That was Freakazoid!.
- The actor Sylvester McCoy (born Percy Kent-Smith) got his stage name this way. Some of his earlier work was as a sidekick/warm-up man to the stand-up comedian-cum-performance artist Ken Campbell, as a fictional character called "Sylveste McCoy". To further the joke, his character was credited in the playbill as "Sylveste McCoy as Sylveste McCoy". One reviewer didn't get the joke and used it in the review as if it was his real name, so he went with it and used it as his stage name from then on (though adding an "r" to the end - no, those weren't typos earlier).
- The Nehi Corporation used to make a line of popular fruit-flavored sodas (the one most commonly known today is the Grape Nehi, Radar's favorite soda in Mash). In 1955, as the soda market changed to favor colas over everything else, they changed their name to their new star brand, Royal Crown (although they kept the name for their fruit-flavored products; you can still find and purchase Nehi soda to this day). Currently, however, both Nehi and Royal Crown Cola (typically shortened to just RC nowadays, as seen on packaging) are owned by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group in the United States, with the company also distributing 7-Up there, though RC is still quite popular in the South and Midwest.