Same Character, but Different
Oh, this is that sitcom about the lawyer and his bum roommate, right?note
A form of Character Derailment
in which a character in a long running series gets Put on a Bus
. Years later, the writers bring the character back, except... he isn't the same person anymore. He behaves differently, has different skills or interests — he's become a completely different person.
Writers could justify it by saying that character development took place offscreen, but it seems a little as if the writers have basically written a new character and slapped his traits onto someone who already existed in canon to make the introduction easier.
The inversion of Suspiciously Similar Substitute
. See also Not as You Know Them
and The Other Darrin
open/close all folders
- Superboy-Prime in DC Comics was introduced during Crisis on Infinite Earths as an Ascended Fanboy from the real world (or what was closest to it) who became Superboy during the Crisis. He finally went to a better place with the original Superman and Lois. He was brought back much more recently... as an insane Straw Fan villain.
- This is also a complaint among some readers with several characters as they're written in the New 52. In particular, the older members of the JSA who had the most radical changes, such as being aged down significantly. Other readers argue that the core of most characters remains the same. There's certainly quite a bit of Broken Base for the entire DCU due to this.
- Billy Batson is another example. Traditionally he begins his superhero career as a ten-year-old and is the living embodiment of Incorruptible Pure Pureness. The new version is fifteen and is supposed to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but comes off as too much of a jerk for a lot of Billy's old fans to accept.
- Similar to Billy is Wally West, when he finally came back. Before the reboot, Wally was Barry Allen's nephew and sidekick, an Ascended Fanboy who loved the Flash before he gained his powers, a founding member of the Teen Titans, was mostly a decent guy save for being shamelessly flirty and snarky, and for several decades had succeeded Barry as the Flash and had been married with two kids. When he shows up in the new continuity, he's now a 12 year old (even younger than he was when he was Kid Flash) half-black Jerk Ass who hates the Flash for putting his uncle in jail, is yet to bond with Barry and doesn't seem to like him much. In old continuity he was Dick Grayson's best friend and the same age as him and Roy Harper, but now he's about a decade younger than them.
- This is extremely common in series with Loads and Loads of Characters. X-men in particular, due to their revolving cast there were numerous characters change off panel. Usually they either join some other team, or seek higher education. For example the character Karma. When we're first introduced to her, she is older than the rest of the New Mutants, and considerably more mature, conservative, and acts as a parental surrogate to her brother and sister. She eventually leaves when her siblings are kidnapped. Then cut to several years later when she meets X-Force in a desert rave, with dyed pink hair, body piercings, and revealing clothing. She would also later come out as a lesbian.
- Likewise many X-men would display different or enhanced powers after an absence. Moonstar, for example gained the ability to display past events in the form of illusions. In the X-treme X-men series Mekanitz Karma was able to possess up to twenty people at a time, whereas previously she was only able to possess one or two. When Dazzler rejoined the X-men in the "Eve of Destruction" Storyline, she displayed the ability to create hard light images, previously she could only create bursts of light or lasers.
- ...and then there's the Siege Perilous. Psylocke, Dazzler, Colossus, Rogue, Havok, and Master Mold go in, and in some cases very different people came out the other side: Russian Gentle Giant farmboy Colossus (temporarily) becomes a popular American artist named Peter Nicholas, and English telepath Psylocke becomes a statuesque Japanese ninja. It also somehow created Bastion, a bizarre Fusion Dance of Master Mold and Nimrod, two obviously robotic characters who combined look like a human.
- Norman Osborn was seemingly killed during a fight with Spider-Man in 1973, leading to his son Harry Osborn taking up the mantle. Norman, revealed to have a Healing Factor that let him survive impalement, returned in the 1990's, having orchestrated The Clone Saga, and has since become a Big Bad within the Marvel Universe in general. Prior to his "death", Osborn was an absentee father and Corrupt Corporate Executive, but had something of a split personality that wanted to make a name for himself in New York's underworld by dressing in a bizarre costume, but following his return he became a Magnificent Bastard sociopath with the Goblin persona now seemingly being merged with the original Norman.
- This also goes for Harry Osborn, who came back with a very different personality from his previous one after One More Day (namely that he's not insane and evil anymore).
- Terra of the Teen Titans, when she seemed to be resurrected as Terra II. Terra was originally The Mole and a Psycho for Hire who infamously died due to her own anger, but the second version was an all-around good guy and a straight superhero. It was later revealed and clarified, however, that the second Terra was actually an alien from an underground society modified into looking like the original, at the cost of her losing her memory of her true identity.
- Eventually that explanation was rebooted. She really was Terra brought back from the dead, with her memories and old personality rebooted.
- Compare Black Tarantula's appearances in Spider-Man (late Dark Age) with those in Ed Brubaker's Daredevil (Modern Age). You will be surprised how much he changed, without any reason. And, what's the most scary, it was good for him.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket Racoon, previously a wise-cracking gunslinging racoon who was otherwise jovial and friendly, during Bendis' run on the title he's turned into a near-sociopath who enjoys yelling "Blam! Murdered you!" at everyone he kills, declares he isn't a racoon, and suddenly developed a massive hatred for Earth, despite previously having stated he loves Earth, and our awful TV shows, not to mention his friendship with several humans, including Peter Quill and Corsair.
- Pretty much applies to all the Guardians of the Galaxy under Bendis. Except the ones who were Put on a Bus.
- Sweet Valley High and its spin-offs did this several times with characters who would be introduced in one series but drastically changed in another. Examples:
- Amy Sutton is introduced in Sweet Valley Twins as Elizabeth's best friend who is very similar to her in personality and interests; but is later brought back for Sweet Valley High where, after moving away for a while, she has become a gossipy, fashion-obsessed Alpha Bitch and popular cheerleader who bears almost no resemblance to her former self. A good example of the contrast is a Twins book where Amy fights to be accepted onto the school cheerleading squad, against opposition from the popular Unicorns. By the time of Sweet Valley High however, Amy is a prominent member of the squad and openly bullies girls that she doesn't think are pretty or popular enough to join.
- Enid Rollins went through this no fewer than three times. In Sweet Valley High she is Elizabeth's studious, strait-laced best friend. By the time of Sweet Valley University she had become a shallow, hard-partying sorority girl who had changed her name to Alexandra, in a makeover very similar to Amy's (there was some mention of Enid/Alex wanting to ditch her unpopular image after high school, but all such character development takes place off the page.) By Sweet Valley Confidential, Enid has reverted to her birth name, is a famous gynecologist (although she WASN'T studying medicine at SVU!) and fanatically right-wing. All three versions of the character bear little resemblance to each other. Enid even has a fourth incarnation off the page where it's mentioned in one of the Sweet Valley High books that before moving to Sweet Valley she was a juvenile delinquent with a drug addiction and a criminal record - all of which would be extremely uncharacteristic for the Enid presented in that series.
- Winston Egbert is a loveable nerd in most of the books but by Sweet Valley Confidential has become an arrogant, cynical, bullying misogynist after becoming a millionaire in the computer industry. There are a few throwaway lines about how his wealth changed him but none of it is shown to the reader.
- Animorphs villain Taylor is introduced with her human and Yeerk personalities largely blended together; the real Taylor had been a voluntary Controller, and the Yeerk had been totally enraptured by her new identity. When she reappears ten books later this mental instability is pretty much absent to make her more of a Manipulative Bitch, and human!Taylor tries to warn Tobias not to listen to her.
- Doctor Who Expanded Universe:
- The Bernice Summerfield novels feature a brief appearance by Chris Cwej, the Wide-Eyed Idealist who was the Doctor's companion alongside Benny in the Doctor Who New Adventures. Only now he's a cynical and bitter Time Lord agent who has had his memory altered and believes he was kidnapped by "the evil renegade". Then he regenerates (the Time Lords having given him that ability), so he doesn't even look like the original Chris any more. The Faction Paradox books take it further, with a whole army of "Cwejen": Cwej-Primes are the original tall, blond version, Cwej-Plus are the post-regeneration fat and balding variety, and Cwej-Magnus are bio-armored shock troops. One FP novel involves a Cwej-Prime allying with the Nazis to hunt down renegade Time Lor— ahem, members of the Great Houses.
- In the Past Doctor Adventures novel Instruments of Darkness, the villainous "John Doe" who is using Department C19 resources to allow psychic aliens access to Earth in order to get revenge on the Doctor is strongly hinted to be Jeremy Fitzoliver, Sarah Jane's geeky but well-meaning photographer from the Third Doctor BBC Radio dramas The Paradise of Death and The Ghosts of N-Space.
- Most of the major characters in The Time Paradox suffer from this.
- Messenger: Matty has matured significantly since his appearance in Gathering Blue. Several characters, including himself, make references as to how much he's changed in-between. Justified since the former takes place six years after the latter, and Matty grew from a child into a young adult in that time.
- In the Agent Pendergast novel White Fire which takes place after a notable Time Skip compared to previous books, recurring character Corrie Swanson has dropped her gothic appearance as well as the more rebellious nature she had as a teen. This is due to the line of work she's trying to get into, as she notes that it's hard to take someone getting into law enforcement seriously when they have dyed purple hair and piercings.
Live Action TV
- Amy Madison, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the episode "Witch", she's a quiet young thing whose evil mother has taken over Amy's body. In episodes before she was Put In a Cage she was a witch who was no (or negligibly) more evil than Willow (at the time), but when Amy is reintroduced a couple of seasons later, she's turned pretty much as bad as Mom. Cue the surprisingly consistent Wild Mass Guessing about Mom repossessing Amy after the events of Graduation Day.
- Clare Bates, in EastEnders. She was a regular character in the show as a young teenager back in the 1990s. She was sweet, a doting daughter, and all-round girl scout. Actress Gemma Bissix found fame in a brief stint on Hollyoaks playing a scheming bitch, so the EastEnders writers decided to bring her back as a similar character. Now, 15 years might have passed in between for Clare to turn evil, but it was still a bit disappointing that the writers had to basically turn her previous exit storyline, a happy ending, into a sad one.
- This is why long-term fans of General Hospital cringe whenever they hear a beloved character from the 1980's is coming back.
- Paul Robinson was one of the main characters in the golden age of Australian soap opera Neighbours back in the 80s. Then, he was greedy and ambitious, though he usually managed to do the right thing in the end. Cut to 20 years later, and a new batch of writers think that the show needs a villain. Well, who better than the soap's original bad boy Paul? Unfortunately, the new writers misremembered how bad Paul had been - his first act upon returning was to burn down the Lasitters hotel complex, murdering a minor character who got in his way. His evil behaviour continued for a while until the writers relented and wrote in a storyline where he had a brain tumour which had affected his personality. It didn't stick however and he was soon back to blackmailing, stealing, sabotaging building sites and generally wrecking lives, although he wasn't quite as bad as when he first came back.
- Power Rangers Dino Thunder brought back the original Sixth Ranger, Tommy Oliver, as the mentor to the new team. While his personality wasn't too far off from his original portrayal, we're supposed to accept that in the six or seven years since we last saw him he got a doctorate in paleontology and worked on some secret dinosaur-related research, and that he's now a high school teacher. Now we would probably accept it without question if it was Tommy's teammate Billy, an established TV Genius, that did that, but when Tommy's excuse in the original series for arriving late to fights was being forgetful...
- Merlin Morgana goes from idealist Well-Intentioned Extremist driven to villainy to make things fair and because she takes everything emotionally to less emotional person, who rarely thinks to improve the things in Camelot once she has taken it over, out of stress.
- In Scrubs Danni Sullivan was introduced as a love interest for J.D. and during her initial appearances she was a fun, likable, sensitive girl whose only real flaw was that she wanted a serious relationship while J.D. was still interested in Elliot. After breaking up with J.D. she left the show only to return sometime later as a chain smoking, self absorbed, airhead party girl. The show Handwaved her totally different personality as being a result of her trying to be what she thought J.D. wanted in a girl.
- Done as one of the main plot points regarding Tony Almeida on 24 during its penultimate season, who's transformed into a goateed crook in a leather jacket looking to take down the government and anyone else involved. Then it gets double subverted: first Jack discovers that Tony is actually working undercover with them in order to bring them down from within because he still refuses to let any innocent lives get taken. Then over halfway through the season it's revealed that that's all an act too and Tony is attempting to avenge the murder of his wife regardless of who gets killed in the crossfire.
- This was said about Jeanne Reed on Adam-12 when considering the difference between her early appearance and her re-appearance (played by a different actress) in the two part series finale. Aside from some style changes, her attitude about Jim's job was totally different and she wanted him to quit.
- Doctor Who:
- (In)famously used with Glitz, who was written into a second episode at the last moment to replace a new character and gained a level in Jerk Ass in the process. Although given that his first episode saw him planning to shoot the Doctor in the back simply because he might get in his way, it was practically a Heel-Face Turn.
- The Brigadier also suffers from this at one point, appearing in a story that was originally intended for science teacher Ian (who'd been absent from the show for decades). The solution? Remove all references to Ian, and make the Brigadier a maths teacher.
- Intended as one-shot villains and brought back due to popular demand, the Daleks in the first Dalek serial, "The Daleks", are much more technologically inferior than the Dalek Earth invasion force from the next Dalek serial, "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", which the Doctor says took place a million years earlier. In addition to this, they have entirely different personalities, physical appearances, motivations, weaknesses, battle tactics, military hierarchy and culture; are a lot more of a physical threat rather than their borderline The Grotesque characterisation before; and begin to show much more of the shrieking authoritarianism that they would later become famous for (when in "The Daleks" they just spoke in a funny way). The Invasion Daleks are much better and more threatening, though, and it was these versions of them that became the standard used in future Dalek stories.
- Varga plants show up in "Mission to the Unknown" and "The Daleks' Master Plan" (the first story being a direct prequel to the latter), in which they are The Virus - they walk around on their roots, stab people with three-inch thorns and anyone hit with their toxin slowly transforms into one, losing their mind in the process. They eventually show up almost fifty years later in the Doctor Who adventure game "City of the Daleks", as much smaller Man Eating Plants with pointedly immobile roots that rhythmically shoot out tentacles to grab food.
- The Master warrants a mention, even with the fact that the regeneration mechanic (and the fact that he stole a lot of bodies) allows him to drastically reinvent his personality offscreen. First he was a Diabolical Mastermind and the Doctor's Friendly Enemy, then an unspeakable rotting thing, then a Faux Affably Evil over-the-top villain who eventually takes on several animalistic traits thanks to a virus he encounters in one story - all reasonably logical and explicable. Then in the TV Movie he gets executed by the Daleks off-screen, and suddenly returns as a rather phallic-looking red ghost snake who possesses an ambulance driver and turns him into a Captain Ersatz of The Terminator with acid saliva (losing his trademark hypnotic powers in the process). After which he returns as a Psychopathic Manchild President Evil intended to be a much closer Evil Counterpart, with the Freudian Excuse that he constantly heard war drums beating in his head his whole life due to the Time Lords implanting it in his brain, and while he gets his hypnotic powers back they work in a completely different way.
- The Macra first show up as hyperintelligent, spacefaring crab monsters with hypnotic powers in "The Macra Terror", and return 40 years later in "Gridlock" as much bigger crab monsters that are no longer sapient and have no psychic powers. One reference book even holds that the Macra from "Gridlock" escaped from the New New York Zoo when the power failed, suggesting they were non-sapient to begin with. The non-sapient Macra show up in an Eleventh Doctor Choose Your Own Adventure book as well.
- The Great Intelligence has Blue and Orange Morality in "The Abominable Snowman", no human emotions, and explicitly states that it has no need for or understanding of revenge. When it reappeared after 44 years in "The Name of the Doctor", it is obsessed with getting revenge on the Doctor.
- Paul Robinette, of Law & Order, got hit with this. Being the main prosecutor's Number Two for Season's 1-3, and also black, he would occasionally offer insight into racially charged cases. Sometimes he'd take flak from the defense for "siding against his race", sometimes he'd object to how a case was being handled, but his "blackness" wasn't his defining trait. He came back in Season 6 as a defense attorney with Malcolm Xerox leanings, with everyone surprised by the change. At the end of the episode, he tells McCoy that once where he was asked if he was a lawyer who happened to be black, or vice-versa. Paul admits that he thought he was the former, but wasn't.
- On LOST Claire skipped a season and went from a cute, sweet Morality Pet (acting as Mama Bear whenever her child was threatened) to an Ax-Crazy Survivalist, having Go Mad from the Isolation and some off-screen torture. This was all part of her planned character arc however.
- Durthu the Treeman, from Warhammer's Wood Elf army, started out in the late 90s as a wise, kindly, fatherly figure among the Treemen, who nevertheless hated the Dwarfs who were cutting down and burning his forest home. He stopped being available as a special character as of the release of the 6th edition of the game in 2000, but was mentioned once or twice - with his original personality more or less the same - in the 2005 6th edition Wood Elf army book (indeed, he was seen as something of a moderating influence on the more warlike of his kin). Fast forward to the 2014 8th edition Wood Elf book and Durthu is a fanatical spirit of hatred, death and vengeance. Thanks to a run in with the fire and axes of the Dwarfs he is now a charred ruin of a treeman, obsessed with destroying the enemies of the forest at all costs.
- Touhou has sort of a weird example. There was a unofficial Continuity Reboot between the fifth and the sixth games (there's some evidence the early games are still in continuity, but even more that they're not, and Word of God isn't helping). So, four characters from before the reboot have shown up in later games. They vary from sharing only the name and a few bits of character designnote to just having a noticeably different personalitynote . Later on, ZUN began subverting popular fanon personalities given to various characters by making them the complete opposite in both dialogue and Expanded Universe — for example, Nitori goes from a supposedly shy genius inventor to a racist, grouchy, violent scam artist.
- The 3rd Birthday's Aya Brea is much more unstable, submissive, and frightened than Aya was in Parasite Eve, to the point of seeming helpless no matter how badass you are in the gameplay. This is because she's actually Eve, Aya herself is actually a total badass in a later cutscene.
- Phoenix Wright from the Ace Attorney series was a promising lawyer and a really caring person on the first trilogy. And then came Apollo Justice, 7 years later, where Phoenix was now a hobo who played poker at the basement of a bar, having adopted a daughter months after the end of the last game. Although when you get to play as him, you learn that he's still the same guy on the inside.
- Seems to have come in full circle, because Phoenix is confirmed to be the protagonist of Ace Attorney 5, and yes, he's a lawyer again. For the most part, he seems to have kept the mature, mentor personality, but his inner monologues reveal that sometimes he can be as clueless as his rookie partners.
- Cody Travers of Final Fight is originally portrayed as a motivated and heroic figure, out to save his girlfriend Jessica from the Mad Gear Gang. Later on Capcom brought him back as part of the cast of Street Fighter Alpha 3 but much to the surprise of players, he returned as an escaped convict, complete with prison clothes and handcuffs on his wrists, though his taunt reveals he can take them off at any time if he wished. (Conversely, Guy, Rolento, and Sodom were mostly unchanged from their Final Fight appearances.) Capcom explained that his battle with the Mad Gear Gang had given birth to an addiction to fighting and he was thrown in prison for his constant brawling. Later, in Super Street Fighter IV, he escapes prison again to look for some excitement (with all evidence suggesting he can bust out of jail any time he wants unquestioned) and tells Guy in his ending that prison is where he belongs. Further on, in Final Fight: Streetwise, he falls even further due to a bum knee and juicing on a radical drug in order to stay competitive, though he tries to coach his brother due to the potential Cody sees in Kyle, was said to have deliberately taken the fall for a different crime Guy had committed (Guy also on the receiving end of this trope in Streetwise to a lesser extent), and later regains the full use of his legs thanks to said drug.
- It should be noted, however, that Guy feels, deep down, Cody remains a hero and is willing to fight him to make a point of it and convince Cody to join him in the battle against injustice (hence their Rival Battles in Alpha 3 and SSFIV). Cody himself says he can't idly sit by while evil (like Bison and Seth) is at large (again affirmed by his Street Fighter appearances, particularly his Alpha 3 ending), and depending on the continuity, Cody may have even been falsely accused and jailed for Poison's crimes.
- Cleveland Jr. from Family Guy was portrayed as a little, energetic kid and then was almost never seen anymore for the longest time... until The Cleveland Show when he reappeared transformed into a fat, slow-witted Chris Griffin Expy.
- In the original Ben 10 series, Zombozo was a horrifying emotion vampire who was also a great showman. In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, he's just The Joker with a couple magician-based superpowers.
- With the exception of Grandpa Max, just about every character from Ben 10 fits this trope when they show up in Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien; looking, acting, and sounding completely different than before. This includes Ben, Gwen, Kevin Levin, Cooper, Charmcaster, the Forever Knights, and most infamously, Vilgax. Some of this can be attributed to the five-year Time Skip, but certain changes (like Kevin's lack of sociopathy and rather abrupt Heel-Face Turn) struck the fanbase as ham-fisted.
- Then Ben 10: Omniverse came and the characters ended up completely changing a second time. Basically the franchise now has three different versions of most characters: from the original show, from the two Glen Murakami-helmed sequels, and now this. However, it is largely limited to the animation style and portrayal. Only a few characters act differently than they did before.
- Total Drama kind of did this with Justin. In the first season proper he was very Out of Focus—he only spoke in the first episode and got voted off around episode five. In the first season special, however, he talks a lot more and is presented as a rather crafty antagonist. Season two continued with this characterization and set him up as the new villain, only to forget about that arc and replace him with Courtney, who is a straight-up case of Character Derailment.
- The Hyperion studio's Itsy Bitsy Spider (spun off from the short subject that played in theaters with the feature Bebe's Kids) series had a little Meganekko girl named Leslie as Itsy's friend. Leslie went from being sweet and introverted in the first season to kind of bitchy in the second.
- One of the big draws of Beast Wars was its heightened focus on character development as opposed to G1. So when its direct sequel series, Beast Machines, brought certain characters back into the fold, well... the usual complaints when a new TF property comes out seemed justified for once. Without naming names - for fear of Walls of Text, 'cause it applies to pretty much everyone - many characters were themselves In Name Only. Worst, certain characters who were altruistic to a fault in Beast Wars spontaneously became not so nice, if not outright Ax-Crazy.
- In Adventure Time Xergiok the Goblin King was introduced as a tyrant whom Finn and Jake had to defeat. He reappears seasons later having been magically blinded, peacefully caring for a flock of giant birds. He goes through a Face Heel Revolving Door, temporarily turning evil again.
- Goofy and Pete had sons in various Classic Disney Shorts (some of the fatherhood-related The Everyman sketches for the former, and the Donald Duck cartoon "Bellboy Donald" for the latter). They had sons decades later in the Goof Troop series (and a few other sources in Goofy's case). Within this time:
- Goofy Jr. gained ears, turned from a redhead with a pink nose to being colored the same way as his dad, became much more serious and also more of a Rounded Character (since Goofy Jr. was mainly a plot device), and got a name change to Max. There was a brief transition period in the comics, though.
- Pete Jr. got smaller ears, got fatter, had his voice pitched up roughly two or three octaves (despite being older), and made a 180 degree personality change from being bratty, conniving, and sadistic to being a sweet and unassuming textbook Woobie. Oh, and he started going by "PJ" instead of "Junior."