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Tainted Expy

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A sequel or adaptation replaces a familiar character with an Expy who does something bad the original would not have done.

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
PaulA on Jun 18th 2017 at 10:04:49 AM
Last Edited By:
PaulA on Jun 7th 2018 at 5:02:30 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

A sequel or adaptation replaces a familiar character with an Expy who does something bad the original would not have done. This gives the writer more freedom, and leaves the original character free to potentially make future appearances without carrying that baggage.

Distinct from the use of a Captain Ersatz to twist or satirize another creator's characters, this is when a creator uses a substitute for their own character, when they could have used the original.

Compare Adaptational Villainy.


Comic Books

  • In Runaways, the Adjudicator is for all intents and purposes an expy of The Punisher. except that he Would Harm A Child.
  • Watchmen features a Cast of Expies of various superheroes originally published by Charlton Comics, such as Nite Owl instead of Blue Beetle. They behave in various unheroic ways, and one of them turns out to be the mastermind behind the conspiracy that drives the plot.

Film - Live Action

  • In The Dark Knight, Detective Ramirez resembles a popular Gotham Police officer in the comics, Renee Montoya. Ramirez turns out to be in the pay of Gotham's organized crime.
  • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Valeris is a younger female Vulcan who has a protegee-mentor relationship with Spock, like Saavik did in three earlier movies. Valeris is revealed to be complicit in the conspiracy to derail the peace negotiations.

Western Animation

  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: "The Criss Cross Conspiracy" features a crime-fighting "Bat Lady" named Katrina Moldoff, who closely resembles Kathy Kane, the original Bat-Woman in the comics. She goes off the rails and tries to kill the Riddler.
  • Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman features a character named Kathy DuQuesne, who is named in reference to Kathy Kane, the Batwoman of the comics. The makers of the movie intended to straight-up name her "Kathy Kane", but were asked by DC to change it because the movie's Kathy is more of a ruthless Anti-Hero than the comic book version.
  • Justice League:
    • "Legends" is a homage to the old comics where the Justice League would travel to a parallel world and team up with its heroes, the Justice Society. In the episode, the heroes the Justice League meet are the Justice Guild, expies of the Justice Society, due to the episode deconstructing the older heroes' old-fashioned attitudes and also the final reveal that the real Justice Guild was killed saving the world, and the versions the Justice League meet are embodied figments of another character's imagination.
    • In "Starcrossed", Earth is visited by a group of Hawkgirl's people, the Thanagarians. The group's leader, Hro Talak, closely resembles Katar Hol, Hawkgirl's Thanagarian partner in the comics, but turns out to have a jerkish personality and and to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist who becomes the story arc's main villain.

Feedback: 24 replies

Jun 18th 2017 at 3:18:02 PM

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Many characters go through an exaggerated Deliberate Values Dissonance in which whatever flaws they had in the original work are turned Up To Eleven or added directly, sometimes representing the prejudices of the time. Thus Professor Moriarty is a homophobe, James Bond is an alcoholic who gets ugly if women dare resist him, Harry Lime is a former member of the Famous Five, Harry Potter is the Antichrist who committed the equivalent of a school shooting at Hogwarts, the Dumbledore equivalent is actually Voldemort, who does not have issues with Dude Shes Like In A Coma, etc. Most of these are Public Domain Characters, but the latter two are very much still the property of their creator, and thus use Writing Around Trademarks.

Jun 18th 2017 at 5:00:58 PM

I'd like to see inversions of this.

Compare Adaptational Villain Upgrade

Jun 18th 2017 at 5:42:33 PM

^^ None of those are expies, though? Like, most of them are just straight-up meant to be the same character with the same name, and a few are Captain Ersatz for legal reasons.

This is when the creator has the rights to a character and could have used the character but chooses to use an Expy instead.

Jun 18th 2017 at 8:26:37 PM

  • In Pokemon Diamond And Pearl Adventure, the main characters Dawn and Lucas from Pokemon Diamond And Pearl are replaced with two new characters named Mitsumi and Hareta. While Hareta is rather similar to Lucas in everything except backstory, Mitsumi looks completely different from Dawn and is eventually revealed to be a Tyke Bomb Team Galactic agent.
  • In Fire Emblem Genealogy Of The Holy War has Eldigan married to a woman named Grahnye, whom the player never gets to meet but is spoken of highly by her son and noted to have mourned her husband until her death. The Oosawa manga adaptation heavily pushes the Eldigan/Lachesis pairing, and instead Eldigan is married to a cold, cruel woman named Iria who hopes to get Lachesis killed and isn't even sad when Eldigan dies, since she knows that Lachesis must be miserable.

Nov 12th 2017 at 1:19:33 PM

Cross Ange: Ange's little sister Sylvia is basically Nunnally, but blond and not blind. Episodes 9 and 10 show that she is actually a heartless witch with a whip.

Nov 12th 2017 at 8:54:48 PM

  • Acw Attorney has Word Of God that Franziska was a late replacement for Edgeworth so that he wouldn't need to keep losing.

Nov 12th 2017 at 11:00:45 PM

This seems to be suffering from But More Specific with Expy.

Nov 16th 2017 at 12:26:49 PM

Videogame/Gatekeepers : Megumi is a strange case in that she coexists with the person she is expying, Misao Sakimori. However, Megumi pulls a Faceā€“Heel Turn in the last episodes of the anmie.

Nov 16th 2017 at 1:28:44 PM

Not sure about the expy association/title, but I think there's a good idea here.

  • In Agatha Christie's The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd, detective Hercule Poirot's usual Watson Captain Hastings is replaced by Dr. James Sheppard, a resident of the village Poirot retired to, who befriends Poiriot. Like Hastings, Sheppard narrates the story. Unlike Hastings though, though, Dr. Sheppard is an Unreliable Narrator, as it's ultimately revealed that he was the killer. Fitting the trope, supposedly the original impetus for the novel was a discussion with one of her siblings about writing a book where Hastings was the killer.

Not sure how to include this in the example, but the two characters are fairly different, being take offs on Doyle's Watson in different ways. Whereas Hastings plays up the idea of The Watson as being kind of dim, Sheppard is a First Person Smartass. However, like Watson, he's a doctor and apparently the friend of the detective.

Nov 16th 2017 at 7:47:26 PM

Season two of Riverdale features Sara Sawyer, an expy of Sabrina Spellman made just for the series.

Jan 12th 2018 at 2:38:55 AM

^ Not this trope, in light of Chilling Adventuresof Sabrina, which straight up makes Sabrina into a Satanic witch, so any darkness "Sara Sawyer" may have simply reflect Sabrina's current state in the comics.

Jan 12th 2018 at 6:41:45 AM

Inverted in Tales Of The Magic Land, where the analogues of the Nomes and their king are good guys (if somewhat paranoid at first).

Jan 12th 2018 at 8:11:39 AM

Threw in a bomb. This certainly isn't ready for launch, even though it's a really good idea for a trope. The title is terrible (it sounds like an Audience Reaction where someone doesn't like an expy) and the description could use fleshing out. Also, there should be mention of Replacement Flat Character, which is a somewhat similar idea, albeit pretty much in reverse.

Jan 12th 2018 at 10:28:46 AM

Considering that this is Expy (already widely misused) + what is arguably an Audience Reaction, I'd say this really needs to be YMMV.

Jan 12th 2018 at 11:29:20 AM

I have to disagree. This shouldn't be an Audience Reaction and care should be taken to make sure it's not treated as such.

It's a storytelling device where an author actively chooses to use an Expy or Suspiciously Similar Substitute in lieu of an established character because it affords them more freedom.

I'd say that it should also be expanded to account for writers not just making the character do things the original wouldn't, but also to avert Like You Would Really Do It and other similar expectations.

Jan 12th 2018 at 12:29:38 PM

Anti Hero Substitute sounds related, almost if it's a subtrope to this

Jan 13th 2018 at 8:43:01 AM

I'm pretty sure that Star Trek VI example doesn't count, as the spoiler was planned to happen with the original character. Especially since that would have given it some emotional weight that it lacked with a complete stranger.

Jan 13th 2018 at 11:44:27 AM

  • Kitten in Teen Titans is an Expy of Duela Dent, and she's far more malicious and sadistic than Duela (who, while zany and irreverent, was never an outright villain like Kitten).

Jan 13th 2018 at 7:50:23 PM

^^ Yes, they considered doing it with the original character. The same can be said about at least half of the examples. The point is that in the end they chose not to.

May 5th 2018 at 6:09:33 PM

Contrast Redeeming Replacement, when the replacement fares better than the original.

May 5th 2018 at 10:34:28 PM

Comic Books

  • In Runaways, the Adjudicator is for all intents and purposes an expy of The Punisher. except that he Would Harm A Child.
  • Holy Terror was originally intended to be a Batman story, but DC balked at the notion of Batman hunting down and killing terrorists, and thus Frank Miller created "The Fixer" as a substitute. Freed from DC's standards and practices department, the Fixer became a much more violent and sadistic character.

Jun 6th 2018 at 7:39:28 PM

Comic Books

  • The Red Ten was created because Tyler James wanted to write a murder mystery involving the Justice League getting picked off one by one, but knew that DC would never go for it, so he created the Alliance as expies.

Jun 7th 2018 at 12:40:05 AM

  • Top Ten has a team of older superheroes as Justice League stand-ins, who faked a war with an alien species and are all pedophiles who molested each other's wards. Atoman ends up manipulated into committing suicide rather than face imprisonment (since the cop manipulating him knew there'd be severe collateral damage if he went down fighting).
  • The Boys has the Seven (also a Justice League stand-in) made up of the most photogenic supers Vought Corporation has produced. They only engage in hedonism at first, but after Vought's attempt to use them to stop 9/11 goes disastrously wrong, they get worse. Queen Maeve takes to drinking to forget the passengers' screams, the Homelander is gaslit into insanity by sending him pictures of his clone committing atrocities, Black Noir (Homelander's clone) is doing the gaslighting because he wants to fulfill his purpose: kill the Homelander if he becomes uncontrollable.