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Adaptational Backstory Change

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An adaptation changes elements of a character's origin or completely revamps it

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Pichu-kun on May 28th 2017 at 8:28:32 AM
Last Edited By:
Pichu-kun on May 30th 2018 at 6:08:53 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

A staple of Setting Updates and Lighter and Softer adaptations, the Adaptation Backstory Change occurs when a character's origin or background is edited or expanded upon in adaptations. This can be anything from minor details to a completely different origin. This is most prominent with superhero characters but happens to others as well.

Sub-trope to Adaptation Deviation and Adaptation Expansion. Can be related to or cause an Adaptation Origin Connection.


Examples:

Anime & Manga

  • A The Legend of Zelda manga had Link as a bullied half-elf boy. Unknown to him, he's the older half-brother of Princess Zelda. Link's backstory is never given in The Legend of Zelda but it's never mentioned that he's anything but a Hylian Kid Hero sent to save the (unrelated) Princess Zelda due to him being The Chosen One.
  • Pokémon:
    • The anime removes all references to May and Serena recently moving to their hometowns. This means that they're likely Hoenn and Kalos natives respectively.
    • Iris is now a newbie trainer instead of a Child Prodigy. In the games she is a seasoned trainer who can lead a gym and eventually becomes a champion, but in the anime she only just received her Axew.
    • Adaptation Expansion on Misty and Brock's backstories caused this. Nowhere do the games imply either have large families, nor that Brock's parents ran off and left him Promoted to Parent. Despite her young age, Misty in the games is a gym leader, while in the anime her three older sisters are the actual gym leaders.
    • Implied with Lillie. It hasn't been clarified yet however she doesn't have Nebby, instead she owns an Eevee, and she also isn't a runaway living with Kukui. Lillie is afraid of touching Pokemon, not just seeing them get hurt in battle, as well. This implies heavy changes to her backstory, though her parentage is still the same (and is spoiled only a few episodes in despite being a late-game spoiler). Her brother Gladion isn't associated with Team Skull, giving credit to the notion that their backstories have changed.
  • Adaptation Expansion causes this to many Pokémon Adventures characters whose backstories are largely or completely unspecified in the games:
    • Silver and Green were kidnapped as little kids and were raised, alongside the Johto Elite Four, by Pyrce. None of this is from the games. Years afterwards the games showed Silver's background in the Pokémon Gold and Silver remake. Silver and his father Giovanni parted ways only three years ago, right after Team Rocket disbanded in FireRed and LeafGreen.
    • X, Y, Shauna, Trevor, and Tieno are all childhood friends. In the games only Serena and Calem live in the same town, the protagonist only recently moved as a teenager, and the gang only meets once the plot begins.
    • Ruby and Sapphire used to play together years ago. In contrast, Brendan and May only just met in the games.
    • Red's backstory is never mentioned but it's implied he has no parents, unlike in the games where Red's mom is one of the only mothers to appear in two separate titles. In the games Red and Blue are childhood friends but in the manga they only recently met.
  • Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl Adventure! is loosely based on Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. In the games the protagonist and their rival are normal childhood friends living in Twinleaf Town. They meet the opposite-gender protagonist the day they get their Pokemon. In the manga Hareta is a Wild Child who was abandoned by his dad. Hareta meets Mitsumi when Professor Rowan sends her to get him Hareta and Mitsumi don't meet Jun until several days after Hareta goes on his journey.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Precia Testarossa's fall from grace and the death of her daughter were stated to be the result of an experiment she was performing causing a massive explosion. The movie continuity changed her to an Ignored Expert and the explosion was due to a reactor she was designing that was activated before it could be properly tested. Given the Recursive Canon nature of the movies, Fate probably insisted on these changes so that her mother would be portrayed more sympathetically.
  • The 2003 anime of Fullmetal Alchemist changed the order in which Winry's parents died. In the manga they died after Trisha, while in the 2003 anime they died beforehand.
  • In the Welcome to the N.H.K. manga, Misaki lied about being abused by her parents. In the anime and original light novel that is the truth.

Comic Books

  • In Jem Shana and Aja were one of many foster girls the Bentons took care of. They were the original two so they became close friends with Jerrica and Benton. In Jem and the Holograms, they were the only foster/adopted children of the Bentons. This means that the comic puts much more emphasis on them being the Happily Adopted sisters of Jerrica and Kimber, rather than treating them as simply True Companions.

Film — Live Action

  • This happened in general with Marvel Cinematic Universe, which changed not just the time of the origins of superheroes and villants setted in our time, also there're various heavy modifications compared to the original source. A good example is Hydra organization, which was founded by Red Skull as the scientist arm of the Nazi in the 40s instead being just an evil organization founded by Baron Zemo that allied the Nazi as in the comic books.
  • Wonder Woman (2017) mixes Wonder Woman's pre-New 52 and New 52 origins together. It's implied that she was created from clay however Zeus gave her life instead of the other gods. This makes Diana non-blood related half-siblings with the Big Bad Ares.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: In the 1983 animated series, the episode, "The Chipmunk Story" reveals that infant versions of Alvin, Simon, and Theodore were left at the door of Dave Seville's house by their mother, due to it being a particularly brutal winter, and she hadn't had the resources to feed them. In the 2007 live-action movie, Alvin, Simon, and Theodore lived in a tree from the forest that was being cut down and used as a Christmas tree for the company Dave worked for, and stowed away in a muffin basket that Dave stole from a co-worker.

Video Games

Web Original

  • DC Superhero Girls does this to a majority of the cast due to them being Younger and Hipper and due to the amount of Adaptational Heroism. Most characters backstories haven't been discussed throughly but it's fair game to believe that most have been edited:
    • Harley Quinn's Start of Darkness in the comics was her meeting The Joker when she was a psychiatrist/psychologist at Arkham Asylum. Harley in DC Superhero Girls is too young to be a psychiatrist (under most circumstances) and was bullied by the Joker when she was younger. Her backstory has only briefly been mentioned. Harley had wanted to be a superhero since she was little, so she probably worked hard to get into the Superhero School given that she's a Badass Normal with no powers. Harley is a through-and-through hero unlike her villainous (occasionally Anti-Hero) comic book version.
    • Batgirl's origin didn't involve Batman at all. She received her title without any relation to Batwoman or Batman, unlike in her other incarnations where she intentionally styled herself after Batman. She received her name due to Supergirl, who called her "Bat Girl" due to Barbara liking bats.
    • Starfire and her sister Blackfire are friends, not enemies, for once. This obviously means Starfire was never made a slave. It's more likely that the reason she is on Earth is just because she chose Superhero High to be her high school.
    • Katana's comic backstory makes no sense anymore due to her young age. Her sword isn't even implied to be the soul-taker it is in the comics. It's just a normal sword.

Western Animation

  • Teen Titans:
    • Cyborg's origin was shown in the Teen Titans Go! tie-in comic. He used to love racing cars but one day got into an accident. He was saved but only by replacing his damaged body with cybernetic parts. In the comics Cyborg was injured in a scientific accident that also killed his mother.
    • Beast Boy's true origin is never referenced however his time with the Doom Patrol is. In the Teen Titan verse they were Spared by the Adaptation, simply missing instead of Killed Off for Real. Beast Boy also never had his pre-80s element, such as trying (and failing) to join the Teen Titans due to not having parental permission.
    • Starfire was still enslaved however she ended up escaping early on. This mean that her backstory lacks the Rape as Backstory and years of abuse that her comic version suffered.
    • Robin's backstory is never discussed, however he seems to have the same origin that Dick Grayson always has. He however doesn't have his pre-New Teen Titans friendships with characters like Donna Troy, Roy Harper, and Garth.
  • Teen Titans Go! is a Denser and Wackier adaptation of the 2003 Teen Titans cartoon that changes the characters backstories further:
    • In one episode it's shown that Cyborg was always a robot, even as an infant. A later episode had him reveal that he was a high school football star who was in an accident. This changes his backstory from the 2003 cartoon to be more in-line with his comic backstory.
    • Starfire's backstory is that she was the heir to her planet, however her jealous sister betrayed her and exiled her to Earth. This removes the slavery aspect of her backstory.
  • Young Justice:
    • Miss Martian is a half-White Martian, half-Green Martian mix. White Martians suffer from heavy discrimination by Green Martians. This is in heavy contrast to the comics where Martian Manhunter was the only Green Martian at the time and M'gann was fully White Martian. She was the White Sheep of the Always Chaotic Evil of White Martians. In the comics, she is also an only child with deceased parents. In the cartoon she has many siblings, living parents, and is Martian Manhunter's biological niece.
    • Beast Boy's origin is completely changed. In the comics his parents were scientists living in a jungle. As a toddler Garfield received an injury and the only way to save him was to use an experimental drug, which ended up changing his body to green and giving him superpowers. His parents later died and Garfield was adopted into the Doom Patrol as "Changeling". They to died and he eventually became a Teen Titan, All this was removed in Young Justice. Garfield met the unnamed team as a kid while living with his single ex-actress mother. His green skin and superpowers are due to Miss Martian using her powers to save him. Garfield's mom died during the timeskip and he was taken in by Miss Martian.
  • Hawkgirl in the comics was primarily Hawkman's girlfriend, and both their backstories were caught in an infamous Continuity Snarl: DC couldn't decide if they were reincarnations of ancient Egyptian heroes, or Human Alien law enforcement officers from planet Thanagar. For her appearance in Justice League, Hawkgirl was reimagined as a hero completely independent of Hawkman. She was still a Thanagarian police officer, though teleported to Earth by accident and searching for a way home—until the season 2 finale revealed that whole backstory was a lie, and she was actually a spy for Thanagar's invasion force. Then later seasons teased the possibility that she was the reincarnation of a marooned Thanagarian who ruled over ancient Egypt as a queen, but the series never confirmed if that was true or not.
  • In the comics and previous animated shows, Venom is an alien creature, but in Ultimate Spider-Man, it's been created from Spider-Man's blood.
  • Earthworm Jim:
    • The manual for the original Earthworm Jim video game states that the reason why Professor-Monkey-For-A-Head can't make another super suit identical to Jim's is because his monkey half ate the plans. In the cartoon series, the reason why he can't make another super suit is because he doesn't have a spare Battery of the Gods, and the Gods are not willing to give one to him.
    • Another notable example is Princess What's-Her-Name, from being the typical (and apathetic) Damsel in Distress in the games to an Action Girl with a major role in the cartoon series.

Feedback: 20 replies

May 28th 2017 at 8:29:13 AM

I could have sworn I saw this as a trope or YKTTW but I couldn't find it.

May 28th 2017 at 9:46:32 PM

Film:

  • This happened in general with Marvel Cinematic Universe, which changed not just the time of the origins of superheroes and villants setted in our time, also there're varios heavy modifications compared to the original source. A good example is Hydra organization, which was founded by Red Skull as the scientist arm of the Nazi in the 40s instead being just an evil organization founded by Baron Zemo that allied the Nazi as in the comic books.

Jun 16th 2017 at 12:11:23 AM

  • In the comics and previous animated shows, Venom is an alien creature, but in Ultimate Spider-Man, it's been created from Spider-Man's blood.

Jun 16th 2017 at 4:20:02 AM

Please answer my question.

Jun 16th 2017 at 4:20:03 AM

Please answer my question.

Jun 17th 2017 at 12:33:04 PM

^ Multiple Choice Past would be within the same continuity.

  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Precia Testarossa's fall from grace and the death of her daughter were stated to be the result of an experiment she was performing causing a massive explosion. The movie continuity changed her to an Ignored Expert and the explosion was due to a reactor she was designing that was activated before it could be properly tested. Given the Recursive Canon nature of the movies, Fate probably insisted on these changes so that her mother would be portrayed more sympathetically.

Jun 17th 2017 at 2:50:12 PM

Western Animation:

  • Hawkgirl in the comics was primarily Hawkman's girlfriend, and both their backstories were caught in an infamous Continuity Snarl: DC couldn't decide if they were reincarnations of ancient Egyptian heroes, or Human Alien law enforcement officers from planet Thanagar. For her appearance in Justice League, Hawkgirl was reimagined as a hero completely independent of Hawkman. She was still a Thanagarian police officer, though teleported to Earth by accident and searching for a way home—until the season 2 finale revealed that whole backstory was a lie, and she was actually a spy for Thanagar's invasion force. Then later seasons teased the possibility that she was the reincarnation of a marooned Thanagarian who ruled over ancient Egypt as a queen, but the series never confirmed if that was true or not.

Aug 2nd 2017 at 6:54:02 PM

Video Games

Aug 24th 2017 at 8:56:29 AM

Another Earthworm Jim reference:

Aug 25th 2017 at 11:09:13 AM

Aug 25th 2017 at 12:17:32 PM

  • Comic Books- Cassandra Cain (Black Bat/ Batgirl) was given a slightly different origin in the New 52, involving a secretive human-trafficking organization run by a villain called Mother. The general premise of her backstory remains the same, she was still raised without spoken language so she could learn the language of the body fluently.

Aug 27th 2017 at 9:10:41 AM

^ Superhero origins change all the time, especially in reboots. I don't think they should be noted unless it's an adaptation.

Nov 26th 2017 at 6:23:08 AM

[[Tropers/Pichu-kun pichu-kun]],you do the crosswicking from and to Adaptational Backstory Change

Nov 26th 2017 at 1:35:01 PM

Unlaunched as there's no discussion on launching. Culprit called in.

May 30th 2018 at 6:08:53 PM

Launching because it doesn't seem to be going anywhere, has enough hats, and there aren't many complaints.

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