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Captain Ersatz / Literature

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  • Sometime after Arthur Conan Doyle had publicly announced that no more Sherlock Holmes tales would be forthcoming, a young August Derleth wrote to Doyle for permission to carry on using a pastiche; Doyle approved the idea, and Derleth began a series of tales, eventually to run over 40 years, about Solar Pons, often reckoned the best of the many Holmes pastiches.
  • Similarly, before Sherlock Holmes lapsed into the public domain, several novels pitted Arsène Lupin against "Herlock Sholmes". And actually continue to do so, in the French-speaking world at least.
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  • Buratino is an expy of Pinocchio, in Aleksey Tolstoy's The Golden Key, or the Adventures of Buratino, if much nicer and with a different resolution.
  • Douglas Adams's book Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency was based on a script he'd written for Doctor Who ("Shada") that had never been completed due to a studio workers' strike. The character of Dirk Gently was created to replace the Doctor in the book, and the character of Richard MacDuff created as a Companion figure. Dirk Gently proved such an engaging character that Adams wrote a sequel, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, and was working on a third book when he died. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency actually borrows from both the above mentioned Shada and another Doctor Who serial, City of Death, which Adams co-wrote. Compare the Big Bad's plan in both.
    • The character of Professor Chronotis is lifted straight from Shada, in which he is a Time Lord who uses his room as a TARDIS. The version in Dirk Gently uses the first name "Urban" (but usually the nickname 'Reg'), gains a fondness for magic tricks, and is never specifically acknowledged to be a Time Lord, but makes a few implications that he has been alive for hundreds of years and possibly used to have multiple faces...
  • Similarly, Life, the Universe and Everything was largely based on his proposed script for a Doctor Who story, "Doctor Who versus the Krikkitmen". The role of the Doctor was taken by Slartibartfast (and towards the end by Trillian), largely because none of the other shiftless main characters of the Guide universe fit the bill.
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  • In The Dresden Files novel Proven Guilty, spirits that feed on fear manifest at a horror movie convention and thus take the forms of Totally-Not-Freddy, Jason, and other slashers to attack people.
  • Kim Newman:
    • In The Quorum, several of the characters are fans of Captain Ersatz comics characters Amazon Queen (Wonder Woman) and The Streak (The Flash), with shades of Superman), and one is a comics writer creating Crisis on Infinite Earths-style series about them for comics company "ZC".
    • The Quorum also mentions Dr. Shade, a British comics character who resembles The Shadow, whose first appearance was in Newman's story "The Original Dr. Shade", which in the course of describing the character's fictional publishing history performs a Lampshade Hanging by mentioning that The Shadow's publishers once sued over the resemblance.
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    • Amazon Queen and The Streak also appear in "Coastal City", along with Green Masque (Black Canary), the Darkangel (Batman), Gecko-Man (Spider-Man), the Outcasts (X-Men), Teensy Teen (The Wasp) and Blubber Boy (sort-of Giant Man), Vindicator (a cyborg version of The Punisher) and Nightgaunt (probably Spawn).
    • Anno Dracula
      • Secret agent Hamish Bond in Dracula Cha-Cha-Cha.
      • "The Other Side of Midnight" includes a vampire slayer by the name of Barbie Winters.
      • The unnamed detective who narrates the Anno Dracula story "Castles in the Air" and the Diogenes Club stories "The Big Fish" and "Seven Stars: The Trouble With Barrymore". The Who's Who at the back of The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club (which calls him "the Gumshoe") comments that if he's not Philip Marlowe then it's a very big coincidence. (In the case of the Anno Dracula version, this coincidence extends to retiring to Poodle Springs.)
  • Michael Shea's novel Nift the Lean was written as a sequel to Jack Vance's first Cugel the Clever novel before Vance himself wrote an official sequel. Thus, Nift is a Captain Ersatz of Cugel. However, since Nift is paired with a Barbarian Hero named Barnar, there's another level of ersatzes, as Barnar and Nift are respectively based off of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.
  • Minister Faust's From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain features several of these: Omnipotent Man (Superman), Flying Squirrel (Batman), Iron Maiden (Wonder Woman/Thor) and Fly Brother (Spider-Man).
  • In a rather bizarre example, where Captain Ersatz meets Ascended Fanon or who-knows-what, an erotic romance novel called The Stranger by Portia da Costa features an expy of the Eighth Doctor. He has the same name as the actor who played Eight (Paul), and is almost exactly the same other than the name , including the amnesia. And the heroine's surname, as some who've watched Withnail & I may know, was the surname of another character Paul McGann played. Oddly enough, this all merits a sort of Continuity Nod in a Tie-In Novel - the heroine is mentioned as someone the Doctor knew . Fandom has speculated about which Tie-In Novel writer is "Portia da Costa". So this means the Doctor has a published and semi-canon A Date with Rosie Palms full of Narm, among other things, out there.
  • Most of the superheroes in Perry Moore's young adult novel Hero are blatant parodies of DC characters, Warrior Woman being the most obvious. The Man in Black is Batman, The Spectrum is Green Lantern, King of the Sea is Aquaman, and Uberman and Justice are Superman.
  • Doctor Who again: In the Faction Paradox series the Time Lords become the Great Houses, who travel in Timeships (TARDISes) and are led by a War King who is clearly the Master. The Homeworld of the Great Houses was formerly defended by artificial beings called "casts" (Shaydes from the DWM comic strip), and an attempt to produce semi-sentient casts created homicidal maniacs called "babels" (N-Forms from the Eighth Doctor novels). The Doctor himself is only referred to as "the Evil Renegade".
    • The short story "Now or Thereabouts" features a Faction recruit called Ceol, who is Kelsey from the pilot of The Sarah Jane Adventures, complete with references to her pink tracksuit and a friend called Maria who went to America.
    • When Telos Publishing lost its rights to publish Doctor Who Expanded Universe material with the new series, they started making their own series, "Time Hunter", about a gentleman time traveller named Honoré Lechasseur and his travelling companion Emily.
  • In What They Did To Princess Paragon by Robert Rodi, the eponymous Princess Paragon is very obviously Wonder Woman. Other characters created by Bang Comics include Acme-Man (Superman), the urban vigilante Moonman (Batman, complete with campy 60s TV series), and other members of the Freedom Front (Justice League of America). Bang's rivals Electric Comics, meanwhile, created the explorer-team The Quasar Quintet (Fantastic Four), the irradiated monster Sherman Tank (Incredible Hulk), and the superhero team The Offenders (The Avengers).
  • The Vord in the Codex Alera are straight out of StarCraft. If you're not thinking "Zerg Rush kekekekeke" by halfway through Academ's Fury, you're doing something wrong.
    • The Zerg in turn are based on the aliens from, well, Aliens, just like the Protoss are based on the Predator race from guess-which-film.
    • In addition, according to Jim, High Lord and Lady Placida are based on Count and Countess Aral and Cordelia Vorkosigan.
  • Before creating the Wold Newton Family, Philip José Farmer wrote a series of novels about John Cloamby, Lord Grandrith, who was raised by apes, and his half-brother Doc Caliban, a two-fisted adventurer. As well as serving as a Deconstruction of the pulps, these books advanced Farmer's early theories about the relationship between Tarzan and Doc Savage, without actually naming names.
  • Reading the Ciaphas Cain novel Cain's Last Stand, it becomes obvious that Varan the Undefeatable is this to Adolf Hitler, down to being described as looking exactly like him down to the moustasche and flashy uniforms, along with a similar personality. If it weren't for the mutations he has in the book, one would think Hitler himself paid visit to the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
    • And it's pretty much open knowledge that the entire Ciaphas Cain series is a 40k version of Flashman.
      • Although with the caveat that Cain is a much more likable character than Flashy himself.
  • In Mary Gaitskill's novel Two Girls, Fat and Thin, Dorothy, the "fat girl" of the title, is a devotee (and at one point, employee) of novelist "Anna Granite" and her philosophy of "Definitism."
  • Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia series, start out as an Expy of Jesus until the third book, where he become clearly a Captain Ersatz of Jesus... until the Last Battle, where Lewis hinted, before commented out right Aslan's real world identity explicitly.
  • This is a repeating theme in Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City, which contains numerous Captains Ersatz of various culture references large and small. Interestingly, just as many and varied cultural touchstones are included as themselves, helping create a pervasive feeling of a pop cultural zeitgeist almost but not entirely our own. A few examples:
    • One major character was the ghostwriter for eccentric playboy physicist Emil Junrow's witty memoir I Can't Quite Believe You Said That, Dr. Junrow, who as described bears no small resemblance to Richard Feynman, eccentric playboy physicist and writer of the witty memoir "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!"
    • The Muppets are replaced in the pop culture of this world by "Gnuppets"
    • Russ Grinspoon, described as "the lamer half of [the] well-forgotten seventies smooth-rock duo Grinspoon and Hale" is likely meant as an Alternate Universe Art Garfunkel.
  • The main character of the superhero satire Super Folks by Robert Mayer has powers more-or-less identical to Superman (who's specified as missing and presumed dead at the beginning of the book). His secret identity is named David Brinkley, and because he comes from the planet Cronk, he's vulnerable to Cronkite. The book also includes ersatzen of Plastic Man and Mr. Mxyzptlk, among loads of others.
  • The Sundering deliberately echoes The Lord of the Rings (but written from the villains' point of view), so the vast majority of characters directly correspond to someone from Tolkien's legendarium.
  • Clifford the Big Red Dog featured a parody of Harry Potter called Peter Poundstone.
  • Al Ewing's contributions to the Pax Britannia Shared Universe (set in a Steampunk Dystopia 20th century) feature El Sombra, a masked swordsman named Djego, whose main difference from Zorro is that he's decidedly not a nobleman. Gods Of Manhattan is a Two-Fisted Tales pastiche which also includes Doc Thunder (Doc Savage with a dash of Hugo Danner), the Blood Spider (The Shadow with elements of The Spider), the Blue Ghost (The Spirit) and Jack Scorpio, Agent of S.T.E.A.M. (Nick Fury). The follow-up Pax Omega has Doc Thunder's powers develop until he's Superman, and Jack Scorpio's Yodelling Bastards (Howling Commandos) who include El Sombra, Blood Widow (Blood Spider's ex; Black Widow with M.J. Watson elements), Richard Reed (Reed Richards; his ancestor Franklin Reed is a play on Mr Fantastic's son, but is also a Captain Ersatz of Frank Reade and similar Dime Novel Teen Geniuses) and Mike Moses (B.A. Baracus).
  • In Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible, CoreFire, Elphin, and Blackwolf are easily recognizable pastiches of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman, respectively. Other characters are also less-obviously drawn from other Marvel and DC characters. The central superhero group is sort of like a cross between the Avengers and the JLA, Doctor Impossible is a bit Lex Luthor plus superpowers (and sympathy), Damsel is a bit Donna Troy + Ms. Marvel with some Storm thrown in, Rainbow Triumph is obviously Robin, Mister Magic is mostly Doctor Strange, and so on.
  • The EuroTemps short story "If Looks Could Kill", by David Langford, stars the overweight detective Caligula Foxe (Nero Wolfe), along with his legman Charlie Goodman (Archie Goodwin), his chef Franz (Fritz), and his associates Paul Sanza (Saul Panzer) and Terry Carver (Orrie Cather). Also mentioned are Charlie's lady friend Lila (Lily Rowan), paranorm detective Sally Cole (Sally Colt), and journalist Ron Cohen (Lon Cohen). DPR official Mr Cream might be intended as Inspector Cramer.
  • The Clive Cussler Dirk Pitt Adventures novel Night Probe! includes a British agent, Brian Shaw, who is hinted - strongly hinted - to be James Bond.
  • Among the background weirdos who wander through the Nightside, there've been numerous references to "the Travelling Doctor".
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe:
    • The Past Doctor Adventures novel The Indestructable Man is basically a long homage to/deconstruction of various Gerry Anderson series:
      • The Sharon family and their Global Response organisation are the Tracys and International Rescue. ("Sharon" = "Tracy" is a reference to Birds of a Feather.)
      • Dwight "Boffin" Graham is "Brains" Hackenbacker. (Named after voice actor David Graham.)
      • The LIGHTNING vehicles are the Thunderbirds.
      • The eponymous Indestructable Man, Captain Grant Matthews, is Captain Scarlet. (Names after Cary Grant, whom the puppet was modeled on, and voice actor Francis Matthews.)
      • PRISM, the organisation Matthews works for, is SPECTRUM.
      • Carl Taylor/Captain Death is Conrad Turner/Captain Black.
      • SKYHOME is Cloudbase.
      • Capt Adam Nelson is Adam Svenson/Captain Blue
      • Lt Neville Verdana is Lieutenent Green.
      • Colonel LeBlanc is Colonel White.
      • The CHERUBS are the Angels.
      • SILOET, the successor to PRISM, is SHADO.
      • Hal Bishop is Ed Straker. (Named after actor Ed Bishop.)
      • Alex Storm is Alec Freeman
      • Dr Ventham is Colonel Lake. (Named after actress Wanda Ventham)
      • Dr Kolvoski is Dr Jackson.
      • Lt Gabrielle is Lt Ellis. (Named after actress Gabrielle Drake)
      • Captain Drake is Captain Carlin.
      • The SILOET Movers are SHADO Mobiles.
      • SKYDIVER is KingFisher
      • Lunar Base is the Moonbase. It's also the Moonbase from Space: 1999.
      • The BLOCKER spacecraft are the Interceptors.
      • The Myloki are the Mysterons, and the unnamed aliens from UFO.
    • In the Doctor Who Missing Adventures novel Burning Heart by Dave Stone, the Habitat is Mega-City One and Adjudicator Craator is Judge Dredd. Virgin Publishing actually had the rights to publish Judge Dredd novels at the time, some of which were by Stone, and apparently he was already writing the book before they decided it wasn't going to be a crossover.
    • In the Eighth Doctor Adventures novel The Crooked World the TARDIS lands in an Alternate Tooniverse. Most of the characters the Doctor encounters are Captain Ersatzes:
      • The Skeleton Crew are Mystery Inc. (Mike Leader, Harmony Looker, Thelma Brains, Tim Coward and Fearless the dog,)
      • Angel Falls is Penelope Pitstop (with Mr Weasely/the Masked Weasel as Sylvester Sneekly/the Hooded Claw).
      • Jasper and Squeak are Tom and Jerry,
      • Streaky Bacon is a combination of Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd, although his carrot-stealing nemesis is...
      • ...The Whatchimacallit, based on the Roadrunner.
    • The Missing Adventures novel The Sorcerer's Apprentice features a no-nonsense witch named Anni Glassfeather, a name which is more than slightly reminiscent of Granny Weatherwax.
    • In the short story "Fallen Angel" by Andy Lane, Lucas Seyton/the Fallen Angel is a Gentleman Thief who only steals from the corrupt rich, has a flippant manner, and leaves a Calling Card with a horned angel behind. In case anyone misses the reference, the Doctor even compares him to "that chap in the stories, what was his name, The Saint?"
    • Seyton later makes a cameo in the Doctor Who Missing Adventures novel The Shadow of Weng-Chiang by David McIntee, which features more prominently a character based on The Shadow, except that instead of being a Mighty Whitey who learned Eastern mysticism, Mr Woo/Yan Cheh is actually Chinese. Hsien-Ko, the immortal daughter of Li H'sen Chang from "The Talons of Weng-Chiang", is somewhat reminiscent of Fu Manchu's daughter Fah Lo Suee, although that might just be because she's a Dragon Lady.
    • The short story "Doctor vs Doctor" by Gareth Roberts in the Doctor Who Annual 2006 features the renowned detective and Locked Room Mystery expert Dr Merrivale Carr, who is Dr. Gideon Fell renamed after his creator and John Dickson Carr's other detective, Sir Henry Merrivale.
  • The writings of Michael Moorcock contain many examples, but most blatantly his more Steampunk/Dieselpunk flavoured works often feature Sir Seaton Begg and Count Zodiac, who are Captains Ersatz of Sexton Blake and his recurring enemy Zenith The Albino. This is partly a Homage on Moorcock's part, as he's made no secret of the fact that his original decision to make Elric an albino was out of fandom for Zenith.
  • Artur Balder's Curdy series is filled with characters a bit too much inspired in some others, the most egregious being one to The Joker.
  • Charles Stross's Laundry novel The Apocalypse Codex features cultured female superspy Penelope Hazard and her rough-diamond minion Johnny MacTavish, who are barely disguised versions of Modesty Blaise and her sidekick Willie Garvin as magicians. It's even lampshaded with Hazard's codename within the Laundry, which is BASHFUL INCENDIARY.
  • Harry Potter and Bào Zǒulóng, often mistranslated as Harry Potter and Leopard-Walk-Up-to-Dragon, includes a dedication to J. K. Rowling, an original first chapter, an introduction to the second chapter introducing Harry the Hobbit, followed by almost the entire text of The Hobbit with chapter names like "Flying Broom 2000" and most of the character names changed to those from Harry Potter. The cover features an ersatz Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty.
  • Harry Potter in Calcutta, by Uttam Ghosh, is about Harry Potter meeting several characters from Bengali literature.
  • Tanya Grotter is a series of Russian fantasy novels by Dmitri Yemets. The first book has a similar plot to The Philosopher's Stone, until the series goes Off the Rails.
  • John Golden has Heroes of Mazaroth as the focus of the second novella. It is World of Warcraft in all but name with a tremendous amount of in-jokes regarding the game.
  • Titus Crow is a intelligent, caring investigator who acquires a time machine clock about the size of a coffin, regenerates into a new body after crashing, and fights evil gods and aliens. Doctor Who had come out a decade earlier.
  • In Moriarty: The Great Game by Michael Kurland, amongst the sinister figures following Benjamin is a fat man named Gottfried Kasper and his obsequious sidekick Ugarti, clearly intended as versions of Casper Gutman and Joel Cairo (with the Cairo character named after Peter Lorre's character in Casablanca, Ugarte).
  • In Captain Cut-Throat by John Dickson Carr, the English spy Alan Hepburn and his wife Madeleine are very reminiscent of Sir Percy Blakeney and his wife Marguerite in The Scarlet Pimpernel. The role of Chauvelin is taken by Historical Domain Character Joseph Fouché, the head of Napoleon's secret police.
  • The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente is a satire on sexist tropes in superhero comics. As such, all six of the main characters are extremely transparent Ersatzes of dead or otherwise maltreated female characters from DC or Marvel:
  • Psychohistorical Crisis by Donald Kingsbury is closely based on the Foundation Series. The unnamed Founder is Hari Seldon; the Overt Arm and Covert Arm of the Plan are the Foundation and the Second Foundation; and the warlord Cloun the Stubborn is the Mule. There's also an ancient robot called Danny-Boy who's a bit of a Take That! to R. Daneel Olivaw and the Canon Welding of Robots and Empire.
  • The Price of the Stars by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald is set a generation after a major interstellar conflict. The heroes of the previous generation include a princess whose entire planet was destroyed by the enemy as an example to those who would resist; her husband, who before he joined the fight was a smuggler who famously did a notoriously difficult bit of navigation with record efficiency; his friend, a tall alien whose species tend to communicate via Bilingual Dialogue; and an adept of an order of psychic Warrior Monks with a signature weapon.


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