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Adaptational Backstory Change

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A staple of Setting Updates and Lighter and Softer adaptations, the Adaptational 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. Can overlap with Adaptation Expansion if the change involves additions that don't conflict with the canon backstory, and External Retcon if the changes actively conflict with the canon backstory; it may involve only one of the two or both at the same time. Can be related to or cause an Adaptation Origin Connection or an Adaptational Nationality change.

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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.
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    • Lillie doesn't meet Nebby until after she's already met Professor Kukui. In the games Nebby was the reason she ran away from home in the first place. Lillie isn't even a runaway in the anime as it's shown she still lives at home. In the anime, Lillie is afraid of touching Pokemon, not just seeing them get hurt in battle like in Sun and Moon, as well.
    • Lillie's brother Gladion isn't associated with Team Skull, which changes his backstory greatly.
  • Adaptation Expansion causes this to many, many Pokémon Adventures characters whose backstories are largely or completely unspecified in the games, and in many cases just straight-up changes things:
    • All of the protagonists have this to an extent by virtue of already having a Pokemon before they get their starter. One of them, Black, even has a fully-evolved one. The characters who aren’t supposed to represent the player character and don’t appear in-game are also given completely different original backstories, hailing from completely different towns.
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    • 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.
    • Lance is a villain in this series because he grew up with abused Pokemon. He also has magical healing powers. Absolutely none of this is in the games.
    • X, Y, Shauna, Trevor, and Tierno are all childhood friends. In the games only Serena and Calem live in the same town and one of them (the protagonist) only recently moved as a teenager. X also used to be a famous battle prodigy who was hounded into becoming a Hikikomori and already has a Keystone, while in the games both protagonists are new trainers, and they get a Keystone later in the game.
    • 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. Also in the games, Red and Blue are childhood friends but in the manga they only recently met.
    • Blake is an Interpol Officer at the ripe old age of 12. His game counterpart, Nate, is an average kid just like the other game protagonists. Rosa’s counterpart Whitley also used to be part of Team Plasma, while obviously this isn’t the case in the games.
    • Professor Oak was a powerful trainer and is a Champion in his youth. Granted, this is a popular fan theory for the games, but this is never stated.
  • 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. While they both died in the Ishbalan Rebellion in both versions, their killer is different- it was Scar in the manga, and Roy Mustang in the anime.
  • 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.
  • Bokurano
    • Jun Ushiro, and, by extension, his mother, Misumi Tanaka. In the manga, Jun's mother left him with her former teacher, then disappeared not long after he was born. In the anime, Jun's father was killed by his enemies from the Yakuza, and his mother left him with her sister.
    • While Kanji's mother is connected with the Ascension Towers, the circumstances differ between the manga and the anime. In the manga, Kanji's mother helped design the Ascension Towers before she committed suicide, while in the anime, she's a scientist who works in the towers.
    • Both versions of the story show that Machi is from another universe, but while the manga indicates that she and her brother(Koyemshi) were holdovers from their universe's team of pilots, sent to the next one, the anime suggests that she and Koyemshi have gone to several different universes, helping each one win the game.

Comic Books

  • In Jem, Shana and Aja were two of the many foster girls that the Bentons took care of. They were the original two, so they became close friends with Jerrica and Kimber. 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.
  • Wonder Woman and the Amazons get hit with this a lot when the universe gets rebooted:
    • Sometimes, like in Wonder Woman (1987), all the Amazons are women who were killed by men and granted new immortal bodies fashioned of clay by the Greek goddesses, sometimes Diana and Nubia are the only two who were brought to life as fatherless daughters, sometimes Donna is added to this trio of clay Amazons, and in the New 52 Diana was given Cassie's backstory as a demigod daughter of Zeus.
    • In the New 52 the Amazons went from being the pinnacle of peaceful human society meant as a standard and inspiration to us all to a group of misandrist mass murderers and habitual rapists who routinely go out and rape and murder men and then kill any male offspring. This continuity also wiped out their magiteknological advancements and had their tech level trapped in the iron age.
    • The New 52 version of Donna Troy was never Wonder Girl and was created as a murderous misandrist to lead the Amazons in slaughtering their male offspring. This change was undone in Wonder Woman (Rebirth) and Titans (Rebirth) where it's revealed her mind was tampered with and her past as Wonder Girl did really occur. For more on Donna ever changing backstory see Continuity Snarl.Donna Troy
    • In The Legend of Wonder Woman Vol 2 the Amazons are now the creation of Zeus instead of a group of goddesses carefully acting to hide their work from him, Diana's mother and aunts are all the champions of male Olympians and the Amazons are separated from humanity in order to continue providing the gods with worship rather than as a sanctuary away from cruel men.

Comic Strips

  • In the normal Garfield comic strips, Jon Arbuckle's other pet Odie was actually that of his friend Lyman, who appeared for a certain number of strips as Jon's live-in partner and then vanished altogether without explanation. In one of the stories from Garfield: His 9 Lives (the story that retells Garfield's origin), Jon saw that Garfield was lonely and so he bought Odie from the pet store — the same pet store that Garfield was in — and brought him home to keep Garfield company.

Fan Works

  • Empath: The Luckiest Smurf changes the backstory of The Smurfs, from the Smurfs all being sons of Papa Smurf that were born through Delivery Stork to them being the sons of Papa Smurf's fellow Smurfs born through natural physical means, with the parents perishing through an Only Fatal to Adults plague and Papa Smurf having to adopt them all as his sons. Papa Smurf himself is the father of the series' main character Empath, while Brainy, who assumed that he was Papa Smurf's son, was actually fathered by a friend of Papa Smurf who gave Empath's mother another son after it was assumed that Empath was brought to the Psyche Master by Papa Smurf to be put to death. The backstory of the Smurflings is also changed, with Nat, Snappy, and Slouchy being Smurflings that came straight from Smurfling Island where nobody ever ages, and Sassette being an actual female Smurf who was put into a Crystal Prison by an evil female wraith and made to believe that she was an artificially-created female Smurf like Smurfette when she was released years later.
  • Our Own League series:
    • In DC canon, Kara Zor-El escapes Krypton's destruction in a spaceship as Superman did. In Teen Titans: Together for Tomorrow, Kara was in Kandor when the city was shrunken and stolen by Brainiac, and lived imprisoned (and unaging) in the bottled city for thirty years until Superboy helped release her.
    • Rather than because Aquaman accidentally murdered his father, Mera's Exposition in Teen Titans: Witch-Hunt explains David Hyde became the villain Black Manta and swore revenge on Atlantis because his Atlantean lover Sha'laina was brutally executed under suspicion of treason, an event which predates Aquaman's reign.

Film — Live Action

  • This happened in general with Marvel Cinematic Universe, which changed not just the time of the origins of superheroes and villains set in the present, but also made 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 Party in the 40s instead of being just an evil organization founded by Baron Zemo that allied the Nazi as in the comic books.
  • Wonder Woman (2017): The film 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.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse eliminated major chunks of Scott's backstory. Instead of growing up in an orphanage after a plane crash supposedly killed his parents, he lives with his family and knows his brother, who in this universe is older than him.
  • Kim Possible:
    • In the cartoon, Ron brought a baby Rufus from Smarty Mart as a middle schooler. A naked mole rat was the only pet he could find that his father wasn't allergic to. In the live-action adaptation, Ron meets an adult Rufus as a high school freshman. He rescues him from a lab while on a mission with Kim. Rufus' unusual intelligence is stated to be because he was experimented on. Kim's reaction to meeting Rufus is also different: in the cartoon she was disgusted by him and took a while to get used to him, but she instantly likes him in the film.
    • Implied with Shego due to an Adaptational Superpower Change. She no longer has green skin and her Hand Blast power is provided by bracelets. In the cartoon, her green coloring and powers were due to her being a meta-human. Shego's family all gained powers after being hit by a rainbow comet.

Video Games

  • The Resident Evil 2 Remake makes a few changes from the original game.
    • In the original, Leon was late for his first day at work because he had broken up with his girlfriend and drank so much he overslept. In the remake, this has been changed to him receiving a phone call to stay away from Raccoon City and await further orders. After one week of radio silence, Leon decides to go to the city to investigate.
    • Robert Kendo, who was a Nice Guy and handed guns to civilians to protect themselves, reacted with hostility and held Leon at gunpoint and tried to kick him out of the gun shop. Only because his daughter has been infected and he was afraid Leon or Ada would kill her.
    • Despite their shady line of work, William and Annette Birkin were Happily Married. In the remake, though they were still close, Annette confesses to Claire that they were more married to their work instead of each other and became distant.

Web Original

  • DC Super Hero 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 a football player injured in a science 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, removing 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.
    • Finally, this team itself came together as result of fighting the alien slavers that Starfire had recently escaped from, rather than a call from Raven asking for help to take down her father Trigon, as in The New Teen Titans.
  • Teen Titans Go! is a Denser and Wackier adaptation of the 2003 Teen Titans cartoon that actually ended up reinstating most character backstories.
    • While one episode shows Cyborg as always being half-robot, even as an infant, as part of a gag, later episodes confirm that he actually was a high school football star who was in an accident, which is more in-line with his comic book backstory.
    • Starfire's backstory initially replaces the aforementioned slavery aspect with her simply being exiled from her home planet by her older sister, Blackfire. The episode "Real Origins" reveals that this was still very much the case, though she escapes just as early as she did in the 2003 series thanks to Robin.
    • Beast Boy's backstory is elaborated on and revealed to be the same as the comics, with him being a sickly infant whose parents' gave a serum that not only cured him, but also gave him his shapeshifting abilities. With that in mind, this version of the character was never a part of Doom Patrol.
    • The team-up story still differs from the comics, however, as these Titans came together as a result of Dick Grayson wishing to escape the shadow of Batman and actively hunting down sidekicks... er, teammates for a new team. Definitely teammates. (Everyone will know they're really sidekicks, though.)
  • 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 too 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 Marvel Rising: Initiation, Spider-Gwen's backstory sees some minor changes to better fit into the "mainline" universe of the animated series, as the character resides within an alternate universe within the pages of Marvel Comics (Earth-65 rather than Earth-616). In the comics, Gwen Stacy initially used her powers for fun and profit before hearing her father criticize her persona for wasting her talents. Afterwards, she begins crime-fighting, but her commitment to do so is only cemented after she fights the Lizard, who turns out to be her best friend Peter Parker. Peter dies from his injuries after reverting back to normal, and Gwen spends over thirty issues as a fugitive, with the goal of becoming a better hero so her best friend wouldn't have died in vain. In the cartoon, it's implied that this Gwen was a hero from day one. Instead of Peter Parker, her best friend was an Inhuman named Kevin, and rather than him accidentally dying by Gwen's hands, he's murdered by a Kree villain, with Gwen being framed for the crime. Oh, and Gwen Stacy's hero name is changed from "Spider-Woman" to "Ghost Spider", though that change that would later extended to the comics to reduce any possible confusion with Jessica Drew.
  • 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.
  • Sonic Sat AM: Sonic's origin doesn't match the western origin given in Sonic the Hedgehog Bible and Sonic the Hedgehog Promo Comic. In the original origin, Sonic was a prickly brown hedgehog who befriended a human named Dr. Kintobor. Eventually, both Sonic and Kintobor got into an accident that turned Sonic blue and turned the benevolent scientist into the evil Dr. Robotnik. In SatAM, Sonic was always blue, he's more sociable and has been friends with Sally since childhood, and his backstory has nothing to do with Robotnik.
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog show that Sonic met a lost Tails when the latter was a toddler. Sonic reluctantly adopts Tails as his brother. In the games, Tails and Sonic met when Sonic landed on West Side Island. Tails was bullied by others for his two tails but became interested in the cool hedgehog. Sonic originally thought of Tails as just a pesky kid, but after Tails helped him on his adventure Sonic began to respect Tails.
  • In the Johan and Peewit comic books, their first meeting with the Smurfs took place in the story "The Smurfs And The Magic Flute", in which they sought the help of the Smurfs to retrieve a magic flute that Peewit found that was stolen by Matthew McCreep and used for robbery. In the Animated Adaptation that was part of The Smurfs cartoon show, their first meeting happened in "The Cursed Country", where Hefty and Smurfette sought their help in rescuing their fellow Smurfs from being abducted by an evil dragon tamer.
  • Speaking of The Smurfs, the comic books had their first encounter with Gargamel taking place within the present time period in "The Smurfnapper", where Gargamel abducts one Smurf to use for his gold-making formula and the other Smurfs spend the night in Gargamel's hovel seeking an opportunity to rescue the Smurf. In the Animated Adaptation, however, their first meeting with Gargamel happened about ten years prior to the present time period, as revealed in "Gargamel's Time Trip", when Gargamel sought to capture a Smurf to finish his sorcerer's school project so that he could graduate.
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