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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, Adaptational Angst Upgrade, or Adaptational Nationality change.


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    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.

    Films — Animated 
  • The DC Animated Movie Universe version of the Flash has a very different backstory from the comics thanks to a combination of Henry Allen being Adapted Out in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox completely and Word of God stating that this version of Barry started off as the Kid Flash seen in the opening flashback in Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (something he never was in the comics, or at least implying he became the Flash at a younger age since he never mentions a mentor) and a member of the Teen Titans before forming the Justice League.
  • Green Lantern: First Flight: Sinestro is still a renegade Green Lantern who obtains a yellow power ring, but has his betrayal of the Corps and the acquiring of his yellow ring happen under different circumstances from the comics. In the comics, Sinestro was caught abusing his power ring by using it to conquer his own planet to maintain order and was punished when the Guardians stripped him of his ring and banished him to Qward, where he subsequently had the Weaponers make him a yellow power ring. In this movie, Sinestro planned a coup while still affiliated with the Green Lanterns and the yellow ring was an ancient weapon he heard of from conspiring with Kanjar Ro and obtained it by traveling to Qward and convincing the Weaponers to give him the ring.
  • Superman Unbound: In the comic story, Zor-El used Brainiac's shield generators to protect his home city during the destruction of Krypton, and Brainiac found it floating in space. Here, Brainiac went back to Krypton and abducted Argo City and its people before the planet's destruction because Zor-El was studying ways to fight him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Child's Play (2019): In the original Child's Play, Chucky was a doll possessed by a serial killer, Charles Ray. But in the 2019 remake, he's an AI-based doll who had his safety protocol shut off by a disgruntled factory worker. He is still given to a child named "Andy", but unlike the 1988 version, the Chucky in the 2019 movie genuinely wants to be his friend but becomes violently attached to him. And Charles Ray doesn't exist either.
  • 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.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • 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. It also changes her first appearance in Man's World from World War II (the Golden Age version's original story) to World War I.
    • The Suicide Squad: In part due to the Setting Update, Bloodsport isn't a Phony Veteran who suffers from delusions that he served in The Vietnam War caused by the guilt of his draft dodging and his brother taking his place (and becoming a quadruple amputee), but a genuine vet who's ironically the Only Sane Man among the new Squad.
  • 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.
  • Ophelia makes some changes to the backstories of Ophelia and Gertrude, overlapping with Adaptation Expansion as most of it either doesn't contradict the original too much and/or because the characters don't have much backstory to begin with.
    • In Hamlet, Ophelia is just one of Gertrude's ladies-in-waiting and presumably nobility. Here, it's specified that Ophelia isn't noble by birth and that Gertrude made her one of her ladies after taking a liking to her (and learning she had no mother), which results in the other ladies regarding her as an outsider. The fact she's technically a commoner is also significant in that it makes her even more 'unsuitable' as Hamlet's potential bride. Furthermore, it's never mentioned in Hamlet what happened to Ophelia's mother; here, it's stated that she died many years ago.
    • Gertrude isn't given much backstory in Hamlet. It's revealed here that Gertrude was raised in a convent in France and has a twin sister named Mechtild. Gertrude was a target of bullying growing up, with Mechtild defending her. After Mechtild got pregnant out of wedlock and was persecuted as a witch, Gertrude apparently helped her go into hiding and kept her survival a secret.
  • Painkiller Jane: In the original comic (and TV series), Jane was a police officer when she's changed. Here, she's a Special Forces soldier.
  • The first two The Punisher movies change it so Frank Castle's family is killed by a mob based retaliation for him being a cop/FBI Agent, instead of the result of them accidentally witnessing a mob hit, as happened in the comics, maybe because that makes more sense than the mob executing people in a public park which people could then stumble across.
  • The Wizard of Oz: In The Tin Woodman Of Oz, the Tin Woodman was a human, until the Wicked Witch of the West cursed his axe to chop him into bits. It was too dark for the 1939 version so he was simply made by a tin smith.
  • In the original novel of The Time Machine, the surface-dwelling Eloi are the descendants of the Idle Rich, and the subterranean Morlocks are the descendants of the working class. The 1960 film version changes this to a backstory that was more topical during the Cold War: after a nuclear holocaust, some people decided to return to the surface, becoming the Eloi, while others remained in the underground bunkers, becoming the Morlocks. The 2002 film replaces the nuclear holocaust with the moon blowing up, but otherwise copies the backstory of the 1960 version.

  • In The Twilight Zone (1985) episode "Healer", Harry Faulk is Jackie Thompson's neighbor and they seemingly did not have much of a relationship until they began using the healing stone to make money. In the short story adaptation by Alan Brennert, Harry is the closest thing that Jackie has to a father. They met when they were both serving sentences in Vacaville Prison ten years earlier. Since their release, they had worked together on numerous scams and swindles and the occasional burglary but only made enough money to pay their bills until Jackie stole the stone.


  • In the original Newsies, Jack Kelly claims his parents are out west looking for a ranch to live, but towards the end it's revealed that his mother is dead, his father is a prison inmate, and he has even lied to the other newsies about his real name. In the stage version, Jack implies in the first scene that his father was worked to death and there's no indication that he's lied to anyone about his name or anything else about his life.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy XIV changes the backstories for a lot of the characters it borrows from other games in the franchise.
    • The Weapons from Final Fantasy VII were Kaiju spawned by the Planet to protect it from existential threats like Jenova. XIV reimagines them as manmade biomechanical Humongous Mecha built to slay Primals.
    • Ba'Gamnan from Final Fantasy XII was a ruthless Bounty Hunter with no redeeming qualities. XIV reimagines him as a former Dalmascan knight who failed to protect his princess during the Garlean invasion and wants to avenge her death by destroying Garlemald with the power of the auracite.
  • 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 Animation 
  • 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.
  • Friday Night Funkin' Logic changed the backstories of several mod characters.

  • Vixen: NYC: Comics Mari (Vixen) was the daughter of the President of from the small African nation of Zambesi; she fled to America when her father was killed. This version of Mari is a Ghanaian-American teenager whose normal parents both live in North Carolina.