Cosgro Toys Exec: We decided to take a multi-cultural approach.
Minute Man: But, I'm not black.
Cosgro Toys Exec: I think you have vaguely African features...
So, the Big Two comic publishers have a couple of issues. The first: brand new characters not heavily tied to already existing characters and continuity have a hard time becoming popular and long-lasting. The second, the eras when characters could stick (the Golden and Silver Ages) produced heterosexual white males almost exclusively. The solution to both? Take a preexisting character, and pass their superhero identity to a woman, racial minority, or LGBT person!
Trouble is, the legacy characters, minority or not, often also don't stick very well and there is a history of them being replaced. It also doesn't help that sometimes, these new characters don't catch on and fall out of a regular role, occasionally resulting in another trope entirely. Furthermore, Unpleasable Fanbase aside, depending on how the original character is treated or how the mantle is passed to the new one the preexisting fanbase may react very badly (e.g. Kyle Rayner being introduced by turning Hal Jordan into the Omnicidal Maniac Parallax).
This can also be very dangerous for people hoping to use this trope to promote diversity or inclusivity: should the new character be so badly received that it actually damages the name or brand, it also becomes easy for people to blame the diversity or inclusivity for the drop in quality. This is what happened with Doctor Who, where the introduction of the first female Doctor coincided with a massive drop in viewership. note
That said, several of these characters have gone on to be popular and enduring heroes in their own right.
- Amazing Fantasy
- Izuku, a Japanese teenager, is being tutored by a universe-displaced Peter Parker to become Spider-Man.
- Lampshaded by Miles, who doesn't think much of this, and is rather annoyed when cuts on his costume reveal this to the world and the internet makes a fuss about him being a "black Spider-Man".
- In Ducktales: Twenty Years Later, the female Gosalyn has taken up the Darkwing Duck mantle.
- Parodied in the above quote from The Specials. Especially funny considering James Gunn, who plays Minute Man, doesn't look even remotely like anything other than white.
- In Catwoman (2004), African-American Patience Philips is established as the latest successor to the Catwoman name.
- James Bond:
- M (the chief of MI6) was first played by a woman, Dame Judi Dench, starting with 1995's GoldenEye.
- No Time to Die has the title of Agent 007 being held by a black woman (played by Lashana Lynch), with James Bond having retired at the end of Spectre. Also in No Time to Die, it turns out the Gadgeteer Genius Q (Ben Whishaw) who's there since Skyfall (and mentioned having predecessors in the latter film) is either gay or bisexual.
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe draws on a few from the comics:
- Captain Marvel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the female Carol Danvers version instead of the older character of Captain Mar-Vell. Downplayed due to the fact that in this adaptation, Mar-Vell is (a) a woman, and (b) never a superhero, but rather Carol's late mentor and a defecting Kree scientist. Interestingly, a Ms. Marvel show starring Kamala Khan and set in the MCU is in the works, so it remains to be seen how the legacy aspect will be handled since Carol never used that name in this continuity. note
- In the final minutes of Avengers: Endgame, Sam Wilson, a black man, takes up the shield and mantle of Captain America from the retired white Steve Rogers, while Valkyrie, a bisexual woman of color, becomes the new Asgardian ruler once Thor abdicates. Interestingly, Valkyrie's character progression is completely original to the films; unlike Carol as Captain Marvel or Sam as Captain America, there is no comic-book precedent for her as Thor's successor. In addition, it's implied that Morgan Stark may take up her late father's position as a Powered Armor-using hero, although she is four years old and thus a long way away from doing so.
- It has been confirmed that the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder film will adapt Jane Foster's time as Thor, though it is unknown yet what this means for the original Thor.
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse revolves around an Afro-Latino teenager named Miles Morales, who becomes the new Spider-Man after his world's Peter Parker is killed by The Kingpin.
- The Disney Star Wars Sequel trilogy suffered backlash for hinting that Finn, a black Stormtrooper, would be the main lead in place of Luke Skywalker and Anakin Skywalker of the Original Trilogy and Prequel Trilogy respectively, before revealing the true main character would be Rey, a white woman. The backlash also revolved around the impression that the heroes of the previous trilogies (Luke, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Anakin, etc) were demeaned in order to play up the new heroes (e.g. Han Solo revealed to have gone back to becoming a smuggler again before dying, Luke becoming a reclusive hermit before dying, Leia becoming a failed military leader before dying), while Rey was portrayed as being vastly more skilled and powerful.
- One of the main characters in The Suicide Squad is Ratcatcher 2, the female successor of the original male Ratcatcher.
- Doctor Who:
- Brigadier Winifred Bambera (an African woman) to Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart in the story "Battlefield".
- The revived series brought us the Brigadier's daughter, Kate, who now serves as the Doctor's contact within UNIT.
- Invoked in-universe by the Doctor in "The Doctor's Wife" and "Death of the Doctor", who confirms the long-held fan belief that Time Lords can indeed change genders and ethnicities during a regeneration, although his incarnations are all white men as of those stories. The first female (mainline) Doctor would be Jodie Whittaker's Thirteenth Doctor, who debuted in the 2017 Christmas special.
- In the former episode, the Doctor mentions a friend of his named the Corsair, who was famous for changing sex in his/her regenerations, being described as a good man and a very bad girl.
- In "Let's Kill Hitler" it's revealed that Mels, the black twenty-something childhood friend of Amy and Rory, is actually the previous incarnation of the white, middle-aged, River Song. Mels in turn regenerated from the white, seven year old Melody and was forced to grow up again after her first regeneration left her as a toddler.
- On the villainous side of things, Missy is a female legacy to a male character, being a regenerated Master. Word of God states this was to test the audience's reaction prior to casting a female Doctor.
- "Hell Bent" has a double example of this, when the Doctor shoots the commander of Gallifrey's military forces, who promptly regenerates from a white man into a black woman.
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier takes one of the examples from Avengers: Endgame and ends up deconstructing the trope with it, in that the "Affirmative Action" part ends up complicating things immensely. The title of "Captain America" is a major national symbol. How can a black man symbolize a country that has mistreated its black citizens for hundreds of years, and continues to do so? Sam starts the series deciding that he can't, only for the government to turn around and give the identity to a white man instead. At the end of the season however, after said white guy goes off the deep end and Sam learns about the history of black super-soldiers in America and decides that it wouldn't be right to stop fighting for what's right despite all the injustices that happened to black people, he becomes Captain America instead and embraces the mantle.
- In The Flash (2014), after Ronnie Raymond's Heroic Sacrifice, both the potential successors to his role as Firestorm are black. Jefferson Jackson goes on to serve more time as Firestorm than Raymond ever did, appearing in Legends of Tomorrow.
- Stargirl (2020) revolves around the title character forming a new Justice Society of America after the originals are killed off by their archenemies. In addition to Stargirl herself (a teenage girl who uses the costume and staff of the deceased Starman), so far we have:
- Yolanda Montez, a Latina girl who takes over the Wildcat identity from Ted Grant, a white male.
- Beth Chapel, an African-American girl who takes over the Doctor Mid-Nite identity from Charles McNider, another white male.
- On the villains' side, the new Fiddler is Anaya Bowin, a woman of Indian descent who is married to the original white male Fiddler.
- In season two of Batwoman, Ryan Wilder (black gay woman) replaces Kate Kane (white gay woman) in the title role.
- A tragic but heartwarming real-life example of this occurred with the political podcast The Michael Brooks Show when the titular host passed away from a sudden health condition. The day after his passing, his sister Lisha took up the mantle as the host of the (still unchanged) show alongside its two prior hosts, Matt and David.
- Bunker of Sentinels of the Multiverse, like Captain America, both inverts and plays it straight. The current, main-timeline Bunker is white. A promo card depicts the World War II-era Bunker as a black man. And an alternate-future version of the character is also black.
- Played straight with (aheh) Legacy, whose inherited abilities are passed down only to the first child in each generation. Said firstborn has been a son for long enough that the primary Legacy, the third to bear the identity, is Paul Parsons VIII; his successor in the role is his daughter Pauline.
- In Freedom City, Raven II was the daughter of the original male Raven, and Johnny Rocket II is the original's gay grandson. The third edition, among other changes, introduces a new Lady Liberty; while the first three were white cis women, Sonja Gutierrez is Hispanic and trans.
- In Shortpacked!, Amber created the non-stripperiffic persona of AMAZI-GIRL in order to provide an actual female superhero role model, both for herself and others. When Lucy (who is black) was hired to the store, she bonded with Amber over the lack of female role models in comics. Later, after Amber has left the store, a thief is in the stockroom, and Robin unveils the Amazi-Girl outfit for Lucy.
Schtick-Shift: ...the hell do you think you are?
Lucy: I'm the new Amazi-Girl.
Robin: [from off-panel] psst, say it like it's a logo
Robin: like in comic books. say it like it's a logo
Lucy: Robin, this isn't a comic book. You can tell because I'm a woman with agency.
Robin: doooo eeeet
Lucy: ...I'm the new AMAZI-GIRL?
Robin: muy bueno
Lucy: I said it the same way.
- LessThanThree Comics' Brat Pack had mention of the future descendants of Uncle Sam (II). Sam married the daughter of black superheroine, Talon, and their children went on to become Uncle Sam III, and Miss Liberty II (after Uncle Sam II's mother (The original Uncle Sam was his grandfather, a WWII hero, and the <3-Verse's Captain America analog, a power which continued along the family line)).
- Parodied in this article from The Onion, which announces Marvel is making a new version of the Green Goblin...left-handed.
- Young Justice has a meta example with Kaldur'ahm/Aqualad; however, in this continuity Garth never became Aqualad, instead going straight to his Tempest identity. The series also has Mal Duncan take on the Guardian identity after the original abandoned it, like his original comic book incarnation (see above). In this version, Mal was never Herald. We also have Jaime as the Blue Beetle, with his Caucasian forebears, Ted Kord and Dan Garrett, both mentioned.
- In Outsiders, Kaldur becomes the second Aquaman succeding Arthur Curry.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold tends to use minority legacy heroes in favor of their predecessors, despite the show being primarily influenced by the Silver Age. The Jaime Reyes version of Blue Beetle, the Ryan Choi version of the Atom, and the Jason Rusch version of Firestorm are all used in major roles on the show. The only white legacy hero on the show is Dinah Lance, the second Black Canary (the first being her mother, whom she's named after), the two exceptions being the Vic Sage version of the Question rather than Renee Montoya, and B'wana Beast instead of Freedom Beast. Brave and the Bold is essentially Modern Age comics with a Silver Age flair. Note that the originals sometimes appear as well. For example, two entire Flashback episodes dealt specifically with Ted Kord (Blue Beetle II).
- The Justice League featured in Batman Beyond has several examples of this. The new Green Lantern is a Tibetan teenager named Kai-ro and The Atom's successor is a black man known as Micron.
- The Batman had an entirely new character as the first Clayface; a black police officer named Ethan Bennett. Something of an inverse as well since the show established Basil Karlo (who was the first Clayface in the comics) as Bennett's successor.
- In Ultimate Spider-Man, Peter briefly utilizes the Iron Spider armor and identity before ditching it. The Iron Spider identity reappears in Season 3, where it is taken up by the Korean-American prodigy Amadeus Cho (who's presented as Peter's academic rival). Several other Spideys appear, including Miles Morales. Much like his comics counterpart, he became Spider-Man after the death of his universe's Peter Parker. The main Peter Parker is understandably very stunned by this (especially when he sees the gravestone.) He later reassures Miles, since Miles feels burdened that he could've done something sooner to save the other Peter.
- The Legend of Korra, a Sequel Series to Avatar: The Last Airbender, has Korra as the new Avatar. This is more of a meta example—Aang was not the first Avatar, and successors are always from a different nation and often opposite gender to their immediate forebears. Aang is male and from a Tibetan Fantasy Counterpart Culture, but could pass for European in the show's art style; Korra is female, darker-skinned (being from a fantastical Eskimo Land equivalent) and bisexual.
- In Gargoyles, the Hunters are a group of humans (eventually all part of the Canmore family) who hunt gargoyles, particularly Demona. While all the earliest one whom we've seen were male, there was a female Hunter (Fiona Canmore) as early as 1920; the modern age saw the title shared by Robyn Canmore and her two brothers.
- In Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, Thor's successor is his daughter, Torunn. Inverted with Pym, who becomes a male Wasp rather than succeeding his father as Giant-Man.