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Canon Character All Along

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Long-Runners often face the challenge of keeping established characters fresh. Sometimes, the audience gets bored with a particular character. Sometimes, the writer runs out of fresh situations to give to that character. Other times, the writer wants to reimagine or explore new depths of a character, but finds it challenging to convince fans to give their interpretation a chance (especially if one depiction of a character is seen as the standard for all subsequent depictions of that character to follow). For whatever reason, a writer wants to develop new material involving certain characters but doesn't want to run the risk of either beating a dead horse or dividing the fanbase.

One solution that writers have utilized is to write a story that features those established characters... albeit in the guise of someone completely different. Sometimes, they have the name of another character, but act nothing like them. More often, they neither look like any famous character from the main work's canon nor even have that recognizable name. If done well, fans will speculate who that "mysterious character" is. Maybe they don't believe that the "new" character would be anyone special. Maybe they will think that the "new" character is a Badass Normal with a Mysterious Past. Or maybe they'll think that the "new" character will be a groundbreaking addition to a work's mythos. But, if done successfully, fans will certainly not think that "new" character is someone already established in a work's canon.

Until one day... Wham! It turns out they were a canonical character after all!

This trick may also be used in adaptations. One of the main characters is properly introduced, looking like a Canon Foreigner, absent in the original work. Later in the work (or even in the end) this character reveals that he is a character from the original canon, usually pointing that that's an alternate, old, or secret name of them. Alternatively, he undergoes the character's Origins Episode during the series, rather than in the first episode or in a distant flashback, and then turns into the character from the original canon.

If fans believe a character in one particular work is secretly the guise of another character from a separate work, you're dealing with a common form of Fanon Welding.

Compare with Red Herring Shirt. Sometimes overlaps with Adaptation Name Change or Hijacked by Ganon. If the twist is two separate canonical characters being one and the same in the adaptation, then it's Composite Character.

Warning: All spoilers will be unmarked.


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    Film — Animated 
  • The Amazing Maurice gives the ratcatchers a mysterious leader, the Boss Man, who doesn't appear in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. It turns out to actually be a Worm That Walks rat swarm, controlled by the Rat King.
  • Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie features the character Khalil, a caterpillar/worm who seems to be a Canon Foreigner Plucky Comic Relief character. However, at the end, he is revealed to be the worm who ate the tree Jonah was using for shade. On top of that, he also delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Jonah based on God's speech from the source material.
  • Justice Society: World War II:
    • Early into the film, Flash meets the JSA war correspondent Shakespeare and finds his face oddly familiar. Flash's deja vu is ultimately vindicated when during their raid on the codebreaker's prison, Shakespeare gets shot in the head three times and survives, then gives his real name: Clark Kent.
    • Even later into the film, Aquaman's Advisor is revealed to be longtime villain Psycho-Pirate.
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017): Tempest Shadow's color scheme, affinity for fireworks-like magic, and her real name (Fizzlepop Berrytwist) reveal her to be a G4 re-imagining of Fizzy Pop, a G3 pony with an identical color scheme and a love for fireworks.
  • Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold sees the Crimson Cloak turn out to be Clayface, acting under the orders of the Riddler.
  • Shrek:
    • The king and queen of Far, Far Away (and Deuteragonist Fiona's parents) are revealed at the end of the second film to also have come from a fairy tale: The Frog Prince, with King Harold being the frog in question.
    • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: The Wolf who comes after Puss is billed in advertising as "the Big Bad Wolf", a character who already exists in the series. After their fourth encounter, he reveals that he's not based on a fairy tale character, he is a fairy tale character, Death, who has come to claim Puss's last life for wasting his 8 lives and arrogantly thinking he was untouchable.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: Miles' class watches a video where a female scientist explains the concept of Alternate Universes. She's later shown working for Kingpin, and Peter tries to charm her for information. A creepier comment she makes prompts him to ask for her name: Olivia Octavius, a.k.a. a Gender Flipped Doctor Octopus.
    • The sequel, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, reveals that the random Alchemax scientist that Miles threw a bagel at was the film's version of Johnathan Ohnn, aka The Spot. He even brings up the bagel incident, apparently having taken it personally.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie: For a given value of "character", at least - the Koopa General initially appears to be a simple Elite Mook, but careful viewers will notice that he is a Koopa Paratroopa with a spiky blue shell. During the Rainbow Road sequence, after his vehicle is totaled, he throws off his helmet and yells "Blue Shell!", retreating into his shell and flying right at Mario and Donkey Kong before exploding and blasting the two off the road. That's right - he's the film's adaptation of the Spiny Shell, the bane of many a Mario Kart player.
  • Teen Titans Go! To the Movies features a major character named Jade Wilson, a movie producer who agrees to help Robin make a movie for him. Since the film's antagonist is Slade Wilson, fans speculated that Jade is his sister. It turns out that they're only half-right, as she's actually Slade himself.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The film adaptation of Attack on Titan has Kubal and Shikishima, who seem to be stand-ins for the military brass and Levi Ackerman, respectively. They're eventually revealed to be the film continuity's versions of the Colossal Titan and the Armored Titan.
  • The Dark Knight Rises:
  • DC Extended Universe:
  • Enola Holmes 2 introduces a slew of original characters that don't have anything to do with either the books the film was based on or the greater Sherlock Holmes mythos...except for Mira Troy, who is revealed to be Moriarty reimagined into a black woman near the end of the film.
  • At the end of Fantasy Island (2020) Jimmy O. Yang's character Brax decides to stay on the island and become Roarke's new assistant. He also decides to go by his old nickname: "Tattoo".
  • In Ghost in the Shell (2017), the Major's name is Mira Killian. Later, it's revealed that it was a false past and that her family was never killed in a terrorist bombing, and her true name is actually Motoko Kusanagi.
  • Godzilla
    • Godzilla: Final Wars has Monster X, who late in the movie transforms into what was until then, the only Kaiju missing from the movie: Ghidorah. Although ironically enough, Toho considers this version to be a separate character, naming him Kaiser/Keizer Ghidorah, rather than King. Reportedly, Toho even went so far as to keep said kaiju's existence a secret from Japanese audiences until the movie's release in theaters, so as to make his surprise appearance at the end all the more satisfying.
    • A subtler example in the American-produced Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), when Dr. Ilene Chen shows a few pictures of her with her extended family, who seem to consist almost entirely of sets of identical twin sisters. This clues fans of the franchise in that she and her sister (who also appears in a few scenes) are this universe's version of the Shobijin fairy twins, key figures in the lore around Mothra.
  • In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Destro's M.A.R.S. armaments company is the main villain, but the members are the usual members of Cobra (The Baroness, Storm Shadow, Zartan, etc). The only Canon Foreigner is the Doctor...or so it seems. While one might initially assume he's this version's Dr. Mindbender, The Doctor reveals in his Backstory that he met Mindbender and was mentored by him, and at the end of the film, the Doctor reveals that he is taking control of M.A.R.S. and turning it into Cobra with himself as Commander. Yes, the Doctor is Cobra Commander.
  • House of the Dead has a Wham Line in its closing moments where the protagonist, Rudy reveals his last name: Curien, a.k.a. Dr. Curien, Big Bad of the games who descended into madness and kick started the Zombie Apocalypse. In fact, the entire film is essentially retroactively a Start of Darkness for the character.
  • James Bond:
    • The MI6 field agent Eve from Skyfall has her last name revealed at the end to be Moneypenny.
    • The villain Franz Oberhauser from Spectre is revealed to be an alias of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Bond's old nemesis from the earlier films.
  • Kamen Rider: The First
    • One of "Hopper's" intended victims at the start of the film is Katsuhiko Yano, who would turn up later Back from the Dead as "Hopper 2", ie. Kamen Rider Nigo.
    • The film also features a B-plot about a terminally ill couple in the hospital. Eventually, they accept Shocker's deal to save their lives, and they turn up in the climax as kaijins Cobra Man and Medusanote .
  • In Kamen Rider: The Next, deceased idol Chiharu's last name is revealed to be Kazami, making her the younger sister and Cynicism Catalyst (originally Yukiko) of Shiro Kazami, alias Hopper V3/Kamen Rider V3.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In The Incredible Hulk, Martin Starr appears as a random student at Culver University who offers Bruce Banner some pizza. Nine years and fourteen movies later, he reappears in Spider-Man: Homecoming, identified as Roger Harrington, one of Peter Parker's high school teachers.
    • Banner's online ally "Mr. Blue", who collects samples of his blood and tries to create a cure for his condition, is revealed to be his colleague Samuel Sterns. In his last scene, he is about to be mutated into The Leader.
    • In Iron Man 2, Tony saves a young boy wearing a replica of his mask from one of Vanko's drones. Word of God has retroactively revealed that the boy was a young Peter Parker.
    • Iron Man 3 inverts this trope. The man believed to be the Mandarin is in fact an actor named Trevor Slattery.
    • J.A.R.V.I.S. becomes a canonical character in Avengers: Age of Ultron when he is converted into The Vision. In-Universe, he's also based on the MCU version of a canonical character, the actual Edwin Jarvis, who in this continuity is Howard Stark's butler instead of Tony's.
    • Florence Kasumba was a One-Scene Wonder in Captain America: Civil War as T'Challa's intimidating bodyguard. The character wasn't named initially (with the credits only calling her "Security Chief"), but the Black Panther movie brought her back and confirmed that she was Ayo, a prominent character from the comics.
    • In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Zendaya plays a high school student named Michelle. The ending of the film reveals that she prefers to be called "MJ", indicating she's the MCU's Expy of Mary Jane Watson. Made more explicit in Spider-Man: No Way Home, which reveals that her full name is Michelle Jones-Watson.
    • In Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos and Gamora meet the Stonekeeper, a mysterious being who guards the Soul Stone on the distant planet Vormir. Once the Stonekeeper lifts his cloak, he's immediately recognizable as the long-missing Red Skull, banished to Vormir and cursed with immortality. Admittedly, Thanos and Gamora (and in Avengers: Endgame, Hawkeye and Black Widow) have no way of knowing this.
    • Captain Marvel
      • The heroine's commander/mentor is never referred to by name until after she finds a major clue that indicates he is keeping an important secret from her. He's Yon-Rogg, and just as it is in the comics, he is the villain indirectly responsible for Carol getting her powers.
      • Posthumous Character Wendy Lawson, The Mentor to Carol when she was still on Earth, is later revealed to be a Gender Flipped Mar-Vell, the original Captain Marvel from the comics.
    • One interpretation of Avengers: Endgame's ending is that Steve was Peggy Carter's husband (previously mentioned in Captain America: The Winter Soldier) all along. According to the writers, Steve created a Stable Time Loop by going back through the Quantum Realm after returning the Infinity Stones, and therefore was part of the timeline all along. However, according to the directors, this is not the case, and Steve created an alternate timeline instead.
    • Part of the backstory established in Black Widow is that many years ago, the title character killed a young girl named Antonia while trying to get to Dreykov, the child's father. The film's third act reveals that Antonia actually survived the explosion and was subsequently rebuilt as a cyborg assassin with the ability to copy the fighting styles of others, making her a Gender Flipped version of Anthony Masters, a.k.a. Taskmaster.
  • The ending of Mechanical Violator Hakaider heavily implies that Michael, the angelic android who serves as The Dragon to Gurjev, is actually that continuity's version of Kikaider. The video game sequel also sees Gurjev himself return as Blue Hakaider, who was a supporting villain in Kikaider 01. Instead of being one of Hakaider's color-coded identical lackeys however he's depicted instead as an Evil Counterpart to him.
  • Planet of the Apes:
    • Rise of the Planet of the Apes introduced, among the apes under Caesar, a bonobo named Koba and an orangutan named Maurice, who seemed initially to be wholly original characters. In the next movie, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, however, Koba starts plotting against Caesar out of mistrust for the latter's willingness to coexist with humans, while Maurice serves as Caesar's primary scientific and moral advisor, establishing them as equivalent characters to, respectively, Aldo and Virgil from Battle for the Planet of the Apes, of which Dawn is more-or-less a remake.
    • Caesar's infant son was unnamed in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but the next film, War for the Planet of the Apes revealed his name to be Cornelius, who was one of the chimpanzees who helped Taylor in the original Planet of the Apes film. A downplayed example, however, since Cornelius was also the name of Caesar's son in Battle for the Planet of the Apes.
    • The young, mute girl who the apes come across in War is later given the name "Nova" by Maurice, the same name given to Taylor's mute love interest in the original 1968 film.
  • Mewtwo features heavily in Pokémon Detective Pikachu, with footage of scientists recently and locally studying old fossils of Mew suggesting he's a new clone created for this story. Much like the canonical Mewtwo, he is very heavily under the impression that Humans Are Bastards. Nope, turns out he's the Mewtwo from Kanto 20 years ago, having already undergone his Character Development, and the various clips through the movie were trimmed to paint him as the bad guy. This was intentional on the Big Bad's part.
  • Prey (2022) has a Token Good Teammate of the French expedition who gives Naru a flintlock pistol. In the final moments of the movie, we see the gun has the engraving "Raphael Adolini 1715", meaning it's the same one from the ending of Predator 2.
  • Rampage (2018): At first, Claire Wyden appears to be another human character created for the film. However, at the end of the movie, she's shown wearing a red dress prior to George eating her. As it turns out, she's the film's villainous interpretation of the woman in the red dress from the game's title card prior to being eaten by the same giant ape.
  • Matt Adison, one of the survivors captured at the end of Resident Evil (2002) film, gets experimented on to become the Nemesis for the next film, Resident Evil: Apocalypse.
  • In Scooby-Doo (2002), the new villain Emile Mondavarious turns out to be a robot suit being piloted by Scrappy Doo, who underwent a Face–Heel Turn after being kicked out of the group and is now seeking to take over/destroy the world in revenge.
  • In Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed, the gang fights the Evil Masked Figure while being harassed by Heather Jasper Howe. It's eventually revealed that both of these characters are aliases for Jonathan Jacobo, the Pterodactyl Ghost.
  • Introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) was Commander Walters, a decorated but somewhat awkward military official who convinced the government to send Doctor Robotnik to Green Hills. Following the battle between Sonic and Robotnik in San Francisco and by the events of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022), he was put in charge of a new secret task force dedicated to battling extraterrestrial threats, deeming Sonic one for not aligning himself with them. The group was named "Guardian Unit of Nations", or G.U.N. for short. This makes Walters a Lighter and Softer version of the G.U.N. Commander from Shadow the Hedgehog. His horrified reaction to "Project Shadow" only cements this further.
  • Had Sam Raimi's Spider-Man Trilogy continued, Bruce Campbell's various cameos would have been revealed to all be disguises of Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness:
    • Benedict Cumberbatch's character is introduced as "John Harrison", but halfway through is revealed to be this universe's Khan Noonien Singh.
    • The new character Carol Wallace is soon revealed to be the evil Admiral Marcus's daughter, making her Carol Marcus, Kirk's love-interest from Star Trek II. Downplayed, as unlike Harrison, her true identity was never treated as a huge secret.
    • On a less plot relevant note, the security officer credited as "Cupcake" (a.k.a. "Burly Cadet #1" from the previous movie) is referred to by Kirk as "Mr Hendorff", confirming the suggestion in the Star Trek (IDW) comic book that he's this universe's version of Hendorff from "The Appl.".
  • This was originally going to be the case for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), where Corrupt Corporate Executive Eric Sacks was supposed to don a suit of Powered Armor and reveal himself as the Shredder at the film's climax. Despite this clearly being set up (including "Eric Sacks" being a play on the Shredder's traditional real name of "Oroku Saki"), reshoots added actor Tohoru Masamune as the real Shredder due to heavy fan backlash after the twist was leaked online.
  • The Waltons Homecoming, a 2021 reboot TV-movie for The Waltons was noticeably missing one of the kids, Ben. The sequel, A Waltons Thanksgiving features the family befriending and ultimately adopting a poor little orphan boy called Red... who ultimately reveals that his real name is Ben.
  • Wendy: James turns into Captain Hook at the end, losing a hand and fashioning a hook for himself in its place. In a more lighthearted take, he embraces the role of Peter's "enemy" as a form of play-acting for their mutual amusement.
  • One of the central antagonists of The Wolverine is a new character named Ichirō Yashida. To stave off his impeding death via cancer, he hooks himself up to a gleaming set of samurai-styled Powered Armor, becoming the film's version of Silver Samurai.
  • In The Stinger of Young Sherlock Holmes, the Big Bad Rathe is revealed not to have died in his fight with Holmes. He checks into an inn by signing his name as "Moriarty", showing that he will become Holmes's nemesis in the years ahead. Sherlock Holmes media seems to love this trope; see more examples below.

  • One episode of Welcome to Night Vale introduces a new character known as Silas, a Gentleman Thief that is now seemingly imprisoned. He spends the whole episode monologuing to someone who is taking care of him but can't understand him, and the only connection this episode has to the rest of the show is him mentioning to his caretaker that "you probably haven't even left Night Vale". Until the last line of the episode: "And for the last time, my name is Silas, not Kosheck!"
  • Wolverine:
    • Variant in the first season, where Logan is pursued by a pair of FBI agents named Sally Pierce and Tad Marshall. In the season finale, they're revealed to be human-sized Sentinels created by Weapon X.
    • In the second season, the characters are menaced by a mysterious, flamboyantly-dressed individual who Marcus calls "The Whisper Man." In episode 3, the Whisper Man turns out to be Jason Wyngarde, a.k.a. Mastermind.

    Tabletop Games 

  • In the original West End staging of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie encountered an old tramp in the garbage dump near the former's house at the top of the show, who later encouraged him to buy the Wonka Bar that turned out to contain the last of the Golden Tickets. The very last scene revealed that this character was actually Willy Wonka, who had taken a shine to the creative boy and thus rigged his own contest to make sure Charlie could visit the factory. This plot twist was removed for the Broadway and subsequent stagings. Notably, the show didn't Cast as a Mask and there are only a few hints in the libretto that these characters could be connected.
  • Wicked provides backstories for several characters in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. While some are established from the get-go (Elphaba is the Wicked Witch of the West, her sister Nessarose the Wicked Witch of the East, and Glinda is, well, Glinda the Good Witch), three of them are left as reveals for Act Two. The lion cub that Elphaba rescues from a kidnapping is the Cowardly Lion- Elphaba not "letting him fight his own battles" is blamed for his cowardly behavior. Munchkin prince Boq is the Tin Man, as Nessarose's mispronounced spell shrinks his heart, so Elphaba saves his life by turning him into something that could live without a heart. Lastly, Fiyero is the Scarecrow, who was also transformed by Elphaba so he could survive the savage beating he got in the cornfield.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Great Ace Attorney, a prequel to the Ace Attorney series features Sherlock Holmes and incorporates elements of Holmes' mythos, actually takes pride in inverting this trope, possibly to make its mystery solutions more surprising for Holmes readers.
    • In the first game's second case, Grimesby Roylott, a canonical character from The Adventure of the Speckled Band, turns out to be a disguise for 15 year old Russian ballerina Nikolina Pavlova, an original character. She's still the culprit though.
    • The second game reveals that one of the first game's Holmesian characters wasn't who you thought he was. Namely, John H. Watson isn't the "Watson" of Holmes' stories, rather, the literary Watson was based on Yuujin Mikotoba, a Japanese medical professor who's Holmes' actual best friend and investigative partner in this universe.
    • By extension Iris Watson isn't John Watson's daughter either, she turns out to be the child of a totally original character with a tangential connection to Holmsian canonicity, with her identity being the last surviving member of the Baskerville family from her mother's side.
    • That said, the trope is somewhat played straight with street urchin Gina Lestrade, who at first seems to be just an In Name Only nod to the trope-naming Scotland Yard detective of the same name, but ends up being made into an actual detective in the sequel (albeit an in-training one).
    • Eggert Benedict, the culprit of the first game's final case, is really Ashley Milverton, the infamous blackmailer villain (though much more sympathetic).
    • Klint Van Zieks is revealed in the final case to be the equivalent of Jack Stapleton/Rodger Baskerville, as he uses a hound to murder his victims and winds up creating a legend, like the original. Like Milverton, he is also given Adaptational Sympathy.
  • Although well known now, Kajiri Kamui Kagura pulled a variation of this trope with its villainous group, the Yatsukahagi. These demonic entities are eventually revealed to be several members of the former main cast from Dies Irae having become Necessarily Evil in order to deal with Hajun. The fact that the setting of Kajiri Kamui Kagura is set in a sort of medieval Japan while Dies Irae had a more contemporary setting makes this reveal all the more notable as it completely re-contextualizes how the two stories not only connect to each other, but with the greater series as a whole.

    Web Animation 

  • The Aladdin fancomic Diamond in the Rough starts out with seemingly new protagonists, until The Reveal that they are the flying Carpet and the Tiger head of the Cave of Wonders in human form.
  • In El Goonish Shive an extra who shows up in a flashback is dubbed "Shy Girl" and is well received by fans only to be revealed as Rhoda sporting a different look.
  • Sluggy Freelance: In "Oceans Unmoving", where Bun-bun is trapped in Timeless Space and acts as a Space Pirate captain, he has a mysterious nemesis called Captain Blacksoul — always hooded, apparently mechanical, super-strong, able to give even Bun-bun a hard time in combat, and somehow hell-bent on following Bun-bun, just as Bun-bun is determined to not have him do so. It turns out that Blacksoul is Bun-bun himself, after having been thrown out of time a second time, riding a floating robot. He's amnesiac about how he got out the first time, so he's trying to follow his old self home. He figures that, knowing himself, if he saw another of himself, he'd attack it expecting a trick, and also expecting that if it really was him it would have expected such a reaction. That's why he has to maintain the secret identity.

    Web Video 
  • The Dom Reviews: Terrence the Douchebag from Ravenclaw looked like an original character for The Dom's Harry Potter reviews, but he's heavily implied to be the obscure character Terry Boot.



After scattering his mothers' ashes, Atreus asks his father Kratos why the Giants seemed to have called him by another name: "Loki".

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / CanonCharacterAllAlong

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