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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 ran out of fresh situations to give to that character. And sometimes, 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.

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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 don't 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.

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Until one day...Wham! It turns out they were a canon 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 Origin Story 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 canon characters being one and the same in the adaptation, then it's Composite Character.

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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • While it already had Foreshadowing, the chubby person that went by Ryota Mitarai in Danganronpa 3 The End of Hope's Peak High School - Side: Despair is not the real one. It's actually the Ultimate Imposter, who was asked by the real Ryota Mitarai to take his place since he was too busy animating.
  • Norn Mikihara from Digimon Next is revealed to be the human form of Yggdrasill, the God of the Digital World (or close to that).
  • In the Fate/Zero anime, the metafictional "Einzbern Consultation Room" shorts feature a Genki Girl named Zecchan, who somehow gets pulled into the Grail and becomes friends with Irisviel. She's a time-traveling, amnesiac Taiga Fujimura.
  • A three-way example occurs in Final Fantasy: Unlimited. The Big Bad Earl Tyrant and the protagonists Ai and Yu are revealed to be avatars of recurring Final Fantasy villain Chaos.
  • FLCL Progressive & Alternative features a stoic but Motor Mouthed teacher with Opaque Nerd Glasses in the first episode, who's also featured in trailers for the series. The First-Episode Twist is that she's a disguised Haruko. There's also a semi-example in Jinyu, who turns out to be a Literal Split Personality of Haruko. Also Played With: a character who seems to be Amarao is actually his son.
  • F-Zero Falcon Densetsu introduces two new characters, Bart Lemming and Roy Hughes, who eventually turn out to be the anime versions of Captain Falcon and Mighty Gazelle, respectively.
  • Getter Robo:
    • One of the new pilots in Armageddon is Benkei's Action Girl daughter, a tomboyish young woman named Kei Kuruma. It's eventually revealed that Kei is actually a Grown Up and Gender Flipped version of Genki, Professor Saotome's son from the original series; Benkei went from Genki's Big Brother Mentor to Kei's Parental Substitute.
    • Getter Robo Devolution inverts this, then plays it straight. Musashi admits that he isn't actually the real one, who had been Dead All Along since childbirth, but he later discovers that his true identity is Benkei.
  • This happens from time to time in the manga adaptations of The Legend of Zelda.
    • In A Link to the Past, the bandit girl Ghanti transforms into a boss from the game, Trinexx.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords (2004), Link's father is temporarily brainwashed by Vaati and is revealed to guard the green Royal Jewel, making him the manga's version of the Green Knight.
    • An inanimate example occurs in Oracle of Ages. Roperi's bonsai plant turns out to be a Mystery Tree, allowing Link to take the seed and use it against Veran.
  • The Magi: Labyrinth of Magic prequel series Adventures of Sinbad:
    • Ja'far's name is not mentioned, nor is his face fully seen, until the end of his redemption arc. Then again, he's clearly an albino with Youthful Freckles, so one wonders if this was even supposed to be a secret.
    • A straighter example is Harun, the merchant who cheats and then mentors Sinbad, who turns out to be Alibaba's father, King Rashid of Balbadd.
  • Tory/Tohru Froid from MegaMan NT Warrior seemed to be an Canon Foreigner, but it turns out he's the son of IceMan.EXE's Net Op in the games, who was only seen as a generic child sprite. He ended up being a Ascended Extra...until he was Demoted to Extra after Axess.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • When Ash and his companions reach Cinnabar Island they meet a long-haired local who gives them indications to reach his inn in case they don't find one. Near the end of the episode, it's revealed that the man was wearing a wig and he was actually Blaine, the Gym Leader of Cinnabar Island.
    • An interesting play of this can be with the mysterious man with a Persian whom Team Rocket speak with in Battle Aboard the St. Anne, who is always shadowed. While people can assume who he is, in The Battle Of The Badge it's revealed the man is Giovanni, the leader of Team Rocket.
    • In the above mentioned episode, Giovanni uses an armor-cladded Pokémon capable of using Psychic-type moves. Its name, however, is never revealed. Only in the film it's revealed that the Pokémon is actually Mewtwo.
    • Pokémon 4Ever has an in-continuity example where it's revealed that Sam, the mysterious young boy Ash and the gang befriended over the course of the movie, is the younger version of Professor Oak.
  • Pretty Cure:
    • Futari wa Pretty Cure MaX Heart introduces Baldez, the leader of the Four Guardians and main antagonist. Only at the end of the anime, it's revealed that he's actually the spirit of the Dark King himself.
      • Same goes for Hikari, who is revealed to be the life of the Queen.
    • An interesting form of this trope is with Wolfrun, Akaoni and Majorina from Smile Pretty Cure!, who are clearly based on antagonists from fairy tales. Towards the end of the anime, however, it's revealed the three were inhabitants of Märchenland, where fairy tales characters actually live. That makes them the actual antagonists of said stories (Wolfrun being the wolf from Red Riding Hood, Akaoni being the oni from Momotaro and Majorina being the recurring witch in various tales).
  • The 2007 Skull Man anime features a case where a character is revealed to be two Shotaro Ishinomori characters. Protagonist Hayato Mikogami turns out to be an orphaned Tatsuo Kagura, right before becoming the Skull Man. At the end of the anime however he gets possessed by the Skull Man suit and remodeled into Skull, the Big Bad of Cyborg 009.
  • The final episode of takt op.Destiny reveals Anna Schneider to be the game's equivalent to Destiny.

    Comic Books 
  • Alan Moore's Miracleman Retconned the original 50s adventures as dreams induced via Lotus-Eater Machine. However one part of those stories is true. The main bad guy of the original comics, and the man behind the curtain of the Miracleman project is Dr. Emil Gargunza.
  • Grant Morrison's New X-Men run featured a bunch of new characters, with the most prominent being the Chinese Buddhist Xorn. Then in the twist near the end, it turns out that Xorn was Magneto in disguise the whole time. Since this version of Magneto was a genocidal junkie (and by the end of the run, was thoroughly dead), the controversy was enough that Marvel's editors decided to retcon Xorn into not being the true Magneto the instant Grant Morrison left. Professor X went to Genosha to bury Magneto and found...Magneto. Excalibur Genosha begins, the Ho Yay between the two as they lead the new team in saving what's left of Genosha skyrockets, and in that title, Xorn is never brought up again. However, in the other books, who Xorn really was rapidly became a Continuity Snarl, most infamously being twin brothers with similar names (Shen Xorn and Kuan-Yin Xorn).
  • Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #57 opens with Spidey being attacked by a mysterious new villainess called the Silencer. Halfway through the issue, it's discovered that the Silencer is actually Emma Frost, who joined the book's supporting cast several issues prior.
  • The Punisher MAX:
    • In the one-shot comic The Cell, Frank menaces imprisoned members of the Drago mafia family for an unknown reason. At the end, it's revealed that the Drago is an Adaptation Name Change for the Costa family: i.e., the mafia family that killed Frank's family.
    • The Heavy from "Girls in White Dresses" turned out to be the series' version of Punisher's archenemy Jigsaw.
  • The Swordsman seen in Heroes Reborn had nothing to do with Jacques Duquesne or Philip Javert. When the world was revisited in the Heroes Reborn: Remnants one-shot, it was revealed he was his Earth's version of Deadpool.
  • Powerless takes place in an alternate, more realistic version of the Marvel Universe, and stars non-powered versions of Peter Parker, Logan and Matt Murdock. The central viewpoint character, however, is a psychiatrist named William Watts, who somehow remembers the mainline Marvel Universe where those three characters are costumed superheroes. How he knows this isn't explained until the very end of the series, where, after an Important Shave, William looks into his bathroom mirror and sees Uatu the Watcher staring back at him.
  • In the New 52 version of Secret Six, only Catman and Black Alice return from the previous continuity. Strix and the new Ventriloquist come from Simone's Batgirl (2011) and Porcelain and Big Shot appear to be entirely original. Over the first few issues it's established that Big Shot is a Private Investigator, has the ability to expand in size and a rubbery face, is obsessed with his late wife, and has a sensitive nose. Oh, and Mockingbird calls him "Mr Dibney". It is later revealed that he is, indeed, the world-famous Elongated Man.
  • Arrow's Malcolm Merlyn/the Dark Archer was always established as the Arrowverse counterpart of Arthur King/Merlyn the Archer. However, the comic spin-off The Dark Archer establishes that his real name was actually Arthur King all along.
  • A Marvel miniseries called Battle Scars (an epilogue to Fear Itself) introduced a black Marine named Marcus Johnson and his war buddy nicknamed "Cheese". The event eventually revealed that Marcus is the son of Nick Fury and therefore the mainstream continuity's equivalent of the Samuel L. Jackson-style Fury introduced in Ultimate Marvel and popularized by the Marvel Cinematic Universe; and that Cheese is Phil Coulson (also from the MCU).
  • The Dead Man appeared in 2000 AD featuring a burnt amnesiac being left for dead and subsequently heading off to find out who he is. He discovers that he's Judge Dredd who had taken the Long Walk and was attacked by the Sisters Of Death. To keep the secret, Dredd strips were still run concurrently and the Dead Man story was credited to Keef Ripley. Lobster Random and Sinister Dexter homaged this storyline using similar techniques.
  • In Donny Cates's Thanos run, we're introduced to Cosmic Ghost Rider, a wacky cosmic variant of Ghost Rider. His personality and design doesn't match up with any of the previous Ghost Riders, so he seems to be a new character. Thanos eventually asks if they know each other, since the Rider seems oddly familiar. Realizing he forgot to introduce himself, the Rider sticks out his hand and says his name: Frank Castle.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • The Ultimates
      • One issue has Nick Fury going undercover to infiltrate HYDRA, where he befriends a deeply conflicted young henchwoman called "Nails." In the following issue, he's able to convince Nails to defect from HYDRA and join the Howling Commandos, and asks her what her real name is. She turns out to be the Ultimate version of Abigail Brand, a character from the X-Men comic books.
      • A throwaway line from Kleiser in the first arc confirms that the shapeshifting Chitauri are in fact the Ultimate versions of the Skrulls, the word being one of the many names the race had been given over their centuries of interdimensional conquest. Note that the Skrulls were adapted later on in Ultimate Fantastic Four.
    • When Thor was first created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, he had two identities: he was the human doctor Donald Blake, and could turn into Thor By the Power of Grayskull!. When remade for The Ultimates, Thor is just Thor. Blake appears, as an unrelated person, in Ultimate Thor. As seen later, Donald Blake is still the human identity of a god, but in this case it's Balder the Brave.
    • All-New Ultimates: The comic features a gang war, opposed by the Ultimates in the superhero way, and a police unit the standard way. This police unit would eventually become Terror Inc. (an obscure 1988 comic book).
  • Hasbro Comic Universe:
    • The Transformers: Sins of the Wreckers:
      • The story is all about the titular team trying to track down Prowl, who has been kidnapped by an old colleague of questionable stability named Mesothulas. When he and Prowl actually talk face to face for the first time, Mesothulas is revealed to be the IDW incarnation of Tarantulas.
      • This trope comes into play again with Ostaros, a mute bot with an indestructible spark that Mesothulas created. The final issue reveals that Prowl spared Ostaros and gave him a new life as Springer, something Springer himself was unaware of.
    • Multiple instances of this trope occur in The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye:
      • After getting captured by Chief Justice Tyrest, some of the crew share a prison cell with a new character named Minimus Ambus, who shows some familiar quirks. Rung eventually figures out that he is none other than Ultra Magnus, who was secretly a much smaller bot in Powered Armor (as well as a Legacy Character) all this time. Ratchet had figured this out, but no one else knew.
      • Another seemingly new character is the Senator who was a friend of a young Optimus Prime and helped him along in his career. His identity is deliberately obscured, with his name never being uttered on page, and frequently changing his color scheme out of vanity (although at one point, his color scheme bears a strong resemblance to Ultra Magnus (this appearance came before the above mentioned Minimus Ambus reveal)). The final twist of his storyline reveals that after being brainwashed and deformed, he became the famously emotionless Decepticon scientist Shockwave.
      • Subverted with Tarn, who was foreshadowed as secretly being Optimus' old friend Roller, who went missing many years ago...only to have Roller turn up intact just before The Reveal that Tarn was actually a minor character introduced in this series named Glitch.
      • Subverted again with The Grand Architect. After being set up as a shadowy figure, he seems to finally be revealed as Scorponok!...Only to have it turn out later that Scorponok and the Architect are not the same being, and Scorponok merely works for him. The actual identity of the Grand Architect is eventually revealed to be Adaptus (an original comic character) possessing the body of Pharma (another comic original).
      • The character Rung appeared to be an original character made for the comic. However throughout the book we've gotten hints that there's far more than meets the eye (hah) with him, and near the end of the series it's revealed that he's actually the IDW incarnation of Primus!
    • Issue #0 of Revolution (2016) features Joe Colton and Scarlett talking to one of the former's old friends, who throughout the issue is kept in the shadows and referred to only by his surname, Manheim. The end of the issue reveals him to be none other than Miles Mayhem, the main antagonist of M.A.S.K.. He is later established to have also been the "Sea Adventurer" from the original G.I.Joe toyline.
    • The Transformers: Robots in Disguise:
      • A member of the Earth Defense Command named Ayana Jones is revealed during the events of the Revolution (2016) crossover to be a G.I. Joe operative codenamed Mayday.
      • Arguably the biggest one of the entire IDW continuity occurs during "The Falling" arc of Optimus Prime, in which Greater-Scope Villain Onyx Prime was revealed to be a Not Quite Dead Shockwave, who had been sent back in time following the events of Dark Cybertron and had taken The Slow Path while manipulating the course of Cybertronian history as part of an ontological time paradox.
    • Near the end of Revolutionaries, the Big Bad Baron Ironblood is unmasked to be the real Joe Colton, who had faked his death in order to build up an army to attack Cybertron.
    • The final issue of First Strike has Garrison Kreiger reveal himself to be Merklynn, who manipulated events to both destabilize the Cybertronian race and restablish his homeworld of Prysmos.
  • Robin: Tim ends up tracking down an apparent new female vigilante wearing purple and thinks he sees Spoiler, only to discover he's tracking a new player who goes by Violet, only then to discover someone wearing the Spoiler costume is also tracking Violet. He's furious at the stranger behind the mask for dressing up as his beloved deceased girlfriend, disrespecting her memory and messing with him but then learns it actually is Stephanie, whose death was retconned to have been faked in this storyline.
  • The recurring villain Xander Payne from Mega Man (Archie Comics) eventually takes the identity of Mr. X, the Disc-One Final Boss of Mega Man 6.
  • Mega Man: Fully Charged
    • The comic book adaptation reveals that the real Dr. Wily from the video games exists in the series, and is the grandfather of the seemingly-unrelated Burt Wily. Moreover, he's also been Dr. Light's rival since their falling out as colleagues.
    • From the same comic, halfway through the series, Suna takes up the conflict under a new alias to help Mega Man: Zero.
  • The main character of Dynamite Comics' Massive Multiplayer Crossover Legenderry is Magda, sister to Red Sonja, who is being pursued by the villains for unknown reasons as she searches for her sister. It turns out she's Sonja herself, who was given False Memories by the villains a year earlier to make her more tractable.
  • G.I. Joe (Devil's Due) did this with the nameless S.A.W. Viper who killed Quick Kick, Doc, Heavy Metal, Thunder and Crankcase back in the original Marvel comic when he returned and was revealed to have survived Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow's attempt at killing him. The S.A.W. Viper's actual name is given as Robert Skelton, but he ends up taking on the codename Overkill, a name belonging to a Cobra cyborg whose only prior appearances in any G.I. Joe fiction were in the DiC continuation of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. To seal the deal, the Overkill of the Devil's Due continuity is eventually made into a cyborg himself.
  • Marvels X stars a new character named David Jarrett, a young boy who has seemingly failed to develop superpowers despite being exposed to the Terrigen Mist. In the final issue, David is killed in battle while helping Captain America, and his body is buried. However, Nighthawk then digs up the coffin to reveal that David is alive and well, explaining that the Terrigen gas actually gave him Resurrective Immortality in the form of a powerful Healing Factor. The final pages then jump forward into the future, revealing that David eventually grows up to become the mysterious new Daredevil (whose identity was never revealed) from the original Earth X.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW): Arnold Jones at first appeared to simply be Casey's deadbeat alcoholic dad, up until one of his bar buddies addresses him by his old gang nickname, Hun, revealing him to be the series' take on the Purple Dragons' leader. Doubles as a Composite Character, as in the 2003 series, Arnold is killed by Hun after standing up to him and his gang.
  • Wonder Woman '77 Meets The Bionic Woman reveals that Carolyn Hamilton, who appeared in one episode of Wonder Woman (1975), has gone on to become the TV-verse counterpart of Nubia. In addition, the one-shot series villain Gloria Vasquez has become Dr Cyber.
  • In the 2018 Catwoman series, Selina encounters and befriends a group of homeless teen runaways who live in her old neighborhood of Alleytown. One of the kids is an Asian pickpocket known only as Shoes, who initially seems to be a new character like the others. However, the DC Festival of Heroes one-shot reveals she's an amnesiac Lian Harper, the daughter of Roy Harper and Cheshire, who was previously thought to have been RetGoned out of existence by the New 52 reboot.
  • Gotham Academy Annual does this twice. The series likes to make teachers share similar names and be lookalikes to DCAU versions of Batman villains, without ever confirming outright if they're those villains or not. One of the main cast members ropes a young redheaded boy named Warren into being his errand boy. In the Annual mysterious new teacher Derek Powers turns out to actually be Derek "Blight" Powers from Batman Beyond who traveled back in time to kill Warren, last name McGinnis - he's going to grow up to become the father of future Batman, Terry McGinnis.
  • Exiles (2018) introduced among new characters Becky Barnes, a gay female version of Bucky Barnes from a reality where Peggy Carter is Captain America. Future Foundation would later reveal that Becky is actually one of the reincarnations of Rikki Barnes, a preexisting heroine from a different world who has been dying and being reborn as vaguely similar characters across the multiverse.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes has a history of red herrings on this.
    • When the mysterious "Reflecto" appeared and focused mainly on protecting Phantom Girl, the covers hinted that he was really her long-missing lover Ultra-Boy. But once unmasked, it was Superboy.
    • New member Sensor Girl wears a mask, and revealed her identity only to Saturn Girl. note . Various clues lead Brainic 5 to conclude that Sensor Girl was in fact Supergirl, returned from the dead. But once unmasked, it was Projectra, returned to our dimension.
  • In Action Comics (New 52), Clark's landlady is an elderly woman named Mrs Nyxly, who says her husband was a stage magician before a rival put him in a coma. She also mentions that his trademark was a purple derby hat. Yes, she's actually the New 52 version of Mr Mxyzpltk's girlfriend Miss Gsptlnz, now given the full name Nyxlygsptlnz.
  • In Batman: Urban Legends #5, a Batgirls story features a new "wildcard" character of unclear allegiance, who turns out to be a young African-American woman. At the end of the story, with the Batgirls still unclear on who she is or what her agenda is, the last panel shows her standing in front of a camper van with a potted plant in the window, and "Ryan Was Here" graffitied on the wall behind her, all indicating that she's a Canon Immigrant version of Ryan Wilder.
  • Way of X features someone the children of Krakoa call the Patchwork Man, who runs around the island toying with the minds of the mutants living on it. After Legion is brought in and gets a crack at him, it's revealed the Patchwork Man is in fact the universally-feared longtime X-men foe Onslaught.
  • Near the end of G.I. Joe (2019), Dr. Mindbender is shown to have a female assistant who questions his decisions. As the story goes on, it is revealed that she is affiliated with G.I. Joe and is infiltrating Cobra as The Mole, in addition to being in a relationship with Frontier (this continuity's interpretation of Flint). To remove any remaining doubts of her true identity, the last panel of the issue has Frontier identity her as Lady Jaye.
  • The Superior Foes of Spider-Man: Boomerang gets a girlfriend, who remains a nameless side character until the final issue reveals that we've seen her before. She's Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat, and she hooked up with Boomerang to steal the Macguffin he was after.

    Fan Works 
  • MCU Rewrites: In Age of Ultron: Redux, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff's father seems to be Spared by the Adaptation from Avengers: Age of Ultron as the twins' mother raised them on her own and he was not present when the Maximoff's house was destroyed by a missile from Stark Industries. In New Avengers, Wanda tells Vision about how she and Pietro were found by a man who could do some parlor tricks such as setting down a cigarette lighter and that it could not be picked up not matter how hard someone tried and making a coin float. The man takes the two children to a Jewish family to raise them. The final scene of the story has an unknown man, who goes unnoticed by everyone attending except Wanda, visiting Pietro's grave and he is wearing a ring with an "M" on it, with an author's note confirming that Pietro and Wanda's father is Magneto.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Sage of Darkness.
    • Link's father is a Posthumous Character, but he is resurrected near the climax of the film as Dark Link.
    • Inverted with the main antagonist, the Skull Kid, who's revealed to be the alter ego of the seemingly friendly and helpful new character Davik.
  • Inverted in We Are the Chatroom Gems. Ms. Agate, one of the teachers from the first chapter, is revealed by the ask blog to not be Holly Blue Agate, but rather her sister.
  • The The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild fanmade novelized adaptation titled Breath of the Wild features a sand seal named Kali. She's mainly featured the "Naboris" arc as the sand seal Link rides to battle Naboris itself. The only things notable about her is her pink color and her immediate affection towards Link. She's revealed to be Epona's reincarnation in a sand seal form, and Zelda returns her to her natural horse form so that she may once again act as Link's loyal battle steed against Ganon.
  • Ruby and Nora features an expy of the Arkham Knight named Skull who is later revealed to be Mercury Black.
  • In Eleutherophobia: The Day the Earth Stood Still, George Little gives Tom a few hints about his identity in chapter 2 — he used to work for the National Security Agency, he lived in the same town as the Animorphs when he and his wife got infested, and their son has been missing ever since — then at the end, he drops a bombshell: his son's name is David. This means nothing to Tom, but many readers were thrown for a loop when they realised Tom was talking to a certain Sixth Ranger Traitor's father.
  • Fall of Starfleet, Rebirth of Friendship: A few characters (whether Dakari-King Mykan's "Original Characters" or seemingly new characters by the author Legendbringer) are revealed to be characters who exist in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
    • Early in the story it is revealed that Goldwin is actually Discord in disguise.
    • Beast Boy, one of the Unicornicopians brought in to replace members of Lightning's team, is revealed to be Thorax not long after his introduction.
    • The Dark King and his followers (Giant, Demon, Ogre, Alien, and Bad Horse) are retconned into being the Bad Future counterparts to Shining Armor, Big MacIntosh, Pound Cake, Zephyr Breeze, Sweetie Belle, and Soarin, respectively.
    • The Necromancer, Dark Conquest's backer, is revealed to be Grogar, one of the most iconic villains from G1 My Little Pony.
    • Inverted with Dementia, Mysterious, Rep-Stallion who are revealed to be entirely new characters Galaxia Shine, Blackened Myst, and Swift Blade before becoming Titan's minions.
    • Also inverted with Lord Titan who is revealed to be King Titan, the father of Princess Celestia and Princess Luna.
  • The Destiny fanfic TITANOMACH sees protagonist Valentin Kozhukov revealed to be the Speaker. His friend, Fang Sov, is subtly implied to be the future Drifter.
  • In the Pokémon fangame Pokémon Zeta and Omicron, the main antagonist, Odin (in Zeta) or Zeus (in Omicron) is revealed to be The protagonist of Pokémon Gold and Silver, who had his Lugia (in Zeta) or his Ho-Oh (in Omicron) turned into a Shadow Pokemon and stolen from him by your Evil Twin, and turned evil in an effort to gain enough power to take it back.
  • In the Worm x Dishonored crossover fanfic A Change of Pace, The Bone Carver, an antagonist who becomes Taylor's rival and is also marked by the Outsider, is Trevor, the character who would become Chariot in the source story.
  • In the Death Note fanfic Second Chances, L is haunted by a shinigami named Rae in the afterlife who's attempting to tempt him into using a Death Note. Rae turns out to be Light Yagami, L's archenemy.
  • The short The Avengers (2012) story Exclusive has a reporter come in to look in on the daily lives of the Avengers living in Stark Tower. The last few lines reveal that the reporter is actually Peter Parker.
  • A retroactive example happens in the Bride of Discord "verse", where Red Shoes, an OC who goes on to marry Pinkie Pie, is revealed to be Cheese Sandwich using a fake identity to avoid his ex-marefriend, whom he thinks is out to get him, after said character was introduced in the show proper and the creator began to ship him with Pinkie.
  • In the Homestuck fanfic Cultstuck, the titular cult is lead by a Really 700 Years Old man known as the Grand Elder, who in turn is advised by his friend, a rarely-seen "outsider" known as the Messenger. Only when the two finally meet in-story and address each other with their Alternate Universe's selves' given names does it become clear that the Grand Elder is Expatriate Darkleer, who predates the cult, and the Messenger is Grandpa Harley, a human with a teleporter.
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines has two characters who are revealed, though not named, by Sabrina as being people Ash had met in the anime before time reset: his father and the Bloodliner King. The same character.
  • Queen of Blood (SirWill): Neptune is not a Case 53, he's a projection created by Danny Hebert after he triggered by trying to drown himself, with Danny himself being unaware of the connection.
  • Worm: More Than Meets the Eye: Multiplayer a cape working with Uber and Leet with Me's a Crowd powers turns out to be Spree of the Teeth.
  • In Goldstein, the epilogue of Year One reveals that Rabbi Zeller's daughter Shoshananote  is a witch, implying that she is Rose Zeller, a very minor character from the books.
  • In the first Halloween Unspectacular, we're introduce to Humanoid Abomination ReGenesis, a government science project that Professor Membrane, among others, worked on. We never get a description of it until the last chapter, when Zim recognizes him as a newly-empowered Dib. This throws his world-destroying rampage into a new light and turns Membrane's actions from morally ambiguous to absolutely despicable.
  • The second episode of Sword Art Online Abridged featured Jeffrey, a Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant comic relief character who believed that Jesus was ordering him to kill people. By the sixth episode, he returns as the founder of the Laughing Coffin guild, wearing a cloak and carrying a cleaver, revealing himself to be the show's version of PoH.
  • In Earth-27, Ambush Bug learns from reading the manual that Doctor Roy Westerman of Arkham Asylum is one. Not the Monitor! That would just be silly.
    • Em Parker, a prominent Artifact, is revealed to be Rose Walker, a major supporting character from The Sandman.
    • The Thaumaturgist is revealed to be Victor Frankenstein, and one of his identities was T.O. Morrow.
    • Random Sons of Batman trainees Don Jones and Rob Smith are revealed to be the human selves of mutants Bebop and Rocksteady.
  • In the crossover fanfic The Dark Lords Ascendant, Sailor Moon and the Senshi face off against Corrupt Corporate Executive Tanizaki, who wishes to claim Sailor Moon's powers for himself, and is revealed as the reason the Great Freeze would have happened had he targeted Endymion's Golden Crystal first. In the Final Battle against his organization, Ranma figures out that since Tanizaki was The Unfettered, he wouldn't have given up his goal for power when the Great Freeze happened. Remembering that Tanazaki's company was working on spacecraft that could traverse the solar system, Ranma realized in the original timeline that Tanazaki fled the frozen Earth to the planet Nemesis so he could claim the power there, only to become the Death Phantom, one of the canon Arc Villains of Sailor Moon.
  • The Distant Finale of Eugenesis is narrated by an unnamed cultist embarking on a mission to assassinate Rodimus. Throughout the story, the cultist finds himself repeatedly backstabbing various factions and growing disillusioned with his cult until he finally quits and joins a Decepticon-revivalist movement. As he departs from their hideout, his recruiters remark that the little cultist is remarkably smart and will fit in well in their new movement. One of them asks what the cultist's name was again. Their leader says his name is "Tarantulas".
  • In the fangame Hyrule Conquest, a character named Bongo is introduced as the leader of the Yiga Clan. After she is decapitated and her body becomes the host for Dethl, she mutates into the monster Bongo Bongo from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
  • Sacrifices introduces a seemingly Original Character with the initials of A.L. who happens to have a grudge against Zak Saturday. Eventually, it's revealed that A.L. is really Arthur Beeman, who still believes that he needs to kill Zak to ensure Kur can't destroy humanity as well being really pissed about his expulsion from the Circle of Secret Scientists due to the his previous attempt at killing Zak.
  • The Many Dates of Danny Fenton:
    • In the After Many Dates: Danny and Kim storyline, the heroes are plagued by a mysterious new villain named Thanatos who seems hell-bent on ruining Danny's life and killing everyone he loves, including Kim. It soon turns out he has a very good reason for why he's hurting Danny, he has to. After all, he's Dark Danny, a popular villain of the series from The Ultimate Enemy, who needs Danny's life to be ruined in order to exist
    • In the After Many Dates: Danny and Gwen storyline, the two meet a trio of troublemakers named Vivian Hayley Smithee, Donald Commerce and Thad Rash. After getting arrested thanks to Danny Phantom twice, Vlad decides to use his partnership with Vilgax to his advantage on the three. He arms them with tech and gives them the respective codenames of Vid, Download, and Thrash, revealing they're actually the Masters' Blasters, a group of ghost hunters assembled by Vlad in the final episode of the series who never had their real names revealed.
  • In Chapter Four of To Catch A Raven, Raven meets Jinx's peer, Sebastian Crawford. Sebastian is actually Red-X.
  • There are a few examples in this rewrite of Digimon Adventure tri.:
  • Pandora McGonagall from The Peace Not Promised is a Composite Character variation. Initially, she appears to just be Professor McGonagall's niece, but it later turns out that she's actually a younger version of Luna Lovegood's mother.
  • Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox has the aspiring Serial Killer Spiral Reaper, who turns about to be Yamato.
  • In Conduit of Central City, Cole encounters a young girl with powerful yet unstable psychic powers. When finding out that she doesn't even have a real name, Cole decides to use Number-Letter association based on the first three numbers of her Subject Identification, nicknaming her Ace, making her this fic's version of the DCAU Ace.
  • In A Vampire in Love, a crossover with Danny Phantom and Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School, Revolta is forced to seek help after Danny Phantom's involvement destroys her castle and renders her unable to pose a threat to get the Grimwood girls. She's forced to recruit her brother, Repulso, a seemingly new character. She imprisoned him due to how dangerous he is and goes to free him from his prison, her mirror. He's the mirror monster who temporarily replaced Shaggy in the film, albeit forced into that state due to Revolta's magic.
  • In The Victors Project, District 11's first Victor, Orchus, runs away from the district years after his victory and lives in the woods for several years. Once he returns no one recognizes him, and he lives anonymously on District 11 for the rest of his life, which comes to an end when he gives the three-finger salute at Katniss and Peeta's Victory tour and is subsequently executed.
  • In Cinders and Ashes: the Chronicles of Kamen Rider Dante, Hoshi is friends with a Super Sentai nerd by the name of Akagi. By the end of the first act, it's revealed that he is Akagi Nobuo from Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger, brought forth to Hoshi's world by his Creator.
  • In Black Star, the Phantom Thieves fight against Hastur, a manifestation of humanity's fear of an unknown future after Shido's change of heart and Yaldabaoth's defeat in the main game. Hastur bears many similarities to Nyarlathotep, from their views on humanity right down to having the same Catchphrase ("That's a contradiction."/"You contradict yourself.") The author has confirmed that Hastur is in fact Nyarlathotep under a different alias, who had managed to return from his banishment at the end of the second game due to humanity's fear creating a hole in the Collective Unconscious which allowed him to escape.
  • In the Legends of Tomorrow fic "Playing House", most of the Legends are de-aged, and Leonard and Sara have to set themselves up as their "foster parents" in the present day while they look for the witch responsible. They run into trouble when they need to be vetted by a social worker named Nelson. For most of the fic, he appears to be a regular Original Character, but in the final chapter, he is revealed to be Kent Nelson, a.k.a. the host of Doctor Fate and a former member of the JSA.
  • Due the fact that Raditz is brought back to life in Dragon Ball Z: Dynasty, aside from Trunks, Raditz and Launch's children Ranch and Daikon return to the past as well to warn and help the Z-Fighters against the Androids. Except "Daikon" isn't Raditz's son; he's actually Goten using a fake name.
  • Sixes and Sevens introduces original character Emily, but the prologue implies and a later chapter confirms that she's actually this fic's version of Jacqueline Falsworth.
  • The crossover fic The Secret Biography Of Donald Duck has Kay K from the Double Duck series make an appearance during Donald Duck's secret agent arc as his love interest; after Kay narrowly survives a rocket crash and goes off the grid to become a vigilante PI the two of them have a brief reunion before offically breaking up. However this isn't the last time she pops up, as the final chapter reveals that Pepper from DuckTales (2017) was actually Kay K in disguise who infiltrated F.O.W.L. as a sleeper agent.
  • In The Nutdealer Expanded Universe the mysterious Shadow introduced in "Ultra Eden" is revealed in "Elated Run" to actually be Jevil.
  • In What Tomorrow Brings, one of the Controllers who kidnapped Loren turns out to be Feriss 512, AKA Tom's second Yeerk.
  • The Reveal in Where the Truth Lies (Animorphs) is that that "Jordan" is Tom and "Kat" is Melissa.
  • In the Transformers fanfic Vicious Circle, Starscream is sent back in time to the early days of Cybertron and meets, among others, a medic named Wiper who is brainwashed by the Quintessons. In the final chapter, it's revealed that Wiper was a young Soundwave all along.
  • The Junior Officers chapter "Turning Wheels" features a little girl who meets the Octonauts and decides she wants to be one when she grows up. It's not until the end that she is revealed to be Deborah, a junior officer.
  • The Punch-Out!! fanfic Ma Fille introduces a young boy known as Dragon in the chapter "Field Trip". At the end of that chapter, Dragon vows he's going to become a boxer and "read every single rule there is". Fast forward to the chapter "Old-New Guy", where a now-adult Dragon returns to the WVBA, and is revealed to have been a young Aran Ryan, who is now notorious for being extremely aggressive and a cheater.
  • The Rugrats fanfic Beautiful Monster features Harriet DeVille, a woman who is happily married to Betty. Initially, Harriet seems like an Original Character who's replacing Betty's canonical husband Howard. It isn't until Angelica calls her "Howard" that it's revealed that she's actually a Gender Flipped version of him.

    Film — Animated 

    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:
    • In Wonder Woman, the seemingly Reasonable Authority Figure Sir Patrick Morgan is really Ares, the god of war and Diana's half-brother.
    • Also, in Wonder Woman, one of the members of The Squad is a Native American tracker, simply referred to as The Chief. In one scene, he hints to Diana that he has some knowledge of her supernatural origins, and may be a supernatural being himself. Although it's unclear whether future films from DC will elaborate on this, the general agreement is that he's this universe's version of Apache Chief from Super Friends, with the uncomfortable Captain Ethnic aspects toned down.
      • Word of God reveals he's actually Napi, a trickster hero of Blackfoot legend and a demi-god like Diana; though this doesn't exactly discount the "Apache Chief" theory.
    • In Zack Snyder's Justice League, Secretary of Defense Calvin Swanwick, first introduced as a general in Man of Steel, is revealed as J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, in disguise.
    • One of the new Task Force X members introduced in the opening scene of The Suicide Squad is a mysterious character known only as T.D.K., who refuses to explain what the acronym stands for. Once the Squad is engaged in a firefight, it's revealed his codename is "The Detachable Kid," making him the film's version of the obscure Legion of Super-Heroes member Arm-Fall-Off-Boy.
  • 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 canon 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 canon 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 video game sequel to Mechanical Violator Hakaider sees Gurjev 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.
  • 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. And much like the canon 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.
  • 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.".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones is a sequel to her novel Howl's Moving Castle. Initially it appears to be an unrelated story set in a different part of the same fantasy world, with all-new characters. However, late in the book it's revealed that several of the supporting cast are actually characters from the first book, who've been transformed and/or enchanted by djinn magic. Furthermore, the titular castles of both books are one and the same.
  • Towards the end of Danganronpa Zero, it turns out that the protagonist and original character Ryoko Otonashi is actually the amnesiac Big Bad of the franchise, Junko Enoshima.
  • The main antagonist of Shin-ya Goikeda's Devil May Cry novel is a mysterious and heavily-bandaged mercenary named Gilver. It isn't until the end of the book that he's revealed to be Dante's evil twin brother Vergil.
  • Older Than Steam example is in Don Quixote. The second part of the book introduces a minor character called Maese Pedro, a master puppeteer whom we think is one of the many side characters we encounter along the way. Then we find out that it's actually Gines de Pasamonte, the same con-man who handed Don Quixote his major defeat in Part I.
  • Several in Heartless (2016) — a prequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which may or may not be a Reveal depending on your familiarity with the source material: Mary Ann is the same Mary Ann that serves as a maid to the White Rabbit, Margaret Mearle becomes the Duchess, and Raven becomes the Queen of Hearts' executioner.
  • The Laundry Files, as things get more serious, has started to have actual Cthulhu Mythos entities take the stage, in two cases under initially less-threatening identities.
    • The entity in Mo's violin is actually a fragment of The King in Yellow.
    • Mind-controlling supervillain Fabian Everyman a.k.a. the Mandate is none other than Nyarlathotep.
    • The master of the Black Chamber is Cthulhu.
    • Then there's the "unicorn" from "Equoid," which is strongly, strongly hinted to be an avatar of Shub-Niggurath.
  • In A Study in Emerald, the protagonists initially seem like lawyer-friendly expies of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Their names aren't explicitly said and their backgrounds are kept rather vague. The ending reveals the real reason for this: They're not expies of Holmes and Watson, or even the real deal. They're James Moriarty and Sebastian Moran. The real Holmes and Watson are the "killers" (actually freedom fighters) that the detectives are investigating.
  • Jane Yolen's Arthurian novel Sword of the Rightful King includes a character named Gawen who comes to Cadbury and gets a job as Merlinnus' assistant. He winds up getting as much focus as the canon characters before the end, when we find out that he is actually a crossdressing Guinevere.
  • Tortall Universe: In The Numair Chronicles, the gladiator slave Musenda Ogunsanwo is eventually revealed to be "Sarge", who was first introduced as a free man at a much later point in his life in The Immortals. However, this is only a surprise to people who didn't read the Dramatis Personae of Trickster's Choice, in which he makes a brief cameo; or A Spy's Guide, which has a file on him.
  • Outlaws Shadow features several original characters to fill out Robin Hood’s Evil Counterpart Guy of Gisbourne’s surrounding cast, but two of them are tricks pulled on Guy and the audience: the Merry Men’s Master Swordsman Finch Fitzwalter is actually Maid Marian, and Friar Tuck’s goofy and seemingly French companion Dismas is actually Robin Hood.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrowverse:
    • Arrow:
      • This show gives Oliver Queen a younger sister named Thea. Her Affectionate Nickname is "Speedy", the name of Green Arrow's Sidekicks in the comics, and her middle name is revealed to be "Dearden"; Mia Dearden is the name of the second Speedy. The pilot also shows several archery trophies in her room. While it seems to be a Mythology Gag at first, and the third episode of Season Three even has her using "Mia" as an alias, it later officially confirms that she is indeed the show's version of Mia when she dons Roy Harper's (canonically the first Speedy) vigilante gear and uses her nickname as a Code Name the following season.
      • The show also gives Dinah Laurel Lance a younger sister named Sara. She's presumed dead for Season One, but resurfaces in Season Two under the identity of "The Canary", making her the equivalent of Dinah Drake-Lance (who's also in the show as the girls' mother, but never holds the mantle), the first Black Canary in the comics until she passes the mantle to her daughter Dinah Laurel Lance. True to form, Laurel dons the mantle after Sara's death at the beginning of Season Three. However, after Sara's resurrection in Season Four, Laurel is Killed Off for Real by Damien Darhk, asking Oliver on her deathbed to pass the mantle to someone else. In the middle of Season Five, a new character named Tina Boland, a former Central City cop who has the metahuman Canary Cry as a result of the particle accelerator explosion, is introduced to take up that mantle. At the end of her first episode (second counting her cameo at the end of the preceding one), she reveals that "Tina Boland" is just her undercover alias; her real name is Dinah Drake, making this an odd case of coming full circle.note 
      • Edward Fyers' silent right-hand man wears a Deathstroke-styled costume, but after escaping him, Oliver meets and teams up with Deathstroke's civilian identity, Slade Wilson. In his second episode, Slade reveals that the man in the costume is William "Billy" Wintergreen, Slade's butler and comrade in the comics, here his partner who betrayed him to Fyers.
      • An unusual case occurs with Vigilante. In the comics, he's been various people, most notably Adrian Chase, but in Season Five of Arrow, Chase turns out to be an alias of Big Bad Prometheus, whose real name was never revealed in the comics and is given here as Simon Morrison. However, early in Season Six, Dinah Drake's old cop partner, Vincent Sobel, who was believed to have died years ago, is unmasked as Vigilante (this incarnation wears Adrian's suit from the comics, to add to the reveal).
      • In the 2018 crossover Elseworlds, the Flash of Earth-90 implies that his version of John Diggle was a Green Lantern. Eventually, it's revealed that John's stepfather is named General Roy Stewart, which means that if he hadn't rejected his stepfather's family name, Diggle would have been John Stewart. As Diggle was a Canon Immigrant who was brought into the comics before this, this led to Expy Coexistence in the comics. During the Grand Finale of Arrow, a Green Lantern ring comes to John, suggesting that he will don the mantle after all.
    • The Flash:
      • Dr. Harrison Wells, the Big Bad of Season One, appears at first to be an original character. However, it is later revealed that Wells is not only the Reverse-Flash, but the original Reverse-Flash, Eobard Thawne, who stole the identity of the real Harrison Wells fourteen years before the events of the series. Word of God also confirms that Wells is the counterpart of both Dr. Robert Meersman and Dr. Garrison Slate, the founders of S.T.A.R. Labs in the comics. In Season Two, we are introduced to an Alternate Universe analogue of the real Wells, whose daughter is Jesse Quick, making him this universe's version of Johnny Quick.
      • The mysterious masked man from the second half of Season Two turns out to be none other than Jay Garrick, the original Flash in the comics. Furthermore, Jay is the Earth-3 doppelganger of Earth-1's Henry Allen, Barry's father. Meanwhile, Earth-2's "Jay Garrick" turns out to be the Big Bad Hunter Zolomon/Zoom putting on an act (and later making use of a time remnant to fake his own death), making him, like "Adrian Chase" above and "Hank Henshaw" below, a different canon character than the one he was presented as.note 
      • Tom Felton joins the cast in Season Three as a young CSI named Julian Albert. In the seventh episode, Julian is revealed to be the civilian identity of Doctor Alchemy, The Dragon to the current Big Bad Savitarnote , and in the ninth episode, his full name is revealed in a Freeze-Frame Bonus to be Julian Albert Desmond (Doctor Alchemy's real identity was Albert Desmond).
      • Savitar comes off as an In Name Only version of his comics counterpart, who was a long-haired, shirtless, and highly muscular Eastern European man with sparse red, gold, and black armor; this version looks more like a walking suit of silvery armor with glowing blue Tron Lines. However, there's one phrase he keeps repeating when confronted, and in the twentieth episode, it proves to be a Sarcastic Confession of his true identity: "I am the Future Flash." He's really the show's version of Barry's evil future self from the New 52 comics, as hinted by the Tron Lines having the same design as they did on the comics' black Flash suit, and it's indicated that he merely took the name "Savitar" from myths about the God of Motion. He also proves to be a Decomposite Character, as in the preceding episode, Barry time travels to 2024 and meets his future self, who is not villainous; "Savitar" is a scarred time remnant of that Barry, representing all of the Future Flash's negative qualities.
      • Throughout Season 4, the members of Team Flash encounter a mysterious girl. It's eventually revealed that she's Barry and Iris's daughter from the future. She introduces herself as Nora West-Allen, indicating that she's the show's version of Nora Allen II from the Bad Future in the Justice League (Rebirth) storyline "Legacy". Then it turns out that she's also the show's version of XS, who in the comics was Jenni Ognats, Barry's granddaughter.
      • Inverted with Cicada, the Big Bad of Season Five. In the comics, he's a long-lived cult leader named David Hersch. Indeed, when Harrison Sherloque Wells takes the case, he quickly deduces Cicada's identity. In fact, Sherloque faked the deduction. He has managed to identify and capture Cicada on over 30 Earths, and it's always been David Hersch. However, due to XS changing the timeline during the Season Four finale, Earth-1's Cicada is actually a Canon Foreigner named Orlin Dwyer. Instead of being merely a serial killer, like Hersch would apparently have been, Dwyer is determined to wipe out all metahumans in the world. And Dwyer is only a Disc-One Final Boss. For the last stretch of the season, the future version of his niece Grace Gibbons, now Cicada II, is an even more powerful and ruthless (she murders Dr. Ambrose, then her uncle when he tries to talk her down) version of the character.
      • The Once a Season analogue of Harrison Wells for Season Six is an Adventurer Archaeologist named Nash Wells who tries to prove that the Monitor is a false god and prophet. Crisis on Infinite Earths reveals he's the Arrowverse version of Pariah, whose origins also involve searching for "forbidden" knowledge. However, his role as the one who accidentally enters the antimatter universe and awakens the Anti-Monitor, due to his experiments with trying to see the birth of creation, is given to Mar Novu, the Monitor himself.
      • Zigzagged with Eva McCulloch. She’s initially set up as a straightforward adaptation of Evan McCulloch/Mirror Master, but is eventually revealed to actually be a mirror clone created when the real Eva was killed years past. She then takes up the name Mirror Monarch, a 25th century incarnation of Mirror Master in the comics.
    • Supergirl:
      • Season One combines this with Composite Character in a similar fashion to the "Harrison Wells" reveal. Hank Henshaw, the head of the D.E.O., initially comes off as a gruff and secretive Scary Black Man, basically a Gender Flip of Amanda Waller, who has already become the evil Cyborg Superman (indicated by his eyes occasionally glowing red), but in the seventh episode, he reveals his true identity: J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter. Henshaw has been merged with the human detective John Jones, who is the Martian's standard disguise in the comics. The real Henshaw, thought long dead, does appear in Season Two under the service of Lex Luthor's mother Lillian Luthor as Cyborg Superman, but has yet to obtain a body that will let him resemble the Man of Steel.
      • Season Three features a sinister, nameless witch who exists as an interactive hologram and pushes Samantha Arias into becoming Reign, then further manipulates her and the other two Worldkillers to bring about the cleansing of Earth. In the twentieth episode, Kara and Mon-El arrive in Argo City, where the witch turns out to be alive, a member of the High Council, and named Selena; she's this universe's version of the Big Bad from the Supergirl movie.
    • Legends of Tomorrow:
      • After being resurrected, re-ensouled by John Constantine, and briefly rejoining Team Arrow, the aforementioned Sara Lance decides to leave her identity as "The Canary" behind and becomes the White Canary, an existing comics character who's usually villainous (and asian).
      • Ray Palmer's fiancée (later wife) in the comics is named Jean Loring. In Arrow, Jean was given an Age Lift and is the Queens' family friend and lawyer while Ray had a late fiancée named Anna instead. On Legends, he finally reveals Anna's surname as Loring, making her and Jean a Decomposite Character. The women's relationship is not stated, though.
    • Crisis on Earth-X: One of the new Reichsman is called Prometheus, despite having little in common with the comic versions or Arrow's own Prometheus, aside from wearing the same costume as the latter. He is eventually unmasked as Tommy Merlyn's Earth-X counterpart, essentially filling the role of the evil Tommy from the New 52 comics.note 
    • Black Lightning:
      • Khalil Payne appears to be the average high school athlete who dreams of becoming a professional until a Dream-Crushing Handicap turns him into a paraplegic. However, thanks to the machinations of Tobias Whale, who provides him with reconstructive spinal surgery, Khalil returns as a Dreadlocked enforcer for Tobias with Super Strength and wearing bracers firing anesthetic needles, thus becoming the villain Painkiller, part of Black Lightning's rogues in the comics.
      • Lala appears to be nothing more than a drug dealer who works for Tobias. After getting arrested and killed, it looks like that's all there is to him. However, he returns, brought back to life thanks to Tobias and money he put into researching resurrection, with the ability to gain the images of people he's killed tattooed into his skin. Tobias then gives him the name of lesser known DC villain Tattooed Man.
    • Superman & Lois:
      • The character known in the first six episodes as "Captain Luthor" or "The Stranger" is revealed in Episode 7 to actually be John Henry Irons, a.k.a. Steel.
  • In Cursed, a loose reimagining of the Arthurian Legend, there are a few characters who seem to be Canon Foreigners, only to be revealed as classic Arthurian characters. This includes:
    • Igraine, Arthur's nun sister, who explains soon after her introduction that her birth name is Morgana.
    • Squirrel, who in the Season 1 finale reveals his given name is Percival.
    • The Weeping Monk, who reveals at the end of Season 1 that he was once called Lancelot.
    • Although not mentioned on the show yet, the book Cursed is based upon reveals that the Red Spear's real name is Guinevere.
  • In the Death Note live-action drama, the Task Force is joined by a former FBI agent named Shoko Himura. She is eventually revealed to be a Race Lifted version of Halle Lidner from the manga.
  • Doom Patrol (2019):
    • In the third episode, the heroes meet a dorky but goodnatured American tourist named Steven, who has come to Paraguay for a procedure that will grant him superpowers. He emerges from the transformation chamber in The Stinger, revealing himself to be the show's version of Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man.
    • When Cyborg is captured and taken to the Ant Farm in the twelfth episode, one of the superhuman prisoners he briefly encounters is a shaggy-haired man who has been there for decades and can't recall his own name. The next episode reveals he's an amnesiac Flex Mentallo.
  • Elementary reveals some Sherlock Holmes characters this way:
    • A tough-guy baddie known as "M" is introduced, who the viewer might assume will be revealed to be this series' incarnation of the Big Bad, Moriarty. He turns out to be a different canon character, Moriarty's Dragon Sebastian Moran.
    • Then one canon character is whammed into another with the revelation that Irene Adler was Moriarty all along.
  • The Exorcist initially seems to have little if any connection to the original films, until it's revealed that Angela Rance is actually Regan MacNeil and the "new" demon known as the Salesman is actually her old enemy, Pazuzu.
  • When From Dusk Till Dawn was adapted into a television series, Jake Busey showed up early in season one as a Professor Aiden Tanner. Professor Tanner never appeared in any of the films, so you could assume he's a Canon Foreigner. You can stop assuming a few episodes later when he shows up as the biker Sex Machine.
  • Game of Thrones: Theon spends most of Season Three tortured by a nameless Bolton follower portrayed by Iwan Rheon. It isn't until the finale that he's finally called Ramsay, Roose Bolton's son.
  • Gotham:
    • In Season One, The Electrocutioner seemed to be a new creation, given his name of "Jack Gruber", much like Batman: The Animated Series creating Temple Fugate for its Clock King or Lois & Clark creating Kyle Griffin for its Prankster rather than respectively using the canonical William Tockman or Oswald Loomis. Then Jack's real name is revealed to be "Buchinsky", the last name of two of the canonical Electrocutioners in the comics (who are also brothers), meaning he's either the original undergoing Named by the Adaptation (as his first name was never revealed) or he's the third Electrocutioner, Lester, undergoing Adaptation Name Change with his first name.
    • In Season Two, Theo Galavan seems to be a brand-new villain invented for the show. All throughout his arc, nothing seems to change this, aside from having an association with the Secret Order of St. Dumas, his original family. Then the next Arc Villain brings him Back from the Dead, and his memories are kind of scrambled, leading to him taking on the identity of a mythical knight from his family's mythology...Azrael, another character connected to St. Dumas.
    • In the Season Three finale, Butch Gilzean, Fish Mooney's former lap dog turned Penguin's then turned Barbara's, has fallen into a coma, and the nurses discover that his real name is Cyrus Gold, a.k.a. Solomon Grundy. Sure enough, in the very next season, he returns as the famed villain.
    • Subverted with Ecco, who was introduced late into the fourth season, and started gradually exhibiting more and more characteristics of Harley Quinn, to the point where she's seemingly one Given Name Reveal away from being cemented as the show's incarnation of Harleen Quinzel. Then, in the series finale, after getting stabbed by Barbara Kean, she's shot to death by The Joker, with the implication that he would find another girl like her (i.e. the actual Harley) later in life.
    • Similarly, Mr. Penn suddenly comes Back from the Dead with a dummy called Scarface and, despite his obvious physical resemblance to Arnold Wesker, is killed by Riddler in the same episode.
    • Secretary Walker turns out to be Nyssa al Ghul, filling a role similar to her sister Talia in The Dark Knight Rises. Perhaps less surprisingly, her heavy Eduardo is Bane — the fact his surname is "Durance" is a clue, but a fairly subtle one, since it's a name more associated with Bane's father Edmund Durance/King Snake than Bane himself, who in the comics just goes by Bane.
  • Episode 5 of Jupiter's Legacy opens with Sheldon Sampson talking with a therapist in what appears to be a therapist's office, setting it up a framing device for the Union origin story flashback portions of the episode. The therapist himself appears to be just a random nameless bit character, however the end of the episode reveals he's actually Jack Hobb – a villain the Utopian fought and eventually re-habilitated in Jupiter's Circle, with the therapist's office being inside a cell in the Supermax.
  • Kamen Rider Decade has a few subversions, although it can be handwaved because the heroes are travelling through The Multiverse and these characters are just Alternate Selves of the originals.
    • Eijiro Hikari, the Cloud Cuckoo Lander Team Dad of the heroes, is actually Shocker's Dr. Shinigami, complete with his kaijin form, Ikadevil. It's implied however that he was just a guinea pig of the actual character, and Decade's Grand Finale movie shows that it's an identity that he doesn't want to go back to, although he gets kidnapped by the next character on this list and brainwashed.
    • Narutaki, the closest Decade has to a Big Bad, takes on the identity of Colonel Zol, another Shocker admin like Hikari. However, Narutaki is still a Non-Action Big Bad and never assumes Zol's werewolf form, making him just a flimsy Legacy Character. Then in Super Hero Taisen, he becomes yet another character, this time Destron's Doktor G from Kamen Rider V3, but unlike his Zol identity he does transform into an updated version of G's kaijin form, Kani Laser.
    • Nobuhiko Tsukikage, Sayo's (Tsukasa's/Decade's younger sister) caretaker and usurper of Tsukasa's role as leader of Great Shocker is in fact Shadow Moon.
  • Throughout the first season of Legion (2017), David is tormented by several psychic entities, including one that has assumed the guise of his friend Lenny, a monster called the Devil with the Yellow Eyes, a children's book character called the Angry Boy, and his childhood dog, King. In Episode 7, we find out that all of these individuals are actually forms of Amahl Farouk, a.k.a. the Shadow King, a prominent villain from the X-Men comics.
  • Inverted with Dr. Smith in Lost in Space (2018), as she's really not Dr. Smith, who was still male, but rather, pulled a Kill and Replace on him.
  • From the TV sections of the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
      • Skye. Throughout the first season, she's a normal human hacker with a Mysterious Past. At the beginning of the second season, the team starts suspecting she may have an alien origin. But it isn't until the tenth episode that it's revealed that she is actually Daisy Johnson a.k.a. Quake, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent from the comics.
      • Andrew Garner, May's husband, is nothing more that a regular psychoanalyst and professor - until at some point between seasons 2 and 3 he became an Inhuman, a canon supervillain named Lash (whose human identity in the comics is someone else, as with Deathlok).
      • Speaking of Deathlok, he was introduced in the very first episode as Mike Peterson, a factory worker given superpowers due to a modified version of the Extremis serum from Iron Man 3 called Centipede. He was captured by SHIELD and became a SHIELD agent until he was seemingly killed by Hydra and turned into a cyborg. His identity as Deathlok wasn't revealed until a close-up on one of his bionic parts showed that he was part of a Project Deathlok.
      • In the first half of Season 3, the central plot is an attempt by HYDRA to bring back an ancient Inhuman banished to another planet thousands of years ago. Finally, the Inhuman possesses Ward, a SHIELD agent who turned out to be a HYDRA agent, and turns out to be the MCU version of Hive (with overtones of Apocalypse), making it a double case of the trope.
      • Anton Ivanov, the "Superior" of the Watchdogs, received a lot of build-up, only to be ignored by Coulson (who Ivanov considers his greatest foe) and soundly defeated by Daisy (who Ivanov considers scum). Then Aida gets a hold of him and gives him a remote-operated LMD controlled by his severed head in a jar, revealing that he is Red Guardian. Part of the reason this worked is because the MCU averts One Steve Limit; Ivanov is not the first character named Anton. And then in later episodes, he learns how to pilot multiple mobile LMD bodies at once, which he describes as "designed only for killing." So he's also the MCU's M.O.D.O.K.. (A further clue is that the current version of M.O.D.O.K. in the comics is a cloned brain of the original who was introduced as controlling an army of LMDs, and he calls himself M.O.D.O.K. Superior.)
      • AIDA is already drawn from the comics for the fourth season, but late in the season she traps the cast in a virtual simulation where she runs a tyrannical regime under a much better-known comics identity of Madame Hydra, and later escapes into the real world with this form, albeit now with Inhuman powers.
    • Nobu in Daredevil (2015): an episode late in the first season reveals that the organization he represents is the Hand, a clan of ninjas that often clash with Daredevil. His full name is later given as Nobu Yoshioka; in the comics Kagenobu Yoshioka was the founder of the Hand, and true enough, he comes back as season 2's Big Bad.
    • Will Simpson in Jessica Jones (2015) seems to be an original character who wasn't based on any previous Marvel hero or villain. It's later revealed that he is the Marvel Cinematic Universe's version of Daredevil villain Nuke a.k.a. Frank Simpson.
    • Andre Deschaine in Cloak & Dagger (2018) turns out to be D'Spayre, sort of. He's a superhuman rather than a Fear Lord, but he has the same powers, and a link to Tandy and Ty's origin.
    • In WandaVision, Wanda's Nosy Neighbor Agnes turns out to be the witch Agatha Harkness, who served as a mentor to Wanda in the comics. However, she has a more villainous role here, meddling in the plot of Wanda's sitcom reality for her own ends. The Reveal even calls this trope by name, courtesy of a Villain Song titled "Agatha All Along".
    • Hawkeye (2021):
      • In Episode Two, Clint's old Ronin suit gets taken by a firefighter who LARPs on his downtime and wanted a better costume for an upcoming session. After Clint finds him, he's revealed to be Grills, Clint's neighbor from the Matt Fraction/David Aja run of the comic.
      • Episode Three introduces the mysterious "Uncle", the leader of the Tracksuit Mafia in a flashback. For most of the series he seems to be The Ghost, until Episode Five "Ronin" reveals him to be none other than Wilson Fisk a.k.a The Kingpin.
    • Moon Knight (2022):
      • Marc Spector's wife was changed from Marlene Alraune to Layla El-Faouly, becoming both an Action Girl and Egyptian like Moon Knight's origin. But the character's father, still a murdered archaeologist, being now named Abdallah El-Faouly hinted at what the character would become: Abdoul Faoul was the first Scarlet Scarab, and the season finale had Layla turning into that hero.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • August Wayne Booth is a mysterious character who's implied at various points to be the Author and Baelfire, or possibly an actual Canon Foreigner, but the end of Season One reveals he's none of those; he's a grown-up Pinocchio, coming to Storybrooke after magic returning to the world means his own curse activates and he starts turning back into wood for being selfish.
    • Part of Rumpelstiltskin's backstory involves his neglectful Resentful Guardian of a father, Malcolm. Malcolm is revealed in the third season to be the adult counterpart of Peter Pan.
    • While most of the characters, settings, and storylines have been derived from fairy tales and myths, the Dark One's dagger seems for most of the show to be an original creation. However, it's revealed in the fifth season that the dagger was fashioned from the broken blade of Excalibur.
  • The second season of the horror Massive Multiplayer Crossover Penny Dreadful reveals that the werewolf Ethan Chandler was actually born Ethan Lawrence Talbot.
  • Power Rangers
    • Nate is just another Mission Control member and creator of the Rangers' tech in Power Rangers: Beast Morphers, until he gets kidnapped by the bad guys and becomes the PR equivalent to Beet Buster, the Gold Beast Morpher Ranger.
      • This gets one-upped by the end of the second season. The team captures Evox and tries to destroy him, but he escapes into the computers of Grid Battleforce HQ. Instead of going to the Morph-X towers, he heads to Nate's Ranger Vault...and the suitcase containing the Ranger Series Morphers. It turns out that Evox is actually RPM's Big Bad Venjix!
  • Riverdale:
    • Inverted with Miss Grundy, who turns out to be an impostor who stole her current identity from a dead woman of the same name.
    • Zigzagged with the man who attacked Fred in the Season One finale. Season Two reveals that the assailant is the show's version of Black Hood, but it turns out that his true identity isn't anyone who took on the mantle of the Black Hood in the comics, but rather fellow canon character Hal Cooper.
  • Molly's colleague Jim in Sherlock seems like an ineffectual Straight Gay background character, until it's revealed that his last name is Moriarty.
  • Smallville:
    • Zig-Zagged with Chloe Sullivan who, when she writes her first piece for the Daily Planet, uses her cousin's Lois Lane's name as her nom de plume - setting up that Chloe is the Smallville-verse Lois. But later in the series Lois proper shows up. Chloe becomes the series' version of Oracle instead.
    • Tess Mercer is eventually and gradually revealed to be a Composite Character of Eve Tessmacher, Lena Luthor, Mercy Graves and Big Barda.
    • Davis Bloome, a love interest of Chloe's, is revealed to be the mortal form of Doomsday, with Doomsday being a Superpowered Evil Side.
    • Also inverted: after spending several seasons with Jimmy Olsen, he's killed off and we find out that his hereto unseen brother will become the canon character. As it turns out, the name he was identified by was his middle name, his first name was Henry. His younger brother has the actual canon name.
    • In the final season, Tess adopts a young clone of Lex known as LX-15 in hopes of him avoiding the same path as his donor as he ages rapidly into a teenager. At first it seems he's going to be a new Lex Luthor, but eventually becomes scared of what he's becoming and gives in. Tess tries to end his suffering by injecting cyanide, but finds his skin is invulnerable. After more tests and his memories as LX-15 disappear, it turns out he has Clark Kent's DNA. He adopts a new, friendly attitude and is welcomed by Clark with a new name: Conner Kent.
  • The Spartacus series:
  • Watchmen (2019) focuses on a Tulsa policewoman named Angela Abar. While she herself isn't a case, at first, it seems that her grandfather, Will Reeves, and husband, Cal, are created for the series like her. However, Will and Cal are this trope as "This Extraordinary Being" and "An Almost Religious Awe" reveal they're respectively Hooded Justice and Dr. Manhattan.
  • In the "Terra Firma" two-parter of Star Trek: Discovery, Burnham and Georgiou encounter a mysterious man named Carl, who knows things and has unknown powers. Fans have thrown out guesses, including suggestions that he's a Q. After he sends Georgiou back to the Mirror Universe as a Secret Test of Character, he finally reveals himself to be the Guardian of Forever.

    Podcast 
  • 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 

    Theatre 
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed Origins: The ending reveals that Aya, Bayek's wife, renounces her old identity and becomes Amunet - one of the Assassins with a statue dedicated to them under the Villa Auditore, who was famous for killing Cleopatra with a poisonous snake.
  • Batman: Arkham Knight does this with its titular villain. Up until the game's release, Rocksteady insisted that the Arkham Knight was an original character who stood as Batman's antithesis. While the Arkham Knight as an identity was new, the person behind the mask, Jason Todd a.k.a. Red Hood, was an already established character. This set up a Meta Twist when the Arkham Knight became a Canon Immigrant in Detective Comics #1000. Many fans assumed this incarnation of the Knight was a preexisting character, due to how knowledgeable the Knight is about Batman. Then Detective Comics #1003 had an unmasking revealing that the Knight is actually Astrid Arkham, a woman, thus making the Arkham Knight a truly original character within the comic book canon.
  • Batman: The Telltale Series:
    • The main antagonist of the series, Lady Arkham, turned out to be a canon character, though few people probably expected that said character was Vicki Vale.
    • Also played with regarding John Doe. Upon first seeing him in Episode 4, it's obvious he's going to become The Joker, and Season 2 is set up as John Doe's Start of Darkness. The twist is he only becomes The Joker, as we know him, in one of Season 2 Episode 4's Multiple Endings. In the other, he becomes a Vigilante Man inspired by Batman, fighting against The Agency.
  • Bendy and the Ink Machine: The tie-in novel, Dreams Come To Life, stars Daniel "Buddy" Lewek, a volunteer at Joey Drew Studios who appears to have been created solely for the book. Come the end of the book however, Buddy is transformed into a Boris clone, with the heavy implication that he's the Boris we ally with in Chapter Three.
  • The Caligula Effect 2 introduces Marie Amabuki, the Student Council President of Tatefushi Academy and playable character. Only late in the game it's revealed (and outright confirmed in her Character Episodes) that she's actually Marie Mizuguchi or rather, as how the player knew her in the previous game, the former Ostinato Musician Wicked.
  • In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), one of main protagonists, Sergeant Kyle Garrick, at first seemed to be a completely new character without any direct counterparts from the original Modern Warfare trilogy. That is, until the very end of the Campaign when Laswell reveals to Price his nickname: Gaz, a diminutive of his surname, making Garrick a rebooted version of the original Captain Price's second-in-command all the way back from Call of Duty 4.
  • Castlevania
    • In the first Castlevania: Chronicles of Sorrow game Aria of Sorrow, the player character Soma Cruz is eventually revealed to be the reincarnation of the series Big Bad Dracula himself.
    • In Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, Sara Trantoul, on the verge of being turned into a vampire, makes use of alchemy to transplant her soul into Leon's whip, turning it into the Vampire Killer.
    • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
      • Protagonist Gabriel Belmont initially appears to be an original character created for that series' universe, based primarily on Lament of Innocence's Leon Belmont, the founder of the clan. The ending of the game, however, reveals that he goes on to become that series' incarnation of Dracula, the sworn enemy of the Belmont clan in the main canon proper.
      • Gabriel's mentor and ally, Zobek, is later revealed to be one of the Lords of Shadow, and the Alternate Continuity's version of Death.
  • Cognitive Dissonance: Your companion Zarbol is revealed to be an insectoid alien in a protective craft near the end of the game. Then he goes back in time, becoming Buzz Buzz from Earthbound.
  • Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance throws a piece of information in the ending that suggest Christo is possibly Seraph Lamington in his younger years. The game is sort of a Stealth Prequel, and in his epilogue, he returned to Celestia and rose up in rank and became a Seraph, and played a key role in an incident involving the demon, angel, and human worlds. Some minor details that support this are that he's got the same hair color but not washed out, his ultimate character skill looks awfully similar to Lamington's special skill, and the fact that we never found out Christo's real name.
  • Doom:
    • In DOOM (2016), Olivia Pierce is a human Mad Scientist who organized the invasion of Mars by the demons from Hell so that she would be given vast supernatural powers by their leader. Exposure to the energies of Hell has left her an Evil Cripple who can only move with help from a cybernetic exoskeleton. When the demons finally give her the powers she wanted, she and her cybernetics are gruesomely transformed into the Spider Mastermind, the original Big Bad and Final Boss of the first game.
    • In DOOM Eternal, flashbacks and codex entries concerning the history of the Night Sentinels reveal that the Doom Slayer is actually the main character of the original Doom games. He's even depicted in his original helmet and outfit, with the subtitles outright referring to him as "Doomguy".
  • Dreamfall Chapters gives a lot of space to a "new" character, Saga, who is playable in interlude segments between chapters of the main story, featuring her at different stages of her life. As the story progresses, however, it becomes clearer that we've seen Saga before, and that she's the younger version of Lady Alvane, the old woman who, among other things, served as the narrator of the original The Longest Journey, and was also the first character the player meets in that game.
  • Fate/Grand Order:
    • Throughout the Cosmos of the Lostbelt Saga, an individual claiming to be from Chaldea has been visiting the Lostbelts ahead of the protagonists and helping save the local residents. He finally appears in "Atlantis" to protect the protagonists and Mash from Kirschtaria Wodime and reveals his face to be Romani Archaman...but the heroes can quickly tell that he is not Dr. Roman. Kirschtaria suspects that the Chaldean's true identity is Goetia, the Big Bad of the previous part.
    • "Cosmos of the Lostbelt" introduces a woman named Koyanskaya, Goredolf's secretary who is actually working with the Foreign God for her own goals. The third chapter SIN reveals that her full name is Tamamo Vitch Koyanskaya, implying she is one of Tamamo-no-Mae's tails from Fate/EXTRA CCC. The Tunguska Sanctuary events then reveals that Koyanskaya isn't the real Tamamo Vitch. Rather she is the Anthropomorphic Personification of the animals killed in the Tunguska Event, who took Tamamo's likeness and aimed to become a Beast for misguided revenge against humans.
  • Fight Club: The player character is revealed by the end of the story mode as the man who detonated the bombs for Project Mayhem.
  • Final Fantasy doesn't have a singular continuity in most cases, but seemingly-Original Generation characters tend to reveal themselves as recurring ones instead.
    • Final Fantasy IV: the King of Baron and protagonist Cecil's Parental Substitute, gets killed even before the game started, but then becomes the Dark Knight Odin.
    • Final Fantasy IX: minor NPC "Alleyway Jack" is Gilgamesh. Since Gilgamesh is established to be a Dimensional Traveler, he's actually the exact same one as his past guest appearances, although in this case his appearance has drastically changed.
    • Final Fantasy XIV actually manages to do this with Gilgamesh within its own continuity. Gilgamesh is met as himself early on in the Hildibrand sidequests after ARR. Come Stormblood's leg of the sidequests, it's revealed that Yojimbo, who is otherwise the boss of the Kugane Castle dungeon, is Gilgamesh in disguise. Likewise, the Warrior of Light is strongly hinted to be some otherwordly being, especially when Emet-Selch mistakes them for Azem, who was a friend they used to know back in the ancient days. It's later confirmed that the Warrior of Light is a reincarnation of Azem, meaning the player has been Azem from the very moment they created their new character in the character creation menu.
    • Final Fantasy X: The slightly-Creepy Child and Spirit Advisor who had been accompanying Tidus since even before his journey began, is actually the human form of Bahamut.
  • The Book 3 of Fire Emblem Heroes introduces two generals from Hel called Líf and Thrasir. Later in the story, it turns out the two are actually an alternate version of Alfonse and a future version of Veronica respectively.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's 3 revolves around the character "Springtrap" which is revealed to be possessed by William Afton, who killed the children that possessed the main antagonists and likely helped design them, although we do know he definitively designed the animatronics featured in Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location. Although, his involvement with engineering wasn't clear yet.
    • In Freddy Fazbear's Pizzeria Simulator, all of the four remaining animatronics are what's left of them after the fire at Fazbear's Fright. And three of them are very clearly old ones returning for one more go round with the nightguard, with Molten Freddy being the remains of Ennard, with Funtime Freddy now being in control, Scraptrap being what's left of Springtrap and Scrap Baby being what became of Circus Baby after getting kicked out of Ennard. The final one, however, is Lefty, who is seemingly a brand new character. At the end of the game, they are revealed to actually be the Puppet, who was sealed in the new Lefty suit.
    • Michael Afton, the protagonist of Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location, manages to top his father in this contest. In fact, he's actually Mike Schmidt, the protagonist of the first Five Nights at Freddy's, who went under a fake alias.
  • God of War:
  • I-No was introduced in Guilty Gear XX as one of the game's most mysterious characters, with no given background. -STRIVE- reveals one last bombshell to the mystery: she was Axl's girlfriend, Megumi, from one of the countless timelines she's been part of; the same Megumi Axl spent the entire series looking for.
  • Injustice 2: Being able to play as Brainiac in Arcade Mode and have him fight himself at the end of it seems like the standard fighting MST3K Mantra at play...only for the final cutscene to reveal that the playable Brainiac is actually the heroic Brainiac 5 from the Legion of Super-Heroes.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Terra is one of the protagonists of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and there is no mention of him in any of the previous games. However, Kingdom Hearts III reveals that after his body was taken by Xehanort, he was turned into the Guardian, the Heartless that fought by Ansem in the first game.
    • The two teens seen at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts III are revealed at the end of the game to be Eraqus and Xehanort when they were younger.
    • Luxu, from Kingdom Hearts χ, never shows his face in the game. Once again, III reveals that all this time, Luxu was actually Xigbar.
  • King's Quest (2015) has a few examples of this, being a reimagining of the original series.
    • Manny is introduced as one of the Knight Hopefuls who befriends the young Graham, but ends up becoming Chapter 1's main villain. Chapter 2 introduces a human who was Switched at Birth by goblins and raised by them, who initially is only called "Goblin Man", and The Stinger of the episode has him teaming up with Manny. Chapter 3 reveals Manny to be a goblin himself, which you'd think would mean this trope wouldn't apply, until The Stinger, which has him drinking a potion to turn himself into an elderly human, implying he is Manannan, the main villain of King's Quest III. Meanwhile the Goblin Man's real name is Mordon, and he and Manny regard each other as brothers due to being Switched at Birth, making him Mordak, the villain of King's Quest V. Chapter 4 confirms both of these.
    • Chapter 3 retells the story of Graham meeting his future bride, except instead of one princess, there's two, Vee and Neese. Whichever one he ends up romancing turns out to be Valanice, Graham's wife from the original games. The one he doesn't marry ends up becoming Queen Icebella.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Ganon was established as the Big Bad of The Legend of Zelda and the Greater-Scope Villain of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. The mysterious wizard Agahnim is presented as a new villain for Link to fight in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but then it turns out that "Agahnim" is just an avatar that Ganon can speak and act through while inside the Dark World; Link's been fighting the King of Evil since the game started.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, new character Sheik is revealed to be Princess Zelda's disguise after she was forced into hiding by Ganondorf as a child.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Tetra is revealed to be Princess Zelda's latest incarnation. The reason her name isn't Zelda is that Hyrule was flooded years ago putting an end to the royal family Tetra is descended from, which had a tradition of naming daughters "Zelda". Basically, her name would be Zelda and she would be a princess if she had a kingdom to rule over.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the new incarnation of Link is taught sword techniques by a mysterious ghost swordsman called the Hero's Shade. Word of God has confirmed that the Shade is the spirit of the Link from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the Hero of Time.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword take place at the very beginning of the Zelda timeline, so we see a few early versions of established elements.
      • When Link tempers the Goddess Sword, which he carries throughout the game, in all three Sacred Flames, it becomes the Master Sword.
      • The Final Boss is the Demon King Demise, who Hylia fought against millennia ago. Link defeats him, but in his dying moments he places a curse on Link and Zelda that they'll be forever plagued by the incarnation of his hatred. This strongly implies that Demise is the original version of series antagonist Ganon.note 
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds implies that Irene's grandmother is a now elderly Maple from the Oracle games, given how her Lorulian counterpart is given the nickname "Mapes".
  • Metroid: Other M features a chicken-legged rabbit creature called "Little Birdie" encountered on the Bottle Ship several times. Despite its cute appearance and small size, it has an aggressive parasitic nature and leaves Samus spooked for reasons she can barely articulate. It later molts into a larger hairy lizard form and attacks Samus until it is fought off. Following its blood trail, she finds that the creature has molted again, and that its adult form is none other than Ridley, her Arch-Enemy.
  • While the Ancient Minister, the field leader of the Subspace Army in Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Subspace Emissary, appears to be an Original Generation character, when his clothes burn off, it's revealed that he's actually R.O.B.
  • Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis, despite being a prequel to Tactics Ogre initially does not seem like it has any real connection to it. However, in the game's canon ending, the protagonist of KoL, Alphonse Loehir, has his name changed by the Pope to Lans Tartare, who is the primary antagonist of Tactics Ogre (the remake translates his first name as "Lanselot").
  • Metal Gear:
    • In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, the new hero, Raiden, works with a guy known as Iroquois Pliskin. This is eventually revealed to be the code name of Solid Snake, the hero of the previous game. Not that he was fooling anyone though.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (a prequel set some thirty years before the original game) stars Naked Snake, a Suspiciously Similar Substitute of the series' protagonist Solid Snake. At the end of the game, Naked Snake receives the title of Big Boss, the Big Bad of the original Metal Gear games and Solid Snake's clone-father. Subverted in that it was a Captain Obvious Reveal — the game was known to be Big Boss's Start of Darkness long before it was released.
    • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots: The Patriots, the shady Bilderberg-esque group in control of the American government, is revealed to be your support team from Snake Eater.
    • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain inverts this trope and plays it straight; Venom Snake is not Big Boss, but a player-generated character who is then surgically altered to become the body double of Big Boss. At the same time, though, he technically is the canon Big Boss, because he's the final boss from the original game. Eli, meanwhile, is a Liquid Snake lookalike that doesn't share Snake's DNA because Venom Snake didn't get gene therapy to go with his Big Boss plastic face. Possibly the biggest character reveals of the series, even outdoing the above.
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor: The elven wraith turns out to be Celebrimbor, a character who figured heavily into the Ring's history.
  • The sequel Middle-earth: Shadow of War reveals the protagonist Talion became one of the Nine Ringwraiths in service to Sauron in the Golden Ending.
  • In Mother 3, the Big Bad is unseen at first and not named beyond one initial. The game does hint at direct connections to the world of EarthBound (1994) as early as the third chapter, but it's not until later that it reveals that its antagonist is Porky Minch.
  • One of the many villains in Namco × Capcom is a Red Arremer Joker who serves as Astaroth's right hand man. It’s all but said that this Red Arremer is, in fact, Firebrand, having been promoted to Joker for all of his heroics to the Infernal Village.
  • In Sea of Thieves, the "A Pirate's Life" update, a crossover event which includes multiple characters from Pirates of the Caribbean, introduces a new character called the Castaway, who acts as the quest giver for the storyline, and who knows a fair bit more than a seemingly random stranger should know about Jack Sparrow's exploits. That is, until Chapter 4 reveals that she's actually the sea goddess Calypso, one of Jack's allies and Davey Jones's former love interest.
  • The true ending of Sin and Punishment: Star Successor reveals that the female protagonist, Kachi, is none other than Achi, the Big Bad of the first game.
  • In Silent Hill 3 the player character Heather is eventually revealed to be the reincarnation of Alessa/Cheryl that Harry Mason rescued at the end of the first game.
  • The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe does this with the Data Collector, the text that first appears on screen when asking to adjust the time and brightness sliders who plays a large role in the final ending as it's revealed to be a living entity. There are, however, several hints that they are/were Employee 432, the employee with numerous company complaints and suspicious Easter Eggs related to them.
  • In a subtle version, the villain Hessonite from the Steven Universe spinoff game Save The Light bears a noted resemblance to Nephrite's unnamed commander in her flashback in "Monster Reunion". Much later, Nephrite names her commander as Hessonite in "Legs from Here to Homeworld"; her gem placement and eventual Word of God confirm that it's not just a Hessonite, but that Hessonite.
  • Shantae and the Seven Sirens introduces players to zombie half-genie, Fillin the Blank, who is revealed to be Shantae's friend Rottytops near the endgame.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei V, the deuteragonist of the game is a proto-fiend called Aogami, an artifically-created demon with the power to fuse with humans and turning them into a Nahobino. Late in the game, said proto-fiend turns out to be Susano-O, a series staple demon and god of seas and storms of Japan.
  • In Total War: Warhammer II, each faction gets a pair of Canon Foreigner advisors to help guide them in their quest for control of the Great Vortex. For the Dark Elves, the pair is a sorceress named Felicion and her unnamed Khainite Assassin partner. At the beginning of the final act, though, it's revealed that the Assassin is actually Shadowblade, long established in the lore and the tabletop as the greatest Khainite Assassin to have ever lived.
  • In What Remains of Edith Finch, it's heavily implied that Milton Finch is the King from Giant Sparrow's first game, The Unfinished Swan. However, it could possibly be a case of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, as Edith Finch runs on that trope.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles series:
  • Yoshi's New Island features Mr. Pipe, a seemingly alive Warp Pipe that aids Yoshi with various items should he not be doing well in levels. The ending eventually reveals Mr. Pipe to be Mario himself, who somehow managed to go back in time and met Yoshi and his baby version while in a Warp Pipe disguise. This comes also after the grown up version of Bowser also went back in time for reasons unknown.

    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 canon 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 canon, 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.

    Webcomics 
  • 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 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".

    Western Animation 
  • Animaniacs (2020): One segment features the Warners being hunted by a man named Walter Grubb, who has captured all of the original cast of the original Animaniacs save for a few, explaining their absence in the reboot. However, the Warners noticed one glaring omission from his collection and bring up said character being very unpopular with viewers to provoke him. Walter Grubb loses his temper and he turns out to be Chicken Boo, said character, in a costume and his plan was to remove all the characters out of spite for being left out.
  • In the seventh episode of Arcane, the mysterious masked leader of the Firelights unmasks himself as Ekko.
  • Ben 10 (2016): In the first season finale, Ben unlocks a new alien, a Chimera Sui Generis he called "Gax". He meets another member of Gax's race named "Vil". Vil trains Ben to use his Gax form to its fullest but then absorbs Gax into himself. He reveals that the Omnitrix took his powers when it sampled his DNA, so he has regained his power and reveals his real name: Vilgax.
  • Beware the Batman introduces Dane Lislow, the head of the Special Crime Unit who becomes friends with Bruce Wayne. He later betrays him by attempting to assassinate him dressed up as Batman, framing him for random acts of terrorism. The real Batman catches up to him and Lislow claims that he did it to save his son, who is held hostage by Deathstroke. Lislow then seemingly dies in an explosion. Come the next episode, we find out that Lislow faked his death, doesn't have a son, or even exist. It was a fake identity, in the form of a Significant Anagram, used by Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke himself.
  • The final season of Castlevania (2017) introduces a vampire antagonist named Varney, seemingly a reference to the Penny Dreadful character of the same name. Towards the end of the season, he reveals himself as recurring Castlevania boss Death.
  • DuckTales (2017):
    • Lena is a teenager who befriends Webby and helps her fight off the Beagle Boys in her debut episode. The end of that same episode also has us learn that she's Magica De Spell's niece, making her the show's equivalent of Minima De Spell (a character from the 1987 show's Recursive Adaptation). This turns into a double example when it's revealed Lena is also Magica's shadow, a one-time antagonist from the 1987 cartoon.
    • The dark, skull-faced demon from the Title Sequence and the episode "McMystery at McDuck McManor!" turns out to be the ghost of Duckworth.
    • An odd version with Jim Starling, a washed-up actor who played Darkwing Duck on an old Show Within a Show and is even voiced by DW's original voice actor Jim Cummings. You just take it for granted that eventually, he's going to become Darkwing Duck for real. Then, in "The Duck Knight Returns!", it turns out he's a different Canon Character All Along when he goes insane and becomes Negaduck.
    • Also in "The Duck Knight Returns!", a new actor is cast to play Darkwing Duck for the grim 'n gritty film reboot of the series, but after the events that lead to the movie's cancellation, Launchpad spurs him on to take up the mantle of Darkwing for real. When he autographs Launchpad's poster at the end, his name is finally revealed as Drake Mallard, Darkwing Duck's real name from the series. This is apparently not the civilian name of the character that Starling played, since Launchpad has never heard that name before.
    • The Season Two finale "Moonvasion!" reveals that Scrooge's board of directors, led by Bradford Buzzard, are in fact the F.O.W.L. High Command. Also, the Funzo employee from "Daytrip Of Doom!" is revealed to be the Phantom Blot.
    • The three-part Series Finale "The Last Adventure!" reveals one of the main characters to be another character from the Disney Ducks Comic Universe. Specifically, Webby is April, one of Daisy Duck's three nieces from the comics. She, May and June (who were just introduced in these episodes) are not related to Daisy in this continuity—rather, they're related to Scrooge himself through F.O.W.L.'s cloning (May and June being indirect clones, having been created through a feather Black Heron took from Webby during the events of "The Split Sword of Swanstantine!").
    • Not to be outdone, Manny the Man Horse reveals himself to be this universe's version of Goliath, complete with the show's theme song and the voice of Keith David.
  • In one episode of Justice League Action, Space Cabbie is seen talking to his GPS, who has a very familiar voice. Come the end of the episode, and it's all but confirmed that the AI in question is none other than Aya.
  • The Iron Man: Armored Adventures episode "The X-Factor" revolves around the kids befriending a mysterious New Transfer Student named Annie Claremont, who is being hunted by Magneto. At the end of the episode, Annie reveals that she has been using an alias; her real name is Jean Grey.
  • The Legend of Vox Machina had quite the mass guessing going on when the Briarwoods put their victims on the Sun Tree, as the one mutilated to look like Vex is a dead ringer for Laudna in Critical Role's third campaign. This was later confirmed, though it's unknown if the design was deliberate given production was underway before that campaign started.
  • In LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace, a ten-year-old orphan stowaways with some Padawans on a field trip. Since everyone else is wearing name tags, he finds some letter decals and puts "IAN" on his shirt. It's only at the end of the episode that Yoda addresses him by that name, at which point he looks down and realizes that he put the "H" in his name sideways. His name is Han Solo.
  • The plot of MODOK revolves around A.I.M. being bought out by a hip tech company called Grumblr. Near the end of the season, it turns out that Grumblr is actually part of Hexus the Living Corporation, an obscure antagonist from Grant Morrison's Marvel Boy mini-series.
  • Downplayed in Miraculous Ladybug. The episode 'Rocketear' sees a character named Rena Furtive aiding the heroes at the beginning of the episode. When Ladybug meet up with her, it's revealed that she's Alya, but with a different costume and identity. Not that it wasn't easy to guess.
  • The New Batman Adventures:
    • One particularly sad episode has Tim Drake befriending a lost, frightened young girl who he names "Annie", as she can't remember where she came from. It's later revealed the girl is actually Clayface, or rather a fraction of him he formed from his body that suffered amnesia and adopted a new identity. She then remerges with the rest of Clayface to save Tim, something he doesn't take well.
    • Another one introduces a gavel-wielding vigilante named the Judge, who enacts violent justice on Gotham's underworld, including Two-Face. The ending reveals the Judge is a new third personality of Harvey's created by the conflict in his own mind.
  • Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
    • The episode "The Gumbus" features an internet celebrity named "Stockboy" attacked by the titular ghost. When Mikey, Leo, and April investigate, it turns out Stockboy is just making a hoax with advanced robots he built to attract subscribers. He vows revenge on them for foiling his plot, announcing his full name as Baxter Stockboy, revealing him to be the series' take on long-time Turtles' villain, Baxter Stockman.
    • There is a movie star named Lou Jitsu whom the Turtles idolize and emulate. It is later revealed that Lou Jitsu is a stage name, he himself is actually Hamato Yoshi, the human form of Master Splinter.
    • Flashbacks explaining the Shredder's history show him being defeated by a mysterious woman. "Shreddy or Not" reveals she's the series incarnation of Karai.
    • A female member of the Foot, simply listed in the credits as "Foot Recruit" is ultimately revealed in the finale to be a Gender Flipped Casey Jones.
  • The Simpsons managed to pull this off within its own series. One episode features a documentary filmmaker interviewing Springfield residents as children. At one point, a lot of focus is placed on a random girl named Eleanor, who strives to become a lawyer and a doctor. She actually pulls this off, but the burnout turns her into the Crazy Cat Lady.
  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series: The "Six Forgotten Warriors" storyline introduced the Red Skull having a son named Rheinholt Schmidt, who disguised himself as Russian police chief named Rheinholt Kragov. Upon freeing his father and finding a doomsday weapon he built, Red Skull uses it on his son, granting him electrical powers and giving him a new identity, Electro.
  • Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters: Only Stretch Armstrong and his Arch-Enemy Stretch Monster are pre-existing characters, everyone else is an original character created for the series. However, Stretch's boss and benefactor, Jonathan Rook, turns out to not be as original as perceived. He's revealed to be Stretch Monster's civilian identity.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), Agent Bishop creates a half-cybernetic clone of himself called the Slayer. At the end of his introduction, the Slayer is left defeated and is washed underground, but returns in the following season as the show's incarnation of the Rat King.
  • Done routinely on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012). Most of the major mutants in the franchise have had their origin stories totally revamped. Characters will get slimed by mutagen and the Turtles (particularly Mikey) will give them a nickname that matches an established mutant from another continuity.
    • The Shredder's apprentice Chris Bradford undergoes two mutations. At first he's a mutant named Dogpound, but upon a second exposure to mutagen he becomes the slimmer, more wolf-like mutant Rahzar from the first film series.
    • At first, the Pulverizer appears to an Expy of Zach, a character from the 1987 series who idolized the Turtles. However, he's exposed to mutagen and becomes an acidic blob that Mikey later dubs Mutagen Man.
    • Raph's pet tortoise Spike becomes the mutant Slash after walking into mutagen.
    • A nameless garbage worker frequently appeared as a hapless victim to mutants before season 3, where his name is revealed as Garson Grunge, turning into the mutant Muckman.
    • Ivan Steranko, a Russian arms dealer, and Anton Zeck, a master thief, were recurring enemies to the Turtles before Shredder had them mutated. Zeck became a warthog while Steranko became a rhino. In the next episode, Mikey calls them Bebop and Rocksteady.
    • At first, the scientist Victor Falco appeared to have no real relevance in his introduction and seemed to be just a one-shot villain. In his second appearance, an explosion during an experiment with mutagen turns him into the series' take on long-time TMNT villain, the Rat King.
    • We learn early on that prior to Splinter's mutation, he had a daughter named Miwa who supposedly died alongside his wife in a fire. In the first season finale, it is revealed that she is still alive and has been raised by The Shredder under the name Karai.
  • Transformers: Animated:
    • The episode "Along Came A Spider" reveals that Blackarachnia is in fact this continuity's version of Elita-One, who ended up being mutated into her techno-organic form after being abandoned by both Optimus and Sentinel during a botched mission.
    • A Whole Episode Flashback introduces Longarm, an Autobot who Bumblebee was in boot camp with. At the end of the episode, back in the present day, he is revealed to be a deep-cover Decepticon spy and this continuity's version of Shockwave, disguised by use of a second robot mode.
    • From the same episode, Wasp (the first character in the franchise with that name) ends up imprisoned and goes insane. In a later episode, he is transformed into a large wasp-like machine and goes by the name Waspinator, same as the character from Beast Wars.
    • The episode "Velocity" introduces a mysterious character who appears in a cyan racing car, and they aid Bumblebee at the end of the episode by saving him from Blitzwing. "A Bridge too Close, Part 1" reveals this mysterious blue racer to be none other than TFA's version of Blurr.
  • Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2015): The High Council is led by an Autobot who would be revealed to be named Cyclonus. One would think the name is just a coincidence, as it's quite common for names being reused in the franchise for characters who have little in common with each other. The final arc reveals the High Council are actually Decepticons, and Cyclonus himself looks exactly like his G1 namesake, thus making him an actual depiction of the character.
  • In the X-Men four-parter "Beyond Good and Evil", when Bishop gets trapped in the timestream, and discovers Apocalypse has set up a fortress there, he is continually annoyed by a crazed, ragged figure called Bender, who claims to be the janitor of the timestream. After everyone has left, Bender reveals himself to be Immortus, and laughs to himself about the show he put on to get Bishop where he needed to be.
  • Young Justice (2010):
    • The first season introduces a device called Sphere, which turns out to be the Super-Cycle device used by the team in the comics.
    • In the second season, Jaime Reyes has a Canon Foreigner friend named Tye Longshadow. Tye and a group of other teens are later kidnapped by the Reach, who are experimenting on human children in order to activate their dormant superpowers. After Tye and some of the other teens are rescued by the heroes, he is revealed to be the show's version of Apache Chief (though a hint is given in the fact that his last name is that of the Justice League version of the same character, down to having the same voice actor), with the other survivors turning out to be Static (due to the fact Black Lightning, whom Black Vulcan was a Captain Ersatz of, already exists as a separate hero in-universe), El Dorado and Samurai (the last one being a Gender Flip). Ed Dorado, the El Dorado Expy fully became this in the revival, Outsiders, taking up the codename "El Dorado".
    • Speaking of the third season, the episode "Rescue Op" depicts a mysterious red ninja working for Ra's al Ghul who ends up fighting Nightwing when he and the team go in to rescue Halo, Geo-Force, Forager, and Sphere. After the heroes leave, Ra's asks the ninja if his memories have returned after fighting Nightwing, to which ninja remarks "Gray...son". Coupled with the fact that the credits list him as "Red Hooded Ninja", and it's all but confirmed he is Jason Todd.
    • In Season Four, the time traveler who interfered with the gene bomb and got Superboy trapped in the Phantom Zone is revealed to be Lor-Zod, son of the infamous General Zod.


 
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"I am Death."

Varney, the seemingly weakling of Dracula's court, turns out not only to be the alchemist, who convinces Saint Germain to bring back Dracula...but Death himself.

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