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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.

Compare with Red Herring Shirt. Sometimes overlaps with Adaptation Name Change or Hijacked by Ganon.

Beware of unmarked spoilers.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • 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 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.
  • One of the new pilots in Getter Robo 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 Fliped 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.
  • In the manga adaptation of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, new character Ganty transforms into a boss from the game, Trinexx.
  • The Magi: The 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 after Axess.

    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'd 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 Dragos are this universe's name 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 counterpart of Deadpool.
  • 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 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 Cosmic Rider seems oddly familiar. Realizing he forgot to introduce himself, Cosmic 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).
  • The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye has 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. 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, near the end of the series it's revealed that he's actually the IDW incarnation of Primus!
  • 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 eventually takes the identity of Mr. X, the Disc-One Final Boss of Mega Man 6.

    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, 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.
  • Ruby and Nora features an expy of the Arkham Knight named Skull who is later revealed to be Mercury Black.
  • 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.
  • 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: 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.
  • 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 needs to. After all, he's revealed to be 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 Chapter Four of To Catch A Raven, Raven meets Jinx's peer, Sebastian Crawford. Sebastian is actually Red-X.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Dark Knight Rises
    • Miranda Tate appears to be another Canon Foreigner love interest but late into the film it is revealed that it is an alias for Talia Al-Ghul, the daughter of Ra's Al-Ghul.
    • Near the end, John Blake reveals that his first name is Robin and follows Bruce's footsteps, showing that he is a Composite Character of several of the Robins.
  • DC Extended Universe:
  • At the end of Fantasy Island (2020) Jimmy O. Yang's character Brax decides to stay on the island and reveals that his old nickname was "Tattoo", the same name as Roarke's sidekick in the original series.
  • In Ghost in the Shell, 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: 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.
  • 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. 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: Curian. Dr. Roy Curian is the 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.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • 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, 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.
  • Matt Adison, one of the survivors captured at the end of the first Resident Evil film, gets experimented on to become the Nemesis for the next film, Resident Evil: Apocalypse.
  • Had Sam Raimi's Spider-Man Trilogy continued, Bruce Campbell's various cameos would have been revealed to all be disguises of Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio.
  • In Scooby-Doo, 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 2: 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.
  • 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 the TOS films. Downplayed, as unlike Harrison, her true identity was never treated as a huge secret.
  • 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.
  • Young Sherlock Holmes. In The Stinger at the end, 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' nemesis in the years to come. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 aka the Mandate is none other than Nyarlathotep.
    • The master of the Black Chamber is Cthulhu.
  • 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.

    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 (the first 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 Four, 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 isn't even the Big Bad for the last stretch of the season. That honor goes to the future version of his niece Grace Gibbons, who grows up to become Cicada II, 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.
    • 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 black-haired).
      • 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 Gallery 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, aka Solomon Grundy. Sure enough, in the very next season, he returns as the famed villain only to be reverted to his original form and killed off.
    • 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.
  • Throughout the first season of Legion, 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 aka 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, aka 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.
  • While most of the characters, settings, and storylines in Once Upon a Time were derived from fairy tales and myths, it seemed that the Dark One’s dagger was an original creation. However, it was 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
  • Riverdale:
    • Inverted with Miss Grundy, who turns out to be an imposter 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.

    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.

    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 aka Red Hood, was an already established character in the comics. 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.
  • In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), the British main protagonist, Kyle Garrick, at first seemed to be a completely new character with no direct counterpart from the original Modern Warfare trilogy. That is until at the very end when Laswell reveals to Price his nickname: "Gaz", which is a diminutive of his surname. In other words he's essentially the rebooted version of the original Price's second-in-command from Call of Duty 4.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • God of War: Had the series continued under David Jaffe's vision, Kratos would have been revealed to have been one of The Three Wise Men of Christian mythology.
  • 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.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • 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.
    • 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 JOHN 'Big Boss' Doe but a player-generated character who is then surgically altered to become the body double of Big Boss, but technically he is the canon Big Boss because he's the final boss from the original game, and Eli 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • Dai Gyakuten Saiban, 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 Nikomina Borshevik, 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 law 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 no connections to Holmesian canon at all.
    • 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).

    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.

    Western Animation 
  • Ben 10 (2016): In the season finale of the reboot, 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 introduced 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 to save his son, who is held hostage by Deathstroke. Lislow 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 AKA Deathstroke himself.
  • 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, which is apparently not the civilian name of the character that Starling played, since Launchpad has never heard that name before.
    • The season 2 finale "Moonvasion" reveals that Scrooge's board of directors, led by Bradford Buzzard, are in charge of F.O.W.L. Also, the Funzo employee from "Daytrip Of Doom" is revealed to be the Phantom Blot.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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' villian, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 slimer, 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 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.
  • In yet another Ninja Turtles example, in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), while Canon Foreigner Agent Bishop is not one of these, he does result in making one. Late in the third season, 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.
  • Transformers Animated:
    • A Whole Episode Flashback introduces Longarm, an Autobot who Bumblebee was in boot camp with. Only at the end of the episode, back in the present day, is he revealed to be a deep-cover Decepticon spy and this continuity's version of Shockwave, disguised by use of a second robot mode.
      • Though this goes more towards Composite Character, as there was a Minicon named Longarm before the debute of his animated incarnation.
    • 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.
  • In Young Justice Season 2, 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, with the other survivors turning out to be Static, El Dorado and Samurai. Ed Dorado, the El Dorado expy fully became this in the revival, Outsiders, taking up the codename "El Dorado".


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