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Corrupted Character Copy

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On the left, Superman; on the right, Homelander.
The Expy is a character modeled after another, given their own flair/original traits and altered to fit the story. Sometimes this is done out of appreciation for the character. But sometimes, the expy is meant to be a twisted, corrupted and nastier version of the original character. A Superman Substitute who's an insensitive Jerkass, for example.

The Corrupted Character Copy exists as a twisted reflection of the original, usually to serve as a Deconstruction or Take That! against the original (although it can also be a product of the same respect and enthusiasm for the original as an Expy, if the writer simply thinks that a character would make for a fun and compelling villain). To wit, there are a few metrics to apply for a character to count:

  • They have to obviously be an intentional send up of a specific character from another franchise or company, not just have vague similarities, shared powers, or a few common personality traits. If you look at a given character and immediately think "they're obviously poking fun at [this other given character]," they are a likely candidate for this trope.
  • OR they have to be recognizably riffing on a fairly specific character archetype, such as the Tuxedo and Martini spy. Broader archetypes open to greater interpretation likely don't count.
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  • They have to take the character or archetype in a direction opposed to how it usually goes. There should be some meaningful examination of that character or archetype, and what happens if you keep most of the traits that make them recognizable, but delete a key few, or dial one or two others up.

To aid you in determining if a given character fits this trope, consult the following format guideline:

  • [Work Featuring Character]: [Character], Expy of [Template Character with pothole] ([Explanation for why they're an expy of the template]). — [Explanation for why they are "corrupted"].

This template need not be followed specifically, but if it cannot be followed, the character in question probably does not count.

Related to, but distinct from, Evil Counterpart, with the difference being that the Evil Counterpart trope deals with an in-universe darker version of another character. A Sub-Trope of Alternate Company Equivalent, Captain Ersatz and Fountain of Expies. Compare Adaptational Jerkass and Adaptational Villainy, when the original character shows up as a meaner or more villainous incarnation of how they were originally written, and Adaptational Heroism and Adaptational Nice Guy, when a character is significantly nicer or more heroic in an adaptation than they are in their main work. This trope is most prevalent in Superhero fiction, with Superman himself being the most common target, thus Beware the Superman is very closely related. Examples that don't capture the character they're supposed to be "corrupting" very well may overlap with Shallow Parody. This may be one reason for Knocking the Knockoff; the character will likely find this twisted version of themselves horrifying or infuriating.


Under certain circumstances, this trope may involve spoilers.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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     Animated Films 
  • Coco: Ernesto is an evil version of of Joaquin. Like Joaquin, Ernesto is the self-absorbed town hero and befriends a sensitive Musician (Manolo and Héctor). The only difference is Joaquin changed his selfish ways for his friends' sake while Ernesto murdered his friend to steal his songs and guitar for fame instead of changing for the better.
  • Megamind:
  • The Sprites from Sprite Fright are one to The Smurfs. They are tiny, friendly and colourful creatures who enjoy nature and are led by an elder. But unlike the Smurfs, they aren't above trying to kill people who destroy nature and even try to kill an innocent nature-loving girl just for trying to free her obnoxious classmates who mistreated the environment.
  • The Sponge Bob Movie Sponge Out Of Water: The villainous Burger Beard is basically an evil Jack Sparrow.
  • King Candy from Wreck-It Ralph is an evil expy of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, complete with an Ed Wynn-style voice provided by his voice actor, Alan Tudyk. Both are kooky, old-fashioned-style figures connected with food (tea in the Mad Hatter's case, candy in King Candy's) and also known for their interactions with the young female protagonist. However, while the Mad Hatter isn't particularly helpful to Alice, he isn't really harmful either, being just another individual she meets in Wonderland. King Candy tries to hunt down Vanellope (a homeless nine-year-old) so she can't race, because it would reveal him as Turbo, who stole her position and is responsible for her being a glitch.

  • In the Past Doctor Adventures novel Verdigris by Paul Magrs, the Children of Destiny are based on the original seventies Tomorrow People, being a group of psychic teenagers advised by a computer with an ordinary name (Simon, rather than Tim) from their underground base in London. However the Galactic Federation they think they're working for is fake, and they're being duped to see U.N.I.T. as the bad guys, because real aliens all want to live in harmony. It's also suggested that all this "homo superior" stuff is a bit fascist.
  • Gus in Thomas Dixon's The Clansman, best known for being adapted into The Birth of a Nation (1915), can be seen as this to Uncle Tom; whereas Uncle Tom is a paragon of Christian morality who dies a martyr by refusing to give away the whereabouts of two slaves he helped escape, Gus is a violent rapist who gets what he has coming through a Vigilante Execution courtesy of the Klan.
  • Ren from The Rising of the Shield Hero is very obviously based on Kirito from Sword Art Online, being a dark-haired, sword-wielding hero who has No Social Skills, prefers soloing, is stoic and serious, dresses in black, and is even introduced to the story playing a VRMMO called "Brave Star Online". To drive the point home, he's also voiced by Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Kirito's Japanese voice actor, in the anime adaptation. However, the way he's written points out several glaring flaws in Kirito's character, as Ren is essentially what Kirito would be like if he didn’t bother the learn the systems of the world he’s in, never opened up to others or learned to work with other people, instead relying on raw force to get the job done.

    Theme Parks 
  • Halloween Horror Nights is fond of this trope, with some haunted houses having darker parodies of popular characters:
    • 2018 had a Chucky themed Scarezone called Revenge of Chucky that was flooded with creepy corrupted parodies of 80's kids toys. Amongst the childhood ruining theme park, you'd see a burnt-faced Jem or a menacing Cabbage Patch Kid holding a bloody knife, while people get torn apart in giant Barrel of Monkeys and Operation playsets.
    • 2019's Holidayz in Hell was a maze based on the idea of innocent holidays gone horribly wrong. For the Christmas section, one of the characters was the Winter Witch, a crueler version of Elsa with icy-blue skin, stone-cold eyes, sharp fangs, a crown made of shards of ice, and a bloodstained dress.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • Splendid from Happy Tree Friends is clearly modelled off of Superman, except that Splendid is so incompetent at being a superhero that he ends up killing everyone he tries to save.
  • RWBY: Cinder is an intentional Expy of Cinderella, where abuse turned her villainous and her "fairy godmother" empowers that evil. Cinder shares Cinderella's background of abusive slavery within a wicked step-family, and a "Prince Charming" who tries to rescue her. The caveat is that her "Prince Charming's" intervention requires her to endure years of abuse while he trains her to obtain a legal escape only when she's old enough. She eventually snaps, murdering her family and then her "Prince Charming" for trying to arrest her.

  • Ennui GO!: Brittany is a combination of Supergirl (being the cousin of the comic's resident Superman Substitute Omegaman) and She-Hulk (she obtains her powers after a blood transfusion from her cousin). But unlike the both of them, who are heroic figures who use their abilities for good, Brittany is an Alpha Bitch who uses her powers for her own selfish desires.