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Design Preservation Villain

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A character who's written into the story to take the place of an antagonist who is no longer in conflict with the protagonists, due to defeat, Heel–Face Turn, or otherwise. These characters differ from villains whose specific purpose is to show up previous antagonists by having aesthetic similarities to the villain they replace. And while not a requirement, they will most likely lack their sympathetic personality traits, if they had any.

The reason this is done is to keep fans who are disappointed by the former villain's defeat satisfied. Overcoming an antagonist comes at the cost of no longer being able to pin them against the heroes. If the villain's design was particularly cool, some viewers will be upset that the awesomely-designed antagonist doesn't fight the heroes anymore. The design preservation villain primarily exists to preserve the aesthetics of a previous memorable antagonist to keep these viewers satisfied.

Due to their purpose being mainly to uphold the previous villain's physical attributes, the design preservation villain will usually look very similar to the villain they replace, if not Identical. If the villain they replace performed a Heel–Face Turn, this character may be an Evil Counterpart, if not a straight up Evil Doppelgänger. Their position as a replacement may even be acknowledged in-universe if they are an Evil Knockoff. Some villains will even have a multitude of different antagonists down the line's designs pay homage to theirs.


These characters will often have less redeeming personalities which guarantees longevity as they are less likely to fall into the same trap that lead to the former villain's Heel–Face Turn, if that is the reason behind the lack of confrontation with the heroes.

In a video game, the similarities may be more involved with gameplay rather than cosmetics. You would probably experience similar game mechanics to their predecessor when they are confronted. They are more likely to have wider personalities than similar characters in other forms of media because of this.

Most likely, this character is going to be aligned with evil until they are defeated, or the story ends since they mainly exist to be a cool opponent for the heroes to fight. If they have a role outside of this, it will usually be in the form of a rivalry with the former antagonist, if they're still around.


Compare Replacement Flat Character, where a new character is created to take the place of a former Flat Character for the sake of character contrast. Contrast Contrasting Sequel Antagonist.

Also see Recurring Boss Template, when this applies to video game Boss Battles from a gameplay perspective.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball has an awful lot of these:
    • Cell has the DNA of all of the strongest fighters in the series up until his introduction, but his perfect form most closely resembles previous Arc Villain Frieza.
    • Most if not all of the Non-Serial Movie exclusive villains take after a villain from the show proper: Garlic Jr. is a turquoise-skinned Depraved Dwarf like Pilaf with Piccolo's facial structure and past with Kami, Turles is a Saiyan Space Pirate like Raditz, Vegeta and Nappa on top of looking like Goku, Lord Slug is a Namekian who used the Dragon Balls to wish for eternal youth like King Piccolo and is a space Evil Overlord like Frieza, Cooler is Frieza's brother, Android 13 has the same "absorbing other androids to access a stronger form" gimmick as Cell, and Janemba is an Eldritch Abomination that progresses from a childish blobby thing to a leaner and meaner form like Majin Buu.

    Comic Books 
  • After Harley Quinn broke away from The Joker and became her own character, she became more of an Anti-Hero than a villain (although an Unscrupulous Hero at worst). As a result, Joker introduced a new female sidekick/partner named "Punchline" who was a heck of a lot more ruthless and far less sympathetic than Harley ever was.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Carnage was created for the sole purpose of being this trope. After Spidey's former Arch-Enemy Venom started to become an Anti-Hero, higher-ups at marvel were worried that the lost of Spider-Man's most imposing villain would be a disappointment among readers. So the writers created Carnage, a symbiote antagonist like Venom who is completely irredeemable, and always ready to fight Spider-Man. His debut comic makes it clear how despicable he is by stating his motivation for killing to be pure sadistic glee.
    • After Doctor Octopus relinquishes control of Peter's body in the Superior Spider-Man storyline, a duplicate version of him with the same memories became the "Superior Octopus" instead, creating a blend of his Doctor Octopus and Superior Spider-Man gimmicks.
    • After numerous attempts to create a new Green Goblin after Norman Osborn's death, the comics introduced a new and tangentially-related villain called The Hobgoblin who uses the same weapons. In keeping with tradition, Hobgoblins tend to be less sympathetic. Whereas Green Goblins are usually have a tragic streak due to suffering from severe mental illness, Hobgoblins are entirely sane but still vicious criminals. The second was so bad getting possessed by a demon actually made him nicer.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars: In The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren turns out to be this in-universe as well: a skilled Force user in all-black armor with his own Ace Custom TIE fighter and a red lightsaber who works directly for the Big Bad, who in-universe intends to be a sith lord of similar design and caliber to Darth Vader himself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In an example of a pre-existing character being made into this, The Master regenerates into Missy, allowing the Doctor to come face-to-face with an antagonistic female Time Lord after the Time War wiped out everyone but himself and the Master, ostensibly including original series villain the Rani.
  • Power Rangers: Dino Thunder: After the White Ranger defects from evil, Mesogog's Dragon Zeltrax creates an Evil Knockoff of him. This White Ranger clone may speak less rudely to the rangers, but he has absolutely no reason not to stay with Mesogog, and never turns on him throughout the series, until he is destroyed by the original White Ranger.

    Video Games 
  • Bayonetta 2: The Masked Lumen takes the place of Jeanne in the sequel as a Recurring Boss who's fought exactly three times after she pulled a Heel–Face Turn. Then it's revealed he's the past self of Father Balder, The Brute of the previous game who died by the end of it, making him this trope twofold. The Masked Lumen's last boss fight is virtually identical to Father Balder's.
  • Dragon Ball Fighter Z keeps up the movies' tradition of new villains based on old ones with Android 21, who physically resembles Majin Buu due to having his DNA and is a bio-android capable of absorbing people like Cell (in fact, her Superpowered Evil Side from her own story closely resembles Cell).
  • Golden Sun: After the villains of the first game (Saturos and Menardi, two blue-and-red-skinned Mars adepts from Prox) are beaten, the antagonists of the second game with the same goal are Agatio and Karst, who are... two blue-and-red-skinned Mars Adepts from Prox. While Menardi and Kart are somewhat similar (being sisters), Saturos and Agatio are nothing alike in personality.
  • Kirby:
    • Revenge of Meta Knight was the title character's second and final role as a true antagonist in the mainline Kirby games. Afterwards, newer more antagonistic knights took the mantle for future Meta Knight-esque bosses.
    • Dark Meta Knight was the earliest and straightest example. First debuting in Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, he is the mirror world's counterpart to Meta Knight and lacks his honorable virtues, taking a liking to ambushing his enemies, and serves a Generic Doomsday Villain before outliving him and corrupting a future antagonist with his essence.
    • In Kirby Super Star Ultra, Dark Meta Knight is 1-upped by the introduction of Galacta Knight, a powerful warrior who was sealed away for fear his power was too great. While it's never confirmed if he is truly villainous, he takes the form of a Final Boss in each of his appearances. Usually after one-shotting the character that summoned him.
    • Galacta Knight is eventually absorbed by Meta Knight's third clone, Morpho Knight, in Kirby Star Allies. Little is known about it, but it serves as the final boss in the guest-star mode and immediately starts attacking the heroes.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: After Shadow the Hedgehog performed a Heel–Face Turn in the end of Sonic Adventure 2 and is now considered more of an Anti-Hero, several new villains sharing the similar Darker and Edgier design were created in his place:
  • Mario & Luigi: Cackletta, the Big Bad of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, had a unique and awesome-looking outfit with a scalloped purple dress and purple-and-black cape, the latter of which was meant to resemble a pair of bat wings. It seems that her design inspired the looks of many major antagonists in future games. Princess Shroob in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time also has a purple color scheme and a regal dress, Fawful in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story wears a blue outfit with a scalloped cape at one point (though it's not at all surprising he takes after Cackletta given he used to work for her), and Antasma in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team has a purple and black color scheme with a cape and bat wings.

    Western Animation