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"The one in back
The way he acts,
Is he reminding you of anyone we know?
Isn't he so
Like certain people I could name?"
They Might Be Giants, "Certain People I Could Name" from their seventh studio album "Long Tall Weekend".

An expy (short for "exported character") is a character from one series who is unambiguously and deliberately based on a character in another, older series. A few minor traits, such as age or hair color, may change, but there's no doubt that they are almost one and the same. They often turn up in different works by the same writer(s) or production team.

This can simply be the tendency of writers to prefer certain characterizations for important characters (or knowing which ones are most marketable/popular), or the influence of the design process. On the other hand, it may just be a bad attempt to try to revive a character who the writer liked, but nobody else did and had to get rid of it. When by a different author, it may be a homage to the original creator and/or character or because the author did not have the rights to use the work and wanted to avoid copyright or trademark infringement issues. In the negative sense, an expy can be seen as just a bloated, gimmicky version of a perfectly serviceable past character. In a positive sense, it can refer to an "upgrade" of a two-dimensional or otherwise limited character to one more appreciably complex.

Remember that Tropes Are Tools; an expy can give an old character concept a new lease on life, take it in a different direction, adapt it to a new medium, or simply do something with it that's as good or better than the original. Iconic characters like Yogi Bear and Mickey Mouse are obvious clones of Art Carney and Felix the Cat, respectively, but that hasn't stopped them from being among the most acclaimed cartoon characters of all time.

Theory: any Characters as Device trope, if taken to the extreme, can result in the character appearing to be a mere expy of the Trope Codifiers for that trope. Especially if the character is Flanderized to the point of having few defining characteristics outside of the trope they represent. See Fountain of Expies.

Most often seen in animation and video games, where it's much easier to make a newer character resemble an older one. Occasionally happens when characters from different stories end up sharing voice actors, making or even forcing their personalities to look even more similar, which often leads to jokes based on the voice actor's former role.

When the character appears in the same series as the previous character, they're often a Suspiciously Similar Substitute. Contrast this with Mirror Character.

The key difference between this and Captain Ersatz is that an Expy uses the other character as a starting point before going in their own direction, while Captain Ersatz is obviously the same character but with the Serial Numbers Filed Off. Please keep this distinction in mind before adding an example here. Also note that a fictional counterpart to a real-life person would be either No Celebrities Were Harmed, No Historical Figures Were Harmed, or a Shout-Out, depending on the intent. A quick glance around TV Tropes will reveal just how often these mistakes are made on this very wiki.

Remember that an Expy must be a clearly deliberate reference on the part of the author; superficial or random coincidental similarities (even very striking ones) do not qualify, so if you aren't certain, they probably are not an Expy. Because many character archetypes and tropes that compose characters are universal, it is easy for readers to fall into thinking that a particular character in the same general archetype resembles someone from their favorite show or novel, especially when Small Reference Pools lead readers to overestimate the cultural impact of their favorite characters.

Also, note the insistent use of singular pronouns when referring to the Expy's inspiration in this page's description. This is because an Expy is based on one character. If a character borrows traits from multiple other characters, then the influence of each source of inspiration is diluted to the point where it doesn't count as this trope anymore. See Composite Character for such cases, and Decomposite Character for the opposite case where bits and pieces of a single character inform multiple future characters.

Spiritual Successor is a similar trope scaled up to an entire work, and thus as a result often features Expies of characters from the original work.

A Sub-Trope of Shout-Out, and Super-Trope of Alternate Company Equivalent, Corrupted Character Copy, Expy Coexistence, Fountain of Expies and Virtuous Character Copy.

Compare to Roman à Clef, Similar Squad, Same Story, Different Names, Suspiciously Similar Song, Distaff Counterpart, Evil Counterpart, Alternate Species Counterpart, Whole-Plot Reference, Surprisingly-Similar Stories, Writing Around Trademarks and Product Displacement.

Compare Fantastic Fauna Counterpart, which is sort of the animal equivalent: a fictional (or extinct) species of animal is clearly meant to be the counterpart of a real-life species, but at the same time is clearly not the same species.

Contrast In Name Only, Transplanted Character Fic.

Perhaps you would like to Write an Expy yourself?

For specific characters that tend to inspire expies, see Fountain of Expies. For a series with numerous different expies in its cast, see Cast of Expies. When an expy and the character they are based on are both found in the same universe, then you have Expy Coexistence.

Examples Subpages:

Other Examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • Statue of Liberty:
    • The statue itself is likened by Emma Lazarus (who was indirectly involved in Lady Liberty's creation) to a modern version of the Colossus of Rhodes. Although with one major difference: the Greek Colossus commemorates defense against conquest, while Lady Liberty is depicted as a guardian standing by the Golden Door welcoming people to the New World. Incidentally, the Statue of Liberty has outlasted the original Colossus, which stood for only 54 years.
    • During The French Revolution, there were Dechristianization efforts that led to putting a statue of the Roman Goddess of Liberty on the altar of the Notre Dame Cathedral. The ideals it embodied would eventually crystallize in what we know today as the American Statue of Liberty.

    Asian Animation 
  • Our Friend Xiong Xiao Mi:
    • The main character, Xiao Mi, is an anthropomorphic bear with yellow fur who wears nothing but a shirt and likes to eat honey. Sound familiar?
    • The series itself somehow does this on a meta level as well by having an art style greatly resembling that of Peppa Pig.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Deflocked, Tucker is a Expy of Calvin.
  • Iggy the chronically nervous germophobic chihuahua from Dogs of C-Kennel is essentially an Expy of Killer from All Dogs Go to Heaven.
  • FoxTrot has a non-character example with Jason's online game, World of Warquest, which Bill Amend admits is based on World of Warcraft
  • Frazz has been described as a grown-up Calvin.
  • Now-extinct British newspaper strip The Perishers features expies of multiple Peanuts characters — Old Boot is very similar to Snoopy, and Maisie is virtually a clone of Lucy van Pelt, with her younger brother Baby Grumpling having several of Linus's traits.
  • In PreTeena, the central character of Teena Keene is, visually and in temperament, a slightly older eleven-year-old Expy of Peppermint Patty, from the Peanuts series. Creator Allison Barrows has said in interviews that "Peanuts" has been a great influence on her writing.note 
  • Swedish comic Rocky featured a strip in which the title character's comic is rejected because the publisher claims that its protagonist is an Expy of Fritz the Cat. Another strip suggested that the title character in a similar comic, Elvis, was an Expy of Rocky.

  • The manhwa Witch Hunter is quite an expy of D.Gray-Man. The main protagonists both have white hair, wear black uniform which are the same color as their respective comrades', show sympathy towards their enemies' race, and have hilarious financial problems.

  • Clamavi de Profundis: The demon who temporarily takes over Hammerdeep in "Boic Bravesoul" before he's driven away is clearly inspired by the Balrog from The Lord of the Rings, being an ancient, fiery, horned monster who lives deep beneath the earth and brings ruin to the dwarves when their mining breaches its lair.
  • Nicki Minaj's Roman Zolanski alter-ego is clearly very similar to Eminem's alter-ego Slim Shady, but given more of a fairytale feel with a fantasy high-class British background (highlighted in Eminem's guest verse on "Roman's Revenge" — "high class meets white trash"). In particular, both alter egos have an overbearing abusive mother who tries to control their child through sinister means, but where Shady's mother is a villain (and a frequent victim of his violence), Martha is a more sympathetic and campy character who can't cure her son's monstrousness, but is usually able to placate him. (In fact, Martha's so strong she's even able to subdue Slim and get him sent to a boarding school in Russia!)

    Myths & Religion 
  • In religion, the blending of two or more religions is known as Religious Syncretism, and frequently results in an apparent religious expy, especially when two different deities become identified with each other and merged into one entity; nearly every example below stems from this effect.
  • Aeneas to Achilles, very deliberately and almost to the point of a Whole-Plot Reference. A few of the more blantant examples: Achilles had an unbreakable shield made by Hephaestus with images of the world on it, Aeneas had an unbreakable shield made by Vulcan with images of Rome on it. Achilles best friend is killed by the leader of the opposing side in a war, and he responds by not just defeating the man in single combat with a spear, but humiliating and ultimately killing him. Guess what?
  • The Hijacked by Jesus variant is the same reason the gods of Egyptian Mythology have so many names—they absorbed the qualities of less popular gods and worshipers later said that these lesser gods were merely "aspects" of them.
  • Ereshkigal of Mesopotamian Mythology. She is the underworld equivalent of the fertility goddess Inanna (Ishtar), said to be her younger twin. In fact, they may have at one point been two aspects of the same goddess before becoming separate entities.
  • Many Catholic festivals were adapted from local ones to make Christianity more welcoming. Some Saints were contemporaries of the pagans that they converted. Others were adapted deities.
  • Quite a bit Older Than They Think - due to the ancestral speakers of Indo-European languages expanding across Europe and Asia, the languages (and Gods) of a whole lot of cultures have the same origins. Looking at the Norse, Greek and Hindu pantheons, it's possible to find quite a few parallels among the old gods and their myths. (For example, an ancient Hindu sky god named Dyaus, the Greek Zeus and the Roman Jupiter are essentially the same god, with a few changes along the way and over the years)
  • Classical Mythology:
    • Roman gods and goddesses were Expies of Greek gods and goddesses (such as Jupiter and Zeus, Venus and Aphrodite, Juno and Hera, Vulcan and Hephaestus, etc.)



  • On the Bay12 Forums, certain players are infamous for using these. Some examples:
  • Darwin's Soldiers:
    • Dr. James Zanasiu, main character of the RPs is an expy of James Miardian, the scientist from the first RP that James's creator ever played: The Spreading Hazard.
    • Dr. Bailey, who first appeared in the rebooted Furtopia RP, was an expy of Dr. Shelton from the Gang of Five RPs, after the latter showed how useful it was to have a non-action tech guy around.
  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
  • In The Gungan Council, several characters use avatars from the Star Wars films, including C'oringath and Ceel. Others use avatars from the Expanded Universe. Usually, these characters even match their avatar's in personality.
  • A fair amount of characters from Survival of the Fittest. Occasionally, you will see one of a character from a previous version or the original canon (for example, Melina Frost was clearly at least to some extent inspired by Mariavel Varella of v2, and possibly by extension, Mitsuko from Battle Royale). Other times, you will see ones of characters from other works, based on people the handler knows, or are imported from other roleplays the handler has participated in.
  • In We Are All Pokémon Trainers, Milagros is mentioned to be based off several characters from Total Drama. Though he is mainly based off Alejandro and Tyler.

    Visual Novel 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies seemed to, after the long time director, Shu Takumi, was no longer involved in the project, take several ideas from his other detective murder mystery game Ghost Trick:
      • Athena Cykes appears to be based off Linnie from Ghost Trick. Both are bubbly young women with orange hair who are used in a support role for the main protagonist. They also have mentors who were falsely accused and imprisoned for crimes that they didn't commit.
      • Knowing the simularities between Athena and Linnie, it should be no surprise that their mentors, Detective Jowd and Simon Blackquill appear to be based off each other. This, however, apart from them both being eccentrics, seems to be limited only to the backstories of the characters.
      • The main antagonists of both games, Yomiel and The Phantom also have multiple simularities. Known for impersonating other people (although through very different methods), they slowly manipulate everything in the background and work on accomplishing their goals. They also appear to be someone else (Sissel and Bobby Fullbright) before The Reveal, although this is due to a misunderstanding on Sissel's part.

    Web Animation 

    Web Original 
  • Bosun's Journal: The desert ravers are directly inspired by the Satyriacs of All Tomorrows, another posthuman species with whom they share theropod-like body plans and a hedonistic, celebration-filled and somewhat myopic culture.
  • The Lay of Paul Twister: Inverted. Word of God says that Paul was originally conceived as "essentially the Anti-Harry Dresden.
  • NationStates: Astholm appears to be an expy of Scotland; or at least, Nottinghamshire, but it's all Depending on the Author, what with it being a House Pseudonym and all.
  • The Saga of Pretzel Bob features as its villain a silver-haired man in a black cloak who sets the main character's hometown ablaze and wants to destroy the world... named Seraphoth.
  • Many of the characters from Welcome Home (Clown Illustrations) are clearly inspired by characters from Sesame Street and/or The Muppets—the fictional production company behind the show is even called "The Playfellow Workshop".
    • Frank is strongly reminiscent of Bert due to being a somewhat more grumpy character, having an intense interest in a small flying animal species (butterflies as opposed to pigeons), and being part of an Odd Couple duo with the cheerier and more childish Julie. Where he differs from Bert is how he's much more willing to engage with his neighbors in various activities, be they preparing food, dressing up, or approaching him for information (even if, according to his blurb, his answers tend to be dismissed).
    • Poppy is Welcome Home's answer to Big Bird, being a large walk-around bird puppet with a kind soul. However, whereas Big Bird is very childlike, Poppy is explicitly an adult with a baking business—the centerpiece of most of her skits in her show. She's also far more pessimistic, always prepared to deal with the worst outcome of any given situation.
    • Julie is quite reminiscent of Prairie Dawn with her pink skin and blonde hair.
    • Barnaby shares physical similarities with both Fozzie Bear and Rolf, though his personality more befits Fozzie's.
  • The Whateley Universe is full of these, particularly since it's a superhero universe with a Superhero School. A few examples: Champion is an expy of Superman, down to the freezing breath and the heat vision; Fantastico is an expy of Superboy, complete with the super-strength and the heat vision; and Aquerna has squirrel powers, including being able to talk to squirrels and command them, like Squirrel Girl.

    Web Videos 
  • Doctor Linksano from Atop the Fourth Wall is one for Doctor Insano from The Spoony Experiment. Justified in that Linkara created Linksano, because he felt bad about asking Spoony to play Insano for him over and over. And of course it's also lampshaded because he is Insano's counterpart from alternate reality.
  • Given the premise of the show, Coyle Command takes a lot of its characters from G.I. Joe. There is Coyle Commander (Cobra Commander), Anni (Destro), Countess Crossland (The Baroness), and COMMANDO (G.I. Joe itself)
  • The two main characters from Lonely and Horny, Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld's Spiritual Successor to popular CollegeHumor series Jake and Amir, bear a clear resemblance to the fictional versions of Jake and Amir from that series. Blumenfeld's character, Ruby Jade, has a similar personality to the fictional Amir and is similarly a Hero-Worshipper of Hurwitz's character, Josh Rice (Amir's dating "guru" rather than his coworker).
  • Some of ML Lanzillotta's characters count. She often refers to Tallulah the Flapper as a cross between Tallulah Bankhead and Agatha Runcible from Waugh's Vile Bodies.
  • She's still a three-dimensional character and takes inspirations from others too, but The Nostalgia Chick is fundamentally an older, more broken Daria.
  • In the early days of The Nostalgia Critic and The Angry Video Game Nerd, each was accused of copying the other — a rage-filled video reviewer who critiques media. They had a crossover feud, each did a review in the other's style and have remained friends in real life, and each has evolved their character over the years so they are more distinct from each other.
  • Save The Supers has as its main cast basically a set off Expies of the Justice League: Merman is Aquaman, Elementra is Wonder Woman, World Man is Superman, Morph Man is Plastic Man, Fleet Foot is The Flash, and Night Knight is a (very strange) version of Batman mostly based around his nickname "The Dark Knight". The first episode features a Joker Expy and episode 3 features a Catwoman expy.
  • SMPLive:
    • Jschlatt's SMPLive character is heavily based on Sips from the Yogscast, with Schlatt & Co. being clearly modeled after SipsCo. Both are businessmen in Minecraft series who co-own a company with their loyal Number Two. When Sips is brought up as a comparison by a commenter on one SMPLive video, Schlatt replies with "you have no idea how happy this comment makes me".
    • According to Cooper, it was apparently his idea for Travis's character to be similar to BMO, who Travis's skin for much of SMPLive resembles. Cooper says that Travis and BMO act very similarly, and that's why he proposed that Travis's character should resemble the robot.
  • Welcome Back, Potter:
    • Harry Potter in this version basically became a Raoul Duke if he could talk to snakes and had a stash of gold he couldn't spend.
    • According to Jarry, Ron based his new "Don" persona after the cast of Jersey Shore.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Legal Character Copy, Expies, Exported Character


Winston Jerome

On top of being a Tyler Perry satire, Winston Jerome borrows a lot from Dr. Frank N' Furter, being a crossdressing, cultish sex-maniac with a passionate singing voice.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / Expy

Media sources: