The way he acts,
Is he reminding you of anyone we know?
Isn't he so
Like certain people I could name?"
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 an 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.
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.
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.
Compare to Bleached Underpants, Name's the Same, Roman à Clef, Similar Squad, Same Story, Different Names, Suspiciously Similar Song, Distaff Counterpart, Surprisingly-Similar Stories, Evil Counterpart, Whole-Plot Reference, Writing Around Trademarks and Product Displacement. Not to be confused with XP, nor XP.
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.
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.
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- Western Animation
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!)
- 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.)
- Many of the Greek gods themselves have origins in earlier religions. Aphrodite is a clear Expy of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, who herself is an Expy of the Sumerian Inanna.
- In 3-D Ultra Pinball: Creep Night, the "Beast" from the Tower table is a stand-in for Frankenstein's Monster.
- Cirqus Voltaire is an organizational expy of Cirque du Soleil.
- In Gottlieb's Cue Ball Wizard, the player's opponent is a Clint Eastwood-wannabe.
Shooter: "Make my day."
- In the pinball conversion kit Gamatron, the rampaging Humongous Mecha of the game is an Expy for Rom Spaceknight.
- Hollywood Heat, being a Mockbuster of Miami Vice, feature expies of Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs.
- The green spaceships in Stellar Wars are angular copies of the Cylon Raiders from Battlestar Galactica.
- Several characters across multiple Cool Kids Table games are stated to be expies.
- Jed Wilson in All I Want for Christmas is based on Al the Toy Collector from Toy Story 2.
- In a game based on stereotypes, several of the characters from Creepy Town fall into this. The Kennedy twins are each expies of nineties teen characters; Oliver of Randy from Scream and Olivia of Laney from She's All That (or rather, the parody of her from Not Another Teen Movie). Also, Will is Gordon from Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills, who everyone knows.
- Jake bases his Bloody Mooney character Jessica off of Mac from Paper Girls. Josh bases JT on Zack from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.
- Tuatha from The Fallen Gods has a little bit of Stacey from Creepy Town in her characterization, namely the sexual openness and beauty.
- Fallout Is Dragons has Blinkie, an expy and possible descendant of Maud Pie.
- 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:
- The high school teachers all have their names and appearances taken from real-life comic book creators, such as Principal Shooter, Mr. Claremont, Mr. Lieber, etc.
- Finn's appearance and overall Chess Motif is taken from Battler Ushiromiya. His personality, not so much.
- Everything about Daigo, including his name, abusive father, tacky fashion sense, and vampiric powerset were inspired by Dio from Jojos Bizarre Adventure. Increasingly downplayed once the GM took over the character and started to tone down the similarities.
- 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.
- Broken Saints has two villainous blond lieutenants named Charles and Bravado. Between the names and the haircuts, there is something very, very familiar about them...
- Dreamscape: Visually, Izane resembles Kiyoya.
- DSBT InsaniT: Boo is an Expy of the Box Ghost. He is an Evil Is Hammy Harmless Villain with a similar voice.
- Breeze Rider from Dusk's Dawn is this to Rainbow Dash, both being able to fly, cracking jokes and having a strong sense of adventure.
- He is also definitely trying to be a lot like Pinkie Pie by providing goofy (attempted) comic relief at random times, like popping his head out of a cloud and impossible areas.
- Mystery Skulls Animated features a cast that is a homage to Scooby-Doo with their own twists.
- Lord Zet and Nekoneko of the flash series Super Freakin' Parody Rangers are deliberately obvious Expies of Zetto and Ruri from the creator's earlier work TOME.
- The Most Epic Story Ever Told in All of Human History: Captain Epic is more or less the voice actors Yoda impression used on a different character.
- Object Oppose: and boy does this show run on this trope. Most of the characters are expys of other popular Object Shows such as Taoism and Baseball being ones to Yin-Yang and Baseball and Leaf being one to Leafy. Even some of the episode plots are parallel to other object shows like "The Puzzled Path" being similar to "Mazed and Confused".In spite of all that, Object Oppose still manages to stand out as its own show.
- Ollie & Scoops:
- Merle, one of the many stray cats in the show, looks a lot like Stimpy, if he were leaner. And meaner. And not stupid.
- Old Crumplecranks, from the episode of the same name, physically resembles the Devil from Cuphead, has a voice like Oogie Boogie, and plays the same role as the titular villain of The Old Man of the Mountain, one of the cartoons that inspired Cuphead, Oogie Boogie, and this episode.
- Race to the Mansion of Tomorrow: Soskoa is intentionally looks similar to Parappa in Chicken Tech Inc.
- RWBY: When Li Ren was being modelled for Volume 4's flashback episode, the creative team realised he looked liked Hanzo. They decided to embrace the similarities and made him a full expy, down to bow and arrows and similar facial features.
- The Deviantart group Earth-G is made of these who are DC superhero expies.
- Inverted in The Lay of Paul Twister. Word of God says that Paul was originally conceived as "essentially the Anti-Harry Dresden.
- Astholm on NationStates 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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 children's 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.
- 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.
- 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).