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The Supermen of the multiverse.

"Wow, you know Lucius Sweet? He's exactly as rich and as famous as Don King, and he looks just like him too!"
Homer Simpson, The Simpsons, "The Homer They Fall"
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Often, a show uses an Expy to create an original take (or a legal shortcut) on a character, a company, a franchise, a person, or any entity. In many of them, they might exist as a Captain Ersatz of the original, or just to be an equivalent but original take on an entity. It is always implied that they are the replacement for that entity in that universe... but sometimes it turns out that last statement is not true. In other words, this is an aversion of the Celebrity Paradox, in-universe.

In this trope, an Expy lives alongside the original characters, and nothing is weird about that. If there is a gang of famous characters, he might be part of that gang in that show's universe. These are common in animated shows that straddle the line between cartoon and reality, such as Animaniacs and Drawn Together. They may often be said to be a fan, a friend, or a hated rival of the real person whom they are an Expy of.

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Also, if this story takes place in our universe, and it is established that the Expy and the original both exist as fictional entities, that would raise the question as to why the creator has not sent a cease-and-desist letter, or sued them for everything they have.

Note: this trope does not apply when the character is NOT an Expy of a famous character, but hangs out with famous characters or people. For example, in The Critic, Jay Sherman is a famous TV film critic who is friends with other famous real-life critics, like Gene Siskel, Roger Ebert, Gene Shalit, Rex Reed, etc. But because Jay is not intended to be a direct take on any of them, this trope does not apply. Compare and contrast with Lawyer-Friendly Cameo, Celebrity Paradox and Mutually Fictional.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Pokémon:
    • The Japanese intro to one special shows that the rival from Pokémon Gold and Silver exists in the anime universe. Years later he was given an expy in Ash's Sinnoh rival Paul.
    • Dawn has a Childhood Friend named Kenny who has a similar role and design to the rival from Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. Later in that same arc, the rival did appear as Barry. As the result of this, Barry isn't Dawn's childhood friend unlike in the games.
    • Delibird is clearly inspired by Santa Claus, who has also appeared in the anime. In fact, the two have appeared together in an episode.
  • Studio Trigger's Space Patrol Luluco has Over Justice, a Hot-Blooded skeletal police chief, just as Studio Trigger's Inferno Cop's titular character was a Hot-Blooded skeletal police officer. When Luluco dies and is sent to Hell, she meets Inferno Cop, who even turns out to be an old friend of Over Justice's. Ironically, Inferno Cop has mellowed out since his last appearance, and is amused by Luluco's belief that he resembles Over Justice.
  • Gintama features recurring manga Gintaman, which is basically the same series run through the trope filter hundreds of times. Gintama itself also exists in-universe, best shown when Gintoki hits Kintoki over the head with every volume up to that point in his debut arc.
  • Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon was created as an Expy of Minako Aino/Sailor Venus, who originally starred in a 1991 one-shot manga that eventually became the franchise's prequel Codename: Sailor V. Though Minako starts off as Sailor V in that series, she later made her debut as Sailor Venus in the Sailor Moon manga and joined the main cast. Since Minako and Usagi are already very similar in personality and looks, the anime would later flanderize Minako's sillier traits in order to differentiate the two.
  • The Lyrical Nanoha franchise has multiple cases of characters being reused, though the most prominent example would probably be Nanoha herself and Miura. What makes this one especially noticable is that Miura is probably the only expy in the series that fufils a completely different role from their original (Nanoha is the primary protagonist of the franchise and Miura is a secondary Friendly Rival to Nanoha's daughter).
  • Hawks of My Hero Academia was created to substitute a role intended for the bird man Takahiro, a Transplant from Oumagadoki Doubutsuen. Takahiro finally showed up as a pro hero in My Hero Academia: Two Heroes, meaning both heroes are operating in-universe.

    Comic Books 
  • The Sandman:
    • Roderick Burgess is clearly intended to be an expy of Aleister Crowley, but later issues establish that Crowley himself exists in the Sandman universe. Burgess himself has an offhand line that implies he and Crowley are rivals, with Crowley being the more successful of the two.
    • One issue has a character discussing an in-universe comic book featuring expies of Superman and Bizarro, who are presented as wholly fictional. In the first Story Arc, however, Dream visited Supes' Justice League teammates Scott Free and Martian Manhunter. While this could be chalked up to Early Installment Weirdness (later stories would present itself as more or less its own continuity), Superman himself shows up at the end of the series.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes:
    • After Crisis on Infinite Earths retconned Supergirl out of existence, Laurel Gand (aka Andromeda) was created to fulfill the same role on the team, with the same powers and almost exactly the same look. She continued to do so even after Supergirl was reintroduced to continuity.
    • Zig-zagged with Lar Gand (aka "Mon-El"), a relative of the aforementioned Laurel, who was originally introduced alongside Superman as a "Daxamite" (a race of aliens with identical powers to Kryptonians, but opposite weaknesses). After Superboy was retconned out like Supergirl, most of Superboy's roles in the Legion came to be filled by Mon-El. However, he also shared his position with Kon-El, the clone version of Superboy who sometimes joined the team on adventures, along with the original Kal-El after that version was reintroduced to continuity.
  • Shazam!: Zig-zagged due to company rivalry. Captain Marvel (later known as "Shazam"), was created by Fawcett Comics as a very blatant expy of Superman. However, he proved to be more popular than the hero that inspired him, and also introduced the first Distaff Counterpart and Junior Counterpart: Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. To compete, DC Comics then introduced Supergirl and Superboy. In the meantime, DC Comics had a long-standing lawsuit against Fawcett and won, allowing them to purchase the Marvel franchise. After Crisis on Infinite Earths rebooted The DCU, both hero families have appeared side-by-side ever since.
  • WildStorm: Many Wildstorm characters were created as Expies of regular DC Comics characters. Apollo and Mr. Majestic are expies of Superman, and Midnighter is an expy of Batman, along with several others. These characters were all later brought into The DCU when DC Comics acquired Wildstorm, meaning that said expies now appeared along side the originals.
  • Watchmen: The comic was originally supposed to star characters that DC Comics had recently acquired from Charlton Comics such as The Question, Blue Beetle, and Captain Atom, as well as other characters such as Phantom Lady – but upon seeing Alan Moore's story pitch, DC editorial realised it would make those characters unusable afterwards and ordered Moore to replace them with Expies. Watchmen existed in its own completely separate continuity up until 2016's DC Rebirth first indicated that it was part of the wider DC multiverse, which was later confirmed in Doomsday Clock. Additionally, Grant Morrison's The Multiversity had featured the Alternate Universe of Earth-4 which was populated by versions of the Charlton Comics characters heavily inspired by their Watchmen counterparts.
  • DC's Elongated Man is an expy of DC's Plastic Man, allegedly because his creator didn't know that DC already had the rights to the character. They're occasionally depicted as resenting each other due to Superhero Speciation.
  • DC's Mongul is an expy of Marvel's Thanos, who in turn is an expy of DC's Darkseid. During the Marvel vs DC crossover, the latter two met briefly and Darkseid said Thanos was a pale imitation of him. When the universes were merged into the Amalgam Universe, they were combined into Thanoseid.
  • Marvel's Eternals are a group of immortal superhumans who are said to have been the inspiration for many of mankind's early myths, including the Greco-Roman Gods. This even applies to the names, with many of the Eternals having names similar to Greek and Roman mythological figures (Zuras/Zeus, Ikaris/Icarus, Sersi/Circe, Thena/Athena, Makkari/Mercury, ect.), and their hidden city being called Olympia (a play on Mount Olympus). Despite this, the Greek pantheon very much does exist in the Marvel Universe, as does Mount Olympus, meaning the Eternals exist in the same universe as the supposedly fictitious characters they inspired. (The reason for this is that Jack Kirby did not initially intend The Eternals to be set in the Marvel Universe.) This confusion has even been commented on in the Thor comics, with Thor wondering if Ikaris inspired the myth of Icarus, or vice versa. During Roy Thomas' "Eternals Saga" storyline, many of the Eternals even ended up facing off against their mythological counterparts after Odin and Zeus invaded Olympia.
  • Inevitable with an All Stories Are True mashup like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but Century lampshades it. 1910 features a bunch of weird occultists from different sources who are all No Celebrities Were Harmed versions of Aleister Crowley. 1969 does the same with London Gangsters based on the Krays.
    • Tempest has somebody mentionig the Marvelman Family when talking to Captain Universe. Marvelman and Captain Universe are both expies of Shazam! created by Mick Anglo. Universe then has to fight an enemy of Mr. Apollo, another Shazam expy who isn't allowed to transform any more because Shazam's lawyers threatened him.
  • John Diggle was a Canon Immigrant from Arrow that appeared in the New 52 era of Green Arrow. However, season 7 of Arrow, between the Elseworlds crossover and "Spartan", revealed he's actually the Arrowverse version of Green Lantern John Stewartnote .
  • Grant Morrison's Batman includes Batman teaming up with, or even helping create, Expies of himself in various countries. It's also Lampshaded that the Man Who Laughs, an enemy of France's Batman Expy, seems very much like a copycat of The Joker, which he concedes:
    "Perhaps I am only an imitation, an homage, call it what you will. But every culture must have its jester, its fool. I am the distorted mirror in which you see the truth."
    • The Bat-Man of China also has a Joker counterpart (Alpaca) amongst his enemies, along with a Bane (Anathema). The Knight of Britain's enemy Jarvis Poker, however, is a Harmless Villain who likes the look of the Crown Prince of Crime, but is nothing like him in personality.
  • When the current Batwoman, Kate Kane, was introduced in 2006 she was understood to simply be a rebooted version of the old character this side of multiple Cosmic Retcon-inducing Crisis Crossovers. However, five years later the original Kathy Kane was brought back into continuity with her Silver Age history intact, with a reveal that her death in her final pre-Crisis appearance was faked and she'd been undercover ever since. Someone who happened to also be named Katherine Kane taking up her old superhero role in the meantime is pure coincidence; although it's suggested they're both related somehow.
  • New York City is an established real location in the DC universe, and the main setting for various superhero comics, despite the fictional cities of Metropolis and Gotham each being influenced by different aspects of it: Frank Miller once said that Metropolis is New York by day and Gotham is New York by night. Rather than taking the easy route and making them a 6th and 7th borough of New York City, eventually it was decided that the two cities needed their own established locations. DC settled on Gotham being in New Jersey and Metropolis in Delawarenote , on opposite sides of the Delaware Bay.
    • Similarly, Star City (home of Green Arrow) has at various times in the publication history been an Expy of both Boston and San Francisco (both seen as appropriate locations for a wealthy and outspokenly left-wing political superhero), but both of those cities still exist in the DCU and Star City eventually was established as being just north of the Bay Area in California. And Green Lantern Hal Jordan's home of Coast City was an Expy of Los Angeles, until it got retconned up to northern California (just south of the Bay Area) so that the real Los Angeles could also feature in the DCU.
    • Averted in the case of Central City and Keystone City (home to most of the Flashes), which outright replace and Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas in the DCU. Complete with the iconic Gateway Arch being in Central City. Currently, these are the only city Expies in the DCU that don't coexist with their real life inspirations.
  • Judge Dredd already featured a Xenomorph Xerox species called Raptaurs before actual Xenomorphs showed up in the Intercontinuity Crossover Judge Dredd: Incubus.
  • Jason Hart, the Protector, was created in a Teen Titans PSA because they couldn't use Robin (he was licenced to a different cookie company than the one sponsoring the ads). Much later, he was introduced to regular continuity as part of Beast Boy's short-lived 2000 incarnation of Titans West.
  • Due to the varying degrees of Exiled from Continuity in Vertigo Comics, writers had a tendency to create their own versions of characters they weren't allowed to use. Since it was never the case that Vertigo officially wasn't part of the DCU, these characters are this by definition. They include Willoughby Kipling (Doom Patrol) and Ambrose Beirce (Stanley and His Monster), both members of the Trenchcoat Brigade, with the latter even calling it an assembly line, and - on the other side of the equation - various superheroey characters in Mark Millar's run on Swamp Thing such as the Traveller (The Phantom Stranger), the Black Box (Golden Age Green Lantern) and the Word (The Spectre). Eventually the embargo was lifted sufficiently that Millar could have the Stranger, and promptly pitted him against the Traveller.
  • Cluemaster is a Batman villain who is seen as a cheap copy of the Riddler in-universe, a suggestion he bitterly resents, claiming that puzzles and riddles are completely different. And then there's the Baffler, who's not only a copy of a copy (having been inspired by Cluemaster) but is an idiot whose clues are terrible.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • Rachel, protagonist of Beyond the Borders, is loosely based on Tempest, the protagonist of the author's previous fic, A Decent Self-Insert, probably. While Tempest hasn't appeared "on-screen", Rachel offhandedly lists her among some people she knows on the internet, thus confirming that she exists in this universe as well.
  • Since Infinity Train: Boiling Point is inspired by Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail, the main trio (Boscha, Chris, and Phosphophyllite) are based on the Red Lotus Trio from the latter. Chapter 7 eventually reveals that a version of the Red Lotus Trio exists in this universe, with them being fully revealed by Chapter 13.
  • As noted in the Anime & Manga Expy subpage, Ritchie is an expy to both Ash and Red, the protagonist of Pokémon Red and Blue videogames. In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Red exists along with both Ash and Ritchie in the new timeline, and they're all paternal half-siblings.

    Film — Animated 
  • Animal Crackers (2017): The character of Horatio was partially inspired by Elvis Presley. At one point in his Villain Song, Horatio laments that he "should've been bigger than Elvis, with the fortune of a king."
  • Coco: Ernesto de la Cruz is influenced by various Mexican actors and singers, with the creators specifically citing Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete as inspirations for his persona and singing ability - so at one point he briefly bumps into both of them.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Two of the main characters, Fix-It Felix Jr. and Wreck-It Ralph, are from a video game known as Fix-It Felix Jr., an old arcade game from The '80s that is modeled after Donkey Kong and Wrecking Crew. While Fix-It Felix is an expy of Mario, he also offhandedly mentions that Mario himself was supposed to come to their 30th anniversary party but is "fashionably late, as per the norm".note 
  • The sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet has a company example: there's dozens of real-world brands throughout the film, but the video uploading site BuzzzTube is a fictional YouTube analogue. However, the YouTube logo can be seen in the film and the site is even mentioned once by Yesss, BuzzzTube's main algorithm.
  • Dracula's father, Vlad from Hotel Transylvania 2 Looks Like Orlok. It's a rare case of him being an expy of an expy of his own son.
  • Raymond Briggs's father, Ernest makes a background cameo in Father Christmas. There's another cameo from Jim and Hilda Bloggs from When the Wind Blows, whom Briggs based on his parents.
  • Rango: By Johnny Depp's own admission, the titular character is heavily influenced by Hunter S. Thompson's Raoul Duke persona. Since the movie is set in the desert surrounding Las Vegas, it was perhaps inevitable that Duke himself would show up.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The Identical, one of the separated twins grows up to be Elvis Presley in all but name. He has the same basic backstory as Elvis, with the same music style. However, one scene reveals that Elvis already exists in this universe. It makes you wonder what Elvis himself would have to say about someone exactly like him.
  • The main character of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou has a lot in common with Jacques Cousteau (although according to Wes Anderson, he's also based on some other famous explorers from Anderson's youth, like Thor Heyerdahl), but at one point, Zissou refers to "Cousteau and his cronies" as rivals.
  • Blades of Glory heavily involves the World Winter Sports Games, a lawyer-friendly parody of the Winter Olympic Games, but a coach mentions having trained other skaters who did compete at the Olympics.
  • Gary Winston, the Big Bad of Antitrust, is transparently based on Bill Gates, but Gates is also acknowledged as existing in the movie, apparently as a rival. At one point Winston turns his nose up when a piece of technology he owns is compared to a similar one that Gates has in real life, and replies that Gates' version of the technology is primitive.
  • An attempt that backfired big-time: at the very beginning of Citizen Kane, a throwaway line compares Charles Foster Kane to the Real Life media magnate William Randolph Hearst, acknowledging that Kane is a completely different (to not mention fictional) person. Hearst still felt incredibly insulted at what the movie supposedly implied of him and used all of the power of his media empire to try to censor the film and make Orson Welles' life a living hell.
  • In Death to Smoochy, Smoochy the purple rhino is modeled after Barney the purple dinosaur. One of the insults Randolph hurls at him during a tirade is "bastard son of Barney", establishing that Barney also exists in-universe.
  • The archvillain of In the Mouth of Madness, Sutter Kane, clearly draws inspiration from Stephen King. But King is also stated to exist in the film's universe and that Kane's novels are more popular than his.
  • The Rocky franchise establishes that Rocky Marciano, Joe Frazier, and Muhammad Ali all exist in its universe, despite the former two being inspirations for Balboa and the latter an inspiration for Apollo Creed.
  • Big Daddy has a show with a singing kangaroo which is an obvious parody of Barney the Dinosaur but a dialogue with Sonny and Julian reveals that Barney as a show exists as well.
  • The Mask of Zorro features the historical Mexican bandit Joaquin Murieta in a small role (he dies early in the movie), while Joaquin's brother Alejandro (a fictional character) is trained by an ageing Don Diego to replace him under the costume of Zorro. Joaquin Murieta has been speculated to be one of the sources of inspiration for the character of Zorro.
  • In Network, the Ecumenical Liberation Army is an obvious parody of the Symbionese Liberation Army—but then the SLA is mentioned and the similarities are noted ("There's a hell of a lot of liberation armies in the revolutionary underground and a lot of kidnapped heiresses").
  • Spaceballs:
    Yogurt: I am the keeper of a greater magic. A power known throughout the universe, known as....
    Barf: The Force?
    Yogurt: No. The Schwartz.
  • The Devil's Advocate: Alexander Cullen is clearly inspired by Donald Trump, to the point that he is shown to reside in Trump's real life apartment in Trump Tower. However, a party scene has a minor character state "Donald Trump was supposed to be here tonight but he had a business emergency".
  • The events in Dante's Peak are inspired by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, but characters make comparisons to Mount St. Helens and Dr. Dalton’s team are introduced as working at a Real Life volcano observatory named for a geologist killed in that eruption. Somewhat justified as the Cascades are a volcanic region and another such eruption occurring in the region is completely plausible.

    Literature 
  • Several works by Kim Newman feature or refer to Dr. Shade, a vigilante similar to The Shadow. In "The Original Dr. Shade", about a writer working on modern reboot series about the character, it's mentioned that the Shadow also exists in-universe and the Shadow's publishers once sued Dr. Shade's publishers over the resemblance.
  • Jago by Kim Newman is set in a fictional Somerset village with an annual music festival similar to the real-life Glastonbury Festival. At one point, a character reels off a list of other locations in England with their own music festivals, and buried in the list is Pilton, the real Somerset village that hosts the Glastonbury Festival.
  • Fangirl: main character Cath writes fanfiction for the Simon Snow books, a series about a boy attending a magical school in Britain that acts as a clear stand-in for Harry Potter. However, the Harry Potter books also exist in this universe. Word of God says that they are Dueling Works. The Simon Snow series was later defictionalised – sort of – as Carry On.
  • Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada is based on Anna Wintour, the notoriously formidable editor-in-chief of Vogue. It's said that Lauren Weisberger wrote the book as a means of revenge on Wintour for being a Bad Boss to her when Weisberger was her PA. In the book, Priestly and Wintour are in one scene said to be bitter rivals. Anna Wintour herself actually turned up to the premiere of the Film of the Book, wearing Prada.
  • In The Kraken Wakes, the main character works for the EBC (English Broadcasting Company). There's a running gag of people saying "don't you mean BBC?".
  • Superfolks protagonist, David Brinkley, Captain Mantra and Mary Mantra are based on Superman, Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel respectively. Most DC characters, exist in this universe, though Supes and the Marvels are all dead.
  • Count Orlok from Nosferatu was written as a copyright-friendly Dracula. Anno Dracula has Drac ruling Britain and Count Orlok running the Tower of London.
  • Andi Ra' coming to Earth to warn humanity in Go, Mutants!, is based on Klaatu from The Day The Earth Stood Still though Klaatu is mentioned as a separate character and his robot master Gort makes a cameo cutting some grass.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes sequel-by-other-hands Mycroft and Sherlock, one of the Historical Domain Characters is Dr Joseph Bell, Arthur Conan Doyle's inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.
  • Bimbos of the Death Sun: Murder victim and author Appin Dungannon is short, has a Hair-Trigger Temper and tremendous ego, and is something of a Dirty Old Man. The story goes out of the way to mention that Harlan Ellison might be a good candidate to write his eulogy.
  • Solar Pons was one of the earlier Sherlock Homages but a retired Sherlock Holmes is mentioned in the books but only referred as The Master.
  • Lev Grossman's The Magicians series satirizes both Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia. The Potter books are occasionally mentioned by the characters. Word of God is inconsistent if the Narnia books exist in this universe. This in-universe site about Christopher Plover mentions him alongside other famous children's authors such a C. S. Lewis, but Grossman in an interview states that in the Magiciansverse, C.S. Lewis was never born, and that if he had been, he and Christopher Plover would have collapsed into each other and formed a space-time singularity.
  • In Sinclair Lewis's novel It Can't Happen Here, a right-wing demagogue named Buzz Windrip becomes President of the United States and establishes a fascist dictatorship. Windrip is clearly based on Huey Long, but Long is mentioned a few times in the book and compared to Windrip.
  • ORSK in Horrorstor is clearly a satire of IKEA, yet it's established on the first page of prose that in-universe it's just a bargain basement ripoff of the actual IKEA.
  • Iris Wildthyme was written as a female parody of Doctor Who. When her author, Paul Magrs started writing Doctor Who tie-in novels, she was Canon Welded into the series as another Time Lord.
  • Another Kim Newman one: The Big Bad of the Diogenes Club series is a powerful media mogul based on Rupert Murdoch. The story "You Don't Have to Be Mad..." features several Real Life people who were significant in the eighties, each referenced by an abreviation of their name that also serves as a play on their particular obsession. One is an Australian who wants everyone to think what he thinks, and sucks up to "Mrs Empty", known as "Rumour".
  • In his expanded adventures in novels and comics, Indiana Jones has mentioned (and sometimes teamed up with) several of the real-life explorers who have been suggested as inspirations for the character, including Percy Fawcett and Hiram Bingham.
  • InCryptid has both Walt Disney World and its expy Lowryland, which are mentioned to be competitors both located in Florida.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The second season of Agent Carter featured as its Big Bad an actress named Whitney Frost, whose backstory (a famous '40s actress who secretly is a brilliant scientist) was confirmed by the showrunners to reference Hedy Lamarr. However, Lamarr is mentioned to also exist during the season.
  • The Batwoman (2019)'s second season featured Arthur Brown, alias Cluemaster, a highly intelligent Insufferable Genius obsessed with leaving clues behind to his next scheme that is obsessed with proving himself the smartest intellect on the planet, and is obsessed with figuring out how someone managed to outsmart him. All of that sounds exactly like that of The Riddler (though Cluemaster claims Riddler is jealous of him and not the other way around), who exists (but is yet unseen) in the Arrowverse.
  • The Saturday Night Live skit "Neurotology" is a fake music video produced by a Church of Happyology, but one of the captions mentions that one of the cultists shown later "Switched to Scientology".
  • In another example of when the Expy hates the real life counterpart, the villain of the Doctor Who episode "Arachnids in the UK" is a very obvious Donald Trump analogue — who mentions that he hates Trump and plans to run against him in 2020.
  • One episode of NCIS: Los Angeles featured a Church of Happyology whose legal defenses were explicitly compared to those used by the Church of Scientology.
  • The 2017 remake of Os Trapalhões features a Superman Substitute named "Super Super". In one episode, he states his home planet was destroyed along with Krypton, suggesting Superman exists in Super Super's verse.
  • Roseanne had an episode where the Conners visited Disney World almost immediately followed by another episode where they satirized the theme park and its company with an Expy called Edelweiss Gardens. While initially a Take That!, the show's opinion seemed to reverse by mentioning the Gardens as essentially a bootleg Disney World.
  • An episode of Frasier featured Space Patrol, a Captain Ersatz of Star Trek, a franchise already established as existing on the show (Frasier even encounters a Klingon cosplayer in the episode where Space Patrol shows up).
  • Happens in nearly every episode of the Law & Order franchise. Whenever a character is a blatant Expy of a famous person, someone will make a single offhand reference to the Real Life inspiration, then that person will never be mentioned again, no matter how many eerie similarities pop up.
  • In The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, hotel magnate daughter London Tipton, who is pretty much Paris Hilton in all but name with the ditziness dialled up, offhandedly mentions Ms. Hilton when a teacher calls out having a spoiled heiress in her class.
  • Blackadder Goes Forth had General Melchett, basically Field Marshal Haig with a Lord Kitchener moustache, as the most obvious and frequently-seen face of good old-fashioned WWI strategic incompetence. Haig himself was later shown in the series; he's shown to have Melchett's utter disregard for human life but none of the delusional bombast.
  • Being a stoic Mandalorian bounty hunter with a mysterious past and a cool suit of armor, the titular protagonist of The Mandalorian was clearly influenced by Boba Fett from the original Star Wars movies. However, Boba Fett himself appears in the show's second season (with Temuera Morrison reprising his role) and teams up with the Mandalorian.
  • Tim from Home Improvement was written as a parody of Bob Vila from This Old House. Vila occasionally appeared on the show as Tim's rival.
  • In Silicon Valley, Hooli is very clearly meant to be a parody of Google, yet Google and its founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin are frequently name-dropped. Likewise, Keenan Feldspar and his company Retinabyte are clearly a parody of Palmer Luckey and Oculus, but an entire subplot started due to Erlich's mistaken belief that Jian-Yang had developed an Oculus related app.
  • Superstore: Cloud 9, the titular fictional superstore, is heavily based off Walmart, which Marcus namedrops in the Season 3 episode "Town Hall" (as well as Target and Costco).
  • Season seven of Arrow features Oliver's paternal half-sister Emiko, who in the comics, is an expy of Thea, his maternal half-sister in the series, who in turn is an expy of Mia Dearden. Both Thea and Emiko meet in the Grand Finale.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The fictional luchador Huracán Ramirez was created for a movie that was meant to star El Santo but couldn't get the real thing, basically becoming Santo minus the mask. Mil Máscaras was an even more blatant Santo expy in that he did have a mask and, again, was created due to a contract dispute between Santo and a producer. EMLL, the promotion that gave Santo his gimmick in the first place, decided to turn both of these fictional movie Santo knockoffs into real luchadores on its live shows.
  • The Great Muta has a different wrestling style than The Great Kabuki, but uses the same face painted look and the same cheats. In the USA's National Wrestling Alliance territories, Muta was pushed as Kabuki's son. (They both get the look and cheats from Phillipeno wrestler Rey Urbano.)
  • The Road Warriors have many knockoffs, homages, tributes and pastiches, The Powers of Pain being the most obvious example and most relevant to this trope as they were put together with the long term goal of feuding with The Road Warriors, which they did. Demolition was a more obvious cash-in by a rival promotion, but they still ended up feuding with The Road Warriors and then the Powers Of Pain. In Chikara, The Devastation Corporation aren't just expies of the Road Warriors, but hearken back to the full on Legion of Doom by having a manager in Sidney Bakabella. However, while Chikara played up the similarities between Bakabella and Precious Paul Ellering, they had Ellering manage Demolition instead of the Road Warriors in a match against the Devastation Corporation.
  • Jimmy Jacobs was always a Fan Boy of wrestlers like Kevin Sullivan, but gradually became a Kevin Sullivan expy after using a railroad spike he claimed was a gift from Sullivan himself. Then Sullivan himself showed up to kick Jacobs's ass, although he was allowed to keep using the spike.
  • Abyss started off mostly as a Kane knockoff, but over the course of his TNA career became more and more like Mankind as well. This led up to Abyss being confronted by Mankind himself, Mick Foley.
  • Crosses over into Parody Assistance with El Sensactional Carlitos, who was given a gimmick meant to mock the leading Wrestling Family of rival fed WWC by IWA Puerto Rico. Carlitos ended up becoming a big star, but due to an internal attempt to sabotage IWA PR, he and Tag Team partner Hiram Tua were conned into leaving Puerto Rico and ended snatched up in WWC when they returned. WWC would then briefly team Carlitos up with Carlito Caribbean Cool himself.

    Toys 
  • In 1981, Hot Wheels came out with Turismo, a car based off a modified casting for the DeLorean after failing to obtain a license from DMC. 30 years later, the brand released the actual DMC DeLorean in its lineup, which was even given a red iteration in 2015 with the original Turismo's paintjob as a nod.

    Video Games 
  • Dead Rising 2 is set in Fortune City, a mini Las Vegas. In-universe, the real Vegas was destroyed in a zombie outbreak years prior.
  • In EarthBound, the creature Tessie who lives in Lake Tess in Winters is a Stock Ness Monster. A newspaper headline mentions Tessie is the cousin of Nessie.
  • Dead by Daylight:
    • Killer "The Hillbilly" is a clear reference to Leatherface, both being Hillbilly Horrors armed with a hammer and chainsaw. A later update to the game introduced the actual Leatherface as a Guest Fighter.
    • Later updates added the killer known as "The Legion", a knife-wielding murderer identity assumed by multiple people which involves wearing a black hood and white mask. This was done in reference to Ghostface from Scream, and eventually the Ghostface Killer himself note  became a Guest Fighter in a separate update.
  • Fallout: New Vegas features the Vikki and Vance Casino in the town of Primm, replacing Whisky Pete's, themed around a legendary Outlaw Couple that got gunned down in their car in a police shootout near a bank... however, Bonnie and Clyde are explicitly mentioned and compared to them, and it's stated that they began their crime spree two days before Bonnie and Clyde. Vikki and Vance however were much smaller-time criminals who got shot only because they tragically happened to get in the line of fire of the police firing at real bank robbers.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Mario Is Missing! has you return King Kong to the Empire State Building. Discussed by The Angry Video Game Nerd in his review that in addition to the whole ordeal being a Mind Screw for having you return a fictional ape that was definitely not wanted by people on the building in an educational game, it is a little bit strange that the character that served as partial inspiration for Donkey Kong ends up appearing in a Mario game.
    • In Super Mario Odyssey, New Donk City resembles New York City in its aesthetical heyday, complete with yellow cabs, sleek musicians, and big lights. Mario Kart Tour features courses based on real-world cities, one of which was the Times Square romp New York Minute. The game even emphasizes this through the course's themed items (yellow taxi kart, Musician Mario), which are directly based off of their New Donk City iterations but fit right in here.
  • Mitsurugi of the Soul Series was inspired by Samurai Shodown's Haohmaru, who would later appear as a guest character in Soulcalibur VI.
  • Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U features Palutena's Guidance, a series of hidden convos Pit can activate on Palutena's Temple as well as a send-up to Brawl's Snake Codecs. In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Snake and his codecs would return, albeit without updated lines.
  • While Waver Velvet didn't start off as a Sherlock Homage when introduced in Fate/Zero, he's acquired enough similarities to him by the time of Lord El-Melloi II Case Files to warrant occasional Lampshade Hanging. Naturally, with the Fate Series being the Fantasy Kitchen Sink that it is, Sherlock Holmes also exists and even becomes the Mission Control in Fate/Grand Order's second Myth Arc. Should you manage to summon both of them as playable Servants, Holmes will even ask to have a chat with Waver (with one piece of official art implying that said chat involved Holmes's stash of chemical assistance).
  • Fortnite:
    • One of the game's older iconic skins is Reaper, an obvious Captain Ersatz of John Wick. Many seasons later, after Fortnite had become a Cash Cow Franchise, a licensing deal would be struck allowing an actual John Wick skin to be introduced.
    • This has actually happened with many skins. Lynx is an expy of Catwoman and Black Panther, Rust Lord is an expy of Star-Lord, Carbide is an expy of Iron Man, and ALL of these characters eventually got added to the game.
    • This has even happened with dances. The "Ride The Pony" emote is one of the game's oldest emotes, available in the Save The World campaign from the very start, showing the player mimicking riding a horse while twirling a lasso, with one version of its music sounding suspiciously like Gangnam Style. In 2020, with the rise of Tik Tok leading to many of the app's popular dances being licensed for use in the game along with the original songs, an actual Gangnam Style dance was released in the game, complete with the original music.
  • In Europe 1200, the available companions include Robin Hood and the historical English outlaws Roger Godberd and Fulk FitzWarin, who has been speculated to be among the sources of inspiration for the Robin Hood legend.
  • In Alan Wake, the titular character is a celebrity horror author clearly inspired by Stephen King. Wake's Opening Monologue begins with the words "Stephen King once wrote..."
  • In the Mortal Kombat series, Kabal and the Cyber Lin Kuei (Cyrax, Sektor, Cyborg Smoke, and—in Mortal Kombat 9Cyber Sub-Zero) all drew inspiration from The Predator. In Mortal Kombat X a Predator was added as a Guest Fighter. Though Kabal only made minor cameos in that game's story (ironically, he was a playable character in the installments preceding and following MKX), the cyborgs were all included as playable fighters, combined into one unit named Triborg.
  • Chocobos from Final Fantasy were meant to be a reference to the Japanese candy Chocoball, whose mascot was a bird known for saying "Kweh". Eventually, officially licensed Chocobo Chocoballs were made.
  • Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon has a slaver in Scumsoft headquarters look almost exactly like Sierra president Ken Williams, whipping programmers into programming video games. The ending has Roger and the Two Guys from Andromeda land on Earth at Sierra headquarters and meet the real Ken Williams, with the Two Guys staying behind to program games for him.
  • In Love Live! School idol festival ALL STARS, Kasumi Nakasu is an expy of Nico Yazawa, from the original series. With this game being an Alternate Continuity featuring all groups co-existing as mutual friends, the two of them interact with frequency, and given their personalities, they rarely manage to get along.

    Webcomics 
  • Exterminatus Now: Three of the Dark Gods of EN are transparent copies of Warhammer 40,000's Chaos gods: the Hound for Khorne, the Patterner for Tzeentch and the Soulthirster for Slaanesh (Fernex is closer to the Void Dragon, a C'tan Star Vampire, instead of Nurgle). Not only that, but the Patterner does not like Tzeentch due to losing a plagiarism lawsuit against him, meaning he's not allowed to like change in general (change is Tzeentch's specialty, be it through mutation, hope or betrayal), leading to a Let Me at Him! when they see each other (with KHORNE of all possible people trying to stop the fight).
  • The Whimsy Corporation in Skin Horse is a Disney pastiche, even to the point of one of their mascots being the Mender-Fairy. One of their intelligent animatronic characters, Baron Mistycorn, writes DuckTales (1987) slash, so Disney exists as well.
  • Sonichu is based on Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic exists in the comics as a separate character. Other expies like Rosechu and Black Sonichu have also met their inspirations Amy Rose and Shadow.
  • The titular protagonist of the Sonichu parody, Asperchu is a parody of Sonichu and the series creator, Christine Weston Chandler. Sonichu and Christine have appeared in the comic without the real Christine's consent with Christine renamed to Ian Brandon Anderson.
    • An Asperchu expy called Mitch Sonichu was later added to the Sonichu comic.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Drawn Together revels in this trope.
    • Captain Hero, while an obvious knock-off of Superman, is clearly established to exist alongside Superman, as well as the entire DC gang, and characters from Marvel Comics also exist.
    • Princess Clara is a Disney Princess and is seen hanging out with other real Disney Princesses, such as Snow White, Ariel, Cinderella, and Princess Aurora.
    • Wooldoor Sockbat, an obvious yet strange take on SpongeBob SquarePants, with a bit of Stimpy and Looney Tunes thrown in, was once referred to as a "poorly conceived SpongeBob parody".
    • The episode "Toot Goes Bollywood" features the character Phat Allen,"who has absolutely no affiliation with Bill Cosby's lovable character Fat Albert."
    • In The Movie, while the gang is being chased by I.S.R.A.E.L., the Jew Producer finally admits to them they are all knock-offs, and hence cannot return to their "original" shows. After the Jew Producer helps them throw I.S.R.A.E.L. off the trail, they stop and assess the situation, and:
      • Toot says she acts nothing like Betty Boop.
      • Ling-Ling says he's not the real Pikachu. In one episode, Pikachu was in fact mentioned as the characters were playing the Pokémon card game.
      • Foxxy Love says she is nothing like Josie and the Pussycats.
    • The movie has a blatant parody of South Park titled The Suck My Taint Show. The actual show was referenced in "The Other Cousin" when Kyle and a Jakovasaur were in the rollercoaster, and more explicitly in "A Tale of Two Cows" when the Live-Action Cow rampages through South Park (though some characters in that scene were not direct copies of South Park characters).
  • Animaniacs:
    • The original series had Slappy Squirrel, who was said to be one of the original Looney Tunes characters. One episode shows a cover of a cartoon collection of such characters, and she is shown to be on it. However, in Real Life she never appeared in any media unrelated to Animaniacs.
    • The original series' segment "Back in Style" had Expies of Yogi Bear and Boo Boo known as "Calhoun Capybara" and "Lew-Lew". Come the 2020 series which featured cameos by the actual Yogi and Boo Boo in the "Suffragette City" musical number now that Warner Bros. owns Hanna-Barbera.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The show has media franchises that are each basically a Captain Ersatz despite earlier episodes referring to the real-life franchise by name:
      • Cosmic Wars was created to make fun of the backlash against The Phantom Menace...even through the aforementioned episode aired in 2004, five years after Attack of the Clones came out. Cosmic Wars was almost identical to Star Wars in every way, with only minor tweaks to the names and characters (e.g. Jar Jar Binks became Jim Jam Bonks, and "May The Force Be With You" became "May The Power Be On Your Side"), and is shown to be the exact same kind of phenomenon. The creator Randall Curtis is essentially a Captain Ersatz of George Lucas, except for shorter stature. However, Star Wars had already been established to exist in their universe several times. In fact, the franchise plays a role in some of the show's most famous moments, and with a few arbitrary exceptions, Star Wars was directly mentioned after this episode aired as well. It became even more blatant when Disney bought Fox (and thus the rights to The Simpsons), just seven years after they already purchased the Star Wars rights, as the show began acknowledging its ties to its new parent company more closely, especially in regards to Star Wars references.
      • Angelica Button was created to make fun of Harry Potter, which at the time was at its peak of popularity. While not identical to Harry Potter in every way unlike the previous example, it was presented as the same kind of phenomenon, with an episode that mimics the craze at bookstores whenever a new book in the series came out. However, J. K. Rowling had appeared in an earlier episode, with direct references to her books being made. To add to that, Harry Potter had been mentioned (or even appeared) in several episodes beforehand and since.
    • The show in later seasons also has a very strange habit of referring to a thing it has an Expy of by its real name, but then immediately correcting themselves. This was done with Nappien (Ambien), Blazing Guy (Burning Man), and Swapper Jack's (Trader Joe's), just to name a few. Whether that is an example of this trope, or just to help people understand the connection is unknown...although, Don't Explain the Joke.
    • In "The Homer They Fall", Homer lampshades the trope with the page quote, pointing out the similarities between fictional boxing manager Lucius Sweet and real boxing manager Don King. To confuse the issue further, Lucius Sweet is voiced by Paul Winfield, who played Don King in the TV movie Tyson.
    • In "Marge vs. Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples, Teens and Gays", Maggie becomes addicted to Roofi, a parody of children's singer Raffi. Later, a news ticker covering a disastrous concert reads "Raffi denounces Roofi".
    • In The Simpsons Movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger is depicted as the President of the United States, looking and sounding almost exactly like regular expy Rainier Wolfcastle. This is an interesting case, as this trope was completely averted for this character in the show: Schwarzenegger was never mentioned or acknowledged in the show, and Wolfcastle was basically his Captain Ersatz down to even minor details. However, in the movie, this is completely thrown out the window, as Wolfcastle does not appear or get acknowledged, and Schwarzenegger is established prominently.
    • "Homer's Barbershop Quartet" shows Homer was in a four-man musical group whose history parodies that of The Beatles. But not only are the actual Beatles directly mentioned, George Harrison makes a guess appearance As Himself.
    • Combined with Dark Parody, "Brother's Little Helper" makes quick mention that Dennis Mitchell exists, but Wiggum explicitly mentions him as "the kid who roughed up the Wilson widow."
    • For many years, the show featured the Blocko brand of construction toys whenever it needed to reference LEGO. After LEGO started making toys with the show's license, Season 25 episode "Brick Like Me" features the franchise as the basis of its plot.
    • In the crossover between Family Guy and The Simpsons, the court scene features the characters from both shows that are the most similar to each other sitting together, including two James Woods.
    • "Itchy & Scratchy Land" and "The Day the Violence Died" both use Roger Meyers Sr. as a stand-in for Walt Disney, but many episodes directly mention the Disney Corporation and even Walt Disney by name. And, as mentioned above, this became more obvious when Disney eventually bought out The Simpsons.
    • In "Homer the Great", Homer joins the Stonecutters, a secret society parodying the Freemasons. However, Grandpa Simpsons mentions being a member of the Freemasons (as well as the Stonecutters).
    • "22 Short Films About Springfield" extensively parodies Pulp Fiction, particularly the conversation about McDonald's, thus making it clear that Krusty Burger and its inspiration both exist in this universe, though the latter apparently is so rare in Springfield that few of its residents even know about it.
      Lou: Y'know, I went to the McDonald's in Shelbyville on Friday night.
      Wiggum: The Mc-what?
      Lou: Uh, McDonald's restaurant, I, uh, I've never heard of it either, but uh, they have over 2000 locations in this state alone.
      Eddie: Must've sprung up overnight.
    • In "Grift Of The Magi", Funzo is a clear parody of Furby and Tickle Me Elmo, and as he explains himself, Jim Hope name-drops both toys, meaning they exist in the world of the show.
  • The Venture Bros.:
    • The series started out as a very obvious spoof of Jonny Quest, (except the setting is updated, the tone is less optimistic, and the characters are flipped on their heads; the doctor is amoral and has at least a touch of Mad Scientist, the badass bodyguard is a bloodthirsty psycho, and the pair of kids are naive and delusional to the point of being Too Dumb to Live) but as early as the seventh episode, Race Bannon from Jonny Quest appears and interacts with his expy Brock. Later an adult version of Jonny and other characters would also show up. This later became more complicated as copyright and legal issues meant that the showrunners for The Venture Brothers had to turn the characters from Jonny Quest into expies of themselves, so Race Bannon became "Red" Bannon and Jonny Quest became Action Jonny, for example.
    • The Scooby-Doo parodies the Groovy Gang play a major role in one episode, but Jonny implies he got an STD from Velma.
    • Many of the show's superheroes and supervillains are parodies of existing ones, the latter of which still exist in The Venture Bros. as fictional characters. Hank, a fan of Batman, briefly mentored under Captain Sunshine, who is a Batman Parody. The Monarch once insulting described Baron Underbheit as a "dime-store Dr. Doom". Brock told Dr. Pym parody Dr. Entmann that he reminds him of "a Marvel hero" ("Hawkeye? Sub-Mariner?"). Really, whether a character exists in canon, exists as a fictional character, or doesn't exist at all seems to vary on the needs of the scene.
  • American Dad!: In "Familyland", the Smiths go to the titular park and discuss the legend of its founder, Roy Family, cryogenically freezing himself. Klaus says that it reminds him of Walt Disney, but Steve tells him he doesn't know who he is.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Copycats" featured the Wattersons fighting the characters from the knockoff Miracle Star.
  • In season 1 of Young Justice, Robin was given several of Tim Drake's traits, despite the fact he was Dick Grayson. In season 2, Invasion, Dick is now Nightwing while the actual Tim is the new Robin.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars revels in this trope. Each of the regular characters becomes a parody of a prominent Star Wars character. However, rather than having the special be the usual Whole Plot Reference parody, its plot happens parallel to A New Hope, with the cast actually meeting their counterparts and interacting with them.
  • In The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo episode "When You Witch Upon a Star", the trio of incompetent witches known as the Brewski Sisters are a clear homage to The Three Stooges; each witch modeled after one member of the trio. Of course, the real Larry, Moe and Curly Joe had previously teamed up with the gang in The New Scooby-Doo Movies.
    • Still in the Scooby-Doo franchise you have the Boo Brothers, who have also been inspired by the Stooges (although not to the same extent as the Brewski Sisters).
  • The titular ape in Donkey Kong was clearly inspired by King Kong. In the Donkey Kong Country cartoon, he says that King Kong is his idol in one song, and even mentions having an autographed picture of the ape.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: The original 2D promotional video showed Chat Noir to be a Jerkass Manipulative Bastard named Félix. However, creator Thomas Astruc did not consider Félix interesting enough as a character, and saw his intended dynamic with Marinette/Ladybug as toxic, and so he was scrapped, with Adrien Agreste being created to occupy the identity of Chat Noir. In the show's third season, Félix makes an appearance as Adrien's identical cousin.
  • DuckTales (2017):
    • Scrooge McDuck is named after Ebenezer Scrooge of A Christmas Carol, though not especially based on him. It's heavily implied in the episode "Last Christmas" that the original Scrooge also exists in this show's universe, and the Christmas Spirits met Scrooge McDuck after mistaking his address for that of Ebenezer Scrooge. Past even implies that Ebenezer is too busy with Tiny Tim to hang with him anymore.
    • Webby was a Canon Foreigner in DuckTales (1987), and to some extent April, May, and June (Huey, Dewey, and Louie's Distaff Counterparts) composited into one character. Then the last episode of the rebooted series introduced its own versions of May and June, with Webby taking the place of April. More precisely, FOWL created all three of them, and "April" was Webby's original name.
  • The Batman: Season Three introduced a supervillain named the Toymaker, the former CEO of a toy company who holds a grudge against Bruce Wayne for getting his company shut down for making unsafe toys. He was based off of the Superman villain the Toyman. The Toyman would eventually make an appearance in a Season Five Crossover with Superman.
  • Star Wars: The Bad Batch: The titular team is meant to be an Expy of Delta Squad from the Star Wars: Republic Commando series, being a team of crack commandos that consist of a stern leader (Hunter and Boss), the no-nonsense sniper (Crosshair and Sev), the Boisterous Bruiser demolitions expert (Wrecker and Scorch), and the team genius (Tech and Fixer). Divergences in characterization aside, the Bad Batch and Delta Squad both exist in the current canon, since both were featured in Star Wars: The Clone Wars (The Batch in Season 7, and the Deltas in Season 3), though the decanonization of the Delta's books and games means that only a Broad Strokes version of them exist in current canon.
  • The Boondocks features Ed Wuncler III, who primarily exists to satirize George W. Bush: a needlessly violent Upper-Class Twit from an old conservative family who goes off on disastrous criminal expeditions with his idiot friend Rummy and escapes consequences due to luck and his family. Despite this, it's been shown many times that Bush does indeed exist in the show's universe.
  • Arthur: The episode "The Squirrels" had all the characters watch an old horror movie called The Squirrels, which is essentially The Birds but with squirrels as the evil creatures instead. At the end of the episode, Buster mentions that The Birds will be on TV, and the characters decide to watch that next.

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