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Expy Coexistence

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"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"

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 friend or a hated rival of the real person whom they are an Expy of.

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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    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.

    Comic Books 
  • In 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 as a guest at Dream's funeral.
  • 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 Child Counterparts: 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 Charlton Comics characters such as The Question, Blue Beetle, and Captain Atom, as well as other characters such as Phantom Lady, but DC Comics (who had acquired the characters) reneged on that, thus allowing Alan Moore to create an entirely new story based on expies of those characters. The two stories existed in completely different continuities all the way up until 2016's DC Rebirth, which hinted that the Cosmic Retcon that had merged the Wildstorm and DC Universes was done by Dr. Manhattan, the aforementioned expy of Captain Atom. This was later proven true in Dooms Day Clock, meaning that the characters of Watchmen were now part of the same overarching continuity as their originals. They also made matters even more complicated by introducing Earth-4, which is an Alternate Universe that almost point-for-point recreates the characters and setting of Watchmen with alternate counterparts of the aforementioned Charlton Comics.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • This is essentially the premise of Injection: expies of Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Doctor Who, Quatermass, and Carnacki the Ghost-Finder are put into a think tank together, and come up with an artificial intelligence that combines all their skills and is eager to hasten the arrival of the future.

    Comic Strips 

    Film - Animated 
  • 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".
  • 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' 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.

    Film - Live Action 
  • While not a CLEAR Expy of a certain cartoon character (he's a sort of mash-up of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck), Roger Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit is treated as a typical cartoon character in the ranks of other real-life ones. But almost every cartoon character from Disney and Looney Tunes makes a cameo.
  • 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 Word of God, he's also based on some other famous explorers from his 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.
  • Being part of the DC Extended Universe, the protagonist of Shazam meets Superman at the end of the movie.
  • The archvllain 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.

  • 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.
  • In Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Cath writes fanfiction for the Simon Snow series of books, a clear stand-in for Harry Potter. But when she's explaining her slash fic to her love interest, he explicitly compares it to making Harry Potter gay, establishing that both Simon Snow and Harry Potter (somehow) are huge popular franchises in this universe.
  • 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 premier of the Film of the Book, wearing Prada.
  • 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 Graf 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 Fort makes a cameo cutting some grass.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 expy 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 Series/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).

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • The Dead by Daylight character "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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Exterminatus Now: Three of the Dark Gods of EN are transparent copies of Warhammer 40K'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).

    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".
    • 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.
      • They then somewhat subvert this trope by saying that real cartoon characters don't do any of the things they did on the show...which is not true, at all. The movie came out in 2010, well after adult animation was established as a genre.
    • Ironically, this trope is averted in the movie as well: because the movie is clearly taking a jab at South Park (which makes the comment about adult animation even more odd), and the creator's rant that South Park gets away with crude humor because of its social commentary, which Drawn Together did not have. But South Park is never mentioned once in the movie, despite being mentioned in the TV show. Instead, we get the Expy The Suck My Taint Show, which has the same animation style as South Park, as well as an alternate line for its lessons (South Park says, "I learned something today...", and Suck My Taint uses, "Don't you see?").
  • Animaniacs 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 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 five years later in 2004, 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.
      • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Copycats" featured the Wattersons fighting the characters from the knockoff Miracle Star.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Sunset Shimmer from the My Little Pony: Equestria Girls films was meant to be the opposite (at least in name) to Twilight Sparkle, and she redeems herself. Later the series introduced Starlight Glimmer, also with an opposite name who redeems herself. The two eventually meet.
  • 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 a 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).


Example of: