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Fountain of Expies

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This trope is under discussion in Trope Talk.
And there's a million of us just like me
Who cuss like me; who just don't give a fuck like me
Who dress like me; who walk, talk, and act like me
And just might be the next best thing, but not quite me!

A character who is so popular and impactful that many other characters created afterwards are heavily inspired by it. They share even more than its Archetypal Characters, they are its expies — basically the same old character recycled, with some minor changes to make it fit into the new setting. The original one gives inspiration not just for their basic Characterization Tropes, but for parts of their relationship dynamics, personality, and appearance.

While too many authors using the same obvious expies could be considered a worrying trend in terms of originality, it isn't an inherently bad thing. As a longer time passes, creators might be more and more likely to make bigger changes to the character, eventually growing it into a whole new Character Archetype trope on its own. In other cases, it's possible that the resulting characters are too different even for that: Talented writers can explore certain aspects of a character with an expy, and other aspects with another expy, in a way, that if you would compare the two expies, they wouldn't even appear that similar to each other. While it's possible that a Fountain of Expies also serves as a Trope Codifier for the character's most fundamental tropes, other times the shared similarities are more vague.

In the following "subtropes" list, only add trope pages whose descriptions are explicitly based on the idea of collecting Stock Characters that are based on a first one. There are other tropes that were more indirectly started or codified by certain characters, but these should not be referenced.

Expy refers mainly and solely to characters drawn from pre-existing fiction. For characters derived from historical figures (this includes any real life person that has passed away), please see No Historical Figures Were Harmed. Celebrities go under No Celebrities Were Harmed.

See also Alternate Company Equivalent, which is when a character or product from another brand resembles its competitor.

A Sub-Trope of Follow the Leader. See also Whole-Plot Reference when it's the plot, not the character, that's being referenced. See also Cast of Expies and All-Stereotype Cast. See also No Celebrities Were Harmed and No Historical Figures Were Harmed, where it's a fictional character/organization that is based on a real-life person or group.



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From Western Animation

Other examples:

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    Live-Action TV 

  • In Visual Kei there are a lot of artists that get this treatment, but probably the most notorious is hide. The amount of hide clones or one-time hide clones within Visual Kei is enough to fill an entire page, but some of the more well known are Die and Kaoru of Dir en grey (though they currently are not), Jun of Spiv States plus the entire band concept of Spiv States being a thinly veiled copy of hide's solo band, and a 2013 photoshoot for a band called CELL featuring everyone in the band as a hide clone. It's been overdone to the point that anyone in Visual Kei with red or pink hair, especially paired with hide's face or eye makeup, is a clone of him regardless of sound or instrument.
  • George Strait. In The '90s, many young up and coming males in Country Music followed his pattern of being youngish, clean-cut, sharp-dressed good ol' country boys with a bit of a honky-tonk flair to their music. Their copying of Strait's image was dubbed "hat act". Over time, so many "hat acts" flooded Nashville that the phrase quickly became a derogatory term, and most new males in country music ever since have abandoned the Strait archetype (except Strait himself, of course).
  • Though Eminem song "The Real Slim Shady" serves as the current page quote, he himself comes from a long line of white rappers with that particular look (tank top, shorts, backward baseball cap, etc.), a family tree that includes Vanilla Ice.

  • Being the archetypical medieval fantasy king, King Arthur has inspired quite a fair share of expies in media. These expies will usually be a medieval king or leader who commands an order of knights, wields a magical sword, sometimes has an Antagonistic Offspring Bastard Bastard or traitorous lieutenant, and ends up being a King in the Mountain in the hour of greatest need. Examples include Leoric from Visionaries, He-Man from Masters of the Universe, the whole Kingdom of Bretonnia from Warhammer Fantasy (though specifically its founder Gilles le Breton and to a lesser extent its current King, Louen Leoncouer), and the Dark Angels chapter from Warhammer 40,000 (more specifically its primarch, Lion el'Jonson). And while Saber/Altria Pendragon of Fate/stay night does not count as she is just a Gender Flip, Richard the Lionheart as portrayed in Fate/strange fake counts as he strives to emulate the Arthurian ideals of a king to no avail.

    Newspaper Comics 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • George Wagner is not just the Trope Maker and Trope Namer for Gorgeous George but the originator of The Gimmick as it would be used in pro wrestling from the 1930s onward. Besides ambiguously gay wrestlers like "Exotic" Adrian Street (who is himself a fountain of expies), his influence is also transparently shown in Natural Guy Buddy Rogers (another fountain of expies).
  • El Santo, which ironically was a gimmick intended to cash in on the popularity of The Masked Marvel, only the The Marvel gimmick was supposed to be that of a Heel everyone wanted to see unmasked. Santo instead underwent a Heel–Face Turn after reaching a point no one wanted to see him unmasked and after the man died he was buried in it. Some of expies include Mil Mascaras, who in turn inspires his own expies, Black Man, who became Mexico's biggest draw (alongside Kung Fu and Kato Kung Lee) after succeeding an LLI feud Santo was a part of, Novia Del Santo (Irma Gonzales), El Zorro Plateado (who spawned his own Legacy), El Santos from the satire series of the same name and Number Five from Angel.
  • Fray Tormenta is the Masked Luchador with the most expies after El Santo, which include Tiger Mask (which would in turn become another fountain of expies), Sagrado, Místico (that one too), El Generico, Tekken's King and Nacho Libre.
  • The French Angel, aka "The World's Ugliest Man", became such a huge draw when he arrived in the Boston territory that a wave of expies rose across North America, including but not limited to Swedish Angel (formerly Phil/Olaf/Popey/Frankenstein/Olaffsen), Russian Angel (formerly Tony Angelo and a former Masked Marvel), Canadian Angel (formerly Bill Rush, who beforehand was in another ersatz role as Red Masked Marvel), Polish Angel (formerly Iron Talun, who in a bit of variation was cute), Czech Angel (formerly Stanley Pinto), Irish Angel (formerly Clive Welsh), Golden Angel (formerly Tiger Jack Moore) and Black Angel (Gil Guerrero). There was also Super Swedish Angel (formerly Tor Johnson) who was a Captain Ersatz of an expy and two distaff counterparts, the Lady Angel gimmick being taken up both by Jean Noble and Yulie Brynner. The animated ogre Shrek also closely resembles the world's ugliest man.
  • Filipino wrestler Rey Urbano started The Gimmick of Asian wrestlers with "ninja cheats", though more imitators were inspired by his expy, The Great Kabuki, who in turn was overshadowed by one his own expies during the territorial era when promoters in the National Wrestling Alliance pushed The Great Muta as his son. Far more wrestlers have imitated Muta's style but the poison fog/colored mists come from Kabuki and the face paint and or mutilation come from Urbano.
  • "Superstar" Billy Graham, whose expies include many other blonde and or bearded "body builder" types in fancy get ups such as Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura and Scott Steiner, who all also took elements of his promos, though adding their own unique tics.
  • The New World Order are a group example. As one of the most famous and influential heel stables in the history of professional wrestling, it's perhaps unsurprising that the nWo has influenced numerous later stables, who took the basic premise "A large alliance of uncouth black-clad bullies with an anti-authority streak trying to take over a professional wrestling organization by force" and ran with it. They've inspired a few straightforward parodies and homages, like ECW's "Blue World Order", WCW's "Latino World Order", and Juggalo Championship Wrestling's "Juggalo World Order". Some, like TNA's Sports Wrestling Xtreme ("SEX"), Impact Wrestling's Aces And Eights, and WWE's Nexus, are usually seen as cheap knockoffs. But a few stables that are genuinely famous and acclaimed in their own right—like WWF's D-Generation X, WWE's The Shield, NJPW's Bullet Club, and All Elite Wrestling's The Dark Order—are also widely seen as (at the very least) the spiritual descendants of the nWo.note 

  • Professor Harold Hill from The Music Man set the standard for a certain flavor of Con Man marked by their old-timey fashions, businesses/scams that are designed to target a community, and oftentimes a musical number that can double as their pitch. Lyle Lanley from The Simpsons and the Flim-Flam Brothers from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic are two such examples.

  • Barbie has had many, many knockoffs in miscellaneous toy stores. Barbie toy expies are so pervasive that Mattel will only bother to sue if the face and name are too similar. Since she is the most famous "girl toy", she of course often gets homaged/parodied in media, such as Malibu Stacy in The Simpsons. Beyond toy-wise, animated shows like Beverly Hills Teens and Maxie's World feature protagonists and settings that might as well be Barbie.
  • LEGO has been copied a lot of times through other toy brands and even in video games, appearing as simple cutesy cubic claw-handed plastic-like figurines and minimal facial features. Also, with a tendency of being yellow-skinned. The avatars in Roblox are obvious Lego clones, as are the Servbots in the Mega Man Legends series. With a stretch, you could also consider the Minions of the Despicable Me franchise as Lego expies.

    Video Games 
  • Darkstalkers: Morrigan Aensland. If you've seen a "succubus" or "demon" with batwings wearing Stripperiffic skintight clothes, especially with implausibly revealing cuts and hemlines, you've seen one of Morrigan's imitators.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VI: Kefka. He may well be the inspiration for every Camp, Monster Clown, Nihilist in gaming the world over. Ironic, considering he's frequently considered the FF version of The Joker. He also started the trend of RPG bosses having a vaguely angelic One-Winged Angel form, predating even the Trope Namer up above. Ardyn from Final Fantasy XV is usually considered to be following in Kefka's footsteps, and Kuja from Final Fantasy IX is like a mashup between Kefka and Sephiroth.
    • Sephiroth of Final Fantasy VII, while hardly the first white haired Bishōnen villain, did inspire a whole slew of imitators trying to get the same sort of Multiple Demographic Appeal. Just look at the design of Magic: The Gathering's Sorin Markov. (That "control other player" part sounds morbidly familiar...)
      • These characters, derisively called "Sephiroth Clones", are becoming increasingly common, especially in later Final Fantasy games. On any given Final Fantasy XI server, you will find dozens. All of them Elvaan males, all with long silver hair, almost always Samurai.
      • As an amusing point of fact, Sephiroth was himself inspired by Psaro of Dragon Quest IV. In the Nintendo DS remake of the game, Psaro's redesign lifts a few elements from Sephiroth in turn.
    • The success of Final Fantasy VII's Cloud meant every JRPG until about 2002 had to star a moody, arrogant, aloof, charismatic, Anime Haired young man (or woman) with '90s Anti-Hero and Emo Teen elements, an Inferiority Superiority Complex, a Dark and Troubled Past, access to a motorbike, a uniquely designed BFS, and usually some form of amnesia or magical dark side. None of these traits are unusual in protagonists, of course, but it was unusual until then to have a JRPG protag of this kind, since the kind of storytelling usually used in the genre favours more naive and helpful characters than this. The Follow the Leader died out when the Cloud copies got so extreme with the angst, coolness and attitude that it was impossible to enjoy being in their company any more.
    • Various later FF games have used Cloud copies too, usually focusing on a different aspect of Cloud's concept — Squall Leonhart from VIII and Lightning from XIII are variations playing up the coldness, Wol from Mobius plays up the detachment and sarcasm and Ace from Type-O has Cloud's ego and flair.
  • FromSoftware is fond of this while creating in-universe expies of expies; it often occurs to characters with the same voice actor, or having similar appearance and backstories, especially anyone who happens to be named Patches.
  • Inverted in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Every class is an expy of one or more characters from the Films, as are their starships. Companion Characters also channel minor characters from the films and Expanded Universe. Excepting minor cases of characters who are Expies of non-Star Wars characters (the Imperial Agent is a dead ringer for James Bond) and of earlier BioWare characters (Kaliyo is Jack).
  • If a video game produced after 2001 has a main character who's head to toe in Powered Armor and has any sort of personality, you can bet that said personality will resemble Metroid protagonist Samus Aran, Master Chief from Halo, or as of late, Doomguy from Doom, as will the abilities and limitations of said Powered Armor.
  • The success of Sonic The Hedgehog kicked off a slew of copycats trying to cash in on his Bad Butt personality, giving rise to the Mascot with Attitude trope. Ironically, many of these characters starred in Platform Games similar to those of his rival, Mario.
    • Speaking of Sonic, after Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog introduced Scratch and Grounder, a pair of bumbling henchbots, it became a custom for Dr. Robotnik/Eggman to possess similar henchmen in the various Sonic media, from Sleet and Dingo in Sonic Underground to Bocoe and Decoe in Sonic X to Orbot and Cubot in the games themselves.
  • During the 90's, many puzzle games tried to emulate the success of Puyo Puyo to varying degrees. One of the more common elements is having a protagonist based on heroine Arle Nadja, a Badass Adorable female character who is either depicted as a child or teenager and typically having magical abilities. Several examples include Lip from Panel de Pon, Justice from Magical Drop F, Exchanger and Debtmister from Money Puzzle Exchanger, Polly from Baku Baku Animal, and Prim Amor from Pochi and Nyaa. Puyo Puyo itself would even copy Arle with some of its own protagonists from the Sega era on, like Amitie and to a lesser extent Ringo.
  • City of Heroes had (has?) a problem with this. It's very easy to make an obvious Captain Ersatz with it, and Marvel Comics sued them over it once. When the Twin Blades power set was added to City of Heroes, thousands of clones of the aforementioned Drizzt Do'Urden were the first characters seen using it. Drizzt's popularity as an overused character even extended to video games...
  • When the first expansion for World of Warcraft hit, giving the Horde blond elves, in the first hours there were literally thousands of variations of Legolas, most of them hunters with bows, as well as hundreds of Sephiroths. The game's Orcs, i.e. the Proud Warrior Race Guy shamanistic type, are almost as common as the original Always Chaotic Evil type nowadays.
  • The protagonist of any Yume Nikki fangame is an expy of Madotsuki by default.
  • Several Fire Emblem games feature a pair of Macho Camp bandits, often found in desert areas who serve as a Dual Boss. There are enough recurring character archetypes throughout the series to merit an entire category on the Fire Emblem Wiki (and two separate character pages on this wiki).
  • Pokémon:
    • Every generation after the first will have an adorable electric rodent resembling Pikachu. The exact species varies (there have been mice and squirrels so far) but all of them have cheeks that conduct electricity. which seems a little redundant given that Pikachu itself is also available in every generation bar the fifth. This trend is spoofed by the introduction of Mimikyu in the seventh generation, a Ghost and Fairy-type who wears a poorly-made Pikachu costume in the hopes that he will become as popular as Pikachu.
    • Every generation after the first also tends to feature an early-route Pokémon resembling a small rodent or other similar creature in the vein of Rattata, A bug-type Pokémon not unlike Weedle or Caterpie, a bird Pokémon rather similar to Pidgey, and a powerful Pokémon, usually a dragon-type such as Dratini that takes starts off fairly weak and takes a long time to fully evolve.
    • Every generation except for the second and seventh have introduced two new families of Rock-types that can only be obtained through reviving fossils.
    • Every generation has three starter Pokémon that are Grass, Fire, and Water respectively, have two evolutions and their main ability boosts the power of their same-type attack bonus by 50% when their health is a third below their max.
    • After the success of Breakout Character Lucario in the fourth generation, each subsequent generation has introduced a similar bipedal animal humanoid Pokémon hoping to achieve the same type of popularity, to varying degrees of success. Some of these expies include Zoroark, Greninja, Lycanroc, and Toxitricity.
  • Pick a MOBA game. any MOBA game. There is always a knockoff Meat Hook ability. Every single time.
    • Or someone who spins to win. Or someone who likes to go stealth but dies pretty quickly when discovered. Or someone whose ultimate has them jump into the air and slam on the ground to trap enemies. Go here for more of them.
  • We've long since lost count of how many low-budget horror games have tried to be Freddy Fazbear and the gang.
  • Dak'kon, the Githzerai Warrior Poet from Planescape: Torment, permanently altered the perceptions of the Githzerai. Before Dak'kon, the canonical alignment of the Githzerai was mostly Chaotic Neutral, befitting a people who lived in Limbo, a plane directly tied to chaos, with the Lawful Neutral Dak'kon being an explicit and very unusual exception to the rule. However, due to Dak'kon's influence (both in-universe and out-of-universe), level-headed, monastic, Lawful Neutral Warrior Monks became the norm for the Githzerai thereafter.
  • Inverted in Super KO Boxing 2, where nearly all boxers have the gimmicks of Punch-Out!! boxers. Examples include:
    • KO Kid = Little Mac
    • Big Gip/Bigger Gip = Glass Joe
    • El Bulli/El Diablo = Don Flamenco
    • Sake Bomb = Piston Hondo with Bald Bull's knockout recovery
    • King Tub = King Hippo
    • Executioner = Every final opponent in the game.
  • The Shining Series has one inspired by Zylo, the claw-wielding, wolfring warrior king from the original Shining Force. Since his debut, there's been a Wolf Man character in nearly every game in the series that emulates to some degree. Notable examples include:
  • Monster Hunter downplays this trope since it’s limited to the series itself, but since the introduction of Rajang, the series has added more monsters (namely Deviljho, Seregios, and Bazelgeuse) who fill the same niche of powerful, nomadic monsters who show up out of nowhere to ruin your hunt.
  • While Shin Megami Tensei tends to reuse character archetypes from the first two games on occasion, especially in the mainline games, Ozawa from Shin Megami Tensei I starts a pattern of despicable human villains who are largely powerless in the grand scheme of things, but are mainly responsible for the protagonists (typically of the Chaotic variety) going off the deep end. Shin Megami Tensei II is the only following mainline game to lack such a character, though Ozawa himself cameos.
  • Dragon Quest: You see a sword-wielding "Hero" or the concept of a "Demon King" in a Japanese fantasy story, and they will inevitably be based off of Erdrick and Zoma from Dragon Quest III given its influence.
  • Angélique: Much like how Dragon Quest is the primary inspiration for the RPG isekai genre, Angelique, the Trope Maker for Otome Games, is the primary inspiration for the otome isekai genre. The archetypes of the stock otome heroine and otome villainess that the genre revolves around are ultimately derived from Angelique's heroine Angelique Limoges and rival character Rosalia de Catargena.
  • While Anti-Villain Vergil from Devil May Cry is hardly videogaming's first Iaijutsu Practitioner, the sheer popularity of the character means any katana carrying character is inevitably compared to him, and more than a few actually do have moves that take a few cues from Vergil's, such as using Blade Spam, or projecting a Diagonal Cut from a quick-drawn blade.
    • Vergil's brother Dante, the main character of Devil May Cry himself has gotten plenty of expies after his debut:
      Samira: Jackpot.
      • Vicious is another Dante expy; dual wielding guns, wearing a longcoat with no shirt and surviving being stabbed through the heart. Complete with a cocky and trollish attitude, as well as not even hiding the fact that he's thought of as a bad guy.
      • Zero Kiryuu's characterization is patterned around Dante. Both despised the other species that they become hunters in hunting them down, skilled with both a gun and sword, white-haired, have an evil twin brother (Vergil and Ichiru), and getting betrayed by the female lead (Trish and Yuuki) that they vowed to kill them the next time they crossed paths with the respective female.
      • Alucard, a demon hunter with Badass Longcoat, wielding a BFS and a cursed right arm. In fact, when he debuted, he was literally named 'Dante' and has the same white hair, red longcoat color scheme and a similar cocky attitude ("He-hey, not bad!"), until Moonton realized (after several copyright strikes against them) that they made the similarities too blatant, so they decided to change his name into Alucard, tone down his cockiness into a normal confidence and give him a blond hair-blue longcoat color scheme (which ironically made him look more similar to DMC4-era Nero).

    Visual Novel 

    Western Animation 
  • Back in the early 1930s, every new cartoon character that came along was a Mickey Mouse clone. Ironically, Mickey himself was merely following the formula established the decade before by Felix the Cat, and more than one person has stated that he was merely Disney's previous star Oswald the Lucky Rabbit with round ears and a long tail. Some people theorize that the whole "black skin, white mouth" genre of funny animals started out as an animated version of minstrel shows. Felix's ability to spawn expies even extended past animation. Sonic The Hedgehog looked more or less exactly like Felix in the Genesis era, which kickstarted a bunch of expies in video games, though almost none besides Sonic himself remain.
  • The Smurfs were originally a comic book series, but their animated adaptation brought forth a lot of Expies that obviously attempted to Follow the Leader, usually following the format of a Sugar Bowl group of tiny colorful cutesy very similar humanoid creatures living in a remote location, and often being threatened by a bigger, more human-looking villain. One of the most famous Smurfs Expies are The Snorks, but even before being made into animation, the Smurfs had Expies in characters such as the Galaxians in The Scrameustache and the Astroniks toys (incidentally, both being green aliens).

Alternative Title(s): Iconic Characters