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Robotnik initially: a mustached madman.
Robotnik after cracking: a bald, even more mustached madman.

"This is chaos magic, Wanda. And that makes you... the Scarlet Witch!"
Agatha Harkness, WandaVision
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So you've been watching a show or movie about your favorite hero or maybe you're playing a game about them. But something seems a little off as said hero isn't quite as you know them. Maybe they don't have their iconic appearance just yet or aren't using the tools and weapons that are synonymous with their very names. Maybe they're still trying to get a handle on their powers or they just don't act like how you would be familiar with. But then the moment arrives where they have finally transformed into what you know best about them. The outfits, the powers, the attitude, it's all there and they have become the hero you know and love.

This trope is where a character, quite often The Hero, has reached the moment where they become the recognizable and iconic version of themselves that the viewer would be most familiar with. Quite common in adaptations, especially those that cover the Origins Episode or Superhero Origin. It can also tie into The Hero's Journey by showing the exact moment they become The Hero, either as part of the climax or denouement. Can also be used for The Reveal or a Wham Shot to show that a character you've been following is one that is actually one that already derives from source material.

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Compare with Canon Character All Along where this trope is used as a way to show that a character is actually one that is already in the source material. Compare Flashback to Catchphrase.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Godzilla: Singular Point: In the same vein as Shin Godzilla, this continuity's incarnation starts out as a definitively un-Godzilla-like creature and it cycles through several evolutions (which resemble other classic Toho Kaiju), before evolving into Gojira.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: During the Memory World arc, Priest Mahad's primary Bond Creature is called Illusion Magician, which resembles an all blue, diminutive Dark Magician, with a Face Framed in Shadow. When he reveals his true strength, Illusuion Magician Evolves, and is now properly human sized with a purple outfit, though still without a face. it is only when Mahad merges with it that he is renamed the Dark Magician, the Pharaoh's most trusted servant.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Year One sees Batman initially strike out crime-fighting disguised as a common thug, and doesn't assume his cape and cowl until after his first outing goes horribly wrong. He realizes a big part of it is because the criminals weren't at all afraid or intimidated by him, so he decides to up his theatricality...
  • Lex Luthor in The Man of Steel initially has a full head of red hair, which recedes with every appearance until he's as bald as his pre-Crisis self come the ongoing series.

    Fan Works 
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    Films — Animation 
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm: Flashbacks in the film show Bruce starting as a vigilante, but not having become Batman yet. He's able to foil a heist but notes that his methods are still missing something and ponders over how to make his crimefighting more effective (this sequence is heavily inspired by Batman: Year One). During this time he meets and falls in love with Andrea Beaumont, whose presence in his life leads him to consider giving up on his vigilante aspirations. When she leaves Gotham and ends things with him he fully commits to his crusade against crime. In the newly created Batcave Bruce dons his cowl for the first time and Alfred's shocked response makes it clear that Batman has risen.
  • The LEGO Batman Movie:
    • Dick Grayson gets his Robin costume from Batman's collection of Batsuits after deciding he needs one for their mission to put the Joker in the Phantom Zone. The suit was originally used for a mission called "The Jamaica Caper" and was given the name "Reggae Man". The suit fits Dick perfectly except for the pants, which he finds too restricting in movement, so he decides to forgo them in favor of sticking with his green tights. He later comes up with the Robin codename in the middle of trying to obtain the Phantom Zone Projector from the Atomic Cauldron in Superman's Fortress of Solitude.
    • Barbara Gordon gets her Batgirl costume and codename from Batman and his Bat Merch Gun near the film's climax.
  • The LEGO Ninjago Movie: The ninjas spend most of the movie without their elemental powers and rely more on fighting with their mechs. The ninjas eventually learn how to use them (except for Lloyd, who has a different element) when they escape the collapsing Temple of Fragile Foundations.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie: The girls spend most of the movie as well meaning though destructive children owing to their young age not letting them fully grasp how destructive and dangerous their powers are. After accidentally tearing the city apart they wind up rejected by the citizens and manipulated by Mojo into helping him with a plan to Take Over the World, leading even Professor Utonium to lose faith in them and the girls going into a Heroic BSoD that takes them to an asteroid in space. They return when Mojo threatens the Professor and try to help as many people as possible without causing any undue damage. They're not able to do much against the ape army Mojo's created until Buttercup loses her temper and punches one of the mutated primates, leading Blossom to realize they can use their powers to stop the army and Mojo's plans. The ensuing battle becomes the girls' first fight and first time saving the city, and the very final moments of the film have the Narrator doing his iconic So Once Again, the Day Is Saved speech which is where the girls are referred to for the first time as The Powerpuff Girls.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: For most of the movie Miles struggles to both get a handle on his powers and stand as a version of Spider-Man in his own right, largely held back by his own insecurities. After his uncle is killed by Kingpin and Peter B, who has been the closest thing to a mentor he's had, reveals he's planning a Heroic Sacrifice to stop Fisk's plans Miles is finally able to master his powers. He goes to the Spider-Cave of his dimension's Spider-Man, spray paints one of the costumes on hand to be his look from the comics and takes the "leap of faith" that defines one as a Spider-Hero, going webswinging through the city so he can join the Final Battle to stop Fisk.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Takashi Miike's Blade of the Immortal film, Manji spends most of the film fighting with a standard pair of katana swords. In the final duel with Anotsu Kagehisa, Manji runs out of blades and has to use his iconic hooked swords (The ones that killed his sister) which serve as his main weapon in the source material.
  • DC Extended Universe tends to adapt the heroes origins stories, which typically have moments like these happen.
    • Man of Steel has Clark discovering an ancient Kryptonian scout ship and meeting an A.I. hologram of his father Jor-El, who gives him a skinsuit that resembles his usual comics costume.
    • The Distant Prologue of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has young Bruce Wayne running away from the funeral of his parents, only to fall into a cave in the ground. Then he sees bats flying around him in the cave, introducing both what would become the Batcave and his Animal Motif.
    • Wonder Woman:
      • Diana steals her costume in the form of armor and the Lasso of Hestia from the Amazonian armory and completes the look by adding the tiara worn by her aunt Antiope, kept as a Tragic Keepsake.
      • Ares creates his armor by telekinetically reshaping several nearby chunks of metal from destroyed tanks.
    • Aquaman:
      • Arthur is in possession of his usual quindent from the beginning, having been left for him by his mother and used in Justice League (given to him by Vulko in Zack Snyder's version), which is also where he dons scaled armor in place of his usual costume. Both wind up lost after Arthur loses a fight to Orm in Atlantis, the quindent broken and the armor abandoned in favor of more discreet surface attire. Arthur gains a replacement in the form of the more powerful trident used by Atlan and when returning from the battle where he claimed the trident he appears with his usual orange and green costume.
      • Black Manta appears in his typical costume to attack Arthur and Mera during their search for the trident, having built it himself and crafting the Eye Beams weaponry out of reverse-engineered Atlantean weaponry.
    • Birds of Prey: Harley Quinn adopts a hyena pet, like the two she had in her first appearance media, Batman: The Animated Series.
  • In the 2009 reboot of Friday the 13th (2009), Jason wears a sack over his head like he did in Part II, but after killing Donnie he abandons it for his iconic hockey mask after finding it in an attic.
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The Man With No Name dons his iconic poncho in the third act, solidifying that this was the prequel to the others in the trilogy.
  • In Halloween (2007), an adult Michael Myers wears filthy pajamas and paper-mache masks during his time in Smith's Grove. Upon escaping, he murders a trucker in the bathroom for his coveralls and boots, then heads to his childhood home to receive the kitchen knife he used in his first kills as well as his iconic white mask, which has become dirty and cracked from 17 years of disuse.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade starts with a prologue of a teenage Indy on his first adventure, fighting bad guys for an artifact, getting a fear of snakes, and wielding a whip (rather badly). It ends when the head of the group declares Indy a Worthy Opponent and puts his own fedora on Indy's head, and there's a Match Cut to older Indiana wearing the same hat.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe. The tendency to adapt the origin stories of the heroes of the movies and shows means this happens quite a bit.
    • Iron Man. Tony builds his first Iron Man armor to escape his imprisonment by the Ten Rings but doesn't build the iconic red and gold suit until sometime after he returns home. Even then the suit's baseline abilities (such as flight and repulsor rays) don't properly debut until Tony takes it to deal with a Ten Rings attack on an innocent village.
    • Thor has an odd case with the titular hero. Thor starts resembling his comic version exactly, having the same costume and even possessing his winged helmet that only appears very briefly at the beginning and won't appear again until Thor: Ragnarok. He also has mastery over his powers and Mjölnir. But this version of Thor is very arrogant, nearly restarting a war with Jotunheim. Odin removes his powers and banishes him to Earth during which he also places the worthiness enchantment on Mjölnir, showing that it had been absent before. On Earth, Thor is able to make his way to Mjölnir but discovers he is no longer able to lift it because he's unworthy. This stays the case until Thor offers his life to prevent a Loki-controlled Destroyer from hurting anyone else. This act makes Thor worthy of wielding Mjolnir once more, restoring his powers and Asgardian uniform. So while Thor started out with most of his iconic attributes he was still missing other ones, like his compassion and his worthiness to lift Mjölnir, and didn't gain them until he learned humility.
    • In Captain America: Civil War, prior to being recruited by Tony Stark, Spider-Man wore a crude costume consisting of a hoodie and sweatpants, modified welding goggles, and prototype web-shooters. He later gets a new comic-book-style suit in the lines of what we saw in the Raimi Trilogy and the Webb duology. Throughout the following MCU films, he goes through several different suits with varying designs, until finally, at the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home, he makes a new suit that is an exact recreation of the classic comic book suit.
    • Captain Marvel: Though Carol has her supersuit throughout the whole film, it doesn't turn into her iconic red, blue, and gold until the 3rd act, when she chooses to defect from the Kree Empire and embrace her old identity as a human US Air Force pilot.
    • Spider-Man: No Way Home: While Norman Osborn initially starts off with a green suit, he later acquires a purple hood and a waist satchel more in line with his comic counterpart.
  • Popeye: Throughout the film, Popeye is shown to detest spinach and refuses to eat it. It's not until the end of the film, when Bluto force-feeds him a can of spinach, that it becomes his Power-Up Food.
  • Star Wars:
    • C-3PO is shown in The Phantom Menace without his outer golden plating since Anakin couldn't afford any when building him. He gets it in Attack of the Clones after Shmi is freed and married to someone who can give her (and by extension, 3PO) a higher standard of living.
    • In Revenge of the Sith:
      • Emperor Palpatine finally looks like his ugly, wrinkled self, as seen in Return of the Jedi, after Mace Windu redirects force lightning into his face. He also starts wearing his dark hooded robes publicly after becoming Emperor.
      • After being brutally injured and left for dead on Mustafar, Anakin Skywalker receives his iconic Darth Vader armor at the end of the film.
      • Ewan McGregor's young Obi-Wan Kenobi has been gradually growing up into the wise old mentor seen in A New Hope, culminating into his appearance in Revenge of the Sith now sporting Alec Guinness's beard and haircut.
      • After having Obi-Wan and Anakin wield different lightsaber hilt designs in the first two prequels than they had in the Originals (with Anakin's hilt in Attack of the Clones being a modified version of the hilt he would later use as Darth Vader), Obi-Wan is shown using the hilt that Old-Ben used in A New Hope and Anakin is using the hilt that would later be passed down to Luke.
  • Shin Godzilla: This film's incarnation of the classic monster starts out as a moray eel-like, googly-eyed monstrosity with little in common with Godzilla's traditional appearance besides the dorsal spines, but once he evolves to his upright-standing third form he looks quite a bit more like the Japanese cinematic icon, then once he reaches his fourth form he is officially Gojira.
  • Spider-Man: Initially, Peter's Spider-Man outfit consists of a red balaclava, a sweater with a spider symbol, red-striped blue jogging pants, and gloves, and assumes his more iconic outfit once he gets famous.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2020):
    • Sonic has a good handle on his powers but isn't a fighter because he's been in hiding for ten years, so he doesn't use any of his attacks from the games. He accidentally performs his trademark Spin Attack for the first time during Robotnik's first attack on him and Tom, figuring out how to deliberately use it during the climatic battle against Robotnik.
    • Sonic doesn't start with his usual red shoes, instead wearing extremely worn-down shoes that are being held together with duct tape. He receives them as a gift from Jojo, Tom's niece, to replace his old ones.
    • Dr. Robotnik, initially slimmer and with a full head of hair, becomes his iconic bald, wild-moustached self by The Stinger when he's trapped on Mushroom Planet.
  • With the exception of Guile and Bison, the Street Fighter characters start out wearing outfits that have little in common with their game selves. By the end of the movie, every character looks a lot closer to their portrayals in the games, with Dhalsim even losing his hair midway through the movie.
  • Super Mario Bros.
    • Daisy initially wears a regular-day outfit before Koopa has Lena give her a princess dress.
    • When Mario and Luigi storm Koopa's tower they ditch their outfits for red, blue, and green worksuits that are much closer to their game outfits.
    • It gets exaggerated and subverted at the end of the final battle, where Koopa is devolved from a human-looking being evolved from a dinosaur into a dinosaur resembling his game counterpart, Bowser, only to quickly be devolved further into primordial ooze.
  • At the end of Tomb Raider, Lara returns to the pawn shop in order to buy back the pendant she sold there earlier in the film. While there, she spots a familiar-looking pistol, and decides, "I'll take two".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow
    • It takes a while for Oliver Queen to adopt the Green Arrow's Domino Mask. He wears greasepaint and goes In the Hood to hide his identity, saying when asked that a mask would fall off. Barry Allen takes up the challenge and makes him one as a present, which Oliver finally dons in the Season 2 episode "Three Ghosts".
    • Likewise the Black Canary doesn't have the Canary Cry at first. Sara Lance (the first Canary) uses a throw-down sonic device. Her sister Laurel Lance gets a friend from Star Labs to make her a collar-worn version, but it's only when metahumans join Team Arrow that we finally end up with a Black Canary who can Make Me Wanna Shout.
  • Daredevil: Matt Murdock doesn't get his iconic red devil costume and billy club from the comics until Melvin Potter completes it in the final episode of Season 1, where they are treated as a big reveal for Matt's showdown with Wilson Fisk.
  • An early episode of Sherlock has Sherlock put on a deerstalker hat to avoid having his face photographed and printed in the paper. As a result, the first publicized image of Sherlock Holmes has him wearing the same outfit Basil Rathbone wore in the film.
  • Supergirl has Brainiac-5, when not using projected human disguise, being white-haired and blue-skinned in his natural appearance. The fifth season episode "The Bottle Episode" reveals that this is a result of personality inhibitors placed on him to temper his emotions as a child, and when he removes them his hair turns blonde and his skin turns green, making him resemble his comic version. He also takes the life projectors, devices needed for Coluans to maintain physical form, from alternate versions of himself so they could join the Coluan Hive Mind and starts wearing them on his chest in a way that resembles his personal superhero symbol.
  • WandaVision: In the previous MCU films, Wanda Maximoff generally wore Civvie Spandex outfits rather than a superhero costume, and was never actually called by her comic codename. The final episode of WandaVision sees her adopt both the Scarlet Witch name and her iconic costume and tiara from the comics during her battle with Agatha Harkness.
  • Young Sheldon: Young Sheldon Cooper initially dressed in button-down shirts with a bowtie. The season five finale "A Clogged Pore A Little Spanish And The Future" ended with him embracing adolescence by donning a Flash T-shirt on top of a long sleeve shirt, much like the outfits he would wear as an adult in The Big Bang Theory.

    Theatre 
  • Elphaba in Wicked slowly acquires each of the pieces of her iconic outfit (pointy black hat, a flying broom, and a long billowing cape) through the course of the musical.
  • After spending the first act of the show as a plucky young princess who nevertheless gets pushed around by the machinations of the adults in her life, Elisabeth ends the act wearing her iconic Sternkleid (Star Dress), as the real Empress Elisabeth of Austria wore in her famous portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter - the first image that often comes to mind when people think of Sisi. Some productions even put her in an ornate frame to underscore the point. As she sings the final note of "Ich will dir nur sagen" (I Just Want to Tell You), a Triumphant Reprise of her "I Want" Song "Ich gehör nur mir" (I Only Belong to Myself), she hides her face with her fan - yet another iconic object associated with older Sisi, as she often hid her face with her fan out of shyness as a young girl and out of fear of people seeing her old and no longer beautiful visage, when she was a noted Proud Beauty once.

    Video Games 
  • In Back to the Future: The Game, one such moment is when young Doc Brown has an experiment explode and it transforms his hair into the Eisteinian wig that we all know and love. This also marks the point that he fully dedicates his life to science instead of the life of law that his father wants for him.
  • Digimon Survive is based on the original concept for the franchise where Digimon have always existed alongside humans and were seen as youkai. They merely received the name "Digital Monsters" after being acknowledged and observed by humans via modern digital devices. As a result, the Digimon in this game are never actually called Digimon. However, The Professor coins the term at the end of the game.
  • In DmC: Devil May Cry, the game's version of Dante has dark brown hair in contrast to his white hair in the original continuity. However, his first use of the Devil Trigger turns a small part of it white. Then at the end, all of his hair turns white because of the power's usage.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Ganon is introduced as Ganondorf, the Gerudo King of Thieves, and his name all but gives away his status as the franchise's recurring Big Bad. But his iconic Pig Man form is not seen until the very end of the game when he uses the Triforce of Power to transform himself into a demon. This transformation links the human thief to the classic pig demon, and the boss subtitle even describes the monster as just Ganon, as if it's telling veteran players that this is the Big Bad they all know and love from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and the original The Legend of Zelda.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you start out playing as a new version of Link with a new outfit and wielding simple, makeshift weapons like tree branches and woodcutter's axes. You get the Master Sword about midway through the game, but it's not until the final dungeon that you get the classic Hylian Shield. You get a wide variety of clothes throughout the game, but it's only once you complete all the Shrines that you get Link's iconic green tunic.
  • In Little Nightmares II, the girl accompanying Mono is confirmed beyond all question to be Six when she finds and dons her signature yellow raincoat.
  • Metroid: Zero Mission — a remake of the original Metroid — makes its status as the start of Samus's adventures abundantly clear by bringing back the Long Beam, which lets Samus's shots travel the length of the whole screen and is an inherent property of the standard Power Beam in every other game besides the original, and waiting until the endgame to give Samus's Varia Suit its now-iconic Shoulders of Doom, which had originally been introduced in Metroid II: Return of Samus.
  • Serious Sam 3: BFE redesigned Sam slightly, most notably replacing his bright red Converse-like sneakers with more practical boots. The game also includes a secret where you can reacquire the sneakers, complete with Sam being changed over to a "Classic" model, which is just the new model with sneakers.
  • In the finale of the first game in the Tomb Raider trilogy (Tomb Raider (2013)), Lara takes up her dead mentor Roth's pistol and manages to swipe Mathias's, using them like the iconic twin pistols to finish him off. Combined with a bit of Clothing Damage (making her outfit resemble OG Lara's) to symbolize her Character Development into a slightly darker version of the cocky adventurer from the original.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man, Venom doesn't have the classic large white spider insignia on his chest and back throughout the game. Until the end that is, after he consumes the Carnage symbiote possessing Peter.
  • Yakuza 0: Kiryu and Majima spend most of this Prequel in different outfits than later entries (a white suit and orange undershirt for Kiryu, a full tuxedo for Majima). They finally switch to their Iconic Outfits in the last few scenes of the game, after the plot has been resolved and both have gotten back in with the yakuza.

    Web Animation 
  • Dorkly Originals: The Sonic the Hedgehog example is parodied in "If Paramount Made Detective Pikachu", in which Pikachu meets a human villain resembling Mewtwo (who, for some reason, already has the tail).
    Human Mewtwo: And I am your nemesis, Batholemew Twosis. But you can call me "Mewtwo".
    Pikachu: No! You're just a guy with a Mewtwo tail, wearing Mewtwo purple!
    Human Mewtwo: But you can bet that some incident will occur by the end of the movie that will turn me into something more in line with what you would typically think of when you think of Mewtwo.
    Pikachu: But why would it take 'till the end of the movie for you to turn into the version of you that we've all known for decades?!
    [Human Mewtwo shrugs]

    Western Animation 
  • Arcane: For most of the series Vi and Jayce deal with their business without their iconic weapons from League of Legends. In episode 8 they take up their signature arms to raid a Shimmer factory, we even see Vi put on the Hextech Gauntlet for the first time. While Jinx has all the rest of her equipment, she finally completes her ult in the last episode.
  • The Joker in The Batman initially wore a tie-dyed straightjacket with torn sleeves, but fan outcry led to him donning his iconic purple suit at the end of "Topsy Turvy", though he still retained his hair and lack of shoes.
  • The Danny Phantom episode "Memory Blank" depicts the accident that gave Danny his powers and grants him his iconic Chest Insignia via Time Travel shenanigans.
  • In Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Turtles start out using their iconic ninja weapons used in most other adaptations, but they all break in the first episode, except for Donnie's bo staff. They then find magical weapons which they use for most of the rest of the series. A few episodes before the ending, they lose these magical weapons along with the bo. Then in the final episode, they use their newly-awakened Hamato Ninpo powers to create their iconic ninja weapons once more.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, the Symbiote initially looks like a black version of Spider-Man's original costume like it did in Spider-Man 3, but gradually shifts into a more comics-accurate version as it takes over more and more of Peter's mind.

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