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Was Once a Man

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"I'm an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over... and the insect is awake."
Seth Brundle, The Fly (1986)

Monsters are pretty damn scary. Horrible, bug-eyed, slobbering, and in no way ever human. Therefore, it's all the more unsettling when it's revealed that a monstrous creature was once human, but became a monster through some sort of infection, curse, sheer personal evil or transformation and there's no means of changing them back.

Related to Body Horror and Face–Monster Turn, but distinct in that while Body Horror deals with the fact of the monstrosity itself and usually follows it from beginning to end, Was Once a Man is where a creature is monstrous when first introduced, but is either implied heavily or later revealed to have once been human.

Sometimes the mind is not affected; only the body is. If the mind is affected it might be a Pre-Insanity Reveal. Sometimes the original mind can be reached. This does not undermine the horror of it. Indeed, in certain ways, it makes the horror even worse.

In some cases, the person may actually like being transformed, and doesn't care about becoming human again. Instead, they are a Fully-Embraced Fiend. If they’re capable of speech, expect their response to being called by their old name to be a That Man Is Dead speech.

Sometimes, this trope might be the result of some Laser-Guided Karma as a result of evil deeds. Or, maybe they desired to be bigger and stronger, but this trope was the result.

See also: Body Horror, And Then John Was a Zombie, Viral Transformation, The Virus, Tragic Monster, Stages of Monster Grief and Reforged into a Minion. Compare and contrast Uncanny Valley. Also contrast with Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, for a non-monstrous transformation.

Super-Trope to: Angelic Transformation, Deity of Human Origin, Demon of Human Origin, Tragic Monster, and Transhuman Abomination.

This trope has nothing to do with Gender Bender. Not to be confused with Animorphism, Transflormation, or Forced Transformation, in which the thing that used to be a human is not a monster, although it can still be a Brown Note Being. Also do not confuse with a transgender woman.


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    Comic Books 
  • B.P.R.D.: It's revealed that Abe Sapien was once a human named Langdon Everett Caul, and has been alive since the 19th century. Of course, there are several other examples in both BPRD and Hellboy, such as the frog monsters, or the Too Dumb to Live wannabe satanist aristocrat couple who fell afoul of minor demon Ualac in Box Full of Evil.
  • Camelot 3000: Morgan la Fay keeps an ape-like animal on a leash as a Right-Hand Attack Dog. At one point, she informs an underling that it was once a man, until he got on her nerves.
  • The DCU:
    • Solomon Grundy was once Cyrus Gold, a merchant in 18th century Gotham City, who was murdered and dumped in the infamous Slaughter Swamps, from whence he rose as the unkillable Grundy, to walk the Earth forevermore.
    • Justice Society of America: Sandman's sidekick, Sandy the Golden Boy, was turned into a sand-monster by an experimental ray-gun of Wesley's. Unsure of how to cure him, Wesley stuck Sandy in cryogenic stasis for decades. When Sandy broke free, it turned out the insanity had worn off in a matter of hours. Wesley is understandably horrified to realize he put his sidekick through hell for nothing.
    • Simon Dark: The three monsters the cult sets against Simon and Tom turn out to have once been human before being forcibly transformed into familiars. All three of them despise the cult and, once Simon realizes what they are and stops fighting them to talk, agree to help Simon and Tom destroy it and later chose to be Simon's familiars.
    • Supergirl: In Supergirl's Greatest Challenge, Positive Man was a human (mad) scientist before being turned into an energy-based eldritch abomination by an experimental exploding planetary bomb.
    • Swamp Thing:
      • Swamp Thing was once Alec Holland, who was murdered in the Florida swamps and rose again as a mass of vegetable matter in the shape of a hulking humanoid. Or so he thought. Alec Holland died out there in the swamps, and the being that rose from the mud was a plant elemental with the absorbed memories and personality of Alec.
      • Played straight after Alec's resurrection in Brightest Day. In the New 52 Swamp Thing series, Alec discovers that he was supposed to be Swamp Thing, but died before he could be transformed, resulting in the creation of his mental copy... and with his return, he's back on the candidate list. After much struggle, Alec accepts his fate, deciding to become Swamp Thing for real.
    • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Queen Atomia's identical adoring subjects and mindless robotic-seeming slaves are revealed to be created by forcing humans through transformation chambers. Not even Amazonian medical science can do anything to help them.
  • The Heap was once Baron Eric von Emmelman, a World War I German flying ace who was shot down in 1918 over a Polish swamp. Clinging to the smallest shred of life through sheer force of will through the decades his body decayed and intermingled with the vegetation around him, becoming one with the marshland itself until at last a shaggy, shambling half-world creature neither animal nor man nor plant arose from the muck.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • The Mutant, a hideous multi-limbed...thing from an alternate future timeline where he tortured and killed Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson, as well as destroyed Mega City One, ruling over the ruins along with the now corrupted and mutated judges. He is actually Owen Krysler from The Judge Child storyline.
    • Another comic revolves around a man who is secretly given a serum based on dinosaur DNA by his upstairs neighbor, a Mad Scientist who slips it into his food. He ends up slowly devolving into a hideous reptile man, and eats and kills his wife and the scientist before Dredd is forced to kill him.
    • Judge Death started out as human before he met the Sisters of Death, who transformed him into the undead monster we know him as now. When his fellow Dark Judges see the results, they ask for the same to be done to them.
    • There's a rare genetic mutation which will slowly turn the afflicted person into a human-sized spider. Played for Drama in one comic when a woman with the condition is abandoned by her husband, Played for Laughs in another one when the test results of two patients are accidentally mixed.
    • After the massive jailbreak on the Titan prison, the survivors eventually come back as some sort of ice mutants. They can morph back to their human forms, but whatever they were turned into by the subterranean moon spiders, it's no longer human.
  • The Lost Boy: It's revealed that The Vespertine is actually Walter Pidgin, a young boy who decided to permanently move to The Kingdom years ago, and in that time, turned into a tyrannical monster who sought the final key to the human world so he could unleash The Shadows upon it.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Galactus was once a man of the previous universe named Galan. As his universe died to pave way for the new, current one, Galan journeyed into the center of the Big Bang, refusing to give in to destruction. The Powers That Be were impressed and transformed him into Galactus.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy: On one mission to a Dyson Sphere, the team runs into a horrific Blob Monster that dissolves everything it comes into contact with. After a few minutes of running away very fast, Adam Warlock comes to the horrific realization that the Negative Space Wedgie they came to seal has already opened... inside the people who lived there, and the blob monster is the result.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy (2020): The reborn Olympian gods have automaton servants working for them. In issue 2, Peter Quill finds out they were the people of the planets the Olympians have been raiding, surgically mutilated and stuck into metal shells. It's learning this that convinces Quill that the gods need to be blown to Hell.
    • Loki: Agent of Asgard: Fafnir (the chronologically first version) used to be a human. Due to a long string events involving (a) Loki murdering his son and a pile of cursed gold, he turned into a dragon.
    • Man-Thing was a scientist who, upon his death in a Florida swamp, was merged with an attempted recreation of the Super-Soldier serum that created Captain America that he had been working on, and became a hideous half-man-half-plant creature with only the most basic remnants of sentience left.
    • The opening storyline of Marvel Fanfare has Spider-Man and Angel of the X-Men "devolved" while in the Savage Land. Angel turns into a bird-man, and Spidey turns into a giant man-spider... and he retains just enough awareness to know what's been done to him, and beg Ka-Zar to give him a mercy kill. Fortunately, Sauron is able to fix the problem (not intentionally, mind you). Unfortunately, the devolving device remains, and Sauron decides it'd make a pretty fun toy...
    • Strikeforce: Morituri: The "mutants" are four humans who were accidentally turned into super-powered monstrosities when they underwent the Morituri Process without proper supervision.
  • Paperinik New Adventures: Played with. The surviving Xerbians initially consider Xadhoom an alien monster (albeit an allied one), and are quite unsettled when they find out she was once their leader. Them expressing the wish to make her return to normality also caused them to receive a "The Reason You Suck" Speech (with A God Am I thrown in to hammer down she has no reason to return normal) before Xadhoom went for her Heroic Sacrifice.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): The Many are The Assimilator, and their initial Artificial Zombie forms were created by Alan Jonah's organization fusing Ghidorah's experimented-on DNA to human hosts.
  • Actually, I'm Dead begins with an alternate ending to "Magic Duel", where Trixie dies and is brought back to life as an undead creature, but with her mind still stuck in her decaying body. It gets worse, when she dies yet again and is brought back by the amulet as.. something else.
  • Ask a Pony: In Ask Crapplejack, it's explained that in Equestria's prehistory Discord was actually one of a race of "Draconequusi". These were not twisted and ugly like him, but were beautiful and actually looked like dragons with horse features. Discord's transformation began when a war broke out between the Draconequus race and the race of Alicorns, who lived alongside them, and hoping for a way to sway the tide he unleashed a powerful god of madness named Genuvial which corrupted his mind and body until he lost sight of the war and decided to turn the world to chaos instead.
  • Better Bones AU: Or rather, was once a cat: the rats attacking SkyClan are the spirits of SkyClan ancestors unable to fade away once they were forgotten due to the SkyClan ancestors' separation from StarClan.
  • The Bridge: King Caesar and Monster X were both men who volunteered to be transformed into Kaiju in order to protect and serve their people. King Caesar was an Okinowan Royal Guardsman who lived centuries ago, and sacrificed his life to put his soul into a giant shisa golem to animate it so that he could fend off an attack by Dagahra. Monster X was a Xilian soldier who fused himself with Grand King Ghidorah's power and DNA to fight Ghidorah when the dragon attacked Planet X, but he has Trauma-Induced Amnesia and does not remember this.
  • Date A Re:Live follows the example from its below-mentioned source material, Except that Tohka Yatogami plays it straight where she was born human prior to becoming a spirit several months before she turned 16 biologically.
  • Daylight Burning: The Nightmare was once a mortal pony, long ago before the time of the Princesses or Discord or the Three Tribes, but her desperate obsession with living forever turned her into something evil and demonic.
  • Diamond in the Rough (Aladdin): The Reveal is that the Carpet, Iago, and the Tiger's Head at the Cave of Wonders were once humans, transformed during a duel for the lamp.
  • Drowning in Your Depths: It's rumored that the unnamed pirate who founded the first Pirate Council and left behind a cryptic prophecy was somehow turned into a monster. That there is truth behind the rumor is made more likely by the fact that Ford apparently knew a human who did so, and the prophecy this pirate left behind was not only written in a journal identical to Ford's, but also addressed to Ford in code.
  • The Equestria Chronicles: In Legends of Equestria, Discord reveals that he was once a unicorn in ancient times. However, he was transformed by the corrupting power of dark magic after accepting it in an attempt to restore order to his life after his family is killed.
  • Experiment: The inhabitants of Sezaria were all human once excluding the "original one" — Ladrafiefr/Kaito. Said inhabitants are now freaky aliens with tentacles coming from their backs.
  • Cissnei's Path: Several of the summonings like Odin and Ramuh are revealed to have formerly been human.
  • Feral World: The Ferals were once ordinary humans until a mysterious virus mutated them into savage, mindless beasts.
  • For Love of Magic: Theorized after Harry nearly becomes a Dementor; he wonders if Dementors are wizards who tampered with magic they didn't understand.
  • Imperfect Metamorphosis: While never a man per se (on the counts of being neither male nor technically human), the Blob Monster (ie. Rin Satsuki) definitely fits.
  • If Wishes Were Ponies: Zig-zagged. The portal between Harry's original world and Equestria turns any being with magic into a pony (usually a pegasus or unicorn, although Ron and Percy become Earth ponies). Harry, the first one to go through the portal, became a unicorn colt, and transforms into a human boy whenever he goes back through. The transformation isn't permanent, as anyone who has been a pony once can return to that form in the human world (although it requires a certain level of magic (or the involvement of Discord) to make the transformation in the human world).
  • Just Taken, RPF (Spice Girls, Ace of Base), Linn's brain was transplanted into a wolf-like dog after her originial body failed. She don't seemed bothered by this and still able to do the same things as she did before.
  • Kamikakushi: When a Kamikakushi is claimed, they will eventually transform into the type of Youkai they were claimed by. An unclaimed Kamikakushi will transform in a youkai based on what turned them into a Kamikakushi. Or they get eaten. So there are probably several formerly human Youkai around.
  • Kara of Rokyn: Villain Parasite used to be a normal man named Max Jensen until exposure to alien biohazard waste turned him into a purple, life-leeching eyeless humanoid. By the time the story starts out, his body has fallen apart and he has become a shapeless mass of purple, sentient goo. Desperate, Parasite makes a deal with the heroes to give up crime in exchange for being turned back to non-powered human.
  • Minecraft Endventures: The Endermaster was originally a human mutated by an Ender Crystal that was given to him by a villager who was actually a servant of Herobrine.
  • The Nuptialverse: Chrysalis used to be a normal pegasus who made a deal with Discord for power (she thought he was going to make her an alicorn; he thought that was too boring). Likewise, the other changelings were once flutterponies until Discord needed to give Chrysalis an army.
  • The Palaververse: Tirek and Scorpan used to be a pair of pony brothers, warped beyond recognition by Antlertean magic.
  • In The Parselmouth of Gryffindor, the first monster Barty Crouch Jr. tries to use against the heroes is none other than Karkaroff, whose mysterious disappearance they'd investigated several chapters earlier. As an Inferius.
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: A sidestory reveals that Elite Four member Agatha had a younger brother named Tony, who was killed by an evil Gengar in Johto's Drowning Woods, and had his soul ripped out of his body and turned into a Gastly. He would eventually grow to become her Gengar as seen in canon.
  • Ponies of Olympus:
    • Chrysalis and her subjects used to be normal ponies (they're implied to have been flutterponies, in fact), before Erebos transformed them.
    • Discord used to be a pony named Endymion and was Luna's lover before an unspecified event led to him trying to take Chaos' powers and being consumed by it.
  • Ultimate Sleepwalker: Some of the supernatural villains were originally humans. They are also Fully Embraced Fiends who like being transformed into various monstrosities, and revel in the horror they can cause their innocent victims.
  • Ripples: It's established that the Changelings were originally created when Queen Escannor experimented on people taken from Earth (specifically, political enemies and prisoners that Augustus wanted rid of), giving them the ability to take monstrous forms and serve as her Elite Army, which was passed down to their descendants.
  • In Fidget, You Are a Mystery, it turns out that the reason Fidget keeps forgetting that he's a robot is because he used to be a human boy named Milo, until a witch sent him through a portal that dissolved his body and left behind his soul, which somehow ended up in Fidget's body.
  • Unleashing of a Dark Night: Dark Gaia enforced this on a humanity-level scale, meaning every single human on Mobius became Dark Gaia spawn with no possible way to change them back, ever.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Beauty and the Beast, the eponymous Beast was a human prince with a cold heart who was turned into a monster by a sorceress posing as an old woman seeking shelter. The only way for him to break the curse placed upon him was to learn to love another.
  • In Brave, an old witch with a strange penchant for bears has at least twice given people "solutions" to their problems that involve turning people into bears. One such transformation resulted in Mor'du, the demon bruin, who having asked for the strength of ten men seems to have taken heartily to his new identity as a complete monster.
  • G.I. Joe: The Movie: After Cobra Commander gets hit with altered fungus and starts turning into a snake, all he can hiss is "I was once a man!" until the transformation is complete. Definitely the Trope Namer despite not being "human" in the first place in this continuity. In the series immediately following the movie, his "humanity" was more or less restored, mostly thanks to the Power Armor he wore from then on.
  • Doctor Cockroach (also his legal name) from Monsters vs. Aliens was originally a handsome scientist who invented a machine that would give humans the cockroach's ability to survive, with himself as the first and only test subject. It worked, but with side-effects.
  • Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure: King Koo Koo has an entire court of robotic toys who serve him mindlessly. Koo Koo tells Raggedy Ann and Andy that when they can no longer make him laugh, he'll turn them into robots too, implying that all of the robots were once sentient toys or other creatures who met the same fate.
  • In Rise of the Guardians, while all the Guardians are more supernatural beings than monsters, Tooth implies that they were all mortal before becoming who they are now. Jack was a human who had drowned before the Moon transformed him into an immortal being.
  • In Scooby-Doo! and the Curse of the 13th Ghost, a follow-up of sorts to The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, the backstory of Asmodeus, the eponymous 13th ghost, is that he was originally an ancestor of Vincent Van Ghoul named Asamad Van Ghoul who ended up transformed into a demon after he became evil.
  • Parodied variation in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with Spider-Ham who used to be a spider named Peter Porker that was bitten by a radioactive pig.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 300: Rise of an Empire: According to Queen Gorgo, Xerxes literally discarded every human part of him to become a God-King by making a deal with evil forces in a desert cave.
  • Aquaman (2018): The Trench creatures were once Atlantians or at least, far more sapient than they currently are before Atlantis sank. Hundreds of years of adapting to the darkest parts of the oceans took its toll on their minds and they devolved into monsters.
  • Jake Sully from Avatar is a heroic example. He was a human marine who, via a remote neuro-transmissive pod, drove an engineered Na'vi body to infiltrate the Na'vi for a forced relocation by the human military forces invading Pandora. The more Jake interacted with the Na'vi, the less like his human self he became even later referring to humans as "the aliens" or "Sky People" as the Na'vi call them. Jake's transition is complete when he voluntarily transfers his consciousness into his avatar body and is thus reborn as a Na'vi.
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula: Vlad Tepes, apparently forsaking God turned him into a bloodsucking beast with power to turn others into vampires just like him.
  • The Cave: One of the monsters bears the same tattoo on its hand as one of the cavers previously seen entombed within the cave system at the beginning of the movie, which bodes poorly for parasite-infected expedition leader Jack.
  • Charles Lee "Chucky" Ray of the Child's Play films was initially a human Serial Killer who used voodoo to transfer his soul into a Good Guy doll before dying from being shot. Even in his doll form where he's been brutally killed numerous times, he is seemingly immortal and unstoppable.
  • Doom: The mutants were condemned criminals who were injected with an extra pair of chromosomes, but due to their DNA having "genetic markers for evil", horrifically mutated. And they can sense who else has the same evil genes, so they attack them as well.
  • Dracula Untold shows how Vlad III was before he was a vampire and his transition into the legendary Count Dracula.
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald reveals that Nagini from the original Harry Potter books was once a woman afflicted with a Maledictus curse that eventually turned her into a snake permanently.
  • The Fly (1986) is about a scientist who has built two devices through which one can teleport objects and later also living beings. Unfortunately when he first goes through the teleporter as a Professor Guinea Pig, a fly is in there as well, so he slowly mutates into a Half-Human Hybrid afterward. Near the film's end, he sadly laments that he's become an example of this trope in mind as well as body (the above page quote comes from this speech), in hopes of convincing his faithful lover to leave him before he hurts her.
  • Friday the 13th: Jason Voorhees was once a normal child, birth defects not withstanding. Then he drowned in a lake while camp counselors neglected their duties so they chould have sex in the woods. Now, he's an undead killing machine, slaughtering anyone unlucky enough to come to Camp Crystal Lake.
  • Hellraiser: The Cenobites all used to be human, including the ones that are no longer even humanoid. When a Cenobite is killed, his or her body turns back into human form, suggesting that killing one of them may be a Mercy Kill in some cases.
  • Howl (2015): After the Scar werewolf breaks into the train and the Action Survivors kill him in self-defense, they look over his body. After coming to terms with Matthew's statement that what they are looking at is the body of a werewolf, they notice that he is still wearing a ring, concluding he used to be an ordinary person. This film's depiction of werewolves is ultimately The Virus, complete with a Zombie Infectee, where it appears that the transformation into a werewolf is one-way and gradual.
  • Island of the Fishmen: Claude and Amanda discover that the titular fishmen were in fact the natives of the island that Professor Ernest Marvin has been using for his experimentation into creating the next dominant species on Earth for after humans have gone extinct. They discover this when they find Jose in Professor Martin's lab half-transformed.
  • Lost in Space: This fate happens to Doc Smith in the future timeline, when he is infested/mutated by spiders.
  • In The Mummy Trilogy both the high priest Imhotep and The Scorpion King were mortal men once, but they were both cursed to come back as immortal and powerful monsters.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy Krueger was once a human serial killer, but turned into something resembling a nightmare ghost/demon after his death.
  • In Phantasm, inventor Jebediah Morningside steps through his newly created dimensional gate. The Tall Man is what comes back through.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: Davy Jones and his crew all used to be humans, before being cursed into their current monstrous, piscine forms. Lampshaded by Calypso, who describes Jones in this manner (and is responsible for the curse that transformed him; she briefly reverts him to his human form as well when they meet again).
  • The Relic: The lizard-monster is revealed at the end to be a human explorer who ate a concoction of some particularly funky herbs in South America.
  • Serenity: The Reavers. Actually, it was BECAUSE their minds were warped that their bodies are so messed up (self-mutilation).
  • Species II: Patrick Ross was an astronaut, which was infected with alien DNA, and has turned then into an alien-human hybrid.
  • Sssssss: The mad scientist Dr. Carl Stoner (Strother Martin) turns his lab assistants into king cobras.
  • The alien Big Bad Krall from Star Trek Beyond was once a Starfleet captain named Balthazar Edison, a human who gained access to technology that allowed him to drain the life of others to extend his own, each time transforming him into something less and less human.
  • Star Wars:
  • Toho Studios, famed for their Godzilla movies, released a trilogy of standalone "Transforming Human" films, the first of which was The H-Man (1958) and featured a set of shapeshifting blob-like monsters that melted other living beings on contact, transformed by exposure to radiation. While not a part of the trilogy, the 1963 film Matango had a similar theme and featured humanoid mushroom-like creatures, formerly humans who'd consumed the mushrooms after getting shipwrecked on a desert island and were transformed by them.
  • Xtro: Sam Philips returns home three years after his mysterious disappearance. What his ex-wife and son don't realize is that after being taken by the mysterious aliens, they changed him so that he can adapt to their homeworld's atmosphere. Unfortunately, it also turns him into a dangerous mutant operating on Blue-and-Orange Morality who won't hesitate to exploit or murder those around him. Except his own son, who eventually becomes an alien like his father and returns with him to the alien homeworld.

  • Black Sabbath: The eponymous character in "Iron Man" was a well-intentioned human given metallic form by a "great magnetic field" while traveling time to save the future of humanity. He went on to go cuckoo and decimate the human race because after he saves them, they won't help him or accept him.
  • Lemon Demon: "Cabinet Man" is about a man who turns himself into a half-organic, half-mechanical arcade machine.
    You can't win me, I can't be beat
    I won't hurt you, unless you cheat
    You can't see me behind the screen
    I'm half human and half machine
  • Tarot: Implied in "Things That Crawl At Night", with the narrator saying "I have become one of the things that crawl at night."

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Most undead creatures, such as zombies and vampires, are traditionally thought to have been living humans at some point or another. Werewolves are similarly held to start out as regular people who get turned into monsters.
  • Classical Mythology:
    • In the more famous version of her myth, Medusa was a priestess who was transformed as punishment for letting Poseidon into Athena's temple and having sex with him, right in front of the altar willfully forgoing her vow of celibacy and profaning Athena's sacred place. Her sisters shared in her punishment because they helped Poseidon sneak in the back and kept watch as the two did the deed. However, this is version is much Newer Than They Think — it first appeared in The Metamorphoses, a set of poems written by Ovid in the first decade AD; in Greek myths, Medusa and her sisters were conceived as having always been monsters and having been born to other monsters.
    • Quite a lot of animals in Greek myth were actually humans who ticked off the gods and were transformed into beasts, Arachne (once a human, then a spider) and King Lykans (once a human, then a wolf) being the two most prominent.
    • Scylla and Charybdis also fall into this category, as several myths hold them to be former nymphs who were transformed into hideous monsters.
    • Oddly subverted in the case of Heracles though. Born a man, his heroism leads him to be elevated to a god. Admittedly, one of his parents was a god, but there are plenty of other heroes in Greek mythology who have one divine parent, and Heracles is the only one who manages to become a god himself (though there are several humans who upon their deaths are made into constellations, trees, islands, stars, etc. so that they will never 'die').
  • Norse Mythology: Fafnir, aka the dragon from Wagner's Ring cycle, aka the inspiration for Smaug in The Hobbit, Was Once a Man! In fact, he got the gold hoard first, and it cursed him into his monstrous form for his greed.

  • Cool Kids Table: All of the teens in The Chimera Program arc were once normal humans until the experiments.
  • Dark Dice: The Silent One, a spindly shapeshifting creature whose face is blank except for three red eyes, was once an elf, specifically Kel-Paeris, one of the guardians of the Domain of the Nameless God, until he was driven mad and corrupted by the isolation and the influence of the Domain.
  • The Magnus Archives: Especially of "Michael" and "Helen". Both were once normal humans that were sacrificed / in the wrong place at the wrong time. Both "Michael" and "Helen" make it very clear that they do not like having a comprehensible form either.

    • The Bohrok were once Av-Matoran. Nuparu made the Boxor machines out of Bohrok parts, so the Boxors are made out of dead Av-Matoran... and are piloted by Matoran who use them to fight still functioning Bohrok. While he didn't pilot Boxors, one of the topmost fighters in the war against the Bohrok was Takua, himself an Av-Matoran! They're people. Boxors are people! Sorry, it had to be done.
    • The Bohrok are the least of it. A whole ton of characters have or have had this as a plot, including Nidhiki, who was once a Toa before his mutation into spider-monster, The Barraki, who were once warlords described as "perfect physical specimens" before they became half-man-half-sea-monsters although they get better save Carparar, who died before that could happen, the Rahaga, who were also once Toa although they get better, and the Toa Metru, who temporarily became half-beast monsters called Toa Hordika.

  • In Agents of the Realm, the bleeds are Agents who fell victim to The Corruption.
  • Bogleech: I was two men!
  • Daniel: The titular character used to be a very shy but kind man. Not so much later though as he catches a bad case of vampiric death that leaves him a twisted version of his former self.
  • Dominic Deegan: Demons Were Once Men; we get to see some of the transitions. Most notable, of course, is Siegfried, whom we knew rather well before his death. ( In fact, he was the second recurring character to be introduced.) From this to this to this.
    • Karnak is revealed to have been human near the end of the Ecstasy & Evil storyline, very casually by a former friend who has apparently given up even being sad about losing him. His back story is fleshed out as the comic progressed, and so far the only really bad thing he ever did in his life he repented halfway through and ran away to sacrifice himself heroically. May be the only being in hell not rightfully damned there.
      • Demon!Karnak, however, is both evil and a total Jerkass, although he has been having some character development. Had a Rorschach Moment in December 2010 and appointed himself Warden of Hell and informed the damned that they were all trapped in there with him.
      • Without becoming much less despicable, Karnak in the last couple years has scaled the heights of craziness. His Siggy-flail was choice, as was his "The Reason You Suck" Speech at his Kangaroo Court trial. And then there's the simple things:
      Karnak: [dramatic slaughter montage, final panel thought bubble] I hate this place.
    • A more typical progression of this is probably provided by Lady Loxo, who used to be soulbound to the Demon of Treachery back before Karnak exploded Hell into submission, and who becomes all serpentine and scaly after beginning to consume souls out of the 'feeding pits.' Bulgak Adrak is much more conflicted and his transformation doesn't progress nearly so smoothly, even once he gives in. Then he has an epiphany and his soul explodes.
    • Then there's TIM, the eyeless, nameless infernomancer who provided the first evil in the comic and kept coming back with new levels in Body Horror.
    • This trope is not applied to benevolent synthetic entities like Quilt and Acibek who were made out of unwilling human victims. Political Overcorrectness, possibly, but while the Acibek thing was tragic and the Quilt thing creepy, the focus is intentionally on who they themselves are, not their antecedents.
    • Jacob Deegan, in his extremely long 'quest to become The Zombie Alive' phase, is explicitly trying for this effect as hard as he possibly can. The universal Squick is a perk.
  • Drowtales: Zhor was once a Dark Elf, but was turned into a Giant Spider to save him from life-threatening injuries. He's been like this for centuries. As of Chapter 44, the local Mad Scientist clan restored his original body. Zhor is confined to a wheelchair and has trouble speaking since he's not used to being a Dark Elf again after spending hundreds of years as a spider.
  • El Goonish Shive: Aberrations are monsters that traded their humanity for power, and must feed on humans in some way to maintain themselves. Some appear relatively human (or at least can take on a human form), but others are completely unrecognizable. Sirleck looks like a spine with a head and wings that wraps around people to take control them. He explains that he originally became an Aberration to bring justice to Corrupt Corporate Executives, but gave into his darkest potential until he was just a monster.
  • The Fancy Adventures of Jack Cannon: Addressed; as a combined punishment-and-strategy, Frankie is turned into a monster, shaped roughly like his old human self, but bigger, stronger, and uglier, with glowing red eyes. Gavin remarks that the eyes were a mistake; they made him too monstrous, making him easier for Jack and his family to deal with. Gavin restores his original human eyes so that the next time they make him fight someone, his opponents will be thrown off balance.
  • Heart Core: The Overfiends were once humans and other mortal creatures before they commited certain acts of evil, turning them into powerful demons that were taken under Royce's wings.
  • Lovely Lovecraft: The human artist Richard Pickman has somehow become a ghoul, just as he did in Lovecraft's stories.

    Web Originals 
  • Bee and Puppycat: The ending of the second part might hint that Puppycat was the cursed human in the fairy tale he told.
  • The Cry of Mann: Gergiev was just a regular man who fell through the void and experienced incomphrehensible horrors, turning him into a Humanoid Abomination.
  • Homestar Runner: According to his song, Trogdor was originally a man, or possibly a dragon man... or maybe just a dragon. The singer doesn't seem too sure about it.
  • Lore of Terra (a set of musical albums and stories created by Yoomah) reveals that Joker, Jester and Arlequin were once normal girls that were sacrificed to the moon goddess Hekit and reborn as her mindless servants. Eventually Jester and Arlequin regained their free will, but it’s obvious the damage to their minds is already done. And let's not get into poor Joker, who wasn't able to overcome her programming and is torn between two personas, her original’s personality and Hekit’s mindless servant...
  • Karekore The Half Blood: Kage used to be a normal high school boy until he got infected with the zombie and vampire virus leading to his current form.
  • Pretending to Be People:
    • Doug Jacobs, and later, Agent Trent Chad, got body-swapped into a house cat's body.
    • Evidence suggests that the Humanoid Abomination agents of Myriad, and by extension Marvin Glass, were turned into their current forms by a series of spells.
    • Also the ultimate fate of Tilde B Mitchell.
  • RWBY: The Hound seems like a regular Grimm—until it starts using strategy and talking. When Ruby uses her silver eyes on it, it's revealed that underneath the Grimm is a silver-eyed Faunus.
  • Taerel Setting: The kin'toni (vampires) used to be zu'aan before they were turned into blood-drinking vampires. As expected, their reactions vary.
  • Worm:
    • Mannequin, once a meek Gadgeteer Genius striving to avert the Reed Richards Is Useless trope, now a member of the villain group called the Slaughterhouse Nine, encased in a special protective suit of armor that features retracting blades, unnatural ranges of movement, and detached limbs that he can swing, throw or fire from his suit using chains. Topping it off, he may only be a brain and a few organs that fit in the armored torso. And he did it all to himself.
    • Crawler, a fellow member of the Nine, is also this. His power allows him to regenerate from pretty much anything and then form a permanent defensive adaptation against that attack. The result is that he went from a normal-looking guy to an elephant-sized, six-limbed monstrosity covered in armor and eyes.
    • Echidna is still human from the waist up, but below that is a bloated monster that is constantly growing. If angered the monster will go on a rampage and has killed dozens in the past. A chapter from Noelle's point of view shows that her mind is slowly being backseated by the monster's mind.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Was Once A Person, Was Once Human, Was Human Once, Was Once A Human


Vicar Amelia

The last known Vicar of The Healing Church, she is encountered in the Grand Cathedral in the Cathedral Ward reciting a prayer, but before The Hunter can speak with her, she succumbs to the beast plague and transforms into a colossal werewolf-like creature even bigger than the Cleric Beast! Still clutching onto the Gold Pendant that has been passed down from Vicar to Vicar starting with Laurence, she then turns to engage The Hunter!

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / WasOnceAMan

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