Anti-Hero Substitute

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Over the course of a long-running series, something happens to the main character. He loses his powers, makes a Heroic Sacrifice, or gets Older and Wiser and decides to retire. Sometimes they Dropped a Bridge on Him, or Put Him On A Bus. In a word, he's gone. But the story still goes on! His role is taken by a Suspiciously Similar Substitute, but one with a very different character. He's how the original hero would be if he were a Jerkass, Anti-Hero or (most commonly) Nineties Anti-Hero. This guy is often an effect of Executive Meddling, which arises when editors stupidly declare that audience stopped liking the first hero or never liked him at all; so he will be replaced with someone Darker and Edgier. Of course, most of time they are wrong: the original guy has so many fans that his replacement quickly becomes a Replacement Scrappy.

The moment when the creators realize this and decide to push the big Reset Button is beginning of the hero's return: first hero is back, and often has a fight with the Anti-Hero Substitute for his position. Of course, however contemptuously the Anti-Hero dubs him "outdated", the original hero wins and takes the story back to the point right before the new guy took over. The Anti-Hero Substitute becomes forgotten as fast as possible, and the Story Arc featuring him becomes a Dork Age. Alternatively, the Anti-Hero Substitute gets a name change and, now that he's not replacing a much loved character, may be Rescued from the Scrappy Heap.

This happened a lot during the Dark Age of Comics (The Nineties). Back then, it was common to expect readers to like the character, but writers have gotten smarter since then. Now, the Darker and Edgier version of the hero is commonly portrayed as a villain or a psychopath, as the Nineties Anti-Hero archetype has grown less popular over time.

See also: Counterpart Comparison, which often happens to this character. Subtrope of Suspiciously Similar Substitute. May overlap with Costume Copycat. Could be an El Cid Ploy gone bad. Contrast with the Redeeming Replacement.

Examples of Anti-Hero Substitute include:
  • This happens to Batman a lot:
    • During the Knightfall story arc, Batman was temporarily paralyzed by Bane and gave his cowl to Azrael, who quickly became a Knight Templar. This forced Batman to undergo Training from Hell to fight AzBats and reclaim his old identity. AzBats turned out to be a deliberate Take That at the fans who wanted Batman to be closer to The Punisher than, well, Batman. ("You wanted Needlessly Violent Batman? There you go!") As it turns out, the only people that were all that thrilled with him were the makers and players of Batman Doom, a high-quality Doom mod. Well, maybe a few others, since after being bounced from the Batman position his solo series lasted over a hundred issues.
    • Cheerful and lovable circus brat Dick Grayson was replaced by cheerful and lovable circus brat Jason Todd in the early 80s. Then, post-Crisis, in a rare case of a character being replaced by an Anti-Hero version of himself, Jason Todd was retcon'd into an abrasive former street thug. He also spent a bit of time as a psychopathic version of Nightwing. Also, during the Battle for the Cowl event, Jason would also take up the mantle of Batman after his apparent death and became a gun-wielding psychopath. He was played as the villain of the story, however.
    • During the aforementioned Battle for the Cowl, Two-Face also attempted to become the next Batman and Hush impersonated Bruce Wayne with the help of Magic Plastic Surgery.
    • During the Batman and Son storyline, fake Batmen began showing up in Gotham City and committing crimes, and Bruce was forced to fight them. The eventual source of these was revealed to be psychological experiments conducted by the Gotham Police Department to create replacement Batmen should anything ever happen to the real one. This didn't turn out so well.
    • Current Robin Damian Wayne is more of an Anti-Hero than his predecessor, but new Batman Dick Grayson has made it his goal to craft him into a true superhero and not an Anti-Hero.
    • Cassandra Cain as Batgirl has both the outfit and the angsty backstory, but it's subverted in that she's also very much The Cape (trope).
    • During the "Titans Tomorrow" arc, a potential future version of Tim Drake becomes a gun-wielding Batman.
    • And, of course, while Terry McGinnis of Batman Beyond has most of the heroic qualities of the original, the series premise of a hot-headed Snark Knight and former juvenile delinquent stepping into Bruce's place after the latter's retirement is very much in line with this trope.
  • Superman was killed, and replaced by four guys: Man of Steel, Superboy, Cyborg Superman, and Last Son of Krypton (Eradicator). Of these, Cyborg turned out to be Evil All Along, and Eradicator was basically a Darker and Edgier version of the genuine article.
    • And Steel was a complete inversion of this; if anything, he was even more heroic than the original. Also, unlike the other three, Steel admitted from the start he wasn't really Superman, but that he was trying to represent the spirit of what Superman stood for.
    • While neither passed themselves off as Superman, both Magog and Proteus tried to usurp his position as the DCU's foremost superhero by being more ruthless, aggressive and proactive. Both were deliberately set up to fail; Magog went too far and Proteus was evil from the start.
    • Also, in the Justice League mini-arc 'Hereafter', after Superman vanishes from the face of the planet after Toyman manages to pull of a successful attack on him, Lobo, of all people, tries to step in as his replacement.
  • Wonder Woman was forced to give up her name and costume because her mother had a vision of her death. Her place was taken by Artemis, but in the end it was she who was killed, not Diana.
  • Played straight in current Spider Girl adventures. It looks like May we all know and love was beaten hard, or even killed by, Tombstone; and her crazy clone, April, has taken her place.
  • Hulk has both subverted and played this trope straight at the same time. After World War Hulk, with the Hulk imprisoned by the army, his series was taken over by Hercules and a new series was launched with a mysterious Red Hulk as the central character. Hercules subverted the trope quickly, proving he's anything but an Anti-Hero, while Red Hulk played it straight, acting like a total dick and making Hulk lose his powers.
    • Earlier on in the 80s this trope popped up, with the normal destructive but rarely malicious green Hulk being replaced by an amoral jerkass grey Hulk named Joe Fixit. Green Hulk is an anti-hero to begin with but the trope still stands as Joe Fixit is several notches down the scale. The twist is Joe Fixit is just another of Bruce Banner's repressed personalities.
  • In an inverse of this trope, Green Lantern Hal Jordan inexplicably turned evil during the Emerald Twilight arc and the role of "original hero" as described by the intro was played by his replacement Kyle Rayner.
    • Played straight, however, was Guy Gardner replacing Hal Jordan in 1985. (To clarify: Guy Gardner is not some crazy killing machine or anything (unless you count the Warrior storylines where he's a living weapon); he just has more of a fly-off-half-cocked, kick-butt-take-names, punch-first-ask-questions-later personality than Hal.) He's the gym teacher everyone despised in high school.
  • In The Eighties, Steve Rogers, the original Captain America (comics), was replaced by John Walker, a Nineties Anti-Hero version of himself. When Rogers regained the mantle, Walker continued operating as the U.S. Agent.
    • Like Knightfall this was apparently a deliberate in your face. And the same thing pretty much is going on now with Bucky Barnes as Captain America. That said, Steve went on record in Heroic Age: Superheroes that there's not a man out there more fit to wear those colors than James Buchanan Barnes.
      • It should be noted that during Bucky's tenure as Cap, that while he did use his gun and his costume did invoke a Darker and Edgier angle,[1] the main conflict for Bucky was whether or not he could do right by Steve Rogers as Captain America. As such, Bucky would act as best of a hero as he possibly could during that amount of time as Cap.
  • In a Video Game example, the introduction of K' in The King of Fighters '99, blatant attempt at Darker and Edgier, had a very mixed reception. Unlike most examples however, he received enough Character Development to save him from the heap, and is now a fan favourite. Then SNK went even further down the line with Villain Protagonist Ash Crimson in the next arc. The reception was even more mixed.
  • The Mighty Thor was replaced by Thunderstrike in The Nineties, who was quite literally just another version of the original.
    • This was a bit of a subversion, as Thor was much more willing to kill a dangerous foe than Thunderstrike was. Thunderstrike did, however, look the part. (He came across as a dork when he tried to sound like an anti-hero). Not only that, but Thunderstrike had previously been Thor himself.
  • Most of Norman Osborn's Dark Avengers are villains that had their costumes redesigned to look like familiar heroes. He's gone a bit overboard on this front, creating the Dark (now Shadow) X-Men, making the HAMMER organization to replace SHIELD, and forming The Cabal, essentially a copy of the already morally ambiguous Illuminati, as well as his own Initiative with The Hood and his gang. Osborn is trying to reshape whole Marvel Universe at his image.
    • Comparably, Venom could count as a rare villain-to-villain example of this. Eddie Brock, the original Venom was certainly a homicidal maniac, but he eventually was tailored into a Nineties Anti-Hero of sorts. The third Venom, Mack Gargan (the Scorpion) is eviler than Brock and thus since he pretends to be a hero as part of the Dark Avengers, he's both an Anti-Hero Substitute for Spider-Man (who he impersonates) and Venom. The second Venom (Angelo Fortunato) didn't last long enough to be considered a subsitute. Now that Flash Thompson is Venom, you could argue for it being an odd reverse villain-hero example; Flash is probably more heroic than Eddie at his very best.
  • Happened, of all people, to The Authority once, when they were defeated by G8's agent and replaced with bunch of NinetiesAntiHeros. For many people Authority are a buch of Jerk Asses at best and Villain Protagonists at worst, but comparing to replacements they looks like frickng saints.
    • Of course, the second the real Authority comes back, they start their revenge by killing in cold blood the only redeemable character among the new team: Rush, the Canadian replacement for Swift, who didn't kill anybody they wouldn't have and hated all her teammates. They catch hell for this later.
  • Happened to Astro Boy of all people in a one-shot gag manga Osamu Tezuka did as a nostalgia piece for Bungei Shunju, a popular men's magazine of the day. After Astro's apparent death in the final episode of the first TV series the ministry of science was ordered to create a replacement, but since they tried to make him more humanlike than the original he turned out to be a selfish, greedy, shiftless sex maniac.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni has a Villainous example. Beatrice gave her title to Eva's hidden personality. When Eva-Beatrice was acting like a Complete Monster all-time, Beato get a few Pet the Dog moments, and got to make a Heroic Sacrifice, after realizing her mistakes. Then it's revealed it was all a clever Batman Gambit she put in order to make Battler admit she's a witch.
    • EP 5 replaces Battler himself for Furudo Erika. It's played with irony considering the second is more or less an aspect of the Big Bad and Battler is not incapacitated and actively fighting the against change.
    • Considering the replacement's personality? Definitely, at least, invoked. And now she's dead. In fact, she may have never been alive...
  • Keppler, the Temporary Substitute for CSI's Gil Grissom, is a non-comics example.
  • In Johnny Saturn, the Johnny Saturn I (John Underhall) retires, and he is soon replaced by Johnny Saturn II (Greg Buchanan). Many of the characters in Johnny Saturn are legacy characters.
  • After Horatio Hellpop gave up the mantle of Nexus it was taken by Stan Korivitsky. Sadly, the mission of killing worst murderers was too much for him, and he quickly snapped and turned worse than those he was supposed to kill. That forced Horatio to take back Nexus powers and kill him.
  • Ghost Rider has an odd example. He is already an Anti-Hero but in the nineties, a character named Vengeance showed up who was supposed to be a Darker and Edgier version of a character that was already the epitome of Darker and Edgier. A new Vengeance has since appeared—as a villain. And the de-powered original Vengeance seems to be a pretty nice guy these days.
    • And now Johnny got tricked into passing his power onto new host. Word of God already confirmed that it's gonna bite him in the butt once he'll realize that new Ghost Rider may have few loose screws and he had just created another Anti-Hero Substitute for himself.
    • Also, considering he's a Legacy Character, it makes sense that he is replaced with a new host every now and then.
  • Intentionally done again in the '90s, when the Fantastic Four were presumed dead, and Spider-Man, Wolverine, The Hulk, and Ghost Rider took their places, swearing to avenge the heroes' deaths. Only three of the four were really Anti Heroes, but the extremely ill-suited-for-eachother group fought amongst themselves so much and were so bad at emulating the FF's legendary teamwork that Spidey was pretty much ineffectual in getting them to shape up and the whole team made the Fantastic Four's dysfunctional family dynamics look incredibly well-adjusted by comparison.
  • Happened to The Flash with Dark Flash a mysterious characted that turned out to be an alternate universe version of Wally that didn't allow himself to cross the speed threshhold necessary to save Linda Park in a previous story. He wore a darker outfit and was a little more brutal.
  • The Irredeemable Ant-Man, Eric O'Grady, is this to the other Ant-Man, Hank Pym.[2] O'Grady got his costume from stealing one of Pym's, and is an often lecherous, cowardly, and amoral man who nonetheless has some positive traits and often wishes he was a better person.
  • Iron Man did this to himself, in a way. When his suit was damaged, he built the War Machine armor. Not only did it have the appropriate Darker and Edgier name but it was loaded with BFG's and was colored black and gray. Stark wore the armor in a few issues, invoking this trope even though it was the same guy in the armor. After that arc, he gave it to Jim Rhodes who is actually a bit nicer than Stark who can be a Jerkass from time-to-time.
    • It should also be noted that Rhodes replaced Tony as Iron Man for a couple of years due to Stark's alcoholism so in a way, it was the inversion of this trope.
  • Inverted for Spider-Man in The Clone Saga. While Peter Parker went through a Darker and Edgier character arc, Ben Reilly was introduced as a Lighter and Softer Spider-Man with the goal of putting Peter Parker, Mary Jane, and their daughter on a bus.
  • When one Slayer dies another girl is called forward to take her place. Well Buffy did die and despite being revived is replaced by Kendra, a Knight Templar whose sole focus is on hunting and killing vampires regardless of who they are. When she died she was replaced by Faith, very much an Anti-Hero before, during and after her Face Heel Turn.
  1. the costume had far more black than the red, white, and blue.
  2. not without his own problems- see Never Live It Down