Ink Stain Adaptation

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
It doesn't matter how badass he gets, people will always remember him for that incarnation where everyone always says "This Looks Like a Job For Aquaman"

"People don't really hate Aquaman.
It's just that the 70s version of him is such an easy and irresistible target."


An adaptation to a long running franchise which irrevocably colors the public's perception of the franchise as a whole. This is rarely for good reasons.

This can not only kill a show, but also kill any interest in doing future adaptations unless we are promised the next one will be very good. Even if it doesn't, people who aren't fans, who might never even have seen any of the installments, will bring this one up to mock because of the ink stains.

Sometimes, an Ink Stain Adaptation is used for Lost in Imitation. The results can be disastrous.

See also Adaptation Displacement.

Examples of Ink Stain Adaptations include:

Anime and Manga

  • Because of 4Kids! Entertainment and their infamous macekres, anime dubs are almost always disliked no matter how accurate they are to the original version, causing the countless subbing vs. dubbing wars on anime fanbases.
  • A lot of entry-level Galaxy Angel fans immediately split into two camps. One believes that the anime, for throwing out the plot and turning it into a Sitcom with more Character Exaggeration than previously thought possible, has ruined the serious games. The other believes that the games, for having a far-reaching Space Opera plot that mutes the characters to realistic personalities instead of exaggerations, has ruined the funny anime. Both camps invariably grate on the nerves of those that have learned to enjoy both.
  • Arguably, the 4Kids dub of One Piece has kept many anime fans away from the series, since they believe it's a childish series with no serious story to it. It's not just about a kid made of rubber wanting to become King of the Pirates.
  • Perhaps a mild version, but many people only know Dragon Ball for its anime adaptation. This causes people to stereotype it as 'having whole episodes of powering up, pointless filler, and many an Inaction Sequence', whereas the manga had none of these. Still, Dragon Ball Z is a very popular anime, so it's not all bad.

Comic Books

  • Power Pack is often thought of as a wacky kid-friendly and light-hearted book. While this is true of the various 2000s miniseries, it's not true for the original 1980 to 1991 book, which took itself seriously and was meant to be seen as such, but many people wrote it off because it was about kids. Kids who wanted to see wacky antics probably ended up disappointed. Most other people dismissed the original out of hand, because they assumed a story about children would just be wacky and stupid. It's probably no coincidence that most of the letters to the editor came from adults and the occasional 12-year-old who was surprised at the quality of the storytelling.


  • Judge Dredd had a film adaptation that had a specific devastating impact. While in Britain, Dredd is an old warhorse of a comic that isn't going anywhere, the movie was the first exposure most Americans had to the franchise. Almost ten years later, the impact can be seen in DC's failed attempt to market Judge Dredd trade paperbacks in American comic stores. A new film adaptation, simply titled Dredd, was much grittier and better-received critically, but was not a great financial success. It did find an audience, though, so sequels and/or series adaptations are in discussion.
  • Arguably, the movie adaptation of Tank Girl, which many critics saw as the comic's swansong. Members of its cult following might disagree, though.
  • Though the original Godzilla film was a serious and scary movie, Godzilla is best remembered by the general populace as a camp icon from the 60s, or by the 1998 In Name Only adaptation. [not current]
  • The Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies of the '30s and '40s turned Watson—a capable physician, a front-line veteran, and a more well-rounded individual than his roommate—into a comical bumbler, which has colored almost all subsequent portrayals to the point that showing him as at all competent is considered a Subversion. They also solidified the portrayal of Holmes and Watson as middle-aged. It's been observed that in the original "A Study in Scarlet", Watson had only served one term in Afghanistan after getting his M.D., and Holmes was taking classes at the university. He's a battle-hardened vet, home with a war wound! He's a flaky, substance-abusing grad student! They Fight Crime!
    • This is an overstatement; the idea that Watson was kind of stupid (or rather that he always came off as stupid) goes back at least to the early 20th century. The American humorist Finley Peter Dunne wrote in 1901 that Watson "don't know anything, and anything he knows is wrong. He has to look up his name in the parish register before he can speak to himself. He's a great friend of Sherlock Holmes and if Sherlock Holmes ever loses him, he'll find him in the nearest asylum for the feeble-minded." ( Dunne's "humorous" phonetic spellings not reproduced).
    • Even Conan Doyle himself referred to Watson as Holmes's "rather stupid friend" in 1927.
      • Which is very odd indeed, considering it was Holmes, not Watson, who didn't know that the Earth revolved around the Sun in "A Study in Scarlet". Holmes was brilliant, but very narrow minded in his studies (at least in theory, detectives always seem to be full of information that they have no business knowing, except to move the plot along), which Watson found very peculiar early on.
        • There's a difference between ignorance (Holmes) and stupidity (Watson, at least in comparison).
        • Watson is not necessarily stupid in the original Conan Doyle tales, but rather average. Everyone except a small handful of villains looks dim-witted when compared to Holmes.
        • After all, the man is a doctor.
  • While the movie adaptations of Frankenstein may have made it more widely known, they definitely dumbed down the original story.
    • In particular, the monster in the original story was actually about as lithe as a human, could speak, and was very intelligent, not the stiff, shambling, groaning monster of the movies. He also did not have bolts in his neck or a cylindrical flat-top head. The movie solidified the idea that the monster was called Frankenstein, though this mix-up was already in effect in the preceding decades.
  • As with Frankenstein, Dracula is best known today through movies (take your pick: Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Gary Oldman, etc.) and other forms of popular culture rather than the original novel.
  • The success of the Lord of the Rings films has dramatically colored public perception of the work, for better or worse, since the films put their own dramatically different spin on various themes. The number of people who read the books for the first time prior to seeing the films or knowing everything that happens therein is expected to approach zero. The studio struggled to put together The Hobbit, a famous children's book, due in part to the pressure of making it conform to the existing films (and a duology).
  • It seemed that the 2004 adaptation of Catwoman starring Halle Berry would kill any chance for a reasonable adaptation for quite some time... though the character appeared in The Dark Knight Rises, played by Anne Hathaway.
  • Batman and Robin, if it didn't cripple Bane as a character in comics, at least gave him recurrent back pain. While he still shows up as the intelligent, driven character who's been the subject of much Character Development since his first appearance, this doesn't stop some writers from using him as silent Dumb Muscle when they need a body to throw at a character.
    • Again averted... Bane also appeared in The Dark Knight Rises, played by Tom Hardy. It seems Christopher Nolan has made it his mission to prove characters can remain legitimate, no matter how previous adaptations have handled them. If the trailer is anything to go by, he's succeeding admirably...[please verify] though the hard-to-understand voice may be a problem.
    • Batman and Robin avoided doing this to Mr Freeze, though. Many fans are embarrassed by his portrayal and consider it one of the worst parts of the film. However, the brilliant animated episode "Heart Of Ice" had given Mr Freeze a tearjerking backstory and a beautifully done characterization that is considered canon by comics and fans. Schumacher's version is, like Bane, viewed as proof of how much he didn't understand the characters.
  • The entire Conan franchise has been a series of Ink Stain Adaptations building on each other, for better or worse, until the original Howard stories were literally Lost in Imitation. Some aspects of the Expanded Universe Conan, such as the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger film and Frank Frazetta's artwork depictions, are more successful than others, such as the sequel Conan The Destroyer which nearly killed the entire genre as well as the franchise.
    • And now,[when?] the Conan remake seems to have done it all over again, as it did poorly at the box-office and was savaged by critics.
  • Ultimately averted for the film adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Critics unfamiliar with the source material wrote off the series, thinking that the series is just as bad, if not worse than the movie; which frustrated fans of the series (who generally hate the movie) to no end, among them being Roger Ebert. But skip forward a few years and everyone's singing the praises of the cartoon's Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra; while the movie is mostly forgotten except as perhaps M. Night Shyamalan's official fall from grace.
  • Averted - or even inverted - with Popeye. This 1980 Robert Altman adaptation, with Robin Williams as the world-famous sailor man, notoriously tried to recreate the 10-minute cartoon format at feature length and failed miserably.[1] Most critics and audiences, many of whom were unfamiliar with the original source material, were so disgusted with the movie that the Max Fleischer cartoons looked much, much better by comparison. Those cartoons continued to be popular on TV long after the movie was forgotten.


  • The King James version of The Bible, with its antiquated (it was deliberately archaic even in James' day) version of English, seems to have produced in some people the rather bizarre notion that God speaks Ye Olde Englishe exclusively, and that it's very nearly sacrilegious to use modern English when speaking to or about Him. A few modern Christian denominations will even insist that the King James is the only English translation approved by God, though these are in the minority.

Live-Action TV

  • The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica had to deal with the cheesy legacy of its predecessor. True, the original did have a lot of fans but even a larger segment who only remembered the funny costumes, the In Space plots and, oh gods, the kids... The new show's success and the ire it drew from the fans of the original was a result of its efforts to distance itself from these aspects by going Darker and Edgier.
    • One of Ronald D. Moore's main aims in re-imagining the BSG was to "take from the old show what worked and leave the rest" and he genuinely seemed to believe that the original show had a very good premise that simply could not be portrayed justly in the 1970s.
  • The '70s Wonder Woman series starring Lynda Carter colored, and continues to color, peoples' cultural knowledge of the character. Unlike Batman, however, Wonder Woman has never had the benefit of a successive adaptation that mitigates the Camp elements of the 70s show. The Justice League animated series has helped to some extent, but popular culture still looks almost exclusively to the Carter version, and a more recent adaptation with Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights) was cancelled before it aired (For the best if the leaked pilot is any indication). It wouldn't be until 2017 that a Wonder Woman film could break this curse.
  • While Power Rangers is a successful franchise on its own, many Super Sentai purists view it as the reason why Super Sentai will never get the proper international recognition it deserves, since the adapted footage of the costumes and giant robot battles are so deeply ingrained with Power Rangers, Super Sentai could never stand on its own merits. It's not uncommon to see Super Sentai videos on the internet (such as the "Legendary War" scene from Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger) to be labeled as Power Rangers videos. This is especially prevalent among fans from countries such as Brazil, the Philippines, or France, which used to air locally-dubbed versions of Super Sentai before switching to Power Rangers dubs.
    • On another level, the individual Sentai seasons can be tarred with the Rangers brush. Some past seasons get a bad reputation simply because of the following Rangers adaptations. Some fans who watch Rangers first looked a little skeptically on Gaoranger or Boukenger simply because of how badly they were adapted into Wild Force or Operation Overdrive.
  • The sixties TV interpretation of Batman with its campy costumes, ludicrous gadgets and cheesy Hit Flash effects still linger on as some people's view of the character, despite several adaptations and major character changes since.
  • Masked Rider, Saban's adaptation of Kamen Rider Black RX, was not just an ink stain to the Kamen Rider franchise itself, it was also an ink stain to its very own name. Originally "Masked Rider" was the official romanized name of Kamen Rider, but because the name "Masked Rider" is so closely associated to the Saban version outside Japan, many fans refuse to use it despite its prominence in many products. When Adness made Kamen Rider Dragon Knight (a remake of Kamen Rider Ryuki), Executive Producer Steve Wang insisted on using "Kamen Rider" instead of "Masked Rider" since he wanted to distance the show from the Saban version. The Japanese shows, which were using the romanized name of "Masked Rider" on the logos since Kamen Rider Kuuga, followed suit [dead link] by switching to "Kamen Rider" beginning with Kamen Rider W.
    • On top of that, some time ago[when?] Saban has applied for a trademark for "Power Rider", which many believe is their giving "Kamen Rider" another swing.
  • Thankfully averted three times with Let's Make a Deal. One revival came in 1990 (a year flooded with mediocre game shows, many of which were one-season revivals) with inexperienced host Bob Hilton. Due to falling ratings, original host Monty Hall returned to try and prop the show up, but it didn't work. An "edgier" remake in 1996 called Big Deal (hosted by Mark DeCarlo) lasted a whopping six episodes on FOX in 1996, and a 2003 revival for NBC — with host Billy Bush and equally phony attempts at being "hip" — lasted three episodes. CBS finally got it right in 2009 with Wayne Brady as host, and despite literally no other daytime network game shows existing since the cancellation of NBC's Caesars Challenge in 1993, the CBS revival of Deal entered its fourth season in 2012.

Video Games

Western Animation

  • Superfriends has pretty much crippled Aquaman as a character. Give him a harpoon hand, replace it with a magical water hand, point out how life at the bottom of the ocean has made him stronger, faster, and more resilient than most humans... and everyone will still be like, "He's just some guy who swims fast and talks to fish." It's gotten to the point where DC finally decided to kill off the old Aquaman and create a new one.
    • Justice League did that first, making him a freaking Badass.
    • At least until his video-game came out...
      • It's worth mentioning that he was left out of the core roster in favor of Hawkgirl, and was relegated to guest appearances. The movie Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths also similarly regulated him to being a member of the reserve League.
      • He doesn't get much action in Justice League: The New Frontier either, with him only appearing at the very end to return Superman, who fell into his domain, at the end of the movie.
      • He was also excluded from Justice League Doom in favor of Cyborg, despite the rest of the team resembling the Silver Age "Big 7" JLA and being present in the original story the film was based on.
      • However, they definitely redeemed him in Batman the Brave And The Bold, where he became one of the most popular characters, even getting entire episodes devoted to him with Batman as the backup character.
    • Perhaps realizing that he'd Never Live It Down, Geoff Johns decided to incorporate Aquaman's bad reputation into the actual comics. The fact that everyone from the police to random bystanders now think of Aquaman as a dork is used as a running joke.
    • Hawkman, too, lost a great deal of what made him great. Among companions who could fly and bench-press planets, or fly and become living lightning, or fly and create any green-colored thing they could imagine, Hawkman was the Super Friend who could fly ... and do nothing else.
      • Hawkman's problem was any useful trait he brings to the Justice League (his combat prowess and tendency to keep scary medieval weaponry around) couldn't be used for the kid-friendly Superfriends. So, he got stuck with "Guy who can fly not as fast as Superman or Green Lantern.
    • Aquaman finally seems to have lost the stigma with the 2018 movie which unexpectedly became the best received (by audiences) and highest grossing film in the DC Extended Universe franchise, beating out Man of Steel (Though that may be an Ink Stain Adaptation for Superman...), Justice League and Wonder Woman. Given the movie's popularity it's doubtful the stigma will return any time soon.
  • Pretty much everyone remembers the 80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, while the original comics and more recent cartoon and movies seem to be living in its shadow...
    • And yet, this serves as a positive example, as the show —while quite different from its source— was enormously popular and was responsible for making the characters household names to begin with.
  • Everyone remembers Filmation's cartoon of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, with its goofy takes on the characters and the moral segments at the end. Very few remember the previous DC Comics take on Masters Of The Universe, where the Sorceress is referred to as 'The Goddess' and lives in a cave (and not Castle Greyskull—and she and Zoar the falcon are separate characters), Prince Adam (He-Man's alter-ego who didn't appear in the toyline minicomics... at first) is known for 'wenching and carousing', and Skeletor is a much more dangerous villain who kills a rival wizard in combat. There were also illustrated books released with the original action figures which gave different origins for the characters (Teela, instead of being the Sorceress' daughter, is a magical clone of her[2]), and had a storyline where He-Man's Sword of Power was split in two (with He-Man possessing one half and Skeletor the other—this was reflected in the original action figure accessories with two 'sword halves' with the characters' figures that could be put together).
    • Additionally, later takes on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe' (such as the 1987 live-action movie and the 2002 series) don't seem to be talked about as much as the 80's Filmation cartoon.
  • Despite being held as the patron saint of Adaptation Distillation, Batman: The Animated Series has also has also negatively colored Bane's other adaptations. In the comics, Bane is a Genius Bruiser who knew Bruce Wayne was Batman, was a huge guy with formidable strength even without the drug Venom, who could still keep going when the feed was cut, and ultimately kicked the habit of using Venom. B: TAS made him a hired thug who shrinks after he's deprived of venom, didn't know who Batman was, and was still hooked in his later appearances. Despite the circumstances for his defeat (he nearly ODed after Batman jammed a Batarang into his pump module), and Superman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures fixing a few things by having Bane retain his big size and formidable strength when the feed is cut, this has colored every adaptation since then of him being a hired thug who doesn't know who Batman is, is still addicted to Venom, and goes down the minute the Venom tube is cut.
    • Young Justice attempted to fix this a bit by making sure to highlight how intelligent and cunning Bane is. However, his strategic mind apparently came at the cost of his impressive build, and he was very easily defeated in combat by Superboy and Miss Martian.
      • Bane losing a fight to Superboy isn't exactly embarrassing.
      • Getting played for a chump by Kobra and The Light certainly didn't help, either.
  • Any story that Disney adapts certainly qualifies. Case in point, when people think of Aladdin, odds are they'll think of the Disney version with its storybook version of Persia, rather than the Chinese setting that the original story employed.
    • To be fair, nearly all adaptations of Aladdin were set in Arabia well before Disney got their hands on the story.
      • And the China of the book is a very In Name Only version, what with the genies and Muslims and Ala al-Din.
    • Additionally, while many of the "traditional" fairy tales Disney has adapted have "original" versions (and in many case with known original authors), the changing of standards over the centuries and decades has led to many different versions of the stories being written.[3] In the case of each adaptation, the Disney versions are just one of those many different versions, making the use of this trope subjective since some peoples' perceptions of fairy tales may have been colored by other versions (e.g., Faerie Tale Theatre).
    • Pocahontas, meanwhile, may be one of the biggest subversions. The legend of John Smith and Pocahontas being lovers had built for centuries - but once Disney put that to celluloid, the Vocal Minority that knew its inaccuracies raised such a stink that now everyone knows that the real Pocahontas was only eight years old at the time.
  1. On the other hand, it was very faithful to the original Elzie Segar Thimble Theater comics.
  2. which practically makes Teela her "daughter" anyway
  3. Because lets face it, no one wants to scar their families or other readers for life by telling them that the stepsisters from Cinderella cut off their heels so their feet could fit the glass slipper