Sometimes it can be confusing to be a fan of pop culture. Sometimes writers leave halfway through a story, and a new writer has to wrap things up somehow. Sometimes a creator gets fired, and the replacement told to change gears in a hurry. Here are 20 stories that changed drastically when the writer left in the middle.
Note: The examples below do not include retcons, where the original writer actually finished a story, and then another writer came along later and "revealed" that something else had really happened. Those are incredibly common in superhero comics and pretty common in television and movies — you can read lists of those here and here.
What the original writer intended: Roger Stern planned for the mysterious Hobgoblin to be entrepreneur Roderick Kingsley with his twin brother, Daniel, occasionally acting as a decoy to throw suspicion off him. But then Stern left the comic before he ever got to reveal this, and his successor, writer/editor Tom DeFalco, disagreed with this idea because readers were barely aware Kingsley had a brother. DeFalco thought Hobgoblin should be Richard Fisk, the Kingpin's son. Then DeFalco lied to his replacement, James Owsley, and said that it was Daily Bugle reporter Ned Leeds.
What it was changed to: Since Owsley had just killed off Leeds in Spider-Man vs. Wolverine, Peter David had to explain in Amazing Spider-Man #289 that the currently active Hobgoblin was Jason Macendale, who had hired The Foreigner to kill Leeds so he could steal his gear. Stern returned years later in Hobgolin Lives, to reveal at last that Kingsley was the original Hobgoblin and Leeds was just a fall guy.
The Vampire Diaries Books
What the original writer intended: L.J. Smith was the author of the Vampire Diaries novels, and she was building up to getting the witch Bonnie and the vampire Damon together — and then Bonnie would have fallen for a werewolf with moonlight-colored hair. Damon and Bonnie would have gotten back together when they helped Caroline deliver her twin babies. The publisher didn't like any of that stuff, and they wanted the books to stay close to the TV show, so they invoked a work-for-hire clause and fired L.J. Smith from her own books, replacing her with a ghostwriter.
What it was changed to: Ghostwriter Aubrey Clark builds the books around the Stefan-Damon-Elena triangle, and has Elena turn to Damon after Stefan is apparently killed by a race of "scientifically-created vampires." Damon and Bonnie are definitely not an item, nosirree. The ghostwriter added some new characters, including someone named Voodoo, and a cousin of Tyler Smallwood's.
Under Amazon's Kindle Worlds license, Smith has continued writing the series as she intended from book seven onwards under the title Evensong. Her "fanfiction" series begins with Stefan erasing Elena's memories of him because he's ashamed he drank so much of her blood she had to be hospitalized.
Mr. Sinister and Gambit
What the original writer intended: Chris Claremont intended Mr. Sinister to be a boy who lived in the same orphanage with Cyclops, named Nathan. He was supposed to be an immortal mutant stuck in a child's body capable of creating artificial adult bodies and who secretly ran the orphanage. Nathan's arrested development was supposed to explain the unsubtle name and appearance of the Mr. Sinister form. Gambit was meant to be another form of Nathan made of concentrated "cool" to infiltrate the X-Men. But then Claremont left the comic before he could reveal all of this.
What it was changed to: The Further Adventures of Cyclops & Phoenix instead revealed that he was really Dr. Nathaniel Essex of Milbury House who was mutated by Apocalypse during the Victorian Era. His codename comes from "Mr." being an alternate honorific for a British surgeon and his wife calling him "sinister" on her deathbed. Gambit was established as a separate character whom Mr. Sinister had hired as point man for his Marauders during the Mutant Massacre. This previously motive-less slaughter of the Morlocks was explained as Sinister's way to stop Dark Beast from plagiarizing his genetics research for experiments on the Morlocks. During the alternate future X-Men: The End, Claremont explained Gambit was a clone of Mr. Sinister with Cyclops genes spliced in, but this is not officially canon for the core 616 reality.
Dead Like Me
What the original writer intended: Bryan Fuller intended to reveal that George Lass's father was gay. This would make George ponder the unlikelihood of her existence, since her father wasn't "supposed" to breed. Fuller planned a whole episode where George learns about her father's sexuality. But then Fuller left the series over creative differences, generally.
What it was changed to: George's dad was rewritten to be straight. Talking to The Backlot, Fuller says this was "heartbreaking to me." Even though this was probably just a case of straight guys who "just didn't want to tell that story."
The Trial of a Time Lord
What the original writer intended: After Doctor Who was put on hiatus by the BBC, it returned with a storyline where the Doctor is put on trial by his own people — mirroring the show's real-life situation. The beginning and end of this storyline were supposed to be written by Robert Holmes, who unfortunately died during the writing process.
In Holmes' original outline, the trial's prosecutor, the Valeyard, would have looked a lot more like the Doctor, to the point where Melanie thinks they look like brothers. Also, the Valeyard would have been revealed to be the Doctor's thirteenth and final incarnation, who had turned evil and wanted to prolong his own life by stealing his past self's regenerations. In the end of Holmes' version, the Doctor would have been found guilty by the court, and it would have ended on a cliffhanger, with the Doctor locked in battle with the Valeyard.
What it was changed to: After Holmes died, script editor Eric Saward finished Holmes' scripts — but he had a falling out with producer John Nathan-Turner, who especially did not want the season to end on a cliffhanger. Saward quit, and legally the show wasn't allowed to use the script that Saward had written for the final episode based on Holmes' ideas. So new writers Pip and Jane Baker wrote a replacement finale in four days. In the final version, the Valeyard is revealed as a manifestation of evil from between the Doctor's twelfth and thirteenth lives, rather than the Doctor's actual final life. They added an overcomplicated, confusing subplot about a Time Lord revolution and a scheme to overthrow the Time Lords, and changed the ending so that the Doctor wins unambiguously. Since then, the Valeyard has been mentioned once on screen, but the Doctor went through his twelfth and thirteenth lives without becoming him.
The Third Summers Brother
What the original writer intended: Fabian Nicieza had Mr. Sinister tellCyclops that he was protecting his"brothers," meaning that Havok was not Cyclops' only sibling. Fans speculated that "the third Summers brother" (a fan created term) was Gambit, but Nicieza intended the wonderfully named Adam X the X-Treme to be the bastard hybrid of Katherine Summers and former Shi'ar Emperor D'Ken. But Nicieza never got around to saying this before he left the title. Later, writer Robert Weinberg came up with the idea that the third brother could be Apocalypse instead.
What it was changed to: In Deadly Genesis, Ed Brubaker revealed that the previously unknown Vulcan was the genuine article, whom Xavier had erased from everyone's memories after he was among the students presumed dead trying to rescue the original X-Men from the sentient island Krakoa. (Xavier also used psychic ventriloquism to make Krakoa appear to speak in an effort to help this cover up rather than constructively aid the second rescue mission.) Because Katherine Summers died when Vulcan was prematurely torn out of her womb by former D'Ken, this also seems to kibosh the possibility of Adam X the X-Treme being a fourth brother.
What the original writer intended: Chris Claremont had Uncanny X-Men plotted through at least issue #300 but left after issue #279, while feuding with editor Bob Harras. Much of his plans revolved around the long teased Mutant Wars (it was solicited earlier but X-Tinction Agenda was the crossover that happened instead) where the various X-teams, the Hellfire Club and its Hellions, the Reavers, Mystique's Freedom Force/Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Magneto's Acolytes, Apocalypse's Horsemen, Mr. Sinister's Marauders, Shadow King's thralls, and humanity would have an epic battle for the planet. Wolverine was supposed to have his heart torn out by Lady Deathstrike and be resurrected as a Hand assassin for two years. (He was eventually killed and brainwashed by The Hand in Mark Millar's much shorter Enemy of the State.) Gambit was intended to betray the X-Men, because he was really Mr. Sinister in disguise. (Bishop believed Gambit was the prophesized traitor, but it turned out to be Xavier who'd become Onslaught.) Xavier was supposed to permanently die in #300, motivating Magneto to permanently devote himself to leading the X-Men and Xavier's School.
What it was changed to: Most of theplannedparticipants in Claremont's Mutant Wars met an untimely end soon after Claremont left. Shadow King was defeated prematurely the issue after Claremont left, written by Fabian Nicieza. In issue #281, John Byrne, Jim Lee, and Whilce Portacio had the new villain team The Upstarts murder the bulk of the Hellfire Club, Hellions, and Reavers. Some of Claremont's ideas were incorporated into his alternate reality X-Men: The End, X-Men Forever, and GenNext minis.
Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles
What the original writer intended: Co-creator Greg Weisman had all sorts of plans for the third season of Goliath, including Brooklyn going off on his own and the show's heroic trio starting to grow apart. But then the show moved to ABC, and almost all of its writers, script editors, and producers were sacked.
What it was changed to: The new writing staff focused much more on the Gargoyles trying to improve their public image. Weisman waived his contractual consultancy credit because he was so disappointed by the season's mishandling of characters, continuity, and themes. He did not consider it canon when he continued the series in comic book form.
What the original writer intended: As you probably know, Ghost Rider is stunt biker Johnny Blaze, bonded to the demon Zarathos. Writer Tony Isabella wrote a two-year arc on the title which was going to end with Blaze being protected from Satan — because Johnny Blaze has become a Born-Again Christian. But editor Jim Shooter didn't like this idea, and changed Isabella's final issue.
What it was changed to: Isabella's Hippie Jesus lookalike character, the Friend, turned out to be an evil demon in disguise. Instead, Blaze was freed from the Ghost Rider curse once increasingly aggressive Zarathos chased its nemesis, Centurious, into a broken Soul Crystal.
The Rise of Surtur
What the original writer intended: The second season of the TV series Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes had three episodes (Michael Ryan wrote the best two of those) which positioned the Norse demon Surtur as the season's Big Bad, with Enchantress as his thrall.
What it was changed to: Behind the scenes changes caused the second half of the season to focus more on self-contained episodes, rather than arcs. Surtur never appeared again, and Ryan wasn't credited as writing for the series after that. The season finale showed the Avengers fighting Galactus, rather than Surtur.
Pinky and the Brain
What the original writer intended: Original writer and producer Peter Hastings wanted to keep telling stories about the two cartoon mice doing what they do best — attempting to take over the world. But Warner Bros. wanted him to add more characters and have fewer world domination schemes, for more of a sitcom feel.
What it was changed to: After Hastings quit, the show was retooled as Pinky, Elmira, & the Brain with the duo living with Elmyra from Tiny Toons Adventures. Only six of this abomination's thirteen episodes were aired stateside in their intended format.
Ms. Marvel and Marcus
What the original writer intended: At the end of Avengers #199, Ms. Marvel has suddenly undergone a full immaculate pregnancy in a few days. David Michelinie wanted this to be the culmination of the Kree Supreme Intelligence's plans to create a Kree-Human hybrid. Jim Shooter nixed this because it was too soon after What If …? #20 which had the Supreme Intelligence merge with Rick Jones in an alternate reality tale.
What it was changed to: Avengers #200, co-written by Michelinie, Shooter, Bob Layton, and George Perez, revealed the father of Ms. Marvel's child to be her newborn son, Marcus. Marcus was born in Limbo to a version of Immortus (that shouldn't exist because of a time travel paradox) and couldn't exist outside this dimension. So Marcus dragged Ms. Marvel to Limbo because she looked like his unnamed mom, and seduced her with his dad's mind control machines so he could be born on Earth. Ms. Marvel is initially disgusted, but suddenly falls in love with Marcus when he rapidly ages up. The Avengers then send the quasi-incestuous couple to live happily ever after in Limbo. Chris Claremont had Ms. Marvel return the following year, to chew out the Avengers for abetting rape.
What the original writer intended: The villain of the Armageddon 2001 crossover, Monarch, was supposed to be an evil future version of a current Justice Leaguer. His identity was going to be Captain Atom, until the fans figured this out ahead of time, and DC Comics panicked.
What it was changed to: Archie Goodwin and Dennis O'Neil changed the identity of Monarch at the last minute. Surprisingly, Monarch was unmasked as Hawk (of Hawk & Dove) in spite of an earlier scene in which Waverider sees that neither Hawk nor Dove can ever become Monarch in any possible future. Two alternate versions of Captain Atom became Monarch afterwards.
Ace and the Cartmel Masterplan
What the original writer intended: In the final couple of seasons of the classic Doctor Who, ambitious script editor Andrew Cartmel planned to tease a whole new, mysterious backstory for the Doctor as the manifestation of the ancient Gallifreyan being, the Other — some of which aired, but most of which was cut by John Nathan-Turner before it aired. They also planned to have Ace, the Doctor's companion, enroll in the Time Lord Academy. Neither of these plans really came to fruition, and Ace remains the only television companion whose departure was never explained on screen.
What it was changed to: Ace meets a variety of fates, in various media. In the comics, she's killed by an explosion. In the New Adventures novels, she leaves the Doctor in anger and becomes "Time's Vigilante." In The Sarah Jane Adventures' "Death of the Doctor," Sarah Jane says Ace founded a charity called A Charitable Earth, which seems out of character for her.
Meanwhile, some of the Cartmel Masterplan appears in the novel Lungbarrow and the novelization of Remembrance of the Daleks, but it's largely been contradicted on screen. The 1996 TV movie put the kibosh on the Masterplan by having the Doctor announce he's half human, and the more recent series doesn't seem to support that Time Lords are born from looms.