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Alternative Character Interpretation: Webcomics

  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja's eponymous Dr. McNinja: A man struggling with the dissonance between his chosen profession as a physician and his ninja heritage (who wants to be Batman), or a psychopath who hides his true nature behind the veneer of another (who wants to be Batman), or simply an Irish doctor who is also a ninja (who wants to be Batman)? You decide.
  • Page picture for the ACI hub: Awkward Zombie regarding Marth. It's not entirely Katie's fault: when she says she "kind of completely made it up", she forgets that she based him on what little characterization is present in the Super Smash Bros. games — where he's more an egocentric prick than a teamwork-loving hippie.
  • Bittersweet Candy Bowl: Did Mike simply outgrow the crush and isn't interested? Or is it embarrassment after all he said leading to him trying even harder to forget it?
  • Blade Bunny is a master of Obfuscating Stupidity. This may in part be due to her having more than enough real stupidity to make the act credible, it is certainly hard to tell the difference at times.
  • Chess Piece is based on this trope. Many characters have wildly different personalities due to wildly different lives. Effectively, Vlad Masters and Danny Phantom switch personalities and become father and son most notably. It makes sense, since it is massively AU and cross over between almost any Nicktoon imaginable.
  • In Cuanta Vida, is Rojo pure evil? A well meaning guy who wants to end the war? Or is he just insane? We don't know.
  • Similar to Planescape Survival Guide is Darths & Droids. Qui-Gon Jinn is a Cloud Cuckoolander! R2D2 is a Jerkass Munchkin! Darth Maul is a Private Detective! Chancellor Valorum is General Grevious!
  • The eponymous wombat heroine from Digger. Is she really having these adventures or is she, as she herself initially feared, merely trapped in a hallucination caused by cave gas and lack of food and sleep as she dies slowly, all alone and trapped deep, deep under ground?
  • A number of anti-fans of Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire have constructed an elaborate fanon about how the eponymous Seer is a nigh-omnipotent Evil Overlord secretly ruling over a cowed populace, and how villains such as his Aloof Big Brother Jacob and/or Evil Counterpart Celesto are actually members or leaders of La Résistance.
    • Also, the chaos eyeball that Dominic recently scryed on isn't an evil demon beast intent on destroying everything, he's a cute little monster who just wants hugs.
    • THE ACI for Dominic Deegan is whether or not he's as pious as the writer makes him out to be or the ultimate manipulative Jerkass. It's the idea the entire Hatedom is built upon. Of course, Luna shares the spotlight. Is she a victim slowly overcoming years of emotional torture at the hands of a scheming mother and evil sisters or an incurable psychopath who'll murder anyone who makes her feel bad about herself?
    • Then there's the tone of the comic overall. Is it a chronicle of events that can be taken at face value and seen as a legitimate work of fantasy or does it shift between a gritty tone and a more cartoon-y feel for the sake of entertainment? Which side you prefer tends to automatically place you on one side the comic's very large love-hate war.
    • Something from the snarkdom: The Orcs: Noble Savages unjustly and excessively persecuted by the Callanians, or a bunch of vicious barbarians that are not undeserving of the derision and hatred they receive as large portions of their species really do engage in casual brutality and worse. Or a race as diverse as any other, with both its heros and monsters, just like the Callanians.
    • Was Milov's praising of Nimmel a blatant shill, or a sign that Nimmel has successfully pulled the wool over Milov.
      • A third interpretation that came up occasionally was that Milov did not sincerely believe what he said to Nimmel, but was either laying it on thick to make the outsider in their culture feel welcomed or letting his "opinion" become known to use Nimmel to shame the rowdy Jerkass younger werewolves into upholding their cultural ideals. Part of which seems more likely depends on if you feel that Nimmel clearly feels he's better than werewolves or if his own internal monologue in which he calls the brawlers "emotion-crazed beast-people" was simply him being bitter about their culture during a moment of anger that had been building up for the entire time he'd been living in the Winter Archipelago.
    • Some of it can be quite disturbing as can be seen here.
  • Dragon Ball Multiverse: Raichi is this. In his movie appearances, he was a generic "I WANT REVENGE!" guy and clinically insane. In Multiverse, it's very obvious that Raichi has been embittered and broken by the destruction of his race (which is still fresh in his mind), as he is the last living Tuffle. However, he's still shown to have his own sanity, even if he wants revenge, and even has the capacity for pity, when he freed Tapion because he heard the man was a hero, and also helped Tapion by freeing him from the suffering of Hirudegarn. Whatever one may think of Raichi, he deserves pity more than outright contempt.
  • Dresden Codak: Is Kimiko Ross just a somewhat neurotic girl whose obsession with technology is ultimately harmless, or a budding Omnicidal Maniac Evilutionary Biologist midway through her Start of Darkness? Does she actively want to wipe out the human race for the lulz, or is she merely uncaring towards the fate of a world that she feels has mistreated her? Does she simply object to saving mankind at the price of genociding what she believes to be another sentient race? Is she perhaps a transhumanist messiah who longs to bring about a golden age that would overshadow any paradise imagined by mankind and considers the risk of human extinction well worth it?
  • Girl Genius:
  • Kore from Goblins: while him being a merciless Knight Templar isn't disputed, his status as a paladin is. We don't see him lose his powers for slaughtering innocent beings, and the one time we see him use a paladin power is to heal someone so he can torture him longer. For no reason other than convenience: his screams would draw his allies so Kore wouldn't have to hunt them down one by one. Kore: paladin whose fanaticism has managed to warp the rules? Or deluded but incredibly Bad Ass fallen paladin/blackguard that no one dares to contradict? Manipulated by a powerful, decidedly NOT holy being who grants him paladin-like powers for its own reasons?
    • The axe does go straight through him, so he's either paladin on some technicality or really good at faking it.
  • Reynardine from Gunnerkrigg Court. Has he undergone a Heel-Face Turn? Does he have feelings (paternal? romantic?) for Antimony? Or is he ultimately looking out for his own skin, with his improved behavior stemming from recognition that Annie is the alpha wolf? There's no clear answer.
    • But oh so many hints...
    • As of the Quicksilver chapter- which gave Reynard a Day in the Limelight- at least some of these questions have been resolved. He has grown to love Annie, though probably in a more platonic way than the shippers would like to believe, and her respect is very important to him. His Heel-Face Turn was not a lie, and- according to Word of God- Reynard regrets the murder he committed "every day of his life."
  • This is actually a major plot point in Homestuck with the relationships between the main characters and their parents/guardians.
    • John sees his father as an embarrassing Bumbling Dad with an obsession with clowns, when he really is actually a very boring businessman outside of the home, and not really all that into harlequins. He only collects clown-related figurines and memorabilia because he thinks John is obsessed with them, from observing John's subconscious drawings on the walls of his room.
      • But then, John's dad is also a badass fighter with the ability to lift heavy safes, punch out powerful monsters, and put the Hegemonic Brute in a headlock. He also ran a joke shop with Nanna before it (and she) got hit by the meteor carrying Baby John. Clearly a man of many layers.
    • Rose interprets every action her mom takes as a calculated move in an escalating war of passive-aggressive, spiteful smothering. It's actually been implied throughout the rest of the story that she really does care a great deal for her daughter and wants the best for her (hence the over-the-top pampering), but went slightly nuts after the death of their family cat, Jaspers. Or, per Roxy, is just a bit nuts. And then, there's more to Jaspers's mausoleum than meets the eye...
    • Dave looks up to his Bro as the epitome of coolness, and explains away Bro's seemingly-perverse hobbies and obsession with puppets as a high-tier act of irony that is so multi-layered that he can't even begin to understand it. Many of the readers instead see his hobbies as a downright creepy-as-fuck fetish with no trace of irony whatsoever.
      • Then again, it's possible that Bro really is being ironic and doing all the puppet-fetish stuff with the deliberate intention of weirding out Dave.
      • You can go even further when you realize Bro must have been incredibly young when he found Dave, and may in fact just not know how to raise a kid. Now, whether that means he's outright abusive, well-meaning but not cut out to be a parental figure, or a guy who is genuinely trying his best and doing a pretty good job considering the circumstances...well, that depends entirely on who you're talking to.
    • Jade thinks of her dog Bec as a GOOD DOG BEST FRIEND with her best interests at heart, even if he does have alarming nuclear space superpowers, but it turns out that Bec was created by the bad guys using the genetic code that the Dark (but not evil) Gods warned Rose to destroy. As of this moment, Bec's true motives are unknown.
    • In the fandom itself, everyone has their own opinion on Vriska. Does she genuinely feel remorse for harming her friends? Is she really as in control of the situation as she claims, or is she just a little girl on an ego trip? Does she have any reason to do the things she does other than For the Evulz? It's possible to place her as a Jerkass Woobie. Any way you slice it, though, she's kind of a massive bitch.
  • The author of The KAMics saw the S.M.O.G. board of directors as business people who sometimes have to deal with dangerous people & are forced to sometimes take cowboy justice. The readers saw them as "a bunch of violent, power-mad gits". Of them all Sunshine Marigold got the worst of it being seen as a cold-blooded murderer who eats her victims leading the author to do this cartoon.
  • Megatokyo's Miho is, depending on who you talk to: an emotionally damaged goth girl, a brilliant computer hacker, a Dark Magical Girl, an undead fiend, an artificial inteligence let loose on the net and given corporeal form, or any combination there of. Views on her morality range from being a saintly Broken Bird to being a Poisonous Friend so evil Old Nick himself looks like a pretty swell guy in comparison. It doesn't help matters that writer/artist Fred Gallagher is a notorious sadist who enjoys toying with his fans. Also, she may or may not be bisexual. Bonus Material says she isn't, but it's uncertain how canon it is.
    • Word of God has responded to the sexuality issue in the forums: she's straight, and Gallagher got a little pissed at the theory. In the omakes, however...
    • Your interpretation of Miho is also likely to influence your interpretation of Piro. Followers of the sympathetic interpretations tend to view Piro somewhat of a Jerk Ass because of his uncaring attitude towards Miho's apparent death. However, if you think of Miho as a vindictive psycho ex from hell who is actively trying to sabotage Piro's relationship with Kimiko, then his lack of pathos would seem somewhat justified.
      • Or you can realize that nobody is likely to know that she was dead and in fact to him it may be just some other weird game he's being put through by Miho. Wouldn't put it past her, really, but that's what this trope is about.
    • Largo. Heroic cyberpunkish hacker genius who is the only one who truly understands the threat, or an insensitive incompetent idiot who succeeds mostly by dumb luck and causes computers around him to spontaneously combust just by looking at them?
    • One could argue that this is all intentional as, as the series progressed, Piro and Largo have started to almost seem to inhabit different universes. The entire series might just be an exercise in this trope, with the various characters actually changing depending on whose story they happen to find themselves in. Each character is either an inhabitant of a rather varied world, their personal stories each just highlighting a particular facet of that world or part of a not all that varied world, with just the telling of it varying to their POV. Or the author is making it up as he goes.
      • Now you're catching on. The greatest irony of, say, the Largo example above is that both views are equally valid and no doubt intentionally so, yet many fans cling to one view and deny the other. This probably also applies to many other examples on this page.
      • The interpretation that Largo, at least since the original writer left, has been a non-heroic hacker genius who doesn't like having responsibility, so he acts incompetent enough that Piro has to take care of him, insensitive enough that he doesn't have to care for anyone, and he is like he is around Erika because she, aside from Miho who's already been discredited in Piro's eyes, is the only one who sees through his act. (and he's been trying to make things as difficult as possible for Piro as revenge for putting him on a plane to Japan while passed-out drunk.)
    • Is Piro himself the only sane, rational man who is able to see the faults of his own slightly misguided fantasies of a romantic relationship, the only one in the comic brave enough to realize and confront them, and the only one who truly cares about Kimiko? Or is he a whining, passive/aggressive insert character who lets his neuroticisms get the better of him and all the people in the strip who care about him only to have the blame passed to other people, especially the girls, whilst he gets out scot free?
      • For that matter, is Kimiko a saintly Broken Bird who has been more than understanding towards Piro and his various neuroses and whose self-esteem and relationship issues are due to having been burnt in love, or just a wangsty minor celebrity who builds up unrealistic fantasies concerning the people around her, lashes out at the people involved when her fantasies prove to be just that, punishes herself by sabotaging her relationships with the people who actually do care about her, and then has the nerve to complain that people only love her for her fiction persona, and not for who she really is?
      • Moreover, is the Piro/Kimiko relationship a hasty, ill-advised hook-up that is ultimately doom to failure, or a heroic love between two deeply flawed individuals who have managed to find strength in each other to become better people?
    • Also, who is the more admirable character, Piro or Largo? Piro, despite acting in a more socially acceptable way, is solely focused on his own little world, barely noticing anything else, such as that Erika was once one of his favourite idols or that Tokyo really is infested with zombies and monsters and such, or that the robot girl staying with him that he ignores has some humanity within her. Largo, a complete nut case, has shown to be quite justified in his paranoid delusions, preparing for zombie attacks, which eventually happen, and also stopping hackers from discovering Erika, which they do and causes problems. Also, he does help others, giving Yuki his phone while she was tracking Miho and helping Erika set up her own computer system so she could protect herself form her fans in a completely platonic way after she told him she didn't want a relationship or anything like that.
  • Emily from Misfile is either a heterosexual girl attracted to Ash but unable to go further in their relationship because Ash is currently a girl or a lesbian/bisexual in denial who simply doesn't want to accept that she's attracted to another girl. Which interpretation of her character you believe depends upon which side of the shipping war you fall on.
    • Rumisiel is either a textbook alcoholic stoner who needs to be pummeled at every opportunity for being such a massive Jerk Ass loser, or he is a pretty decent guy who has some major self-esteem issues which caused him to take refuge in aforementioned substances and is actually of at least above average intelligence.
      • There are some that take that former even farther: plenty have noted that he could easily be an Unreliable Narrator about the story behind the misfile, especially in regards to his supervisors. If you take this to a radical extent, it could very easily be that he was flat-out lying when he said the people in charge of the Celestial Bureaucracy would make the changes permanent to cover their own asses. Rather it's really he who is lying to cover his own ass by making the two people that remember the change afraid to let anyone know about it before he can fix it/cover it up himself.
    • This is probably way off the wall, but God: an omnipotent slacker who passed off his job to the Celestial Bureaucracy, or an active deity going out of his way to set up circumstances to improve the lives of a bunch of humans and help a pair of angels atone for mistakes while fixing up an imperfect filing system prone to a misfile.
  • Amical from morphE either kills people for fun and has no empathy to even contemplate why anyone would be upset with him for kidnapping them and putting them in an Involuntary Battle to the Death. Or he is a philanthropist within the mage community who seeks to train and raise new mages away from the crapsack New World of Darkness where they would be vulnerable. It is all heavily dependent on how deep your understanding of the awakened world and leniency for "broken eggs" when making an omelet.
  • The original Nuzlocke Comic as well as the many offshoot comics done by others often have these for most if not all the characters that appear in the main Pokemon canon but have a little or no characterization. The rival, (Blue/Green/Gary from R/B/G/Y and the remakes especially), the Gym Leaders and the Elite Four are the most common. Pot head Ericka from the original comic really takes the cake.
    • The added grimness of a person's Pokemon possibly being killed also adds a frequent point of variation in showing how gym leaders and other trainers respond to death on the battlefield. Any given gym leader could be portrayed as a professional who has accepted death as a natural consequence of battle, a friendly foe who's honestly shocked at seeing their opponent's Pokemon die, or an utter Jerkass who gloats and rubs the loss in their face.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Vaarsuvius: Insufferable Genius who occasionally commits morally questionable acts, but still, ultimately, means well, Jerk with a Heart of Gold who couldn't care less about saving the world, but is nonetheless extremely loyal to his/her friends, or full-blown Sociopathic Hero who takes sadistic pleasure at tormenting Belkar (not that he doesn't deserve it) and only cares about increasing his/her own arcane power, no matter what the cost? Good? Neutral? Evil, or merely traumatized and in need of therapy? Male? Female? Genderless? A mixed-sex team of ninjas who randomly switch places whenever no one is looking?
    • Miko: self-righteous Knight Templar with a chosen-of-god complex, almost incapable of seeing anything but her own ego and her own view of the world? Or an isolated young woman who used ego-boosting statements her lord once told her to help get her through those years of lonely, loyal service, which resulted in an attitude creating a vicious cycle of arrogance and isolation. Her execution of Lord Shojo: brutal act done in a completely unjustified bout of self-righteous fury? Or someone finally snapping from the feelings of betrayal that her lord would trust foreigners (which include an unrepentant murderer) over his own loyal order, the stress of seeing an army powerful enough to crush her homeland on their doorstop, and her years of isolation and religious zealotry (plus maybe severe head trauma resulting from the MitD slamming her through a wall, landing headfirst onto a solid surface, right before having a horse land on her head). Miko: picture perfect example on how not to play a paladin, or someone in desperate need of a therapist? Whatever is your answer, SHUT UP ABOUT IT ALREADY!
    • Lord Shojo himself. Fans are divided as to whether he was an amoral Jerk Ass who misused his office as commander of the Sapphire Guard for his own personal gain, perverting the very rules he was sworn to uphold in the process, or a Guile Hero who did everything in his power to fulfill his duty to safe-guard the Gates, even if it meant abandoning the outdated and overly restricted system of rules which the Guard's founder had set in place.
      • Technically, he did not try everything in his power. Rich points out in his commentary that Shojo did not even try to convince the paladins that there was a need to abandon the oaths, and that his complete disregard for the oaths and his paladins was asking for trouble (though he did not deserve the summary execution), and Celia's summary at the trial was a pointed summary about how changing the rules when they needed to be changed can still be in the spirit of Lawful.
      • or a strongruler who truly cared about everyone in his city and worked for the greater good in ways that could be considered wrong by some, who understood all too well that being lawful comes second to the amount of people that live to see another day, every day... and didn't try to convince other he was right, but instead tried to avoid conflict with his own people as much as he could]]... what?
      • "It's all well and good for you paladins to stick for your convictions, but if I make a mistake, half a million citizens pay for it"
      • Since the other members of the Order of the Scribble were convinced that Soon would break his word and send someone or go himself, and the location given to Soon regarding Girard's Gate was actually booby-trapped to explode quite powerfully, apparently keeping the Oaths was not such a bad idea after all.
    • Is the Big Bad Xykon a Too Dumb to Live Evil Overlord who's only redeeming feature is being fairly Genre Savvy, or an intelligent Card-Carrying Villain who is REALLY bored?
      • Or is he both, the prequel Start of Darkness shows him throughout his life and he shows all of these traits. While Redcloak's plot distracts from it Xykon does undergo character development, but instead of going from self-centered and foolish to kind and empathetic, he goes from blunt and incompetant to forward thinking and cunning. He isn't stupid he just tends to rely on his powers too much instead of using his brain, so when he does both it's scarily effective such as when he defeats a room full of paladins with a bouncy ball, enchanted with a symbol of insanity.
    • Celia: Too Dumb to Live, or a Genius Ditz that's out of her element?
      • She was hired, presumably having not been to the prime material plane before, to guard an artifact that attracts and controls out of date monsters, not only has her only experience on the prime plane been hanging around in an isolated dungeon with no humans, but she might have been there since the editions changed, no wonder she had no idea what's going on so often, she is immensely out of date.
    • Redcloak: Xykon's servant doing all the boring work or a supreme manipulator using Xykon as a weapon? For that matter, given the history of his grievances, truly evil or merely desperate?
      • As for the first question he belives himself to be the latter.
      • Tsukiko has her own interpretation of Redckloak, considering him spineless coward who does Xykon's dirty job, because he is afraid of him. She also has Draco in Leather Pants threatment for Xykon and undeads in general. Combination of those two makes her belive that she can treat Redcloak like crap. It comes to bite her in the ass. And everywhere else too.
  • Planescape Survival Guide is built on this trope. You won't find Swiftbow's interpretations of Aoskar the Portal God or The Lady of Pain in many Planescape sourcebooks. Apropriately, it's one of the things most likely to turn Planescape fans off to the comic, but makes no apologies for it at least.
  • Questionable Content: Marten is a spineless coward who has been bullied into non-stop apologies for his own real and legitimate feelings.
  • Happens a bit in Sluggy Freelance. This thread shows just how ridiculously deep Sluggy fans can try to probe into the characters' psyches. Can sometimes creep into the strip itself during guest artist filler arcs, like this one.
  • Something similar is (arguably deliberately) played with in Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki, where the lead is also a man magically transformed into a buxom Magical Girl. She dates boys and has a female best friend who may be in love with her. Is the friend in love with the boy inside the girl? The girl the boy has become? Bi-curious? Just a really good friend? Who knows?
  • Warbot In Accounting: Clearly, warbots are something that people in this universe are passingly familiar with. Why, then, do they insist on interacting with an object that is known to be incredibly heavy, clumsy, mute, dangerous, etc. as though he's no different from a normal human? The answer: they're anti-warbot protestors who are continuing a mission of sabotage against the warbots, deliberately torturing the A.I. and stringing it along and making it feel like every bad thing that happens to it are its fault when really they're just trying to goad it into losing its temper, with catastrophic results!
    • There is also the theory that warbots can speak perfectly fine, X-17 just suffers from crippling social anxiety and clams up in public. It explains why people speak to him and act confused when he doesn't respond.
    • Jossed. According to the FAQ, "Warbots talk the way guns do."
      • Warbots are sentient beings. Warbots were banned because they killed too many people. But instead of being allowed to live, they were killed and are now suffering enternally in Hell. It explains everything, really!
  • Some have theorized that Fighter of 8-Bit Theatre is aware of his surroundings and the overall amorality of his comrades, he's just manipulating them for his own righteous uses (and possibly to kill them later).
    • This has been suggested by Fighter himself, of all people.
    • While everyone agrees that Black Mage is a horrifically sadistic mass-murdering "Heroic" Sociopath, there's disagreement as to whether he's the universe's Chew Toy because he's that evil or he became that evil because he was the universe's Chew Toy initially; the old chicken-or-egg dilemma.
      • And now we have an answer or rather we can show that there is no answer because it's a stable time loop, he abused the Onion kid, who became Sarda who made BM's life miserable.
      • And remember that the White Mage, who hates him with ever fiber of her being, accidentally created the universe. Yeah, pretty damn chicken-or-egg.
      • On the other hand, he does mention that when he's done burning the world, he laments about how there will be no more world to burn, makes it seem that he probably did start the attack.
      • The Black Mage vs the Universe debate has also had the theory that the universe is not trying to kill Black Mage so much as it is desperately trying to keep him too distracted to achieve his actual potential; therefore, anything that can happen to keep him alive, in pain, and not focused on his hatred of the universe itself will happen, since existence will end if Black Mage ever gets to a point he can strike back at life for the hand it dealt him, like taking over Hell.
    • Is Sarda a Jerkass or a Trickster Mentor?
      • "Or"?
    • Is Garland a hack barely capable of pathetic excuses for evil or is he a man who has feigned ignorance and more or less outwitted Drizz'l and now convinced Sarda's he's not worth killing?

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