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  • The Trust from 100 Bullets can be regarded as inadvertent heroes. Sure, they've controlled all the crime in the country since before it was founded. But, by keeping the kingdoms of Europe from dividing America up into lots of tiny territories, they have made America remarkably free of war compared to Europe, and they have allowed it to act as the Arsenal of Democracy in both World Wars. True, they only did that great thing because a united America is easier to exploit. But in the long run, the freedom from the devastation of war probably more than makes up for all the stuff they've stolen.
  • Archie Comics:
    • Reggie Mantle's jerkassery has become something of an Informed Attribute over the years, as his character has definitely softened and become more sympathetic while characters (including himself) still describe him as "Rotten Reggie". It's gotten to the point where many readers consider Reggie to be the everyman who represents teens as a whole instead of the Jerkass Proud Elite, and think of Archie as a milquetoast goodie-goodie instead of the everyman he's meant to be.
    • Why exactly Betty and Veronica like Archie, to the point of fighting over him constantly and not minding his fickle heart, is up for multiple interpretations.
    • Jughead has been interpreted as asexual by many, or as being in love with Archie but hiding it. The latter got especially popular when Kevin appeared and he and Jughead got along easy. Archie and Jughead being lovers (along other theories about comic book characters) gets mentioned in Chasing Amy. Him being ace is Ascended Fanon as of the Archie Comics (2015) reboot.
  • Is Cacofonix in Asterix truly a Dreadful Musician or is he The Rock Star Born in the Wrong Century, who, if he was living 2000 years later, would have been viewed as a genius instead of just a public nuisance? There are several scenes which imply this, such as when a fortune-teller tells him that voices like his would be very popular in the future (leading to him fantasising about a sell-out show in a modern concert hall), the fact that the characters who genuinely enjoy his music are trendy characters who are shown to be way ahead of their time, how he styles his hair like a modern rock star (and uses the mannerisms occasionally), how the songs he sings are all historically-themed parodies of well-known modern songs, and how he explicitly plays "heavy metal" at one point. The Disney Acid Sequence from the Animated Adaptation of The Big Fight depicts him as an 80s rock star, playing decent 80s-style rock music, to the disgust of the other characters. However, other stories suggest his singing is objectively off-key, and that he has a loud, penetrating voice that's just really painful to listen to. It's possible that blues-style singing could be interpreted as 'flat' by characters who have never heard it before, but whether his voice is objectively horrible is impossible to know.
  • Batman has been subject to numerous alternate canon interpretations. Some depict him as a noble crusader against crime; others make him a borderline psychopath barely removed from the lunatics he spends his life fighting.
    • His relationships have also come under examination; debates about his sexuality rage wildly. There are tons of easy targets for jokes about that last part.
    • The various interpretations of Batman are the inspiration behind this image merging Batman with Dungeons & Dragons Character Alignment.
    • One of the most raging questions about Batman concern civilian identity Bruce Wayne. Is he simply a mask that Batman wears during the day, a popular interpretion since Batman: The Dark Knight Returns? Or is Bruce a real person who's made the rational - within the DCU - decision to fight crime while dressed as a bat? The stories that most support the former view are those where Bruce most throws himself into the Rich Idiot With No Day Job act. When he tries to take an active role and takes up civic involvement in Gotham's problems, it shores up the latter interpretation.
    • This is strongly lampshaded in short story "Viewpoint", where newspaper publisher hires bunch of writers to give him their own interpretations of Batman in hope to make their common element - truth about Batman - more clear. He's very disappointed to find out that their visions have nothing in common.
    • This is also played with in Neil Gaiman's Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? in which different characters tell stories that show their contradictory interpretations of Batman.
      • Through they all have one thing in common - in all the stories told Batman dies because he refuses to (or maybe cannot?) give up. When he finally dies for real, he is reborn on another Earth, as infant Bruce Wayne, to one day become Batman once again.
    • This is Lampshaded in an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold that was directed at the show's detractors. In it, Bat-Mite lectures a group of fanboys about how many character shifts Batman has gone through since the Golden Age, and sums it all up by saying a Batman who goes on sci-fi adventures and cracks jokes is just as valid and true to the source material as a Batman who's a grim vigilante that slinks through alleyways while angrily screaming into the night.
    • From Batman: Hush, during his fight with Superman:
      If Clark wanted to, he could use his superspeed and squish me into the cement. But I know how he thinks. Even more than the Kryptonite, he's got one big weakness. Deep down, Clark's essentially a good person...and deep down, I'm not.
  • Black Canary: Her relationship with Oliver and her motivation for continuing to go back to him after their many break-ups. Either they're a genuinely loving couple who have both made mistakes and gone through a rough patch, or they're an incredibly destructive mess with both having massive issues that they've constantly failed to work on. In-canon, this has been shown with her having a stable relationship with Mid-Nite, only to abandon it to get back together with Oliver despite the fight they were having all the while.
  • Deadpool: a Chaotic Neutral Heroic Comedic Sociopath who tries to be a better person? Or a Chaotic Evil Villain Protagonist who can't change anything about himself?
    • Deadpool may be emoting the three Freudian archetypes of the mind; Superego, Ego and Id. His white caption box is the most sensible one, and thus the Superego. The more out of touch yellow caption box is Ego, a less sensible one. His chaotic, random persona word balloons and occasional change to his POV are the Id, the no before or after thought.
    • Or maybe, as Uncanny X-Force writer Rick Remender suggests, is Wade a Sad Clown who just wants to be loved?
      • This theory is backed up by one story where Deadpool decides to kill off his entire fanbase so his comic can end and he can just die.
  • Doctor Doom has been portrayed as everything from a Well-Intentioned Extremist noble villain to a sadistic brutal Card-Carrying Villain, depending on who was writing the story at the time.
  • Doctor Strange during his time as a surgeon is always shown as the biggest, most selfish jerk possible. But Brian K. Vaughan's the Oath miniseries implied that maybe he was this way because he couldn't cope with his inability to save everybody, and instead of getting emotionally invested, he had chosen to distance himself from his patients, becoming a greedy, uncaring jerk in the process.
    • As it was pointed out during his initial adventures Strange might have been the most rational of all Marvel superheroes, lacking the irresponsibility constantly shown by Reed Richards and Bruce Banner during those days and not sending kids to fight his war, like Charles Xavier.
  • Fantastic Four
    • Is Reed Richards really such an arrogant, aloof guy? Or is he so superintelligent that he can't relate to other people? Or is he overcompensating for the guilt he still feels over getting his family transformed into freaks? Or, as suggested by Grant Morrison, does he have Asperger's syndrome?
  • The Flash: Hunter Zolomon (Zoom/Reverse-Flash II) is a man who experienced repeated tragedy through his life, and after his spine is broken and Wally West refuses to use time travel to fix it, he accidentally gives himself superspeed (sort of). He resolves that the reason Wally didn't help him is that Wally has never experienced tragedy, and decides to become Wally's Arch-Nemesis in order to better Wally by attacking his friends and family and being the villain that will make Wally step up. Does Hunter truly believe that tragedy will make Wally better, and is merely too mentally unbalanced to realise that he himself could be a hero as he meets his own criteria for a great hero? Or is Hunter just a sad, broken man looking for an excuse to hurt Wally because Wally didn't help him? Or is it a mix of both?
  • In Gotham Central, Dr. Alchemy asks Det. Renee Montoya if she ever beats her girlfriend. Rather than immediately denying it, angrily or otherwise, she repeatedly avoids answering the question until he points out that she's evading the question, at which point she says, "Never in my life." Does she just refuse to answer at first because it's an outrageous and offensive question, or because she has in fact beaten her girlfriend, or maybe just thought about it? Or has she perhaps hit a different girlfriend? Later, in 52, we see her trade hits with an ex-girlfriend, Kate Kane, although, to be fair, Kate hits her first.
  • Irredeemable and its spin-off series Incorruptible:
    • The Plutonian: A self-absorbed Ax-Crazy Psychopathic Manchild in waiting whose rampage was guaranteed as soon as he found an excuse? Or a Broken Ace who suffered from a lifetime of rejection and alienation and tried to be a good hero (even if it was ultimately for selfish reasons) until he was pushed over the edge after making a tragic mistake that cost him the things that he valued most? In light of the reveal that he was originally a probe sent by his multiverse traveling parents that took on a human form after responding to the strong emotions of a distraught woman who went insane from the death of her child, possibly corrupting him from the start, one could even debate whether Tony ever really had a choice to become a monster or not.
    • Max Damage: Is he a former career criminal who was pushed to make a genuine effort to reform after seeing the horror the Plutonian inflicted and how helpless he was when it happened, along with figuring that the Plutonian's fall would have dark consequences for humanity? A man who had the potential to become a great hero all along but wasted it on crime? And just how much of his reformation was pushed by genuine regret for his crimes as opposed to rational self-interest or even trying to one-up his longtime arch-nemesis?
    • Survivor: A heroic man who was pushed over the edge from the Plutonian's rampage and the responsibility of keeping order in the world? Or is his increasingly Jerkass attitude the way he always wanted to act, but couldn't, because somebody had to take care of his reckless brother? And for that matter, is he trying to act like his brother in hoping to win Kaidan's heart?
    • Qubit: A Wide-Eyed Idealist trying to find the way to stop Plutonian without killing him? Deluded? Just incapable of breaking his technical pacifism? Is he in love with him?
    • Alana: a kind woman who suffered from the dangers of dating a man like the Plutonian (who also played her for a fool using his Dan Hartigan persona) and justifiably got angry at him for keeping her in the dark about his human disguise? A reformed Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who took advantage of the prestige that came from dating Tony and was petty enough to out Tony's secret identity even if her anger was warranted? Alana is shown to blame herself for the Plutonian's rampage since she tattled his secret identity so either one can fit with this.
  • Iznogoud:
    • Is Wa'at Alaaf truly loyal to Iznogoud, or does he serves him and helps him only because he knows his whole situation depends from him? Especially ambiguous in that some of the books contradict each others on that point.
    • Conversely, it's left ambiguous in later books if Iznogoud does care to some extent about Wa'at or just sees him as a pawn. A scene in Who Killed the Caliph especially stands out, as it features Iznogoud being horrified when he realizes Wa'at is about to get beheaded and immediatly rushing to save him.
  • This /co/ post has suggested the idea of J. Jonah Jameson as a Secret Secret-Keeper who is tough on Spider-Man in order to motivate him to keep working harder in defending the city. Other interpretations:
    • Jameson is a huckster, and the Bugle is a borderline-tabloid, which he uses for his anti-Spidey crusade regardless of facts.
    • Jameson is the Butt-Monkey, just there for comic relief.
    • Jameson is a good, honest newspaperman, and the Bugle is a good paper, he just happens to have a bug up his butt about Spidey.
    • Jameson is a psychopath who has commissioned the creation of lethal anti-Spidey robots, and he should be in jail.
    • Jameson is a rugged idealist who believes that Spider-Man has a duty to protect the people of New York, and he runs his anti-Spidey crusade to ensure that he'll never be able to selfishly use his powers for wealth or fame.
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac stomps on this frequently, so much so that the eponymous character doesn't even know the answer himself. Is he the last thin line between the Crapsack World he hates and Eldritch Abominations behind his blood-spattered walls, or is he just an over-dramatic artist prone to schizophrenic fugue states? Or is Johnny just a figment of Squee's imagination, a product of his obviously neglected childhood?
  • Speaking of Batman, there's his main enemy, The Joker. Though he started off dark and creepy, he spent most of the '40s, '50s, and '60s as a mostly harmless lawbreaking jester. Then, after Batman was remade into the dark and brooding hero he was originally, the Joker returns to his homicidal maniac origins; then we get to "The Killing Joke," in which he shoots Barbara Gordon (formerly Batgirl) through the spine, and then kidnaps and tortures Commissioner Gordon more or less for the hell of it. And then there was "Death in the Family" and countless other stories in which the Joker gets crazier as time goes on. Even in the movies, he has changed from one appearance to the next. The Movie of the 1966 series portrayed him as the madman crook. Jack Nicholson, famous creepy maniac, portrayed him as a former gangster turned creepy maniac making the best of his deformities by incorporating them into a costume. The Dark Knight's Heath Ledger appeared to be a suicidal nihilist out for nothing more thought out than causing chaos.
    • Though he's traditionally portrayed as chaotic and capable of adapting on the fly to any situation, Grant Morrison's Batman & Robin run has suggested that, in fact, the opposite is true: as Axe-Crazy as he is, he's been able to survive confrontations with Batman for so long because he's Crazy-Prepared and already has a plan for everything. And the Monster Clown persona is a facade that lets him channel his homicidal urges. At heart, he's not a Monster Clown....he's just a monster.
    • Also, does the Joker break the fourth wall for comedic effect at the whim of the writers, in which case anything he says while Breaking the Fourth Wall is barely canon? Or is his suggested "super sanity" giving him canonical awareness of the reality of comic books? In either case, does this extend to the other adaptations? Did Nicholson's mobster-Joker go insane because of his accident causing deformity or because it let him know that we're watching his misery for entertainment?
      • If he knows that he's in a comic book, then his behavior might have been hand-waved in his own mind because his victims only exist to be his victims. Even the Gordon family and other named victims are not actual people in our level of reality. Maybe the only reason he keeps committing crimes and going up against Batman is because he doesn't want the comics to end. Because then it would be like he ceased to exist. And he doesn't want to die.
      • In fact, Joker might even be said to be committing horrible crimes to get Batman involved because otherwise the entire world he exists in would cease! Joker is forced to murder, rob and prank people to save the entire universe. He's not the hero Gotham wants, but he's the villain Gotham needs.
    • Does the Joker believe in the nihilist sayings he prattles on about every so often, or are they all meaningless words to him, another part of the joke intended solely to screw with the minds of the sane?
    • Batman: Black And White - Case Study by Paul Dini puts forth a particularly brilliant alternative; the Joker is completely sane. Back before the chemical vat incident, he was a crime boss who played his anonymity to the hilt in order to do whatever he wanted. Afterward, he knew that was no longer possible, so he created the "Clown Prince Of Crime" persona of Obfuscating Insanity solely so he would be sent to Arkham whenever he was caught - he purposefully invented Joker Immunity! The doctors are ecstatic when they discover an old report claiming this - and then orderlies drag Harley Quinn past, and she comments that she wrote that report before she started counseling the Joker. The Joker drove Quinn insane to invalidate her findings once he realized that she had figured out his scheme. And he left the report where it would be found just so he could Yank the Dog's Chain.
    • Then DC Rebirth revealed there to be three Jokers...
  • In Jupiter's Circle, did Walter really brainwash Sunny into loving him, or was he lying to provoke George to attack him?
  • The Batman miniseries, The Long Halloween has four interpretations regarding Gilda Dent's confession about committing the first Holiday murders:
    • As Gilda believed, she committed the first murders, then - as she believes - a pre-Two-Face Harvey Dent committed the others until Labor Day, when Alberto Falcone, who publicly took credit for the murders, killed Sal Maroni.
    • Gilda committed the first murders, but starting with Alberto faking his own death on New Year's Day, he reapportioned the identity for himself and committed the other murders. Gilda stated she's read Harvey's files to get an idea of how to cover up her tracks. As this points out, having Harvey commit the other murders takes away from his fall from grace and transformation into Two-Face.
    • Gilda snapped from Harvey's transformation into Two-Face and became delusional and started thinking she started the Holiday murders and the truth is Alberto really did commit all the murders. People who support this theory point out there's no switch in M.O., which given Batman is doing forensic tests in one issue, would been noticeable, and there aren't two murders on New Year's, which should've happened if Gilda quit, and someone else picked it up and Alberto would have no idea about another murder. Additionally, Gilda was in ICU during the Thanksgiving murder and a wheelchair in Christmas and the murders on Mother's Day, Independence Day, and Carmine Falcone's birthday were about covering up Holiday's identity, and even Alberto had motives the early murders as they're all people who'd turned on his father or could turn, and/or failed him. Also, despite Gilda saying she'd read Harvey's files, she reacts with surprise that he brought his files home with him shortly before Maroni threw acid in Harvey's face.
    • Gilda, Harvey, and Alberto committed some of the murders each.
    • Related to these, whether or not Calendar Man really did know anything about the murders or was just blowing smoke out of his ass to keep from being overshadowed. As the link in the third interpretation mentions, he was already switching the gender pronouns around before the possible change in killers happened.
    • There's the question on if Carmine Falcone truly knew about Alberto's actions. While Batman suspects he does and it seems like he made sure Sofia wouldn't see Alberto shoot at the Riddler, some of the murders aimed at members of Falcone's family and Alberto's cold behavior to his father raise doubts as to this. For what it's worth, though, Batman does suspect that the argument between the two is staged and despite Alberto saying Falcone didn't know he was born on Valentine's Day, Carmine did visit Alberto's "grave" on that exact day.
    • Did Sofia really love Sal Maroni or was she just using him? Depending on one reads it, it makes her killing Alberto in Dark Victory not just killing him for not being like Carmine, but also revenge for the one Holiday killing that is definitely Alberto's.
    • Gordon spent a good portion of the story dragging his feet when Harvey discovers a connection between Thomas Wayne and Carmine Falcone (which turned out to be Thomas saving Falcone's life after Falcone's father swung by Wayne Manor). Was it due to a lack of evidence, because he feared Harvey was going off the deep end already, or because (much like what was implied in Batman: Year One) he knew Bruce was Batman (which would explain some of Bruce's behavior) and didn't want to expose him?
  • What is the nature of Scrooge McDuck's infamous "between the legs" line in The Prisoner of White Agony Creek?
    • He made a Freudian Slip because he's subconsciously attracted to Goldie at the time.
    • He made a deliberate Double Entendre because he's consciously attracted to Goldie but still hates her then and was deliberately screwing with her.
    • He's a Chaste Hero who had no idea what he was saying, having eliminated love and relationships from his life long ago.
  • Canon Example: Moon Knight. Obsessive Abraham Van Helsing style werewolf hunter, Costumed vigilante, Batman parody, agent of a spirit of vengeance, super hero, mercenary looking for redemption, just a puppet of khonshu, and schizophrenic sadist are just some of his many possible variants, all of whom are canon personalities.
  • Preacher is full of this. The morality of almost everybody does have at least one alternate interpretation. God must be punished...or Jesse is just a Jerkass drunk who has suddenly been confirmation of God's existence and the power to do something about it. The Saint of Killers has been screwed over by God and Satan, only reluctantly hunting Jesse and ends up siding with him, killing God and his angelic host, then replacing him as an ironically more benevolent God.
  • The Punisher. Older comics tend to portray him as being just a jaded, cynical man who wants to make absolutely, positively sure that the criminals he stops aren't going to wind up in a Cardboard Prison to break out again and commit crimes like the one that killed his family. Some newer interpretations paint him closer to a Serial Killer who's using the death of his family as an excuse to vent his bloodlust; these see his actions as more like bloody murder than vigilantism. The second interpretation greatly pleases some fans and infuriates others to no end.
    • He could be both. It's been over 30 years (which is about 7 years in Comic-Book Time) since his family was killed. He might have been just cynical back then; but after so long, he's bound to be a little crazy.
    • The Punisher presents a special problem: The arguments for his being in the moral right (killing some people to save many) require him to live in a world where his logic is true. Unfortunately, he lives in a world where other ways of solving things constantly show up. Naturally, he seems a little crazy.
      • Case in point - he's portrayed as a lunatic more commonly when he's co-starring with other heroes like Daredevil. In his own book, he's shown in a more positive light.
      • His more extreme stories in The Punisher MAX are not canonical with the main Marvel Universe.
    • Even writers started to pick ups sides in this one - Greg Rucka has repeatedly stated that he dislikes interpretation of Frank as crazy because somebody not sane in his situation would have break down long time ago.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws: Jason is trying too hard to copy Bruce by wearing his symbol and forming a team which is a knock-off of the Outsiders. At the same time, he's using an identity that belonged to the Joker, and his teammates are his surrogate brother's friend and ex-girlfriend. Jason is trying too hard to make up for, or rather, hide, the fact that he has absolutely nothing in his life except his rage and resentment by taking things and friends that belong to other people. Does he honestly give a damn about Starfire and Roy, or is just using them because he considers Roy to be nothing more than a pathetic hanger on and Starfire as an emotionally devoid alien powerhouse with a skewed sense of memory and a warped physical perception of human beings. The fact that he only included the two on his team because he washed up on Starfire's island and learned Roy was about to be executed adds to the credence that his team was only put together through half-assed improvisation.
  • The Riddler: Insufferable Genius who's obsessed with proving his superiority over Batman, or a seriously ill criminal whose compulsion to tell the truth is what drives him to leave riddles?
  • Chaste Hero Robin/Red Robin Tim Drake's indifference and avoidance of adding sex to his relationships, as well as him never falling for the Honey Pot has created a theory that he is the DC universe's first Asexual or Demisexual character (Demi fits better with cannon as he and his long time girlfriend Stephanie Brown decide to have sex after years of dating in Convergence).
  • Some people believe that Death is a bitch. Sure, she is supposed to be kind, but there are hints of wanton cruelty and schadenfreude underneath it. Particularly striking is the scene in Endless Nights where she casually strolls through a time-frozen party, telling everyone how they really died and watching them do so, including the children. Sure, it may have been an homage to "The Masque of the Red Death" but it did seem unnecessarily vindictive to do it in that way, especially considering her expression the whole time.
    • This was from the distant past. All of the Endless' characterizations have moved on since then. How far in the past? Back then, Dream still liked Desire, the first Despair was still alive, and Delirium was still Delight. It's possible that Death hadn't started her "one day as mortal a century" yet, either, which would explain why she was acting the way she did.
    • Death doesn't decide when people die or how. She just states the fact to people who are trying to deny it and takes pleasure for a frustrating job finally getting done. Also, in this world, death is not the end.
    • The party took place long, long after she changed her ways. And they were dead already. They would have died anyway by the time she finally got in to take them.
    • Neil Gaiman himself has said that there's a perfectly valid story to be told about how Dream was an insufferable jerk and Desire's actions were entirely justified. It's just not the one he told.
  • The League of Ramona's Evil Ex-Boyfriends in Scott Pilgrim could be just a group therapy comprising emotionally destroyed people who loved Ramona Flowers. She broke all their hearts in the worst ways possible, and she didn't care how messed up they became. Gideon could be half evil and half broken; the rest just want to keep Ramona from doing it all over again and are messed up in thinking that beating her new potential love interests (Scott, for example) will break the cycle.
    • Done on purpose for the film adaptation, where if it was about Stephan and his band trying to make it big, but Scott accidentally screws up by being strung on Ramona and they only get successful without him, just like his own ex-girlfriend.
      • However it was thanks to Scott they managed to perform against the twins in the first place since Stephen's nerves got to him and Scott had to double-slap sense back into him (that and the band consisted of Scott and people he met in various points in life.)
    • Some fans point out that half of the "evil exes" seem like okay people - better people, in fact, than Scott. And all of them are actually doing something with their lives and accomplishing things; they're artists, musicians, inventors, and so on, not just slackers. From the point of view of a complete stranger, some crazy loser just murdered seven talented celebrities.
      • A big problem with this interpretation is it fails to take into account that the League were the instigators and provocateurs. Matthew Patel has usually been seen with a rather unsettling, possibly manic look in his eyes (even back as a middle schooler) and we know little else besides his mystic powers. Lucas Lee was admittingly pretty decent (although he was a Jerkass in the film) who's only problem was not letting Ramona go (that and probably overreacting to being called a 'sell-out'.) Todd Ingram is a bit complicated in that while he had a good relationship with Envy, he was cheating on her with the drummer (before he undergoes a Villainous Breakdown). Roxie seemed like a decent individual, but still participate and didn't hesitate to slice a bus. The twins weren't exactly pleasant and their robots caused Scott some trouble before they performed successful kidnapping on Kim Pine. Gideon seemed like a crazier modern version of Charles Kane. Also, Pattel and the twins (least in the books) were not famous at all. Regardless, they still chose to attack first and could be prosecuted with multiple crimes while Scott was protecting himself and his friends.
    • Scott may be the psychological and or emotional clutch for many if not all his friends. Kim Pine has self-esteem issues masked behind her mildly misanthropic nature, Stephen may act neurotic and has a knack for entering unhealthy relationships. This isn't counting for lesser-known characters like Neil, who we know little about. We see glimpses of them when they're not around Scott and they're usually not happy. In fact, many of the happy moments tend to be when they are together with Scott. Even those like Wallace Wells could be considered as Wallace seems to drink alot and occasionally seen as a hedonist. Knives has her friend, but was focused mainly on her studies and didn't know much of the outside world until meeting Scott. Even (or rather, especially) Ramona herself, as Scott proves to be the one for her and the one who ultimately gives her the confidence in moving forward. This could explain why they deal with Scott and his problems, because they really don't have any other friends (or even may not be capable of making friends with others). Scott is what holds the gang together since it was formed from everyone meeting him. Without him, the group would fall apart and would result in them being miserable lonely people.
  • Spider-Man: Battle-hardened self-taught warrior using a combination of wit, intelligence, strength, and bitter experience to become a dangerous foe? Or young, inexperienced, naive newbie who can't keep his mouth shut? Even the writers aren't sure.
    • Granted, these ideas are not exclusive nor do they contradict each other. In fact, it would make the most sense for him to start as the latter and become the former over time.
    • In his review of One More Day, Linkara paints a chilling picture of Spidey as an irresponsible hypocrite who suffers from a severe case of Aesop Amnesia, hurts his friends and loved ones under the guise of "something more important came up as Spider-Man" and making excuses for himself, never taking the time to make any long term plans in life (he has no life insurance for starters) and never made any plans to help his family if the very real possibility of him getting killed in action were to occur. (In fairness, Linkara does bring up that a huge part of the problem stems from how the writers and Marvel editorial seem to adamantly refuse to let Peter Parker grow up and act his age, and part of his rant is his own personal jaded perspective.)
    • Just... take a look at this series of essays on Goblin...
  • Superman:
    • The debate has raged for years over who is the real personality, Superman or Clark Kent? Pre-Crisis Superman was very much the dominant personality, with Clark Kent as a mask he puts on in order to "hide." Post-Crisis is the opposite, Clark is the dominant personality with no knowledge or memories of Krypton until well into his adult years and after he started operating as a super hero. This means that Clark comes off as a far more assertive and aggressive person, and Superman comes off as stiff and artificial.
    • Is Clark Kent an exaggerated disguise Superman takes to fake everyone out? Or is Superman a projection of Clark's desire to help others? Or, does Kal-El struggle to balance the nerdy reporter with the macho crimefighter? Before 1986, the answer was clearly the former, but between that point and about 2000, it was the later. From that point forward, it's been somewhat opened to interpretation, but in 2011, the New 52 pretty much got rid of the exaggerated nerd angle once again.
    • While Superman was the dominant personality in The Silver Age of Comic Books, several Bronze Age stories, most notably Who Took the Super out of Superman?, came to the conclusion that he valued both identities equally, and felt miserable and stressed whenever he was forced to neglect either for an extended period of time. Without Clark, he had no way to ever relax; and without Superman, he couldn't help people in danger: "I tried to decide whether Clark or Superman is more important... and realized that to do away with one would be to kill half of myself - whoever I really am! So... I'd decided meek, mild-mannered Clark Kent will still walk the streets of the city - while up in the sky... the world will still watch and thrill to the sight of - a job for Superman!"
    • One good story involved a pair of gambling aliens separating Clark and Superman. All that happened was that there was two Supermans, and that when one of them was Clark the other felt compelled to be Superman, and vice versa.
    • Pre-Crisis Superman gaslighted women he loved, often mistreated his best friends, and dumped his only living relative in an orphanage: An abusive dick or a neurotic man whose fears, insecurities and lack of social skills manifest by keeping his loved ones at arm's length?
    • Lois Lane: Depending on who you ask, Lois was dumb enough to be fooled by a pair of glasses, or the only person whom Superman couldn't easily deceive during the Silver Age, to the point he needed to pull off ridiculous and overcomplicated stunts, often involving robots and Batman, to divert her suspicions for a short while.
    • Supergirl: Depending on the reader, Pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El is the nicest girl ever, a short-tempered sweetheart, her cousin's doormat, or an insecure and afraid teenager who grew up to be a confident, sassy, brave and self-reliant woman.
    • Lana Lang: Reliable and loyal childhood friend or obsessed lovesick idiot who keeps ruining relationships because she can't get over her childhood crush?
    • Lex Luthor: An evil, self-serving, hypocritical, egomaniac bastard whose rants about Superman holding back humanity are nothing but a mask for xenophoby and egotism? A hero striving to show the human race that it has some worth when set against the impossible, unreachable ideal that is Superman, rejecting no act that would prove his point as worth it to the greater good? A tragic figure whose actions are ruled by obsession and hubris based in deep insecurities unearthed by Superman's mere presence?A secular humanist who believes that Superman is holding back social growth on Earth because people rely on him too much and is preventing humanity from its grandest destiny? A futurist who believes in the advancement of mankind no matter what the cost, sometimes resulting in him doing TRULY horrifying stuff for the "greater good."? A petty dick who'll stoop down to any level of crime to prove he's superior to everyone else?
    • Mr Mxyzptlk. Is he merely a Jerkass Reality Warper who tests the Man of Steel's patience, or a more benevolent Trickster encouraging Superman to use his brain and to think and use his powers in unconventional ways? A big Superman fan who loves seeing what he can do? An Eldritch Abomination looking for ways to kill time as seen in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?? A pranskter trying to keep Supes from taking everything so seriously?
    • Superboy-Prime: An Omnicidal Maniac who destroys anything he doesn't like, or a kid who's been given incredible power and thrust into a situation he was in no way ready to handle? Or a deliberate parody designed to screw with the fans heads with lines like "I'll kill you to death!"? Are his lines really that stupid or would anybody also scream the first thing that came to their mind, even if it made no sense, after having the equivalent of a nuke explode in their face? Maybe he kills people because He grew up in a world where all these people were fictional characters, and deep down, he still doesn't see them as real?
  • The Tara Markov version of Terra from Teen Titans. A sociopath who could not be helped, or a broken little girl who got mixed up with the wrong people and let her emotions get the better of her? Did she truly think the Teen Titans were her friends, even a little bit? Did she have feelings for Garfield? Terra 2, and her Black Lantern version, seems to have supported the alternate views. Also, was she hoisted by her own petard by accident, or did she commit suicide with the intention of doing so? Was she evil at heart, or did she just hate the hypocritical "goody two-shoes" nature of the Titans? Was her death fueled by drugsnote , contaminated drinking water, or was it natural? This is also another instance where the ambiguity only came later. Terra's evilness was the whole point of her character, and the narration during her death says, in no uncertain terms, that no one taught her to hate but herself. Due to Values Dissonance, her original interpretation of "She's evil and canonically psychopathic just because" has been changed over the years in order to give her a Freudian Excuse and more depth. The "She was troubled and abused by Deathstroke" interpretation appears in the 2003 Teen Titans cartoon, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract film, and most post-2000s comic references to her character.
  • Depending on who you ask, Tintin is either a good reporter who gets into sticky situations... Or a heartless, greedy, selfish, racist psychopath who couldn't care less about anyone else except those whom he sees as friends. He once went nearer a petrol truck so that the trail of gas (which was flaming because he pissed off the guy he stole it from) would blow the truck up instead of him. (It didn't work.)
  • Two-Face. Tradition states that the two halves of his face represent his split personality. Normally, they have the non-scarred side represent Harvey Dent and the scarred side represent Two-Face; they give us scenes where he has a perfectly reasonable dialogue shown only in his non-scarred profile, only to flip out into ultraviolence shot entirely from his scarred side. But some writers claim the opposite is true: the non-scarred side is Two-Face, the monster with a face of an angel. The scarred side represents Harvey Dent, the wounded hero who lies crushed beneath.
    • Supported in spirit by the non-canon Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, in which Harvey has his face restored to full normal- and proceeds to go completely evil; scratching both sides of his coins as if he has been "consumed by his dark side." At least both sides match.
      • Additionally, an acid scar to the left side of his face would correspond to behavior on the right side of his body.
    • Moreover, prior to the 1980s Two-Face was not portrayed as a man with multiple personalities, just as someone who rejected moral responsibility and let random chance in the form of his coin make his choices for him. The multiple personalities first showed up when he got a new Post-Crisis origin. The idea of Dent having two personalities caught on so well it's completely erased the character's first 40 years. Ironically, his appearance in The Dark Knight caused some protest when it was closer to his original portrayal.
  • The Ultimates: Is Red Skull lying about wanting a better life? Is he just trying to screw with Fury? Is he deluding himself? Is he just trying to justify his actions?
  • V for Vendetta: Is V a freedom fighter looking to replace the NF regime with something better for humanity, or a man driven insane by medical experiments and willing to let the world burn to sate his desire for revenge? The most interesting thing is that while the creator personally sympathises with V, he has said that seeing V as a hero or villain are both fully valid interpretations, and encourages readers to discuss their perceptions of V and his actions.
  • Watchmen: Are the masks just self-gratifying vigilantes, or misunderstood heroes who were then prosecuted for keeping the population safe? Or some of each? That is not even starting on Rorschach... or the Comedian...
    • Ozymandias. Interpretations of him vary from a mass-murdering psychopath to the savior of the world and its best hope for the future. These depend largely on whether the person interpreting believes his plan would work.
      • Rorschach. A psychopathic, alienated, misogynistic killer? Or an intelligent, uncompromising man trying to save humanity from evil and corruption and bring loyalty and morality back into the world?
    • Eddie Blake/The Comedian in particular. When he found out about Adrian's plan, he has such a breakdown he asked for forgiveness in front of his old enemy, Moloch, in tears and tried to justify what horrible things he did. But pretty much every other time we see him in the movie, he's cheerfully crossing the Moral Event Horizon and keeping on going - murdering a woman carrying his child, assassinating Kennedy, and attempting to rape one of his teammates. We never see him do anything remotely heroic, despite having been on a superhero team. So, is he a really dark antihero?
    • Is Doctor Manhattan truly unable to alter the future or is he just so much of a fatalist that he won't even make the effort?
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Whether or not Hercules Unbound is actually Diana's traditionally unnamed father. This one no longer fits after her origin was mangled in the New 52, but used to be quite probable and was even given hints over the decades within canon.
    • Steve Trevor's inability to tell Di and Wondy apart in the Golden Age causes readers to tend to think he may have been putting on a front and being willfully obtuse out of respect for her attempts to keep her ids separate or that he has face blindness. Diana didn't wear a mask, and only sometimes donned glasses as "Diana Prince", it wasn't much of a disguise even for the Golden Age. There's also the fact that his sexist "stay in the kitchen" attitude only really shows up when it would be better for Wonder Woman rather than Di to be around and when said attitude gives Diana a chance to leave and reappear as Wonder Woman, he doesn't have the same issues with Wonder Woman or Etta Candy and the Holliday Girls.
  • X-Men:

Comic Strips

  • Calvin and Hobbes has plenty of food for thought, especially in the nature of Hobbes, who appears as a Funny Animal to Calvin and a stuffed tiger to everyone else. But the Toy Ship of Calvin and Susie becomes interesting when you consider that Susie seems to like Hobbes more. Inversely, Hobbes frequently shows interest in Susie, which Calvin attempts to rebuff. Are we looking at some kind of projection, or a weird Love Triangle?
    • This makes the comparisons to Fight Club more interesting...
    • That could be a sign that Susie was more attracted to Calvin's nice side that he displays through Hobbes, rather than the asshole he fronts himself as.
    • Cartoonist Bill Watterson has supported the ambiguity of Hobbes' existence by occasionally making strips which are difficult, but not quite impossible, to explain if Hobbes was not an independent and physical entity, by having him do such things as cut Calvin's hair, help him climb trees, and on one famous occasion, tie him to a chair. A popular third take on this paradox is the theory that Calvin is a Reality Warper, and that the things he imagines really do happen, as long as no one else is looking.
    • Calvin's parents can get some of this. Calvin's mother in particular can come off as harshly authoritarian at times, in contrast to his father who tends to be a bit more lenient. She rarely smiles at her son, and has a knee-jerk reaction of trying to suppress whatever he's engaged in (granted, she often turns out to be right to do so). Considering Calvin has many of the standard symptoms of ADHD and doesn't appear to be getting any treatment, this does have more than a few mildly abusive/negligent overtones. Watterson himself later lamented that he regrets that the strips often showed Calvin's mom in a bad mood, since most of her appearances show her reacting to Calvin's latest misbehavior.
  • The author's viewpoint in For Better or for Worse is that Therese is a cold, calculating shrew with severe and unreasonable jealousy problems who, despite Anthony's being a loving and supportive spouse, distanced herself from him and their child, cheated on him, and cruelly divorced him. But it's possible to make a solid case that Anthony was manipulative and overbearing, pushing Therese towards things she didn't want (a house in the suburbs, a baby) and being a whiny little bitch when she insisted on doing what she'd planned to do, such as go back to work after Francoise was born. There's textual evidence to support the thesis that Therese's "distance" was postpartum depression which Anthony did nothing about. Additionally, Anthony was emotionally unfaithful to Therese from the get-go, pining after his ex-girlfriend Liz for his entire marriage. Anthony and Liz's wedding occurs at the end of the strip's run and would seem to justify Therese's jealousy.
    • Word of God is that childless career women are cold, selfish, self-centered wastes of space and that the only women who matter are full-time wives and mothers. The character of Connie (Lawrence's mother) was originally created to show this, but the author soon saw her in a sympathetic way and abandoned her plan - only to revive it with evil, evil Therese. Therese may also be evil because she is French-Canadian and attractive.
    • Similarly, Anthony is seen by other characters as steadfast, loyal, and unfailingly devoted to Elizabeth. Since he maintained that loyalty and devotion to Elizabeth throughout his engagement and marriage to Therese, those traits aren't quite as admirable as they sound.
    • Is Elly Patterson a long-suffering mother who never receives due praise for holding her home and family together, or does she deliberately make things more difficult for herself because she has a martyr complex? Are her children completely uncontrollable brats, or is she too self-absorbed and caught up in self-pity to tend to their emotional needs? Is she a complete Control Freak, a pillar of negativity and hatred imposing her twisted vision of what's 'good, true and right' on everyone around her? Or is she the Only Sane Man and a true gift to her community? Did she raise her family well, or cause them to turn out as nasty and self-centered as she? Sympathetic, or Villain Protagonist?
    • April Patterson: bratty teen, or remarkably well-behaved girl whose biggest sin is being too young to move out when her parents want to retire? Also, some blame her for Farley's death by drowning when she fell into the flooded creek. Others blame her parents for being almost criminally negligent, leaving a four-year-old unattended while they chatted with friends about their recent vacation. One could call her the Only Sane Man because she was the only one who seemed to think that Anthony and Liz were being unfaithful.
    • Is Michael a delicate genius, or a spoiled brat who uses his work as an excuse to avoid any contact with his children? Is he in love with his friend Weed? Did Deanna make a mistake with her contraceptives, or did she do it deliberately to keep Michael from going on a trip?
    • As you can see, the Hatedom has taken this trope and run with it, inventing various interpretations of all the different characters. For instance, one Fanon theory claims that Elizabeth was constantly making Deanna refit the wedding dress because she was trying to hide a baby bump.
  • The Comics Curmudgeon loves playing this trope with print comics characters. For example, Marmaduke is a carnivorous hellhound, Mary Worth is a meddlesome she-devil, Beetle Bailey is in love with Sgt. Snorkel, and The Family Circus is a bunch of fundamentalist Stepford Smilers.
  • Garfield Minus Garfield depicts Jon Arbuckle as "an isolated young everyman [fighting] a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb," with Garfield the cat being little more than a depressing hallucination. Oddly, Jim Davis, the series creator, seems to support a variation of the interpretation; he's stated in interviews that Garfield cannot speak and Jon cannot read his cat's thoughts.
  • Get Fuzzy has Rob Wilco. Is he the Only Sane Man patiently suffering through his life with two nutty pets or is he almost as mean as Bucky but with a better understanding of how the world works. Many of the things he says to his cat seem to qualify as emotional abuse. Yelling, "For the last time, Take the Tuna Out of the Can First!" when multiple microwave ovens have been destroyed seems justified. Repeatedly calling your anthropomorphic pet an idiot or a 'fuzzy little fascist' does not. Satchel may be infinitely more likeable but Rob's blatant favouritism seems heavy-handed at times. Satchel can have friends over but Bucky can't. Bucky has to hold his hand on the subway but Satchel does not. They are both adult animals so the argument that one of them is 'mature' and the other is not doesn't really hold weight. Also, it may have been Bucky's choice to sleep in the closet but Rob doesn't do anything to make it more livable. The Un-Favourite is sleeping on towels in the linen closet while the favourite has a nice room with beanbag chairs and posters. In any argument or fight he has a tendency to take Satchel's side before he even sees the evidence. Once Bucky even phones a telephone psychic, tells the woman that he is going through a rough time at home, he sleeps in the closet while the dog has its own room...and sometimes he goes through the trash at night so he doesn't go to sleep hungry. The woman is completely sympathetic until she finds out he is a cat. Bucky's still the personification of Cats Are Mean but you have to at least feel sorry for him.
  • Mark Trail is about a man that cannot understand humans and can only empathise with animals on an emotional level. Therefore all of his interactions with humans invariably end with violence. It's kind of tragic really.
  • Marmaduke is an asshole. Or is he just a big dog that was not properly trained by his owners? Some might subscribe to the idea that he's just poorly trained but, in some strips, he's shown to be smarter than what he appears.
    • More recently, the same guy decided that Marmaduke is actually an avenging angel sent by an angry god to punish the family for their sins. Oh, and the owner guy with the moustache doesn't just look like Hitler...
  • Peanuts
    • Peppermint Patty and Marcie. Both of them are quite tomboyish, and they have a very close...friendship, including Marcie calling Patty "sir". On the other hand, perhaps Marcie had a one-way crush on Peppermint Patty, who despite her butchness is interested in Charlie Brown (though Marcie has also said that she would marry Charlie Brown, if he asked her). Wouldn't it make a cute One True Threesome, anyways?
      • Word of God has it that supposedly Patty is "seriously interested" in Charlie Brown. But all the characters are about 9 or 10, so it could just be, you know, innocent.
  • Winnie-the-Pooh newspaper comics run on alternative interpretation of eloved Disney character. However, fans are divided whenever they potray Pooh as well-meaning idiot who doesn't realize things he says are rude or a complete asshole.
    • If you consider newspaper strips to be in one canon with infamous Nintendo Hard Winnie the Pooh Homerun Derby game, then you can use one to explain the other. Are everybody in game giving Pooh such hard time for his behavior in comics? Or is he acting the way he does in the strips, because events of the game broke him?


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