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Comics as a medium are heavily subject to this trope, especially when they run for decades and necessarily have many different writers, some of whom are cavalier about consistency.

DC

  • Batman books are full of this.
    • First there's the caped crusader himself. He's had so many writers that he's barely the same character in some appearances. And that's just in the main DCU, and not going into All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder, the movies, and various TV shows based on him. To list all the different ways he's been portrayed (is he a really good detective or not? Is he admirable or a Jerk Ass? Is he the craziest or the Only Sane Man of the Justice League?) would take up way too much space. This is perhaps best represented in the Batman alignment chart
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    • Former sidekick Nightwing arguably gets it worse. While DC will usually run with one interpretation of Batman in all the books and then shift to another, Nightwing gets to be a relatively happy and well-adjusted leader of men in the bat-books, but shifts into a dark and broody Batman 2.0 in team books. Maybe they are both correct. He's grim and broody, but compared to Batman he looks cheery and well-adjusted!
    • Barbara's biological relationship to her father Jim varies. In the 1980s, Jim's age was lowered and as a result Barbara became his niece who he adopted as his daughter. At other times she's biologically his daughter.
    • Don't even get started on the Joker...
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    • The Riddler... Nerdy milquetoast with a debilitating gimmick who is considering not even worth killing by other members of Batman's Rogues Gallery... or a suave, calculating and Magnificent Bastard with an intellect possibly comparable to the Dark Knight himself? There's also the fact that some interpretations have him as hyperactive and rather reminiscent of the Joker (think Frank Gorshin and Jim Carrey), while others portray him as more of a smooth-talking, calm intellectual (think John Glover and Robert Englund).
    • Killer Croc gets altered constantly both in appearance and character. Is his intelligence below average, is he retarded, is he an animal? Is he just a thug, a thug with a cannibalistic MO, or just a savage monster who wants to eat everyone in the room? The only thing writers seem to agree on is that he's not very bright and has some sort of skin condition. Croc gets it worse than most examples here in that they can't even keep his race consistent. Is he a white old-time gangster film heavy? A black inner city thug? Or is he just a big green reptile? None of these interpretations are even remotely in line with the pre-Crisis version of Croc, who was a rather intelligent (not super-genius or anything, but still at least average) gang leader that just happened to have a skin condition. He wasn't even green. Early on, there was even some debate as to the character's proper name, and he would variously be King Croc, Killer Croc, or simply, as he was listed in Who's Who, Croc. And this same Who's Who profile claimed that Croc had no actual powers; he just had leathery skin and was abnormally, not superhumanly, strong. Compare most modern versions and you'll see the obvious discrepancy here. Some of this has been explained, albeit through Retcon; Chuck Dixon's Batman run said Croc was in a process of mutation that started out as a skin condition and gradually led to him becoming more reptilian. Why he's now more human than he was when Dixon left him is another story...
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    • The Planetary / Batman Crossover "Night on Earth" is essentially an issue-long Lampshade Hanging of this trope as it pertains to Batman; it involves reality 'shifting' around Crime Alley in Gotham City, with the Planetary team meeting variations of Batman ranging from Adam West to Frank Miller to Neal Adams and more besides in their varying universes. However, the actions of the issue still play out exactly the same and perfectly in character for each version of Batman, the point being that for all the different interpretations they're all nevertheless the same essential character.
    • Damian Wayne, the fifth Robin, gets this too. With his creator, Grant Morrison, he tends to be written as a Sociopathic Hero who is excellent at everything. Other writers tend to downplay his skills in combat. With some writers he's still the unrepentant Jerkass he was introduced as despite years of character development. With other writers (i.e. Peter J. Tomasi), he's actually much kinder than he lets on and struggles to express his genuinely positive feelings for others due to his upbringing.
    • The Mad Hatter. Sometimes he's a somewhat sympathetic Carrol-obsessed loony, who truly seems to think of his mind-controlled henchmen as his friends, however delusionally. Other times he's a murderer and a child molester... with a thing for blonde girls.
    • Two-Face's "schtick" tends to ping-pong between a genuine split personality, with the Harvey and "Two-Face" personas engaging in discussions (and, in No Man's Land, a courtroom debate) with disputes between them being resolved by the coin, to a single personality with a violently extreme case of bipolar disorder and obsession with duality. Or a mixture. Also, his appearance changes drastically between each adaptation.
      • How Two-Face handles his coin flips is also highly variable. Sometimes it's something Harvey does on purpose because he knows his evil side will obey the coin (like it or not), other times it's a psychological compulsion, and still other times it comes off as nothing more than a villainous Character Tic. This also coincides with how likely he is to keep his promises; sometimes he's a man of his word, and other times he'll use Exact Words and other loopholes to get around them. Batman Forever took it even further, showing Two-Face repeatedly flipping the coin until he got the result he wanted.
    • Jason Todd/Robin II/Red Hood. Is he an Anti-Hero, an Anti-Villain, or just a full-on villain? He has more interpretations than hair colors.
      • The varying changes in portrayal of Jason Todd goes all the way back to his days as Robin. After Post-Crisis some writers portrayed him in a sympathetic light as a character learning to come into his own while other writers such as Jim Starlin, who did not like Robin, intentionally wrote him in a negative light going against all the characterization he had.
    • Depending on who's in control, Solomon Grundy can be incapable of saying anything more than "Solomon Grundy, born on a Monday" or perfectly capable of rational speech. The differences can get quite jarring at times. Surprisingly, there's actually an explanation for this. Every time he dies he comes back with a different personality, and it's very hard to stop him without killing him. A recent miniseries is focused on him returning with his mortal personality and trying to break this cycle. The first arc of Brad Meltzer's Justice League run began with, surprisingly, Solomon Grundy as the Big Bad and actually the brains behind the whole scheme (which was to steal Red Tornado's new robot/android/cyborg body and place his soul in it so he'd stop dying). It was extremely odd seeing Grundy looking like a buff, albino gangster.
      • His Strength Level. He ranges from getting a beatdown from Batman up to solely curbstomping the whole Justice League, including Superman.
    • Death of the Family: The Batman franchise started in 1939, so this trope had to happen, and this storyline is no exception to the rule. For instance, Catwoman's personality and perhaps intelligence are portrayed quite differently between Judd Winick and Ann Nocenti.
    • Harley Quinn is not quite as bad as The Joker, but just like him, she's been quite up for interpretation:
      • Is Harley a psychologist or a psychiatrist? In Batman: The Animated Series she was a psychologist, but the comics have zigzagged between the two. Granted, this one is most likely because most people don't know that these are separate professions. note  Why was Harley a psychologist/psychiatrist in the first place? Her original backstory from Mad Love depicted her as sleeping through college (implying she couldn't get through it herself) and had her only become a psychologist so she could become a television psychologist and make money. Other interpretations however portray her as genuinely being interested in the career and being a genuine psychologist/psychiatrist who was led astray by the Joker. If Harley did sleep with her teachers, was it because the schooling was too hard, was she too lazy, or was she perfectly capable of doing the work but found it easier to manipulate her grades? The New 52 reimagined that aspect as her simply blackmailing her teachers.
      • It's almost always agreed upon that Harley is smarter than she lets on but just how much and how sensible she can be varies greatly from story to story. She can be a Dumb Blonde, a Genius Ditz, in reality her entire personality can be a facade that she changes depending on the situation, or she could be anything in-between. Similarly, is she clinically insane or does she understand her actions?
      • Whether Harley has Anti-Villain traits or not fluctuates.
      • How strong and physically capable is Harley? Above average for a gymnast or an outright Badass Normal with almost superhuman agility?
  • Minor Catwoman opponent Cyber-Cat has appeared only a few times, but nobody can seem to agree on her motivation or whether she's actually evil or just arrogant. Is she simply trying to ensure her own technical skills are good enough? Is she a Mad Doctor, or does she want to sell things to terrorists? Who knows?
  • Is Black Canary a genuine, butt-kicking, Action Girl? Or is she a Faux Action Girl who, as Green Arrow's Designated Love Interest, needs Green Arrow to get her out of trouble? Depends on who's writing her, and what comic it is. If it's Birds of Prey, expect the former. If it's anything with "Green Arrow" in the title (or if Judd Winick is at the helm), expect the latter. Strangely enough, if it's Justice League where she would be more likely to find herself out of her depth, she, like Batman, kicks all kinds of ass, probably for the same reason Batman does, because writers always feel the need to justify the Badass Normal and low power characters on the team.
  • Is Captain Atom a god, as much more powerful than, say, Superman, as Superman is compared to a normal human, or is he of mid-level power by the standards of the DCU? Does he like having power over other people, even to a pathological extent, or does he see leadership as a burden that he'll take up only because he's the only one who can? Does he have problems with authority, or is he a stereotypical military man who will salute and say yes sir? Is he stuck as Captain Atom, losing his connection to humanity, or is he able to transform back and forth at will, facing him with the dilemma that he can always just walk away from being a superhero?
  • Kimiyo Hoshi, the female Doctor Light, was initially written as an Alpha Bitch. When she joined the JLE, her personality was softened and it was explained that her earlier behavior was the result of drinking too much soda (no, really). Later writers ignored this development and brought her back to said Alpha Bitch personality, with Kimiyo fluctuating between these characterizations ever since. Judd Winick had Kimiyo lose her powers. Gail Simone (possibly erroneously) then had her using her powers when she guest-starred in Birds of Prey. Dwayne McDuffie ended up splitting the difference via a retcon establishing that her powers had returned, but were now wildly unstable.
  • Green Arrow suffered from this a fair bit in the 21st century. Kevin Smith wrote Oliver Queen as a sadder but wiser version of Dennis O'Neil's wise-cracking swashbuckling Genius Bruiser. In the first half of his Green Arrow run, Judd Winick wrote him as an unrepentant dirty old man who could barely tie his shoes unaided and was only good at shooting arrows. In the far superior second half of Winick's run Ollie became a hypercompetent mayor and Arrow-family leader who only had eyes for Black Canary. Mark Waid and Joe Kelly were little better, with the former making references to Ollie chasing after teenage girls in The Brave and the Bold and the later depicting Ollie having an affair with the wife of Manitou Raven. Most of this characterization of Ollie as a womanizer seems to have been based on the portrayal of the character in flashbacks written by Chuck Dixon, where Ollie talked about all the women he slept with in the early days of his hero career and on misinterpretation of the Mike Grell run of Green Arrow where Ollie unknowingly fathered a child with the assassin Shado. This is doubly vexing for fans of the classic Green Arrow, as Oliver Queen was usually depicted as being overprotective and jealous of his girlfriend Black Canary and was once depicted as being so devoted to Dinah Lance that his love and willpower allowed him to overcome both Zatanna's magic and Poison Ivy's pheromones.
    • The disagreement about whether or not Oliver Queen was a cheating jackass became so great, in fact, that it caused a Retcon during Blackest Night where Black Lantern Ollie claimed that his rape at the hands of the assassin Shado during the Mike Grell run wasn't really a rape, so that all of his previous out-of-character womanizing could be justified.
    • Ollie hasn't fared much better in The New 52. His creative team changed three times in the first year, with the first two teams writing him as a generic action hero with none of the personality of the classic Oliver Queen. Ann Nocenti wrote him as a womanizing beatnik, who spouted free-verse poetry while wandering the rooftops. Jeff Lemire improved things somewhat, making Ollie a competent hero if not a particularly memorable one. And a fill-in arc by Arrow Executive Producer Andrew Kreisberg and writer Ben Sokolowski - portrayed Green Arrow like Oliver Queen on the TV series. Eventually, Benjamin Percy and DC Rebirth came along and did a good job of merging Ollie's disparate characterizations.
  • The second female Hawk of Hawk and Dove named Holly Granger was a case of this in her tenure in the comics. Was she a bad-tempered bratty younger sister with a punk edge? Or was she more of a promiscuous seductress? Did she speak in a phony British accent with slang or not? And was she Dawn's younger or older sister (the latter which would technically make her a case of Christmas Cake when she slept with Power Boy in that Squick-inducing scene, thank you very much, Judd Winick.). Is it any wonder she became Blackest Night cannon fodder?
    • Sister Dawn doesn't fare much better, either being portrayed as younger naive sheltered college girl who is introverted and can't hold her liquor when around the more popular seasoned heroines or is she more of a proper peer and experienced heroine who has lots of living behind her. Hell, Whether or not she is romantically interested in Hank goes back and forth depending on the writer.
  • The New Gods. Oh boy, the New Gods. You have some names and some basic relationships. Nothing else will stay consistent between writers or even in different appearances by the same writer. This falls broadly into two camps: people who never actually read the thing and people who did but changed things they didn't particularly care for. Examples: the nature of the Anti-Life Equation, the nature of the New Gods themselves, whether New Genesis and Apokolips were somewhere in space or another dimension entirely, and what their actual size is.
  • Superman is probably worse, considering he is the Trope Codifier of the Flying Brick. That was the main thing that made Superman II fail for the fans, because he was given random powers that had never appeared before. When handled at his most popular, his powers are fairly straightforward: Flight, Invulnerability, Heat Vision, Ice Breath, and the super abilities of Super Senses, Super Speed and Super Strength. Power Creep, Power Seep aside, writers would give him the most bizarre super-"whatever" power (including super-marble playing and the "S" saran wrap shield). This is probably what gave fan Jerry Seinfeld his thoughts about him having "super humor." One strip has him use super-puppeteering to put on a play for Lois, and super-memory to learn the script quickly. Superman's powers were never really set in stone during the Golden and Silver Ages. Superman was rife with New Powers as the Plot Demands up until John Byrne's post-crisis revamp gave a definite set of powers for Superman, removing some like freezing breath, forgetting others like "Super Ventriloquism" and "Super Elastic Facial Muscles" (this is not a joke), and limiting others like his super strength and speed. (Seriously, how else could a mook like the Toyman be even kind of a threat?) Other writers have since crept his power up and down, with freeze breath eventually showing up again and various applications of other powers being used.
    • At the Superman rollercoaster at Six Flags Great Adventure, there are giant plaques hung up that you can read while advancing through the line. Superman's plaque lists one of his powers as "Super-Intelligence". Now, we are talking about a guy who, canonically, built functional android duplicates of himself realistic (and powerful) enough to take his place if he's indisposed. He actually is supposed to be scary smart. But plenty of comics characters are just as smart without it being a superpower. His weaknesses suffer this too. Kryptonite is often shown to have him on the ground in pain in seconds just from waving it in front of his face while red sunlight shuts his powers off instantly. Then he'll turn around and fly through a Kryptonite asteroid belt (he is the Trope Namer for Fight Off the Kryptonite) and a red star and still somehow survive a crash landing on a planet before his powers completely fade.
      • Though some of this is genuine retconning. Red sunlight was changed to cause rapid power depletion instead of instant powerlessness for a couple of decades before it went back to being his off switch.
    • His vulnerability to magic can be even more confusing. Do you have a pencil that's magically enchanted to write what you say? You can stab Superman with that even though nothing about the magic actually makes it a better weapon. On the other hand, some writers have him able to square off with Thor and Captain Marvel, who should be able to tear him apart if the above was true. His weakness to magic was originally supposed to be lack of resistance to spells that violate the laws of nature so he can be turned into a frog as easily as the next guy, but magic superstrength is no better than regular superstrength against him.
    • Another issue is his mortality; the pre-New 52 modern comics (as well as Smallville) basically said that he'll live forever as long as no one kills him. However, this is certainly not true in the Silver Age: for instance the Earth-2 Superman is obviously in late middle-age.
    • His character in the comics tends to vary as well, from being completely content identifying as a human to being all too aware of his status as an outsider. Among other heroes he's generally optimistic and upbeat but still serious whereas his solo titles tend to show him brooding and angsting over his role, whether or not he's doing enough, balancing his heroic and personal life (at least since the Bronze Age), and so forth. Its possible that he outwardly projects optimism and confidence to fulfill his role as a leader while keeping his doubts to himself.
    • Then there's the role of Clark Kent. Some writers take the view that Clark Kent is more or less just a disguise for him that lets him live a normal existence and ground himself, while others take the view that he considers Clark Kent to be his "true" identity and the person he's been his whole life. Quite a few comics, like Superman: Birthright, seemingly Take a Third Option in suggesting that neither Superman nor Clark Kent are "the real one", with both being exaggerated personas to some degree, and the closest thing to "the real one" is how he acts when around people who know his identity, like his parents or Lois Lane. And how Clark Kent himself acts fluctuates quite a bit; in some comics, he's The Ace who's respected by everyone and more or less acts like Superman if he didn't have powers and was a reporter, while in others, he's a borderline Ditzy Genius who baffles people in his ability to uncover massive corporate conspiracies, then trip over his shoelaces.
    • Even his eating habits are subject to this. Some writers have claimed he's a vegetarian, with the justification that his Super Senses make it hard for him to enjoy eating any kind of farmed meat. Other writers show him having no problem with meat, and his canonical favorite food is beef bourguignon.
    • Superman's reality warping enemy, Mr. Mxyzptlk, flips back and forth between sociopathic pest and Stealth Mentor. In Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, he explained that he gets bored and switches personas every so often.
    • Much of this owes to something of an Armed with Canon debate, with some writers preferring the pre-Crisis Superman, others preferring the John Byrne reboot, and constantly tug-of-warring between the two. He's usually somewhere in the middle-ish.
    • This was a major issue with the New 52 Superman, and likely a major reason for why the guy didn't take. Grant Morrison wrote him as an arrogant, callous hothead in the past, but going through Character Development into a well-rounded Ideal Hero with an aggressive and anti-authoritarian streak by the modern day. Thing was, a lot of writers, including George Perez and Scott Lobdell, didn't get the memo on the second half, and wrote the modern Superman as a straight-up self-righteous Jerk Ass who punched people for no good reason. And then you had writers like Scott Snyder, who basically ignored both approaches and just wrote him like his pre-New 52 counterpart...
    • Is Lex Luthor a Card-Carrying Villain, a Noble Demon, or a Well-Intentioned Extremist? Considering he started as a Mad Scientist and was rectonned into being a Corrupt Corporate Executive, he has legitimately fallen into more than one of these categories but even within his incarnations, writers have different takes on just how much Lex really wants to help mankind (to the exclusion of aliens) and how much he's in it for himself or at least his pride. His hatred of Superman is consistent but the motivations for that hatred have varied considerably. His scientific abilities fluctuate from writer to writer as well. Sometimes a businessman is all that he is, sometimes he's also the most brilliant scientist alive. He's also either an eccentric Deadpan Snarker Insufferable Genius or a Perpetual Frowner who is almost completely humorless. More often than not though, this discrepancy is because he's partnered up with The Joker and the writer wants to present a nice contrast between the two villains.
  • Wonder Woman might as well be the patron saint of this trope. Every writer since her re-creation in the 1980s has wanted to put their own stamp on the character to the point where they flat out ignore what the previous writer has done with the character. Her revolving supporting cast and extraordinarily minor Rogues Gallery are testaments to this.
    • Post-Crisis, the biggest element to swing back and forth with her is whether she's going to be the man-hating Straw Feminist that makes a little more sense when she first leaves Themyscira, or the more mature, rounded character who actually has a sense of humor and good relationships with several male characters.
      • Pretty bad in the New 52: Azzarello's Wonder Woman in her own book is a completely different person from Geoff Johns' Wonder Woman in Justice League. This gets lampshaded and justified when Greg Rucka returns to her in DC Rebirth, with Diana realizing the contradictions in her life, and setting out to discover the truth of herself.
      • One of the other big differences is her attitude regarding killing. In some portrayals she's as much or more Thou Shalt Not Kill as Batman or Superman (with those two characters on their own sliding scale). In others where she's seen more as a warrior hero, she feels no guilt over killing her enemies when she feels it necessary, to a degree that can shock the other two members of the Trinity. Basically, if she's carrying a sword, it's not good to be a bad guy facing her.
    • Cassandra Sandsmark (the second Wonder Girl): Is she a confident Cute Bruiser? Is she filled with Wangst and ill-tempered at the level of the Alpha Bitch? Has she gotten over her boyfriend's (temporary) death or not? And is she the Tomboy or The Chick? Such writing inconsistencies have derailed her character practically since she became a Teen Titan, though she originally started out as The Scrappy when written by John Byrne. It took Peter David to deliver the first "fix" on her character, though Byrne decried it, along with the very idea that Cassie would ever join a superhero team. According to Byrne, she was not supposed to be "unique". Byrne would later become incensed by the revelation that Cassie's father was Zeus, as well as the idea that she would lose her virginity to Superboy.
  • Characters' dietary habits are rarely kept consistent. Wonder Woman and Zatanna have been written as vegetarian but often aren't.
  • Poison Ivy's eating habits are not set in stone. Despite fanon, it's never been implied that Ivy doesn't need to eat due to her plant hybrid nature. One comic depicts her as near always having an empty plate, but an issue of the comic clearly shows her eating soup. Sometimes Poison Ivy is a vegan but sometimes she refuses to eat plants because she considers it murder.
  • How evil is Teen Titans villain Cheshire, and more specifically, how much does she care about her former lover, Roy, and their daughter, Lian? Sometimes they're a case of Morality Pet or Even Evil Has Loved Ones, but other writers go out of their way to portray her as not giving a damn about them.
  • Shazam's personality in comparison to Billy. Traditionally, Shazam is an older, wiser alter ego of Billy Batson thanks to the wisdom of Solomon. However, many incarnations put emphasis on the fact Billy is actually a kid by having Shazam act like a Manchild.

Marvel

  • John Byrne's Alpha Flight were (his protests to the contrary) well-Rounded Characters with depth and interest. After he quit, they rapidly went to being whiny losers and have never been portrayed consistently since, until they all died to show how powerful a random villain was (and pave the way for Omega Flight).
  • Captain America foe Batroc the Leaper was a borderline Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain who considered himself lucky to get in a hit on the good Captain on his first appearance, and a Worthy Opponent who gave Cap a very close match in a spectacular fight scene in his very next appearance. Ever since then, he's sort of sine-waved between Harmless Villain and Badass Normal. In general, if he's in a serious story, expect him to be treated as among the best martial artists in the world, held back only by the fact that he's fighting Captain America; if he's in a more comedic story, expect him to be a goofy Punch-Clock Villain who gets lucky on the days when he isn't laid out in one punch. Some writers have also claimed that his Maurice Chevalier Accent is affected as part of his swashbuckler image, others have him even thinking in a thick Funetik Aksent.
    • It's discussed in The Unbelievable Gwenpool, where Batroc is depicted as the Badass Normal Team Dad. When Gwen realizes that her book is almost cancelled, she tells Batroc that, once the book is over, his characterization will be up to the whims of different writers. She tearfully says good-bye to her friend, knowing that writers will likely never use this version of his characterization again.
  • A common criticism of Civil War was that the Superhero Registration Act was this. Writers of pro-registration books tended to treat it as being like a driver's license - give your name, pass a few tests, and the government'll leave you alone from now on unless you're looking for protection or want to do your part. Anti-registration books, on the other hand, approached it like a forcible draft, with even teenagers, mutants born with minor powers or conscientious objectors being pulled in and trained to kill, with resistance being punishable by imprisonment without trial in a hellish alternate dimension. In particular, the Thunderbolts Initiative was either a legitimate attempt to help compliant and registered supervillains redeem themselves, or a gang of Psychos For Hire being used as attack dogs against people guilty of no crime beyond wanting to be left alone. This left a good chunk of readers confused as to what on Earth Marvel was implying by claiming the pro-registration side were the good guys.
    • This is also a problem with Civil War II. One of the main problems is the characterization of Carol Danvers. Sometimes she's portrayed as a heroine who, despite the moral ambiguity of using a precog to stop potential crimes, is conflicted on if she's doing the right thing and relying on other heroes to help guide her in her path, not wanting to have anything like the death of War Machine happen again. Other times, she's depicted as an authoritarian Jerk Ass who'd happily detain anyone and everyone who even idly dreams of a crime, making her conflict with Tony Stark seem less like a conflict of morals and more of a morality-based dick-measuring contest.
  • The relative goodness of Deadpool varies. Sometimes he's depicted as heavily mentally unstable, even Ax-Crazy covered up by a facade of goofiness, whereas at other times, he's a Crazy Awesome anti-hero who would Never Hurt an Innocent. The Hulk Vs. series kind of splits the difference, having an amusing Deadpool who is also completely malevolent. Possibly justified given the nature of his condition (well, usually): his healing factor is lodged within a brain tumour, which constantly shifts in size, meaning that the contents of his skull are being constantly kicked about.
  • Fantastic Four:
    • Johnny Storm has alternated between self-obsessed prima donna and self-obsessed whiny asshat, while Susan Storm has switched between defenseless butterfly to empowered female. Additionally, every new writer of the book seems to like to take a socially well-adjusted Ben Grimm and throw on the angst about his condition so they can take him out again. Whether Ben has Yiddish as a Second Language or not also varies (it tends to show up when he's written by Dan Slott or Marv Wolfman). Reed Richards? Always a dork, but it's not quite clear how many shades of Badass Bookworm he has, and tends to be either a socially ignorant genius who's more interested in his work than his family, to a guy who really does care about his family. Some FF writers, most notably Tom DeFalco, have tried to upgrade Johnny to at least being savvy about his powers and status. Later ones felt the need to make him dumb and dumber both. Also, a character who can end up spending months away from Earth aiding his team and family is frequently taken to task for not going to college. Some courses are crazy, and require you to show up for class.
    • None of this compares to Victor Von Doom. Dr. Doom is swung back and forth from being a baby-eating psycho, to practically being an Anti-Villain more noble and courageous then Reed Richards, and everything in between. In particular, the way he runs his country comes under fire from this — does he make it a complete utopia with happy, contented citizens, or is it just a facade the citizens put on because Doom will kill anyone who disagrees, and Doom himself only cares for them as a master would care for his pet? Writers almost always wind up disagreeing with one another about Doom's correct portrayal and declare stories they don't approve of to have been Doombots instead. Mark Waid doesn't believe that Doom has any nobility to him while Warren Ellis, Roger Stern, David Michelinie, Jim Shooter, Jonathan Hickman among others believe he is genuinely noble and can be genuinely heroic in some situations, someone who believes that since he should take over the world and rule it, it is also his obligation to protect it. Jack Kirby, Doom's co-creator believes that Dr. Doom is a tragic figure who thinks only in extremes.
      • Dr. Doom gets an additional layer about running his own country. Does he truly care about his citizens? Does he act the monarch just for arrogant sense of self-entitlement, and to gain access to the resources of a nation and diplomatic immunity? Are the people of Latveria genuinely happy under his rule? Is Latveria a police state where no public display of malcontent is allowed?
  • Fin Fang Foom's size, intelligence, backstory, and alignment vary wildly between appearances, as discussed here.
  • The Incredible Hulk has numerous factors of his character that vary between writers; Whether he's a dumb brute that can only speak in Hulk Speak, a completely mindless monster who can't talk at all, or someone with a fairly average intellect with a somewhat odd speech pattern. This is somewhat justified by Banner having multiple personality syndrome and there being thousands of Hulks in his mind. Also depending on the writer is the Hulk's power level; while it is in a state of flux depending on his emotional state, some writers have him being knocked out by an average python choking him for less than a minute, and dying from being impaled by a trident when he's previously survived wounds that make that seem like a papercut by comparison.
    • One telling comparison is to look at a few recent depictions of the Hulk by two very different writers. Greg Pak has been the main writer on the Hulk for about five years now and has gone into great lengths to give the Hulk, rather than Bruce Banner, some in-depth character development through such storylines as Planet Hulk, World War Hulk, and Fall of The Hulks, which paint a complex and sympathetic picture of the Jade Giant. Then there's Mark Millar's run on The Ultimates and the Old Man Logan mini series. The former shows Banner as weak willed and insecure (not completely unjustified given it's meant to be early on in the character's history) and the Hulk as, among other things, an active cannibal. The latter shows Banner/Hulk as an insane redneck who leads a gang of his inbred mutant children (sired with his cousin, She-Hulk, suggested to have been by rape) and rules over the ruins of the west coast. Granted, Millar's versions are an alternate universe and Bad Future, respectively, but one gets the idea that he doesn't think highly of the character.
  • Namor the Sub-Mariner has had this non-stop since he was first published in the late thirties. He's either a violent and bitter anti-hero with an unjust grudge against humanity, a noble leader who is only seeking the best for his people, a stalwart pragmatist whose loyalty to his comrades is without question, or some combination thereof. In fact, his writing varies so much that Marvel eventually canonized it: he has a disorder caused by his amphibious physiology that manifests in that way.
  • How about The Punisher? Generally a good man who's committed to trying to make sure his family's deaths weren't in vain and others don't suffer the same fate? Psychopathic monster who'll kill people for littering or being junkies? A man on a mission with a singular purpose and great at planning? Barely rational gun-toting lunatic?
    • Garth Ennis' take, as a sadistic torturer who enjoys killing for its own sake. Tricking a crime boss into following him into a polar bear enclosure and riling them up to attack her because he is unarmed? Okay, proactive self defense. Kicking same crime boss, who was an elderly woman and is now a quadruple amputee, into a house fire? Well...
    • Then came Born from the MAX imprint, which puts a stunning twist on his origin: Not only was it was never about vengeance for his family, he (unwittingly) caused their murders. What happened was that in Vietnam, he'd grown to love war, both because he was a master of killing and he liked being able to punish wrongdoers. He made a deal with a mysterious unseen entity (the Grim Reaper, according to the author's notes) that once the Vietnam War ended, he could have his own war which would never end...for an unspecified price. It was only after he returned that he learned that the price was his family.
    • The the last four Max arcs (Kingpin, Bullseye, Frank, and Homeless) muddle things even further. It turns out that the aforementioned deal with Death was just a possibility, and that avenging his family was still on the table (although that too was only a possibility). Then in Frank, Frank himself denies both explanations and gives the "punishing himself" rationale given by previous authors (which at the time was mostly an attempt to keep the moral guardians at bay). Bullseye himself lampshades this, spending several days just pondering the possible origins.
  • Runaways: The portrayal of Chase Stein has always swung between Jerk Jock and Cute but Troubled, but Terry Moore seems to have taken the "Idiot Jock" interpretation and run with it, giving Chase a very immature personality. And Chase wasn't the only one, virtually all the characters were heavily derailed by Terry Moore. Nico went from a leader to a megalomaniac, Molly went from playing naive and innocent to throw people off to actually thinking "we could build a fort!" is an appropriate response to an emergency, Victor stopped being funny, Xavin became too funny, and Klara lost anything resembling a personality. The closest thing to a consistent character is Karolina, who still seems to have lost her backbone.
  • Spider-Man 's J. Jonah Jameson, editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle, gets this treatment when it comes to the reasoning behind his newspaper's anti-Spidey reporting: to some, it's because he's jealous of the fact the Spider-Man is more heroic than he could ever be; to others, it's just a case of JJ being an asshole. Still others give him a motive that is, on the face of it, reasonable. Even more inconsistent is his personality beyond the Spidey-hate; is he a Jerk with a Heart of Gold to his employeees and a decent newspaperman with one unfortunate blind-spot, or is he a Bad Boss and a headline-chasing scaremongerer? What's also often is the indecisiveness of how far his hate for Spider-Man goes. Is it exclusive only for Spidey, or does Jameson have a hatred for the entire superhero community in general? One moment he'd be very hesitant to start going after the likes of the Fantastic Four, and the next he's calling Galactus's first appearance a hoax.
    • How strong is the wall-crawler himself? The 'proportional strength of a spider' goes from "a lot of work to lift a car" to "easily hoisted up a tank and slammed it against the ground, crushing it." The official stat nowadays is 25 tons, up from 10 as it was for a long time, but we've seen both much weaker and much stronger than that. Nowhere is this inconsistency so obvious as when Spider-Man goes up against the Kingpin: most of the time, Wilson Fisk is portrayed as being physically stronger than the wall-crawler, despite the fact that he's nothing but a Badass Normal who logically shouldn't be able to last five seconds in a fight, much less actually pose a serious threat directly. Occasionally, the writers have actually remembered this, like in Back in Black (the arc right before One More Day), when Parker broke into the Kingpin's prison and beat him within an inch of his life in retaliation for Aunt May getting shot by one of Kingpin's assassins. Nowadays, the justification is that he's holding back most of his might so as to not kill his enemies.
  • Just how much of a Manipulative Bastard Ultimate Nick Fury is varies on who is writing him. His characterization can jump around anywhere from that of a Good Is Not Soft Cynical Mentor, to a Well-Intentioned Extremist, to an outright Villain Protagonist. To give you an example, when Peter Parker died, Brian Bendis had Fury break down in tears and genuinely blame himself, while Mark Millar seemed to imply that Fury might have intentionally caused Peter's death as part of a Xanatos Gambit.
  • X-Men example:
    • Cyclops tends to go from badass leader, to whiny emo-kid, to punchable asshat who treats his women like shit due to his constant infidelity.
    • Wolverine is even worse, as he can be a murder-happy asshole, honorable warrior, fatherly mentor, and the gruff veteran super-hero whose violent nature is a source of conflict within him. His personality being all over the place is par for the course, but combine that with his tendency to be everywhere at once in various different costumes. And his powers aren't even consistent. He goes from taking a gunshot to the stomach and taking a few days to heal to standing right next to Nitro when he goes off and regenerating from only his skeleton in seconds.
    • Both Wolverine and Colossus have an actual physical problem in this area: writers can't seem to decide once and for all whether adamantium and organic steel are magnetic... which is kind of important given who the X-Men's most frequent recurring big bad is. Hell, a major plot point in Wolverine's character arc was having his adamantium ripped out of him by Magneto, leaving him with with a regular skeleton for years (real time), which means any writer who makes it non-magnetic is asking the readers to forget that whole thing happened.
    • One of the worse examples in the X-Men has to be Polaris and Havok. Either they are insane with rage at the treatment of mutantkind, running screaming into the hills to try and live normal lives (their original default personalities BTW), or are being written as the brainwashed pawns of the villain of the week. A controversial moment in Uncanny Avengers had Havok declaring to the public that he despises the "m-word" and wished to be treated just like everyone else. A number of people online pointed out that a statement such as this was extremely out of character for Havok, who in the past had been shown to be very proud of his mutant heritage.
    • In one old X-Men comic, Colossus is shown to be especially weak to Storm's lightning because he's made of metal, the tiniest spark sending him into bouts of pain. Only a few issues later, he takes one of Storm's normal lightning bolts with a smile on his face. Maybe he just became a masochist.
    • Nightcrawler, another member of the X-Men, falls prey to this trope as well. In his initial appearances, he was a woobie and a case of I Just Want to Be Normal. The next writer turned him into Fun Personified. Later writers have gone with one portrayal, the other, or a combination of the two. It also happens with his religion, initially he didn't talk about it much and said it was just a matter between him and God, but some writers make him more devotedly religious, even to the point where he trained to become a priest.
    • A storyline from late in Chris Claremont's classic run has the team killed and resurrected, which renders the lineup at the time, which included Rogue, Storm, and Wolverinenote  invisible to cameras, a fact referenced and exploited frequently throughout the rest of his run. This is completely forgotten by the next writer, and since then, whenever one of the eight shows up, they turn up on camera unless it's written by Chris himself, who makes references to this trait well into the noughties.
    • Another is the use of the word "human" by sympathetic characters — certain villains draw a bright line, but whether aliens feel the need to specify "humans and mutants" or whether the X-Men themselves refer to "humans" or "non-mutant humans" depends far more on the writer than the characters. Justified since the terms aren't being used scientifically; mutants are a subspecies of human rather than a separate species. All mutants are humans, but not all humans are mutants.note 
    • The portrayal of Sabretooth is all over the place. He can go from animalistic berserker to calm criminal mastermind within the same storyline, and not in a Jekyll-and-Hyde way. Similarly, his evil tends to vary. Sometimes he's a feared & depraved serial killer that has performed almost every evil act known to man. Other times, he's a edgy bad boy. And in some extreme cases, he's a juvenile frat-boy type that people find annoying.
    • Many comic-book villains alternate between Noble Demon and baby-eating psycho depending on who's writing them (Dr. Doom and Magneto being the most obvious). It's very strange to see Magneto go between being Chris Claremont's Well-Intentioned Extremist Magneto and Grant Morrison's parody Silver Age drug addict Magneto. Which is why Grant Morrison's Mags officially wasn't him. And afterward Magneto (written by Chris Claremont) commented "Why would anyone think I was capable of that?"
    • Mystique tends to be a pretty big victim of this especially whenever she is with her children Rogue and Nightcrawler. Is she an Anti-Villain who has a genuine, if twisted, love for her children and is a dark Mama Bear? Or is she a complete sociopath who cares nothing for them and only uses them when necessary before ultimately discarding them sometimes lethally?
    • James Proudstar, AKA Warpath, has an interesting case of this regarding his powers. Sometimes, he's a nigh-invulnerable Colossus-type fighter who can stand up to the Juggernaut for several minutes. Sometimes he's weaker, but still growing stronger. He tends to always have superhuman senses, but sometimes he's on the level of a feral mutant like Wolverine, and sometimes he's at Superman levels where he tracks down snipers by the sound of their heartbeats. He also tends to have superhuman speed, but he's varied between Spider-Man levels of speed and reflexes and flat-out being faster than the speed of sound. Sometimes he can fly, sometimes he can't. And recently he gained a Wolverine-level healing factor, though he might not have that anymore. Poor Warpath has New Powers as the Plot Demands but it is never beneficial for him.
  • The teen Vision from Young Avengers had the memories of the original Vision, but the writers were unsure how far to take this. Young Avengers made it clear that the new Vision had his own distinct personality and was for all intents and purposes a new character, while New Avengers and Captain America seemed to indicate he was essentially the original Vision in a new body.
    • The Avengers Assemble annual Lampshaded this by having Iron Man and Hank Pym state that they left the original Vision in storage because the team assumed the new Vision was just the classic version with an upgraded appearance.
  • Madripoor. Whoever is in charge of the island nation can vary as quickly as whoever is writing the story. One moment, Tiger Tyger is in control and pushing through reforms to transform it into a respectable nation. The very next it's right back into a haven for human and drug trafficking and other organized crime under the control of the likes of Viper or Sabretooth, with no explanation of how the regime changed. It's even happened across issues of two different series released in the same month. While it could be handwaved since Madripoor is often fractious, and divided into territories controlled by different individuals with differing goals, (so Tyger's part of the city is a progressive mecca of legitimate business, while Daken's territory makes Mos Eisley seem quaint) the books rarely actually utilize this, (at least until the gang warring becomes a plot point itself) and applies the current situation across the whole island.
  • How stable is Black Panther's kingdom, Wakanda? Under some writers it's a country full of tribal rivalries and ambitious usurpers, resulting in lots of civil wars and coups. Under other writers it's a strong, internally stable country that just gets attacked by outsiders a lot. Don McGregor and Christopher Priest's runs tend to favour the former, while Reginald Hudlin's run and most of the country's appearances in other heroes' books, Avengers stories, and event comics favour the latter.

Other

  • The comics made of the various Disney icons. Such as Donald Duck.
    • Scrooge himself: heartless bastard tormenting Donald for the sake of a few more cents, perfectly willing to exploit workers, destroy the environment and let his own family die in the name of profit? Indiana Jones-style treasure hunter? Jerk with a Heart of Gold who prides on having made his fortune "fair and square" and deeply cares about his family and his friends? Complete and utter badass? An eccentric old man who's not really good or evil?
    • Scrooge's money bin may be a simple box made of stone or a blue and red dome; it may be his residence, or just the place where he keeps his cash while he actually lives in a mansion; the Beagle Boys may frequently hide out in an old trailer or a shack or under the very foundations of Duckburg; Flintheart Glomgold may live in South Africa or in Duckburg as a member of the Billionaires' Club (or alternatively, he may not exist at all, with John D. Rockerduck in his place); Donald may range from being an average chef to a Lethal Chef; Magica de Spell may be a real powerful sorceress or a normal person who dabbles in sorcery; Granma Duck may be Scrooge's sister or not related to him at all; Gladstone Gander may be really lucky because a Triple Distelfink sign was painted on the barn door on the day of his mother's birth or because the goddess of fortune is in love with him.... The list goes on.
    • The Beagle Boys' competence (and numbers) also seem to flip-flop (from as few as three to as many as eleven). And do they use guns, or are they simply too poor to even afford those?
    • Even Rockerduck himself, despite not even existing in most writers' minds, has flip-flopped between honorable businessman Scrooge likes to screw with for fun, slightly crooked bastard who enjoys spying, swindling and bribing to get his way, white-collar criminal, and murderous gang leader.
    • For a while, European stories had what effectively amounted to an alternative continuity, with the largest change being Scrooge being American-born with Grandma Duck as his older sister and a younger brother named Gideon. An epic-length Italian story even detailed it in its last part. Nowadays this is completely ignored, with some products of that time (namely Paperinik with his comprimaries, Dickie Duck, Brigitta McBridge, Jubal Pomp and Gideon) still around but included in the standard continuity (Gideon being Scrooge's brother is quietly ignored, with fans taking him as Scrooge's younger half-brother from his father's supposed second wife or mistress).
      • Even Paperinik's backstory as heir of Fantomius, the Gentleman Thief, has two different versions. The original version, shown through various details in Paperinik's stories, presents Fantomius as a Gentleman Thief active in the Twenties, operating as "a gentleman masquerading as a thief" with his fiancee Dolly Paprika to humiliate the arrogant rich people of Duckburg and sometimes giving part of his loot to the poor, before dying (as stated in Paperinik's debut story) at some point in the Thirties, with his manor becoming the property of the City of Duckburg and won by Gladstone in a lottery before being destroyed and the land ultimately ending as Scrooge's property. The Dutch series "The Legacy", however, shows Fantomius as still alive (he just retired and disappeared), having operated strictly by stealing to the riches to give to the poor with an accomplice named Ireyon, and the land of his manor still being Gladstone's property. The Italian series "The Amazing Adventures of Fantomius-Gentleman Thief", detailing Fantomius' adventures, completely ignores the Dutch version.
  • The original Phantom Lady, between cosmic reboots, has gone from a superspy goverment agent to a bored senator's daughter with a gimmick - and personality-wise from a delicate Ice Queen who's impossibly ace to a tough talking bruiser.
  • In most Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles adaptations, Raphael is portrayed as a brooding loner who frequently breaks from the group and fights with his brothers — particularly Leonardo, who has a much more commanding presence as a leader. In others, like the original Fred Wolf animated series, Raphael is a good-natured albeit sarcastic jokester while Leonardo seems more toned down and unofficial in his leadership role. Michaelangelo and Donatello remain constant for the most part.
  • Portrayals of The Authority vary from writer to writer, to the point where it's not consistent whether they're the Wildstorm Universe's greatest force for good or a bunch of sociopathic fascists. Also doesn't help that they get used as punching bags in series other than their own.
  • John Constantine in Hellblazer suffers from this trope. Is he just an ordinary blue-collar bloke who happens to attract a lot of supernatural attention and who learned some magic in order to deal with this, or a master sorcerer who can casually bend the laws of time and space at will? A more or less decent guy at heart who struggles with his conscience like anyone else would in his situation, or an utter and unrepentant bastard who'd throw anybody under the bus without a second thought? Is he in fact sane, or isn't he? Some of his writers have tried to explain away the changes they make to his personality (like externalizing all his guilt into a demon infant and tossing it off a cliff) and some haven't.
  • The team formerly known as the Micronauts has kept reappearing occasionally since 1996 revealed that Arcturus Rann, Mari, and Bug were somehow still alive. They've appeared in Cable, Captain Marvel, Earth X, Realm of Kings, Son of Hulk, and Alpha Flight. Rann and Mari have had different personalities in each. In the Cable appearance, Rann was rather genial and avuncular, Mari was taciturn and humorless (along with sporting a lesbian look). In following appearances, they've ranged from having no personality other than a sci-fi plot device (Mari technobabbles like a Star Trek episode), to Realm of Kings, where Mari acts like a ditzy motormouth amazon and Rann acts bored. Admittedly, since Bug is no longer part of the team, the comic relief falls of the shoulders of Mari and her android sidekick Carl.
  • Spirou changed writers many times over the years. Aside from being very visible, the storylines vary, too. Rob-Vel started Spirou being an actual bellboy, Franquin turned him into an journalist adventurer, Fournier made him run into more surreal stuff, various other writers had their own stint before Tome and Janry made the series return to the Franquin era, with the stories getting progressively Darker and Edgier, while starting a Spin-Off about Spirou in his youth, and, after a commercially failed attempt at a (sort of) realistic story, Morvan and Munuera took a more Manga-style take at it, the stories no longer stuck to the present day. The current team, Yoann and Vehlmann, have been leaning heavily on surreal sci-fi elements.
  • The Archie Comics are famous for this:
  • When René Goscinny was writing Asterix, he kept Asterix himself as a fairly bland Standardized Leader Ideal Hero character who was almost never wrong about anything, and gave the Character Development to The Lancer Obelix, who was a sweet, profound and adorably frightening take on a Manchild. When Albert Uderzo took over, Asterix got a lot of Character Development and became more complicated and sympathetic, developed weaknesses and was no longer infallible, but at the same time Obelix was severely Flanderized into being significantly more stupid and selfish, and usually The Millstone to boot. This is most noticeable in The Magic Carpet, where Asterix almost fails on multiple occasions because he has to constantly babysit Obelix. On the bright side, Uderzo introduced a lot more memorable female characters than Goscinny managed to do (Bravura, Melodrama, Orinjade, Latraviata...) and fleshed out some of Goscinny's Spear Carrier and Satellite Love Interest female characters (like Fulliautomatix's wife and daughter, and Obelix's perennial love interest Panacea) into more well-rounded human beings.
  • While the Transformers franchise as a whole is prone to this, it is particularly noticeable in the original Marvel Comics' series — most of the stories were written by either Bob Budiansky or Simon Furman, who often had sharply different depictions of key characters. To pick but one example, Grimlock was a vain and power-mad Designated Hero under Budiansky, whereas Furman writes him as a Noble Savage of a Proud Warrior Race.
    • The two biggest examples, though, are Fortress Maximus and Scorponok. Divergences include: are they the Big Good and Big Bad, or merely high on the chain of command? Are they taller than most guys, or the size of an entire armored base? They're (usually) Headmasters, but how does that work - are they organic beings bonded to intelligent robots, organic beings piloting lifeless robots, or robotic beings piloting lifeless robots? And who's bonded/piloting them? Spike? Cerebros? Fortress? Zarak? Dante? And that's not even getting into their personalities - is Fortress Maximus a Technical Pacifist, an Invincible Hero, or a Broken Bird? Is Scorponok an Evil Overlord, a Mad Scientist, or a Noble Demon? Even the wiki's summary of their characters basically amounts to "they're big, they're highly-ranked, and they don't like each other, everything else is up for debate."
  • Diabolik has been handled by different writers and publishers, and he can vary from a ruthless assassin who will pre-emptively kill anyone who might interfere with his plans (this is usually in books where he is The Ghost), to a thief who plans around not killing his victims and only does so as a last resort, to having a twisted sense of justice in rewarding those who help him, or (as in the Lighter and Softer cartoon) almost a Robin Hood figure.
    • His partner Eva Kant usually has a similar competence and outlook as whatever he is, to the point where they can be The Dividual, but in some older books would be reduced to a damsel in distress rather easily. In others she takes on a vigilante role to bring down particularly heinous criminals.
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