People in Real Life are unique, irreplaceable, with their own specific background and personality.
Not so in fiction. Some characters are better known as symbols than as people. Consequently, as long as you keep the basic elements of a character (their essence) you can have infinite variations of the same character. Without those elements, you would have a completely different character rather than a new version.
Any character can undergo some variations Depending on the Writer. But not every character can have major reinterpretations and remain the same character.
For example, take Batman. He has numerous different interpretations. Some are campy, some are realistic but gritty, some are darker, cartoony, etc. But all share the basic elements of a man named Bruce Wayne who dons a bat costume and fights crime. If we saw another character named Batman who stayed at home and argued eloquently on the Internet, we'd have a totally different character, despite the name.
On the other hand, Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean isn't as interpretative. You can't just take any drunk pirate and call him "Jack Sparrow". Anyone who tries to emulate or parody him would need to keep Johnny Depp's mold intact. This character's specific personal appearance, clothes, mannerisms, and manner of speech would need to be kept the same (or exaggerated in case of parody). Disney even admitted that without Johnny Depp the franchise would be "dead and buried". His characterization may change slightly Depending on the Writer, but there isn't really much room for variation.
Contrast Captain Ersatz, where a variation of an Interpretative Character is introduced as a new character, and Expy, where a new character is designed around the defining tropes of another non - Interpretative Character.
May overlap with Era-Specific Personality. Iconic Characters are the ones most likely to fall into this.
Not to be confused with Alternative Character Interpretation, Character Derailment, Depending on the Writer, or In Name Only.
- Lupin III:
- It is one of the longest-running franchises in anime history, and as such, there's been plenty of different takes on the title character; is he a Jerk with a Heart of Gold? A ruthless, conniving Villain Protagonist? A kind, heroic Gentleman Thief whose more of a clear-cut good guy? Is he suave, or is he goofy? Does he have boyish good looks or does he resemble a monkey? Is he a ladies man, or an out and out rapist? He's a Lovable Sex Maniac, but is he a Chivalrous Pervert, a Handsome Lech, a Chick Magnet or a Casanova Wannabe?
- Inspector Zenigata has been written as a serious and determined cop with little to no humor about him, an incompetent buffoon used for Plucky Comic Relief, an eccentric yet no less capable officer, one of the best cops in the world and capable of giving Lupin a literal run for his money, and as someone who Lupin runs mental circles around. And he either has a certain fondness for Lupin, hates his guts, wants him thrown in prison for the rest of his life, or at his most extreme wants to see him dead (albeit through legal means).
- The aforementioned Batman. His interpretations range from the cartoony (Batman: The Brave and the Bold) to the farcical (the 1960s series) to the dark and artistic (the 1989 movie) to the gritty (The Dark Knight).
- Bruce Wayne is Rich. He's been a clownish fake Upper-Class Twit and a hardworking Honest Corporate Executive; as long as the Rich bit is in there, nobody seems to care about the details.
- Classic Batman stories depict Batman as a mask for Bruce Wayne, while modern versions of the character depict him the other way around.
- Superman: He's Powerful and The Good Guy (tm). But how powerful is he? Is he a patriotic character, or does he transcend nationalism? Is he mostly alien, or mostly human?
- Superboy. He's a young version of Superman, but has been Superman in his youth, a son of Superman, or a clone of Superman. In Young Justice Superman was very disturbed by his existence. But in the Smallville version Superman accepted him with open arms even after he became evil.
- In an interesting parallel to Batman, classic Superman stories depict meek, bumbling reporter Clark Kent as a disguise for the strong, courageous hero Superman, while modern stories depict the kind, humble, down-to-earth farm boy Clark Kent as his true self and Superman as an alias through which he does good.
- Wonder Woman has had many interpretations, ranging from a patriotic freedom fighter (Golden Age), a very lawful but less assertive hero who defers to her male teammates (Silver Age), a Lady of War on par with Xena, Ambiguously Bi, a Badass Normal super spy, a Straw Feminist, and a calm and mature authority figure (most modern incarnations tend to be a mix of this and Lady of War). It's been pointed out by one writer that one of the reasons Diana has so many interpretations is that every writer and artist has their own idea of the perfect woman.
- On the villainous side, The Joker. He's an enemy of Batman, but is he a common thug, a vandal who fancies himself an artist, a nihilistic anarchist out to prove everyone's as bad as him inside, a depraved Serial Killer who targets Batman's friends or what-have-you? He kills his victims with a smile, but does he use a fatal injection that tightens their face muscles, curable laughing gas, or does he just slit their faces into a Glasgow Grin? Does he want to kill Batman, drive him as crazy as he is, goad Batman into killing him to prove a point, or does he refuse to kill Batman because he's "too much fun"? Most of this would probably be straightened out by a good, hard look at his backstory, but just what is his backstory anyway?
- It's generally accepted that there are three phases of Lex Luthor: 1) a world-reviled criminal mastermind and war profiteer; 2) a Mad Scientist; 3) an absurdly rich Corrupt Corporate Executive with a certain level of good publicity. The latter has arguably been the most popular portrayal for the last three or four decades, but as long as you make him smart, bald (even if only in the last five minutes) and Superman's enemy, he's likely to fall into one of those three categories.
- The Incredible Hulk: The series is all over this: is the Hulk an aspect of Banner's psyche brought to life? A completely separate individual? A psychological child (emotionally innocent but easily angered)? Really kind of dumb, of at least average intelligence using Hulk Speak as a verbal tic, or using it to deliberately downplay his intelligence? All of these have been used. Adding to the fun is the fact that the Hulk sometimes manifests as a Genius Bruiser with a ponytail, a Barbarian Hero, or a grey-skinned, morally flexible thug, and the same or similar questions play out.
- The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a group tend to have different characterizations depending on adaptation and medium; they're vengeful ninja warriors in the original Eastman and Laird comics, goofy, wisecracking, catchphrase-spouting do-gooders in the 1980s cartoon, and an amalgamation of both in most other adaptations. Leonardo and Raphael tend to change the most, with Leonardo written as either a straitlaced, dorky everyman or a calm and stoic fighter who takes his duties as a leader and a ninja very seriously, and Raphael as a Deadpan Snarker with a laid back personality, a hotheaded grump, a Boisterous Bruiser, or a violent, brooding Anti-Hero. Michelangelo and Donatello generally stay the same, Mikey being the outgoing "party dude" and Donatello being the nerdy inventor, though there are still differences between each adaptation; Michelangelo's depiction as a party dude generally depends on what's considered cool and hip at the time. Mikey from the 80s and 2003 cartoons is a surfer dude, and Mikey from the 2012 cartoon and 2014 film generally acts like a millennial. Donatello ranges from being a high-strung, stereotypical geek to being the most mellow and mild-mannered of the four.
- The Shredder. He's been portrayed as a bumbling cartoon villain, a brutal ninja warlord, an armor-clad alien monster, a man wearing full-blown Powered Armor, and even a set of Animated Armor himself.
- The Kingpin's been interpreted three different ways; there's his traditional portrayal as the polite and charismatic monster who speaks with an urbane affectation seen in the comics and other media, the socially awkward, Psychopathic Man Child seen in the Daredevil TV series and the MCU, and the hulking thug with a New York accent and more prominent mafioso vibes seen in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. What remains consistent about him across all media is that he's intelligent, manipulative, wealthy, Wicked Cultured, and just plain wicked, with good publicity and lots of people in high places under his payroll.
- Spider-Man: Aunt May's been depicted a few different ways, ranging from a frail old lady with senile tendencies, a strong-willed Mama Bear capable of holding her own in tough situations, and a former hippy, and her exact age depends on the continuity, with some depicting her as an elderly woman in her advanced years, or as young as her early 50s. Whether she's like a grandmother or a mother-figure to Peter also depends.
- Norman Osborn: Just how evil is he? Is the Green Goblin a split personality threatening to completely take over the helpless Norman Osborn in a Jekyll & Hyde type fashion, or just a mask he uses to commit crimes? Is Norman Osborn a ruthless, cunning sociopath who cares about no one but himself, or a terribly flawed but well-meaning man suffering from stress and mental health issues who truly does care for his son? Does the Goblin transformation drive him insane, or was he already mad to begin with, and if that's the case, is the Green Goblin simply a reflection of his true self? Does Norman wear a costume and mask and throw pumpkin bombs as the Green Goblin, or does he transform into a hulking, pyrokinetic monster who throws fireballs? And is the Green Goblin a Laughing Mad type villain, or a raging beast?
- Godzilla over the years has been portrayed as a villain hell-bent on destroying all of humanity, an Anti-Hero force of nature, and as a heroic Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
- James Bond. At heart, he's The Charmer super spy in service of the British crown who drops a good Bond One-Liner, beats up bad guys, loves Martini cocktails and has a Walther handgun. Anything else is up for interpretation.
- It also doesn't help that he's been played by so many different actors, each with their own distinct portrayal of him; he's been played as smug, with a roguish charm. Warm, sensitive, and caring (at least towards some of his love interests). Stoic and traumatized from a life filled with loss and bloodshed. Light and campy. And outright callous. It all depends on the era and actor. And while he's certainly an anti-hero, what kind of anti-hero depends, again, on the era and actor.
- Zorro has been variously portrayed as lighthearted, vengeful, political, campy, or romanticized, depending on the filmmaker and era.
- Spider-Man has been interpreted very differently across the three recent film adaptations. While all of them are young working-class stiffs who generally act heroic and are effective and skilled superheroes, their personalities are quite disparate. Tobey Maguire portrays him as meek, serious and a bit of an Extreme Doormat, with a strict Thou Shalt Not Kill code and unending honor towards even his enemies. Andrew Garfield's take is more of a snarky loner who starts off as much more of an Anti-Hero, actively mocking and bullying some of his enemies and being willing to let some die. Tom Holland plays up his youth and inexperience, coming across as awkward and a Motor Mouth, even in combat situations, and is far less effective than the other two with his blundering often making things worse. Due to various liberties taken with all three versions, the Spider-Man fanbase is split on who is the best.
- Alice in Wonderland: At her core, she is the Only Sane Woman; an Every Girl in a Cloud Cuckoo Land. But is she an innocent yet somewhat typical little girl among fuzzies, a mad girl exploring the dark recesses of her own psyche, or an unconventional woman who's actually stumbled into another plane?
- The Cheshire cat has also fallen to different interpretations in both design and characterization, three of which are pictured above.
- Hannibal Lecter: The titular character is, at his core in the original novels, an eloquent Serial Killer with a tendency to devour his victims. From there, things differ as his actors have all treated their roles as the character with their own quirks — with Brian Cox adding emphasis to his arrogance, Anthony Hopkins highlighting his superficial charm, Gaspard Ulliel portraying him as a Knight Templar Big Brother and Sociopathic Hero, and Mads Mikkelsen approaching him as if he was a supernaturally competent demon in human guise.
- The Wizard of Oz has thousands of different interpretations for all the characters. They all have their cores; Dorothy wants to get back to normalcy, the Scarecrow wants a brain, the Tin Man wants a heart, and the Cowardly Lion wants courage. There is a Good Witch who wants to help Dorothy and a Wicked Witch who wants to hinder her. The Wizard of Oz is a scary illusionist and big fat liar who wants the veil to stay up. Why (and sometimes how) they do this, however, is up to their current writer's interpretation.
- Sherlock Holmes:
- Sherlock Holmes himself. His interpretations on screen range from Basil Rathbone's mildly eccentric English gentleman, Jeremy Brett's bipolar genius, Robert Downey Jr.'s intellectual Badass Bookworm and Benedict Cumberbatch's borderline autistic savant; all of which can be totally justified from the original texts.
- Dr. Watson. Just respectively you've got Nigel Bruce's bumbling comic relief, Burke/Hardwicke's accomplished surgeon, Jude Law's long-suffering Deadpan Snarker, and Martin Freeman's out-of-his-depth closet adrenaline junkie. Again, any of these could be fairly gleaned from reading the books.
- Lampshaded in Paul Cornell's short story "The Deer Stalker", in which Holmes and Watson are hunted by a sinister force that's "decontextualizing" people, stripping them down to their essential characteristics and causing everything else about them to constantly fluctuate. Previous victims include Lee Harvey Oswald, Dracula, Calamity Jane, and Alice.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has Willy Wonka: At his core, he is a brilliant, reclusive, lively Mad Scientist of candymaking who has highly Skewed Priorities when it comes to the fates of those who enter his world and don't heed his warnings, owing to his unique way of thinking, and a Trickster Mentor seeking a successor. Adaptations and their actors have built on this in a variety of ways: Gene Wilder plays up The Wonka aspect to the hilt, even deliberately scaring the Golden Ticket tour group for fun. Johnny Depp plays him as a Manchild whose years of isolation from the rest of the world result in him having trouble just speaking to, much less interacting with, his visitors in ways they would regard as "normal". In the 2002 audiobook version, Eric Idle plays up the character's boundless energy, which makes him something of a mad optimist even in the darkest moments. In the 2013 stage musical, Douglas Hodge plays him as a Mad Artist / Mad Scientist hybrid with a Sugar-and-Ice Personality: He's usually frosty towards the tour group, focusing on the business at hand rather than getting to know them, and to the bad seeds he shows stealthy contempt and, when they meet potentially deadly fates, truly blithe indifference. Yet he's sensitive to creativity and beauty, capable of showing great kindness and warmth to those who can appreciate and understand his way of thinking.
- Parodied in the Kim Newman short story "Coastal City", which pokes fun at superhero comic tropes. The Commissioner Gordon is uncomfortably aware that he can vary between being useless, a trusted ally, or a J. Jonah Jameson-esque Inspector Javert depending on which hero he's dealing with at the time. He's also notes that the woman working in his office looks like Sharon Stone and is on the force, but he swears she used to look like Ginger Rogers and just be his secretary.
- Doctor Who:
- The Doctor themself. At their core they are an eccentric but heroic immortal figure with a time machine. However, every Doctor will be different from their other incarnations. Tom Baker, who played the Fourth Doctor, often says that the premise is so open to interpretation that no-one has ever "failed" as the Doctor and no-one ever can.
- Lampshaded by the Tenth Doctor in his first full episode:
Sycorax Leader: Who exactly are you?
10th Doctor: Well, that's the question.
Sycorax Leader: I demand to know who you are!
10th Doctor: (mock-imitation of Sycorax Leader's voice) I DON'T KNOOOW !! (back to regular voice) See, that's the thing. I'm the Doctor, but beyond that, I.. I just don't know. I literally do not know who I am. It's all untested. Am I funny? Am I sarcastic? Sexy? [winks at Rose, who looks away, embarrassed but smiling] Right old misery? Life and soul? Right-handed? Left-handed? A gambler? A fighter? A coward? A traitor or a liar? A nervous wreck? I mean, judging by the evidence, I've certainly got a gob.
- The Bible: There's a plethora of ways to interpret Satan, from monstrous to human-like. For Christian creators, the only requisite is that you depict him as ultimately evil and someone who rejects God. It's common to allude to his former angel backstory but not mandatory. Alexandre Cabanel's The Fallen Angel keeps the three aforementioned elements but is liberal in about everything else. For one, it draws a lot from Greek Tragedy, being a Tragic Hero whose Fatal Flaws (ambition and hubris) land him in the worst situation possible, aka being cast from Heaven, so he can only weep in the end. Another artistic liberty, albeit a rather common re-interpretation, is that Lucifer is an attractive Winged Humanoid.
- In Classical Mythology: Pick any major god, and you'll find them smiting someone for a petty reason in one story and acting benevolent in another. Zeus is the patron of things like justice and Sacred Hospitality, but by modern standards, he's also a serial rapist. Part of the reason that Everybody Loves Zeus is a trope is because he's so often terrible, but was also The Good King as far as his worshipers were concerned.
- Many figures from Arthurian Legend—even going back to the medieval sources, characters can vary wildly. Much Arthuriana is created to make a political and/or moral point, which means that it will change with the times and authorial viewpoint.
- Arthur himself. He's the king, but while the earliest stories make him a badass adventuring with his knights, by the Vulgate he's sidelined at Camelot while the others went on quests. Some writers gave him illegitimate offspring, while others make him scrupulously faithful to Guinevere (odd for a medieval king) to emphasize her own adultery. Usually Camelot's fall is the result of his own sins, but Idylls of the King goes in the other direction, making him the quintessential Good King doomed by the faults of others.
- Guinevere is largely defined by her romance with Arthur and/or Lancelot. Some stories ignore the affair, in which case she's probably The High Queen. If she is sleeping with Lancelot, then is she otherwise moral and torn? In contrast, stories like Lanval make "shameless hussy" her whole characterization. Lancelot gets this for the same reason: he's Arthur's greatest knight, but is he really like that, despite betraying his vows to Arthur? Who, if anyone, is the "bad guy" in this Love Triangle?
- Morgan le Fay started off as a benevolent Fairy Godmother figure, then got reworked into Arthur's sister, a human sorceress, and evil. Modern takes usually lean into the Big Bad Evil Sorceress angle (and if she is good, it's generally framed as a revisionist Perspective Flip), but you can pretty much give her any characterization and find a source justifying it.
- Mordred is the Final Boss who rebels against Arthur. Usually he's Arthur's son, conceived by Surprise Incest, but even that angle is Newer Than They Think. Is he just Inbred and Evil? A good guy until he learned the truth of his origin? Being manipulated by his evil mother, and if so, is that Morgause or Morgan? Is he The Brute or The Charmer, a Complete Monster or a Tragic Villain?
- The various reincarnations of Link and Zelda in The Legend of Zelda series. Though this has an in-universe justification for the various interpretations.
- Carmen Sandiego. She's the red-coated nemesis of the ACME Detective Agency and the ringleader of V.I.L.E. Since the early '90s, her Back Story always involves her being a former ACME detective. Within those parameters, pretty much anything can be changed, including how much (if any) goodness is left in her.
- Most of the controllable characters in Kentucky Route Zero such as Conway, Shannon, and Lula are left to have their details filled in by dialogue choices.
- The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise has run for almost three decades as of this writing, and has had TONS of revisions, and retools to the series setting, lore, and design sensibilities. In the 90's alone, it had no less than seven different continuities running concurrently, all of them with their own specific incarnations of Sonic and his supporting cast.
- Mario. Given the sheer longevity of the series and the amount of creative teams in charge of each game, his personality and traits are subject to change depending on whatever circumstances he finds himself in. Luigi, on the other hand, developed a more solid, definite personality as the series went on.
- Every one of the standard Final Fantasy recurring characters - mascots like Chocobos and Moogles, summoned monsters like Shiva, Ifrit and Bahamut, and monsters like Mandragora and Cactuar get reinterpreted along the aesthetic of every entry they appear in. This does lead to some weird effects, sometimes - Final Fantasy XV contains both a 'serious' interpretation of Ultros (Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV) and a goofy version in line with his usual interpretation (A King's Tale: Final Fantasy XV).
- Many original characters created for the Dragon Ball video games like Mira, Towa, the Supreme Kai of time and Fu have different interpretations in every video game they appear in.
- Jenny Everywhere, a character who was made for the sole purpose of being inserted into any continuity through any interpretation.
- Newgrounds' Iconic Series Mascot, Pico, first appeared in five flashes by Tom Fulp, and ever since then has been kept alive by the flashes of several Newgrounders who took him in almost any direction under the sun. At his base, he is a badass Fiery Redhead juvenile weapons expert in a green long-sleeved shirt. Everything beyond that is up for grabs from how old he is to his relationship with Nene and Darnell.
- Nene and Darnell tend to variate with Pico as well. Nene at base is an Asian girl in an overall dress with a long-sleeve shirt with matching shoes and a headband, all of which are pink. From that point, she could either be a caring love-interest/girlfriend to Pico or ready and willing to coldly slit his throat when the situation calls for it. Her Subverted Innocence, namely her sexual and suicidal tendencies, are usually mainstays, but they also tend to fluctuate. Her Vague Age and Troubling Unchildlike Behavior tend to be the same as Pico. Darnell is more stably characterized, being black with a slicked 'do, wearing a purple-and-yellow long-sleeved shirt and blue jeans, and being a pyromaniac who plays the Littlest Cancer Patient card (usually a lie) to bolster his chances for class president. Likewise, he also carries Pico's Vague Age and Troubling Unchildlike Behavior.
- Since there is no canon in the SCP Foundation universe, many different versions of the Foundation can be found. Is it an evil organization who is cruel to all anomalies and cares only about maintaining power? A comical group that goes on wacky adventures, run by a bunch of eccentric scientists? A morally-conflicted agency that's just trying to protect the innocent from a world full of horrors? Any one of these interpretations could be true, and it's up to the reader to decide which one they believe in.
- The Slender Man is tall, slender, wears a dark business suit, and is generally used for the purpose of horror. Anything else is fair game. Even his most identifying feature (his facelessness) varies between "doesn't exist" and "just doesn't show up on camera."
- Mickey Mouse. Seeing as how there isn't really a "definitive" story for him, like Disney's fairy tale characters, he's very much this. Throughout his history, he's been portrayed as a troublemaker in the early days, a Vanilla Protagonist Nice Guy, a badass Big Good, and even a Corrupt Corporate Executive in parodies.
- My Little Pony is a big example. The characters are all, in the end, defined only by name, color scheme and markings. If the character has an identical name and similar design to a character from earlier media, they're considered to be a new version of the same character, even if their personality is completely different and their design has a couple of differences. For instance, Rainbow Dash is a female pony with a blue body, a rainbow mane, and a rainbow design on her hip — G3 Rainbow Dash is an Earth Pony fashionista whose mark is a typical arch-shaped rainbow between two clouds, but My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has her as an athletic Pegasus pony who isn't that interested in fashion, while her mark is a rainbow lightning bolt emerging from one cloud. And other times, they outright reuse a name for a completely different character — for instance, there are several completely unrelated ponies named Cupcake.
- Transformers has a habit of defining its characters very loosely, with any characters who share a name and some major traits being considered the same one regardless of any obvious differences beyond those. And then, you have to differentiate between "new version of character X" and "new character with a name we've heard before slapped on it." The Powers That Be aren't too particular about how less prominent names are used, with there being so many characters that it's entirely possible that a writer may create a new character without realizing that their name had already been used somewhere else. Major characters are more consistent, but still not very, as seen with ones such as these:
- Megatron. For any kind of villain you've ever seen, there's a Megatron for that. He's been a brute, a brilliant manipulator and chessmaster, a one-bot army and far-thinking master planner, an energy vampire, a fallen hero struggling his way through a redemption arc, and an extremely 80s cartoon villain with a high-pitched voice and schemes like "I know how we can get more energy! Let's build this giant cannon to knock the Moon out of orbit, build a device to control the tides in the Moon's absence, and then use all that power to flood a canyon that contains a hydroelectric generator that we built." He's also tried Omnicidal Maniac on for size once (in Transformers: Cybertron, his true plan proves to be to use the black hole to eradicate the whole universe, then rebuild it in his image). He is always The Determinator, though.
- Starscream is always going to try and screw Megatron over, but why? Does he just want power for himself? Does he want the best for the Decepticons and honestly believe it's not Megs? Is he right about that? Was he loyal until Megs screwed him? Does he stay with the 'cons, or does he become a third faction? When he does get some power, is he any good at using it?
- On the good guys' side, Optimus. He'll always be The Hero, always the leader, always serious but with the occasional sign of a sense of humor and A Father to His Men. The exact flavor depends on the tone of the series, though. In the film series he's The Berserker in battle, and in Beast Wars and Animated, he's the leader of the team but not the Autobots altogether. (A big brother to his men?) In a darker series, he won't hesitate to kill; in a lighter one, he's always willing to forgive. Sometimes he's willing to say I Did What I Had to Do, and sometimes it's "showing mercy even if it's probably gonna bite us down the road is what makes us better than the 'cons."
- Ironhide's been an old and Southern minivan, a stealthy and Southern truck, a young and not Southern truck, a truck who really loves his guns (fitting an American Deep South stereotype despite not having the accent), and most recently young, Southern, and... a vehicle that's trying really hard not to look like a repaint of Ratchet's pre-Earth alien-ified ambulance mode who probably would have traded that alt-mode in for a truck.
- For a minor-name case that may not be intended as a new version of an existing character, there's Blackout. We've got Demolishor's ground-vehicle Robot Buddy in Transformers: Armada, the toy name of an unnamed Bruticus Maximus component in Transformers: Energon, a bird Terrorcon drone in the show proper, and a helicopter-bot who all but wiped out a whole military base in the first live movie. Animated Blackout is basically movie Blackout in the show's animation style, though. Movie Blackout may be a reference to fellow helicopter Bruticus component Blackout, but that's a stretch - Energon combiners are single characters who split, not teams who combine. Energon Bruticus' leg having a name is obscure trivia.
- Rampage: big cat, Hannibal Lecter in the form of a giant crab, or a construction vehicle? Like Blackout, being a 'con is all the uses of the name have in common.
- Scorponok is borderline. As a Decepticon scorpion, he feels more like a recurring character than an oft-reused name. However, the name "Scorponok" pretty much has to be used for a scorpion, and a scorpion pretty much has to be bad. Beyond this, nothing is the same twice - he's been a non-sentient, crazy enormous base-turned-robot used by an alien warlord, a leader of the Decepticons in Megatron's absence, an unremarkable button-man, a Mad Scientist and a conflicted Anti-Villain.
- Wheeljack has his share of changes per continuity. In G1 he's a Gadgeteer Genius whose inventions have a varying degree of success. In Transformers: Armada, he is an Autobot turncoat who sides with the Decepticons. In Transformers: Prime he's a member of the Wreckers, a badass One Bot Army who can take on multiple 'cons all at once.
- Ultra Magnus tends to be a high-ranking, powerful soldier connected to Optimus Prime in some way, sometimes being his brother. His characterization primarily comes from the rank of Supreme Autobot Leader somehow. In G1 he feared and avoided such responsibility despite being well cut out for it, in Transformers: Robots in Disguise he was jealous of Prime for being chosen to be leader, and in Animated he already was a responsible leader who saw potential in the young rookie known as Optimus Prime. In The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, he's only really an Autobot on a technicality; his actual job is to enforce Cybertron's laws of war, and he's a deeply, perhaps too serious man whose OCD is a manifestation of a nervous breakdown.
- Sentinel Prime is far more vague, not even having a concrete basic visual design unlike most of the above, but somehow relates to being Optimus Prime's superior somehow. In G1 he doesn't have much of a characterization beyond dying and passing the Autobot Matrix of Leadership to Optimus, but was brought back for Animated as a complete and utter Jerkass who keeps rubbing it in Optimus' face that he is in the Elite Guard whereas Optimus is just a maintenance bot despite the fact that Optimus sacrificed his chances for the Elite Guard for him. note In Transformers: Dark of the Moon however, he is Optimus' highly respected predecessor and mentor whom he brought Back from the Dead in hopes of ending the war only to find out that he is a Well-Intentioned Extremist with A God Am I tendencies who allied with Megatron long ago in a plan to send Cybertron to Earth and restore it using Earth's resources and Puny Earthlings. Notably, the two recent depictions of Sentinel Prime tend to play Actor Allusion/Ink-Suit Actor. Animated Sentinel was voiced by Townsend Coleman and is basically The Tick in Transformer form, whereas DOTM Sentinel is modeled after his voice actor Leonard Nimoy, and even shares a line with Spock. The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye splits the difference between the other incarnations: he was a previous holder of the Matrix, or more accurately a phony Matrix, who was a raging asshole employed by the corrupt Senate, and subsequently turned out to be a pawn of a villainous force... although one that predated the Decepticons by quite some time.
- The Scooby-Doo gang to varying degrees. As the straight men of the group in the original incarnation, Daphne and Fred have been subject to the most revision, with Fred rocketing between reliable leader and blustering goofball and Daphne as danger-prone damsel, quick-witted Action Girl and kooky Cloud Cuckoolander. As more specific characters, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby have experienced far less variation; Velma remained a cheerful, easygoing genius until Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated turned her into a Daria-esque snarker with a sweet spot for Shaggy.
- G.I. Joe, being by the same company as Transformers and often sharing its creative staff, handle characters the same way. Some characters have nothing in common beside sharing a name for the sake of trademark retention (so Rampage, the rough vehicle driver from G.I. Joe A Real American Hero has nothing to do with Rampage, the unhinged arm dealer from G.I. Joe Extreme), some characters had more or less consistent portrayals among the various continuities (every incarnation of Destro is a mask-wearing Scottish arm dealer, every incarnation of Roadblock is a Scary Black Man) and others are in-between, having the basic of their design and role nailed down but wildly different backgrounds and portrayals.
- The biggest example of the later is Cobra Commander. Over the years, Cobra Commander has been portrayed as a used car salesman who went insane after losing everything, a shrill goofball eventually revealed to be a spy sent by an ancient underground civilization, a ruthless cyborg warlord, a bloodthirsty maniac playing dumb, and more.