Basically, when a character has been copied enough times, that works start making jokes about how often the character is copied.
Let's say Bob the Slayer is the Breakout Character in a hit film. Then just about every similar movie uses characters like Bob The Slayer, and then all the comics, and all video games, and even original characters made by gamers playing games with Character Customization. This trope comes into play when a work mocks about how Bob the Slayer always shows up.
It could be that a work has a joke about how every hero in the realm is now a copy of Bob the Slayer. Or it could be that everyone is going as Bob the Slayer for Halloween. Or Alice is writing a show, and when strapped for characters, she gets lazy and writes a copy of Bob The Slayer.
Now of course this isn't saying the original character is bad. In fact, often the reason for this happening in the first place is that the original character is good.
- He got enough imitators in Image Comics, when it first started, for magazines such as Wizard Magazine to joke about it.
- Wolverine has been copied so many times in Marvel Comics themselves (though since they own the character, they can make them different versions of Wolverine instead of expies) that they've parodied it at least twice:
- In an issue of Excalibur, the team travels to a dimension that's basically the Marvel Universe with the craziness turned up to 11, and at one point see a line of different versions of Wolverine practicing his catchphrase while waiting to audition to be the "real" Wolverine.
- Later, in an issue of Exiles, a book about a rotating cast of characters from different dimensions being assembled to Set Right What Once Went Wrong throughout The Multiverse, the only information available about a particular "what went wrong" is that only Wolverine could solve it, so an entire team is assembled consisting of different versions of Wolverine. During the mission, they discover that they are not even the first such team, and encounter the remains of dozens of other versions of Wolverine from teams that failed.
- Phil Foglio mocks the Trenchcoat Brigade in Stanley and His Monster, by having the latest John Constantine expy claim it's like an assembly line.
- Parodied in one chapter of the Kingdom Hearts fanfic Those Lacking Spines, where the "heroes" fight a guy named "Jeffiroth", with the implication that he is to be the first of many similar Copycat Sues.
- In the Super Smash Bros. fanfic Remake, one of Cloud's personality problems is that (due to the Follow the Leader VII ripoffs of the 90s) he assumes other video game protagonists are ripoffs of him, even when they're pretty different. He makes a withering comment about Ike, followed by an argument with him, about this; and then accuses Bayonetta of it, which causes her to point out that it's not like he's completely original himself.
- In the blog post Adventuring Party Politics: The Campaign is Getting Ugly, apparently McCain rips off Aragorn:
Obama: Well, maybe some people got tired of the grim and squinty "Matterhorn, son of Marathon" shtick you keep doing. Dude, could you be any less original?
- In one of the Thursday Next books it's revealed that a large group of "generics" (fictional characters that haven't developed any character yet) were being stored in The Once and Future King, and they all imprinted on T.H. White's version of Merlin. Eventually, they were relocated to every fantasy novel ever.
- The Dark Elf Trilogy has Drizzt Do'Urden, the Chaotic Good dual-scimitar-wielding Drow elf ranger of the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons & Dragons. This trope used to be called Drizzt Syndrome because it's a long joke for fans that some players like to play thinly veiled copies of him.
- This is explicitly lampshaded on page 12 of the 3.5 Edition supplemental rulebook Dungeon Master's Guide II:
Often a players favorite role is a version of a classic character from fiction, comics, TV, or the movies. If youve been playing for long, you have doubtless already run into your share of suspiciously familiar white wizards, sinewy barbarians, or pale-complexioned fighter-sorcerers[....] Drizzt DoUrden [...] has spawned a legion of PC drow characters over the years.
- Icing on the cake? Even Salvatore himself reacted on this trend by saying he "fears for the integrity of the evil drow race as antagonist". Talk about Fan Dumb... Wizards does a brilliant lampshading of this in an advertisement of his book series — the ad is set out like a 4th Edition power card, and the "additional effects" bar says, "You'll probably want to make a character named Drizzt."
- Paizo, creators of Pathfinder, actually has stated that one of the goals of the Second Darkness adventure path and their portrayal of the drow in general was to redeem the drow in the eyes of players. And by redeem, they meant recast them as a menacing, terrifying, demon-worshipping race willing to exterminate the surface dwellers for their own benefit. Many players feel that it went so far as to go into Narm territory, and the Adventure Path is commonly ranked among the game's least popular.
- An additional source of Fan Dumb comes from players who react to Driz'zt's overwhelming popularity by hating the character and by extension the drow or Salvatore.
- A Running Gag among players of D&D is that the Drow are an Always Chaotic Evil race populated by nothing but Chaotic Good individuals, due to the absurd number of players who make Drizzt Clones.
- Rather humorously lampshaded in Baldur's Gate II, where your party will eventually run into Drizzt himself. Generally, you can use the opportunity to either ask for his aid on your assault on a vampire compound or just murder him and his party for their awesome gear. If you're playing an elf named Drizzt and have a low enough reputation, however, you never get the chance — he'll simply challenge you to a duel for the honor of his name. If you use a cheat code to give yourself Drizzt's equipment at the start of the game (or if you obtained it in the original game and imported the character), when you finally meet he eventually says, "Wait... I recognize that sword..." and attacks you.
- The Fate Series has a bit of a problem with this. Many characters in the franchise share a physical resemblance to Saber/Artoria Pendragon, who besides having variants of the original (and one literal clone in Mordred) also has several unrelated characters who share the same face. Referenced in Fate/Grand Order with characters having a hidden attribute called "Saberface", that causes some enemies to react differently to them. Then there's Mysterious Heroine X, who is definitely not Artoria hunting down her clones.
- This was even followed up years later when Mysterious Heroine X got new variants, one of whom is another literal clone (whose sole purpose is just to take down Mysterious Heroine X) and the other an Older and Wiser version who had to stop hunting them and get a job because the Saberfaces all got eclipsed in popularity in-universe. All of them get on pretty amicably.
- Before FGO, there was the Sakura Saber incident, where the cast of the Koha-Ace gag magazine proudly announced that they were introducing a new character, designed by Takashi Takeuchi (the main artist of Fate/stay night) himself... only to freak out when said design turned out to be a slightly off-color Saber wearing a kimono. She was eventually fleshed out into a full-blown character (as Souji Okita of The Shinsengumi) but the jabs at her looks never ceased.
- Lord El-Melloi II Case Files plays this for tragedy. Gray, a far-off descendant of the Pendragon lineage, was transformed into a copy of Artoria by outside circumstances, and as a result was treated as a possible vessel for the return of the Once and Future King. She is deeply unhappy about being an Artoria lookalike. She bonds with her teacher, Waver Velvet from Fate/Zero, over their mutual hatred of Artoria's face.
- Final Fantasy:
- Dissidia Final Fantasy has Kefka complain that Sephiroth, one of many later FF villains heavily inspired by him, is "just another sadist with a god complex... Like that's something special!"
- Mobius Final Fantasy has several jokes pointing out Wol's clear inspiration from Kazushige Nojima's previous Final Fantasy protagonists:
- Gilgamesh rattles off details of the "Warriors of Light" from several other worlds ("not to mention side-stories"), before pointing out that Wol reminds him of several of them already. Wol, a moody, Deadpan Snarker amnesiac swordsman who secretly has a kind heart and has to slowly learn to show it, suggests Gilgamesh should go and talk to a wall or something because he's not interested.
- Wol eventually gets to meet Cloud and they end up getting on pretty well. Later, Echo suggests that Cloud and Wol are so spookily alike, it's like they're brothers or something. By their next encounter, they're so in sync that they're able to finish off each other's sentences.
- Gems of War has dark elves, and several of them have descriptions which lampshade their resemblance to Drizzt.
- Intentionally averted in Halo games; player tags of "I17", "117", "S117", and the like are not allowed to be used.
- In Street Fighter IV, Zangief complains about the overabundance of Fireballs.
Fei Long: Just how many of you hadoken-throwers are there, anyway?
- Fei Long also complains about this against Gouken, not realizing that Gouken is the one who originally taught most of the other characters who can use the Hadoken how to do so.
- Due to being able to create an absurdly huge number of characters (especially in America, due to the large number of American servers) in World of Warcraft, less-than-creative character names are common. Due to the limited customization options, it's easy to have characters who look like some non-player character even just by accident, or through laziness. There are a small cast of non-player characters who are particularly popular with the playerbase. Thus it's not uncommon to run into player-character expies. Two characters especially get this treatment quite a bit: Arthas Menethil and Illidan Stormrage, of course. Although the jokes about this phenomenon are actually more prevalent than the phenomenon itself. It isn't just names and looks either, on roleplay servers it's not uncommon to encounter badly exaggerated versions of these characters: eagerly depraved death knights, overly zealous paladins and emo demon hunters respectively. Most of the time these are just very inexperienced roleplayers trying to get in on the action. Sometimes also done because the character in question is seen as sexy by the creating player (and probably by others too), especially in the case of Illidan.
- When the first expansion, Burning Crusade was released, with its race of blond elves that could be hunters, thus using bows, the first day there were thousands of bootleg Legolases running around the servers. Llegolas, Legolass, L3goLas and other imaginative versions.
- In Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee ridicules the overuse of the humorless, hard-ass Space Marine archetype for First-Person Shooter Player Characters. While Master Chief of Halo isn't the direct source from which the character type is derived, he is held out as the most obvious and recognizable example of the archetype. Seems like Doom is the earliest example of the Space Marine variety, while Wolfenstein3D is the earliest example of the humorless hardass marine archetype.
- The Order of the Stick:
- A Drizzt Expy, aptly named Zz'dtri, shows up as a member of the Linear Guild. Vaarsuvius points this out during a battle, and lawyers drag the copycat off-screen. Nale earlier claims that now all Drow became Chaotic Good rebels, "yearning to throw off the reputation of their evil kin". ("Wait, evil kin? Didn't you just say they were all Chaotic Good?" "Details.") Zz'dtri also claims that dual-wielded scimitars are "standard issue", presumably meaning for all drow. It's also subverted since he actually does turn out to be a normal drow. Of course, Zz'dtri later got off scot-free by declaring himself a parody of Drizzt and went back to secretly work for Nale.
- In Invaders From the Fourth Dimension, a bonus story appearing in Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales, Belkar makes the rather bold claim that the 4th Edition ranger is based on Overused Copycat Characters of himself.
- Goblins also skewers the idea of every drow character being a Drizzt clone, gleefully, with three joining the PC party at the very beginning, including Drasst Don'tsue, Drizzt's half-brother.
- 8-Bit Theater also has an evil dual-wielding drow ranger called Drizz'l, though he moved away from this after his first appearance.
- In Knights of Buena Vista, Dick is told to tweak his Player Character when Walter catches on that he's trying to play Han Solo.
- An accidental case of this occurs in Looking for Group. Cale, full name Cale'anon Vatay, is an Elf, has a black panther named Sooba who seems to magically appear out of nowhere when called, is obviously a dual-wielding Ranger, and is Good (albeit Stupid Good) while the rest of his race is (ostensibly) Always Chaotic Evil. Sohmer, the comic's writer, had never read even one Forgotten Realms book in his life (instead basing Cale on the Hunter class and Blood Elf race from World of Warcraft), and wondered who the hell this "Drizz't Do'urden" guy was that everyone kept saying Cale was a brilliant parody of. Since learning about Drizz't, he's happily accepted the similarities and doesn't mind at all if people see Cale as a deconstruction or parody of Drizz't in the slightest, even actually playing it up from time to time.
- "Clichequest", the MMORPG in The Noob, has several dozen players named various variations of the different members of the fellowship. At one point, we see Elfboro, where almost everyone is named Legolas one way or the other ("Oh, you're looking for Leg0las"). Even the Idiot Hero tried to name his character "Aragorn" in the first strip.
- GOG.com pokes fun at the phenomenon. In one screenshot for Eye of the Beholder 2 (7th from the left) an elven magician is named "NOT DRIZZT".
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic makes fun of how, twice now, they've introduced a new powerful unicorn lacking in social skills whose name is a synonym for "Twilight" and "Sparkle", and sent her on adventures to learn about friendship in "Triple Threat" when Ember casually mistakes Starlight Glimmer for Twilight Sparkle and then bluntly declares they both look the same and she can't tell them apart. Naturally, Twilight and Starlight are not amused by this.