Satirical depictions of politicians are almost inevitably popular with their targets (with the notable exception of Steve Bell's take on former British Prime MinisterJohn Major.) Often, they will contact the cartoonist, or the paper it was published in, to ask for a copy or the original, probably thinking it's better if people are making fun of them than just ignoring them. Ralph Steadman declared he would only depict politician's arses to prevent this.
Super-Mac by Victor Weisz, a parody of Harold Macmillan, was especially so. Maybe he shouldn't have compared him to a superhero.
Controversial British politician Enoch Powell, well known for his anti-immigrational "Rivers Of Blood" speech, owned a lot of cartoons starring himself and had them framed at the wall. But this was mostly done by his wife. In the BBC documentary "Enoch Powell: Odd Man Out" Powell even expressed feeling embarrassed by some of these cartoons, but his wife very staunchly defended him on the matter. Many of these drawings were critical of his ideas, but the couple didn't seem to grasp this.
Superdupont by Jacques Lob and Gotlib (and also Alexis and Jean Solé) is a French comic parodying the superhero genre and a satire of French jingoism. The title character is an over-the-top stereotypical French Jerk with Superman-like powers (which he loses when he hears the French anthem played in reverse) and battles "Anti-France", a shadowy group of people who all speak with a mix of all foreign accents at once and target French core values — such as replacing French wine with Italian wine and mass-producing berets made in China. The French extreme right-wing nationalist party Le Front National took Superdupont as their icon, which caused the authors of the comic to put it on hiatus for a few years. French far-right politician Jean-Marie LePen's approval was the main reason for the creators to do this.
Asterix: Quite a few European far-right politicians or supporters have used this series to promote a romanticized idea of ancient Europe in a time when supposedly no immigrants crowded the country. It doesn't occur to them that Asterix is more historical fiction than anything else and that Asterix and his friends always get along fine with other nationalities. Even the Romans aren't always depicted as villains.
Chick Tracts readers are supposed to agree with everything the protagonists say, but there is a significant "fandom" that finds the over-the-top nature of these tracts unintentionally hilarious. In addition, on first reading them, many people assume that the tracts are intended as a parody of The Fundamentalist. They are totally serious. Even so, some people still insist that the tracts are all written as a massive Stealth Parody. While Jack Chick was notoriously hard to get info on, he was sincere about what he was trying to say, by all accounts. (Besides, considering that Chick died in October 2016, if the tracts are a parody, it's one that Chick kept going to his dying breath, which is extremely unlikely.)
This happened to R. Crumba lot — most notably with his iconic "Keep On Truckin'" character/pose, which was adopted by many rock-loving hippies as their "mascot," as it were. The truth was, Crumb was making fun of rock music lovers, who in his eyes were doing "The Dance of Cultural Death" (as he put it). He even explained it in a comic in The R. Crumb Coffee Table Art Book and told his (probably now disillusioned) hippie fans: "KEEP ON TRUCKIN', SCHMUCKS!". (This was followed by Mr. Natural remarking: "Don't forget, Bob, that it was the compassion, the loving forgiveness, that they found so appealing in your cartoons, that made you so popular, that got you laid, that earned you a living. Keep it in mind!")
Crumb has also drawn quite some controversial comics in his life. His Angelfood McSpade comics about a stereotypical African tribeswoman and the highly controversial two-parter comic strip "When the Goddamn Niggers Take Over America" and "When the Goddamn Jews take over America" have understandably been accused of racism, the latter two predictably being used by Neo-Nazis and far-right supporters. Crumb himself was absolutely horrified by this, because all his comics are meant as Satire. He is also a huge admirer of Jazz and Blues and drew many comic strips and album covers promoting his love for these Afro-American musical genres. Crumb also has many black and Jewish friends, including Art Spiegelman, and is married to a Jewish woman, Aline Kominsky-Crumb.
In recent years, The Punisher has become very popular with members of the American armed forces, especially due to the influence of American Sniper. This has proven very aggravating for Gerry Conway, who was a conscientious objector during The Vietnam War and intended for the Punisher to be a bad guy.
A lot of the unintended heroism of the character stems from the writers not really understanding their own context. A murdering vigilante in real life is unambiguously a bad thing, but in a world where even the heroes rack up body counts in the dozens or hundreds per year, the villains are worse, and the only punishment you get for burning a hundred people to death is a month of brooding from Batman and six weeks in a revolving-door prison, being the one guy at least attempting to solve problems permanently gives you a lot more social utility than murdering criminals would in the real world.
This goes for many popular monstrous characters: there is a difference between enjoying the character's appearance in the story (which, one must imagine, the creator wants you to do unless stated otherwise), and the kinds of interactions they bring, and seeing their crimes and psychopathy as something to be cheered on and supported or thinking the villain might be a cool dude to know, which is the main idea of this trope.
This actually gives rise to an in-universe example. In Batman Child Of Dreams the Batman must go up against a series of imposters of his Rogues Gallery, created by a Mad Scientist out of self-described "pathetic losers." Where does he find these people? Answer: the INTERNET. It seems that Batman never noticed that the years had given rise to Joker Appreciation Societies and Riddler Fanclubs...
A better example from the pages of Batman might be Harley Quinn. Although she is the girlfriend and accomplice of the Joker, and is often shown to be almost as Axe-Crazy as he is, fans often seem to forgive her actions, hold her up as something of a heroic or anti-heroic figure, and she is often a Karma Houdini in the actual stories.
Her relationship with the Joker is also very prone to this. The tragedy of her love for him is that she thinks he's a decent person on the inside and she can redeem him by making him love her back, but that's simply not true. He's a coldhearted psychopath and he will always be one, and he views her as nothing more than a tool to manipulate. Basically, Draco in Leather Pants as reality.note Some stories do eventually have her realize how bad the relationship is and end it for good, in fairness, though not all versions of her do this. However, Harley also happens to be living out the fantasy of an unfortunately large subset of female comic readers, who tend to take her side.
Batman in general isn't necessarily immune to this. Mark Waid's Justice League of America: Tower of Babel was designed to criticize the character's prep time paranoia tendencies by showing that he'd secretly been thinking up ways to kill or incapacitate his Justice League allies for years, only to have them fall into the wrong hands, thus placing the entire world in jeopardy. This was intended to show that such a man would be the worst kind of team member who would be impossible to trust and work with since his plans involved torturing them. But unfortunately, all some fans came away with was "BATMAN'S THE SMARTEST, MOST BADASS HERO EVER!!!" It was intended to show that Batman had at least the right idea: every superhero has at least one mind-controlling villain, at least one villain with the same power(s) as the hero, and at least one instance of losing their way and going at least a little too dark. Knowing what you'd do if you had to fight one of your teammates is defensible, but actually writing the manual and failing to keep it out of the bad guys' hands is another story, as well as personally insinuating yourself with them to carefully finagle their weaknesses is also a pretty low thing to do.
Judge Dredd. You'd be surprised how many people find the idea of the Judge system appealing and miss the strip's satire altogether.
Kingdom Come: Some people read it just because they like the antiheroes. This is missing the fact that Kingdom Come was written as a criticism of that kind of character. Others miss the idea that a big part of the story is that Superman and the new League trying to bring about world peace works horribly and ends up getting everyone nuked, and wholeheartedly support/condemn them as Silver Age nostalgia.
Some of that has to do with the concepts that Waid and Ross came up with being popular enough with writers that they were madecanon. A few characters like Irey West, Jakeem Thunder and the female Judomaster ended up crossing over into the DCU, while Cyborg temporarily got his golden skin, Roy Harper became Red Arrow, and Wonder Woman got her sword, shield, and willingness to use lethal force (for a time she even was paired with Superman). Seeing as how those characters were generally not shown to be outright asses though, it's somewhat understandable.
It got to the point that Magog, who existed exclusively as a self-righteous Take That! aimed at 90's antiheroes (Cable in particular), was given his own book that played his over-the-top attempts at badassery straight. The title itself was cancelled pretty quickly and Magog ended up being killed off shortly after it ended.
Magog even got Misaimed Fandom from his creators. Waid and Ross tried to design his costume to include everything they hated about 1990s costumes, but ended up kinda liking it. The character also gets a clear shot at redemption.
This attitude began even during the series' original publication. Both Waid and Ross were astounded that in the reaction of readers to the first issue, just about no fan understood that Superman's return was not a symbol of hope and things getting fixed but that Armageddon was on its way.
Though the series was massively controversial, there were a surprising number of readers of Superior Spider-Man who sided with Doctor Octopus and genuinely felt that he was indeed better at being Spider-Man than Peter Parker ever was. This is despite the series' final arc demonstrating in great detail why Ock's pompous, Darker and Edgier methods did not work, and even climaxing with him willingly relinquishing control and admitting that Peter was indeed the superior Spider-Man all along.
Lobo started as a generic mercenary before being retooled by creator Keith Giffen as a parody of eighties "grim and gritty" heroes like Wolverine and The Punisher in a series of mini-series books. Needless to say, Lobo became a big hit with fans who took the satire at face value.
This happens with a lot of "satire" characters where the author "exaggerates" them just by taking all the elements that people seem to like in other shows and lumping them together without actually exaggerating anything. We've seen this in reverse with films like Sucker Punch, intended to "parody" exploitation literature but garnering reactions as if they were genuine because, well, the creators forgot the part where they make the thing they're parodying more ridiculous or extreme than the source material. And even if they do make it more ridiculous or extreme, then, considering they operate in a genre based on impressive and bizarre events, all they really did was top the original.
Supergirl storyline Red Daughter of Krypton has the titular heroine becoming a Red Lantern after a severe breakdown. Her becoming a Red is in no way treated as a positive change but as a sign that Kara Zor-El had severe psychological issues dragging her down which she needed to overcome. Nonetheless, a number of fans chose to focus on how badass she looked, complained when she left the team, and later demanded a Red Lantern arc in her live-action show.note A Red Daughter does appear, however, instead of being Kara herself as a Red Lantern, it's just a time clone of her raised in Kasnia, and therefore a Gender Flip of Superman: Red Son.
German comic Nick Knatterton was made as this, since author Manfred Schmidt considered comics a primitive art form. The fans took it straight and liked it.
100 Bullets: Brian Azzarello was surprised and disturbed to find that the violent, amoral homicidal rapist and torturer Lono had a devoted fan following.
Goths seem to treat Jhonen as their king, despite him constantly insulting them and his own hatred of the association. With that said, he doesn't necessarily hate Goths, but he doesn't care for catering specifically to them.
Vasquez has also mentioned on more than one occasion how awkward it was to receive fan mail from young children that enjoyed Invader Zim and subsequently started reading his decidedly not child-friendly JtHM comics.
V from V for Vendetta, to the point where the live-action adaptation made it so that he was obviously meant to be the hero. V is a fanatical terrorist whose main motives are revenge and his methods include physical and psychological torture (of both enemies and allies), the bombing of public monuments, and brutal murder. An argument can be made for a case of A Lighter Shade of Grey, given that V is also a charming and charismatic Noble Demon and his enemies are a brutal, genocidal and largely irredeemable fascist regime, but V was intended to be a lot more ambiguous than many ultimately view him as being. The work has also helped spread a Historical Hero Upgrade to Guy Fawkes, who was not an anarchist but a fanatical Catholic who simply wanted to swing the balance of power to the Catholics over the reigning Protestants.
As an '80s superhero deconstruction, Alan Moore heavily based the character Rorschach on Steve Ditko's Objectivist superheroes, specifically The Question and Mr. A. However, Moore had no affinity for their ideology, calling Mr. A "an absolute insane fascist" and Objectivism "laughable," and he wrote Rorschach as his own take on what an Objectivist hero would probably be like: a short, ugly, murderous sociopath. Despite this, readers saw Rorschach's uncompromising persona as endearing, and he became the most popular character of a landmark comic series. Additionally, as pointed out on the Unbuilt Trope page, Rorschach and the Comedian were intended to deconstruct the '90s Anti-Hero, and ended up popularizing it instead. Apparently, the series's beginning with the horrific death of the Comedian and ending with the even more horrific death of Rorschach wasn't enough to make people realize that these were not admirable characters.
Several readers have idolized Rorschach and Ozymandias for their political beliefs whether it be Rorschach's refusal to compromise his values in the face of Armageddon or Ozymandias'swillingness to make hard sacrifices to achieve world peace. Moore's own take seems to be that we're not supposed to like either of these characters; they are antiheroes or antivillains at best. Both of them take their respective ethical philosophies to unjustifiable extremes that render them callous to the actual human suffering depicted in the comic. A balanced ethical perspective, Watchmen suggests, needs to consider both the categorical imperative and utilitarianism, and since they're intrinsically contradictory stances, it can't take either of them to extremes.
Rorschach is also a criticism of right-wing ideology in general. For context, Moore himself identifies as a Marxist but votes for the Labour Party out of pragmatism. Rorschach is an avatar for their blind devotion to "law and order". says things like Goddamn liberals have gone and let another rapist off. If I had my gun ". He sees the world in black and white the way Moore thinks conservatives do. Notably in 2015, Ted Cruz wrote an article with Rorschach as one of his top five superheroes while he was running for president.
Watchmen (2019) takes this in-universe. Rorschach's journal was ultimately published by the New Frontersman, a hard-right publication associated with cranks and fanatics. The Frontiersman was also popular with racists, alt-righters and white supremacist groups: a lot of these sympathised with him, leading to the creation of the "Seventh Kavalry" movement in Tulsa. On "Peteypedia", Special Agent Dale Petey speculates on why these people were so driven to the story of Rorschach, and that he served as a symbol of distrust in the government, the need to protect "the safety of their persons and belongings" in the face of a race "far less morally advanced", and as a way to "challenge an orthodoxy that makes them feel marginalized and obsolete" by imposing their own ideology through a costume.
The Seventh Kavalry:"Soon, all the whores and race-traitors will cry 'Save us!' And we will whisper, 'No.'"
Dykes to Watch Out Forcame up with◊ The Bechdel Test as a deliberately easy-to-pass test (passing merely required that a work have more than one female character, that the female characters have a conversation, and that this conversation not revolve around men) in order to demonstrate just how little effort movie directors and screenwriters put into developing female characters, but has since been co-opted by others as an all-purpose feminist-credentials test.
Dane Cook:"Always remember that the lyric 'Oh my God, Becky... look at her butt!' from Sir Mix-a-Lot's 'I like Big Butts' passes the Bechdel Test, folks. Always remember that."
Furthermore, the original comic (which was described by the author as "a little lesbian joke") was more about compulsory heterosexuality in media - obviously, it's next to impossible to find a movie that depicts a romantic relationship between women if there's barely any movies that depict them in platonic relationships. That most people don't know this really speaks about the degree of misaiming that's occurred.
The Multiversity's fifth chapter, Thunderworld Adventures, was intended to suggest the folly of the Nostalgia Filter belief that the way to "save comics" is to go back to the Silver Age, with the world depicted being a very subtle Crapsaccharine World with Monochrome Casting, Values Dissonance, a few Jerkass bits, and several abruptly dark moments. The entire plot of the issue is also based on the villain stealing time to unnaturally create the story's events, implying that nostalgia-focused storytelling is something that can't last. However, these subtle moments and undercurrents were completely undercut by the fact that it happened to be the best-regarded Captain Marvel story in decades, and people were more than willing to overlook the occasional disturbing undertone if it meant having a Captain Marvel who's named Captain Marvel, has wacky fun clever adventures, and fights his actual nemesis, rather than being stuck in a Dork Age moping and doping while Black Adamhogs the spotlight.
Icon was written by the late great Dwayne McDuffie and had a massive big name fan in the form of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The problem: Dwayne McDuffie did not like Clarence Thomas, calling him Scalia's Lapdog among other insults. It was to a point the fandom of Justice Thomas gave McDuffie writers block with the question of if he was just giving Thomas and the black neoconservative movement quotes (as Icon was written as a conservative hero to contrast with a younger, liberal partner in Rocket).
The Addams Family is a famous example - the strip features the Ambiguously Human clan as a comedic inversion of what was considered a healthy, traditional family. But, since the Addams were portrayed as so friendly and loving, they quickly gathered a lot of fans - to the point that, in its many adaptations, their neighbors went from being clueless, but clearly well-meaning, to understandably bitter, to full-on villainous Stepford Smilers in the 2019 adaptation. It's not hard to see why - Gomez and Morticia are openly passionate and romantic, in a way that looked creepy back then, but heartwarming now; they have friends and family all around the world, as opposed to traditionally insular suburbanites, and they consider their children creative and clever, instead of trying to stomp them down. The daughter Wednesday, in particular, became popular among the goth subculture, going from Creepy Child to anti-authoritarian Little Miss Badass
The infamous storyline Death of X was meant to be The Reveal for what infamous atrocity Cyclops committed that led to mutants being more hated than ever and him being viewed as a monster. The reveal that what he did was try to stop the Terrigen Mists that The Inhumans released that were killing mutants while awakening superpowers in Inhumans caused readers to feel that Cyclops was in fact a hero since he was trying to prevent genocide. Instead the event was seen as a Moral Event Horizon by the Inhumans since they murdered Cyclops for his actions or what they thought was Cyclops, simply for altering a Terrigen cloud so it wouldn't kill mutants while still giving Inhumans powers, something that the Inhumans don't even need.
Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): Mina Mongoose uses a concert to rally the people of Mobotropolis to start standing up for themselves and stop taking everything the Freedom Fighters say on faith alone.note Specifically, her main concern was to ensure that NICOLE couldn't wind up Brainwashed and Crazy again. Thanks to Ixis Naugus' manipulations, instead of the debates and civilian empowerment she was hoping for, the result is a divided and even more fearful kingdom and NICOLE eventually being evicted from the city.
Mina: This isn't what my music was supposed to create...
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: The Sons of the Batman, a group of vigilantes inspired by Batman using incredibly violent methods against mostly petty criminals (ie, stopping a three card monte game with napalm, pumping a couple shotgun shells into a shoplifternote And cutting off the fingers of the poor clerk, for not defending the store.). Needless to say, when Batman finally meets them, he sets them straight.
Ex Machina. An artist is tired of being judged so does a big piece intended to lash out at her critics. Instead, they rave about it. So, the artist decides to put out what her friend calls "the most inane, hateful piece of cliched taboo you could imageine": A portrait of Abraham Lincoln with a racial slur painted over him. But (once more as the assistant nicely sums up) "instead of catching onto your little prank, they fell for it and hung it in a museum where it's currently delighting pretentious critics and alienating the real people you set out to reach when you started."