I am sure you are no stranger to the “Original Character.” You may even have a few yourself; I know I do. Several, in fact.
However, I feel compelled to call for the death of the Original
Character as we know, or at very least, the identifier of Original
The reason for this is that I have found the moniker
“original character” or OC to have lost almost all of its meaning. It is
now an empty shell of what it used to be, replaced by recolors and
rebrandings of other people’s creations.
Now, I want you to know that I, too, have gone down this path.
When I was 10, Dragon Ball was extremely popular in Mexico. This was
around the mid-90s. It was one of my favorite shows, and a pretty big
player in my decision to become an artist. So, because I was a kid and
that’s the kinda things kids do, I created a brother for Goku (this was
before they started airing Dragon Ball Z). Goku’s name was Rex, and
because he was my own creation (and I didn’t think a tail was cool
enough), I gave him bat wings, because of course I did. Not content with
a brother, I said ‘what the hell?’ and created a father for Goku, as
well (this was also before finding out Goku had a real father. Who
knew!?) His name was Retrax, I believe. It’s been a long time. Retrax
had a tail, like Goku, but no wings. Also he wore a helmet all the time.
Several helmets. I designed like twelve helmets, all of them obscured
his face, all of them terrible. I was 10.
Rex and Retrax didn’t see
much use, save for me drawing them over and over and showing them to my
friends and then having to explain, no, these are not ACTUALLY Goku’s
brother and father. They’re my own creation, you see. They don’t exist,
save for in my own head, and they have awesome adventures with and
without Goku. Really, they do. You should totally hear about them, but
not right now. But I made them, so they were mine, right?
Sorry, didn’t mean to go off on a tangent, there. Point is, I’m
familiar with this type of character, cuz I’ve been there, and I know a
lot of you have been there, which is why I keep seeing the dreaded
“Original Character” all over the place, and why I am now calling for
The thing is, when you come up with a character based on
someone else’s idea and concept, how original can the character be? I
mean, sure, your character is a specially unique and beautiful
snowflake, and they have all these qualities that set them apart from
all the other characters in this existing world (…right?), but without
the context of this pre-made world, how do they fare? Do you have to
create a new story or a completely new world so that they don’t simply
wither and die (if you do, then awesome!)? Or is their existence
completely limited by the world they’re in? Someone else’s world, mind
If you created your own world from start and then plopped your
characters in, then this doesn’t apply to you. I’m talking about taking
an existing, established franchise or fandom (Star Wars, Star Trek, Game
of Thrones, Sonic, Naruto, The Smurfs, you name it!) and plopping a
character in the thick of it. This character is most of the time a
Frankenstein’s monster of every other character in the already-existing
lore. Sometimes, they’re self-insertion characters (“He’s a Paladin
named JOSEPH and he’s super cool and strong and everybody loves him and
wants to be friend with him! Also, he’s a dragon! And everybody loves
him, even the villains. And the hot chicks. ESPECIALLY the hot chicks.”)
Sometimes they’re a random assortment of concepts, simply because the
author wanted an OC themselves (“Lord of the Rings? Okay, my character
is a future version of Wolverine and he has laser eyes and cybernetic
enhancements! And he’s a half dragon!”)
I ran into one of these Original Characters a while back. Her name
was Maelerys Targaryen. Fifty cool points if you can guess what fandom
she came from. She was everything Daenerys was (a princess in exile,
mother of dragons, trying to take over Westeros, etc) and more (a
LESBIAN princess in exile). If the creator of the character is reading
this, more power to you. I don’t presume to tell you what you can and
cannot do, but at that point, how original is your character? If you
take an existing character, change two letters in her name, and leave
everything else intact, is the character truly “original”?
What about recolors? Take an existing character, give them a new
wardrobe, bam! Instant new character that you, yourself, ‘created’ and
now own. This would be like me taking the Mona Lisa, changing her eye
color, and claiming the whole painting as my own. Can you name a
character “original” when they’re a palette swap from someone else’s
creation? (I’m looking at you, Sonic Original Characters!)
without swapping out the name or changing their colors, can you truly
create an original character when everything else is already laid out
and plotted for you by someone else?
What about canon? If you
create a character who is Kakashi’s old master, what does that do to
continuity? Headcanon doesn’t count, as what you’re doing is simply
taking the existing storyline and twisting it at your whim. Of course we
have to create characters that are important to the plot, otherwise no
one would want to read about them, but why try to shoehorn them like so?
What happens when you try to make your shiny new character be Lord
Aizen’s secret lover? Look how well shoehorning worked for George Lucas
(yeah, I went there).
Now, let me clarify, that I am not asking you to stop creating
characters, as that would be a dumbass thing to do. I consider myself a
concept artist, so creating characters is all I do. What kind of artist
asks other artists to stop creating? By all means, continue to create
your fan characters and have a blast. If it makes you happy, more power
to you. But can we agree to change the name? I’ve come to despise the
term “Original Character” because, nine times out of ten, it refers to
these fandom characters that have nothing to offer in regards to
originality. I find myself cringing when I refer to my own characters as
‘original’, because people automatically assume they’re from some
So, can we rename these characters “fan characters” or “fandom
characters” and rebrand the original character “personal character?”
I think it’s time to retire the Original Character, as it has become a
shadow of itself (right up there with “epic” and “literally”). Continue
to create characters based on an existing property and fandom. Go
forth, have fun and let your DC X-Men Avenger have babies with Jon Snow
on top of the Enterprise on the way to blow up the third Death Star
piloted by Naruto (and then tell me about, because I would read the hell
out of that!).
But, please, let’s not call them “original”, for that word seems to have thrown in the towel.
By the way, wondering what happened to Rex and Retrax? They were
crappy characters, so I decided to retire them. And by retire them, I
mean they died.
TL;DR: Retire “original character”, replace with “personal character” and “fan or fandom character”, accordingly.
I would like to hear some thoughts on this, but please, let’s keep the discussion civil.