Great characters are symbols, metaphors that relate to larger truths and broader concepts.
Frankenstein: Promethian tale and cautionary warning about overstepping.
Darth Vadar: His half-man, half-machine existence symbolizes his "less human", loss of self.
Dracula: a complex set of metaphors about disease, damnation and sexuality.
Satan: Metaphor for evil and another tale of overreaching.
The Hulk: Methapor for the duality of man's rational/primitive nature.
The use of character's in advertising used to be very common and popular.
Aunit Jemima was the first branded package product, her character is the embodiement of "southern hospitality".
Everytime I think about anything that seperates strategic command from executional function I think of the Master-Blaster from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
We seem to be living in a time when we are either not good or not comfortable in creating new characters.
The depiction of characters requires an earnest depiction of an ideal and we have become far to ironic and cynical for ideals. The media characterization of anyone with serious spiritual beliefs is almost always that of someone who is"out-there" or a "Jesus freak" (Flanders from The Simpsons) as opposed to a moral being or person of principle.
Irony and cynicism so ingrained and pervasive that our portrayals of characters from the past often revert to camp. We can't do it with a straight face. No one with serious beliefs is taken seriously.
Characters, as depictions of ideals, have given way to a culture of celebrity and pecking-order death-matches that serve as competitions for focus of public attention. Even in the advertising of children's cereal characters have been replaced by "phoned-in" appearance by Spongebob and Dora the Explorer.
When is the last time there was a really great character on Saturday Night Live? Instead, dreadful skit after skit lampoons the People Magazine A-listers.