It could be argued that template-style exploitable memes are the bread-and-butter of image board communities like those found on 4chan. Taking a popular, strange, or funny image and editing it down to the simplest components allows them to be photoshopped into a variety of contexts. It's easy and allows for a wide range of iterations, many of which gesture back to previous memes to construct intricate networks of reference that require elaborate explanations and complex genealogies to decipher. Some of the most popular template memes come from 4chan's Cartoons and Comics board /co/, and usually involve stripping a drawn image to it's most basic outlines so that it can be adapted to various popular cartoon or comic characters. Popular examples include Optimized Gif Dude (2006), Gentlemen (2006), fsjal (2008), and X Everywhere (2010).
[The Original Image]
Handsome Face is a image that first appeared in mid-September of 2010 on /co/ and was quickly made a template by 4chan user Shore Leave !!T2UdrWkLSWB. This original image is taken from a scene from the 2010 animated film Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. The face was generally regarded as "handsome" in a way that seemed comical and overly sincere, as though he were about to say something heartfelt to another character. Soon it was coupled with the text template "X, I . . ." where X is a character, concept, or object that could be humorously paired with the original. An iteration using the Joker might be captioned "Batman, I . . .", or one made to look like Shaggy from the group Insane Clown Posse might be captioned "Magnets, I . . ." in reference to the much-parodied ICP music video Miracles (2009).
The meme points to the complex network of reference that makes up the template format, as well as the call-and-response solicitation that helps to propagate it. Each face is essentially the same, and yet the references run the full gamut of pop culture. The handsome face would seem to play with the generic interchangeability of many golden-age cartoon and comic characters, as well as the equally formulaic use of character pairs in contemporary cartoons and comics (hero/villain, hero/sidekick, the romantic pair, etc.). More recently the meme has evolved into a true call-and-response using a separate image from the Superman/Batman film with the caption "NOT SO FAST, Y". These images can function either as an image board combo breaker, or as a standalone two-panel comic.
We've compiled some of our favorite examples below.
Images taken from 4chan, Know Your Meme, and deviantART.