Pull Quotes: The power of fan fiction?

twitter Pull Quotes: The power of fan fiction?0facebook Pull Quotes: The power of fan fiction?0google Pull Quotes: The power of fan fiction?0pinterest Pull Quotes: The power of fan fiction?0tumblr Pull Quotes: The power of fan fiction?reddit Pull Quotes: The power of fan fiction?0stumbleupon Pull Quotes: The power of fan fiction?0email Pull Quotes: The power of fan fiction?

This is the third time we’ve linked to Kiel Phegley’s coverage of the ICv2 conference, but it’s hard to resist when it’s chock full of quotes to ponder — including this exchange between Ira Rubenstein, executive VP of Marvel’s Global Digital Media Group, Dave Roman, cartoonist and Nickelodeon Magazine associate editor, and Stuart Levy, Tokyopop’s chief executive:

Rubenstein: But Dave, I think there’s a difference. No one can write about Spider-Man or X-Men except for us.

Roman: I disagree.

Levy: Totally.

Rubenstein: Those are our characters. How could someone else write another Spider-Man story?

Roman: Because fan fiction is becoming so powerful. I’ve seen the power of fan fiction. Working at Nickelodeon, there are people out there doing ‘Avatar’ comics that are soooooo much better…

Rubenstein: But that’s like saying YouTube is a real entertainment channel. It’s not.

Roman/Levy/like five people in the audience: It is.

Posted by Aaron Humphrey

Comments

  1. Dave Roman is one smart man. I wish I could steal his brain for an evening. I promise I’d return it.

  2. Tanaka Li says:

    And Ira might be the complete opposite of Dave Roman. Or at least, time-traveling to us from the 20th century! HEE-HEE!

  3. Unfortunately, Rubenstein is correct. Most fanfiction is NOT very good. And there is a ton of crap on youtube. Not the Sturgeon’s Law 90% of everything crap, which could still be quite good, but just crap. People speaking to their webcam. zzzzzzz …

    Of course, an occasional fanfic or youtube piece will appear that is worth a second glance.

  4. Laevatein says:

    Doesn’t matter if you think it’s “crap”, there are still millions of people who enjoy Youtube and fanfic.

  5. And here’s the problem with Stuergeons law. When you have a million people making YouTube videos – then 100,000 of them are NOT crap. That is a lot of not crap to have to compete against.

  6. And the great thing about Fan Fiction, You Tube, and Webcomics….?

    They’re FREE.

    I think there’s over 10,000 webcomics in the world right now. And yes…most of them are crap. But there are some real gems. Stuff that’s SO much better than what’s being published by Marvel and DC.

    And it’s free.

    It’s sad to see someone at Marvel just not get it….

  7. jtwdog says:

    Oh dear lord Rich, come on. It’s the same goddamn ratio to published fiction — you walk into any Barnes and Nobles or Borders, close your eyes, and pick up some random book off the shelf and I’d bet 90 percent of the time it’s pretty goddamn *crap.* Just because you haven’t yet figured out how to separate the wheat from the chaff doesn’t mean the entire enterprise is worthless.

    And lets be honest, the majority of those who participate in this particular corner of fan culture are women, and those at the Big Two are men, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of underlying resentment to fan fiction is… well. Do I need to spell it out?

    That, and I promise you each and every writer at the Big Two has their own personal Superman, Batman or Spider-Man story kicking around that they weren’t paid to produce, and probably hold equally dear. At least fandom gives you an outlet to share that creativity without jumping through corporate hoops…

  8. Can I go on record as saying that as great as the Avatar fan comics are, the Nick Mag produced ones are even GREATER? And people should totally seek them out! :)

    And I think the quotes comes across as a bit unfair to Ira Rubenstein since its his job to represent Marvel’s characters. I thought the panel was actually a lot of fun and Ira and all the other panelists made a lot of good points. I wish we could have all talked longer! The future all still feels so unresolved!

  9. Mark Coale says:

    These days, it’s not always easy to distinguish fanfic from the published stuff. With so many creators having grown up as fans, it’s easy to see where an issue of SUPER GUY vs ANCIENT GOD being a story that the writer could have been something they’ve been waiting to write since they were 12 and buying the title at a 7-11 or LCS.

  10. Ahem… Remember that “Squadron Supreme” graphic novel? The one with Mark Gruenwald’s ashes mixed into the ink? He created SS so that the Avengers could fight the Justice League.

    Don Rosa created his Lance Pertwillaby comic so he could do “Uncle Scrooge” stories. His first Scrooge story, “Son of the Sun” was adapted from a Pertwillaby story.

    Now… why is no one talking about Cory Doctorow? Go read “Content”. The book is worth the price, or you can download a free digital copy online. I could mention all sorts of ways free stuff makes money (Monty Python on YouTube, North Wind) but here’s the most obvious example: Barnes & Noble. That company (for which I work) creates inviting stores where customers are encouraged to browse, linger, and hang out. I once read an entire book in one day at B&N (I would have checked out Harry Potter #3, but still had #2 out, so I read it on my day off). You don’t have to buy anything. We offer free and clean restrooms. But you’re gonna see the displays, maybe buy a cup of coffee while you wait for your friend to show up, possibly even buy something you didn’t know existed but had to have. I mean, geez, you should see the kids who hang out in front of the manga shelves after school!

    And some of us booksellers are PASSIONATE about good stuff. Customers are always looking for recommendations, or help finding that one book which Explains It All, or something for a friend. Tell me what you like to read, and I can usually find you a decent graphic novel in that genre or subject.

    Anyway… the future is wide open. Imagine what happens when Print On Demand technology intersects with comics. Imagine a motion comic (animatic?) that teaches you to cook, or change the oil in your car, or to learn Japanese. Imagine an AI hooked up to a Spider-Man comic, where you decide the style of drawing, the locale, the villains, and then post it on Marvel.com. (Like Machinima, but with comics.) Imagine DC creating a property which uses a Creative Commons license. Imagine…

  11. Ultimately, fanfiction feeds money into content producer’s pockets. Anyone who thinks otherwise should explain to me in a 10,000 word essay how Star Trek doesn’t make any money for Paramount.

    The problem is that it’s dirty icky girl money. Which is why the quote after it was really even more telling:

    Rubenstein: I have a 12-year-old, an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old, and I’ve seen them getting excited about books and bringing them home…I have to tell you. my 12-year-old girl? Not so much. She’ll look at [comics] but the genre for her still feels very male. It doesn’t appeal to her as a young female.

    Levy: Has she tried manga yet? [Laughter] I’ll think of something for her.

    *drumroll*

  12. Mark Coale says:

    After Torsten’s free commercial, I will envoke THE BEAT’s EQUAL TIME LAW:

    Borders is a very nice bookstore where you can also sit around all day and read books in their big comfy chairs.

    (not a paid commercial, as I’ve not worked for them since 2001.)

  13. Michael says:

    Fan fiction has no power.

  14. “These days, it’s not always easy to distinguish fanfic from the published stuff. ”

    Right Mark! I think that was part of what I was trying to get at.
    And it keeps getting more blurred! I’ve been thinking a lot about how franchises like Spider-Man, Batman and X-Men have been written by so many different people and re-imagined “officially” in countless ways with “elseworlds” and “ultimate versions” and “brand new days” not to mention kids versions of superheroes vs. their less all-ages counterparts. Which is the REAL version? Superhero comics don’t always have a clear creator’s vision to refer back to as canon. Just editorial and creative teams that can be replaced and retconned on a whim. Marvel just announced a new X-series that picks up where Chris Claremont left off in the early 90’s and ignores everything that has happened since! Thus splitting up fans understanding of what is continuity.

    Where as say JK Rowling is the only writer to officially write Harry Potter and most Manga writers are the only ones to pen their creations so you know what is the REAL STORY and what isn’t. Many people will read the Season 7 Buffy comics because they are by the show writers and ignore those by comics writers.

    And when it comes to reading/watching on the internet everything is kind of level playing field. A fan work can get as many hits as a professional work. Even if it’s a total copyright infringement! Look at fan works like Harry Potter Puppet Pals. These things take on a life of their own and have huge followings. And with things like mashups and a remixes things get even more crazy and fans feel even more of a sense of entitlement. Like the guys who re-edited Star Wars movies taking out the parts they don’t like and spending thousands of their own dollars to put stuff in like Chewbacca getting medal of honor at the end of A New Hope!

  15. can someone give some more examples of the “power of fan fiction?” i’m curious because it’s something i never really took seriously.

  16. Alex,

    A fanfiction series called Sith Academy was one of the required texts for a class taught by MIT professor Henry Jenkins.

    (http://www.siubhan.com/sithacademy/)

    To this day it’s some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever read.

  17. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I like the fan fiction Star Trek TV shows better than any of the shows not the Shatner/Nimoy one. I wish comics had an Elvis impersonator that was funding a comic book starring himself as 1967 Spider-Man.

    I don’t think what the Marvel guy said was so bad. I think it’s cool when big companies encourage these things, but if they don’t, that’s cool, too. There’s no one path to the future.

  18. Mark Coale says:

    “A fanfiction series called Sith Academy was one of the required texts for a class taught by MIT professor Henry Jenkins.”

    That’s interesting. There’s been a discussion in Mark Waid’s new board about someone who taught in a class and a number of people suggesting how “wrong” it is that comics are being taught in English Lit classes. As someone who wrote conference papers on comics and the like, that idea rubbed me the wrong way.

  19. Paradox that seeing Katherine’s link reminded me of: There’s heaping gobs of Star Wars fanfic out there, but I deliberately don’t read any because I write for the franchise and I don’t want to accidentally use someone else’s idea. It’s similar to the publishers not looking at unsolicited stories without idea submission forms. Ironically, the people working for Publisher X or Franchise Y could be less aware of what’s being written unofficially using their characters than, say, the average fan is!

    I doubt that immersion in fanfic would ever keep anyone from working in a franchise, but I could see it being an occupational hazard, if you accidentally plucked identifiable elements from something. It does suggest an odd dynamic: Maybe there’s people who learned their craft through a particular kind of fanfic, who then had to stop reading it once they reached their goal of doing the authorized stuff!

  20. Anyone who says Youtube isn’t a legitimate entertainment channel has just forfeited his right to be taken seriously.

    Also, I second the comment about Dave Roman’s smartitude. The kid knows his stuff (even if we may disagree about online revenue streams).

  21. Steven R. Stahl says:

    GEnie’s Comics Roundtable had a fan fiction section that people contributed to. One notable fan fic writer there was Keith R.A. DeCandido. I wrote several Vision & Scarlet Witch (and kids) stories.

    If people have writing and editing skills, and have the proper motivation, their fan fic stories could be as good as the ones Marvel and DC currently publish. The fan fic writers could easily know the characters’ histories and personalities better than screenwriters who have credits, but lack familiarity with comics.

    Rubenstein was apparently unaware that the Marvel.com message boards have fan fiction — but he seemed to be thinking of stories that amounted to unlicensed commercial use of the characters.

    SRS

  22. “Unfortunately, Rubenstein is correct. Most fanfiction is NOT very good.”

    Rubenstein would be correct if that’s what was actually said. Except it wasn’t. Try reading the quote. What Rubenstein said was that NO ONE outside of Marvel can write those characters, not that no one outside of Marvel can write them well, just that they can’t do it, period. The fact that Marvel fanfic exists at all proves that wrong.

    And actually, a lot of what’s being done, especially at Marvel these days, reads like bad fanfiction. One More Day, Secret Invasion, New/Dark Avengers — all this is complete and total shit that reads like bad fanfic with plot holes large enough to drive a truck through. In fact, in the fanfic community I’ve been a part of for years, those writers have been producing far better stories that stay truthful to the characters while still taking them to new and different places. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. It’s great to be able to get good stories for free while Marvel continues to publish something Brian Bendis wiped his ass with.

  23. Eugenia says:

    “A fanfiction series called Sith Academy was one of the required texts for a class taught by MIT professor Henry Jenkins.”

    Unfortunately from a quick scan of their website, I can’t decide if “Sith Academy” is a parody of current fanfiction tropes or a parody of “Star Wars”.

    It’s not so much that fanfiction as a whole is “crap”, but that a lot of the fanfiction I’ve read on the internet is just unimaginative. (I will confess I personally find little appeal in “slash”, porn, genderswitch, yaoi, etc. If you find it appealing, fine, go for it.)

    From a cynical, evil accountant viewpoint, it seems that the introduction of popular culture, comics, film, television, etc. into English Literature classes is an attempt to increase enrollment in that department. Think about it. A bunch of young adults with short attention spans and undeveloped reading skills due to the current ideology of “make reading FUN!” can hardly be expected to sit down and make the effort to read Henry James.

    Yeah, I know. “Get off my lawn.”

    Don’t even get me started on the “re-imagined” “Battlestar Galactica”…

  24. DP812 says:

    “From a cynical, evil accountant viewpoint, it seems that the introduction of popular culture, comics, film, television, etc. into English Literature classes is an attempt to increase enrollment in that department. Think about it. A bunch of young adults with short attention spans and undeveloped reading skills due to the current ideology of “make reading FUN!” can hardly be expected to sit down and make the effort to read Henry James.”

    Wow, that’s not condescending at all. Isn’t it also possible that these things DO have literary merit? Who are you to decide whether pop culture is more or less relevant than Henry James? Hell, Shakespeare was pop culture at one point.

  25. Steven R. Stahl says:

    It would be in Marvel’s interests to avoid comparing their current output with fan fiction, past or present. After all, when a reader buys commercially published fiction, he’s paying for professional artwork, writing, and editing — and, he hopes, creativity and imagination. When I look at NEW AVENGERS or DARK AVENGERS, I don’t see any of that, aside from the artwork. The basis for “Dark Reign” is a villainous version of the Illuminati, and if one rejects the original Illuminati as wrong for the characters specifically and the Marvel Universe generally, what’s left conceptually? Nothing.

    Young readers routinely wonder where writers get their ideas from. If they study writing as they grow up, they’ll learn that producing formula fiction (e.g., The Da Vinci Code) can be as mechanical a process as writing a resume or a business letter. The absence of creativity or imagination is easy to see. Fan fiction might be amateurish, but it can be surprising, and if it’s good, a story will be about the character(s) to a greater extent than the commercial fiction will.

    SRS

  26. mark coale says:

    Well, I went thru bowling green’s popular culture department and I can say it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops then. Lots od theory and whatnot.

    I know in the mid 1990s we were proud that the intro 101 class was “not recommended” for student athletes. No “rocks for jocks” there.

  27. Unfortunately from a quick scan of their website, I can’t decide if “Sith Academy” is a parody of current fanfiction tropes or a parody of “Star Wars”.

    Eugenia —

    The Sith Academy cycle “closed” about 8 years ago.

    And if you’d bothered to look a little deeper, you’d’ve run into Darth Mary Sue and would see that it’s a parody of both SW and a lot of Fanfiction.

  28. notnecessarilythesameguy says:

    “What Rubenstein said was that NO ONE outside of Marvel can write those characters, not that no one outside of Marvel can write them well, just that they can’t do it, period. The fact that Marvel fanfic exists at all proves that wrong. ”

    Not exactly. Rubenstein was 100% correct. LEGALLY, they can’t. People do it anyway, and the companies ignore it. His statement is still correct.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Publishers Weekly’s comics blog just posted this telling excerpt from the comics on the web panel at last week’s ICv2 Graphic Novel Conference in New York. The speakers are Ira Rubenstein, executive VP of Global Digital Media at Marvel Comics and Dave Roman, a cartoonist and associate editor at Nickelodeon Magazine. […]

  2. […] The Beat highlighted some interesting dialogue out of the ICv2 Graphic Novel Conference: Ira Rubenstein (Marvel): But Dave, I think there’s a difference. No one can write about Spider-Man or X-Men except for us. […]

  3. […] But what is canon for a given hero anyway? Here’s a fabulous quote from a comment on a Beat article by Dave Roman about canon in today’s superhero books… “I’ve been thinking a lot about how franchises like Spider-Man, Batman and X-Men have been written by so many different people and re-imagined “officially” in countless ways with “elseworlds” and “ultimate versions” and “brand new days” not to mention kids versions of superheroes vs. their less all-ages counterparts. Which is the REAL version?” Who gets to hold the reins? […]

Speak Your Mind

*