Year in and year out, fans of video games, comic books, novels and other creative works are in a constant state of complaint. Many cry out that they have been wronged as the entertainment industry makes decisions to liven up ongoing franchises and attract new audiences. Others whine that new installments aren’t coming out fast enough. Some even go so far as to threaten the lives of those in control of the characters they love.
The latest example of this comes from Marvel Comics. Late last year, writer Dan Slott and his editors decided to "kill" Peter Parker, ending "The Amazing Spider-Man" with issue #700 and introducing the "Superior Spider-Man" with an all-new #1 last month. The premise behind the revamp is that the villain Doctor Octopus has taken over Peter’s life and nobody is the wiser, except Spider-fans everywhere.
As spoilers leaked out onto the Internet last December, fans everywhere voiced their ire for such a dastardly take on their favorite character. Many tweeted at Dan Slott, saying he was a hack and even making fun of his appearance, but some took it too far. Slott posted a final response via his Facebook page.
"Reality check: There is NO such thing as a ‘funny death threat.’ Especially if you TAG someone in it," wrote Slott in a Facebook update. "If you think, because of something happening to a FICTIONAL character, that you need to type out a death threat and SEND it to someone: You. Need. Help." Slott went on to say that all threats would be taken seriously and reported.
This is just one extreme example of fans’ entitlement and possessiveness over someone else’s intellectual property. Others think creators have an obligation to cater to their fans, but in a less crazy way. But what is it that creators "owe" their fans?
In 2009, writer Neil Gaiman blogged about a fan who wrote to him about George R.R. Martin’s popular "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. One part of the fan’s question was, "Is it unrealistic to think that by not writing the next chapter Martin is letting me down even though if and when the book gets written is completely up to him?"
To that, Gaiman had a very well-written response. However, his main point can be summed up in one of his initial sentences: "George R.R. Martin is not your b*tch."
The delightfully blunt Gaiman is right. Creators don’t owe their fans a damn thing. In fact, it’s ridiculous to think that somebody whose work you buy and enjoy should operate like a machine designed only to pump out more of the story and characters you so love. These people have lives of their own, and there’s no simple equation for writing.
Fans owe creators respect. Writers know the burden they bear when they’ve created characters their readers love or when they take control of a title that’s been loved by fans for more than 50 years. The truth is that you’re putting your own money towards enjoying something that you did none of the work to create.
Whether the medium in question is comics, literature, music or film, change is actually a good thing for creators and fans alike. Change means growth, and whether it works or not, whoever makes the end product will learn from it and move forward from there.
That said, fans do have a voice in the matter, and they can be most vocal about a series or a character with their wallets. If I had read the first three issues of "Superior Spider-Man" and loathed them, I would stop reading the title. Many fans do the opposite and continue to buy the next books in a series, complaining and whining along the way. Vote with your money. If a creative work doesn’t deserve your attention or money, stop buying it.
Just like Superman and Captain America before him, Peter Parker will return to comics pages everywhere. The entertainment industry is cyclical, always going back to the basics that appeal to everybody. But while things are in a state of flux, give it a try and you might enjoy the wild ride that creators are daring you to take with them.
Tyler Brown is a graduate of K-State. Please send comments to [email protected]