I’ve never really been a fanfic reader or writer. That may come as a surprise to some of you, I know. Fanfiction is something that goes almost hand in sweaty, untouched hand with the nerd lifestyle. It generally brings about the mental image of pockmarked, mouth-breathing neckbeards hunched over crusty keyboards, banging out unnecessarily long, overly verbose descriptions of unseen rooms inside the TARDIS or a frilly pair of panties Catwoman stole from one of the sexier Gothamites to wear for her first lesbian encounter with Poison Ivy. And Harley Quinn.
And Barbara Gordon.
AND Stephanie Brown.
I’m not sure if that one exists in story form. I have seen some Rule 34 stuff… but that’s not important. Sorry, lost in my own little world there for a minute. Where was I?
Oh, right! Fanfics come in all shapes and sizes, from the droll to the riveting, from the proper to the down and dirty pansexual unions of your favorite characters from your childhood. Honestly, anything that the author (who is, by definition, a fan of the universe and characters with which they are working) can conjure is generally considered kosher.
Of course, there’s a long list of disclaimers at the beginning, and almost always, fanfictions are NOT considered to be in canon. I say “almost always” because of that pesky Sherlock Holmes business that happened back in the day.
Follow me here. I swear there is a point to the sudden leap.
I’ve been catching up on old episodes of Fatman on Batman, one of Kevin Smith’s multiple podcasts (and, dare I say, my favorite). Recently, I got to the chunk of Dini Dossiers, the four-part massive look at various animated episodes and films that writer Paul Dini worked on. I got through all of part four today, and Paul and Kevin spoke briefly about fanfiction in between episodes.
It was at that point that it hit me: comic writers are just penning fanfiction!
Now, some of you may bring up the fact that fanfics normally aren’t published to the public (especially for money) or that generally the original creators don’t necessarily allow the authors to take their settings and characters and run in any direction they like. I understand that.
But I also understand this: Scott Snyder, Paul Dini and Kevin Smith are all huge fans of Batman. None of them are Bob Kane or Bill Finger (Batman’s creators, for those who didn’t know that), but they all share the common bond of having written Batman stories.
Scott is presently the head writer of Batman, meaning he calls all the shots. Court of Owls? That’s all Scott. And it’s absolutely marvelous.
Paul worked his ass off on Batman: The Animated Series, among other things. He’s the father of Harley Quinn. Fangirls, you have Paul to thank. I’ll wait here while you go flood his Twitter page.
Kevin has released two volumes of a great Batman story involving an original character, Onomatopoeia. His third and final book will be dropping sometime this year.
NOTE AGAIN: None of these man are Bob Kane or Bill Finger. None of them were alive when Batman was born. And none of them care about either of those facts. What they care about is the character, the history, the original source material. They care about stories of countless Batman writers that came before them: Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Doug Moench, Ed Brubaker, Chuck Dixon, Neil Gaiman…
The list is almost endless.
And those are just the people who wrote and scripted (I omitted ALL visual artists, but they’ve done the same. It’s just “fan art” for them, right?) comics and other media for ONE CHARACTER.
Here’s a simple exercise. Write down all the comic book characters you can think of in 5 minutes. Now find out how many people wrote any published media involving any/all of those characters. Subtract the original creators.
Those left are your fanfic authors, kids. Now, I’m sure some of them only did it for the money, especially in earlier years. But these days, it takes a great love and knowledge of a character to be able to stay on a title for more than a couple issues. If you don’t know what you’re doing, or you simply don’t care, it shows. Everyone will be able to tell it, too. They’ll see the work suffer.
That’s why I write about comics so much. It’s a medium that I have grown to love immensely in the very short period of time that I’ve been reading them, and what I do, I do from a place of this great love. That’s how many of these guys work, too. Yes, there is a fair amount of compensation involved on their end, but in it’s own quirky way, comics are still fanfics at heart. It’s an industry of fanboys writing the characters they’ve always loved into the stories they’ve always wanted to read.
The comic business is a multi-million dollar industry, too. Don’t forget that.
So, next time you see someone’s 1000-page epic about Kirk and Spock setting up an intergalactic pizza parlor or a steamy short story about Sinestro’s alone time on Korugar and the rather homoerotic constructs he creates to have a good time, don’t be so quick to pass judgement. One of these fanfic writers may be the next head writer of your favorite comic, or better yet, they may create an original story that you one day write fanfics about.