At its best, fanfiction is a well-written, heady form of wish fulfillment spinning off from the original work and often filling in blanks in one story or another. Whether it’s a family-oriented feel-good tale, a schmoopy love story, a heartbreaking death reimagined, or just straight-up porn, fanfiction represents some of the best (and worst) parts of the cultural zeitgeists’ collective consciousness. So, Marvel’s announcing “Create Your Own,” a make-your-own-digital-comic site that encourages fans to create “Your Own Marvel Universe,” on December 22 seemed to be a huge step toward bridging the divide between creators and fandom.
The site’s hefty list of terms and conditions are a set of usage rules that, essentially, will kill any creativity or worthwhile discussion. Not only does the site forbid users from distributing the content off-platform, but anything above a G rating is essentially outlawed. Clearly, this is a platform for kids; but Marvel has missed the point yet again.
This is fanfiction. Marvel literally created a fanfiction platform — then it stripped the platform of anything interesting.
Fans haven’t been given access to this platform yet and more details are “coming soon” according to the pre-launched site, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t gotten a look at what to expect. Marvel published a video introduction to its “Create Your Own” site that shows how users will be able to shift and pose CG-rendered Marvel characters, change up the backgrounds, write dialogue, and essentially create their own comic books.
It’s pretty basic stuff and, in the terms and conditions, Marvel lays claim to anything you might create on the platform. Or, more specifically, Marvel has the right “to use, reproduce, transmit, communicate to the public, print, publish, publicly display, publicly perform, exhibit, distribute, redistribute, license, sub-license, copy, index, comment upon, modify, adapt, translate, create derivative works based upon, make available, and otherwise exploit” anything you come up with while using this fan-centered service.
Included in the strangely specific list of no-nos is “sensationalism,” which Marvel loosely defines as including “killer bees, gossip, aliens, scandal, etc.,” obscenities, bodily functions (aka, farts), “double entendres,” guns and death (despite the fact that both Deadpool and Gwenpool seem to be available for use), “alternative lifestyle advocacies,” controversial topics such as “social issues” (what?), and much more.
What this tells me is that everything that makes fanfiction fun is banned from this site. Marvel, honestly, could have done some incredible stuff with this site if only it were open to a wider range of content and invested in some parental controls.
Maybe the site, once launched, will turn out to be more diverse than this preview depicts. Only time will tell.