I’m Your Biggest Fan So I Hate Everything About You

Never hand your intellectual property over to anyone who says he’s The Biggest Fan of it—he’ll end up destroying it.

UPDATE (Feb. 9, 2017): Replaced YouTube video of Riverdale trailer. YouTube account owner of previous video of same trailer made that video private.

American culture is bizarre, and one of the bizarre things about it is how the owners of popular entertainment properties hand over their creations to people who are their Biggest Fans yet hate everything about them.Screen Rant published, “Batman Confirms He’s a Transgender Ally,” on Jan. 16. Here is what the author writes in the second paragraph.

But the times have changed. As the audience reading comic books has diversified, so too have the creators behind the scenes – many of whom grew up loving the medium, despite the lack of faces or identities that reflected their own. In the case of the big two publishers, Marvel and DC Comics, that means updating, re-imagining, or introducing characters that reflect the world they’re shaped by and sold into. 2016 proved to be a unique year for DC in particular, given the rise of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer characters in prominent roles and books.

That paragraph neatly summarizes the weird, contemporary practice of artists and companies turning over their popular creations to those who insist they love the creations even as they want to change everything about them.

And this practice has been around for quite some time. I noticed it long ago and even incorporated it into a short story I published at Liberty Island Magazine. (See, for example, the fourth paragraph of my story where a character says, “So I’m taking this established superhero, see, and I’m evolving him for the twenty-first century.”)

Archie Comics provides another example of this behavior. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is the author of a 2003 play that was initially named, Archie’s Weird Fantasy, and “featured the main character struggling with coming out. Archie Comic Publications was uncomfortable with that depiction, fearing it would dilute and tarnish the character’s image, and threatened legal action.”

That would’ve destroyed a career at one point, and certainly would’ve made that person poison to the company he injured. But not today. Instead, in 2014, Archie Comics made Aguirre-Sacasa its chief creative officer, and Archie hasn’t been the same since then.

So what’s the point in noting all of this? Is it to criticize companies like Marvel, DC, and Archie Comics for courting people that don’t have their best interests in mind? Not at all. I have no affinity for the companies, their characters, or their stories, so I encourage them to continue to self-destruct.

Instead my point is this: if you’re the creator of a successful property and don’t want to destroy your work, make sure you pay attention when you’re looking to hire someone to help you advance it or even take over it. If anyone tells you during the interview process, “I’m the biggest fan of your characters and stories,” disqualify him immediately. That statement tells you that he hates everything about your characters, your stories, and likely you personally.

And if he gets anywhere near what you’ve created, he’ll tear it apart until it eventually is the opposite of everything it once was.

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