Welcome to This Week in Fandom, the OTW’s roundup of things which are happening! Before we start, a huge shoutout to everyone who helped out with our recent membership drive, as well as everyone who helped AO3 reach 3 million fanworks. We’ve been loving your #myAO3 contributions about what the Archive means to you.
Captain America is once again front and centre this week with the release of the comic Secret Empire #0. Marvel has been making headlines recently due to controversy. In March, Marvel VP of Sales David Gabriel made comments–and later backpedalled on them–about how readers didn’t want diversity, and it was contributing to declining sales. The backlash against that included analyses like CBR‘s, which attributed the low numbers to market saturation and failing to deliver on promises of exciting new content. But with Secret Empire, Marvel’s attempt to tell a brand new story with a fan-favourite character seems to only be hurting them more.
Polygon published a breakdown of the issues and occurrences that led up to Secret Empire’s release. (Spoilers at link.)
“[T]he biggest controversy in the lead-up to Secret Empire kicked off in May 2016 with Nick Spencer’s Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, drawn by Jesus Saiz. The issue ended on the shocking cliffhanger that Steve Rogers was a member of Hydra […] Many fans were upset that while Marvel would never entertain the idea of a bisexual or gay Captain America, it would happily make him part of a bigoted, villainous organization. There was also outcry from many Jewish comic fans, who took umbrage at the idea of turning the brainchild of two Jewish men, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, into an agent of Hydra.”
With the release of Secret Empire #0, Polygon then published another article with an analysis of its implications. (More spoilers.) This article explains that “Secret Empire #0 reveals a flip on [the narrative of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1]… To put it simply, according to Secret Empire #0, Captain America was always a fascist, but no one, not even he himself, knew.”
Fans have been angered by this twist, too. Some have called for a letter writing campaign to Disney–Marvel’s parent company–about the issue. One Tumblr post examines how the recent development of Steve Rogers undermines the entire point and appeal of his character:
“Steve Rogers is not just physically fit and able-bodied, but an outright ubermensch who can tough out gunshot wounds and knock around cars. Steve Rogers would be treated like a goddamn king in Hitler’s Germany, he is literally everything they claim to love and want and honor. Steve does not stand to gain greatly by fighting Nazis. Steve stands to gain greatly by joining them. The only thing he, personally, can achieve by his battle is personal loss; at best, of institutional privilege over basically everyone he’ll ever meet, at worst, of his very life. […] This is a guy who could have the bad guys eating out of his hand, but opposes them instead because it’s the right thing to do, full stop. No matter the cost, no matter what anyone else says he in particular should care about due to his own station, he’s going to help people instead of hurting them.
This fits well with Polygon‘s statement regarding Marvel distancing itself from Hydra’s Nazi roots and potential commentary on current real-world events (from the above link): “[Nick] Spencer’s [the writer for the Captain America comics] fundamental insistence that Hydra isn’t a fascistic, totalitarian regime undermines the reveal that Steve Rogers is a member of the group, because Hydra needs to stand for the opposite of Captain America’s values in order for his allegiance to it to be in any way shocking.”
In short, it seems that Marvel’s attempt to be inoffensive has resulted in them weakening their own story to the point of thematic failure, while the fact that they tried to pull off the story at all has angered fans and ruined what makes one of their most popular characters so beloved.
In other news, creators of the new American Gods television series are happily calling it fanfiction. ScreenRant reported that John Green and Brian Fuller, the show’s executive producers, enjoyed deciding how to adapt the book. “[R]eally it was lovely because we just got to fanboy out about the show and all those things that we liked we just made sure we were going to represent them as beautifully as we imagined when we read the book. It was really about being fan-fiction.”
In addition to the element of fun, the show’s fanfiction bent has the added benefit of preventing the book from spoiling the show. As an io9 article recently said:
“American Gods is less interested in being mysterious and more interested in examining its characters and the themes of belief and identity. […] Of course American Gods has a plot. But the sense of mystery that pervades Gaiman’s novel doesn’t drive the show. I could describe the plot in detail and it would convey about a tenth of the beauty of the visuals, the emotion of the actors, the way the music underscores every moment in the TV series perfectly. You would still have to watch even if you knew every plot detail.”
Orlando Jones, one of the stars of the show and self-professed lover of fanfic, is also happy about this approach to the series. “This is fanfiction. I get insane about that idea. I can’t believe that Neil Gaiman, Bryan Fuller, and Michael Green are writing American Gods fanfiction together. That shit is off the chain.”
Fans seem pretty pleased with the series so far, too.
When you really don't want the adaptation to be terrible and it turns out to be utterly wonderful.#AmericanGods
— Emily (@emilyf2405) May 2, 2017
What do you think? Let us know in the comments!
Lastly, in honour of International Harry Potter Day (aka the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts), check out this article written for The Snapper about fandom activism and The Harry Potter Alliance. “The connection between arts and life is potent… Pop culture is a lens through which we can better understand our world and each other. Rejecting Harry Potter or any series that people connect to so fervently only serves to downplay the important role that art plays in politics.”
We want your suggestions! If you have a story you think we should include, please contact us! Suggestions are welcome in all languages. Submitting a story doesn’t guarantee that it will be included in a TWIF post, and inclusion of a story doesn’t mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.