Marvel better be scouting talent and not stealing it.
On Thursday, Marvel announced a program that allows fans to write fan-fiction using Marvel’s characters such as Iron Man, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Thor. Information about the “Create Your Own” website is small for the moment.
What we do know is that the Terms and Conditions of the new platform prohibits users from reproducing the things they create to other platforms. Marvel will also have all copyrights, as well the right to modify, rewrite, translate, publish, sub-license, and reproduce products created by users to anywhere in the world.
In other words, Marvel will own all the products as well as the intellectual labor of its users. In return, Marvel offers nothing.
Marvel assistant editor Tucker Chet Markus called the platform a “fan-powered community where users can write, create, and share their own Marvel stories”, and that it was going to be a “game changer for fledgling comic creators”.
It’s too early to tell how this will allow amateur comic writers to more easily access the industry. It doesn’t appear that creators will be paid for their submissions on the platform. At best, it might be a place for Marvel to scout new talent. According to The Guardian, the “online platform will allow fans to combine various backgrounds and character images with editable speech bubbles”. It seems that it’s not truly “create your own”.
Bizarrely, Marvel also prohibits users from writing about certain topics. Some of these topics include: contraceptives, bare midriffs, prescription drugs, things that will frighten small children, killer bees, aliens, profanity, gossip, guns, no farts or other bodily noises, no politics, and no death. The studio doesn’t want users to write about “alternative lifestyle advocacies”, which can be read as not wanting any gay, lesbian, or queer stories.
The weird Marvel fanfic site's guidelines are remarkably specific. Totally shut down my story about distributing dietary supplements and contraceptives to gossiping killer bees. pic.twitter.com/0uQ0Fs07An
— Adi Robertson (@thedextriarchy) December 28, 2017
Other topics banned under this new platform would be “social issues”, which, considering Marvel executives blaming diversity on low comic books sales, probably means no racial issues (such as police brutality) or gender/sex issues (such as sexual harassment).
The most striking thing, however, is Marvel not wanting the depiction of any amusement parks that do not belong to Disney (Marvel is owned by the Walt Disney Company). The new platform would also like users to not include references to movie studios not working in some capacity with Marvel studios.
This section is the most openly corporate and capitalist you could get (besides profiting off of people’s labour with little to no payment). Capitalists like to talk about offering “choice” to people, but here Marvel is openly linking a series of products as advertisement for another set of products. Products that they own. Disney/Marvel is essentially running a low level cartel for intellectual labor.
Heyyy so I heard Marvel is letting us make our own comics now and there are some rules about stuff we have to include? Anyway @bisonfisticuffs and I made you a thing, I think we got everything in there pic.twitter.com/nF3qyJwIQl
— Alex de Campi (@alexdecampi) December 29, 2017
In the 1950s, the comic book industry created a group called “the Comics Code Authority”, in attempt to preempt government censorship for indecency.
The Authority prohibited the depiction of werewolves, zombies, vampires, as well as inadequate veneration of the police and the government. Some may find the situation in the 50s comparable. The idea of cutting out politics or social issues (which literally involve anything to do with humans) from content is censorship of the highest order. By doing so, Marvel have actually done something political. They’ve showed their hand, and it’s a straight, male, white one.