In response to my last post, my brother writes:

As for MJ’s and Spidey’s inconsistency over the years…I see your point here, except for the notion that these characters are ONLY corporate properties shamelessly manipulated and put-upon by their writers/artists, who care not a whit about them. Although this is “work-for-hire” and one might expect that attitude from creators towards characters, I think that this is, in fact, rarely the case in the comics themselves. Most Marvel/DC “hacks” do care about the characters, want to keep them somewhat consistent (except insofar as periodic reboots attempt to update them for today’s kids, etc.) and want them to be meaningful, to appeal to readers, etc. They may fail…contradict each other…etc…but your implication that there is a practiced cynicism towards the characters in the creative process is doubtful.

I see where Eric’s coming from, but the point really isn’t cynicism or lack thereof. I like/respect fan fiction and what it’s about. The problem is that DC/Marvel isn’t open source; it’s corporate controlled. That means that instead of having lots of fans doing whatever weird things they want in their own little worlds (Spider-Man/Daredevil slash, for example) you’ve got (for the most part) the same insular group of drooling fanboys trying to relive their youth…but make it cool by adding sex! and rock and roll! and…and…and revamping the continuity! Whoo-hoo!

Fan fiction in manga contexts is generally about expanding on ideas or finding new stuff or tracking down private obsessions — the stuff good art is about, in other words. Mainstream titles, on the other hand, tend to be about a death duel between nostalgia, boredom, and a kind of giggling desire to desecrate one’s own idols in an effort to show that one is smarter than the childhood that one is clearly still clinging to.

Not that everyone who writes this stuff is horrible, but the whole exercise just has a stink of death and futility about it. The Mary Jane doll thing is a case in point; the outrage really seemed to be not so much that anyone would do this, as that…”This Is Official! How dare Marvel desecrate her!” I mean, who the hell cares what this moribund corporation does with a character that really wasn’t all that interesting to begin with? If you see something interesting in her, make up your own stories about her. But for goodness sakes can’t we stop worrying about what the corporate powers that be think we should be thinking about these characters? The best thing that could happen to the super-hero genre is for copyright to be abolished. Till that happens, though, I guess it’ll just continue to be powered by empty astonishment, hollow outrage, and plodding genuflection before a continuity that was always idiotic to begin with.