Featured photo courtesy of Kris Brillantes.
Our final post on Emerald City Comicon covers diverse topics, from fandom communities online, to a look at one of the most popular comics-inspired shows on TV, and wrapping up with tips for creators to make sure they’re protecting their legal rights to their work. ECCC this year was a blast, and we look forward to being able to cover it again next March! You can see coverage of our previous day here: part 1 and part 2.
How fanfiction can foster diverse communities
By Kris Brillantes
The “Slash, Shipping and Online Communities: Why Fanfiction Matters” panel at ECCC was something I could not afford to miss. As members of Cohort 14 are well aware of, fanfiction is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. In fact, fanfiction was the core topic and inspiration behind some of my assignments during my time in the Comm Lead program.
What exactly is fanfiction? Fanfiction refers to stories written by fans based on existing media (or sometimes people). It was first established by the Trekkies, or Star Trek fans, and its history can be traced back to the 1960s when fanfiction was published in print fanzines. Now there are many online sites that host fanfiction such as Fanfiction.net, ArchiveofOurOwn (AO3), and Livejournal. Fanfiction is also no longer limited to sci-fi fandoms alone. You name it and there’s probably fanfiction about it.
But it’s also traditionally looked down upon. As the panel description puts it, “Traditional media thinks it’s trashy. Parents think: pornographic, and authors think: copyright infringement.” But is there really all there is to it?
The panel – composed of veteran Fanfiction readers/authors Ruby Davis, Zoe Escalona, Joy DeLyria, Astrid Clemons, and Gwyneth Rhys – discussed the importance of fanfiction. Although the conversation touched upon various topics, all of them seem to share one common theme: that fanfiction serves as the megaphone for the minority.
Fanfiction offers the fans a chance to stand up for the little guy. Often times the community chooses to focus on minor characters who have very little role or development in the source media compared to the main characters. These characters are hardly explored. It is up to the fans to shine the spotlight on marginalized groups, including but not limited to characters who identify as LGBT, are female, or have disabilities.
“We get to go and create the narrative ourselves,” said Rhys. “And we get to put Natasha Romanoff [Black Widow from the Marvel Universe] at the center of the story because they won’t give her her damn movie!”
Like Romanoff, Fanfiction also offers women a place in a male-dominated world. One of the interesting statistics presented at this panel is the gender division of fanfiction authors: 95 percent of the authors on AO3 are female, while 3 percent identify as white males. DeLyria suggested that part of the reason for this is that women are more at liberty to discuss sexuality in an accepting environment. “I never had any female friends that actually talked about sex until I was in a fandom. For men, it seems normal to talk about sex a lot.”
However, the fanfiction community isn’t without its own conflicts. As an AO3 staff member, Clemons knows that the members of the fanfiction community are particularly vocal about what they want. Many even select their “home” based on each site’s content policy.
“They migrate from site to site,” Clemons pointed out, describing how authors moved from Fanfiction.net, to Livejournal (until it got hacked in 2011 by Russian hackers), to Dreamwidth, and finally to AO3. “It seems like whenever there is a huge crackdown on particular platforms’ content policy, people get hurt about it. They always want to start something new and move to a different place, not just put up with it.”
iZombie: How a “Rom-Zom-Com” comic became a TV series
By Kris Brillantes
“This is the best show on TV right now,” I overheard a woman next to me whisper to her friend. I couldn’t help nodding in agreement.
Ever since I was introduced to the TV series and comics last year in Rob Salkowitz’s Graphic Storytelling as Transmedia Platform class, iZombie immediately got me hooked. It tells the story of Olivia “Liv” Moore and how her life was turned upside down after one night at a party where she unfortunately became a zombie. She soon discovers that other than fulfilling her hunger, the brains she consumes also briefly provide the abilities and personalities that previously belonged to their owners – from the conventional to the unexpected (like lap dancing!). More importantly, she also receives past memories of the victim, which she uses to help the SPD (another reason to watch the show: it is set in Seattle) solve the crime.
One of the dreams all fangirls have is to meet those who are responsible for their favorite show and characters. Luckily, I got to meet some of the minds behind iZombie this Saturday at ECCC 2016.
Chris Roberson, the co-creator of the original comic series (I, Zombie), spoke at ECCC about how iZombie came to be and how the CW show has altered the storyline. For example, the entire cast was reinvented, including the main protagonist. In the show we follow the doctor-turned-medical examiner Liv Moore as opposed to the gravedigger Gwen Dylan in the comics. Despite that, the gist of the original material still remains – that zombies are like regular people.
“I thought this is great! It’s funny. I like these characters,” Roberson said, reminiscing about the first time he saw the changes. “The main thing was even though it’s a different character and a different story, it very much has the tone of our comic.”
Roberson was joined on stage by two actors from the TV series.
Spoilers for iZombie’s first and second season follow.
Rose McIvor, who plays Liv Moore, was excited to be at ECCC as this was her first convention ever. She talked about how fun yet challenging it is to play different personalities in each episode, as she has to maintain the core of what makes Liv herself. McIvor also told the audience about her favorite brain (a gamer, because she is clueless when it comes to video games) and the toughest brain (an old man, because he was just an unlikeable character overall) that she had to play.
David Anders plays Blaine, the main antagonist of the first season. Anders dubbed the show as “the best Rom-Zom-Com on television.” As soon as he read the script, it was such a page-turner that he needed to be a part of it. He spoke about how his character recently became an amnesiac, a refreshing take that manages to induce the audience’s sympathy, including that of Roberson’s daughter.
However, McIvor wasn’t convinced, “You killed my [Liv’s] boyfriend, dude!”
“I killed more than that!” Anders laughed.
As season 2 comes to the conclusion this Tuesday, McIvor hinted that the two-part finale is going to change the entire landscape of the series. For a start, Liv and Blaine may be forced into an alliance with each other — a twist that will carry consequences fans can look forward to seeing.
Knowing your rights as a creator
By Samantha Hautea
What should anyone who produces creative work know about the law? Attorney Katie Lane (WorkMadeForHire.net) and artist Dylan Meconis (Bite Me, Family Man) set out to answer that question and give their audience a crash course in some of the basic legal concepts that all creators should be aware of.
The panel began with a discussion of copyright. Copyright is a legal protection for the material you create — whether it’s in stories, music, or art — that prevents other people from selling or distributing your work without your permission. To be eligible for copyright, something must be in a tangible medium of expression, meaning that other people can perceive it. Even if an idea is incredibly original, having it in your head isn’t enough for it to be copyrighted.
What if success finds you and a large publisher wants the copyright to publish your work? Contracts can be a thorny, complex subject. Lane cautioned creators to be careful about signing contracts that stipulate a project as being “creator-owned,” a term that has no legal meaning in itself. Instead, they should look carefully at the actual language of the contract to make sure that they are not accidentally signing their copyright over to the publisher. Some of the terms to raise red flags: indemnify (pay), assign/transfer (give away), in perpetuity (forever), throughout the universe (everywhere), and irrevocable (no take backs).
If payment is taken as a portion of profit, creators should also pay attention what kind of profits are indicated in the contract. A 50/50 split may look good on paper, but not if it comes after the publisher takes away the cost of advertising, printing, editing, and even rent from the profit.
(ETA: On Twitter, Lane added: “The only thing I’d say is that it’s 100% OK for publishers to recoup their (reasonable!) costs. They just need to be upfront about it.” So again, careful contract reading is important, and ask for clarification when in doubt.)
It’s also a good idea to create a reversion clause — a part of the contract that stipulates giving rights back to the creator if certain things happen or don’t happen. For example, if a publisher doesn’t publish a book by the date they said they would, or they go out of business, you could get your copyright back through the reversion clause.
Creators should also pay attention to any “non-compete” stipulations, which may prevent creators from working for a period of time after the project has ended. When possible, the goal should be to negotiate different language that is tighter and more specific. Instead of agreeing to not work on children’s books for two years — certainly problematic for someone with a career as a children’s book illustrator — perhaps the contract could be renegotiated to specific children’s books that involve animals, or something more specific to the work done under contract. Sometimes the language of a non-compete clause is unnecessarily broad simply because the attorney writing it doesn’t know any better.
Lane stressed that it’s important for creators to feel comfortable asking their potential partners about these questions, since that can be another sign to stay away. “If they’re tetchy about how they’re going to deal with your money, they may not be the best partner for you.”
Of course, one doesn’t have to navigate this complex legal system alone. Hiring an attorney who is familiar with the arts should be a goal for any aspiring creator. Lane suggested looking into whether there is a Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts organization in your area. These lawyers may be willing to have free consultations, hold educational seminars, and provide more insight on the process of seeking legal representation.