As a comic book writer, I spend a lot of time at comic conventions. It is there that I am surrounded by fan art for sale. Artists chase whatever comic book character is trending in the movies so right now it’s a purple and red sea of Thanos and Deadpool. Considering how many shows I do a year, I get flat out tired of looking at the same mass amount of copyright infringement.
The good news is I live in Chicago and if I want to see original art, I can do so any time I want. I frequent art shows and galleries to escape the fan art flood. When I attend an art show or poke my head into a gallery I am going to be inspired, to see what I haven’t. I want to stir the creative sledge stuck in the bottom of my brain. So you can imagine how annoyed I might be when I get invited to an art show and I find myself looking at Harley Quinn, Simpsons, Transformers, Dragon Ball Z and even Calvin and Hobbes. I love all these characters and intellectual properties, but that is not what I stepped out for on a freezing February evening.
It appears fan art is no longer limited to five dollar prints at the cons. It has now made a very profitable home for itself in galleries and fine art shows. I have now seen fan art pieces priced anywhere from a hundred to a cool thousand bucks. I’m not saying these pieces aren’t art, they’re well executed most of the time. I have stated before that fan art is cool, but selling it is not in my opinion and my stance rests on two major pillars.
The first pillar is for the sake of licensed artists. I’m not on this crusade to protect DC or Marvel or any big corporate monster from losing money, they’re fine. You know who’s not fine? The artists who worked so hard to be licensed to draw and create art with these characters. The very same artists who admire these people for their iconic work are just as quick to flood the market with unlicensed art and diminish the value of what licensed artists do.
Artists who are licensed to draw certain characters are rarely living lavish lives of luxury, far from it in many cases. If these people are your heroes, act like it, stop undercutting them.
The second pillar my stance sits on is a very plain and simple plea for more originality. What has me spooked about this trend is that I feel like artists have less confidence in their original ideas. I rely on the incredible originality of the comic artists I work with.
In the future, I imagine I will require more artists passionate about creating something new. My fear is artists like that could dwindle in a culture where more of the same is celebrated so easily. If we’re not going to celebrate new ideas we will end up with recycled, data driven content. That’s not even a theory, that has already begun to take hold in all forms of entertainment and media. In a time of remakes, rehashes, and homages to the 90’s we are in desperate need of NEW SHIT.
Many claim they use fan art to bring attention to their original work. I have questions about this. When they buy the fan art are they buying YOUR talent or their love for the talent of another? Is that satisfying? Do you have to SELL that Thanos to get attention to your original work? If it’s a profit thing, I GET IT. I’m a writer, I seek a career where people have to READ, no instant gratification here. People can’t glance at my text and fall in love. I don’t think people who sell fan art are bad or morally corrupt. I hang out and love tons of artists who sell fan art. Do I wish they didn’t? Of course, but I know times are tough and sometimes you gotta eat. I just want everyone to consider that you can create a desire for the road not taken when you stop making signs directing us to the roads we already know.