An artist’s art should always be bad in the beginning. Bad art is made by people who need to say things but don’t yet know how to say those things well. Sometimes, those things need to be said and received, but far too often they’ll get lost in the shuffle. The keenest proprietors of talent will often seek these voices out, and even create platforms for those voices. My favourite example is when Bioware used player-made modules of their game Neverwinter Nights as a recruitment tool.
This lesson appears to be lost to Marvel Comics when they designed the Create Your Own platform.
Create Your Own isn’t open yet, but the basics are pretty straightforward. You use Marvel-owned art on their digital platform to make your own comics, as long as you give up any and all rights to what you’ve created. That’s not really surprising, as the legal ramifications otherwise would arguably be far more treacherous than what a high-profile creator like Marvel would be wise to take on. The problems lay elsewhere in the terms and conditions.
According to the conditions:
(B) 3. You must not use, post, display, upload, or otherwise use on, to, or via the Service
any content or material containing or including any of the following:
- Ads for “R” or “NC-17” rated movies, “TV14” or “TVMA” TV programming, or “M”, “AO”, or “RP” video games
- Content that could frighten or upset young children or the parents of young children
- Prescription drugs or over-the-counter medication, vitamins, and dietary supplements
- Depictions of alcohol (hard liquor, beer, wine, etc.), tobacco (cigars, cigarettes, etc.), or drugs (marijuana, etc.)
- Sexually explicit images (pornography, etc.)
- Suggestive or revealing images (bare midriffs, lets, etc.)
- Sensationalism (killer bees, gossip, aliens, scandal, etc.)
- Potentially slanderous or libelous content
- Obscenity, bad or offensive language, proxies for bad or offensive language (X@#%!), body parts, or noises related to bodily functions
- Politics (lobbyists, PAC sites, political campaigns, alternative lifestyle advocacies)
- Gambling (excluding state lotteries, sweepstakes and fantasy leagues)
- Graphic violence (including certain types of game sites) unless approved by TapTap on a case-by-case basis
- Discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, or age
- Illegal activities or any materials that infringe or assist others to infringe upon any copyright, trademark, or any other intellectual property rights
- Misleading language
- Images or content that is in any way unlawful, harmful, threatening, defamatory, obscene, or harassing
- Unauthorized or unapproved use of Marvel creative assets (such as talent, logos, characters, movie logos, theme park imagery, color scheme, font[s])
- A copy or parody of current or past Marvel advertising creative (from any media form)
- Other controversial topics (social issues, etc.)
- Implied affiliation or favored status with Marvel
- Unreasonable or highly unlikely product or service claims
- Double entendres
- Amusement parks (other than Disney amusement parks)
- Movie studios (other than studios affiliated with Marvel)
- Animated movies (other than Marvel or Disney movies)
- Guns (firearms, bullets, etc.)
- Any content that is otherwise inappropriate for children
- Any content that is otherwise fraudulent, deceptive, infringing, racially offensive, sexually explicit, threatening, hateful, harassing, disparaging, libelous (including trade libel), slanderous, or defamatory
Some of these issues are understandable, while others are bewildering. Particularly, a restriction on “social issues”. It may be 2018 but the world is still deeply mired in discussions of human rights. One could argue that Marvel has the right to allow or disallow whatever they want, but for an industry leader to so clearly state that the voices of those who need the platform the most are not wanted, it feels like we’re all still missing the point of art. Comic book creators have struggled and mostly failed to give voice to women, LGBTQQIP2 people and other disenfranchised groups.
Marvel likes to boast about things like a homosexual wedding or pushing female and ethnically-different characters to the fore, but without an influx of content creators that actually LIVE those realities, they’re almost invariably shallow, hollow shells. These stories are dull shades of gry compared to the brilliant colours they could be if they came from the people who have truly suffered to have those views. Comic book creation is still far and away dominated by cis white males, and Marvel is shooting themselves in the foot by putting forth a platform designed to inspire wonderfully bad art, and instead is keyed into nothing but the status quo.
The option of using Marvel’s characters might seem appealing, but if you have something that you feel is important or interesting to say and can’t comply with the terms and conditions, don’t. It’s going to be more work but if what you have in your head is driving you to create, then create. There are plenty of other platforms for truly original work and in the end, your voice might be more than what Marvel deserves.