Fan art is everywhere, part 2: Some clarification needed.
Last week I wrote a blog post that was a mostly-angry rant about the state of fan art in nerd culture. I knew I was going to ruffle some feathers, but some folks reached out in a kind manner asking for some clarification. Most of these issues were resolved on Facebook and/or Twitter, but I thought it would be a good idea to restate those clarifications here in the blog section. With Garth and I making our way to DragonCon this weekend, some of these points are worth making.
I did not mean to imply that all fan art is a lesser form of artwork. A lot of fan art I see is absolutely gorgeous, and getting fan art as a gift is one of the great thrills of starting your own comic. Garth and I still get giddy as schoolchildren when someone sends us their own interpretation of our cast members. What makes me sad is the monetization of fan art to the degree that original artwork gets pushed aside in its favor. A lot of people I know sell fan art prints at conventions these days to supplement or support their original endeavors, and that’s the nature of the business. It’s artists who make a career out of chasing fandoms and stuffing their portfolios full of nothing but fan art, and people who spend money on that instead of taking a chance on something original, that makes me disappointed in the state of art in nerd culture.
In last week’s blog I stated that I have never resorted to selling fan art in my career, but a reader kindly pointed out that when they visited us at a convention, I helped to sell them one of Garth’s “Twisted Fairy Tale” prints, notably one that closely resembled characters from The Little Mermaid. Yes, we do have some fan art pieces at our booth. Garth was commissioned to draw Wonder Woman, Spider-Gwen, and a piece inspired by Aliens. They all turned out so well that he turned them into prints for general sale. He also sells a piece heavily inspired by Ghost In The Shell because he’s a huge fan. Garth’s “Twisted Fairy Tales” series was hugely popular before we teamed up to make STAR POWER, but he doesn’t consider them fan art. They’re based on fairy tales and/or fiction in the Public Domain, not material owned by Disney (i.e. his Rapunzel piece is not fan art of the movie Tangled). Also, I personally don’t make any money off Garth’s original print sales. I simply help him make the sales at conventions, since I’m sitting next to him all weekend and I’d feel like a dick if I refused to help him sell his prints in any way. Finally, the three or four fan art pieces we sell at our STAR POWER table at conventions are far outnumbered by our original prints and books. Fan art is a miniscule aspect of our table at conventions, not the focus of it, and it’s the latter that makes me sad when I see it all around us, at shows and online.
Fan art is always going to be an aspect of nerd culture. Getting it as a gift remains one of this career’s great thrills, but seeing it push original material aside in its favor is a huge disappointment.
I hope that clears things up.