What Do Creators Owe Their Fans?

In case you hadn’t heard, Issue #1 of Captain America: Steve Rogers came out this week.


The very last panel of the comic tells us that Steve Rogers aka Captain America is an agent of HYDRA (the Nazi like evil agency that hopes to liberate the world by subjugating it under its control). And according to Nick Spencer, the new writer for Captain America,  Cap has always been a HYDRA Agent and it’s not the usual comic book trickery (mind control, alien duplicate, etc.).

WTF ?!??

The Internet was outraged by the new issue and I have to say, I was too. I had planned to pick up this issue, but now I won’t.  The question came up on Entertainment Weekly Radio this week “What, if anything, do Creators Owe Their Fans?” This got me thinking since I now am a creator and have characters who have a definitive image in my mind.

What Do Creators Owe Fans?

In a a word, nothing.  The characters, plot, and setting come from the mind of the creator; he/she is the final arbiter off what is and isn’t in world.  That doesn’t mean the creator is infallible and won’t make stupid decisions, but it’s his/her stupid decision to make. Everyone laments that George R.R. Martin constantly kills off characters just as you get to like them and that is his prerogative.  In order to finish anything (music, fiction, art, movie), you have to have a singular vision for the piece.  We’ve all seen films that seem to completely lose their voice and tone and it’s not surprising when we hear after the fact, the studio made numerous changes to the story in order to please the audience.  I’m not saying that creators are immune to any suggestions of improvements – authors have editors, directors have producers, etc.  But such suggestions have to be incorporated in ways that don’t compromise the integrity of the piece.  Which brings me to my point:

Creators Owe A Responsibility to the Integrity of the Work

This is what makes me mad about this whole thing. Marvel and the writer are pulling a huge publicity stunt that shits on the integrity of the work. There is seventy five years of back story that now pretty much makes no sense whatsoever. Captain America is defined by his ideals; they are in direct opposition to what this twist represents. It’s almost like saying Batman murdered his parents or Spider-Man killed Uncle Ben.

I’m not saying that you can never make a huge (apparent) change in a character. But it has to be earned. You have to see that the seeds of the change are planted well in advance. The most masterful example I can think of this is the character of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter books. J.K Rowling did an exceptional job of posting clues that made you wonder whether Snape was really aligned with Voldemort or Dumbledore. Yes, there’s a big reveal at the end, but it puts every single one of the clues she had laid out well in advance in proper perspective.

Compared to other comic book stunts in the last two decades (The Death of Superman, Bane Breaking Batman’s Back, The Death of Captain America), this one does not feel earned. In each of the three events I mentioned, they were set up well in advance and were logical conclusions of the events. Captain America’s death at the end of the Civil War, while shocking, was logical; the stakes in Civil War were high with superheroes losing their lives or imprisoned. Shooting the symbolic leader of the Anti-Registration side was a logical consequence. Again, in each case, the “twist” was earned through a multiple book arc.  And each of these were reversed in an equally (well, almost – there’s a bunch of comic book “magic” that justified the events) earned arc.

If you really insist going down this ridiculous plot line, we should have at least seen points where something didn’t happen the way it should have, shadowy conversations with hidden people, or even an investigation. Anything that could plant a clue. This twist is the worse and cheapest trick. It’s the comic book equivalent of  the “It was a dream” season on Dallas in the Eighties. It’s lazy, sensational story telling simply aimed at making a buck or generating buzz.

Who Cares? It’s Just a Comic Book.

That’s true; it is just a comic book. If Marvel wants to shoot themselves in the foot, so what?

The fundamental truth is that the stories we read or the shows that we watch are a huge part of who we are and who we want to be. The human race has been telling stories almost from the time we invented language. Our perception of the world and our role in it are shaped by stories. Stories give us frameworks for morality or social mores. The characters are either role models or cautionary tales. Captain America has been a role model for so many people (myself included) and messing around with role models should not be done lightly.  It’s a sad commentary on our society that we can’t seem to have any truly good guys any more. Look, I love anti-heroes as much as the next guy, but do we really have to drag all of our heroes into the muck? Can’t we have a least a few heroes that are honestly good and not morally adaptable?  Must everything be about shocking people or creating buzz? Can’t we have nice things? Can I stop asking rhetorical questions?

In true comic book form, this will probably resolve itself down the line (it better!), but I’m deeply disappointed in Marvel. I was thinking about picking up the comic book again, but now I absolutely won’t do that. Sure, they have created some really bad plot lines in Captain America (Cap-Wolf or the one where meth basically bonded with the Super Soldier formula), but while they were bad ideas, at least they made sense in the plotting of the comic and the result of a logical progression. This twist is the equivalent of ending a story with “And then, I woke up”

I just hope that I wake up from this horrible plot twist soon.


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You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

This weekend was my signing at the Barnes & Noble in New Hartford, NY. I was part of a Local Authors Signing that the store was doing and I was excited to be at a signing that I didn’t organize.  Upon entry, I was greeted with this sign:


I brought my books in and set up with the other writers.  Here’s a picture of me displaying my book:


The event started and we were all anxious to talk to potential readers about our new books.

And we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

In fairness, some of the authors had a few friends stop by and I think some of them bought one a book. But by and large, we all spent two hours and most of us never talked to another soul about our books (again, that’s not completely true, we did talk to each other about our books because we were the only ones there).

I’m not sure what happened exactly – maybe it was a bad day (there didn’t seem to be a ton of traffic in the store), maybe it was our location (we were stuck off to the side, out of the main traffic flow), or it wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t have any illusions that I would sell (m)any books, but I made up bookmarks for people to take – and there weren’t even people to take them!

But If You Try Sometimes; You Get What You Need

Sure, I’m a little disappointed that no one was there, but I was in good company.  And that’s what I got out of the signing – companionship with other writers. We spent time talking about our books, our process, how we published, and how we try to sell our books. While writing is a solitary process by nature, it was really great for me to feel like I’m not the only one in the world who goes through the same triumphs and defeats.

It also sort of reinvigorated me and will hopefully give me the kick in the ass I need to get Reluctant Captain selling and finishing the very first draft of my new novel.

So here’s to the picking yourself up, brushing yourself up and starting all over again (am I allowed to mix lyrical references in the same post?).

Happy journeys!

PS – Just because I turned this experience into something meaningful for me, please feel free to join me at my next signing event; whenever that will be. While I appreciate the lessons in humility I learn, I also really want to sell books!

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Nothing Profound…Just Some Updates

Since it’s been way too long since I’ve made a blog post, I thought I’d do something, even though I don’t have much to say right now…

Boldly Going Nowhere

I had mentioned that I had submitted a story for the  Star Trek: Strange New Worlds fan fiction contest. Unfortunately, my story was not selected as one of the stories. I plan to put it on the blog sometime soon: I want to re-edit to include some “deleted” scenes that were cut in order to make the contest’s word limit. Since they aren’t publishing it, I can put it back the way I want…

Getting the Word Out

I’ve added myself to a couple of sites that highlight authors and their works. You can now find my profile on Author’s DB and The Literary Net as well as GoodReads and Amazon. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter. I do have an account on Pinterest and if I ever figure out what to do with, I’ll let you know.

An Event!!

I have an event in the near future! I will be doing a signing featuring local writers at the Barnes & Noble in New Hartford, NY from 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM on Saturday, May 21st. I’m really excited because most book shops don’t carry self published books for sound economic reasons ( publishers buy back unsold books; if the shop doesn’t sell the self published book, they are stuck with it). I am happy that the Colgate Book Store is carrying my book, at least for a while. I’m really excited to at least get a crack at reaching another audience in New Hartford.  If you’re free, I’d love to see you….and love it even more if you bought a book 🙂

Slow and Steady Wins the Race…

I’m working (very slowly) on the sequel to The Reluctant Captain. I think I’m about a third to half way through the story. I’ve written myself into a bit of a corner right now and I’m trying to figure out how to write my way out of it.  So bear with me, it is coming….sometime.

That’s it for now. Hopefully it won’t be another couple of months before I post again.

Until next time, Happy Journeys!


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