There has been, and forever will be, a unique and complex relationship between writers and their fans. A writer promises to create worlds and characters for the audience to cherish and promises to maintain the quality of their work, if not improve upon it. In return, fans promise to read the writer’s work and support them. However sometimes the world the author has established is changed by the fans either for better or for worse. Here are five fans who have directly influenced pieces of work.
1) Steven Moffat – The meaning of the word “Doctor”
Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction show in the history of the universe (see what I did there?) The show was first broadcast in 1963 and started its hiatus in 1989. Doctor Who returned in 2005 with a new Doctor, new companion and new crew but it was during its break that a fan, venting in an online chatroom issued the following idea.
Here’s a particularly stupid theory. If we take “The Doctor” to be the Doctor’s name – even if it is in the form of a title no doubt meaning something deep and Gallifreyan – perhaps our earthly use of the word “doctor” meaning healer or wise man is a direct result of the Doctor’s multiple interventions in our history as a healer and wise man. In other words, we got it from him. This is a very silly idea and I’m consequently rather proud of it.
What the fan is explaining is that we got the word Doctor from the time lord calling himself the Doctor because he has been protecting and healing our planet from the start of Earth’s existence. The meaning of our earth word doctor comes from the Doctor.
This theory might be familiar to modern Doctor Who viewers. That is because the theory was used in the episode A Good Man Goes to War.You can see the theory confirmed in the first thirty seconds of the video below.
If the video isn’t playing on your browser I’ve transcribed the relevant part here.
River Song: Doctor. The word for healer and wise man throughout the universe. We get that word from you, you know? But if you carry on the way you are, what might that word come to mean? To the people of the Gamma Forests, the word Doctor means mighty warrior. How far you’ve come.
The fan who originally posted that theory was none other than Steven Moffat who at the time of A Good Man Goes to War was the show runner for Doctor Who. He saved his idea for sixteen years before making it official Doctor Who cannon.
Fun fact: I first started writing this article a year before publishing it.
2) A lawyer in California – The death of Robin
In 1988, in DC’s comic book universe, Dick Grayson, the original Robin had left Batman’s side to become the hero Nightwing. This left the role of Robin vacant and because Robin was such a popular character with younger readers, DC were keen to find someone else to fill the mantle. Batman soon discovered a young boy called Jason Todd, trying to steal the tyres off the Batmobile and raised him to become the new Robin. Unfortunately for DC, when compared to Dick Grayson, Jason Todd looked like a spoiled brat and received little love from fans. Dennis O’Neil, a comic book writer, pitched his idea to DC to have their readers decide if Jason Todd should be killed off. At the end of Batman issue #427 Jason had been left to die by the Joker in a warehouse, rigged to explode with Batman on the way to rescue him. On the last page the readers were given two telephone numbers. One number was a vote for Batman to save Robin and the other number was a vote for Robin to die.
The publicity stunt was a huge success and sales of Batman comics tripled during the event with the stunt even being discussed on the national news. When the telephone lines were closed and the votes were counted there was only a sixty five vote difference. In issue #428 Batman was seen holding the dead body of Jason Todd.
Years later, in an interview of Newsarama, O’Neil admitted that hundreds of votes for killing Jason came from one person which called the legitimacy of the event into question.
“I heard it was one guy, who programmed his computer to dial the thumbs down number every ninety seconds for eight hours, who made the difference… I heard it was a lawyer who was using a MacIntosh and lived in California…I heard someone out there programmed his computer to dial it every couple of minutes, and since there was only about 65 votes that made the difference, if that story is true, that guy, that guy killed Jason Todd!”
The mantel was soon picked up by the third Robin, Tim Drake who was received much more warmly by fans. The Jason Todd character stayed dead for twenty five years before being resurrected for the story line Batman: Hush. The identity of Jason’s killer was never publicly revealed.
3) Randy Schueller, Jim Shooter and Spider-Man fans – Spider-Man’s Black suit and the character of Venom
When Spider-Man was created in the 1960’s he was a very unique superhero. He didn’t have a sidekick or a team to assist him and he was only a teenager. Although Spider-Man’s rogue’s gallery is the third most popular in the superhero genre (behind Superman and Batman) he doesn’t have an arch-nemeses. Although there are several contenders for this role, Green Goblin, Doc Ock and Venom, who has recently risen in popularity due to his solo film, there isn’t a clear winner.
Before we discuss Venom we need to discuss Spider-Man’s black suit. Randy Schueller was a Spider-Man fan in the 1980’s and entered a competition created by Marvel to design Spider-Man a new costume. Although Schueller won the completion, his entry was very different to the black costume that later appeared in Spider-Man’s comics. The edits to Schueller’s costume were made by the then editor-in-chief of Spider-Man comics, Jim Shooter. You can see both Schueller’s and Shooter’s Spider-Man costumes below.
Although Schueller’s design wasn’t used, Shooter still paid Schueller $220 for the idea.
A few years later, Marvel was approached by a toy company who wanted to launch a Marvel Toy line to compete with DC. Marvel created the Secret Wars event where all the heroes of the Marvel universe were dropped on Battle World to fight among themselves. It was during the Secret Wars event when Spider-Man obtained his black suit, based of the designs Schueller had submitted to Marvel.
In promotion for the Secret Wars event Marvel released pictures of Spider-Man in his new black suit however fans did not react well. They claimed that it made Spider-Man too gritty and dark and sucked the fun and joy out of the character. Due to the intensely negative backlash, Marvel executives ordered Jim Shooter to dump Spider-Man’s black suit as soon as possible. As the issues of Spider-Man in his black suit were being released to the public, Jim Shooter was writing the issues where the suit was removed. He claimed that the suit was actually an alien parasite that had bonded to Peter Parker. A few issues later Peter Parker managed to rid himself of the alien and returned to his traditional outfit.
In a twist worthy of a comic book, when the issues of Spider-Man dumping the black suit were released fans were once again outraged…. because they had grown to love the suit! Marvel executives then ordered Jim Shooter to bring the suit back. The character Black Cat made Spider-Man an identical black suit, minus the extra powers it had provided him with.
Spider-Man would flip flop between his traditional suit and his black suit until the character of Venom appeared. It was revealed that Venom was actually Eddie Brock, a reporter who worked alongside Peter Parker and had an intense hatred of both him and Spider-Man. Brock found the discarded alien suit and bonded to it, gaining the same powers as Spider-Man and becoming the villain, Venom.
Marvel executives eventually decided that having two characters in similar outfits with similar powers would be to confusing for readers and asked for Spider-Man’s black suit to once again be removed. After Venom was defeated, Peter Parker destroyed his black suit as the sight of it upset his girlfriend, Mary Jane who had been attacked by Venom over the course of the story.
Although Venom has returned to plague the wall crawler countless times since his first appearance, the black suit has also made many more appearances in Spider-Man’s media most notably in Sam Rani’s Spider-Man Three released in 2007.
4) Disney fans – Linking the Disney animated universe.
If you were to say the phrase “cinematic universe” most people would think of Marvel. Marvel have been running their cinematic universe, called the MCU, since 2010 and although they arguably run the popular cinematic universe, they did not create the concept. The earliest example that I can find is Universal Monsters which first appeared on the silver screen in 1931.
However, if you listen to the Disney fans, they claim that the longest running cinematic universe is the “Disney animated universe” and that each animated film from Disney starting with 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and continuing into the present day are all set in the same timeline. This theory isn’t as far fetched as it seems and it has been confirmed by the mouse of house itself… mostly.
It is no secret that Disney like leaving references and easter eggs in their films. To avoid confusion a reference is a clear link to a past or future project where as an easter egg is a more obscure link that you have to search for. For example in 101 Dalmatians there are two dogs that look strikingly similar to the Lady and the Tramp from the film of the same name.
This is a reference as it’s very clear that these characters are from another Disney film.
However if you look at this still from Lilo and Stitch you would have to examine the frame closely to notice the Mulan poster in the background.
If you somehow haven’t seen Frozen, the film starts with the King and Queen of Arendelle leaving on a ship that is lost at sea. It is never stated in the film why the King and Queen were leaving or where they were going but fans claim they have managed to piece this mystery together.
Frozen was released in the year 2013 and the scene of the King and Queen leaving Arendelle takes place in a flash back, three years before the rest of the film. Three years before the release of Frozen, Disney launched another animated film called Tangled which is loosely based on the fairy tale Rapunzel. The film ends (spoiler warning) in a wedding between Rapunzel and Flynn Rider. Therefore fans have reached the conclusion that the King and Queen of Arendelle were leaving to attend Rapunzel’s wedding. This idea is supported by the fact that Rapenzel and Flynn are seen at the start of Frozen attending Elsa’s coronation during the first musical number. The kingdom of Arendelle is based off Norway and the land were Rapenzel is set is based of Germany so travel between the two locations during the vague medieval period where the films are set wouldn’t be impossible.
The theory goes deeper. The Little Mermaid is based off a fairy tale that originated in Denmark. Denmark is between Germany and Norway and directly in the path of the route the King and Queen would have sailed. If you look at the shipwreck Ariel plunders in The Little Mermaid you can see some similarities to the King and Queen of Arendelle’s ship.
I, personally, like to end the theory here but hardcore Disney fans go deeper. When asked in a Q&A session if the King and Queen are dead, the director of Frozen, Chris Buck, said
“…although the ship was blown off course and wrecked, the King and Queen of Arendelle, and their newborn “baby boy,” washed up on the shore of a jungle and built “a treehouse” before getting “eaten by a leopard.”
This is clearly how the film Tarzan starts.
The full theory claims that the King and Queen of Arendelle are actually Tarzan’s parents and that Tarzan is the true ruler of Arendelle.
There are some similarities between the King and Queen and Tarzan’s parents to support the theory. They look similar and a shipwreck and being cast away would have altered their appearance somewhat. The theory also has an interesting ripple effect across the Disney universe as a whole. Will Tarzan learn of his birthright and try to return home in a potential future film? Does Tarzan have magic powers like Elsa? Are the trolls in Frozen linked to the animals in the jungle?
However there are many more reasons to believe that this theory isn’t true. To address the elephant in the room (oh, more puns!) Tarzan is set in Africa while the royal ship sunk near Denmark. Although you could take Chris Buck’s word that the royal ship was blown off course literally, that’s still a questionably distance to cover. You could argue that the ship Ariel plunders and the sunken royal ship are two different ships but then this raises continuity and geography questions. It’s also worth noting that Chris Buck was the director of Tarzan and was very likely trying to improve sales of his old works.
Despite this, because a member of Disney has confirmed the theory it is, some would consider, cannon.
5) Angry Star Wars fans – The Phantom Edit and others.
Full disclaimer: Although I don’t agree at all with what the fans did I admire the dedication it took to make it.
Star Wars Episode Four: A New Hope was first released in 1977 and was a phenomenal success both with fans and at the box office. This success was followed by Episode Five: The Empire Strikes Back and Episode Six: Return of the Jedi which were both met with a positive reception. After a lengthy break and claiming that he was pressured by fans to continue his work (a lame excuse George, you called them episodes four, five and six) Lucas returned to the franchise and released Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace in 1999, the first film of the prequel trilogy. The Phantom Menace was met with lukewarm to negative reactions from fans and critics causing heartbroken fans to create what they dubbed, The Phantom Edit.
The Phantom Edit is a fan edited version of the Phantom Menace. The creator of the film, Mike J Nicolas made the following alterations in order to improve the product:
He replaced the iconic opening crawl with his version explaining why the Phantom Edit was needed.
He removed the character Jar Jar Binks from all scenes.
Most of the Battle Droid’s dialogue was removed.
Scenes that involved politics were heavily trimmed.
Immature lines of dialogue from young Anakin for example cries of “Yippee” and “Oops” were removed.
He removed any mention of the midi-chlorians.
He also re-added deleted scenes to solve plot holes.
Although Lucas Art condoned the film they did not pursue legal action… because they had been doing the same thing with the original Star War films. As stated above, Star Wars Episode Four was first released in 1977 and its later releases are listed down below:
Theatrical release 1977
Theatrical re-release 1978
Theatrical re-release 1979
Theatrical re-release 1981
Theatrical re-release 1982
VHS and Betamax releases 1982
1984 broadcast television release
1985 laser disk release
1989 wide screen laser disk release
1990 VHS re-release
1992 wide screen VHS re-release
1993 laser disk re-release
1995 VHS re-release
1997 Theatrical re-release
1997 VHS re-release special edition
2004 DVD release
That’s sixteen different releases which steadily increased the profits of the Lucas Arts company. Throughout each release George Lucas made several changes including who shot first between Han and Greedo, adding characters such as Boba Fett and Jabba the Hut and adding CGI aliens in the foreground and background of shots. Episodes five and six were also re-released with changes including the addition of the infamous Jedi Rocks song in Jabba’s Palace.
The reaction of these fans even changed the course of the films with characters such as Jar Jar Binks being heavily reduced and less emphasis being placed on the political subplot. Despite this when Star Wars Episode Two: Attack of the Clones was released it was swiftly followed with Episode II.I Attack of the Phantom which was another full edit.
I can’t find any trace of a full edit of Star Wars: Episode Three Revenge of the Sith but this was the strongest film among the prequels. However when The Last Jedi hit theatres around the world there was a outcries from fans. (I’m not going to discuss if these outcries were justified or not, I liked The Last Jedi. I didn’t love it and I wouldn’t place it as my favourite Star Wars film but it isn’t that bad). After the film was slaughtered by reviewers, fans created several version of the film, all of which claimed to be better than the original.
Perhaps the most damming edit comes from The Last Jedi: De-Feminized Fan edit in which someone has removed every female character aside from Rey who is significantly low balled. The film has been reduced down from two and a half hours to forty five minutes.
As I said in my introduction, for better or for worse. What do you think of the fans actions in these examples? Do you agree or disagree with the changes made because of them? Let me know in the comments down below or on social media.
I’ll see you next time!