Marvel's freshly unveiled "Create Your Own" platform looks to allow fans to construct their own stories starring the company's collection of characters, but a long list of restrictions has sparked criticism before the product has even launched.
Announced on Thursday, Marvel: Create Your Own is an upcoming app described on Marvel.com as "a game changer for fledgling comic creators looking to do their own thing." A video on the platform's homepage describes how it works: selecting a character model, changing poses and backgounds, adding dialogue and sound effects, then altering the panel layout. Similar to other comics-creators online for those not looking to draw their own work, but with the clear benefit of having official use of Marvel characters.
Of course, use of major corporate intellectual property like the Marvel superheroes comes with plenty of terms and conditions -- and some observers are balking at the fine print for Create Your Own. On the Terms & Conditions page, there's an extensive list of forbidden material. Much of it you'd expect: No nudity, sexually explicit images, discriminatory language, graphic violence ("unless approved" on a case by case basis) or libelous content.
But along with that comes restrictions that seemingly put a serious damper on the potential of the product. Guns are not allowed, which would seem to render the Punisher and plenty other Marvel characters off limits (even though Punisher is depicted in the promotional art). Death, a major part of Marvel storytelling since the publisher's earliest days, is listed as a restricted topic, with no further explanation.
There's a puzzling line about "Sensationalism (killer bees, gossip, aliens, scandal, etc.)" -- curious given Marvel's long and celebrated history with alien characters, and the juxtaposition of that with killer bees and gossip. Don't expect to send Spider-Man to Duane Reade after his next battle with Doc Ock -- "Prescription drugs or over the counter medication, vitamins, and dietary supplements" are also no-nos.
Some of the restrictions are so sweeping that it would seem to impede creativity, such as "Content that could frighten or upset young children or the parents of young children" and "Other controversial topics (social issues, etc.)." Also, the age-old practice of swapping punctuation for profanities are also unacceptable: "proxies for bad or offensive language (X@#%!)," as are "noises related to bodily functions." Don't try to get cute, either: Double entendres will also violate the terms and conditions.
Also confusing is the ban on "Politics (lobbyists, PAC sites, political campaigns, alternative lifestyle advocacies)." Without an explanation on what exactly that means in this context, concern has arisen that "alternative lifestyles" -- long a phrase associated with LGBTQ people, and there are many LGBTQ characters on the Marvel roster -- are being dismissed along with elements both practical (adult content) and silly (killer bees).
Fans and pros alike have both leveled criticisms and poked fun at the Create You Own terms and conditions, including comics writer Alex de Campi and artist Jemma Salume, who in a one-panel comic attempted to depict each of the banned concepts:
Heyyy so I heard Marvel is letting us make our own comics now and there are some rules about stuff we have to include? Anyway @bisonfisticuffs and I made you a thing, I think we got everything in there pic.twitter.com/nF3qyJwIQl
— Alex de Campi (@alexdecampi) December 29, 2017
Given the stature of Marvel and its characters and the fact that it's owned by a corporate behemoth like Disney, a long list of legal restrictions for an app like Create Your Own isn't surprising. But given how broadly drafted yet undefined these terms and conditions are, the consensus is that this is not a promising start for a platform meant to be fueled by creativity.
CBR has reached out to Marvel for comment, and will update this story if one is provided.