Playing to The Story

Humans by and large love to play.  We have a fondness to play with those things that interest us, particularly from narratives that grab our attention.  So much of my childhood was spent playing away with large epic battles among my G. I. Joes (which at one point were numerous enough, especially with the different vehicles) to fill a standard laundry basket).  We enjoy playing an active part in our story making but also just to gain access to “more” of our stories and characters.  Thus, we’re quick to see the movie of the comic we love or the book we’ve read faster than anything assigned in school.  It gives a deep sense of enjoyment with our particular interest.  And let’s not forget as Spaceballs reminds us, that from the producer’s end, there’s something to be had from capitalizing on this desire:

But Spaceballs also show us there’s something more than just merchandizing to be had.  Or rather it provides keen insight as to what merchandizing allows its consumers to do:

The act of taking control and using one’s interest for new and divergent ways from the original text is of course, the cornerstone to many elements of fan culture in the world today.  Initiating with fan-fiction (and eventually slash fiction), it grew into a range of elements including cosplay, fan videos, and the like.  Taking control or redirecting the standard narrative has been the topic of study for many within popular culture since it clearly indicates that the relationship between creator and audience is not as one-directional as many assume it to be.

The Batman Comic Generator site is a good example.  The site allows visitors to plug words into particular speech balloons within a specific Batman comic.  Originally, it was the singular comic seen below, but the site has expanded to 3 and who knows, by the time you read this, it might be 10.  Even if this site were to shut down; there are many others like it out there on the web.

The compelling thing about this site is to see what other people have done.  Just like the newspapers that draw a comic panel or provide a picture and let readers compete for the best comment, so too does this site drive its appeal from seeing what people will say.  But, it’s not just any joke that will do here.  The jokes have to fall into the context of Batman smacking Robin and many of previous ones will try to invoke the classic Batman and Robin gay scenario or work from fan-based knowledge to create the best laughter.  Those unfamiliar with Batman may have trouble fully appreciating the range of jokes being offered.

Now, this might not be taking full control of the comic as I mentioned with the G I Joes and other types of toys/tools, but many a time have I seen the generator used and the produced picture as someone’s Facebook profile picture or in some other relative context.


What are some of the things we get from playing/engaging with material that is evocative of a particular narrative or interest?  Why play baseball on the Wii?  Why create a Star Wars fan-film?  Does the world need another Harry Potter fan-fiction?

With regards to the Batman comic generator, why does Batman and Robin work so well for this?  Would it be as interesting were it another comic duo?

Who is the “creator” of the comic produced?  How is authorship shared/renegotiated?


  1. As a person who played with action figures well into the age some people would possibly be doing something more useful with their time, I know firsthand what thrills a fan of a particular, already existing, series can have in acting out and creating their own personal plots and stories in what would be an already established canon. Having a character and story that we enjoy and feel for, is in a way, like giving Lego blocks to a fan, of which they can then build upon into making it something their own. Further more, embracing such activities as fan-fiction/playing with action figures/spoofing or what have you, allows the fan base to feel like they are contributing to the grand scale of their fandom in one way or another.
    Now on the subject of the Batman comic generator, This goes right back to the idea of giving fans the Lego blocks to work off of. For the Comic of Batman smacking up Robin, we already have a fairly interesting piece to work with, with the original dialog erased, all we have is Batman smacking up his young ward Robin. With the dialog removed and no other panels to go from, we have no context as to WHY Batman is slapping Robin across the face, and the fact that now our own imaginations make this so exploitable, we are then given almost limitless potential material for us to come up with a reason for why such a situation would occur. As for how would this work if some other duo were in the place of Batman and Robin, totally depends on what duo we are using, though I doubt it would have as much impact as Batman and Robin as far as "Older costumed hero/Young boy ward" in the sense of recognizable archetype icons. We could switch this to any number of things, from Peter Pan smacking Wendy, to the Pringles potato chips man smacking Chester Cheetah, it wouldn't have the same meaning behind the gag as Batman/Robin. In fact, I can't even think of another duo that would be the same as that image right there.

  2. I think anything we are interested in we want to add to it in some way, whether it is baseball, Star Wars, Harry Potter, comics, music or whatever. The problem is, we are not all talented enough to actually contribute to our areas of interest. Playing baseball on the Wii can certainly be an outlet for that desire to contribute by either adding ourselves to the game, or being able to control the destinies of our favorite players. By creating a Star Wars fan-film or a Harry Potter fan-fiction, it allows us to not only fulfill our desires to contribute to our interests, but allows us to share it with others as well. There is also the possibility that a fan-produced piece of work will get notice from someone who is able to help fulfill our dream of being able to contribute to the world of our interest.
    As for the Batman comic generator, Batman and Robin work well for this because they are the most well known duo in comics, and of course there is the whole gay joke thing that I am sure everyone has done to death. I am not sure if any other comic duo would be as interesting, but I would like to see something like this with Captain America and Bucky because they don’t have the gay joke baggage and it might be interesting see where people go with them. Obviously, until recently Bucky was dead, so I’m sure there’d be a lot of jokes in that vein.

  3. Being an avid movie lover since i was a kid, i'd always walk out of the theater wishing i was a character in the movie. This may have played into the creativity and imagination i had whenever i'd set up situations when i'd play with action figures and why i had to go to toys r us at least once a week in order to add more to what i had going on. This helped me feel like i could continue a story or mix and match different universes of heroes in my own room. I think this is the ideal mind set that fan boys get by engaging in any point of interest, feeling like you have a say in what happens in a world that already exists. Relating to what Matt said above, certain people may not have the creative mind but have the means to get involved. This is were sports games come in. If you're not athletic then pick up a game and be the best at that. Even better, play as your favorite athlete and literally step into his shoes. Same goes with fan-films. This allows fans to cut and edit a movie and tell a different story than what's presented to them. The three means of reading can fall into this category. Although most of us may read or view something in an oppositional sense, those who choose to change up the story a bit get to experience the negotiated means. Fans can keep the essence of a story but make it their own.

  4. By playing/engaging with material that is evocative of a particular narrative or interest, we the fans get to "experience" the story or hobby itself and become the 'main character' or use the experience as an escape from reality. I remember as a child pretending to be a power ranger with my friends and creating monsters to defeat as well as playing with Barbies and cutting all their hair off. By playing sports on Wii, people can engage in another form of an interest and can fulfill the desire to excel at it in another medium. By creating fan works, we can add our personal twist on how we would like the story to be or contain. We can expand our creative abilities and ideas by merging them with a work already in pop culture. By engaging in the material of interest we get to feel like we belong or are apart of something larger or more interesting than ourselves. That is the ultimate feeling, to be a part of something we revere or are obsessed with. The creator of the comic from the Batman comic generator or a work of fan fiction would be the individual(s) who create the narrative but it must include the authors whose characters they are featuring or to the publication company that owns them.

  5. The idea of fan fiction is a hit and miss with me. Sometimes I find myself wanting to read something, because usually the writer for said series wouldn't deliver what that I so desire. It's a bit hard to explain but with things such as fan fiction there is probably someone that is thinking the same thing I'm thinking of like. What if person A chose person C, instead of person B? Things like that always make me wonder and with that someone is thinking what I'm thinking of and would deliver what it is that I want personally. Granted that it's a given that it's not canon to the series, but it's still very nice to see a what if story. In some cases comics do actually do that like. What would happen if Venom took over the punisher?! As for the batman comic generator I found this very entertaining here is my own.


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