Monday, August 22, 2011

Creative Rights That Really Aren't

Call me old-fashioned, but I remember when creator rights were really, really important.
Back in my day, comic book writers and artists were rebelling against an industry which didn't afford them any rights to the characters they created; The guys who created Superman, Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster, essentially lived lives of poverty while the company they had worked for, DC Comics, made millions from their character.

I thought those days were behind us. I thought we had all learned how important the characters we create are to us, the creators, and that those rights, even when they do not apply to us, should be held sacred.

Instead, we haven't learned a thing, have we? How do I come to this conclusion? Well, when two famous, published writers decide to re-create the origin and story of a much-beloved fictional character, for no reason other than to satisfy a whim, we still have a problem.

Specifically I am referring to Dave Barry (perhaps the world's most accomplished humor columnist) and Ridley Pearson (noted murder mystery writer) who have taken it upon themselves to expound on the works of J.M Barrie and re-imagine the history and future of Peter Pan.
Their first book (in a growing series) was called "Peter and the Starchasers" and their latest is, "The Bridge To Neverland."

My question remains: why? Are they so bereft of ideas they can't imagine their own stories? Do they really need to take someone else's work and re-write it, re-imagine it, re-create it for their own purposes? Can't they leave well enough alone and go create something original?

Suppose J.M. Barrie had wanted Peter Pan to die at the end, a broken-hearted old fool who regretted spending his young life lost in his own imagination. That would be terrible for some of us, sure, but Peter Pan is HIS creation, not ours.

I watched Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog, by Joss Whedon and loved every minute of it. Except the end. The ending was tragic and not at all what I envisioned for the characters. But I accepted it because it wasn't my story to tell. The story belonged to Maurissa Tancharden, Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon and Zack Whedon. That was the way they wanted their story to end, that's why it ended that way.

As long as we're on the subject of stories that I don't like, let's cut Anna Karenina down by about 500 pages. Way too much drama for my taste. Oh, and let's add an alien invasion. That would be much more exciting.

And in The Color Purple, how about if Celie bashes in her step-father's head with a frying pan the first night after he rapes her, then runs off and becomes a celebrated politician. I would feel much better about that, too.

Barry and Pearson are hardly the first writers to re-imagine someone else's work, and I doubt they will be the last. I just wish writers would rely more on their own imagination and less on previously written stories for their work.

The fact is, in my opinion, writers will never earn the respect we deserve from others if we cannot first earn it from each other.


"Peter and The Starcatchers" quickly won over readers with its creative beginnings for the already-beloved story icons, like the pirate "Black Stache" who became "Captain Hook," the little orphan boy who learned to fly.
Now, several years later, Pearson and Barry are on book tour — which included Provo — to promote their newest book, this time a sequel to J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan: "The Bridge to Never Land."
Set in modern-day Pittsburgh, brother and sister Sarah and Aidan discover a strange document that they eventually realize is a puzzle. As they begin to make sense of it, it leads them to England where they soon discover something they weren't supposed to and open a dark door that unleashes forbidden forces, Barry explained for those that weren't already clutching copies of the recently released book.
The siblings then turn to a physics professor at Princeton, ("We call him J.D. because we want him to be played in the movie by Johnny Depp," Barry said.) who helps them find a way to get to Never Land. Once there, they have to find Peter Pan and convince him to help them sort out the mess.
"It was a fascinating process," Barry said of writing "Peter and The Starcatchers." "I've never written a book with anybody else before, and outlining was a concept I was unfamiliar with, but Ridley feels it's a good idea to know what the book is going to say before you write it. I've written countless things that I had no idea what they said even after I wrote them."
And even with an outline, the two authors occasionally got tangled in the plot and disagreed on which way to go.

Click here to read the entire article.

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