Death of the Fanfic: Exit the Sandman

Fan-Fiction is an art in and of itself. In a world where artists tend to seek monetary gain, fan-fiction is literally done for the love of the creation itself. It gives the consumer an interactive outlet, as well as serves as free advertising for the holder of the intellectual copyright.

More and more we have been hearing about fan-fiction films getting shut down in mid production. It has been leaving some a bit bewildered, as there has always been an acceptance by the heavy hitters, when it comes to the world of  ‘fan-fiction genre’ art. I myself am an avid fan and supporter of such works, and if you recall my story of the little city of subdued excitement… you’d see that I also like to partake in a little fan-fiction myself from time to time.


Over the last few months a particular fan-fiction film had taken the internet by storm. A short preview that promised to be worth the endeavor for the creators & the viewers graced our screens leaving us wanting more. They started a funding campaign, and it was taking off. Then suddenly they get a notice to halt all production. This is not a new story… this has happened to many recently. A fine example is the fan film; The Punisher: Dirty Laundry. (A personal favourite) Adi Shankar, after facing various verbal slights toward his being a ‘bootlegger’ had some choice words of his own at his fan-film facing so much flack.

This was a public statement written by him in response:

Dear Fellow Geeks,

So, Marvel shut down a Punisher fan film and due to my side-gig as a “bootlegger” and having made my own Punisher fan film I’ve been dragged into the discussion.  For those of you who have asked, here’s my opinion:

My initial reaction:  Confusion.  Best-case scenario a Punisher fan film gets 4 million hits on YouTube.  Assuming it’s an R-rated release, an official Marvel Punisher movie – financed and produced by Marvel and distributed by Disney, gets a P&A (prints and advertising) spend of at least $25 million USD (more if it’s PG-13 … vomit).  Setting aside the TV spots and inevitable viral and outdoor campaigns, the trailer alone on its first two days on YouTube would garner more hits than the lifetime of any fan film.  It would be akin to saying Batman: Dead End hurt the Nolan movies or that random Twilight fan fiction hurts book and movie sales (note: 50 Shades of Grey initially built its following as Twilight fan fiction … what’s the legality there?).

The legality and moral ambiguity of the situation is interesting.  Assuming it’s not done for profit, can LucasFilm/Disney stop me from drawing Yoda and then posting my drawing on Facebook? What if I drew 4,000 Yodas and created an animation of Yoda walking?  More importantly what does it say about us as a civilization that the vast majority of our culture and mythology (yes superheroes are the American 21st century equivalent of classical myths) is owned by corporations?

Needless to say, a repeat of the Shazam vs Superman case from the 1950’s is a disaster scenario for our culture.  For all the non-geeks who happen to be reading, Shazam used to regularly outsell Superman. DC sued claiming copyright infringement and won.  As a result one of the most significant characters in the history of comics was buried. That’s an example of a conglomerate burying our culture. What happened to Ultraforce (See: Comics, Malibu)? Grifter only recently returned. So, in a sense all fan films are a small step towards reclaiming the culture.  As artists, isn’t it our duty to re-imagine, parody, and re-interpret the culture?

However, upon reflection, here’s my conclusion: As much as I love telling The Man to go fuck himself, I think the underlying issue is that the filmmakers in question may have been a little over zealous in promoting their short prior to releasing it.  Fan driven content strengthens ones brand and the community around it, and Marvel obviously knows this, as evidenced by the plethora of Marvel fan films and fiction on the Internet.

Finally, for anyone who cares:  I’m going to keep making my “bootleg” films … I love these characters and “The Bootleg Universe” is my way of creatively re-interpreting them without being suffocated by the red tape of the studio system … … plus it’s a fun thing to do in-between making movies that bomb in the box office but over perform on DVD.

Yours truly,

Adi Shankar

P.S. Andy Warhol made a Batman fan film … true story … look it up.


I can see much of his points, but at the same time it seems to be that we’ve grown so comfortable in the skin of ‘fan-fiction’ that we forget that the sole copyright holder can halt us on our project at any given moment, and they would have the right to do so.

So what can you do to make sure your fan-fiction doesn’t get pulled? That’s the question isn’t it? While it would be cool to be a badass like Adi, middle fingers blazing in the air whilst he creates his ‘bootlegs’ the rest of us just want to be able to create without incident. The fan-fiction went unnoticed and often times has even been encouraged by such great artists as; Neil Gaiman. Who has stated many times that he feels it helps the actual brand itself, with so much interactive attention placed toward it. Tho he also makes it a point to state that he does not read the fan-fics based on anything he has done, as he doesn’t want to ever be suspected of having stolen an idea from a fan writer who borrowed sources from his work. He also stipulates that so long as one isn’t trying to make monies off of his characters or stories, he will never have a problem with it. (Neverwhere is quite popular in the fan fic world) Although Gaiman himself has created fan-fiction professionally and earned finances from it: “The problem of Susan;”  H.P. Lovecraft, ” I Cthulhu” as well as a Sherlock Holmes fanfic, ” A Study in Emerald.” As well as a Chronicles of Narnia fan-fiction piece…. It’s a hard rule to decipher. So much so that lawyers tend to shudder at the mention of ‘fan-fiction laws’.  J.K Rowling states that she’s fine with fan-fiction of her works so long as they stay away from eroticism and seeking monetary gain off of her intellectual rights.
The rules that we know for sure are this:
 ~Fan-Fiction & Fan-art is not supposed to actually hold any monetary gain. It is a labor of love project. Otherwise it infringes upon the copyright holder’s rights to the product. However, you can contact them to work out a contract (if they are willing) to secure a temporary license for that project to use the copyrighted materials.
 ~Many projects that are fan-fiction have sought crowd funding as a monetary source to create the project. This is normally when it gets noticed. The more attention your project gets, the more likely it is going to get shut down… especially if you’re seeking any sort of finances involved in it. (DC has been really cool w/ a lot of the Batman Fanfics)
The rest is a confusing grey area that basically says… “Sure you can keep making fan-fiction… but don’t be too upset if you get shut down out of the blue.”


“I’m not sure where the line gets drawn — you could say that any Batman fan writing a Batman comic is writing fan fiction. As long as nobody’s making money from it that should be an author or creator’s, I don’t mind it. And I think it does a lot of good.” ~ Gaiman on Fan-Fiction


I contacted Andre’ Kirkman recently after his bout w/ fan-fiction loss. His project? Sandman. If you were one of the lucky people who got to view this promo-sizzle piece of beauteous art then I congratulate you. I will admit I watched it at least 23 times. I was giddy as I knew a lot of people on the project, and it was amazing. I couldn’t wait for them to finish it so I could partake in the fullness of this fantastic labor of love, a solely artistic effort by the talented artists that add so much to the overall culture out here. A conglomeration of talents and a display that indie artists could band together to make something worthy of it’s namesake. But that ship was not to sail… And they have since retired the dream.


Here is the interview with the illustrious Andre’ Kirkman, a talented, and admirable artist whom I am sure you will hear more from in the near future:


M.Nessk: “What was it about Sandman that made you want to create a fan fiction film for it?”

Andre’ Kirkman: “I absolutely fell in love with the comic series when I first read it. It truly showed me a world I wasn’t even familiar with. It’s funny I had read Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns in High School and remember it having the same effect on me, but not as deep. This was an entire series vaguely set in the DC universe that was mature, beautiful, and consistently well written. I’d never seen anything like it… Until I started reading more Graphic Novels. Then Alan Moore just blew me away, name it of his and I’ve read it. Funny enough I actually read Watchmen before I even knew a movie was in development, then bam with the The Dark Knight movie, a Watchmen film trailer. You can imagine my excitement.”

M.Nessk: “Knowing that fan-fiction has a nil profit turnout what was your goal with creating it?”

Andre’ Kirkman: “I just wanted to tell the story. More than anything else it was literally my dream film. I actually wrote my own feature version last year, incorporating influences from the first twenty issues of the series. It was more or less for myself, it wasn’t like I was going to get an agent and pitch it to Warner Brothers anytime soon. It was funny, shortly after I finished it, that’s when I heard the news about Joseph Gordon-Levitt producing his own.”

Andre’ Kirkman: “My producers were originally interested in producing another script of mine, and at the time I wrote a short form version of Sandman for fun. I shared it with a few friends and they thought it was possible to produce, and then I showed it to my producers… And well they thought it was a priority and we should get on it. All of them had actually never even read the series before, but instantly knew the material we were drawing from was amazing. I think we all knew going in that this was for the passion of the material more than anything else.”

M.Nessk: “If you got the green light to continue on with the film, would you do it?”

Andre’ Kirkman: “In a heartbeat as they say.”

M.Nessk: “Do you feel this was an avoidable situation?”

Andre’ Kirkman: “I think we did our best given our resources. Honestly we all thought we would be okay given how many other people have done exactly what we were doing. I mean look at the Night Wing Kickstarter, that’s just amazing. Sadly it didn’t go that way for ours. I believe we are one of the few fan films of DC’s that has been shut down sadly.”

M.Nessk: “Was there anything you could have done to secure the rights to make a fan-fiction?”

Andre’ Kirkman: “No, way. As far as I’ve researched anyway.”

M.Nessk: “Do you hope they will have a change of heart?”

Andre’ Kirkman: “I’m realistic, they are developing a feature, it won’t happen.”

M.Nessk: “Do you think you’ll ever make a fan-fiction piece again?”

Andre’ Kirkman: “That’s a big MAYBE.”

M.Nessk: “What is important about fanfics to you?”

Andre’ Kirkman: “I think it’s great when fans that are truly passionate about both the craft and the story come together and create something quality, and honest. And you don’t have the restraints of pleasing a wide market, so you can be more true to the material.”

M.Nessk: “How’s the moral of your crew after this news?”

Andre’ Kirkman: “Everyone was incredibly bummed out to say the least, but we knew the risks going in.”

M.Nessk: “What’s your next project?”

Andre’ Kirkman: “Moving forward into a feature film, it will be my first.”

M.Nessk: “Is there any advice you have for other fanfic creators?”

Andre’ Kirkman: “Do your research on everything, and see if you can contact anyone that holds the IP. Generally, maybe just make the fan film without asking for funding. It might be a little easier to get away with. Even so be careful, and research every aspect of what you’re getting into, and be prepared to speak to an attorney.”

M.Nessk: “Do you have a favourite behind the scenes story you’d like to share?”

Andre’ Kirkman: “Oh man… So we were filming in the middle of the night at these Japanese Gardens in south Seattle. And suddenly between a setup a very intoxicated woman came onto set out of nowhere. She thought we were Ghostbusters, asked if she could be in the show, tried to fight one of my crew members, and asked me for my card all within I would say five minutes. I just remember my AD trying to talk to her telling her not to go onto the set itself, and she just walked up to my DP and the look on his face was classic. We had an officer with us, but he was watching the cars in the loot, he headed down. I informed her, and she ran off into the shadows right as he arrived exclaiming: “White people be crazy!” She isn’t wrong about that statement, I will give her that.”

M.Nessk: “If you could do it all over again, would you?”

Andre’ Kirkman: “Totally, I learned so much, and made some great friends.”

M.Nessk: “After all this, what is your plan for the future?”

Andre’ Kirkman: “Moving onto a feature, I’ve written over three different features now. I don’t have any shortage of ideas or stories I want to tell, so my future is really my own to make happen. Now it’s just a matter of convincing people to give me money to make these stories! HA!”

For a look at his conceptual art for the film click here

Thank you Andre’ Kirkman for taking the time to do this interview.

~ M. Nessk


I love the fan-fiction media outlet. It has brought us amazing new Star Trek in a world of lens flares, and I am grateful for it. So keep on writing/filming/playing at what you play at. Just remember to note the rules, and remember that even if you follow all the rules… your projects may be halted. It doesn’t mean you’re bad, or as put by some, a ‘bootlegger’. It just means you’re a creative fan who fell in awe with a piece of work that kept your mind running in a need to satisfy the want for a particular storyline.



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