An Unlikely Source of Superhero Fan Fic

An Unlikely Source of Superhero Fan Fic

National Public Radio. This American Life, specifically. This radio show, made famous for its true-life storytelling on subjects ranging from building superintendents to summer camp, occasionally dabbles in the world of fiction. Very occasionally, they dabble in the world of … Continued

National Public Radio. This American Life, specifically.


This radio show, made famous for its true-life storytelling on subjects ranging from building superintendents to summer camp, occasionally dabbles in the world of fiction. Very occasionally, they dabble in the world of superhero fan fiction. They’ve done so on at least 2 different occasions, both with stories by writer Jonathan Goldstein:

Episode 198: “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” A sad-sack man tells what it’s like to date Lois Lane after her break-up with Superman… while also serving as Superman’s ineffectual sidekick. It’s not easy being Superman’s sidekick, especially when he starts hitting on your girlfriend. Luckily, he finds a comforting soul in Clark Kent.

Episode 241: “20 Acts in 60 Minutes.” The Penguin and Mary Poppins compare notes on umbrella flight techniques only to find they have little in common. To make matters worse, Mary loses interest in the Penguin and strikes up a conversation with Bruce Wayne about controlled jumps off of buildings.

Note that we have at least two violations of Mlawski’s rules on good fanfic: both stray far from the mood and style of their original sources, and the second one crosses over two different fictional universes. Fortunately, these rules aren’t hard and fast; besides, more conventional fanfic wouldn’t really work in the context of, you know, NPR.

Readers: what are some other unlikely sources of fanfic, superhero or otherwise, that you’ve found?

10 Comments on “An Unlikely Source of Superhero Fan Fic”

  1. -A. #

    This American Life also ran a piece by John Hodgman discussing which superpower you would rather have, invisibility or flight.


  2. Gab #

    The _Twilight_ series! Wait…

    Would you count a celebrity cameo (movie, TV, OR book, I suppose) that somehow saves the day or at least helps the protagonist do so? If that’s the case, I can think of quite a few.

    My dreams. And apparently Fenzel’s, too.


  3. mlawski #

    Well, these pieces seem more like parodies than fanfictions (I guess they’re both), so the humorous mood works fine.


  4. Gab #

    _The Wedding Singer_, _Saving Silvermann_, both _Wayne’s World_ movies, any of those Disney or Nickelodeon shows wherein some “totally amazing” sugar-pop bands does a performance, _Happy Gilmore_, _I.Q._…

    Ok, so maybe movies aren’t necessarily “unlikely.”

    I also propose movies like _Pearl Harbor_ and _Titanic_. Yeah, they’re historical fiction, BUT… I mean, they’re about characters inserted and created for the purpose of that insertion into pre-existing worlds; what I guess makes it difficult is that the worlds they’re being thrust into are actual moments in real history, not fake worlds based on the real world for the purpose of the story.

    So this makes me ask you, is all historical fiction a type of fanfic?


  5. fenzel #

    I would point vaguely at the enormous, dedicated and puzzling world of AMV (Anime Music Video).

    Search for any major hard rock song by a band listened to by people born in the early 90s on YouTube, and somewhere, probably not too far down, you’ll find a fan-made video montage of the exploits – canonical, fanmade, or other – of one or more anime characters.

    AMV deserves special mention because of the volume of work done, how long it’s been done, and the number of people who do it, but the concept has kind of gone global across genres.

    Search for “In the End” on YouTube, and you’ll get a Dragonball video before you get one of Linkin Park.

    Bizarrely, if you instead search for “It Doesn’t Even Matter,” you get a fan-made One Tree Hill video before you get to Linkin Park.


  6. lee OTI Staff #

    Mlawski, you bring up a good point. There’s a fine line between parody and fanfic. The Wikipedia definition of “parody” defines it as “a work created to mock, comment on, or poke fun at an original work, its subject, or author, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation.”

    I suppose by that definition, the above radio pieces do qualify as parody, but I think there’s a reverence and imaginative quality about them that I, at least, associate with fanfic.

    So they can be both parody and fanfic at the same time, right?


  7. Rob #

    So, would you say that the distinction between parody and fan-fiction is a matter of ironic versus earonic intent?


  8. fenzel #

    This calls for a Venn Diagram.

    Parody is almost entirely a subset of fanfiction. The main exceptions would be non-contingent references that are so passing as to not even constitute a crossover (like if Zack Braff has a brief fantasy on _Scrubs_ where he is the Green Lantern), or works that are a combination of hostile and disinterested in the source material to the extent that they fail to fulfill even the very very light burden that the particle “fan” places on “fanfiction.”

    But this also means that fanfiction is a lot less strange than we think it is, and I think that’s accurate.

    I suppose there’s the additional expectation that fanfiction be produced by amateurs, but I don’t think that requirement really holds as much as we might assume it does.

    And it even gets a little muddy with things like Robert Jordan _Conan: The Barbarian_ books. Are those fanfic? He’s not Robert E. Howard, but he is doing it with the legal permission and material compensation from the estate/corporation that owns the rights.

    The best way to define fanfiction seems to be to cast a wide net and pull in things like Mad Magazine’s “Star Blecch” I don’t see any solid literary criteria that seem to differentiate that from what’s on the Internet and is obviously fanfic.


  9. fenzel #

    Also, I kind of take issue with “earony.” It seems to be pretty much nonsense. There is nothing about irony itself that says it can’t be earnest. There’s lots of earnest irony out there that is just irony and doesn’t require an additional qualifier (like, for example, “The Most Dangerous Game,” which I have cited a lot lately to my own amusement. Very ironic story. Earnest to a fault.)

    Can somebody explain to me what the word means and what function it serves?


  10. DorkusMaximus #

    After Hellboy II was released in theatres, I saw a promo for GhostChasers where Hellboy compliments the crew for fighting monsters, only to be disappointed when they tell him that all they do is shoot videotape.
    It’s a parody–a very brief one–but it doesn’t seem to fit Mlawski’s definition of fan fiction based on the “Why I’m Not Going to Read Your Fanfic” article.
    I thought it was pretty darn funny, though.


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