Why Marvel Comics Writer Donny Cates Says ‘No’ to ‘Fan Service’


The Texas Monthly did a podcast interview with Cates, who’s been assigned to succeed Jason Aaron as the Thor writer.


At the beginning of the accompanying article, he boasts:


“As of right now, I’m the best writer of Thor this decade,” says Cates, a full-time Marvel writer who’s worked on titles like Cosmic Ghost Rider, Thanos, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Silver Surfer Black. “I’m also the only writer of Thor this decade.”


Oh, isn’t that clever?



What if Cates makes use of the kind of elements seen previously in some lesser beloved, recent Thor-related elements, such as the PC alteration to the Uru hammer inscription, or Bullseye reducing Heimdall to a pagan ghost? And what are the chances he’ll be willing to do whatever he can on his part to repair the shambles Joe Quesada rendered to their continuity? Sadly, I doubt he’ll make any positive effort regarding the latter issue, and if he doesn’t do anything to correct these recent missteps, he’s not somebody I’d consider the “best” writer of anything mainstream superhero-based, no matter how popular he currently seems to be.


It’s good to be reminded of these things sometimes…


On which note, here’s what they state about his standing on “fanservice”:


2. Cates doesn’t believe in indulging in “fan service”—a term that originated with Japanese anime and manga and means intentionally plotting story lines to please the most rabid sections of your fan base.

“It’s not my job to give you what you want. It is my job to tell you what you want. The phrase that I hate the most in life is when people say, ‘Who asked for this?’ Whether it’s a prequel to Star Wars or some kind of Marvel film, people will ask, ‘Who asked for this?’ But no one ever asked for the first Star Wars. We’re not in the business of giving you what you asked for. That’s where innovation and amazing cool stuff comes from. I’m a very big fan of zigging when people think you’re going to zag.”

Does he even know the exact meaning of “fanservice”? I remember that recently, a few of the sites formerly owned by the awful Gawker network described scenes in the Star Wars-based TV show The Mandalorian as fanservice, such as the inclusion of an infant Yoda species. How does that count as fanservice? What if it refers to romance and sex, as seen in various manga and anime creations? And on that note, is Cates hinting that he doesn’t intend to please any of the Marvel purists with romantic moments between Thor and Sif? Or that he doesn’t intend to reverse the laughable transformation of Jane Foster into a neo-Valkyrie?


His assertion that they’re not in the business of giving the audience what they ask for is additionally troubling. How do we know he really wants to give everybody the most important aspect of all – entertainment, and even material that can make you think, for all the right reasons? Stuff to make you happy, not sad? And why does he say nobody asked for the 1st Star Wars, by which I assume he means the original back in 1977? If the finished product is enjoyable, that would make it something we ARE asking for.


Worst, to say he’s telling you what you want is tantamount to a lecture, never a good way to run an argument. What the magazine laid out from their interview does nothing to assure Cates is hoping the audience will thrill to his upcoming stories, otherwise, I figure he’d say he hopes what he has in store will leave the readers smiling, cheering, and maybe even thinking. So based on this, alas, he hasn’t succeeded in convincing anyone that he wants to restore trust of anybody who loves Marvel as it used to be. Which has been pretty much what you could expect for years already from the writers Marvel has hired.



Originally published here.

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1