Shame Day: Dark, Gritty Fan Art of Beloved Childhood Characters

I was in a dark place when I wrote the post I am least proud of: Fame Day: Creativity [and Imagination]. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a relevant topic, especially right now when it’s more common to see children in front of screens than playing make believe with their toys, it’s just that at the time I figured that writing it was the easy way out. As luck would have it, all of that segues really smoothly into today’s topic-

I hate dark and gritty fan art because it is both uncreative and lazy.

To be totally transparent, I was a high schooler once, so I did think these were really awesome once upon a time. It wasn’t until much later when I realized that if you want to take a beloved childhood character and make it appeal to a large section of the internet you have three simple options:

1) Make said character a killer/capable of killing.

There are altogether far too many gritty Inspector Gadget pictures out there.

2) Make said character, if female, sexy.

This is literally all J. Scott Campbell does.

3) Make said character a zombie.

I don’t understand why they didn’t model the gun after the one Gaston uses to shoot geese out of the sky.

I really like Option 3, because it kind of covers all of your bases. I am being sarcastic, but I think you’ll notice that while the body will be in various states of decay the breasts are always, always left miraculously intact. The intersection of titillation and gore is certainly nothing new, but mashing that together with the movies and shows we grew up with as children probably is-

That first image was taken from a full album posted to reddit [which I then saw on imgur] titled “If childhood characters were badass lunitics.” I’ve literally no respect for that sort of thing. Look through it and you’ll see that each and every image corresponds to my three criteria. Over here on the right you can see Bambi, oh, and he’s impaled Thumper and Flower et al. on his antlers. Oh mercy, the horror.

At least he’s not a zombie deer.

I could go off on the tangent that adding zombies to everything is overdone, but it’s a well-established trope and I don’t think I need to. Unfortunately that brings to mind the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which in turn leads into the piece I wrote on fan fiction where I essentially say that mashing together genres and tones and what have you can result in good stuff. So, Evan, you’re asking, looks like you’ve written yourself into a corner; well done.

Not quite. See, what I’m criticizing here is dark, gritty fan art that exists on its own, in a vacuum. It’s not meant to tell any stories, it’s just there to be, for lack of a better word, cool. As a counterpoint below is a Threadless t-shirt design that could very easily fall into one of my above categories-

“The Madness of Mission 6” is, pretty clearly, a riff on 
Pac-Man. The yellow dots have become anxiety pills, the ghosts are deceased former crewmembers who are haunting the lone survivor. That’s some pretty dark stuff, but unlike a Robocop-esque Inspector Gadget it tells a story.

I’m not saying that Alan Moore’s Lost Girls is high art or anything, but there’s a sexualization of characters that is part and parcel of the narrative he’s trying to tell, even if one of the purposes of that narrative is to titillate. He didn’t just draw a nearly naked Red Riding Hood and think to himself, “Yeah, that’s good. I think I can go worship the Roman snake god Glycon now.


Y’know that nursery rhyme “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater”? Well what if, and bear with me here, he really put his wife in a pumpkin shell? Can you imagine? Well, with the Peter Pumpkin Eater action figure from Todd McFarlane’s Monster Series 4: Twisted Fairy Tales, you don’t have to!

Now I do try to keep this blog fairly work safe, so I apologize for the gore and the T&A. This is all to prove my point that taking something and making it dark and grim and gritty is easy and, frankly, something that an 11-year-old could do. “Man, what if the Smurfs were, like, killers? What if they killed people?”

It’s straight-up disappointing how easy this was to find online.

“Dude, I know this is kind of gross, but what if Dee Dee from Dexter’s Lab was really, really se-” yeah, no. I did a little bit of Google Image searching and down that road lies madness. I think you get the picture. Or don’t, I’m serious, don’t try looking for that picture.


I’m not saying that the artists who put these images together aren’t talented in their own right, far from it, what I’m insinuating is that to create these kinds of works is to use one’s creativity not even a little bit. It’s to appeal to the masses based on their familiarity with what they grew up with as children while shocking and awing them with the addition of “mature” content. If being able to showcase one’s ability to create fresh new content is key as an artist this is the exact opposite way to go about it.

No firm opinions yet, though, on whether or not the flipside [drawing character from decidedly adult work as cute] is worthy of a Shame Day post not.

Truck Torrance,

2 responses to “Shame Day: Dark, Gritty Fan Art of Beloved Childhood Characters

  1. Good post. As the the alternative (making mature characters “cute”), I’d say that the creative value in that is humor. There’s a wholesome sort of comedy in taking a slasher film villain and making him a sushi chef, for example.

    • I’d say the main reason that the alternative seems acceptable is because it hasn’t been done to death. With the internet the way it is, though, we may actually be getting there. Scott Campbell’s [no J] Great Showdowns are an example of it being done very well.

      The issue, of course, is that it’s still incredibly easy. Serial killers hugging their victims instead of stabbing them still isn’t terribly creative.

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