When internal fanfiction becomes external professional fiction that’s still, uh, fan-oriented, uh, wait, what? Adventure Time!

I’ve been reading this comic. It’s not Batman. It’s not Green Lantern. It’s not even X-Men. It’s Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake. And it’s pretty weird. This is where you say, “How weird is it?” No, seriously, go ahead. OK, cool.

From what I understand Fionna and Cake were pretty popular. They were gender-swapped versions of Finn and Jake, the main characters of Adventure Time. They appear in one episode (so far as I know), and then got their own comic, written by the person who originally created the gender-swapped duo. Of course, everyone else in the show is gender-swapped as well, and mostly everything is the same. Cake is a cat, not a dog, because I guess they’re girly? But yeah, most everything’s the same. With a few exceptions.

I find it interesting that in the version where the main character’s a lady and her first love interest is a boy – Prince Gumball – Gumball seems sort of interested. A little more than present-age Princess Bubblegum ever has. I dunno if that’s because the original writer likes the pairing, if it’s ok socially for a boy to be interested in someone a little younger than him, if girls mature faster than boys so they’re “on the same level,” or what. I just notice that it changes a lot about the stories to have a relationship that could work that isn’t beset with the risk of major burn damage over a significant portion of the main character’s body (I’m talking about Flame Princess).

But, you know, there was a reason I decided to write about these comics. It has to do with that… they’re comics…

Have you seen the original episode? I hope if you’re this far in you have, because the episode’s punchline is fantastic and I’m about to spoil it all up in here. Yo. Basically Fionna and Cake are fan comics. Drawn by the Ice King. And he makes Finn and Jake read them when he imprisons them. So the entire episode is a shitty comic drawn by a shitty person and the heroes are forced to read them – forced to read about themselves, but as girls. And every girl in the comic ends by talking about how amazing and sexy the Ice King is – the same Ice King who wrote the comic but does not appear in it, save his gender-swapped version.

So what the hell just happened? Well, first, the Ice King wrote sorta slash fiction, in that girl-Finn is in love with the Ice King. And he slashed himself with his antagonist, which is, you know, what lots of slash fiction writers like to do. But then the comic happened. It was originally a comic, inside a cartoon, and there it was written by the Ice King. Now it’s a comic outside the cartoon you can read, but that perceptual layer is still there. Fionna and Cake are perpetually comic book characters, but now they are in your hands rather than Finn and Jake’s.

So what? Fair question. If you’re reading the comic you’re a fan of the characters (the writing’s ok, but it’s not exactly so amazing that it’ll draw in readers who aren’t already fans). So, like the characters in the cartoon, you like the characters you saw in the cartoon in the comic. Like the characters in the cartoon, you are reading the comic physically the same way, consuming the stories of these characters in the same way. I could make a case for a kind of postmodern shitstorm wherein you are now a cartoon, but that’s less interesting to me than what I’m trying to get at here: you’re consuming the Ice King’s work.

You have become a fan of something dreamt up by the villain of the piece, something that was originally creepy as fuck in the context of that end-of-episode punchline.
Obviously the writer has run with the idea, it is its own thing now. But sometimes as I read the comic this idea intrudes on me, the reminder that this was a thing already, that it existed and was frightening and weird, and now I’m enjoying it just like the dude I think is frightening and weird. It’s like the comic has become an artifact from another world, a fictional world (the sometimes impressionistic art touches, like the dialogue balloons, help with this feeling). It is also as though the space in which I read is blurring around me as I do so. I’ll be honest, I’m pretty picky with monthly comic titles – it gets expensive quickly to get a lot of comics every month – and if it weren’t for this feeling I get I probably wouldn’t keep reading the comic.

This whole thing is exacerbated by stuff like the sweater issue, wherein Fionna’s sweaters are stolen, and the one where Gumball makes an amazing magic sword wand and Fionna’s biggest concern is that she was excluded from guy’s night. This stuff is stories from the depths of the in-between, that world that explores the side stories that never get told in the main plot because they’re too distracting. Normally, now, that stuff is reserved for fanfiction, but this comic gives the writer an opportunity to do some cool stories that couldn’t really ever be episodes.

Oh, and Lumpy Space Prince steals the wand sword and looks like a character from an old manga. That shit is weird.

 

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