‘Fan’atical fiction

The Asian Age.  | Ikyatha Yerasala

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for its numerous super hit series — on both the telly and the big screen.

A still from Avengers: Endgame

From the Avengers to Game of Thrones, fantasy fiction is a genre that has an obsessive fan following that is deeply connected to their favourite series.

There’s a little Stark trending on social media, while the other Stark’s gotten audiences so emotional that they haven’t eaten all day. On the other hand, there’s a crucial character that’s passed away in Potter World, which has lead several Potter heads to break down. Fanatic aficionados of series like The Avengers, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, the Batman trilogy, Superman and other fantasy series from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Comics are not just obsessive followers of the shows, books and movies, but are also hugely emotionally connected to the them. Not only do these ardent buffs invest emotionally in the characters, they also share a special connect with the series that they’ve grown up watching over the years.

While the finale of the Avengers series titled Avengers: Endgame broke records worldwide and elicited mixed reactions from fans including immense sorrow and disappointment, the final season of Game of Thrones has its followers going gaga over Arya Stark for doing something that no one else could. (we won’t want to ruin your day with spoilers). On the other hand, DC Comics too has its share of fan following while J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has always managed to extract the most intense reactions from readers.

A still from Iron Man

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for its numerous super hit series — on both the telly and the big screen. From Captain America starring Chris Evans to Thor with Chris Hemsworth in the lead from Guardians of the Galaxy to Spiderman, these shows have devoted followers across the globe.

Ryan Pereira, Digital Marketing Geek and co-founder of menofcomics.com says, “Eleven years ago, this week, without anybody knowing, Iron Man (2008) came out, building the path to 22 movies, changing cinema. That always pushed me professionally from a project management and advertising perspective. Marketing is about selling stories that connect, it’s amazing how something far-fetched like a talking Racoon and Tree can still connect to us, because at the core, these are characters written and brought to screen with heart and care. My favourite Avenger is Iron Man or Robert Downey Jr. I can’t tell the difference, considering he’s made the role his own given how close his real life has been to this character. All this didn’t come easy to him, he literally resurrected his acting career after years of substance abuse, arrests, rehab and relapse. Iron Man was a second chance for him and he has certainly made the most out of that, turned his life around. Over the years, with his confident and lively presence as Stark, he undoubtedly remains the heart and soul of the franchise.”

For Ryan, his favourite moment from the Iron Man series was the ending of the first movie in the franchise. “It still blows my mind that he improvised the “I am Iron Man” scene. Even more now, after Avengers EndGame. I’ve been into comics since the time I started reading as a kid. The full impact started as a teen, seeing the original Batman movie on the big screen, followed by the classic Superman movies. Over the years, finding more about these characters became a hobby. Post social media, I realised I wasn’t the only one passionate about this. What started off as a post get together at comic- con, evolved into a YouTube channel that eventually spawned into www. menofcomics.com — a site dedicated to taking a dive into the world of geekdom. Over the years we’ve featured cosplayers, collectors, filmmakers and artiste. We’ve not forgotten our roots, which is why we’ve dedicated a section covering Indian Comics as well,” says the comic nerd.  

A still from Harry Potter

For Kolkata-based Harry Potter buff Pragati Agarwala, who was in middle school when she got hooked to the Harry Potter series, waiting for a new book was nothing short of a festive celebration. “On the day of its launch, in order to get one of the first copies, just so that I’d be able to read it before anyone else (especially my siblings) and avoid spoilers, I’d stand in line outside the bookstore in the wee hours of the morning. When the Half Blood Prince released, a classmate went around telling everyone how (spoiler alert) Dumbledore would die in the end — and I think I’d spent the entire day living in denial till I got home, sat in the same spot for more than five hours to finish reading it just so I could believe it for myself.  

That instance also kind of made me hate on the world for a bit - because Dumbledore is love - and you know, how could JK Rowling do that to him?” she reminisces.

Thanks to her intense attachment to the HP series, Pragati went through a rollercoaster of emotions through the series and admits to being even more antsy while reading the Deathly Hallows just to figure out the end. “Life changed once the series ended though, that feeling where you don’t know what to do with life next. Everything from Harry-Ron-Hermione’s journey, the fights and their separation phase, The battle of Malfoy Manor, Dobby’s death (I got way too emotional here) and the final battle of Hogwarts is ingrained in my head even today. And no matter how many times I read them, the emotional response to the books is always the same even today,” she states.

A still from Thor

When it comes to fantasy fiction on TV, there’s nothing that matches the immense fan following that Games of Thrones has. Perhaps, the greatest and biggest show of all-time, this is one series for which fans set early morning or midnight alarms to watch and sometimes, even go sleepless while waiting to know what happens next on the show. The current and final season’s (8th season) first episode received a whopping 17.4 million in viewership and every episode had a twist and turn that kept GOT fanatics on their toes.  “I’ve watched Game of Thrones since season one aired. At first, I was skeptical to give it a go as the medieval-fantasy show has never been my genre. Needless to say, this show was an exception — an unpredictable epic with deep character development. I love it when shows take their time to help you understand characters and take you through their journey. The twists in the show definitely kept me hooked, and of course it has a powerful impact on the viewer. In the initial seasons, I would simply be in disbelief — especially if it was a character I liked. I’d go as far as to wonder if the show could be carried forward without those central characters — and like most people, I’d be hoping that in every subsequent episode, the one we liked wouldn’t die! Well they didn’t stop with that, and it would pinch, yet leave me intrigued. I think now we’ve reached a point in pop culture where unpredictable deaths no longer seem shocking. The plot-rush and lack of character depth is my complaint when I think of the last three seasons. The story was clearly rushed while approaching the end and didn’t have the depth of the initial few seasons,” shares programme manager Ravi Kiran. With the final episode of the last season garnering a mix of intense reactions, Ravi rues, “Like most fans, I’m disappointed with the finale and the season as a whole. It had the potential to be a stellar show. I do wish they’d stayed with the pace as it was, when the books were in play.”

A still from Brie Larson as Captain Marvel

On the small screen, shows like Arrow, The Walking Dead and The Flash have an ardent set of followers. DC Comics too has its fair share of zealous fans — from Wonder Woman to Superman and Batman, their series too have a huge following across the world. What’s interesting and heartening is each person who has followed these shows, books or movies has evolved from childhood to teens, teenage to adulthood or 30s to 40s etc while watching them. Actor Kiran Srinivas, who picks DC over Marvel reveals that he’s a huge Batman buff and also an ardent follower of The Lord Of The Rings and Planet of the Apes series. “Although I disliked both of them to begin with as the comics were better written than what was filmed back then, the Christopher Nolan’s films on Batman and the Mat Reeves-directed Planet of the Apes trilogy just blew me apart!  Coming to the Lord of the Rings, I find it the best series ever.

It blew my mind away and it has stayed back with me ever since I experienced it in cinemas when I was a teen (the trilogy),” he says.

A still from Christian Bale as Batman

The Avengers series has its own share of celebrity fans in India. TV actor Karanvir Sharma, a GOT and Avengers follower is a huge fan of the fantasy world. “I love experiencing and exploring stories set in fantasy land. If you look at both GOT and Avengers, they both speak about the greater good — that’s what’s required in the real world too. The ultimate sacrifice is shown — as a human, that’s the emotion you take away from it. It’s all about doing the right thing. But when we put in action or a superhero sequence through it, the turmoil etc, it gets all the more intriguing. All this has a definite connect with the audience. I never thought the fantasy world would be appreciated to this extent — I’m pretty sure even the GOT makers were surprised!” chips in the artiste, who’s a fan of both the Starks — Arya from GOT and Tony from Avengers. With the current season of GOT, Karanvir admits that he didn’t expect this much action so early on in the series. “I was praying that my favourite characters would not die early or abruptly. And as for Avengers, I was disappointed not to see Deadpool in it and we couldn’t see much of hulk into power also. But then again, it had to be the way it had to be. The good thing is the series ending has given birth to new characters,” he smiles.

A still from Game of Thrones

Some fans are so passionate about these comic and fantasy series that they even indulge in cosplaying — dressing up as their favourite fictional character and taking part in professional competitions. Concept Artiste Medha Srivastava is someone who’s been actively cosplaying for two years. The comic geek says, “I recently dressed up as the Black Panther character Okoye. I got into cosplaying when I was working for a company in Bengaluru and as an artist, I was always into comics. I have several favourite characters including The Hulk and Black Widow from Marvel and Wolverine from X-men. The Avengers finale was hugely emotional for me as a comic nerd. I loved the picturisation and I literally got goosebumps while watching it — the end was heart-breaking” says Medha. As a comic geek and as an artist, she has evolved over the years. “The series have been a huge influence on me. I’ve observed that not just the characters, but even the art style and animation have evolved. To see the whole VFX and character development is interesting — it has helped me in my career too,” says the artist who will soon dress up as Daenerys from game of thrones.

With fantasy fiction and comic series ruling the small and the big screens and managing to attract hordes of followers across the world, it’s safe to say that a lot of us love getting lost in the make-believe world, which ensures that we
escape from reality, even if it’s for a bit.