Marvel Entertainment has announced a new way for fans to get their hands on its huge library of characters and settings — without the pesky annoyance of plot or dialogue to get in the way. Marvel Create Your Own is a digital platform that will give users the ability to create their own comics using Marvel Characters, kinda.
The app is not yet available to the public, but an announcement video starring the recently cancelled Gwenpool lays out its features succinctly:
Users will gain access to a library of posable Marvel character designs, props and backgrounds, with editable features like page layouts, sound effects and word balloons. Put it all together and users will be able to make their own comics with Marvel Characters and share them with other users of the app (and anybody who wants to look at screenshots of the app, presumably).
That said, “their own” is a malleable definition here. Everything created on the app will belong to Marvel Comics, according to the terms of service — a pretty common clause for any service inviting fans to create new content with that service’s copyrighted material.
But you can tell merely by the comments on the announcement video that fans have noticed another thing about the terms of service: An extensive and exhaustive list of prohibited content, clearly intended to limit the comics on the service to a family friendly audience.
Marvel Create Your Own reserves the right to revoke access to the service for any content including — to name a few — “Content that could frighten or upset young children or the parents of young children,” “contraceptives,” “bare midriffs,” “noises related to bodily functions,” “misleading language,” “double entendres,” amusement parks other than Disney parks, movie studios not affiliated with Marvel, animated movies not made by Disney or Marvel and depictions of tobacco, nudity, gambling, obscenity and “proxies” for obscenity such as the comic book shorthand of bursts of punctuation instead of curse words.
Oh, and guns.
Overall it seems clear that Marvel knew the first thing anybody was going to try to make with this app is crude, pop culture-referencing pornography, and wanted to cut that off at the chase. But still: The most amusing of the prohibitions that seem to directly contradict some of the most prominent content of the Marvel Comics Universe itself, such as “controversial social issues,” death and a prohibition on “sensationalism” that includes “aliens” as an example.
The most troubling of the prohibitions might be one barring users from any mention of politics, specifically the inclusion of “alternative lifestyle advocates,” an term that calls to mind a swath of potential definitions, from veganism to tattoos. It’s also an umbrella term often used to describe identifying as a member of the LGBTQ community, undoubtedly the most “political” way to define it.
The terms of service also prohibit content that includes discrimination based on sexual orientation, and, certainly, there are prominent queer characters within the Marvel Universe itself, like Iceman of the X-Men, who will presumably appear in Marvel Create Your Own. Polygon has reached out to Marvel for clarification on how “alternative lifestyle advocates” is being defined.