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Thank God for Michael Sheen, the angel of Good Omens and fan art alike
The world of fandom is a celebration of all things we love. From fanfiction to fan art to vids and conventions, it's a multifaceted playground of enthusiasm and adoration. Fandom has no age, no nationality, no gender or sexuality. It's all of these things wrapped up in creativity and expression. It's a glorious thing.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. How often has an actor said they appreciate fan works only to have some late night host bombards them with explicit fan art, trying to get a reaction and subsequently ruining it for everyone? Lest we forget Caitlin Moran's despicable blunder of trying to get Sherlock stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman to read Johnlock fanfic in front of an audience comprised mostly of horrified fans.
Thankfully, there are those who get it. So when an actor retweets fan art (and actually credits the artist, by god) and exclaims how much they love it or how talented the artist it, it's nice to see. When creatives celebrate a fandom for its creations — as it's their work that probably inspired the art in the first place — it often means more they might realize. This is why Michael Sheen's appreciation for fan art on Twitter is so poignant.
The release of Amazon's adaptation of Good Omens has triggered a wave of fanworks, from old and new fans alike. Sheen, who plays the angel Aziraphale, has undoubtedly found himself beset with countless tweets showcasing works depicting him. And what has he done? Well, he's gone and shared them. And loved them. And given thanks to fans for making them.
And it’s not just fan art. Sheen has retweeted mood boards and collages comparing Aziraphale to cats, dogs, and everything in between. He’s also commented on fans' meta-analysis of the show, like this thread discussing Aziraphale’s “fall,” when Heaven tells him they aren’t interested in saving the Earth.
As for those who have chided him for being so open with his appreciation? Well, Sheen has a few choice words for them.
And it was this defense, more than anything, that truly endeared him to fans. He could have ignored the complaint but instead, he wanted to take a stance, to counteract the negativity of this person associated with fandom. So rare an occurrence this was, in fact, that it shocked the Twittersphere in the very best of ways. May others learn from his most joyous example.
It's a sentiment more or less shared by Bryan Fuller, creator of the cult hit series Hannibal. When Fannibals gave Hannibal life in a whole new way with their flower crowns, art, and fanfics, Fuller took note.
“[Fan fiction writers are] doing what we’re doing with the show, because the show for me is very much fanfiction of these characters that I adore," Fuller told Collider in 2014. "So that’s why I’m very respectful and appreciative of fanfiction and fan art that positions these characters in ways you wouldn’t see them on the show."
Always excited about fanworks, Fuller has shared fan art on his Twitter multiple times and even shared a story about a Hannibal fan anthology consisting of fan art and fic.
Speaking of cult favorites, the notoriously fandom-friendly Orlando Jones was very vocal about appreciating fan works during his stint on Sleepy Hollow. From creating a Tumblr and commenting on fandom discourse to retweeting and reblogging fan art, he has been a staunch supporter of the fandom life from the moment he was introduced. He even went so far as to ask for fanfic recommendations. It turns out he was very into the Ichabod/Abbie friendship.
A Digital Spy interview touched on fanfiction and Jones’ responses were the celebration that fanfiction deserves. “I get it — it’s another way to go but it’s no less valid than what we’re doing and it’s certainly interesting, so I really get a kick out of that," he said. "To read fanfiction and to see fan art and to watch other people’s artistry paint different colors on top of what we’re doing… how can you be mad at that? That’s just completely awesome!”
As Jones once said: “I’m not visiting fandom, I live in fandom."
Stars who celebrate fandom aren't limited to just television, of course. Marvel stars Brie Larson and Tessa Thompson, for instance, have made their support known for Captain Marvel/Valkyrie fan art and the pairing in general on Twitter.
It's these little gestures that add up and let fans know that they've been seen and appreciated. Besides, they are cute.
Sometimes it’s the actors themselves who are making the fan work. Peter Capaldi, aka the 12th Doctor, sent an illustrated postcard to comic artist Rachael Stott, who was responsible for his character in Titan Comics' Doctor Who series. The postcard came with a heartfelt handwritten note:
"To Rachael, what an incrible (sic) artist you are. Thank you so much for making my Doctor who he is. You’ll never know how large a part you played. Love, light and peace."
Capaldi isn’t on Twitter, but as a lifelong Who fan, we have a feeling he’d have been sharing Who fanworks left and right. His enthusiasm for the world of Doctor Who and the fandom therein was well loved.
There will always be actors, writers, directors, and more who look down on fandom, despite that being where their paycheck is coming from. There will always be this unnecessary derision towards shipping, slash, and fic while people still think they aren't legitimate works. However, concentrating on those instances serves no one but self-confessed haters.
Instead, focusing in on the creatives who celebrate fandom and raise fanworks up is a much more pleasant use of one's time.
Now go read some fic and be happy about it.