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Diehard Zack Snyder fans bring the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut fight to SDCC

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Jul 21, 2019, 9:30 PM EDT

Standing amid the controlled chaos of San Diego Comic-Con, the two bloggers known by their collective online handle TheNerdQueens want to make one thing clear.

"We are not a political movement," one of the bloggers, who goes by Nana Queen, said.

"This is all about Zack," her broadcast partner Cole Queen added. "This is all about artistic freedom. While doing this, it's also about raising awareness for suicide prevention."

Throughout the convention the duo were part of a push to further the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut campaign's reach from Twitter into physical space, as they and other fans renewed their efforts to convince Warner Bros. Pictures to release director Zack Snyder's purported original cut of Justice League, which was instead released after reshoots and post-production work by Joss Whedon. Whedon joined the project after Snyder stepped down in the aftermath of his daughter Autumn Snyder's death.

Despite no Warner Bros. presence at the convention's Hall H this year — and thus, none for the DC Extended Universe — the campaign generated attention as word spread that it had purchased both a billboard on Interstate 5 heading into San Diego; a three-panel bus stop ad located a few streets away from the San Diego Convention Center; and for a sky banner reading "WB #ReleaseTheSnyderCut of Justice League? to be flown near the building.

Snyder Cut bus ad

Credit: Arturo Garcia

The displays were paid for through an online fundraiser organized by another campaign member, Will Rowlands. Both the NerdQueens and Rowlands, an actor by trade living in England, told us that there is no leadership hierarchy for what they refer to as "the movement" but that individual members have taken on specific tasks.

"We are not a cult," Rowlands said in a phone interview. "We are just people from around the world who believe in a common goal."

Campaign members have also emphasized that half of the money raised through what they call the Project Comic-Con drive will be donated to a charitable group, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Leading up to SDCC weekend, the campaign had reportedly donated more than $106,000 to the foundation.

Rowlands said the group would give the AFSP donations from Project Comic-Con shortly after the convention ends to give more people a chance to donate. The foundation did not respond to requests for comment on the campaign.

Online fan campaigns aren't a recent development — ask any old-school Green Lantern fan about the drive to "exonerate" Hal Jordan in the '90s. Author and Henderson State psychology professor Travis Langley (who has been the editor and lead writer for a line of books using pop-culture characters and shows as a means to further explore the subject) said that there's a long history of fans dealing with that feeling of incompleteness, or as he called it, a Zeigarnik Effect.

"When we're very disappointed by something, there's this sense of incompleteness," Langley said. "There's different names for this; some people talk about a need for closure. When something's either not completed or not completed to your satisfaction it gains more power in your memory, and it nags at you."

But the Snyder Cut campaign also surged online as the debate regarding fan entitlement was driven by pushes like a 2017 petition to remove Star Wars: Episode VII — The Last Jedi from Star Wars canon, or the one this year asking the team behind HBO's Game of Thrones to reshoot the entire final season.

One comics industry professional we talked to on condition of anonymity also cited the character redesigns for the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie — which were spurred on by a loud negative response online — as a cause for concern.

"I think every time that fans get that sense of hope or entitlement just empowers the people that feel like, 'Our voice is the thing that made a difference.' And maybe it was in that case," the pro said. "Every time the fans get a sense that they can affect that kind of change, it's just gonna encourage it next time. I'm sure that we can look forward to it after [Star Wars:] Episode IX."

Zack Snyder

(Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

For his part, Rowlands likened the Snyder Cut campaign to the fan outcry that led to the show Lucifer to be picked up by Netflix for two seasons following its cancellation on network television. By comparison, he said, asking GoT's creators to redo its own final season was "a bit unreasonable, and a bit unfair to the people who worked so hard."

Rowlands also told us that he felt Warner Bros. showed unprofessionalism in how it handled Justice League in the wake of Snyder's family tragedy.

"They used that as an excuse to get in without his resistance and try the film to try to change it and Marvelize it," he said. "That is really deceitful, not to mention immoral."

Neither DC Comics — which did have a presence at the convention — nor Warner Bros. responded to requests for comment.

But the Snyder Cut campaign has also seen instances of negative behavior by members; Roberto Mata, whose original petition calling for its release garnered almost 180,000 signatures was drummed out after attacking what he called "YouTubers" and people critical of the idea. In another Chage.org petition in response, Mata wrote that "people are divided into groups that separates them into ignorant and irrational agendas and beliefs like Feminism, Social Justice War, Black Lives Matter, Political Correctness, Religion, etc."

In May 2019, Another group of campaign members — including Fiona Zheng, a Chinese woman credited with creating the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut hashtag — posted a statement of their own condemning Mata's behavior and removing their support for the petition.

"The DCEU fandom is universal, and many are in the direct line of fire of Mata's words," the statement read. "Adding to this, Zack Snyder and his films, something Mata is fond of, don't ever condone this hatefulness. On the contrary, they speak on the need for inclusion. Zack Snyder's Superman is the ultimate immigrant."

When asked about Mata's post, both Cole and Nana Queen disavowed his remarks.

"We're not associated with that whatsoever," Cole Queen said. "None of the people who are trying to keep the movement going are associated with it, either."

Rowlands also said that the group distances itself from any individual social media user using their hashtag to harass or insult others online.

"At the end of the day, we can't tell anyone what they can and can't do," he said. "We're not an employer. What is absolutely agreed is, that behavior is not condoned and something we don't do. We're constantly telling people, 'Be polite; reply; don't move on; don't feed the troll.'"

Similarly, the anonymously-run @RTSnyderCut Twitter account — a hub for members — posted what it described as a code of conduct vowing to "only promote positive content."

The campaign was galvanized further when Snyder confirmed in March that he had completed making his own cut of the movie — "a bunch of cuts," in fact. Members we spoke to confirmed reports that they plan to mount a letter-writing campaign urging new Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff to make at least one of Snyder's takes on Justice League available to the public.

Over the weekend, Snyder released some material that showed his original intended ending for the movie, only adding to the fan zeal.

"If the cut's released — which we pray it will be someday — we're not going anywhere," Cole Queen said.

"It's not like, we'll get the cut and then stop our charity work," Nana Queen added. "We're all gonna carry on."