A creator’s relationship with their work is often a painful and tempestuous thing. A creator can simultaneously be the most critical of their work and the most attached to it. But sometimes it gets past that and gets to the point where a creator straight up dislikes their work- even if their work was a big hit beloved by millions. Let’s take a look at some of the most beloved fantasy and sci-fi creations that are considered to be bad by the very people who gave birth to them for various reasons.
The Killing Joke
Alan Moore is widely regarded as one of the wackier comic creators out there- a probable wizard with a magnificent beard and eyes that bore into your very soul. His work, particularly Watchmen and The Killing Joke were majorly influential on the “dark” age of comics, an era of grimmer storytelling about morally ambiguous characters we are still mired in. Moore regrets leading comics into what he calls a “depressive ghetto of grimness and psychosis.”
The Killing Joke is considered by many to be a definitive Joker story. It is constantly referenced in modern Batman comics and even in the Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. However, there are many who think it is overrated and many more who dislike how the story involved Barbara Gordon being shot in the spine just to cause her dad and Batman some angst. Alan Moore agrees with these people. He has stated that he regrets what he did to Barbara and he feels DC Comics should have reigned him in. He also believes The Killing Joke wasn’t a great story overall. He states “I never really liked my story The Killing Joke”, calling it “melodramatic”, “nasty” and “too physically violent”.
Despite Moore’s feelings, DC is unlikely to stop referencing the story every five seconds any times soon, particularly with constant loving tributes to Barbara getting brutalized.
Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Goofy
Alice in Wonderland is considered a classic Disney movie these days, but it didn’t do as well as other Disney properties when it first came out. Walt Disney himself said it had lacked heart and had too many characters. He was similarly dissatisfied with Peter Pan, despite the fact it was so successful it spawned a franchise (several sequels, spin-offs and even a live-action film). He stated that the main character was too arrogant.
But when it came to Walt hating his own company’s creations, Goofy took the cake. Goofy is definitely an example of well-known and enduring character, but according to Disney historian Neal Gabler, Walt was always on the precipice of putting this dog in the pound. He thought of the Goofy cartoons as “stupid” with “no emotional engagement” and only continued putting them out to provide work for his animators. Imagine how different things would be if Disney had ever made good on his threats to deep-six that “hyuck hyuck”!
The Pokemon anime
The Pokemon anime is considered a landmark cartoon (and is still going to this day) and initially the head writer for the show, the late Takeshi Shudo, was passionate about creating it. However, he revealed online that the longer he worked on the show, the more dissatisfied he became with it. He felt that due to executive orders, the show was too formulaic and the characters weren’t allowed to have interesting personalities. Eventually, writing for the show became so painful for him that he left. He felt like all the good qualities the show had largely faded.
Sherlock Holmes may be one of the most enduring fictional characters of all time and he’s certainly the most famous fictional detective. He’s gone through so many reimaginings and adaptations it’s unbelievable. (Some of these adaptations were decidedly sci-fi oriented and the original stories sometimes verged on sci-fi- such as a when a guy started turning into an monkey).
But his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, had a very low opinion of him. He considered his detective stories to be “lowbrow” and felt that their success presented him from doing more respectable writing.
He grew so sick of Holmes that he killed him off in the short story “The Final Problem” in 1893. Afterwards he wrote “Poor Holmes is dead and damned! (…)I have had such an overdose of him that I feel towards him as I do towards paté de foie gras, of which I once ate too much, so that the name of it gives me a sickly feeling to this day.” If Doyle felt “overdosed” on Holmes back then, we can only imagine how he’d feel today, when there are ten different iterations of the guy happening at any given moment.
IIlustration for "The Final Problem" by Sidney Paget
However, the reaction of Sherlock Holmes fans to this was violent and vehement. Doyle received threats, insults and found people shouting that he was a murderer in the streets. Fans wore black armbands in mourning. Doyle’s other books didn’t sell and he was forced to bring Holmes back to life a few years later.
So next time someone says that a Sherlock Holmes adaptation is making Doyle “roll in his grave”, remind them that he probably wouldn’t give a hoot, just as long as he didn’t have to hear about the guy ever again.
Fritz Lang’s 1927 movie Metropolis is widely considered a landmark work of science fiction and one of the best silent films. Lang went into the project wanting to make the greatest film of all time and many today would agree he did. But it met mixed reception when it first came out and Lang himself stated that he “detested it after he was finished”. He went on to say he “didn’t like the picture” and “thought it was silly and stupid.”
It’s been theorized that Lang’s dislike of the film might partly be due to how prominent members of the Nazi party-particularly propogandist Joseph Goebbels- took a liking to the film and appropriated it’s message for their own agenda. Lang was ethnically Jewish (religiously, he was Roman Catholic) and had to live in fear during World War II, so that had to be galling. His wife who co-wrote the film, Thea von Harbou, later became a Nazi sympathizer herself, which naturally led the couple to divorce. So there’s some ugly personal history tied to that film for Lang, no matter how you look at it.
The Jaws novel
The novel Jaws, which depicted a monstrous shark that thirsted for human blood, sold 10 million copies, had a hit movie adaptation and made its author, Peter Benchly, a millionaire. But Benchly wishes he’d never written it. The book and movie’s influenced caused a visible spike in shark-hunting. (Though some also credit it with increasing interest in shark research). The shark population is in real trouble these days as the numbers for many different species have been cut in half. Some of the species have dropped as much as 90 percent.
Benchly regrets that his book negatively Impacted sharks so much. After learning more about sharks, he felt it was irresponsible to incorrectly portray them as monster killers who track and hunt down specific humans. He publically apologized for the book and dedicated the last decade of his life to shark conservation. He wrote several non-fiction works like Shark Trouble in an attempt to help the public realize how sharks actually posed very little threat. He also became a member of the National Council of Environmental Defense and advocated for the creatures, trying to undo the damage his work had caused.