For the most part, fan fiction conjures up images of teenage girls’ fantasies. The most famous fan-fic of all, Fifty Shades of Grey, only serves to reinforce this stereotype.  Who then, in their right mind, would think to make superhero fan fiction? Let me stop you right there, before you dream up images of Spiderman canoodling with one of the other heroes in the Marvel Universe. Superhero fan-made things are a world apart from most other forms of fan-fic. And the man ruling the roost at the moment is US-based film producer, Adi Shankar, famed for being the youngest producer to have a number one film at the US box office with The Grey. His professional exploits apart, Shankar is famous for building what he calls the ‘Bootleg Universe’ – a series of professionally-produced fan films based on existing popular franchises that we grew up watching. While most fan films are amateurish at best, with costumes thrown together from whatever’s lying around the house and friends playing characters in the film, Shankar’s are a whole other ball game. Owing to his clout in Hollywood, he is able to rope in professional actors and technicians to produce some of the best superhero films on the internet. In many cases, his fan films far outstrip the original films in terms of story and appeal. The only problem is that he’s constantly at war with studios to keep these videos online due to claims of copyright violations – something he gets around by making no money from the streaming of these short films. Here are some of the best pieces from the Bootleg Universe, but be warned – these films aren’t subject to the same rules of censorship as Hollywood’s superhero films, so you might want to mentally prepare yourself for the violence and mayhem on screen.  

The Punisher: Dirty Laundry

Even though the original Punisher film didn’t do too well at the box office, fans loved Thomas Jane in the titular role as Frank Castle, aka The Punisher. Unfortunately, the studio decided to give him the axe, leading to much ire from the fan base. Luckily for them, Adi Shankar had both the means and the connections to make their dreams come true. This is the first film in the Bootleg Universe and it sets the tone for just how amazing the rest of this tribute would be. Keep your eyes peeled for another surprise cameo from a major Hollywood star!  

James Bond: In Service of Nothing

Granted the name James Bond is never mentioned even once for fear of copyright strikes, but there’s no way this isn’t a James Bond film – right from the voice and image of Sean Connery to the insane action sequences only possible in a 007 film. Due to budget constraints and the scope of the story, however, it is presented as a motion storyboard. But don’t let that stop you because it’s still an extremely engrossing short film about an aging spy caught in a borderless world where service to one’s own country is an antiquated concept.  

Judge Dredd: Superfiend

Remember the gritty and amazing film, Dredd, which came out in 2012? Well, Shankar was the producer behind what was arguably the best cinematic representation of the iconic law and order officer of the future. And now he’s brought his mastery of that world to his Bootleg Universe in the form of an animated short film (as well as a mini-series) which will be sure to blow you away with its loyalty to the source material from the cult comic books.  

Power Rangers: Bootleg Universe

With the impending release of the new Power Rangers film lined up for some time this year, it’s best all of us long-term fans prepare to come to terms with how the studio will undoubtedly reinvent the Universe of the Rangers. Step number one: Check out this amazing gritty reboot from Shankar, which shows the Power Rangers in a way you’ve never seen before. The film garnered 18 million views in just the first two days of its release and showed the world the potential of a well-made fan film.


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