Busy evening. A t-shirt infringement was discovered, PvP went all ’50s on us, an entire Canadian election took place, and I opened my mail. Let’s take them one at a time, shall we?
- David Malki ! discovered a new low in design rip-offery, as an online storefront by the name of Tanga.com [no link for them!] not only appropriated two of his designs, they actually duplicated the descriptive ad copy word for word.
Words fail me. You could almost argue independently coming up with the same gag concept, but that? That’s just lazy. Mr Malki ! recounted the sad affair via Tumblr, and went further to talk about what makes for a good implementation of ideas on shirts vs a bad implementation. I think it’s essential reading, as it gets pretty much to the core of what makes references to popular culture more or less worthy; key points:
Why is this a big deal? Artists, myself included, make pop-culture references in our work all the time, and borrow ideas from other artists shamefully. Sometimes I do both at once — using artwork I didn’t draw to make jokes about a movie I didn’t create.
Largely, it’s the difference between imitation and commentary.
[one vendor's] tees provoke a feeling of identification in the viewer, while [another's] tees provoke a feeling of discovery.
As a culture, we typically place a premium on creativity and integrity. That’s why it delights us when a creator makes something clever and new, but offends us when someone copies the work of another and profits unfairly from it.
We may not really care that the shirt saying “I like turtles” isn’t fundamentally saying anything except “I’ve seen an internet video.” And the designer of the shirt isn’t making any creative statement beyond “Have you seen an internet video? Buy this shirt, then.”
Do I think it’s fair to take Futurama clips and recut them into a shot-by-shot remake of The Godfather? Yes, I do. I think it’s interesting and it’s creative and it advances the culture. Do I think you should be able to sell a DVD of that? I think that decision should be left to the Futurama rights holder, who may feel that it damages the commercial prospects for their own original work — but if they don’t feel that way, or (in a perfect world) if it wouldn’t at all affect the commercial prospects for the original work, I say go for it.
What I do find distasteful is a disregard of the rights of others for a purely profit motive. That, I think, should be stamped out when it occurs for the benefit of a creative culture generally. Artists need to feel that they can be free to create and put their work out there without fear of being ripped off. If ripoff artists are rewarded, or even just ignored, then artists suffer.
I’m glad that our knee-jerk reaction to seeing a ripoff is to call it out and shame it. I think we’re right to feel proud of someone coming up with a new idea, or creating a new combination of old ideas, but bored or sickened by the same old lazy references being regurgitated for profit. Don’t tolerate it! Having high standards pushes the culture forward faster.
As I am writing this, Malki ! is reporting that Tanga removed his ad copy (how nice of them) and have purged critical comments on the matter from their site. At this time, he is actively receiving communications from them, and if any new information comes to light prior to publication, we’ll go back to it.
- Scott Kurtz continues with his exploration of the golden age of strip cartooning by doing this week’s LOLBAT strips in 1950s Raymond/Toth/Drake style, which makes me glad that I plunk down a couple of bucks every other month to buy Dave Sim’s Glamourpuss. In between the plentiful shots of crazypants rambling, Sim explores the technical aspects of art from that era of cartooning, and it’s been an education to learn both how those master artists worked, and how hard it is to draw in that idiom successfully. Kurtz is never better than when he’s stretching himself, and this is a heck of a stretch. I’m loving it.
- So yeah — most every Canadian I know is via the world of [web]comicking, and they seem to be pretty unanimously gutted about Harper getting his majority back. It’s completely lamesauce, and I hope that those of you going to TCAF from these southerly climes will buy one of your hosts (in the sense that all of Canada is your host) a stiff drink so that they can medicate away the pain. You know that some of the TCAF programming is actually in a bar, right? Your gesture of solidarity could hardly be more easily accomplished.
- About three weeks back, I had the occasion to remark via twitter on one of Paul Taylor’s original art auctions — specifically, the auction of the art for a strip a month earlier that had featured in a recent write-up of how he handled some particularly dark material in Wapsi Square. I didn’t get it, but hey — that’s life.
Except that I did. Right after the auction closed, a reader (coincidentally also named Paul) emailed to say that he had both won the auction and noted my interest in the piece, and wanted to send it to me. Five-plus years into this opinion-mongering experiment, I’m still taken aback when people I haven’t met tell me that they find my blogging to be informative and/or entertaining.
To actually receive a gift from a reader in this fashion (as I did yesterday) leaves me utterly gobsmacked — especially since the gift-giver isn’t promoting anything or seeking attention for his own creative efforts. It’s enough to make my low and suspicious heart grow three sizes today. So thanks to Paul, and to everybody that’s ever told me they like what I do here; it’s appreciated more than I could ever adequately express.