The National Cartoonists Society just posted the 2014 nominees for the “Silver Reuben” Divisional Awards. Here’s the complete list with nominees in alphabetical order:
- Kevin Kallaugher
- Ed Steckley
- Dave Whammond
- Clay Bennett
- Michael Ramirez
- Jen Sorensen
- Liza Donnelly
- Benjamin Schwartz
- Edward Steed
- Ray Alma
- Anton Emdin
- Tom Richmond
- Anton Emdin
- Glen LeLievre
- Ed Murawinski
- Brian Bassett (Red and Rover)
- Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine)
- Glenn McCoy (The Duplex)
- Marla Frazee “The Farmer and the Clown”
- Yasmeen Ismail “Time for Bed, Fred”
- Shaun Tan “Rules of Summer”
Online Long Form
- Vince Dorse (The Untold Tales of Bigfoot)
- Mike Norton (Battlepug)
- Minna Sundberg (Stand Still, Stay Silent)
Online Short Form
- Danielle Corsetto (Girls with Slingshots)
- Jonathan Lemon (Rabbits Against Magic)
- Rich Powell (Wide Open)
- Gary McCoy
- Glenn McCoy
- Maria Scrivan
- Jason Latour (Southern Bastards)
- Babs Tarr (Batgirl)
- H. Williams III (The Sandman Overture)
- Jules Feiffer (Kill My Mother)
- Mike Maihak (Cleopatra in Space)
- Jillian Tamaki (This One Summer)
- Dave Blazek (Loose Parts)
- Mark Parisi (Off the Mark)
- Hilary Price (Rhymes with Orange)
- Paul Felix (production designer: “Big Hero 6”)
- Tomm Moore (Director: “Song of the Sea”)
- Isao Takahata (Director: “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”)
- Mark Ackland (Storyboards- “The Void” : “Wander Over Yonder)
- Patrick McHale (Creator “Over the Garden Wall”)
- Kyle Menke (storyboards- “Star Wars” parody episode “Phineas and Ferb”)
I’m quite honored to be nominated for magazine illustration this year. I haven’t submitted my work for consideration since I became president of the NCS, but as the awards were voted on by the entire membership, I thought I’d put some of my work in the ring again. This will be my ninth nomination for “Magazine Illustration/Magazine Feature”. So far zero wins. Forget Susan Lucci, I guess I am the Stephan Pastis of the magazine division (Stephan’s on his eighth nomination for the “Reuben” for “Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year”)! I don’t mind… nominations are a big honor in themselves and there will be no shame in watching Anton Emdin go up and accept another award.
Actually a nomination this year is an even bigger honor than usual. Thanks to the online voting process, this was the first year all members got a say in the results as opposed to the old system where a small jury made the decisions. It’s much more meaningful when the process is so much more democratic.
I was also pleased with the results of the “Online Comics” division nominees. Danielle Corsetto’s Girls with Slingshots, Mike Norton’s Battlepug and Minna Sundberg’s Stand Still, Stay Silent are all terrific strips with no ties at all to the NCS, and it’s always great to see work outside the organization honored. The other nominees are also great strips and comics, but are part of “GoComics” or in Vince’s case a past nominee and member. Last year we got (unfairly and wrongly) accused by a few misinformed people that we were biased towards GoComics properties since all of the nominees for “Online- Short Form” were on GoComics. That was complete rubbish of course. The jury that did the deliberating were shown 12 samples of each comic, and not told where they were published online. The jury was biased only for what they considered the best work. The same jury picked nothing but independently published webcomics under the same process the year before. Anyway, this year the entire membership made the choices, and it is nice to see the results.
- Z-People Comic- Still hammering away at this 45 page comic for SitComics
- Trading card Illustration- for a corporate client as part of an ongoing educational campaign
- Half page ad illustration- This is a sort of personal project
- Big banner ad- for a super-secret public cartoonist’s event TBA!!
- Workplace poster- My usual monthly assignment
This is the worst time of year for me. I am up to my eyeballs in preparations for the NCS Reubens Weekend and finalizing the awards, opening up my theme park operations, and my usual workload. Ugh.
Speaking of workplace posters, above is the final art for the latest of these… rough sketch below.
Because of the way movie distribution and longevity in the theaters had changed since the 20th century, the MAD movie parody became a lot harder to do. I wrote extensively about it here, but the short version is that even big money-making movies seldom spend more than four or five weeks in theaters these days, and by the time the movie parody comes out (usually a three month lag) the film it spoofed is old news. For a few years in the early-mid 2000’s, MAD tried to do movie parodies in advance of the film’s release. We worked from trailers, bootleg movie scripts, books/comics the films were based on, etc. This led to a number of “mistakes”, where we included scenes that ended up not in the film, or got visuals wrong. The worst of all of these was the parody of 2003’s “X2: X-men United” in MAD #430, where we GOT THE ENDING WRONG.
Here’s how it happened. We worked from a legitimate final working script of the movie… something that is usually pretty accurate barring any major editing in production. In the script’s ending of this film, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) does NOT die. She goes blind when she’s hit by a mind-controlled Cyclop’s optic blast in a battle in Styker’s base, is blind for the rest of the film, and is alive but blind at the end. That’s how we did the ending, here are the last four panels:
This parody was written by Desmond Devlin, by the way, and none of this was his fault. So what happened? I’ve heard two versions. In one, director Bryan Singer had always planned on having Jean Grey die and then be resurrected in the third film, but kept it ultra secret and didn’t even tell Janssen until halfway through the filming, so the working script was always wrong. Another version is that they filmed the blind ending, tested it with audiences who didn’t like the ending, and then re-edited the film and brought the actors back for some reshoots and new scenes to do a Jean Grey dies ending.
Personally I think it’s a combination of both versions. I do think they shot the original “Jean Grey goes blind” ending, but I think Singer kept it super secret that he wanted her to die so he brought some of the cast back for the final weepy scene in Professor X’s office and a couple of other shots, and had edited it for those in the first place, all to keep it secret for as long as possible.
Why do I think that? If you watch the film KNOWING Jean Grey goes blind in that battle scene, then you see Janssen is ACTING LIKE SHE’S BLIND from that point forward, except in a couple of key reshot scenes. It’s obvious. Singer always intended to use those scenes because Jean Grey was hurt in the battle and her being helped along by others could be attributed to injury, even though if you look at it again you can see she’s acting like she’s blind! Also, look at Wolverine’s hair in the weepy scene in the office and some in the jet after Jean dies. His hair is obviously a giant Wolverine wig covering the hair he had grown out for shooting “Van Helsing”, which he was doing at the time. Looks very different from the other scenes.
Anyway, an interesting factoid. MAD eventually gave up on the “doing it before the film comes out” method. Can’t remember the last time I had to do that. Probably one of the Harry Potter movies.
These are a couple of follow up questions I’ve gotten via Twitter or email on the subject of selling prints of copyrighted characters:
You mention that making limited edition prints is allowed. I’ve never heard that before. Do you have any source for that?
I would not say it’s “allowed”. I’d say it is better defensible under a First Amendment defense because “fine art” is better recognized as a traditional vehicle for free speech. That advice was imparted to me by lawyers I consulted in a Chicago based firm specializing in Right of Publicity and Copyright issues when researching an article I was writing. They cited a related trademark case: Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co. v. Novak, 836 F.2d 397 (8th Cir. 1987). In that case the defendant Novak used the Mutual of Omaha logo as “Mutant of Omaha” with the tagline “Nuclear Holocaust Insurance” and a severed head version of their “Indian head” logo to decry the use of nuclear power. Novak lost the case in part because, while they were clearly voicing political opinions on nuclear power and this was obviously a parody, they produced this parody on T-shirts, mugs and ball caps. The courts cited these commercial and mass-produced items as commercial merchandise and not recognized vehicles of free speech, rejecting a first amendment defense. They really lost the case on other grounds, but that was part of it. In a similar case, L.L. Bean Inc. v. Drake Publishers Inc., 811 F.2d 26 (1st Cir.), appeal dismissed, 107 S.Ct. 3254 (1987) the defendant won that one (in part) because their parody using a variation of the L.L. Bean logo in the article “L.L. Beam’s Back-to-School-Sex-Catalog” in High Times was published in a magazine, which is a well documented form of free speech, as are books, fine art and, by inference (see: Andy Warhol) limited art prints. Whether you sell those things, as magazines and books and fine art clearly are, is immaterial. In ETW Corp. v. Jireh Publishing, Inc. 332 F.3d 915 (2003), Tiger Woods sued artist Rick Rush, who created a painting sold as a limited edition print and a large edition lithograph, that featured Woods in the center in several poses. The painting, which celebrated Woods’ 1997 victory in the U.S. Open, also depicted several past winners of the tournament superimposed over the leader board in the background, a caddie and a golf scoreboard. Woods was clearly the dominant focus. Woods argued this was nothing but “sports merchandise” and not worthy of First Amendment protection. The court disagreed, in part citing that limited edition prints and lithographs are recognized vehicles of free speech as “fine art”. He really won the case because they determined that the images depicted went past being about Woods and were depicting the artist’s own ideas and expression, but the fact these weren’t being sold on T-shirts and mugs helped Rush’s case. That one is being appealed right now, BTW.
However, there are other precedents that, even in dissent, allow that free speech should be independent of unusual venues of expressions. In Comedy III Productions v. Gary Saderup, Inc.,The California Supreme Court upheld an award against portrait artist Saderup in favor of the estates of the Three Stooges over t-shirts and prints bearing images of the Stooges by Saderup. It was originally argued that art on a “t-shirt” was not a recognized vehicle of free speech and therefore not defensible by the first amendment. While the CSC did still uphold the award, they rejected this argument citing: “First Amendment doctrine does not disfavor nontraditional media of expression.” That would seem to imply it makes no difference as to the way the art is presented.
That lawyer I interviewed told me selling T-shirts or a mass produced poster, even if you call it a “print”, is not as defensible via the First Amendment as a piece of original art or, at the very least, a signed and numbered limited edition of a piece of original art. Whether that advice holds up in court is another matter.
You mention that you don’t use copyrighted images in your prints. First, isn’t the Batman logo copyrighted? Second, how do you deal with the issue of actors having the rights for their likenesses? I understand it’s representational of your work, and I know I could make a sign showing that I drew a caricature of Jay Leno, and that much of your caricature book is fair use, but selling a print of multiple actors seems like there would be issues with it.
I do use copyrighted images in my prints, I never denied that. James Bond, Doctor Who and Batman are all copyrighted characters. The point is I am making fun of them, saying something about an entire series of entertainment and of the genre to which they belong. I believe that this is fair use under the umbrella of “parody”.
First, the trademarks i.e. the Batman logo you mentioned: I did not draw the Batman logo in my “Bat’s in the Belfry” print. That is a trademark and much tougher to defend using. I also did not use any copyrighted things like the sonic screwdriver or the Tardis in my “The Doctor is In” print (although the costumes are probably copyrighted), nor do I use “Batman”, “Doctor Who” or “James Bond or 007” in reference to these prints. I do this on purpose. Those kinds of elements are much harder to defend depicting, especially trademarks like logos or names.
Regarding the actors and their individual rights for their likenesses, that is probably the least of the gray areas here. What you are referring to is the Right of Publicity, which is a famous person’s right to protect the earning power of their likeness. They do that by demonstrating someone’s use of their likeness is damaging them by either selling something because of their celebrity and not the skill of the seller (which damages their ability to sell a similar item) or by insinuating the endorsement of a secondary product (which damages their ability to sell their own endorsements) and other considerations. Parody aside, it would be hard for any one of these actors to bring a RoP suit against me because they would have to prove that their likeness is what is selling these prints, and they are one of many different caricatures in each piece. That’s why artists like Sebastian Kruger can sell books full of caricatures of different celebrities, as no one can claim they are the reason the books sells. It becomes about the artist’s art, expression, and ideas rather than the one individual. Were I to sell individual prints of each of the different “Sherlocks”, for example, I would be hard pressed to argue against a RoP claim.
Arguing about something being a parody of a fictional character via bigger cheek bones & eyebrows is flimsy. A legit parody of say Batman would be something like a similar spoof called Macman or a Robot Chicken sketch. What exactly is being spoofed/mocked in your prints?
To be fair this series of prints is a little more than just caricatures of the different actors. The intent of the series is to examine, exaggerate and poke some fun at the differences in the portrayal of a single fictional character by many different actors. In my “secret agent man” print for example, I tried to portray Connery as over-the-top suave, Lazenby as the oddball, Moore as a campy goof, Dalton as far-too-serious, Brosnan as just a pretty face, and Craig as the only one that ever looked like they’d really been in a fight. There is some commentary in there, although I’m not hitting you over the head with it.
If anyone wants to argue that I am not really doing a parody here, and that caricatures of the actors alone do not constitute any real expression of opinion, then that’s a valid argument to make. I disagree. One day that may be up to a court to decide. The reality of all of this is that anyone doing an image of a copyrighted character they either do not own the copyrights to, or do not have permission from the copyright owner to do, is open to a copyright infringement lawsuit regardless of if they think they are in the right or not. Lawsuits can be filed whether they have merit or not, and only until they go to court will certain defenses arguing fair use or the First Amendment be decided. This kind of thing will remain common at comic cons until copyright owners start playing hardball and taking people to court and the courts render decisions that set precedent.
Personally, I feel I have good defenses in that the work I sell as prints can be argued to sell based on my art as much as the subject matter, that it is enough of a parody in that I make enough fun of the subjects to be sufficiently a First Amendment issue, and that the collection of many different caricatures makes a right of publicity case unsound. None of that means a damn unless I present it to a court and they tell me it does, or does not. That day may or may not ever come.
Thanks to assorted folks for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!
I’ve been posting individual caricatures from my book The Mad Art of Caricature! the last few months on Instagram and on my Twitter feed, but they don’t show up here on the blog. Usually it’s a sketch a day, either an original or a golden oldie. If you don’t follow me on Instagram or Twitter, get on the bus!
My pal Scott Shaw! started an interesting dialog on Facebook the other day about the plethora of artists who go to comic-cons and sell prints of copyrighted characters. This is an old topic, but I admit I have seen a huge growth in the number of vendors hawking prints of the same old characters… Wolverine, Batman, just about any female superhero/villain in a porn star pose, etc.in the last few years. Some of these booths are HUGE and have literally a hundred different prints for sale. It’s too easy to print these things off on your home computer. What I’ve really noticed is a large increase in the number of artists doing this that have either no actual credits in the comic book world at all, or very minor ones. Some of this work is actually pretty good, but a lot of it is bad, amateur work.
Before I go on, I want to address the people who right now are saying “you are such a hypocrite! You sell prints of copyrighted characters at comic cons!” Well, yes and no. I do sell prints that feature characters from films or TV, but I do not believe I am infringing on any copyrights by doing so for several reasons. First, I am making fun of these characters. Parody is a well protected first amendment right and fair use in using copyrighted content when doing it. Second, these are limited edition prints, printed by a real printer and not on somebody’s inkjet. That’s actually an important distinction. The venue in which you present your parody needs to be an acceptable vehicle of free speech. Fine art, including limited edition prints, is recognized as an acceptable vehicle of free speech. Mass produced posters, T-shirts and especially ink-jet prints are not. Finally, This is representative of the work I do professionally. I do movie and TV parodies for MAD. Doing my own caricatures lampooning films, TV shows, genres or the characters in them can arguably be said to sell because of the nature of my best known work. I am careful not to do caricatures of single individuals, include any trademarks, nor draw anything that cannot clearly be construed as a caricature. End of digression.
So why do the big comic book companies let these artists do this sort of thing? I think they are simply picking their battles. It would cost them quite a bit of money in time and energy to send representatives to all the comic cons and squash this. Then they’d have the inevitable backlash from fans about their perceived corporate greed. Fans don’t comprehend that it isn’t so much any money they are missing out on as that they don’t want shitty drawings of She-Hulk showing off her camel toe selling at conventions where legitimate merchandise is also being sold. That point is lost on the average comic book geek.
What anyone would want to buy some of these bad (or even the good) bootleg prints of characters is beyond me. I mean, I could understand buying a print of Catwoman by Darwyn Cooke because he worked on the character for DC and is incredible, but who cares about a print of Catwoman (even if it’s pretty good) by some artist whose never done anything but sell prints at a convention? In the end it’s the consumers that are creating the market. Obviously these things must sell, so therefore there are people willing to sell them. Marvel, DC or other companies do not have booths selling officially licensed prints of their characters. If they did, they might be able to reduce the profitability of the bootleggers so they stop doing it.
If I was running the major comic book companies and I really wanted to stop this, I’d contractually allow artists who do work for me to do their own prints of characters they have worked on if they are so inclined, and then create a series of prints commissioned by the publisher for retailers to sell. Then I’d inform all organizers of comic book conventions that they must refuse to allow unlicensed prints and merchandise vendors in their shows or they might be named as defendants in any copyright cases. That’s what keeps Cafe Press and such in line. Then sue a couple of people to show I mean business. There would be plenty of fan backlash.
In the end, I don’t think the big publishers actually care much. They mainly exist these days to develop properties for TV and movies, and that business has never been bigger than it is now. The film and TV rights to characters and storylines, and the toy and merchandise tie ins, are far more profitable for them than the actual comics. Fan art and that sort of thing only helps promote the product. That’s probably their thinking. It’s small potatoes for them, and I guess they can stomach the really bad stuff floating around.
One thing I definitely think should be okay is for an artist who has been known for working on a certain character, even if they did not create it, to do prints of their art of that character. Let’s face it, many comic book artists have worked their whole careers on other people’s characters, and have brought their own vision and style to those characters. If the publisher they work for does not see fit to create a print of their art for sale, why not allow the artist to do it? That’s certainly a lot more appealing to all parties… the artist gets a nice perk in having a secondary stream of revenue from their work, the publisher knows their characters are being presented in a professional way by an artist familiar with them, and the fans can buy awesome artwork from an artist that is known for that character.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not begrudge anyone from eeking out a living on the fringes of the comics world by doing this sort of thing. If the owners of these copyrighted characters don’t seem to care, why should I?
Better late then never today I guess… still playing catch up from my trip to Toronto.
I’ve decided for my “Sketch o’the Week” to do a series of classic rock musicians… ones I have not already done like I did Jimi Hendrix. I’m kicking it off with Janis Joplin.
I’ll consider any suggestions people may have.
Just returned from Toronto after spending a long weekend manning the National Cartoonists Society’s first-time booth there with freelance cartoonist Mike Cope and the creator of the syndicated daily comic strip “Between Friends” Sandra Bell-Lundy. Despite living within 400 miles of the border, I’ve never actually been to Canada until now. I learned the following twenty things while there:
- Canadians really do say “eh!” at the end of certain sentences.
- Canadians will deny this, shortly before saying “eh!”
- They have a lot of really good beer
- The dollar coin is called a “loonie”
- The two dollar coin is called a “twoonie”
- Neither of those will buy you much in Canada
- They don’t pronounce the second “T” in “Toronto”. It’s “Torono” there.
- “Poutine” is a thing. It’s french fries and cheese curds drenched in brown gravy.
- I have significantly less arterial function today thanks to poutine.
- Attendees of Toronto ComiCon don’t buy much stuff
- Soft drinks like Coke or Pepsi are called “pop” rather than “soda”
- The sales tax in Canada is about 100%, or at least seems like it
- I think the government might tax the second “T” in “Toronto”, which is why Canadians don’t pronounce it
- “Back Bacon” is a thing. It’s cured bacon sort of like dense ham often rolled in cornmeal
- I don’t know what back bacon tastes like since I never found any… might be a myth
- “Tim Hortons” is the “McDonalds” of Canada
- Do not disparage hockey within earshot of a Canadian
- A “kerfuffle” is a commotion, dust-up or confrontation of some kind
- The “Metric System” is a thing
- Canadians are extremely nice, friendly, and charming people
Sadly the NCS booth had a bad location at the con. Our neighbors included two of the roughly 20 booths selling swords and other stabbing weapons, a fetish wear vendor, the promoters of a low-budget action movie which looped the film’s trainer endlessly driving us crazy, and T-shirts sellers. The good news was that the few who did happen by us were great.
Sandra had many people get excited to meet her, “Between Friends” has a huge following there. It was fun to hang out with her and the talented Mike Cope for a few days, even if we didn’t sell much stuff. If one super-fan of mine hadn’t attanded specifically to buy a couple of original MAD pages, I might have had to hitchhike home.
Me doing a caricature
Ah well. I had a great time and even got to have dinner one night with a bunch of Canadian cartoonists… all of whom were female except for Mike. I had a very tasty shank of lamb and learned as much about menopause as I care to know. Also had a lot of laughs.
Thanks for the fun times, Canada! Who knows, I may be back, eh!