May 10th, 2013
We might be seeing this guy’s ugly mug a bit the next few weeks. My last theme park operation opens tomorrow, I’ve got two major MAD jobs in the works, one due yesterday, four other illustration jobs on the board with two due imminently, and I’ve got this little weekend event called the NCS Reuben Award Weekend I’m in charge of planning and pulling off less than two weeks away.
I’m really starting to hate May.
May 9th, 2013
Some months ago MAD quietly redid their website and got rid of the separate official blog formerly known as “The Idiotical”. Actually DC rebranded all their websites, and MAD was along for the ride. They merged the blog with the rest of the site so it became one central place to go and get daily updates, news, gags (and gagging), shopping etc. Now when you visit, there is a two column staggered list of teasers ala a Facebook wall, with the latest MAD tomfoolery. They still post original content, often of the parody movie poster or TV ad variety, plus sneak peeks of stuff from the latest issue, comics from “The Strip Club”, classic MAD features like Don Martin cartoons and more.
They have done a great job at embracing the one element to their website content that is impossible to duplicate in the magazine: the ability to address up-to-the-minute current events and news. With a 6 week lag between press date and news stand appearance, publications like MAD cannot match the instantaneous nature of the internet. The editors therefore make sure much of what they do on the website takes advantage of that dynamic, making fun of breaking news and buzz like Governor Chris Christie’s lapband surgey, Martha Stewart’s Match.com participation, and the Jason Collins announcement.
I was sad to see them lose “The Idiotical” concept, though. I thought that was a funny idea to have a virtual magazine format where they published MAD humor online, and I loved the name. Ah, well. Same content, different presentation. Check out MAD‘s website early and often for a dose of daily MADness.
May 8th, 2013
Better late than never today… a quick sketch of the seventh Doctor as played by Sylvester McCoy.
Tags: caricature, Doctor Who, sketch, Sylvester McCoy
May 7th, 2013
I am a pretty tough person to buy gifts for. I basically have everything I could ever want (within reason… freelance illustrators as a general rule can’t afford Porsches or winter homes in Hawaii). I have a complete batsuit, for God’s sake. The Lovely Anna and my kids and family hate my birthday and the holidays because they just don’t have a clue what to get me. That means they have to ask me, so I am seldom surprised by anything.
Anna is pretty creative, though. This year for my birthday (which was this past Saturday… 47, thanks for asking) she surprised me with some awesome vintage art supplies she found scouring antique stores. Among the treasures were:
an old Faber Castell tin pencil box and dip pen,
a bottle of Sanford’s Xit Ink Eraser which came in a tin container/sleeve,
a Cardinell lettering guide,
some old pen nibs including a bunch of Resterbrook Falcon 048′s,
and an antique brass inkwell (see open pic of it at top). That last is really awesome and I’ll be using it often.
Very cool stuff. I love old art supplies. If you have never checked it out, visit Lou Brook‘s Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies. Lots of fun stuff there.
May 6th, 2013
This week’s Monday MADness is a peek behind the scenes of a piece I did for MAD #467 (July 2006) called “Rejected Characters from Cars” written by Jacob Lambert.
The premise was a collection of characters from the Pixar film Cars (Cars 2 was about to come out, I think) that were deemed “not marketable enough” to be included in the movie. The scene was a used car lot and I was supposed to mimic the Pixar look for the cars. As I was hand painting them (okay, digitally hand painting, but still using a brush tool) I could only get so close to that look without spending a billion hours on each car. Here are the pencils, a few close ups of some of the cars, and the final splash and third page. As always, clicky any image to embiggen:
In the printed final each car had a descriptive/gag balloon.
May 5th, 2013
Q: I’ve seen your work used on websites without any credit to you and figure it is probably without your permission. Isn’t that copyright infringement? How do you handle that sort of thing?
A: The Interwebs are a both a boon and a bane to visual artists when it comes to people stealing your artwork and using it without your permission. It’s a bane because if you put your artwork on the internet, it will get stolen… I guarantee it. It’s a boon because there are billions of people on it and some of them will be your eyes and ears (well, eyes anyway) and alert you when someone is stealing your work. Just the other day I got an email from a gentleman named Shawn Braley telling me this site was using one of the spot illustrations I did for MAD Kids of a school lunch lady and posted in a recent Monday MADness as an illustration for an article. I get those kinds of emails now and again, and many thanks to those that send them to me.
What can I do about it? The answer is, that depends.
Can I make them remove the image? If the website in question is here in the U.S., or at least the company or persons purporting to be the authors of the website are U.S. based, they are in clear violation of U.S. copyright law in using a piece of my artwork without my permission. But, do I really have any power to make them take it down? Well, if they don’t care about breaking copyright law, then it becomes more difficult. Just because they are breaking the law doesn’t mean my informing them I am aware of it will make them care. It’s likely they know they are doing something wrong, and maybe it means nothing to them. Most of the time I find that offending copyright thieves steal images expecting not to be caught, and when they are they plead ignorance and will remove the image when asked. Some really are ignorant they are stealing, but most know it’s wrong and do it anyway because “everyone does it”, as if that makes it okay.
My first move is an email to the offending site with a link to my original image telling them this is a copyrighted work and asking politely for it to be removed. Four out of five times this works. I usually get the old “oh, I didn’t know that was copyrighted, I got it from some other site that was using it”. I could point out that unless they created the image themselves they don’t own it and EVERYTHING ELSE is copyrighted by someone, I get crickets chirping, so I don’t bother pointing that out. I just ask them to remove it. Sometimes they ask if they can use it if they give me proper credit and a link. I will occasionally agree to this but more often I say no, not without compensation. I will usually grant someone permission to use one of my images on the web for free with proper credit/link, but only if they proactively ask my permission. Once they’ve stolen it, I usually make them pay to continue to use it. They never pay, so they take it down.
What if they ignore my email? I have two options. One is to have a lawyer send them a second, more threatening and more official email. That costs me money, so I seldom go that route unless I really think the offending website is being malicious or somehow actually profiting from the image in some way. The better option is to contact the web host of the site. If that is U.S. based, they can demand the website remove the image. The response varies depending on the host company. Bigger hosts are more apt to do something than smaller ones. If they are outside the U.S., they will probably do nothing or even respond. Many countries are part of the Berne Convention which spells out international copyright law, but in reality few other countries will go to bat for copyright owners outside their borders.
Can I demand they pay me for using it? Actually I can legally, but only if I have copyrighted the image officially with the U.S. Copyright office. It’s a little known fact that, while in the U.S. you automatically own the copyright to any intellectual property you create the moment you create it, getting compensated for its infringement is almost impossible unless you have physically registered the work. You can do this in batches by grouping pieces of work into logical collections, like all the work done in the year 2012 for example, and pay only one copyright registration fee (currently $45.00). It’s not that expensive, and it gives you a much stronger legal footing in demanding compensation from someone who steals your work.
How realistic is it that you can get compensation even if you have registered the work? Not very in most cases. This is the reason so many people feel they can steal copyrighted work on the Internet with impunity. It’s almost impossible to legally prosecute someone for the infringement, and in most cases nowhere near economically viable to do so. If you are lucky, you could get a court to agree to pay you say $100 for the use of a stolen image on some website (that’s top dollar, $25 is more realistic). If it costs you $1000 in legal fees to accomplish this, then it makes no sense to try. It can easily cost you that, as you’d need to hire a lawyer in the state of the offender, and then get the case to and through court. You’d need to have a lot of time on your hands and a large pile of disposable money to pursue even a few of these transgressions.
So why bother? Two reasons. First, to stand up for what’s right. It’s illegal and a tremendous disservice to the creators of intellectual property to steal their work and infringe on their copyright without permission and at least credit if not compensation. I’m hoping I educate a few people about asking permission first, especially if I point out that I usually grant permission as long as I am properly credited and a link provided. After all, I am selling a book on the other end of that link, so that traffic does have a possible value to me. I find that a fair trade off in most cases. The other reason is more pragmatic. It’s also a little know fact of copyright law that in order to retain control of the copyright of your work, you have to be shown to defend that copyright when it’s being infringed. That sounds odd, but one defense copyright infringers use successfully is to demonstrate that the owner of a copyrighted work was aware of its being infringed upon but did nothing to protect their rights. A copyright owner can’t decide who they want to sue over infringement and who they want to let off the hook. If someone can show the copyright owner didn’t care if their work was being infringed on by others, that same work is very hard to sue over with another infringer. The again, it’s not too easy to prove a copyright owner knew about instances of infringement and did nothing, but not impossible.
It’s largely a lost cause, since I am sure I only find out about a fraction of the infringement of my work going on on the interwebs, and I don’t have time to scour them for offenders. However that does not mean you do not fight the good fight. I have saved form letters for offenders, and it only takes me a minute or two to insert then specifics and send it off. If nothing else, I can produce these letters should anyone attempt to later prove I never tried to enforce my copyrights on a given piece. So, when I get alerted to an instance of infringement, I ALWAYS send an email at the very least.
As to the site Shawn informed me about using that “Lunch Lady” image? They are playing with fire, as the copyright owners of that image is not me personally but actually Time Warner/MAD Magazine/DC Comics, and they have a couple of floors of lawyers who have nothing to do except go after people for copyright infringement. I sent them an email informing them of this… I see they still have not removed that image. Not smart. My next letter will be to MAD’s legal folks, who take a dim view of that sort of thing.
Thanks to Grant Jonen 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.
Tags: copyright, Mailbag, question
May 3rd, 2013
Encouraging kids of any age to discover and read comics has no downside, and to that end there is a wonderful annual event called Free Comic Book Day that happens in comic book specialty shops across North America and worldwide. Held the first Saturday in May each year, the premise is simple: any customer can walk into a comic shop and receive a free comic book!
Now in its 12th year, Free Comic Book Day happens tomorrw, May 4th, at your local participating Comic Book shop! To find shops near you, visit www.comicshoplocator.com. Go visit your local comic book store tomorrow, get a free comic and browse about to see what is new and exciting in the world of comics.
You might even see some local cartoonists appearing as part of Free Comic Book Day in your comic book store! The folks who run Free Comic Book Day and the National Cartoonists Society are joining forces to help promote comic books as a gateway to fun reading and literacy. Some NCS members already attend FCBD as guests for signings, supporting their local shop. This promotion is a great thing not just for comic books and their publishers, but for the entire cartooning industry.
Since its inception, more than 27 million free comic books have been distributed to almost 8 million FCBD attendees. Last year, more than 3.5 million comics were given out, and the event generated over $1.8 million in free publicity for the event, comic books, and comic book shops. For more information, visit www.freecomicbookday.com.
May 2nd, 2013
Here’s what cooking on the drawing board this week:
- MAD Project- A very interesting project for an upcoming book. I can’t give away much, but it’s being written by someone who is famous in the movie biz and will be an original part of a MAD collection book due out this fall.
- Promotional magazine cover/poster image- Repeat client I did an NBA cover image for last year.
- Workplace poster- My usual monthly assignment.
- MAD #522- I am supposed to have something in this issue but haven’t been assigned it yet.
Kind of quiet on the freelance front right now, although with the Reubens coming up this month that’s probably a good thing. I am currently in Massachusetts training new artists for my operation at Six Flags New England. May is by far the worst month for me as far as available time for anything.
Just for fun, above is last month’s workplace poster job final. I actually did two of those last month (I sometimes do extra ones for them). Below is the pencil rough for the above one, plus the roughs and final for the second. As always clicky any image to embiggen.
Pencil rough for first poster job…
Initial pencil for second poster. Interesting premise… they wanted a hospital staff shown exhausted at the end of a shift, being asked to look happy and fresh for pictures. The masks were their idea.
That one didn’t really work too well. I thought the masks were kind of creepy, espeically showing someone with one on. Instead I proposed we have them being handed out but no one actually wearing one. They wanted more exaggerated exhaustion as well. As you can see I did the revised roughs digitally.
Final image. I suggested we lose the actual photographer and replace with a box of “Happy Masks”. The whole thing is still a weird concept…
May 1st, 2013
Our ongoing series of caricature sketches of all the Doctors from Doctor Who continues with the sixth Doctor, Colin Baker.
Tags: caricature, Colin Baker, Doctor Who, sketch
April 30th, 2013
The latest in MAD‘s series of “Mad’s Greatest Artists” featuring Dave Berg just became available for pre-order on Amazon. From the Amazon page’s description:
Included in this magnificent collection are some of the greatest works from Dave Berg—one of MAD Magazine’s most popular writers/artists. The material will be presented chronologically and interspersed throughout with rough sketches, a rare 1970 interview, an introduction and portrait of Berg by well-known American illustrator Drew Friedman, a “growing up with Dave Berg” essay by his daughter Nancy Berg, newly illustrated versions of classic Berg strips by several noteworthy cartoonists, and much more.
I am one of the cartoonists who did one of the “classic Berg strips”, which made me happy because when Dave passed away I had just joined the Usual Gang of Idiots, and as a result of being a newbie I was not asked to be one of the artists that took part in a special tribute to him in issue #427. In that issue a number of MAD artists illustrated what was his last script of “The Lighter Side of…”, which he never got a chance to illustrate. This time I got to do one. By the way I’ve seen Drew’s illustration of Dave as mentioned above, and in typical Friedman fashion it is fantastic.
These books are very well done. The only real problem with them is that so many of “MAD‘s Greatest Artists” worked for the magazine for so long and did so much work, that a “The Complete Work of…” is impossible with only a few exceptions. Dave worked for MAD for 46 years, first doing various gag artciels before starting “The Lighter Side of…” in 1961, which he did until his death in 2002. Just for perspective, “The Lighter Side of…” was already five years old when I was born in 1966.
Tags: Book, Dave Berg, MAD Magazine, MAD's Greatest Artists