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There’s been some behind the scenes soap opera in the comics of world of late, which we are not going to get into, and anyone who does will be deleted. But it has opened up a bit of a worm can about some fairly well known swipings. The main culprit is Arthur Suydam, who has been enjoying a busy revival with his covers for Marvel.
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Greg Land is another well known, nay, notorious, swiper:
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(Image from the above link.)

Of course, there was the Magneto-King of Spain international incident a ways back. As we said then, such blatant swipes are usually brought on by the dreaded deadline doom, both for busy artists and busy editors. It isn’t a crime — yet — or perhaps even a moral sin. But it is a little disappointing.

Among the acrimony at this TCJ.com thread, a letter sent from Marvel’s Managing Editor to freelancers is reproduced:



MARVEL ORIGINAL ARTWORK POLICY

ALL–
There’s been some confusion regarding the use of copyrighted materials in work submitted to Marvel. Please note that Marvel pays for original artwork, and your work made for hire contract requires you to represent that everything you are doing for Marvel is original.

It is appropriate to use photographs or other copyrighted works for inspiration, for example if you need to see what the architecture of New Orleans looks like. However, what you cannot do is copy or take so many elements from a protected work that you effectively copy it.

Therefore, NEVER copy a photograph or any artwork you do not own the copyright in or that you re not sure is in the public domain. Photographers own the copyright in their works (or they have assigned the copyright to a publisher, etc.) and they are notoriously protective of their work. The same can be said of any paintings, print, scupture, etc.

There is a fine line between HOMAGE and RIP-OFF–make sure you are firmly on the side of using your own creative elements. A simple rule of thumb is to consider whether someone looking at your drawing and the reference material will think that one is derivative of the other. If so, you have gone too far and taken too much.

We know you want to bring an incredible sense of realism to the page and want to support you. Please speak with your editors regarding any concerns or questions that you have regarding the use of reference materials. By working together, we can create a work that is both inspired and unique.

Thanks for your time,
David Bogart


It’s not known exactly what caused this gentle reminder that Marvel prefers original creation. But it is perhaps one that more people should heed — or at least when the DDD strikes, to fuzzy up “reference” a bit more. Everybody swipes something (as we’ve pointed out before, artists like Alex Ross and Tony Harris, to name but two, shoot tons of their own photo reference and use it extensively). We’ve seen plenty of artists at cons doing a sketch while looking at a copy of the SI swimsuit issue, but that’s a lot different than lightboxing or Photoshoping.

Marvel’s new policy seems to be bearing fruit: later in the TCJ thread, a letter from Suydam’s current agent (his wife) states that he was the victim of being provided with faulty reference, which he was unaware had been previously created by someone.

I assure you, however, that Suydam acted in good faith and had no prior knowledge that the reference he was provided was copyrighted material.

He is handling all his own references now. As such, please be aware that this will not be an issue in the future.

Comments

  1. I don’t mean to split hairs, but when Alex Ross and Tony Harris work from photo reference they’ve created, that’s not swiping–even if they were lightboxing or photoshopping it. Coming after the phrase “everybody swipes something,” it sounds as if that’s what you’re saying and I’m pretty sure that’s not what you mean.

    Swiping is using *someone else’s* visual material as the major component of your own–no matter how you do it–and using your own work that you own–again, no matter how you do it–is not.

  2. So what about images that Marvel own? It’s been shown that Greg Land has in some cases apparently copy and pasted images from other comics. Will he now have to check before he rips off his fellow artists? If I were his editor I’d think twice before giving him any kind of blanket permission now that his main source of swipes (porn mags) has been cut off.

  3. T-Bone says:

    Gargantuan difference between looking at something for postioning and painting over it digitally without changing essentials. That would be using something as a “Major component” of a piece. Conclusively. I don’t see how someone could be looking at a “Pirates” poster either and not see the big movie title at the top? Bogus. Or not see Frazetta’s signature on the painting they are using? Or not know that a photo is copyrighted to a photographer? I would not think it would be that hard to come up with original ideas or shoot your own models like Ross does? Is it? Why create the controversy for yourself in the first place.

  4. dungeonpenguin says:

    FYI: A couple of posts from Dirk Deppey, site administrator for TCJ:

    from http://www.tcj.com/messboard/viewtopic.php?t=290&start=80

    “Having done a little research, I do believe that with the exception of this “TheTruthIsOutThere” guy, pretty much every new user who showed up to spam our message-board with this nonsense is using multiple accounts from the same IP addresses, in many cases holding fake conversations with themselves under differing pseudonyms to gin up the controversy.

    I hereby declare this subject over and done with. From this point forward, anyone continuing to carry out this bad relationship breakup on this board risks getting thrown off. And this thread is now closed.”
    _________________
    Online Editor, The Comics Journal

    …and…

    from http://www.tcj.com/messboard/viewtopic.php?t=290&view=next&sid=f93b8e33de505a4167d27daa7dbba5e6

    “Actually, you know what’s really embarrassing? A single user using sock puppets to carry on an inane vendetta across multiple threads. Take, for example, toddpool, who’s posting from the same IP address as Ed Dearborn to do some idiot publicist’s work for her* — and both of whose accounts have just been taken offline.

    * I was willing to accept arguments to the contrary right up to the first time this Renee person sent me a couple of unconvincing Arthur Suydam plagiarist links… “off the record,” of course. Now I just wonder why someone willing to do these sorts of things to an ex-client expects to get work as a publicist.”
    _________________
    Online Editor, The Comics Journal

  5. T-Bone says:

    Huh, what does that have to do with anything. The swipes are obvious.

    It’s been established on the other sites that “DungeonPenguin” is Arthur Suydam’s wife, who is apparently culling the parts here that may be construed as advantages to their agenda. Go read the whole thing in context. As far as I can see, someone in the Suydam camp is trying to cover up the swiping with alot of drama, which as Heidi said, we can’t go into here.

    But, really, all you have to do is look at Suydam’s work to see the obvious swipes. Regardless of who is bringing the theft to light, we should thank them, because it is the art and comics community that is being cheated by this plagarism.

    Shame on Suydam, Land and the rest. People would kill to have the talent that you have and you are squandering it.

  6. T-Bone says:

    I dont’ think Mrs. Suydam realizes how the Comics Journal is perceived. If she did, she would not be posting this quote. :)

  7. GaryGnu says:

    Dude. TCJ might have it s problems but its a good baord and a good mag. Just so I’m straight here -in one breath your saying to keep it clean while your bashing Land, Suydam, the dude’s wife and TCJ. We all know all about it and its stupid. But who gives a tweep? What I see is a bunch of socks making a mob scene about something that every artist on the planet does. But what I’m trying to figure out is does it mean I suck because I like the art? Greg Land could swipe my sister’s fingerpaintings and Suydam could swipe a pic of my aunt ginny’s station wagon and I don’t care. Frazetta swiped from everbody and his stuff is beautiful. Art’s art no matter where it came from. Don’t be a hater.

  8. T-Bone says:

    Yes, art IS art–but whose art?
    Swiping–It’s an position that can’t be justified.

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Trackbacks

  1. [...] Heidi at The Beat had a good bit the other day about artwork that artists just copy from photographs and other sources. The key to the piece, though, was the letter she reprinted (courtesy of TCJ’s message board) from Marvel’s managing editor to freelancers: MARVEL ORIGINAL ARTWORK POLICY [...]

  2. [...] Of course, if the allegations are true, Goldman would hardly be the first artist to blatantly rip off…erm… be accused of ripping off another artist or stealing work from other sources.  [...]

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