Plagiarism, Homages, & Double Standards

Plagiarism is serious fucking business.

The recent hubbub about Nick Simmons’ Incarnate and the manga series Bleach has brought the issues of homage, copying, fanart, stealing, and intent back into the comic spotlight.

Kiel Phegley has an interesting wrap-up on the controversy and plagarism issues in comics as whole over at CBR.

As someone who’s dealt with it in once before (more or less non-intentional, but still a hassle to get fixed) and who is trying to make independent fictional works on my own as well (shit, as a general fan of writing and reading), I personally take plagiarism seriously. Stealing something as abstract as words and art and ideas like that might seem arbitrary to some, but it’s not, because ideas like that are just as valuable as a six-pack or a wallet full of cash and credit cards.

However…

Gottsuiiyan has pointed out some very interesting work that’s a reversal of the flow here;

This is from Frank Miller’s work;

And this is from Battle Angel Alita, which James Cameron has expressed a lot of interest in adapting and is in fact moving forward on a film adaptation;

I’m not gonna re-post his whole article verbatim, but here it is.  He also updated it with links to this comparison, again Miller’s work showing up in Alita.

Comic Book Resources quotes him;

“I realize that even 5 years ago the internet didn’t have the reach it does now,” Gottsu-Iiyan writes, “but was 1999 (the date on the post I cited that put up the images) really that long ago, or is it just that uncool to stick up for Frank Miller? Even if you think Elektra Lives Again is not one of Miller’s more famous, or even best work […] At the very same time as the Bleach community was up in arms and urging fans to write to the publishers to bust Incarnate – again, a comic that isn’t going to make anyone rich — Battle Angel rolls along in movie development without so much as a peep about Frank Miller — ever!”

I pointed this comparison out to someone, who told me that in this case, the Battle Angel Alita panels weren’t plagiarism, they were homages, something you do see a lot in comics. The endless aping of this comic book cover is proof alone of that;

This is what really killed headbands in the ’80s.

Also, Simmons’ book is being accused of wholesale plot point-stealing, as well as more severe art plagiarism beyond a few panels.  There’s been plenty of side-by-side comparisons of whole pages where art and layout are suspiciously similar.

However, I just think it’s interesting that this point brought basically is highlighting a non-Western comics creator taking pages from a book and making them his own. To me, a big part of this controversy has been that it’s “highlighting” how superior manga is compared to Western comics (even though they’re the same fucking thing in the long run), since Western creators are just ripping manga off.

And of course, as an internet community of comic book fans, fucking God knows we’re quick to jump down Greg Land‘s throat every time he shows up in a book (but not Alex Ross…hmmm) or hound Rob Leifeld on his style, but are willing to excuse artistic license and style in manga?

This is the face of law enforcement in manga…just ponder that.

I’m not slamming people as hypocrites for ragging on Nick Simmons, mind you. I’m not slamming or defending Frank Miller.  I’m not defending Greg Land or photoreferencing or lightboxing.  And I’m not ragging on manga either.  Hell, my master’s thesis is on Ghost In The Shell.

I’m just wondering, here in my own little web corner, when is the point when we stop calling stuff like that “reference” and “tributes”, and when is it theft?  Also, is this bigger than it would have been if the victimized title wasn’t a somewhat popular manga book (and overall franchise that includes an anime series), a subgenre of comics that, in my experience seems to be awful defensive when you try to group it in with Western comics?

Whatever, there was a point here. Oh yeah…don’t steal shit. Also, seriously?  Bleach?  That’s the title?  Is it about kung-fu cleaning wars or something?

-Thanks to CBR for their very awesome, surprisingly balanced (considering this IS the Internet), and all-round in-depth work on covering this…and for providing me with lots of stuff to link to.

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About Costa

Writer. College professor.
This entry was posted in art, battle angel alita, bleach, blogging, books, comic book criticism, comic books, comics, Frank Miller, independant media, manga, Nick Simmons Incarnate, plagarism, random, what the fuck?. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Plagiarism, Homages, & Double Standards

  1. Pingback: …and on that random note… « Costa K Writes Things

  2. Pingback: Fistfight at the Arthouse – Best of 2010 « indie posit

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