Sequential Underground #79 - Swiping

Sequential Underground

Hosts:
Shawn Atkins and Nick Marino

Show Notes:
Our topic for this episode comes from a listener named Tomo, who's asked us to discuss swiping in comics.

Tomo made a wild web chart to convey his sprawling thoughts about swiping.

Tomo's definition of swiping is pretty broad, going so far as to include retold stories like Romeo and Juliet. So we begin our discussion by trying to nail down our personal definitions of swiping.

What's the difference between plagiarism, swiping, imitation, homage, and parody? Are there clear distinctions between these concepts or are they basically the same thing?

And how does swiping work itself into the pages of indie cartoonists vs. mainstream comic book artists?

Ninja Turtles vs. Black Belt Hamsters: is this swiping, homage, or parody?

After the end theme, we turn into Culinary Underground and share some more sandwich recipes.

Sponsor:
This podcast is brought to you by Kitty & Batz: Hypnotic Homicide.

Artists Kristi "Batz" Zerga and Dianna "Kitty" Spain are collecting the first three crazy issues of their Kitty & Batz comic book series into one twisted, brightly colored graphic novel called Hypnotic Homicide. It's currently on Kickstarter and they'e got some amazing rewards including t-shirts, prints, posters, variant covers by legendary artists, and more. Check it out!

24 Responses to “Sequential Underground #79 - Swiping”


  1. 1 B. Douglas DeRocher

    Art swipes and homages are the basically same thing. A swipe is "stealing an image" and not giving credit to the original artist. An homage is "stealing an image" while giving credit to the original artist. Some swiping is ok because some art is public domain and anyone can swipe that image because it belongs to everyone. Is that ethical is the question. Swiping an image that is copyrighted is not ethical. Some would argue that if you take an element form a image and transform it into a new image is not swiping. Is that ethical?

  2. 2 BackFlipsimmons

    I had an idea for an anthromorphic Western, then Rango came out. Would it be swiping if I kept working on it? Although I'm sure Rango had been in the works for a lot longer.

  3. 3 B. Douglas DeRocher

    You can't swipe Rango if you do an anthropomorphic western. It's harder to swipe a plot and impossible to swipe a genre. There are olny a few plots we use over and over. 1st trilogy Star Wars films and Harry Potter and countless other stories have the same plot. In most cases the writer's job is to add details over a plot to make a new story. Calling art or writing a swipe implies theft of someone work. For art that means the composition, detail or tracing a pose[this is harder to prove because a figure only can move a finite amount of ways]. Swiping writing is plagiarism you have to copy the words another writer wrote. Again this only applies to copyrighted work. If I want to write a Dracula sequel and use passages from Dracula I can because everyone own Dracula now.
    One more thing about swiping, If your thinking about not wanting to swipe you probably not swiping. Swiping is NOT done by accident.

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  5. 4 Darrellsan

    Art swipes and homages are NOT the same thing. A swipe is "stealing an image" and not giving credit to the original artist...and hoping to never be caught. An homage is copying a famous image knowing darn well everyone in the comics community knows what you're referencing (thus no credit need be given).
    Amateur and beginning artists swipe as part of the learning process.Once you become a pro, however, your swiping days should be long behind you. Finally, swiping pertains to comics only. When you guys talk about movies, books, plays and such, perhaps the word your looking for is plagiarism?

  6. 5 B. Douglas DeRocher

    As I said in my first post it is basically the same thing. You are coping another artists work. The only difference is if you give proper credit to the original artist. Homages are still problematic ethically because the original artist is not paid for the homage. If an artist did that in any other creative field you could be sued. I also think swiping only matters if you are selling the work you swiped.

  7. 6 nick marino

    @Backflip: Naw, dude. That's definitely not a swipe! Just because it's walking talking animals in a western doesn't mean you can't do it. There are plenty of those. GO FOR IT!!! And share your story progress with us, please!

    @Darrellsan: Yeah, it's definitely plagiarism. I dunno if you listened to the full episode, but I eventually remembered the word somewhere in there! I'm kinda embarrassed it took me so long, though. hahahaha

    @Doug: I think you have a couple of excellent points that I'm going to plagiarize if you don't mind:

    1. Swiping is NOT done by accident.

    2. Homages are still problematic ethically because the original artist is not paid for the homage. If an artist did that in any other creative field you could be sued.

    Shawn and I barely touched upon the ethical ramifications of swiping. I sorta wish we had, but at the same time I felt like we really needed to set some boundaries on what can and can not be defined as swiping to even have a discussion about the ethical end of it.

    In Tomo's defense, he really wanted us to address the ethical aspect of it more. But I felt like his definition of swiping was so broad that I wanted to talk more about the boundaries.

    In music, there's a legal classification called "interpolation" which indicates that an artist is playing part of a copyrighted song without actually using the original recording or performance. To me, that's essentially what swiping is.

    But is ALL interpolation-ish behavior copyright infringement and/or unethical? I dunno. Just because I reference a song by playing a few notes of a melody from said well known, copyrighted song in my solo... am I really doing something THAT ethically wrong there? I don't think so.

    I wouldn't want to be the person who has to set the legal boundaries because I think the whole thing is so gray.

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  9. 7 B. Douglas DeRocher

    Nick An artist can do a few types of swipes. He or she can take a cover,page or panel and copy the poses and composition of the picture. In this case he or she change the costume to match the title she or he is working on. That would be like you taking a song and rewriting some of the words. The basic song is the same and unless you pay the original artist your stealing. An artist can also will take figures form comics, screen caps and magazines, cut them up in photoshop and collage them together. She or He then prints that out and ether traces the collage or draws the collage by looking at it. This is a more transitive work and would be fine if he pays for the clipped art. In music it the same as sampling a few songs to make a new song. As long as the original artists get paid no problem. Lastly you can take figures form comics, screen caps and magazines, cut them up in photoshop and collage them together and change the figures by moving limbs combining a few models photos to make a new figure. then print that out and ether traces the collage or draws the collage by looking at it. This is when you truly transform others work into an new work. This will be like if you took notes played on different recordings and make a new song with them. The problem with doing things the right way is it's hard would take more time to do it that way.

  10. 8 Carrie

    There was a comic published in the mid-80's and early 90's called "Samurai Cat" that is probably a swipe of Usagi Yojimbo, but it has parody in it too (via things like The Hobbit and Star Wars) so... don't know... is that an example of an indie swipe? Then again... Usagi Yojimbo itself borrows pretty heavily from old samurai films.

    Does it make a difference if the swiper becomes more successful or popular than the swipee or if the swipee themselves is a swiper? What if the swipee doesn't tell the swiper "No swiping!", does that imply consent? Did I just swipe Dora the Explorer? (there's some ethics questions for you ;-) )

    I actually have a copy or two of Adolecent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters! :D

  11. 9 B. Douglas DeRocher

    A swipe is different from a a guy seeing Usagi Yojimbo and the making a comic with a samurai cat. If the creator of "Samurai Cat"#1 traced elements from a "Usagi Yojimbo" comic than that is a swipe. All stories borrow from life, basic plots and genre. We only have so many plots that we relate to, and these have been retold time and time again. Writers can only add details and life experiences to a plot.

    Swiping is stealing so and you can be sued if you do it. It is not ok to steal from you home it's not ok to steal art. You don't need to tell a thief not to steal.

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  13. 10 Carrie

    I guess it would depend on how closly the Samurai Cat's story mirrors Usagi. Miaowara Tomokato vs Myamoto Usagi, Katsuyori vs Katsuichi, they are both ronins, the art styles are pretty similar, both characters are overly serious, the turtles appear in both series (even though they aren't actually named in Samurai Cat, it's pretty obvious)... but there are humans in the cat's world and Usagi doesn't spoof popular movies or TV (as far as I know). So I guess it's a really fine line between swipe and spoof.

    I personally would not intentionally swipe and don't think it's ok... I was just trying to be funny (and apparently failed miserably :-) )

  14. 11 nick marino

    @Carrie: Guess what? Samurai Cat probably predates Usagi Yojimbo!!! The creator Mark E Rogers first published the character in 1984. I put together a few images in a Tumblr post: http://audioshocker.tumblr.com/post/69327137024/samurai-cat-1984-posting-this-as-reference-for

    Samurai Cat started out as a series of humorous paintings. Mark then collected them and wrote short stories about the paintings and published The Adventures of Samurai Cat. From what I could find online, the book came out in May 1984, which is the same year Usagi debuted... but in November of that year.

    Crazy coincidence, right?

    The Samurai Cat comic book looks like it was published briefly in the early 90s, so maybe by then it was a bit different and it riffed on Usagi's story? I dunno.

  15. 12 Carrie

    @Nick Huh... maybe it's like how a bunch of movies come out with the same theme in the same summer (like the 2 Abe Lincoln movies last year) or maybe they were just inspired by the same thing.

    I have the 90's books 1 and 3 (no idea where book 2 went). Maybe I can scan a few pages in when I get a chance and post them...

    also... hahaha the BEHEADED SMILEY FAAAAACCCEEE!!!

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  17. 13 nick marino

    i wanna see some pages from those for sure!!! please scan :)

  18. 14 Carrie

    Ok, here’s some Samurai Cat scans (haha “Cat Scans”… medical humor… nevermind)
    http://carriehowarth.tumblr.com/post/70008788927/scans-of-samurai-cat-published-in-1991-by-epic

    ...and here’s something else I found in my collection from 1990. An official TMNT parody!
    http://carriehowarth.tumblr.com/post/70009636097/scans-of-green-grey-sponge-suit-sushi-turtles

    I also found Comic Interview #27 from 1985 which I didn’t scan in (because I was afraid no one could read it anyway!)… but here’s a link to the interview online ( which of course stops right before the part where Eastman and Laird talk about who parodied who… so maybe I’ll try to scan it in later anyway) http://www.comicsinterview.com/eastman_and_laird.html

  19. 15 nick marino

    Oh man... Samurai Cat even pillaged the Space Balls joke about how Darth and Luke are related. Jeez. So shameless!!! The writing seems pretty hard to handle but I really like the art!

    As for those parody pages... DON MARTIN! Nice.

    The interview is really fun. I love how the interviewer refuses to believe anything they tell him. "Really... 50/50?!?" "Wait. Three years???"

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  21. 16 Carrie

    @Nick: I know! How ironic is it that an artist named Mark Martin spoofed Don Martin’s style in a parody (MAD Mag style).

    And look! Here’s an entire book of Samurai Cat that doesn’t contain all that pesky artwork! It’s ALL writing… http://www.amazon.com/Samurai-Cat-Goes-To-Hell/dp/0312866429#reader_0312866429

    Yeah, I guess the interviewer was looking for more drama between the 2 of them. It’s so boring when people actually get along, you know.

    Also… Aaaaaahhhhh! Space Balls is the BEST!!

  22. 17 Mark E Rogers

    Regarding Samurai Cat, I came up with the idea in 1978...it predated Spaceballs, Usagi Yojimbo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, all that stuff.

  23. 18 nick marino

    @Mark: The Spaceballs joke... that was from the 1991 comic book that Carrie scanned. It was written by Ralph Macchio, right?

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  25. 19 Mark E Rogers

    Nick,
    as I recall, most of the jokes in the Marvel comic were taken from my Star Wars parody from More Adventures of Samurai Cat, which came out before Spaceballs. I don't think Mel Brooks was aware of me,but I wasn't copying him. As a matter of fact, when I went to see Spaceballs, there were a bunch of people---who I didn't know---in the audience who were complaining that Spaceballs wasn't as good as the stuff in More Adventures. Samurai Cat didn't originate with Marvel. I started doing Samurai Cat art in the late 1970's, Donald Grant brought out a hardcover book called Adventures of Samurai Cat, and then TOR published a bunch of paperbacks. The thing had already been around for years before Marvel even did their adaptation.

  26. 20 Carrie

    Mark,

    First I’d like to say that I love the Samurai Cat comics (which is why I still have them in my collection more than 2 decades later). I admit that I first bought them because of my interest in japanese-themed comics, but then I fell in love with the humor and style. I had no idea that the character had been around since the 70’s or that you had written books about him!

    If I may ask, what inspired Samurai Cat?

  27. 21 Mark E Rogers

    Carrie,
    I was into medieval recreations back in the seventies, and I needed a chain-mail shirt...a friend of mine made them, and we agreed to swap a shirt for a painting of a cat in armor, fighting a dragon. I said, "Let's make him a Samurai," and my friend said nah,but I'd already done the sketch, and I went on to do the painting anyway. It proved to be a big hit at SF conventions, and things snowballed from there. If you're interested, you could go on Amazon and check out the actual books...or you could look at my Samurai Cat slideshow on Youtube. There are about forty paintings on that,I think. Also, the Centipede Press people are in the process of coming out with a seven-volume hardcover boxed set...

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  29. 22 nick marino

    @Mark: DAMN you were way ahead of the curve with Samurai Cat!!! My apologies for assuming that the Samurai Cat comics ripped off Spaceballs.

    I did some research when Carrie first mentioned Samurai Cat here in the comments, so I'm slightly familiar with the hardcover publication and the Tor ones too (though, to be honest, it's kinda tough to find exact publication dates online).

    But I don't know much about the Epic / Marvel version. So Ralph basically adapted your original stories into comic books, jokes and plots and all? Or did the comics take inspiration from the original books and change your original stories?

    Also, I've seen pics of the Dies Irae Press portfolios you'd sell at conventions. How'd the Donald Grant hardcover come about in the first place? Did it evolve out of the portfolios?

  30. 23 Mark E Rogers

    Nick,
    Regarding being ahead of the curve, it's been very annoying, let me tell you. I also wrote the first original zombie novel out there...it came out in 1989, way way ahead of the big zombie craze, and a lot of the people writing zombie novels today were heavily influenced by it, although the book wasn't promoted and practically nobody knew it existed. I think the only people who read the damn thing were future zombie novelists. It's called The Dead, and there's a newish edition available from Permuted Press, with illos by me. Amazon sells it. This time out it got a ton of good reviews, more reviews than all my other books throughout my entire life combined---Fangoria compared it to The Stand and I Am legend, and Permuted just bought a sequel.

    Regarding the Marvel comics, there were all adapted from my stories, and followed them more or less, although some of the jokes were new...I don't have a copy of the Star Wars one...is the Darth Vader "I am your father" stuff just like Spaceballs? I don't remember...in More Adventures of Samurai Cat, when Darth Shatner tries the "I am your father" line on the cat, the cat says, "No, I'm your father," and Shatner goes, "Really?" and lowers his sword, and the cat kills him.

    Regarding the portfolios, they came out after Grant had bought the book, but before it was published. Grant saw some of the stuff I was doing at cons, expressed an interest, and I worked up about twenty illos in color and black and white, and sold him on the book with those. That was in 1980...I think the first piece of Samurai Cat art I did was 1977 or 78.

  31. 24 nick marino

    The Spaceball-ish joke I was referring in the comic book to is the one where Darth Shatner reveals that he's some ridiculously distant relative to Samurai Cat. Sounds pretty different from the one in your version in More Adventures.

    Congrats on The Dead sequel deal! That's great news. I haven't heard of The Dead before, but I'll check it out now that I know about it ;)

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