Bad Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal

The obvious counter to this is that shitty artists also do a fair amount of stealing.

In another chicken/egg scenario, which I seem so fond of recently, I have begun to wonder if the internet encourages rampant artistic ‘borrowing’ or if it is simply better at exposing it. You see it everywhere now.  Tumblr is rampant with uncredited/incorrectly credited art and just outright swiped works of arts. It is also just as rampant with tirades against the very practice. Obviously it takes less effort to build on the work of others (or just take it), than it does to build something all on your own.

Yesterday I was surprised to learn that there was a G.I. Joe cartoon that had escaped my notice for almost an entire season.  I don’t have a TV or cable, and haven’t for three years now, but I do spend an awfully large amount of time on the internet and in particular geek related sites so I’m not sure how this escaped me. Part of the reason might be that this G.I. Joe cartoon is actually an A-Team cartoon, despite having a cast composed of familiar Joe faces (Snake Eyes, Duke, Scarlett, etc.).  The intro, though not verbatim is the same:


Accused of a crime they didn’t commit, a ragtag band of fugitives fights a covert battle to clear their names and expose the insidious enemy that is… Cobra. Some call them outlaws. Some call them heroes. But these determined men and women think themselves only as ‘Ordinary Joes’. And this is their story.




Ten years ago, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… The A-Team.


You can see where it might be easy to confuse the two.

As a kid (or a teen at least), I remember being offended that Disney claimed Lion King as their first wholly original story for a feature film (everything else being based on popular fairy tales).  The problem was, after watching Lion King its pretty clearly a riff on Hamlet. Of course appropriating themes isn’t really stealing, but it seems that recycling is the best we can do these days.

Then again, I do sometimes wonder about the scenario of ten thousand monkeys with typewriters laptops. Can they come up with the complete works of Shakespeare, without having ever been exposed to the Bard? As a kid I drew lots of characters in notebooks, super heroes mostly, and sometimes I would totally believe I had hit on a gold mine.  One such character was Kil²Joy. The ‘l’ is squared, because that’s really clever. Anyway, Kil²Joy was you’re standard early 90’s character. Gritty, dark, lots of pouches, gritty, muscles on top of muscles, lots of knives, 8 abdominal muscles instead of six, and of course gritty. I simply could not hold on to such a grand creation and deprive the world of my genius. I sent a letter to Marvel with my sketch, some biographical information on my awesome little character, and of course a return address for all the royalty checks they would be sending. Of course I was angered to discover only a month and a half later that Marvel did in fact premiere a new character named Killjoy with knives, grit, and pouches.  Really the only thing he was missing was a superscript 2 and credits to your’s truly.

Thinking back on it now and knowing what I do about the amount of time it takes to produce a comic, I don’t actually think Kil²Joy was stolen from me.  Instead I think it really is possible for two creators to brain fart the same crap at the same time…particularly when it is in fact crap. After all, this is a character so unimportant he doesn’t even merit his own Wiki entry.

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