Thursday, April 12, 2007

Guess I'd better comment on it; everyone else has!

For the few that don't know: Todd Goldman recently sold a painting based on the artwork of webcomic artist David Kelly. Apparently, Goldman has stolen a lot of artwork, and even has a pipeline in the form of T-shirt design submissions to his company. He apparently uses the work to help him make fun of pop culture (he takes the work and then parodies it). I'd really like to see someone take him to court and see if his work would be protected by the Fair Use Act (which covers parody)...

Is Todd Goldman scum? Definitely. But only because he's an illustrator. If it had happened in the world of writing, the argument would be less cut and dry; being a writer means that you will occasionally be tempted to steal something that you see in someone else's writing. And you generally will!

You need to realize that there is a difference between illustrators and writers, and that the two worlds can be bridged, but never really be together. Those that write and illustrate can appreciate the difference; whereas an illustrator takes less organization, can really be done anywhere, and is considered really cool, writing takes tremendous organization, can only be done where you feel comfortable, and isn't cool. It's a right brain vs. left brain issue; writers are at their best when they are being analytical, whereas illustrators do better when they are in the moment.

This difference applies to how they do things as well. Illustrators that steal should be blacklisted; it shows a lack of imagination to steal someone else's artwork, and to just throw on your own special touches. Writers that steal, however, gain praise. Characters, plots, and concepts are treated as tools, and can be shared as long as you DO something with them. Consider how many characters with BIG swords there are. Besides making Freud nervous, they're fun to draw; they're also fun for writers to include because WE GET THE JOKE. Think about it: The Japanese are fascinated by the length of certain organs, and so it's interesting to see how long the swords will get.

But...other things are stolen as well. It's almost part of the craft to steal from someone at some point, and to see what you can do with it. It's not that writers are naturally dishonest; rather, we are highly competitive with each other, and the need to one-up each other is part of who we are. We like to push each other, and show that we can write better than anyone else. The easiest way to do that is by taking something that someone else has done, and show them what are take is. We recognize that we are at the bottom of the food chain; that's probably why we are so competitive.

We try a lot more, and we find inspiration easier than illustrators. It's almost as if we grab onto things, and then see what we can change about them, to make them part of our universe. Writers need to write, and we will write about anything that inspires us. So realize that being a writer makes you kin to gypsies, where property doesn't mean that much, and the group is more important than the individual members.

So steal, and be happy that the commandment about stealing is not your worry. At least, until somone catches you!