Yipes! Swipes!

by Buzz on 27/09/2016

Artists and writers and musicians and all creative people have long had a love / hate / I-kill-you-filthy! relationship to homages.

“Homage” as you know is the French word for plagiarism blatant rip off swipe.

It’s all fun and games until somebody swipes your stuff, then it’s “Drag hang ‘em over a mile of broken coke bottles!”

It you want to waddle through an area full of moral / ethical complexity, this is the category to do it in.

(We’re gonna stick to art because it’s easier to show examples of what I’m talking about, but what I’m posting about applies to all creative forms.)

Some people & cultures take swiping very, very, VERY seriously.

The Japanese have been know to cancel best selling titles simply because the manga-ka relied a little too heavily on stock sports photos for reference.

On the other hand, the late great Wally Wood told more than one aspiring artist, “Why are you drawing everything originally? Get a reference file so you don’t have to!”

Wally Wood also put together the famous graphic 22 Panels That Always Work for hard working cartoonists who needed to meet a deadline and, stumped for inspiration, could use one of his examples to get them through a tough point in the story.

ys-wally-wood-22-panels

But the thing about Wally Wood’s swipe files was that he used them for feel or reference, he didn’t copy them line or line, detail for detail. Take a look below, comparing a panel from his famous sci-fi story “My World” and the original news photo from the 1930s.

ys-mw-4

This terrified baby was almost the only human being left alive in Shanghai's South Station after brutal Japanese bombing. China, August 28, 1937. H.S. Wong. (OWI)NARA FILE #: 208-AA-132N-2WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1131

This terrified baby was almost the only human being left alive in Shanghai’s South Station after brutal Japanese bombing. China, August 28, 1937. H.S. Wong. (OWI)NARA FILE #: 208-AA-132N-2WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1131

The same idea,
only different.

But at the other end of the extreme, one of Wood’s acolytes was an artist of extremely modest talent who could at least draw a straight line and ink it to satisfaction; while he often worked batting clean-up on other people’s work, this person also sold his “own” illustrations to sci-fi digests of the era: Typically panels from comic books copied pretty much directly with no effort to add any science fictional elements.

But then, that’s what “fine” artist[1] Roy Lichtenstein did, swiping panels from comic book cartoonists whom he bore grudges against, copying them as extra large canvases, and selling them for mucho dinero.

ys-oh-alright-thumb

One of the guys he ripped off was inspired by took him to court, but the judge ruled what Lichtenstein had done was to take an idea — in this case an artistic expression — and by copying it large enough to see the printing dots, turned it into a brand new work of art that wasn’t a direct swipe after all.

Then Lichtenstein tried the same stunt with a Disney character and Disney threatened to drag him through every court on the east coast regardless of what the first judge ruled[2], and Lichtenstein painted Disney no more.

Money, as the eminent philosopher
C. Lauper once observed, changes everything…

This orbits back to a recent series of complaints about convention artists selling work that is not wholly their own.

For decades the major comics and media companies have been looking the other way as artists sell prints and commissioned drawings of characters they do not own. The unspoken agreement is that what is being sold is not a picture of Daffy Duck or Batman or Harry Potter but rather a representation of that particular artist’s skill.

As these convention artists make no representation they own any rights to the characters, this legal fiction has been allowed to stand. It could be a big X, it could be super-detailed drawing of every blessed Avenger ever, but the thing actually being sold is not the art in and of itself but the art as a representation of the artist’s skill level.

Not all the major media companies are happy with this but as they say in The Sopranos, “’Ey, whaddya gonna do?” or (more to the point) as they say in the Army: “Never give an order you can’t enforce.”

The major media companies can not enforce every single solitary copyright violation so they let the little fish swim free, going after the big pirates of posters and T-shirts and media.

But recently an interesting new charge has been floating around.

Warner Brothers / DC Comics own Batman.

Artist Pat draws a picture of Batman based on a pose from a recent comic book or movie; the point being that it’s not Pat’s character nor is the pose original even though that particular execution is done by them.

Artist Pat then sees Artist Leslie selling prints that exactly copies Artist Pat’s work.

Artist Pat takes umbrage at Artist Leslie, yet Artist Leslie has done nothing that Artist Pat hasn’t already done!

It’s one thing when Artist Pat sees a T-shirt retailer selling dozens of shirts based on Artist Pat’s art without paying Artist Pat, yet if Artist Pat is using someone else’s character, Artist Pat is doing just as much “stealing”.

Every creative person starts out with some sort of imitation. Maybe not wholly conscious, maybe without intent to profit directly from it, but every creative person learns their craft by studying what those who came before them did and then learns to add their own stylistic interpretation.

And somewhere on a gamut from “not nice” to “outright criminal” there falls the issue of copying somebody else’s art and making a buck off it for yourself.

Is it always wrong? Is it never right?

Depends.

Re-create another artist’s work but acknowledge the source ala “reproduction of Fantastic Four #1 cover by Jack Kirby” and it’s hard to point fingers.

Take another artist’s idea but add your own twist to it — “See, it’s the dogs-playing-poker picture only this time they’re human!” — and it seems to fall into the category of “fair usage”.[3]

But it’s pretty unkosher to swipe another struggling artist’s idea even if that artist swiped it from somebody else.

Basically, don’t be a yutz about it. If you like what somebody else did, figure out what you liked about it then do that in your own way.

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[1]  As opposed to a “howard” artist?

[2]  Because nobody fncks with The Mouse!

[3]  And if it doesn’t, MAD magazine and about sixty million pornographers are in a world of hurt because of their parodies of famous movies and TV shows.

 

 

 

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Writing Report September 23, 2016

by Buzz on 23/09/2016

Tallying up my recent productivity, I find I’ve had a pretty good summer, at least in terms of actual stories completed / submitted.

A lot of fictoids (i.e., poems and short-short fiction), along with four regular length short stories, one novella, and of course The Most Dangerous Man In The World which will be out by Sept. 30 God willin’ ‘n’ the crick don’t rise…

The thing is there are relatively few stable (i.e., open year round) markets for shorter (i.e., novella and under) fiction.

Some are really good about speedy responses, but I have one story out to a market that I learned after I submitted it now takes up to ONE YEAR to respond to submissions instead of the three months their website claims!

Yeeks!
Yikes!
Yoiks!
Yaboodle!

I’m really starting to lean towards publishing anything under 2K words on my blog (unless by chance I stumble across a market where the story is exactly the right length and subject matter). I’m already starting to noodle around some ideas for anthology titles so I can put them online in collected form.

The novella (the barbarian fantasy) promises to be just the first of a total of four stories about the character I’ve created. I’d love to place it at a publisher who does that sort of thing, but all the ones I’ve checked have either closed submissions or take forever and a day to respond.

Still, I’m going to do the other three novellas…eventually…then combine them into a single novel length narrative online.

I originally planned to send out every short piece I wrote at least five times before publishing it myself, but it’s looking more and more like three strikes and then self-publish may win out.

tales-of-the-acker-mansion

BTW, keep your eyes peeled next year for American Gothic Press’ Tales From The Acker-Mansion, a graphic novel anthology dedicated to stories about sci-fi’s #1 fan, the late great Forry Ackerman. While most of the stories will be in graphic format, one or two will be illustrated prose stories – and that includes “Make Mine Monsters!” by yrs trly.

More on this as the publication date nears!

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On The Convention Trail: Alpha-Omega Con III Sept. 24

by Buzz on 23/09/2016

on-conv-trail-1950_04-ed_cartier_gnomepresscalendar

I’ll be at Alpha-Omega Con, the Third Annual Christian Comic & Pop Culture Convention to be held from 10AM to 6PM this Saturday (September 24th) at the Well Church in Artesia, CA. (New location!  NOT the previous venue!)

We have a full schedule planed with numerous activities and guests on tap, including:

Mike Shields IITownsend ColemanWill MortonKatie LeighStephen WeeseBrett BurnerMike S. MillerMike KunkelEric JansenPastor Fred PriceDr. Thomas ParhamClint JohnsonKevin YongScott A. ShufordCarmi FellwockBuzz Dixon (Wot da — ? Sheesh, they’ll let anybody in!)

There will be three tracks of programming, and I’ll be on two panels:

Creating 3D Characters in a 2D World (moderated by Dr. Thomas Parham)

=and=

Gender Roles in Comics and related Media: Bias vs. Biblical (moderated by yrs trly)

See ya there!

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The Beam In Their Eyes

by Buzz on 23/09/2016

if-you-want-to-police-others-police-your-own-firstMatthew 7: 3-5 [paraphrased]

I know a number of pastors personally, and the fact that they are pastors with congregations they need to serve buys them a certain degree of protection.

As pastors, they have responsibilities far beyond doctrinal / moral / ethical / political disputes. There are real people who can suffer if those pastors are rebuked for some bullshit they say / write / post publicly.

So I tend not to beard those particular lions in their particular dens. The satisfaction of exposing their errors is dwarfed by the potential harm that could be visited on their congregations in the process.

I won’t name names or confront them on their home turf…

…but by God I will expose their errors to the rest of the world so even if they are not called out by name, their arguments will be exposed to much deserved shame, ridicule, and approbation.

Case in point:
The continued hypocritical defense of North Carolina’s hideous anti-transgender restroom ordinance.

I’m not going to argue that law.

I don’t have to.

I’m cutting straight to the chase:

FAR MORE CHILDREN ARE RAPED BY PASTORS, MINISTERS, AND RELIGIOUS WORKERS IN CHURCHES DURING ANY GIVEN MONTH THAN ALL VICTIMS OF DISGUISED SEXUAL PREDATORS IN PUBLIC RESTROOMS EVER!

Stew on that one a while.

Take all the time you want.

To pass laws against innocent transgender people when politicians have been committing far more sexual crimes and offences against children, to support those laws when far more pastors and public scolds have been raping men, women, and children is an abomination in the eyes of God and man.

Remember Matthew 7: 3–4 ?

“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

People pushing the transgender discrimination bills have flippin’ sequoias in their eyes!

It kinda goes with the territory:
Any group that gathers large numbers of broken / weak / naïve people together is also going to attract predators of all stripes…and despite the best efforts of those institutions, there are still going to be far too many who slip through (“too many” = “greater than none”).

But this is a major ongoing problem facing all churches today.

And as noted, it dwarfs the tiny number of incidents of sexual predators attempting to disguise themselves as members of the opposite sex to commit assaults, much less the number of those attacks that occur specifically in public restrooms.

As if sexual predators, already committed to raping someone, will somehow be dissuaded from that crime by threat of misdemeanor prosecution if caught wearing ladies’ clothing.

Preacher,
seriously?

Seriously?

And tragically, as often as not when a child or woman or even a man is raped or abused by a religious leader in a religious setting, the organized church’s response is to blame the victim and / or deny any crime occurred and / or protect their leader / organization.

Jesus is really very, very, VERY explicit on this:
You need to do something about the ungodly high number of rapes by pastors and / or in religious settings before you can ever hope to have the moral authority to start criticizing innocent people for crimes they did not commit.

Go get some laws passed that regulate who can set themselves up as a pastor and / or start a church, or how the children and youth ministries in same will be supervised by outside monitors for their protection and then we can start talking about your getting the vapors over transgender people using the bathroom.

 

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Who Votes For Trump — And Why

by Buzz on 19/09/2016

There are basically 4 Trump voters out there.

First, the flat out bigots.

These include the overt white supremacists, but it also includes all those who realize, even if only deep down inside, that the era of white privilege is about to pass away.

And that terrifies them.

Because they know how shitty white people have treated non-whites (we can throw a lot of non-white Christians into this group, too, because they know Christians in this country have too often not acted in a Christ-like manner to non-Christians and as the Bible teaches “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” and “with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” so payback’s a’comin’).

They fear they will be treated shabbily by minorities in the same way they treated those minorities shabbily, and they cling to Trump because they are foolish enough to believe he can keep that from happening just because he’s white and he says he can.

Truth be told, not everyone in
this group is a sheet wearing,
cross burning race monger.

A lot of them are frightened old people who see the world changing around them and because it no longer looks as white as it once was, willingly overlook truth and facts in the vain hope they can some how return to an era that never existed, one in which they as whites and/or Christians never ever had to take the rights and feelings of non-whites and non-Christians into consideration.

The second group are short-sighted angry people.

They are pissed that the country’s political systems has been served badly.

They think the way to fix that is to bring the whole thing crashing down.

They tend to be people of privilege (albeit not necessarily white and / or Christian privilege) and they think somehow they will be immune to the chaos and suffering that will follow.

They will not.

If we’re lucky, such a systemic collapse would be like the Great Depression.

If we’re not lucky, it would be a Putin-like strongman taking over and looting what’s left of the country at every one else’s expense.

Or the French Revolution, with its attendant Reign Of Terror…and as bad as that was, it’s still better than the Russian Revolution, or the Chinese Communist Revolution, or the rise of the fascists in Europe after WWI.

This second group of Trump voters will suffer,
and they will suffer disproportionately because
they still have something to lose.

The third group are the rich selfish bastards.

These are those rich people who feel they somehow made all their money miraculously without the hard work of thousands if not millions of employees and laborers and investors.

They have resented sharing even a penny of what they have taken with those who made it possible.

They have spent decades — centuries! — claiming they should own everything and control everything, and that those of us who are unwilling to enslave themselves to the oligarchy for the eternal glorification of the plutocracy’s power and pleasure should be ruthlessly eradicated.

And, no, that is not an overgeneralization. Read any labor history. Read any history, period. The wealthy as a class have never been friends much less benefactors of humanity.

Finally, the sociopaths who don’t give a fnck about anyone or anything else so long as they can win.

They’re not the wealthy, nor are their aspirations to wealth the thing that defines them.

They are contrarians who do not seek the common good but rather want to win, even when their wins are based on lies that ultimately prove self-defeating.

They take glee in their contrarian opinions, not because they are displays of truly independent intellect, but because they enjoy pissing in other people’s wells. By and large they are immune to facts, and willingly so, determined not to listen to any point of view that doesn’t let them win and lord it over others.

There are overlaps along and between all these groups,
but in the end they are the ones who back Trump.

The best you can say is that some of them are merely fearful and foolish and naïve.

The worst is that some of them are willing instruments of evil.

animated nightmare trump

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Observations On A Super Nova

by Buzz on 15/09/2016

I saw a world burning

Too late to save

Anyone or anything

An ephemeral existence

Already gone up in smoke

Lives and love, all long lost

A trillion tragedies

None of them recorded

Who were they?

What were they?

What did they dream of?

To what did they aspire?

It matters not

They’re gone now

And we, arriving too late

Can only ponder their pyre

supernova-remnant-simeis-147-the-spaghetti-nebula-simeis147_donatiello_3502

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On The Convention Trail: Granite State Comic Con Sep. 17-18

by Buzz on 15/09/2016

on-conv-trail-1950_04-ed_cartier_gnomepresscalendar

Having worn out my welcome on the West Coast, I’m now invading the Far East (well, U.S. East Coast) for Granite State Comic Con to be held Sept. 17 – 18 in Manchester, N.H. at the Radisson Center of New Hampshire.  Lotsa GI Joe and / or Sunbow related topics & guests, including Larry Hama, Tom Feister, and Samantha Newark among many, many more.  See ya there!

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Alex Toth Knows Where (And Where Not) To Draw The Line

by Buzz on 8/09/2016

Alex Toth on too many lines

Alex Toth knows whereof he speaks.
(This applies to alla youse:
artists / writers / musicians)

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Writing Report September 5, 2016

by Buzz on 6/09/2016

Almost every professional writer operates out of conflicting motives.  First off, there’s a desire — no, a need to write:  We are called to The Work and we may not refuse without risking madness and ruin.

We are not called to be successful, however.

To those lofty poets in their ivory towers freed from the necessity of earning their daily bread through any number of circumstances:  I N V U.

To the rest of us, we write because we can’t not write; but once having written, we seek to make a buck off it.[1]

If you’re a hired gun (i.e., work for hire), good for you, knock yo’ ugly ass out.

But if you’re writing on spec, when / where / how do you decide not just where to sell but if you should sell?

Backtrack a bit: 
I’ve written about writing prompts in the past.  They’re great for sparking creativity, they’re fun, they’re fast, and God willin’ ‘n’ th’ crick don’t rise, you can get a good short-short story or fictoid out of it.

Last week the writing group I belonged to did a writing prompt exercise and I had a blast writing a short story based on 4 prompts.

You won’t see that story.  Ever.

Because as much fun as it was, I realized even as I was writing it that I was drawing heavily on not only stuff I’d written for my dark barbarian fantasy (roughly 2/3 transcribed to disc as I post this) but also movies such as Angel Heart and From Beyond by way of H.P. Lovecraft and more than a little Neil Gaimen as well.

Maybe the average reader wouldn’t see all the influences, but I sure did.  As enjoyable as the exercise was, I’m not about to let it loose on the world.

But other stories and fictoids?  Some of those I want to share with the world…

…and by “share” I mean “get paid for somehow”.

The problem is that there aren’t that many paying markets for short fiction anymore, especially short-short fiction under 1,000 words, and what few markets there are seem to be almost entirely genre oriented.

What to do with a story like War Trophy ?  There just ain’t dat many markets these days for WWII fiction, much less short-short WWII fiction.

I could waste a few hours looking up markets online, sending the story to them, waiting weeks / months / years for a reply, and garner maybe the princely sum of $83.20 if I’m super-super lucky or more likely $24.96 if I’m only garden variety lucky or more likely wait five years as one market after another rejects it for this reason or that and then be in exactly the same boat as I am today when I opt to simply post it online and let people read it for free.

Why?

Well, for exposure, of course!

But the difference here is that I get to determine what that exposure is, and nobody else is profiting off my story.

And truth be told, let me get enough of these pups under my belt, and they’ll be online in one easily downloadable-for-a-price anthology

So with no guarantee of even a high end payout, I really have precious little to lose by just short circuiting the submission process and posting the story online for all to read.

This does not hold true to all stories I write, however.

$100 seems to be the cut off point for me, at least mentally.  If I can’t clear $100 minimum, there’s really little point of going through the time consuming labor of submitting a story to market after market after market until it sells.

Might as well just slap it up there right now and garner some eyeballs for self-promotion.

Over $100 (especially multiples of $100) and I’m more willing to take time to circulate material in hopes of finding a buyer. [2]

I don’t bother submitting poetry anywhere; too rarefied a media for me even though I like writing it.  If I saw a call for cat poems of 8 verses or less and I just happened to have a cat poem of 8 verses or less in my files, maybe.

But go looking for poetry markets?  Nahhh

So, bottom line for Buzzy Boy:
Non-genre work under 1,000 words and / or poetry?  You’ll see it here first, folks.  Genre short-shorts / fictoids?  Maybe a 50-50 chance I’ll opt to post them rather than waste time submitting them.  Genre short stories of 2,000+ words?  Definitely going to try to place them in paying markets and, failing that, maybe self-publish online for free / maybe self-publish for $$$.  Novels?  Self-publishing.

And for your patience
in wading through this,
a poem to enjoy:
stairs to the stars

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[1]  Big Steve King has written on this topic in the past.  His words hold true to this day, but he was only criticizing writing for no other purpose than to earn a buck; once words are on the page (or in a file) then the business of selling them takes precedence.

[2]  But even there eventually ya sez enuff is enuff and you withdraw the story from circulation.

 

 

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stairs to the stars

by Buzz on 5/09/2016

stairs maxresdefault

these are the stairs [said my friend]
where the fat one
and the skinny one
delivered the piano

stairs stars hats off

actually…
it was the second time
they delivered
an incredibly cumbersome
instrument of humiliation
up those stairs
the first time
was in the silent era
when they were selling
washing machines door-to-door
but when sound came
they said “we must do it again
and this time with a piano!”

stairs musicbox1-copy

and so they did
and the glorious cacophony
of clangs and bangs and bongs and clongs
provided the soundtrack
to their biggest and weirdest hit

stairs Abb-3-Laurel-und-Hardy-The-Music-Box-1932

the stairs remain
running up the hill
but where vast manicured lawns
flanked them in the past
cheap unimaginative apartment buildings
lacking both vision and view
hem them in today

stairs maxresdefault 2

my friend threaded his way
through the narrow arcane alleys
of a once fashionable
Los Angeles neighborhood
past Mandarin restaurants
Mexican auto shops
and failed hipster venues
to the stairs
to the stars
where the fat one
and the skinny one
labored like Sisyphuses in shirtsleeves
and overalls
carting their ungainly cargo
up the steep six story climb
for all eternity

stairs stars 220px-The_Music_Box_steps_2009

what caught my eye, however
was an impromptu memorial
of flowers and votive candles
sitting on the foot of the stairs
not to honor the celluloid gods
but to briefly note
the vanishing flicker of flame
that had once been a single human life

and unlike
the gods of comedy
who climbed to the heavens above
the subject
of this temporal memorial
was already
dead and forgotten
his brief life extinguished
in a moment of vain pride
when he or someone else
tried to prove
their life mattered

that was years ago
the memorial is long since gone
the friends and family who erected it
long since dispersed across
the city
the county
the continent
and even the immortal gods of comedy
are fading from view
leaving only the steps
cracked and crumbling
under the sullen California sun

 

text © Buzz Dixon

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