Saturday 10 February 2007

A Litter of links.

I have to clean the bathroom this morning and go out to dinner this evening and finish a page in between, so just a bunch of links and stuff today.

Ian Richardson dies. He played Sir Charles Warren In the movie of From Hell, but his finest moment would have to be the role of British politician Francis Urquhart (F.U.) in BBC's House of Cards trilogy.
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The PLAGIARISM thing won't go away. Dean Simakis has drawn my attention to this, from Slate Magazine (Feb 7): Can Photographers Be Plagiarists? . By David Segal. A gallery of photographs that have caused controversy, and lawsuits or out-of-court settlements due to resembling somebody else's photos

Blogger Douglas Tonks caught the new York Times review of Posner's The Little Book of Plagiarism, which passed unobserved a month ago. It's written by Charles McGrath, who wrote the big extravaganza on the graphic novel for the Sunday NY Times for July 11 2004, which was much discussed in funnybook circles at the time and the cause of me writing the 'graphic novelist's manifesto'. He seems to be making this one up as he goes along, and gets to the end probably dismayed that he hasn't managed to come up with a point.
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My pal Bob Morales got a laugh out of this Battle of the Bands at YOUTUBE, and so did I.
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Oh, lovely words. A review of Fate of the Artist in case you're still dithering about buying it. The object in the picture, that Monument to Chaos, or brick, still exists. Hayley Campbell found it kicking around under the house among its brother bricks. She brought it in, cleaned it up and put it on top of the bookshelf, where it now resides in the more illustrious company of china ornaments. Now that's art!

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Friday 9 February 2007

The stupidity tax.

Thought for the day:"First, we'll kill all the lawyers" (Henry VI, Pt.2)-Shakespeare. Quoted by Christopher Lydon on Open Source radio program (see further down).

I was cycling to town today, as is my wont a couple of times every week, to have lunch with my pals Best and White, and realized, when it was too late to turn back , that I'd forgotten the key to my bike's lock and chain. So I stopped en route and bought a cheap lock and chain for fourteen bucks, just a lightweight one to get me by for one day. There are two ways of looking at this. First, you can say that you paid fourteen bucks just to park a push-bike for two and a half hours (we take our time over lunch), or you can take a more stoical account of the situation and say the fourteen bucks was the quarterly 'stupidity tax.'
At least once every three months the world demands that you will spend money on some thing that you neither want nor need, and it could have been avoided if you were paying attention. Just accept it, hey?
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On the bright side, at least my pal White was pleased to see a couple of stories he wrote for me that have been translated into Italian. The latest volume of Bacchus has just arrived from Black Velvet in Italy. This is number 5. They collapsed 4 and 5 into one, and I collapsed 7 and 8 into one, so the Italian edition will cram the 10 stories into 8 books. Anyway, this one, The 1,001 Nights of Bacchus (its English title), contains 13 short stories, each done in a completely different style. I tried to cover as many different traditional types of story as I could think of. So there is, for examlple, a beast fable about a little mouse trying to cross a busy highway, a story told entirely in mime, or silent pictures, with Laurel and Hardy playing the parts of the leading characters. It's a good fun book. I was interested to see what my Italian editors would do with the Gilgamesh story, which is the mythical epic of Gilgamesh told in terms of Scottish soccer hooligans. In style it looks like a cubist ransom note, with every letter of text cut from a magazine and glued on individually. Here are a couple of panels from the Italian edition. They did quite well in the circumstances. (click for a slight enlargement)
That collage cover has served me well. In its original form it appeared on the Dark Horse edition (a much smaller, 48 page version) way back in '93. Their legal dept. had apoplexy when I sent the cover in, with all those trade marks flung across it, but Mike Richardson overrode their decision. When I used it in 2000(?) Mick Evans gave it some digital distortion to increase the effect. So I guess this is its third outing. Always good to see an old pal again.

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Back on the subject of PLAGIARISM, Jonathan Lethem’s essay, which I linked to yesterday, has become a cause celebre and he’s talking on the Open Source radio show along with other interesting folk. Podcast now downladable. (Thanks to drjon and Dirk at Journalista)
Obviously he's not urging us all to go out and steal the next guy's work. His proposal is that by 'dissolving the prohibition', and the terror of plagiarism that we can reopen the dialogue in art, as opposed to a situation where every artist beilieves he must find his own craggy outcrop and sit upon it in isolated uniqueness.
It fits with my concept of what art is and does: Art writes the dialogue that a society has with itself, with its gods and with posterity.

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Thursday 8 February 2007

Loose ends.

Some great responses to yesterday’s filibuster, and links for further investigation of the theme: who said plagiarism a bad thing?
Neil Gaiman wrote:
"Richard Posner (a remarkable judge and legal mind, oddly enough the appeal's court judge who ruled for me in the McFarlane case) just did a book about this, from a writer's point of view, saying the same thing as you Eddie, more or less: There's a review in the LA Times (Jan 28):
The Little Book of Plagiarism by Richard A. Posner
"Theft or imitation? A respected judge considers the possibilities.
At 116 pages — and small pages at that — Richard A. Posner's "The Little Book of Plagiarism" is aptly titled. It's a brief but provocative and illuminating meditation on the current craze for searching out, denouncing and punishing authors who appear to have borrowed the work of others and passed it off as their own. Ever the controversialist, Posner is willing to entertain the idea that plagiarism is hardly the high crime that moralists in the media and the academy advertise it as…

…he complains about "the absurd idea that 'copying' is inherently bad" and the "growing belief that literary, artistic, and other intellectual goods are not really 'creative' unless they are 'original.' "

Bat Masterson drew my attention to a similar enterprise by Jonathan Lethem in Harper’s (Jan 31):
The Ecstasy of Influence: A plagiarism
"And artists, or their heirs, who fall into the trap of attacking the collagists and satirists and digital samplers of their work are attacking the next generation of creators for the crime of being influenced, for the crime of responding with the same mixture of intoxication, resentment, lust, and glee that characterizes all artistic successors. By doing so they make the world smaller, betraying what seems to me the primary motivation for participating in the world of culture in the first place: to make the world larger.

…does our appetite for creative vitality require the violence and exasperation of another avant-garde, with its wearisome killing-the-father imperatives, or might we be better off ratifying the ecstasy of influence—and deepening our willingness to understand the commonality and timelessness of the methods and motifs available to artists?

Despite hand-wringing at each technological turn—radio, the Internet—the future will be much like the past. Artists will sell some things but also give some things away. Change may be troubling for those who crave less ambiguity, but the life of an artist has never been filled with certainty."

The essay is long and wonderful. I will be keeping a copy in my permanent file. Go and read it now.

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Apropos of talking about William Hogarth here on Jan 24, Ben Smith has linked me to a Feb 6th review in the Guardian of a new Hogarth exhibition at Tate Britain
The fun of filth
"Hogarth may not have been a great painter, but who cares? The world he gave us is rich, rude, teeming with life - and wonderfully familiar, says Adrian Searle"
Away down in the body of the piece, this line struck a note of horror in me:
"We should also remember that people were still being burned at the stake, beheaded for treason, hanged, flayed, pilloried and whipped in public in London."

BURNED AT THE STAKE? As late as Hogarth’s time? (he died 1764) I need to check this...

I found Richard clark’s site on the history of capital punishment, in which there is a page devoted to burning.
And it gets worse. By the 18th century burning was reserved for women. Apparently they didn’t want people coming to view the proceedings for the wrong reason:
" Men who were convicted of high treason were hanged, drawn and quartered but this was not deemed acceptable for women as it would have involved nudity. Until 1790, every woman convicted of counterfeiting gold or silver coin of the realm, was sentenced to be drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution and there " to be burned with fire till she was dead." (Blackstone's Commentaries, 204. Ibid, 377) In Britain after 1700, women who were sentenced to be burnt were allowed by law to be strangled with a rope before the fire got to them and thus died in much the same way as they would have by hanging."

"The Times newspaper: “The execution of a woman for coining on Wednesday morning, reflects a scandal upon the law and was not only inhuman, but shamefully indelicate and shocking. Why should the law in this species of offence inflict a severer punishment upon a woman, than a man. It is not an offence which she can perpetrate alone - in every such case the insistence of a man has been found the operating motive upon the woman; yet the man is but hanged, and the woman burned.”

The whole ghastly business passed into history in 1790 … "

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Art Spiegelman lectures at Yale, account in the Yale Daily News. of Feb 5:
Graphic novelist defends value of comics genre
By Alice Walton
"The graphic novelist spoke about the comics that influenced him as a young child: 'I learned to read from Batman, I learned about sex from Betty and Veronica … and I learned about everything else from Mad Magazine,' he said.
Audience members making their way into the University Theatre on Friday evening to see famed comic Art Spiegelman were warned right away that this would not be a typical lecture, as signs in the lobby warned that there would be smoking on stage.
'This is not a lecture, this is a performance,' Spiegelman said, as he lit the first of a long chain of cigarettes. 'Because in a performance, you can smoke onstage. Tonight, I will play the part of a neurotic comic book author."

Meanwhile, Time magazine observes the Masters of American Comics exhibition reaching its close: (Feb 3)
Does Mad Need a Museum?
”This snobbery still vexes Spiegelman. "I have all sorts of issues with the idea that a Lichtenstein painting of a comic book panel is art but the original comic panel it draws on is not considered art," he told TIME's Jeanne McDowell for a 2005 story we did on the exhibition. "I hate that whole attitude and way of looking at this stuff. Lichtenstein did for comics what Warhol did for Campbell's Soup – it had nothing to do with comics. It had to do with exploiting the form without any of the content."
Artie, who said that the great mocker, Mad magazine , was his education, is upset at Lichtenstein mocking comics. Aw, diddums.

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Leif Peng has put Anita Virgil’s memoir of her late husband, illustrator Andy Virgil all on its own blog and in consecutive running order. An excellent and moving read.
This week leif is looking at the work of great '50s stylist Joe de Mers

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Wednesday 7 February 2007


When I wrote about Lichtenstein on Sunday I didn’t stop to think what a can of worms that subject is, silly me, and got the longest and most comments on a post so far, even allowing for me deleting two of my own responses to comments (after choosing words with impeccable care in a presentation piece, it’s always a sad spectacle to see a writer blundering around like a beached walrus among the pursuant snipes). In my article I carefully avoided expressing an opinion on the matter, confining myself to observing the foolishness of other parties. Since so many others have screamed PLAGIARISM! In the Lichtenstein matter I feel I now have to stick my foot in.

My school art teachers were probably of a very academic disposition. I wasn't aware enough of the big picture at the time to have a real insight into that. When I found myself at another school later my teacher there worked in an abstract mode but his theory was that painting would come back to figuration. He was a bit stuffy about the the areas where my head resided. By this time I had enthusiastically taught myself a great deal about the history of the subject, working through the phases of modernism, and when I finally arrived at Pop Art, which was making it into the commonplace handbook histories of art by the late sixties (after being celebrated in the colour magazines, which as a kid I hadn’t taken much notice of.)

So, seeing Lichtenstein’s huge ‘Whaam!’ at the Tate in 1970 (I’d only just arrived in London), seven years after it was painted, was a real revelation to me (I'd seen it in books of course, but this was the defining moment). Here we were back at figuration but it was a kick in the pants to my stuffy art teacher, and it kicked over the dividing screen between high art and low art, for in my head it didn't exist (which I guess just means I was paying attention to the zeitgeist unconsciously) and I had been looking for confirmation out there in the world at large. After that moment I had proof of my conviction that such a division was bogus.
Lichtenstein largely abandoned the lifting of comic book panels by about ’66, and his Mural with Blue Brushstroke, found hanging in the lobby of the AXA Center, New York City, painted in 1986, is a masterpiece, unless you’re one of those flat earth types I sometimes refer to here, in which case you will deny it. Our culture decrees that every clot is entitled to their opinion, and so you may do so.

But let’s stick to the issue; the lifted panels. It was necessary that they be as near as possible to the original for the point to work. Lichtenstein was putting a whole style on the wall, and it had to be impersonal and recognizable, with adjustments made not for style, but for succintness and clarity. Inevitably in this age of democratic culture, and Pop Art contributed to the dialogue that brought the change, the originators of the lifted images would have to get their due credit (they cannot be owed cash, since they owned no rights in the images), and that is now part of the story. And so it should be. However a lot of the argument that you'll find on Wikipedia looks cockeyed to me. The art world argues that Lichtenstein altered the compositions, which is irrelevant; my pal Gibbons is in there, defending the quality of the original comic books, which can only be a personal opinion; I challenge you to read the damn things all the way through. Everyone to his opinion regarding quality, but is it worth arguing about a quoted panel? Somebody says: “Some (of the comic book artists) threatened to sue him…” Wha? Where did that come from? Sue for what? The artists never owned the work, so they couldn’t be suing for damages. What for then? The theft of a ‘style’? Is there a legal precedent for that? Can any of these pictures be said to be appropriating a personal style anyway? They all look generic. And they are interesting for that very reason.

And that is the problem with art today: the artist believes he must find a style (or a schtick really) and defend it with his life. And if all the schticks are already taken, he must pull one out of his ass. He must find one, invent one, fabricate one, for he can be nothing if he cannot be original. It’s what I once saw termed ‘the neurosis of innovation’.

It’s time to turn to my favourite philosopher, R G Collingwood, once called ‘one of the (twentieth) century's best-known "neglected" thinkers.’ ‘He portrayed art as a necessary function of the human mind, and considered it collaborative, i.e., a collective and social activity.' I used a long and wonderful quote from his Speculum Mentis, or the map of Knowledge (1924) in my How to be an Artist, and I consider that quotation to be at the very heart of what my book is about. Collingwood wrote this other one in The Principles of Art (1938) and I obtained it via David A Pierce who transcribed it on his own site. Take it with a pinch of salt, pepper or whatever condiment you have to hand.

"To begin by developing a general point already made in the preceding chapter: we must get rid of the conception of artistic ownership. We try to secure a livelihood for our artists (and God knows they need it) by copyright laws protecting them against plagiarism; but the reason why our artists are in such a poor way is because of that very individualism which these laws enforce. If an artist may say nothing except what he has invented by his own sole efforts, it stands to reason he will be poor in ideas. If he could take what he wants wherever he could find it, as Euripides and Dante and Michelangelo and Shakespeare and Bach were free, his larder would always be full, and his cookery might be worth tasting.

This is a simple matter, and one in which artists can act for themselves without asking help (which I am afraid they would ask in vain) from lawyers and legislators. Let every artist make a vow, and here among artists I include all such as write or speak on scientific or learned subjects, never to prosecute or lend himself to a prosecution under the law of copyright. Let any artist who appeals to that law be cut by his friends, asked to resign from his clubs, and cold-shouldered by any society in which right-thinking artists have influence. It would not be many years before the law was a dead letter, and the strangle-hold of artistic individualism in this one respect a thing of the past.

This, however, will not be enough unless the freedom so won is used. Let all such artists as understand one another, therefore, plagiarize each other's work like men. Let each borrow his friends' best ideas, and try to improve on them. If A thinks himself a better poet than B, let him stop hinting it in the pages of an essay; let him re-write B's poems and publish his own improved version. If X is dissatisfied with Y's this-year Academy picture, let him paint one caricaturing it; not a sketch in Punch, but a full-sized picture for next year's Academy. I will not rely upon the hanging committee's sense of humour to the extent of guaranteeing that they would exhibit it; but if they did, we should get brighter Academy exhibitions. Or if he cannot improve on his friends' ideas, at least let him borrow them; it will do him good to try fitting them into works of his own, and it will be an advertisement for the creditor. An absurd suggestion? Well, I am only proposing that modern artists should treat each other as Greek dramatists or Renaissance painters or Elizabethan poets did. If any one thinks that the law of copyright has fostered better art than those barbarous times could produce, I will not try to convert them."

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Cartoonist in court over drink-flying charges. (nobody from this parish). (I edited to add that in so i can say I beat Tom Spurgeon to it.)

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Tuesday 6 February 2007

Court sketching.

My post on Saturday about illustrating the old Sydney murder case has put me in mind of another story. This goes back to when I was doing the sketching at the law court trials for Channel 10 news in Brisbane here. I read on a blog recently that I was doing it bacause I was having difficulty making a living from making comicbooks, which is completely untrue. I did it just for the challenge of doing something I hadn't done before, to get myself out of the house and into the mainstream of human interaction for a few hours. During the time I did it I was only called three more four times in any month, for a total of maybe as many as thirty outings. I've got most of the news items on a video tape which I ought to convert to a cd so I can lift a picture or two instead of having to rely on the one you see at left, which I scanned at the time before sending it to the office and showed on the back cover of an issue of Bacchus. --woman on trial for killing husband. unknown to jury, is doing time for killing other husband--.

I saved the news items as complete stories because I was impressed with the way the reporter, Sharon Marshall, could often construct a story when as far as I could see there wasn't one. It was a dud to my eyes, but by bringing in stuff from elsewhere, doing a brief interview with some relevant authority on the matter at hand, she could place the apparently uneventful trial into the context of a bigger picture and extract meaning from it all. I felt that I learned a great deal from the experience. Telling stories is often just about revealing the connections between things that nobody else noticed.

It was Pete Mullins who got me into it. he was working for channel 7 news, which involved occasional court sketching, and the other channel (10) wanted him too, so he put them in touch with me. I guess we'd talked about it while he was working with me on the comics, which would probably have been down to just a couple of days a week since Pete had so many other irons in the fire by that time. And I would have said, 'hey, i wouldn't mind taking a crack at that some time.' So there I was doing it. There was only one occasion when pete and I found ourselves covering the same trial for the competing channels, -- case of double suicide: guy died, girl failed. now up for possible murder--. Pete and I were both impressed with the sensitive way the court handled the whole thing. And, ever the archivist, I taped both news programs for contrasting and comparing, though I was never enough of an archivist to go to the office and get my sketches back. Pete would occasionally say that it would be much more fun if we got to illustrate the actual crime instead of just drawing the villain sitting on a seat. So I guess I got to draw a murder taking place (see saturday's post) and Pete got to make a damn good animation for Channel 7 news of the 2004 tsunami coming in.

In due course I got to meet a good selection of the major villains in this city. Anne, who went back to working as a legal secretary after I wound down my publishing operation, would occasionally be talking about some scumbag whose parole case came up, and I'd say, oh who's that then? and she'd say, oh nobody you'd know. And she'd give the name, safe in the knowledge that it was about real world, everyday events, and therefore nothing I'd have heard of. And I'd say, oh yes, --last time paroled he abducted pregnant woman, sodomised her--. Anne would look in astonishment. Yeah, i'd continue, he was brought into court in leg irons. Later, during recess, I was in the canteen polishing my sketches to get them up to the office (in all the time I did these gigs I never got to see the outcome of a trial) a priest was berating me about how we had all prejudged the man. Maybe the berating had an effect on me, because I seem to have softened the sketch a little, making the bastard's shaved head look a little like Yul Brynner. On the news that night they happened to have got some footage of him hobbling out in his leg irons, with his bushy monobrow, and my thing looked like I was exhonerating him on paper. I swore after that I'd close out all voices and stick to the job at hand.

I also got to meet a great old character, a barrister named Bill Cuthbert, an old mate of my father-in-law. Jack, Anne's Dad, was 50 years a lawyer, now retired. Bill was sitting there in his wig in the story I illustrated in After the Snooter --three jail inmates allegedly strangle other inmate with tv cord--that's the old bloke you can see in the picture raising the objection. The next objection to be raised was by one of the other barristers, against ME.
"Your honour, it has come to my attention that there is a 'sketcher' present in court, and he is representing my client as being in a cage"
"But your client IS in a cage, Mr Johnson."
I'd been introduced to Bill once. Upon hearing my voice, as I now stood up to address the whole court and justify my presence before the majesty of madam justice, his honour, all these guys in wigs, three mean looking bastards in a big bulletproof cage, twelve men/women in the box, several armed police guards, a posse of journalists, and a gaggle of relatives and sightseers. The first thing I saw as I swiftly mustered the necessary arrogance for my impromptu self defence was Bill's wicked face grinning from beneath an old scruffy wig that looked like it had been though some process of being smoked, and relishing the spectacle of the next few minutes.
But the outcome of that incident is not within my purview today; the whole anecdote and a couple of other court sketching interludes can be found in After the Snooter.

We got to drink and yarn a great deal after that. Whenever Jack was in town, with another guy named Doyle (they called each other by surnames: Williams, Cuthbert and Doyle, but I felt I wasn't admitted to that club) we'd get together for beers. There was an occasion, too tangential to get into here, where I was required to do a caricature of Bill, in my courtroom sketching manner, to be presented to him framed. Apparently he was very fond of it and it had pride of place on the wall of his chambers.

When Bill died four years ago, at the church as we entered we were handed the booklet for the words of the service, which was folded and tied with pink legal tape in the traditional manner of a barrister's brief. I didn't notice at first, but in the inside back page there was a full page photocopy of my caricature of Bill.

I'm enough of a well brought up catholic to be immediately horrified at the thought of the words of a church service being illustrated with one of Campbell's caricatures. But not enough to stop a couple of tears.


Monday 5 February 2007

Oh Bloody blatherin' poo!

I'm taking it easy today after two days of monster posting. This would have to be my favourite cover from the 60-issue run of the old Bacchus comic book. It represents the exact moment when you remember what you said/did last night, and I thought it would make a jolly thing to greet you with on this monday morning as you get back into the weekly grind. It is exactly how I imagine my pal *****'s wife (*for I am nothing if not a gentleman) felt on Saturday morning after her, uh... monologue, at the restaurant on friday night. Of course it must be said that her husband too is no stranger to the ill-considered tirade. What larks.
That cover in turn reminds me of the days when I used to imagine myself to be a publisher. For those who haven't read After the Snooter, the five page piece titled "Running a publishing house out of the front room' is still readable online at my old defunct website thanks to the Internet archive Wayback machine. I've put a permanent link in the sidebar if you want to go rummaging in the old site. I've put a lot of other links in there too. When you reach that moment of utter despair this morning when you realise somebody forgot to replace the tea and coffee supplies, check out the gallery of amusements at the foot, or you can amuse yourselves by thinking of me painting on my sunny veranda with my iced fruit juice on the side. I'd rather you thought of me that way than as the nitwit in the picture.

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Sunday 4 February 2007


I just noticed Craig Yoe plugging (Jan 30) his recent Arf Museum book from July last. I picked it up at the San Diego Con and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's very much a grab bag of unrelated bits and pieces corresponding to the theme of 'The unholy marriage of art and comics'. This , the second issue consists of such delights as a dozen full page color pieces of the Yellow Kid by Outcault, made for a series of lightweight book collections of the kid that never materialized, pages by Art Young, victorian cartoonist Charles Bennett, a dozen pages, mostly in color, tracing the iconography of King Kong holding Faye Wray aloft back through a US World War 1 enlistment poster (Destroy the mad Brute!), via a Homer Davenport cartoon against 'Crokerism', to a sculpture by the French artist Emmanuel Fremiet. Now that's scholarship! And it's all done with an outrageous sense of fun.

He shows a photo of Roy Lichtenstein speaking at the National Cartoonists Society in 1964, as a follow up to the Mort Walker two pager in Arf which tells the anecdote of how Mort invited the painter along to ambush him about stealing the work of hard working comics guys. Something strikes me as bogus about this. I'm suspecting that Mort knows who the image was pinched from because it's been well analysed and discussed in the intervening years. Would Mort Walker have been familiar at the time with styles of assorted guys who were filling romance comic books, in the late '50s, completely anonymously. And could he have recognized a personal style after it had been restyled by Lichtenstein, unless he was familiar with the actual individual issues of the comic books in question. I remember Lew Schwartz telling me that he never told his colleagues in the Cartoonists Society that he was ghosting Batman for a number of years, presumably because it wasn't something to be boasted about. The only currency of value in the cartooning world in those days was a syndicated strip. Very few comic book artists signed their work, even when they were allowed to do so. So Walker's piece smacks of a retroactive re-evalauation.

Was Alex Beam at the Boston Globe, on oct 18 last, in Lichtenstein: creator or copycat?, also writing baloney just for effect or was he locked up in a dark room during his formative years:
"Color me naive, but I never thought Lichtenstein's work was a direct copy of scenes from comic books. I assumed that he stylized certain scenes suggested by the comic vernacular of the 1950s and 1960s. 'He tried to make it seem as though he was making major compositional changes in his work, but he wasn't,' says (David) Barsalou, who teaches at the High School of Commerce in Springfield. 'The critics are of one mind that he made major changes, but if you look at the work , he copied them almost verbatim. Only a few were original.'
'Barsalou is boring to us,' comments Jack Cowart, executive director of the Lichtenstein Foundation. He contests the notion that Lichtenstein was a mere copyist: 'Roy's work was a wonderment of the graphic formulae and the codification of sentiment that had been worked out by others. Barsalou's thesis notwithstanding, the panels were changed in scale, color, treatment, and in their implications. There is no exact copy'."

I've always presumed DC comics were pragmatic enough at the time, pleased that the images were coming mostly from their books. The artists had already sold all the rights, so I don't know why they would be whingeing, if indeed they were. No, the complaints all come from moral indignation of many years after the events. I have no time for it. To borrow a few lines from Charles Rosen, writer on classical music, "To strike a strong moral attitude toward an historical phase of art leads to ludicrous misunderstanding... and is pardonable only when we are dealing with contemporary phenomena; when we have a stake in the next choice that will be made, when our attitude is a hope or an anxiety, not self indulgence masking as principle."

David Barsalou, whose web site instigated the Globe piece, has amassed 85 pairings of Lichtenstein originals with their comic book panel 'sources'.
Showing them side by side like this is useful for an understanding of the iconographic connections, but it does miss the essence of the exercise, that is that Lichtenstein took a tiny picture, smaller than the palm of the hand, printed in four color inks on newsprint and blew it up to the conventional size at which 'art' is made and exhibited and finished it in paint on canvas. In theory it was like painting a view of a building, or a vase. He worked through a long series of the same kind of thing before applying the particular treatments he had devised, such as the mechanical dots, to other kinds of images, ultimately including abstract images as in the brushstroke series. I find his whole project quite astonishing and invigorating. It was good for art. Hell, it was even good for the comic book medium, setting a precedent for it to be taken seriously.
"Given the predominance of visual media, both postmodern art and postmodern culture gravitate towards visual forms, as in the "cartoons" of Roy Lichtenstein. A good example of this, and of the breakdown between "high" and "low" forms, is Art Spiegelman's Maus, a Pulitzer-prize-winning rendition of Vladek Spiegelman's experiences in the Holocaust, which Art (his son) chooses to present through the medium of comics or what is now commonly referred to as the "graphic novel."

Lichtenstein stands on the doorstep of postmodernism, within which philosophy the 'real' has slipped out of our grasp and pictures will thereafter be about pictures and stories about stories. Walker's story belongs among the tall tales of an older generation, when people still believed in the real, and in a kind of understood reality behind the joy of telling stories in a big way.
Lew Schwartz told me a great anecdote about the late Bill Mauldin, and he also told it to Jon Cooke and it appeared in his Comic book Artist magazine, because yarns were designed for a long life and a lot of use, like everything else, in those days. About how Bill was just back from the war in Europe, and it was young Lew's first time at the National Cartoonist Society, and Bill gave him a lift back to the Prince George Hotel where Lew was staying for the night, and he was completely drunk and tried to drive his jeep (which the army had let him keep, for his exceptional services), through the revolving doors of this grand old building. Apparently Bill had been drowning his sorrows all day because his wife had just told him she was leaving him for another guy, and he had been down to the publishers office that afternoon and ripped the dedication page out of two thousand copies of his new book.
It was great yarn, told slowly, and obviously Bill didn't literally destroy two thousand copies of his book. But one gets the meaning and enjoys the story-telling. A couple of years back Lew's contemporary Jerry Robinson started in on a long anecdote onstage at the Eisner awards at San Diego. I immediately cringed in horror, thinking 'oh no, Jerry, please don't. I love ya and I want to hear it, but that kind of thing just doesn't go down any more..." it was agonizing to see the audience become restless.

Anyway, one last irony ( I write it smiling at life's daftness, without a hint of indignation). The other voice in the above argument is the Lichtenstein Foundation. On the opening page of their site, an excellent document on the artist and his life, it says: "The contents of this site are for personal and/or educational use only. Neither text nor photographs may be reproduced in any form without the permission of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation."... and then you have to click the 'I agree' button.

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