Weird Science on Swiping

By | Wednesday, June 26, 2024 Leave a Comment
Two panels from "Dream of Doom" in Weird Science #12 circa 1950...
By Harry Harrison and Wally Wood.

Even setting aside Bob Kane's freqeuent and blatant swiping of other artists' work, which one might attribute to Kane's own unique opportunistic sensibilities, claims of comic book swipes are hardly new. It shouldn't be surprising, in fact, that many comic book artists have done this over the decades. Comic books have always been a commercial medium first and foremost, and many comic book artists during the Golden Age were comic book artists precisely because they couldn't break into more 'high brow' venues. In some (but by no means all!) cases because they simply didn't have the talent. They were trying to make money in comics and that meant cranking out work as fast as possible. Artistic integrity was less a concern than getting paid.

Recall that is precisely how/why Will Eisner and Jerry Iger set up their studio. They applied Ford's assembly line ideas to comics not because it allowed artists to focus on their particular specialities within art, but simply because it was faster. And faster can also mean cribbing from someone else's work, so you don't have to personally sort out issues with layout or lighting or how fabric folds or anything else. Whether or not the anecdote about Eisner coming across a young Jack Kirby using an eraser to correct his work and Eisner telling him to stop, demanding "You're getting paid to draw, not to erase!" is true or not, it speaks to the sensibilty of the time. Comic creators were cranking out work because that's how they got paid and survived. So any shortcut was a valid one.

In some cases, artists like Kirby were indeed talented enough that it was usually faster for them to just draw rather than copy. I'm not aware that Kirby himself ever knocked another artist for swiping (I've always had the impression Kirby understood the realistic expectations of the hustle, and respected people just for getting their job done) but I can certainly see where some of that same era would. Harrison and Wood were apparently among them.

But my point is that complaints of comic artists swiping from others are hardly new, and they were even "public" insomuch as those complaints got written into stories like this one.
Newer Post Older Post Home