There’s been some behind the scenes soap opera in the comics of world of late, which we are not going to get into, and anyone who does will be deleted. But it has opened up a bit of a worm can about some fairly well known swipings. The main culprit is Arthur Suydam, who has been enjoying a busy revival with his covers for Marvel.
Greg Land is another well known, nay, notorious, swiper:
(Image from the above link.)
Of course, there was the Magneto-King of Spain international incident a ways back. As we said then, such blatant swipes are usually brought on by the dreaded deadline doom, both for busy artists and busy editors. It isn’t a crime — yet — or perhaps even a moral sin. But it is a little disappointing.
Among the acrimony at this TCJ.com thread, a letter sent from Marvel’s Managing Editor to freelancers is reproduced:
MARVEL ORIGINAL ARTWORK POLICY
There’s been some confusion regarding the use of copyrighted materials in work submitted to Marvel. Please note that Marvel pays for original artwork, and your work made for hire contract requires you to represent that everything you are doing for Marvel is original.
It is appropriate to use photographs or other copyrighted works for inspiration, for example if you need to see what the architecture of New Orleans looks like. However, what you cannot do is copy or take so many elements from a protected work that you effectively copy it.
Therefore, NEVER copy a photograph or any artwork you do not own the copyright in or that you re not sure is in the public domain. Photographers own the copyright in their works (or they have assigned the copyright to a publisher, etc.) and they are notoriously protective of their work. The same can be said of any paintings, print, scupture, etc.
There is a fine line between HOMAGE and RIP-OFF–make sure you are firmly on the side of using your own creative elements. A simple rule of thumb is to consider whether someone looking at your drawing and the reference material will think that one is derivative of the other. If so, you have gone too far and taken too much.
We know you want to bring an incredible sense of realism to the page and want to support you. Please speak with your editors regarding any concerns or questions that you have regarding the use of reference materials. By working together, we can create a work that is both inspired and unique.
Thanks for your time,
It’s not known exactly what caused this gentle reminder that Marvel prefers original creation. But it is perhaps one that more people should heed — or at least when the DDD strikes, to fuzzy up “reference” a bit more. Everybody swipes something (as we’ve pointed out before, artists like Alex Ross and Tony Harris, to name but two, shoot tons of their own photo reference and use it extensively). We’ve seen plenty of artists at cons doing a sketch while looking at a copy of the SI swimsuit issue, but that’s a lot different than lightboxing or Photoshoping.
Marvel’s new policy seems to be bearing fruit: later in the TCJ thread, a letter from Suydam’s current agent (his wife) states that he was the victim of being provided with faulty reference, which he was unaware had been previously created by someone.
I assure you, however, that Suydam acted in good faith and had no prior knowledge that the reference he was provided was copyrighted material.
He is handling all his own references now. As such, please be aware that this will not be an issue in the future.