Is there a new Lichtenstein roaming the forests? Scott Edelman has brought to our attention the work of Sharon Moody, who paints trompe l’oeil paintings of comics by Jack Kirby, Sal Buscema and others — but Edelman is bothered by the fact that the source artists are not credited anywhere:

The intended market of buyers for these works of art would probably assume that the comics depicted in them sprang whole from the mind of the artist, and are a commentary on pop culture in general, rather than being line for line reproductions so close to the original comics that the artist might have been better served taking a photograph of the original comic book pages and framing that. Roy Lichtenstein, who I felt was profiteering on the work of great comics artists, at least altered them to suit his own style…

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of Moody and her appropriations:


And Moody’s own explanation of her work:

Recently I have been making paintings based on games, toys and other forms of entertainment that reflect the universal human desire for amusement, diversion, and stimulation. These seem a proper subject for trompe l’oeil paintings, which by their very nature are intended to divert and entrance us with their illusionism and by the questions they raise—in a playful way—about perception and reality.

Edelman is surely right to become protective of the rights of the artists who actually created the Pop Art comics style of comics that has been so widely appropriated. And a mention of the original artists might have been appropriate. However, Moody’s considerable skill at trompe l’oeil indicates to me that she is bringing something to the party, art-wise.

It’s part of the whole problem in the mash-up age of art — curation has replaced creation at times. Moody could have just sat down and made a Tumblr blog, but she picked up a paintbrush.


  1. So, if she does a painting of a tennis racquet,…does she need to credit the designer, or the company that produced the racquet? How about buildings? Does she need to credit the architect? How about if she does a painting of someone in an Armani suit? Credit for Armani? Curious to know what people think.

  2. In the interests of keeping it classy, when an artist appropriates the work of another artist IN THE SAME MEDIUM, you should give the original artist a shout-out.

  3. I find nothing at all wrong with what she’s doing. I wonder for those who have such a problem what, if anything would help? If she had put copyright Marvel or DC at the bottom of each painting would this ever have come up?

    John Byrne makes a high five to low six figures a year selling commissions on his site. Each has a small notice of copyright of the company which owns the characters. He doesn’t credit the creators of said characters, even when he does recreations/reimaginings of existing pages.

    Is he fine to do that right or are the same people upset with Sharon Moody ok with him not crediting Jack Kirby every time he draws Cyclops?


    This didn’t get mentioned during the Rob Granito controversy.

    Steven, sometimes, the building might be trademarked, such as the Empire State Building, with any commercial use requiring permission.

    John Byrne used to pay design commissions when he re-purposed iconic covers for his comics. Some cartoonists will use “After…” or “Appologies to…” when referencing a previous artwork.

    Did Warhol get permission for his Myths series, such as Superman and Mickey Mouse?

    Given that no page is completely reproduced, and the object is reduced from three dimensions to two, and a painting at that, with a specific commentary, the work is probably transformative enough to avoid copyright violation.

    And then there’s Mannie Garcia’s photo of Barack Obama, which was copied by Shepard Fairey and reproduced and parodied ad nausuem. (Settled out of court with the AP getting a cut of all revenues.)

    But we’re not discussing copyright violation, we’re discussing attribution. Moody probably should note the original artists.

  5. its common in painting to use the term “after ARTIST X” when doing a “homage type piece”

    However this painting isn’t about Kirby. Its about an idealized piece of pop culture called a comic book. Its just subject matter, not a tribute to an artist.

    By painting it in this style, its elevating the art form of comics and giving it respect in terms of how much value we place on it.

    I like the paintings…a lot.

  6. @bad wolf
    Chip Kidd didn’t appropriate anything. Jiro Kuwata has multiple credits throughout the book and there’s even an interview with him after the manga pages. I bought my copy of the book at a Chip Kidd signing and it came with a bookplate signed by Jiro Kuwata himself.

  7. The Batman/Shadow page shown above was drawn by Irv Novick, who’s work was used by Roy Lichtenstein for “reference” as well. I’m almost glad he’s not alive to see this.

    Personally I think if you duplicate another artists work (even badly) then you owe the artist something, credit at the very minimum. Susan could have tried to, oh, create an original comic page with her painting. Something that would look very much like Kirby or Irv or Adams would have drawn. Had she drawn a page in Kirby style like Tom Scioli draws Godland this wouldn’t be an issue. She’d be praise if she pulled it off really well.

    I think she doesn’t have the ability to do so, thus the need to swipe. It would actually take more creativity and very likely a lot longer to do something original. I see this as a short cut and an attempt to make money off somebody else’s work. While I understand the art is a painting as a whole, I don’t think people are admiring the 1 color gray background that she created. It’s purpose is to make the comic book art pop. Big deal.

    Also, art is intellectual property. Chairs, Buildings, Tennis Rackets are not. Their designs probably are but that’s more so that other companies don’t reproduce the exact same physical objects, not images of the item itself.

    Also, I wonder if in the middle of those paintings were say other famous works of art instead of comic books would the art world or the original artists be okay with that?

  8. I think it is bad form to produce a ‘trompe l’oeil’ of a work that is identifiable, and not give any credit to the creators of that original work.

    These comic artists are not anonymous, as they might have been during Mr. Lichenstein’s heyday.

    For example, you could identify the comic artist in the name of your work.

    You would not reproduce a work by Picasso and simply expect a viewer to remark on your cleverness.

  9. Oops, sorry Jamie Coville. I did not see your similar comment directly above mine until I had posted it… (see? full credit!!)

  10. I can certainly understand the initial anger towards this, given the history of fine art and it’s relationship with comic books. That said, I don’t think any of Moody’s paintings are an offense to the original creators of the comics depicted, just as the still-life painting of a fruit bowl is not an offense or infringement against the farmer who grew the fruit trees.

    Moody has painted a still-life of an object- in this case, a comic book. And part of realistically depicting a comic book involves recreating the art within. She’s not taking credit for creating the comic book or attempting to pass the art in the comic book as her own. The comic book is simply the subject of her painstakingly rendered oil painting.

    I think this whole issue is certainly worth debating but I’d have to say that anyone suggesting Moody lacks talent, ability, or creativity is absolutely and ridiculously out of their minds. The amount of skill and talent required to create oil paintings like these is IMMENSE. I’m quite blown away by her attention to detail and her control of the medium.

    It might help to put these paintings in context. I found the rest of Moody’s art here:

  11. All this anger and shaking of fists to give credit where credit is due.

    But boy – bring up the Kirby heirs or Superman creators’ heirs and suddenly some people can’t be bothered.

    At least be consistent in your outrage, people.

  12. I wonder what the reaction would be on all sides if someone recreated a Lichtenstein, and hung it in a gallery as their own original work? Or has that been done already?

  13. Fascinatin’!!!!
    I’m with Mr. Smallwood on this one. I’d LOVE to own one of Ms. Moody’s paintings and I think that, far from ripping someone off, what she has done honors the medium.

  14. The ironic thing here is that the fine art community only appears to consider comic book art bona fide art if it is first “transformed” and “interpreted” by a “real” artist — even when the “transformative piece” is essentially an exact copy of the original.

    This is how convoluted and stupid the contemporary art community’s thinking seems to be, and I, for one, am fed up with it. To them I say, stop with the snobbery, get off of your high horse, and embrace comic book art as real art once and for all. This “copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy stuff is getting to be one tired and archaeic act.

  15. Isn’t it also possible that fine artists are as equally turned on and reverential of the comics related works they refer to? Isn’t it a bit of an assumption that they AREN’T regarding comic art as real art? Aren’t they, in fact embracing comic book art as real art by the mere act of interpreting it?

  16. At the Louvre, artists are allowed to copy the Masters, so long as the canvas is larger or smaller by 20%. The Louvre also stamps each canvas so that it is marked as a reproduction. Some artists make a nice living doing this. Some become famous painters, like Chagall, Degas, and Turner.

    There was a photographer who photographed photographic prints by other photographers. Since it’s photography, the copies were almost exact. But by taking a photograph of a photograph, the artist was commenting upon the medium, and she was quite open about her prints and techniques. Some photographers destroy their negatives upon death, to avoid new prints being made.

    Then there’s the case of the Warhol Superman forgeries by David Stein, as noted in Comic Book Legends Revealed #291.

    If I take a photo of a comic book as a still life, do I need to identify the artists? Why a magazine or a book, and not any other object, even unique items crafted by individuals? If something is mass-produced, doesn’t that create some sort of anonymity or blank identity? How does a comic book still life differ from a Campbell’s Soup label? Should Dik Browne and Grace Drayton be cited if the Campbell Soup Kids are used in a painting? Does it matter if the object was work-for-hire? If I make a collage, should I notate each image used?

    What if the images weren’t trompe l’oeil, but more abstract? (That would generate an interesting debate on abstraction… when does a painting stop being representational, and become an object in and of itself?) Or is any reproduction of work-for-hire comic book artwork suspect?

    If the artist simply labeled each painting by the issue (“Batman #253”), would that be okay, just like someone making a painting of a known statue?

  17. Steven — Were your hypothesis true, there would be a comics art wing at most major art museums, and, say, Jack Kirby would be the focus of an exhibit, not folks making copies of his work. And, while art museums are still notoriously elitist when it comes to comics art, there are some glimmers of hope. For example, I know of at least one major art museum that is quietly building a collection of comics art — which I’m hoping is a sign they want to raise its stature in the fine art world.

  18. I don’t believe that it is snobbery on the part of the fine arts community, however. I think it has as much to do with how and what art is created for. Fine art is made to display, whereas comics related work is created for reproduction and print. I think it’s a question of context. Certainly the stuff hanging on walls in galleries is going to get a different kind of attention than art reproduced in magazines that are difficult to find, for the most part. However,…this is a digression. It seems to me that we are discussing whether what Ms. Moody has done is merely a painted representation of a pop cultural object or something else. There are other pop cultural items that she has painted that contain the art work of package designers and yet,…no hue and cry as far as attribution is concerned in that realm. (Also, no call for a major wing in a fancy museum to honor those artists work.)

  19. Comics Art falls under the larger domain of Illustration.

    How many museums have featured illustration exhibitions?

    Would the Guggenheim have welcomed the Norman Rockwell exhibition if his cover paintings had not been so popular?

    Yes, there is some snobbery in the Fine Arts regarding commercial artwork. Some museums, such as MoMA, do collect good design (such as the Bell-47D1 Helicopter). Some might collect the popular arts. But generally, with any curated collection (including libraries), it depends on what the people in charge know and are comfortable with. As younger curators enter museums, and collectors donate their artwork, we’ll see a shift towards illustration. (MoMA, for example, was one of the first to collect “modern art”, including photographs and motion pictures, partly due to Mrs. John D. Rockefeller.)

  20. I would have to agree that in the upper, older echelons of the fine art community,…there probably is a certain amount of snobbery towards the illlustrative arts. But to generalize about a seeming snobbery on the part of artists who consider comic book art bona fide art only if it is first “transformed” and “interpreted” by a “real” artist, as Mr. Maheras seems to be indicating, seems a little unfair. It is my experience that any number of modern fine artists love this stuff and far from merely ripping off comic artists, are, in fact, fairly inspired by it and use it because it speaks to them in a certain way. I do believe there is an argument to be made for referencing the original creators names in some way, when the work is obviously derivative. I do tend to agree that the more people have become aware of comic artist’s original works, the more we’ve seen it on display in the fine arts arena. Hopefully, that trend will continue. (Always wanted one of those Bell-47D1 Helicopters!)

  21. If one looks at the fine art world with a wide, historical lens, its snobbery towards comics art, and the “illustration” field in general, is not only misplaced, but simply wrong. I’ve had this discussion a number of times with art community folks, and when I point out that many paintings by the most revered classic artists were done for commercial purposes, they really have no good response, save, “Well, that’s different.”

    Well, no it’s not.

    There is absolutely no fundamental motivational difference between a painting by Rembrandt done specifically for cash, and a painting by Frazetta (or a drawing by Kirby) done specifically for cash.

    What does it matter if the commissioning party was a local government official/clergy member/businessman, or James Warren/Martin Goodman?

  22. In that context, I’d have to agree. However, these days, it isn’t the case that most fine artists create their works with the promise of cash in advance or with the benefit (…or detriment, perhaps,…) of art direction. Fine art is rarely created in a “work for hire” environment. Although, I suppose that an argument can be made that all art created in modern times is “commercial,” on some level, that’s only the case if the fine artist is lucky enough to actually sell their work. No?

  23. I think so. Few artists from any era create art with no thought of ever selling it. Even van Gogh, who only sold a single painting before he died, TRIED to sell his work. Other great artists (such as the aforementioned Rembrandt) routinely painted portraits and other commissions for the wealthier patrons of their era.

  24. Wouldn’t the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel also be considered work-for-hire?
    BTW, It’s a real shame that William Overgard’s 30 year run on “Steve Roper & Mike Nomad” has been largely ignored in America (having never been archived in print anywhere domestically), but that single 1961 panel of Mike Nomad is regarded as the launching point of the Pop Art movement. (I am personally, as a devout Overgard fan, annoyed that Lichtenstein obviously didn’t realize that line under Nomad’s eye is his cheekbone. It’s not so obvious in the painting.)