Sunday, January 27, 2013

"Self-Plagiarism" and the Bill Day Pile-On

Cartoonist Bill Day was caught swiping an unattributed image for one of his panels, and since then has attracted the attention of the internet in the form of a Sharpie mob howling after his head, or at least the kickstarter project in his name. Stealing other artists' work is wrong, but it's the ensuing focus on Day's "self-plagiarism" that is baffling.

First in line is an entirely self-professed “That Cartoon Critic” who seems to think all that’s involved in criticism is reposting gotchas of someone else’s work and pointing a finger at it like Donald Sutherland’s character in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 version). This person has taken it upon themselves to troll the archives and compile evidence or "bring sunlight to Bill Day’s serial self-plagiarism." This is an entirely debatable offense, as it isn't plagiarism if it's your own work (see criticism with regards to James Horner's scores). And so far "That Cartoon Critic" hasn't demonstrated any attributes of legitimate criticism while flinging poo from the proverbial monkey cage, and probably won't, as they are doing it anonymously, and putting ones name on your own work entails taking responsibility for it. Not to mention anyone charging someone as prolific as Day with being lazy would be pretty funny if it weren't so shitty: would that anyone possessing a fraction of his talent create something and experience such a similar takedown in turn. All the more reason to stay anonymous.

There are some other notable perspectives from Matt Bors, Ted Rall and Evil Inc. But I can’t wait until these critics discover how many times other so many other cartoonists have reused the exact same character in the exact same pose, sometimes even with the exact same expression, over and over and over again, while only changing the captions (hint: it’s called a “strip”). 

"Self-plagiarism is style." - Alfred Hitchcock


  1. Repetition of an image many times in one piece is called a wallpaper gag. Repetition of an image in a series of works is called exploring a theme. As cartooning is a form of graphic language, the repeated image can also be a set linguistic element. It is used as a quick way to spark recognition and convey meaning. That Cartoon Critic sounds like a bitter failure finding fault where they couldn't find success.

  2. Well put.
    So well that I was thinking of just cutting & pasting this comment over and over, but you get the point...