Ethics Lesson Bun Toons! YAY!

Pay attention, class. I'm only going to be utterly correct once.

There’s been a lot of hoo-hah lately about moral high grounds, and people quitting their jobs (sort of) or calling for boycotts over which creator is being treated how by what publisher.

I get that people want to find their own ethical path in life.  And I’m glad that folks are helpfully pointing out the pathway to others.  Now it’s my turn.

CAUTION:  Satire and irony ahead.

The world is far less confusing when it’s all in black and white.  I’m doing a public service, no need to thank me.

(NOTE:  Full disclosure:  The series TERRA OBSCURA was illustrated by a friend of mine, Yanick Paquette.  I felt bad about it, but the last time he was in Toronto, I ran him down with my car.)

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now, your BONUS ethically challenged BLACK TERROR moment.

The wife often works for a Canadian webcomic/webseries called “HEROES OF THE NORTH“, that includes an iteration of Black Terror amongst their characters.  She’s colouring a BLACK TERROR story as we speak.

Damn, now I have to divorce her.  The kids will understand.  It’s about ethics.

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For last week's 100th Anniversary of the sinking of mankind's dreams Bun Toons, click the happy captain above!

For every ethical Bun Toons ever, click the highly moral bunny above.

32 responses to “Ethics Lesson Bun Toons! YAY!

  1. As long as you are going for the divorce, make sure you “meet” her when she comes out of her lawyers office. Headlines from CA this last week should help with the visuals.

    Dang, must I say it: it is a joke!

    Cheers!

    Steven Willis
    XOWComics.com

  2. I’ve actually been saying this for a while – MOORE DOESN’T HAVE THE MORAL HIGH GROUND. Do I feel a little bad for him? Yes. But when he tries to suggest he’s the one who got screwwed the most in comics or that he’s not guilty of doing it himself, I lose all sympathy.

  3. You make a very good point.

    We are only using the name – and we did it with respect to the public domain rules – but you are right: they do not advocate you give credit because the new iteration you create becomes a new, copyrightable character. It is frankly puzzling that attribution is not required. We will correct that in the future. Please do not kill us. Or burn our offices down to the ground. And please do not take it out on your poor wife! ;-)

    The Heroes of the North Team

    • Christian: In that this entire post was ironic satire, I hope you realize I meant very little of it, and certainly think there’s NOTHING wrong with using the name in the public domain. (That’s what I did with Johnny Canuck, after all, and clearly felt that was okay…)

  4. Oh! I got the humour all right! That’s why I put a smiley at the end. But I still think you make a good point. It is not because it is not an obligation that we should not do it. We will correct it – if only for ourselves.

  5. Yanick Paquette

    After hours of various tortures at Ty’s hands, I finally recognize the errors of my ways and confessed, confuselly, my obvious guilt and utter, trough my tumified lips, a heart felt sorry. Sorry for everything.
    I know my creative sins are just too great to be forgiven. but I go forth, repenting, in the hope of an absolution I don’t deserve.

    Y-

    • Good God! I ran you down going fifty kilometres an hour. You are one tough bastard to walk away from that one. In the long run, I’m glad, because your latest Swamp Thing issue was wicked beautiful (for something so filled with rotting meat, I mean).

  6. I laughed out loud at the last panel. But I’m not sure the latest hoo-hah about moral high grounds is concerned with “we used the characters” or “we didn’t provide ‘created by…’ lines”. Isn’t it “we OWN the characters and you *can’t* use them”?

    The strip is funny at any rate.

    • I wasn’t trying to create an exact analogy with this strip, only mentioning that everyone is covered in mud from somewhere, and high horses have the weakest legs. I love Alan Moore’s work more than is healthy for me, but I’ve never believed for a moment he’s a wounded martyr or abused saint. I’m just here to toss some perspective on things, especially when people start thinking of the “unauthorized use” of Alan’s Watchmen characters as some sort of bright line in the sand that can never be crossed ethically.

  7. I expected like 90 more comments here. These replies are far too even handed. This… this isn’t the internet I know.

    • It’s hard to push back against facts. You can complain that what Alan Moore did isn’t that big a deal (and frankly, it’s not), but you can’t pretend he didn’t do it, and once you realize he’s another creator willing to take advantage of other creator’s legacies, he stops being the saint he pretends to be, and his wounded genius starts to sound more like petulance and ego.
      FULL DISCLOSURE: I love Alan Moore, and consider him to the be the greatest comic writer of his generation, and I feel bad that he’s suffering such existential angst about his career and relationship to DC comics, but he doesn’t get to be hypocritical and escape my scrutiny. I prefer my heroes to be perfect, thank you. I’m also the one that calls John Lennon (my other hero) an asshole for deserting his son Julian the way he did. All You Need Is Love, unless you’re John Lennon’s son, and then you don’t get any. It’s intellectually dishonest to pretend that someone is saintly because you like their creative work. Sinatra was a monster, but he made great music. Woody Allen makes amazing movies, but I’d probably punch him in the mouth for what he did to his family. I don’t forgive Chris Brown for smacking around his ex, but the man can sing and dance and entertain. It’s best not to be blinded by someone’s talent.

  8. I’m always curious how people like Moore are always concerned that Mick Anglo get some kind of credit for Marvelman without ever once noting how blatantly Anglo ripped off Binder and Beck.

    • It’s beyond “ripping off” Binder and Beck…the first half dozen issues of “Marvelman” were literally traced from existing Fawcett Captain Marvel stories, and used the same scripts. The company publishing the Captain Marvel stories in England was disappointed when Fawcett stopped publishing new stories in the states in the late 50s, and to transition over to the Marvelman series, the British publisher started “reprinting” old Captain Marvel stories with new costumes and faces on the characters (though Marvelman didn’t really have a new face). It was somewhat legal, as they had paid a licence fee for the Fawcett stories they were “re-purposing” for England…and it wasn’t for another six months or so that dropped the license fees and started creating all new stories. They were infringing on a trademark that wasn’t interested in defending itself, so it didn’t seem to bother anyone. Eventually, Marvelman became its own thing, but it began as a solution to Captain Marvel’s American cancellation.

  9. Another “That about sums it up, yeah.” Bun Toon. Thanks, Ty. I love Alan Moore and wish he’d gotten a better deal. But I fully recognize he’s just a human being with his own foibles. And often lost in the discussion is that Moore was not nearly so ill-used as many that came before him. No one ever went back to Bill Finger and offered him oodles of cash if he’d sign off on stuff, for example. No one vindictively (or in some cases just stupidly) destroyed his work rather than return it to him.

    It is often amusing how selective comics fandom can be about its ire.

  10. Alan Moore’s a lot easier target than Jack Kirby, huh.

    • Yes.

      Because Kirby was a hard working family man who created his volume of work, primarily to make a nice life for his family. Kirby saw front line infantry action in WWII, and was awarded medals for his bravery. Kirby was a workhorse for his employers and never missed deadlines or spoke ill of them in public, and KIRBY wasn’t the one who publicly complained about Marvel’s treatment, it was his wife Roz, and a group of concerned fellow creators (Mark Evanier and Neal Adams amongst them, yay, Neal and Mark!) who started the noise.

      Alan Moore is in the same league as Kirby as a masterful creator (which is very rarefied air indeed), but as person that might inspire comedy and satire, they’re in completely different leagues. It’s hard to make fun of Kirby because there’s no pomposity, no hypocrisy, there’s no affectations, there’s no target. I could say he was shorter than you’d expect, or the cigars made his hair smell, but there’s very little comedy there. I’ve also used Kirby as a character of whimsy in a strip or two over the Bun Toons, he’s shown up three times, I think.

      But yes, it’s easier to target Alan Moore, based on the basic rules of comedy, which is what I do here. I love Alan Moore’s writing like he was my brother, but as soon as my brother starts to wear pinky finger armour and scrutinizes your employment history before you’re allowed in his house, I get to draw funny pictures of him.

      Comedy is not pretty. Satire is its uglier sister, living under the stairs on a diet of slurry meat.

      Ty the Guy

  11. Heh. Seems you pissed Erik Larsen off with this one. This was pretty amusing, regardless. Moore’s a genius as far as comic writing goes, but the ground he stands on can be shaky.

    Actually, I’m a little stumped as to what he really wants out of the whole thing. He’s said fairly recently that he wants the integrity preserved, but on another day he’ll say he hates his work from that era and especially the impact they had. He certainly doesn’t want the money and he pretty clearly has no interest in sequels or prequels any longer as opposed to the Minutemen thing he once pondered. It all seems like a question mark to me; does he want the rights back to take it out of print or something? Or is it just that he felt he got screwed and that is enough reason to be mad?

    • I pissed off Erik Larsen? Really? Oh that’s too bad. I adore Erik Larsen. Erik walks the walk every single day when it comes to creator-owned. I couldn’t find a bad word to say about him. What pissed him off? Did he bad mouth me on his blog or something? I hope I didn’t make Erik angry. I already have Steve Bissette up my ass about a Bun Toon from last month…pretty soon I won’t be able to walk around a convention without an armed guard.

      • He was actually tweeting about it and ranted a bit. Saw his tweets on the CBR creator tweets window thing. It’s how I saw this particular toon in the first place. I check and see some of your Bun Toons from time to time, but I probably would have missed this one if he hadn’t ranted about it a bit.

        Seems like there’s a fair amount of agitation among the comic creator community lately, which is kind of unnerving.

        Not overly familiar with Larsen myself though. Outside of seeing some of his spats with others and knowing he does Savage Dragon, I mean. It’s not like I only read superheroes or anything though; I just read Chew for the first time recently and that one really wowed me. Savage Dragon just never really caught my attention.

  12. Nobody else is defending Alan Moore, here, so I will play Devil’s Advocate:

    Moore is a smart guy. I don’t believe that his position *could* be as hypocritical as you’re portraying it, because he’d clearly be able to see such an obvious self-contradiction for himself, and — knowing that it is a self-contradiction — at least change his stance a little.

    The guy clearly doesn’t have a problem with using other creators’ characters, and it’s similarly clear that he doesn’t have a problem with other creators using his characters. He’s said in interviews that he wouldn’t mind seeing underground creators doing their own takes on the Watchmen characters. His specific problems are with Hollywood, which he rightly assumed would make a crappy Watchmen movie, and DC, which he rightly assumes will make crappy Before Watchmen comics.

    Moore doesn’t like DC. That’s fine, I think; he has no ethical obligation to like them or to want to continue working with them. I don’t think that’s hypocrisy, that’s just good taste. Have you read the stuff they’ve been publishing lately?

  13. Let’s take this as a given: The “Before Watchmen” comics will not be as good as Watchmen. They literally can’t be. (Though they might be good comics, some of the creators involved are top-notch folks). But so what?

    No one is harmed by ‘em. Psycho II did no damage to the quality of Hitchcock’s original film.

    The thing that inspired this strip wasn’t really anything Moore’s said or done lately, he’s entitled to say whatever he wants, I still love him, and look forward to any work he produces. It was inspired by some recent events in which people took to calling DC Comics unethical evil bastards for their treatment of Moore (amongst other things).

    I also think Alan Moore is a smart guy, but that doesn’t mean he sees this situation the same way I presented it here (that’s a big part of creating my own comic, I get to tell hilariously one sided polemic stories). Hughes died in the 70s, for instance, and wouldn’t care about attribution. And if Hughes had heirs (I tried to find out but couldn’t) the amount of money that one might send the family as a percentage of the profits on Terra Obscura (and Tom Strong) would be trivial amounts paying fair market value for the licence. We’re not talking movie money here, so the differences are notable.

    I just got through reviving a bunch of public domain Canadian Golden Age characters in a mini-series, myself – so I might be guilty of the exact same thing, which means I’M a stinking hypocrite for writing this story, although we did credit the original creators in our Johnny Canuck revival, so I’m not a bad guy after all. It’s all so confusing.

    Ty the Guy

    • I guess my point is that you’re not a hypocrite, and Alan Moore isn’t either. It’s OK to use characters that are in the public domain, and it’s OK for a corporate entity to use trademarks that it owns. I think that even Alan Moore agrees with this; he has specifically stated that he has no objection to the continued publication of John Constantine stories, for example. The basis of his complaint about Watchmen is that he feels that DC acquired the property dishonestly. Yes, he should have read the contract more carefully, but it’s also true that DC should not have misrepresented the contents of said contract to him (to do so is at least unethical, if not unlawful).

      So, anyway, just playing Devil’s Advocate, as I said. No need to defend yourself, that I know of. Compared to Alan Moore, you have a lot fewer black tank-tops to answer for, so you come out way ahead of him in my esteem. Some fashion crimes cannot be excused.

      Sorry for sapping the funny out of your comic. It was a good one before I pooped in here.

  14. I have to admit I still don’t understand what’s “hypocritical” about Moore’s actions. He’s said he isn’t interested in doing any Watchmen prequels and he’d prefer it if DC didn’t do any either. I don’t see how that’s comparable to the use of public domain characters such as the Nedor heroes, presented for a readership that’s at least a couple of generations removed from their original appearance.

    You mention the issue of compensation, but Moore’s argument isn’t about that. For all we know, he will be paid royalties for the use of the characters in these spin-off projects. The problem here is that Moore had a reasonable expectation that the rights would revert to him (and Dave Gibbons) at some point. This is why you see Moore complaining about “Before Watchmen”, but not about the “Hellblazer” comic that DC’s been publishing since 1988, since Moore knew at the time he was selling DC all rights to John Constantine.

    Anyhow, the whole debate during this couple of months has been very interesting. There have been other cases of creators complaining about the use of characters they created (two examples that come to mind: Tony Isabella and Black Lightning, Steve Gerber and Howard the Duck), but the “Watchmen” has really generated an incredible amount of discussion, and there’s probably much more to come.

  15. I think Dave Sim got it right when he was discussing all these creator’s rights issues back in the late eighties/early nineties with his comments like this one: http://momentofcerebus.blogspot.ca/2012/04/1963.html (from Note From The President, Cerebus #173, August 1993)
    Someone asked about working for the mainstream companies [Marvel and DC]; something along the lines of ‘what if you have a really good Batman story or X-Force story you want to do.’ I pointed out that 1963 is the answer to that. Everyone knows who the characters are supposed to be. Just change the way they look and the name. It dates back to Watchmen, actually. As soon as a DC executive told Alan Moore to change the original Charlton characters into new characters (DC already had plans for the Fly, Blue Beetle, etc) and as soon as DC trademarked and copyrighted those new characters; well hey, that’s checkmate on the big board. If you change the way the character looks and his name, you’ve created a new character. So if that’s what’s holding you back from self-publishing, just pick a character you’ve always wanted to do, call him something else, change a few things about his appearance and away you go. And you don’t have to worry about some editor with a stick up his or her ass making you conform to company policy. You can do the story exactly the way you want it done. Isn’t that great? Well, I think it is.

    And comments like this one: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/2002/08/21/calvin-hobbes-superman-and-copyright/
    No companies are ever going to pay you enough money to sue them successfully.

  16. I must have missed the part where Rosenbaum asked Moore et al. to not use Black Terror.

  17. I think Dave Sim got it right with his thinking on creator’s rights issues from the late eighties / early nineties when he said this: (from Note From The President, Cerebus #173, August 1993)
    Someone asked about working for the mainstream companies [Marvel and DC]; something along the lines of ‘what if you have a really good Batman story or X-Force story you want to do.’ I pointed out that 1963 is the answer to that. Everyone knows who the characters are supposed to be. Just change the way they look and the name. It dates back to Watchmen, actually. As soon as a DC executive told Alan Moore to change the original Charlton characters into new characters (DC already had plans for the Fly, Blue Beetle, etc) and as soon as DC trademarked and copyrighted those new characters; well hey, that’s checkmate on the big board. If you change the way the character looks and his name, you’ve created a new character. So if that’s what’s holding you back from self-publishing, just pick a character you’ve always wanted to do, call him something else, change a few things about his appearance and away you go. And you don’t have to worry about some editor with a stick up his or her ass making you conform to company policy. You can do the story exactly the way you want it done. Isn’t that great? Well, I think it is.

    And this: The myth of course, is that if they violate the terms of the contract you can sue them. It is a myth because it takes a lot of money to sue an individual successfully and a ton of money to sue a company successfully and that brings me to the second hard truth about companies. No company is ever going to pay you enough money to sue them successfully.

  18. For what it’s worth, Nedor’s comics line continued up to 1956, and the parent company up to the early 1970s . Hughes’s had stopped producing their comics about 1948. On the other hand, their superheroes did go in the deep freeze by 1950.

    • I did not know Nedor continued until the 70s, I had always heard the company discontinued in 1950. Like Timely/Marvel and Archie Comics Group, they moved away from super-heroes towards other titles, but I guess people figured that was the same as cancelling the line.

      • Nedor was actually an indicia publisher for a couple of comics published by Ned Pines (“Dor” was his then wife Dora). They used many others (like Marvel did up to the 1970s). . Pines owned the THRILLING pulp line. In 1948, he added “Standard Comics” as the cover brand of his comics. About 1952 he switched the comics brand to “Pines” . They published one of the biggest selling comics in the mid 1950s – Dennis the Meance. Pines sold the magazine and book company around 1970 to Fawcett, which closed the magazines down, and Fawcett was sold to CBS around 1972.

        • Thanks for the details on that story, I was unfamiliar with the final destination for that imprint. It is amazing to me how many “indicia” publishers there were (including for Marvel, National, Fox, Dell, etc.). Timely/Marvel/Curtis/Atlas had about six or seven umbrella publishers, and National/Leading/All-American/DC did as well. Sometimes a different publisher every two or three months, well into the 70s. I assume there were postal/tax/distribution reasons for this.

  19. I thought the issue with Moore and Watchmen was *specifically* that he’d thought that he and Gibbons had a contract which would mean that the rights would revert to them in a relatively short period of time, and that he believed (and believes) that DC either deliberately misled him from the beginning, or just went by the letter, rather than the spirit, of the agreement. (As well as later things like trying to avoid working for DC and working for Wildstorm with his ABC line, only to find out that he was going to be working for DC after DC bought Wildstorm, though that may have just been an unfortunate turn of events rather than anything deliberate on DC’s part.)

    If I am mistaken in this, I definitely welcome correction.

    • No, most of what you’ve just said is correct. You’ve left out some of Alan’s more embarrassing behaviour, but what you’ve said is true, Alan felt mislead, and doesn’t like DC comics in general. I’m not sure what point you’re making in bringing that up, though. Alan’s relationship to DC comics wasn’t the bullseye subject of my satire, at least not directly. I hate explaining a joke, so I’m not going to, but I wasn’t specifically making fun of Alan Moore (or Alex Ross) in this Bun Toon no matter what’s been discussed above. The target lay elsewhere. (Though I did make a little fun of Alan for hypocrisy and the portrait is unflattering, the inspiration to the joke is found in the preamble).

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