Oh Nick Simmons. I kind of wanted to post a spirited defense of you using scans of Even A Monkey Can Draw Manga, but I had to draw the line when you weren’t just biting BLEACH, but biting BLEACH FANART. Like… yow, lowest of the low.
Deb Aoki spent the night asking difficult questions on Twitter, about the difference between what Simmons did and what thousands of anime-convention artist alley kids do every year, when they sell their own illustrations and stories based on the work of famous manga creators like Tite Kubo. The short answer is that anime fandom sat up and said “NO! We do what we do out of love and have very strict rules about that sort of thing!” and blah blah blah, which basically ammounted to “It’s us doing it so it’s okay, but Nick Simmons is them, so he’s a pariah we’re all going to tear our garments over.”
Got news for you, champs.
When you sell illustrations, or short stories, featuring your favourite characters, you’re entering into exactly the same dirty world of “commerce” that poor Nick Simmons did. You may be, in your head, doing it in ‘tribute’ to the manga or the creator, but out in the real world? You’re ripping him off, just like Nick Simmons did. You’re more honest about your sources, but you’re less creative. You may even have a much higher degree of craft, but as soon as you violate someone’s copyright or IP in that way, making money based on (legally and artistically) derivative works? You’re all just a batch of Nick Simmons, building your careers on the backs of others creators.
Are there lots (lots) of people who do it? Yes. Is their a “community” of like minded people all telling each other that what they do is okay? Fuck yeah! Does it make a lick of difference…?
Here’s the thing: I’ve got infinitely more respect for obvious thief Nick Simmons than I do for the legions of artist-alley dwellers selling mass-produced copies of their fanart for characters. Nick Simmons is (badly) taking his influences and turning them into something (horribly derivative but at least nominally) “new”. It’s not original, it may not even be good, but every artist or writer is comprised mainly of the sum of their influences and experiences. But at least Simmons on his first shot out of the gate managed to synthesize all that shit into something other than “Here is a terribly drawn portrait of two BLEACH characters making out, in tribute to an author who clearly never wanted this to happen or he’d have done it himself. I am charging $10 for this colour photocopy.”
Paying “tribute” to an author like Kubo by selling work based on his creations is about the same as “building his popularity” by distributing illegal scans and fansubs of his work, I personally put the two in exactly the same category: complete fucking fiction.
What I’m saying is Nick Simmons’ behaviour is embarrassing and the work is getting the smackdown it deserves. But North American anime “fandom” for their legion of sins have no reason to be so comfortable in their condemnation, particularly because the behaviour they condone–and celebrate–is worse.
P.S.: I love fan creations, I am happy that people legitimately pay tribute to artists they love on DeviantArt and in the myriad of Fanfic communities. Sell that work and you cross a line.
Edit Sat Feb27: Normally, I wouldn’t bother approving some of the stuff in the comments section, because there’s a combination of wrong-headedness and pomposity from a bunch of alias’d anime fans that’s off-putting at best, but I decided this time out to let the comments ride. Mostly because I think that the more ridiculous comments speak for themselves, but I also kind of knew that this would be a contentious one going in. As such, I don’t particularly recommend reading the comments here, but instead would recommend that the most compelling rebuttal to my ideas comes from Simon Jones at Icarus Comics, http://www.icaruscomics.com/wp_web/?p=4319, and you should check those out if you’re interested in more on the subject.
For my part, I do understand that plagiarism is bad news, but then I didn’t think that need to be stated. Instead my position was (and still is) that the culture of complacency and all of the mealy-mouthed defence for selling unauthorized work based on a creator’s IP that permeates anime fandom? Far, far worse than any individual instance of plagiarism, no matter how famous the plagiarist is. Seriously, the general attitude of North American Anime & Manga Fandom with its fansubs, it’s scanlations, it’s complete disregard for intellectual property, ethics, or fairness in the face of what they want (everything) and what they want to pay for it (nothing) is so much more utterly damaging to Tite Kubo, to manga and anime, and to Art and Artists hoping to make a living from their Art, than Nick Simmons could ever hope to be. Get your own house in order before crucifying this guy.
Thanks for reading!