The webcomics blog about webcomics

Disclaimer Inside

Fancomics are interesting in the webcomic community; their creators cannot profit from the production of their creative wares, or else they are in violation of the intellectual property rights held by another person. Now, I don’t understand the ins and outs of this – but I do know one thing from many years of writing fanfiction. You must, must, disclaim any ownership of the characters, scenarios, or plots.

I have heard of very few situations of cease and desist notices (exceptions for Anne Rice and Orson Scott Card, who prefer their works not to be used), but the need for such a precaution means that fancomics are created for the love of the fandom, and the love of story telling, and the love of art – with no long term plans beyond feedback. Maybe they’re looking for practice, or exposure, but to me, who merely has talents as a bitter, haggard wordbeast, it seems baffling to create a comic without plans to publish a book or create a t-shirt line. I couldn’t imagine putting all those hours into fancomics without reward.

So, hats off to Simply Potterific, and others like it.

Man, that was excellent. Like, Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi excellent. I hope the maker(s?) of that fancomic go on to create some original webcomics in the near future, which I can then purchase in dead tree and T-shirt form.

Baffling? Baffling that one would make their graphical, sometimes sequential, musings and sketches publicly available without intending, right from the very start, to use it as a platform from which to launch a lucrative career in either the publishing or textile industry? Bah!

Whatever happened to that grand old 90’s motivation for webcomics – incrementing your Geocities home page’s hit counter?


What you don’t seem to realise is that there’s still a way to merchanidise your fan-comic – instead of merchandising the characters, merchandise the concepts and phrases that are unique to the strip. Observe 8-Bit Theater:

Just because a set of characters wasn’t created by you doesn’t mean it can’t get under your skin and force stories on you that must be allowed to breathe free. Okay, maybe that’s me and not you, but the point is there are a lot of us, with a history peppered with names such as Homer, Shakespeare and Malory. The difference between King Arthur and Harry Potter is one came after the Bono Bill.

To be fair, I would guess that many webcomic authors don’t realistically expect to make a worthwhile amount of money off of their labor, regardless of the characters they use. Practice and exposure seem to be major reasons to put any webcomic together.

Fancomics might provide more opportunities for practice and exposure than an original comic might. It can be difficult to develop a comic get new readers, partially because it takes some effort for an author or fans to “invest” in a new set of characters or environment; the fancomic creator has the ability to “tap in” to characters or worlds which people already have a strong investment in. Moreover, a fancomic might have long-term prospects for its creator. If an artist is talented enough, he or she can get fans of his or her artwork through the comic, and this could be a good “launching pad” for original work.

That said, I don’t mean to put down fancomics, which can be clever and nice to look at, and have the ability to put familiar characters in a new light.

Neither disclaiming the ownership nor refusing any revenue excuses you from claims of copyright infringement, although doing both makes you an unattractive target by advertising your lack of business ambition and your “amateur” status.

Suing some amateur is a lose-lose proposition: political poison AND totally unprofitable. But it doesn’t mean they CAN’T. If Anne Rice did a Harry Potter book totally for free and put a little I-didn’t-create-it on the cover, you’d better believe the Rowling estate wouldn’t take that lying down. Know the risks.

advertising your lack of business ambition and your “amateur� status

You say that like it’s a bad thing. Or news.

Suing some amateur is a lose-lose proposition: political poison AND totally unprofitable. But it doesn’t mean they CAN’T.

My own (passive) (anecdotal) research suggests that cease-and-desist orders are drawn by websites only which utilize actual creative property of the owner – publicity stills, transcripts, etc. – and not by sites which feature original if derivative works.

As for the cultural value of fanfiction … well, that’s what my websites are for, not this one. Or google henry jenkins mit.

I’m not saying don’t do it. I’ve done it. I’m saying don’t kid yourself that just because something is unpunished, it’s legal. Maybe you believe the law’s unjust– I do. But that’s not the same thing.

I get you. No self-kidding here, thanks.

The problem with the law as it stands now is that it’s not unjust in theory but in practice has a back door that can’t seem to be shut.

I’m really liking the points here from everyone. When I started my strip, it was
1. to get me back to drawing again after a passive, self-imposed hiatus,
2. to express my love of 24,
3. to utilize my new comic-layout software (which was a bargain at $30!),
4. to gain attention to my art, to refine it, and experiment,
5. to point out the glaring, ridiculous plot points and holes with good humor, and frankly, to poke the living crap out of it.

The first thing I did though when starting it was to put a big fat juicy disclaimer that I didn’t own or create the characters on the show, gave the proper credit, and even poked fun at them about all of it.
I was almost immediately asked to make up t-shirt designs and whatnot for fans, to which I realized that I wasn’t doing this for making a few dollars off some cotton products, but rather because I, like a painter, creates to create, not profit. Sure, I could do what L said, about taking catchphrases or recurring themes, but it’s not what I’d call a priority for me.
The only selfish thing I’m looking to take away from my strip is simply to increase my portfolio material, and maybe garner work from it– the paying, legitimate kind.

RSS feed for comments on this post.