The Morning Line: Do You Do 'Derivative'?
"Imitation is the sincerest form of syndication."
(* okay, we coined that -- but "anonymous" lends that certain authoritative air, no?)
No matter the artistic medium, viewers are often compelled to see influences. It's a way to connect to a new work, like learning that someone is a friend-of-a-friend. But when those influences are too blatant, too direct, the creator is called an imitator, a copycat or -- in polite artistic circles -- simply derided as "derivative." Sniff -- the damage has been done.
On the comics page, the derivative abounds, sparking reactions that range from "But it's homage" to "thieving scoundrel!" "Mutts' " Patrick McDonnell openly acknowledges his due to George Herriman's classic "Krazy Kat" -- he's a true Herriman scholar, in fact -- and everyone can smile, sit back and enjoy the honest homage. In other cases, though, business is far less gentlemanly. Exhibit A: Every other panel strip that has followed in the wake of "The Far Side."
Gary Larson's retired creation left such an enormous creative footprint -- and so many aspiring cartoonists were inspired by his genius and success -- that one could point and shout "derivative" at today's comic pages till both index finger and larynx tired from overuse. Fairly or unfairly, now charges of "derivative!" have come forth with the recent release of the panel "Argyle Sweater." To wit: this charge of being too "derivative."
I'll leave it to you to decide whether comics like today's "Argyle Sweater" are overly derivative. No, my Big Question for today is: Do you even care when a strip is markedly derivative? Does it offend your aesthetic sensibility and sense of fair play, or do you think it's all one big marketplace of exchanged ideas and approaches, and honest influences are the price of working in the field of art? We politely invite your comments.
(Note: This blog item is the sole property of Comic Riffs and The Washington Post and any attempt to filch our ideas without the expressed writ -- aww, nevermind, If we can influence a single soul, then so be it.)
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