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Tributes or Plagiarism at the New Yorker?

The New Yorker is changing a Harry Bliss cartoon’s attribute on its website after a professor in Wisconsin contacted the magazine and then New York newspapers alerting them that the Bliss cartoon looked like a 1962 “Tales to Astonish” comic book cover by Jack Kirby.

A spokesman for the New Yorker says that Harry’s attempt was not plagiarism but a tribute to Jack.

Harry did it with all good intentions. He thought it was an overt reference, and not an attempt to plagiarize. He thought it was a tribute,” Cassanos said. “To people in the comic world, it’s a recognizable image.

In a related and somewhat ironic story, Harry is again being accused of plagiarism by a New Jersey man named John Rau who claims that a Bliss cartoon that appeared in the April 21st New Yorker is eerily similar to one that has been on his web site since 2006. After making the accusation, the New York Post has since found a cartoon on Rau’s site that is eerily similar to a Bliss cartoon published in the New Yorker in 2003.

After being shown his cartoon along with Bliss’ 2003 New Yorker cartoon, Rau said,

“That’s incredible, Mr. Bliss would certainly be within his rights to say it’s too much of coincidence, but it is a total coincidence.”

Now it’s changed his perspective on “Hollywood Rehab”-gate. “Maybe Mr. Bliss and I are just kindred spirits,” he said.

The father of two, who works in advertising when he’s not posting cartoons for his site, said he’s considering removing the eagle cartoon from the site now.

Community Comments

#1 Norm Feuti
May/27/2008
@ 1:57 pm

Is it just me or does it seem like folks are awfully quick to make accusations of plagiarism recently?

I don’t know, I’d have to pretty certain of someone’s guilt before I dropped that bomb.

#2 J.G. Moore
May/27/2008
@ 2:28 pm

C’mon. It’s bad enough that cartoonists can’t A: Get jobs and B: Keep the few we have…

BUT

C: THIS knucklehead “Prof” is claiming plagiarism?!?! He needs to get a damn life.

The New Yorker should have not have even commented on this. Great way to throw the cartoonist under the bus. Gah!!! (rolls eyes)…

#3 Malc McGookin
May/27/2008
@ 3:25 pm

The fact that the NYer sees a change is necessary is quite significant. This was plagiarism, but through idiocy, not for financial gain or personal glory, you can’t tell me that Bliss couldn’t have drawn a monster on the side of a building, he merely chose to draw Kirby’s odd-looking monster the way other artists would draw Harryhausen’s King Kong, i.e. a monster that an audience might already identify with.

Bliss deserves criticism, but not for outright plagiarism. He should have known better that the genre figure and set-up he chose to use would need to be credited.

#4 Bill Jones
May/27/2008
@ 7:55 pm

doesn’t the eagle cartoon clear up any suspicion about the rehab cartoon? i think it does.

and that takes away any corroborating effect that the rehab cartoon had in the suggestion that the kirby cartoon was stolen rather than used as bliss said.

i hope the eagle cartoon gets as much press as the previous cartoons did. but i doubt it will.

and alan, i think putting the headline in question form fans the flames around bliss after it seems he has been cleared. if nothing else, i think the word should be “tribute,” rather than “tributes,” to indicate the only real question that could possibly still be raised is about the kirby cartoon.

#5 Jack Sparrow
May/28/2008
@ 10:07 am

Here’s what I think. The rehab cartoon wasn’t copied from any where at least by Harry as on another website it says the idea was conceived by Alex Gregory which was passed on to Harry by the Cartoon Editor. As for the Kirby’s drawing, Harry must have used it as reference for monster. But he should have been more careful and made some changes to make it look a bit different.

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