Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Shadow Of Roy

Ciao from Perugia, Italy. I was in Florence over the weekend and started musing about art. How could one not? That Botticelli really knew his way around a paint brush, didn't he? Anyway, I once received an invective in the form of email from a young woman from the art/party circuit in New York City. I was told that all I was doing was ripping off Roy Lichtenstein and that his estate ought to sue me for every penny I was worth. That was definitely worth a giggle. I don't know how many times I've been accused of ripping him off or duplicating his work or what have you. I alternate between laughing and being irritated. Not to be a geek, but it really shows a lack of knowledge of the history of comic books.
A lot of people seem to think that Lichtenstein invented non-super hero comic characters, or at least the crying girl motif. Nothing could be further from the truth. Romance comics were invented by Joe Simon and Jack "King" Kirby around 1950 in a successful attempt to expand the marketing of comics to young girls. Romance comics were around many years before before Lichtenstein started copying them. I don't use the word copying lightly, either. He literally would copy them, and some argue forcefully quite poorly. There's an entire website called Deconstructing Lichtenstein that is dedicated to finding the "real" artists behind the images made famous by Lichtenstein. In particular, they bristle at the idea that the Roy Lichtenstein foundation would have the nerve to sue anybody over the use of the images found in his paintings.
To be fair, Lichtenstein never denied copying these images. The problem is that many people who adore his work just don't know this and go around accusing artists like me of duplicating his work. And then there's the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, whose only real purpose is to sue people for the use of intellectual property that probably violated someone else's intellectual property rights.
Again, not to be a geek (though I kind of am), but I have been reading comics since I was a little kid and I have been doodling for about as long. When I like to think about my influences, I don't like to think of Lichtenstein. I like to think about John Romita Sr., who is probably most famous for drawing Silver Age Spider Man comics, as well as a number of other Marvel Comics artists of the Silver Age. People also assume that my favorite artists are also Warhol or Lichtenstein, or God-forbid Damien Hirst. Have you seen a Caravaggio up close? I hate to be cruel, but I also don't think Lichtenstein's comics are drawn/copied very well (just look at the hand of the blonde above and I promise you'll wince). So the next time you're in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and come across the wall with Lichtenstein's Drowning Girl, just know that the image was actually conceived by Tony Abruzzo and his estate ain't collecting diddly.