There was an interesting letter in this week’s Hey, Answerman! segment over at Anime News Network (ANN). The letter was from a fan who loved an OEL (Original English Language) Manga creator’s work but this person saw similarities between that OEL manga creator’s work and a well-known Japanese manga creators work. The similarities from panels, positions and even character designs were too alike that it bothered the fan – was it an out-right rip-off or a homage to the original creator?
Now, none of the manga’s were named from the OEL manga to the Japanese counterpart so we cannot judge for ourselves what is what but it raises a question that all artists must face one day: where do you draw the line to originality and paying homage to someone you admire?
According to Answerman, Japanese artists and manga publishers are very proactive in protecting their work and anyone they deem may be stepping on that copyright will be sued. Some may be cool about it and not go after the little guy and usually all it takes is the internet to ridicule the person to oblivion but what about those who don’t get caught? Will they be lauded for their work? Will they get paid for it? What about people like Kasey Bowman who ripped-off Wenqing Yan’s (aka Yuumei) art and won a Scholastic Prize for it?
It’s one thing to learn an admired artists’ drawing style and to draw similar work and quite another thing to claim that person’s art as your own even if it’s slightly changed. The English manga industry is a very small one and artist’s in this area tend to be even tighter. If you have any aspirations in breaking into this field, be very careful about what you claim as yours. It can easily break your reputation and once your reputation is gone, you will be hard pressed to shake off that stigma the rest of your life.
Kasey Bowman had her prize stripped from her from Scholastic and after trying to make a new start at Deviant Art, later had to close it due to many vocal members on her actions. It is unknown if she ever opened a new DA account or moved to another art community but for a 17 year old who is just starting her career, I highly doubt that she will ever make it in the art field due to this severe misjudgment on her part. The internet does not forget and neither should you.