Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Ghastly Christmas Glamour

Sean Michael Robinson:

Well howdy everyone...

And a special greeting to new A Moment of Cerebus Editor-in-Chief/Wrangler/Domain Master/Legally-Responsible-Party Matt Dow! I for one can't thank you enough for stepping into the wide gulf left by founding AMOC blogger Tim W's departure. Truly, thanks to both of you for making this happen, and for such a quick and graceful hand-off.

Okay, to the business at hand!
I've spent most of my Cerebus-related work time the past two weeks on getting more Cerebus in Hell? issues in the can and in the solicitation queue, work that I'll continue once this post is complete...all the while pitching in just a bit on the ongoing FLIGHT Kickstarter.

Right before launch, Dave sent a fax to myself and fellow Cerebus in Hell? stevedore Benjamin Hobbs, detailing plans for, what else? A Christmas in Hell? card, to be completed in time for the Kickstarter launch.

I thought you all might enjoy a peek at the process, as it's pretty close to our work flow for Cerebus in Hell? For those of you wondering how the book gets put together, read on...

Here are the faxes for the exterior of the card, as they came through the fax machine. (I won't picture the interior of the card here, because, spoilers, eh?)

And Benjamin went to work! Here's what he sent me a day later:

The background of the image is a segment of the unbelievable Cerebus in Hell? crowd scene Benjamin created specifically for Cerebus Woman #1, coming soon(!) in, uh, May 2019. Dave also requested flames on the image, a la Cerebus in Hell? #1. After some back and forth, he clarified:

"Flames should be covering the line art. If you can do some Photoshop tricks to make them look like they're IN the flames, so much the better."

I started by grabbing a few images of all-encompassing flames from Google Images, knowing that the result would be so obliterated in the finished version that there would be no legal issues with working with someone else's photo. 

I popped one of the flames on top of the whole shebang and started playing with the different blending modes.

But because the line art is mono, the different blending modes that would normally be go-to for this kind of task were not really very useful. Just a bit of time later I settled on "Lighten" as the blending mode, with a lowered opacity.
Here's how it looks--

Well, isn't that lovely? I think what it loses in clarity, it makes up for with a certain... ghastly... Christmas glamour.

Or something!

Want a personalized Christmas Card in Hell? all of your own? Check out the FLIGHT Kickstarter, live right now!


Carson Grubaugh said...

LOL. I swiped that same photo as reference for a painting a few years ago. Layered two fire photo together to avoid copyright. It WAS HELL. Never got closer to giving up on art altogether than while painting that image.

Sean R said...

Dude... that's...

a bit insane :)

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...

Thanks Sean,

But it's INTERIM-Editor, Interim.

Tim's Editor Emeritus. Perry White is the Chief...

The boss is Captain Gannon.

(Wait a minute...)

Michael said...

Theft is theft.

Sean R said...

Hey Michael-

Rest assured, if Dore were still alive, I'm sure he (or his solicitors) would agree with you!

Anonymous said...

You know its wrong, but think its Ok because you "obliterate" the original, sorry but its still wrong.

"I started by grabbing a few images of all-encompassing flames from Google Images, knowing that the result would be so obliterated in the finished version that there would be no legal issues with working with someone else's materials"

Sean R said...

No, I don't think it's wrong. I think what's ethical and what's legal here are related. What possible ethical issue could there be in using another's work as texture when it's LITERALLY rendered unrecognizable in the end result? That is, unrecognizable even to the person who created the original?

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...

Well Anonymous,

If Marcel Duchamp draws a beard and mustache on the Mona Lisa and calls it L.H.O.O.Q., is that theft?

I mean I'd hardly say Sean is ripping off the google image creator as badly as Roy Lichtenstein ripped off all the artists he screwed over.

I dunno Sean, maybe put a note on the back of the card?

It's an interesting debate, that's for sure...
(The Cat in charge, or so they say...)

Anonymous said...

Hmm, so now the post has been edited to remove what I assume is the unmodified image in question....

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...


Wasn't me?
Matt Dow
Interim Editor

Sean R said...

Hello again Anonymous,

Yes, I removed the screenshot that showed the in-process image, because, congratulations, you've now convinced me to be paranoid that someone (you) would use the (in process, modified but recognizable) screenshot to try to start some kind of trouble for me.


I'm sorry that this bothers you. All I can do is urge you to not purchase the Christmas card, or read some about the legal and ethical issues surrounding collage, arguably the great 20th century art innovation.

Hey Matt--I must respectfully disagree, I think Duchamp's work is radically different in that it has a dialogue with the ubiquity of the image. Lichtenstein, in the most charitable reading you could have, is in dialogue with the ANONYMINITY of the image. This is straight-up use of raw material as texture, a photo in a blender and reconstituted on the other end. But, really, I think the screenshot of the less altered image made it clear how little resemblance there is here to the original.

Another analogy-- sample the chorus to a Police Song, pay massive royalties and/or legal fees. Sample a single snare hit and use it as the basis of a programmed loop for your own song? Perfectly fine. Sample a single chord of a symphonic performance and time-stretch it till it's a single smearing infinite loop?

Very different thing.

Sean R said...

(Re: Lichtenstein, I don't buy his ad-hoc rationalization myself. I think it's the height of snobbery and elitism that he or critics would think he was ELEVATING f'ing Joe Kubert, say, by poorly tracing his stuff onto giant painted canvases. But, like I said, his paintings being in dialogue with the anonyminity of the original art is the most charitable explanation/rationalization)

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...

Well Sean,

I admit my examples were a bit of a stretch.

But let's bring this back to where we is:
Are Dave's Wolveroach covers thefts of the Wolverine covers? I'm sure the argument could be made either way.

Or what about that fantasy story Dave used in Latter Days? I remember there being a tempest in a teapot over that back in the day, until the original writer came forward and gave his Blessing.

Like I said, it's an interesting debate...
Matt Dow
The Host with the Most...

Sean R said...

Well, the first example is closer to the Duchamp example. He's using a RECOGNIZABLE image, using it because of its ubiquity. And when you see it you're seeing it through the lens of memory, his alterations to the original more visible to you and taking on another kind of meaning then they would divorced from your prior knowledge.

The second example is more like the case at hand, except, you know, it's still recognizable and thus still pretty different than this.


Know The Facts said...

"Do not believe the widespread myth that "less than two seconds is fair use." There is no "magic number" like this. Also, some courts apply a fair use rule only to the musical composition copyright, not the sound recording copyright. For example, one judge ruled that any musical sampling violated the sound recording copyright."

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...

And actually Sean,

I stand by the Duchamp example.

Without the Mona Lisa postcard, L.H.O.O.Q. is just a scribble.

Duchamp did what you did, he took another image and changed it into something new.

Matt Dow
The...damn I'm out of funny titles...

Sean R said...

Hello Know the Facts:

I'm very familiar with the law on these issues. It's well-stated in your link:

"Reducing the risks. If you use an uncleared sample, you can lower your risks by:
making it unrecognizable
not using the sample as the primary groove or hook
burying it in the mix, and
not using the title of the source music in the title of your song.
Defending a Lack of Sample Clearance

If you decide to use samples without clearance, you might be in the clear in certain situations. Under the copyright law, you do not have to obtain sample clearance if your sample is so altered that it doesn't infringe, or your use is a fair one.
How to Make Sure Your Sample Use Does Not Infringe

If you alter a sample so that an average listener cannot hear any substantial similarities between your work and the sample, there is no violation of the law."

Sean R said...

THe musical equivalent of the Duchamp example would be the "Pretty Woman" Two Live Crew case.

Jeff said...

Speaking of ghastly Christmas glamour, I went to a Parrothead club meeting tonight, at the Mall of America, and heard Christmas music everywhere. At the end of the meeting, when it was "anything else?" time, I moved that the club issue a proclamation that malls should not be allowed to play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, unless it's Christmas music as sung by Jimmy Buffett. (He has two Christmas albums.)

Travis Pelkie said...

Psst...there's an option when looking at Google Images to find images without copyright restrictions. Click Tools, then Usage Rights, then you get:

Not filtered by license

Labeled for reuse with modification

Labeled for reuse

Labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification

Labeled for noncommercial reuse

I believe you'd want "reuse with modification".

Jeff said...

Give it up for Travis, folks! Actually being helpful, as opposed to my stream of consciousness posts (Well, most of the time, anyway. BTW, did I ever tell you about that time when I...'scuse me one sec...what's that, Matt? Oh. All right. 😕 (TBC, folks.)

Sean R said...

Thanks for the reminder, Travis. A great tool, and one I use fairly often when I know the result would be recognizable in the finished image :) Will consider reaching for that more reflexively going forward.