Monday, 21 October 2013

Marty Feldman

Cerebus #218 (May 1997)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Cerebus Yahoo! Group, 20 August 2005)
'Marty' was pretty much a straight pull from my Marty Feldman-based character Martin Humble in STARCHILD. I created him in #3, and featured him regularly in more than a dozen issues (and did an 'origin' story in STARCHILD: CROSSROADS #3).

Dave was about to start pulling other self-publisher characters and likenesses into GUYS, and showed me the first pages where he - ahem - misappropriated Martin for CEREBUS #201 at the Spirits stop in Phoenix.

Later, he morphed the straightforward 'Martin Humble' into more of his "Marty' - although by the time he was doing that, the action had switched to the Starchild Tavern (even using my logo as the sign on one of the CEREBUS covers) so he was still riffing me, or riffing on me, or something like that.

At first I was flattered; then annoyed; then chagrined. I mentioned it to Neil Gaiman, who said he only got annoyed when Dave did Swoon because Dave did 'Neil' so well, and I should consider the company I was in (Neil, Frank Miller, etc...). And he was right. Dave had my patterns down cold, and in several cases, could do my own character better than I did.

Had nothing at all to do with the short Canadian guy named Serbius in STARCHILD.

Writer/artist James A. Owen self-published his Starchild comics in the 1990s. More recently James is the author of the MythWorld novels and runs Coppervale International, an art and design studio that also published International Studio and Argosy magazines.

Marty Feldman (1934-1982) was an English comedy writer, comedian and actor, who starred in several British television comedy series, including At Last The 1948 Show and Marty, and the film Young Frankenstein.


Michael Grabowski said...

I remember when Feldman died. I can't believe that was over thirty years ago already. I like that Dave worked him into the comic, but didn't realize Owen was first.

Anonymous said...

I'm not familiar with Starchild, but really, as far as I can tell, it's Dave's idea to incorporate real-life Jewish vaudevillian-type comedic characters, virtually unchanged, into the Cerebus storyline. As far as I can tell, Dave is the first to do that kind of thing.

Dave did Julius, Chico, Rodney Dangerfield, Woody Allen and two of the Stooges. There might be more that I'm forgetting. It's Dave's motif to do that.

If Dave was parodying Owen's character, I would guess that it's because Dave felt that Owen was doing Dave's thing.

I suppose there is quite a bit of irony to the whole thing - arguing about who is the original copyist.

Dave's appropriation of characters is surely copyright infringement but he's very original and innovative in his appropriation - partly because he's blatant about it (and he likely gets away with it because the copyright holders probably haven't noticed). It sounds like Owen was borrowing in the mode of Sim.

-Reginald P.

Dave Kopperman said...

There are no doubt many earlier precedents to Dave's usage of comic actors in Cerebus - even, specifically Jewish comedians. Kirby's use of Don Rickles in Superman comes to mind.

David Birdsong said...

GUYS - page 227 - "I project. Aisle. Vomited. At the Star. Child. Tavern. So they requested that I spend the rest of the day... ...over... here."

That gets me laughing to this day. Guys is the funniest of all the phonebooks, bar none.

Anonymous said...

@ Dave Kopperman

I think the manner in which Dave used Jewish comics is very different -- and highly original -- compared to Kirby et al. Dave went to a totally different place with it, and it seems like Owen must have been influenced by Dave.

In Kirby's book, Rickles appeared as himself along with a doppelganger in only two issues of Jimmy Olsen.

No doubt many comics have done similar. I recall an issue of the Avengers in which David Letterman appears as himself as another example. Mad Magazine does lots of parody as well obviously.

But I think these other homages/parodies are a bit different from Dave's in Cerebus. Kirby et al did novelty celebrity guest appearances that had no significance to the overall continuity of Superman or Jimmy Olsen. You won't find Don Rickles on Superman or Jimmy Olsen's wikipedia pages because Rickles doesn't matter to those stories. You find Julius on Cerebus' page repeatedly.

In Cerebus, Dave based several integral characters on Jewish comics. Take out Julius and Cerebus wouldn't work. Even the more minor comics like Dangerfield were important to the plot.

In Kirby's work et al, you know exactly why Rickles is there. He is "playing" himself. But in Cerebus, it's a fair question to ask, "What is Groucho Marx doing in this story?" As far as I know, there's no one right answer to this question.

It sounds like Owen was using Feldman in the style of Sim, rather than Kirby et al.

-Reginald P

Jeff Seiler said...

David, I agree with you that Guys is the funniest storyline (volume), consistently funnier across the board than High Society, although the latter has many lol, snort milk thru your nose moments--just more drama.

Anon, Dave actually parodied/spoofed THREE Stooges--Larry, Moe AND Curly. And then finally, years later, did Harpo, although I forget exactly where. I think he referred to Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions when he spoofed Okra, but I also seem to recall SOMEPLACE where he did a Harpo character outright. Maybe outside of the Cerebus storyline. Margaret? You out there and able to enlighten us?