I certainly never thought I’d describe /b/ as “innocent”

EDITED TO ADD: Since Dan Walsh has showed up to shed some light on the situation, there’s an update here.

Sean T. Collins (whom I’ve now actually met, as well as e-published) posts a press release from Ballantine Books and Jim Davis’ Paws, Inc announcing the publication of a Garfield Minus Garfield print collection.

Paws, Inc. and Ballantine Books, a division of the Random House Publishing Group, announced last week at Comic-Con International that Ballantine will publish a book inspired by the popular webcomic Garfield Minus Garfield.

Garfield Minus Garfield (www.garfieldminusgarfield.net) made its online debut in February 2008 and quickly became an online sensation based on a simple premise: What would Jim Davis’ Garfield comic strip be like without its lasagna-loving fat cat? Without the presence of Garfield and other characters such as Odie the dog and Nermal the kitten, the strips “create a new, even lonelier atmosphere for Jon Arbuckle…Jon’s observations seem to teeter between existential crisis and deep despair.” (New York Times)

The full-color book format will give readers the experience of having both the original and doctored Garfield strips together on the same page for comparison. Dublin, Ireland-based Garfield Minus Garfield creator Dan Walsh will provide the foreword to the book.

Garfield creator Jim Davis was intrigued by—and pleased with—the concept. “I think it’s an inspired thing to do,” Davis said. “I want to thank Dan for enabling me to see another side of Garfield. Some of the strips he chose were slappers: ‘Oh, I could have left that out.’ It would have been funnier.”

Garfield Minus Garfield site creator Dan Walsh says, “When I looked at Jon and laughed at his crazy antics I thought ‘He’s just like me.’ As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one saw myself in him: millions of visitors from all over the world visit Garfield Minus Garfield and tell me they think the same thing. Now, thanks to the awesome generosity and humor of Jim Davis, Garfield Minus Garfield is going to become a book and I’m absolutely honored to be part of it.”

First, let me echo Sean and applaud Davis for seeing this as an opportunity rather than an attack. But this story is still pretty upsetting to me, actually.

I suspect this is only going to be a bigger and bigger problem as time goes by, but “Garfield Minus Garfield site creator Dan Walsh” is making a heap of cash from a meme that’s been around for years. Realfield dates back at least to fall 2007, this one to fall 2006, and this “Garfield minus Garfield” was posted to ED six months before Walsh launched his site, for Chrissake.

I just found out that Eric Nakagawa sold Icanhascheezburger.com for $2 million. The new owners, “Pet Holdings Inc,” now apparently operate a whole family of irritating ad-ridden sites based on the principle of stealing from underground net humor. Don’t even get me started on this. I guess now I know how old-school hip-hoppers felt when Vanilla Ice sold 15 million.

These kind of thefts were mildly amusing when ebaumsworld and SA and 4chan would squabble amongst themselves about who invented what. But now that the big money has started to arrive, it’s all become much less funny. Nothing actionable, but this kind of stuff is by nature collaborative, born out of the rapid-fire oneupmanship of a thousand Anonymous nerds doing it for the lulz, and it’s actually kind of sad to see that exploited.


8 Responses to “I certainly never thought I’d describe /b/ as “innocent””

  1. 1 Jamie S. Rich July 31, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Questions of ownership are going to get more and more complicated over the years. I suspect Davis could have even published this book and involved no one, as it’s his comic strip that has been altered without permission.

    There was a famous incident in the UK when a mash-up artist took a Sugababes song and put it together with Gary Numan, and instead of them hiring the producer who did it, they just went and licensed the Numan sample themselves and remade it on their own. Honestly, I can’t blame them.

    Which isn’t to say I don’t agree with you, because I fundamentally do. I had no idea there was such a history to this thing (so thanks for that illumination). One person should not reap the rewards of something born out of other people’s ideas. Personally, though, I am just as troubled by the rush to collect flash-in-the-pan memes of this kind, and would rather see more original content get its due. The used bins are soon to be filled with the Chuck Norris book, Garfield Without Garfield, and other online jokes that will soon wear out their welcome.

  2. 2 Leigh Walton July 31, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Yeah, my reaction isn’t really about ownership of the material or copyright, as it is about the commercialization of something that was born collaboratively in the gift economy, for the benefit of one or a few.

    It’s just that traditional businesses don’t know how to handle things that don’t have a single creator. If you’re a major publisher and you want to publish a collection of dead baby jokes, who do you talk to? Nobody, of course, because these things arise organically from the public.

    But if some entrepreneurial lame-o had seized on the dead-baby-joke phenomenon fairly early in its existence and had created a site called DeadBabyJokes.com (with a user agreement saying that any jokes you submit become property of DeadBabyJokes Holdings Inc.), he could sell it to a publisher and make serious bank.

  3. 3 Olli August 1, 2008 at 12:36 am

    Here’s a “silent garfield” bulletin board thread that’s been around since january 2006:

  4. 4 misuba August 1, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Who on earth can possibly pity 4chan? If they want the cash, they know exactly how to get it: clean up their act. They haven’t, so they obviously don’t.

  5. 5 Leigh Walton August 1, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    depends on what you mean by “4chan.”

    4chan the administrators (i.e. moot)? He’s explicitly refused to monetize the site on several occasions, so there you go. He doesn’t create or own the content anyway, so no sympathy there.

    4chan the users? That’s a different story. Not that they need royalty checks (if such a thing were possible), and it’s sort of an aggressively anticommercial community anyway. The distasteful reaction is twofold: 1) watching outsiders emulate memes is like watching your grandma rap, and 2) claiming to have created something you didn’t is wrong on principle.

    And come on, “cleaning up their act” would probably kill the site anyway. People visit /b/ BECAUSE it’s the asshole of the internet.

    Another interesting perspective: when the pirates become the producers, maybe turnabout is fair play? Somehow I don’t think so.

  6. 6 travors August 14, 2008 at 1:32 pm


    Leigh, before vilifying someone, why not talk to them first? And don’t trust everything you read from the media.

    ““Garfield Minus Garfield site creator Dan Walsh” is making a heap of cash”…….

    For the record I’m not making a “heap of cash” and I haven’t received a book deal. I’ve been asked to write the foreword to a book by Jim Davis based on the G-G meme. I won’t be making a single penny from the book sales nor do I think I should. The only person making any money from this is the copyright holder of Garfield Paws, Inc. That seems about right to me. I’m just thrilled to be writing the foreword.

    For my part, I’ve made €185 in adsense revenue since I put the ads on the site. Hardly a fortune.

    I’m pretty tired of being slammed for just trying to make a site that made a few of my friends laugh.

    If you’d like to know any more why not send me send me an email? I’m open to talking about anything you want.
    For the record I think you run a great site.

  7. 7 Leigh Walton August 14, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Dan, thanks for writing. I imagine it must be frustrating to see your story spun out into the media beyond your control! And I apologize for jumping onto it and letting my frustration with the Cheezburger guys bleed into your story.

    I’ll add a postscript to this entry and a new post incorporating this new perspective.

  1. 1 Traduttore, tradittore « Picture Poetry Trackback on August 14, 2008 at 2:56 pm

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Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).


Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.

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