Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Re-use Art. Create something new.

The blog has tackled the copyright law concept of Fair Use before.  It's a fun concept, with no helpful guidelines, that allows the use of copyrighted works in new works; meaning that there is no copyright infringement. 

The main reason for this exception is to allow comment or criticism of copyrighted works.  

 (Please note that if you have any questions about the very complex exception called Fair Use, do see a copyright attorney and ask.)

One of my favorite re-uses of copyrighted materials comes in the form of "Garfield Minus Garfield," which was created by Dan Walsh.  In the worlds of Dan Walsh on the site, "Garfield Minus Garfield is a site dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb."

It's hilarious.  It's wonderful.  And it's completely dependent upon Jim Davis' own "Garfield" comic.  In fact, Jim Davis has made his own book entitled Garfield Minus Garfield in which Dan Walsh has written the foreword.

Dan Walsh was kind enough to answer some questions about his creation.  All thanks to Dan for taking some time out to answer the questions.

What gave you the inspiration to create "Garfield Minus Garfield"?
The premise of removing Garfield from the strip had been knocking around message boards for a couple of years before I first saw it, but when I did it genuinely made me laugh out loud. I decided that if I found it funny, my friends probably would too.

Do you think you criticize the "Garfield" comic itself, since you try to highlight the character flaws in the main "Garfield" character, Jon Arbuckle?  What other comments about the comic do you try to make?
That's the strange thing about this project, even though I remove the title character, the strips still remains as almost an ode to Garfield. I guess that why even Jim Davis likes it.
I think also Jon has been slightly crazy all along: Garfield has actually been a distraction from just how lonely Jon actually is. I think I try to say: "look at how insane this guy is that you've been laughing at since you were a kid - isn't it odd that we didn't notice before?

How did you first begin to create your comic?  Is there any difference between how you do it now or how you did it when you first began? How do you decide which of Jim Davis' entries to use?
In the beginning I took a particular interest in amending the strips that made Jon seem well, a little manic depressive, I don't know why but they made me laugh the most. So I made that my angle and around January 08 I posted a few to my blog travors.com. I enjoyed making them so much that I eventually created a blog devoted to them. I still try to find strips that highlight Jon's instability now but they're getting harder and harder to find!

How does the creation of your comic differ now that you have the book deal and are - in a way - "authorized" than when you first did it and were on the outside?
Well first thing - I didn't receive a book deal, nor do I think I should have. A few months ago Paws Incorporated were kind enough to offer me a fee to write a foreword to a book by Jim Davis inspired by Garfield Minus Garfield and I accepted. I was very surprised! But absolutely delighted, it was a very flattering to be asked to write the foreword. But the creation of the strip hasn't changed at all, the only thing Paws Inc asked me to do was to include a link to Garfield.com on the site, which I gladly did.

How did people react when you first started?
The fan mail has always been really positive, it's been really nice to see such a kind side of human nature - when you make people laugh, they're really appreciative. The media were fantastic too, G-G has been featured in Time magazine, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The New Yorker oh.... and the Irish Sunday Tribune :)

When did you decide to bring it out from a secret to a website and did you have any hesitation?
After the interview with The Washington Post that also included Jim Davis - he actually praised the site, so I felt it was ok to "come clean".

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