Once someone puts art out into the world, people are free to talk about that art, right? Not if Randy Queen gets his way.
Here's a clash of the titans for you -- a comic-book artist is trying (and in some ways, succeeding) to force websites to take down his artwork if they are being hyper-critical of it.
Let's take a look at the tale of the tape, shall we?
IN THIS CORNER!
Randy Queen, artist of comics like Darkchylde and Starfall.
AND IN THIS CORNER!
Escher Girls, a blog dedicated to archiving and showcasing the prevalance of certain ways women are depicted in illustrated pop media.
The story, it goeth thusly: Escher Girls takes the comic-book community to task for its tendency to depict women in impossibly and ridiculously oversexed ways. It does so by showing examples of poor anatomy from very many artists. Sometimes there is commentary; sometimes people will make an attempt to correct the art. Ultimately, the site exists to point out a problem in the comic medium in the hopes that the depiction of women will be improved as a result.
One artist whose works have been featured a few times on Escher Girls is Randy Queen. He draws women who look like this:
Now, you may very well like this art (which is completely fair), but the folks behind Escher Girls feel it is part of a systemic problem within the comics community. So they called it out, as they've been doing with many artists for a while now.
But Randy Queen is having none of it. And he's contacted Tumblr and gotten them to take down all of Escher Girls' posts concerning his work.
And it doesn't stop there. The site admin for Escher Girls, Ami, tried to inform people coming to the site of what was happening. The post in which she talks about Randy Queen's actions was then ALSO taken down despite having no art of his whatsoever in it.
And Queen also started sending emails threatening legal action:
Dear Eschergirls and Kim,
I would encourage you to put a stop to all of this. I have no problem getting legal involved for defamation, and for your various allegations on your takedown notice thread, and am happy to send a formal cease and desist letter from my lawyer.
Instead of simply removing the content you do not have the right to electronically distribute, you wish to push further, and publicly challenges my right to protect the perception of my IP as it exists today.
At this point, I will ask you to please move along, as no good will come of this.
Additionally, instead of taking shots at art someone did 18 years ago while they were still learning – which are no longer representative of their current art style or direction for their character – I encourage you to spend your time and energy on creating your own characters and comics which you can mkae your own personal sacrifices to bring to the world.
Kim, for the record, is just a commenter on the site, apparently.
So, just to sum up: A site hosting images under the laws of fair use has had its content removed, and it has been threatened with legal action by an artist who thinks it's being too mean.
All right. Let's talk about this. Once you put art into the world, here's what happens -- PEOPLE. TALK. ABOUT. IT. They might like the art, they might hate it. But once you've put your creation out into the world, people are allowed to have their say. Heck, the negative criticism a person receives could potentially help them learn and grow as an artist.
If someone's response to art is violent or harassing, that's a different story. But Escher Girls has not attacked or harassed anyone. They've just called out art which they feel perpetuates the hypersexualization of women through ridiculously impossible anatomy. You might agree with their position, you may not. But they should be allowed to speak.
And if you don't want to take my word for it, take a look at what Rob Liefeld had to say:
Can we all agree that Rob Liefeld has probably had his reputation as an artist tarnished more than anyone else as a result of people making fun of his style on the Internet? So when even he thinks you should let people have their critical say and calm down, you should probably listen.
It's also noteworthy that, for every attempt Queen has made to cover up criticisms of his art, only more people have become aware of said criticisms. And the more articles have been written on the subject where he comes off looking like he's completely in the wrong. Kind of like this one. Funny, that.
What do you think? Is Randy Queen overstepping by invoking the DMCA? Let us know in the comments, or on twitter at @blastr