[Left: Incarnate by Nick Simmons. Right: S T A L K E R by chaosvoid @ DA;
image comparison posted on bleachness @ LJ.]
Finally, Nick Simmons has broken his silence on the accusations of plagiarism launched against him by fans who were outraged by certain striking similarities between Simmons’s comic, Incarnate, and popular manga Bleach (among others, deviantARTists included).
However, considering the reactions to what he said — and didn’t say — the general fan consensus is that he’d probably have been better off keeping quiet. In a statement released via a representative and posted on comics reviews and news blog Comics Worth Reading, the embattled comics artist said:
Like most artists I am inspired by work I admire. There are certain similarities between some of my work and the work of others. This was simply meant as an homage to artists I respect, and I definitely want to apologize to any Manga fans or fellow Manga artists who feel I went too far. My inspirations reflect the fact that certain fundamental imagery is common to all Manga. This is the nature of the medium.
I am a big fan of Bleach, as well as other Manga titles. And I am certainly sorry if anyone was offended or upset by what they perceive to be the similarity between my work and the work of artists that I admire and who inspire me.
Radical Publishing, Incarnate’s publisher, which last week announced it was halting further production and distribution of the comic, has verified that this statement was indeed made by Simmons himself. (Somewhat relevant, considering the Simmons-wannabe troll who posted inflammatory statements on the Facebook group calling for legal action against Simmons.) Deb Aoki of About.com: Manga reports that, according to Simmons’s public relations representative, this is the only statement he’ll be making for now.
There are few responses one can make to plagiarism accusations without making matters even worse. Unfortunately for Simmons, this wasn’t one of them. If anything, fans now seem even more outraged, Simmons’s bland evasion of the issue — and his resorting to the age-old refuge of artists meeting accusations of plagiarism, “artistic inspiration” — having added more fuel to the fire. “A cop-out,” several commenters on CBR’s blog post called it. ANN’s forum members were equally unimpressed by the apology’s lack of substance.
Members of the Bleach fan Livejournal community, Bleachness, where much of the compilation of image comparisons and overlays took place, didn’t hold back either when it came to vocalizing their scorn. One of the Bleachness members summed up the general sentiment quite succinctly, emphasizing the absurdity of “certain fundamental imagery” as a defense. In addition, Bleachness has posted a followup to its first post on the matter that includes credit links and interesting discussions this issue has spawned.
[credit: cuddl on LJ for the comparison, first posted on bleachness on LJ]
It’s not a stretch to understand why Simmons’s statement hasn’t done a lot to quiet the outrage. Not only did he dodge the actual substance of the accusations — notice that he said he was sorry that people were “offended” by the similarities, that he wanted to apologize to fans and artists who “feel [he] went too far”, but said nothing about whether he was sorry there were similarities in the first place — he also went so far as to call the similarities an “homage”.
But no amount of hiding behind claims of creative inspiration is going to change the fact that plagiarism is one of the farthest things from an homage an artist can render; for starters, the latter is meant to honor an artist and to convey one’s appreciation, while the former is practically an insult. To credit the near-perfect lineup of comparison panel overlays to “certain fundamental imagery”, and to invoke “inspiration” and the “nature of the medium” as a defense, is a disservice to fellow artists and comic fans alike. Tracing does not artistry make.
Judging from Kubo Tite’s tweets when the issue first broke, he’s more than capable of taking things in stride. His fans, however, as well as other people who’ve written about the issue as it developed, don’t seem quite as willing to let the lack of substance in Simmons’s statement slide.