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January 28, 2011

Nickelodeon Gag #4

This semester at the Center for Cartoon Studies, I am co-teaching Thesis Seminar II with the amazing Steve Bissette.  Each week, Steve brings in some sort of contract or legal paperwork from his long and distinguished freelance career, for the students to look over and learn from.  Last week we were talking about Submission Agreements.  Steve's advice was to never sign one of these documents, because it basically states that none of your ideas are original, and gives the publisher the ability to steal your ideas without compensating you (and he had some stories where just such a horrible thing had happened to friends of his).

Now, Nickelodeon Magazine was owned by Viacom, one of the largest TV corporations in the world.  And so, before anyone at the magazine could even LOOK at any of my gag ideas, I HAD to sign a submission agreement.  I knew however, that my editors Chris and Dave were good guys and that a TON of other cartoonists I respected and admired had worked for Nick Mag, so I wasn't worried about them stealing my ideas.  The way I interpreted the wording of the submission agreement, was that they have so many people submitting ideas, they might receive the same idea from multiple people, so you can't sue them if your idea appears from another person.  And that very thing happened to me more than once when I was drawing gags for Nickelodeon.  I'm sure it happened all the time, because gag ideas are often so simple.

As an example, here is a gag that I submitted to Nickelodeon on July 5th, 2006:

Then, on January 24th, 2007 Graham Annable posted this hilarious video on YouTube, which uses the exact same gag concept:

MY werewolf astronaut gag was "banked" (turned in to Nickelodeon, but saved for a later issue) so it did not see print until AFTER Graham's video hit the internet.  At first, I was very self-conscious, that people would think I stole his idea, but eventually I realized that this kind of thing happens a lot.

As another example, here was a gag idea that I submitted to Nickelodeon a few months before the werewolf gag, in 2006:

I was pretty surprised when this gag was not approved, because it seemed like a surefire winner.  It had a solid DOUBLE pun and a reference to Harry Potter which was at its all time highest popularity.  But a month after I submitted this idea, there was a two page spread in an issue of Nick Mag where there were all kinds of characters doing strange things, and the reader was supposed to figure out which movies they were referencing.  And there, in the corner, was a Hairy Potter!  

Each issue of Nick Mag was prepared many months in advance, so there's no way they could have taken my idea, it's just that someone else thought of the same joke!


Alec Longstreth said...

As if to further illustrate my point, LESS THAN 24 HOURS after I posted this entry, someone else put up a Hairy Potter t-shirt design on Laughing Squid. See??? :)

Sam Spina said...

haha great minds think alike. and speaking of Gram annable, have you heard of his video game puzzle agent? It's completely incredible, and only 5 bucks! It's awesome seeing his characters in motion, and the voice acting rules

Tommy_Oliver said...

Lol, what's ironic is that Hairy Potter T-shirt guy looks kinda like Hagrid xD

Its cool that you aren't too hung up on this stuff. We can all jump to conclusions in situations like this, but unless you were there, you can never really know for sure.

Thanks for sharing.

M.A said...

Very funny!
You are in my blogroll!