It’s comic book convention season in the US.
This used to be a good thing for comics creators…

However, over the past few years comic book conventions are more welcoming to people that sell and make a ton of money from art & prints of unlicensed, existing intellectual properties (IP.) Many artists do this at every show, in plain sight, and without worry.
The cons do absolutely nothing to police this illegal activity.
Most artist alley tables and booths sell this crap.
These IP swiping schmucks are not trying to create unique characters and comics of their own; they just want to make money.

It is pretty lame when you are tabling at a con next to some hack slinging a literal tower of illegal prints – Let’s not forget the cosplayers, tattooists, vape stands, and recently even the US Navy!?
It makes it a daunting and depressing task.
Especially when I am trying to sell and promote my own IP, that these same people may eventually steal. Like they did with Hellboy, Batman, Spiderman, Spawn and so many other characters.

A few of my fellow comic creators have spoken out about the proliferation of this IP thieving “fan art,” in the past and were largely treated like witches in the 1600s.
These supposed “fan artists” now often outnumber actual comic creators at shows.
How is an up-and-coming indie creator supposed to compete with all these other artists selling well established properties they don’t own?

I had hoped that after the pandemic these fast cash fan artists would go away; but that is not the case.
There are now more than ever.
Indeed, there seems to be no end to the proliferation of things such as Adventure Time and Batman mashup prints…

Why is this the new norm?
I do insanely well at comic shows with my original Blood Desert series without having to do any IP swiping.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the drive to make a bootleg. I have made and been a part of the creation of many bootleg comics and toys.
I don’t sell them for profit though. I mostly give them away for free, or at cost.
Plus, I do my best to parody and honor the source material, not just steal it.
I am also not trying to make a living off bootlegs.

Virtually none of the properties I see being swiped are in the public domain & I doubt they have the consent of its creators.

The majority of this fan art is not paradoxical or transformative.
90 percent of it are boring, blatant copies.

Did copyright and trademark law disappear?
Disney and so many other corporate content farms are hemorrhaging money. Maybe that is because, in addition to most of their product being lame, 1000s of people are oversaturating the market with illegal versions of the stuff they already make?
I am not one to stick up for the Mouse; but is everything just up for grabs?
Did governments update the laws so this is all cool now?
I thought the Air Pirates Funnies court case, along with Ghost Rider creator Gary Freidreich’s were enough to deter some of this stuff.
That is seemingly & sadly not the case.

It has only gotten worse…

Now we have the new God of intellectual property thieves – AI.
This new “tool” makes it so anyone with a dial up internet connection can create art that swipes from the greats.

If I was a member of the Frazetta family I would be suing the pants off every AI art program out there. The infringement of his style in so much AI art is blatant & obvious.
Like Frank, so many artists worked for years to create a style and artistic voice of their own and now some fraud can steal all that hard work with a few key words.

How do you think this will affect the comic art and convention scene?
Already “artists” are using AI in comics. AI will also embolden these previously mentioned fan artists to make even more of the IP stealing crap you see for sale at shows.

Everything will eventually look the same – Digitally generated neon noise.

AI is a wet dream for corporations tired of exploiting human creatives who demand a living wage.
For example – It is troubling to see very few tattoo artists speaking out against AI. As they should be the ones screaming the loudest…
I want you to think about a robotic surgical arm.
Now attach a tattoo machine to it.
Then hook it into AI software.
The customer punches in their idea and requests it rendered in the style of their favorite artist. The program could even use styles from every tattoo artist who posts those, “I am too cool for this shit;” videos they are all so fond of.
This new robotic tattoo arm would be 100% hygienic.
It would also have no physical limitations.
It could tattoo for hours without a smoke break.
It does not sweat; have bad breath, or an attitude.
It could safely tattoo a customer in minutes…

Now I came up with this idea while sitting on the toilet.
Just imagine when some tech nerds make it happen.
Then it will be too late.

Every creative and fan should be fighting to stop AI using existing art without first obtaining consent from its original creators.
Conventions should put a stop to all the IP theft at their shows.

The lazy artists embracing AI to merely steal and copy should be admonished, not praised.
Galleries should not be showing this highly derivative work.

What happens when these new AI “artists” outnumber traditional artists?

Now is the time when we still have a chance to push back against corporate servitude.
If this moment is squandered, the age of corporate controlled art will stifle creativity and innovation in the entire art world.
Plus A.I. will dramatically affect the livelihoods of almost all your favorite artists.

Support original creations made by humans instead.

Article header art by Dan Thrax.