Monday, October 5, 2015

Great Minds

An Internet friend brought to my attention a new graphic novel being published in the U.K. titled The Inflatable Woman, in which cartoonist Rachael Ball writes about cancer. It sounds like it's a work of fiction based on Ball's own experience with breast cancer. The cover looks like this:

My friend thought I'd be interested because in Mom's Cancer, my graphic novel about my mother's experience with lung cancer, I drew two pages that looked like this:

So there you go.

For the record, and to put my friend's mind at ease, I've got no problem with that.

I don't know Ball and don't know if she read Mom's Cancer. I doubt it. I think she probably stumbled onto the same "Operation" metaphor I did. It's a good one! The identical red and gold color palette is easily explained: those are the colors of the game.

One thing I've learned over a long time of trying to be a creative person is that ideas--even ideas that seem strange and unique--are surprisingly common. It's what you do with those ideas that distinguishes them.

For example, I had opportunities to pitch story ideas to the producers of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (then later "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager"). I never sold them anything so the experience was a failure, but I learned a lot. I once got two sentences into a pitch when the story editor stopped me and said, "We started filming that last week." I was flabbergasted: I thought my idea was dazzlingly original. I was flabbergasted again when the episode aired and I saw that he was right. It was my story, including the parts I hadn't had a chance to tell him. If he hadn't stopped me, I'd have been absolutely certain that "Star Trek" had stolen it.

I think there are a lot of creative people nursing grudges against other creators or companies they're certain ripped them off but probably didn't. I know a few of them.

Even if Ball did read Mom's Cancer years ago and consciously or subconsciously filed away the "Operation" metaphor, so what? It's one image among hundreds in both of our books. Her use of it does me no harm. Besides, you can't copyright an idea, only the specific expression of it, and hers is totally different.

Ball doesn't need my blessing but she has it anyway. I'd like to meet her someday because I think we'd have a lot to talk about. I like the look of her cartooning style and wish her all the best with her book.

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