This is one of the stories that I file neatly into my “worst damn nightmare that could ever happen to me” pile. The reason for this blog post is to help generate a bit more attention, so hopefully someone far more powerful than myself will hear this story and be able to help out some. If you’re not familiar with Howie’s work, he’s the guy behind the very popular Tara Normal webcomic. Tara Normal’s been running for quite a while now (the site has the first strip posted as 2009, but I believe it’s been going longer than that.) During that time period Tara Normal has received a healthy bit of attention from Hollywood execs and book publishers alike. While it may not be the reason most of us do a webcomic, you can understand the excitement that would generate. I can tell you from my perspective if I got a call from Hollywood you’d need a sedative to remove me from the ceiling. So naturally, these were all signs of things moving in the right direction for Howie.
Now rather than tell his story step by step, I’m going to post a link to a TGT podcast where Howie himself explains his gut wrenching situation to Kurt Sasso at the end of this blog. What I do want to do however is provide the direct links that Howie himself can’t mention due to possible legal recourse. The short of it is this; while Tara Normal was shopped around a few times, it never actually got picked up. However mysteriously enough a new book series titled “SaraNormal” (yeah tell me THAT doesn’t make your heart sink) hit bookstores in 2012. Not only is the name a blatent rip-off of Howie’s Tara Normal, the comparisons don’t stop there. SaraNormal features a young woman with the same abilities as Tara, hits some of the EXACT SAME plot points and even includes some of the same cast members! If that isn’t bad enough, the fictional author Simon & Schuster created to huck this brand of copyright infringement has the SAME DAMN BIO THAT HOWIE USED. The bastards couldn’t even come up with an original background for their made up AUTHOR! SaraNormal is now a book series that has 9 different books, meanwhile Howie is left with the pieces of the baby he created.
Again, I don’t know just what we, the webcomic community can do to stand by Howie during his fight against this type of brazen theft, but it’s important we do something. This is hardly the first time this has happened to the webcomic community either. Some of you may remember the hell Lucas Turnbloom of “ImageThis” went through when “Ted” came out. Lucas decided it wasn’t worth the boat load of cash he’d need to fight Hollywood even though it was pretty obvious that “Ted” more than “sampled’ “ImagineThis.” The sad thing is, as bad as Lucas’s case was, Howie’s is WORSE.
If you are a creator that uses the web as your way to get your product to the world, then this should scare the hell out of you. It appears that the world of webcomics is becoming a breeding ground for Hollywood theft. You know that dream you secretly have where you decided who plays/voices your characters? Well at this rate you may actually see that become a reality, only it won’t be you that gets the profit. You should be even more scared if you’re a webcomic reader since this kind of threat may cause creators to think twice about posting on the net at all.
Here’s the link to Howie’s full talk on TGT that you really should listen to. Furthermore, I urge you to check out Tara Normal itself. Not just to support Howie, but because it’s a damn good comic and it’s well worth a read.
On a closing note, if any of you are friends with Matthew Inman, I’ve got an idea for his next kickstarter… Now if you’ll excuse me I need to find the Colgate, this left a hell of a taste in my mouth.
If you want to get the actual version of the Tara Normal book Howie was shopping around to publisher, click on the link below and support a great indie artist
***Disclaimer*** Just a heads up, this blog post is solely an opinion piece based off of the podcast interview between Howie and Kurt Sasso and general public information. I do not have any additional information about this issue outside of what can easily be found in the public domain. I know a lot of you are asking questions, however they’re just not questions that I have the answers to. My goal in writing about this was to get the word out about what’s going on and encourage you to check out Kurt’s podcast for yourself. Everything I wrote about is easily available to the general public, so please draw your own conclusions and, if you feel so inclined, put your support behind a great independent creator. Thank you.