Unauthorized Michael Cho t-shirt surfaces at HeroesCon

As spotted by fan and blogger Ty Buttars this weekend at HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina – someone has lifted a copyrighted tribute image Michael Cho did of Jack Kirby and made a t-shirt out of it.

The unauthorized t-shirt spotted at HeroesCon - note that Cho's signature was removed. Photo by Ty Buttars.
The unauthorized t-shirt spotted at HeroesCon - note that Cho's signature was removed. Photo by Ty Buttars.

Michael Cho wrote on his blog:

Let me just say a few things about this. Firstly, I don’t like people ripping off my artwork to put on t-shirts. Even if they print only one, for themselves. My work is clearly copyrighted by, and owned by me. It says so at the bottom of this blog. If a company ripped off my work to reproduce in mass quantities for profit, I’d be really pissed. If its just an individual doing one for themselves, I’m not pissed but still offended. Especially if, as is clear here, that person has removed my signature from the art. And please note, this isn’t a “re-draw” or a “re-creation” or a drawing similar to mine, – this is just a straight grab of my artwork, as is, minus the signature.

Secondly, I am particularly offended by this specific drawing being reproduced on a t-shirt. Why? Because its a drawing of Jack Kirby: a creator whom I have immense respect for, and who was also routinely and unfairly exploited during his lifetime. I did this drawing as a tribute to him, to post here on this blog, and have had several comments from people suggesting that I make it into a shirt for sale. Unfortunately, I’d never want to do that. The reason for that is obvious: I don’t want to make money off of his memory or likeness. Kirby has a fine estate, and unless they authorized the work, I would never ever want to violate his memory by exploiting him one more time.

And lastly:

So, I’m posting this blog entry to make it clear that this t-shirt was never authorized or approved by me, and to ask a favour. If you’re the guy who printed this shirt and you did it just for yourself, please be kind and stop wearing it. You’re probably a Kirby fan like me, but please understand that you’re not only ripping off my artwork, but that you’re using it in a way that is upsetting to me. I don’t want anyone to see the shirt and assume that I was responsible for it, especially anyone connected to Jack Kirby’s estate. If you like, I’ll send you a blank shirt or any of my other t-shirts I’ve designed over the years to make up for it. Contact me via email, and I promise to honour that pledge with no hard feelings. However, If you’re a company and you printed this shirt for profit, stop being a douchebag and desist right away. I will do everything in my power to stop you if you don’t.

I am also asking a favour to anyone who sees someone wearing this shirt. If you could be so kind as to tell the person wearing this that the artwork was ripped off and that he should stop, I’d appreciate it very much. I realize that’s a big favour to ask, and I wouldn’t ask for most other rip-offs of my work, but this particular case really bothers me. And if any of you know any more information about this rip off, especially if it’s by a company producing mass quantities, please contact me. I’ll make it worth your while.