Credit Where Credit Is Don’t

I am ashamed to admit that of the dozen or so times I have encountered a person in the wild wearing one of my shirts (a person who wasn’t coming to see me at a convention or hadn’t just purchased the shirt from me at a convention), I have probably failed the “SERIOUSLY DON’T SAY ANYTHING DON’T BE A COMICALLY OVERSIZED DOUCHE LIKE SOME SORT OF CLOSER AT A CARROT TOP SHOW IN VEGAS LIKE A BIG 40 FOOT TALL PROP DOUCHE IN A CARROT TOP SHOW DON’T DO IT DON’T DO IT DON’T DO IT!!!” test half of those times. More often than not, I say something horrifically dumb like, “Hey, nice shirt,” and they say, “Huh? Yeah. Ok,” instead of “OOHHHH EMMM GEEEE THANK YOU IT’S FROM MY FAVORITE ONLINE COMIC LET ME TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT!!!” The individual wearing the shirt typically has no knowledge of me or my work because they simply followed a link to buy a shirt from a website, put in their credit card number then immediately got hit in the head with a rock or a truck or a sack full of pianos and forgot the entire experience until the shirt arrived at their door, seemingly out of thin air.

Earlier today someone emailed to tell me that they bought a shirt from some website and later found out I designed it and wanted to make sure the site hadn’t stolen it from me. Several minor panic attacks later I finally realized she had purchased the shirt from my own store. I don’t think that applies to the ideas expressed above, about my shirts being more famous than I am, but hey, it’s a story. Whatever.

COMMENTERS: Let’s talk about getting credit. Do you crave the credit you feel you are due? Do you go out of your way to get it? Have you ever been denied credit for something or had it stolen from you? Have you ever been given credit for something you didn’t do?


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  1. I had one of my comics about metal posted around on some image sites and some facebook pages without a source. But that was mostly my own fault, I wasn't putting my website info on my comics back then. You can bet your butt that's what got me to start doing it!

  2. We were at a festival gigging and some local newsprogram made an item about it using our music as background, recorded then and there. They didn't credit us in the item and sold it to a program that aired multiple times, which used the item for several days. I know this because people told me about seeing me on TV in areas that weren't even close to where we played.

    The editor made a half-assed apology and a promise to better themselves and I figured there wasn't anything to be gained from litigation (apart from maybe some small cash, which isn't worth the trouble here) as the shows had already aired so we'd missed out on the publicity.

    Still pisses me off to think about it.

  3. The scenario depicted in the comic is something I go through regularly with my jewellery line. However I usually see people wearing my pieces when they are shopping at my booth for more jewellery, so it seems perfectly okay to say "you're wearing one of my necklaces", without feeling douchey, since they usually recognize me or the line.

    However I find it super frustrating that many people get my line mixed up with another one that I don't make, or claim to have bought a piece in a store I've never sold to. Sometimes they bring me earrings that other people made that are broken and attempt to convince me that I made these pieces and should repair them !!!

    • I know what you mean about the second part. I get credit ALL THE TIME for geek mashup t-shirts that I didn't do or other peoples geeky comics that made it around facebook or reddit. I usually just smile and say, "oh that wasnt one of mine," but Im usually seething because the gag they're referencing isnt even clever.

      • Yes, it's irritating when someone thinks a product is yours, and IYO it's a piece of crap that you would never make in a million years.

  4. For the first couple of years as an actor I would even claim "credit" for having been involved in a show or film when my involvement was "despite great feedback, wasn't given the role".

    I would be the WORST if I saw someone actively supporting my work out in the wild…

  5. Professional DJ here. Mostly weddings and mitzvahs, but I do have some signature mixes, scripts and routines that end up being "duplicated" in a half-assed manner by my so-called competition. It cheapens the presentation. Makes things "common". Glad I don't receive credit for their performance. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I wish they would attempt to duplicate my rates too.

    Credit where credit is due… Living in South Bend, I get multiple comments about your Notre Dame parody shirt every time I wear it. I DO tell them about Hijinks ENSUE and encourage them to check you out. Go Fighting Timelords! Yay sportsgame

  6. I wrote this abysmal, incredibly long, sappy love poem in the 8th grade and my English teacher had it published in the school's student journal. I was pretty stoked about that at the time, being 13 and not realizing how awful middle school poetry could be.

    Three years later in 11th grade, I came into my art class and say that another student had written the ENTIRE THING on the chalkboard the art teacher never used. Being a mature woman of 16, I had come to realize how unbelievably terrible it was, and I was not happy to see it pop up in my life again. I prepared myself to deal with the onslaught of classmate mockery sure to come my way as people finished reading my epic paean to adolescent ardor.

    Upon closer inspection I saw that the Poor Taste In Poetry Vandal had in fact signed their OWN name to this steaming pile of verse. I will never understand what could have made them admire this abomination, this affront to the English language, enough to pretend ownership of it. In all my life, I have never been so grateful for someone's dickbag behavior.

    On a side note, I saw someone at work wearing the same shirt in the comic, and it was all I could do not to run over and tackle them screaming "I LIKE WEBCOMICS TOOOOOO, LET'S TALK ABOUT THEM FOR THE REST OF THE DAY AND GET NOTHING PRODUCTIVE ACCOMPLISHED!!!!!!!"

  7. Joel, the trick is to ask an open-ended question to see how the person responds.

    After you start with, "Hey, nice shirt/interesting shirt/I like your shirt!" You then ask, "So what's the story behind it?" This makes it initially more about them and less about you until you can gauge how much of yourself you should inject into the conversation.

  8. I have to say, I get more compliments and high-fives when I'm wearing HE gear than ANY other nerdy shirts I own (and I own a lot). I'm the enthusiastic fan then trying to tell the person how awesome all of HE is, and where they can buy it, and spelling out H-I-J-I-N-K-S….they probably think I own the damn store I'm such a pusher.

      • No joke. Have you ever thought about putting the url somewhere on the shirts, maybe in small font near the bottom or the back? Or do you think that just annoys people? I guess it becomes less about the joke standing for itself, and more of a walking advertisement, which probably falls in the douchey category…

        • I do think most people would find it annoying if it were anywhere near the design and large enough to read. Most people that put a URL or brand name on a shirt either do it on the sleeve or the back. The problem is that's an extra printing location and increases the overall cost of making each shirt.

          • Another thought, and maybe it is too late for this to be read, but putting a website on a shirt might get the shirt blurred out if worn by a celebraty like when Abrams wore Groverfield.

            I don't know how the rulez work or cost befit of hundreds/thousands of geeks sporting the website all day everyday vs random chance occurance of an apperance on an interview.

            just a thought though

  9. I would probably stammer out "That's my shirt!" and sound like a creepazoid and be to flustered to explain "no, I don't think you stole my shirt, it's more that I made the design on it.."
    (For what it's worth, I wear a shirt I got from you at a con years ago with pride.)

  10. How do you not set fire to yourself on a daily basis? Not that you should mind you. And not that I have anything against fire. Some of my best friends are fire and they all agree with me that you deserve to take credit for your awesome creations.

  11. You once tried to give me credit for inspiring the shirt in today's comic (I'm pretty sure I didn't.. and we chatted about that) at CCEE. Does that count?

    When I do know the designer of a piece of work (shirt, poster, etc.) I tend to run around telling everyone all about them. I'm an embarrassment to you. Soooo many "oh hey, did you know XX designed/wrote/created that? They're so awesome. You can find their work online (or in store) at…" Really, you should all fire me from all fandoms. After you design another really cool auction prize for our charity *bats eyelashes* pretty please.

    • By my recollection "Sci-Five" was birthed out of an HE comments thread and I was pretty sure you were a part of it. Or maybe not.

  12. I am an odd duck, sometimes I want to talk about me and what I do and other times i want to left a alone, or I am worried about getting into a conversation that I can't get out of with someone I find dreadfully boring or irritating. I don't want to be rude or mean. In a situation like above I might test the waters with, "Cool Shirt, how do you like it?" and then based upon how they respond I'll I have a better idea if I am walking into a conversation 'trap'. In a more public forum like facebook I would want to get my credit and people know were they can but my stuff.

    As a side note "awesome shirt" is a great non commital ice breaker. If a person just says thanks or nothing you know that they are busy or non social or perhaps in small cases a douche themselves. Most people who get an awesome shirt from the net or a friend love to talk about it or where they got it from. I get props on or asked about my Hijinks ensues shirts all the time.

    • I have a buddy who has a comic that is MUCH more popular than mine and he never ever wants anyone out in public to know what he does. I think he feels it will automatically shift all conversations to being about him and prevent the other person from just being themselves.

  13. working in IT as a sysadmin, i almost never get credit, but i guess it's common in my line of work. main line sharksplodes, we got battery power from UPS for another 20 min and i can get everything up and running on main power again in 19 minutes? (don't ask for details, i actually had to steal power from the office down from ours..) Yeah, no one almost noticed, and that's what i'm paid for, no?
    Developer screws up big time, delete the main database, and somehow is able to reach the server room, and fucks up the backup too, while i'm on sick leave? My bad, and i had to stay overnight (no pay) to fix it. (side note: what a coincidence, idiot developer slipped down to a flight of stairs couple weeks later. oooops.)
    I wouldn't even know how to get recognition for my work, hope you got yours Joel, you deserve it BIG TIME! 🙂

  14. I rarely see the fruits of my labor since I often take a bunch of pictures and no one tells me what they used them for or where they posted them (and the number of times I get credited properly is in the low teens of percentage points). Recently though a client showed me some cell phone photos of a trade show booth they did with my images…

    Seeing my photos blown up to 8'x10' walls was amazing… I want them all for myself once they're done with them… I have never been so proud of anything I've done in my life. If I had been at the show I would have just sat and watched people as they walked by and then maybe cut them off and pointed at the work and been like "Hey that huge photo you just walked by… I did that… I made it!"

  15. Hey look..there is a link down there that has all kinds of random geeky tshirts.. the interscapes are amazing..

  16. I've written a book and maybe a dozen articles. However, because of the niche I'm in and its internal rules, if anybody uses what I wrote without giving me credit it runs the risk of killing their career so it never really happens that often. I have been astounded by the far off places that have cited me though.

  17. Oh man, I would be so stoked if I were out and about in public wearing a favorite geeky t-shirt and someone came up to me and casually mentioned that they had designed it. That's really cool! I don't think it's douchey at all.

    Over the past few months, I've been quoted without attribute several times, and someone also took some infographics I made AND REMADE THEM without credit. They took my exact words, made them uglier, and didn't credit me. WHY WOULD YOU DOOOOO THAAAAAAAAAAAAT. The quoted without attribute I have mixed feelings about because it was kind of a big/contentious news story about feminism and I know it kept a bunch of trollish assholes away from me… but also those are my words and i stand by them and the author took them from twitter or a storify, so my name was literally right next to the words so… what? You can't miss the quote! They even used words from my twitter bio to describe me without naming me! But the changing my infographic? That's just insulting. Sorry my design didn't include enough ~ARTISTIC~ fonts or whatever.

  18. I had a really wonderful conversation with a bookstore check-out person because I was wearing one of your shirts. It was the Doctor Who/Dr. Seuss/Rory one. She commented on it instantly and I told her where it was from and we ended up talking about various webcomics until someone else needed her (she was at work after all).

    • That's awesome! I love the idea that my shirts are starting conversations and helping geeks commiserate on various geekeries.

  19. This reminds me of a time I was at the Stumptown Comics Fest and an artist excitedly gibbered at me "Oh hey! I made that shirt!" upon recognition when I was walking by his booth. I didn't think it was douchey at all, just an excited recognition of his work. He did seem a bit embarrassed after that outburst, though. Then an aisle over, I got a compliment from another artist on the shirt and I was able to tell her, "the dude that designed this is just over there." So, not bad at all, in my opinion.

    I don't recall ever given credit for something that wasn't mine, although I have been asked a few times if X thing was my design. I have done a design where I wasn't too keen on getting credit because of the subject even though it was one of my best graphic designs. Thankfully, I haven't had credit stolen from me (that I'm aware of, of course).

  20. I don't seek out much credit for my work, but then I haven't made anything that someone has tried to share/steal before. Until that happens I can't say for sure how I'll react.

  21. You should TOTALLY tell a person that you made the shirt they're wearing. If I found out I sat next to a guy on a plane who made the shirt I was wearing and he didn't say anything, I'd have him stabbed. Or I'd just feel an odd mixture of detached embarrassment and bitter remorse. but id opt first for the stabbing.

  22. Back in college I helped build a radio telescope for the physics building. Occasionally I bump into another student from there who mentions doing work with it and I get to say "I helped make that." Other than that I don't do much of note I can bump into out in the wild. I did have one time online where I mentioned something a friend had been discussing at a party and someone else accused either me or my friend of stealing credit from a blogger (who I will call NB). I had no idea my friend had a well-ish-known blog about the topic, but I was not surprised in the least to find that out.

    My main issue is on a lesser scale is that I like to share experiences but I get very self-conscious about it. If I come back from volunteer work and want to post about how great I feel after the hard work compared to my typical sedentary life, when I reread it it comes across as a douchey humble brag of "hey, everyone should know that I do volunteer work. I'm awesome for that."

  23. It's "Cool Story, Bro!" Time!

    Picture it – Sicily, 1942…I mean, Miami, December 1991. Mega Man 4 had just come out. I was in middle school at the time. My best friend Gary had heard that there was a contest in Japan held by Capcom, and that the winners had their robots put into Mega Man 4. So we got the idea to draw up some robots and send it to Capcom in hopes that the'd pick our ideas for Mega Man 5.

    We designed 3 robots. One robot was designed me, one was designed by Gary, and the last one we designed together. My robot was Brick Man, who could make brick walls to block Mega Man's shots, and attack by hurling bricks. Gary's robot was Marine Man, who would shoot waves from one hand and throw tridents with the other. Our jointly created robot was Dynamite Man, who would toss sticks of dynamite and set off time bombs. We drew detailed pictures of our robots, colored them, and wrote down what their powers and attacks were, then mailed it to Capcom.

    A few weeks later, we get a letter from Capcom thanking us for our input, but that they "weren't taking any ideas from fans at this time". Oh well, me and Gary had fun and thought nothing of it….until Mega Man 5 came out in December 1992, and me and Gary noticed that three of the robots looked eerily similar to our ideas…

    Stone Man looked EXACTLY like my Brick Man, except he was tan instead of red , and had a round jewel on his chest. Wave Man looked like Gary's Marine Man, right down to the trident, scuba gear and flippers. The only difference was the crown and a slight change from teal to a darker blue. As for Napalm Man, he was just our Dynamite Man except the stick of dynamite on his head was swapped out for a missile launcher, he had tank treads instead of wheels, and a rocket launcher for a hand instead of a lighter.

    Despite all this, neither me nor Gary got any credit or acknowledgement for our ideas, but I'm satisfied with knowing that our ideas ended up in one of the better Mega Man games.

  24. I did a shirt for our local balloon festival about five years ago. They were tie dye shirts with a stencil of a stylized balloon and some stars. About two months ago, while waiting in line at Golden Corral I saw a young girl wearing the shirt. I didn't say anything, though, because at that moment I had forgotten about the shirt altogether.

    I just kept staring at the shirt trying to figure out why it so familiar. I probably looked like an agitated pervert, staring at this young lady's chest and muttering.

  25. My wife has your Grammar Dalek shirt, and she hasn't read your comic (except what I make her read whenever I find something especially hilarious). But it's ok because I know where it's from.

  26. I'm a barista and on May 4th last year I was making Death Star lattes for people. I STILL get people sending me links to some random site they've seen the picture on (uncredited). I know it's just a dumb cup of coffee, but I'm not really good at many things. LET ME HAVE THIS!

    *pic for reference and self-aggrandization:

  27. Of all the geeky t-shirts I wear, my HE shirts ALWAYS get the most comments, even at huge conventions like Dragon*Con where everyone and their great grandmother is in their finest geekery. And then I enthusiastically gush and direct them here, so hopefully it works out that you get more click-throughs and I seem like the crazy person (and not you by proxy).

    But yes, if I ever ran into you in the wild and was wearing one of your designs, I would absolutely love to have it pointed out. I don't think it would be douchey at all.

  28. I wrote a weekly movie review thing that I self-syndicated around a hefty chunk of the web that eventually got me paying work, because I had, you know, experience. I spent maybe three years at that before the paying work started dropping the quantity of the freebies, and eventually, it was almost no one left. But later, I started playing Pathfinder with a buddy of mine, and some of his friends. One of said friends actually recognized me from the work, and asked if I was THAT Steve. And when I asserted that I was indeed said Steve, it blew both our minds. Said friends because they were talking to someone they read frequently, and me because I actually–gasp!–met a reader. Freaky.

  29. I've received roughly 37c a year on my royalty statement for the last 5 years for radio play in Singapore for a song that I'm pretty sure just has the same name as a song I wrote. I'm not sure what if anything to do about it.

  30. "Typical individual who had no idea who you were or what your comic was about" checking in.

    I was walking down a private beach in the Caribbean, when out of nowhere a guy relaxing on a lounge chair said "Nice shirt." (I had the Edward shirt on, and the guy in the chair was you.) When you asked where I had gotten it, I couldn't answer better than "some web site". I was stoked when you admitted to have known exactly where, because you had made it. I don't remember the word douche being in my head at all. Admittedly, this was JCCC2, which is not strictly speaking "the wild". I later traded you a sugary alcoholic drink for a caricature of me wearing the shirt.

  31. I've had people steal (i.e. put their name to them) and sell my mashups. That's annoying, since the original artists don't get anything, I don't expect anything since it's not completely mine, and obviously post them for free as fun things to promote the artists and maybe myself…although there is skill in creating a mashup.

    Really annoying that they sell them on iTunes and Amazon and I can't do anything since – you guessed it – I'm not the copyright holder.

    Ditto with my photographs, and that's more annoying as they are 100% mine, so I tend to watermark those now…and I had a RSS button once that EVERYONE stole, which I actually didn't mind but the lazy people linked it directly, stealing my bandwidth and screwing up my stats. Back then I was more polite, since then I've invoked the 'gay porn switcheroo' strategy which stopped the likes of nicking my content. Naughty. Their getout clause was 'it's a user generated list'. Grr.

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