Plagiarism is a serious issue (I’m sure Jess Fink can account for that), yes, but I’d argue that there’s a vast difference between ripping someone’s idea, and what is essentially the illustration equivalent of convergent evolution. Derivative art taps into the collective consciousness; it’s funny because everyone who appreciates it thinks “hey, why didn’t I think of that” or, alternatively, “hey, I thought of that too,” and everyone has a good laugh at their little inside joke.
The thing is, this joke has been done before and it will be done again- hell, here’s an entire collection of other Doctor Who/Charlie Brown mashups for you to peruse. I’ll give you a moment. It’s a cute concept, sure, but it’s also a very basic play on words (oh man THE DOCTOR is in and he is THE DOCTOR this is COMEDY GOLD); it’s not a huge leap of logic to imagine that several artists could come up with comparable concepts. If the drawings were more similar, sure, I’d call foul, but the Teefury design doesn’t even draw from any of the details that make Joel’s design distinct.
When I finished my historically accurate portrait of Belle and decided to make a series out of it, I did some basic searches out of curiosity for “historical Disney princess” to see what was out there. LO and BEHOLD other artists have had the same idea, bless my stars and garters, and since then artists have approached me saying they’ve wanted to do something similar for a long time. Do I think they’re stealing my idea? Heck, do I even mind if they’re inspired by me to do the same thing? Not really, no. I have enough faith in the strength of my own derivative work that I’m not worried about other artists taking a whack at the same concept. Derivative pop culture art (okay, it’s a fancy phrase for fanart, I’ll call it like it is) is a wide field- if you do it well, if you put your own mark on it, you’ll stand out.
Should Joel follow up on this? Sure. Should he publicly condemn the artist and Teefury as blatantly ripping off his design before he gets the facts? I really don’t think so. Should AJ Paglia have googled the concept before drawing it? Enh, that’s neither here nor there. Maybe before he put it onto a shirt, sure, but I can honestly see people choosing one design over the other based on their differences, not their similarities.
Also, if you want to get really technical with this, they’re both doing derivative fan art of two separate, copywrited properties, so the ground their standing on here is already a little shaky. If the BBC or whoever holds Charlie Brown’s copyright could step in and get both of these designs pulled. Odds are they won’t do that, but it’s still important to remember.
Sure, it’s a cute idea, but let’s keep it in perspective here.