Plagiarism and swipe (comics)

Comics are known for their creativity, originality, epic story lines, and superb graphics. These pieces of art are difficult to make 100% original from time to time. This is why some artists resort to a process of copying art such as a panel, cover, or entire page from an earlier piece that they themselves did not do.

This procedure is known in the comic world as a swipe , due to the fact the original artist is not credited for the work.


There are mixed perspectives on the practice. Swipes have been around since the early days of Batman, where many of the panels were swipes of Bob Kane’s work. Many times, the swipe goes unnoticed; however, there are many modern instances where the swipe is blatant.

These blatant swipes can be considered to be plagiarism and many readers find them to be irritating. From a sales perspective, swipes are done because of the original artist’s success. Readers may enjoy the style a second time but they certainly do not want to see the same thing over and over.

When work is borrowed from other artists and they are not given credit, it is considered plagiarism. It can also be considered a breach of journalistic ethics or academic dishonesty, depending on the way the comic is published. While plagiarism to an extent is a natural part of the creative process, a swipe could lead towards career damage for the artist, should they get caught. While plagiarism is generally frowned upon for moral reasons, some cases can be considered copyright infringement.


There are many different types of swiping. One of the most common forms is a process called cloning . Cloning is rarely considered plagiarism because the form does not copy panels or art directly. Instead, the process focuses on duplicating the style of the art and placing it with an original story. This is still frowned upon by the community; however, many artists have made careers from their ability to clone styles while keeping some originality.

Batman swipe
Image credit: Rare comics

Appropriation , on the other hand, is a little closer to plagiarism than cloning. Appropriation creates a similar graphic and is re-colored, retreated, and re-sized in order to make the comic more original. This method does not create an exact copy of the original, so it is not considered copyright infringement in many cases.


Another type of swipe is called a pastiche , which uses a combination of appropriation and cloning. The method does not usually add in original characters. Instead, the comic will depict the same characters as the original artist but create a unique plot.

While this is considered to be more blatant plagiarism, it is often appreciated by the fan base of the original comic. Unique comic “mash-ups” are also created using this method.

These methods should not be confused with “homage “. Swipes are very different from homage because a swipe does not acknowledge the original source or artist. Homage, on the other hand, directly acknowledges the original. While some may find homage’s equally offensive in terms of creativity, homage is rarely considered plagiarism. Some artists; however, will not appreciate homage on work that is going to be marketed and sold. In these cases, the artist or their representative should be contacted in order to avoid a copyright infringement case.

It is common for an artist to swipe work as part of the creative process. Since the swipe does not site the original source, while claiming the idea or design as their own, it is considered a form of plagiarism.


Comic image credits (from the top):


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