One of my Facebook friends asked me about the story about the time I threatened to sue the great Aline Kominsky-Crumb (the wife of the even greater R. Crumb). Another wonderful episode in my sorry-ass life. . .
Aline happened to be the editor of WEIRDO at the time — the pre-eminent comics anthology of that time (they ocassionally printed my shit so naturally I considered it to be the cream of the cream of the comics world). Anyways, I mailed off copies of some of my latest cartoons to Aline for her editorial consideration. And I was thrilled when she wrote back shortly thereafter telling me she definitely wanted to run one of my cartoons in the next issue of WEIRDO, but she needed a better quality copy. What I had sent her was a copy of a copy of a copy — it was actually four different comic strips that I had made xeroxes of and then cut out and pasted together on another piece of paper and then made another xerox of that, and etc. And by the 3rd or 4th generation the Zipatone starts to lose some of its zip and gets this washed-out, dull gray tone. I mean the copy I had sent Aline was perfectly fine, it was legible and everything. But comics editors can sometimes get overly precious about “print quality” (which I can surely understand — when I was an editor I busted my ass to make sure the pages looked as bright and glossy as I possibly could).
So what I did was, I went to a bit of time, trouble and expense, to dig up the original art of the four comic strips. Cut them out and re-laid them out on another piece of paper, and then got a high resolution copy of the whole thing. Which I then packed up and mailed off to ole’ Aline (which also cost money). Then I waited with bated breath and feverish anticipation for the next issue of WEIRDO to come rolling off the presses. Which sadly, as it turned out, did not feature my cartoon. So I wrote Aline a nice little letter where I politely asked her whatever happened to my cartoon. No reply. So I figured she was probably just planning on using it in the next issue of WEIRDO. So I waited 3 months or so. But when that issue came out, I still wasn’t in it. So I wrote Aline a second short letter (still polite, though not quite as polite as my first letter). No reply again. . .. So then months later, the next issue comes out, and I’m STILL not in there. So I wrote her a third letter. This time a little more pissed. I mean, if she had simply wrote me a short note saying, “Sorry. I changed my mind and decided not to publish it” I would have completely accepted that. I mean, as a free-lance artist you get well used to rejection and just accept it as part of the gig. But to be blown off like this — like I was just some insignificant peon who didn’t even deserve a response — I guess that’s what rankled me. And hell hath no fury like an Ace Backwords rankled.
And the more I thought of it, the more it occurred to me: this situation wasn’t really any different than any other work-related dispute between employer and employee. I mean, Aline had basically hired me to do a job. I had done my part of the job. But not only had she refused to pay me for the work rendered, she didn’t even bother to offer me any explanation.
So I wrote Aline a fourth letter — considerably less polite than my previous three letters, where I threatened to sue her in Small Claims Court so that I might be duly compensated for my labor on her behalf (now that I think of it, the whole thing would have made for a bitchin’ episode of Judge Judy).
Well sir, THAT punched through Aline’s crust. I got a QUICK response from her this time. Like just several days after I had written her. She apologized. Said she had been an “asshole.” Etc, etc. Which is all I wanted. An explanation. And I was completely placated by that, and that was the end of it. I mean I had never actually planned to take her ass to court and sue her in the first place. Are you kidding? If there’s one place I avoid like the plague it’s a Court of Law (about the only way you’ll get me inside one of those things is in handcuffs). It’s just that I don’t like being blown off. And very few people have gotten away with doing that to me over the years. Not even the great Aline Kominsky-Crumb.