The Pirates and the Mouse: Disney's War against the Counterculture

The Pirates and the Mouse: Disney's War against the Counterculture

by Bob Levin
     
 

They fought the Mouse and the Mouse (eventually) won,but it was a battle that left everyone bloodied...
During a time of unprecedented political, social, and cultural upheaval in U.S. history, one of the fiercest battles was ignited by a comic book. In 1963, the San Francisco Chronicle made 21-year-old Dan O'Neill the youngest syndicated cartoonist in American

Overview

They fought the Mouse and the Mouse (eventually) won,but it was a battle that left everyone bloodied...
During a time of unprecedented political, social, and cultural upheaval in U.S. history, one of the fiercest battles was ignited by a comic book. In 1963, the San Francisco Chronicle made 21-year-old Dan O'Neill the youngest syndicated cartoonist in American newspaper history. As O'Neill delved deeper into the emerging counterculture, his strip, Odd Bodkins, became stranger and stranger and more and more provocative, until the papers in the syndicate dropped it and the Chronicle let him go. The lesson that O'Neill drew from this was that what America most needed was the destruction of Walt Disney. O'Neill assembled a band of rogue cartoonists called the Air Pirates (after a group of villains who had bedeviled Mickey Mouse in comic books and cartoons). They lived communally in a San Francisco warehouse owned by Francis Ford Coppola and put out a comic book, Air Pirates Funnies, that featured Disney characters participating in very un-Disneylike behavior, provoking a mammoth lawsuit for copyright and trademark infringements and hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Disney was represented by one of San Francisco's top corporate law firms and the Pirates by the cream of the counterculture bar. The lawsuit raged for 10 years, from the trial court to the US Supreme Court and back again.
The novelist and essayist Bob Levin recounts this rollicking saga with humor, wit, intelligence, and skill, bringing alive the times, the issues, the absurdities, the personalities, the changes wrought within them and us all. Includes never-before seen art from the Air Pirates archives! Two excerpted chapters of this book in The Comics Journal in 2001 proved to be one of the magazine's most popular features in recent memory. Black-and-white illustrations throughout.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1971, a group of underground cartoonists known as the Air Pirates put out a comic book parody of Disney cartoons in which Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Bucky Bug and others get high, have sex and swear a blue streak. Extremely protective of its characters' reputations, Disney sued-and turned what would have been a blip on the countercultural radar screen into a First Amendment cause celebre. The result was a classic post-Vietnam kulturkampf pitting artistic license against corporate copyright, and San Francisco's bohemian debauchery against Disneyland's disciplined wholesomeness. Levin's charming and thoughtful account, complete with reproductions of some of the offending cartoons, meanders through the history of the comic book industry, the rise of Disney to domination in the cultural marketplace and the intricacies of copyright and First Amendment law around which the litigation revolved. His anecedotal, shaggy-dog style is perfect for sketching indelible portraits of the quirky, romantic, incorrigibly stoned denizens of San Francisco's underground comics scene, whose mission it was to smash every false idol of square America and whose sensibility lives on in alternative weeklies across the land. If they did, as Disney claimed, besmirch the innocence of a national icon, the Air Pirates are themselves emblems of a lost idealism, of a time when people believed that sex, drugs and revolutionary rhetoric could liberate society from the rule of corporate entertainment monoliths. B&w photos. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781560975304
Publisher:
Fantagraphics Books
Publication date:
07/28/2003
Pages:
270
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Bob Levin lives in Berkeley, CA with his wife and collaborator, Adele. He practices law when he isn't writing books.

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