Randy Queen Offers Comical Response To Online Criticism of His Work "Darkchylde"

Randy Queen is a comic book artist and the creator of Darkchylde, an improbably-breasted teen who can transform into creatures from her nightmares. He also writes related poetry.

RAIN, RAIN

Rain, Rain, falling down
Grey sky shadows, and my sad heart

. . . and so on.

Now, I am not personally offended by improbably-breasted women in comics. I recognize them for what they are: a cultural signal, like golf pants or McDonalds' Golden Arches. Their presence on a book or comic cover signifies that you will encounter nothing unfamiliar or unsettling therein. Anatomically incorrect breasts are the dogs-playing-poker of fantasy art.

Not everybody shares my view. For instance, the proprietors of Escher Girls critique the way that women are depicted in pop culture, including comics. They tend to criticize art like this example of Darkchylde:

Occasionally one of the cats assumes this position towards me, which I recognize as a sign of aggression.

I appreciate the existence of this dispute. How can you not like a blog with the tag "boobs don't work that way"? But even if you disagree with the criticism of pop culture tropes, you probably recognize the critics' right to offer it.

Apparently Randy Queen doesn't.

First Queen filed DMCA takedown demands with Tumbler seeking the removal of examples of his art from their critical posts. This, to start, was bogus, censorious, and petty. Escher Girls' posts are a classic example of Fair Use. "The fair use of a copyrighted work . . . for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching . . . scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright." Showing a few examples of art from an artist in order to criticize in the art in a blog post is clear fair use.

But Randy Queen wasn't done. When Escher Girls' proprietor "Ami Angelwings" posted about Queens' DMCA takedown notice, Queen responded with bluster and threats, as Mike Masnick reports:

Dear Eschergirls and Kim,

I would encourage you to put a stop to all of this. I have no problem getting legal involved for defamation, and for your various allegations on your takedown notice thread, and am happy to send a formal cease and desist letter from my lawyer.

Instead of simply removing the content you do not have the right to electronically distribute, you wish to push further, and publicly challenges my right to protect the perception of my IP as it exists today.

At this point, I will ask you to please move along, as no good will come of this.

Additionally, instead of taking shots at art someone did 18 years ago while they were still learning – which are no longer representative of their current art style or direction for their character – I encourage you to spend your time and energy on creating your own characters and comics which you can mkae your own personal sacrifices to bring to the world.

Sincerely,
~R

Yeah, Escher Girls. Go invent your OWN enormous-breasted monster-creating teen and THEN come back to trash-talk.

This, of course, is perfectly ridiculous. Queen does not specify any potentially defamatory statements the Escher Girls made, nor could he. Saying that an artist's work is banal and soft-pornographic may not be kind, but it is a non-defamatory statement of opinion, particularly when it is accompanied by examples of the basis for the opinion. Moreover, correctly reporting that someone filed a DMCA against you is not defamatory, nor is characterizing the sender as a self-satisfied prat. To the extent that Queen is complaining about what commenters said in the thread about him at Escher Girls, his argument is defeated by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, under which Escher Girls is not liable for the statements of commenters. Moreover, typically, he hasn't specified what statements he contends are false. Remember the truism: vagueness in legal threats is the hallmark of meritless thuggery.

You can still see the posts that upset Randy Queen here through the Wayback Machine. I suspect that as more people learn about his buffoonish threats, you'll see critiques in other places as well. He's well on his way to discovering the full force of the Streisand Effect. But Randy doesn't show any signs of learning his lesson. His more recent threat:

So, at this point it becomes harassment.

Instead of simply removing the content you do not have the right to electronically distribute, you wish to persist in character assassination, and alleged abuse of copyright claims via armchair lawyers.

Let’s say I take someone’s old copyrighted photography and ‘corrected’ it for them, as well as posted disparaging comments to circulate along with what may be someone’s first exposure to the work. Guess what? I don’t have the right to do that, it’s not my content. And based on the comments in this thread, it’s an easy argument to make that it is damaging.

There are people and animals suffering and dying in the world, and real human rights issues in certain countries, and this is what you take issue with? Art nearly two decades old? I think there are greater causes to champion with the limited time and energy we are given on this Earth.

For anyone this may apply to – instead of taking shots at art someone did many years ago while they were still learning – which are no longer representative of their current art style or direction for their character – I encourage you to spend your time, energy, and courage on creating your own comics, and then make the necessary personal sacrifices to bring them to the world.

If you think you can do better work, or have more success with it – I encourage you to do so. I promise I will never attack anything you create, and would only wish you only love and happiness.

Since you enjoy posting private emails, and needlessly escalating matters, I'm sure this will be next, and would again ask you to please stop.

I am sure there are more positive uses of both of our time.

Sincerely,
~ R

All of this is typical in the entitled censorious jackass playbook: claim that calling out censorship is "harassment," claiming that your critics have no life because they are paying attention to the issue, there-are-children-starving-in-Fuckistan arguments, making vague and nonsensical claims about the law despite having less of a grasp of it than a poleaxed beagle, and disparaging your target's supporters. It's all strictly paint-by-the-numbers. But despite the frivolity of the arguments, when oafs like Randy Queen are willing to file bogus DMCA threats and bluster about lawyers and lawsuits, there is a genuine cost. Writers like the Escher Girls have to incur costs to respond and to learn about their rights, and many are chilled and deterred. That's in part because our system allows litigants to file bogus and malicious lawsuits with very little fear of suffering real consequences.

As always, you can help. You can help the Streisand Effect by telling this story. One kind attorney near Ami in Canada has already offered time and advice pro bono in response to my request on Twitter; I hope to thank her by name when I get permission. If Queen can dredge up an attorney to write a legal threat, or if he actually files suit, I am very confident that the free-speech-loving attorneys of America will step up. I'll light the Popehat Signal in a heartbeat.

Let's not put up with this nonsense.

Edited to add: Mike Masnick notes a development I missed — Randy Queen is now making bogus DMCA takedown demands against the Escher Girls post criticizing his previous takedown demands. That's basically cartoonish supervillainy. As Masnick points out, there could be unpleasant legal consequences to him.

Another update: Mr. Queen has apologized and has told Tumblr he withdraws his DMCA requests and has asked them to restore the content. It is good when people doing bad things stop. The point is made.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. That Anonymous Coward says

    I really enjoyed when he started using the DMCA to take down people reblogging her story.
    I am impressed with Ami, who took the high road.
    She stated what was happening & why. She specifically told people not to go after him for this… and he went that extra little bit off the deepend.
    And then what do you know, 2 blogs run by people I interact with picked up her story.

    This entire escapade shows that the DMCA is a lopsided tool, that pretends to be balanced and fair but is fatally skewed toward anyone claiming to be a rightsholder.
    It is a tool of censorship and unwavering control offered to anyone willing to make even false claims.

  2. sacho says

    There is an interesting effect of pro bono work and the Popehat signal I hadn't considered before – the confidence in the lack of merit for the legal threats. Even just the eager availability of pro bono help is a strong pushback against the chilling effect of bogus legal threats. Thank you, and the lawyers sacrificing their time, for such a noble endeavour.
    Now I must go and feed the starving children of Fuckistan.

  3. says

    I have taken it upon myself to preserve one of the images (and accompanying criticism) that Randy Queen tried to destroy, in the link above, along with some fresh criticism provided by me. Come at me, Randy Queen!

  4. says

    Remember the truism: vagueness in legal threats is the hallmark of meritless thuggery.

    I was already reciting that as soon as I saw the headline…

    @Anon with the first comment — I've watched Ami consistently "take the high road," as you put it — I've followed her work both at EG and elsewhere for some time, and that's pretty typically her.

    To see Randy Queen jump into full-on censorious thug mode is sadly unsurprising, but here's hoping that the Streisand Effect hits just as fully. Doing what I can to signal-boost, too.

  5. Steven Lockey says

    Not sure how its lop-sided against the 'infringer'.

    If you get a complaint and contest it, nothing happens unless the complaint then takes it court. Its only if you don't content the DMCA that it gets taken down.

    Thats about as fair as you can get without requiring a court hearing for every single takedown.

  6. ZarroTsu says

    publicly challenges my right to protect the perception of my IP as it exists today

    Next he'll sue Frank Miller for also drawing impossible female body poses.

  7. Dan Weber says

    From the title, I thought "a comical response" was going to mean "he responded by writing more comics addressing his critics." But no.

  8. Fasolt says

    Instead of simply removing the content you do not have the right to electronically distribute,…

    Would non-electronic distribution be OK, I wonder?

  9. Josh C says

    So, without detracting from the overall douchbaggery, it looks like Queen blundered near a less-obviously-frivolous claim: that this criticism is unfair, because his art hasn't been that crude in 18 years.

    There's still plenty else wrong, but I'm surprised that's not a more valid claim.

  10. says

    Ken, Although I do think it's great that you support the cause of free speech in situations like this, I believe you made an unfortunate choice in this post when you inexplicably chose to belittle the plight of the unfortunate people of Fuckistan. The famine has hit that region hard, and conditions in the capital city of Fellatiobad are deteriorating rapidly. Please try to be more sensitive in the future.

  11. says

    Wow, what an idiot. If he had just left a comment saying "You know, I drew those eighteen years ago, and I know better now", I'm sure he would have been welcomed.

  12. says

    So, without detracting from the overall douchbaggery, it looks like Queen blundered near a less-obviously-frivolous claim: that this criticism is unfair, because his art hasn't been that crude in 18 years.

    When you click the 'Gallery' page on the Darkchylde website, that particular image is the very first one displayed.

    If Queen doesn't feel like that work represents his creation fairly, he has a funny way of showing it.

  13. Trent says

    I disagree with Mr. Anonymous above, the DCMA is fairly well balanced if your ISP isn't a total idiot. The counter notice allows the material back up very quickly, it absolves the ISP of responsibility and provides actual contact information in the event there is a suit to take place. On the other hand congress did screw up the perjury portion. As worded I read the statute to say that you are only claiming under penalty of perjury that you represent the rights holder of the material you claim, not necessarily the material you claim is infringing. To fix the DMCA congress only needs to give the original claim of ownership severe penalties for abuse, such as claiming things that aren't yours or abusing the DMCA to halt speech. If congress gave the original DMCA claim recoverable damages for false or improper claims the abuse of the DMCA would go down dramatically, particularly by major corporations.

  14. Ancel De Lambert says

    @Josh C
    If he hadn't filed a DMCA and just approached her on that, he might have gotten a concession out of it. "I feel you're being unfair, criticizing me for something that was created before the turn of the millennium. Can you show your readers how my style has changed?" (accompanying images attached)
    It might not have worked, but then at least he could go on twitter and say "see how unreasonable this blogger is being? My art has changed quite a lot." He might be wrong about that, but at least we would respect him.

  15. Lindsay K says

    Thanks for picking this up, Ken…I saw this on tumblr and thought, "What a fuckstick, I should e-mail Popehat about this," and then saw you were already on it. :)

  16. says

    @Walter: "Wow, what an idiot. If he had just left a comment saying "You know, I drew those eighteen years ago, and I know better now", I'm sure he would have been welcomed."

    To expand this point and touch on another piece of the whole 18 years old work thing, the site in question looks at how women are depicted in popular art and comics, it's not a specific "Pillory Randy Queen" thing. To that point his work is representative of itself, and how old it is doesn't really factor in, just like Stephen King's depiction of women in his older stories would be fair game to critique now under the same broad umbrella.
    Like @Ancel said, if Queen really believed he's grown as an artist, he could probably have approached the site and not only commented, or even written something about how his early work reflected one understanding of what an artist had to produce to be marketable, and how that mindset's evolved. It would've been an interesting contribution to the conversation, much more than the wrongheaded response he opted for instead.

  17. anne mouse says

    hey Josh C,

    He might be right about the criticism being unfair (or he might not, see Anton Sirius' post above), but that has basically nothing to do with whether that criticism is a "fair use" as defined by copyright law It's "purposes of criticism", not "purposes of balanced and compassionate criticism".
    Give me a minute and I might think of an example of criticism that's so unfair that it's actionable on some ground or other (like defamation), but it's not that easy; you can't sue somebody just for being unfair (not if you hope to win, anyway). However, the main problem here is that Queen keeps returning to the idea that he's got a *copyright* case. ("You have no right to use these images.") He doesn't have a copyright case. (She does have a right to use those images.) That makes me extremely skeptical as to whether he has any other kind of case.

  18. Krono says

    @ Anton Sirius

    It's more than that. He'd have difficulty showing that he's improved by showing recent work, because he apparently has no recent work that I can turn up. The "news" link on his darkchylde webpage hasn't been updated since 2012, and that was news about some figurine. Before that it's some links to some 2011 interviews. The store link on the page goes to a non-existent ebay store. The downloads page does appear to link to a place to buy digital versions of darkchylde, but it's not like that's a lot of material, or particularly new. More general searching turns up what appears to be his Deviantart account, which hasn't been updated since 2010. It also includes a link to another website that appears to be for what is apparently his most recent work, but that website is dead. A quick search on Amazon turns up very little, with the most recent thing for him being from before 2010.

    All told, it's rather unclear that he's actually still in the art or comic business. He hit some success in the '90s with Darkchylde, and has been riding that as his main claim to being a comic artist since then. He does not even appear to be active as an illustrator for other people's work. Your average webcomic has released new material more recently than him. They've also probably released more material period.

  19. Scote says

    " Steven Lockey
    August 5, 2014 at 5:33 am

    Not sure how its lop-sided against the 'infringer'."

    It is very lopsided against the alleged infringer because, in practice, there are no real world consequences to false DMCA claims, and thus no incentive not to lie in them for purposes of using Federal law as a tool for meritless thuggery.

  20. Josh C says

    I have no prior knowledge, and have precisely zero need to carry water for this guy. My point reduces entirely to "Huh. That's interesting." From that point, I wonder if he might (legitimately) be able to leverage a claim that someone is saying objectively false things about him by implying that his (nominally) terrible old art is an example of what he produces now.

  21. Tom Laurent says

    Ken, I'm wondering … If Randy Queen sends you a DMCA takedown notice (after all, you have an example of his art on this page), could you take action against him for a meritless DMCA takedown notice?

  22. bee says

    "There are people and animals suffering and dying in the world, and real human rights issues in certain countries, and this is what you take issue with?"

    Hey pot, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, kettle.

  23. Resolute says

    Josh C – Given his old art represents the very first thing people see in the gallery page on his website, I would say it is Queen himself who is perpetuating the argument that his two-decade old art is actually current.

  24. says

    Y'know, it's really easy and cheap to just not respond. While it certainly makes sense to advise people to stop digging, I wonder why so many pick up the damn shovel in the first place.

    And I speak as someone with a fair amount of experience in "not responding." There really are virtues in judicious apathy.

  25. Connie says

    I saw this on a friend's FB feed and wondered if the Popehat signal had been called – and lo, Ken is on top of it.

  26. Sem says

    I'm glad I randomly came across this story. Well not so random, Kotaku has taken it to make it's readers aware of this issue.

    But I'm glad because I'm a soon to be video game artist, and knowing that people can make fun of and rip apart my work in the name of criticisms is a really good mantra to repeat to myself.
    Like most artists, I absolutely FEAR rejection, and in some cases this rejection can and would cause me to act out in a very embarrassing way, thank you Randy Queen for being the example of what NOT to do.

  27. HRH That Anonymous Coward says

    @Steven Lockey –
    Cost to file a notice – $0 (true of bogus)
    Cost to reassert the claim if anyone challenges – $0
    Cost to type up a quick note threatening a provider to go above and beyond faster – $0

    Cost to the target – $0 to fill out the counternotice, but the content is nearly always removed by that point outside of their control.
    Cost to the target – They can have a huge amount of work removed from the world.
    Due to the overreaching lawsuits and fear, many providers have very unreasonable terms if you get a single DMCA notice.
    Cost to the target – $???? to file a lawsuit when they doubledown on a bogus claim. Sadly there is no benefit to them winning other than vindication and paying your own legal fees.

    There are many costs inflicted on targets, not all monetary.
    The system is rigged so that "rightsholder" or their agents can make wildly inaccurate claims and nothing happens to them abusing this part of the law.
    There is an entire cottage industry powered by making bogus claims on others content, and scooping all of the money… because threats of lawsuits get the providers to give massive sweeping powers well in excess of the law to them.

  28. Votre says

    Whaddaya mean boobs don't work that way?

    This boob operates the way most boobs like him work.

  29. Deanna Toxopeus says

    Anatomically incorrect breasts are the dogs-playing-poker of fantasy art.

    Plese make this available for purchase on a t-shirt. I would get one for me and then send one to Queen.

  30. ysth says

    Re: "removal of examples of his art from their critical posts", I'm pretty sure the first DMCA was targeted at the posts that contained and criticized the art, not the just the art itself.

  31. htom says

    Breasts of fantasy cartoon figures who can morph into nightmare creatures must be anatomically correct? Huh? How could they be so?

  32. KronWeld says

    From Chilling Effects:

    As of 3:38 PM (EST) today, Tumblr has disabled all reblogs of Ami's posts about Queen's use of the DMCA, and Ami is continuing to live-Tweet her efforts to dispute Queen's actions with Tumblr.

  33. Poleaxed Beagle says

    I have been looking for a catchy screen name for commenting on my favorite legal blog …

  34. Edd says

    As soon as i saw an article about this i came here hoping to Alert you to this, only to find this.. Thank you for teaching me what legal thuggery looks like

  35. Czernobog says

    @Deanna Toxopeus:

    I would say Ami needs that T-shirt at least as much as Queen does, frankly.

  36. says

    I had never heard of the Escher Girls before I saw this on my Twitter. Queen should be asking for an advertising fee instead…then again, I'd hate to give the man ideas. Still, you have to love the irony.

  37. Fasolt says

    Two theories for your consideration.

    One, Queen is one of those people who can't tolerate any criticism of his work, no matter how constructive or impersonal. It's not like the Escher Girls called him a misogynistic freak, or any thing like that.

    Two, Queen is still trying to get the Darkchylde movie made and doesn't want any potential investors scared off. :)

  38. Resolute says

    There are people and animals suffering and dying in the world, and real human rights issues in certain countries. And Randy Queen takes issue with mild criticism of the two-decade old artwork he is still trying to live off of? I think there are greater causes to champion with the limited time and energy he was given on this Earth

  39. Dion starfire says

    Is it just me, or is Queen's statement ass-backwards?

    Let’s say I take someone’s old copyrighted photography and ‘corrected’ it for them, as well as posted disparaging comments to circulate along with what may be someone’s first exposure to the work. Guess what? I don’t have the right to do that

    From what I understand that's exactly the sort of thing the fair use clause was made for.

    Good thing he's not a musician, or he'd have had a heart attack by now (from the endless fits)

  40. Jack B. says

    Two, Queen is still trying to get the Darkchylde movie made and doesn't want any potential investors scared off. :)

    Bogus threats of litigation is a great way to assuage any fears investors might have.

  41. Krono says

    @Fasolt, @Dunex

    Four, he's a has been comic artist that has had paltry output for over a decade. He had one flare of success with Darkchylde, and now he's upset that people are bashing his one success as having bad art.

  42. KronWeld says

    He has issued an apology. Tumblr has restored the posts, but not all of the images. Ami is trying to find at why some of the images are still missing from her posts.

  43. Beryl says

    So what's up with pole axes and the law. One of my favorite odd quotes: "The day is long past when this court, or any court, should quiver like a pole-axed blancmange at the mention of youth and rehabilitation." People v. West, 370 N.E. 2d 265, 270 (1977).

    Also, given that indications mentioned here that Queen is something of a has-been, I wonder if he (or anyone else) is actually trying to create a Streisand effect on purpose.

  44. says

    Mark,

    "Ken, Although I do think it's great that you support the cause of free speech in situations like this, I believe you made an unfortunate choice in this post when you inexplicably chose to belittle the plight of the unfortunate people of Fuckistan. The famine has hit that region hard, and conditions in the capital city of Fellatiobad are deteriorating rapidly. Please try to be more sensitive in the future."

    I thought you should know that spitting my coffee into the trash can was the only thing that kept it from coming out my nose. Thank you. :D

  45. C. S. P. Schofield says

    Re; update

    Gee, cartoonish behavior from a cartoonist … who could have seen THAT coming?

  46. doodlemancy says

    As of today, Ami's twitter says she has received a personal e-mail apology from Randy, who has withdrawn his DMCA complaints. It looks like her tumblr content is going to be restored. She has asked on her twitter that people spread this info. :)

  47. Docrailgun says

    At least he's not Rob Liefeld.

    Also, there's no such thing as a 'poleaxe'. The word is 'poll'.

  48. anne mouse says

    DocRailgun,

    "Poleaxe" dates back at least to the Hundred Years' War, and has been the more-common spelling for a while now.

  49. Alter says

    @htom
    They care more about people drawing Things They Don't Like, rather than poor anatomy. It's just political rants with a cloak of sloppy art criticism, and the occasional "redraw" adding a burka to someone else's character design using MS paint.

    I'd be more than happy to laugh people like that off the internet, just as I'd be happy to mock hacks like RQ out of a job (even though I sympathize with his reference dependence, as a fellow schlock-tier artist). But as funny as it is to see tumblrites get a taste of their own false report medicine, I understand the need to defend them against abuse of the law.

  50. Beryl says

    Huh. So "quiver like a poleaxed blancmange" (no hyphen, that spelling) turns out to be P.G. Wodehouse. Why is our host pole-axing beagles, though.

  51. Docrailgun says

    Thete's also no such thing as 'chain mail', 'scale mail', or 'plate mail'. Al mail armor is chain.

  52. anne mouse says

    You mean Gygax wasn't a rigorous scholar?? Next you'll tell us there's no such thing as a vorpal sword!

    (And I'll bow out here while I still have my head, or poll as it were. No need to warm up the paste gun, Ken.)

  53. Fasolt says

    Here's a tidbit from my second favorite website:

    The Oxford English Dictionary gives the following etymology, s.v. Poleaxe:

    [ME. pollax, polax, Sc. powax = MDu. polaex, pollaex, MLG. and LG. polexe, pollexe (whence MSw. 15th c. polyxe, pulyxe, MDa. polöxe), f. pol, POLL n.1, Sc. pow, MDu., MLG. polle, pol head + AXE: cf. MDu. polhamer = poll-hammer, also a weapon of war. It does not appear whether the combination denoted an axe with a special kind of head, or one for cutting off or splitting the head of an enemy. In the 16th c. the word began to be written by some pole-axe (which after 1625 became the usual spelling), as if an axe upon a pole or long handle. This may have been connected with the rise of sense 2. Similarly, mod.Sw. pålyxa and Westphalian dial. pålexe have their first element = pole. Sense 3 may be a substitute for the earlier bole-axe, which was applied to a butcher's axe.]

  54. JustSomeGuy says

    So I gather you've never heard of "Buster Gonad and his unfeasibly large testicles"? :-)

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