Seen this guy somewhere before? Meet Adamson – Homer Simpson’s vintage doppelganger. This cartoon comic was published in an Icelandic paper called Fálkinn in July 1949. It is the creation of Swedish cartoonist, Oscar Jacobson who enjoyed relative success as an illustrator, even in America where Adamson was known as Silent Sam.
Could it be that Matt Groening’s iconic cartoon character was “stolen” from Adamson? The Homer Simpson we know and love didn’t emerge until 1987 along with the rest of the Simpson family on The Tracey Ullman Show short “Good Night”. Groening says he created and designed Homer while he was waiting in the lobby of James L. Brooks’ office where he had been called to pitch a series of shorts based on his comic strip Life in Hell. Instead, he decided to create a new set of characters, The Simpsons.
What do you think? Is Homer Simpson Matt Groening’s original creation or have we been laughing at someone else’s character all this time? But let’s say for a moment that Homer was based on Adamson. Is not every artist influenced in some way by what’s been done before?
I believe it was Picasso who said, “Good artists copy but great artists steal.”
I think there is more to what Picasso meant that it simply being a paraphrasical excuse to be lazy. To simply copy is to take an existing idea, duplicate it exactly and not use your own approach. To “steal” an artistic idea, you’ll use the idea but have to be able to interpret it in your own way, with your own imagination, technique and style.
It’s not necessarily that the idea has to be improved or advanced. Simplifying or going backwards with the idea can be ‘stealing’ the element but not copying it. Whereas if you are copying the original idea, if your duplicate does not match the original, you will have failed.
In a world where almost everything has been done before, we cannot always be the originators. We’re a product of our times and benefit from those who have walked similar paths we are now on.