The Ghastlygun Tinies: MAD's Edward Gorey satire that takes aim at school shootings


Originally published at:


Would a copyright lawsuit regarding this cartoon actually have any legal legs to stand on?

The words and art are all original, so there’s no copying. It’s imitating another artist’s style and their manner of writing, but AFAIK, those aren’t copyrightable.

A lawsuit might be filed for trademark infringement if whatever soulless corporate entity that now owns the original cartoon thinks that it has a trademark on the style of the cartoon, but that’s not a copyright violation (and given how pervasive imitations and knockoffs of Gorey’s style are, I doubt that anyone does).

Then again, drawing conclusions that do not apply in order to bring a thing into the realm of one of his hobbyhorses is definitely a rhetorical trick that Cory Doctorow owns the patent and trademark on, so I shouldn’t be surprised.


Yes, this is called a “derivative work” and the right to control the creation of derivative works is one of the canonical rights in copyright: reproduction, display, performance and the creation of derivative works.


Um… It’s funny because it’s true?


“Ghastlygun,” not “Gashlygun.”


Whoops! Thank you!


If this ever went to court, I’d expect the degree to which this is in fact a derivative work would be heavily disputed. The title image and the “A is for … B is for …” are the only copyrightable expression that appear to have been carried over from the Gorey original.

This isn’t an adaptation, an editorial revision, or a gloss on Gorey’s work–it’s a pastiche, using his style and the alphabet-poem structure that Gorey was himself parodying in his original. Other than the title image, if I were a district court judge, I would have a hard time calling this a derivative work. Another way to look at it would be to say that the fair use factor that considers the amount and substantiality of the original work in the new work weighs decisively in favor of the new work.


It’s not funny.

And so we have a satire that’s not funny, of an original that is. I can’t think of another example.


I know you really really want to make this be about copyright because that’s your wheelhouse, but it just isn’t.

Making a painting in the style of another artist is not a derivative work, or the entire industry of repainting the masters would go bust. Making a poem in the style of another poem is not a derivative work either. Again, too many examples to count that do exactly that. As @mcsnee says, it doesn’t fit the definition.

You are, very simply, wrong.


And “A is for… B is for…” is in the public domain.


No, it’s not funny at all, and it’s not supposed to be.



Not really, not that it would stop the lawyers from wasting everyone’s time. It’s an obvious pastiche, which means a case could be made for an exception even under U.S. law. That it contains satirical content is a secondary issue.

[I have to say, this is a much more interesting derail in a topic like this than the usual ammosexual insistence on talking about the calibre and RPM of the weapons portrayed in the cartoon]


“P is for Paula” made me well up.


Oof. :frowning:

This is one of those rare satires that should go down in history, next to A Modest Proposal.


It is not funny. Not even a little bit. It is effective. Punch in the gut effective. I wish it was unneccesary, but it is not that either. It just gets more painful as you work your way through it. Odds that the gun nuts will fund the lawsuit to suppress it?


As I said elsewhere, Bill Gaines would be very, very, very proud of the magazine he founded.


They won’t need to. The firearms industry will roll out their usual shills and useful idiots on Fox and cable news to whinge about liberal Mad Magazine propagandising to kids (because only children look at cartoons). The various NRA talking points will be taken up by ammosexuals in the comments sections of social media sites and sites like this.


Just went and found a copy to purchase, just to do my tiny little bit to support.


the solemnly furious who want action …

that is a good phrase that I am completely stealing