The Nick Simmons Plagiarism Scandal

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Nick Simmons is the son of Gene Simmons, who is famous as co-frontman for the band KISS.

In August of 2009, the younger Simmons released a manga-style comic book entitled “Incarnate” that focused on a character named Mot, who is a Revenant, or a creature who can regenerate his body and is nearly immortal.

However, last month many began to notice similarities between Incarnate and other works, most notably “Bleach” a Manga series that got its start in 2001. Fans of Bleach and other Manga series immediately began going through Incarnate and finding similar panels and posting comparisons, including this very lengthy selection on LiveJournal.

Simmons initially denied any plagiarism, even taking to Facebook to demand an apology from his accusers (though there is some debate if it was actually Simmons posting). However, in late February, Radical Comics, the company that published Incarnate, announced it was ceasing production of the comics.

Even Simmons’ idle DeviantArt account has not escaped criticism, with his first post warning that “If you steal my artwork, you will pay. In cash.”

Simmons has since issued an apology on the topic, saying:

“Like most artists I am inspired by work I admire. There are certain similarities between some of my work and the work of others. This was simply meant as an homage to artists I respect, and I definitely want to apologize to any Manga fans or fellow Manga artists who feel I went to far.”

This, however, has not done a lot to appease his critics, who believe his copying went well beyond homage and into outright plagiarism, making his apology far less complete.

But how serious was this plagiarism case? The answer is fairly clear once you take a look at the images.

The Problem with Visual Plagiarism

Cases of visual plagiarism are very difficult to perform a good analysis on. Unlike with text plagiarism, there are no strings of matching text that you can cite as suspicious or prove actual copying. With images, unless the work was directly copied (IE: Traced, photographed or otherwise duplicated) you have to base your analysis on more subjective elements.

To make matters worse, Manga comics, by their very nature, share many stylistic elements that are simply part of the genre. To an outsider, such as myself, many of the comics may look alike simply because we are not familiar with the nuances that separate the different artists and series. These elements have to be taken into account too when performing any such analysis.

Still, the hard work of the Manga community actually makes this case much easier to look at and draw conclusions from and looking at the fruits of their effort I think the results are pretty clear, regardless of whether or not you deal with plagiarism issues on a daily basis.

My Analysis

When you look at the side-by-side comparisons, it is pretty clear that this is a case built upon quantity, not quality. Though many of the matches are very similar to one another, many are not. If it had just been a case of one or two panels it would have been very easy to write off the plagiarism as coincidence or homage.

After all, it is not unheard of for comic book authors to pay homage to one another by using similarly structured panels. It’s often a scavenger hunt for comic fans and a way to pay respects to past inspirations. However, usually those homages are acknowledged, either directly or slyly, and these were not.

However, even if we assume that Simmons’ intention was homage, the sheer quantity of similar panels is staggering. There are dozens of examples of heightened similarity between Incarnate and Bleach, many of which are too striking to have been just coincidence. This issue is compounded by the similar dialog that exists in many of the examples, taking the similarities out of the visual and into the textual as well.

When you put all of the similarities together, it’s pretty clear that this goes well beyond what can be defined as chance or a simple homage. If homage was Simmons’ true intention, then this was a very poor execution of it. Not only were the similarities far too widespread, but there was no clear indication A) That the work was an homage or B) What it was an homage of.

This is a big part of why it took so many months for the similarities to be detected, even though Bleach is one of the most popular Manga series in print. Homage finds a way to tip a hat to a previous source without taking too much from it, it is a difficult art and clearly one Simmons has not mastered.

In short, this is not coincidence or homage. Though only Simmons knows his true intentions, he either missed the mark badly with his homage or is being half-hearted with his apology.

Bottom Line

There are ways to provide homage to past inspirations without being accused of plagiarism. The best manage to pay their respects without actually attempting to imitate those that came before them.

That is where Simmons crossed the line.

Imitation may be intended as the sincerest form of flattery, but it is rarely received as such by either the person being imitated or the audience receiving it.

On that note, the publishers of Bleach as well as the series author, Tite Kubo, are looking into the matter and may be considering some form of action. At this time though, no lawsuit has ben directly alluded to, much less filed, so it remains to be seen what will come of their interest.

No matter what though, rest assured that I will be covering it when and if it happens.

Comparison image by Cuddl

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44 COMMENTS

    • Nope, sorry. Nick Simmons is an untalented, worthless plagiarist with absolutely no talent of his own.

      You can suck up to him, and make excuses for his unforgivable crimes, and complete obvious lack of any talent all you want, but facts are still facts. You're wrong for supporting him.

  1. Nick doesn't know how to draw with perfect proportions so he "borrows" pictures and try to make his own original; which is sad. Anyone can do what he did. He just relies on his popa's money. What a wimp!

  2. nick is a good kid …. and i know that he is going to be working on a new comic book real soon and he is not copying from anyone else because i know i meet nick and asked about the comic book

  3. Bash on me if you will, but I for one think that he really didn’t intend to do it. Sometimes we do things without thinking and don’t realize it til later on, maybe that’s what he did, and even if he did mean to do it, so what? It’s one comic, it’s not like he’s been doing it for years over a span of many different comics. It’s truly no big deal. As much as I love Nick, he’ll have to pay since the evidence is pretty solid, whether he meant it or not.

  4. then why is JK Rowling racking in the cash and overstepping the plagiarism suits brought against her-every part of her stupid “wizard school” is a direct steal from some book about “Larry the Wizard” and everything else is borrowed from a legion of fantasy novels from the last 50 years- she doesn’t have one “original ” idea in any of her books-all stolen-so lay off Nick if we aren’t going after Rowling the queen of plagiarism–and “Karma” I bet your a Larry Potter lemming aren’t you (opps!! I mean Harry)

  5. @tahoegeminii wtf are you talking about? I’m saying Nick is innocent. Seriously read the comments first

  6. Right? Like seriously, Tahoe, you need to calm down, we’re all saying different things here, but that’s a bit off-topic, that’s her case. Maybe the guys who made Bleach have a bigger take against plagiarism then Larry the Wizard’s guys do! Maybe she asked for permission to do something like Larry the Wizard, or maybe she has something that might be completely then that! I mean, you don’t see people sueing eachother because they both have books about concentration camps! If someone wants to write something that’s the same genre then they can! It’s not like their can be only ONE book about wizards.

  7. @Spooky I won’t bash you, but I’ll still point out there’s no way to know for sure what was truly going on in his head, so your guess is still an assumption. Looking at the character designs he shamelessly lifted of Bleach and how he drew them by either deliberately copying or tracing the corresponding Bleach characters from right of the panels, my hunch is he knew what he was doing, he just thought it had no consequence. But my guess is as good as yours.

    Either way, there is still an amount of credibility you’re expected to have when you want to publish or even claim copyright over something, Nick Simmons’ lack of competence in understanding that or his own stunted creativity is no excuse. No matter how you put it he was still wrong.

    And of course it still counts even if it was only one comic series, he still tried to publish and make a profit out of it while staking claim for someone else’s ideas. Just because he potentially could have done worse if he was left to continue doing it unchecked does not dismiss what he did.

    But I will acknowledge that the way a lot of people are reacting to this is fueled by spite and impulsive anger and have turned it into a sort of witch hunt, but over blown does not mean innocent.

  8. @Pippa That’s pretty hypocritical, telling people you disagree with to kill themselves makes you a hater too. So, you wanna go and take that quote to heart?

  9. HAHAHA ive seen his real art and believe me its terrible. Also I doubt he’ll be able to go through with a new book seeing as just about every comic book company under the sun probably knows about this scandal now. His comic career is dead and he’s lucky that he came out of it without being sued ………Yet.

  10. i really dont why nick would bother to plagerize anything. its not like he needs the money. just being gene simmons kid is gonna take him to millionaire status

      • The problem is that he ripped from a series that he thought wouldn’t get recognition. too bad he decided to rip off an already acclaimed series in Japan and a growing monster in the USA. His pompous ass really thought he could get away with this shit.

  11. I don’t think it was plagiarism so much as influence driven lack of creativity. As a musician, there isn’t much that hasn’t been done already. It’s how you synthesize it into a new idea.

  12. What a piece of shit. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Hacks will always be hacks. The fact that he demanded an apology from the accusers makes him an even bigger douche. What a piece of extraordinary shit. Tite Kubo is kind enough to not sue the fuck out of him especially with all the evidence at hand.

    Fuck Nick, fuck his hack dad, and fuck the production company for not seeing this shit. At the end of the day what the fuck was he thinking?

    • U R FUCKING IDIOT DUDE , DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIFE, JUST HALF LIKE HE IS AND THEN SAY SOMETHING , U R JUST IDIOT , TOO STUPID TO DO SOMETHING MORE THEN SPREADING EVIL, CLASSIC HATER WHO HATE HOLE WORLD TILL 12.. I LL NEVER LOOK THIS AGAIN SO U CAN SWEARING THATS ALL THAT U KNOW, TRASH OF HUMAN BEING JUST SAY SOMETHING NICE OF SOMEBODY DON’T SPREAD LIES LIKE THIS,. BYE N DIE

      • Haha is that Nick simmons?!? Wouldnt suprise me if you were…I mean you are replying to a dude 2 years after he’s posted! But what a prick you are nick …what a prick

    • Why bring Gene in to this? He’s the most original character in the world.. Creating a band and music that hundreds of OTHER artists have copied… He is a genius… and more successful than you’ll ever be…

  13. The saddest thing of all is that even with all this controvery, or even because of it, this little tracing twerp is still making money off of it while other original artists like ‘Karlijn Sholten’ from the Ray series, who has been working hard for 6 years now, has a hard time selling copies of her novels.
    Also notable is the deactivation of his facebook, twitter and most obvious his deviantart pages (DA users eat tracing hacks like this for breakfast, not kidding!…)

  14. Stfu everyone id like this kid but ITS A FUCKING COMIC BOOK GET OVER IT AND GROW UP all this hate over a fucking book I don’t know maybe he didn’t know he was copying were u there didn’t think so …now hop of his dick and move to the next one k bue

    •  @MadelineMaireKelly 
      Yes it’s just a comic book but it was still wrong that he took someone’s hard work and originality and tried to claim it as his own. Looking at the examples the tracing seems fairly intentional I don’t think that he “didn’t know what he was doing”. No this might not be the most important thing EVER but, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still wrong. And for
      future reference it would probably help your argument if you used proper grammar and spelling.

    • @MadelineMaireKelly
      Maybe when you realise how much real work goes into making “just a comic book” you’ll see that it is a big deal. Anyone who puts their time, effort and money into creating something as extensive as this would not just laugh it off as a coincidence. When you learn what it’s like to make something that is wholly yours, you’ll see it differently.

  15. Man people are mean!! His young,he is learning! It takes a lot of guts for young artists of any kind to express themselves and not try to mentor off of older more experienced artists!! He obviously loves his work or he wouldn’t be persueing it! It wasn’t just like one day he woke up and said I think I will take someones work as mine and make money off of it!! I really think he was trying in ernest to be recognized in his field as an equal and like minded artist!! IF I was a rocker I wouldn’t be singing country songs and saying it is Rock and Roll!!
    I truely think for the art is looks as it should comics likenesses and all not a Rembrant or a Schelly but comics!!! Good work Nick don’t give up or let this make you bitter. Let it make you wiser about the industry and its frailtys of likenesses and differentses GOOD LUCK!!
    ART MODEL KRISTINA VOGT IN HOUSTON TEXAS!!

    I am not going to stop art modeling just because my body looks like someone elses and don’t you quit your art either. Love ya!!

    • He stole one of the best selling manga and art styles in the world without permission.
      With all due respect Kristina,I don’t think he’s ever coming back after what he did.

  16. I cant believe the writer spent so much time arguing about “homage”. Obviously, it was not and never was it intended to be an homage. Rather than have the integrity and character to spend the time developing talent the kid stole it from others. When caught red-handed he isnt going to magically develop integrity so in his true character tries weasel his way out, first by denial than having the audacity to claim he wasn’t stealing he was “paying homage.” It’s like a kid stealing from his mom’s purse only when caught to claim, “…but I was going to use the money to buy Mom a present because I love her so much.”

  17. Love the comments from everyone who knows nothing about the comic business.. reusing shots is very typical in this business.

    All manga rips off all other manga (its Japanese, what do you expect, Japan built its entire industry off stealing ideas). This kid Nick pretty much ‘stole’ a lot of shots and angles from the story Bleach, but little by way of anything else that was not already well used and in most stories.

    As far as the art, all you need is a copy of Manga Studio and you can be making cells that look exactly like all the other cookie-cutter manga stories out there. Big eye big boob manga girls are not unique to Bleach. Hell, Bleach aint even that unique of a story. It rips off everything from Spider-man to Highlander.

    • Excuse me?
      I’m Japanese and I find that extremely offensive.
      Your best drawings are probably what Kubo-sensai sketches with his toes.
      How is bleach ripping of spiderman or highlander?
      Last time I checked Peter Parker can’t see ghosts and isn’t soul reaper.
      Either you are blind,dumb,hypocritical or just plain racist.
      Kubo-sensai is famous as hell and is sitting on 2nd best in the WORLD and your just some loser on his computer with nothing to do with your life.

  18. A lot of people don’t quite seem to understand that what he did is illegal. “Looking at someone’s work and taking what they have to offer,” can be good, but the way he did it was illegal. If you look at the evidence list on Tumblr, he even blatantly stole a character design from an artist on dA. This is illegal. There’s not gray area here. What he did was illegal.

    For the one who said comic panels are used over in comics, they are. HOWEVER, they’re used by the same artist who originally drew them or the assistant who helped draw them. Or, in some rare cased, by siblings of the manga artist who grew up drawing together as is the case of Naruto’s author and his twin brother. I’m fairly sure Nick Simmons has never helped Tite Kubo as an assistant or grew up with him.

    As for the tracing, as I said before, it’s illegal. People who have been going “I TRACE TOO IT’S FINE”, no it’s not. Take it from a professional artist, not only is it illegal, but it hinders your growth as an artist. When you trace or rely on others art to draw, you’ll find yourself with an extremely limited arsenal of techniques. So not only are you leaving yourself open for lawsuits, you’re also screwing yourself over in the long run.

    P.S. Looking at pictures and copying or tracing the pose without the consent of the model and selling it is illegal too. That’s why most major comic producers have their own models to work off of.

    The only reason this managed to get published is because of his father. It’s sad, but true. The reason why he isn’t getting sued is because Tite Kubo is a seasoned manga artist, and he’s probably had this happen before. However, he understands that the comic was taken off the production line. Thankfully, he’s mature. Manga artists have started shit storms over stupider things.

  19. They should of sued the crap out him. First he claimed that the comics only had ‘similarities’ and then when the heat turns up he turns his story around. It was completely wrong of him to steal Kubo-sensei’s work and he got what her deserved.
    Seriously,did he really think he could plagiarise one of the greatest manga and series of all time?
    Baka

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