Failed Comic Artist Shia LaBeouf Makes Film Based On Daniel Clowes Comic Without Permission
Failed comic book creator Shia LaBeouf, who we understand was in some movies once, has just released a short film titled HowardCantour.com. The film, directed by LaBeouf, follows the emotional trials and tribulations of an online film critic as he struggles with the frustrations of his chosen profession, including the emotional conflict of hero-worship and interacting with other bloggers, among other annoyances. Starring Jim Gaffigan as Howard Cantour, the film is seemingly an adaptation of “Justin M. Damiano,” a short story by cartoonist Daniel Clowes.
Clowes, the creator of the graphic novel Ghost World, has seen his work adapted to the screen in the past. The difference this time? It would appear that LaBeouf, in no way, shape or form, had permission from Clowes to adapt his work, nor does he credit him anywhere in the film. In fact, the two have never even spoken.
Clowes’ short story appears in the Daniel Clowes Reader, published in 2013 by Fantagraphics. Eric Reynolds, associate editor for Fantagraphics, described LeBouf’s film, in no uncertain terms, as “shameless theft.” In a statement to Buzzfeed, Clowes said he’s never even spoken to LaBeouf, and that he “can’t imagine what was going through his mind”:
“The first I ever heard of the film was this morning when someone sent me a link. I’ve never spoken to or met Mr. LaBeouf. I’ve never even seen one of his films that I can recall — and I was shocked, to say the least, when I saw that he took the script and even many of the visuals from a very personal story I did 6 or 7 years ago and passed it off as his own work. I actually can’t imagine what was going through his mind.”
The film, which was posted online earlier today but has since been removed, shares several similarities with Clowes’ short story, with lines that are lifted directly from the comic. Yet in an interview with the website Short of the Week, LaBeouf, who has been accused of plagiarism in the past, claims to have come up with the concept for the film organically, having been inspired by negative reviews he received for his lackluster comics work, as well as the films he has reportedly appeared in:
“I know something about the gulf between critical acclaim and blockbuster business. I have been crushed by critics (especially during my Transformers run), and in trying to come to terms with my feelings about critics, I needed to understand them. As I tried to empathize with the sort of man who might earn a living taking potshots at me and the people I’ve worked with, a small script developed.”
Clowes, one of the most acclaimed and influential cartoonists of the last 25 years, is the creator of the anthology Eightball, for which he has won several awards as well as substantial critical praise. The short story “Justin M. Damiano” was originally published in The Book of Other People, edited by Zadie Smith, and was reprinted with permission by Fantagraphics in The Daniel Clowes Reader earlier this year.