Dan O’Neil, Air Pirates, 1971
Dan O’Neil along with a number of young comic artists who each had an interest in comics of the past set to work publishing a comic book called the Air Pirates Funnies (July 1971) that directly copied the characters of Walt Disney but inserted them into perverse situations. O’Neil convinced the group to take on Disney as a battle for free speech and parodist’s rights. With no legal strategy or money, O’Neil directly targeted Disney, one of the largest media corporations in the world that had by 1970s already fought more than 1,700 copyright cases worldwide. Soon after O’Neil had successfully placed copies of his Disney parody into the Disney corporate board room, Disney brought a suit against all the artists, which evolved into a long-running legal battle. O’Neil lost at the district court level in 1972 and lost again at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1978, and were then turned away from appeal by the Supreme Court in 1979. Throughout it all, O’Neil remained deﬁant and refused to pay the fines levied against him. Furthermore, he continued to draw Disney parodies, which he sold at comic conventions under his new banner, “The Mouse Liberation Front.” In 1980, faced with a growing public relations disaster, Disney dropped the $200,000 fines in an agreement with O’Neil that he would forever cease drawing and selling Disney characters.