Pirates & the mouse
In 1963, The San Francisco Chronicle made 21-year-old Dan O'Neill the youngest syndicated cartoonist in American newspaper history. As O'Neill delved deeper into the emerging counterculture, his strip, Odd Bodkins, became stranger and stranger and more and more provocative, until the papers in the syndicate dropped it and the Chronicle let him go. The lesson that O'Neill drew from this was that what America most needed was the destruction of Walt Disney. O'Neill assembled a band of rogue cartoonists, called the Air Pirates after a group of villains who had bedeviled Mickey Mouse in comic books and cartoons. They lived communally in a San Francisco warehouse owned by Francis Ford Coppola and put out a comic book, Air Pirates Funnies, that featured Disney characters participating in very un-Disneylike behavior, provoking a mammoth lawsuit for copyright and trademark infringements and hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Disney was represented by one of San Francisco's top corporate law firms and the Pirates by the cream of the counterculture bar. The lawsuit raged for 10 years, from the trial court to the U.S. Supreme Court and back again. The novelist and essayist Bob Levin recounts this rollicking saga with humor, wit, intelligence, and skill, bringing alive the times, the issues, the absurdities, the personalities, the changes wrought within them and us all.
"This is the definitive history of a wonderful, mad (and, I believe, significant) episode in American popular culture." – Richard Milner, Senior Editor, Natural History magazine
"A magnificent job of capturing the sad, funny story of the cultural wars of the '70s..." – Animation Magazine
"Anyone with a serious interest in the history of underground comix is hereby directed to pick [this] up... A completely thorough history of the case, the context of its times, and individual portraits of many of the key players. There are good illustrations, tons of oral history about previously unknown topics, and it's a great thing to have consumed." – Bryon Coley & Thurston Moore, Arthur
"A vivid narrative that combines the gonzo counter-cultural sensibility of Hunter Thompson with the narrative courtroom drama found in a John Grisham thriller... Simply put, Bob Levin has written one of the best researched and most compelling books ever devoted to cartooning history." – Jeet Heer