Monday, January 30, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: Pot-Shots


Ashleigh Brilliant, who in my opinion quite handily lives up to his family name, began coming up with witty and wise epigrams in the 1960s, and sold them on illustrated postcards. The postcards sold well, and Brilliant went on to put what eventually became known as his Pot-Shots on other products, and to publish book collections of the material. He also recognized that these would make for a fine daily newspaper feature. The Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate agreed, and began syndicating them sometime in 1975. The partnership was dissolved around 1984, and by 1987 or perhaps earlier (they are really hard to track) Brilliant was self-syndicating Pot-Shots. Although Brilliant says on his website that the feature continues to be available, I haven't seen any papers running it in a long while.

An interesting aspect of Pot-Shots is that the cartoons/illustrations are drawn in many styles, everything from classic detailed illustrations to the simplest stick figures. Despite checking several of his books and reading considerable online  material about him, I can't find a single word that mentions whether the illustrations are all clip art or if some are drawn by Brilliant, or by collaborators. 

If many of these drawings are re-used art, as seems pretty certain given the wide variety of styles, this becomes more interesting. Brilliant is an ardent and ferocious defender of his copyrights, which courts have ruled can cover epigrams. (Which reminds me to say that all the Pot-Shot examples above are copyrighted by Ashley Brilliant, the Pot-Shots name is a registered trademark, and the examples shown above are used in the context of a review) So with Brilliant's presumed use of a huge amount of artwork by and presumably copyrighted by others, has he never violated the intellectual property laws of artists himself?

Brilliant decided to stop publishing new Pot-Shots postcards after he hit #10,000 (each postcard is numbered). That means that if a paper had started running the feature in 1975 they could have had a new Pot-Shot every day for over 32 years, and would have had to start offering recycled wisdom around 2007. 



Potshots is carried on the GoComics website. Does that mean the syndicate distributes it as well?

Also, GoComics and Comic Kingdom both carry vintage strips that are no longer being created, from venerable relics to comparatively recent items like Boondocks and Liberty Meadows. Are the parent syndicates offering those to clients, or are they only carried on the websites?
I don't know, and have wondered the same thing. I do definitely know that they carry material on the websites that is not available to paper subscribers (why? I dunno). How one can tell what falls into each category is a mystery.
I know that Calvin and Hobbes reruns are carried on the website and are offered to the international market but not to U.S. papers.
Hello all-
King Features' Comics Kingdom site has a number of vintage strips, but these are pretty much for subscribers to read there. If a publisher wanted to use them, an arrangement could certainly be made, but they aren't actively being offered to clients. There are a lot of top long-time features there, but only a few are still in production, like Beetle Bailey and the Phantom.
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