The Pirates and the Mouse: Disney's War Against the Counterculture

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Fantagraphics Books, 2003 - Social Science - 266 pages
During a time of unprecedented political, social, and cultural upheaval in U.S. history, one of the fiercest battles was ignited by a comic book. 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 US 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. Includes never-before seen art from the Air Pirates archives! Two excerpted chapters of this book in The Comics Journal in 2001 proved to be one of the magazine's most popular features in recent memory. Black-and-white illustrations throughout.

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The Pirates and the Mouse: Disney's War Against the Counterculture

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In 1971, a group of underground cartoonists known as the Air Pirates put out a comic book parody of Disney cartoons in which Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Bucky Bug and others get high, have sex and swear a ... Read full review


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About the author (2003)

Bob Levin lives in Berkeley, CA with his wife and collaborator, Adele. He practices law when he isn't writing books.

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