Controversy over Spain’s most popular comics
I might be a little late, taking into account how long the discussion has been going on for, but it seems like Francisco Ibáñez is accused of having copied a good number of strips from other comics, usually foreign ones. This subject never seems to go out of fashion, very especially since the publication of Directive (EU) 2019/790 on copyright and related rights in the Digital Single Market and amending Directives 96/9/EC and 2001/29/EC and how the Directive is reshaping the Spanish legal framework.
And not just that, but Ibáñez also allegedly kept hidden the collaboration of several assistants who were never credited in his works. Many lights and many shadows, like everything that has to do with the mythical publishing house Bruguera, which are coming to light in the heat of the campaign for Ibáñez to be awarded the Prince of Asturias prize, which will not be happen in the next edition either.
As for possible plagiarism, examples can be found here or here, where under the label «Franco-Belgian influences» many of the coincidences are detailed. It is really surprising to see the resemblance between the first Mortadelo (Spain’s favourite comic) and Fúlmine, a character by the Argentinian Divito:
You can read more about Fúlmine here and here, although there are many pages on the Internet that discuss the subject.
I commented at the time on how the coincidence in time of Ibáñez’s departure from Bruguera and the entry into force of the new Intellectual Property Law (LPI) had served to enable the author to regain control of his characters and give them a second life. It seems that there are other angles of copyright from which to look at Francisco Ibáñez’s work.
The birth of Mortadelo: inspiration or plagiarism?
I am afraid that, irrespective of one’s opinion, this question is not easy to resolve, and in any case only a judge could settle the matter.
That said, the best thing to do is to take a look at the definition of plagiarism established by the Supreme Court back in 1995 and reiterated in the recent ruling 546/2022 of the Spanish Supreme Court, dealing with IP protection of sport retransmissions:
«It is settled case law that plagiarism is to be understood, in its most simplistic sense, as anything that involves copying the works of others in substance, presenting itself rather as a mechanised material activity and very little intellectual and creative, lacking all originality and concurrence of genius or human talent«.
There is still no ruling on Ibáñez, but if he is finally nominated for the Prince of Asturias Award, the case will probably end up in court, the debates will be passionate and the discussions, endless. The debate is served.