Shia LaBeouf’s journey to change his image from the star of the Transformers series into an edgy indie artist has been a comedy of errors so far, but his latest attempt to earn artistic respect crossed the line. After LaBeouf posted his 2012 short film, Howard Cantour, online for people to view for free, eagle-eyed comic book fans pointed out some startling similarities between the film and a 2007 comic by Ghost World creator Dan Clowes, titled Justin M. Damiano. In fact, Howard Cantour is almost a word-for-word rip-off of Justin M. Damiano, right down to the dialogue and the composition of the images. The video has since been taken down from the official site; however, you can still view it at BuzzFeed.
There is no disputing LaBeouf’s plagiarism, especially since both the short and Clowes’ work begin with a character narration saying, “A critic is a warrior, and each of us on the battlefield have the means to glorify or demolish (whether a film, a career, or an entire philosophy) by influencing perception in ways that if heartfelt and truthful, can have far-reaching repercussions.”
BuzzFeed caught up with Clowes, who responded by saying, “The first I ever heard of the film was this morning when someone sent me a link. I’ve never spoken to or met Mr. LaBeouf.” He continued, “I’ve never even seen one of his films that I can recall — and I was shocked, to say the least, when I saw that he took the script and even many of the visuals from a very personal story I did six or seven years ago and passed it off as his own work. I actually can’t imagine what was going through his mind.”
Eric Reynolds, an associate publisher at Fantagraphics, which publishes Clowes’ comics, said of the film. “My first reaction, before I even watched it, was basically that as much as the plot sounded like the Justin M. Damiano, I presumed that LaBeouf would be smart enough to change everything just enough to make it his own thing and shield himself from any legal liability, even if it didn’t excuse him from being a weasel.” He continued, “Which is why, when I actually started watching it, I almost spit out my coffee when I realized he lifted the script, word for word.”