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Pink Cat Fight At TCAF – Saba Moeel & Toronto Comic Art Festival

Digital artist Saba Moeel creates her Pink Cat Daily comics on Instagram for around five years, with a following of around a quarter of a million people. Pink Cat is a human/cat hybrid that sports many tattoos, takes drugs, and talks in spiritual slang and punchlines, and is basically what if Tank Girl and Garfield had a kid and left her with a bunch of hippies. Pink Cat has been collected in comic book collections, but it's not the physical manifestations of Pink Cat that are causing problems, it's the digital. Of the non-fungible kind.

TCAF Pink Cat announcement.
TCAF Pink Cat announcement.

Pink Cat is a guest at the upcoming Toronto Comic Art Festival, a long-running Canadian comic book convention that specialises in creator-owned comic book creators and cartoonists. And it is Pink Cat who is listed as a guest rather than Saba Moeel.

Pink Cat is a Middle Eastern American viral artist born on web 2 and based in Richmond, CA. A classically trained designer from Parsons School of Design, she has amassed a quarter million followers on Instagram, 90% women ages 18-35, by posting her comics every day on social media since 2016. After publishing her first comic book Don't Care Didn't Ask Plus I'm Baby, she was featured in the LA Times twice. She is currently selling a generative NFT collection, merch, and self producing an animated series based on her character.

And it was the penultimate credit that cause the issue, selling NFTs based on her work, and generative ones at that, an algorithm that creates and recreates different unique versions of her work, the kind of this popularised by the Bored Ape Yacht Club.

The internet descended in fury, with some people stating that they would no longer come to TCAF as a result. Objections to NFTs are a mix of issues of environmental concern over energy cost, the attraction of NFT to money launderers, the ephemeral Ponzi-scheme style nature of NFTs, and what is seen as an over-commercialisation of art. There are also concerns about the lackadaisical approach to copyright that seems rife within the NFT market. This could also of course apply to the traditional art market.

But Saba Moeel has been accused of, let's call it… finding influence a little too readily. As these comparisons with published Tank Girl art, and more, attest to.

Pink Cat Fight At TCAF - Toronto Comic Art Festival
Jamie Hewlett Tank Girl compares to Pink Cat illo

Pink Cat Fight At TCAF – Saba Moeel & Toronto Comic Art Festival Pink Cat Fight At TCAF – Saba Moeel & Toronto Comic Art Festival

Pink Cat Fight At TCAF – Saba Moeel & Toronto Comic Art FestivalPink Cat Fight At TCAF – Saba Moeel & Toronto Comic Art Festival

And even people's tweets were brought up for comparison.

Pink Cat Fight At TCAF - Toronto Comic Art FestivalPink Cat Fight At TCAF - Toronto Comic Art Festival

Talking of tweets, some of the more cogent responses of the thousands that have followed, included the following;

Christine Hogenkamp: This is a wakeup call for TCAF to actively protect ppl in the comic/art industry & acknowledge En Eff Tees as the scam they are and, at minimum, not platform artists who see nothing wrong with dishonest behavior in the pursuit of profits, including art theft #TCAF2022

Nadia Shammas: As an exhibitor I'm pretty disappointed in this decision. ENeffTees are a scam. This isn't what this show is about

Ngozi: I will no longer be attending TCAF. Not only do I disagree with the platforming of NFTS, but I also will not be a featured guest alongside an influencer who traces art and explicitly commodifies Black culture. What was the thought process behind this, @TorontoComics?

Sam Thielman: absolute trash copied from various Tank Girl covers, thanks

Britt Wilson: Not only is this incredibly disappointing from the show I first attended when it was in a parking lot behind Honest Ed's, but now this is going to overshadow all the legitimate artists who busted their asses to be there.

Steph Blakey: I had an incredible time visiting #TCAF and was thrilled to be accepted as an exhibitor this year, but inviting an art thief who "[doesn't] enjoy amateur artists being given grand platforms" as a featured guest to an event where that was kind of the point is a slap in the face.

That would be a reference to this previous tweet from the Pink Cat NFT Twitter account;

Twitter screencap
Twitter screencap

There were more comments;

Richard Pace: @TorontoComics is hosting a NFT art thief to table? I was just offered a table, I'm passing now. This is embarrassing

Bex Ollerton: The f-cking whiplash of having the most amazing time at MCM to finding out that TCAF is supporting NFTs on the train home. Literally what the f-ck

Zack Davisson: This is a big yikes. #TCAF has always been the gold standard for conventions and artistic representation. Having someone who copies other people's art to sell as NFTs as a guest is the opposite of what TCAF has stood for.

Mel Gillman: TCAF, I hope you listen to the feedback you're getting here and walk this decision back. N/F/Ts should not be given a platform — not to mention a *featured* platform — at a show dedicated to uplifting independent comics.

In response to some of the responses, Saba Moelle posted "I think they are kids who don't understand blockchain" which got other responses;

Ryan Dunlavey: You are mistaken. We all understand comics AND blockchain. Kids? I'm 50. I've tabled at TCAF before, and I'm tabling this year. I've been both a tech and comics professional for 30 years. Inviting you to be a guest at this show was a terrible decision. Please stay home.

Leaving Saba Moelle to post what is probably her response to much of the above;

Saba Moelle: What do you guys think about an older white man telling probably the only female Muslim comic book artist who was invited go the event to "stay home" bc i adopted my business to blockchain, and fundraised through my own following instead of going through VCs? Or white men like this, who don't follow me or understand we had Tank Girl viewing in our Discord, but think they can bully me into not going to this predominantly white male space? Im a single mom who has been posting every day, my life. I have said multiple times Pink Cat is the internet, it represents what it's like to be a modern woman. I have 2500+ drawings, some are references, some are my own, some are memes. It's my life, my work. For ME. It's not for anyone else. If you follow it and if speaks to you, good. If you have a problem with me, my identity, technique, narrative, kick rocks. It's not for you.

I come from a region completely decimated by white supremacy and imperialism, and someone being like "that's a Disney character you drew" like yes…it's a common well known meme we women use on web 2. Bc toxic, corporate, colonialist Disney was stuffed down our throats
Because our families fleed EXPLODING BUILDINGS, sanctions bc we do not use the central banking system, we did not have access to our own culture. American culture was shoved on to us, even the English language…we should be speaking our own language,

Why tank girl? Bc she is the only strong female comic that is a realistic badass, not looking like a sex doll, she's not a male fantasy she's a female one.

As it stands, TCAF has yet to make any statement, and will happily prominently update the situation if we receive a response.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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