In a move that has shattered the walls between the world of comics, video games, and pro wrestling, a loading screen image in the new game WWE 2K Battlegrounds apparently features a traced image of independent wrestling star Tessa Blanchard. Though the game didn't come out until Friday, Twitch channel New Legacy Inc. had an early copy and streamed on Thursday. One of the loading screens shown on the stream explains the rules of a Royal Rumble match, with the final image of a wrestler winning seemingly an exact copy of a real photo of Tessa Blanchard which comes up first in a Google Image search for "woman wrestler winning." Not only is the cartoon wrestler making the same pose as Blanchard, but she's wearing the same outfit as ell.
The similarity sparked clickbait headlines on all the dirt sheets implying Blanchard was "in the game." It even caught the attention of photographer Basil Mahmud, who tweeted, "Hey @WWEgames you wanna tell me why you took my photo without my permission to use it in your game?" When someone responded that the use of the photo seemed to fall under "fair use" of copyright, Mahmud replied, "Wrong, fair use act is if you use the picture for explanation purposes. Not for art in a game that you make money off of."
Well… we're not lawyers. If we were, we'd get paid a hell of a lot more money than entertainment journalists do. But we will say that if tracing real-life photos for use in products that are sold to make money isn't "fair use," then a certain Marvel Comics artists would owe a lot of porn stars a lot of money, if you know what we mean.
So, er, as is obligatory in these columns, formerly known as Swipe File, now known as Separated at Birth, it's your turn to vote on whether this WWE 2K Battlegrounds image is a swipe, an homage, or a coincidence. View the photo in question and screenshot here.
Separated At Birth used to be called Swipe File, in which we presented two or more images that resemble each other to some degree. They may be homages, parodies, ironic appropriations, coincidences, or works of the lightbox. We trusted you, the reader, to make that judgment yourself. If you were are unable to do so, we asked that you please return your eyes to their maker before any further damage is done.
The Swipe File didn't judge; it was interested more in the process of creation, how work influences other work, how new work comes from old, and sometimes how the same ideas emerge simultaneously as if their time has just come. The Swipe File was named after the advertising industry habit where writers and artists collect images and lines they admire to inspire them in their work. It was swiped from the Comic Journal, who originally ran this column, as well as the now-defunct Swipe Of The Week website.