Now that Legume and some of the rest of us have proved that you can't believe ANYTHING a SubGenius Doktor says, including this statement, I have yet another tragedy to announce -- and I swear (not on God, so you know I'm serious this time) that we're not crying wolf.
A terrible thing is happening. Paul Mavrides is starving for your sins. He called me yesterday to tell me that he has $3 to his name, and that now is the time to beg his fellow SubGenii for help.
He did most of the illustration for REVELATION X. And half of THE BOOK OF THE SUBGENIUS. All that stuff credited to LIES. He also did half the final TEXT EDITING. He got paid about 25 cents an hour. PLEAAAASE SHOW YOUR APPRECIATION BY PARTING WITH SOME LUNCH MONEY FOR THE GUY!! Rent money would be even better.
When we all thought Legume was dead, nobody sent any money to help out the "widow" (a sister, in this case). Maybe that was because Legume was already dead. We thought. Well, Mavrides is still alive, but just barely. He has spent the last 3 years battling for your first amendment rights instead of drawing and painting art for a living. The distraction of the tax case is partly what held up REVELATION X for so long.
There's a defense fund, but it's tapped out. He needs IMMEDIATE FINANCIAL GIFTS just to keep functioning. He's living on candy bars and cigaret butts. If his phone goes out, and he loses this case, it won't just hurt him, it'll result in half the comics, graphic novels and children's books that you're used to disappearing from the market -- not to mention your favorite daily newspaper strips.
A large proportion of the illustrators and publishers in this country are in California, and if the tax board wins, many of them will go out of business. This whole mess was an ill-advised attempt by the impoverished state tax board to suck more blood from a stone. They picked the wrong cartoonist for a test case, however.
Anything you can do -- ANYTHING -- to keep Mavrides on his feet through the final (we hope) showdown in January is an investment in freedom of the press. This is the way they pry our rights away -- starting at the pocketbook. Paul Mavrides is financially toasted, burnt, wiped out. He could have just paid off the stupid bill and let all the less successful cartoonists and illustrators in California go under, but instead he has stuck to his guns at tremendous personal expense.
DONATIONS may be sent for Mavrides care of LAST GASP, 777 Florida St., San Francisco CA 94110.
If you aren't familiar with this case, GET WITH IT. I lifted this from yesterday's NEW YORK TIMES (online):[from: Rev. Ivan Stang
c.1995 N.Y. Times News Service
In some quarters, cartoons are considered a form of ideological commentary; in others, they are seen as amusing insights into the human condition. But there seems to be a consensus on one point: quirky or sedate, raucous or staid, the drawings are meant to convey ideas.
But that consensus has broken down in California, where ideas are free of tariffs but the stuff of commerce is subject to the state's 7.25 percent sales tax.
Since 1990 the Board of Equalization, the state tax agency, has been taxing cartoons sold to publishers as finished ``camera ready'' pieces of art, maintaining that they are commercial items, as taxable as scissors or lamps or car wax.
Contending that advertising illustrations and other forms of graphic art have long been taxed in California, Dennis E. Fox, the manager of the Board of Equalization's sales and use tax department, said, ``We've uncovered through the back door a very small number of organizations who aren't paying the tax, where everyone else in the industry does.''
Some syndicates and cartoonists, he said, have already paid sales tax, but he declined to name them.
The first challenge to the new ruling has come from Paul Mavrides, co-creator with Gilbert Shelton of the underground comic heroes the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.
In 1990, Mavrides' income tax return was audited over $14,000 in royalty income that he maintained was exempt from sales tax. Mavrides, 45, has appealed the resulting $1,000 tax bill, which he calculates has risen to $5,000 with penalties and interest.
In a second challenge to the agency's ruling, a tiny newspaper in northern California, the Siskiyou Daily News (circulation 6,000), has appealed a $631 bill issued in August for sales tax on cartoons purchased from out-of-state syndicates since 1993, when the paper changed owners. California-based cartoonists and syndicates are supposed to pay the tax themselves, passing on the cost to their newspaper customers.
``They are trying to draw a line and say this is art,'' said Thomas Newton, general counsel to the California Newspaper Publishers Association. ``We can't distinguish between a cartoon and a manuscript.''
A barbed cartoon, he said, ``can change government, bring light to an issue that was in the dark. It should be just as protected as the rest of the newspaper.''
Artwork produced by graphic artists and advertising agencies has been subject to sales tax for years, but transactions between cartoonists and publishers were not previously questioned, in part because of a 1930's law that deemed newspaper cartoons untaxable editorial material.
In 1991, soon after the state tax agency began auditing newspapers, it focused on cartoons - which currently account for $4 million in annual sales in California, representing possible tax revenue of $300,000.
The 1930s law no longer applied, the agency said, because the legislation was limited to cartoons reproduced through a now-obsolete technology. These days, fully finished cartoons are usually mailed to newspapers, which use photo-reproduction or computerized scanners to reproduce them. These ``hard copy'' versions, the tax agency maintains, constitute a taxable commodity.
Cartoons sent electronically, however, continue to be tax-exempt.
``That's the ruling we take,'' said Fox of the Board of Equalization. To be taxable, he added, ``it has to be felt, weighed, measured or smelled.''
What is at issue, he said, is not the editorial content of the cartoons but the means used to transfer the illustrations from artist to publisher. ``With an artwork, you need the actual art to publish in the paper; with a manuscript you don't need the actual words,'' he said, contending that a publisher is buying ideas.
Asked whether the cartoon tax could be construed as censoring political opinion, Fox said: ``We don't discriminate at all. Even if it's artwork that's critical of us, it's subject to tax.''
The agency's staff, he said, also plans to tax cartoons sent from out of state. Cartoon syndicates, which provide newspapers with comic strips and political cartoons from people like Garry Trudeau and Herblock, and comic book publishers say no other state has ever taxed the sale of cartoons to publishers.
So far, only Mavrides and the Siskiyou Daily News have mounted a public attack against the Board of Equalization. The state's largest newspaper, The Los Angeles Times, has neither paid the tax nor been audited, according to Laura Morgan, a spokeswoman for the newspaper. The San Francisco Chronicle receives its cartoons electronically.
Mavrides, whose appeal hearing before state tax authorities is scheduled for Jan. 10, said that he will carry the appeal into state courts if he did not prevail, and that the American Civil Liberties Union has pledged to represent him.
He has received support from the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the Society of Children's Book Writers, the Association of American Publishers and the National Cartoonists Society, he said.
Critics of the tax policy, who include syndicates and newspapers, maintain that the tax violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection and free speech, and is a double tax on newspapers. The critics believe that the 1930s law exempting cartoons still holds.
``The whole thing is insane,'' said Richard S. Newcombe, president and chief executive of Creators Syndicate, a Los Angeles group representing 80 columnists and cartoonists, including Johnny Hart, the creator of B.C. and the Wizard of Id, and Mell Lazarus, creator of Momma and Miss Peach. ``I'll fight this to the Supreme Court.''
Dale D. Andreasen, publisher and general manager of The Siskiyou Daily News, which is sold in and around Yreka, Calif., said that in practice, ``I see no difference between Ann Landers and a cartoon.''
``There's some people who say this has First Amendment repercussions,'' he added. ``To me, it's just common sense. This is double taxation.''
In Mavrides' appeal before the agency's five-member governing board, his lawyers will complain about the statute's vagueness and its unfairness to small companies, said Sanford Present, a lawyer for Mavrides.
``The revenue loss from publishers moving out of state far outweighs any revenue they will raise,'' he said.
I will be posting more on this case soon.
Copyright 1995 by Rev. Ivan Stang / 1st Orthodox Stangian
MegaFisTemple Lodge of People's Covenant Church of the
Wrath of Dobbs Yeti, Resurrected / The SubGenius Foundation,Inc.
PO Box 140306 Dallas TX 75214 / Fax 214-320-1561 / PRABOB
http://sunsite.unc.edu/subgenius -- SubSITE of Slack