Tidalwave Productions Taylor Swift Biography Controversies, Explained

The star of pop singer Taylor Swift has never been higher. Given that, it makes sense that she should be the subject of celebrity biographers, like TidalWave Productions. Originally established in 2007, the comic publisher has made waves with its lines of celebrity biography comics.

However, TidalWave’s new book profiling Swift’s career has drawn fire on multiple fronts. One of the books’ covers inspired complaints regarding unrealistic artwork. The new book was also written by a writer with a problematic past. Finally, TidalWave Productions itself has a controversial history, with multiple reports of the publisher not paying its creators.

Yonami Cover Under Fire

The first controversy arose shortly after the release of the first preview of TidalWave Productions’ Taylor Swift biography comic. The book was promoted as part of TidalWave’s Female Force line of comics devoted to remarkable women. It was also said to feature two covers, by series’ artist Ramon Salas and noted cover artist Yonami.

Taylor Swift TidalWave Productions Cover Full
(Image Source: TidalWave Productions)

Yonami’s cover drew criticism from comic readers and Swifties alike on social media. Some pointed to the exaggerated figure, with proportions unlike those of the real Taylor Swift. Others mocked how the microphone seemed to hover over the claw-like right hand.

The History of Eric M. Esquivel

A larger point of concern for some was TidalWave Productions’ announcement that its new Taylor Swift biography was written by Eric M. Esquivel. At one time, Esquivel was a promising up-and-comer in American comics. He had worked with several major publishers, with his original series Border Town kicking off the 2018 revival of Vertigo Comics.

Esquivel’s star fell as quickly as it rose, following allegations of sexual, mental, and emotional abuse by a former partner, Cynthia Naugle. In a series of posts on Twitter, Naugle chronicled the claims of other women who had suffered similar mistreatment. They painted a picture of a serial groomer, who used his position to target vulnerable young women.

Esquivel’s artistic collaborators on Border Town quit the series, releasing statements that they believed his accusers and were ending their association with him. DC, which owns Vertigo, swiftly cancelled Border Town in response. The publisher also took the unusual step of allowing retailers to return the unsold issues for a full refund.

Since that time, Eric M. Esquivel has worked almost exclusively for TidalWave Productions. Much of this work has been on other celebrity biographies, similar to the upcoming Taylor Swift comic. Esquivel has also written some of TidalWave’s original superhero comics, and a fictionalized Elon Musk comic depicting the billionaire as a Doc Savage-esque figure.

TidalWave Productions’ Questionable History

TidalWave Productions has a similarly controversial history. Originally established as a production house of Image Comics in 2001, the company declared bankruptcy in 2003. Founder Darren G. Davis revived the company as an independent publisher in 2007, under the name Bluewater Productions.

Bluewater Productions built its brand on unauthorized celebrity biography comics, like the upcoming Taylor Swift book. The company attempted to market its books to teachers and librarians as educational materials. However, these efforts were overshadowed by reports of the publisher mistreating its employees.

Bleeding Cool was the first outlet to report that Bluewater Productions was recruiting inexperienced creators, “working for no money at all, seeking exposure,” in 2009. Darren G. Davis denied these charges. Davis claimed the outcry was due to “creatives who became disenchanted over the terms of their signed agreements.”

These signed agreements were examined in detail by Heidi MacDonald of The Beat. MacDonald found that Bluewater Productions’ contracts only promised payment upon reaching a certain number of sales. While work-for-hire contracts are fairly common in American comics, work-for-hire for a promise of royalties are not.

MacDonald confirmed the accounts of multiple creators, including Sean Gordon Murphy, who claimed to have not been paid for their work at Bluewater Productions. Jaymes Reed made similar allegations in 2013, regarding his 2011 comics series devoted to famous comedians. In 2014, Reed alleged the series continued to be published, despite his cutting ties with the company.

Despite this history and the association with Eric M. Esquivel, there may be little Taylor Swift can do about the upcoming comic. Public figures have little legal recourse in the United States against unauthorized biographies. This allowed Bluewater Productions to fend off threats of a lawsuit in 2010, from a lawyer representing Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.

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