A Colombian coffee-growers group is suing cartoonist Mike Peters for a reported $20 million over a gag in a Mother Goose & Grimm strip involving Colombian coffee and crime syndicates.
According to Colombia Reports, the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia doesn’t find any humor in a joke that uses the group’s old slogan, “There’s a little bit of Juan Valdez in every can,” to suggest (I guess?) that the nation’s organized-crime groups use the cans to dispose of human remains.
(Juan Valdez is, of course, the fiction character the federation has used since 1959 to market “100-percent Colombian coffee.”)
I know a joke loses its humor if you explain it, but it wasn’t all that funny to begin with. However, is it really cause for a lawsuit?
At a press conference Tuesday in Bogota, the association’s president criticized the strip for linking the “atrocities of the violent groups” to the “hard, honest” work of the nation’s coffee growers.
Gabriel Silva says the group seeks “not just an economic compensation for something that damages the intellectual heritage. We also want moral compensation. A public manifestation.”
“Moral compensation” apparently amounts to $20 million.
BBC World News spoke to a handful of noted Colombian cartoonists, who scoff at the lawsuit.
According to Colombia Reports, Peters — a Pulitzer Prize winner — sent an apology to the El Tiempo newspaper, but didn’t comment on the legal action.
It’s unclear in what jurisdiction the lawsuit will be filed.
Update: The Associated Press now has a few more details, including an excerpt from Peters’ statement:
“I had no more thought to insult Colombia and Juan Valdez than I did Pringles, Betty Crocker, Col. Sanders, Dr. Pepper and Bartles & Jaymes. The cartoon is meant to be read along with the rest of the week as a series of which the theme is based on the fact that the inventor of the Pringles can had his ashes buried in one.
“I thought this was a humorous subject and all of my Mother Goose & Grimm cartoons are meant to make people laugh. I truly intended no insult.”