Portuguese Beverage Brand Allegedly Plagiarizes Charles Burns’ Artwork For New Ad Campaign

A Portuguese beverage brand of flavored water titled, Agua Castello, appears to have used artwork by noted indie comic icon, Charles Burns as part of a new 115 year anniversary advertisement campaign. This is a pretty cool idea since we haven’t seen Burns’ artwork on the packaging of beverages since the ill-fated, terrible tasting, but cool-looking OK Cola brand. The only problem with this seemingly positive partnership is that it appears not to be a partnership at all.

According to publisher Fantagraphics Books, Agua Castello did not receive permission to use Burns’ art on their anniversary bottle, nor is the artwork originally Burns’ or credited to Burns at all. Rather, they are images that Burns created that have been slightly altered to the point of full-on plagiarism. In an entry written on Fantagraphics’ blog today with the headline, “Agua Castello owes Charles Burns,” the publisher had this to say: “Images not on the bottles courtesy Charles Burns and The Believer magazine. Actually, images on the bottle are also courtesy Charles Burns and The Believer. Fancy that. On behalf of Charles Burns, The Believer and Fantagraphics Books, we say: F***k you, Agua Castello of Portugal, and the sh***y idea-bankrupt ad agency you hired.”

Also included in the post were side-by-side comparisons of specific artwork by Burns with artwork depicted on the Agua Castello anniversary bottle. It appears so far that Agua Castello have not responded to the assertions by Fantagraphics. The bottle is still prominently displayed on both their Facebook Page and their website with no mention of Charles Burns or the magazine The Believer (the publication that Fantagraphics asserts Burns’ printed artwork was directly ripped off from).

Image courtesy of Fantagraphics.com

The Agua Castello website and Facebook page are written entirely in Portuguese, but roughly translated to English (thanks to the internet) the company describes the new artwork as part of a campaign to “achieve through pictures BD create a narrative for a water one drinks with friends, family, night and day.” Here is the rough translation in full:

The Castello Water is on the streets with a new campaign that marks its 115th anniversary and draws inspiration from the universe of comics.

Creativity with the Strat, the campaign aims to achieve through pictures BD create a narrative for a water one drinks with friends, family, night and day and so resorted to figures who were related to brand communication in the past as António Silva, Herman José Diogo Morgado or actor explains note sent to newsrooms.

A few Charles Burns fans have taken to the Agua Castello Facebook page, reposting the blog entry by Fantagraphics and generally expressing their distaste with the brand’s alleged plagiarism. No word so far on whether or not Burns, Fantagraphics, or The Believer plan on taking any legal action against the company. You can check out the rest of the side-by-side comparisons posted by Fantagraphics today below.