Rabbit Riot, or The Mystery of the Missing Micro-Press

In the last Shallow & Pedantic podcast, I went off on an extended tear on a literary podcast that I used to listen to with great interest, but stopped. I removed the section from the finished product, but I’d like to address it now.

A while ago, I became the kind of guy who Listens to Podcasts by discovering the Dead Rabbits. The reference to old Irish street gang (upon which Gangs of New York was based) intrigued, as did the young-scrappy-and-hungry vibe. More than a podcast, they were a Press, a Reading Series (whatever that might be), a will-to-publish. And listening to them gave me a sense of the headspace of Sarah Laurence-grads who wanted to write The Great American Novel, or at any rate who wanted to carry the torch of literary culture into the new era, whatever that might mean. It was inspirational, in the sense of “Hey, what’s stopping me from doing this, too?” I listened even when I didn’t care particularly about the topic. I even bought their first release, Brian Birnbaum’s Emerald City, on Kindle.

And then, quite suddenly, they vanished.

Which happens. Economics is not the friend of tiny lit-fic presses. But then they were back. Exactly the same, now calling itself Animal Riot. The people didn’t change, the books didn’t change, the About pages didn’t change, but the name did. Even the Dead Rabbits Reading Series, which pre-existed the press and the podcast, was retroactively renamed the Animal Riot Reading Series. A cursory googling reveals no news story or explaination for the change, but old episodes of the podcast have had their introductions edited, and there, at least, it is acknowledged that they are operating under a new name.

So I’m not crazy, I haven’t slipped into an alertnate universe, and I’m not suffering from the Mandela Effect. They really did call themselves Dead Rabbits, and now are not.

Why? Some legal injunction, perhaps? There are other podcasts calling themselves Dead Rabbits, such as Dead Rabbit Radio, which puts itself out almost daily. They started in the spring/summer of 2018, whereas the Dead Rabbits/Animal Riots started in November of that year. But podcasts having the same name is nothing new. There are about a million podcasts called “Whatever“, which is why I’m probably going to change that name to simply “The Content Blues Podcast”. But I will let you know when that happens.

A better lead comes in the form of a NYC bar known as The Dead Rabbit, which deliberately crafts an atmosphere redolent of the street gang, and has published a mixology/history book with graphic novel flavor. The owners are two immigrants from Belfast, and are known to be litigious regarding use of the Dead Rabbits name, according to this article on Recalled Comics.

The Dead Rabbit bar in New York City (below) is famous for its cocktails and has used the “Dead Rabbit” moniker since 2012 for comics strips (related to the New York gangs) in their cocktail menus and books (some of which have been CGC graded).

Image released a Dead Rabbit Ashcan in Spring 2018 and later that year released the series with #1 hitting the shops in 2018-10-03. The NY bar owners (DRT Group LLC) had their lawyers send a cease and desist notice to both Image Comics and Forbidden Planet on the 22nd of that same month.

However, Forbidden Planet apparently did not respond, and Image apparently asked for more time but went ahead and published #2 anyway in early November leading to DRT group lawyers filing lawsuits against both in the New York courts claiming $2 million from each in damages.

The series was quickly cancelled in late November 2018 and the comics recalled (although too late as most would have been in collectors’ hands at that stage) and traces of the comic were removed from Image and Diamond’s websites.

recalledcomics.com

Now, this was over an unrelated comic book. But, given that Dead Rabbits/Animal Riot and The Dead Rabbit bar both call NYC home, and given that the bar publishes books related to the brand, one can fashion a theory that the bar sued the press, and the press, having even less resources than Image Comics, ceased-and-desisted in the same way. I have no evidence that proves this theory, but it does fit the facts.

The Lesson: Make your own brand.