In his 13 years as a comic book artist, Kieron Dwyer has limned
the adventures of Captain America, Daredevil and even Superman.
But none of these superheros had to face the evil villain Dwyer
himself is battling--Corporate America.
In 1997, Dwyer began self-publishing a satirical comic called Lowest
The premier issue's cover featured a parody of the logo for Starbucks,
the near-ubiquitous coffee shop chain. Dwyer's parody changed the
words "Starbucks Coffee" to "Consumer Whore," replaced a couple of
stars with dollar signs, and added nipples, a navel ring, a cell phone
and a dazed look to the "siren" figure that graces the center of the
logo. Pleased with his work, Dwyer also printed it on T-shirts and
"I was criticizing Starbucks, specifically," says Dwyer, a 33-year-old
resident of San Francisco, about his motivation for creating the
logo parody. "But I was also targeting ordinary people--myself included--who
kind of become enslaved to their product--or any product, for that
matter. You know, 'Consumer Whore' denotes to me the idea that many,
maybe most, people in America will blindly do anything to satisfy
their desires. And
corporations such as Starbucks feed on this weakness in people, this
desperate middle-class consumerism, because it keeps them in business."
Unfortunately for Dwyer, the coffee giant got wind of his parody
logo and responded with a lawsuit charging copyright infringement,
trademark infringement and trademark dilution. Starbucks immediately
filed for a restraining order, which would have required Dwyer to
turn over all items bearing the parody logo.