Comics Awfulness

By | Wednesday, June 17, 2020 1 comment
Cameron Stewart
Earlier this week, some women started coming forward on social media to talk about predatory behavior by some fairly prominent comics creators. Aviva Artzy explained some of her dealings with Cameron Stewart with Kate Leth, Marsha Cooke, and Babs Tarr backing her up. Warren Ellis was also name-dropped as someone who's engaged in similar behavior, but details on what exactly he did are a bit more ambiguous at the moment.

These types of revelations, sadly, aren't new. You may recall news stories over the past few years involving Brian Wood, Scott Lobdell, and Scott Allie among others. And stories go back much further. I've talked with women who've experienced some pretty awful sexual harassment (from other people) going back at least to the late 1970s. There are hushed rumors about those particular incidents, and I'd love to get those names published out in the open, but these women have also all specifically asked that I don't. Even the several that have long since left the comics industry specifically because of the crap they had to deal with! So they remain hushed rumors for now, and we can only call out the names that women are willing/able to speak out against.

What's more egregious, though, is that while the harassers and predators in those hushed rumors have consequently not been drummed out of the industry... neither have the people who have been named! Probably the closest comics has had to a "success" in that regard is that Eddie Berganza and Eric M. Esquivel were both fired from DC after their issues were brought to light, but this year they've both joined together under a new publishing banner.

A few years ago, Rat Queens artist Roc Upchurch was arrested for beating his wife. While Tess Fowler stepped in for several issues, writer Kurtis Wiebe had been trying to hire back Upchurch behind Fowler's back. I followed up on the sales data a couple years later and found that, despite many fans saying they wouldn't support a book drawn by an admitted wife-beater, sales didn't seem to be appreciably impacted.

And that's pretty indicative of the larger issue we have in society. A celebrity is found to engage in awful behavior, and while there might be an initial backlash, it usually subsides after a few years and the man (because it's almost always a man) is able to pick up more or less where they dropped off. Now, the Me Too movement that really got going in earnest in late 2017 may have changed the game a bit there but it's a little too early to tell. Bill Cosby is still in prison, but he's only been there about a year and a half. Likewise, people like Kevin Spacey and James Franco have only been out of the spotlight for a couple years. It's unclear how/when/if they might return.

But given that guys like Allie and Wood still have work coming out, I'm skeptical for comics.

Any sort of predatory or harassing behavior needs to be clamped down on by anyone who's witness to it. Comics has no "police" and no "union" to force creators out of the industry. (And even if they did, people could always come back via gatekeeperless webcomics!) Which means that it's up to EVERYBODY in the industry to keep an eye on this crap ourselves. When you see or hear of a creator "grooming" someone younger or sexually harassing them in any way or engaging in any sort of predatory type behavior, stop them. If you can't stop them in the moment, you can help by telling everyone you know. And with social media, it's easier than ever to get word out to comics news outlets to spread the word even farther and faster. But this behavior needs to stop, and if everyone just keeps their mouths shut, that's essentially a license for others to continue.

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Tonebone said...

To think a union would help fix this is naive at best. Unions only serve to protect the employee, no matter what they did. Unions are contrary to being able to fire the bad seeds.