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Wednesday, August 05, 2020 

The industry supposedly continues to reckon with sexual misconduct and abuse

The Hollywood Reporter wrote another piece about comicdom allegedly trying to improve the atmosphere following several allegations of sexual misconduct in the past month, and most eyebrow raising is when they get around to the talk of "gatekeeping", which is precisely what's led to anti-conservative blacklisting:
As Marvel, DC and Dark Horse cut ties with creators, calls grow for new protections in a largely freelance industry: "Who has enough power to call out bad behavior without losing their job?"
That's a great question, one that decidedly must apply to treatment conservatives as well: can they express themselves without losing their jobs? Jon Malin is a more recent example of an artist who was blacklisted for being right-leaning, and what backing does he get in the wider medium? Almost nothing.
Taki Soma was surprised when a friend messaged her in June to say something big was brewing. Fifteen years earlier, Soma, a Hugo-nominated comic book writer and artist, reported to police that she was sexually assaulted by Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit whose advisory board includes such industry heavyweights as Sandman writer Neil Gaiman, Sin City creator Frank Miller and DC publisher Jim Lee.

The details of the alleged 2005 assault at an Ohio convention had been publicly available online for years, and Brownstein, who called the evening in which he groped Soma "a stupid, drunken prank" in 2006, had remained at his job, where he led the organization in advocating for First Amendment rights for comics creators. That changed June 22, with the executive resigning following a renewed focus on alleged abuses within the comics industry. "It felt incredible but also enraging because it should have happened 15 years ago," says Soma, who believes she lost out on work after speaking up.
She's damn right about that. Not mentioned in the article, however, is that she may not have initially pressed charges against Brownstein, though she may have been able to file them later, yet it seems he never spent time in jail. The piece goes on to tell, however, that not only Brownstein, but also Warren Ellis and Jason Latour look to be facing more consequences:
Brownstein's departure was part of a reckoning that has affected the comic book industry since June, with multiple high-profile creators having been accused of abusive or exploitative behavior. Such publishers as Marvel, DC and Dark Horse have quietly severed ties with several of the accused even as they grapple with how to reform their industry from within.

The Hollywood Reporter has learned that the projects canceled include a Batman story from the superstar writer-creator of Netflix's Castlevania, Warren Ellis, who has been accused of sexual harassment and abuse by multiple women. (Sources say that while Ellis has completed work on the upcoming season of Castlevania, he will not be back for potential future seasons). DC also jettisoned a digital project from artist Cameron Stewart, known for his work on Catwoman, after model Aviva Artzy tweeted that she had been groomed by Stewart when she was 16 and he was in his 30s.
It looks like a whole Bat-miniseries Ellis was reportedly developing was cancelled, according to this Bleeding Cool entry, and most interesting is that Declan Shalvey, an artist now boycotting Dynamite because of the alleged Comicsgate ties, was involved with Ellis' project. Assuming Shalvey knew about Ellis' grimier antics, one can only wonder why Shalvey continued associations with him, yet Dynamite's the baddie here? Even earlier, Image removed an article they posted about Ellis' forum. Here's more about Jason Latour, whose antics were downright sleazy:
Also facing accusations of grooming young comics fans and industry hopefuls was Jason Latour, co-creator of Marvel's Spider-Gwen, the fan-favorite hero voiced by Hailee Steinfeld in the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. (Marvel sources tell THR that the company has no plans with the creator.) And Dark Horse Comics fired longtime Hellboy editor Scott Allie after sexual abuse allegations from a co-worker.
What Allie did at least 2 decades ago was by far the most obscene of the acts all these thugs could've pulled, and as I said before, he belongs in prison. As for Latour, we can only wonder what'll happen to his writings for Marvel, now that he's been unmasked? Presumably, they'll fall out of print for awhile.

Now, here's where they get around to the matter of "gatekeeping". This is quite interesting:
While the industry has become a lucrative idea factory that powers Disney's Marvel Studios and Warner Bros.' stable of DC films, it has struggled to quickly deal with abuse allegations. The comics industry relies on informal networks of gatekeepers such as editorial staff or established freelance creators — rather than agents — to bring in new talent. It's a system observers say creates an unbalanced power dynamic that can lead to abuse.

"When new people get brought in, they are brought in by people who are already working," says comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, whose work on Captain Marvel helped inspire the $1.12 billion-grossing Brie Larson film. "There's no traditional ladder. So the way people have gotten in is through these powerful gatekeepers. A lot of those powerful gatekeepers are super lovely, but there ought to be another way."

DeConnick, who acknowledges that she herself is a gatekeeper, is among those who have suggested that comic book publishers require creative talent to use agents to advocate on their behalf, as is done in the film and TV industry. "If something like that were available, it would decrease the power of some of the gatekeepers," notes DeConnick, who also suggests young creators hire attorneys to protect their financial interests.
Ah, now here's where things take a turn to something THR has no interest addressing by contrast: blacklisting conservatives and anybody else who takes a position considered unacceptable by today's modern movements for political correctness and social justice. DeConnick and THR just barely hint at this. And that's another problem that's gone unmentioned in this Graeme McMillan-penned item, which won't do much to solve one of the biggest problems in entertainment today if nobody's willing to address another elephant in the room. Why, what if a lady who supports conservative politics wants to make it in comicdom, and either she's kept out because of her leanings, or worse, if she falls victim to sexual abuse, nobody's willing to aid her because of where and what she stands for? Something tells me DeConnick won't advocate for people like that, based on her standings as a left-wing gatekeeper. What's more, agents don't mean much if they happen to be liberal themselves, and won't serve as representatives if they despise a client's politics. Chuck Dixon's one of the most notable conservatives who'd been rejected by the mainstream, and Jon Malin was another, more recent example. Nothing's being done to help their causes, so what's the paper's point if they don't ask DeConnick if she realizes she's part of the problem? Why, where was she when Eddie Berganza was still on the loose?

Then, the article also contains mention of something that I've long concluded is exaggerated at best best and defamatory at worst:
Sexually predatory behavior has been a problem within the comic book industry for decades. Stories abound about Julius Schwartz — the late editor credited with DC's superhero revivals in the 1950s that would inspire the creation of Fantastic Four and the entire Marvel Universe. Multiple comic book professionals like Sandman artist Colleen Doran have spoken out about harassment by him.
First off, I'm sure the industry's always had a problem with sexual misconduct for decades, as they say, just like any other medium. But these allegations against Schwartz have never been proven indefinitely, any more than what Stan Lee faced shortly before his death 2 years ago, mainly because I never found found any legal records making the case, and I don't think "multiple" pros ever accused Schwartz. I'd written about these allegations before, and while I may have been more polite the first time around, I'm less inclined to be so this time. At this point, that anyone would make use of this ambiguous allegation made by Doran, let alone Heidi MacDonald, as fodder for a news item is getting irritating, and was clearly not written with extensive research. What I do know, is that, for somebody who complained about harassment, Doran wasn't setting a very good example after, as I discovered, she associated with a cybertroll on Twitter who was resorting to harassment and doxxing, and whose targets even included Ethan van Sciver. As seen in the following:
Now I can believe the other 2 whose account names appear in the picture would be willing to meet with somebody that revolting, but Doran also met with the creep?!? Wow...for somebody who once complained about harassment, she sure doesn't seem concerned if it affects anybody whose beliefs are anathema to hers. I think I can understand why a video filmer on Youtube was calling for a boycott of Doran's work, along with several other far-leftists. When I discovered this, I was filled with distaste, and decided that was the last straw; I can't buy into accusations made by somebody who, as also discovered, took to retweeting the messages of a certain novelist who alienated comics audiences from the mainstream. Now, Doran seems to have erased quite a few of her Twitter posts from the past few years, but looking around the Internet Archive, I managed to find at least a few very startling discoveries circa 2015-19, as seen in the following screencaps:

It's said a picture can be worth 1000 words, and these, for example, are quite illuminating. I'm quite sure Doran was well aware of what Meltzer penned by the time these were retweeted, and anybody who's going to give free ad space to an unrepentant novelist who cobbles together a comic minimizing a serious issue she supposedly complained about has left me far less convinced she's being truthful. Seriously, I just don't know why I should buy what Doran allegedly said about Schwartz if this is whom she considers acceptable company. If I thought Hero Initiative was worth backing, I'd do it in my own words, on my own Twitter account, and wouldn't want to retweet what some charlatan said about the same. Let's remember Doran was once chummy with cartoonist Dave Sim (and if this Q&A with her on an affiliated site is any suggestion, she still is), whose Cerebus comic contained insulting attitudes towards women (the "Red Sophia" story from early in the run looked pretty atrocious), got increasingly worse as it went along, and some of the op-eds he'd written back in the day were just as creepy. (Bizarre irony: the same cybertroll Doran associated with actually accused Sim of grooming a 14-year-old girl, but only for the sake of attacking van Sciver, who stupidly considered Sim for writing a Cyberfrog entry before calling it off.) IIRC, what Doran alleged supposedly took place around 1979-80, but I later discovered a picture from the 1981 Chicago Comicon where Doran not only met Schwartz and Jack Kirby, and seemed to be getting along with the former as much as the latter, Sim was spending time with them as well. This was about a year after the supposed incident in a limousine, so again, I just don't know what's going on. But Doran and Sim seem to have known each other a long time, and if I didn't know better, I'd start wondering if they conspired together. At this point, I wouldn't be shocked if they'd turn against Kirby too if they thought it easy. Here's a few more screencaps I got decidedly worth pondering:

Let's see, she considers Saladin Ahmed good company to keep, and has no issues with a feminist as reprehensible as Anita Sarkeesian and her Feminist Frequency propaganda, nor does she have a problem with an extremist like Visaggio. Okay, I get the picture. Let us be clear: Doran's a talented artist, I won't deny that. And so far, I haven't heard she's had any involvement with the Whisper Network, unlike Vissagio. But the company she seems to keep, along with her politics and such, do not inspire confidence she's somebody to consider worth taking at face value on what she's alleged in the past, and after thinking about this some more, I can say I'm just not interested in buying her books, period, because my intellect is insulted beyond belief by this point.

And doing some more research around the web, I came across this op-ed by veteran Mindy Newell, who, while she says it's not like everything was rosy, as she once got a crude letter in the mail, she got along quite well with her male colleagues like Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, and had the following to say:
But this was the only time that I experienced any kind of direct sexual harassment in the comics industry. Perhaps it’s because the men I met were, for the most part, of an age – all high school and college students in the 60s, shutting down universities and marching in the street to protest the Vietnam War, “tuning in, turning on, dropping out” during those summers of love. Women were burning their bras, men were burning their draft cards, and the police were beating up protestors at political conventions while inside the buildings journalists were being manhandled off the floor. The men who were older – Julie Schwartz, Joe Kubert, and others – had lived through their own hells of the Depression and World War II.

They were mature.

They were adults.

They were men.
And thinking about this, I think I believe Newell far more than I do Doran. Heck, if Flo Steinberg got along so well with Stan Lee in her time, then it stands to reason Schwartz was far from what Doran/MacDonald shamefully made him out to be too. I've decidedly got a new special respect for Newell, and lost the same for Doran. Which brings us to the main point of this discussion: it's time for these attacks on Schwartz to stop. I don't think he was a saint any more than anybody else, nor do I look at comicdom's history through a rose-colored lens (just take a look at the sordid side of cartoonist Al Capp, who was arrested for sex offenses in Wisconsin). But the way these SJWs are turning Schwartz into a posthumous punching bag without any clear documentation is getting out of hand, and is bound to do more harm than good. Just look at what almost happened to Lee over 2 years ago, before his fans fought back. THR does no favors when they start using that "multiple" mishmash without researching properly to clarify allegations. And you know something's wrong when a propagandist like MacDonald is involved.

Again, I don't think the past industry was throughly healthy in terms of interactions between men and women. But I do think the reason why the present one is so unhealthy is because of the gatekeepers, so concerned as they are with barring conservatives and anybody not considered PC enough out of comicdom and movies that they have no interest in making things better for women who want to contribute to the art. Sadly, they'll never consider their stances a problem, even now.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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