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Overthought Bubble #11: Don't Rock the Boat

Written by Gavin D. on Monday, November 09 2015 and posted in Columns

Overthought Bubble #11: Don't Rock the Boat

A closing statement in the coverage of Upchurch exemplifies the problem with covering harassment in comics.

"Because, if true, this would also be the first we've heard that Upchurch might be working on a new project for Image."

Rich Johnston wrote this at the end of a piece on Bleeding Cool which published a letter from Ms. Upchurch. The letter details the reality of Roc Upchurch's domestic violence allegations. That reality? Some wounds take longer than a year to heal, but the comics community doesn't want to acknowledge the hurt. Ms. Upchurch, on her blog, details the reality that Roc Upchurch was not accused of just beating her, but also raping her, beating his child, and neglecting his responsibilities as a father. If the accusations are true, then he has not improved as much as he claims since the initial arrest, and is behind on child support payments. Of course I'm sure many will say "Where's the proof?" and "That's not news. It's none of our business."

This here is the bane of comics journalism. Comic books are often cited as a means of escapism for those in less fortunate situations. The stereotype, and a story I have heard echoed, is that until comic book films began releasing, reading comic books made you a social outcast. So when we learn that someone behind a book may be abusive, mischievous, or even just rude, our initial reaction is to block it out. We use, or have used, comic books to escape from the pain and our own inabilities. To learn that someone making them is the type of bully that us or our friends have attempted to distance ourselves from is saddening and ironic, and so we don't want to talk about it.

But if we ever hope for comics to be seen as something more than a hobby of men who never grew up, we have to grow up as a community. The escapism of fantastical stories cannot lead to a denial of reality, and victims of abuse cannot be pushed to the side. We need to be more like the very heroes we use to forget about our problems.

This is not meant as an attack on Johnston. He did more to cover this story than many other sites. When Johnston wrote his concluding sentence, he may have been shocked to hear that a company which had just publicly told him their creators are expected to "conduct themselves as adults" would rehire someone with the track record that the blog claims and the legal documents it cites back up, but the sentence can serve as a summary of the reason harassers thrive in the industry. We as a community get more excited to hear about upcoming books than we get determined to create a safer environment, to the point that some will even insult those who speak against it.

When Tess Fowler spoke about her trouble with Brian Wood, some fans sent her threats. When Valerie D'Orazio came forward about her past issues with Chris Sims, some fans sent her threats. Why? It is impossible to give a reason that would truly encompass the emotional motivation behind each individual who is shallow enough to harass someone who has come forward as a victim of harassment, but I would assume that part of it is that people aren't supposed to rock the boat.

We're expected to not rock the boat, but the victims of abuse and harassment are already having to tread water in this industry. As for the victims outside of the industry, like Ms. Upchurch, they're flat out drowning. The boat will have to be rocked if we hope to reach out and help anyone.


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About the Author - Gavin D.

Gavin Dillinger exists in a constant state of restlessness as he runs between two jobs and spends every spare moment writing articles or scripts. He has also perfected the art of being simultaneously dead tired and jacked on coffee, and is the best-selling author of When is the Right Age to Tell Your Highway It's Adopted. Gavin graduated Cum Laude from MTSU and should probably get a real job. You can follow him on Twitter or see a random thought on tumblr once every three five months.

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