45 days ago, a discussion began regarding the alleged behavior of Superman Group Editor Eddie Berganza. The allegations, some initially reported on by Bleeding Cool, were brought back into the light by Alex de Campi, Jennifer de Guzman, and Nick Hanover. These were serious claims in which Berganza was accused of repeated sexual harassment and, in one case, sexual assault. The accusations launched a bevy of affirmations regarding Berganza's alleged behaviors and brought more accusations, both new and known. It was a hopeful day for comics. The news climbed the ladder of comics journalism, starting with bottom feeders like The Outhouse and eventually reaching larger sites like Comic Book Resources and Newsarama within the next ten days, but where are we now?
45 days ago, a discussion began regarding the alleged behavior of Superman Group Editor Eddie Berganza. Today, there is near silence.
I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm really not. I have watched a few cases of alleged harassers/abusers being named (Scott Allie, Chris Sims, Brian Wood, Roc Upchurch), and they always play out the same. Righteous outrage, and then silence. Sometimes the alleged harasser issues an apology, but it's really unnecessary. A jumble of words to your fans will suffice. Comic book employers don't care either. In fact, they might even protect you.
Take Scott Allie for example. His alleged actions were seen clearly and by many in a public setting. As Janelle Asselin explained:
During the BOOM! Studios SDCC party at the Hilton on Thursday, July 9th, Allie became extremely intoxicated. A few anonymous sources reported that he licked at least one person and wept openly at someone. The worst of it came when he was face to face with [Joe] Harris.
According to Harris, Allie bit and groped him. Dark Horse demoted Allie from Editor-in-Chief to Executive Senior Editor. They claimed the change was not a disciplinary measure. The change in title was so ambiguous, and at the time with no reason to public knowledge, that we here at The Outhouse actually made jokes about it. When the allegations came to light, spear-headed by Janelle Asselin, the new EIC of Dark Horse, Mike Richardson, actually released a statement which implied that Janelle Asselin was personally attacking Dark Horse and Mike Richardson, saying things like this:
Ms. Asselin turns her eye toward me. I have never met or talked with Ms. Asselin. If she knew me, she would learn that I am extremely sensitive on this subject, being the father of three daughters and having experienced first hand the effects of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
This statement serves to change the discussion "from Scott Allie bit and groped an employee without consent" to "Janelle Asselin has an inexplicable vendetta." Whether that was the intent of Mike Richardson's words or not, only he knows, but we as the public are only given what a publisher is willing to let out.
This is not an isolated incident of protection either. When Val D'Orazio relaunched her allegations against Chris Sims, amidst his promotion to ongoing writer, The Outhouse covered the story. In the allegations D'Orazio also stated that Sims and Jordan White, an Assistant Editor for Marvel at the time, were friends at the time Sims was harassing her. She stated the following:
Several years ago, Chris Sims made it his mission to humiliate me out of this industry, instigating a spiral of cyber-bullying that has given me challenges to this day. One of the things he focused on was my Punisher book from Marvel Comics—a book that editor Axel Alonso convinced me to make as personal as possible, including scenes of sexual abuse. This Punisher book was positioned, from an editorial standpoint, to be about my own life experiences. In the mainstream comics press I was universally savaged over this book, that Sims—now a writer of an ongoing series at Marvel—encouraged people to hate.
Sims also encouraged hate over my Cloak and Dagger mini-series—edited by Jordan White—which was eventually cancelled before it even came out. I later found out that White and Sims were friendly with each other while the C&D book was still active, and during its cancellation.
As the inevitable comment war raged below the story, some users suggested that White may have played a part in the cancellation of Cloak and Dagger. It was then that a new forum account was started on The Outhouse with the name "falling00upwards." The new user seemed suspicious, having been created solely to comment on this article, twice, and never again, and seeming to speak from a position of authority or inside knowledge on Marvel's cancellation procedures. The email address used to sign up for the account, publicly visible on the account's user profile, began with "heatherandtoast." The name "falling00upwards" happens to be the same name used by the outdated Twitter, deviantART, and YouTube accounts of Heather Antos, Assistant Editor at Marvel.
Whether the account actually belonged to Antos, which we cannot say for certain, or to someone trying very hard to appear to be Antos, its purpose was to argue that Val D'orazio, a woman with PTSD, had behavioral issues. "Valerie IS bullying Jordan White," falling00upwards wrote, while adding in another comment that the Cloak and Dagger book would only have been canceled if "the creators involved were too difficult to work with (or walked) in which case a new creative team would be brought on. OR the current FOC sales weren't high enough to warrant spending the money it would cost to print the book - the interest in the concept or creators weren't there."
Regardless of whether or not White played a role in the cancellation of Cloak and Dagger, an accusation not made in the initial statement from D'orazio, it doesn't excuse the fact that White hired, and later rehired, a man who harassed a woman to the point of PTSD while that woman worked with Marvel. This, like Richardson, turns the discussion from "someone did something bad" to "someone has a vendetta."
Sadly, Image Comics is just as guilty of allowing persons accused of harassment to freely publish under their brand. In October of last year, Image Publisher Eric Stephenson said that he expects Image creators to "conduct themselves as adults," and yet Image has repeatedly published series from Brian Wood after he was accused of sexual harassment by Tess Fowler. The same Tess Fowler who years later would leave an Image title because, according to Fowler, the writer of said title decided he would rather have Roc Upchurch, who was arrested for spousal abuse, as the artist. In a response to Claire Napier of Women Write About Comics, Fowler said the following:
This of course occurred after Upchurch's rumored book at Image was shelved by its creators without without ever being announced, a fact which The Outhouse has confirmed with sources.
All of these things are clearly reported and documented. These stories are just awaiting the signal boost from larger sites. Sites which could invoke a larger public reaction and force the companies to make a change. Surely the larger non-comic centric media could do something. So what happens when they're asked to do so? Let's take a look at just that.
Here, after writing a piece on how unfair it was that other sites leaked the major revelations of DC's Rebirth Special when he was supposed to have exclusive access for such, Aaron Sagers, an editor of Blastr, is asked about covering Eddie Berganza:
Apparently Sagers is incapable of have a solid grasp on the idea of sexual harassment despite multiple reports and articles about the alleged behavior of Eddie Berganza. (Side note: Aaron, if it helps I can send you the information in a press release). The larger pop culture sites are more concerned with metaphors of stolen second hand TV's than they are with exposing real problems that affect actual human beings.
This leaves us in a rut. Creators, especially those in higher positions, do not want to speak out. Larger sites do not want to cover the story. Fans do not stop buying the books. We're in a cycle where harassment continues nearly uninhibited. Hell, the industry practically encourages it.
So you want to harass a woman in comics? What are you waiting for? In comics, there are no repercussions for your actions.