Yale Stewart is the creator of JL8, a Harvey Award nominated webcomic about child versions of the Justice League. The webcomic has a large online following, and has over 93,000 likes on Facebook. Stewart has not received the permission of DC Comics to publish the webcomic, which recently released its 180th strip. However, Stewart has skirted the line by stating he receives no direct compensation from the webcomic or its depiction of characters that he does not own, and that is solely a fan comic. He has, however, sold t-shirts featuring several catchphrases from the webcomic, and has sold commissions featuring the characters. He also recently illustrated several licensed children's books featuring adult versions of the Justice League published by Captstone, and drew a short story in a Nova comic published by Marvel.
Stewart's name has recently been linked to two controversies, both of which unfurled over recent days. The first is his use of his unlicensed depictions of DC comic characters in computer wallpapers, which he occasionally sells after various disasters or times of turmoil in order to raise money for charities. Stewart has released wallpapers after the Boston Marathon Bombing, the November 2013 tsunami in the Phillipines, and most recently the riots in Ferguson. These wallpapers have raised the ire of several comic professionals, including indie illustrator Ulises Farinas, who stated that the wallpapers were both self-promotional and tone-deaf. Farinas pointed out that Stewart's most recent wallpaper featured two "space cops" (Green Lanterns John Stewart and Hal Jordan) to support the victims of an event sparked by police brutality. Farinas received several threats about his comments, which he posted screencaps of Sunday night.
On Monday, rumors began to circulate that Stewart had sent several female comics professionals unsolicited pictures of his genitals. While neither the recipients of the pictures nor details of the events surrounding the pictures were made public, a number of comic professionals claimed to have already known about the rumor and that they had seen one or multiple pictures showing Stewart and his genitals. At least one claim stated that Stewart had sent at least one picture to a woman who told Stewart she was in a relationship. At some point, one of the explicit pictures were leaked online on 4chan. While the image is no longer on 4chan's site (4chan periodically removes threads after a period of disuse), it can still be found on various 4chan archives and was used as the banner image for this Bleeding Cool article.
Tuesday night, Stewart acknowledged both controversies in a brief statement in which he claimed that his mother was receiving threatening messages because of the controversy surrounding his wallpapers and the allegations that he had been sending explicit pictures of his genitals to comics professionals. Unleash the Fanboy then came out in support of Stewart's sale of wallpapers for charity, while making comments like "Now, any self respecting American male younger than 30 knows the pain of the regrettable dick slip," and simultaneously sort-of condemning, sort-of handwaving off the accusations of sending out unwarranted pictures of his genitals.
Today, Stewart released the following statement, admitting that he had sent out unwarranted pictures of his genitals to two individuals in 2012:
As some of you may be aware, there have been some rumors circulating about my personal conduct with women in the comics industry. The accusation is that I’ve sent unsolicited intimate photos of myself to fans, colleagues, or possibly both.
Sexual harassment is incredibly serious business, and I believe anyone who has followed me for any period of time knows that I often speak against it. No one should be subject to such behavior. It’s invasive, disrespectful, and occasionally dangerous.
Have I sent intimate photos of myself to women before? Yes. I’ll absolutely admit to that. As a 26 year-old bachelor with a relatively healthy sex life in the internet age, these things happen. However, every photo sent was in direct response to either a photo received or a specific request.
Or so I thought.
Two years ago, I was engaged in two separate relationships with women whom I was sexually active with. Given the nature of these relationships, my experiences in past relationships, and various dialogues with these women, I thought it had been established within each relationship that intimate or explicit photos were acceptable, possibly even desired.
I GROSSLY misread the situation.
It has been brought to my attention that both of these women were uncomfortable with my behavior, and needless to say, I’m absolutely disgusted with myself. How I could so horribly misinterpret the situation confounds me, but that confusion pales in comparison to the shame of knowing that I did the very thing to these two women that I openly chastise people for on a regular basis. Also, beyond that, that these women felt this way for TWO YEARS without me knowing and attempting to make amends, which is wholly unacceptable in its own right.
I have reached out to both of these women and have made private apologies, but I felt it was my responsibility to make a public one as well. As stated earlier, I believe sexual harassment to be an incredibly serious issue, and while the harassment in question was a terrible and ignorant mistake, it does not change the fact that that’s what this was, and I accept full responsibility.
I strive to treat everyone with respect, as I feel those who know me personally or follow my comics work would attest, and as such I hope that helps frame how sorry I truly am that all of this happened. The best I can do is own up to it, acknowledge that I made an incredible error in judgement, and finally, make sure that I learn from this mistake and never repeat it moving forward.
In addition, if there’s anyone else out there who feels like I’ve made them uncomfortable, on any level, please let me know. Clearly I’ve misread situations before, and I don’t want to go years again thinking nothing’s wrong only to learn I’ve hurt someone.
Finally, I’ll be making a donation of $1000 to RAINN, as they’re an organization at the forefront of both preventing and aiding victims of sexual harassment and assault. Hopefully my small donation will in some way help them in educating even just one person, preventing another situation such as this.
My deepest, sincerest apologies to all.
Around the time of that the apology was posted, a Facebook message allegedly from Stewart was leaked, expressing anger at the unnamed recipient about the controversy and that people were now calling his mother's house. Several have also questioned the timeline and number of women affected by this issue as established by Stewart in the apology, noting that he may have sent unsolicited pictures of his genitals to female comics professionals as recently as Boston Comic-Con.
As a supposed result of the wallpaper controversy, Stewart has stated JL8 will go on a hiatus for an undefined period of time.
Tom Spurgeon has an article about the recent controversies here. His opinions on the matter, especially those involving the sexual harassment of female creators in the industry, are worthwhile to read and mirror my own personal thoughts about the subject. Heidi MacDonald also has a worthwhile column worth reading about the topic with opinions that should be listened to.
It saddens me that we've been presented with another example of sexual harassment in the comics industry, and that online threats were leveled at Stewart's family and Farias. It saddens me that people try to justify sexual harassment, or attack victims because they don't like seeing the creator a webcomic they like squirm uncomfortably for a day or two. It saddens me that people haven't learned a damn thing from the last time it came out that a creator sexually harassed others. Everything about this makes me sad about comics.