The ongoing controversy over Hannah Means Shannon's hiring at Dark Horse took an unexpected turn last night. Not satisfied with simply responding to every mention of Bleeding Cool on Twitter, Rich Johnston has taken his defense of the website to the next level, responding to complaints even in private email conversations! Last night, Johnston published leaked emails between The Rainbow Hub's Emma Houxbois, Graphic Policy's Brett Schenker, and Austin American-Statesman reporter Joe Gross. The conversation took place in a Google Group that, somewhat ironically, is named in honor of Martin Bosworth, a digital privacy rights advocate who died in 2010. Graphic Policy, on Twitter, called the publishing of the leaked emails "retaliation and intimidation."
In the emails, Houxbois and Schenker discuss Houxbois' article about the Hannah Means Shannon/Dark Horse Comics controversy, Schenker's plans to publish another article, Rich Johnston's reaction, Bleeding Cool's style of journalism, and, in an unexpectedly pleasant bonus, how entertaining The Outhouse's Storify from Friday night was. Explaining why he posted the emails, Johnston said in his article, "This is just a look at how the sausage is made." Besides the shocking revelation that people actually like Jude Terror, we can make a few observations from the leaked emails:
- Graphic Policy is planning an article about Bleeding Cool and Avatar Press.
- A leaked email may exist from Image Comics about Nathan Edmondson.
- Steve Morris intends to clarify Comics Alliance's policy on disclosure of publisher relationships.
- The Martinboz Society for Nerdery, Debate and Appreciation is subscribed to by at least one "Little Bleeder," the term for readers of Bleeding Cool who send Rich Johnston tips on stories (think: Varys's "little birds" in Game of Thrones).
We also learned from Johnston's response that, according to Johnston, neither he nor Hannah Means Shannon have been asked for comment on the story and the timeline of Means Shannon's relationship with Dark Horse, though Johnston has offered his view of that timeline in various tweets and comment section exchanges:
Following the posting of this article, Emma Houxbois tweeted that Johnston's second comment in the screenshot above was edited after her final reply. She posted a screenshot of the Discus notification for the original comment:
In the interest of disclosure, I'll mention that Christian Hoffer is the former Editor in Chief of The Outhouse, and now freelances for ComicBook.com. He is also the current owner of the world's worst mustache:
Johnston's assertion that any interest in a relationship between Dark Horse and Hannah Means Shannon occurred after the interview is contrary to Houxbois's article, in which a source places Means Shannon's resume at Dark Horse in August, weeks before the interview with Scott Allie was published on September 15. This remains the most hotly contested aspect of the timeline of events.
Responding to the publication of the leaked emails, Emma Houxbois has provided The Outhouse with the following statement:
First and foremost, I'm saddened that someone chose to compromise the integrity of the list that the leaked e-mails were culled from. The list was named after and created in the spirit of Martin "Martinboz" Bosworth, who died in 2010. I never had the pleasure of interacting with Martin, but I do know that he was a fierce advocate for digital privacy rights and was the managing editor of consumeraffairs.com at the time of his death. This past July, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) created the Martin H. Bosworth Memorial Advocacy Fund in order to support their efforts before the Federal Trade Commission, where they have successfully brought complaints against Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and WhatsApp concerning their business practices.
I cannot speak for Brett Schenker or Joe Gross, whose correspondence was published alongside my own on Bleeding Cool, but I stand by the statements I made in the e-mails that were published without my prior knowledge or consent. Those e-mails, sent with the reasonable expectation of privacy, are not a matter of public interest, nor should they be considered a matter of public record. I consider the publication of these e-mails to be retaliation for my reporting on Hannah Means Shannon's alleged conflict of interest while reporting on Dark Horse for Bleeding Cool between September and October of this year, and a deliberate attempt at intimidation.
The list was created as a safe space to discuss comics among like-minded individuals. The vast majority of the people subscribed to the list in question have no professional ties to comics nor aspirations within the industry and typically work in non profits focused on progressive causes.
Response to the publication of the leaked emails from some comics journalists on Twitter has been negative, though Johnston maintains the emails were newsworthy because of information they revealed such as the possible existence of a leaked Image email about Nathan Edmondson. Graphic Policy accused Johnston of trying to derail the conversation.
Finally, in his article, Johnston also mentions that he is "just back today from a break in Brighton." Asked for comment, my wife, Amy Terror, expressed intentions to "smother me with a pillow" if I ever spend a bunch of time on a vacation responding to comments about The Outhouse on Twitter. As I've been working on this article for the past several hours, she has been glaring at me menacingly. Sorry, folks - I may not be long for this world.
As this is the third time I'm recapping this story in as many days, I thought it might be useful to put the events into a timeline, which we can update as information becomes clearer. Points which are contested by one or more parties are marked in red.
Scott Allie - Former Editor in Chief of Dark Horse Comics, Now Senior Executive Editor
Mike Richardson - President and Publisher of Dark Horse Comics
Hannah Means Shannon - Former Editor in Chief of Bleeding Cool, Now Associate Editor at Dark Horse
Rich Johnston - Bleeding Cool Founder and Lead Rumormonger
Emma Houxbois - Comics Journalist, The Rainbow Hub
Brett Schenker - Comics Journalist, Graphic Policy
Janelle Asselin - Comics Super-Journalist, Publisher at Rosy Press
Joe Gross - Unrelated Journalist who got quoted in a leaked email (sorry dude)
Jude Terror - Beloved Shock Blogger for The Outhouse
Dark Horse Editor in Chief Scott Allie was reportedly involved in an incident of sexual harassment at the BOOM! Studios party at San Diego Comic Con, which was kept secret from the public for several months.
According to a later article by Emma Houxbois at The Rainbow Hub, Bleeding Cool Editor in Chief Hannah Means Shannon may have begun commincating about a job at Dark Horse sometime this month.
Scott Allie stepped down as Editor in Chief at Dark Horse, taking a new title as Senior Executive Editor.
Hannah Means Shannon published an interview with Allie on Bleeding Cool about his title change. The interview does not touch on any of the sexual harassment allegations or question the possible demotion. The interview, stated to have been conducted on September 11, was the latest (and last) in a series of interviews eventually titled "Discussions with Scott Allie" that appear to go back to March of 2014. Rich Johnston later tweeted that, at the time the interview was conducted, Bleeding Cool had not yet heard the allegations about Allie, though rumors were circulating at this time. He also later tweeted that the interview was neither conducted nor published while Hannah Means Shannon was applying for a job at Dark Horse.
Janelle Asselin published an article on Graphic Policy exposing Scott Allie's San Diego Comic Con incident in detail. It involved a direct account from the harassed party, and included reports of inappropriate touching, licking, and biting, as well as allegations about past incidents and Dark Horse's knowledge of the behavior.
Scott Allie apologized in a statement to Comic Book Resources.
Dark Horse President Mike Richardson published a long statement on The Beat, which criticized Asselin's piece and defended Dark Horse's harassment policies and internal handling of the situation.
On Bleeding Cool, Hannah Means Shannon published an article that has been described as sympathetic to Mike Richardson's positions.
Week of October 5-11:
According to later tweets and comments by Rich Johnston, Hannah Means Shannon received "an attractive offer" to work for Dark Horse sometime during New York Comic Con. Johnston's tweets imply that this was the first contact between Dark Horse and Means Shannon about a job at Dark Horse.
Bleeding Cool published an article announcing news from a Dark Horse panel that would not occur for two more days at the convention. The information was sent out to the comics press attending NYCC with an embargo date of October 8th.
Hannah Means Shannon resigned as Editor in Chief of Bleeding Cool. She announced intentions to continue to "support the comics medium in another guise," but otherwise revealed no details about her future plans.
Hannah Means Shannon was announced as a new Associate Editor at Dark Horse.
On Comics Twitter, people began to draw connections between Bleeding Cool's recent coverage of Dark Horse and Means Shannon's hiring at the company. Rich Johnston took to Twitter to defend Bleeding Cool's honor. The Outhouse gathered these tweets in a Storify, which has been widely acclaimed as hilarious.
Emma Houxbois published an article at The Rainbow Hub saying she was "contacted with information alleging that Hannah Means Shannon's resume had been seen at Dark Horse's offices in August, at least two weeks before she conducted the interview with Allie on September 15th."
The Outhouse reported on Houxbois's post, adding a collection of greatest hits from past Outhouse articles about the incestuous relationship between comic book publishers and comics media sites. (I'll note here that, however this whole affair turns out, that questionable ethical relationship between publishers and media appears to be prevalent in the industry.)
Later in the day, Rich Johnston published a leaked email on Bleeding Cool between Houxbois, Graphic Policy's Brett Schenker, and Austin American-Statesman reporter Joe Gross. The emails discuss Houxbois's article, a planned article from Schenker about Avatar Press's ownership of Bleeding Cool, Rich Johnston's response, criticism of Bleeding Cool's tabloid journalism, and how funny my Storify was. The emails were posted to a Google Group called "The Martinboz Society for Nerdery, Debate and Appreciation."
As you can see, the most contested point in the timeline remains the date that Hannah Means Shannon began seeking or being courted for work from Dark Horse Comics. Emma Houxbois's source says it was in August. Rich Johnston says it was after September 15th, and possibly during New York Comic Con in October. Hannah Means Shannon has yet to respond. It's unclear whether anyone has asked her directly, but it's probable she will respond on her own at some point in the near future. Dark Horse has not addressed the story either. When more information becomes available, we'll keep you updated. If things continue to escalate at the rate they have been, that will probably mean hourly updates by Tuesday.