According to a report from Bleeding Cool, DC Comics is investigating reports of sexual harassment by a different DC editor than Eddie Berganza. The investigation is in response to an account posted on Tumblr by artist Katie Jones, who stated, "I was sexually harassed and almost raped by a Senior Art Director from DC Entertainment." Her account includes the following serious allegation:
I didn't feel safe anymore so being intoxicated I thought pretending to be passed out would help me. Not a good idea at the time. I felt his hands go up my shirt and start feeling more of my body.
The incident occurred at San Diego Comic Con, but Jones' decision to come forward was a result of the tweets made by Nick Hanover, Jennifer DeGuzman, Janelle Asselin, and others naming Eddie Berganza as a longtime "open secret" sexual harasser in the upper echelons of DC Comics management. This recent development is the latest in a long line of examples that show the positive influence of social media in bringing attention to sexual harassment in comics.
Since reports of Berganza's alleged behavior have gone openly public in the past week (though it was reported on as early as 2012 on Bleeding Cool), there has been some talk of reporting on it "the right way," with the implication that naming Berganza on Twitter was not "the right way." However, it's becoming clear that naming Berganza on Twitter is the only catalyst that can cause the kind of traditional journalism people are demanding for the comics industry. As respected comics journalist Heidi MacDonald, who has written about the toxic environment of sexual harassment and discrimination in comics repeatedly in the past, stated in her comprehensive article on Friday:
"This information has been available for a long time. It just needed the right match to light the powderkeg."
So why has this information been available for so long without a major public scandal? It's true that, as previously mentioned, Bleeding Cool reported on sexual harassment incidents involving Eddie Berganza four years ago. But in the years since, Berganza's alleged behavior has become an open secret, discussed in private by industry insiders and journalists, but with Berganza rarely openly named. Last September, Alex de Campi posted a tumblr blog post believed to be about Eddie Berganza, stating:
The main Wonder Woman comic is part of the Superman office. Now, the Superman office allegedly employs no women, and a cursory glance over the mastheads of several Superman titles and Wonder Woman seems to confirm that allegation. The reason, I've been told by several people who work or used to work at DC, is because one of the most senior editors is a sexual harasser with multiple incidents on his HR file. I don't use "alleged" here because at least one incident (grabbing a woman's breasts) happened publicly at a corporate social gathering with multiple witnesses. There was also something about sticking his tongue down an artist's girlfriend's throat when the artist was in the bathroom. Again, public gathering.
Even Bleeding Cool, who had named Berganza openly in 2012, reported on a similar story a month earlier as a "blind item" that appears to be very similar to de Campi's account:
Which comic book editor has risen through the publisher, despite an HR file the size of Belgium, is commonly gossiped to have blackmail material to preserve their position?
For whatever reason, over the course of four years, Eddie Berganza's sexual harassment allegations went from being openly reported to being something that almost everyone knew about, but no one would openly talk about.
Until last week.
Tweeting about Eddie Berganza opened the floodgates and forced this issue into the public consciousness. Since the tweets first appeared last week, the conversation about Berganza and sexual harassment in comics has been renewed with a vigor, and is completely unavoidable for anyone following comics. As a direct result of the initial naming of Eddie Berganza on twitter, websites including The Outhouse, The Beat, Bleeding Cool, Graphic Policy, The Mary Sue, Paste Magazine, and Comics Alliance have all written about the story, openly naming Berganza. As more websites write about it, and even more people discuss it on social media in response, pressure is created that can eventually push the story to the mainstream outlets.
Yesterday, Comic Book Resources, one of the most major comics sites with a lot of readers, published a report on this story, a major milestone because CBR is an Eisner award winning site with a lot of prestige in the industry. CBR took four days from the initial explosion to publish their report, but it's not out of reluctance to address the story. Rather, it's simply a consequence of larger outlets with more resources and stricter obligations covering a story. It's the tradeoff for the increased legitimacy that critics of social media are demanding. In the wake of CBR's report, other mainstream sites will follow suit, and hopefully the story will break out of the comics niche entirely. But make no mistake - CBR's report would not have happened without the initial tweets.
With the advent of social media, we're in the midst of a major shift in the flow of news. Control of information has been democratized, and while that can be scary in some ways, it ultimately gives people a means to hold media and business accountable in ways that were not possible before. The "right way" of reporting on serious stories is no longer "the" right way. It's "a" right way, and it's complimented, enhanced, and even driven by public whistleblowing and public support of whistleblowers. Further, these tweets are, in large part, originating from journalists like Asselin and Hanover who have been investigating these stories for years.
Last September, speaking about the difficulty in getting victims of harassment and abuse to go on the record, Nick Hanover wrote:
If the comics industry really, truly wants "proper" journalism and hard evidence of bad behavior by pros, then big comics creators and editors need to publicly promise to support victims who speak out. We fans and critics need to demand that key figures need to "support" victims in ways that go beyond shallow social media boosterism and buzzword heavy Tweets. They need to provide good comics jobs. They need to vow to employ whistleblowers, to defend them to other employers and force the industry to not restrict their careers. Maybe if enough pros promise that victims who speak out will never hurt for work in comics, then people will finally go on record.
What we're witnessing right now is an outcry from the bottom to the top, demanding exactly this, and amazingly... it seems to be working, at least a little bit. But we can't let up now, or allow this story to fade away. This is only the beginning, and we have a long, long way to go.
Please continue tweeting and posting about this story, and encourage your favorite comics and entertainment media sites to talk about it until we start to see some real signs of change. A serious investigation by DC Comics into the new report mentioned at the beginning of this article followed by appropriate action, along with a comprehensive and transparent plan to better respond to complaints in the future, would be a great start.
Jones reports via Twitter that the HR department of Warner Bros has gotten in touch with her about the incident:
*UPDATE* HR from Warner Bros. has gotten in touch with me and want to meet with me. This is all because of your support guys. THANK YOU.— Yuroboros (@_Yuroboros_) April 26, 2016