Yesterday on Twitter, artist Tess Fowler confirmed what some feared: that her departure from Rat Queens was related to the impending return of series co-creator Roc Upchurch, who left the series after being arrested for domestic abuse in November of 2014 and has more or less stayed away from comics since then. After Upchurch's arrest, co-creator Kurtis J. Wiebe announced that Upchurch would no longer be drawing the book. In July of 2015, Tess Fowler joined as regular series artist, replacing Stjepan Sejic. Fowler's addition to the book, aside from her considerable talent as an artist, was a relief to fans who struggled with supporting the book after Upchurch's arrest because she's well known for being an outspoken critic of abuse and harassment in comics. However, Fowler departed the book in April, telling fans to direct any questions about the book's future to its "creators." This led some fans to worry that Fowler's departure could be related Upchurch's involvement. Rat Queens was put on hiatus by Wiebe at the same time.
Fowler repeatedly asked that the media not paint her statements as a vendetta, noting that she was simply answering questions. When she first departed the series, she specified that she held no ill will toward the creators. Despite this, asked by Christian Hoffer if news of Upchurch's return was true, Wiebe responded, "The news about Roc Upchurch being back on the book is utterly false."
But Fowler disputed that, tweeting:
We do know that Upchurch has been planning a return to comics for some time, as he did an interview with CBR about the subject in 2015 in which he claimed:
It's finally getting things back on track -- things with my kids, things with my ex-wife. I'm getting back into a workflow. I'm picking up the pieces and putting things back together.
But Upchurch's ex-wife told a different story over the course of many blog posts, recapped in part here. As recently as last month, she posted:
I'm sure many of you have seen this self portrait that he recently drew with the three bleeding hearts and his face blurred out in red. When I first saw it pop up on our T.V. screen I thought oh great what is he up to now and at least he got his face right because that's exactly how I imagine it when I have the slightest thought of him.
Don't be fooled by such illustrations. He wouldn't be able to tell you what his children are going through, doing, feeling, or anything for that matter on any given day. That illustration is how he knows HE left his children and not how they really are.
The hearts he drew reflect the children he left in pain. They reflect a young man who is about to turn 16 in just a few weeks. A young black man who he left fatherless. A young man who he left the responsibility of the world on. A young man who he told was a fat chubby kid who would never play football. They reflect a young man who waited at the window just as he did as a child for his father. A young man who thought illnesses would bring his father back. A young man who wanted more then anything for his father to see him score his first point at his first basketball game. They reflect a little girl who doesn't understand why she doesn't get to see her father each day. A little girl who says her Dad threw her away like trash. A little girl who most days just simply wants to hug her father.
The true hearts are the ones I take care of each day. Their hearts are whole. Peaceful hearts. Those hearts are complete by their heavenly father whom they've learned would never leave nor forsake them. A heart of a young man who wakes up and gets to football practice at 6:30 in the morning and then attends that afternoon. A heart of a young man who loves and cares for his younger siblings well being as if they're his own children. A heart of a young man who no longer waits at the window because he's outside hooping with his big brother. A heart of a little girl who fights everyday to find comfort in the fact that she has two awesome brothers, a grandfather, and uncle who give her so much love so that she is never in search for it.
Don't be fooled by someone who lives hundreds of miles away from his children because he drew three broken hearts on his shirt. If I could draw I would have drawn three possums chewing his face off and ripping his heart out. Ha!! He hates possums. I started this blog by being completely honest. I'll always be honest no matter how it makes me look or how it comes off to anyone. With that being said...I can't stand that man. I don't wish him well. I really don't wish him anything. No, that's a lie sometimes I wish he'd just disappear but then I wouldn't get child support and these kids snacks are expensive!! That man abandoned his children, his responsibilities. And not to brag or anything, but they are awesome kids. Seriously, the most beautiful, coolest kids on the planet. He is truly an idiot to have walked away from his blessings.
Though Fowler has not called for retribution, and in fact literally asked fans to "put down the torches" and stressed that she's okay, it's difficult not to view Fowler, an outspoken champion against abuse and harassment, being pushed off a popular title with an all female main cast in order to make way for the return of an abuser who claims to have changed despite ongoing reports to the contrary from his victim, as a metaphor for the overall sickness that inflicts the comics industry as a whole. But we want to make clear that that's our personal reaction, and that Fowler has not called for any action against the creators of Rat Queens or the book itself.
Asked for further comment by The Outhouse, Tess Fowler told us:
I was asked via Twitter pointed questions after folks saw Upchurch art being promoted by Kurtis on social media. I answered with what I knew via my experience. I'm fine. This happened weeks ago. It's a creator owned book and therefore I respect the rights of the creators. It's not my book. What happens with it is their right and their business. It would have been nice not to be left holding the bag. It would also have been nice not to be lied to. But hey, this is comics kids. You take it on the chin and you move on.
Kurtis Wiebe made the following statement on Twitter after this article was originally posted: