comics · what's going on

What’s going on – some thoughts about harassment and the future

Some context

There’s been a lot of talk online, particularly about Warren Ellis, although other creators are being called out as well, in Science Fiction and comics. If you don’t know the details, they are all involved in serial sexual harassment.

I’ve been reading with no small amount of sadness, but also, no great sense of surprise either. This is something that’s a problem, full stop. It’s not just comics or writing, it is very common everywhere.

I keep my personal details out of this blog and, generally, off most posting I do that can be connected to my social media accounts for a reason. I’ve seen the kind of weird and unpleasant behaviour some men think is entirely normal at first hand. I’m not adding a publicly accessible account to those issues already faced by my family. There are many creepy AF men out there. Niche concerns attract them more as they can go underground and make themselves safe there, so those industries need to address them with greater emphasis.

I don’t usually repost things from anywhere – but the below post by Nevs Coleman on his MONDO Funnybooks page struck me as very balanced in comparing two different industry responses and the light it sheds on those entertainment industries.

NOW – context – we’re two, white middle-aged men here, so the least likely to suffer at the hands of this situation, so bear that in mind. Also, I’ve barely done retail, so I don’t know the complexity there, but I’ve seen those situations and have had to step in even in the small amount of time I did.

After Nev’s article, I expand upon my own thoughts, they are mine and not his, please remember and consider that.

 

 

Nevs Coleman – Mondo Funnybooks

If you read nothing else from here, this is the important bit. I want to express my sadness and regret for the people harmed as has been revealed in recent events in the comics and wrestling world. There is no other explanation except an abuse of the hierarchy implicit in both and each industry has failed the people they attracted.

The rest of this is extrapolation on that. If you feel comfortable with carrying on knowing this is what it is to come, please do.

‘Rise above

We are tired of your abuse

Try to stop us

It’s no use.’

I don’t know where to start on this. Even the fact that I’m dropping all the tropes that come with Mondo Funnybooks is significant in this instance. There are a lot of things I need to say about everything even if I’m not sure my voice isn’t drowning out the important stories in all this.

If you’re new here, Mondo Funnybooks is usually a column covering elements of comic history that I find funny or dubious or just ‘wha-?’ There are normally jokes or tenuously linked personal ancestors or elements of howling at the void.

That doesn’t seem right for now. Doing the usual schtick is just tone-deaf apathy attempting to pretend everything is okay. Giving ‘a respectable amount of time’ before doing the song and dance number says…what? Okay, this doesn’t matter anymore? There is a time limit on acknowledging the pain we’ve caused and then we’re back to Peach Momoko variants and Walking Dead comics as if nothing happened?

I’m caught between silence which at BEST suggests apathy and fucking up in public with the best of intentions. I’d rather do the latter because there are a number of ideas being discussed that I want to use this platform to give greater prominence to in the general psyche. I accept there are potential problems with this I’m not perceiving. Please understand this is ignorance and not malice in action.

There is an issue of Excalibur by Warren Ellis that is extremely important to me that I’ll keep for personal reasons. Going into that here adds another 1000 words to this but I’m quite willing to give my reasons should anyone want to confront me on this.

However, I don’t feel comfortable keeping the other works of his and other individuals who’ve had their abusive actions revealed in the last couple of weeks.

What I’ve chosen to do is to sell them onto a friend of mine and have him donate the proceeds to an organisation called ‘One In Four’, which operates out of Catford. I’ll drop a link at the end of this.

I suspect I may not be alone in feeling this way and while there isn’t a clear infrastructure in place, it seems fairly simple to achieve. At the moment if this is a bother for you as well, please feel free to get in touch.

It strikes me that there is an element of entertainment fandom that is apathetic to the actions of publishers, creators or such and therefore would be happy to pick up a cheap copy of Red, Planetary or any Superman related comic under the Eddie Berganza regime, especially if the purchase has such a tangible and immediate benefit to it. While none of this is set in stone, obviously, I think the route of least resistance is for sales to be private so as to not be potentially publicly shamed for wanting a copy of Red.

That would be counter-productive and I’d rather people didn’t think that they couldn’t be involved with this transaction without being shouted at online. That would literally cost this idea money. Not what is wanted.

I must confess I don’t know if the secondary market is ready to have potentially thousands of issues of Batgirl or Suicide Girls dumped on it. But we’ve all benefitted financially as shops, publishers, convention organisers from these men and their work so I think we should be willing to pay back what’s owed.

With that in mind.

Those of you interested in wrestling will have been aware that there have been a number of revelations regarding various performers in the news over the last few days. Reactions have been staggering in their sincerity and actual immediate action taken, with people in high positions of power stepping down and whole companies closing down.

What’s relevant to this, I think, is the case of Sammy Guevara. To catch you briefly, Sammy was found to have declared during a 2015 interview that he wished to r*pe WWE performer Sasha Banks.

Almost immediately, AEW put out the statement:

“We strongly condemn the extremely offensive and hurtful words of Sammy Guevara. As such, effective immediately, Sammy is suspended without pay until further notice.

“Sammy has agreed to undergo extensive sensitivity training and, upon completion, his future status within the company will be re-evaluated.”

AEW added that the wrestler’s salary would be donated to the Women’s Center of Jacksonville for the period of his suspension.’

I think the final part of this is a key element for what can be done looking forward. There is ad revenue that comes from hosting content by these creators in question and I strongly think, especially in cases where publishers have benefitted massively by public appearances of these men that there ought to begin the process of diverting that money and future sales of that material to the relevant programmes, organisations and institutions that are essentially dealing with the mess created by our lack of care and practice.

Which brings me to my last point. I realise this has been a long one and not the material you expected and thank you for keeping with me this far.

I think i would be safe in saying that I have the most colourful and varied professional history in comics retail and publishing of anyone alive. In my 25 odd years as someone paid to be doing a job which is usually public facing, I’ve worked for Humanoids, Dark Side Comics, Raygun, Nobrow, Gosh, Orbital, Comic Showcase and 30th Century Comics.

That’s not factoring in time working for friends at marts, cons, related events and in that time I’ve spent time with every one worth knowing discussing everything, with people who were there from the very beginning of the British comic retail scene to people who just transferred over from CEX because their regional branch of FP was two stops closer on the bus. I maintain relationships with some of the longer served members of the American end of the industry.

This isn’t to drag everyone down with me nor brag but merely to back up my final idea:

We, as a community and a trading business do not have ANY standards and practice involved when dealing with potentially dangerous customers. Not in regard to the safety of female staff. I can tell you that some have evolved out of necessity such as sending the staff member away from the shop floor until the creeper leaves or being in close proximity to shut down to the attempt to start irrelevant conversation that makes the woman uncomfortable, driving all communicating down merely to transaction. Or having to travel with the woman as the shop closes.

These have all been effective, but they have been borne only out of hardship and necessity and nobody I’ve spoken to on this suggests any policy covering this possibly exists.

Conversations regarding this have begun in some places. If you aren’t in that circle, then perhaps it’s time to begin them. I don’t believe things like this are going to stop happening and I’d rather there was too much idea than what’s happening now. Which is nothing. And that’s probably nowhere near good enough.

Incidentally, I am aware that this probably isn’t standard in many other public facing industries. I think if we take away anything from 2020, it’s that this is the year we finally had almost every problem that’s been obviously building up for a very long time explode at us at once. Maybe this is one we get a head start on.

I think that’s it. I have no desire for this to be seen as anything except ‘As someone who has been around a bit, there are things to be thought about.’ It occurs to me that just waiting out for the next bit of news to replace this and we can all go back to worrying about DC/Diamond or FCBD just lessens the focus and it will happen again.

Or, I suppose, it has happened, but the person involved doesn’t feel the support is there for them to come forward. So, they leave. That happens probably more than you think.

Having written all this, I want to reaffirm this is only written as offering angles and ideas that I hope improve things. I recognise that I am very much a compromised individual so if the removal of me from this is necessary for the suggestions to be considered then by all means.

For those of you who came to this business and world wanting to join in with the magic you saw and got what you got, I am deeply ashamed of what we became, and I hope life improves for you. We didn’t deserve you.

https://www.oneinfour.org.uk/

 

 

Post script

So – here are my thought.

A lot of people have gone on a political approach to this, by which I mean, they debate whether they sound contrite enough or whether a creator should be boycotted. But what strikes me is that there’s not much talk about what to do to make actual change. You can’t stop what happened, but you should make damn sure it can’t happen so easily next time.

There’s also little recognition that these matters HAPPENED to a PERSON and they happened, in many cases, around the periphery of professional environments. More importantly, read these things and one thing becomes absolutely clear, these matters didn’t get talked about because of fear of professional repercussions and they enabled by the silence of those firms.

Put another way, people kept quiet for fear of ruining their chance at a career and those concerns were REAL because companies like DC and Dark Horse and god know how many others actively protected those behaving unreasonably and by protected read sacked those abused not the abusers.  Let’s call for those companies to get held to account, to set up initiatives to deal with and address the very real harm that they have caused countless individuals? We know they can do it, DC have already pulled and will never again publish work written by Gerard Jones because of his conviction. If they can do that, then why not pass on profits from these other creators?

Maybe they can’t because of contracts? I’m almost certain there is a way for them to still be able to make charitable donations to organisations that can help raise voices and deal with concerns of abuse within the industry in positive and impartial ways. Even if that’s education for professionals coming into the world of comics.

Let’s also talk about structural changes that are needed to protect people at risk at work. No one needs to circle their wagons for fear of reprisals, be open, contribute by listening.  Contribute to organisations that will provide best practice for changing these spaces and making them safer, sign up to follow best practice.  We need business groups coming out with best practice recommendations for dealing with the day to day issues of harassment or even simply inappropriate behaviour? ComicsPro could step up in the US, cons could get advice.  We’re wanting to see places be Covid safe, why not harassment safe as well?

That’s what I liked about this post, a call for practical change. Let’s call for change, let’s demand that DC apologise and investigate what happened, let’s get journalists out there asking sacked workers removed because some DC person harassed them.

Let’s do something to congratulate and support those who have spoken about it, let’s get organised to support women, minorities, everyone suffering harassment, whether sexual, racial, age related, LGBTQ+.

Let’s also make changes now to reduce risks of this continuing into the future. Guidance to new and established authors about appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. Rules at cons about the behaviour of guests to fans. They are small things and maybe they’ll take away some of the fun of these situations, but maybe they’ll actually allow everyone to have more fun without hurt or abuse.

 

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