D’Orazio v Sims: Dawn of Justice

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I Have an update already, but you’ll have to scroll all the way down for it.

Or: the harassing call is coming from inside the blog

If you are not up to speed on all this Jude Terror has done an incredible job summing up 90% of the most important points up until about 10 pm last night. I was going to do the same but I would literally do the exact same thing as Terror. So if you just want the juicy links go there and then come back. Teresa Jusino at The Mary Sue (great new hire, btw) also has a great piece up with original comments from Sims and D’Orazio.

If you want the short version, without speaking to the principals, here’s what I think happened in the last few weeks. (For details of what happened 7-8 years ago, you’ll need to scroll down.) First the personae: In one corner, Valerie D’Orazio, a former editor at Valiant and DC, a long time blogger, former editor in chief of MTV Geek, and writer of several comics including a Punisher one shot and the recent Edward Snowden biography.

In this corner, Chris Sims, a long time blogger at his own The Invincible Super Blog and a long time columnist and writer at Comics Alliance known for his “Ask Chris” feature as well as co hosting a podcast and many many humorous pieces on comics over the years. He’s also a comics writer with the gn Down Set Fight to his credit and probably more. (I have to admit I know much less about Sims career than I do D’Orazio’s, so you can fill in the blanks in the comments.)

Okay, let’s get ready to rumble!


• Last week it appears that some G*mergater types unearthed what was a well known at the time feud from 2007-10 between well known blogger Chris Sims and writer/editor Valerie D’Orazio as shown in the above tweet by D’Orazio’s husband, David Gallaher. The GG mischief was aimed at showing how Comics Alliance, a site very well known for its emphasis on creating more diversity and speaking out in often passionate terms against  sexism, racism, transphobia and anti-gay sentiments, was in fact harboring a writer (Sims) who had harassed a woman (D’Orazio) online.

• Gallaher wrote to Sims warning him that this was being unearthed. Apparently CA staff also received warnings.

• Sims wrote an apology for his behavior towards D’Orazio to Gallaher in response.

• Earlier this week, Sims was named as the writer of X-Men ’92, a digital first Secret Wars spin-off.

• Without mentioning the GG outing, but mentioning the X-men gig, D’Orazio tweeted that Sims had harassed her online for the period above. You can see the tweets in the link. An excerpt:
https://twitter.com/ValerieDOrazio/status/577895230311137281
https://twitter.com/ValerieDOrazio/status/577895348997353472
https://twitter.com/ValerieDOrazio/status/577895603302174720
https://twitter.com/ValerieDOrazio/status/577895908475564032

• Sims blogged about it, apologizing for his past behavior:

If you’ve been reading my work for long enough, then you probably remember that I had what I used to refer to as a “feud” with Valerie D’Orazio a few years ago. That’s the wrong word, since it was more one-sided than anything else, and I was in no uncertain terms the aggressor and a complete jerk. I was needlessly harsh about her comics work, I left jerky comments on her site, I talked trash here and elsewhere, and while in my head I justified it as as purely being critical of her writing, I know I stepped over the line into making it a personal attack more than once. What I said is a matter of public record, and frankly, my intentions at the time don’t change what I actually did. At best, I was making someone’s life harder when I had no reason to, and at worst I was giving others a reason to do the same that went far beyond just me being an asshole and contributed to and validated the harassment of both Ms. D’Orazio and of women in general. When I finally realized that, long after I should’ve, I stopped, and I’ve tried to be better going forward.

• D’Orazio expanded in a blog post.

I had several cyberbullies during that three-year span, but Chris Sims was one of the worst. Not so much for what he said about me directly, but because he had a popular forum from which to direct harassment to me by many other people.

I never could figure out what I did to Chris personally to be singled out for this type of treatment. But week after week, he would have posts focused on me in which he would be a ringleader for others, who would then go off and harass me personally via my blog, social media, and emails.

This hit its peak when it was announced that I was to write a one-shot for The Punisher. Apparently Chris thought this was the wrong choice, and he made his opinions clear.

 

• MEANWHILE…social media is beginning build up steam like a pressure cooker that’s about to blow. Up until this point, none of the GGate association had been publicly made.

• Yesterday afternoon Janelle Asselin and Andrew Wheeler, the co-editors of Comics Alliance, released a statement, that, while clearly stating that the Sims cyberbullying and harassment was wrong, they felt that Sims had evolved as a human being and he was being targeted by GGaters:

Someone was targeting Chris not out of a sense of justice, but because they wanted to destroy his success. The campaign may also have been one of several efforts we’re aware of to discredit ComicsAlliance. These are not the tactics of progressives concerned about harassment in comics, but of agitators looking to tear down progressive voices — of which Chris is certainly one — using methods of harassment. (Notably, the messages referred to D’Orazio as “David’s wife,” rather than recognizing her as a person in her own right.)
No doubt these people also see themselves as the heroes of their stories. They are not. We cannot lend legitimacy to their behavior.
Chris is not the man he was when he directed his vitriol at Val D’Orazio. If he were that man, or if he felt no remorse for his past actions, he wouldn’t belong at today’s ComicsAlliance, given our strong avocation against harassment in the industry.

• Later in the day Sims wrote a longer blog post at CA, expressing more remorse:

Between 2007 and 2010, I harassed and bullied Valerie D’Orazio online. It’s recently become a topic of discussion, and to the people who weren’t following me then, I know this is at best disappointing, and that I’ve rightfully lost a lot of the respect I’ve built up in the years since. I don’t blame you, and I accept that judgment. To paraphrase a friend of mine, this isn’t about whether I did it (I did) or whether any part of it was remotely okay (it wasn’t), but talking about anything else right now would be disrespectful and disingenuous. Believe it or not, this is something I care about quite a bit, so this week’s question is one that I’ve had to ask myself: What do you do when you realize you’re part of the problem?

OK YOU GOT ALL THAT? that was the short version.

And now the conflict began. Because we all hate harassment and bullying and threats and bad online behavior. But what do you do when it’s from a FRIEND OF YOURS?

Rachel Edidin, a writer and editor, and Laura Hudson, the founding EIC of Comics Alliance, who, I believe, hired Sims in the first place, had their own responses. Edidin is a close friend of Sims’, and learning your friend was (to put it mildly) a total jerk is hard:

So: Chris Sims is one of my best and closest friends, someone I trust implicitly. Chris Sims is also a person who has done some really shitty things that have resulted in some very real and serious harm. I think he’s done a really good job of owning that today; and I think he should have done it much sooner; and I understand why he didn’t; and—at least for me—none of those things cancel each other out. I would absolutely not tell anyone for whom what Chris did was a moral or personal event horizon that they were wrong. That’s a really personal call—for you, and for me.

I don’t know what I’d have to say about this if I weren’t friends with Chris; because I am, and there’s no question that’s influencing the terms in which I am thinking about it.

I will say: my stance in the past has been that harassment is never okay; that public accountability is important; that the loss of nuance is incredibly dangerous and benefits nobody; that significant cultural sea change is less dependent on people not fucking up than on people owning their shit, learning from their mistakes, and working to do better. I stand by those positions.

And I will add: Anyone whose response to this whole thing is to be shitty to Val can go straight to hell.

Hudson stepped in to address online comments about how adding the whole GGate element to the apology was a red herring which deflected attention from the damage done to D’Orazio.

But it’s also hard for me to ignore that this conversation is happening in large part because of an anti-progressive campaign. Valerie has every right to come forward and speak about her experiences, but it’s also true that the conversation was initially sparked by the skeleton digging of people seeking to discredit ComicsAlliance as a progressive site. This is particularly upsetting for me, not only because I created ComicsAlliance, but because I’ve spent the better part of the last year living in fear of these exact sorts of people, receiving death threats from them, and watching them try to destroy my friends and colleagues in games. Some people have expressed that this context should not be mentioned—that doing so is merely a way of mitigating or excusing Chris’s behavior. I disagree. Understanding it or acknowledging it in no way makes Chris less accountable. We can and should have accountability, and I’m glad that we’re seeing that. But I don’t believe holding people accountable has to be mutually exclusive with nuance, or that offering context is necessarily a way of making excuses. I think that it is both possible and important to do both.

So as you see, we now have, by some counts, THREE victims here. D’Orazio, Sims AND Comics Alliance.

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But HOW? WHY????? HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? How was a man allowed to bully a woman in public without anyone caring until now? I mean that happens all the time, but why THIS time?

To understand this, we must return to the Last Days of the Glory Days of Blogging. 2008. Our great nation was wondering if a woman or a black man would be the next president of the US and getting to know a spunky Alaskan governor named Sarah Palin along the way; movie fans thrilled to The Dark Knight even as they mourned Heath Ledger; and comics fans were reeling from Final Crisis! What a time it was. And Blogging, emerging about five years earlier with free, effective platforms like Blogger and Live Journal, was the future of journalism. The comics blogosphere was a lively place, as fans and readers became major voices commenting on the industry, while a few “pros,” such as myself, Tom Spurgeon and Dirk Deppey, were the morning newspaper of the industry, It was also a world where social media was just taking off.  People still communicated  via message boards, email and blog comments. although all of that would come to an end very soon.

From the early days of blogging in 2002-on it was an easy time to make a name for yourself as a blogger in a community that loved to comment on itself. A strong personality and writing skill went a long way, and people who had just been buying their comics every Wednesday were now independent industry pundits. I actually don’t know when Sims started his site—I never read it, and I’ve never had much interest in his writing because I stopped reading superhero comics before most of the people I’ve quoted in this piece were born. 90s Marvel nostalgia doesn’t hold much interest for me…but it does for a LOT of other people, and Sims’ evident passion knowledge and great sense of humor gained him quite a following.

But one of the weirder sides of blogging in its Golden Age was the whole blogging feud thing. At one point I made up a pretend feud with USA Today’s comics blogger Whitney Matheson, comparing her to the baby with one eyebrow on The Simpsons, Maggie’s mortal enemy. It was a one sided affair (the Beat could never touch McPaper) and after we both appeared on a panel at SPX together it all became a joke. Whitney is one of the nicest sweetest people I’ve EVER met, and the idea of any kind of feud was just stupid.

I have no idea exactly why Sims started his feud with Val. I can sort of guess though. I have to throw in here that I know Val very well, as opposed to having barely interacted with Sims. Val and I worked together at DC, we live in the same town, we’ve had lunch, we’ve been out drinking, and we’ve given each other support at various times…and had some major disagreements as well. We’re not best buds, but I’ve always considered her one of the smartest writers about comics, even when I don’t agree with her, and one of the most naturally talented bloggers in the whole space.

This was not a feeling universally shared. To be fair, Val is not shy about picking her own battles. I believe she had her own blog feud with Johanna Draper Carlson, and she was especially unpopular with Ragnell and Kalinara, two writers who ran a link blog called When Fangirls Attack that is very much the Paleozoic version of today’s geek girl media web. You can read all about it here and here, with Chris Sims actually showing up in the comments to take pot shots. I was going to except these but it’s like reading a transcript of a family gathering  with so much calling back and self referencing. But, all that said, I can see why people took umbrage: Val has strong opinions, which although backed up by a lengthy career in the industry, stood out like a sore thumb. She was also always talking about her own victimization, and some people disliked that. TBH, I don’t remember any of the incidents that incited the WFA dislike, but I don’t actually even remember the Sims feud either.

I was a lot more complimentary to D’Orazio in this period, quoting her often because she was eloquent and honest; I’m much more personally interested in how the industry works than in comics nostalgia, but that’s me. Here’s what she wrote about when Diane Nelson took over as head of DC:

You can only place my reaction in context of the massive amount of misogyny I’ve witnessed or heard reported about in selected sectors of DC Comics during the time I’ve worked there. During those four years, I had seen strong women again and again be censured, criticized, grumbled about, and disparaged. I’ve watched my department be emptied out of females one-by-one. I was warned on literally the first day I worked there by two different people to watch my back because I was a woman and not to make any waves. I was told by one boss that females just didn’t have the natural aptitude to edit comic books. I am absolutely thrilled that the buck now stops with a woman at DC Comics. I am overjoyed – nay, almost orgasmic – that certain men will now have to regard Diane Nelson as their boss. It is karma working on the most basic level. Let these men explain to Nelson, who has worked with one of the most famous female fantasy writers in the entire world, how women don’t have the natural aptitude to edit and create comic books. Let these men explain to her the employment and dismissal history of female editors in the DCU over the last ten years. Let these men explain to her the plot of Final Crisis – I dare them. The other shoe has finally dropped. Expect a lot of change before SDCC 2010.

While I’m not sure this post was actually prophetic, it was certainly arguable and candid. But yeah, Val wasn’t out to make friends and she wasn’t popular in the blogosphere.

Sims has removed a lot of posts about D’Orazio I guess but this one survives:

And then there’s Valerie D’Orazio. The fact that I don’t personally care for D’Orazio is one of the ISB’s worst-kept secrets–it was the entire joke behind her interviewing me about Solomon Stone last year–but if Marvel wants to hire loudmouthed comics bloggers to write their comics, that can only be a good thing for me, so good on her for getting the work. But even so, the antipathy’s there, and along with the fact that there’s nothing to keep me from swallowing my own tongue and dying when the inevitable rage-induced aneurysm hit, it’s one of the reasons that I’m opting out of reviewing Punisher Max: Butterfly this week, as you can never really trust someone with an axe to grind. With the Girl Comics story, however, the problem is one that I think I can be a little more objective about.

Ah yes, Punisher Max Butterfly.

Now imagine that you have had a, by any objective standard, difficult tenure at a comics publisher and you leave to follow a writing career. Breaking in to comics writing is never easy and when you’re a woman and a LOUDMOUHED woman it’s almost impossible. But imagine you do it and you have a book come out that may be flawed but it’s your first book and who knows where its going.

And now imagine that a bunch of people on the internet don’t like you and go out of their way to say that this is the worst comic ever made, and personally belittle your efforts any way they can.

Yes, that would be a bummer alright. Because as hard as it is to break into comics writing, it’s even harder to get that second gig when you are a lightning rod for controversy (some of it because you like to stand outside in thunder storms holding a lightning rod, to be sure.)

And imagine that five years later your main accuser has his OWN debut for the SAME publisher announced. How would you feel now? Probably pretty angry. Luckily, now we have twitter and social media to play out every sentence blow by blow.

The D’Orazio/Sims feud wouldn’t have lasted long in a world with twitter…it would have burnt out pretty quick under the weight of lookie loos and people hazarding an opinion. But in the Paleozoic, it could flourish with little or no blowback.

Now, no one has tried to let Sims off the hook in any of this. Asselin, Wheeler, Hudson, Edidin and Sims himself acknowledge just how horrible, petty and damaging his behavior was. And now there are GGate psychopaths waiting in the wings to take it to a new level. Don’t get me wrong. I feel really bad for the Comics Alliance crew, past and present. They’ve come out as one of the strongest voices for a new, inclusive comics industry, one without all the baggage and inane stereotypes that D’Orazio has been writing about since she left DC. But what do you do when the call is coming from inside the house?

What an exhausting week this has been..how emotionally exhausting this job of comics blogging has become. I’ve always been one to prefer the positive to extending finger pointing, but a whole queue of nice art and happy comics news is just sitting there while I weigh in on Batgirl covers, decade old feuds, Erik Larsen, J. Scott Campbell, Pat Broderick, outrages and tone deaf responses to problems that people just began pointing out.

In an era where healthy, needed whistle blowing and speaking out has become more common, I think everyone has had uncomfortable moments. I’ve seen people who are friends of mine called out for their bad behavior, and it’s tough. When someone has been an abuser or a harasser it doesn’t really matter that they like their dog or are fun at parties. Even pointing out that “not all men” are total assholes is not seen as useful, but rather a smoke screen to avoid examining underlying biases. When I see friends nailed for their bad behavior, I hold my tongue because it was bad behavior. Many times I had even warned them about it in the past (which is what you do for a friend) but they couldn’t or didn’t want to engage in self examination and self improvement. And sometimes you just walk away because it’s hopeless. If we’re living in a zero tolerance world, then it needs to be zero tolerance, as difficult as that may be when people are a mix of good and bad and their actions are equally paradoxical.

In 2008 identity politics wasn’t the driving force it is now,  and a bunch of bloggers “feuding” with a woman who writes openly about her abuse and sexual trauma would be identified as harassment and not “a difference of opinion. ”  Now, it’s important to note that Ragnell, Kalinara Johanna and maybe even Sims did just disagree with Valerie, because that happens as well, but it could have been identified as gaslighting, tone policing and mansplaining.

I don’t know Chris Sims so I have no idea what his level of remorse is. Based on what his friends are saying, people I do know, I’m guessing it’s pretty high. I’ve been genuinely surprised by how many of my friends have come out and told me that Sims was a role model or inspiration for them. They feel sad and confused, and will probably feel that way for a while. I do know that—and this is just me speaking personally—I think the ongoing and petty nature of Sims’ harassment is a more serious matter than a couple of apologies can cover. It was classic “punching down” before that was even a word. It’s also endemic of the whole idea that online life is not real life, an idea from the beginning of the internet that is totally ludicrous in light of how online is intertwined in our lives. Sims would never have engaged with D’Orazio for that long if she was a real human being to him, and not just a bunch of pixels on a screen.

Anyway this is as long as a San Diego con report now, and I’m not even sure what to say any more. I’m sure there’s already dozens more pundits weighing in, more personal axe grinding, and maybe new outrage from some quarters that will make this look like a baby asleep in its crib. I do know that I would like the punishment to fit the crime, so I’ll leave with my tweet from earlier when I first read all of this:

UPDATE: D’Orazio has updated her blog with a response to an anonymous latter than asked her to “take a look in the mirror.”

I’m a 41-year-old gender-fluid comic book writer, editor, and blogger. I endorse an expanded feminism that embraces trans women (along with everyone along the vast gender spectrum) and puts more of an emphasis on women of color. I put my feminism into practice in the comics community not just by writing about various issues, but giving women actual paying jobs. I work with female clients to bring their ideas into comic book form, and volunteer my time mentoring female writers and artists who want to break into the business. 

I support the greater representation of people—and characters—of color within the comics industry. I support fair wages for people who work in the industry, and making sure older industry veterans continue to get jobs. I also support the greater inclusion of LGBTQ people both in the comics industry and within the comics they produce—particularly the transgender community, who I feel are under-represented and occasionally misrepresented throughout pop-culture in general.

If you think that my gender identification, aesthetics, etc. makes me not “qualify” as a “real victim” (oy) of misogyny…if you seek to rob me of my personal narrative because I don’t fit your image of what a good feminist should be or act or say…if you categorically deny I have had the experiences I have had…please take me off your mailing list. UNSUBSCRIBE.

 

Comments

  1. Erik Scott says

    Really well written and heartfelt piece Heidi. Thank you for writing.

  2. John Samuels says

    Having met the Sims via friends/creators at ECCC last year, I can speak to my experience with him. I’ve said this prior to this recent incident. The guy seemed like a complete a-hole to me. I was talking with a fellow creator (well known) and Sims just starts talking over me as if I wasn’t there. His level of respect seems to be dependent on your level of fame in comics. He treats you well if you’re writing Image/DC/Marvel. Poorly, if you aren’t at his perceived level.

  3. Matt Bernius says

    Thanks for taking the time to document all of this and add your own analysis. I think you’ve done an admirable job capturing the nuance and complexity of this situation.

  4. says

    This stuff never seems to die, it just becomes cyclical. It hangs around for years. (For instance, while I agree that “healthy, needed whistle blowing” in this industry is potentially a good thing, it can also result in being effectively blacklisted.) Maybe comics pros and fans are following the same trajectories as their characters, and need to reboot the same old same old every few years…

  5. Kevin Colden says

    I consider myself a pretty close friend and a huge fan of Valerie, and while I’m familiar with Sims’ work, I don’t really know him – maybe met him once or twice. But a lot of his work has rubbed me the wrong way, and now I guess I know why – surprisingly, I wasn’t aware of this lengthy, repeated harassment until this week, though I got to witness firsthand the effects of it. Even more surprisingly, it seems from their comments like people Chris has worked with for years – who are trying now to defend his character – were also unaware of this. Frankly, if he weren’t entrenched in the comics journalism community, he’d be receiving – at the bare MINIMUM – a vicious public savaging. I think it’s pretty cut-and-dry, and as you put it – if we’re living in a Zero Tolerance world, we’re living in a Zero Tolerance world.

  6. David says

    That’s easily the most comprehensive and well-reasoned take on the situation as I’ve seen. Thanks for laying everything out like this; it’s really helped me get a handle on what went on here.

    I think the factor complicating the zero-tolerance response is the time since the harassment happened – not because there’s a statute of limitations on these things, but because if Sims had been called out on his behavior when it happened and otherwise acted exactly like he actually has since then, the last five years of his career would look like a pretty solid redemption story: Woman’s harasser gets taken to task for his actions and grows into a reliably feminist (and pro-diversity/acceptance in comics generally) commentator. Zero tolerance means not giving anybody a free pass for bad behavior, but acknowledging the possibility of reform is not a “free pass.”

    (I’ve never met Sims and will defer to people who say that he remains an overbearing jerk in person, but as far as his writing at ComicsAlliance goes he’s been an overbearing jerk for the forces of good in the last few years. And to the extent that we can judge a person’s character by the company they keep, Laura Hudson, David Brothers, Rachel Edidin and Betty Felon are good friends to have.)

    Problem is, for all that he’s talked the talk when it comes to the industry in general, Sims has never taken ownership of his own behavior on his own initiative, instead waiting until he was directly confronted with it. So how much credit does he get for good work he’s done since 2010 when in all those years he never once addressed the plank in his own eye? That’s a tough question, for me and apparently for a bunch of other people in this sphere. It would sure be nice if he was offering anything concrete as far as anti-harassment work to go along with his apologies.

  7. Hannah Lodge says

    Really enjoyed this explanation/breakdown. Honestly, it seems like Comics Alliance dragging G*merGate into it defeats the purpose of talking about the issue and intentionally muddies it. Like hey – look over there! Here are the real villains!

    I can’t help but think of the whole thing as a sort of online/blogger version of the Zimbardo prison experiments at Stanford. I think most people know how that went: regular, non-aggressive people took on the role of prison guards and in that role, under that culture, began torturing and abusing people so badly that the experiment was cancelled for the negative psychological effects on everyone involved. There was a time (and to a degree, still is) when starting online feuds, mocking celebrities, and general online bullying were a sort of online version of bad reality TV/entertainment and were all the rage. Those kinds of relationships and rivalries were fostered, as you said.

    As every other person has said, that doesn’t excuse the behavior, but I think it underlines the importance of what types of voices and work we support present-day, and how that support shapes the nature of the community. We can’t go back in time machines and stop supporting the bully Sims was then, but we can be mindful of it going forward.

  8. A.E.F-S says

    I was a regular reader of almost all the above mentioned blogs 2005-2011, and at the time it certainly didn’t seem like “classic ‘punching down’” for most of the aforementioned bloggers to write scathing criticisms of D’Orazio’s work. From the perspective of the public that followed the progressive and gender-related comics blogs, D’Orazio was an established industry veteran with a (comparatively) large audience and extensive, even if informal, network of industry connections, while Ragnell, Kalinara, SallyP, Zhinxy, Chris Sims, and other visible bloggers in the When Fangirls Attack orbit were scrappy amateurs posting and building their audiences between grad school, deployments, and non-industry jobs. I now realize D’Orazio was not necessarily enjoying any more career or financial security than the other bloggers, but she appeared to be a significantly more powerful figure in comics than others in the WFA crowd, while Johanna Draper Carlson, the senior members of Friends of Lulu, and some comics new site editors who leveled intense criticism at D’Orazio appeared to have levels of power similar to hers. (I’m speaking as a reader and occasional commenter from that era, not an insider in those circles, so I don’t know how well my perceptions match the reality of that time.)

    Several feminist comics commentators had bones to pick with D’Orazio’s often contradictory declarations and general mode of discourse, and appeared frustrated that she was seen by many as the definitive voice of women in comics while other (in our eyes much better) voices struggled to be heard. Around 2008 I sent a tweet I’m not proud of calling D’Orazio the Sarah Palin of Comics feminism, bemoaning that the de facto leading women’s comic blogger wasn’t very good. At the same time feminist bloggers were criticizing D’Orazio’s content and actions, the vilest kind of misogynist invective was aimed at her for being a woman publicly discussing gender and comics. She was trolled mercilessly by the worst sorts of bottom feeders. I had almost exactly the view of her that I did of Palin: no matter how problematic I thought her representations of feminism were and how questionable I thought her prominence was, that didn’t legitimize trolls gleefully ripping her apart for the offense of being a prominent woman existing and speaking in public. There was probably some internalized misogyny in my visceral dislike of her; I thought she was destructively performing the worst anti-female stereotype of being “emotional” at the expense of being “logical,” a stereotype I’ve spent my trying to fight.

    All this to say, I remember Chris Sims snarking at and about Val D’Orazio and giving her comics poor review, but it seemed like frustrated internal criticism from the progressive feminist camp, rather than misogynistic sniping from the proto-GG camp. But I wasn’t privy to private communications, most of the public content in question appears to have been taken down, and I think I just don’t *want* to believe there was gender-based harassment I didn’t know about or just didn’t notice.

    This sucks utterly, because I want clearly defined protagonists and antagonists.

  9. Ed says

    Thank you A.E.F-S. I was also reading all of the blogs in question regularly and the first paragraph of your comment nails my, from the waaaaaaaay outside, memory-perception of how this seemed at the time almost exactly.

  10. akachris says

    1) When did Chris Sims join Comics Alliance? Was it prior, during or after this 2007-2010 period of cyber-bullying? I couldn’t find that detail in this post or any of the links.
    2) What did the Comics Alliance leadership at the time of Sims’ hiring know about his cyber-bullying and harassment towards D’Orazio? Were they aware of it? Were they informed or contacted by Ms. D’Orazio or anyone else?
    3) Did Chris Sims cyber-bully anyone else?

  11. says

    AEFS — thanks for the context and reminiscence.

    I’ve actually been told that NONE of Sims’ posts about D’Orazio have been taken down from his site.

  12. Mo says

    While I in no way defend cyber bullying, I don’t think that anyone should demand a public apology from someone about something that happened 6-8 years ago. He can deal with his issues how he wants to but this need to publicly shame people, or demand that every thing be dealt with in the public sphere seems wring to me.

  13. Mo says

    and by “anyone” I meant anyone not directly impacted. Obviously Mrs. D’Orazio has a right to demand an apology

  14. Gianluca Glazer says

    Like AEFS I see this as harassment and cyberbullying, but not misogyny. This does open a can of worms. For many years bloggers have been snarky and have singled out certain creators to get he brunt of their criticsm. For example Rob Liefeld and Dan Slott probably have read a lot worse written about him online. At what point does it go from “creator needs thicker skin in getting critiscsm” to “creator is being bullied”? This incident may have been in the past, but there is a lot of cyberbullying going on today, regardless of gender.

  15. Sparky says

    I have only met Chris Sims on a couple of occasions, but my experiences mirror those of John Samuels above. Sims always has to be stating The Most Correct & Entertaining Opinion while ignoring what anyone else says. The first time, at a convention, I wanted to give him benefit of the doubt because I wasn’t buying anything from him and he seemed to be enjoying the company of some well-known comics talent. Then my girlfriend bought one of his comics later that day and reported “what a self-absorbed jerk.” I used to enjoy his CA articles, especially how his personality/ego didn’t get in the way of his researched and rather eloquent columns, but now I’m ready to move on to other sites, personalities, and commentaries.

    Not that anyone’s opinion of Chris or Valerie matters anyway – next week he’ll go right back to listening to the sound of his own voice, and Valerie will still take crap from idiots who think she was somehow asking to be bullied.

  16. Johnny Memeonic says

    Why is gamergate being written in as “g*mergate” in the article and comments?

  17. says

    I suppose it’s good that COMICA ALLIANCE doesn’t take the easy way out and get rid of Sims.

    At the same time, though, the narrative they’re constructing — He’s a Different Person Now (TM) than he was in the faraway days of, um, 2008; and, by the way, we’re all super progressive here — looks like just another easy way out.

    Why not be honest about it: We’re all very much the same people we were five (or 10, or 50) years ago, only (maybe, hopefully) a little bit wiser than we were back then. And saying a hundred times that you’re “progressive,” whatever that means, won’t make it so.

    The next time someone who ISN’T Chris Sims gets outed as a creep, will we be as super-progressive and forgiving about it? Let’s wait and see; but maybe the lesson here is that we’re not as progressive as we thought. Maybe things are more complicated than that.

  18. Flim Flam Fran says

    Censored because they are terrified that it could mutate into c*micsgate, which would eviscerate the industry. Videogame sales are safe(well safer) from controversy, because the product is often unpirated due to drm, connectivity requirements and proprietary hardware. Comics are not protected by physicality; we pay for ideas, not ink and pulp, and we do it out of love. A schism over identity politics would cripple the medium as creators and fans take sides. The dynamic is obviously much different, but I think a lot of the demographics are the same.

    I for one welcome the Crisis of Infinite Jerks! The Big Two are bloated and boring, pushing commodities over content, unable to generate fresh ideas except in the marketing department. Fandom has become insufferable and constantly whinges on about drat all. The talent is strong and could easily go independent, and most of it has done already.

    Everytime I hear the words Geek Culture I set my phaser to stun.

  19. Scott McGrath says

    I’m not saying D’Orazio deserved to be bullied or harassed, but she’s not totally innocent in this. It’s two strong willed people with loud mouths throwing mud at each other and it’s kinda silly to see people try to simplify this into one person is good and one person is bad. I read all these blogs when the fights started and both people were calling each other names and all kinds of awful stuff. People are pretty complex.

  20. A.E.F-S says

    I think the difference between this and most other harassment situations is that usually the accused/outed harasser hems and haws about how it wasn’t that bad, intentions were misunderstood, everybody makes mistakes, I wouldn’t do the same things again now and even if I did would it really be so bad because no one is perfect and I say have you seen what’s going on in Darfur… It’s unusual that the accused/outed actually confesses to being a complete asshole who was in the wrong and (at least appears to be) ready to accept any natural consequences. There’s something to be said for the redemption of a person realizing the scope of what they’ve done to another person, owning it, changing, but still being non-pissily ready to take deserved fallout if and when it comes. It also doesn’t make the harmed person in any way obligated to sweep previous offenses away or pretend the harm was not real. I’ve been on both sides, and neither the accused nor their previous target is having a good time.

    In regards to whether or not the harassment or harasser were misogynistic, I’m still extremely hazy on what almost all of the harassing content was, and can’t even arm-chair analyze it. I’m a big fan of Jay Smooth’s approach to focusing on whether or not specific words actions and words were racist (in this case misogynistic) in context rather than, I dunno, the state of the accused’s soul. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc

  21. says

    I said this elsewhere and I will say it again: how this will play out is that Sims will have some level of success writing superhero comics, for all I know as a superstar but at the very least agreeably fruitful, and anyone who brings up what he did to D’Orazio will be met with cries that Sims has paid for his offenses and it’s all in the past and how dare you. Whereas D’Orazio will have this hanging around her neck for the rest of her career. I could very well be completely wrong about this, as my level of knowledge about the comics industry is matched only by my diminished interest in same. But I’m a cynical old bastard who always thinks he’s right (usually).

    As for other matters, I do love Spurgeon dearly (like he cares–sniff!) but his assertion that all comics creators have equally “super shitty” acts on their resumes is seriously dumb. I have friends in the comics industry, some who I’ve known for decades, and while I’m sure they have all acted like assholes here and there (as have I), I don’t know one that systematically harassed or abused anyone in their life. And if I knew about it they’d catch hell from me (like they care– sniff!). But Christ, that all assholes are all equally shitty is what I said above — dumb. I have no problem stating that I could never stomach reading another thing Sims writes for the rest if his life, which will have zero impact on Sims and less than zero on Spurgeon, or anyone else. I just figure, as long as everyone is piping up, there’s my feeble contribution.

  22. Jon Hex says

    All of The Invincible Super-Blog is still online, so it’s easy to find Chris Sims’s posts about Valerie D’Orazio. Here’s an excerpt from one:
    The fact that I don’t personally care for D’Orazio is one of the ISB’s worst-kept secrets–it was the entire joke behind her interviewing me about Solomon Stone last year–but if Marvel wants to hire loudmouthed comics bloggers to write their comics, that can only be a good thing for me, so good on her for getting the work. But even so, the antipathy’s there, and along with the fact that there’s nothing to keep me from swallowing my own tongue and dying when the inevitable rage-induced aneurysm hit, it’s one of the reasons that I’m opting out of reviewing Punisher Max: Butterfly this week, as you can never really trust someone with an axe to grind.

  23. says

    What a mess. And the worst part is that all this is getting dredged back up for Val to deal with all over again. She seems to be making the best of it, though, facing it with her usual courage and outspokenness.

    I like Sims’s work. I’ve never met him but we exchanged a few E-Mails awhile back and it was a positive experience (he’d picked up a story I’d posted about on my blog and missed my credit for it; when I gave him a heads-up he was apologetic and made the fix within 10 minutes of my E-Mailing him). I don’t know the guy but I’d like to think he’s sincere with his regrets. He fucked up in waiting this long to acknowledge it and apologize, and I think the backlash he’s getting now is both deserved and overdue.

    As for Gamergate…well, they’re certainly not the most important party in this story. But they DO seem to be the ones who chose to dredge it up and start talking about it now. That probably does bear acknowledging, and I can understand the CA team (past and present)’s furstration on that score. But I definitely agree that it runs the risk of distracting from the real issue here, and the real issue IS Sims’s behavior.

  24. Evan says

    Tomas, and Friends of Lulu was soon disbanded after D’Orazio wrote that because she never bothered to do anything during her tenure as president other then complain to others as you posted above. But its because she had some the same crappy attitude toward others as can be shown in many posts archived around the net that really wasn’t any different then how Sims was to her that there’s those of us who really don’t care about this whole thing and would rather use someone else to focus the perils of cyber bullying on. She was just as bad as Sims to others when she wanted to be.

  25. Ray Cornwall says

    I feel terrible that Val has PTSD from various internet feuds, and I wish her the best in getting better.

    It’s noteworthy that she could give out the snark as well as anybody, as seen from the old CWR posts:

    “Johanna Draper Carlson, in essence, reminds me of the person who reports her next-door-neighbor for the kids being too loud, and then waits behind the blinds excitedly for them to get in trouble. She’ll wait all day behind those blinds. And brag about it loudly in church on Sunday. Kinda like Mrs. Kravitz from “Bewitched.” Johanna is like the Mrs. Kravitz of the comics blogosphere.”

    And then there’s the ironic bit:

    “But life is too short to be consumed by hate. I’m sure if we ever run into each other at a comic con, we’ll just laugh and laugh. “It’s just comics.”
    Sometimes you just gotta go twitch your nose and call it a day.”

    I think the difference here is that Sims’s behavior lasted for an extended period of time. It’s one thing to have a week’s worth of posts warring between each other; Sims’s behavior lasted over years. I believe his apology is sincere, although apologizing to her husband instead of her is a significant error.

    Is there a GoFundMe to help with her bills?

  26. says

    These glimpses of the long-ago world of 2010 are fascinating, but I don’t want this to be a referendum on Valerie’s online behavior. SHE DID NOTHING TO DESERVE HARASSMENT.

    The fact is that while she could go tit for tat, she did not go around trolling comment threads where Chris or Johanna or anyone was mentioned to undermine them, as Sims was doing in the Ragnell/Kalinara threads above.

    These glimpses are making me feel like a dinosaur though. Remind me why I am doing this again?

  27. Rob Barrett says

    As Heidi says, Valerie D’Orazio’s own behavior toward others is completely irrelevant here. Chris Sims messed up in harassing her, and he continued to mess up in not apologizing over the years. (And I say this as someone who is very simpatico with Sims’s tastes in comics). He will now have an asterisk after his career for years, if not forever, and that’s his own fault.

  28. A.E.F-S says

    Thanks for this, Heidi. As hard as I scoff at most “Wellllllll, things were different then, you see, we were allllllll doing it…” apologetics for the poisonous cultural crap of eras past, things seem completely different in the recent past one was around for. But they’re not completely different. Context grants empathy, but that context was no help at the time for the person on the receiving end of of the stick.

  29. kalinara says

    “The fact is that while she could go tit for tat, she did not go around trolling comment threads where Chris or Johanna or anyone was mentioned to undermine them, as Sims was doing in the Ragnell/Kalinara threads above.”

    This is not a comment on the overall situation, but I would like to clarify that Chris wasn’t trolling my or Ragnell’s comment threads because Ms. D’Orazio was mentioned. At the time, he knew that both Ragnell and I were upset and frustrated with the entire, complicated, situation and he was trying to make us laugh.

  30. JRH says

    >> These glimpses of the long-ago world of 2010 are fascinating, but I don’t want this to be a referendum on Valerie’s online behavior. SHE DID NOTHING TO DESERVE HARASSMENT.

    Well, Heidi, I’ve been given nothing from you, or any other source breathlessly reporting this story, that would let me make up my own mind. I have no idea about:

    (1) Just how obnoxious and condescending DOrazio was to other people at that time
    (2) Exactly what Sims did that would be objectively identifiable as “harassment,” or
    (3) Whether DOrazio is a credible source as to her situation.

    It’s clear that YOU believe DOrazio, but you have given the reader nothing to judge. Knowing nothing about this situation, DOrazio appears to be hypersensitive, agenda-driven, and self-pitying from what I’ve been given to read. The only significant quote from Sims is his declining to review DOrazio’s work because he doesnt like DOrazio. Seems fair to me.

    Having listened to your podcasts and read your writing for years, I know it’s important for you & yours (especially the crusading Comics Alliance) to make all the right pronouncements about diversity and other social agendas. But DOrazio doesn’t get to win just by claiming something was so. All I see here is “my feelings got hurt because somebody pushed back at me and that’s not fair because I’m sensitive.” Lots of dishing out with no expectation of getting any back, and that just doesn’t play on the internet.

  31. JRH says

    >> I’ve actually been told that NONE of Sims’ posts about D’Orazio have been taken down from his site.

    What’s stopping you from committing some journalism?

  32. Zachary says

    JRH — D’Orazio mentions that her problem is “not so much” what Sims said about her, but that he had the combination of a dislike for her and a substantial audience eager to act on that opinion. D’Orazio was surely disliked by a horde of proto-g*mergate types who did not like her feminist commentary on the comics industry, people eager to send the same kinds of awful messages received by women in the indie gaming industry over the past year. Sims (and others) cultivated audiences attracted to sardonic critical writing, which you could reasonably expect would include an appreciable quantity of terrible, angry people. By continuing to bring D’Orazio into his sights, D’Orazio says that Sims directed those people toward her.

    This is why you might not find his comments directly about her particularly severe. They’re mean, but they don’t seem outrageous. From what we’ve been shown at this point, they’re not even as mean as the stuff D’Orazio said to Carlson while she refused to talk about what was going on at FoL.

    The complaint is less about his comments and more about their consequences. It’s about a lot of hidden vitriol, and it’s about that vitriol being directed at a person who was a lot more vulnerable than Sims had likely understood at the time.

    This is speculation here, but I suspect that current day Sims would now understand that directing his kind of attitude toward the person who wrote “Goodbye to Comics” was probably not a great idea.

  33. says

    JRH, Sims has admitted several times to doing what Val accused him of doing.

    As laughable as it may seem to myself Valerie or Johanna, all of whom actually worked in the comics biz, I think some people were just jealous os uf. Much of this is explained in AEFS’s posts:

    >>>>From the perspective of the public that followed the progressive and gender-related comics blogs, D’Orazio was an established industry veteran with a (comparatively) large audience and extensive, even if informal, network of industry connections, while Ragnell, Kalinara, SallyP, Zhinxy, Chris Sims, and other visible bloggers in the When Fangirls Attack orbit were scrappy amateurs posting and building their audiences between grad school, deployments, and non-industry jobs. I now realize D’Orazio was not necessarily enjoying any more career or financial security than the other bloggers, but she appeared to be a significantly more powerful figure in comics than others in the WFA crowd, while Johanna Draper Carlson, the senior members of Friends of Lulu, and some comics new site editors who leveled intense criticism at D’Orazio appeared to have levels of power similar to hers.

    I notice that I’m not included in that list, but I’m sure I was at an even more powerful spot than Johanna since the Beat was hosted on PW at the time. It’s true that “punching down” at someone who has a bigger platform than you isn’t necessarily accurate, but there is definitely a “big fish in a very very very small pond” type behavior here and some “To be the man, you gotta beat the man” thinking. And you know, sometimes the man is a woman.

  34. Erik Scott says

    “But DOrazio doesn’t get to win just by claiming something was so.”

    This mentality is part of the problem here. There are no winners or losers. It’s all loss.

  35. AJS says

    “D’Orazio mentions that her problem is “not so much” what Sims said about her, but that he had the combination of a dislike for her and a substantial audience eager to act on that opinion.”

    Did Sims tell his audience to do or say anything to D’Orazio?

  36. RD says

    Jesus. All this fuss and digital ink spilled over two narcissistic talent-vacuums just because of some feud everyone else forgot or never gave a shit about in the first place. Can we not just gas everyone ever involved in online comics discussion and start all over again? I don’t really see any other option at this point.

  37. Martin says

    In addition to the huge relevant issues, here’s a smaller thought I have.

    D’Orazio was, as noted, an industry professional at the time, in addition to having a network and an audience that dwarfed Sims.

    I remember how, was it 6 years ago, everyone rallied to support Rob Liefeld against the “yellow hat” guy for public, face to face harassment and bullying.

    With professionals and, in a simple term, “celebrities” being part of the social media/blogosphere, is it also cyberbullying for me to continually express continual irrational hate and sling mud at, say, Mark Waid over his Daredevil run on, say, ComicsAlliance or CBR, sites I know him to sometimes browse and comment on? He is after all a member of the community in addition to being a professional. What if I got persistent and found some others to goad who shared my views, and we posted on the forums a lot of these views? Regardless of how he felt, if he saw it, or whether he replied, is that cyberbullying? I honestly dont know. I feel it must be. Yet I see people do varying degrees of that all the time.

    (i use Waid and Dardevil to stress that this a hypothetical, since I absolutely love that comic)

  38. questionablemorales says

    I’ve read through a lot of those old blogs and forgot how intense D’Orazio was towards people with which she had a problem. To be honest, unless there is a lot of private correspondence of a more nefarious nature, she treated people pretty commensurately with how Sims treated her.

    No one was threatening sexual violence, doxxing and death as is the custom of the harassers of today.

  39. Martin says

    http://occasionalsuperheroine.blogspot.com/2008/02/extreme-jump-in-logic-of-week.html

    morales: here’s such an old blog post from D’Orazio. It should not be taken in a vacuum, but given it involves here posting beef with a different proactive blogger (David Brothers, on the subject of African American characters), plus a personal call out in the comments on Chris Sims himself for a bit of snark that – given the reaction it provoked – was likely representative of the traumatic bullying, I think it can stand as a very, very important piece of context.

    It is also interesting to note it is Sims she singles out as “one of the worst”. I get the impression that, at the time, David Brothers, Ragnell and Kalinara were more prominent and influential voices in the blogosphere than Sims, especially given that they were more directly involved in their movements. And they were definitely subjects of seemingly equal vitriol from D’Orazio, based on what she posted.

    I’ll take a risk in the next few things I say. It is fine that, given the important issue here is the PTSD, that most of the journalistic material focus on the attacks and bullying, and not on the subject of the bullying. But let me go a bit tangential on that.

    Now that her PTSD is out in the open, I wonder if she will soon call out those other bloggers for bullying as well. She noted that she felt better after calling out Chris. Following that, I’d think it would further help her to call out the others, especially since all the statements are publicly available anyway, unlike with the harassment cases that were private recollections.

    Like referring to this post: http://occasionalsuperheroine.blogspot.com/2008/03/fangirl-thursdays.html

    I wonder what it would mean if she doesn’t, and how people would react if she does. I won’t include my own speculations on those points here. Just a thought.

  40. Martin says

    Also – I know Heidi rescinded it in the comments, but I also think it’s interesting to point out, contrary to what is stated in the article, I can still find all of the Sims comments and blog posts online, none taken down. I can also saw find a lot of blog posts from the other involved bloggers online, except D’Orazio, who seems to have a lot of old comments and posts, that were specifically called out, redacted. Don’t know why, but it is interesting.

  41. JRH says

    >> This mentality is part of the problem here. There are no winners or losers. It’s all loss.

    If DOrazio gets Sims fired from his Marvel job, she definitely wins.

  42. JRH says

    >> This is why you might not find his comments directly about her particularly severe. They’re mean, but they don’t seem outrageous. From what we’ve been shown at this point, they’re not even as mean as the stuff D’Orazio said to Carlson while she refused to talk about what was going on at FoL.

    >> The complaint is less about his comments and more about their consequences. It’s about a lot of hidden vitriol, and it’s about that vitriol being directed at a person who was a lot more vulnerable than Sims had likely understood at the time.

    I think this is exaxtly the problem: you are harassed if you think you are harassed, and if someone else doesn’t agree, then it’s part of the harassment. There is no objectivity, only subjectivity.

    As to “vulnerability,” it seems well documented that DOrazio was perfectly comfortable condemning other people and accusing them of bad motives. That’s the behavior of a soldier, not a civilian, and nobody thinks it’s unfair to shoot back at a soldier.