UPDATED: As Horrocks corrected in the comments, cultural appropriation was not a charge she made against Berliac. Looking at the record (which is not easy to follow) I’m not sure where this charge came from.
In a now-removed post, D&Q announced that the would be publishing Sadbøi by Berliac later this year, praising it as a challenging text on immigration. Berliac is an Argentinian artist now living in Europe, whose had work published on Vice and other indie comics outlets.
Soon after the announcement, it came to light that Berliac had made transphobic and transmisogynist statements in the past during an argument with trans writer Sarah Horrocks. The incident took place two years ago when Berliac published a piece called “Gay-jin” and compared drawing manga to transitioning. When Horrocks pointed out the transphobic (and frankly kinda nitwit) elements of the piece
(as well as the cultural appropriation of drawing in a heavily manga influenced style), evidently unaware that she was trans, he responded in the rude, bullying fashion that all of us not-men on the internet are familiar with. You can read it all here.
As contemporary outcry grew ver D&Q publishing the book, Berliac attempted to backtrack, but promptly took the spade handed him and dug his grave even deeper with this exchange with Horrocks:
While he had some support from friends, Berliac’s reaction to being called on his past behavior showed he had learned no lessons. “I’m sorry I was awful to you, but I thought you were a cis woman, not trans” is not a defense. A bit too late, Berliac did realize that more douchiness was not the right response.
i encourage my readers not to engage in violent discourse aimed at @DandQ regardless of your opinion about their editorial decisions
— Berliac (@Berliac) June 2, 2017
In a statement titled “An Apology” D&Q yesterday announced that they would no longer be publishing Sadbøi and apologized for picking it up in the first place.
This past spring, our editorial department accepted a submission from the cartoonist Berliac. The graphic novel was Sadbøi, which was seen as a statement on the treatment of immigrants—the challenge of being expected to conform to a society’s ideals in a world that prematurely condemns outsiders.
We neglected to research the author beyond the submitted book, which we now realize to be a disservice to both the public and the author. We were not familiar with Berliac’s body of work, both written and drawn, including a previously published essay comparing cultural appropriation and transgender people and the consequent public discussion about it in 2015. We do not agree with the essay, its defense, nor the tone and aggression he displayed in this and subsequent debates.
In the past 48 hours, we have received tweets and emails, and read posts telling us we are wrong to publish this book. Not everyone discussing Berliac and his work had the same opinions, but each of them made us reflect, and conduct the research we should have conducted when considering the submission. We asked ourselves if we would have acquired this book knowing what we know now, and we would not have. An author deserves the full support of their publisher. We can no longer provide that full support. Therefore, we have decided that D+Q will not be publishing Sadbøi.
We do not expect everyone to like or agree with everything we publish—this is an important part of a vibrant publishing landscape—but we are revising our acquisition practices so that we can ensure we better support our public, our authors, and our staff going forward.
We apologize for not doing our due diligence and for our mistakes. We are sorry. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to us: we value your input.
While there were predictable outcries of “censorship” this is not that at all. It is D&Q’s right to publish who they want and to work with authors who fit within their publishing model. Berliac’s inappropriate and transphobic statements showed that he was not the kind of author they wanted to work with and that’s that.
I’m sure there are some people quivering in fear now over their past statements being brought up when they get a publishing deal, but I have good news. There are a few simple things you can do to avoid this:
Don’t be a racist!
Don’t be a misogynist!
Don’t be transphobic!
Don’t be an abusive jerk!
Follow these rules and I’m sure you will be fine.
It’s also worth pointing out that white men who have made statements 10 times worse than Berliac’s are still running movie studios, music labels and even a country or two. Far from being THE WORST at minding their own shop, at least comics can occasionally make the correct decision.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.