How a toxic history of harassment has damaged the comics industry


[First go read this story by Janelle Asselin at Graphic Policy and then come back here.]

At the recently concluded Small Press Expo in Bethesda a very cool thing happened. A bunch of awards were presented to several talented, unique cartoonists who are turning out thought provoking, beautifully crafted work, influential work. The winners were all popular and well deserved. And they all happened to be women. It was a thing, for sure, and much talked about. What struck me, first off, was just how strong the work was–Sophie Goldstein’s multi leveled future history of a world where having a baby became a rebellious act, Emily Carroll’s mastery of horror and structure, Eleanor Davis’s powerful examination of self-sabotaging quests for self-esteem in many settings.

The other thing that struck me was the contrast with the other conversations I was having at the show. Talking with people I used to work with in the “mainstream” comics industry about the long lists of men who would never have given Goldstein, Carroll or Davis a shot at telling their stories. Because they are women, and those people didn’t think women could make good comics.

I’ve been around the comics industry a long time. When I started as a fanzine writer I was one of a mere handful of “women in comics.” And when I say handful, I mean…a handful. The women who had made it to any position of influence were clear examples of over achievers. To achieve anything in the comics industry of the direct sales era, a woman didn’t have to be twice as good as a man, a woman had to be five times as good. And you had to be questioned constantly and continuously as to why you belonged. The atmosphere was somewhere between Alien 3’s prison planet and an Alaskan fishing boat—but without as much testosterone. The men in comics of the time were outcasts from jock world, refugees from their own bullied childhoods to a world of hyper-masculine men in tights. Or as Will Eisner once put it, “As long as young boys doubt their masculinity, there will be a need for superheroes.”

Thrust into this insecure, niche culture, women who wanted to make comics were assailed not only by relentless questioning of their talent — the likes of which would reduce anyone to a neurotic mess — but endless sexual attention. Some of it was harmless, or flattering—most of the women in comics of those days dated or married guys in comics. But much of it was unwanted and inappropriate…or terrifying.

Take the most notorious example of this is the story of a woman we’ll call Christine Dobbs, a talented, driven artist who dreamed up her own SF epic and started drawing it while only a teenager. Such a precocious talent should be encouraged and nurtured. It’s hard to imagine that a lad with such ambitious career plans wouldn’t be welcomed into the man’s club (although maybe envied a bit) and pointed to as an example of vital new blood.

Unfortunately, Dobbs had the misfortune to be born female. Instead of her desire to make art and tell stories being accepted as a natural, wonderful thing, it was questioned, belittled (“draws like a girl!” “manga stuff”) and subjugated to her position as an attractive teen-aged girl trying to break into a man’s world. While still a teenager, Dobbs attempted to break into mainstream comics after winning an art contest. Somewhere along the way, Dobbs was left alone in a limousine with Julius Schwartz. Uncle Julie. The guy who invented fandom, who invented the Silver Age. A god among men to the teenagers who doubted their masculinity.

And also a man who was known to be incredibly “handsy” with any woman or girl who got near him. A man who regularly greeted me whenever I was near him with a bit wet kiss on the mouth no matter how much I squirmed away. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Dobbs told the story of what happened in that limousine once, without naming names, in a post now scrubbed from the internet, and to the Comics Journal in the past—a story they decided to run only after Schwartz was dead, which made it look opportunistic. It involved groping, which is sexual assault. And when she complained to the ADULTS who ran DC Comics, they decided to solve the problem by not giving her any work, the symbolic purdah that so many women were relegated to in those days.

So let’s back up for a moment. An older man in a position of respect and authority in the comic book industry is in a car with an aspiring and talented artist who happens to be a young woman. His first thought is not to support this talented young creator—or even to encourage that rarest of things, a woman who can draw comics, perhaps a bit of affirmative action to diversify what everyone agrees is a struggling medium.

His thought is that he can’t keep his hands off her.

This story was not a secret even in the days before the internet. Schwartz’s annoying-to-repulsive behavior with women was not a secret. It was joked about openly. And what was the punishment for his actions? Well, from his Wikipedia page:

He remained a “Goodwill Ambassador” for DC Comics and an Editor Emeritus up until his death. He was a popular guest at comics and science fiction conventions, often attending between ten and twelve conventions a year.

Suffice to say that if you were a women, Julius Schwartz took a hands on approach to goodwill.

I’m happy to say that Dobbs also survived this, drew several comics for me when I was an editor and has gone on to a busy successful career on her own creations and freelance work. She’s a survivor.

They say the internet lasts forever, but in the case of this incident it sure doesn’t. As I say, Dobbs did an interview about it years ago on a site called Buzzscope. Not even the Wayback machine still has it. But Johanna Draper Carlson, an ex DC employee wrote about it here in 2006:

[Christine] isn’t clear in the interview, but one of her attackers was fanboy icon Julie Schwartz. When that came out a couple of years ago, after his death, I saw her savagely attacked online for daring to besmirch his memory. He played his “kindly uncle who loves the ladies” persona for years if not decades, and few of the boys who grew up reading his comics wanted to hear about how devastating his inappropriate behavior could be to a teenage girl. The memory of someone few of them had ever met was more important than the truth of his harassment, and as she says, they assumed she was “asking for it” or lying about what happened.

and later she writes [emphasis mine.]

Women who complain are told they’re misunderstanding the situation or have no sense of humor or take things too seriously. It’s still a boys’ club. Telling doesn’t make things better. It should, because the superhero comics tell us that we are all supposed to try and do the right, heroic thing, and that makes the world better… but we’re talking about corporations who are only interested in protecting the entrenched. One of them responded to an official complaint of sexual harassment by trying to move the harasser into an office next door to the harassee. Idiots.

On the individual level, while it’s cute to see guys who seem to have rarely thought about this saying “it makes me so mad I want to punch something”, I’m waiting for the backlash as guys get tired of hearing about what women in comics face all the time. I give it another two weeks before the crowd wants to turn its attention elsewhere and start resenting the women who want their stories told and respected and acted on.

I don’t think we live in a more enlightened time now than 2006, but we certainly live in a LOUDER world, where more people can express themselves and make their opinions heard without gate keepers. Today’s Christine Dobbs don’t need to get into that limo and lie back and think about the Flash. They put their stuff on the internet and everyone can see it is good without people saying it is good for a girl, too much like manga, or badly drawn.

On the Mary Sue, the writer Marcy Cook wrote a piece called Harassment in the Comics Industry, and How to End It: An Investigation. I don’t think it’s a great piece of journalism but it is a passionate piece. And it lays out all kinds of recent instances of overt harassment in the comics industry.

Some of these incidents were things I talked about with my old co workers from DC Comics at SPX and at other recent gatherings. There are at least three editors who worked at DC comics while I was there who had complaints filed against them with HR. I know this because the people who filed the reports told me this directly. Over the years very few female staffers would be hired by DC editorial and the constant weirdness and inappropriate behavior drove most of them away, or led them to question themselves so much that their work suffered and they had to leave. Because women can’t handle drawing superhero comics, you know. I was told that by my supervisor when I worked at DC. Yep.


Now let me jump in here and say that I’m not a very sensitive person about this kind of thing. I find dumbass “Sexy talk” annoying, and when its more than that I remove myself from situations that make me uncomfortable. But that’s me. I’m not the litmus test for this. People shouldn’t be fired for making one dumb joke, but when it’s a pattern of abusive behavior that goes on and on and on, it’s clearly something that needs to be stopped.

So it is that I find some of the harassers more pitiful than anything else. I pity their victims more, but all of them are part of a system where an old man who gropes a teenager in a car is made an Ambassador of Comics without anyone questioning if this is a good idea. As one of my friends says, “It’s in the DNA.” DC and Marvel go back to the pulps, an industry of backroom pornographers who were little more than lowlife cheats and grifters themselves. It was no more sensitive to individual dignity than that fishing boat. Aside from a few places like individual art shops, that attitude has been passed down through the ages. It chewed up and spit out lots of men and women.

But mostly women.

So, you know, this is not a made up thing. In a world where superheroes of the ’70s and ’80 are still being relaunched every month, and comics events that happened in the 90s are still discussed as if they happened yesterday, the same backwards attitudes and boys club mentality still lingers. There’s been a lot of talk about how whistleblowers are afraid to come forward for fear of being blacklisted. But an even greater crime is that when employees did the right thing and complained to Human Resources about obvious and shocking breaches, those complaints were swept under the rug. The harassers were reprimanded, some were demoted, but the unspoken rules remained. The victims were the problem, the ones who needed to be removed.

I’m sympathetic to the confusion of awkward, socially inept men who don’t know how to behave around women. But when that behavior is tolerated, forgiven and seen as the natural way of things you create a toxic, close-minded environment that doesn’t allow new ideas and destroys real people. You have the “mainstream” comics industry of the last 40 years.

I’m far more sympathetic to the confusion of women who have a dream and talent and see those dreams dismissed and talent mocked and wonder if they should even try. So many just gave up.

Comics are far from the only industry where women are harassed and demeaned. It’s kind of universal, unfortunately. But as I’ve said many times in the past few months, comics have been damaged far more by the boys club mentality. Women watch movies, watch TV, buy records and use the internet. But for a long, long time it was decided that the entire comics medium itself was off limit to women, even as readers. It’s not too hard to see why an industry run by men who had no idea how to interact with women, as colleagues. would have a hard time creating material that appealed to women. But suddenly…internet! Once the gatekeepers who said women couldn’t read this stuff were removed, it turned out this was a universal art form after all, and ANYONE could make comics and ANYONE could read those comics.

We’re about to see names named. The veil is being lifted. And it’s going to cause a lot of pain and humiliation. But that is the price you pay when you condone harassment and say it’s the natural way of things, or when you look the other way when people who should not be allowed to be public ambassadors of comics are promoted into positions which they are not emotionally equipped to deal with.

We talk a lot about how comics are big time now, the Walking Dead, Guardians of the Galaxy, bestsellers, National Book Award. We’re everywhere. And when you hit the big time you have to act like a grown up. You have to have a human resources department that does its job, you have to hire people who are diverse and who don’t harass their employees and freelancers. No matter how much they know about continuity. Opening the closets and sweeping out the stables is a painful part of this process. Luckily, several other comics cultures have sprung up in—indie comics, mainstream publishing, webcomics—which, while not immune to the frailties of human nature, don’t have a toxic boys club spiraling through their DNA. I was lunching with some colleagues who are in the book publishing world recently and asked if they had ever been in a meeting where it was stated that women couldn’t read or make books. The very suggestion was ludicrous.

Writer and former DC employee Valerie D’Orazio has been putting up a series of very personal and painful posts recently about the harassment she has received. I would urge you to roll through her recent posts to see them, but here’s one that deals specifically with the fallout from her Punisher story and the online harassment she got from Chris Sims:

Marvel pushed me to write the most painfully honest, lurid, personal comic possible, delivering it to a demographic—egged on by people like Sims—who would absolutely hate it the most. And when they received advance word that most of the mainstream comics press would savage the book, I was called by my editor Axel Alonso early on a Wednesday morning to give me a curt “just letting you know, people really hate this book; try to hang in there, kid” speech.

I realize now that I was really just a pawn used by Alonso and Marvel Comics to “stick it” to DC Comics—to rub it in their face. The fact that they were playing with extremely delicate situations and emotions did not matter to a bunch of big boys who thought they were still in high-school.

There in a few words, is the exegesis of the culture of doubt all female creators in the superhero industry got until very recently. If Punisher MAX: Butterfly had been written by Harry D’Orazio it would not have received the online derision it got. In her self published “Goodbye to Comics,” D’Orazio retells a lot of the incidents I’ve spoken about, although with pseudonyms (most you wouldn’t have to have worked at DC to figure out.) Her career in comics started in the mid 90s and goes through most of the stages I’ve spoken about: harassment, mockery and a consistent, openly expressed doubt about her ability to be in the industry. This kind of constant emotional abuse—something that nearly every woman in superhero comics had to deal with on some level until the last few years—would leave anyone shaken or at least require the combined self confidence of ARod and Donald Trump to overcome.

The last few years seem to have, on the surface anyway, exploded the notion that women don’t belong in comics. I hope Annie Wu and Babs Tarr and Marguerite Bennett and Amy Chu and Jody Houser and the rest of today’s emerging creators never have to get in that limo. As an industry, at every level, we need to make sure that limo never appears again. We’re all grown ups now; time to act like it.

And so…to Scott Allie and Joe Harris. Like many many people, I witnessed Allie’s blackout drinking episodes at conventions. They were embarrassing for him, and as I come from a family where there’s alcoholism, I knew he needed help. I don’t know Scott very well, and I hope he’s gotten the support he needs and can move on. I do know Joe Harris. He’s a friend of mine and a good man, and one thing I can tell you is that neither he nor any other freelancer needs the editor in chief of a top five comics company coming up at a major comics event grabbing his or her junk in front of everyone. I know Scott is a fine editor and many speak highly of him. I also know that someone with a history of blackout drunk episodes of harassment should not be made editor in chief. That is a social position, a leadership position and it needs someone who can handle that part of the job. Allie is no longer EIC so maybe things are being righted.

Joe Harris going public with this incident is powerful because we know he wasn’t “wearing a short skirt” or “asking for it.” He was just doing what is part of a freelancers job description: socializing with other industry professionals in a relaxed setting. It’s ironic that this incident, of all of them, didn’t even involve a female employee. But it does show that comics companies don’t take this stuff seriously. I did not know of the history of problematic behavior that Janelle reported on. But if even half of it is true, then this man should, for the good of himself, Dark Horse and the comics business, have never been put into a leadership position in this industry.

NOTE: I have struck out one sentence that I meant to revise before this was published. I do know that this particularly incident was taken seriously by Dark Horse in that Scott Allie is no longer Editor in Chief, so saying that it was never taken seriously wasn’t entirely fair. However, its the entire environment of comics that needs to be examined not just one person’s or company’s actions.

I am sorry that so many people have been hurt by this. But this toxic ticking time bomb was set to go off. Janelle’s piece has many sound ideas about HR and what should be done legally and ethically. And morally, if you believe in such things.

This is a wake up call for everyone to realize that the degradation of dignity and integrity that started with the sleazy pulp origins of comics is no more.

Never again.


  1. says

    I am so glad I moved on to the mostly female world of romance publishing after my disillusioning stints at Marvel and DC Comics in the 1970s and early 1980s. I fended off or ignored a fair amount of inappropriate behavior during those years, but nothing I’d call scary harassment, thank god. Others were not so fortunate, it turns out, and I’m very sorry to hear that. At the time, I saw how useless it was to campaign against sexism on staff or in the comics. No one was listening. The creative assignments automatically went to the guys, and I was considered a pill if I objected to female objectification in the comics themselves.
    I have my own sad Julius Schwartz story, which I told years ago online and which wasn’t at all salacious–just heartbreaking to a kid who had every reason to believe that he would be my professional mentor. Instead, he told me to go home and get married, to forget about working the comics business. Turns out I was lucky, huh? Incidentally, I never heard anything whispered about Julie while his wife was alive. Nothing. Then again, people were very tight-lipped at DC over the harassment that female employees actually did endure. I got zero support when a man kept making extremely objectionable remarks to me–even in front of my boss. My boss just ignored it. Right. As if that makes it go away. I felt very sorry for the women who had to work for the slime, but the supposedly female-led culture at DC Comics at the time was to ignore the brutal reality of the entrenched sexism that allowed such harassment. The irony was that I often passed big name women’s liberation activists in the halls.
    It’s sad to hear that the rotten traditions of the comics business continue today.

  2. Green says

    what about the actual editor tom danza on Dc comics? i think he is the same from valerie dorazio case. care to confirm?

  3. Bobby Steels says

    My experiences with D’Orazio have proved her to be the sort of person who yells about how you’re a misogynist id you simply disagree with her. Granted, she’s probably extremely traumatized by past interactions with men.

  4. Bobby Steels says

    Punisher MAX: Butterfly was a pretty terrible Punisher comic. D’Orazio’s editors really failed her on that one. With a more focused rewrite, it could have been amazing.

    Bad Punisher comics seem to be torn apart on-line. Does anyone else remember the way people went after Ron Zimmerman for his terrible Punisher comic? That got very, very personal very quickly.

  5. says

    You should note in the piece that Chris Sims writes for ComicsAlliance and that his editorial comics work at Marvel has been promoted from mini-series to full monthly. I was surprised that Sims, after his written apology appeared on ComicsAlliance, has remained in the site’s employ.

  6. Steve Flack says

    I remember an incident a few years ago where an artist spoke up about physical harassment from the head of the prominent comic book organization. It was investigated, and he still has the position is freely welcomed in comics.

    I do not understand why Chris Sims is not afforded the same luxury.

  7. says

    It’s unfortunate that it takes a report from a male victim of sexual harassment to get many people to take the complaint seriously.

    At least I hope it has that effect.

  8. Steve Flack says

    I think the bigger problem is that only a man feels safe enough to say something, not that we only listen to them.

  9. Evan says

    I’m curious as to why we’re now name changing the victim. The minute I started reading the story, I knew who this was, I distinctly remember the story coming up when Schwartz had just passed, and while even she agreed it was in bad taste to have it come out right after he had passed, she saw no reason to not deny the validity.

    So why, well over a decade after it actually happened, and again, we know who it is, are we acting like it just happened and her name is being protected. Do we still think years later, when her name is as strong, recognized, and respected as it is, she still has to worry about reprisals? She’s bigger than needing to worry about reprisals.

    And the story really has been scrubbed from the internet! Sheesh, I can’t find anything much myself either. That’s ridiculous.

  10. Evan says

    Steve, in that person’s case, the person apologized was extremely sorry they did it, and both parties agreed to move on. And as far as anyone’s aware, that’s the ONLY time anything like that has ever happened with him.

    As much as you see everyone keep this stuff close to the vest, there’s also just as much difference between a repeat offender and a one time individual. Especially if they actually did learn from it. (Though again, and even I’m doing it, I clearly know what case you’re talking about and yet no names are being mentioned even though again, it was a big story when it first happened and everyone was talking about it.)

    That’s the real problem. Everyone keeps wanting to put the genie back into the bottle even after its been opened and everyone knows. Once opened, let those names continue to go out. The historical record needs to stay intact. Otherwise our whole history is going to be “This happened by people we refuse to name therefore we really can’t prove it”.

  11. tom says

    The comic book industry suffers from a larger problem which is the lack of professionalism across the board. This is due to the fact that many “pros”, staff and freelance alike have never held an actual job outside of comics or in a professional office environment. Grown adults who largely behave like middle-schoolers create this kind of absurd and abusive culture, because they’ve never learned how to conduct themselves professionally.

    These stores just defy logic and i’m absolutely amazed that a comics publisher hasn’t been put out of business with a series of HR/harassment based lawsuits.

  12. Evan says

    Tom, the real crazy thing is if that ever actually happens, its gonna be Archie Comics since they’re the one with an actual lawsuit currently going.

  13. Gianluca Glazer says

    Sexual harassment is wrong, no matter who the gender is. I wonder why Scott Allie’s groping of a man turns this into a battle of the sexes. There is a problem in comics and it affects both genders. There are people, both men and women, who get blackballed for speaking out or are pressured to keep quiet and let bad behavior run rampant. Yes, there are not enough women or multicultural races in positions of power, but it’s the abuse of power, code of silence and the repercussions that is creating the problems in comics. And that power can be abused by women too, as in the case of Archie Comics.

    The article and cartoons included seems to skip over this overall problem and just makes about women being the sole victims here. D’Orazio, who actually did write a poor Punisher book and was just as bad with harassing others. A better example would be Charles Brownstein, who had to be pried off a young lady at a hotel hot tub. Just like Allie, he gave out an apology, kept his position and the rest of the world moved on to the next scandal.

  14. says

    To those who wonder why I changed the name of the victim in the Julius Schwartz story it’s because the issue is not “Oh! So BIG NAME WOMAN was sexually assaulted!” The issue is Julius Schwartz as a serial harasser whose behavior was condoned and covered up by the comics industry, I am well aware that the names are easily revealed, but the identity of the victim is not the point of this article .

  15. Jeff Trexler says

    I think there’s a fair bit of mileage to go before too much attention is paid to the harassment of women relative to men, though yes, the silencing of whistleblowers can be depressingly non-discriminatory.

    And from my perspective at least, the seemingly obligatory negging of Valerie’s Punisher book is not constructive — it’s interesting that folks seem to think it’s relevant to the main issue at hand. De gustibus and all that, but I happened to think it was rather smart and daring.

  16. Scott Rowland says

    That makes sense, Heidi. Thank you for explaining the name change in the Julius Schwartz story. Thank you for writing this essay too. I am saddened that these things happen and as much as I would prefer not to think about them happening, the ONLY way to do that is to shine the light on them so people say this behavior is unacceptable and the incidents STOP.

    The quality of a particular comic is not relevant, and never excuses harassment, any more than clothing does. Valerie D’Orazio did not deserve the treatment she got. Full Stop.

    I don’t know if any of the apologies offered are sincere. I hope they are, and I hope people are getting help for the issues that they have. But I will need to think twice before putting money in the pocket of someone who harrasses or who enables harassers.

  17. Ray Cornwall says

    I’ve disagreed with Val in the past online. She’s never called me a misogynist. So thumbs down to you, Bobby.

    Big time kudos to Joe Harris for coming forward.

    And Heidi, this was an awesome piece.

  18. Mike Pasqua says

    During my time as Vice President of Comic Con, the behavior of Julius Schwartz (or, misbehavior might be a better term) was an open secret among the female members of the Con committee. He would offer a Superman pin and, then, personally pin it on the women (I won’t go farther but you can draw your own conclusions). Needless to say, many of us were on “Julius Watch” when he was near female members of the committee. Thanks, Heidi-this brought back some not-so-pleasant memories of Comic Con in the early days….and, the behavior seems to have gotten worse ( I recall having to have a “discussion” with a few aggressive attendees about what was NOT allowed).

  19. says

    1.) I don’t understand how Chris Sims and Valerie D’Orazio, two comics bloggers who have written about comics in the fan press and scripted comics for various publishers on-and-off on a freelance basis, squabbling with one another online five years ago has anything to do with publishers/editors harassing and/or sexually assaulting female creators. None of their public interactions ever had anything to do with gender or sex, and amounted to two people arguing over one another’s opinions and the quality of their writing.

    2.) I don’t know who the name of the victim of the alleged Schwartz incident was. I think it is important.

    3.) Heidi, regarding your reply to the replies, Schwartz WAS a serial harasser (I hear…? From you…?), not IS.

    4.) Let’s leave Tubby out of this, huh?

  20. says

    This is a fantastic piece.

    In my experience, HR departments have different levels of strength in different organizations. It all depends on who’s running things up top and how they think the HR Department should be used. Some management teams listen to them and follow through to be professional and protect themselves and their employees. Some instead do what they want and use the HR Department to find a way to justify it and cover their ass. It appears the comic industry has more of the latter. Also in my experience the focus of the department tends to shift to the latter in times of recession. Having the position of hiring people when lots of people desperate for work makes some people more nonchalant with how they operate in their position. This doesn’t excuse the bad behaviour though.

  21. says

    Caleb – Perhaps you should go read up more on the Sims/Dorazio case before posting? Because I think there several essays as well statements from the two people involved that might change your mind.

    The name of the victim of Julius Schwartz isn’t important for the reason’s that Heidi said. I wonder if knowing is the difference between being a woman who is associated/fan in the comics industry vs. a man. I heard the story of “Christine” as soon as I hit the comics world in forums. And anyone with any decent Google Fu can probably realize who it is.

    Part of the problem in the industry is illustrated by what you did in both cases brought here. You chose to diminish the situation with Sims and put the onus on the victim. This is the challenge people who are harassed (as it clearly isn’t a woman only thing but it is more often than not a woman).

    Harassment is a horrible situation and it doesn’t have to mean boob gropes and wet kisses. It is demeaning and for the most part the victim is left deciding whether to say something or lose their job and be blackballed. I went through it (not in comics) and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

    As far as Dark Horse this is once again one of the open secrets of comics. Glad to see that someone has finally had the guts to name names.

  22. says


    I read the posts you mentioned regarding Sims/D’Orazio, but I didn’t need to, nor do you or Heidi need to rely on them. I’ve also read Sims/D’Orazio’s public exchanges when they were happening, and, in many cases, they are still online. They are not at all equivalent to the other situations.

    Regarding those essays and posts, you have what D’Orazio said that she and Sims and fans of Sims said, and you have Sims’ apologies, acceptance of blame and asking people not to defend him because what he did was wrong (which I guess means I should probably shut up about this). It bothers me that it gets mentioned in the same breath as the more heinous stuff here, though. If Sims was part of a problem, it’s not the same problem t hat this post seems to be about.

    There are degrees of toxicity, and “being a jerk to your fellow human being in a comments section” is not the same as sexually harassing or physically assaulting someone. Again, Sims was just being a jerk; not a sexist jerk or a misogynistic jerk. Ideally, we’ll get to a place where men and women can bust one another’s chops without the world’s gender politics automatically making it sinister.

    As far as the Schwartz incident, I did google it…and found a post in which Sims discussed it in the comments thread of a blog from long, long ago, ironically enough. I think granting victims names is important, because otherwise, that particular person is just, to those reading this story, an example of harassment, and no one should be defined by a single thing that happened to them.

    I guess I should shut up and go away now though. I keep resolving not to post in comments threads, as no good ever come of it, but it’s really hard to watch these stories get conflated like this. And, of course, to see Tubby’s name besmirched.

  23. says

    @Tom — I agree with you on this point so much that I wish it was its own think piece. It’s a root cause of so many problems in the industry, and not just harassment (though that’s the worst one). People in positions of authority in comics routinely demean the people they work with through harassment, abusive control tactics, and distressing compensation battles. It’s a hard problem to fix, too, because every time we lose someone with solid wide-ranging experience and job skills they’re immediately replaced from a huge pool of people who came up through fandom and are willing to shoulder all of this for the chance to work in an office with a Namor-themed conference room.

    I would just say to anyone who’s reading this and thinking, “That’s me, but what do I do?” that there are plenty of fantastic companies to work for in this industry aside from the ones that may immediately come to mind. These are places where you can work in comics while feeling personally fulfilled, creatively inspired, respected and valued, and heck, even happy to join your boss for a happy hour every now and then.

  24. Jeff Trexler says

    “no one should be defined by a single thing that happened to them” – that’s often what happens when someone is named as a victim of harassment – they become defined by it. Social stigma is a big reason for minimizing references to the victim’s name, lest the person be seen through a perceptual frame in which they had and still have no agency.

  25. Lucia says

    Thank you for a well written, comprehensive and searingly honest piece about what has happened, is happening and will in all likelihood continue to happen in this industry should the noise generated return, yet again, to background grumbling. Grumbling, I’d venture to say, on the part of those who SHOULD be speaking out. No, not the victims (only), but the bystanders and more importantly, the powerhouses who can actually affect change.

    The point Christine made about giving this two weeks until things settle back to the way they were was frankly heartbreaking. And infuriating.

    Creators can make all the noise they want about being “there” for those victimised, and wax poetic about how this is unacceptable and how they will “be there” to protect and stand up for those who are getting the shit end of this crap stick but from here on out, their words ring out as the hollow sounds they are without real strength. That being actual testimony, actual evidence to shore up the stories that have been “tut tutted” to with cowardly sympathy and faux moral outrage.

    I mean all of them.

  26. says

    What happens when you like the perp?
    What happens when you don’t like the victim?

    Neither of these things changes the definition of harassment.

    BTW, online harassment is harassment and has taken lives. This idea that the Internet doesn’t matter is silly.

  27. Steve Flack says

    “What happens when you like the perp?
    What happens when you don’t like the victim?

    Neither of these things changes the definition of harassment.”

    Then why is Brownstein still the head of the CBLDF?

  28. Tim says

    Thanks for this piece Heidi. I too know who this victim associated with the Schwartz incident was.

    Re: Scott Allie…alcohol abuse is a human problem. I’ve been groped by women in bars before. Granted, one must concede this is typically an outlier (usually men are doing the groping). Regardless, nobody should be bit, licked, kissed, hugged, touched if they don’t want to be.

    Having just read [Christopher] james Priest’s KLANG! one can only hope these incidents and behavior in the industry can someday be spoken of in the past tense. One of the biggest steps in this evolution is when/if people come forward. Kudos to all those courageous folks who are willing to step forward in the face of being exiled/ostracized.

    As someone who hasn’t even gotten as much of a chance as D’Orazio (is it sad to admit that I’d take the chance to work in the industry even if I was constantly bombarded with rhetoric that I don’t belong?), one can only hope the fraternity of comics is broken up someday so new voices can gain traction.

  29. Bobby Steels says

    Wait…are we all pretending like D’Orazio doesn’t accuse men who disagree with her of being misogynistic? Because she totally does. She is a very difficult person to speak to because she accuses all men of being awful if they don’t agree with her every word or fawn over her when she claims she was almost a Rhodes Scholar.

    She’s had horrible, horrible excuses with men and I’m sure that makes her quick on the draw. I try to remember that whenever she comes up.

    Also, Punisher: Butterfly was an awful, awful comic. It read like a good first draft that needed refinement.

    Putting your heads in the sand about D’Orazio won’t help matters.

  30. George says

    Heidi MacDonald said: “But as I’ve said many times in the past few months, comics have been damaged far more by the boys club mentality. Women watch movies, watch TV, buy records and use the internet. But for a long, long time it was decided that the entire comics medium itself was off limit to women, even as readers.”

    Women and girls made up a large part of the readership in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Most of them went away — along with the little kids and casual readers — when comics stopped being a mass medium in the ’80s. The industry focused on the readers it still had: superhero-obsessed fanboy collectors. (I’m talking mainly about Marvel, DC and Image, not indie publishers.)

    In the last few years, the Big Two seem to have woken to the fact that half (if not more) of the world’s population is female, and ignoring them in favor of teenage boys and young men is insane. And from a business standpoint, it’s suicidal. (To be fair, the movie industry has the same problem.) From the late ’90s on, I was amazed that Marvel and DC did nothing to lure the audience that watched “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and read female-dominated YA novels.

    Maybe that is starting to change. And about time.

  31. George says

    Heidi said: “The men in comics of the time were outcasts from jock world, refugees from their own bullied childhoods to a world of hyper-masculine men in tights. Or as Will Eisner once put it, “As long as young boys doubt their masculinity, there will be a need for superheroes.” ”

    The really sad ones are the middle-aged men who are still addicted to superhero pamphlets, and have never expanded their horizons. There are websites that cater to this audience, and the websites are also pathetic.

  32. yagrews says

    and dragging a legends name thru the mud while you hide your own iden titties is punk and censorship and smacks of pathetic muck slinging while you hide behide your shield…you should bless the lord that great man even gave you the time of day..guartentee you are fat and ugly now

  33. George says

    “DC and Marvel go back to the pulps, an industry of backroom pornographers who were little more than lowlife cheats and grifters themselves.”

    Yep. DC’s first publisher, Harry Donenfeld, actually began his career in pornography. According to Gerard Jones’ book, “Men of Tomorrow,” Donenfeld routinely grabbed the breasts of any female DC employee who crossed his path.

  34. The Anonymous Scholar says

    Hey, does anyone remember that time someone tried to draw attention to the Julius Schwartz thing and how only women were willing to pay attention to it and so Brian Cronin responded with:

    “Is this, like, some sort of weird performance piece?
    That certainly would make as much sense as your reply.
    Then again, so would “fjajdjfc vjwjdjf vjwhskjahsdq didjd djds.””

    and the commenter felt bad enough to almost apologize for her (I mean… his or her) being outraged at the issue?

  35. says

    Yagrew: What are iden titties? I have never been to a strip club and don’t know.

    I think it’s time to close this thread. People who have relevant information to share can email me. comicsbeat at gmail.