That headline isn’t quite exact – the $20,000 is starter fund and a new campaign will be begun to raise more money, but basically SPX and the CBLDF had teamed up to aid 11 defendants – cartoonists and a publisher – who are being sued for defamation by alleged sexual assaulter/anti-Semite Cody Pickrodt. The costs of defending themselves against this suit will run into six figures easily, but this fund should at least give a start to the defense against what is seen by most observers as an attempt to silence those who speak out about abuse. The 11 defendants – including Whitley Taylor, Benn Passmore, Rob Clough, Tom Kaczynski and Uncivilized Books– are all SPX mainstays,.
The CBLDF had been under social media fire for not doing more for the 11 defendants, however a defamation case was broader than their First Amendment charter. I’m told that the CBLDF has been working on finding a way to get them aid since the suit was announced, and many questioned the long-standing relationship between the Fund and SPX if it could not be used to protect those in the community.
At any rate, while I expect the debate about the CBLDF’s current mission to go on, the most important thing is that a fund has been started. I hope folks will be generous to protect the free speech and rights of the most vulnerable members of our community.
Small Press Expo announced today that it will immediately make available $20,000 and also launch a legal aid fundraising vehicle to support members of the SPX community who are currently facing a defamation lawsuit. The fundraising vehicle, administered by SPX, and created in consultation with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, will be established for the purposes of defraying the cost of legal representation for the eleven members of the independent comics community named as defendants in the ongoing lawsuit.
SPX is seeding the immediately needed monies with a $10,000 donation. Additionally, SPX will forego its annual $10,000 donation it had planned to give to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for 2018, instead redirecting those resources–with the full encouragement of the CBLDF Board of Directors–to serve the legal defense of our community members in their moment of need. SPX has already made this initial $20,000 available to the defendants, to ensure their access to appropriate legal counsel as quickly as possible.
In the next few weeks, SPX will establish the ongoing legal aid fundraising vehicle for the public to help cover the costs of the defendants in this case. The CBLDF will continue to provide legal and fundraising consulting to the defendants in this case, as they have since becoming aware of the lawsuit.
The group of 11 defendants has put together a statement for this announcement:
“As artists, writers, art educators, comics critics, and small independent publishers, many of whom rely on freelance work to pay our bills, a lawsuit like this is going to put an enormous financial strain on all of us. Simply put, we can’t afford to fight this without help. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our community, and are especially grateful for the generosity of SPX to provide us with financial assistance. We also appreciate efforts by the CBLDF and other institutions and individuals who have provided additional fundraising support and legal advice.”
“For many years, SPX has quietly extended financial support to cartoonists in need, but there is no being quiet about this case,” said Warren Bernard, Executive Director of the Small Press Expo. “Our community must come together in support of its members who are facing unprecedented challenges—and to defend the kind of community we wish to be. From the very beginning, our two organizations agreed that we must do whatever we can to help.”
“We came together on a solution that makes the best use of the strengths of each of our organizations to support the members of our community in fighting this lawsuit. The SPX special fund will help by providing immediate cash, a structure for raising more money if required, and continuing access to experts that will help those in need,” said Christina Merkler, President, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
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.