This is all playing out on the tweeter, but since I’ve been chronicling the comings and goings at comics media for a while now, this seems germane to archive. I’ve given screenshots rather than links most of the time, so you won’t have to give clicks to troubling sites.

On Wednesday, Bleeding Cool published an interview with noted white supremacist Vox Day, the man behind the “Sad Puppies” movement in SF circles. That Day’s beliefs are neo-Nazi is not in dispute, so much so that when it was shown that the current C•micsate crew was collaborating with him, some Cgate followers made a show of being perplexed and disturbed. 

Day is getting into comics publishing, so perhaps there was a thin thread of news here. The BC piece, bylined by Mark Seifert, included a lengthy, rambling intro and various annotations to Day’s answers that seemed to be fact checking him. It was a long, confusing shambling mess that rather than fact checking Day’s Holocaust denial beliefs, legitimized them by engaging.

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Now let me throw in right here that Day can be the subject of  legitimate journalistic inquiry as in this interview on Reveal. But this was not that.

Needless to say the outcry on comics twitter was immediate and harsh. So harsh that by the EOD yesterday, the interview had been removed and Bleeding Cool had been reorganized, with Kaitlyn Booth taking over as editor in chief and issuing an apology:

So what just happened here?

Some people seeing that Booth has assumed the EIC role meant that Rich Johnston had been fired, but Johnston has never held the EIC title at BC. Just who does what on Bleeding Cool is a shadowy affair. They have literally the worst “About” page I’ve ever seen.

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Doing a search reveals the text that was blacked out, and I can see why you’d want to hide it since upskirts are sexual misconduct.

Welcome to BleedingCool.com – the site written by Rich Johnston and friends, managed by Mark Seifert, and many columnists and friends for Avatar Press.

This site doesn’t just pull back the curtains of the comic book industry, but gives you a series of upskirt shots. But as well as news, rumours and gossip, there are reviews, previews, features, interviews, videos, columns and a place for comic book readers to call their own. Whatever your tastes from mini comics by Sean Appozardi to blockbuster events by Geoff Johns, from the Guardianista middle class commentary of Posy Simmonds to the righteous right hook of Chuck Dixon, from Rob Liefeld’s cankles to Robert Crumb’s thighs, from Frank Quitely’s OctoMumLips to Frank Cho’s shapely hips, you’re welcome here.

Seifert was listed as the site’s managing editor in his bio:

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Johnston is listed as head writer in his.

Seifert had recently been writing a series called “Marvel Declassified” that showed the same kind of rambling, conspiracy theory “secret knowledge” attitude as the Day intro. It reads like the work of someone from a 90s episode of X-Files who just got a 48 baud modem.

As the controversy raged, Johnston claimed that he had nothing to do with the interview and was helpless to do anything about it:

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This claim was contradicted by Day himself:

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I’ll leave you to sort out who is telling the truth here.

The reaction has been predictable: claims from Day’s dark internet followers that ideas are being suppressed, etc etc. More internet turmoil to distract and depress.

As a sidelight to all of this, Indiegogo has shut down Day’s current campaign to fund Alt-Hero: Q, a book about QAnon, yet another bizarre internet conspiracy theory. The book was to have been written by Chuck Dixon, and Day is saying they’ll set up their own crowdfunding portal to get it published.

I have neither the time nor fortitude to sort out these levels of internet paranoia and speculation, but I’ll add one thing: one of the reasons that decent comics folk continue to support BC with interviews and exclusives is because it is a direct conduit to comics retailers. For whatever reason, retailers take BC as gospel and it’s the only comics news site they give any credence. I was reminded of that the other day when the Beat broke a story about Batman #56 gold foil damages. The Beat has decent retailer contacts – including several contributors from the retail community  – and this was solidly sourced, but at least one commenter was having none of this:

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Well if it’s not on BC it can’t be true!

Of course, later on BC did cover the gold foil issue:

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Vindication!

While Johnston has yet to confront Day’s claims that he was involved in the interview, he still has tried to wiggle out of culpability:

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At the very least, Johnston seems to have very little idea how the internet works these days. Hopefully Booth will have a better grasp on that.

 

25 COMMENTS

  1. There will be an enormous backlash against the extreme left one of these days, and they will thoroughly deserve the consequences.

  2. Mark Seifert posted the interview in question. He’s Managing Editor of Bleeding Cool. He’s also the “Creative Director” of Avatar Press. Avatar Press owns Bleeding Cool.

    This whole thing is a mess, and it isn’t really obvious that the underlying causes of the mess have been addressed. Did BC have an Editor-in-Chief prior to this? Is Seifert still Managing Editor of BC? If so, can the EiC overrule the ME? How often can that happen if Seifert still works for Avatar Press and Avatar Press still owns BC? It isn’t clear to me how things at Bleeding Cool have actually changed as long as the relationships between Seifert, Avatar, and BC remain as tangled as they are.

  3. There’s a fair amount wrong with Bleeding Cool that has nothing to do with Vox Day.

    Disclosure: I’m anti-CG, a loony lefty liberal, and I’ve read Rich for twenty years.

    Bleeding Cool, as a site, is a stone-cold mess. There are six categories of articles, but the “pop culture” bit is mostly a half-assed attempt to talk about wrestling and is rarely updated. “Collectibles” is a nice look at action figures, but is mostly PR-driven and is hardly authoritative.

    It makes sense to widen the scope of BC past comics, but it seems the attempt isn’t backed with sufficient staff to make it worthwhile. BC is clearly a top site to go to for comics news, but TV? Movies? Hardly.

    And even in comics, while Rich is still the king of well-written comics gossip and dirty journalism, for better or for worse, there’s no really good writer outside of him. The site lately was flooded with a poor attempt to add reviews, none of which were compelling. There’s Jude Terror, who writes some lovely clickbait headlines but rarely has anything other than a press release to back it up.

    At its best, Bleeding Cool takes on the comics industry when it screws up. If Marvel or DC treats a creator or the direct market wrong, they go after it with vigor. Woe to any publisher that doesn’t pay its talent on time.

    But they’ve been rather quiet about Comicsgate and the continued harassment of any trans or woman creator in the industry by its devotees. They seem to be afraid to give oxygen to the CG “movement”. I can understand that, but then you can’t do a neutral profile of Vox Day to “balance” it out. (And the Vox Day article was an unreadable mess, pointing out how badly Bleeding Cool needs a real editor more than anything else.)

    And none of this even gets into the shaky tech running the site. I swear that the most-displayed article this year was the error page.

    I like Bleeding Cool at its best. I want it to succeed. But I’m hoping they take this time to assess what they want the site to be, and clean up the crud.

  4. If you really think BC will get any better with Kaitlyn prepare yourself for grief. She’s just a conveniently “woke” person to hide behind. I don’t know why anyone has a problem with anything BC does when you consider it’s funded by the comics world’s premier publisher of torture porn and porn/crotch shot comics. It’s interesting to see how many of the boy’s brigade (you know, the cool boys like Kieron Gillen and Alan Moore) have contributed to said torture porn, and how few of the woke want to hold them accountable for it. So don’t hold your breath. As Kaitlyn is comfortable ranting on BC about how awful M Night Shyamalan is while ignoring the fact Avatar pays her wages I wouldn’t be expecting great changes. Her first move was to disable comments on her “apology”. BTW for the record the Vox Day thing wasn’t that awful – the “rambling” is mostly Seifert’s annotation of Day’s lies, something I personally found entertaining. But then I don’t know how anyone takes the witless Day seriously about anything.

  5. Lionel said: “There will be an enormous backlash against the extreme left one of these days, and they will thoroughly deserve the consequences.”

    So if you oppose neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers, you’re on the “extreme left”? Give me a break. And go back to reading the Daily Stormer.

    Heidi said: “Now let me throw in right here that Day can be the subject of legitimate journalistic inquiry as in this interview on Reveal. But this was not that.”

    That Reveal episode was great, and everyone with a serious interest in comics should listen to it.

  6. Interesting article here about the declining quality of many comics sites. The writer blames it on the increasingly adversarial stance that the Big Two has taken towards its critics. They have used their major weapon — denying access — with the result that many thoughtful people have giving up on covering the medium. And Comicsgaters have rushed in to fill the void.

    https://medium.com/@DavidUzumeri/road-to-comicsgate-a-comics-industry-event-in-too-many-parts-31de57dd2c29

  7. Reorganization probably won’t make a difference if the site doesn’t add checks and balances, and accountability, to their system. Seifert’s or Booth’s formal role wouldn’t matter as much as their authority to edit each others’ work. Even there, that assumes the site would follow journalistic ethics rather than choosing to run a piece that would generate strong publicity.

    When I was running Comics Bulletin, I pretty much gave my editors free reign with the vast majority of work they published. But we agreed anything controversial had to go through a set of approvals before we published it. That meant we missed a few scoops, but also that we built a reputation of being ethical in our work.

    I’m not surprised Rich apparently didn’t see the article before it was published if he was out of the loop on many things posted to the site.

  8. You may want to double check your facts… Vox Day had nothing to do with the Sad Puppies, Vox started “Rabid Puppies”

  9. RJ has literally worked product placements into his articles before, such as cameras and the like. I think shock value for hits is likely his only agenda here as with anywhere else. But Seifert, as others pointed out, is not just a contributing writer or a post-Hannah, prolonged fill-in Ed in Cheese, but a long-time senior member of Avatar’s inner circle. AND, he is THE tech guy overseeing the admin side of BC. So it’s also annoying that while the site enjoyed the extra influx of error pages the last couple of weeks, we now know it was because he was otherwise busy with this. I say, the Avatar crew were comicsgate before comicsgate ever existed, comic series where Nazis won the war notwithstanding. The surplus of TnA and borderline Satanic vibes of the majority of their content are what supremacist comic fans tend to read (at least, those who can read). Especially here in the Bible Belt, where Avatar is housed.

    Also, I would just like to add that as the first and maybe only BC contributor to be banned from BC (some years back actually, after conducting their first indie interview and first group interview, among other bits), by turning on and trying to sabotage that mysterious good old boy infrastructure, that I can get away with saying that Heidi is reeeeally late to the party for seeing BC for what it is. Speaking of click-bait opportunists. The whole mentality that stuff (such as censoring) is bad only when the other guys do it is why Republicans and Democrats are indistinguishable today for anyone who reads beyond headlines. Comicsgate is a great reminder for how the only self-aware people in the biz are the hermits who got the hell out before it killed them. Like how nobody acknowledges the only reason the Hero Initiative exists is because Marvel and DC both have always only been run by goons. Comics journalism is every bit the oxymoronic doublespeak as is creative industry. BC exists in no vacuum.

  10. I completely agree with Ray Cornwall, BC was an absolute dumpster fire even before this happened. Did anyone actually read those Marvel Declassified articles? I did. They are poorly written, poorly researched, poorly thought out and were possibly a huge bowl of clickbait. But the comments section is where Mark Seifert really got to shine. His comments are the ramblings and ravings of someone who may not be “all there”. It was truly embarrassing and amateurish in the worst way. So, in short, this doesn’t surprise me one bit.

  11. Uzumeri nails it here:

    “When existing power structures denigrate and question the integrity of a free and fair press, it opens a hole for an unfair press to seep in. It happened with Fox News, Sun Media and InfoWars; it happened with Breitbart and The Rebel; it happened with GamerGate; and now it’s happening again, as the grand threat of access is used by publishers to make journalistic outlets jump and dance.

    “As access dried up, so did clicks, and as clicks dried up, so did money. As more and more of us decided that writing about comics professionally, especially in our spare time, simply wasn’t any fun anymore  —  because we sure as hell weren’t in it for the money  —  it opened a gigantic gap for all kinds of unprofessional ass-kissing fansites masquerading as journalism to become the new normal.”

  12. Bleeding Cool has always been awful. Does anyone remember when Michael Davis wrote that article physically threatening Abhay Khosla? Rich & Mark let it stay up.

    BC is a clickbait site and always has been. It’s a shame Jude Terror ended up there.

  13. Vox Day had nothing to do with the Sad Puppies, Vox started “Rabid Puppies” >>

    Day started up the Rabid Puppies, yes, but he was invited in to the Sad Puppies before that, and helped them build their slate. So while the article’s wrong to call him “the man behind” the Sads, it’s also wrong to say he had nothing to do with them.

  14. “There will be an enormous backlash against the extreme left one of these days,”

    Instead of conservative and racist tears, it will be a full-blown flood? Oh nos!

  15. Have to agree with everything that’s been stated in Heidi’s post and the comments regarding Seifert’s “Marvel Declassified” fiasco. Not only was it utterly embarrassing, it was preceded by days of hype that was unwarranted (to say the least). In the comments section of one of those Declassified postings, Johnston backed Seifert’s claim that he had discovered Ditko’s “original model for Peter Parker.” Johnston should know better, and I’ve interpreted this to mean that he is either unwilling or unable to discourage Seifert’s postings, possibly because Seifert is, in effect, his boss. Johnston’s statements about the Vox Day article don’t do anything to change my mind on that.

    As a content contributor, Seifert is definitely not an asset to Bleeding Cool. But as I pointed out above, the current relationships between Seifert, Avatar, and BC mean that he isn’t likely to be going away.

  16. “[Booth’s] first move was to disable comments on her “apology”.”
    I have to imagine that moderating comments on the apology article would have eventually turned into a bear. But, yeah, I agree that at a minimum it wasn’t a very good look.

    I admit that I am also curious as to how Booth and her similarly-minded colleagues feel about working for Avatar considering the content in some of their titles, especially the Boundless imprint.

  17. The only interview Theodore Beale ever needs to give is with the IRS under oath, helping them account for all the tax dollars his father embezzled.

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