The firing of Shelly Bond after more than 20 years of loyal service to DC has had an unintended consequence. Although referencing incidents utterly unrelated to Bond’s dismissal, it did stir outrage among those who detected a pattern of powerful women editors getting removed at DC while men who had severe HR problems stayed.
And so on twitter over night, and in a story at The Outhouse, a line was quickly drawn and facts emerged, naming DC Senior Editor Eddie Berganza as the much alluded to figure behind several incidents of sexual harassment.
Eddie Berganza continues to survive restructuring at DC (except restructuring that put him in all male quarantine) https://t.co/0zAMIsFNm1
— Nick Hanover (@Nick_Hanover) April 21, 2016
Earlier today, Rich Johnston wrote a well researched piece that laid out some of the behind the scenes on this. If you’re going to make any discussion of the Berganza matter, please go by this, as it is the most accurate description of the WonderCon incident–where Berganza harassed a woman in the middle of a crowded hotel bar – and its aftermath.
There are however, several other matters, including the one Asselin wrote about, which included a number of female DC staffers complaining about Berganza in 2010, with no action taken. At any rate, as Johnstons’s report made clear, after several incidents of problematic behavior, Berganza was considered a valued enough employee that he underwent therapy, and was demoted, while retaining his job.
There are a couple of other aspects of that that I’ve seen referenced over and over so I’d like to address them and what I know of them.
§ “The only reason Eddie Berganza is still employed at DC is because he has blackmail material on someone.” — Not true. Funny, but not true. I’ve pretty much debunked this. As someone pointed out to me, it’s pretty likely Shelly Bond had as much dirt on anyone at DC, so that alone is no reason to keep your job. DC keeps Eddie on board is because they value his talents as an editor. And they value his talents more than those of the women who have left becuase of his behavior. Pretty clear there.
§ “Women are not allowed to work in the Superman office.” — This is a bit harder to get to the bottom of. It’s true that the Superman office is all male, but so is the JLA office. This gets my Snopes yellow light for now but you are free to email me with more evidence either way.
UPDATE: As mind boggling as the above may sound, several sources with first hand knowledge of the matter confirmed that, if it wasn’t a hard and fast written out rule, there was, for quite a while, at least an informal policy in place that no female staff would be assigned to the Superman office, and no female freelancers would be hired. This latter part was disregarded, as several women have actually worked on the Superman line in recent years. I think I didn’t want to believe this because it is just so stupid. See below.
What investigating this rumor did point out to me, though is just how few women are now in positions of prominence at DC. Rebecca Taylor is an associate in the Batman office, and Marie Javins is a Senior Editor. (Bobbie Chase now works in a non-editorial capacity as vp Talent Development.) With Shelly gone, it’s back to mostly men in the key positions.
In the nearly 24 hours since this story broke, no one has said it isn’t true. I hear it’s been a rough day at DC dealing with the fall out, but there’s no point in even denying that the incident at WonderCon took place and was dealt with internally. Or that Asselin and others filed a complaint in 2010. But for everyone calling for DC to fire Berganza in light of these revelations…there are no revelations. This was all known. And already dealt with. You can’t fire someone for something that happened four years ago that was already dealt with.
What we need to address now and act on is the atmosphere that allows this. I wrote about this all previously here. As I said, I’m not sure if the “no women at Superman” thing is true, but let’s say it is. Now let’s reverse that. Say you have a female editor who isn’t allowed to work with men. Do you think that would last five hours? Five minutes? It isn’t even a credible scenario. The tolerance for harassment and inapporpriate behavior in DC’s corporate culture goes back a long way. While writing this, I was DMing with a woman who worked at DC around the time I did and she told me “I wore shorts under my skirts.” And then we laughed, because we had dealt with all this shit so long ago and just moved on. We really should have cried.
As I wrote in the above piece with regard to the Dark Horse situation, we’re a grown up industry now with adults in charge and HR departments. Dark Horse publicly acknowledged the problems they had and have tried to move on while doing better. DC’s having a rough day with this because they promoted someone with a known history of harassment. That was another ticking time bomb. Maybe DC should acknowledge some of the past mistakes and make a statement about what is and what isn’t tolerated there. That’s hard in a corporate world, but the problems of the past have a way of popping up in the present. Secrets don’t stay buried. If there’s really to be a rebirth at DC, all of the toxic sexism and tolerance of harassment that damaged real lives and real women needs to be acknowledged and a zero tolerance policy adapted. I know that won’t do much to help the women who were already damaged by this, but it’s a start.
There’s now a vocal contingent out there that’s calling for a boycott of the books edited by Berganza. Boycotts are maybe a little old-fashioned, but for people who believe in a comics indusry that’s moving forward, with inclusion for everyone, it’s another start. We can’t tolerate this as an industry ever again.
And there’s more to come but that’s it for now….developing.
Addendum: I have a lot of issues with Rich Johnston and Bleeding Cool, but they openly reported that Berganza had been guilty of a sexual harassment incident at WonderCon four years ago. This information has been available for a long time. It just needed the right match to light the powderkeg.