Content warning: strong language and sexual situations
Artist David Choe should just change his name to Controversial David Choe because that word seems to follow wherever he goes – by design. Choe is currently a star of the Netflix series Beef, which stars Stephen Yuen and Ali Wong as two people in a heated feud. Choe plays Yuen’s ne’er-do-well cousin in the series, which debuted earlier this month to strong reviews.
However, a 2014 podcast in which Choe told a horrible story about committing sexual assault on a masseuse has reemerged, leading to all kinds of controversy. Although he originally called it “rapey behavior,” Choe later said he was lying about the incident. The podcast was resurrected on Twitter, leading to wide backlash against Choe and Beef over the weekend. Choe has since fanned the flames by filing takedown notices on Tweeters who posted excerpts of the original podcast ( which was called DVDASA which stands for “Double Vag, Double Anal, Sensitive Artist,” in case you’re wondering.)
All of this comes as no surprise to anyone following Choe’s career – he’s been a professional bad boy for a long time. But that career actually started way back in in the indie comics world of the aughts, when Choe was just getting known as a graffiti artist. In 2000 Choe won a Xeric Grant for his graphic novel Slow Jams – the Xeric Foundation being a longstanding program to provide funds to print comics from notable up and comers. Just getting one was a very prestigious kickstart for a book, and the winners are an impressive list.
Choe’s comic connections don’t end there but soon took a bizarre turn, although the story takes place on many long ago websites now only found on the Wayback Machine. Choe’s art caught the eye of then hot comics writer Brian Wood, and the two started working on a book called NYX for Marvel’s then new MAX line – comics with a more experimental take on traditional superheroes, along the lines of Vertigo. NYX was to have starred a bunch of young mutants – including Jubilee, Gambit and Rogue – living their grungy lives in New York City.
The project was revealed in an interview with Choe at Pop Image, and if this didn’t tip you off that the then 24-year-old Choe was going to be a handful, all the warning signs were there:
Brian Wood has been pushing your work like crack on a playground. Does he owe you money?
He has a few more payments to make till the end of the year. I already got the deed on his house, and I’m actually calling you from the car phone in his car. Listen If you have a chance to talk to him tell him to get his sh*t together, his family and friends are really worried about him, or at least keep the windows closed if he’s gonna continue with that kind of behavior.
If you couldn’t tell from Slow Jams, I’m a stalker and I hang outside your window at night with my zoom lens from Brookstone. Sometime last year I happened to get some very compromising flicks of Mr. Wood in Some very compromising positions with three of the Harlem Globetrotters. I’ve been blackmailing him since then, old school. A few more payments and He’ll get the negatives. But in the meantime I got a show in Orlando, of glossy 11 x 17’s of Mr. Wood, and they’re selling quite well.
Of the series he said:
The X-Men New York Stories. It’s gonna be out in August under Marvel Comics new Mature Line. Wood’s writing, I’m rocking the covers, and my boys from 38th street and the Crabshack Project will be taking care of the guts with my help. It’s taking place in New York, and Rogue, Gambit, and Jubilee are the key players, that’s all you get for now.
A few pieces of concept art for the series have been floating around on the internet, and we present them here for your perusal:
Wood – who would later run into his own issues with sexual harassment – soon took to his long ago Delphi forum to announce that the book wasn’t happening. Although that forum is off line, Wood’s comments were recorded here, as was Quesada’s explanation of why the book wasn’t happening which he posted on the Marvel forums:
“As we started to look for concepts for the adult line we revisited NYX not sure if we should try to incorporate it in the adult line, the regular Marvel U or back into Ultimates. We sat with Brian for an hour or so and came to the conclusion to make it a mature title. We asked Brian to give us a treatment and we asked David to do concept sketches. This happens all the time when your proposing a project. That leads me to the answer some of you are asking for.“NYX was not canceled, it wasn’t even a book yet, it was a proposal! An idea that we were digging into! We have hundreds of proposals that come down the line and near hundreds that get rejected. Brian gave us a treatment and we passed, it happens all the time. I’ve got unused proposals on my desk from some of the best creators in the industry sitting on my desk, it’s part of the biz.“So now we have fans hating books before they’ve read the actual stories and at the same time hating us for canceling stories they’ve never read. You can’t win in this biz, folks!“There was nothing in NYX subject matter wise that we objected to, as a matter of fact you’ll see much harsher and direct stuff in the new imprint. Truth be told, you will probably see the NYX concept come to pass somewhere down the road, just not at this juncture.”
Wood and Quesada went into a back and forth over who did what and when, but what happened next would make this version of NYX one of the most notorious never-was books of the aughts.
While Wood was merely pissy about the status of the project, Choe went full HAM and sent an open letter to prominent folks in the comics industry. The letter has been preserved here and it’s quite a read – full of offensive language so be forewarned. It begins:
After working with MARVEL, and then reading heaps of bullshit online spewed online By Mr. Quesada, I’ve come to the conclusion that the new editor in chief at marvel comics Is a bitch, liar, pussy, idiot ,sh*thead, c*cks*cker, and latent homosexual, not necessarily in that order, but that will be the order in which I address the above claims
Joe is a bitch because: he spends time acting like a tough Italian Guido writing challenges to Wizard Magazine, calling Todd Mcfarlane out to draw comics against him, (when you already know he can draw better than you,who even with his totally f*cked up anatomy and rubbery faces could out draw you on his worst “GI JOE or Infinity Inc. days. You already wasted my time don’t go around wasting his f*cking time too). If we’re gonna sit around and write challenges and bets, I bet his goofy ass one dollar, to grow some fucking balls and put out a great book, called NYX, by me and Brian Wood, I’ll draw it for free , and I’ll donate it too some retards or the special Olympics organization, you know ,the real “mutants” the fuckers with the real genetic disorders. and I am a bitch for even reading Wizard Magazine.
From there it gets rather negative. It ends:
In closing I’m sorry if this whole thing comes off as juvenile and immature, or like an angry postal worker manifesto, but I just REALLY REALLY hate it when people waste my f*cking time, and people who f*cking spread bullshit lie’s . and so in closing , the point of this whole response I guess is pretty simple, I just wanted to say to Joe, F*CK YOU, and if anyone of you f*ggot’s out there who are too blinded by Mr’ Quesada’s j*sm in there eye’s has anything they want to say about that, a hearty F*CK YOU too you too. Oh and as far as the ultimate line is concerned. Mark Bagley still draws like a bitch.
As you can imagine, this letter created quite a stir at the time, and Choe went into the halls of legend as That Guy Who Didn’t Give A Shit About Marvel Comics.
As it happened, a book called NYX did come out in 2003, written by, of all people, Joe Quesada, with art by Joshua Middleton and Rob Teranishi. A second series called NYX: No Way Home from Marjorie Liu and Kalman Andrasofsky came out in 2008.
Choe would go on to have the last laugh, though, with the famous story of how he did a mural at the Facebook headquarters in exchange for some stock in the start-up. This resulted in a $200 million windfall for Choe, so it turns out shitting all over Marvel didn’t actually end his career. (If there’s a positive moral to this story it’s to Always Bet On Yourself.)
When a guy who loves to tell people to fuck off earns “fuck you” money for life, it can go many ways. Given Choe’s comics world notoriety, I followed his career here and there over the years in these very pages as a sort of “Whatever happened to”. His success as a sought after graffiti artist – and oversized personality – played out into many venues, including the controversial DVDASA podcast, and many other media. He even returned to comics with some (what else) variant covers for DC in 2021.
That same year, Choe’s media presence (and perhaps redemption arc) reached new heights when he got his own show on Hulu, The Choe Show, an interview series where “Choe and his guests depart on a journey of shared emotional experience.” A lengthy NY Times profile delved into his controversial persona – and even mentioned the previous rape story:
He later said the masseuse story was fictional, a work of performance art, a position he maintains to this day. But he was condemned for making light of sexual assault.
“At that time in my life, I was done with life and chasing a bottom. I wanted out,” he said. “I never raped anyone.
He added that he had been motivated to tell the story by a “morbid curiosity to feel an external response to the internal shame I felt,” he said.
“It was strangely comforting to be so despised,” he continued. “It matched how I felt about myself for the first time.”
And that brings us to the present day. A few years ago, The Choe Show came and went with full knowledge of the rape story, and it all played into the controversial tag.
Now, people are taking Stephen Yuen, Ali Wong, Beef creator Lee Sung Jin and Netflix to task for working with Choe, and many are saying they won’t watch Beef because of his involvement. The only semi-public response has been Choe’s DMCA filings to take down copies of the podcast, leading to even more backlash. Choe has already apologized for the rape story several times, perhaps he thinks he’s done with that.
But if anyone thinks the many controversies of David Choe begin and end with that particular episode of DVDASA, they just haven’t been paying attention.