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UPDATED: As Horrocks corrected in the comments, cultural appropriation was not a charge she made against Berliac. Looking at the record (which is not easy to follow) I’m not sure where this charge came from.

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In a now-removed post, D&Q announced that the would be publishing Sadbøi by Berliac later this year, praising it as a challenging text on immigration. Berliac is an Argentinian artist now living in Europe, whose had work published on Vice and other indie comics outlets.

Soon after the announcement, it came to light that Berliac had made transphobic and transmisogynist statements in the past during an argument with trans writer Sarah Horrocks. The incident took place two years ago when Berliac published a piece called “Gay-jin” and compared drawing manga to transitioning. When Horrocks pointed out the transphobic (and frankly kinda nitwit) elements of the piece (as well as the cultural appropriation of drawing in a heavily manga influenced style), evidently unaware that she was trans, he responded in the rude, bullying fashion that all of us not-men on the internet are familiar with. You can read it all here. 

As contemporary outcry grew ver D&Q publishing the book, Berliac attempted to backtrack, but promptly took the spade handed him and dug his grave even deeper with this exchange with Horrocks:

https://twitter.com/mercurialblonde/status/870316343924367361/photo/1

While he had some support from friends, Berliac’s reaction to being called on his past behavior showed he had learned no lessons. “I’m sorry I was awful to you, but I thought you were a cis woman, not trans” is not a defense. A bit too late, Berliac did realize that more douchiness was not the right response.

 

In a statement titled “An Apology” D&Q yesterday announced that they would no longer be publishing Sadbøi and apologized for picking it up in the first place.

This past spring, our editorial department accepted a submission from the cartoonist Berliac. The graphic novel was Sadbøi, which was seen as a statement on the treatment of immigrants—the challenge of being expected to conform to a society’s ideals in a world that prematurely condemns outsiders.

We neglected to research the author beyond the submitted book, which we now realize to be a disservice to both the public and the author. We were not familiar with Berliac’s body of work, both written and drawn, including a previously published essay comparing cultural appropriation and transgender people and the consequent public discussion about it in 2015. We do not agree with the essay, its defense, nor the tone and aggression he displayed in this and subsequent debates.

In the past 48 hours, we have received tweets and emails, and read posts telling us we are wrong to publish this book. Not everyone discussing Berliac and his work had the same opinions, but each of them made us reflect, and conduct the research we should have conducted when considering the submission. We asked ourselves if we would have acquired this book knowing what we know now, and we would not have. An author deserves the full support of their publisher. We can no longer provide that full support. Therefore, we have decided that D+Q will not be publishing Sadbøi.

We do not expect everyone to like or agree with everything we publish—this is an important part of a vibrant publishing landscape—but we are revising our acquisition practices so that we can ensure we better support our public, our authors, and our staff going forward.

We apologize for not doing our due diligence and for our mistakes. We are sorry. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to us: we value your input.

While there were predictable outcries of “censorship” this is not that at all. It is D&Q’s right to publish who they want and to work with authors who fit within their publishing model. Berliac’s inappropriate and transphobic statements showed that he was not the kind of author they wanted to work with and that’s that.

I’m sure there are some people quivering in fear now over their past statements being brought up when they get a publishing deal, but I have good news. There are a few simple things you can do to avoid this:

 

Don’t be a racist!

Don’t be a misogynist!

Don’t be transphobic!

Don’t be an abusive jerk!

Follow these rules and I’m sure you will be fine.

It’s also worth pointing out that white men who have made statements 10 times worse than Berliac’s are still running movie studios, music labels and even a country or two. Far from being THE WORST at minding their own shop, at least comics can occasionally make the correct decision.

 

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26 COMMENTS

  1. Definitely the talk of the town right now in Spanish speaking countries. There’s also some hostility brewing towards D&Q.

  2. Definetly avoid divisive hot takes on subjects such as Sex, Race, Gender, Equality, “–splaining” and Politics if you have any sort of public facing persona as a creative. Always a lose/lose situation regardless of your convictions. Minds will never be changed, but your public brand image will always suffer which means you lose work and money opportunities. Don’t be an idiot like this guy. Fix yourself.

  3. “as well as the cultural appropriation of drawing in a heavily manga influenced style”

    The audacity, an artist daring to get influenced by traditions outside his cultural sphere.

  4. A slight correction to what is said here. I never said Berliac was doing cultural appropriation only that being transgender is not appropriating culture and secondarily I didn’t agree with him that simply drawing in a style influenced by Japanese artists made you Japanese.

    I obviously have no problem with artists who are inspired by Japanese comics as anyone who has seen my own work will realize.

  5. “Don’t be a racist!
    Don’t be a misogynist!
    Don’t be transphobic!
    Don’t be an abusive jerk!”

    I don’t think Berliac displayed any of those characteristics. Insensitive, Ignorant, and uninteresting, sure. It’s not transphobic to just be blatantly uninformed and wrong.

    IF, and only if, the original article was intended to try to explain what it’s like to change art styles so completely as to take on the characteristics of the originators of that style in a similar way as if a person was changing genders, then it makes sense. That is to say this is an understandable comparison for the SAME person, meaning this person changes art styles AND changes genders wherein BOTH transitions are awkward and strange. Berliac made the mistake of comparing one personal transition to SOMEONE ELSE’S personal transition of which he knows nothing about beyond the superficial. Mercurialblonde’s response was antagonistic and passive-aggressive, which caused Berliac to counterattack, which was followed by another antagonistic response from Mercurialblonde. Each response taking another step over the line until all that was left was animosity. Now the dude lost his publisher. That’s a bit unfair for what is essentially a personal argument put on display for public consumption.

    I couldn’t care less whether Berliac gets his book published. I’m not commenting with an agenda here. What I’m commenting on is that in the age of instant worldwide communication we’ve somehow lost the ability to talk to each other. Mercurialblonde provides an interesting point then derails it with basically “but if you want to continue being a moron to sell some books, go right ahead.” How could he not take that as an insult and immediately push the first part of the comment out of his head to fixate on that one dismissive jab? I’m not saying he gets a pass, but he also shouldn’t be the only one criticized and vilified for how the conversation was handled. Wouldn’t a better first contact have been: “Do you understand the term appropriation and the process of transitioning for transgender people? If so, how did you acquire this knowledge? Because the way you talk about them seems to indicate that you do not actually understand them.” This starts a much more pleasant conversation than “you don’t know what you’re talking about, dude.”

    Having said that, my question to the group is: Where does cultural influence end and cultural appropriation begin?

  6. I think appropriation begins when you blatantly try to replicate a surface style to pass off as authentic without attempting to add anything personal or unique. Using the cultural cues and references in the source material as stylistic elements also counts. Say there is a Japanese expression that doesn’t exist in English, and using that same thing in your American Manga for example. Or sometimes on T shirts you’ll see Japanese characters used as illustrative elements instead of meaningful text.

  7. So…it’s okay to spew hatred about men, conservatives, Republicans, Trump voters, cisgendered people who think cisgendered is a stupid term, etc?

    And dumping an artist not for the quality of their work or even because of some flagrant pattern of ass-hattery but because on an online whizzing match with ONE FREAKING PERSON?

    Yeah, I’m sure Heidi will be happy to see that standard applied by people with different opinions than hers.

    Mike

  8. Note to self: If I get famous, Don’t ever say anything about lgbt and liberal politics. Not that I have anything against lgbt or liberal politics (in fact I agree with a lot of it) it’s just too risky to say anything about it. If one person takes anything what you say as remotely offensive or negative you’re career is pretty much done.

  9. Here’s the thing about capitalism and the First Amendment: Private companies are allowed to produce whatever products they wish. In this case, Drawn & Quarterly can decide, for whatever reasons, to remove a book from their list.

    Forcing them to publish it would be a form of censorship.

    Drawn & Quarterly cannot prevent Berliac from selling his book to another publisher, nor is there any indication that such an action crossed their mind.

    This gentleman spoke his mind, as is his right, and other people reacted to what he said, as is their right.

    Actions have consequences.

    As a rather trivial example, as a woman, I’ve been told since birth that I have to be hyper-aware about what I wear when I go outside, because my appearance might inflame a man to such a degree that he could not contain his carnal urges. Conversely, my appearance might be so repugnant that I can never get a job. I’m sure that queer people, people of color, trans people et al. can tell parallel stories.

    (Parallel and probably much worse. Most days, I don’t have to worry about getting randomly shot by cops.)

    The world is changing, and one of those changes is that what we say in public lives on long after we say it. If there is an advantage to being older, it is that the stupid things I said in college don’t live online, only the stupid things I’ve said recently.

  10. as wrong as this guy is, I am still deeply disturbed at our “death penalty for all offenses!” mentality in comics but also social media now. Its not sustainable and it won’t help with creating a legitimate inclusive society. US vs THEM never works longterm.

  11. As someone in the groups you think you’re Saving, Martha and Heidi. You might be surprised when you finally get all what you’re fighting for.
    #evergreen college

  12. ‘as well as the cultural appropriation of drawing in a heavily manga influenced style’

    I’m sorry – but that is the most heavily offensive statement I have seen in a long time. The guy seems like an idiot. But condemning him for being influence by manga is completely against everything that we are supposed to be fighting for in an open and inclusive society.

  13. In what time are we? The average age? They promise you a contract and because a famous one is offended and speaks badly about you, they break the contract? Unprofitable and uncredible these editors.

  14. I don’t know. Sure Berliac said some offensive things but the way Horrocks and Micheal Deforge took such satisfaction of Berliac losing his book deal seems just as despicable. Instead of attacking/accusing somebody why can’t we people try calmly, and politely explaining their own views and try starting a dialogue? Seems like things could have gone better if they talked this out privately instead having a flame war over twitter.

  15. You can call it whatever you want, but

    1) D&Q intended to publish Berliac’s SADBOI, we must assume, because the found it worthy of publication due to its value and merits as a work of comic book art

    2) D&Q is cancelling now the publication of the same work, but NOT because of anything related to the work itself, which we must assume still has the same value and merits as a work of comic book art and it’s still worthy of publication, but because of its creator’s character as inferred from some of his comments in the past

    Well, in my book, THAT’S censorship.

  16. @Martha Thomases

    “Drawn & Quarterly cannot prevent Berliac from selling his book to another publisher, nor is there any indication that such an action crossed their mind.

    This gentleman spoke his mind, as is his right, and other people reacted to what he said, as is their right.

    Actions have consequences.”

    So the consequences are that the same work that was deemed of value and worthy of publication before, now it’s no longer worthy, because of its autor’s opinions?

    Wow. Just wow.

    And I’m sure you consider yourself pretty liberal and a defender of freedom.

  17. It seems to me quite a few of you would feel pretty cozy in the book-burning universe of FARENHEIT 451, saving the world from itself, one witch at a time.

    Your crusade is righteous indeed, as they all are.

  18. “Martha Thomases says

    Here’s the thing about capitalism and the First Amendment: Private companies are allowed to produce whatever products they wish.”

    Is D&Q a private company? I don’t know. Even so, It has received (and may be continuing to receive) funding from the Canadian government. Funding which they presumably used to pay for, just as an example, the work of Chester Brown, an anarchist/libertarian whoremonger who admits he may have unknowingly visited underage prostitutes. Or Joe Matt, who, if his work is an accurate reflection of his life, hit his girlfriend.

    But I guess one cartoonist’s mere words are somehow more offensive and troubling than another cartoonist’s actual real world behavior? Personally I don’t have a problem with Brown or Matt or Berliac (or any of the dozens of lesser, stultifyingly bland cartoonists D&Q also publishes.) It seems D&Q is cowering to the bullying tactics of one or two of their better selling names (DeForge, and his friend, a complete nobody comics “critic” with a vested personal issue she can’t see past.)

    I Won’t be buying any of the company’s work from now on, other than from secondhand sellers. I wouldn’t mind if they went out of business, frankly. I’ve always had an issue with Tom Devlin and would love to seem floundering, out of work.

  19. I think you should mention in your text that Berliac claims D&Q refused to send him a contract although he asked for it. And he claims he found out on twitter that his book was cancelled.

    I’m not a fan of his and I think – judging from his writing in the aftermath of all this- he has quite an annoying personality. (Same feeling I got about Sarah Horrocks being so satisfied and Michael DeForge going tourette).

    But: I’m mainly interested in the whole thing as someone who draws comics for a living and seeing a well-known publishing house like D&Q treating one of their artists (which he was at that point) like that felt really akward to me.
    Made me wonder if they would have done it if he had a contract and they would have lost money.

  20. I agree with pulling this book but I think the editor’s “apology” was absolute bull. There’s no way they didn’t know who/what they were publishing, they’re just sorry they got caught and are now clearly trying to do some image control. But no big surprise there…. everyone knows DQ’s politics is nothing but a facade, especially with fric amd frac at the head of the ship

  21. I once said something mean to someone on the internet many years ago, it haunts me to this day. Some nights I wake up in a cold sweat, terrified. Thinking to myself “what if they…remember?”, “what if they…come back?”, “what if…they use emoji analysis software to identify me NO!?” AAAGHGHH FUCK!!! Truly terrifying!!! Unfortunately like monsieur Burlysak I just don’t remember who my poor, undeserving of the insult, totally deserving of an incredibly circumstantial apology’s name actually was. Dear God, if you are up there. Please don’t over analyze my emojis. And please, please god, forgive all those mean people who meanly act mean on this virtually mean world of the internet in all of it’s terrible meanness. Fake crimes cause real tears, remember this people.

  22. Bizarre how reportage of the initial petty and vindictive exchange between horrocks and berliac has thus far erased horrocks’ bad behavior and amplified berliac’s. I dunno what to make of it, I guess I’m just bewildered by the obvious skewing of that exchange. Empathy, understanding, we’re all screwed up, it really hurts to be alive, we all have room to grow. A mob mentality is gross and counter-productive.

  23. @Heidi MacDonald

    “While there were predictable outcries of “censorship” this is not that at all. It is D&Q’s right to publish who they want and to work with authors who fit within their publishing model. Berliac’s inappropriate and transphobic statements showed that he was not the kind of author they wanted to work with and that’s that.”

    As a private publishing company, D&Q certainly are entitled to publish whatever they choose to, that goes without saying.

    But the issue here is WHY are they choosing NOT to publish Berliac’s SADBOI now, when they had already chosen to publish it.

    What moved them to back down from their decision?

    Has something changed in the book itself? Or is it still the same book they wanted to publish in the first place, the book they found of artistic value fitting in their catalog, and with merits enough to warrant their publishing it?

    Because if that’s the case, if the book is the same one and still holds the same value, they are objecting to its author, then, and only because they have decided to take side on some campaign against Berliac initiated by another author he had some beef with in the past.

    That’s it, D&Q are not reacting anymore to the work they wanted to publish, but rather PUNISHING its author for his perceived ideology, opinions or the likes, for they have passed judgement and found it reprehensible.

    So, to wit, they are turning this into a matter of CHARACTER instead of ART.

    Is that the way a publisher who prides himself of being about unconditional creativity and artistic excellence above anything else should conduct his business?

    Are we supposed now to condemn every creator we don’t agree with? Should we scratch out every great work of art produced by creators whose ideas differ from ours or even offend us? If that’s so, you better get to it now, beacuse you have quite a looooong task ahead of you.

    But… How is that NOT censorship?

    And of the worst kind, for they are not even censoring the book, but the author himself.

  24. @RoyBatty

    “So the consequences are that the same work that was deemed of value and worthy of publication before, now it’s no longer worthy, because of its autor’s opinions?

    Wow. Just wow.

    And I’m sure you consider yourself pretty liberal and a defender of freedom.”

    I consider myself an educated woman who has seen a lot over the decades. But that’s not the point.

    I didn’t say I agreed with the decision made by D&Q. They make a lot of decisions that don’t appeal to me, personally. Everybody does. I disagree with myself from one day to the next.

    In a capitalist system, publishers get to make decisions, which they must defend to their stakeholders (employees, customers, investors, distributors etc.) but not to you (unless you fit into one of those categories).

    That’s why CBS was within its rights to cancel THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR lo those many years ago, even though it was a profitable show for them. That’s why all sorts of excellent books get rejected by publishers every year, sometimes even after a contract is signed.

    If you don’t like the decision D&Q made, by all means object. Speak up. But it’s not censorship, it’s simply a decision with which you disagree.

  25. LOL at anyone saying this is censorship. If you publicly embarrass your employer on social media by being a bigot, they’re going to fire you.

    Book Publishers cancel books all the time for all kinds of reasons. Market changes, pre-sales, strategy pivot, underwhelming final product, creators being a-holes in public. Get off the hight horse for a minute and think.

    Publisher made an obvious calculation that this scandal would negatively affect sales and they didn’t feel like loosing tens of thousands of dollars publishing a remainder that no one wants to buy while being at the center of a controversy. Comics esp a publisher like this can’t really absorb a guaranteed sales flop.

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