Over the last few days there have been significant new developments in some long-gestating stories. And here is your round-up:
• Warren Ellis and his victims continue a mediated dialog towards transformative justice and Ellis resurrects his newsletter and website.
Last week the So Many of Us website made a major update on their work. The website bears the testimonials of as many as 60 women and non-binary individuals who were victims of Ellis’s well documented misconduct. However, their goal has been for those who were harmed by his behavior to find some measure of transformative justice, defined as:
A philosophical strategy for responding to conflicts. Transformative justice uses a systems approach, seeking to see problems as not only the beginning of the offense but also its causes, and tries to treat an offense as a transformative relational and educational opportunity for victims, offenders and all other members of the affected community.
The update can be read in the above link, but a shorter version is that a facilitator is working with the group to “understand our options and clarify our goals.” As of August 2021, the remaining members of So Many of Us – called SMOU-TJ – entered into a mediated conversation with Ellis.
It has taken a great deal of effort and foundational work in order for us to begin communicating effectively with Ellis. We acknowledge this slow, challenging process and also acknowledge that it is simply too early to report where it is heading or where it may end up. We would like to emphasize that Warren Ellis has the option of working on healing and recovery independently, and this work is necessary whether or not he continues to work with us.
Ellis made a tentative return last June, when it sounded like he and artist Ben Templesmith were going to finish their comics project Fell, but it went back to the hopper of unfinished projects amid outcry that the work had yet to be done. However an Anime adaptation of the Freakangel webcomic by Ellis and Paul Duffield is in the works from Crunchyroll. Production began before his misconduct become public knowledge.
On Sunday, Ellis sent out his first Orbital Operations newsletter since the Fell mess. He wrote:
The mediated conversation with SMOU progresses. It’s been a learning experience working with the mediator, who I’ve been talking with since August, and I have to thank them for their dedicated and empathetic work. SMOU completed their internal work and made a substantive response on Jan 27 2022, for which I thank them. I remain committed to the process.
The rest of the newsletter is the Ellis subscribers were used to getting in their in box – explanations of new platforms, some techy stuff, quotes from good books – although he professed it was not “a return to public life.”
This newsletter was put off in part because I was eventually directed to follow my own advice and put my own oxygen mask on first. So I’ve been isolating, doing what my manager has alternately referred to as Full Recluse and Cottagecore, thinking a lot and trying to make the most of lockdown. This has largely involved cutting firewood, telling war stories of hunting the rare wild toilet roll and growing my beard out to nightmare pandemic proportions.
He also noted that his WarrenEllisLTD website was back up.
Rather surprisingly, the reaction on Twitter, at least, to Ellis’ return has been subdued so far, amounting to no more than a few dozen tweets, running the gamut from scorn to support. But let’s see what the weekday brings.
• Action Lab creators have filed a class action suit
Last week nearly 40 former Action Lab creator filed a class action suit against the publisher. Over the summer many social media accounts of malfeasance and fraud by the indie publisher Action Lab were put up, and publisher Brian Seaton admittted that he hadn’t been as quick to respond to creators as he should have been and he was tryign to work things out. The Action Lab website went down and has been coming soon for quite some time.
The lawsuit alleges that Action Lab and Seaton made many promises regarding marketing and publishing that were not kept, and creators are trying to get the rights back to their work since contracts were not honored.
According to the case, Action Lab has left thousands of content creators out to dry. The lawsuit alleges the Uniontown, Pennsylvania company, whose offices were intermittently closed between December 2019 and the spring of 2021, has failed to, for instance, put into print a “large number of projects,” retain enough staff to fulfill its publisher agreements and pay the individuals timely royalties for their work, among other apparent transgressions.
The plaintiffs, who include the creators of Herald: Lovecraft & Tesla, Raven the Pirate Princess, Archon: Battle of the Dragon, Bigfoot: Sword of the Earthman, Baby Badass and Aberrant, among many other titles, assert that content creators’ publisher agreements with Action Lab Entertainment were “unconscionable” and should therefore be declared null and void.
The complaint runs 46 pages and it’s full of painful and colorful details of all kinds of bad publishing decisions (complaint courtesy of Classaction.org.)
A sample, regarding PRINCELESS AND RAVEN THE PIRATE PRINCESS by Jeremy Whitley, Emile Martin and Jason Strutz – one of Action Lab’s most acclaimed and popular series.
110. ALE failed to provide Creators with quarterly earnings reports and to pay us the balance of said earnings reports on a reasonable schedule despite the book regularly being published for a number of years.
111. Frequently Creators were not provided with updated numbers nor paid for the sales of their books.
112. ALE failed to pay artists brought on to help with both Princeless and Raven the Pirate Princess in a timely fashion.
113. Artists have been left unpaid for finished work for months and frequently years. This has harmed Creators’ credibility as creators with the artistic community and led several artists to quit and refuse to work on Plaintiffs’ books again.
114. When confronted about non-payment in the past, ALE has seen fit to unpublish digitally published comics rather than make payments to creators; for example, books are published digitally on a platform called Comixology.
115. When confronted about digitally publishing issues of Raven the Pirate Princess without paying artists, ALE chose to remove them from Comixology rather than make good on the payments they owed.
And so on for hundreds more paragraphs. Yikes.
Since it’s a class action suit, those affected don’t even need to opt-in to get a portion of any settlement. I haven’t really talked about this with many industry observers, but this lawsuit could be just as revolutionary, in a different way, as Comic Book Workers United (see below.) The history of comics is full of publishers who either acted in bad faith or (as Action Lab seems to have) made a lot of promises they just couldn’t keep and as they sank into the quicksand threw out more and more ropes of things that they were incapable of doing. A class action suit is definitely a bold way of addressing this. Anyway, this lawsuit is very interesting reading and DON’T SIGN AWAY YOUR RIGHTS.
• CBWU files a complaint against Image Comics
Comics Book Workers United, the union for Image Comics employees, has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that Image has engaged in unfair labor practices.
“The Employer retaliated against bargaining unit members and Image Comics employees for commencing R-Case 19-RC-285502 and participating in the procedure for Sub-Region 36 to evaluate the appropriateness of the sub-bargaining unit. The Employer has interfered with the exercise of bargaining unit members’ and Image Comic employees’ Section 7 rights by intentionally disseminating misinformation.”
No more details have emerged but it appears that labor unrest at Image Comics is going to be going on for quite some time.