The strange history of Amy Chu, Poison Ivy and Eddie Berganza

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Now that the dirty laundry is swishing about in the washing machine, some interesting stories are coming to light. Women Write About Comics’ Rene Rosen and Claire Napier tag team on a story about the four-issue Poison Ivy mini-series written by Amy Chu and published by DC last year.

According to the piece, when she got the assignment from Dan Didio she believed it would be edited in the Natgroup, which was run by Mark Doyle. However, it ended up being in Eddie Berganza’s group, although Chu says he had minimal involvement with the project.

Making this even odder, according to Rosen, a storyline in the book seems to mirror real world events:

In the book we are presented with various incidents of sexism: bikers harassing a waitress at a bar, Pamela Isley’s boss expressing disdain for women in the workplace, and at issue #2 we are introduced to Winston, a colleague of Ivy who shows a creepy interest at her. In issue #3 Winston visits Pamela Isley’s house without warning and he tries to blackmail her into having sex with him.

Isley says these exact words: “I’ve been more than patient with you at work, Winston. Your little jokes… The innuendoes are wearing thin.” And she kills him with her famous poison kiss.

Winston’s body becomes food for Pamela’s “chompies”, her flytrap plants. This whole incident feels a bit out of place for the book, and it’s framed in an almost cartoony kind of way. The final panel where Winston gets eaten by Pammy’s plants even feels a bit Looney Toon-y. At first the whole scene annoyed me a little because it seemed like it didn’t fit in the book. Why would Ivy, who is being investigated for a murder case, kill someone and draw even more attention to herself? Thinking harder, I began to suspect this was “off” for a reason.

Although response to the book was positive (and Rosen brings out some sales figures to back this up) a second series never materialized and Chu has not worked at DC since, aside from a Wonder Woman short story.

In an interview with Napier, Chu expands on what happened:

Chu: I will say that I signed on with the understanding that Chris Conroy would likely be the editor under Mark Doyle who I have infinite respect for. For someone to transfer the title outside of the Batgroup was surprising and never fully explained to this day. Poison Ivy was my first title ever and I was grateful to have the chance to write the character, but it was a stressful time, to say the least.

Napier: It sounds… like an incredible letdown. I’m really sorry for that.

Chu: I had been specifically warned by people within DC about Eddie, and then to find myself suddenly with his name on my first book was infuriating.

One is reminded that Greg Rucka reportedly specifically said that he would not return to Wonder Woman unless Berganza was not the editor. After Rucka left the book, Wonder Woman was returned to the Berganza office.

While this story is troubling in many ways, it does back up one fact that I’ve heard a few times; despite the informal ban on women working in the Superman office, or with Berganza (a ban that I’ve been told by multiple people was real, or at least believed to be real) several women did work freelance with Berganza during the post 2012 period. And from my understanding, it was trouble free.

I’m also told that the Superman office is now mostly women, with Rebecca Taylor, Katie Kubert (recently returned to DC) and two other assistant editors. Taylor is reported to have taken over editing of Dark Knights Metal, the #1 hit book coming out of the office. Maybe some overcompensation there.

Although Berganza was said to be rehabilitated, and there were no complaints about him in the five years since the Wonder Con incident, his presence as a group editor still impacted women who worked at DC. A tweet by the award wnning writer Marjorie Liu backed this up.

Although this tweet has been widely reported, the follow ups are equally telling.

I’m not going to say that Eddie Berganza wasn’t a talented editor, but was he really worth the collateral damage?

Also, I understand that after Berganza was outed two years ago, there was significant discussion within DC about what should be done, and his resigning was not off the table. That’s not the way it went, but if it had, the PR damage would have been minimal and confined to a few comics websites like this, and not spread all over the front page of the NY Daily News the week that Justice League comes out.

A cautionary tale then.

7 COMMENTS

  1. “Now, in the passages I have quoted from Jane Eyre, it is clear that anger was tampering with the integrity of Charlotte Brontë the novelist. She left her story, to which her entire devotion was due, to attend to some personal grievance.”

    –Virginia Woolf, “A Room of One’s Own”

  2. Minor fact check:
    “story about the four-issue Poison Ivy mini-series”

    It was six issues, as is illustrated by the cover image accompanying the article.

  3. “A cautionary tale then.”

    Of the complete lack of concern companies have for their employees and their devotion to how perception affects their stock price.

    “Big Brother is Watching You.”

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