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By Brian Hibbs

So, this is kind of hard column to write, because it means being vulnerable and honest about issues that are genuinely hard to discuss, especially in the exact political climate we live in today. These are also things that are hard for me personally to discuss because I’m a fifty year old straight white male: pretty close to the exact definition of “privileged” in America.

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I’ve read many pieces of #MeToo commentary over the last couple of days, and I’ve spoken intensively to several women I know about their experiences, and let me tell you in no uncertain terms that the assault and harassment and interference and abuse that the majority of women regularly experience in this world is not something that should be tolerated or accepted or handwaved away, ever. I’m utterly horrified that as many women that I know who have felt demeaned, repressed, subjected to harassment, catcalled, or otherwise depersonalized. It’s gross, and it’s wrong, and I can only imagine if the things I read about in those #MeToo posts happened to me, I’d freak the hell out.

It doesn’t happen to me, however; I’m a man. I’ve never (to the best of my knowledge) engaged in such behavior, but I fully believe that it happens to women every day, and I have at least some culpability in calling it out, despite that lack of participation. How could I not? This is a problem for all of society. But sometimes, these things can be hard to fully recognize things that others identify as problems, but that you yourself are blind to.

These things are hard for the “Good Guys” to talk about – we don’t think we’re part of the problem, and maybe in many senses we’re not, but if we don’t confront discrimination and sexism openly and evenly, how can things ever improve in the face of the assholes?

And sometimes…. Well, sometimes we can’t even see that something needs to be changed.

tilt2671I’ve run a comic book store since 1989. Twenty-seven years so far, and in that time I’ve seen the business change from a nearly solely male-dominated thing to something a lot more open and inclusive. I think that comics are significantly better off for it, and I want to think that I’ve been one of the voices that helped push that inclusiveness forward to at least some degree. Probably not enough (who can ever say they’ve done “enough”?), but the best I could.

One of the things we’ve done over the run of the store is a whole lot of creator appearances. I long ago lost track of the exact number, but I suspect it’s something at or over two hundred over the years. We also do two Graphic Novel of the Month clubs, one for adults, one for kids, each one that is specifically tied to creator appearances as a part of the offerings.

We’ve been doing creators appearances from the very beginning (We had Erik Larsen and Chris Marinan just 78 days after we first opened!), and we did sixty-three signings in the first sixty months that we were open, which is pretty stupid when you think about it (because most signings don’t actually make any money).

Starting in 1994, we started having artists “sign in” by doing a drawing in the bathroom of the store. Beginning with Teddy Kristiansen and James Robinson (they were there signing for the first issue of Grendel Tales), we have scores of artists who have done art on the wall.

So, this is a “living history of the store” (at least the creative appearances), and features a lot crazy names, and great stories, and if you catch me at the right moment, I’ll proudly walk store visitors through each one individually, with an full anecdote about our experience with those creators and the good times we’ve had during our event, and the books they were promoting.

Doing this purely from memory as I sit at home, and in order of appearance, our wall has contributions from the aforementioned James & Teddy, as well as Mike Allred, Trina Robbins, Rachel Pollack, Linda Medley (those three from a “women in comics” event way back in 1994!), Shea Anton Pensa, Howard Chaykin & John Francis Moore, Tim Sale & Jeph Loeb, Gary Amaro, Kurt Busiek, Dan Brereton, Chris Claremont, Paul Pope & Michael Cohen & Teri Wood, P. Craig Russell, Paul Guinan, Dave Sim, Trace Beaulieu & Jim Mallon (from Mystery Science Theatre 3000), Jim Lee, Matt Wagner, Darick Robertson & John McCrea & Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon & Warren Ellis & Grant Morrison & Matt Hollingsworth (which we called the “Mad Bastards Tour”, despite it only having one [AWESOME!] stop), Scott Allie &Kevin McGovern, Kevin O’Neill, Geoff Johns, Neil Gaiman (one of five appearances), MariNaomi, Matt Rosenberg & Frank Barbieri, Kevin Wada, Chad Michael Murray, Ted Naifeh, Charles Soule, Leela Corman, Brian K. Vaughan, Ilya, Craig Thompson, Judd Winick, Gene Yang, Tyler Crook, Derek Fridolfs & Dustin Nguyen, Josh Cotter, Svetlana Chmakova, Zander Cannon, Tony Cliff, Daniel Clowes, Anne Szabla, Paul DIni, Raina Telgemeier, Marjorie Liu & Sana Takada, Hope Larson, Ken Garing, Sarah Glidden, Jeffrey Brown, Ian Bertram, Lorena Alvarez, Michael DeForge, Mike Lawrence, Gabrielle Bell, Jillian Tamaki, LeUyen Pham, Gerard Way & Nick Derington, Ben Costa & James Parks, Brenden Fletcher, Katie Skelly, and Hamish Steele. Whew!

It is kind of a Murderer’s Row of comics creators?

I’m proud of this wall. Perhaps too proud, even, but I’m damn proud of the history of events and creative people who have been willing to be part of my store’s history over the decades – I mean absolutely nothing without the talent of these men and women, and they (and the wall of drawings) absolutely reflect a pride in my story of the store. The wall of appearances reflects my blood, sweat and very much tears, in trying to make a comics industry for everyone.

Now, up until the “Mad Bastards Tour” mentioned above, there was sort of a rough attempt to do a “story” in each successive panel. It wasn’t at all a good story, and it didn’t make a lick of sense, but there was some vague sense of continuity to it. But then Garth and Steve and McCrea, and Warren and Darick and Grant and Hollingsworth flew up to San Francisco after that year’s San Diego Comic Con, and we essentially held an all-day public party, laughing and drinking and joking, and just generally misbehaving. There might have even been nitrous oxide involved, but all in all, it was one of the most fun days the store has ever hosted, with hundreds of fans meeting a great line up of saucy (and sauced) creators, everybody taking the piss on everyone else, and just generally having a god-damn blast.

And one point, Darick goes into the bathroom, and draws on the (then still relatively nascent) wall. At that point I had drawn out borders of “pages” to bind the art, and virtually every creator up until that point just did a “panel” on one of the “pages” – we had 3-5 artists on each page. Darick, however, decided it would be funny to take up most of a page by drawing an angel screwing a sheep. And he comes out of the bathroom, laughing, then John McCrea goes in, and, being John McCrea, instantly draws The Lord God fucking that same angel, also, the size of a full page, and then naturally Garth Ennis has to try to top that with a goofy cartoon Satan jerking off and the caption “Satan always comes first!” – and it just goes on from there.

It’s highly stupid, it’s overwhelmingly juvenile, but it was also, at the time and in context of the event, undeniably funny, and a great memory of that day. It was crass, sure, but in my opinion, it’s on “this side” of “The Line” – the art was done with great joy and in the spirit of fun, and while there are gigantic (absurdly so) cartoon phalluses, there aren’t any women involved, this wasn’t about being sexual or aggressive at all, as I see it.

We’ll come back to this in a minute, but I want to digress into a few other points, so that the context is fully understood. First and foremost, while this is in the store’s bathroom, said bathroom isn’t “public” – its way in the back, there’s a wall blocking any sightlines into the store, and just from basic security we do not let customers back there, except customers who have crossed over the line to “friends”. Shit, it can’t be a public bathroom because of ADA issues – there’s a flight of stairs you’d have to traverse to get there, and the floor in the backroom is all uneven and stuff. Most especially, kids never go back there – we direct all requests for a bathroom to the café down the block.

We do “open” the bathroom during certain events (like when the store itself is closed for our private graphic novel club meetings), and when it is an event that has any children at it at all, we have a paper curtain we hang up over that one wall to spare young eyes.

(John McCrea, being McCrea, also decided to draw out on the store floor. We have a pillar in the back of the store that he drew, at about waist level, a “Bueno Excellante” from his and Garth’s wonderful “Hitman” comic. Bueno Excellante’s “super power” is basically that he’s a creepy perv in a trenchcoat, and he’s in a “team” that includes characters like the Defenstrator (look it up, it’s a great word), Six-Pack (a total drunk who has alcoholic fantasies of being the secret leader of the Justice League) and DogWelder – who welds dogs to criminals. This comic book, by the way, is published by Warner Brothers. Anyway, this time, McCrea drew Bueno with his trench open, and, running all the way down the post, revealing a four foot long penis. “Dude!” I yelled at him, once I noticed it, “We can’t have that on the sales floor! Children come in here!” He painted that one over, of course.)

Here’s more of my context: we’re a store in San Francisco. We’ve always embraced every aspect of comics and comics art. We have a strong “adults only” section filled with cartoon representations of sex (it’s pretty highly-skewed towards female-positive depictions), and we proudly stock work from creators like S. Clay Wilson and Milo Manara and Robert Crumb…. All of which are probably now considered “problematic”, but all of whom are important masters of the form. I’ve always considered it OK for art to make some people feel uncomfortable – it fact, that’s sometimes one of the responsibilities of art, to push you and make you consider and reconsider your own perceptions of the word. Art is not meant to make you feel safe. And people, let’s be honest, enjoy fucking. They enjoy watching fucking, and, at the end of the day, the overwhelmingly vast majority of human beings are on earth because people, at some point, fucked.

So we sell comics that depict people fucking (and doing much worse), and they’re on the same sales floor as comics aimed at 6 years old, and we know how to police the sections so that never the twain shall meet. And they never do.

Moreover, as a parent myself, I’m far more bothered by the violent content of many comics we sell and stock than I am of sexuality – presumably my child will eventually have lots of sex one day, but I very much hope he never has to confront violence. And there’s at least one drawing in the bathroom that genuinely disturbs me (Ken Garing’s drawing of a guy unzipping his forehead and having raw brain coming out), and I’m also kind of creeped out by the Cthulu-esque tentacles erupting out of back of the toilet by Ian Betram, or even how Gabrielle Bell transformed the toilet itself into a snake. I shudder from that last one each and every time I walk into the bathroom. But I sat on the Board of Directors of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and I’d never ever condemn or block or change a drawing just because it doesn’t meet my sensibilities.

If my store wasn’t in San Francisco, I might be much more reticent of this, but this is the city in which City Lights bookstore fought and beat obscenity charges against Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl and Other Poems”; this is the town that was the home of the infamous Barbary Coast, this is a town that was one of the central homes to the Underground comics movement, that’s the home to Last Gasp publishing, where the Air Pirates was born, that was central in both “The Summer of Love” and the AIDS epidemic, that has been at the forefront of virtually every American conversation about sex and sexuality for the last 150 years. Having a few cartoon cocks on the wall of a private bathroom never seemed to me like any kind of a thing, y’know? A cartoon cock is emphatically not a real penis, and nothing there targeted or objectified women, with one possible exception depicting relatively chastely-shot sex between well-known cartoon characters by the last contributor – and to me, that one is a specific moment of parody of “beloved” characters that goes to a long tradition in comics (see the “Air Pirates” link above, or read anything about “Tijuana Bibles”)

But times and perceptions change.

I recount all of this context, because I personally think it’s all important. And when I give “tours” of the art and the bathroom, I usually talk about these contexts, and, especially when we get to the “Mad Bastards” section, go into some depth about the how and the why of it. And numerous other artists have reflected and commented on the “Mad Bastards” section in their own pieces (my favorite, I think, being Gene Yang’s cute cartoon robot which says, in binary:

01010111

01010100

01000110

00111111

Which translates directly as “WTF?”)

So, let’s get to the point of all of this recitation.

Recently, a cartoonist came to do a kids-oriented event with us. She happened to be in a pretty large rush because of her travel schedule, so I pushed the “signing the bathroom” to the beginning of the event, since there probably wouldn’t be time afterwards. And because it was like 9:30 in the morning, and I still had event-prep to do before the kids showed up, I gave the two-minute version of the tour, where I just ran through the names real fast, but provided little context. She actually didn’t appear to know the overwhelming majority of the names involved, which isn’t a real surprise – most of the newer crop of graphic novel creating authors don’t know very much about periodical comics or their creators or history at all. There is nothing at all wrong with this – you’re going to hear “Calvin & Hobbes” as a primary inspiration these days far more than “X-Men” these days, and that’s pretty awesome – but I mention it because folks who know who Garth Ennis, John McCrea, et al. are, and what their body of work is, tend to react very positively to that section and the story of the Mad Bastards. This includes women as well.

I leave her to draw, and she comes out and we do the kids club meeting and it just kills. The kids are highly engaged, the cartoonist gives me great answers, everyone has a great time and goes home happy as clams. Yay!

But a few days later, I get an email from the cartoonist. She, as it turns out, was deeply distressed by what she considered “aggressively sexual” drawings on the wall, and, while she had added some art of her own, after reflecting upon it for a few days, she said she really didn’t want to be associated with that, and would I please take the art down?

(Of course we have, it’s her art, not mine)

tilt2672I want to stress that I think this woman was extremely in the right for expressing her opinion, and I think that doing so was really very brave on her part. It’s not easy to tell someone you’ve been made to feel uncomfortable. On my end, I never even imagined this being a problem, and I am truly grateful this was brought to my attention.

I didn’t really know how to process this, however. Like I said, in the context of what I know, there’s not a problem here, and in literally twenty years this art has been on the wall, I’ve never received anything but positive reactions from anyone of any gender, but if I’m capable of learning, and if #MeToo taught me anything, it’s super super important to have a conversation and to try and fix things if people feel wronged.

So, I asked my predominantly (four out of seven) female staff if they felt uncomfortable. And the majority admitted that they did.

Well.

Guess this is one where I am wrong, and all of the things that I thought I knew were wrong.

Wow, let me let that sink in for a minute.

Clearly something has to be done – the last thing I want is for anyone, especially my staff, to feel uncomfortable. These concerns are a very real thing, as is sexual harassment. So something must be done.

But the thorny question is… exactly what?

I see three, possibly four responses, none of which I especially like.

First, obviously, is I could continue to let the status remain quo. It’s a non-public area, and going into the bathroom (or even working for or with the store) is a conscious decision that people make. Tours of the bathroom happen before I hire people, before I ask cartoonists to participate, so everyone knows what they’re agreeing to. This, however, is a pretty shitty “solution”, and it’s one that seems likely to engender hard feelings over the long haul, and may in fact have unnecessarily caused hard feelings in the past that I was never made aware of. I don’t want to make people feel bad – especially the hard-working staff and incredibly talented cartoonists that give me any possible way to continue my business.

Second, I could paint over the offending sections. I’m probably not going to do that for a whole host of reasons, the foremost is that smacks hard of censorship to me, the secondary that it’s an integral part of the whole installation and that many other pieces later on the wall refer back directly to the Mad Bastards section.

As a corollary to that, I’ve given serious consideration to simply erasing everything back there. Destroy it all, and never have a cartoonist on the wall again. I pretty much hate that answer too, but it makes more sense to me if we go in the “destroy” direction, because, as I noted, there are pieces back there that make me squirm for unrelated reasons, so why would I keep those if we’re getting rid of things that make other people uncomfortable?

The benefit of that approach is that then this topic is closed forever, in a definitive way. However: literally destroying history. Though on the third hand: art is meant to be ephemeral?

Third would be some sort of cover-up compromise where we make individual “cover ups” on the Mad Bastards art, that are essentially “content warnings” that people could open up “at their own risk”. It was suggested to me that some of those artists might want to provide me with new art for the cover-up, others could be a statement about, say, the CBLDF or the first amendment or #MeToo or Planned Parenthood, or something similarly “pro-social”, while the original art itself stays untouched.

This is somewhat appealing, and, honestly, will probably end up being the end decision, but I think that it, too, is problematic for two main reasons: A) I think that that kind of solution ends up magnifying the controversy by essentially drawing an enormous underline with circles and giant red arrows around the art, double-dog-daring people to look. B) I’m literally the only person in the world that gives the bathroom “tour”, and this means that at least twice a month, for the rest of my life, I’ll have to essentially explain and apologize for something that, purely as a piece of art and history, I’m not actually sure is “wrong”. Yuck, I don’t want to have to do that.

(Though I brought that last point to a female friend who coolly gazed at me and reminded me that she’s never gone a day in her adult life without being cat-called, so maybe twice-a-month having to be uncomfortable about something ain’t so bad. Touché. And understood!)

The possible fourth solution was floated for literally ripping out the walls, and auctioning them off, donating money to RAINN or a similar – that way someone has the art, and that the gain from that is channeled someplace positive, but that seems like a really big logistical nightmare for probably nowhere near enough gain.

I don’t know, maybe there’s another choice that I’m not seeing. But the ones I have pretty much all stink on ice. Though, of course, nowhere near as bad as being regularly subjected to harassment, is it?

I think a lot of men handwave a lot of things away that are uncomfortable, or that they don’t know how to process. I don’t want to hand wave this one away, which is why I want to put this out there publicly to try and spark a dialogue about what might be our own, uncomfortable-to-discuss, culpabilities – especially ones we might not even be conscious of.

I never even imagined the Mad Bastards section could make some women uncomfortable. Some women, including a minority of my female employees, have told me that they have never found it offensive at all; in the absence of competing voices I naively assumed that everyone felt that way, and so I was blind to the possibility that it even could be for some.

And maybe that’s the real lesson for men in this conversation. How can we learn to see past our implicit assumptions? I know I don’t have the answer myself. I was blind in the face of my own perceptions, until someone confronted me. Sometimes, maybe, we have to have it put right in our face so we can learn that we’ve created a problem.

The cartoonist who started this conversation later said to me (I’ll paraphrase): “When I was alone in the bathroom with those drawings, I wasn’t sure if I belonged here.” That’s not a thing you ever want another person to feel, and I’m truly sorry I didn’t see it myself before then.

**************************

Brian Hibbs has owned and operated Comix Experience in San Francisco since 1989, was a founding member of the Board of Directors of ComicsPRO, has sat on the Board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and has been an Eisner Award judge. Feel free to e-mail him with any comments. You can purchase two collections of the first Tilting at Windmills (originally serialized in Comics Retailer magazine) published by IDW Publishing, as well as find an archive of pre-CBR installments right here. Brian is also available to consult for your publishing or retailing program.

63 COMMENTS

  1. “t doesn’t happen to me, however; I’m a man.”

    I guess you’ve never met Kevin Spacey.

    ” …and then naturally Garth Ennis has to try to top that with a goofy cartoon Satan jerking off and the caption “Satan always comes first!””

    You expected better from Garth Ennis? Read his comics sometime. They revel in raunchy fanboy “humor.”

  2. History doesn’t cease to exist when the physical remnants of it are erased. Cameras exist for a reason! Take high-quality, well-lit photos of the walls for preservation, then erase them and leave them clean or start anew. You’ll save the art AND prevent triggering people in your space. If comics were meant to live forever, why would we print them on paper? ;)

  3. Brian, this is a wonderful example of someone questioning their assumptions. Thanks so much for sharing your misgivings and questions.

    My only quibble is that you suggest that painting over the offending cartoons is censorship. As the owner of the store, you (not the government) have every right to display whatever you want. That’s free speech. It’s also free speech for people to tell you that they don’t like what you’ve displayed.

    Speaking only for myself (and I have not seen these cartoons), I would probably want to keep the wall as historical record. Darick and John and Garth are fun! But I would probably want to find a way to move it from the bathroom to a place where people can choose to see it, instead of being forced to confront it every time they pee.

  4. Okay, so this might be completely impractical, but what if you re-plumbed? If there is room, it should not be too big of a job to move the existing bathroom fixtures just a few feet over, throw up a frame and some Sheetrock for a new bathroom. Then refloor the old space and leave the walls ass they are. You thereby create a space where artists can still freely draw, nothing has to come down, but where guests and employees don’t HAVE to go if they don;t want to – a dedicated art space, in other words.

  5. Garth Ennis was a revolutionary creator in the ‘90s with Hellblazer and Preacher. The offensiveness of these comics (especially Preacher) was part of the appeal. Not that being offensive is a quality per se, but there was something refreshing about this blunt and uncompromising book being published. You couldn’t imagine it being published at DC in the ‘80s. But how does it hold up when viewed from a wider cultural angle?
    Well, Preacher of course is a classic, but not everybody’s cup of tea. The greatness of some of the more explicit bits is not very easily explained to ‘laymen’, especially when taken out of context. Maybe the experience of the visiting cartoonist was somehow like flipping through a Preacher book in a general book store, not knowing what it is, and just not being able to give it a context; not being able to get the joke. Apparently, to some people, there isn’t even a joke, just obscenity.
    Also, the fact that the drawings were in a bathroom probably also makes it a (bigger) problem. The presence of the drawings violated her sense of privicy, in a place where privacy is extra vallued.
    I’m probably gonna go with painting over as well. You could document the walls by taking high quality photographs, so the history isn’t entirely lost. But you will also back up the statement that the happiness of the staff is important to you. It’s one thing for grown men to draw dirty words or pictures on the bathroom walls in secret. It’s another thing to turn it into company policy.

  6. Great column, as ever. Amazing what we (middle-aged white guys) take for granted, even more amazing when one of us (you, not me) takes it on board. Good on ya, Brian.

    I have no solution to your art dilemma, other than breaking off the Chaykin bit and sending it me.

    But just for future reference it should be “taking the piss out of everyone else” not “taking the piss on everyone else”, which is a different thing altogether. Or so I’m told.

    Ciao, Bwana!

  7. I have a feeling that scrawls on a comic shop bathroom may not count as Capital “A” art, no matter who drew it, so I wouldn’t quite worry about this being a case of full blown censorship and the like. But, at the same time, it seems like it a story worth preserving (Even if it’s just for you, Brian, and a select collection of employees, creators and customers). The photography option seems like a good route. Preserve the current art, take it down, add more, and repeat. Keep the curtain in case anyone goes in a direction like that again. Have a physical photo album available (upon request) in the store for those who want to see it (or maybe post it online?)

  8. Brian I love your wall, although I can identify with the woman who felt uncomfortable. It isn’t censorship if you paint over it (it’s your wall!), but I don’t think you should paint over it if you don’t want to! Maybe you can leave it there and cover it with a (locked?) curtain, unveiling it every time you give the tour (but not subjecting your employees etc. to it every time they need to pee).

    For the record, I can’t remember if I felt uncomfortable or not when I was back there. But that’s maybe because I’m used to the discomfort of being a woman in a “man’s world” if you know what I mean. I can’t keep track of all the times, you know?

    But again, I love your wall. And I love that you’re thinking so deeply and empathetically about this. You rock.

  9. This probably isn’t at all practical, but is there any way of moving the wall art? Maybe a comics or cartoon museum might like to have it if the art can somehow be removed and the walls resurfaced. The recipient paying for the cost of the refurbishment could be made part of the deal. Just brainstorming, here.

  10. Bravo to the way you’re handling this, Brian. It’s similar to an incident that occurred in the early ’00s at a bookstore I worked at in Portland.

    It had become a tradition for visiting authors to sign the wall of the stairwell to the internet office. Chuck Palahniuk—being Chuck Palahniuk—followed his signature with a less-than-savory quote from “The Exorcist.” (If you know the movie and Chuck’s work, you can probably guess the one.) Eventually, an employee made an anonymous complaint about being offended by it. A furor erupted between management and employees over what should be done. People who wanted it covered up were labeled prude and accused of censorship.

    In the end, managers chose to paint over the offending quote but keep Chuck’s signature—and someone took a photograph as a keepsake.

    Although at the time (I’m loathe to admit) I was on the side of keeping it, I’ve since grown up and realized it’s better to give the benefit of the doubt to people who are rendered uncomfortable rather than supporting those who take no offense. The pain of the former far outweighs the wrath of the latter.

  11. As you say, this is a private bathroom, not generally open to the public, so maybe a simple trigger warning on the door would suffice?

    When the distressed cartoonist asked for her art to be removed, you complied: “it’s her art, not mine”. Does this not apply to the other cartoonists? I’d like to think their artwork would not be removed or destroyed without consultation.

  12. There’s a simple option not being discussed here.

    People have a right to feel uncomfortable. However, no one else is required to do anything because of those feelings.

    You can do something, of course, if you so desire, but just consider this. What if these drawings were explicit but very positive presentations of the LGBTQIA community and their viewports. If some people were made “uncomfortable” by those presentations, would you be just as respectful of their feelings?

    Mike

  13. Have you considered taking the walls down and donating them to a museum or similar collecting institution, like the Cartoon Art Museum there in San Francisco? A museum could accompany the art with an explanation that gives it context, making it less likely to offend people, and also exhibit it in a way that makes certain only those who want to see it will see it. It sounds like some of the art continues onto the bathroom’s fixtures, which could make preservation and/or storage of the bathroom difficult, but I hope you can find a home for it. Documenting the bathroom with photos still wouldn’t be the same as having it continue to exist somewhere in physical space.

  14. Hey, just so everyone knows, I’m going to stay silent (!!!!) in commentary on this column for now because I don’t want to steer the conversation one way or another more than I have in the act of writing the column itself.

    I do, however, want to thank my friend John Kane for schooling me on “taking the piss”, We muricans can, at best, approximate. Also: the VHC bit is at least as filthy as John McCrea’s, but it’s in a text joke so people are unlikely to even notice.

    Also: MariNaomi, try to make a point to come through the store soon and ask to see the bathroom again, you got followed up on by Matt Rosenberg and Frank Barbieri, and the three-beat sequence between Neil, you and them is one of my absolute favs. You should see it.

    -B

  15. “People have a right to feel uncomfortable. However, no one else is required to do anything because of those feelings.”

    The whole point, as he expressed in the introduction to this essay, is not to be complicit in this culture of degradation toward women, and to do something when one has the opportunity to create a solution.

    Read better.

  16. “A museum could accompany the art with an explanation that gives it context, making it less likely to offend people …”

    It would demonstrate how fans and pros remain emotionally immature regardless of their physical age (Ennis is 47), and how comic shops remain man caves for middle-aged white guys.

  17. Missed in the comments is the issue that employees are uncomfortable with the art. It’s not your home or studio, but a place of employment, and because of that, a different and higher standard is necessary.

  18. How is this a men vs women issue? One of the apparently offensive images is Satan jerking off, why would that be degrading to women in particular? As Brian says “there aren’t any women involved, this wasn’t about being sexual or aggressive at all, as I see it”.

    This is just drawings on a wall, which some people may find offensive, some may find funny, some may find stupid. It does not target anyone, and it seems to me if any “group” is going to be more likely to take offence, it would be Christians, not women.

    The solution is, if you are easily offended, use the toilets at the cafe down the road.

  19. >> When the distressed cartoonist asked for her art to be removed, you complied: “it’s her art, not mine”. Does this not apply to the other cartoonists? I’d like to think their artwork would not be removed or destroyed without consultation. >>

    I think, having drawn artwork on a bathroom wall, the artists all understood that their work might be removed or destroyed without consultation. After all, it’s a bathroom in the back of a retail store; the odds that it will oneday be renovated are high.

    In any case, I kinda favor the “remove the art but preserve it somehow” option. But speaking as one of the perpetrators, Brian, please feel free to do whatever you want with my panel. It’s your wall, your store, your employees.

    On the one hand, their feelings are more important than mine, and on the other, given how long it’s been there, haven’t they suffered enough?

    kdb

  20. I find myself torn as Brian is, precisely over the issue of creating a hostile work environment.

    But then, if someone were working in, say, the Tate Gallery, that issue would (I hope) never arise. If there were images on the wall (say, some of the raunchy Robert Mapplethorpe or Chris Ofili works), we would rightly regard them as protected speech, and something people at the Tate should understand they have to deal with as part of the job. Just as people who think reproductive rights are from the devil have to put that aside if they’re becoming pharmacists at Target.

    Being not only a champion but a part of unfettered artistic production is very much part of the ethos of Comix Experience, and that, to me, is the key point. If Clay were (able) to offer to draw in the bathroom, should you tell him no because he’s a poor fit for some people’s sensibilities? Or should you tell him to tone it down a bit? What if Julie Doucet or Roberta Gregory were there and went a bit far? These seem to me to be clarifying questions.

    Obviously one would wish to avoid the likes of confederate statues, but I can’t see how you shut down anything short of hate speech without shutting down the store itself. If you feel that it’s all right to sell Clay’s work (admittedly, where the kids can’t get to it), then I think you should also feel all right to put it where grown adults can see it in raw conversation with other art.

    After all, you’re not a candy store. And you’re not a partisan salesman of images approved by the central committee. You’re a purveyor of dangerous ideas, frequently drawn with extreme directness.

    Speaking more personally, when I was younger, there were a great many images I wasn’t comfortable with (because of my Christian upbringing). I bleeped out bad words and blasphemy from the tapes I made. I agreed that blasphemous movies should be banned. And it took a while to defeat that kind of repression. Working in bookstores was part of the way I did that, as I recognized that it wasn’t our job to pre-approve the acceptable.

    Later on, it was in Molotov’s, with you, Warren, and Hollingsworth, where they were still on a gross-out groove from the tour, that I realized I’d backslid and gotten soft. It led me to person up again. That’s one of the things challenging art (or a challenging person) is supposed to do: help you break the mental ties that bind you, and keep you on your toes.

    To me, it’s a very recent, and very bad, idea that culture isn’t supposed to poke at your hot button issues. Footballers aren’t supposed to take the knee. The wrong people aren’t supposed to write, draw, or film the wrong art. Teachers aren’t supposed to explore contentious issues in class without toeing somebody’s idea of the party line.

    And to be sure, there’s a time and a place for controversy; and some issues aren’t controversy at all, but rather oppression dressing itself in freedom’s underoos. But I also think it’s everyone’s job in the culture biz to fight for the expression of even the darker or more crassly juvenile images and ideas.

    If the front of the store is about keeping Black Kiss in black plastic so as not to provide a hostile shopping experience (or to appease the forces of NIMBY), then so it goes. We try to clean up well when in public. But the back of the store, it seems to me, should be the id; and to make the past bow to current ideas of polite society doesn’t make a future that is open and diverse; rather, it sacrifices one diversity at the altar of another, which is the opposite of the multicultural society we hope for.

    And one should remember how much art — and how much gay and women’s art, how much working people’s art, how much in general the wrong sort of people’s art — has been repressed on the grounds that if caused offence to somebody’s idea of common decency.

    I know I’m teaching my grandmother to suck eggs here, Brian. You’ve covered much of this ground, and your concern over hostile work environment is well taken. But I feel that bowdlerizing what Comix Experience does will also bowdlerize what Comix Experience is.

  21. Just to be clear, I’m a man who lives nowhere near Comix Experience. So this has literally no impact or bearing on my life or anyone I know.

    A) I strongly detest the depiction of sexual violence against women. That would be offensive even to even me as a man. Brian states that is not component of this dilemma.

    B) Art can be gross, disturbing, shocking, traumatizing, juvenile, or distasteful. It’s up to me to like or dislike it, and much about art is the reaction to the art. We shouldn’t only paint trees and flowers because they offend no one.

    C) This artwork is in a private bathroom used primarily by staff and a few visitors. It is not a public display of vile art. I would personally not enjoy the images described, and I would probably make a personal decision to urinate elsewhere. I might even question the tastes of the business owner of I saw it. But in no way do I think my dislike for the art should force the business owner to do anything about it.

    D) If you find the art to be turning away artists and creators, tell them the room has crass art in it, and that they’re more than welcome to contribute to the display. If not, you understand their sensibilities.

    E) What is “offensive” about the depictions of anatomy or sexual acts? Do only men enjoy phallic images? There’s been a disturbing trend towards this new puritanical thinking, that to depict nudity, sex, violence, or drug use is evil. You should not take down the art on the basis that it disagrees with the tastes or sensibilities of particular individuals.

    F) You should put a note on the door that says, “Caution, adult images inside. Pee at your own risk.” Make it a joke, but let people know what they’re in for.

    G) I’d be more sensitive towards your employees if there was offensive content, but they all sell adult themed comics to customers of your store. They crossed that moral bridge a long time ago.

    Great discussion. I’m curious to see what you decide. I did it fascinating that once more, a new generation finds its predecessors immoral. At worst, you and the artists are guilty of poor taste. I wouldn’t sweat it that someone feels “offended” by your art. I’d be more worried if it made your store less inviting to customers.

  22. First off as others said congratulations to you for taking this issue on and explaining it so well. Kudos.

    As for the problem, as a homeowner I have learned the hard way that sooner or later bathrooms have to be ripped apart and rebuilt. There’s a reason museums don’t hang their exhibits in the bathroom.

    Which means sooner or later those walls will be destroyed and probably not at a time of your choosing.

    Therefore I say option 4, remove them now and find them a home either through sale or donation. Before a burst pipe or leaky roof makes the decision for you.

  23. For the immediate future, just go and get a non-see through shower curtain and tack it over the art. If you can put it on a sliding rail in front of it, so much the better. And then you can put a note on another wall, inviting people to slide the curtain to see the artwork, some of which may be offensive.

    Don’t paint it over though. It’ll cost someone a lot of money in the future to hire a conservator to remove that paint.

  24. I think this is a sign of the slow rightward movement of our society. And that is fine. We have been in this movement for the last decades or 15 years as our morals change with the time. I think we are about to see the great censoring and cleaning of public spaces in this next generation. Generationally this makes sense – we are entering a period of prudence after a period of plenty. Just changing morals across the board – where we thought openness in society and depictions of other seemed brave, we now see predators of innocence.

    All I have to say is American Beauty – Academy Award Winner of 2000. This art would never, ever be produced today. NEVER! It is just too risque and deviant. In 2000, it was seen as a masterpiece.

    Once again, this is not a novel move to the right, but it is happening by a novel group. It used to be mostly Christian WASP or Southern Society. Now we have those same feelings of protection and moralizing from LGBTQ and minority groups. Suddenly we don’t need to protect girls from male teachers, but male students from female teachers. The almost very normal occurrence of gay sex between older and younger men that happened in previous decades is seen as abhorrent in this new world. How quickly we forget the world in which people lived and made decisions.

    I actually find myself on the same size with the morals of this new generation – I am part of it – but notice the proselytizing, public shaming and witch hunts to be interesting. Roman Polaski, Michael Jackson and Woody Allen would not be able to make it in this new world. And maybe this is right. I just don’t know.

    When I hear about a picture of an angel, sheep, God and Satan having sex being TOO OFFENSIVE I wonder what is next. And I do this with a bit of trepidation since these cases now are easy. As we begin to continue down this route, I think we will get more and more away from them to a new norm. What this new norm will be, I just don’t know. But I will think in one generation you won’t be able to mock religious beliefs in parts of Europe & the US AND you won’t be able to mock sexual preferences or children. The new morals of a new world. It is fun to bear witness.

  25. Idealistically I side with the leave it there camp, but I see where your employees discomfort is in need of addressing. These people are valued members of your inner circle and you want to treat them decently and kindly. Besides basic human consideration, the issue involves employee rights/Employer responsibilities, with all the legal ramifications and community standards that govern that realm.

    My armchair opinion here is pretty meaningless, but I do have an idea that might help.

    How about having the staff vote? (And any time you have substantial staff turnover, you can call a revote.) I don’t see a compelling reason why you should dictate your response to this situation and your consternation is rooted in your concern for your staff. Perhaps the “right thing” is to put the decision in their hands?

  26. First: a wonderfully thoughtful and genuine dissertation on the issue. Second: the suggestion for a second bathroom, just a toilet and sink (a classic loo or water closet) is a good solution. One marked “Uncensored Art Toilet” the other “Dry Wall Toilet.” Third: I never got clear on the issue(s) of the discomforted women. Was it about the sex (and by extension unsavory sexuality) or about the seeming slam on Christianity? It would be interesting to poll for opinions from Christian and non-Christian speakers. Would an atheist or agnostic have been discomforted? The argument that an employee of the store has already crossed the line by choosing to work there does not hold water. The employee doesn’t know, or will ever need to know what is inside every comic book. The employee should have no concern about what a customer wants to read or not. But the employee does have to use, and look at the walls within the only toilet on the premises. There is no practical alternative. Sliding shower curtains…well, maybe.

  27. “The whole point, as he expressed in the introduction to this essay, is not to be complicit in this culture of degradation toward women, and to do something when one has the opportunity to create a solution.”

    Woman are not the only things to whom bad things have, are, or will continue to happen. There’s a whole bunch of Christians, for example, who would vehemently state that this culture “degrades” them and their beliefs. Do you think millions of Americans voted for Donald Trump because they feel the culture loves and respects them? Lots of people feel uncomfortable about a lot of things and they ALL believe their feelings are 100% legitimate.

    The question is how do we, individually and collectively, deal with and respond to those feelings and understanding that not every complaint automatically requires corrective action is part of that.

    THINK BETTER.

  28. It sounds like an incredible wall, and I’d hope you’d find some way to preserve it if you decide to have it removed. Covering it up with a curtain seems like a reasonable way to proceed. It’s not something people should feel they’re being exposed to voluntarily (particularly your employees), but it also seems like a valuable artifact of comics, and your store’s history.

    And keep in mind what Kid Kyoto says: Bathroom walls sometimes have disasters befall them, so take some steps at preservation sooner rather than later, if you feel like it should be preserved in some way.

  29. Remove it, if possible, or as Sarah says, take a high quality photo of it. It’s part of an issue or society struggles with, so save it some way. Then make the walls blank so that people can tend to business.

  30. While I can appreciate that one kid-friendly creator felt that way (and I’d like to emphasize that “woman artist” and “all ages artist” are not synonymous, one of my pet peeves is people who act like they are) is it really necessary to go over the whole thing? Doesn’t it suffice to cover those parts during kids events?

    Eh but what do I know, from my youth to adulthood I’ve used the bathrooms in public school, Grand Central Station, Mars Bar, Tompkins Square Park and enough backstage/dressing room areas that all contained graffiti above and beyond what you’re describing, so my appropiate-o-meter may be off.

    It’s cool that you’re asking these questions about it though. As opposed to most of history where women’s thought’s about these things we’re either dismissed as unimportant, or else assumed for them that they were too fragile to handle such talk, humor, etc. ,thereby using it as another reason to exclude women from social spheres.

  31. I think this is a pretty straightforward decision. The issue at hand is tradition vs inclusion. This art can be preserved and a more inclusive environment can be created. This is even an opportunity for a new tradition to be created.

    This issue of clinging to the past is coming up in many different ways in our society right now, and this is a chance for Mr. Hibbs to exhibit the leadership I’ve often seen in him in the past. Speaking as a 36-year-old white man, the old boys club attitude that has dominated this industry up until this point has gotten stale. New and diverse voices have reinvigorated these stories we all love and this is another opportunity to make everyone feel welcomed.

  32. While some of the art described wouldn’t be “appreciated” by me (the anti-religious ones specifically), I wouldn’t in a million years ask for it to be removed. I know you’re trying to be very considerate, but don’t cave and erase the history gracing the walls of this fine sounding bathroom. But if you do, maybe you could just put up bubble-wrap over the walls/artwork and the easily offended would then feel safe.

  33. Here’s my two (quick) cents: I agree with the notion of taking hi-res pics/scans of the walls, because selfishly I want to see them. Give the scans of the art to the CBLDF, maybe they can do some posters for next year’s membership push. I’d buy something like that if I saw it on the CBLDF table at a show. Then you can paint over the walls and restart the whole process, just with the stipulation that anybody who draws on it keeps it all-ages.

  34. Start a kickstarter campaign to remodel your bathroom. Hire a cadre of artists (cartoonists and others) and a team of interior designers to come up with a design that honors the tradition and history of your store and the shared experiences that have been had there, but that also respects guests and employees rights (or, at least, expectations) to be able to take care of their business without thinking about all this shit.

  35. Two key words: Informed Consent.

    Leave it up, and install a curtain with a disclaimer to allow for the choice of those who access the restroom to view it or not.

    This hypersensitive stuff has to stop. Removing the wall or painting over the art should have never been considered as an option. It definitely would be censorship, which is defined as the act of censoring something. Just because it’s your wall doesn’t make it not censorship. It just means you can censor it if you want to. It’s not unwanted offensive graffiti; it’s an art project. Art needs to have the ability to offend if it wants to. Having said that, the overly sensitive should also have the option to not view things that offend them. Installing a curtain with a disclaimer is a compromise that meets the requirements on both sides of the topic.

  36. “Woman are not the only things to whom bad things have, are, or will continue to happen.”

    Did you . . . did you just pull out the male victim card? Jesus christ.

  37. “When I hear about a picture of an angel, sheep, God and Satan having sex being TOO OFFENSIVE I wonder what is next.”

    It’s one wall in one bathroom. There’s nothing next, snowflake.

  38. You are already doing exactly what you are supposed to do. You give the bathroom tour to cartoonists and potential employees. It is there for them to see and make an informed decision.
    This is your store. You have fulfilled your obligation as the owner.
    Any other choice is unacceptable.
    That being said I would get a professional photographer in there to take high resolution of all the artwork to keep for yourself before the wave of Social Justice Warriors make you destroy it.
    I really have a problem with people thinking it’s okay to destroy art.

  39. There are also great places now where you could not only photograph it but have it transposed onto your very own wallpaper and recreate it elsewhere. I know it wouldn’t be “Original” art, but perhaps better suited in another environment? It would still be better than a simple paint over and ultimately showing respect to not only your female employees but women everywhere who are now obviously a part of this conversation. Interesting to think they were not comfortable enough to address it before and yet you feel that you are totally approachable and one of the “Good Guys” which goes to show you just how intimidated we are and concerned with things such as keeping our jobs and not offending anyone or being made to feel that we are the “minority” of the female employees. Should it matter if it offended even one? What would you do if it was just one male employee who was bothered by this? Would you approach it differently? Do you see it in a different light NOW vs before #metoo?

  40. One could make the case that asking someone to draw on a public bathroom wall is inviting for crude and vulgar work. Not that it makes it any better, but perhaps over the years the artists played to the space…esp when they see other work in there. Bathroom scribbles will never be polite. Ask any dude who’s ever used a public bathroom, and its just gross and the scribbles on the wall are often disgusting. The original comments section of the internet. Not justifying any of it, but its an interesting conversation about art in environments.

    It seems like the space bothers you after asking some trusted friends and peers about it. I think that’s important as a man to understand that we can change our opinions on things when others tell us something we think is innocent is in fact problematic. Whatever you chose to do, documenting it is important just as a historical document.

  41. I think the fundraising idea to have the walls removed & replaced may have some legs, but have it cover more than just that though. After you have covered those costs donate the rest of the funds to a charity or two. Like you said you could even auction off the walls to increase amount donated. If possible even have some of the wall artists take part in someway. That way it can be shown that situations like these don’t have to become a zero-sum game. You could turn this into positive moment where reasonable people can have a constructive and illuminating conversation about a pressing societal issue., which doesn’t end with ad hominem comments.

    Also if you do replace/redo the walls have you thought about going with tile?

  42. I’m very surprised by the vast majority of these comments.

    The wall is an example that illustrates the unconcious bias or blindspots we have. The key takeaway is that things we don’t notice can make people uncomfortable and feel unwelcome. It’s something we all should consider in our daily lives. What we intend isn’t neccesarily the point, it’s how it is interpreted that counts.

    I’m sure we’ve all seen things similar. In the workplace men, usually of older generations, sometimes speak to female colleagues in a way they geuinely intend as a compliment, but focuses on their looks – effectively dismissing their intelligence, contributions and hard work. Do I do things that have similar impact? I hope not, but would I notice if I did?

    What to do with the wall isn’t the problem – and I’m sure Brian doesn’t need advice and can work that out on his own.

    Thanks Brian, interesting column and change of pace.

  43. I can’t even remotely agree with Hibbs’ statement that it’s “pretty awesome” that “most of the newer crop of graphic novel creating authors don’t know very much about periodical comics or their creators or history at all.”

    We stand on the shoulders of the creators that came before us. That’s how we grow. Regardless of Hibbs’ pandering opinion, nothing worthwhile is built upon ignorance.

  44. “nothing worthwhile is built upon ignorance.”

    Yeah? How many American creators knew about Osamu Tezuka before they started making comics? This is such a nonsense statement.

  45. @Skip, And do you think that fact is “pretty awesome”?

    Also, speaking of “nonsense statements”, if you knew anything about Osamu Tezuka, you’d know that his deep admiration and knowledge of the artists that came before him, especially the films produced by Walt Disney, laid the foundation for the artist he became.

    Sorry, Skip, but ignorance just isn’t as cool as you seem to think it is.

  46. So “Jim”, I sell comics for a living, and a growing number of books (probably the majority, but I don’t have a rigorous study to show that) are from people in their 20s who don’t have any especial history of comics to fall back on, who probably don’t have but the passing-ist familiarity with Kirby, let alone Byrne and Simonson and Art Adams, and JR JR and Jim Lee and [fill-in whichever 10 dozen names that you {AND I} think are The Shit] and yet are doing comics projects at least as vital as any of those living names, and almost certainly much more commercial.

    Sorry if that’s not a thing you like, but I think an amazing piece of comicing like Tillie Walden’s SPINNING is at least as valuable to the medium and artform and the commerce as any fifty pieces of “foundational” work.

    I interview a LOT of cartoonists, and very very few working artists are especially paying attention to _anything_ other than trying to do the best work they can. Its a really rare author (let alone auteur!) who has *time* to do anything but create. And from my POV as a person whose literal livelihood *depends* on vital, passionate, creative works, I think that looking FORWARD rather than looking BACKWARDS is where comics are and should be going.

    It’s truly great when I can have a conversation with creators about Kirby and Swan and Romita and Wood and Crandall…. but, man, almost none of those artists sell more than 3-4 copies a year in the average comic shop any more, and they don’t sell even a fraction of that in the mainstream book market.

    Don’t let the greatness of the past blind you to the greatness of the future.

    -B

  47. Jim,

    Just because a young creator isn’t influenced by *your* childhood touchstones doesn’t mean they don’t have their own and are “ignorant.” Just one random example: I googled “Tillie Walden influences,” and the top result is an interview in which she discusses Windsor McCay, Osamu Tezuka, and Hayao Miyazaki.

    I think your statements about Tezuka, the facts of which I agree with, actually undercut your point. Tezuka’s manga revolution brought vitality into manga precisely because some of his main influences were from outside manga tradition, just like the new breed of young comics creators also have primary influences outside Big-Two monthly pamphlet comics.

    I really wonder if you’re being intentionally disingenuous since Brian’s very next sentence after what you quote makes it very clear the point is *what* these young creators’ influences are not *whether* they have influences at all. I mean, do you honestly think “Smile” would be better if it showed a greater influence from “Preacher”?

  48. “Brian Hibbs” (is there some reason we’re putting each other’s names in quotes?), I think Spinning is a great book too—-beautifully drawn and told. I never suggested there wasn’t anything worthwhile about current comics—-in fact, I think we’re in a bit of a creative renaissance right now. I love the new work I’m seeing.

    In your column, you said that you thought it was “pretty awesome” that “most of the newer crop of graphic novel creating authors don’t know very much about periodical comics or their creators or history at all.”

    THAT’S what I disagree with.

    If that’s true, and I’m not sure that it is, how is that “pretty awesome?” Can you answer that? Wouldn’t any artist benefit from knowing who Toth was? Or Krigstein, Barks, etc. (not to mention living periodical artists like The Hernandez Bros. or Crumb)? Why do you think ignorance of those creators is “pretty awesome”?

    And, I want to add, that I don’t even agree that they don’t have knowledge of past work. I see lots of influences in Hibbs’ example of Tillie Walden (I’m not sure why Hibbs thinks she knows nothing about comics history).

    Art history, including comics, is filled with one generation building on the previous. Without a Meskin, you don’t get the same Ditko. Without Ditko you don’t get the same Byrne. Without Byrne you don’t get the same Samnee. Etc., etc. On and on. Each generation adds to the knowledge of the past. Isn’t that what education is all about?

    @JTL, I didn’t put modern creators down, or suggest they didn’t have influences, or say anything negative about them at all. I certainly never suggested they should be influenced by MY “childhood touchstones”. I’m only disagreeing with Hibbs that ignorance of the past is somehow “pretty awesome”. And the word “ignorance” is not an insult, it just a word that means “lack of knowledge”. You and Hibbs seem to be reading all kinds of stuff into what I wrote—-things I never said, implied, or believe.

  49. Jim, I find it really ironic that you accuse us of inaccurately “reading into” when this whole subthread started when you inaccurately “read into” the original post things that the author definitely didn’t “say, imply, or [I think] believe.”

    The point all of the rest of us are trying to make is that these new, young creators often have *different* influences and creative lineages than the monthly superhero comics niche canon. These creators are definitely NOT ignorant of comics/art history; their knowledge is just of different things than you or the typical superhero comics creator value.

  50. @JTL, But, unlike the things you read into my statement, Hibbs DID write exactly what I quote him as saying:

    “most of the newer crop of graphic novel creating authors don’t know very much about periodical comics or their creators or history at all.”

    That’s Hibbs, not me. HE wrote that, not me.

    He goes on to say that they have influences apart from periodical comics—which I’m all for. The only part I disagree with is the part that I quoted.

    Maybe I misunderstood. Perhaps he only meant to say that it’s great that they’re bringing in new influences (a statement I would agree with), but that’s not what he clarified when he wrote back. Instead, he decided to lecture me about the poor sales of older stuff, and highlighting how much of his income is derived from comics—without considering that mine might be just as equally tied to the ribs of the industry as his.

    I’ll spell it out for you—I think creative influences outside the scope of periodical comics are not only important but necessary (and largely unavoidable anyway). Without them, a creator’s work will likely be stale and derivative. If that’s all that Hibbs meant, then great, I wish he had clarified that.

    IF, and that’s a big IF, Hibbs is right and most of the newer batch of GN creators don’t know anything about periodical comics history, then that’s unfortunate, not “pretty awesome”; because that knowledge could make their already great work all that much better.

    When I was a kid, it was a shop owner who introduced me to many of the artists who would become my own influences. He did me a big favor. I hope Hibbs does the same for young artists that visit his store, instead of explaining how unimportant and poorly selling those old guys are.

  51. For what it’s worth, if you aren’t comfortable putting the walls on display in the shopping area of the store itself, that probably tells you all you need to know about how the content could be viewed by employees or customers alike.

    I think the curtain solution is the most cost effective suggestion to preserve something that has deep meaning to you the owner, while respecting the wishes of some of your employees.. That or scrub it all.

  52. Imagine if we’d remove all art from our museums and galleries, which, at one time, have offended a particular group of people. Aside from some decorative pieces, we’d have pretty empty places. Words and pictures are a way of challenging and communicating ideas — even stupid or evil ones, because: who is to judge?

    But a comic shop is not an art museum, and so, the art in it is not “protected”.

    So, if this is about you reinventing the place for a new age and a new audience (and a younger staff, which, btw, will always dislike the “cool stuff of yesterday”) and wanting to sell books and attract people of a certain mindset and political leaning, I’d say get rid of it. Then it was always just decoration (and NOT art). But I am pretty sure the Manara books and the Saga covers will be next somewhere down the line. And let’s not talk about books by male creators who weren’t moral angels and then why stocking the books Breganza worked on and the one written by Brian Wood and so on…
    Where would you draw the line? Because … whatever reason one person has for being offended — most of the times it’s a real, heart-felt one.

    I ask myself: will we look at the “good” puritanism of today like we do on the “stupid” old one? Imagine the same situation with a religious cartoonist.

    However, an interesting thought piece.

  53. Well. I appreciate your forthrightness in acknowledging that there is a problem. Much like a fish not understanding that it lives in water or a white man usually lives in privilege and doesn’t get it, either, coming to grips with a woman feeling bothered or harassed by images in the place of her work. You get big points for not being defensive about it. Four of your staff didn’t like the images? Felt uncomfortable. Volumes spoken there.

    I have had to come to grips with this at times in the past being that veritable male who simply ‘doesn’t get it’, caroming through life not having to worry about cops bothering me because I’m black, women being bothered by men appreciating their sexuality, etc. I’ve grown a lot. Sounds like you’re getting your opportunity, too. I wish that I could see the images in question here, but then…it really doesn’t matter what I think…as a male, does it? I might not be offended in the slightest, or I might possibly squeak through to realize that maybe they had a point. Don’t know.

    By the same token…to be slightly defensive here, I’m not a big fan of ‘trigger warnings’ in schools and higher institutions because…cmaaahn!! You’re supposed to be a grownup now, academia is there to expose you to new and different ideas, so…grow up. As for coming to grips with the 1st ammendment and freedom to express yourself, it doesn’t mean that drawing a woman getting gangraped by rhinoceroses and mutant porn stars is protected expression. Catcher In The Rye might be offensive to some, as might be Debbie Does Dallas. Stuff sometimes just has to be out there for us to deal with. But…you made the right call.

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