Looking Back | Speaking out

Allegations of harassment and sexual misconduct mired the comics industry in the summer of 2020.

We continue our series that looks back at the biggest comics industry news trends of 2020. Watch for more posts all this week.

In the midst of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and the countless protests in the United States following the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota this past summer, a wave of allegations against comics creators and industry figures became public. These allegations ranged from abuse to harassment to other forms of sexual misconduct. Many brave people stepped forward to tell their stories and share what happened to them over the course of several weeks in June.

The comics industry isn’t unique in this regards; at the same time that the allegations against comics pros occurred, the professional wrestling industry was going through what was dubbed the Speaking Out movement. And both follow the bigger #MeToo movement that began to go viral back in 2017, which revealed the bad behavior by many entertainment industry figures (as well as politicians, captains of industry and, well, just about every other industry out there).

And in comics, harassment has, unfortunately, been part of the landscape for decades. In more recent years high-profile industry figures like Eddie Berganza and Brian Wood have been accused and subsequently lost work as a result, so to say that this is “new” would be inaccurate.

What seemed to set 2020 apart, however, was the number of allegations that occurred in such a short amount of time. Some were industry figures who had previously been accused, while others were newly revealed.

The first name to emerge was Cameron Stewart, whose comics work includes the Fight Club sequel comics, Motor Crush, Batgirl, Seaguy, Catwoman and Sin Titulo, among others. Multiple women accused artist Cameron Stewart of sexually preying on them, including one who was 16 at the time.

Stewart never released a statement on the allegations. His Twitter feed, in fact, has been quiet since February. But according to Bleeding Cool, he lost work at DC following the allegations, and a cover he had created for the Image Comics title Ice Cream Man was canceled.

Shortly after that, allegations against former Dark Horse editor Brendon Wright surfaced. Freelancer Bekah Caden tweeted that Wright “sexually harassed me and stalked me” for over a year and promised her help with her career. After these allegations went public, several companies working with Wright as a freelance editor announced they removed him from projects, including Suspicious Behavior Productions and White Cat Entertainment. Wright issued an apology following the accusations.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund announced June 22 that Charles Brownstein, their longtime executive director, had resigned. His resignation followed several days of creators calling for his removal on social media. The push for his removal stems from a 2005 incident where Brownstein allegedly assaulted artist Taki Soma.

About a week after Brownstein resigned, two members of the CBLDF board resigned and another retired, as additional allegations against Brownstein came to light. In July, BOOM! Studios would ask retailers to destroy a Free Comic Book Day anthology they had produced that promoted the CBLDF’s work. The CBLDF continues to rebuild after these events, hiring Jeff Trexler as their interim director.

Around the same time that Brownstein resigned, accusations from multiple women surfaced against Jason Latour, a comics writer and artist known for his work Southern Bastards and Spider-Gwen. He issued a statement on Twitter, while The Hollywood Reporter reported their sources at Marvel said they had no future plans to work with him.

On June 24, Dark Horse Comics issued a statement saying they would no longer work with Scott Allie, a freelance writer and editor who used to serve as the company’s editor-in-chief. The statement followed allegations by former Dark Horse employee Shawna Gore that Allie sexually assaulted her in 1999. Mike Mignola, who had continued to work with Allie on the Hellboy titles even after Allie originally left Dark Horse, also said he would discontinue working with him.

Vault Comics canceled Hundred Wolves after allegations against writer/author Myke Cole surfaced. Cole responded with a statement on Twitter.

Scott Lobdell, who admitted to engaging in sexual harassment back in 2013, left the DC title Red Hood and the Outlaws on the same day that writer Alex de Campi and artist Tess Fowler brought new allegations against him.

Finally, allegations surfaced in June against writer Warren Ellis, who has written Transmetropolitan, Excalibur, Thor, Secret Avengers, Global Frequency, the Authority, Planetary, Red and a host of other titles over the years.

The So Many of Us website collects more than 30 testimonials from women who share their experiences with Ellis. From the site:

The scope of our interactions with Warren Ellis varies extensively in degree and duration. With some of us, it was a brief period of private messaging conducted solely online; with others, he cultivated a relationship lasting many years, involving multiple episodes of intimate physical contact. Though people are still coming forward, what’s already been disclosed covers a wide range of experiences, some seemingly harmless, some devastating. Taken in aggregate, they show a clear pattern of abuse.

Although Ellis originally posted his response to the allegations on Twitter as a series of images, he has since deleted most of his past tweets. But you can see his statement in full here. Due to his stature in the industry and his work as a novelist and TV writer/producer, the story was picked up by The Guardian and the Daily Beast in addition to the comic book press. Following the allegations, a story written by Ellis was pulled from a Dark Knights: Death Metal anthology title, although DC did continue to publish a Batman miniseries that was already underway by Ellis and Bryan Hitch.

After shutting his email newsletter down when the accusations became public, Ellis announced on Twitter on Dec. 28 that he plans to resume it in 2021.

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