Controversial ‘Red Room’ variant cover won’t be published

Fantagraphics, Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg decide not to release a cover that parodies Art Spiegelman’s cover to ‘Maus.’

A variant cover for the third issue of Ed Piskor’s “splatterpunk” comic series Red Room: Trigger Warning has been cancelled by its publisher, Fantagraphics, and the creators involved.

The cover, for Red Room: Trigger Warnings #3, was one of several covers that debuted in a post at The Beat yesterday — which they’ve since removed. It parodied Art Spiegelman’s Maus, the multiple award-winning autobiographical comic about his father’s experiences as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. It’s not the kind of comic that would be a good idea to parody on a splatterpunk gore comic, given the subject matter or the recent controversy in Tennessee.

The backlash on Twitter was swift, with a tweet from artist Ramon Villalobos garnering several responses from other comics creators. His tweet also includes an image of the cover in question.

“Hoping the backlash isn’t met with them decrying cancel culture and using it to drive up sales, but I’m not optimistic,”

Originally tweeted by Patrick A. Reed (@djpatrickareed) on March 18, 2022.

“I need a cover that gets lots of attention but also totally eclipses the story and anything I’m trying to say and ensures no one takes me seriously.”

Originally tweeted by Pete Woods- use only as directed (@thatpetewoods) on March 18, 2022.

Since its debut last year, Piskor’s comic has featured violent and gory imagery, both in the comic itself and on its covers. When it debuted, Piskor described it as a “modern day E.C. Comics, infused with the dream of Black Mirror.” And Piskor’s colleague Jim Rugg, who works with him on the Cartoonist Kayfabe podcast, has drawn several variant covers for the comic that parody various independent comic series, by Daniel Clowes, Robert Crumb and others.

“I am sorry for my latest Red Room cover. I have drawn several variant covers for the Red Room series and I had fun parodying famous and iconic comics and graphic novel covers, but I realize (now) that the morally charged subject matter of Maus made it an inappropriate subject for the necessarily over-the-top Red Room treatment and I apologize for my misjudgment,” Rugg said in a statement. Fantagraphics also apologized, noting they would “be more cognizant of our comics covers” going forward.

Here’s the Beat’s statement on removing the cover from their post:

Earlier today, The Beat ran a cover reveal for the May issues of Ed Piskor’s Red Room: Trigger Warnings #3. Among the covers was a variant by Jim Rugg homaging the cover to Art Spiegelman’s Maus. We recognize that many readers have found this cover offensive, and among them are some members of The Beat’s writing and editorial staff. We sincerely apologize for the harm caused by giving this image a platform without at the very least interrogating the decisions that went into its creation. We recognize that we cannot undo that harm, but we will do everything in our ability to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

And here’s the full statement from Fantagraphics and Jim Rugg:

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