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.

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Jeff Trexler named interim director for CBLDF

Trexler will bring his legal and comics industry experience to his new role.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has named Jeff Trexler as its interim director, following the departure of Charles Brownstein earlier this summer.

According to the press release, Trexler was “unanimously selected following a thorough interview process in which both the current board members and staff participated. He will oversee and update the organization’s operations to more effectively execute the CBLDF mission, drawing on his breadth of legal experience as a law professor and an ethics advisor for a variety of non-profit organizations, media companies and fashion brands.”

Prior to joining the organization, Trexler was an associate director at the Fashion Law Institute, where he focused on ethics issues and advised government officials on sexual harassment legal reform. He’s also a huge comic fan and has provided his expertise, analysis and commentary to sites like The Beat and Newsarama on legal issues pertaining to the comics industry.

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Two CBLDF board members resign; one retires

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund loses three board members following the resignation of Executive Director Charles Brownstein.

In the wake of Charles Brownstein’s resignation from his position with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, two members of the CBLDF board have resigned, while another has announced his retirement from the board.

Both Katherine Keller and Jeff Abraham have resigned from the board, and Paul Levitz will “retire,” according to a post on the CBLDF site.

“We respect the decisions that Paul, Katherine and Jeff have made to leave the Board. We realize it will be a long path to earning back the trust of our members, supporters and the industry. We recognize that it’s been our inability to react, or act at all, that’s been the cause of  pain in our community,” the CBLDF said in the post. “Even last week, when we took the necessary action in accepting Charles’s resignation, our communications were stilted and clumsy. To everyone who has come forward, we haven’t done justice to your bravery and we are truly sorry. We vow to be better.”

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Charles Brownstein resigns from the CBLDF

The move follows several days of creators saying they would no longer support the CBLDF as long as he was their executive director.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund board released a statement today saying that they have “accepted the resignation of Charles Brownstein as Executive Director.”

The move follows several days of creators calling for his removal on social media, which you can read about on The Beat. The push for his removal stems from a 2005 incident where Brownstein allegedly assaulted artist Taki Soma.

Here’s the statement in full:

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Support free speech with these ‘retro’ CBLDF designs

Get shirts, hats, phone cases and more featuring artwork by Frank Miller, Jeff Smith, Mike Allred, James Kochalka, Jim Lee and many others.

Over the years comic creators have donated artwork to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for use on membership cards, T-shirts and other premiums. Many of them quickly sold out and haven’t been available for a while — until now. CBLDF has launched a Threadless shop, offering shirts and other items featuring some of their “retro” artwork.

For instance, you can get a shirt featuring Mike Allred’s Lady Liberty drawing, which graced the cover of a CBLDF anthology in 2014. There’s also Frank Miller’s Defiant Fist, which would look great on a throw pillow. Or this patriotic Bone artwork, if you’re looking for something for the kids. Additional artwork by Cliff Chiang, Terry Moore, Jim Lee, Judd Winick and more can also be found on the site.

Proceeds benefit the fund, so head on over to Threadless to check them out.

#GivingTuesday: Support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (and get a pin)

On the official day of giving, the CBLDF offers a pin featuring artwork by Raina Telgemeier and an anthology featuring stories by Neil Gaiman, Jim Lee, Jeff Lemire and many more.

Today is Giving Tuesday, the softer, less crass sibling to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and to help celebrate the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has a few special offers for contributors.

First up is a special pin featuring artwork by Raina Telgemeier, which can be yours for a $10 donation to the fund:

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Extra, extra: Get your own ‘Paper Girls’ pins to support the CBLDF

Wear Rita Pearl and Petey Boy proudly by donating to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

At the New York Comic Con, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund delivered a set of pins based on Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s Paper Girls — and now they’re offering them on their website.

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