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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Smash Pages Q&A: Jeff Trexler on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

The interim director of the CBLDF discusses the importance of the organization, their areas of focus and more.

Jeff Trexler is best known to comics fans as a writer and commentator. The lawyer has been writing about comics for years for The Beat, The Comics Journal and Newsarama, explaining legal issues around many of the court cases that have captivated comics fans. The Yale Law School graduate took on a different role earlier this year when he became the interim director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

The actions of the former director have been well documented, and we did not discuss that in our recent conversation. Besides talking about Trexler’s background and his thoughts about concerns in the comics world that will be important in the coming years, he also makes the case for the continued importance of the CBLDF, mistakes that have been made in the past, and what else the group can and should do going forward.

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Comics Lowdown | ‘The Other History of the DC Universe’ gets a release date

Plus: News on Fantagraphics’ new logo, the CBLDF, Ignatz Awards and more.

Publishing: DC Comics’ long-delayed The Other History of the DC Universe finally has a release date: the first issue by 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley and artists Giuseppe Camuncoli, Andrea Cucchi and José Villarrubia will arrive in November. That issue will focus on Black Lightning, and Ridley spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about his history with the character:

When Black Lightning came out, I remember, as a younger person, how that felt to have a series that was led by a man of color, who in his regular identity was a teacher. Like I said, my mom was a teacher. It was a comic book that really, for me, for the first time, I felt like, “Oh, okay, this is for us as much as anybody else. The book, the universe, all of those things, you know, this is for us.” If I ever had at an age felt like, “Oh, I want to be a writer, I want to be a creator, I want to be a storyteller, I want to deal in the fantastic,” certainly when Black Lightning came out, it was a moment that galvanized that feeling.

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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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Comics Lowdown | BOOM! asks for CBLDF’s FCBD anthology to be destroyed

Plus: News on 2019 comics sales, Joe Sacco, Cavan Scott, Grant Morrison, Mexican horror comics and more.

Following the controversy that has come to light recently about the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and its former executive director, BOOM! Studios has asked for a Free Comic Book Day anthology they organized for the CBLDF to be destroyed, according to a report by Newsarama’s Chris Arrant.

A CBLDF Free Comic Book Day anthology has been assembled by numerous publishers over the years, and then published by the CBLDF for the annual event. This year’s event, of course, was cancelled in May due to the pandemic, but the comics are still being distributed to comic shops to be given out from July through September.

“In light of recent events surrounding the CBLDF, Boom! Studios asked that this year’s planned FCBD issue from the CBLDF not be distributed,” BOOM! told Newsarama. “Unfortunately, the issue was shipped out to retailers early in error (without being billed). We’ve requested the CBLDF and Diamond to ask retailers to destroy the copies they received, and a destruction notice should be sent to retailers shortly.”

CBLDF president Christina Merkler told the outlet that they respect BOOM!’s wishes and will leave it up to retailers whether they want to distribute the free comic.

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Comics Lowdown | More allegations against CBLDF’s Brownstein brought to light

Plus: News on Diamond, Art Spiegelman, Dragon Con and more.

Writing for The Comics Journal, Michael Dean has a long article detailing additional allegations against Charles Brownstein, the former executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Dean spoke with many former CBLDF, employees, including former Development Manager Cheyenne (Shy) Allott, who had been under an NDA about her time at the CBLDF until recently.

“My trouble with Charles started three days into my employment, at ComicsPro in Memphis, Tennessee,” Allott said. “Upon arrival at the show, I went to check into my hotel room only to discover that Charles had booked us in the same room together. I was instantly uncomfortable with this arrangement and for the first time, I saw Charles drop his charming facade and switch into an accusatory tone. He stated that it wasn’t fiscally responsible for me to have my own room, as we were a non-profit. I felt like I was misusing funds simply by asking that question.” Brownstein did not respond to TCJ’s request for comment.

The Comics Journal also sent questions to the CBLDF board, which CBLDF President Christina Merkler responded to. You can read her responses here, but one thing she addressed was whether CBLDF was still viable — a question many have been asking over the last couple weeks:

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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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Mail Call | James Stokoe is doing a Clownhunter story for a ‘Joker Wars’ one-shot

Plus: News from Image, Aftershock and the CBLDF.

Mail Call is a roundup of the announcements we’ve received from publishers in our mailboxes recently. Hit the links for more information.

Batman: The Joker War Zone #1 is a collection of short stories that tie into the upcoming “Joker Wars” storyline in Batman. The 48-page one-shot will include stories by James Tynion IV, John Ridley, Guillem March, James Stokoe, Joshua Williamson, David Lafuente and more.

The artwork above is from Stokoe’s contribution, a story featuring the new character Clownhunter. In the press release, DC says this is “the brutal full debut of the mysterious new anti-hero known as Clownhunter.”

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Mail Call | AHOY Comics moves ‘Captain Ginger’ to digital only

Featuring news from AHOY, Quarantine Comix and the CBLDF.

Mail Call is a roundup of the announcements we received from publishers in our mailboxes recently. Hit the links for more information.

The latest issue of the Quarantine Comix guest series features Al Ewing and PJ Holden, telling a short story that’s a “riff on Animal Crossing and Wicker Man.” Proceeds for this latest issue will go to the Equal Justice Initiative and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.  Visit the Quarantine Comix website for more information.

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Diamond halts new comics shipments for April 1 and beyond

IDW and others react to the news.

The COVID-19 epidemic that has shuttered comic shops and forced the postponement of conventions around the country has also affected Diamond Comics Distributors, the sole major distributor to comics retail shops, and today, Diamond co-founder Steve Geppi announced that they will be shutting down shipments of new product:

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Comics Lowdown: Standing behind retailers during the coronavirus

Plus: TCAF canceled, BookExpo postponed and more coronavirus news.

As the threat of the coronavirus continues to spread, and federal, state and local governments take action to try and stop it, “shelter in place” and social distancing orders inevitably harm small businesses, like comics retailers. Many retailers around the country have either closed up for a time or have moved to a mail order/”curbside pickup” system. In his weekly newsletter today, writer Cullen Bunn shared some tips for supprtoing your favorite shop during this time:

…SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL COMIC BOOK SHOP as much as you’re able. 

Running a comic book store can be difficult, even in the best of times. Right now, shops are taking a hit. The absolute last thing I want to see—as a reader, a fan, and a creator—is for comic book stores to disappear. It is vital that we all work together to support comic book stores as much as possible and help them get through the coming weeks. When comic book stores suffer, so does the comic book industry. A lot of stores are offering new services during this time of isolation and social-distancing. Some things you can do to help…

  • Inquiring about curbside pickup.
  • Inquiring about mail order or delivery options. 
  • Purchasing any books that are in your pull box.
  • Purchasing gift cards/gift certificates for upcoming birthdays, events, and holidays. 
  • Following your local comic shop on social media for updates on: curtailed hours of operation, events, special accommodations, and cleaning policy. 
  • Tagging your local comic shop on social media & posting photos of the comics you’ve purchased to read during self-quarantine and social distancing.

You can find a comic shop offering “safe services” during the pandemic by using this map from BOOM! Studios.

Image Comics, who issued a letter asking other publishers to help comics retailers during this crisis, also had Alex Cox, Skottie Young and Nate Piekos create a short comic on how fans can support their local shop:

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