Tag Archives: sexual harassment

Harassment in the Comics Industry. We Talk to a Lawyer. Listen on Demand.

On demand: iTunes ¦ Sound Cloudhref=”http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/graphic-policy-2/graphic-policy-radio-politics-and-comics-of-the-multiverses?refid=stpr” target=”_bla ¦ Stitcher ¦ BlogTalkRadio ¦ Listed on podcastdirectory.com

Harassment is a long standing crisis in the comics industry — and despite brave voices speaking out, rarely have harassers suffered any consequences. Mainstream reporting on the open secret of sexual harasser Eddie Berganza has finally lead to his firing and now more stories of harassment are coming to light. We think it’s time to talk to a lawyer– an employee rights attorney. We’ll not only be discussing some of the high profile harassment cases in the comic industry but also what folks need to know in their every day workplace.

Joining Graphic Policy Radio is Paula Brantner a Senior Advisor for Workplace Fairness.

Paula Brantner is the Senior Advisor to Workplace Fairness, after serving as Executive Director (2008-2016) and Program Director (2003 to 2007) writing legal content for the Webby-nominated site www.workplacefairness.org, and developing products for WF’s social enterprise program, 0.1.2.3. In 2016, she founded PB Work Solutions, LLC, to counsel and coach workers in toxic workplaces and consult and advise on workplace issues and nonprofit strategy. An employment lawyer for 25 years, Paula has degrees from UC-Hastings College of the Law and Michigan State University’s James Madison College. She is a former co-coordinator for NetSquaredDC and a retired DC Rollergirl. She volunteers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, travels around the world to see pandas.


Resources

Workplace Fairness

CoWorker.org

Freelancers Union

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Harassment in the Comics Industry. We Talk to a Lawyer. Listen in LIVE this Monday.

Harassment is a long standing crisis in the comics industry — and despite brave voices speaking out, rarely have harassers suffered any consequences. Mainstream reporting on the open secret of sexual harasser Eddie Berganza has finally lead to his firing and now more stories of harassment are coming to light. We think it’s time to talk to a lawyer– an employee rights attorney. We’ll not only be discussing some of the high profile harassment cases in the comic industry but also what folks need to know in their every day workplace.

Joining Graphic Policy Radio is Paula Brantner a Senior Advisor for Workplace Fairness.

Listen in LIVE this Monday at 10pm ET while we discuss this important topic.

Paula Brantner is the Senior Advisor to Workplace Fairness, after serving as Executive Director (2008-2016) and Program Director (2003 to 2007) writing legal content for the Webby-nominated site www.workplacefairness.org, and developing products for WF’s social enterprise program, 0.1.2.3. In 2016, she founded PB Work Solutions, LLC, to counsel and coach workers in toxic workplaces and consult and advise on workplace issues and nonprofit strategy. An employment lawyer for 25 years, Paula has degrees from UC-Hastings College of the Law and Michigan State University’s James Madison College. She is a former co-coordinator for NetSquaredDC and a retired DC Rollergirl. She volunteers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, travels around the world to see pandas.

Listen in this Monday.

Eddie Berganza Has Been Suspended

An email has been sent out from DC Entertainment that Group Editor Eddie Berganza has been suspended and removed from performing his duties.

Berganza has once again been at the center of past harassment at the comics publisher. Buzzfeed published an in-depth article on Friday which reignited the discussion about the lack of action on DC’s part leading to a new round of coverage as well as creators and more adding their voice and concerns over the continued employment of the individual.

The email is below:

Statement from DC Entertainment regarding Eddie Berganza

DC Entertainment has immediately suspended Mr. Berganza and has removed him from performing his duties as Group Editor at DC Comics. There will be a prompt and yet careful review into next steps as it relates to the allegations against him, and the concerns our talent, employees and fans have shared. DC continues to be extremely committed to creating a safe and secure working environment for our employees and everyone involved in the creation of our comic books.

Thanks to Those Speaking Out. We Support You.

Many within the comics industry are taking a stand and speaking out against harassment and the continued protection of those who engage in it. One reason individuals don’t speak out is over fear that they will be blacklisted and not supported by publishers (and fans). So, along with our vocally supporting these creators we as a community need to also show we also have their back financially.

This isn’t a complete list so please add individuals missed in the comments below.


Sophie Campbell is quoted in the recent Buzzfeed article as have turned down Supergirl due to editor Eddie Berganza. That’s beyond stand-up and shows true conviction. Check out her work on Jem and the Holograms, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Wet Moon, and more.

Joshua Hale Fialkov is a writer who worked with DC on the series I, Vampire (among others). He reportedly left the company over a disagreement about killing Green Lantern John Stewart. He’s written awesome series like The Bunker, Tumor, The Life After, and most recently Jeff Steinberg: Champion of Earth.

Kwanza Osajyefo is one of the creators behind the recently released in trade paperback Black. Not only is he outspoken but also a target for degenerate comic “fans” who only want to take us backwards. That hasn’t stopped him down from speaking out.

Christopher Sebela is the writer behind the upcoming Cold War from AfterShock Comics, Heartthrob, We(l)come Back, High Crimes, and more.

Tony Isabella is one of the co-creators of Black Lightning for DC Comics. Maybe grab one of his classic trades to prepare for the new CW television show or the recent Black Lighting: Cold Dead Hands #1.

Jennifer de Guzman has been one of the most outspoken individuals when it comes to harassment in the comics industry. She’s written for numerous comics (like Womanthology: Space) and prose as well as a journalist. Buy her stuff and hire her!

Lilah Sturges is a writer of comics and fantasy novels having written Jack of Fables for Vertigo. You can also check out her work on Everafter.

Jonathan H. Gray is an artist who has done work on Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Universe, Mega Man, as well as numerous work for Disney Comics.

Matthew Rosenberg is a comic writer who has published indie comics and also worked for Marvel and Archie. He was also part of the DC Writers Workshop Class of 2016. Go check out his 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank which was recently released as a trade paperback.

Kate Leth is a creator who has worked for Marvel, Dark Horse, BOOM!, Dynamite, IDW, and Image. Whatever you buy to support her, it’s going to be good.

Tamra Bonvillain is a colorist who has worked for DC, Marvel, Image and more on such titles as Doom Patrol, Wayward, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Uncanny Avengers, and more.

Colleen Doran spoke out, blew the whistle and was thrown under the bus. Lots of fantastic work including Sandman from DC Comics’ Vertigo written by…

Neil Gaiman who clearly has Doran’s back…

Tea Terry Blue is a digital project manager at King Features Syndicate, a co-editor of RAW Fanthology, and overall comic nerd. Go follow them since there’s tons of other folks speaking out too that Tea is spotlighting.

Ryan Ferrier has written comics such as D4ve, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, WWE, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and more.


That’s a lot of folks to support and I’m sure I’ve missed tons. So, please add on in the comments below and go support those wonderful folks.

Eddie Berganza’s Years of Harassment Gets In-Depth Coverage

Harassment is rife in the comics community with known issues buzzed about and whispered with little repercussions for the harassers or those that protect them. Buzzfeed has released an extensive article covering the known issues with DC Comics‘ editor Eddie Berganza which has been covered extensively by Bleeding Cool for years (credit where credit is due). The article has numerous individuals on the record discussed not just Berganza but also DC “goodwill ambassador” Julius Schwartz.

Berganza’s career has been all over rising from group editor to executive editor and back again to group editor all the while women left the company due to the harassment and behavior. Berganza’s actions occurred years ago and no new allegations have arisen recently but with the numerous reckonings of people like Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein the issue is back to the forefront again highlighting how men in power have kept their jobs and been protected in their careers while the individuals they abuse are left in their wake with careers at times ruined.

Berganza’s allegations involve groping and forcibly kissing female staff on more than one occasion with at least five individual having spoken to DC leadership. Three of those women spoke to Buzzfeed. None of the women who reported Berganza to human resources still work for the company.

The article paints the picture of a toxic environment full of “offensive jokes or line-crossing comments in the presence of or at the expense of women” including the statement that a character needed to be made “less dykey.” Despite that toxicity and multiple infractions and complaints Berganza is still employed by the company.

Berganza’s reputation was so known in the industry and out that women avoided working with the line of books he oversaw and women were discouraged from working with him in his department. Sophie Campbell is quoted as saying she turned down working on Supergirl because she’d have had to have worked with Berganza. It was an “open secret” though a “code of silence” prevented some from speaking out.

The most recent, and reportedly last, incident occurred in 2012 at WonderCon where Berganza again attempted to “make out” with an individual. Despite numerous issues Berganza kept his job but was “demoted” from executive editor to group editor. They still apparently valued him enough to keep him employed sending a signal to many.

In response to the article DC stated:

DC and WB are unequivocally committed to cultivating a work environment of dignity and respect, one that is safe and harassment free for all employees. We take all claims of harassment very seriously and investigate them promptly. Employees found in violation of the policies are dealt with swiftly and decisively, and subject to disciplinary actions and consequences.

It’s clear a toxic element still corrupts the industry with individuals protecting or encouraging this type of behavior for the sake of sales and actual impact to the instigator from behavior being minimal. Berganza is just one case but we’ve covered the issue more than once. We’ve gotten word of more that has yet to be revealed with other individuals at other publishers.

Hopefully with a renewed spotlight on toxicity in entertainment, and elsewhere, maybe changes can be made going forward within the comic industry but that won’t make up for the careers and individuals destroyed in the wake of what has already happened.

DC Finally Addresses Harassment Allegations

DC-Comics-logoOn Friday DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson addresses staff in a special meeting regarding the harassment allegations made against staffers within the company as well as the company’s policies and procedures.

The allegations arose (again) three weeks ago after staffing changes at Vertigo were made causing an uproar in the comic community.

A sustained external campaign for the company to address the issue has been waged since and my understanding internal pressure was also pressed.

DC has released a statement:

DC Entertainment strives to foster a culture of inclusion, fairness and respect. While we cannot comment on specific personnel matters, DC takes allegations of discrimination and harassment very seriously, promptly investigates reports of misconduct and disciplines those who violate our standards and policies.

As part of our ongoing effort to provide an equitable working environment, we are reviewing our policies, expanding employee training on the topic and working with internal and external resources to ensure that these policies and procedures are respected and reinforced across the company.

The above is the first official acknowledgement of issues by the publisher.

After Vertigo Shake Up, Sexual Harassment Allegations Resurface

eddie berganzaIt wasn’t long after the news of the firing of Shelly Bond and restructuring of Vertigo by DC Entertainment that folks begin questioning why someone like Bond was let go while others in the industry who have histories of sexual harassment keep their positions. One of those people mentioned specifically was Eddie Berganza, currently the Group Editor for Superman titles at DC Comics.

I had known of the incidents for some time, but with everything of its nature things always need to be researched, checked, double checked, get permission from those who recount stories, check those stories, etc. etc. Covering this sort of issue was nothing new for the site, but there’s right ways to do it, and I like to try to do it the right way.

So when people decided to name names it was absolutely time to write what was known as now it wasn’t just an open secret, it was just open. And I pondered all day as to what to write, then I didn’t have to really write anything, because there’s two solid pieces that you should read that covers it all.

Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool does an excellent job of recounting the incidents, the facts, the fall out, everything you need to know about it. And he fills in some gaps I didn’t know about. Credit where credit is due, he nails it with facts.

Then Heidi MacDonald at The Beat also posted an article that is an fantastic companion piece to Johnston’s post.

When it comes to the details, I have nothing to add, and they do a much better job than I could have.

What I will add and state is that harassment is still pervasive in geekdom whether in offices, at conventions, or in stores. It should not be tolerated, accepted, or swept under the rug. We as an industry and as fans should be aware it is present, and do everything we can to help make comics an inclusive and welcoming place.

On Nathan Edmondson, Marvel, and the Cycle of Harassment (Updated)

We’re NOT afraid…

nathan-edmundsonA year and a half. That’s how long I’ve been researching allegations swirling around comic writer Nathan Edmondson. In that year and a half I’ve talked to a lot of people, ran into a lot of dead ends, and most importantly, been told consistent stories of sexual harassment and poor treatment of collaborators. I’ve had first hand accounts, second-hand accounts, and promises of actual evidence, only one of which has been produced. And after a year and a half, while I absolutely believe Edmondson’s an asshole and did what he’s accused of, as a journalist who believes in checking sources and facts, I have not had enough to run a story I felt I could defend in court. Because, I’ve been warned numerous times, if I ran it I should expect to be sued.

Why is this all coming up now?

Red_Wolf_1_CoverWhile sniping has been happening against Edmondson by other creators for quite some time, this news has been covered by so many due to Marvel‘s announcement that Edmondson is the writer on their new Red Wolf series. While the series is great in that it features a Native American lead character, as well as a Native American, Jeffrey Veregge, providing covers, character design, and “consulting,” it also has the troublesome Edmondson as the writer. This has led many to wonder and question their support of the book as a whole. It absolutely makes me again question Marvel’s decision-making process, and their commitment to progressive and positive change.

Some of the accusations against Edmondson have been covered already here, here, and here. I encourage folks to read those three articles to catch up. But for those that don’t want to, here’s what I know.

I know of his involvement with The Leadership Institute, an anti-gay, pro-life, right-wing organization. There’s photo evidence of this, and being conservative is not a crime (though makes me question why he’s been put on some books he has). I have been told second-hand of sexual harassment (attempts at first hand accounts have gone nowhere). I have been told first hand accounts of “troublesome” dealings with other creators. That was never ran as it would have identified the claimant and there was no way to run it anonymously. I have been told both through first and second-hand accounts of a general disrespect towards women. I have been told of an incident at a party where homophobic statements were made, and I have an email apologizing to attendees about the behavior (that email has yet to be verified).

activity15_coverThe series he was to do with the also troublesome Adam Baldwin, Ranger with Dark Horse, has become vaporware. I had hoped with 56 (Red Wolf is 57) series already announced and no Nathan Edmondson, that publisher has also decided to sever their relationship with the creator. That hasn’t happened. Marvel seems to have no issues with what is a “known” issue in the industry. They were after all running short on male, white writers, since their All-New, All-Different team of writers is only 83.33% male and 97.62% white. They needed Nate to fill in a slot.

Without “physical” evidence I can verify, without a first hand account of the harassment, I chose not to cover this story (until now). That hasn’t stopped me from continuing to investigate. I personally have also chosen to not support, or cover, any series Edmondson writes. To do so would be hypocritical.

Some who have been vocal have said some victims haven’t been talked to, and the reality is, I probably don’t know about them. Names have been vague to me. And those that I have been told about? They’ve not wanted to talk about any of this. And why should they? The comics industry has a history of not supporting victims. The track record is abysmal in supporting victims.

Some have said sites are scared to run stories about harassers due to the threat of lawsuit or loss of access. I can refute this by stating the following:

We here at Graphic Policy are NOT afraid to run these stories.

We here at Graphic Policy are NOT afraid at losing access. Retaliation against us becomes a story we’d run too.

We here at Graphic Policy will DEFEND you the victim as best we can, and more importantly treat you with the utmost respect you deserve.

Please contact us, even off the record. I am the only one who reads our email. Use our contact form above. DM us a message. Message us on Facebook. Or contact me personally through email, Facebook, or Twitter. We can’t fight the good fight without hearing from you.

Out of the seven plus years we’ve existed I’ve been contacted twice about harassment in the industry. One is this Edmondson story, and I’ve explained above what I know, what I have, and why I have not run the story. The other was someone I not only was told about, but witnessed as well. That was run as a blind item with a proper guess in the comments.

While we’ll listen and advocate, we will also do our research and investigation. We need to do our due diligence. By not doing so, we do the victims an injustice by not being able to properly defend the story.

Until there’s buy in across the industry, to point fingers at journalists is misguided. I know of a dozen other bloggers/journalists who have worked on this story, many for longer than me. They too have run into similar issues I have. We can’t run stories on hearsay, we need first hand accounts and evidence. There’s a lot of recent talk of lifting up the discourse in comics journalism, and that’s what this is. To not, would make us a second-rate TMZ. A rag run on rumors. That’s not what this site is, and I stand behind the decisions made up to this point on this story.

We, as well as my fellow bloggers, can only shine a spotlight on the trouble makers, it still takes a decision by other creators to refuse to work with these individuals, and publisher to not hire or support their work. There also needs to be an effort to support, not shame victims. Those who have been brave enough to come forward have consistently talked of being pariahs whose careers have been frozen, and the work has dried up. Not to mention the abuse and additional harassment flung like the feces it is their way from anonymous keyboard jockeys who think they’re funny and doing it for the lulz.

There’s a lot that needs to be done on all sides, but to focus on only one facet misses the big picture. If this is to end, we all need to work together.

Updated: Some information regarding Edmondson’s relationship with Image has been updated and stricken after being reached out to directly by a publisher who clarified the relationship. The lack of releases is explained as chronic “delays.” We have seen internal communication and statements that his behavior was a known issue at the highest level.

Men’s Rights Group Invades Calgary Comics and Entertainment Expo (Updated)

calgary-expoIf this is any indication, this year’s con season is going to be long, painful, and full of assholes headaches. The Men’s Rights Group Honey Badger Brigade is currently causing issues and harassing panelists at the Calgary Comics and Entertainment Expo which began Thursday and runs through Sunday. The convention has pretty well laid out policy and procedures when it comes to harassment, bullying, and abuse. You can read the entire policy on their site.

The Honey Badger Brigade, which affiliates itself with GamerGate, raised money to set up a booth and is currently going to panels that highlight women and diversity to cause issues…. because it’s all about ethics in journalism as is the mantra of the GG community.

From the fundraising page set up by the Honey Badger Brigade:

In April of this year, the Honey Badgers plan to put on a booth at the Calgary Comics and Entertainment Expo! We plan to infiltrate nerd culture cunningly disguised as their own. Each of us has been carefully crafting a persona of nerdiness through decades of dedication to comics, science fiction, fantasy, comedy games and other geekery, waiting for this moment, our moment to slip among the unaware. Once there we will start distributing the totalitarian message that nerd and gamer culture is… perfectly wonderful just as it is and should be left alone to go it’s own way.

That’s it folks.

As men’s issues advocates and defenders of creator’s rights to create unmolested, that’s what we have to say to the nerds and geeks and gamers. You are fantastic as you are, carry on.

Yep, in today’s political climate that’s considered an extremist position. Just letting creative communities create; consumers consume what they want; and gamers get down to the business of vidya without being judged.

So if you share our vision of a world in which nerds and geeks and gamers roam free and unfettered, help us spread that message by throwing a few shekels our way to attend the con.

Nerds, geeks, and gamers can roam free… unless you’re a woman with an opinion, differing experiences and interests, or different viewpoint from the Badgers. Pot meet kettle.

The situation raised its ugly head when I saw the below Tweet:

The Honey Badger Brigade booth is sporting a GamerGate logo, using imagery championed by the organization, and is attending panels that feature feminists and women just to disrupt them. I think any last vestige to the argument this is about “ethics” is out the window, not that I believed it for one second anyways.

The “hate group” has spurred an outcry from attendees and others towards the Calgary Expo team who stated in numerous Tweets “they take safety seriously and are investigating the situation.” Of course pro-GamerGate individuals immediately accused the Expo of a double standard and sent a barrage of Tweets their way condemning the convention that wanted to make its con-goers feel safe and has a pretty clear policy linked above.

It looks like it didn’t work, as it has been Tweeted that the booth and individuals have been kicked out of the convention.

I’ll address the misunderstanding of “censorship” some other time.

The group at the convention attended the “Women Into Comics” panel last night. Panelist Brittney Le Blanc recounting what happened:

We were about fifteen minutes into the panel when a woman in the second row stood up and identified herself as a Men’s Rights Activist. She and her male companion both came to raise issues they felt would not be covered by our panel. Raising points about the way men are portrayed in comics struck a note with all the panelists, as we agreed that we want to see a diversity across body types, characters, races, etc in mainstream comics. Not everyone wants to see a hero who looks like he’s built like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. They also accused us of presenting all women as victims, which was an outright lie and derailing tactic.

Their questions did take up quite a bit of time at the panel and served to derail the topic onto another tangent, which was frustrating for the panel and for those in the audience. It’s what they came to do, and in part, they succeeded. I would say that it brought up some great discussions though, allowing us to talk about the lack of representation for people of colour in comics and to give well deserved props to artists like Sophie Campbell, who has done an amazing job in showcasing a broad range of bodies with her art in Jem and the Holograms.

It’s disappointing that they weren’t there to have a conversation or to listen to what we, and members of the audience, were saying. They wanted to stand up and have their say, but not to listen or try to understand the points of view other people in the room had. This was further proven by the video discussion they posted later last night, in which they mentioned our panel and that we were “donning the ball gowns of our victimhood”, which I’m not even entirely sure how to take. I will admit to not watching the whole video, and I think anyone who attempts to watch it would understand why.

I truly believe in freedom of speech, but coming to a panel with the entire purpose of derailing it and shooting down the voices on the panel isn’t constructive. It appears that was their plan for the expo, to come and to loudly take over the spaces of other people – although it was not violent or threatening, it’s disrespectful, disappointing and offers a prime example of why these panels need to exist in the first place.

Remember, it’s about ethics in journalism…. repeat that enough….

This is the latest dust-up in the “culture war” that has raged in the geek sphere between exclusive individuals who cling to a retconned misunderstood past, and those who recognize geek fandom is a diverse community, expanding in inclusion, and should reflect the heterogeneous reality.

We have reached out to the Calgary Expo for a statement. We’ll update this post as necessary.

Update: The Calgary Expo has posted the below to their Facebook page:

calgary expo statement

Patty Spivot’s Over/Under Reaction to the Future Flash

Patty Spivot received a new life with DC ComicsNew 52. Part of the gimmickry with the New 52 was to add a bit of “will they or won’t they?” to their titles by separating old romantic couples in the DC universe and replacing them with others. This is one of the easiest tricks of the gimmick, as there is a certain amount of tension as previous couples are kept close but still necessarily separate. Thus Lois Lane was replaced with Wonder Woman and Iris West was replaced with Patty Spivot. Previously she had been an assistant in Barry Allen’s crime lab and had played a relatively small role in his history, with fewer than 100 appearances in comics compared to nearly 600 for Iris, but of all of a sudden she was one of the two main leading female characters in this title.

theflashThe last story arc before the Convergence company wide crossover dealt with the replacement of the present day Flash with a future version of the character. The present day Flash was thrown into an alternate dimension influenced by the Speed Force, and the Future Flash was brought to the present day. This other Flash was much more brutal, eager to fix the errors of his past with a utilitarian outlook, reasoning that killing or maiming one in the present was better than if hundreds or thousands died in the future. Patty and Iris eventually become aware of his actions and confront him over it. When the present day Flash returns from the alternate dimension he is able to put most of the harm back to normal before settling back into regular life.

Except that his regular life is thrown off when Patty reveals that she cannot be with him anymore because he reminds her of the murderer. This is an over reaction based on the character that had been established, one that had been deeply in love with Barry, and it seems as though it was thrown in so that there was an easy avenue to wrap up loose ends before the hiatus. While this is an over reaction, there is an under reaction which is not really explored at all in any of the issue, and probably because it was mostly overlooked.

theflashAs was previously mentioned, the Future Flash, though still Barry, acted and behaved very differently, and was in effect a completely different person. Although intimacy is not explored in the mainstream comics as much, as two adults in an adult relationship it is reasonable to think that they would have had sexual relations with each other at some point, especially as they share the same bed. Although there is obviously no precedent in real world law for time travel, this would easily fall under the overall umbrella of sexual assault or sexual violence. If a person posed as another in order to have sex with anyone, then that would be considered rape. That it is two different versions of the same person is not really relevant, and in reality Patty would be aware of this violation more so than Barry might be, especially upon his return.

Thus the over reaction to Barry as having the face of a murderer makes little sense, but having the same face as a person that raped her would be much harder to live with.

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