It’s slow going in the beginning of The Seep by Chana Porter, and a bit like a kid quick-tripping through telling a story in an “and then this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened” way, but it settles down. I’d think that if you liked the James Tynion IV and Eryk Donovan triptych of Memetic, Cognetic, and Eugenic, you’d probably find this worth reading. Parenthetically, having just started in on Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer, I already can tell this one is going to give me a headache.
Next up for me on my Comic-Con@Home schedule: the Terry Moore Is Still Drawing Comics panel.
Today is all about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Water Crisis, and I needed this right now, more than I realized. An exclusive Entertainment Weekly table read fundraiser for Water for People, it couldn’t come at a better time; I’ve been so brittle lately. Despite a couple of cast absences, it’s glorious, and I am in tears, and they had so much fun cheering for certain moments when they come. Thanks to Edgar Wright et al.
One nice thing about doing a rewatch of the Justice League cartoon is that it isn’t immediately about Darkseid. Doesn’t he only show up once in two seasons? Growing up, Darkseid was still a big deal, but he didn’t show up constantly. I think there was one iteration of the Super-Friends which featured Fourth World characters.
Only because I’m sort of tangentially in comic books fandom, I already was familiar with everything in Asher Elbein’s concatenation and exploration of sexual misconduct in the industry. It’s a heady and heavy read, and if you think it’s not relevant to you, you’re wrong — if only because Elbein makes the cogent point that in addition to being a sexual abuse issue it’s a labor rights issue. Also, because Elbein isn’t pulling any punches.
On June 18, Ellis issued a public statement. “I’ve never considered myself famous or powerful,” wrote the author of multiple bestselling comics, head of several influential forums, and showrunner of an acclaimed Netflix show.
More important than that satisfying bit of shooting fish in a barrel is Elbein’s concise description of what comics’ culture of grooming and patronage does both to people and to an industry.
Economic exploitation creates the conditions for sexual exploitation to flourish, and the comics industry as it currently exists cannot address the one without tackling the other. Sexual harassment, in all its various forms, is not simply a social problem; it is theft—of a victim’s time, dignity, of their ability to create work in peace and pursue financial or social opportunities. Moreover, it is theft of a creator’s ability to pursue a livelihood in their chosen field. Harassers don’t simply prey on those made vulnerable by precarity: they actively make the spaces and institutions they inhabit more precarious, and keep workers disorganized and afraid to the company’s financial benefit. Think of it, if you like, as grooming on a grand scale: the cultivation of a workforce that can be trusted to go along with sexual and economic exploitation—to grin through clenched teeth, to say nothing out of fear—and drive out those who can’t.
Take some time with this one. It will leave you wondering if there’s any way for comics to get out from under the weight of its own garbage other than to burn the industry down and start over again.
Spend enough time in comics spaces, listen to enough horror stories, and it’s hard to escape the impression that—after the periodicals themselves—what the direct market industry primarily produces are furious and heartbroken people.
Examining how we approach superheroes of course is a valid thing to do, but I’m squeamish about doing so in the context of defunding the police, in the way we’re re-examining how pop culture handles policing. There’s a discussion about cops in pop culture right now because police are very real, and actual policing itself as its currently performed in America is very wrong and very racist and very violent. The fictional ways in which we portray that institution, and the distortions of reality therein, arguably are a pressing debate. Superheroes, however, are not fictionalizations of a real-world institution. There are plenty of ways to contextualize, decontextualize, and recontextualize superhero tropes, but there aren’t superheroes running around killing Black people on American streets. Superheroes surely can and do reflect and discuss some very real questions of our morality, but arguing over what superheroes are for and what they do and what they echo and what they push back against isn’t the same conversation.
With the latest story to come out about the predatory Scott Allie, I thought about the original stories that came out in late 2015, and I remembered thinking that his remarks earlier that same year about gender representation seemed weird in retrospect.
In those remarks he made gaslighting noises about not filling quotas and how “we just want to make the best books” — and then said, “If I work to create other obstacles and hoops to place between me and my goal to further my personal political agenda, I am doing it wrong.” I found that remark troubling and frustrating at the time, and when the story of his abuses dropped that October I thought about not just that remark but about his comments in a different interview just two months earlier about his hiring practices.
For the most part, I put my energy into hiring at the bottom level, new people that we can really train and shape how they do their job, and then move people along that way.
That quote really struck me today, with the latest revelations very much being a story about predatory and abusive grooming. The clear sense today from people in comics who would know is that Allie’s behavior was no secret on the inside, and it’s important to recall that Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson back in 2015 flatly stated: “Under no circumstance is any individual ‘harbored.'”
That seemed then, and certainly seems all the more likely today, to be just so much obvious, cynical, and simply ugly lying.
I’m not saying that anyone on the outside looking in should have seen Allie’s remarks about representation or hiring practices as indicative of his abuses; they just struck me in 2015 and again today as eye-widening, looking back at them.
Over my years in Joss Whedon fandom, especially during my involvement with a local Firefly group and a global charity event, I’d had repeated occasional dealings with Allie, and they always were perfectly cordial, something about which I feel terrible. Not because I was in any position to know, but because for the targets of abuse, watching their abusers blithely swim a sea of normalcy must just be salt in the wound.
The killer of Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best at the Hollywood Transit Center three years ago after they came to the defense of two women he was subjecting to racist and Islamophobic harrassment, has been sentenced to two life terms with no chance of parole. Weeks after that attack, Image Comics, then new to Portland, published a comic book cover “graphically depicting the lynching and genital mutilation of a Muslim man adorned with a racist term for Pakistanis” and the city’s comic celebrities remained largely silent in the face of the controversy.
“I have never considered myself famous or powerful,” writes Warren Ellis. Gaslighting rarely has been written in such efficient prose as those eight words.
For what it’s worth, The Daily Dot, at least, has it right on the BOOM! deal with Netflix. I didn’t see any other coverage which specifically underscored this particular fact.
The deal will give Netflix first-look right to adapt Boom! Studios comics into animated or live-action TV shows. This would cover original comics like Abbott and Giant Days, rather than any tie-in books that Boom! happens to publish, like Firefly or Dark Crystal spinoffs.
It’s been a good, long while since I had to don my Enthusiasm Crusher costume and step on fandom misconceptions about the prospect for a television resurrection of Firefly; just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
If the comic book writers came up with a brand new Firefly storyline, Disney could not make a live action version of the new story because first-look rights are now owned by Netflix, Netflix can make it they just can’t use any sets from the old show or footage.
This is not how these rights situations work. BOOM! licensed the Firefly property from Fox for comics. That’s it: comics.
That doesn’t magically transform into television rights, even for stories original to BOOM!, because Fox (Disney) owns the underlying intellectual property at issue and is unlikely to have licensed deriviative television rights for whatever Firefly stories BOOM! comes up with on its own.
So, before this goes any futher or deeper into the Firefly fandom grapevine: stop. Please, just stop.
These six panels from Strangers In Paradise XXV Vol. 2: Hide and Seek by themselves are pretty great comics.
I’ve been waiting, and waiting, for Strangers in Paradise XXV to bring in Zoe and when it happened it did not disappoint.