Comicsgate

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Comicsgate is a controversial campaign focused on the North American superhero comic book industry and the creators who work in it.[1] The name is derived from Gamergate, a similarly controversial movement related to video games.[2]

Comics artist Ethan Van Sciver presents it as "a consumer-led revolt" against liberalism in the industry and "part of the culture-war".[3][4] Artist Mike S. Miller describes it as "an alliance of comic book fans, critics, and creators who have found common cause in standing up against what they see as a hard push by social justice warriors into their hobby".[5] Participants blame "forced diversity" – in both hiring and comics content – for a decline in sales.[6][7][8]

Critics of the movement have described it as a harassment campaign[9] which "targets women, people of color, and LGBT folk in the comic book industry".[10] It has been blamed for vandalism of a store that did not stock comics created by its members, and for threats of violence against others.[8][11]

Views[edit]

Members of the movement have rallied against things they feel exemplify problems in the comics industry, which interfere with their entertainment. Examples include storylines in which the traditionally white male characters who have had the identities of Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, and Spider-Man have been temporarily replaced by female and/or racial minority characters,[12][13] stories dealing with current social issues,[12] and the depiction of women with less idealized figures.[14]

Professionals in the movement complain of discrimination against them for their sociopolitical views. Van Sciver describes "a left-wing dominance in the comic book industry" which has led to "oppressive social justice warrior harassment and blacklisting", and called for "escapist, apolitical entertainment".[3] Industry veteran Chuck Dixon and Brett R. Smith – both politically conservative – alleged in May 2016 that in the industry's pursuit of a more diverse marketplace, they had been blacklisted by Marvel and DC.[15][16] (DC began publishing Bane: Conquest, a 12-issue mini-series written by Dixon, a year later.)[17]

Activities[edit]

Participants say that it has no organization or leadership, but commentator Richard C. Meyer (posting under the banner Diversity & Comics)[18][10][2] and former DC illustrator Ethan Van Sciver[10][2] have been prominent advocates for the campaign. On November 10, 2018, Van Sciver announced on his YouTube channel that he was leaving ComicsGate,[19] but tweeted on November 12 that he was "back in".[20]

Social media[edit]

In April 2017, conservative magazine The Federalist tracked the Twitter accounts of all 30 freelance writers who had a comic released by Marvel that month, reporting that each had criticized President Donald Trump at least once, and none mentioned him positively. It attempted to identify the writers' religions, publishing a report that they included atheists, Jews, and a Muslim, but that none had spoken on Twitter about being Christian.[16]

A July 2017 social media post by Marvel Comics assistant editor Heather Antos, featuring several young female coworkers getting milkshakes in memory of company veteran Flo Steinberg, drew attention from members of the movement.[10][21] Antos was described by them as a "diversity hire",[22] "an unqualified bimbo",[22] and "the 'false rape charge' type",[10][23] and the group in general as "fake geek girls", "tumblr-virtue signalers", and "the creepiest collection of stereotypical SJWs anyone could possibly imagine".[23][10] Antos reported being the target of a campaign of online harassment for some time afterward.[24][10][22]

Van Sciver has made Comicsgate and related topics a regular feature of his ComicArtistPro Secrets YouTube channel.[3]

Meyer has made the campaign a common subject on his YouTube channel and Twitter account, in which he identifies comics professionals whose work or personal activities he sees as detrimental to the industry. He took credit for[25] the firing of writer Aubrey Sitterson from the IDW comic G.I. Joe: Scarlett’s Strike Force after Sitterson criticized on social media what he saw as "performative grief" about the September 11 attacks.[21] In a 2017 video titled "The Dark Roast", Meyer referred to a female Marvel Comics editor as a "cum dumpster", accused various female professionals of "sucking their way into the industry", and described a transgender female writer as a "man in a wig".[10]

Meyer also participated in the backlash against the character designs of Netflix adaptation She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. He called showrunner Noelle Stevenson a "boyish lesbian" and accused her of re-imagining the title character She-Ra as herself, describing it as "utter selfishness and egotism".[26] She-Ra co-creator J. Michael Straczynski defended Stevenson on Twitter, explaining that She-Ra was never intended to be "an idealized woman" in the eyes of a male audience.[27][28]

Members of Comicsgate have responded to professionals criticizing the movement by circulating lists of such creators to boycott,[2] including one which categorized individuals as members of the "Pravda Press", "Asinine Artists", "Toxic Colorists", and "Indie Mafia".[29] Among those placed on such lists and criticized for their views have been Larry Hama, Mark Waid, Alex de Campi, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.[2] Colorist Moose Baumann recounted that he received threats of violence after stepping away from Van Sciver's creator-owned book Cyberfrog.[30]

Publishing[edit]

Alt-right activist Vox Day, who wrote and published the series Alt-Hero[31] and hired Chuck Dixon to write for him,[32] announced a publishing imprint Comicsgate Comics.[33] A few creators involved with Comicsgate have run highly successful crowdfunding campaigns promoted to produce comics reflecting the group's values, including Van Sciver's Cyberfrog, Meyer's No Enemy, But Peace, Mitch Breitweiser's Red Rooster, and Mike S. Miller's Lonestar.[1][10][31]

Jawbreakers[edit]

In early 2018, Meyer announced that his crowdfunded comic book Jawbreakers: Lost Souls, a collaboration with freelance artist Joe Malin, would be published by Antarctic Press. In May 2018, Meyer posted on Twitter screen shots of a private conversation between comic retailers discussing whether or not they would order copies of the series.[34] He encouraged his followers to publicly post and circulate names, locations, and employee information of stores that said they would not be stocking it.[35][36][11] He accused Edmonton, Alberta store Variant Edition of "bullying and intimidating their own customers" after the female co-owner tweeted that they would not stock the publication; the store was subsequently vandalized and robbed.[8] Dublin, Ireland store Big Bang Comics received threats of violence on social media.[11]

On May 13, Antarctic Press announced that they were ending their relationship with Meyer, who blamed freelance writer Mark Waid for contacting Antarctic's owner to talk about the controversy, accusing him of pressuring Antarctic not to publish the book.[36] Both Antarctic and Waid issued statements denying that any threats or bullying had taken place.[36][37][38] In October 2018, Meyer sued Waid for "tortious interference with contract and defamation".[39] In a Motion to Dismiss, Waid's attorney Mark Zaid asserted that Meyer's own public attacks against industry professionals were responsible for Meyer's failed business deals. Zaid pointed to Meyer's comments on Twitter, in which Meyer called writer Ta-Nehisi Coates "a race hustler", accused a number of female professionals of being hired solely based on gender, and referred to trans and non-binary DC writers as "a modern day carnival".[40]

Criticism[edit]

Comicsgate has been met with widespread criticism from other readers, comics creators, and industry journalists.[41][42] Both Meyer and Van Sciver have come under criticism for their public comments. In late 2017, Polygon writer Kieran Shiach accused Meyer of homophobia in comments he made in a video, that people like openly gay freelance writer Sina Grace should be "waned out of society" [sic], such as by a war-time military draft leading to his planned death in combat.[43] [44] Van Sciver has faced backlash from other comic professionals for joking about suicide by Democrats,[45] comments on Reddit about a "queer globalist mess",[9] and hosting Vox Day in an episode on his YouTube channel.[9]

In mid 2018, Marsha Cooke – widow of writer-artist Darwyn Cooke – denied a claim by Comicsgate participants that her husband would have supported the campaign,[46][47] After she became the subject of online attacks on Twitter, several industry veterans (including Bill Sienkiewicz, Van Jenson, Tony Bedard, Jeff Lemire, and Magdalene Visaggio) wrote rebukes to the movement.[46][48] In a social media post, writer Scott Snyder, who teaches writing in college and DC Comics' talent development program, said the movement launched "cruel, personal attacks" on his students that "were (and still are) especially repugnant for their sexism, racism, homophobia, and transphobia."[49]

Writer Tom Taylor posted a brief message on social media rejecting the tenets of Comicsgate, stating "I believe comics are for everyone. There is no excuse for harassment. There is no place for homophobia, transphobia, racism or misogyny in comics criticism." The social media post was retweeted by creators including Kelly Thompson, Tim Seeley, Margaret Stohl, Jason Latour, Greg Pak, Fabian Nicieza, Benjamin Percy, and Jeff Lemire.[6] In an unsigned editorial, Paste magazine took issue with the phrasing of Taylor's statement, arguing that the group's activities should not be equated with critical commentary.[47]

Greg Hatcher, administrator of the Comic Book Resources forums, compared the movement to the harassment that drove actresses Kelly Marie Tran and Millie Bobby Brown from social media, and noted that comic creators in earlier decades such as Jack Kirby and Stan Lee had also faced fan backlash for including political themes in comic books.[50]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Del Arroz, John (August 8, 2018), "Crowdfunded Rebellion Against Identity Politics In Comics Nets $1.25 Million And Counting," The Federalist. Retrieved September 13, 2018
  2. ^ a b c d e "Comicsgate Is Gamergate's Next Horrible Evolution". Inverse. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  3. ^ a b c "Ethan Van Sciver talks Comicsgate, the industry and his love of cybernetic amphibians - Culture of Gaming". Culture of Gaming. 2018-09-13. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  4. ^ Van Sciver, Ethan (2018-10-28). "The Temper of Mark Waid". YouTube. Event occurs at 2:52:34.
  5. ^ "What Is #ComicsGate?". Jon Del Arroz. 2018-07-19. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  6. ^ a b "The Comic Book Industry Is Finally Speaking Out Against "Comicsgate"". Inverse. Retrieved 2018-09-26.
  7. ^ Ennis, Tricia (2018-02-16). "Amidst harassment, indie comics publishers remain supportive of marginalized creators". Syfy. Retrieved 2018-09-26.
  8. ^ a b c Coletta, Amanda (2018-05-13). "Edmonton comic book store links break-in to controversial debate". CTVNews. Retrieved 2018-11-01.
  9. ^ a b c "There's An Online Harassment Campaign Underway Against People Advocating For Diversity In Comics Called #Comicsgate". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved 2018-10-31.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Elbein, Asher (2018-04-02). "#Comicsgate: How an Anti-Diversity Harassment Campaign in Comics Got Ugly—and Profitable". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  11. ^ a b c "Previously on Comics: Comicsgate Gets Aggressive (And Other News) - WWAC". WWAC. 2018-05-14. Retrieved 2018-11-01.
  12. ^ a b "Comicsgate: Setting the Record Straight After Media Blitz Attacks the Popular Movement! - Bounding Into Comics". Bounding Into Comics. 2018-09-02. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
  13. ^ "Marvel Outrage After Diversity, Female Characters Blamed for Sales". EW.com. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
  14. ^ "Comedian Jim Jefferies confronts Diversity and Comics creator over offensive remarks". Polygon. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
  15. ^ Thielman, Sam (May 26, 2016), "Marvel editor-in-chief: 'Writing comics was a hobby for white guys'," The Guardian. Retrieved September 13, 2018
  16. ^ a b Del Arroz, Jon (April 12, 2016), "Forcing Political Correctness On Employees And Characters Is Killing Marvel Comics," The Federalist. Retrieved September 13, 2018
  17. ^ "Dixon And Nolan Return To A Villain They Created In 'Bane: Conquest'". ComicsAlliance. Retrieved 2018-09-17.
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  20. ^ "ComicArtistPro Secrets on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  21. ^ a b "The Latest Trend in Comic Books Appears to Be Harassment of Women and Queer People". Hornet Stories. 2018-04-03. Retrieved 2018-10-01.
  22. ^ a b c "A Brief History of #Comicsgate: Tragedy and Trolling -". capelesscrusader.org. 2017-10-28. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  23. ^ a b "Perspective | The Comicsgate movement isn't defending free speech. It's suppressing it". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-09-13.
  24. ^ "A Marvel Comics Editor Is Being Harassed Because She Posted a Selfie With Her Coworkers". www.themarysue.com. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  25. ^ "SJW Comics Writer Fired after Turning G.I. Joe Character into an Overweight Lesbian". Lifestyle. Retrieved 2018-10-01.
  26. ^ "The fight over She-Ra's redesign, explained". Vox. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  27. ^ "J. Michael Straczynski on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  28. ^ "Twitter Drags Fanboys Crying Over New She-Ra". 2018-07-20. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  29. ^ "ComicsGate". Know Your Meme. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
  30. ^ "Moose Baumann on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-10-31.
  31. ^ a b Yungbluth, Jason (2017-10-31). "The Menace of Doc Vox!". Jason Yungbluth. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
  32. ^ "Never Meet Your (Super) Heroes". Reveal. 2018-09-22. Retrieved 2018-09-24.
  33. ^ "Exclusive: Vox Day Announces New ComicsGate Imprint! - Bounding Into Comics". Bounding Into Comics. 2018-09-03. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  34. ^ "Diversity & Comics on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-09-30.
  35. ^ "Diversity & Comics on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-09-30.
  36. ^ a b c "No Enemy But Peace - Richard Meyer, Antarctic Press, and Jawbreakers". Bleeding Cool News And Rumors. 2018-05-13. Retrieved 2018-09-30.
  37. ^ "Antarctic Press Cancels Jawbreakers in Wake of Controversy, Retailer Boycott". CBR. 2018-05-13. Retrieved 2018-09-30.
  38. ^ "Richard Meyer Sues Mark Waid Over 'Tortious Interference With Contract and Defamation' - Bleeding Cool News And Rumors". Bleeding Cool News And Rumors. 2018-09-29. Retrieved 2018-09-30.
  39. ^ "Comicsgate figurehead Richard Meyer is suing Marvel/DC writer Mark Waid". The Daily Dot. 2018-10-01. Retrieved 2018-10-01.
  40. ^ "Mark Waid's 11/02/18 Motions in Richard Meyer vs. Mark Waid". Newsarama. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
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  42. ^ Riesman, Abraham. "Comicsgate Is a Nightmare Tearing Comics Fandom Apart — So What Happens Next?". Vulture. Retrieved 2018-09-09.
  43. ^ "Kieran Shiach on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
  44. ^ "CBR Writer Kieran Shiach Finds New Target to Harass". Bounding into Comics. April 11, 2008. Retrieved September 26, 2018.
  45. ^ "Ethan Van Sciver Apologises For Suicide Jibe, Vows Not To Vent On Social Media Anymore - Bleeding Cool News And Rumors". Bleeding Cool News And Rumors. 2017-05-11. Retrieved 2018-10-31.
  46. ^ a b "Legendary Comics Artist Bill Sienkiewicz Pens Scorching Rebuke of "Comicsgate"". www.themarysue.com. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  47. ^ a b (August 27, 2018), "ComicsGate Won’t Be Defeated by Well-Intentioned Tweets Alone," Paste. Retrieved September 17, 2018
  48. ^ "Marsha Cooke, Ethan Van Sciver, Comicsgate, and Darwyn Cooke's Legacy". Bleeding Cool News And Rumors. 2018-08-25. Retrieved 2018-10-01.
  49. ^ "Scott Snyder on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-09-17.
  50. ^ "Social Justice Warriors, part 2: Looking at ComicsGate and Feeling the H.E.A.T. - Atomic Junk Shop". Atomic Junk Shop. 2018-06-30. Retrieved 2018-10-01.