Op-Ed: Just an Outsider Trying to Understand ComicsGate


I decide how I contribute to this society and I decide how I appreciate what I do value in this life.  I am neither a creator nor a consumer, as those are never the voids in need of filling. I let the people I meet in life define my relationship to them.


Bleeding Fool has stood by me where 15 bigger sites elected not to. I’m reminded of the crap RT America underwent, not because they were pushing supposed anti-American propaganda, but because they were given space and time to report on matters disallowed by our commercial media. I don’t agree with all of their content and there’s nothing wrong with that, because their audience encompasses far more than my ego. Yet reams of online harassment from diehard fans is not exactly one-sided where concerns Comicsgate. It’s on both sides, and generally by the lesser among both sides.




Susceptibility to marketing truly is a weakness. In fiction it would be a character flaw, in practice it prevents people from learning better. Audiences love repetition disguised as anything but. Instead of playing both sides or being a centrist I’m doing as I do. Hard truths can hit the mark better from strangers, and being the outsider everywhere have I some hard realities to convey for everybody.


Mandating that one’s thoughts and feelings be replicated in the hearts and minds of others is not a civil or basic human right. It’s being an asshole. We don’t have to like everything, we don’t have to like anything at all, but others hold that same right. And it’s neither a crime or sin when they do.


I am not playing mediator here, because to paraphrase Understanding Comics, the most extreme plot points lay in the gutters between the panels and I can’t afford to lose my muck-boots in their depths. Others facing ruination should not be the standard for what you create, for what you hope to achieve or for what you would like to support. That’s not self-dependence, relying on the misery of others. That’s also being an asshole. And there is no such fucking thing as common ground to any creative industry.



But every industry is shaped as much by those doing their best as it is by those doing their worst. You alone can decide which role you wanna play. Meritorious works are what keep everybody alive, but most people will support lowest common denominators if they believe that their thoughts and feelings are replicated therein. Which sounds bitter, but a job well done is a different aim from fame/fortune and that hurts to see.


While I have never been part of any tribe be it political, social or religious, I have seen with my own eyes evidence of these private clusters hellbent on influencing others to blacklist select individuals. Now, if these individuals were among the growing laundry list of actual abusers in the industry that would be well and good, but more often than not they’re blacklisted not because they have harmed others or threatened to harm others, but simply because of their views whether political, social or even religious.



If you don’t want to work with someone then you do not have to in a free society, but blocking them from getting work of their own is going above that. Let the markets decide, let audiences choose for themselves what to support or not. Bleeding Fool have shown me they are open to guest preachers for their choir.


I myself have been blocked on Twitter by many commercial artisans simply for typing “comicsgate” despite half a million words at my own website beseeching the value of all life. Admittedly, while personalities such as EVS can’t seem to decide if they’re Beavis or Butthead, but can prolly take a direct nuke regardless, others coyly allow their more devout followers to unleash bombastic, insulting attacks even on the family members of people who they take issue with. And I’m not singling Ethan out, because a simple search on Twitter of the “comicsgate” term presents way too much racist, sexist and homophobic attacks being slung from all sides, assuring outsiders that the indie comics medium is inhabited by too many prima-donnas and curmudgeons, and scant else.


When the reality is that as ever, such are the vocal minority of their respective branding irons. Folks on both sides really are in denial about how viscous the least among theirs can be when nobody’s paying attention. But if we look at some of the biggest names of users and abusers in the industry that have been called out by outlets like Bleeding Cool, the Mary Sue and The Outhouse across the last half dozen years, we see names who have faced actual legal ramifications for harms far worse than name-calling are predominately of the more numerous mainstream.



Nancy Silberkleit was so abusive of her employees that a federal judged barred her from the physical property of Archie Comics. Ike Perlmutter has settled multiple racial abuse cases out of court, and like Nancy has never embraced or been embraced by comicsgate. Gerard Jones and Justiniano both are in prison for child porn distribution charges, and DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer pleaded guilty to repeated cases of child molestation. To say that such a small community is a polybagged collection of every horrible personality in the business turns a blind eye to the people who have actually faced courtroom sentencing for their actions. There are assholes everywhere, and only cultists would suggest otherwise. If the bad guys do a thing it doesn’t make it alright for you to replicate the style, and if you ignore the bad things done by the good guys you are no better than a marketer.


Mainstreamers, if you pay attention you’d know there exists many cliques within CG having nothing to do with one another. And Eric July’s fast success came partly from hitting all the stops he could within the CG community, but I suspect most of his backers came from elsewhere, such as his Blaze audience, and so on. And as commercial blogs ignore CG while Reddit dishonestly hides them, most comic readers probably have no idea who Eric D. July is. On the socials, the mainstream and CG rarely approach one another unless in attack mode, but this means July wasn’t detracting from your sales. He’s actually bringing in folks who are not regular comics readers, which is good for the medium.



I do take issue with how little July gives to discussing or even mentioning his collaborators or the actual content of his comic, but on the other hand if most folks do not know what the premise is they have zilch to focus sniper rifles upon. Listen to his interviews and judge his personality for yourself. Read his works and judge his merits or lacks thereof for yourself. “Guilt by association” doesn’t wash when the big publishing houses get all the press despite them creating the need for a Hero Initiative. Besides, it’s next to impossible to convey the insanity of judging books by the covers to anyone who allows such a thing as alternative variant covers to thrive.


I think it shows how politics were never honestly the divide, but rather everyone insisting that all things appeal to their private thoughts and feelings. There’s CG stuff that commercial comic fans would eat up and versa vice. The only difference is who gets the praise. Most people will take that the wrong way. They could use a good treatise on morality.



Of the hundreds of persons within and orbiting the comic book business I ever knew, in the years that I was trying and failing to keep my mom alive round the clock, the only messages I received were from prissy mind-fucks tearing me apart via email for not having the time to promote their comics. I wasn’t on GoFundMe begging for assistance with medical bills, but I could have used a sympathetic ear for a couple of texts. But for every single person I knew in comics without exception, if I was not serving their wishes involving matters less significant than life or death concerns then I became invisible, or pure evil. If I saved those emails I could destroy much of their public relations. But rather than go scorched Earth, I am determined to make things work for everyone, so that none else undergo what I have.


I am not part of any sect. Enlist in no personality cults, if you truly just want fun back in what entertains you. Because regardless of how much you like the centerpieces, they are the ones getting anything productive from the experience and at grave cost to all those not taking a knee (to the groin). If your personal thoughts and feelings are so right, why can they never stand on their own without replication or vindication by others? If a supremacy or superiority were self-evident, it’d have no need of others being smashed into dust and dirt.



But then again, the root of the superhero genre is ego enacted, by way of might making right or the ends justifying the means. In reality no problem results from anything else.


There are very real voids in the world, outside the panel borders confining frames of mind into self-segregation and self-service.


We can all have a niche, but we all need to cut the shit about our niche being law.

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Richard Caldwell

Richard Caldwell is the only person alive or dead to have written for both Heavy Metal Magazine and the Ditkomania fanzine. He served on the final BoD for the Friends of Lulu nonprofit, co-edited the Solestar OGN raising 20 grand for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, and his name is buried in the closing credits for the Iron Sky film because life is a long story.