To be clear, there is no piece of laminated paper with the word ‘Blacklist’ at the top that gets circulated around the comic book industry.
That’s ridiculous, and no credible source would ever claim this.
There is, however, an informal list circulated among whisper networks. We’ve covered that one before, but there’s actually a second one that you’re probably not aware of. It’s fairly recent, and well…
This Second One Comes with Contract Changes
Blacklist #1: The One You’ve All Heard Of
Back in 2016, this blacklist was relatively short. How to get on it? Simple. Be openly Conservative.
As the country divided, comic creators took to their battle-stations, and it became clear that one side had to go. Comics already being a heavily Left-leaning industry, it was an easy choice, so the Conservative Blacklist took shape. And new names were continually being added.
But hedging with the Comic Book Left (which quickly became the Far Comic Book Left, and then evolved into the Extreme Comic Book Left), came with unforeseen consequences.
The BlackList Expands
By 2018, no more “gross, Right-leaning, garbage people” were allowed to have a job in the industry, and if they slipped through then they certainly weren’t permitted to have any mainstream media coverage.
Around this time, Zoë Quinn was leading the Vertigo reboot, Heather Antos was at Marvel Comics watching the gate, Chuck Wendig was writing Star Wars novels and using the brand to bolster his political base. And more, and more Social Justice Warrior types were flooding the industry who were light on writing experience, but heavy on activism.
It was sunshine and rainbows for the Extreme Comic Book Left. They’d seemingly won. After all, they’d gotten everything they wanted. Full infestation of popular culture outlets.
But they had one more problem.
There were still old fashioned folks at the top of the rapidly-shrinking comics industry. Writers occupying coveted high-profile spots that the SJWs felt entitled to. And some of those problematic, non-allies were writing books like Iron Man, X-Men, and the Batman titles.
And these veteran writers weren’t actually Conservative, or Right, or even Centrist. No. Most of those types had already been ousted. So exactly how do you intimidate and harass writers like Scott Snyder, Cullen Bunn and Sean Murphy, and force them out of those top slots that you want for yourself? You can’t do it publicly. No. That’s too risky. You would need to quietly plant seeds of discord, and whisper rumors into the correct ears.
And we all know that no one whispers like The Network.
The Secret Word Gets a MakeOver
But to target Left-leaning people, this new Extreme Comic Book Left needed a new, more flexible weapon in their arsenal. They knew they couldn’t threaten and intimidate the remaining non-woke writers with the word ‘ComicsGate‘, but perhaps with enough rumor spreading they could muddy the waters enough to make problems.
They called many writers at the top of Marvel and DC ‘ComicsGate sympathizers’. They said they were CG ‘adjacent’ if they’ve ever replied to the wrong person on Twitter, or liked the wrong post. Oh, and you say you denounced ComicsGate? Cute. You did it what, two times? Why not three? I guess you’re a CG ‘apologist’. Maybe I’ll drop your editor an email and let them know.
List Number 2: The New One You’ve Never Heard Of
Late 2018 saw an implosion of the Whisper Network. Heather Antos suddenly and surprisingly departed for an Esports betting website and Chuck Wendig exited Marvel Comics under controversial circumstances. Both parties continue to do damage control to this day.
But were these events, which both took place in 2018, unrelated, or was there a link? A link not only to backstage bullies and rumor-spreaders like Chuck and Heather, but to other key players within the Whisper Network? Was there a hidden connection between Zoë Quinn, Gail Simone, Tess Fowler, Alex De Campi, Stephanie Cooke, along with famously unprincipled tabloid journalists like Rich Johnston and Heidi MacDonald, and others?
The answer is YES.
Without knowing it, the creators of the original Comic Book Blacklist triggered something without even realizing it. They’d spurred the creation of a second blacklist. Only this time, the list was aimed at them. And list #2 is so well concealed, most of them don’t know they’re on it, even to this day.
The Secret ‘Iron Man Debacle’ of 2017: The Origins of Blacklist #2
I recently spoke with a long-time, high-level executive at Marvel Comics, who I will give a gender-neutral name to protect their identity: ‘Sam’.
Over the course of two hours, Sam treated me to incredible insight about the industry that even I hadn’t heard about. The most interesting topic surrounded someone being groomed to write Marvel’s Iron Man title… the de facto leader of the Whisper Network, Alex De Campi.
Yes, this was seriously being considered and was floated in a meeting of editors and publishers in 2017. The gig was almost hers, but thanks to Blacklist #2, suddenly it wasn’t.
The ‘De Campi Clause’ Is Coined
One of De Campi’s allies, an executive whom she had a close relationship with, pushed this idea at Marvel: ‘Alex De Campi as the all new, female writer of Iron Man!’ The concept was to grab headlines by adding a feminist twist to the franchise with a fresh reboot, and a female protagonist in the armor. And who better to write it than one of the loudest feminists on Comics Twitter? But when her name was dropped at this fateful meeting, according to Sam, “all hell broke loose.”
“Bear in mind that Antos and Wendig were still at Marvel, and tensions in the office were high,” Sam explained. “Hateful rumors were spreading like a virus. Bullying was rampant, and everyone was scared for their jobs due to the environment Chuck and Heather had fostered along with their cliques.”
The thought of De Campi coming on board at Marvel Comics pushed reasonable people’s sanity to the edge.
Immediately, talk of getting lawyers involved started circulating behind the scenes.
Though virtually unknown to the public, by 2017 Alex De Campi had, “already spent years trying to get people fired with rumors, and planting fake stories,” according to Sam, especially by leveraging the infamously vicious tabloid site, Bleeding Cool, a site run by her former employer and close personal friend, Rich Johnston.
This is common knowledge in the industry, and has been for a decade. If you’re a fan who has been paying close attention, you’re probably aware of this, too. A few years ago I was enjoying a pint with a table of Marvel creators, and we spent an evening sharing our horror stories of Alex’s attack campaigns. Much like Antos, everyone in comics has at least one ‘Alex tale’.
Mark Chiarello had a recent run-in with Alex where she vandalized his personal Facebook page with accusations of sexism and racism. Pros hilariously clapped back. She followed that up by called her own paying customers “deadbeats and whiners”, and got roasted in her own comments section. She also used Bleeding Cool to spread a story about how she “didn’t believe” Scott Snyder when he pledged not to abuse women, and added some racial accusations on top of it.
The stories of her false accusations, personal attacks, and lunacy go on, and on, and on, and all of this is just from 2020 alone. Many more of her ‘career highlights’ were exhaustively outed in my Whisper Network expose. De Campi and her Network have been tearing apart careers for almost a decade, and with surprising effectiveness given her relatively low status within the industry. But the birth of the De Campi Clause brought a lot of things into perspective, and it had a ripple effect.
What Was in ‘The Clause’?
According to Sam, employees at Marvel didn’t want to quit in protest, but if De Campi was actually coming on board, they demanded assurances. They needed to know they could work in a safe environment without the looming danger of social terrorism constantly hanging over their heads. Without worrying they’d look at Alex the wrong way, and she’d leak all of their private correspondence to one of her media contacts out of spite, or vaguely accuse them of a sex crime or racial discrimination with the hope of getting them fired.
So what exactly was the ‘De Campi Clause’?
Proposed amendments in their contracts, ensuring they would never have to work with Alex De Campi, or even be physically close to her at any time.
You read that right.
This included being physically separated from her at convention appearances, too (and being in a separate hotels for overnight accommodations, this was a big one), never having to appear on the same panel with her, and making sure she was nowhere near them, or their families, to avoid any lies and attacks like those she’s become known for.
The more of Sam’s friends who discussed this potential clause, the more stipulations were added.
“There are two rules if you wanna survive the comic book industry,” Sam said, laughing in between sips of red wine. “One? Stay the f**k away from Rich Johnston and his minions. Two? If Alex De Campi texts you, e-mails you, or even mentions you on Twitter, call a f**king lawyer, because chances are, you’re eventually gonna need it.”
Sam explained that De Campi isn’t dangerous because of her contacts in comics. In fact she has very few friends who are actual, legitimate creators. She’s dangerous because of partisan journalists like Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool who are seemingly in her back pocket, and other gatekeepers in her Whisper Network, like Heidi MacDonald that runs comic website Comics Beat.
“What fans don’t realize is how tight these f**kers are,” Sam explained. “De Campi is in constant contact with corrupt bloggers who give her books glowing praise, and attack her enemies. Between Heidi [MacDonald], Graeme [McMillian], [Caitlin] Rosberg, [Asher] Elbein, they’re all in the extended network. If Alex wants to f**k you over, she loops her goons in, and before you know it you’re getting smeared. It’s a well oiled machine.”
“Wanna spot a corrupt journalist from a mile away?” Sam added. “Easy. Check Twitter, and see who Retweets Alex De Campi. That is a big f**king red flag right there. If they’re using her as a source, watch your ass, because they’re dangerous.”
Saved at the 11th Hour
Ultimately, the fear of having De Campi anywhere near Marvel Comics eventually got to be too much for way too many folks, and so the idea was nixed by upper management. The now-infamous De Campi Clause that many privately discussed adding to their contracts was deemed to be no longer necessary. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
Instead of “Iron Man will be written by a feminist, activist woman“, Marvel was able to score this even juicier headline. Everyone at Marvel was happy.
As a sociologist of education whose research is focused on racism, Eve L. Ewing was of course not a comic book writer. But by 2018, the Big Two had dispelled any notions of hiring writers based on merit alone, or even writers with fanbases, or even fiction writing experience at all.
But despite early skepticism, the Ewing hire turned out to be a very shrewd business decision for Marvel. The media swooned, the writing was serviceable, and it kept the company from suffering through what was poised to be a De Campi-related HR nightmare (one that could have easily exploded into a legal nightmare). How could de Campi have retaliated against such a boss move?
Did ‘The Clause’ Expose Heather and Chuck, Too?
When word first got around in 2017 that employees were terrified at the notion of having to interact with a social terrorist like De Campi, it opened the floodgates. Suddenly, everyone was whispering about the many toxic personalities within Marvel, and how some of them were spending a disproportionate amount of time not creating compelling stories, but trying to figure out how to end the careers of their co-workers.
Bullying, intimidation, and rumor-spreading were simply accepted before the De Campi Clause was proposed, and were commonplace in the Wendig / Antos era. Now, this behavior was being discussed at all levels. And less than a year later, not coincidentally, Chuck and Heather made their embarrassing exits I mentioned above.
The Blacklist 2.0: So Who’s On It, and Who’s Next?
The Extreme Comic Book Left is divided into two categories: the ones who are already soft-blacklisted for their past and continuing antics, and the ones who will soon be blacklisted, but don’t know it yet.
Publicly fantasizing about the death of others and launching campaigns to financially destroy companies that you have a petty grudge against used to be seen as not just unprofessional, but dangerous and malicious. Now it is commonplace and accepted, and will reliably get applause on Twitter.
But these actions aren’t soon forgotten. Throwing a digital Molotov cocktail and watching it burn might score points with angry Twitterati mobs, but sane business owners are usually not impressed by such anarchy.
You needn’t look further than recent agents of chaos, and what became of their careers after they went too far with their constant attacks and online tantrums. Ask yourself, where is Zoë Quinn’s new comic book series? Why isn’t Andy Khouri editing at DC anymore? What happened to the ever-rising star of Mags Vissagio? Where is Kelly Sue DeConnick’s new book?
If only there were some reasonable explanation for why DC Comics would cancel Aquaman written by Kelly Sue DeConnick?!? pic.twitter.com/PO2sWiJXmQ
— Bleeding Fool (@BleedingFool) August 15, 2020
“But they had abysmal sales”, you’re probably thinking. Which is true. What’s also true is, they’re on the list. Although no one in comics is hired based on talent, or marketability, or even numbers anymore. As mentioned above, that philosophy went by the wayside years ago. But take notice of how even industry bloggers who lean towards extremism are being slowly, and quietly, weeded out recently.
Rich and Heidi’s good buddy Graeme McMillan just got ousted from The Hollywood Reporter. While Graeme does most of his trash-talking privately, “it’s no secret that he loves to spread rumors and do as much damage as possible”, says Sam. And this is confirmed according to many insiders.
Not surprisingly, he’s also a faithful Alex De Campi minion.
The lunatics of today, addicted to those Retweets, will see their careers quietly sun-setted tomorrow. And the irony? As they laugh while trying to destroy the careers of others, they don’t realize they’re being covertly added to the Blacklist #2, and they’ll likely never be told about it. I suppose they’ll know if they’re reading Bleeding Fool.
“Here’s the bottom line,” Sam added. “The Second Blacklist gets brought up in terms of these proposed clauses. When enough concerned employees ask for a ‘Fowler Clause’ or a ‘Mags Clause’, a ‘Joe Glass Clause’, or a ‘Stephanie Cooke Clause’, decisions have to be made: do you protect your team from bullying, threats, and harassment, or hire one of these goons and roll the dice? At that point you’re pretty much lighting the Molotov cocktail yourself, and waiting for them to toss it.”
You may be asking, “will the pendulum ever swing back the other way? Will Marvel ever return to the Denny O’Neil classical liberal days, when Chuck Dixon and Mike Baron could write for the company without being harassed or threatened?” That remains to be seen, but ideally a more neutral and centrist direction would be healthier for both employee morale, and the comic book customers that the industry desperately needs to win back in the current climate.
But in the meantime, the Extreme Comic Book Left, aka The Whisper Network, are torching future opportunities so they can get even with their perceived enemies on Twitter, and, at least in the short-term, there is no sign of those folks slowing down.
Too bad you can’t pay rent with social media Likes.