Mike Gold: Scott Allie and the Temple of Doom
This may come as a surprise to some of you who know me, but I honestly believe that people can redeem themselves. I believe in second chances, and I try to reserve my interpersonal cynicism for, oh, say, Republican presidential candidates. More important, I also believe that every man, woman and child on the planet engages in great acts of assholedom from time to time. Ain’t nobody walking on water, and all our houses have their glass wings.
I also understand why most people who have been subjected to great acts of assholedom might not feel so charitable at that time. We’re hurt, angry and abused and we feel in our guts that we’re entitled to some relief – even if such relief is merely howling with the wolves. Such is human nature. Dogs and cats generally handle it better, and we’d all do well to remember that.
You may be familiar with the incident involving Dark Horse executive editor Scott Allie. Full disclosure: whereas it’s been a while since I’ve seen him, I’ve always liked Scott and I admire his work. As far as I’m concerned, he’s an okay guy.
But, then again… I do not drink alcohol and therefore I do not hang out at convention bars. I used to debate politics and the Cubs at various Chicago taverns back in the day, but all of those joints have been consumed by ferns. Now that I’m a bona fide alter cocker, I tend to slither around back alleys with a joint and a friend. But I do know that bars are great places to get drunk, and some people who drink too much in these environs tend to temporarily join the aforementioned forces of assholedom.
According to published reports, Scott groped writer Joe Harris at a San Diego party, and Joe, understandably, took umbrage. That seems like an appropriate response. Joe didn’t take out a gun and blow Scott’s hands off. Graphic Policy’s Janelle Asselin wrote a piece discussing Scott’s behavior, detailing how this was not a one-off event and this behavior has been common knowledge in Dark Horse circles for a long time. Okay, we’re still cool: this is what happens when you act like an asshole in public.
Then Janelle wrote “the truth is that Allie is a symptom of the problems in our industry,” and I’m not certain that’s fair. I’ve been in this industry for 40 years now, and, yes, I could come up with a list of people I believe have had serious substance abuse problems. However, I’ve been laboring in media and in social services for even longer and I was media and education director for a major substance abuse prevention program in Chicago, and I can say this: If you think the industry has a substance abuse problem, get out in the real world for a bit. Our substance abuse problem in the comics donut shop is overwhelmingly dwarfed by what is routine and, quite often, accepted in the rest of the world.
This observation neither forgives nor diminishes anybody’s behavior. Being drunk or high or tired does not forgive the violating events. Absolutely not. But most perpetrators under these circumstances can redeem themselves by no longer getting drunk or high or tired to the point where they act out in public, or in private for that matter.
Yes, it takes a lot of effort and it usually takes a lot of help. Sometimes, it takes a great deal of help. But people who want to can improve. That doesn’t mitigate their actions in the past, but we live in the future so let’s fix what we can.
Scott said in a statement to CBR “I’m deeply sorry about my behavior at San Diego Comic Con 2015 and I apologize to everyone I’ve hurt. I’m completely embarrassed by my actions and how my behavior reflects on Dark Horse Comics, my friends and family. My personal approach and decisions for managing stress were bad. Dark Horse and I have taken the matter very seriously and since this incident, we have taken steps to correct and to avoid any behavior like this in the future. Although apologies can’t undo what has happened, I’ve tried to apologize to everyone impacted by my behavior. To my family, friends, co-workers, and to the industry – please know that I am truly, truly sorry.” I’m not sure what more we can ask for here; the guy screwed up, probably a bunch of times, but he gets it and he’s trying to redeem himself.
Let’s see if that works, and let’s see if we need to come up with some sort of industry-wide program to help both those with such issues and those victimized by such behavior.
Until then, remember, you’re paying property taxes on a glass house.
As too often happens, there is the crime,and then there is the cover-up. And the cover-up is worse.
You are right: Scott Allie is a human, with human frailties and human potential to redeem himself. I hope he gets the help he needs. However, there is evidence (in the blog post you cite and others) that Dark Horse knew he had a problem and did nothing/little to protect its staff and freelancers.
That’s horrible. That’s worth raising a fuss about. And that’s been Business As Usual in comics (and other places) for too long.
You’re absolutely right about cover-ups, particularly those of a corporate nature. I have no idea – other than popular gossip – to what extent the Dark Horse senior staff knew about Scott’s situation, and I’m not about to toss around accusations without any evidence except comments from former employees. But that wasn’t what the column was about: it was about redemption and the realization that every human, male and female and everyone in between, has his or her flaws. The “proof” of the need came from Scott’s own statement.
Now. Do you want to go public about DC’s decade-long coverup of the public behavior of one of its most respected staffers? I mean, if we are going to start throwing stones let’s be fair about it.
Who? Who? It’s very unfair to drop a sentence like that and not reveal all!
I would tell my story, but it would involve citing people with whom I talked who have not given me permission to use their names.
I know how you feel, Mindy. When I returned to DC in the mid-80s, I was told about two people who were caught In flagrante delicto in the conference room which, admittedly, did have a pretty large conference table. Never found out who either individual was.
As Jeb! Bush said, stuff happens.
Y’know what gets me about “crime and punishment” in the corporate world? THe UNFAIRNESS of it.
I knew a nurse, I mean we weren’t close, but I occasionally worked with her, who for a very, very, VERY long time was siphoning off her patients’ pain meds–and I ain’t talking about Tylenol or Advil. I mean the hard stuff, the “controlled substances,” as they are referred to in the biz. (And no, I didn’t know about it and keep my mouth shut. I only found out about it after the fact.)
Anyway, when she finally got caught, “all she had to do” was go to a drug rehab program–her nursing license was “starred,” but she went through the requirements–and then the hospital HAD TO HIRE HER BACK AS AN R.N. The only provision was that she couldn’t go back to her same department.
WHAT BULLSHIT! Every clinical unit in every hospital all over the world has the “locked box,” so to speak. And allowing her to work as an R.N. was like giving the keys to Ft. Knox to Goldfinger.
But if you have another chronic condition, especially a mental health problem, are you afforded the same type of compassion? UH-UH! NO WAY!!! I mean, GOD FORBID anyone should find out! The corporate world will find a way to get rid of you.
P.S.: I am not talking about me. But I have seen this happen more than three times over the course of my career. One of the people I know even had his doctor write a note and that didn’t work. And another person I know was fired over bullshit, but she sued–it took a very, very long time, but now she doesn’t ever have to work again.
By the way, the way that nurse with the drug problem got caught was that all of her patients were complaining of pain constantly, and saying that the meds didn’t work.
One problem is that Allie has a LOT of power and friends in this industry, and depending on how this plays out, it’s possible that any future victim could be a lot less inclined to speak up than Joe Harris was. It looks like Scott will continue to work in a high management position at Dark Horse. Whereas what chances to you think Joe Harris has of EVER being hired by that company now?
I also don’t know which “glass house” you’re talking about at the close of your piece. Are you suggesting that _everyone_ has a skeleton in their closet as nasty as Scott’s?
I’m sure lots of people have closeted skeletons far worse than Scott’s. And let’s give credit where credit is due: Scott might as well. Does everybody have a skeleton or two somewhere? Like I said, nobody walks on water, and everybody has his or her faults.
I absolutely, but respectfully, disagree that Joe Harris won’t be able to get work at Dark Horse or, for that matter, at other publishing houses. We’re in a highly competitive environment for good talent and once you’ve got your foot in the door and editors associate your name with a good track record, said talent will be evaluated. Had Joe made the whole thing up, well, of course that would be a different matter but Scott acknowledged the incident. Quite frankly, right now Joe probably stands a better chance at selling something to Dark Horse for p.r. reasons — coupled with the quality of his craft. Would Joe and Scott ever work together again? That’s almost entirely up to Joe and Scott. I’ve been here for 40 years and there are only two or three people I would not work with, and one of them smells bad.
The comics industry has yet to achieve the corporate status necessary to be so petty. Of course we should keep our awareness up — particularly with the two largest publishers having been reduced to small cogs inside of gargantuan mega-multinational corporations that engage in such behavior every day before their corporate breakfast.
There’s a much broader issue that needs to be addressed: how can freelancers protect themselves (and, hopefully, each other) from all types of harassment and evil. Staff members have some legal protection; freelancers, not so much.
Well said, Mike. Who’d ever think you’d become the voice of reason for the industry?
That job does not pay well. I prefer being the lunatic who lives outside of the box.
This man did something wrong, yes. And he is human. I get that. The problem is the fact that nothing is done about it. He issues a public apology and the rest gets swept under the rug. What about the people who have to work with him?
What about the people at Dark Horse who are sensitive to issues relating to this type of behavior? Should they just go about their business? Pretend it never happened, and hope that it won’t happen again (not likely)?
At the horrible expense of the employees at Dark Horse, this man gets to keep his job. He gets to wander in every day, and walk past the professional folks that do all of the dirty work and scramble to get his projects done. Imagine a job where your boss is accused of biting, groping and licking people, and then seeing him show up to work the next day going about his business. How is someone supposed to do their work, take it seriously, and converse with this guy on a regular basis without wondering if he’s going to do something to them out of the clear blue? This is an absolute outrage.
I’m not saying that Scott doesn’t deserve a second chance at the pursuit of happiness, and I’m sure this situation keeps him up at night (hopefully). But really? Nothing gets done about the situation? If Mike Richardson knew how to run an honorable business, he would have fired his ass immediately. Sexual assault has no place in business. I feel bad for the folks at Dark Horse. But, from what I understand from this, their HR department either doesn’t exist, or doesn’t run properly or legally. There’s no way my employees would put up with this garbage.
I bet if an employee groped Mike Richardson… They’d be fired. But this guy gets to stay.
What a farce.
There’s a lot of presumption there, Jim. What was swept under the rug? Everybody directly involved seems to have had their say. You’re assuming some or many Dark Horse employees have been grouped by Scott and that nothing has been done in public about that which may or may not have happened. If, in the wake of this event, some or any DH employees can forward with reports of similar behavior, I suspect Scott would either be fired or be strongly encouraged to fall on his sword. And I guess that might still happen, if others come forward. And, yes, I know how difficult that can be. Absolutely. That’s why we now have whistle-blower laws.
But, no. No responsible HR department would have fired his ass immediately. A responsible HR department would conduct an investigation to find out what happened and whether there have been other such incidents that crossed the line of acceptable behavior. Then, and only then, would Scott have been fired for cause. And, by the way, denied unemployment compensation which would save the company a bundle.
And perhaps that happened. Most HR departments don’t operate in public, as though they were a bunch of Republicans and Scott was Hilary Clinton.