Tagged: Janelle Asselin

Joe Corallo: Eddie, Are You Kidding?

Wonder Woman

A lot has happened recently at DC Comics. They’ve announced plans for their Rebirth which drew mixed reactions – including from myself a couple of months back. They went on to announce a talent workshop with the idea of being able to bring in some fresh faces in comics to help breathe new life into their properties. Then earlier this month they announced a new imprint called Young Animals headed by Gerard Way, which I and many other people praised. Things coming down the pipeline from DC Comics seemed to be showing promise and certainly the return of titles like Doom Patrol have me excited.

Then last Thursday happened.

First, news broke that Shelly Bond, Executive Editor of the Vertigo imprint who had been with the imprint since its inception, had been let go as a result of “restructuring.” Vertigo editors will now be reporting directly to the top brass at DC. Many creators who have worked with her expressed sadness in seeing her go and wished her luck in her future endeavors, which is expected. Then, something slightly less expected happened.

Not long after the Shelly Bond news broke, a discussion began on Twitter revolving around why DC would let go of an editor beloved by many while keeping an editor on board who has a history of HR problems and had openly engaged in public sexual harassment. The person in question was outed as Superman group editor Eddie Berganza.

The Outhousers were one of the first to report on this. They pointed out how Bleeding Cool reported on his very public harassment of a woman at Wonder Con in 2012 that led to a demotion shortly after. Recently, Janelle Asselin (as reported in The Outhousers link above) stated she had filed a complaint with HR about his behavior back in 2010 (she originally stated 2011 then corrected that in her tweets), that DC to her knowledge did nothing to remedy the issue, he got promoted and it helped prompt her to leave the company. We not only have her word to back up this claim, but the timeline also fits with the editor credits in the comics that were coming out. It’s important to note that no one from DC Comics as of the time I’m writing this has denied the claims made by Bleeding Cool or Janelle Asselin.

Additionally, other creators like Sophie Campbell have named Eddie Berganza directly as a reason she turned down a freelance gig on Supergirl. Others have come out saying that Greg Rucka has agreed to return to Wonder Woman only if he didn’t have to work with Berganza, and it appears that Berganza will not be editing the title but rather the Bat family group editor will. I have not seen any statements directly from Greg Rucka to back up if that is the full story. Additionally Alex de Campi has been cited as almost naming Eddie Berganza, and the person and their title that she describes in her piece linked does sound like it’s almost certainly Berganza, but stops short of naming him. Other outlets such as DC Women Kick Ass (where I found the above image from as it’s just perfect) have written powerful opinion pieces on this as well.

So why is Eddie Berganza still editing over at DC Comics?

Some may argue that Eddie makes money on the Superman titles while Shelly was heading an imprint that hasn’t been very profitable in a long time. It is true that Vertigo’s heyday was years ago, and DC Entertainment had recently dedicated a quarter million dollars in advertising for Vertigo with little to show for it. However, comparing Vertigo to the Superman titles is hardly an even playing field.

Superman has had other group editors while the titles were doing much better, like Mike Carlin, whose success with The Death Of Superman has yet to be matched, and that was over 20 years ago. And Mike Carlin did go on to become executive editor, like Eddie Berganza did, but certainly Mike Carlin had more to show for it. Eddie Berganza even oversaw a drastic drop in Supergirl sales under his watch back in 2007, in which he’d go on to pen an awkward column blaming the readers, and specifically women readers, for the books poor sales. Oh, and that incredibly embarrassing editorial mess where DC claimed that “Pakistanian” was a language? That was Eddie Berganza, too.

Certainly Eddie Berganza has done some good work though, hasn’t he? Well, yes he has. During his brief reign as executive editor we saw the implementation of The New 52. Love it or hate it, it did start as a financial success and not only created successful series with Geoff Johns and Jim Lee on Justice League, brought back Grant Morrison to Superman with Action Comics, launched Scott Snyder into comic superstardom with his run on Batman, gave Brian Azzarello a mainstream comics comeback with Wonder Woman, but it also brought back many older and experimental titles with surprising success such as I, Vampire, All-Star Western, and Animal Man which launched Jeff Lemire’s mainstream comics career.

Perhaps these successes have elevated Eddie Berganza to being someone that is viewed as an invaluable asset to the company, despite past shortfalls with titles such as Supergirl and editorial disasters like “Pakistanian.” The New 52 also saw the diminishing of the Vertigo line as titles that previously may have ended up there such as Swamp Thing and Animal Man went back to the main DC universe.

This is not written as a defense of the behavior being called into question. It’s just to highlight why he may still be there outside of legal reasons like his contract which may or may not be hard to do anything about, we don’t know. As Heidi MacDonald highlighted at The Beat last week, the idea that Eddie Berganza has blackmail on anyone is simply not true. However, Heidi did find that several sources confirmed to her that there was at least an informal policy that no women would work with him physically in the Superman office. Women were still able to work freelance on the books. This is a shocking and disgusting revelation, but also as it was a seemingly informal policy it’s hard to tell if any legal wrongdoing was actually done by this, and if women were denied equal opportunity. I suppose we’ll have to see if people come forward on that one way or the other.

Everything above this are the facts and insights from people close to this issue or have sources close to it. To help you understand where I’m coming from and what’s informing my thoughts on this, I’d like to tell you about some of my experiences which – to be clear ­– have all been outside of the comics community. Not because I want to, but because I think it’s important.

Over the course of my life I have experienced cat calling, including being cat called while on the phone with my grandmother as I walked down the street. I have had countless unwanted advances and I’ve been the victim of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I’ve been flat out asked if I’d be interested in sexual services for money, been groped, and more. I’ve been told by friends, good friends, about how so-and-so is just “handsey” or “that’s how they get when they’re drunk” or “that’s just their sense of humor.” I’ve way more often than not have been confronted with the notion that I should really be reflecting on my behavior before I jump to conclusions. That is not okay. It wasn’t okay years ago, and it’s not okay today.

I don’t like talking about this. Actually, I really hate it. I get anxious just typing this and knowing other people are going to read this. But it’s important for people to know that these things do happen. It’s important to understand that people allegedly committing sexual harassment or abuse aren’t a monolith. They are single, in committed relationships, have kids, have a loving family, have great jobs, great friends, they may know you, they may not. They aren’t everyone, but they could be anyone.

Pressing charges or suing aren’t always options. Just because I didn’t call the cops to have to sit there and be asked demoralizing questions doesn’t mean I wasn’t demoralized. Just because I didn’t decide to go into a long drawn out lawsuit to get my name dragged through the mud or worse doesn’t mean someone didn’t do something really shitty to me or anyone else. Dismissing victims for not pursuing legal action is narrow minded and needs to stop. And it’s certainly not appropriate with respect to Eddie Berganza, should these allegations bear out.

I’m writing this piece because I saw this story break, I think it’s awful, and it reminds me of things that have happened to me and to others I know. I’m writing this because far too often we feel it is only appropriate to discuss someone sexually harassing or assaulting someone if it’s just happened and not a moment later, and it’s not right. I’m writing this because it’s important to listen to victims because in this case it is not merely “he said she said” it’s “he said they said.”

I’m writing this because workplaces need to be safe spaces. If your company claims that diversity is important, that company has a responsibility to make the workplace safe for everyone. Having someone with a reputation like Eddie Berganza’s on staff while the Janelle Asselin’s of the world leave, or the Shelly Bond’s are let go, creates a less safe space. If you aren’t dedicated to making your company a safe space, then any talks about being dedicated to diversity is just that; talk. Which is especially troubling to think about when DC is currently running a Talent Development Workshop. How many women or other diverse creators have seen what’s been going on with DC since last week, seen the lack of a response from DC, and are now thinking twice about applying? How many people are now applying with the thought that if they end up making it far enough to get a freelance gig out of it that they’ll tell DC “just don’t make me work with Eddie Berganza?”

And I’m writing this because we need to keep discussing this. We can’t let this story fade away with last week’s news. We need DC Comics to know and understand that these are issues that are too important to turn a blind eye to. People need to make statements to address what’s going on.

Even if those statements come down to the fact that this is an issue that has been taken care of internally and that they pledge to be striving to make DC a safe space for its staff, it still needs to be addressed to their readers. DC Comics needs to know that things have changed since 2011, and this kind of shuffling around sexual harassers in the company and protecting them will not fly in the future.

I don’t know what the legal issues are for DC regarding this matter. I don’t know what Eddie Berganza’s contract states, or if these allegations have even been investigated. I don’t know if DC is even in a position to do anything about this situation at this time. But I do know that it’s important for us, the readers, to make sure that DC does not put their personnel or anyone else in this position.

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.

Mindy Newell: Labor and Comics

LaborLabor Day. It sounds like a day when we all should be out there laboring our asses off – or, if you’re an expectant mom, the day you give birth. (Now that’s labor!) Instead, it’s a national holiday on which we all un-labor.

The United States Department of Labor defines the holiday as Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

There’s no mention of the bloody Chicago Haymarket Square Riot on May 4, 1886, or of the Pullman strike in that same city almost exactly eight years later, or of the appalling conditions in which ordinary workers, i.e., laborers, had to struggle to make a living wage. Three-day weekends? Are you kidding me? As the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) of Downton Abbey asked, “What’s a weekend?” Not only were there no weekends, there were no 40-hour weeks, no overtime, and no benefits. The unionization of industries was looked upon as a plot of anarchists, communists, socialists, and “foreigners” intent on destroying the fabric of American society.

It wasn’t until 1935 and the National Labor Relations Act that the right to organize and bargain collectively, i.e., to unionize, for better wages, hours, and working conditions, especially the safety of employees, had the bulwark of the U.S. government behind it. But immediately corporations en masse fought against the Act – which was progressively weakened until, in 2009, the corporate community used modern media tools and millions upon millions of dollars to create new lobbies, with “New Speak” names like the Workplace Fairness Institute and the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace. The bottom line is that these national lobbies and individual state “right-to-work” laws have effectively killed unions in this country–which claimed that any legislation protecting the right of unions to exist would take away workers’ right to vote for or against unionization in a secret ballot.

And then there’s outsourcing…a product of President Bill Clinton’s North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA). Everybody knows that the manufacturing industry has fled the United States. Basically, the corporations said, “if you can’t join them, fuck ‘em,” and moved their operations to countries where:

  • The minimum wage is $3.00/hr;
  • There are no child labor laws;
  • The work week is expanded to whatever the corporation decides;
  • Health and safety laws are non-existent;
  • Unions are banned; and
  • Environmental protection laws do not exist.

So. What does all of this have to do with comics? Well, there was an effort to unionize, back in 1978.

In that year, a group of then A-list writers and artists banded together as the Comics Creators Guild – which is sort of like a union, but for freelancers who are given work but not on an on-going basis. Led by Neal Adams, the group included Cary Bates, Howard Chaykin, Chris Claremont, Steve Ditko (which I admit is surprising to me since he was a follower of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism), Michael Golden, Archie Goodwin, Paul Levitz, Bob McLeod, Frank Miller, Carl Potts, Marshall Rogers, Jim Shooter, Walt Simonson, Jim Starlin, Len Wein, and Marv Wolfman.

Janelle Asselin of Comics Alliance wrote on May 11, 2015, One of the things the group did was put together a list of recommended rates for publishers.” These rates were (and thanks to Janelle and Comic Book News for this):

Fees for First North American Publication Rights

  • Art Work, per page: $300.00
  • Script, per page: $100.00
  • Lettering, per page: $40.00
  • Coloring, per page: $70.00

Fees for foreign first publication rights were to equal 25% of the first North American publication rights, and fees for reprints would be 50% of the first North American publication rights. In addition, any work used in licensing agreements would result in payment to the “talent” equal to the first North American publication rights.

Janelle wrote, (and thanks for doing the math, Janelle!) that adjusted for inflation, these rates would be $1080.00 for artists, $360.00 for writers, $144.00 for letterers, and $252.00 for colorists. I am assuming that these are “entry-level” rates, by the way.

I remember talking about the Comics Creators Guild with Paul Levitz and Marv Wolfman when I worked at DC in the 80s; I never really understood why it failed, except that perhaps it is because that, on the whole, creative types are ornery loners. And that there are – despite the growth of other markets and web comics and independent press – still hosts of eager-beaver young talents willing to accept pittance and give up any rights to their work in order to write, draw, letter and color Marvel and DC’s four-color heroes. Still, Hollywood, that bastion of creativity in America (say that with a smirk on your face) is a union town. In fact, you cannot work in the television and movie industry without a union card, and that includes extras, or a guild membership.

Which led me to this thought:

Now that Marvel and DC are firmly in the land of La-La, perhaps the fact that Hollywood is a union town will influence and lead to today’s (and future) comics creators to form a union that lasts. Or perhaps one of the unions and guilds already established will take them under their wing, such as the Writers’ Guild of America – West.

We’ll see. Because, for at least right now, Hollywood is just about the only place in America where unions still have real power.