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How we got here:
I responded in a Twitter thread to another pro, giving my account of a story from my past as a show of defense. That this thread was then picked up by Bleeding Cool and has sparked another, larger conversation about the state of comic books today is more important here. But I also did take to Twitter again to make a very public statement after my inbox was filled with accounts from other women who had found themselves in my same position. My story was not an isolated incident. Not by a long shot. I knew I’d catch some heat for being so honest, but I stand by my decision to speak frankly, in anger. For the ladies who can’t talk about it, and for the gents who’ve been watching it occur for years, but also to clear the air:
My Response:I’ve forgiven Brian years ago for the following story. My eventual anger was due to the accounts being given to me as a result of the Bleeding Cool article. I’ve moved on from what he did. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with defending someone else on social media. My followers already knew the story. As did my husband and friends. (According to my inbox this is just a well known fact, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.) I never asked for a boycott, or blacklisting, as I am being accused. I actually spoke very openly about the opposite. About this being a systemic problem in need of addressing. So let me be very frank in repeating what I said openly before.Brian Wood has every right to be a part of comics. To make books and make a living unhindered. I believe that. I also believe his behavior is a symptom of a much bigger disease. A disease of silence, where you go along to get along. And you never say anything about your experiences because the harm to yourself and perhaps to others will be monumental. That’s not okay. And it has to change.The account:It was 2007 SDCC after hours, and I was trying very hard to pitch a book with a writer friend all day, while also pitching my portfolio. I had just had a gallery published in Heavy Metal magazine and was hoping to forge a career.I wandered up to the Marriott to wait outside for said friend to show so we could meet up and talk about the day. Didn’t realize I wandered into the center of an indoor/outdoor bar party full of professionals and editors.Brian Wood found me standing there in the crowd. He had a drink in one hand, and seemed slightly buzzed. I felt I knew Brian. He’d been talking to me on myspace for months, and was very nice to me online, about my art. Even going so far as to say he believed in me, and that I could go far. Even saying he might like to see more. I was happy when he approached me and introduced himself. Hopeful even,I was less happy when he began to come on to me. He got very close to me and asked if he could buy me a drink. He told me I was beautiful, and let me know he had seen my photos of costuming on my myspace and that I should be thankful he was interested in me beyond that. He got graphic. I chided him and pointed to the ring on his finger. I let him know it wasn’t cool. He brought up his child. I can’t recall now if it was a pregnancy or a brand new birth. Only that it made my stomach drop into my shoes when he talked about it and I said very specifically, “Dude you’re somebody’s DAD. What are you doing, man?”He said he didn’t know. But then he kept doing it. He blamed my beauty. He blamed my proximity. He blamed our online conversations. I left, as gently as I could. Because everyone makes mistakes. He made sure to let me know at the end of it that he loved my work, and still wanted to see more.I went inside and found a lounge chair on the other side of the lobby, away from the bar. I set up my drawing stuff. Friends came. They sat on the couch across from me and we talked while I drew. Normal after hours stuff for me. Fun stuff.Brian approached from my left, fiddling with a camcorder in his hands. He took a seat with us and we all said hello to him. We all tried to include him in the flow of conversation. He would grunt, or give us a dead pan expression like we were idiots. It was alarming to say the least. We even exchanged looks with each other wondering what was wrong with him. He just kept fiddling with his camcorder, and his drink.Eventually he made my friends so uncomfortable that they cleared out. I bid them goodbye and kept right on drawing. I wasn’t afraid of Brian. Weirded out maybe. But not afraid. Because he’d made a point of talking to me about comics, and my chances at a career, for months. I felt he was far more interested in me as a professional peer than as anything else. Naive? Yes. Especially now that I know this was his m.o. And I wasn’t the only one.I then engaged him in polite, friendly conversation. Or attempted to. After all, we were buds in my mind. Online pals. He reached out and asked to see the piece I was working on. He asked me questions about it. But when I answered he would just stare at my face and then not respond. Then he would go back to his camcorder. It was weird. It was slightly creepy. But for a good 20 minutes it went on like this, with me responding to his questions, and talking about work, and him trailing off into silence. Finally he told me he didn’t want to talk about work. That his job was “kind of dumb” and he focused on it all day so didn’t want to do it now.Awkward.I looked at him sidelong, and asked what he DID want to talk about. He said he wanted to get to know me better. I told him I was good where I was. That we could talk right there in the lobby. That I had work to do. He said I could bring the work up to his hotel room. That we could talk about it there. We went back and forth like this for quite awhile. His voice low and conspiratorial, mine full of feigned politeness.This was one of my very favorite writers. I didn’t want to make him mad. He knew I didn’t want to piss him off. He knew how badly I wanted a spot in comics. We’d discussed it, at length, online.Was this “my chance”?I still don’t know because I began to gather up my things to make a break for it. I told him thanks but no thanks again and again. He stopped me, touching my shoulders, asking me to stay. Then he took one of my pens and wrote his room number on a piece of my artwork. He told me he just had a headache from the noise of the party he’d just been to and he wanted to lay down. But that he would wait for me, and we could discuss my work, the way I wanted. Then he left.My boyfriend showed, helped me gather my things. And we left.Next day I walked around the floor with my writer partner, and we passed by a company booth with one side table full of a row of our heroes. Brian was dead center. He saw me before I could duck into the crowd and shouted my name. I ignored him. He shouted again. I grabbed my friend’s elbow and steered him past the booth, and the shouting man. I nodded to Brian as we moved past, a smile across my face (or I hoped it was) and nodded at him like a broken bobble head. I didn’t know what else to do. Everyone was looking at me. Brian then shouted to ask where I’d gone the night before. That he’d waited until 3am for me before he realized I was standing him up.
See, the problem is far more insidious and quiet than a big bad villain rubbing his mustaches and trying to get poor little girls to go to bed with him. It’s bigger than one man and one girl who nobody knows from Adam. Too many women have a story like mine. Not just about Brian but about all kinds of men in the comic book industry.And I’m going to come right out and give Brian the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he has no clue that what he did was wrong. Maybe it was so subtle, even to him, that he just can’t see himself in that light. But we did talk about the incident post SDCC. That was when he was rather mean to me. It got ugly. So ugly I showed the messages to my boyfriend in horror. I called Brian out on it and asked for an apology. He gave one. Half hearted at best, but he gave one. Then he promised we were still cool. And never spoke to me again.Which is fine. Totally kosher. I took it on the chin. I tried to learn from it. But it was always one of those things that stuck in my craw. And it made me very watchful any time a professional man wanted to get close to me for any reason.See, that’s all you can do in this business. I just went quiet on it for years because I was told not to be the one to rock the boat. That no one would ever work with me if I did. That the backlash against me would be monumental. That I would be called a liar, and no one would ever support me. All true.In closing: I don’t hate him. I wish him well, and I wish his coworkers well. I mean that. Sincerely. They are all skilled, talented individuals. And taking money away from comics via a boycott does not help the medium we all love.
But this really does need to stop. This ease with which folks reach out to silence women who bring it up. This immediate jump to, “She’s nuts. She wants attention. She’s unstable.” I repeat my message from Twitter: The men in this industry have the power to change things. Brian being one of them, actually.My account is above, in detail, for anyone who wants to see how the power play can be subtle, and scary, and wrong all at the same time. Again, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt here and say maybe he really just has no clue that his behavior was wrong, or could have such a lasting affect on someone who once looked up to him. I can believe that. And I can believe a lot of men reading this, in positions like Brian’s, might feel the same way.So how about we use this opportunity to link arms and work towards finding ways to fix this? Open discussions, and a devotion to never letting such behavior stand. Forgiveness for those men who can admit the wrong doing and want to make a change. Togetherness. One tribe. One family.
Because I think everyone reading this wants the same thing. For those funny books we grew up on to be a thriving, healthy modern business full of all kinds of creative people and personalities.
By now, fans and industry watchers will all have heard about cartoonist Tess Fowler’s accusations of sexual harassment against acclaimed author Brian Wood—accusations that are part of a much broader (and very fraught) conversation about gender in comics. This is something I care deeply about, so I feel compelled to weigh in. Bear with me.
I have never had a negative or skeevy encounter with a male comics professional. Not one. Not at cons, not at parties, not at meetings, not in green rooms or on panels. In fact, the vast majority of men I’ve met in the industry—including Brian Wood—have been both friendly and generous with their time and influence.
Then again, I dress like a nun. A nun with possible terrorist connections. Who has strabismus. So perhaps I’m not the best example. Nearly every other woman I’ve met in the industry seems to have horror stories about creepy run-ins with male colleagues and creators. In theory, a woman shouldn’t have to look like a strabismic nun with possible terrorist connections in order to be taken seriously in the comics industry, but apparently, that is what it takes.
What can one say? I almost don’t know where to start. When I began to take a serious interest in comics, back in the late 90s-early 00s (when I was literally still a baby…I first manned a booth at SDCC as a 19-year-old intern), misogyny was considered cool. By everybody. Including, it should be mentioned, women. Some of the most popular creators had semi-ironic harems, which when you think about it is not really ironic at all, but nevertheless, irony was used as the justification. I brought up the lack of irony in this ironic arrangement exactly once in an online fan forum and was immediately eviscerated by other women. How stupid was I for failing to differentiate between for-real misogyny, which is bad, bad, and ironic misogyny, which is really just a fun (fun!) way to shine a spotlight on future female creators? Everybody’s gotta start somewhere, right?
Where are these future female creators today?
You have never heard of them.
They were tricked. The casting couch doesn’t work. It was never intended to work. It was a hoax all along. But the great tragedy is that so many women were led to believe that they had to use sex and/or sexuality to make any professional headway. (Pun unin…okay whatever.) They were led to believe that the traditional routes to success (hard work, networking, talent) were literally closed to them.
This is what makes misogyny so pernicious: the tropes are so ingrained that they get buy-in from women themselves. If it was just a matter of naming and isolating the perpetrators of bad behavior, this would be a simple thing. But it’s not enough to remove skeevy guys and lecherous professional favor-traders from the con floors. We also have to remove them from our own inner monologues, from our own sense of self-worth. We have to stop telling ourselves that this is just the way the world works, because it isn’t.
There is nothing a man has to offer a woman professionally that can’t be discussed in a public place. Nothing. If he leads you to believe that you must sleep with him, flirt with him, or be with him behind a locked hotel room door in order to climb the professional ladder, he is lying. If I, the strabismic nun, can sit here waving my 2 Eisner nominations and World Fantasy Award, and be as weird looking and overclothed as I am, then lady, there is nothing you can’t do. On your own terms, by your own merits. Wearing what you like, when you like. End of speech.
So a dude wrote a column. In it, he expressed his disappointment in our comic book and described his retailer tearing up a copy. (Please don’t go looking for the column; just take my word for it—dude gets paid every time you click and in an unbelievably classy move I should have seen coming, is now using the attention to promote his own books. Comics!) Follow me so far? Dude wrote a column… Then the internet blew up. This is the only statement I’m going to make on the matter, so read slow.
When I got the email giving me the heads up, I thought it was funny. I don’t know if that makes me sound like an ass—if it does, please understand that dude has been around for as long as I have and he’s been hilariously condescending to people far more talented than I am for so long that it’s almost a rite of passage. Like… okay, years ago I was an operator on the graveyard shift at Home Shopping Network and there was a masturbator who called every night. You didn’t actuallywant to be the one who took that call, but when you finally got it… you sort of felt like you’d finally earned your wings.
So when the email came, I literally laughed out loud. Hey! I got jumped in!
The guy tearing up the book? I dunno. It’s a little theatrical for my taste (and look at me, my favorite color is leopard print) but whatever. It’s his shop, his book, he can do whatever he wants. Doesn’t seem like good business to me, but what do I know? I don’t run a store. Maybe his customer eat that kind of thing up like pro wrestling. If it’s working for him, good on ‘im. (Also: same guy tore up SCARLET #1, which is a book I LOVE, so hey — win! For the record, I don’t think my gender had anything to do with anything, but given the Scarlet thing, it’s possible dude might have an issue with artificial redheads. I dunno. It’s a theory.**)
Not everybody’s gonna like the book. Did you miss the part where I said it’s a weird book? It’s a weird book. I’m proud of it. I’m bursting with pride at Emma’s innovative layouts, Jordie’s gorgeous colors, Clayton’s… well, Clayton’s infinite patience with my foibles, more than anything else probably, but that’s saying something. (I’m teasing you, Clayton. I’m proud of you too.) I’m proud of Sigrid for keeping us on schedule and Caitlin for having all our backs like the fierce little mama bear she is. I’m as proud of my contribution as I’m capable of being. Mostly, I’m proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone.
All that said, not everybody’s gonna dig it and that’s okay. That doesn’t make us failures and it doesn’t make them misogynists. If you didn’t “get” the book, that’s okay; you’re not dumb. (Am I being clear enough? No one is calling you dumb.) Taste is subjective. I like liver and onions and Offspring*. Probably you don’t. That doesn’t make either of us dumb or even wrong. (The way you chose to express your taste says more about you than your taste itself.)
So, when the email came in, I laughed. Can’t please everybody. And hey, we had a hell of a Wednesday.
Then… the internet exploded. I keep not-commenting hoping it’ll just go away, but every ten minutes somebody new decides to run the “story,” folks are saying I said things I not only never said, I never THOUGHT… it’s just… WTF?
Look, I’ve got a hide like a rhino, I can take it. And I know a lot of folks who are perpetuating this are doing so out of love, wanting to come to our defense. And I love them for it, I do. But every outraged post magically puts words in my mouth I never said and makes that one dude THE story.
THAT IS NOT THE STORY. THAT ONE DUDE IS NOT THE STORY.
THIS is the story: You know what we thought this book would do? 9-12K. A couple of our more experienced friends at Image said that they thought it might do as well as 20K — we guffawed. When I saw the initial orders I was in Brisbane — Fraction will tell you, I got light-headed. My hearing went out. As of right now, we have we have blown through our print run of 57K and are going to a second printing. Do the math. With the second printing we’re going to be at THREE TIMES our DREAM NUMBER. How is that even possible?
That is the story.
The book—our weird little book that has surprised and defied us at every turn—came out Wednesday and surprised and defied us yet again. The same site that ran the piece that started all this gave us 4.5/5.0. We got 3 reviews that gave us 10/10. We’ve gotten tons of great mail already, beautiful fan art and it’s starting to feel like there’s a Pretty Deadly community burgeoning.
JH FUCKING WILLIAMS WROTE TO US THIS MORNING. I know it’s impolite to namedrop, but hello–JH FUCKING WILLIAMS!!
My team got ONE WHOLE DAY to feel good about defying expectations before what should have been a non-event became the ubiquitous headline.
So here’s the tl;dr — nobody on our team thinks they’re a genius. (You don’t like my stuff? Hell, a good half the time, I agree with you.) We’re trying some things. If our things are not your bag, that’s okay. As long as you don’t tut tut me, put words in my mouth, call me pretentious or try to profit from bad-mouthing my team, we’re totally gonna stay friends. And if they are your bag? Know we don’t take your support for granted. We’re gonna keep trying things and, well, cheer up, haters! We may well fall flat on our faces yet. I like issue 2 more than issue 1 and issue 3 more than issue 2, but I dunno… your mileage may vary, as they kids say.
All we want to do is have fun, hang out and make comics. Can we pleeeeeeeaaase move on from this shit now?
— Kelly Sue DeConnick
* Not together. Ew.
** Not actually a theory; actually a joke. Please do not send letters.
Hey, I met Will Sliney at New York Comic Con, and he was one of the friendliest people there. Seriously, he's a great guy. And People love Annabelle and Ren. Just saying, you're judging too harshly.
I’m not saying he isn’t a nice person - this same argument gets made for Liefeld and Land, too. I don’t hate him, I hate his art. There’s a HUGE difference there.
And I love Annabelle, too. BUT I don’t love that we’re constantly being given these giant, NUDGE NUDGE WINK WINK SHE LIKE LADIES OHO prompts every time the character makes an appearance. Is the fact that another character likes the D something that comes up CONSTANTLY? Why does her sexuality have to be central to her character? Why can’t she just be an awesomely smart archaeologist with awkward mannerisms who shares a body with a kickass Norse goddess (who also happens to like the ladies)? I actually enjoy a lot of the way Bunn writes the book, but it almost feels like someone is telling him to really play up the WE ARE NOT DC LOOK LOOK A LESBIAN AND AN ALL GAL BOOK HEY HEY HEY thing.
This is all my own opinion, obvs. And, if you can’t tell, I’ve been buying the damn book, despite all the problems. That Hippolyta/Doom issue was one of my favorite single issues to have come out in the last year.
If any of what I said came across as a personal attack against the creators, it wasn’t intended to, and I apologize for any perceived/felt ad hominem attacks. I have a problem with 1. the art and 2. the choices being made at a higher level (at least, I think that’s where a lot of my problems with the content come from). Sliney’s probably a cool dude, who just isn’t real good at understanding how ladybodies work. His male-bodied characters all look distinct and interesting. He would do well on a book with a lot of dudes in it.
And maybe you noticed how pissed I was that they cancelled the book. YES,I have problems with it, but that doesn’t mean I want it to fail. I want it to do well! I want it to get better!
I’m going to hope for something positive - we got a great character and a cool new twist on Val out of the deal, maybe that will end up in another book somewhere and get the attention and care it deserves.
*end late night sleep deprived low blood sugar rant*
got to get away from work on a Wednesday and Ned “forgot” to hold Rat Queens for me. Even though I know I emailed him my request to sub.
Pretty sure everyone in town is sold out.
I NEED MY RAT QUEENS WHAT AM I GONNA DO???????
I have to ask, since I don't know him very well, but what did Brian do to get the title of hypocrite? I didn't go because I was out of town earlier today and didn't have the energy to show up.
Answering publicly because I feel like everyone should be reminded of this shit.
The most expedient way to explain it is with a series of links:
I explain things to his ex-employee, because she was just as baffled as I was about his heel turn.
So that pretty much explains it.
Some bonus material, unrelated: My friend tells her story about how he banned her from his shop for, basically, getting sick.
Inserting a break here because my response is long and you probably don’t care about most of it because it’s just me talking about myself, but there is some “Oh man, what a jerk” content directed at Brian.
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