Friday, December 5, 2008

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

The comic book industry is a very small community.

Everyone who works in it seems to know pretty much everyone else. But, because it's so compact, your reputation becomes very important. It's far too easy for a few people to effectively 'blacklist' someone they don't like for whatever reason. As such, it seems that comic book professionals are all very careful not to piss off certain people. Particularly in a bad economy and a shrinking industry, to do so could effectively end your current income and make sure you never get any in the future.

It's a difficult thing for those of us on the outside to comprehend. I guess we all grow up thinking that comic book publishers are all like Keebler Elf cookie companies and everything is happy and warm and people hug kittens and ride unicorns all day long. It's sad when you realize that the people who publish books featuring superheroes who fight injustice and stand up for the little guy don't always follow the same principles.

Valerie D'Orazio, who has blogged about her own struggles against sexual harassment during her time at DC Comics in her excellent blog, Occasional Superheroine, is a very brave person. She didn't set out blogging about her ordeal to be brave or to lead a crusade. Her speaking out came from a need to tell her story and hopefully save others from the same pain she suffered. Since then, she has become a spokesperson for women's rights in comics and, I am sure, a MAJOR pain in the ass to those who have reason to fear her posts.

And yet, still, she cannot tell her whole story because of:

A) Fear of reprisal against herself personally and/or professionally.
B) The difficulty in finding a publisher willing to publish such an uncensored story.
C) The fact that most major comic media news outlets would never announce, promote or even mention it.

That saddens me not because I want to read gossip about industry professionals but because such behavoir shouldn't exist today. And the only way to stop it from happening is to talk about it and bring it into the open.

I don't know anyone in the comic business. I am not going to get the call to write the next Batman mega-event or the newest Avengers incarnation. I only have one personal story to share which I'll do in my next post and, even still, it's not going to rip any tears in the fabric of the blogosphere. It will not, to use an infamous quote, "split the internet in two."

But I believe what Val has written and, worse still, I believe that such things still go on and are kept quiet by the companies and the workers themselves. Why do I believe this?

Because I've seen some myself.

I've worked in the private financial industry for nearly 20 years now and have worked for men who, though not practising sexual abuse, employed a great deal of emotional abuse. Men who thought it was perfectly acceptable to scream at their employees, call them all kinds of stupid, and even one who liked to know how much it took to make his female employees cry. But we all took it, men and women, because we considered it a cost of working at those places and we needed the money. If someone was getting it in a meeting or on the floor, we gave a sigh of relief because it wasn't us. When it was us, we'd grit our teeth and accept that it was our time on the block. But we shouldn't have taken it because it shouldn't have happened.

I'd like to believe that such things don't happen at comic book companies. I'd like to believe that the people running it are as honorable as Jack Kirby. But I can't. Because those companies are run by people and people aren't superheroes. They're flawed human beings, just like the rest of us. But the rest of us aren't publishing stories about superheroes fighting for "truth, justice and the American Way."


Anonymous said...

Honestly. Do you know how many comic book fans would literally kill her for speaking out?

There are SO MANY that are so dettahed from reality that all they want to do is read the crap they are given, whether they know it is crap or not.

I'm not just talking about young people; I know some pretty old dudes that actually believe they can attain powers (yes, actual powers of the comic books) by thinking hard enough. That think these books are written as some sort of prophecy.

Katie said...

Kirby was the exception to the rule. And yet one of the most heartbreaking stories in comics is how horribly he was treated by the publishers he helped make famous.

alphamale73 said...

I think Valerie is a man-hater. I took your recommendation a few months ago and read her blog...she didn't say one nice thing about any male. I was given the impression from her blog that she just might be a man-hating lesbian female rights activist. But there is nothing wrong with that. lol I guess.

LordShazam said...

alphamale73: No, I don't agree with that. I don't think Val is a man-hater at all. I think she hates abusers, hypocrites, liars and cowardice regardless of their sex. Val's had many good things to say about other people on her blog including men. But her sense of outrage stems from the abuse she suffered which came primarily from men. So I don't think she's a man-hater but I certainly wouldn't blame her if she WAS!