Comics Disassembled: Ten Things of Note from the Past Week in Comics, Led by Bad Times

Oh boy. Good times, everyone. Good times. Let’s get to my likes and and dislikes from the past week in another edition of Comics Disassembled.

1. The Snake, Eating Its Tail

This week begins with the only place it can: the deeply stupid. And by that, I mean the whole Jae Lee fiasco. I don’t want to make this about recounting what happened, so I’m going to do the Cliffs Notes version of it. It started with DC revealing that Lee had drawn a variant for the first issue of the upcoming Rorschach series Tom King and Jorge Fornes are making, which led to a lot of people being pointing out one problem with that move: Lee had previously done work for a comic featuring Ethan Van Sciver’s Cyberfrog, the character who is the de facto flagship character of Comicsgate, the much maligned campaign that fancies itself the heroes of the comic book story but is really a group of perpetual harassers and malcontents. Because of this Lee was Comicsgate, and Comicsgate was Lee.

King was tagged in a slew of these posts, wondering how and why he could support this hiring (I should add that he almost certainly had no idea this was happening), which led to King distancing himself from the whole thing in a since taken down tweet, saying he shared his “deep disappointment” with DC about hiring Lee due to his association with Comicsgate, which he described as a hate group (which, much to the chagrin of those involved with said group, is a very accurate phrasing!). This drove the story to higher heights, inciting everyone even more, including Comicsgate themselves, who crawled out of their dens to appear in every tweet about this subject’s mentions. Next came word from Lee – a creator who largely barely uses social media, only having an Instagram, which he doesn’t seemingly use personally much – via Rich Johnston and King that the veteran artist had no clue who Comicsgate was and when he found out, he stopped working with them.

As if that wasn’t enough, later on, Lee crafted an Instagram post about how all this happened the same day he and his wife were going to spread the ashes of his recently deceased dog Loki, and that all this ruined their day, and that all was not cool, as King had suggested earlier in a follow up tweet. Theoretically closing that loop off, King apologized publicly about his part in the whole kerfuffle, saying he had done so privately to Lee as well.

The end.

JUST KIDDING.

Do you want to know the winners of this situation? Comicsgate, who were given ammunition forever with this whole deal, as they now are pushing a narrative that King is racist (an insane assertion that cannot be taken from findings) and finding themselves inspired to redouble their efforts in harassing varying folks online once again, just as their flame was starting to dim. This whole situation gave them everything they could possibly want: an excuse to be mad; reason to yell at people; a target; and the ability to play the victim, as if they themselves were the offended ones here. This whole thing is enough to feed them for who knows how long, empowering them and their position while driving harassment going forward.

And for what? I’ll tell you what: a situation where everyone else lost, and honestly, no one looked particularly great. And I mean no one. King upset a lot of people with the speed he jumped to conclusions, and even if his heart was in the right place, you would think someone like King would understand that sometimes first takes aren’t the right ones given how much heat he has faced over the years. This is the kind of thing to sort out in private channels before going public, as not every situation has to be hashed out in front of everyone.

There’s the broader comics internet, who was quick to label but not quick to understand how few people in the non-internet fueled side of comics know what Comicsgate or anything like that actually is (I’ve talked to comic shops who have told me a lot customers have effectively no clue about anything that comes up on the comics internet, good or bad). It feels extremely famous, and that’s because we’re in it. But if you went into a comic shop on a Wednesday or to the studio of a 48+ year old comic creator like Lee, there are pretty decent odds they’d have no clue what any of that is. Like King, plenty of people were trying to help and do the right thing, but during that process, it’s important to ask questions before taking actions.

And lastly, there is Lee. Now, he got it worse than anyone here. But let’s be real: ignorance only goes so far. While I appreciate his position as someone who lives a disconnected life – which truly sounds wondrous at times – maybe do a cursory Google search about who you are being hired by? I’m sure he recognized Ethan Van Sciver’s name when he was pitched for the book and was like “money is money” and took the gig, but you really should at least vet who is coming after you for work, especially in this day and age. I mean, people vet me when I ask them to come on the podcast, and my response to that is universally: “Well, that seems a fair thing to do in 2020.”

And it’s not like it’s hard to find articles highlighting the depravity of Van Sciver. I’d hope every comic creator asks “who is this person that is trying to hire me?” If you don’t, sometimes that comes with unexpected consequences. That’s the nature of the beast.

I genuinely hate all of this, though. Watching it unfold was like seeing a 30 car pile up in slow motion. You knew it was happening, but there was nothing you could do to stop it. Except this was like watching a 30 care pile up in slow motion where the cars were filled with good people, and they did it during The Purge. That’s the worst part of all of this: it empowered a gang of clowns and gave them talking points and energy for who knows how long. And what did we gain out of it? Bad times. That’s about it. That doesn’t really seem worth it to me.

2. Brubaker and Phillips, Forever

As noted on Wednesday (and many other days), I am a rather sizable fan of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. It has been mentioned many, many times before. Their prolific nature is endlessly impressive, but an upcoming shift in format somehow makes it even more so. Per Brubaker’s newsletter, over the next year, this duo is going straight to original graphic novels for a new series. That by itself is interesting and cool, as this pair going the OGN route feels like a canary in the coal mine of increasing interest in switching to that format as a lead.

But the fact that they are releasing three graphic novels in the next year is insane! Because that is a thing. I can’t say I’m surprised by this, as this duo is insanely productive, but still: THREE. HOW?! It’s incredible. I don’t even have anything to add of note, beyond this is a trend worth watching and these dudes are unreal. Keep doing your thing, squad!

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