Harassment in comics fandom hits home

For the past week or so, there’s been a storm brewing in comics fandom regarding Star Wars writer Brian Wood being accused of harassment by another comics creator, Tess Fowler. There’s been much written about this (on high-profile outlets like The Beat, The Mary Sue and Doctor Nerdlove; Wood himself has released a statement) but for those who haven’t been following, I found the most helpful roundup to be Beccatoria’s.

The incident Fowler writes of may be fairly low key by harassment – if not ethical – standards, but it’s still extremely skeevy and far, far from uncommon. Bad, drunken passes happen all the time, above and beyond conventions. And that’s the problem.

That kind of behavior is not acceptable. Whether it’s from a noted professional or just a random dude off the long boxes.

Feel free to give Wood the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know Tess Fowler; I’ve never met Wood. I certainly can’t vouch for her story or his response. But I’ve heard stories like this far, far too many times to instantly doubt that she’s telling the truth. (And when it comes to naming – or not naming – harassers, there’s simply no way to win.)

Awareness of harassment and harassers is important to fandom – all fandoms. All conventions. The more people talk about harassment, the more visibility we give it, the less we pretend that these things are isolated incidents, the more people won’t be afraid to speak up when it happens to them. To talk about it. To name names. To report. To, if nothing else, stand up and say THIS IS NOT OKAY.

Because it’s not okay.


UPDATE: Anne Scherbina, a former D.C. employee, has detailed more inappropriate behavior from Wood. And in Star Wars fandom, both Brian at Tosche Station and Tricia at Fangirl have weighed in.

9 Replies to “Harassment in comics fandom hits home”

  1. Spot on and succinct as ever. Regrettably the onus is on the people this abuse is directed at to report these alleged events, that needs to step up. Without that there’s no solid basis to push on towards change, and understandably that’s a tough road to travel for a lot of people, as it formalises the situation and opens them up to further scrutiny from the authorities and the public. But it’s the only way to stop it. And sites like yourselves and Tosche Station should be commended for discussing the wider issue as you have.

    1. Zannah, Ruthy, Mark: Thanks.

      But, Mark: It’s not just on the people to report, but on companies and wider fandom to act with more than mere lip service. To quote from The Beat piece:

      I do know that some skeevy guys in comics have been informally banned from various companies. And freelancers who do too many shitty things occasionally get lectured by editors. It doesn’t happen NEARLY often enough, but it does happen. But sadly—there’s that word again—it’s also widely known that at one super mega comics publisher, many of the top execs have had huge human resources files and nothing has been done about it. That’s pretty fucking fucked up.

      Sometimes just reporting isn’t enough. We also have to stop shaming victims, automatically doubting them, even if they ARE speaking up ‘late.’ The climate in fandom may be different now than it was eight years ago, but note that what prompted Fowler to speak WASN’T her specific incident, but hearing about others privately. We don’t know those details – we may never know. And given the crap Fowler is getting, can we really blame those other women? Still, every woman who’s willing to speak is a step forward.

      The harassed have to not be afraid to speak up, but other people need to not brush them off and take their concerns seriously as well. It’s NOT a one-way street.

  2. Well done, Dunc. I’m really glad you posted this. I’ll hold off on my rant about entitlement and excuses and just say well done.

  3. Dunc is right – the whole culture needs to change – get on point with “this is not OK” and push it from all sides, not just the harassed warning each other that there are harassers, but harassers getting the message ‘you are not going to harass here’

    so many times, people are willing to let misconduct slide because they don’t want to make waves or be seen as uncool (like Scherbina’s story mentions) or are afraid of becoming picked on themselves, but that’s gotta change: sticking up for what’s right is something that can snowball.

  4. I’m sure Wood thought he’d slide by, that people would give him a pass and forget. There’s a lesson here: be sure your sins will find you out.

  5. This is disappointing, if not surprising, news. Still, there are counterexamples. Guys like Kurt Busiek, who’s work is better than Wood’s, IMO, anyway.

  6. Sarah: No one is saying all men in comics fandom are like this. In a post today, Heidi MacDonald wrote “I will say that at least on one occasion, the men—the REAL men, I should say—of the con physically kicked out the offender.” No one doubts there are good guys.

    Part of the Wood thing is that he did/does have some feminist ‘cred’ with his work on things like the all-women X-book. The incidents may have been backchannel for years, but coming from someone not in those channels, he’s not someone you’d instantly expect based on what I know of his work. (Which, granted, I haven’t read. Not even the Star Wars stuff. My comic backlog is kind of epic.)

    Stooge: I didn’t really hear about it until his name came into it. But then, not being a hardcore comics person, I’d never even heard of Wood himself until he was signed on for the SW book.

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