Calling Out Shady Behavior in the Comics Industry

Perhaps you are familiar with a specific situation that’s been going on in the comics world, started by a string of tweets from creator Tess Fowler. It has been gaining momentum since a few weeks back, when Bleeding Cool published this article, chronicling a horrifying interaction Fowler had at SDCC one year with a high-profile creator, which continued even after the con ended.

She has continued speaking out about it, detailed here.

This trend of calling out creators and the industry as a whole for their bullshit was recently reinvigorated on Twitter by Brandon Graham, which propelled Fowler to share her experience. The article for Graham’s tweets can be read here, where he calls out the same creator Fowler did for being his “platonic ideal of a fake feminist.”

Since the release of this information to the larger mainstream conscious via various news sites, the subject of harassment in regards to the industry has been delved into more deeply and across more platforms than I have ever seen before. It’s always heartening to see a call to arms, but to see them cropping up en masse over a short period of time (and by women AND men) is very encouraging.

It’s also, of course, deeply concerning that this is the state of our beloved world of comics. There was an excellent article relating to the situation at large published by The Pervocracy last year, detailing the concept of the “Missing Stair,” which can be viewed here.

Succinctly, the missing stair is a term for an abuser or harasser who is tolerated within their community, even though they are well-known as being such a person, due to the fact that they have been around a long time and people have learned to “work around them.” They might also be a person with substantial power and means within said community, which prevents people from exposing them for what they are. This is a very real occurrence, and it happens across the board. People begin warping the fact that someone has a serious problem that needs to be addressed into the notion that these abusers simply have “special requirements.” They learn to live with them. They babysit them. They reply to the concerns of newcomers and outsiders with things like, “Oh, he’s harmless as long as we have someone watching him.”

Harassment is not something anyone should have to acclimate to, and by playing into the thought that some people just need to be “tolerated,” we are propagating the idea that this behavior is okay. We can’t afford to let these things fall by the wayside any more when someone is (however unintentionally) offensive or abusive. An open discussion needs to be instigated with them about what is acceptable and what is not, and those that find themselves unable to conform to such social standards need to be cast. the. fuck. out.

Former Dark Horse editor Rachel Edidin wrote a wonderful piece, saying, “Every time I have a conversation with another woman about which conventions or pros to be careful of; every time we discreetly pass around names and tips for staying safe (safer) (safeish), I get angrier and angrier that dudes are not, as far as I know, having parallel conversations about NOT DOING THAT SHIT IN THE FIRST PLACE.”

She goes on to discuss the power structure of our industry, and encourages men to just “step the fuck up.” And she’s right. Those in a position of power with the network to speak out about these things and effect change absolutely should. It is integral that they do so. It is their responsibility to do so. Somehow a bunch of loud women and a few dudes just aren’t cutting it. We need a more unified front. Men and women working together to put an end to something that should have been resolved long ago, but was instead perpetuated by fear, apathy, and inaction.

So I encourage everyone again to step up, and speak out. Since there is no immediate cure, active prevention is a good enough place to start.

6 thoughts on “Missing Stair, Beware

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