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Excusing Sexual Harassment and Abuse

Last month, DC Comics was in the news about long-time editor Eddie Berganza, who works on Superman. Berganza was disciplined for sexual harassment back in 2012, but it sounds like that was one incident among many. For a while, there was even”an informal policy in place that no female staff would be assigned to the Superman office, and no female freelancers would be hired.” (Source)

In other words, in an attempt to avoid further incidents of sexual harassment, DC kept the harasser on staff and chose not to hire any women to work with him.

Way to punish and exclude women because of a man’s abusive behavior!


Over at the Mary Sue, Teresa Jusino brings us an update on the comic Rat Queens. Artist Roc Upchurch was arrested for domestic violence back in 2014, and Rat Queens co-creator Kurtis Wiebe wrote at the time:

“As of today, Roc Upchurch will no longer be illustrating Rat Queens … I am committed to Rat Queens, to stand by what it has always been praised for and to prove to the fans that they weren’t wrong in loving it.” (Source)

Fast forward to 2016. Rat Queens is going on hiatus, and artist Tess Fowler will no longer be involved. Weibe claims this is because the collaboration “wasn’t working out.” Fowler claims she was being pushed out so Wiebe could “bring in the original artist.”

Nothing has been announced publicly about whether Upchurch will be involved when and if Rat Queens comes back from hiatus, but Weibe has recently begun promoting Upchurch’s art on Twitter and the Rat Queens Facebook page. At the very least, Weibe is once again promoting a domestic abuser in connection with Rat Queens.


Then there’s Kukuruyo, the Hugo nominee for Best Fan Artist, thanks to Theodore Beale’s Rabid Puppy slate. Kukuruyo has done a number of adult-oriented and sexually explicit works, one of which was a drawing of the 16-year-old character Ms. Marvel, naked from the waist down. (He’s since taken it down. Never mind. I had read that the drawing was taken down, but he still has it posted on his website, along with a long post about how “it’s just a drawing,” and so on.)

Theodore Beale also championed a blog post about pedophilia and sexual abuse in SF/F circles for the Best Related Work Hugo, which makes his defense of Kukuruyo all the more fascinating. Among other things, Beale argued:

  • “The age of consent in Spain is 16. Kukuruyo is Spanish, lives in Spain, and US law is not relevant to his activities.” Which he immediately follows by trying to argue about what US law says…
  • “The drawing cannot be child pornography regardless of what age the fictitious character is supposed to be. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that drawings and computer representations are not child pornography.”
    • In the comments, Beale refers to a Supreme Court decision striking down provisions against “virutal” and computer-generated images in the Child Pornography Prevention Act.
    • When another commenter pointed out that Congress later passed the PROTECT Act, which “makes it clear that obscene child pornography in any form — including cartoons — is still unlawful and not entitled to any First Amendment protection,” Beale dismissed this as “irrelevant.”
  • And my personal favorite, “I am reliably informed that Ms Marvel was 16 when she was introduced in 2013. That makes her at least 18 now, possibly 19.” Just like Superman debuted in 1938, which is why he’s now portrayed by actors aged 95 and up.


What I find interesting is that in all three cases, we have people and organizations who have stated their opposition to sexual harassment, domestic violence, pedophilia, etc. We also see the difference between abstract statements and real actions when it comes to their friends and employees.

  • DC claims they won’t tolerate sexual harassment, but they’ve protected a known harasser for years.
  • Wiebe spoke passionately about the evils of domestic violence, but at the very least, chose not to fully separate his creation from an abuser.
  • And Beale is working awfully hard to explain why it’s okay that one of his Hugo nominees drew and sold a sexually explicit drawing of a 16-year-old girl.

I highlighted these three examples because they’re such clear cases of crap we’ve seen again and again. It’s one thing to stand up and say sexual harassment and abuse are bad things. But if you’re talking the talk and then turning around to defend or protect people who cross the line because they’re your friend, or because you think it’s easier? Not only are you not helping the problem, you’re making it worse.

I think we’re doing a better job of talking about stuff, of creating harassment policies and discussing issues of harassment and abuse. But we need to do a better job of walking the walk, too. Step one of that walk? Stop excusing gross behavior just because the perpetrator is a friend or employee.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 17th, 2016 08:16 pm (UTC)
Here in Spain, a minor is anyone under age 18, and child pornography is depiction of minors. Age of consent is a different issue.
May. 17th, 2016 08:43 pm (UTC)
I am shocked -- shocked, I say -- to hear that Beale might have gotten his facts mixed up.
May. 18th, 2016 10:44 am (UTC)
Yeah, I was just thinking that seemed likely (it's the same here in the UK). And man, I super regret tracking down that post because WOW MUCH YUCKIER THAN I EXPECTED, honestly, but it's also so telling that underneath the artist claims he didn't know the character was 16 and that he drew her with a "developed body" - he and Beale are clearly throwing a bunch of defences at the wall to see what sticks.

The Berganza thing is horrifying - and the fact that the no-women-in-the-office "could be happenstance" because there are other DC offices with zero women makes me want to bang my head against the wall.
May. 17th, 2016 09:17 pm (UTC)
We actually had a recent incident in Halifax where an American was charged with child pornography for having sexual images of minor cartoon/comics characters.


I'm not sure how relevant this is here, but the whole Baele thing just reminded me of this.
May. 17th, 2016 11:27 pm (UTC)
It's another example of the law being a lot more complicated than it's been made out to be, with regards to child pornography and illustrations, etc.
May. 18th, 2016 12:32 pm (UTC)
Defence lawyer Alex Baranowski said his client came to Nova Scotia to visit a woman he had met online.

And he had a shit-ton of obscene images of underage cartoon characters on his laptop. Something suggests to me that these things are not unconnected.
May. 17th, 2016 10:05 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure we can condemn Weibe until or unless he brings Upchurch back in to work on Rat Queens. There's plenty other reasons it could be going on hiatus, noteably the fact that the third TPB was absolutely awful and it seemed like the writer had completely run out of ideas and jokes.

Pretty awful if he does bring him back having pushed out the other artist though.
May. 17th, 2016 11:28 pm (UTC)
Not disagreeing. Right now, we have two conflicting stories about whether or not Weibe was intending to bring Upchurch back to the comic. Whatever he might have planned, I'd be amazed if he did so now.

But even if we ignore that piece, his recent promotion of Upchurch's work in connection with Rat Queens is ... problematic, to say the least.
May. 18th, 2016 10:31 am (UTC)
Aye, the title has achieved a remarkable amount of publicity due to the troubles, and I agree, I think it would be impossible for him to bring Roc Upchurch back in. I'd be amazed too.

I mean it's possible the guy has attended his domestic abuse counselling and completed the therapy and truly rehabilitated himself. In which case it would be hard to say he doesn't deserve a second chance. But that second chance should not be on Rat Queens.
May. 18th, 2016 07:43 pm (UTC)
Berganza sounds like a classic Missing Stair situation. "If we just don't hire any women to work in his department, we can run a tiny rope bridge over this gaping chasm of stupidity."
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


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