On Ethan Van Sciver and #ComicsGate

If you want a short version about what people see as going on here with #ComicsGate, it’s the most recent surge in ComicsGate interest happened at Marvel’s recent snafu at 2017 ComicCon where comic shop retailers essentially sent a message to the company that forcing diversity in comics doesn’t sell. It got to the point where they replaced editor-in-chief, Axel Alonso, with someone who has a more traditional background in the industry C.B. Cebulski. A lot of hooplas happened because of moves Brian Michael Bendis made at Marvel. The most prominent of these being forcing Miles Morales as a replacement for Ultimate Peter Parker, and Riri Williams becoming the new Iron Man. While both of these characters are black, people’s issues with them are the circumstances in which these characters are introduced, and the quality of writing behind them. These recent decisions made by Marvel are what necessitated the rise of channels like Diversity & Comics. Who has a catalog of videos speaking out against these decisions “The Big Two” (Marvel and DC Comics) make. Making efforts to point out not just the decline in writing quality, but spotlighting bad actors in the comics industry who take to social media to do things that chases away customers.

Longer? Well. Strap in.

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On July 28th, 2017, Marvel editor Heather Antos posted a selfie with other Marvel staff enjoying milkshakes. After receiving some ugly tweets, Heather lamented about it the next day. The resulting media coverage (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) helped to create this deeper ideological divide within the comics industry. It’s part of a larger schism informally known as #ComicsGate. The term itself follows off the general labeling practice of these sorts of situations.

The online world has adapted in the wake of GamerGate’s war. Before the advent of Facebook and Twitter, it was generally accepted by creatives that their work was destined to be criticized by the public. For better or worse. Make something good, and people will buy it if they think you earned their dollars. Today’s social media entitlement age has shifted the perception of value when it comes to the artistic mediums of entertainment. People are making things with the belief that it’s inherently good by default simply because they built it with a certain ideological lens. What gets lost in that shuffle are the objective factors of what separates a good story from a bad one. Writing composition and structure with a logical flow that compels the reader’s interest. This is all coupled with the reality of modern technology binding us all closer together in terms of communication accessibility. To put it another way, the lines separating a creator from the public have blurred and thinned. Whereas in the old days, someone had to write a physical letter and mail it when they wanted to give an artist their two cents. Now it’s as easy as a few clicks and strokes of the keyboard and mouse. Smashing the enter button and instantly making your voice heard. Now the tables have turned. Especially as it applies to the comics industry. The value of feedback is usually not taken in full, written off as a “vocal minority” of enthusiasts (“geeks and nerds and dorks”) that supposedly don’t represent the entire audience.

With all that in mind the “VOTE WITH YOUR WALLET” mantra becomes ever more clear.

The man at the center of ComicsGate is Diversity and Comics. A YouTube channel that has a habit of being blunt and honest about their perspective on the state of the industry. As a result, his critics have labeled D&C to be a sexist/bigot/racist.  Ethan Van Sciver is considered guilty by associating with this individual in any capacity.

On January 29th D&C did a video pointing out that founder/editor of DoomRocket Jarrod Jones made a threat of violence towards Ethan Van Sciver if he were to show up at Emerald City ComicCon.

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The Diversity & Comics YouTube channel started back in April 2017. They currently have 58,000 subscribers according to Socialblade, and they’re growing at a solid pace. Ethan Van Sciver did a livestream with D&C on January 16th, 2018. Shortly before the Darryl Ayo ruckus first began. Ethan describes D&C as a “headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow” that people know exist, but only talk about him in whispers. His real name is Richard C. Meyer and he comes from a military background, serving in the Marines. Ethan says even D&C’s biggest enemies would have to concede that at least he’s a big comics fan. The two during this livestream connected with having similar professional acquaintances “way back in the day,” and on their similar disdain for how people in the industry behave. At the time though, Ethan didn’t see the “mean girls” vibe that has been described to him. But even before the Darryl Ayo incident, he knew it was out there. D&C says he was inspired to join YouTube because of a channel by Captain Cummings. Ethan learned to treat his fans like customers from D&C. Getting people back into comics shops is one of their mutual aims. But along with that comes accepting the reality that “SJWs” have chased away normal customers. D&C started his channel during a crucial year in comics (2017) where shops basically limped through the year with unsold comics (many of which were in the “diversity quota” variety) dragging them down. Neither of these guys wants to replace these SJW comics with “alt-right” stuff, they just want to return the medium to its state of balanced normalcy. Ethan disagrees with D&C’s theory that the “Milkshake Girl Incident” was manufactured by the women involved in order to save their own jobs.

When it comes to Diversity & Comics industry-side background, he explains it here. D&C says they chose their name because people like Kieran Shiach between 2014 and 2017 were handed the “keys to the kingdom” of comics and drove it straight into a ditch. These people who were preaching this gospel of “diversity” actually created the opposite of that in action. This “homogeneous state” of far-left extremist ideologues. On the other hand, D&C says they started their comics career back when Ronald Reagan was in the White House. The X-Men were the most popular superhero team back in 1988. Storm was their leader on a team with 50% women. A few of D&C’s favorite superheroes growing up was Night Thrasher (black) and Northstar (homosexual).

“Nobody has had a problem with diversity, going back to the 1960s. But you guys are not about diversity. You’re about scaring and chasing away everyone who isn’t like you,” D&C says.

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In September 2017, Mark Waid helped boost D&C’s online presence significantly when he posted his intent to confront him at ComicCon on Facebook. A separate incident where people fantasized violence against D&C is addressed in one of his videos.

To find out what Diversity & Comics really talks about in his YouTube videos, I checked him out. One of the recent ones he released was “Marvel Insider Tells How BLEEDING COOL, Comic Book Deep State & Portland Comics Mafia Destroy Pros” back on February 8th. A Marvel insider tells D&C the pattern of destructive behavior involved in the industry. They point out the root of these kerfuffles lies within a few dozen people kicking up enough dust to get companies to notice.

Using the recent Nolan Bushnell Atari incident as an example, this person correlates that with what happened to Ethan Van Sciver.

“Just like the SJWs in comics, the SJWs in video games can scare off an organization with two-dozen tweets and a few hundred likes. As it is in comics, these tweets from fringe outsiders are shared by a couple of rabid SJW pros and used in an article hit piece. This is precisely how the whackos have been trying to take down Van Sciver and Malin. The people on the ‘comic deep state’ list say that they don’t have power, but people without power don’t confidentally launch campaigns to get people fired. These people know the power which is why they launch attacks. They know it only takes a few hundred retweets to get a publisher’s attention, or a Bleeding Cool article. If some ‘legit’ website runs an article about it, the accusations magically become real. I think that’s why Darryl Ayo kept tweeting about Ethan. He wasn’t obsessed so much as persistent. He was looking for the right tweet to go viral and catch the attention of pros. He knows how the game works. He knew that calling Rich Johnston a coward would result in the much needed article on Bleeding Cool.”

They go on to say that the industry has given a lot of power given to a small group of damaged people. D&C’s agenda appears to be identifying troublemakers in the industry who are trying to tear down good people. He notes that it’s too easy for careers to be ended, but not easy to find talent to replace that. D&C says there has to be room for an apology.

In another video, Diversity and Comics is aware that three loud people with Twitter accounts can destroy someone’s career. To counteract that, he suggests efforts to try and use his own influence to #MoveTheNeedle in a positive way. D&C wants companies to search the hashtag and see people buying comics and helping support the medium. He says this shows the difference between themselves and SJWs. Since the latter tends to demand books of certain kinds and ends up not buying them. D&C doesn’t approve of the boycott lists that people were making in the #ComicsGate hashtag. Stopping short of full-on denouncement.

Another angle that Diversity and Comics emphasizes is the poor interaction between creators and fans. In one video he points out a jab made by Magdalene Visaggio in particular.

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He calls Magdalene “fansphobic,” and says the above situation shows how backward the comics industry is if a customer has to provide customer service. In a situation where Magdalene doesn’t even respond to the person directly, instead, they use this person’s tweet as an opportunity to mock the individual and put them down. “It costs you no money to act professional,” D&C says.

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Another video on D&C’s channel talks about the difference between criticism and insults (he makes fun of someone’s eyes for being too far apart in a lame throwaway quip early on).  But then he gets on to the main point of the piece by talking about Scott Snyder. He’s seen as a solid example of how to do things right. If you don’t like his comics he’ll DM you and politely ask how he can do things better. D&C says it’s not a coincidence that Scott Snyder (talented and also good at customer service) is also one of the most successful people at the company. In contrast, D&C presents Alanna Smith of “SJW Marvel,” referring to her as one of the “milkshake girls.” One of a bunch of women who were hired either without experience or terrible experience (his words, not mine).

D&C’s main critique is that it’s abhorrent for Alanna to make a statement about one race, one gender, and one sexuality in her above tweet mentioning “white straight guys.” It’s a strawman argument that’s never been true in the thirty years that D&C says he’s been collecting comics for. He points out that Alanna Smith responded to Scott Snyder’s legitimate statement, with someone illegitimate. Twisting his words to invent another way to insult the customers of Marvel

D&C says Marvel went from 20% to 80% women in their assistant editors department. He stresses the issue isn’t the fact Marvel hired women. D&C points out that in Marvel’s “virtue signal” effort to hire women on a basis not based on merit, these new employees have no desire to improve their work performance. The problem with that is the ripple effect it has on the comics industry. D&C shows an article titled “THIRD COMIC BOOK STORE IN THREE MONTHS ANNOUNCES CLOSURE IN SAN DIEGO” from Outhousers. It was a store D&C had fond memories of, personally. D&C indeed sounds a bit outraged here. What he’s seeing is stores closing while people like Alanna Smith are chasing away their consumer base online. Alongside odd decision making when it comes to what these comic book companies ship out to retailers is what contributes to stores going under. D&C states that comics places need a couple years to go out of business and that the effects aren’t immediate. These brick and mortar stores that had decades of work invested into them are forced to close because of this dynamic.

Most prominently in recent memory on the Diversity and Comics channel is a video titled “The Comic Book Industry “Deep State” Is REAL,” uploaded on February 5th. That’s essentially the name D&C gives what he sees as the gatekeepers of the comics industry. People who weren’t exactly in high positions but able to wield a huge amount of influence. It’s these same sorts of people kept popping up over and over again in drama situations online. It’s their tendency to brag about their actions that D&C was able to discern that Joe Glass (working with Bleeding Cool) was behind the effort to get his channel taken down.

A Marvel insider that D&C is in contact with gave him the answer to this ongoing mystery. This person says their main weapon is rumor spreading. Another industry insider was having the same line of conversation with D&C, going as far as to name some of the people involved in this “Deep State.” Darryl Ayo in particular cost D&C’s insider two jobs. In 2016, after this insider had some online banter with Ayo, their work at Image and Marvel disappeared without explanation. This insider was told they “pissed off the wrong guy.” There are two types of “Deep State” people. The rumor creators and then those who spread it.

In a follow-up video, D&C emphasizes how things need to change. What the problem is and what needs to stop. The comics public is willing to forgive Pros for bad behavior. This portfolio of behavior that D&C refers to is the consumer base’s memory for the hostility directed towards them by creators in the industry. The main example that he gives, and which serves as the background for the video, is Heather Antos taking the piss out of some random potential customer online.

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D&C simply recommends that creators don’t make comments like the one you see above. That’s the long and short of it. There’s hope for anyone to change their ways. Nobody has to get “removed” from their jobs, either.

But in “Marvel Insider Reveals What’s It’s Like To Work For The Milkshake Girls At SJW Marvel” D&C tells us that this is the environment of fear going on today. This insider was condemned for saying fake nerd girls are a thing that can happen. Their opposition labeled them a “misogynist” for not believing women wouldn’t want to change anything when coming into the comics industry. Collectively, informal agreements were made against rape depictions in comics. This notion of displaying women as victims had been talked about and addressed since the 1960s. But modern feminism decided to dig that argument back up again. The insider told his colleagues that caving into these political moves was a slippery slope where the bloggers would make more demands afterward. Private emails of support were sent to the insider, but these folks were afraid to speak their mind publicly and engage these war-hungry politically correct feminists. The insider says it’s too easy to piss off the progressives online in today’s toxic social media environment. Waves of private support, confined to that because of the waves of hatred from “nutjobs” publicly. They mobilized. This is due to the internet allowing damaged, obsessive people to easily group up. Led by people who don’t like the industry but like the idea of changing it. Newbies hired off the street meant to be taken on the same level of seriousness as experienced industry folks who rose in the professional world based on merit and tact. These “Heather Antos” feminists (using the phrasing given by the person in the video) have taken over the assistant editor positions company-wide. If they make it to a higher position within the company these people are more likely to hire ideologically similar people themselves. The Marvel insider says there’s no more creators or editors to stand against this because they’ve been totally “cucked.” Weak-willed beta men who have no idea how to tell a woman “no.” D&C refers back to Heather’s tendency to chase away consumers with the type of tweets and posts they make online.

Another insider names several figures in this comics industry “Deep State” who use the social media snowball effect to wield their influence.

  • David Brothers: manager at Image (now works for Viz), made sweeping changes in favor of SJWs and his friends, leading to sharp decline in sales.
  • Darryl Ayo: sells mini-comics, creates them. Judge at comic festivals. seen as having influence in trying to shape the ideology of the comics industry, been around since 2010 and sooner.
  • Matt Santori Griffith: store owner, senior Editor at Comicosity website. Habit of calling people a “nazi” and spreading rumors regularly. Launches boycotts that don’t go anywhere.
  • Christopher Sebela: writer. huge rumor spreader (cited as #1 of that by D&C’s insider sources), seen as one of the worst next to Tess Fowler. Got work at Marvel but kept at an arms distance. Runs a nightly Google hangout full of other industry folk, and that serves as a place for rumors to propagate.
  • Tess Fowler: writer/artist. “most hated woman in comics,” says a female insider to D&C. D&C notes that Tess Fowler’s artwork is beautiful and fantastic, but bogged down by their online behavior. In recent memory, back in November 2013 Tess Fowler destroyed the career of Brian Wood and accused him of preying on women. D&C says he was constantly getting work from the big two and poised to be the next big thing. Until that fiasco.
  • Andrea Shockling: fan? (D&C doesn’t elaborate on why this person was named by the insider.)
  • Jennifer de Guzman: journalist. Doxed Diversity and Comics.
  • Heather Antos:  accused of actively harassing and attacking the fans.  D&C says she wasn’t hired on merit.

This list would come up in a later D&C video where Magdalene Visaggio shares a snapshot of a #ComicsGate tweet, which in itself states the people mentioned need to be expelled from the industry. This is said on the basis that these individuals are working to push consumers out of comics that don’t share the same ideological stances as them. D&C mentions that Magdalene Visaggio used to be male and people in the industry couldn’t stand them back then. But after they transitioned, it was seen as “in” to clamor all over them, from a professional standpoint.

so FUCK YOU. FUCK CIS ASSHOLES. FUCK YOUR BULLSHIT. GET READY FOR A BASEBALL BAT TO THE TEETH.” — Magdalene Visaggio, 5:13 PM – 27 Jul 2017.

The misconception is that #ComicsGate grouped these people together because they’re “minorities.” Magdalene says “i am simultaneously a nobody with no career and an imminent threat to DC Comics.” D&C says she’s implying it can’t be both, but he thinks it can. That she wasn’t hired on merit or talent, but because of being trans. People don’t have a problem with gay or trans characters, it’s being told they have to like the creator based on those particular qualities.

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D&C says SJWs don’t sneak in, they go in and “hold the door open” for their friends. He names IDW and Image as examples of this happening. These people who can’t sell books and battle customers, chasing people away in a process that hurts the comics industry. The difference is “who attacks fans” and who doesn’t. The reality is retailers aren’t selling this product they were emotionally blackmailed into stocking in the first place. On the side of the creators, creativity doesn’t give you the right to be an asshole. Contractors not employees argument be damned, because it doesn’t cost you a dime to be nice to people.

A particular element of the comics industry D&C highlights in one of his videos is the Portland Comics Mafia. According to an insider who spoke to D&C from Portland, this indie comics mafia serve as gatekeepers who collude to keep aspiring new blood from entering the industry. None of them have successful careers on their own, and their constant stream of indie comics canceled for low sales by issue 5.  Why do these politically left people have power?  This insider specifies the power lies in the network of friends at the smaller companies. If you are a new creator at these smaller companies and they don’t like you, they can sabotage your career. Lower-level work at smaller places is required for a resume to get into bigger places. The end result is controlling the flow of new talent and backs up the assertion that “only SJW talent” gets pushed to the front.

This insider goes on to name some people in this “mafia” group. Justin Jordan, Christopher Sebela, Amy Chu, Alex de Campi, Ryan Ferrier, Ulises Farinas, Curt Pires, and Paul Allor. Infighting and jealousy are common, with members falling in and out of favor. The worst crime is becoming more successful than them, turning quickly on those who do. Joseph Keatinge was a former member and had a hit with his GLORY series. This led to work with Marvel that pissed off the other mafia members. So when Marvel work dried up, the group allegedly ostracized him. This collective of people has their own sycophant followers, who go out and help spread damaging gossip against other creators. This insider names Christopher Sebela as one of the worst, running a nightly Google hangout with a slew of comic book folks. In what’s described as a chain of “talking shit” that leads to work prospects drying up for whoever is their targets.

D&C makes it clear he doesn’t want anyone going after the people mentioned by this insider. Neither do I

Even if people like Susan Auger condoned going after Ethan Van Sciver’s children.

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It’s not my place to say Ethan is a good or bad person. I just believe that everyone benefits from having all the facts in front of them to decide for themselves.

3 Replies to “On Ethan Van Sciver and #ComicsGate”

  1. This article is so great, its exactly why after 25 years being an avid – rabid fan, I decided my money was best apent anywhere else. When they made Magneto, a Holocaust survivor, into a Nazi. I was done. Not to mention that artists anti-Semitism. The stuff in Supwrman Rebirth with his son gave me a glimmer of hope, but Bendis may have squashed it. I get past stuff from the library now, ny city’s library has a good aelection, but moat moat atuff from the past 3 years I sondo bother with. Avatar, Kora, those are great, and diverse comics. All marvel has left is the movies. You’d think it crazy had 10 years ago I’d tell you that Marvel males the biggest most popular movies in the world, but comoc shops are dieing out fast, andno one cares about the books anymore, but thats where we are today. When I buy comocs I buy older stuff, great storoes I never read etc, its sad, it maoes me sad I read comocs my whole life they shaped my life they taught me to read, but the spark is gone for the most part, it was always my dream to retire early some day and open a shop, but I doubt there will be many if any left by then and I feel like it is a hopless dream anymore.

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