Sunday, November 4, 2018

Weekend Headlines - Waid Lawsuit Part One

Waid is accused of defamation by the man behind Diversity & Comics. Comics writer and editor Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Daredevil, 52) has launched a GoFundMe campaign to cover legal costs as he responds to a lawsuit from Richard C. Meyer.

Meyer, who runs the Twitter and Youtube accounts “Diversity & Comics,” is considered one of the pre-eminent voices of the Comicsgate movement, which claims that the inclusion of “politics” in modern comics stories — and increased diversity of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the people who make comics and the characters who appear in them — have decreased sales, threatening the existence of the American comics industry. Through the years, Meyer has gained a notorious reputation for making numerous racist and transphobic statements in regards to comics creators on his YouTube channel, towards industry figures like Ta-Nehisi Coates (Black Panther, Captain America) and Magdalene Visaggio (Eternity Girl).

Meyer claims that Waid threatened the small comics publisher Antarctic Press until it was “frightened for its very survival,” causing the company to drop Meyer’s Jawbreakers series in May of 2018, before its first issue could be printed. Meyer subsequently formed his own comic publishing company to publish the book, but is pursuing recompense for setbacks in his career that he claims are the direct result of Waid’s actions in May. 

So what do we know?

In 2015, the nascent days of Comicsgate, Meyer crowdfunded Jawbreakers — a comic series about a group of heroic mercenary/superheroes that he planned to both write and draw — narrowly surpassing its $3,500 goal with $3,743 in pledges.

In 2018, a year after Comicsgate became an infamous household name in the broad comics community, Meyer raised more than $400,000 on Indiegogo to make another Jawbreakers book, this time drawn by Jon Malin, with covers by Ethan Van Sciver, both vocal proponents of Comicsgate values. Antarctic Press, a small comics publisher with a history of carrying satirical political comics from multiple ideological sides, agreed to publish and distribute the new Jawbreakers to comic shops, splitting profits with Meyer.

News of Antarctic’s agreement with Meyer sparked significant pushback on social media from prominent comics creators, including Gail Simone (Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey) and Waid. The staff of some retail comic shops announced they would not carry it, or would only pre-order it if their customers ordered it directly (a common practice in retail comics), which may have carried repercussions.

“Several retailers announced they wouldn’t stock the comic,” The Daily Dot reported at the time, “making a statement against what they believe to be a toxic influence in the industry. Meyer responded by tweeting the names and addresses of stores that decided not to stock Jawbreakers [...] retailers then received negative reviews and online comments.”

Waid took things a step further in a now-deleted Facebook post, in which he described calling Antarctic Comics to find out if they were aware of Meyer’s online behavior. He apparently didn’t reach anyone at that time, and left a message.

“Until I hear back,” Waid’s post read, “I’m (hesitantly) willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they don’t really understand who or what they’re getting into business with, which — though it would seem a stretch — is a possibility. If I do hear back, I’ll report in. Curious as to how they feel about publishing creators whose marketing strategy is to allegedly (*koff*) encourage their fans to threaten the employees of stores, and/or harass and one-star-review-bob [sic] stores, that don’t order their product.”

Shortly afterward, Antarctic Press announced it would no longer publish Jawbreakers. Immediately, Meyer accused Waid of threatening Antarctic Press, claiming that the company’s owner “called me that night, in tears, begging forgiveness” for canceling the book, and adding an unsubstantiated rumor that Waid had threatened physical violence against Antarctic Press staff and involved his employer, Marvel Comics.

In a now-deleted tweet, Antarctic Press categorically denied that its employees felt intimidated by Waid, saying “FACTS: Mark Waid put a call in to our office. Staff took a message and told Mr. Waid our publisher would be informed. Nobody at AP contacted [Marvel editor in chief C.B. Cebulski] or @Marvel nor felt threatened in any way by Mr. Waid’s call. We have not been bullied into a decision by any comics pro.”