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The Wednesday Waffle Episode Three

Welcome to the third Wednesday Waffle! Watch the video below, or read the text, or do both - they're not entirely the same...

Here is the news!


We are not big fans of this story, but we're covering it because it's an important cautionary tale that we should think seriously about.

I'm going to take my Desties hat off and speak personally for a second - although I do speak for Destination Venus because it's my company. I believe that comics is a community. I don't agree with, or even like, everyone in the community. This is normal in communities. But we are all into comics, and that should give us common ground.

I make one exception to this. People or groups who attack, belittle, threaten or abuse people in the community do not belong within it. On those grounds I look at what is posted on social media in the name of "Comicsgate" and have no difficulty in regarding it as a hate group. None. I've seen these creeps dogpile onto people who have committed no more sin than to be female, or trans, or not white while expressing an opinion. Indeed, I have seen them do this to people who have committed no more sin than to not think a 'gater's comics ideas are not the best thing ever. I have no time, no patience and no sympathy for people who would align with such a movement.

I'm not going to explain the phenomenon of "Comicsgate" here. It's too complex and too depressing. If you want to know more Google is your friend, but research with your critical thinking head on, because it's all a toxic mess of mutual insults from all sides. Suffice to say that there is a group online identifying as "Comicsgate" that is regarded by me and the vast majority of everyone I know or interact with online as racist, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, reactionary and generally bad.

And like many online phenomena "Comicsgate" is toxic from whatever angle you come at it. Which is why people should be careful before invoking it to criticise or to praise.

Enter Tom King. A fine writer, ex-CIA analyst (that's going to matter in a bit) and the mind behind what is to me, the best run of Batman comics in thirty years. (Which I know is a controversial statement, and you're allowed to disagree.)

He's written a series featuring the Watchmen character of Rorshach. This is not uncontroversial in itself - Alan Moore, the writer and co-creator of Watchmen (possibly one of the most important and influential comics stories of all time) objects to ANY use of the characters in any new story, and while his co-creator Dave Gibbons has been more relaxed, even he has been unhappy about new work featuring the characters.

But that's not the story. The story is that DC hired artist Jae Lee to create an alternate cover to Rorscach #1. Writer Tom King was not consulted, and when he learned of this he took to Twitter to state that he was unhappy that Lee, who he believed to be associated with the Comicsgate movement, was involved and that so far as he was concerned, the only legitimate cover was the main one and he would prefer it if nobody bought the variant.

Now, it is the case that Jae Lee has drawn covers for comics that are associated with Comicsgate. Which in these days of maximum connectivity and cancel culture is all the info you might need. Except Lee has absolutely no social media presence, and Comicsgate and all its associated nonsense is an entirely social media phenomenon. So he had no idea what Comicsgate was, or who was or was not associated with it. He received a commission and as a professional artist, he did the work he was hired to do.

A day after posting his inflammatory tweet, Tom King walked it back, saying that he'd spoken to Jae Lee, accepted that he'd never heard of Comicsgate, and now understood that Lee was not part of any online group - hateful or otherwise. "We're good" he said.

Jae Lee disagrees. He notes that he had chosen not to engage on social media, and so has no idea what nonsense goes on there. He is not, and never has been, part of any hate group. Furthermore, allegations of the kind that Tom King made can damage reputations and careers.

And he's right.

While some comments on Twitter have been sympathetic to Lee it's clear that there has been reputational damage. Twitter accounts which actively associate themselves with Comicsgate are hooting about how King has been "owned" and that Lee (whose statement was very clear that he did not associate with Comicsgate and did not wish to) is a martyr for their cause, and many accounts who have been vocal in their opposition to Comicsgate are still tweeting that Lee "must have known who he was dealing with".

This is a cautionary tale. "Comicsgate" isn't a membership organisation. You can't look up who is associated with it on a membership register. It's also a largely online phenomenon. If you're not active on social media you might never have even seen the term. And social media isn't a private space. What you say there is public.

King should have spoken to Lee BEFORE tweeting. He is an ex-intelligence officer after all - if anyone might be expected to verify their sources before going off half-cocked surely it's a person with that background. Besides, quite apart from that if we're a community we should speak to members of our community before we condemn them - because if we don't, we're as bad as Comicsgate. And we must be better than that.

Does that make Tom King a terrible person? No. Not really. He made the sort of knee-jerk response that so many people do on Twitter. He was thoughtless and intemperate, and there are consequences to that. But he assumed that everyone was as engaged with the sosh meeds as he is. That was a bad assumption.

King has apologised, publicly and fully to Lee, and after making sure that it is clear that he isn't trying to duck out of what he did, he has taken down the offending tweets. He has also recognised that his actions were wrong, and that he may have damaged Lee's career.

I hope that everyone who jumped on the bandwagon acts similarly. It's Twitter, so they won't, but we must live in hope.

Has Jae Lee been damaged? It's possible. I hope that editors and publishers will see this for the storm in a teacup it should be. But it may well be that some people will now be less likely to hire Jae Lee. And that's unfair.

Lee remains - sensibly in the circumstances - off all social media. His statement that he does not support any hate group ends by saying "this is not the beginning of a conversation, this is the end". Meaning, we presume, that he will not engage in further online discussion.

Have to say, good on him. Pretty much the only honourable position in this debate is to not be part of it.


DC is no longer in Previews, so if you want to know what's coming up you can check out the third issue of DC Connect, featuring what's coming in October and November HERE.