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For decades, Shelly Bond helped give comic book readers around the world some of the most innovative, deep, and gut-wrenching stories the medium has ever seen. During her time as Vice President and Executive Editor of Vertigo Comics, she became a hero to creators who wanted to tell stories outside of the restrictive guidelines of the industry’s mainstream, but still enjoy the clout of a major publisher. When Bond was dismissed last week as a part of DC Comics’ ongoing reorganization, she unknowingly struck one final blow for creators everywhere.
Following Bond’s dismissal, former Image Comics Director of PR & Marketing Jennifer DeGuzman voiced concerns on Twitter over Bond’s position being eliminated while an unnamed individual with “multiple complaints of sexual harassment” was still employed by DC Comics. DeGuzman’s Tweets led Nick Hanover of Loser City to openly name Superman Group Editor Eddie Berganza as the person specified in the allegations.
Meanwhile, if you have multiple complaints of sexual harassment against you at DC and you’re a man, no problem!
— Jennifer de Guzman (@Jennifer_deG) April 21, 2016
Eddie Berganza continues to survive restructuring at DC (except restructuring that put him in all male quarantine) https://t.co/0zAMIsFNm1
— Nick Hanover (@Nick_Hanover) April 21, 2016
The quarantine of which Hanover is speaking is that the Superman office, which is supervised by Berganza, allegedly employs no women in positions which directly report to Berganza, ostensibly to limit the availability of targets for his alleged proclivity towards sexual harassment. It bears noting that at least one woman is currently working on a Superman title, although in a freelance capacity, as artist Emanuela Lupacchino is currently slated as the artist for the forthcoming Superwoman title starring Lois Lane.
The details of the Berganza allegations have now been reported at great length by some of comics journalism’s heaviest hitters, from Heidi MacDonald at ComicsBeat to Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool. To date, no one at DC Comics or Warner Brothers has commented on the allegations, though professionals across the industry have expressed their perspectives on a variety of social media outlets.
In addition to the naming of Berganza, Bond’s termination has resulted in a cascade of unintended consequences, from the similar naming of Dark Horse Editor Scott Allie to a call by some to completely boycott DC Comics titles until corrective steps are taken with regards to Berganza.
The biggest takeaway from the entire course of events has been the beginning of a broad, open discussion about one of the dirtiest open secrets in the comic book industry, specifically that of sexual harassment and the mistreatment of female creators and staff by what is still in many ways an old boys club. Whether or not the much-maligned outrage machine will wind up making a sustainable difference, or any difference whatsoever, remains to be seen. What is undeniable is that the discussion should and likely will lead to an effort by comic book publishers to avoid such issues in the future. In any working environment, it is vital that a safe and inclusive atmosphere be created in order to employees to do their best work. Just because the comic book industry is a creative space, it is not exempt from this sort of concern.
If the comic book industry, particularly the mainstream, is to move forward in a way which broadens the appeal of the medium beyond the traditional teenage/young adult male demographic, it cannot be perceived as a place where women are undervalued, mistreated, or in any way disadvantaged in comparison to their male counterparts. While it is unlikely that Shelly Bond’s dismissal was in any real way connected to Eddie Berganza’s continued employment, the problem for DC Comics has become one of perception. In order to move on from the controversy in a real way, DC may be forced to take direct action. Otherwise, they will simply be playing a waiting game with the internet, hoping that some new, shiny story comes along to divert everyone’s attention.
It is to help combat the “oh, look, shiny!” approach that we here will simply quote satire site The Outhousers in conclusion:
If you’re a comic book journalist, we urge you to write about it on your site. If you’re not, please engage in the discussion on Twitter, or at the very least, retweet our tweet below to let DC’s management know you want answers (or send them a tweet of your own):
— The Outhousers (@TheOuthousers) April 22, 2016